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title Hill of Sidh_Chapter 7
name Aileen Doll (ip:)
  • date 2017-01-23
  • Recommend Recommend
  • hit 40
point 0points

Hill of Sidh


Novelist : Judit Elias



CHAPTER 7



They were home. Twinsun, the scorching planet, had not changed a bit since their hurried departure seven years ago. Everywhere they looked, the sand dunes extended beyond the horizon, dotted with the occasional rock. Camellia followed her mistress with her heart pounding in her ears. She had not expected to ever come back.


They had been walking through the sand for hours. The temperature was over forty degrees even if it was only spring. Camellia could tell the season by looking at the suns: one was bigger than the other. In summer, when the planet would be positioned between the two stars, there would be only one sun in the sky, and no night at all. It would be too hot to even venture out. By winter, however, the planet would have moved away, orbiting one of the suns until they were in a straight line, and the closer sun would eclipse the other. The light would be dimmer and the nights freezing.


They finally reached the buildings they had seen on the horizon. The town they entered was half-ruined and completely deserted. The houses were made of stone and looked very old.


“Lady Licorice?” asked Cedric. “Why… why are we here?”


But the mistress did not answer. Instead, she entered one of the huts.


“Search it, try to find something useful, anything we can use,” she instructed.


The dwelling was partially demolished and full of dust. The few furnishings that had survived were worn and broken. Camellia opened as many drawers as she could find but had no luck. The results were no better in the next place they inspected.


It was then that the tremor started. The ground shook as they hurried outside the house they were searching and what they saw left them breathless. Eight enormous tentacles, tall as two grown men each, emerged from the sand, towering over the buildings. The tentacles were red with white suckers. Each one curled and moved independently from the rest.


“Run!” shouted Cedric. “We have to…”


He couldn’t finish his sentence. One of the tentacles was already plummeting towards them. The group ran to safety but the tentacles were everywhere! Soon they became separated and Camellia could not see her brother or the mistress. She ran, starting to get breathless, when she heard it: a loud horn blowing.


She turned in the direction of the sound and saw four desert nomads, dressed in brown and black. Each one was riding some sort of long elliptical wooden board, held up by two large wheels, one at the front and one at the back. Each board had a single mast in the middle, connected to a large sail. They passed Camellia at high speed, propelled by the wind, dodging buildings and tentacles as they went by.


One of the nomads came to a stop beside Camellia. She was a young woman with dark curly hair tied back in a long ponytail. Her face was completely covered by a scarf, thick protective goggles and a helmet. The girl stretched out her hand to the cyclops.


“Hop onto the glider if you value your life, miss.”


Camellia didn’t need to be asked a second time. She let herself be pulled onto the board and the driver positioned her so that she could hold the large horizontal handle of the sail. Camellia could now see that the handle had several sections and small levers. The nomad pulled some of them and Camellia could hear two clipping sounds as the wheel locks were released. With a strong pull, the sail was set loose, filled with the wind, making them soar across the dunes at top speed.


“I am Reina,” said the girl, shouting over the sound of the wind.


“Camellia,” she replied.


“Nice to meet you, Camellia.”


They were now catching up with the rest of the gliders and Camellia could see, with relief, that two of them carried Cedric and Licorice. Reina smiled. They were getting dangerously close to one of the bigger tentacles.


“Tell me, how would you like some nice octopus for dinner?” she laughed.


And with a twist of the handle, two large curved blades popped out of the sides of the board.


“Attack formation!” shouted one of the other drivers.


Soon the four gliders circled the tentacle. One by one they approached it, leaving a deep cut along the base. It all happened so fast the creature didn’t have time to react. The last blade severed the muscle and the tentacle came loose. The monster roared, a loud groan coming from the depths of the ground.


“Now, do not let it retreat!” shouted Reina.


The gliders were not only fast but also nimble, and they easily avoided the rest of the tentacles that were now smashing everything in their path, the octopus driven mad by the pain. From her board, Licorice performed spell after spell and soon the tentacles were surrounded by lightning bolts that slowed them down. The nomads managed to cut two more before the creature retreated completely, immersing the rest of its limbs in the sand and disappearing.


“Good job, everyone! That was a good haul,” said one of the drivers as he dismounted.       He was a young man with brown hair who introduced himself as Leno. Cedric was with him and approached one of the fallen tentacles to examine it.


“A sand kraken,” he announced.


He had never seen one of the creatures in the flesh but every Twinsun native knew about sand krakens.


“Aren’t they usually in the depths of the desert?” asked Camellia. “What would one be doing here?”


“I am afraid this was our fault,” Leno apologised. “We have been tailing this beast for a while now. He tried to hide in this town where it is more difficult for us to manoeuvre. We didn’t think anybody would be here.”


He turned towards Licorice and offered a friendly smile.


“We were extremely lucky. We have never been able to pull off a hunt as successful as this. You are really talented.”


