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Post Details
title Chapter 9
name Aileen Doll (ip:)
  • date 2017-02-15
  • Recommend Recommend
  • hit 127
point 0points

Hill of Sidh


Novelist : Judit Elias



CHAPTER 9



The two suns were rising, one almost over the horizon, the other still half hidden. The light, just warm, caressed the sand dunes still cold from the night, while clear blue filled the black sky. Luna gently shook Camellia and Cedric awake.


“Wake up,” she said, her voice no more than a whisper.


Camellia blinked, still half asleep.


“Why?” she heard Cedric mumbling.


“We have to gather water for the day,” Luna replied. “And now is the perfect time for it as it will be too hot later, when the temperature rises and the sources dry out. Licht said you two would help.”


The twins stretched and rose, picking up their canteens. They followed a dry riverbed until they found some wet soil. Luna told them to dig a hole, about twelve inches deep, and a pool of water appeared. The water was muddy, but it would be fine once the sediment had settled and the water was boiled.


“You can also find water in indentations on the rocks, especially after a thunderstorm,” she explained to the twins.


They stopped by some bushes that were covered in a spiky yellowish fruit. Carefully, they picked some of them. Luna showed them how to open them with a knife and get to the sweet tangy pulp.


 


After they had eaten breakfast, the group finished packing their things, ready to continue on their journey.


“Are you sure you don’t want to come with us?” asked Litch. “We can carry you on the gliders.”


“We still have some things to do here,” replied Cedric to his old friend. “We will be fine, don’t worry about it.”


The young man shrugged and hugged the twins, squashing them against his chest.


“I am glad we could meet again,” he said.


“We are too,” replied Cedric, feeling a lump in his throat. “And stop growing, you hear me?”


Litch laughed.


“No, you two start growing up! Seriously now,” he ruffled their hair, “we will see each other again, won’t we?”


Camellia hugged him back, tightly.


“We promise! We will meet again!”


They waved goodbye as the gliders disappeared over the horizon.


 


Now that there was no danger, the cyclopes and their mistress continued the search of the ruined village, although they didn’t have any more luck than the previous day. They finally entered the smallest dwelling, the last to be inspected and the most well-preserved.


“Not much left…” whispered Licorice in disappointment.


The house was not as empty as the others.


“There are a few ceramic pots and utensils in here,” said Cedric.


He placed one of them in his sister’s hand. It was a small clay bowl with white trees painted on it. The paint had faded over time. They also found spoons, forks and knives. Strikingly, there were two circles on each bowl, blade and plate rim. They couldn’t figure out what it meant, if it meant anything.


The bed frame in the bedroom was almost destroyed and the mattress was missing, but a small cot still stood by its side. It was simple and wooden, like the rest of the furniture. Camellia pushed it gently and the cot rocked from side to side, making a soft creaking sound.


Cedric called over to his sister.


“Look, Cammy, I found clothes!” he said


They were cheap rags, but what surprised them the most were the gloves. They had only three fingers. They searched the home from top to bottom and found a few more trinkets, including a large monocle they couldn’t figure out how to put on.


“If there was any clue here, it is long gone,” Licorice concluded. “I should have known.”


They felt defeated. Cedric and the mistress started discussing what their next step would be. They couldn’t go back to their home in Victoria, there was no home there any more. Camellia followed them and was about to leave the dwelling when she saw it, tossed onto the floor and covered in dirt and dust: a ragdoll. She could see the feet and the pink dress, her face hidden under a pile of rubble. She carefully uncovered the doll, discovering brown hair made of wool. It was when she turned it to face her that her breathing stopped altogether. The face was plain: a red thread sewn to make a smiling mouth, and one, just one, big blue button as an eye.


“Cedric,” her voice was a low whisper.


Her brother stopped in his tracks. Suddenly everything made sense to them, the three-fingered gloves, the monocle, the doll.


Her brother took the ragdoll, his mouth open in surprise. He gazed towards the mistress.


“Who lived here?”


Licorice sighed.


“I believe these are the ruins of a cyclopes’ settlement,” she said.


“Could it be…,”


Camellia did not dare to ask.


“It could. It might have even been your family who lived here.”


The twins exchanged a look. They could not remember anything from their life before the orphanage.


“What happened to them? What happened to the other cyclopes?”


Camellia had always assumed they were the only ones. She had never seen one of her species apart from her brother. But the mistress shook her head.


“I don’t know.”


 


They decided to head to the orphanage they had grown up in. Located in a nearby town, the orphanage was the biggest building around, just at the end of the large market street. It was made of grey stone with a white tiled roof, in contrast to the smaller sandy-coloured houses with flat roofs that surrounded it. The windows were tall and thin, fitted with thick glass panels. Open stalls, full of boxes of different foods, from dried and cured meats to exotic nuts and fruits, lined the streets. Camellia could remember running along those alleys, savouring the smells as her stomach clenched hungrily. The orphanage building had not changed at all, although the large wrought iron gate was now closed shut and covered in thick chains.


“Excuse me,” Cedric said to a passer-by, a fat woman carrying a basket full of bread. “Is the orphanage closed?”


The woman gazed at the twins and Licorice, wary of their weird appearance, but she replied politely.


“It is. It has been for years now. That place was horrible, the way they treated the little kids. It was a blot on our town. If you ask me, they should demolish the building so we can all forget about it.”


She continued down the street without another word.


