Back in August, I had the chance to write a short story for a lovely contest held by a couple blogger friends. I made a world-building/character post after I submitted it.
It gives my planning behind the story as well as character exposition, which we all love, don’t we? But after I posted that, I thought, “You know, I might as well actually publish that, too.”
So that is what is happening today.
Of Silver and Spice Tea
“My God, my fears of silver melted in the light,
And we saw the world with different eyes…”Silver, The Gray Havens
Sidra wasn’t sure which one scared her the most. Perhaps it was the fact that everything they had worked for in the past three years was coming to an abrupt, screeching halt. Maybe it was the fact that “the escape plan”, for they had loving referred to it as such, was no longer a secret. Either way, it was not looking good for herself and her comrades.
Pushing her body to move faster, she wanted to run and cry and scream at everyone and everything. It was all going wrong. She couldn’t, though. To cry in the marketplace and cause a scene would be even worse than what had recently come to pass.
This marketplace was the heart of the beautiful ocean-side city of Thesiot. Everyone flocked to it from both the Upper City ring and the Lower City ring. It was the daily outing for the cultured and rich members of society and a source of income for the poor and getting-poorer urchins who roamed the streets. As beautiful as it always had been, Sidra couldn’t deny the fact that Thesiot was not all that it was.
Snapping back to reality, she forced herself to continue walking at a steady pace. One never knew who was watching. This was probably how Ozias was found out in the first place, she thought, cringing inwardly. Well, the good news was that it wouldn’t be happening again.
She pushed her dark hair out of her eyes and turned the corner that lead away from the clamor and chaos of the market. Down an alley, turn left and left again, and she stood at the door which she had begged to open numerous times in her life. This time it was for a new reason. It would be the last time, too, she mourned.
The cracked wooden door to Ozias’ home, or more realistically, his library, opened. There stood a tall boy who had creases on his forehead and scars on his hands. Mavi. Sighing with relief at a familiar face, she gratefully collapsed into his embrace.
“So, it’s finally happened then?” She spoke into his shoulder, almost hoping it wasn’t real.
“It was bound to happen, Sid. Help me pack.”
He let her go, and within moments he was gone. Sidra shook her head. This would be the death of Mavi. It was plain to see that he was panicking about the entire thing.
“Mavi, I’m heading down to the kitchen to help Ozias there.”
A muffled confirmation came from somewhere inside the maze of bookshelves around the old man’s house. It’s a library, thought Sidra, but a museum as well. What did Ozias collect? Memories. Recollections of how things were supposed to be. Sidra smiled, for she loved that about the elderly man.
Walking hurriedly through the main living space, which was littered with paint, canvases, open atlases, stacks of dusty books, plus a teapot and a few cups of tea, Sidra reached the spiral staircase leading down to the lower level. It felt as though her feet never touched it. She had no time for descending it properly.
“Sidra! Oh good!” A fragile sounding voice echoed from a couple rooms over. “I’m glad you’ve come!”
Leave it to Oz to be so ridiculously cheerful at a time like this, Sidra thought, somewhat sardonically. At the end of the hallway, which was also overflowing with books, she entered the kitchen to see her old friend, sitting at the table pressed against the large bay window overlooking the sea, having a casual cup of tea. He didn’t look up from his book when she came in.
“Glad you could join Mavi and I. The teas are ready to be packed.”
Sidra nodded, and began to work at getting the essential kitchen things packed.
“They found out, you know,” Ozias began cautiously, watching Sidra. She nodded slowly.
“They are imperial guards, my dear. They have ways.”
Sidra paused her boxing, mostly because Ozias had paused. She had been around him long enough to know that some great thought was brewing. But nothing came. It seemed odd, but she’d let him talk in his own time.
By then, she had packed all the important spice teas they loved. Ozias’ silence was unnerving, so Sidra announced her leaving to go back and help Mavi. Ozias, once more immersed in his book, said nothing but nodded his approval. She took her leave and ran.
There was too much that was changing. She had always wanted more than the ever-gray city of Thesiot. The city gates were no longer silver. The council was less and less reasonable. It was time for change, but now…
A soft grunt came from behind a bookshelf. Sidra made her way through the maze of literature to find the boy whose heart would break over the loss of it. When she found him, he was surrounded by a few boxes of ancient volumes. He motioned to one of the closed ones, and Sidra gladly took a seat.
“We’re not going to be able to take all of this, you know, Mavi.”
He sighed. “I know… I just wish we could.”
A comforting silence fell over the two. Sidra broke it.
“What happened, Mavi? Why now?”
He shrugged. “They decided it was time to clear out the old and true, I guess. Time for change, but not the kind we hoped to see.”
“There’s too much of that.”
Sidra nodded, biting back tears.
