Tattered Sails

In the midst of a war-strewn country, a tiny village is all that remains of the pocket of peace that is slowly disappearing. The lives of the people inhabiting this village are almost untouched by the violence surrounding them, until... they attack!
Now Ash is returning to her home, uncertain and scared of what will await her...


2. Silence

"Ash, we're nearly there. Your brother wants to talk to you.'
The gruff voice of the first mate, Samuel Cairn, pierced the turmoil inside my mind, quieting the warring thoughts. Reluctantly, I tore myself away from the swirling, eddying water, always changing, always flowing, never the same, to look at my friend. He looked tired, his face drawn. The dark bags under his eyes a consequence of too many sleepless nights. Unfortunately, most of the small crew were in the same way. Nights aboard a ship were...interesting to say the least. Especially when the weather was rough.

The surviving men stood their ground against the invaders, valiant, brave, but outnumbered, outgunned, outmatched. There was little hope. They stood, a small band of heroes, facing the enemy. The headman, Jacob Dandy, came forward. he didn't say anything, just stared at the leader, defiance radiating from him. For a moment, the scene was suspended in time. The two sides at a stalemate with the flames still licking at the burnt shells of buildings all around them. Any sound had been muted, paused. All of a sudden, noises came flooding back, as they charged...

We had had only a couple of hours, not even half a day, to recover at Port Azula. Everyone was shattered. The journey from the shore of Talian to Port Grey was a troublesome one. We hitched a lift on a merchant vessel, paying for our travel by helping any way we could. Instead of the day it should have taken us, a ferocious storm added another seven hours onto the travel time. Even I was fed up by the time our ship limped into the harbour. But we had still had to get to Port Azula. That journey, on foot, took us several hours. By the time we reached the town, I had all but collapsed. We were allowed a bit of reprieve in the form of rest in an inn. Now we were nearly at the end of the last leg of this tedious journey.

Smoke, a veil of confusion that covered the chaos. Flashes of light tore from the guns of the few snipers that the enemy had control of. The villagers didn't have guns. Flames glinted off steel weapons. The two sides crashed together, whirling storms attacking defenceless land. It wouldn't last long. Blood ran freely into the water, turning it a burgundy that reflected the fire still billowing into the sky. Far across the water, pained cries and victorious shouts could be heard.

Sam coughed, reminding me of his presence. 
"Where were you?" he asked, his voice both inquisitive and playful.
I was puzzled. "What do you mean?"
A wry smile played across the older mans face. "You had that vacant look again, the one that means your mind is not with your body. You do it a lot." 
Oh. That. A relieved grin flashed across my face. "I was thinking of the journey, and what awaits us at the end."
"It does you no good to dwell on these things Miss. Now, you'd better hurry. Theo isn't a patient man."
I nodded and thanked him. He smiled grimly then left me to my thoughts, disappearing into the depths of the shadows on deck as only a sailor can.

The intruders stood amidst the broken bodies of their enemy, victory in their eyes. The leader stood a little apart. He crouched down next to the battered, bloody body of Dandy. The headman was holding on fruitlessly to the dregs of life. His chest was heaving, his breathing shallow and weak. Into his ear, he whispered the worst thing he could have said:                                          .

Sighing, I turned to follow him. He was right. My brother, Theo, was most definitely not a patient man. He had always been impatient, not able to wait, wanting things now, not later. So I had better go. Last time I made him wait, he broke an expensive vase, a gift from a client. I did not want to repeat that experience!

"You have failed. These deaths are your fault. Your family will pay for your failure." His eyes, which had fluttered closed, opened with immense effort, to look into the eyes of his opponent. the defiance was gone. In its place was something far scarier: defeat, guilt and a deep sadness. The enemy took one last, mocking glance at the pitiful man beneath him, before delivering the killing blow. He didn't look back as the light faded from the dead man's eyes.

The deck stretched out before me - a tangle of ropes, buckets, ripped sails and the occasional splot of seagull excrement. The wooden boards were slippery beneath the thin soles of my worn shoes, still wet with the residue of last nights rain.  I picked my way carefully through this maze towards the captains cabin straight ahead. The mist had gotten thicker, and I shivered as thin tendrils crept into the core of my being. As I neared the cabin, I could hear the soft murmuring of voices, although I could not make out what they were saying. I admired the carvings adorning the door; intricate designs of vines and leaves. This ship had belonged to our father, and it was left in Theo's care when he died. We had picked it up at Port Azula, where it had been stored. I thought it was beautiful. Evidence that the war had not driven out all that was good in our world. At least, not yet. I could not let myself be negative, I scolded myself. I was wasting time again, up in my world of memories and my vivid imagination

All was silent again.

 Hesitantly, I knocked.

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