Camellia jumped as she felt a hand on her shoulder. An old man, a really old man, was standing in front of them. Before they could say anything he stroked his long greyish beard and spoke.


“I hope I did not startle you, little one. It has just been so long since I saw a cyclops like you.”


The man introduced himself as a travelling merchant.


“Although now I am retired, of course. These bones are far too old for adventures. My sons manage the business while I keep my small shop,” he told them cheerfully, inviting them in.


They passed rows of rugs and pots filled with different spices and came to a door behind the counter. The room was nicely decorated with exotic furniture. They sat on colourful silk cushions on the floor, around a small table, and he offered the thirsty guests some prickly pear cactus juice with pine nuts, grapes and dates to nibble on.


“In my youth,” he said once they had got settled, “and I am talking many years ago, I used to travel around this area and beyond. One of my stops was at the ruins nearby. Although, at that time, they weren’t ruins but a lively and busy village. The town of your people, I guess.”


The man leaned back and closed his eyes, as if that helped his memory.


“They were peaceful people those cyclopes. And hospitable. Whenever we turned up they would offer us food and shelter. They loved hearing stories of our travels and they were good at making magic trinkets. We are not speaking of powerful magic here but easy day-to-day spells they fused with small objects to help them in their daily lives. Which reminds me…”


He stood and opened the top drawer of one of the intricately decorated chests, a low cabinet made of polished wood with various small rodent-like animals sculpted in relief. From it, he took out a compass. He showed it to the group. It looked like a normal compass until they noticed the needle was not pointing north.


“This was made by your people and has saved my life several times in the desert. It points to the most highly valued liquid on this planet: water,” the man said, proudly.


Licorice took a sip of her drink, unimpressed.


“Do you know what happened to them?” she asked.


The man’s smile faded.


“I only know what I was told, for I did not see it myself. It was during the night. They said the canons could be heard from here. Some people could see the ships in the distance, big wooden sand cruisers with black wheels and sails, propelled by the wind as well as fuel, leaving a trail of dark smoke behind them. When the local guards reached the cyclopes’ town it was too late. Several houses laid in ruins, all the valuables were gone and there was no one to be seen. They had taken them all.”


“Pirates,” mumbled Cedric, his face pale with shock.


“What could they have done with the cyclopes?” asked Camellia, fearing the answer.


The merchant averted his gaze and the room fell silent.


“They were likely sold as slaves, who knows where,” he answered in the end.


This was it. This was the end of their trail. Any hopes of finding their family were crushed.


“Years later, two baby cyclopes appeared in the orphanage, left in the middle of the night during a long cold winter,” continued the man. “I am assuming this was you two.”


Cedric nodded.


“Yes, it was us,” he said.


“Lately I have been hearing news of a travelling circus that has cyclopes in their troupe and…”


“That was also us,” intervened Cedric, wishing to change the subject, “but it was a long time ago. Years ago.”


“Was it?” the man now seemed confused. “They were near here just last month, and I am sure they announced they had cyclopes in their troupe.”


Camellia and Cedric exchanged a puzzled look. Licorice raised her thin eyebrows, her attention piqued.


 


Hours later, and armed with new information, they left the merchant, thanking him profusely. The man gave Cedric the compass, and said he hoped they could find their family one day. They were lucky to find a small hostel, so they would sleep on mattresses that night. The suns had set and the twins hopped onto the bed they would share, leaving the other one for their lady.


“If it is true that there are other cyclopes in the circus, we must find them,” said Licorice.


For the first time in many years, Cedric disagreed with his mistress’s wishes. Of course he wanted to find out what had happened to their family, but he knew that going to the circus would cause his sister a great deal of pain. However, Camellia took his hand and looked him in the eye. He could see the fear in her face, and a strong determination behind it.


“If the circus has cyclopes… We have to help them,” she concluded.


“There is more,” added the lady, lighting some candles. “Come closer.”


The twins approached, curious.


“I have never told you the reasons for my travels,” she said.


Nor had they ever dared to ask, although Cedric had helped her several times in the basement, examining potions. The mistress had always shared details of the worlds she visited when she was away. Pictures, drawings and the occasional trinkets she brought back with her ended up in the hands of two very curious cyclopes. However, she never talked about herself. Licorice’s gaze was now fixed on a very distant point, probably far away from that room in the hostel in Twinsun.


“All I know of magic was passed onto me by a sorceress,” she finally said. “Probably one of the most powerful wizards of our time.”


Carefully, she took out her silver necklace, a small locket that opened, revealing the picture of a young woman. She was smiling, her blue eyes shining, her long blonde hair tied in a braid.


“Her name was Lillie.”


Cedric and Camellia looked at each other. The name meant nothing to them.


“And with her knowledge,” continued their lady, “she entrusted me with her mission.”


The other side of the locket showed the picture of another woman with slanted black eyes and hair dark as coal.


“She was looking for a person, another sorceress named Nari. It is vital we find her and, with her, the secret she is hiding.”


“What secret?” asked Camellia.


“The eggs of the most ancient beast in the world, the dragon,” replied Licorice.


Something inside Camellia stirred. Dragon. The simple mention of the word made her shiver with excitement and nostalgia. She looked at her twin, Cedric’s face was pale and she knew he was feeling the same.


The mistress closed the locket.


“I have reasons to believe there is a link between your people and Nari. I must find her. And I must find the dragons.”


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