“On that topic, did you want to ask your family to come?”
“Oh, Mavi, we both know what they’d say.”
He got very quiet all of a sudden. Sidra knew that look.
“I’m sorry, Mavi. I know you wanted them to come.”
“It wasn’t for me. I wanted them to come for you. So that maybe… I could’ve asked…” he cleared his throat. “I wanted to ask your father about marrying you…”
A smile played at the corners of Sidra’s mouth. She found it cute that that was important to Mavi at a time like this. It wasn’t surprising; they had talked about marriage before. But seeing that he was genuinely saddened, she held out her hand. He squeezed it tight.
“Mavi? Sidra?” Their mentor shuffled his way to them.
“Over here, Oz,” Mavi called, “What’s the problem?”
Sidra held onto his hand, for whatever it was, it couldn’t be good. As Ozias rounded the corner of the bookshelf, she knew exactly what was happening.
“You’re not going, are you?” She hated how shallow and weak her voice sounded, but it was the truth. Mavi whipped his head around to look at her, and then at Ozias.
“You can’t be serious.” he said, voice shaking.
“As ever, our friend Sidra has a knack for reading people. In other words, no. I’m staying here.”
“Why?” Mavi sounded on the edge of a breakdown.
“I believe I’ve done my job. I prepared you two, and I passed on the love of the Far City to you two. There is only so much that a teacher can do before it must be up to the students alone.”
Sidra was trying desperately to ignore the knot in her throat.
“I came from the Isle of Acreseles long ago, and when I die, I shall return there. I need not worry about getting there in between. For now, you must go.” Ozias just smiled at them. It was the smile of a person who knew what he was doing, and it was most definitely a good thing that was about to happen.
“In other news, there are guards who are nearly to the door.” Ozias’ words had barely left his mouth when there was a loud banging on the front door.
Mavi leapt up, grabbing a few choice books from his boxes and slipped them into his bag. In an instant, he grabbed Sidra’s hand and looked back one final time at Ozias.
A smile met his eyes.
“Go home,” the man said with a twinkle in his eye.
With a pain in her heart, Sidra smiled back at him and then turned back to follow Mavi, who was now running out of the maze. The pounding on the door was getting louder, and Ozias would open the door soon.
Sprinting through the living room, they didn’t have any time to say farewell to the surroundings that they had grown up in. They all but fell down the spiral stairs and into the kitchen. They each grabbed a box that Sidra had packed before, and with that, they were out the back steps.
They had never gone out that way before, and what they soon found out was that it was on a large cliff. There were stairs carved into it, almost like a passage that had been created specifically for their retreat in times gone by. At the end of the steps, down by the ocean there was a small ship. A glorified sailboat, really, Sidra snickered.
Still, it had two decks and a large helm up on top. It was good enough of an escape vessel for them. Running down the steps, they held onto each other and used the other as a balance. If they could make it out…
It seemed to Sidra a miracle that they arrived safely and without difficulty at the boat. Mavi all but leaped over the side and set his box down on the deck. Like the true gentleman he was, he helped her over next. Sidra gave him a gracious smile, setting her box down in the space next to his.
“Let’s go, Mavi.”
It was like she had triggered something in his brain. He grinned like a little boy and began to make the boat ready for sail. Taking the boxes below deck, Sidra was anxious to make the area neat and tidy. It was their little boat. Theirs.
By the time she was done, the boat had begun moving. She emerged from the bottom of the boat to salty air of the Forbidden Sea. It made her laugh. For years she had been told that this sea was the route to all evil. Someday, elderly people told the young children, there would be great catastrophe that would destroy them. She was now sailing it.
Sidra threw her head back and laughed. Looking up at the helm, she saw Mavi watching her with a smile on his lips. She climbed the ladder to where he was.
“I guess you feel the freedom of ‘rebellion’, eh, Sid?”
Sidra laughed again.
“I suppose so, what about you?”
“Just peachy,” he said with a snicker. He reached out a hand to her.
She took it and, pulling her close to him, Mavi slid an arm around her waist.
“Can you believe it? That we get to see the Golden Land?”
Leaning her head on his shoulder, she faced to horizon once more. There seemed to be a dim glow in the far distance. She closed her eyes, letting the wind play with her hair and resting in Mavi’s gentle touch. She couldn’t believe that Ozias had just let them go by themselves. It was true that they probably wouldn’t have been able to get away had he not stayed. And yet, her heart wanted him to come, too.
Who knows, she told herself. We may see him again someday.
“I can’t believe it,” she murmured aloud.
“We’re going to make it. The stories are true. Everything we had dreamed about and hoped for; it’s all true.”
Mavi fell still, letting the wind and waves speak.
“Are you ready to go home, love?”
She spoke one word with all her being.