The lady made no comment. A blonde girl with a shy smile was helping her to dismount the glider.


“And this specimen was one of the bigger ones we have taken on,” she announced after introducing herself as Luna.


The last of the nomads was coming up to them, removing his helmet and tossing his blond hair.


“Hey Leno, are you planning on helping to collect those at all?” he said, pointing at the fallen tentacles. “They’re heavy you know.”


He stopped abruptly when he set sight on the cyclopes. His mouth popped open and his face became pale. Licorice almost sighed in exasperation. It was a typical reaction and the twins were used to it, but she had expected citizens of Twinsun to act more naturally, as this was a world used to receiving travellers of different species.


“Litch,” intervened Leno, “what is wrong with you? You look as if you have seen a ghost.”


“And I may as well have,” replied Litch. “Ced? Cammy? Is that you?”


Cedric was the first to recognise him.


“Litch? As in our good friend Litch from the orphanage?”


He gazed disbelievingly at the young man, who could not be less than twenty.


“You’ve changed so much!”


Litch had been his best friend when they lived in the orphanage. He used to be an energetic and scrawny boy who had taken a liking to the strange one-eyed children. He had been sort of a big brother to Cedric and Camellia. The orphanage had not been so bad. Yes, they were hungry most of the time, because the rations were small – just enough to keep them going – and the work was hard. Everyone had to contribute in some way and they usually mended fabrics or cleaned pots. The care workers mostly ignored the children, and the children mostly avoided them back. But even in those conditions there was time left for fun and play, and Litch had had a special talent for turning that playtime into successful attempts to get a bit of extra food.


He used to call Camellia his little mouse because she was shy, petite and light on her feet, light enough to scurry inside the kitchen without being noticed while he and Cedric where distracting the adults. More than once, the boys had been given a good beating from the workers, but it had been worth it to see the girl pull some bread or, on the luckiest days, a piece of dried meat, out of the pocket of her plain dress. When other kids messed with the cyclopes, Litch had always been there to defend them, even if it meant getting involved in brawls. He never took it out on them.


The man in front of them now was almost unrecognisable but Camellia could see, in his eyes, the same spark Litch used to have when he was planning one of their mischievous exploits.


“Well, of course I’ve changed” he answered. “It’s been… ten years? Look at you, you haven’t changed even one bit. I bet you haven’t grown one single inch.”


He kneeled down and placed his palm on top of Cedric’s head, as if measuring him.


“Cut it out!” mumbled Cedric, feeling a bit embarrassed. “We cyclopes have different growing rates than humans!”


Litch stuck his tongue out and Camellia thought that, even if he had changed on the outside, he was still the same on the inside.


 


They decided to camp and spend the night in the town. Once the suns set, a cold breeze took over, which was very welcome after the heat of the day.


“Nights in the desert can be chilly,” said Luna, handing them some blankets.


Reina showed them how to build an oven by carving a deep hole in the sand and filling it with a small amount of coal and a big flat stone. They carved some flesh out of one of the tentacles and placed it in the oven. Soon the smell of roast meat filled the air, making their mouths water.


“Kraken meat gets a nice price on the market,” explained Litch as they ate. “After leaving the orphanage, as soon as I turned sixteen, I wandered here and there and I eventually met them.”


He pointed towards the rest of the nomads.


“Leno, here,” continued Litch, “is a genius mechanic. He build our first gliders from just scrap parts. And then it just took some guts. As we hunted more and more, we became better at it and could afford better parts for our boards. But enough talking about me. What about you? What brings you here?” he asked. “Who is your friend?”


The cyclopes turned to their mistress. Lady Licorice had not said a word since they had sat down to eat. She was oblivious to the conversation, her gaze on the horizon, apparently deep in thought.


“It’s a long story,” said Cedric quietly.


“Those lightning bolts that slowed down the kraken…” said Luna. “I have never seen anything like it. It was most impressive, miss…”


“Licorice,” answered the lady, standing up. “If you excuse me, I am tired. I shall retire.”


And without further explanation she disappeared inside one of the houses.


Luna looked troubled.


“Did I say something wrong?”


Cedric shook his head.


“No,” he reassured the girl. “It’s just... We’d rather talk about other things.”


So they did. Litch and his friends had plenty of adventures to share. The life of a kraken hunter was very exciting, or so it seemed to the twins. The nomads knew the desert and all the creatures that lived in it. The stories carried on until late, all of them too excited to sleep. The stars shone in the clear sky over the sand dunes but Camellia found herself missing the moon. There was no moon in Twinsun, there never had been. It was one of the things that had shocked her most about Victoria.


“I have to say, I was not expecting to ever see you two again,” said Litch. “One day you suddenly disappear and they tell us you have been adopted. You can imagine the uproar that caused in the orphanage…”


Camellia’s smile disappeared and her brother squeezed her hand.


“We weren’t adopted, Litch,” he confessed. “They sold us. They sold us to the circus.”







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