This is the second part in a series of my writing works-in-progress. This one begins with ‘The Port’ which I wrote about ten months ago. It belongs somewhere in the fantasy genre. I had a few ideas with this and ended up writing this part up late at night earlier this week. It was a good way to unwind.
As an aside, I recently decided to make ‘having an appreciation of spirits’ a longer term goal of mine.
My thoughts are each bottled spirit is the result of science and research into flavours and process, and is a measure of skill and effort. One of the objectives underpinning each bottle, like many things I’d suggest, is to be known as a product of fine quality and great enjoyment. There are also plenty of bottleshops. These beverages must be enjoyable.
Ergo, drinking hard liquors could make for a tasty and fun pasttime. It could prove very expensive too—which is why I’ve made this a longer-term goal and I’ll stick with a spend limit of under $60 per bottle, if even that, which to me seems reasonable enough.
I want to own the bottles of the beverages I try. Just because. While I could sample different drinks before buying, I am happy to browse reviews and to then decide on something to purchase. I feel like by-the-bottle ownership and collection is an observable hallmark of this being more of a hobby, as opposed to not—and what it isn’t includes a lot of things, like being the start of an unhealthy drinking habit. I’ll (hopefully) keep this to one bottle at a time, lest I pass out… from realising I’ve blown my wage on booze.
All things considered, if it means trying exciting flavours and if it perhaps helps take the edge off things on occasion, this could very well be worth it. And I will at least have a better appreciation of the beverages than I do at present.
Getting Part 2 on paper I can say was aided by two shots of Captain Morgan rum. 🥃 #suddenlyinspired.
Read previous: Part 1: The Port
Part 2: The Return
Manicured fingers holding a pin began to pick at the locks on the suitcase positioned at the centre of the stage.
There was a loud pop as the suitcase sprang open.
Immediately a cloud of thick smoke released into the air, bringing with it the overpowering smell of bergamot and patchouli. The incense was contrasting and brash, but not unpleasant. It transported the audience. Dessenmire had brought the shop of a fortune-teller to the Port. They were about to be treated.
‘She’s one of the magic acts! I bet you she’s a witch!’ an excited girl with piercing blue eyes and messy bronze hair squealed excitedly, as several of the crowd looked to the back row with disapproval.
‘Tell us something we don’t know,’ grunted the boy seated next to her feigning a yawn.
‘Kurt, it’s the first time Flora’s been out in ages. It is the first time I’ve been out in ages,’ muttered the man beside him with slight annoyance. He had the young girl on his lap, and with the poor seating they had managed to scarp, Leven Vruikton was sweating and regretting his choice of an overcoat. Kurt Galling’s usual snide remarks were the last thing he needed.
‘Look who’s making all this noise. I’m trying to enjoy the show,’ huffed Kurt, holding his algae-green jumper up pretending to create a wall between their seats.
Leven sighed. Kurt was in his late teens. He had to know that his childishness was quickly getting old.
Grateful that he had suggested only three of them go today and that the rest of the In-Charge on Consociate Thirty of the Starlock had listened, Leven’s mind wandered. Leaving the ship in Moraen’s hands was not ideal but he needed a break. One day at the Port would not be the end of the world.
‘Flora, I think you’re right,’ he whispered softly in the girl’s ear. ‘There’s usually a magic act in the top hundred. Make that a few, usually. I haven’t seen one in the longest time.’
She answered his kind eyes with a broad grin and pinched his arm playfully.
‘I knew it! I knew it!’ she said wriggling.
‘Careful, Winters. My leg!’ He winced as the heel of her pink Mary-Jane sandal dug into his thigh.
He hadn’t expected her to notice. ‘Lev, I’m sorry,’ she said climbing off him. Flora managed to give him a clumsy hug, before promptly returning to his lap, making an effort to dangle her legs to one side. Her tiny hands were cold. He patted her head and pulled his red scarf around her. Flora Wintershire was like a daughter to him.
The smoke had disbursed leaving behind a fine haze. Dessenmire’s back was now to the crowd, and the suitcase out of view. She raised her arms as the stage dimmed. Her split-back yellow dress accentuated thin flaxen hair, and made privy a fragile frame and ghost-white skin. The sound of haunting panpipes began to play as she began to twirl her hands chanting melodious words in a foreign tongue.
All eyes fixated on the living doll. Her song and dance was haunting.
‘She’s so beautiful,’ Flora gasped.
‘She is, isn’t she?’ replied Leven with a slight smile. He felt his mind being distracted. He pinched himself. ‘Do you see her wrist? Look closely.’
‘What is it?’
In a swift motion he swung the girl easily on to his shoulders, ‘There. Five pearls in a crescent shape, that’s it. The sign of Ith’sazar. Hers is blue. I wonder.’
‘What’s a crescent?’
‘The half-moon of our skies,’ he said signalling for them both to shush. She mimicked his action.
With each lyric, Dessenmire seemed to be describing something of beauty and purity. Gentleness and an angelic quality carried through her words.
Her voice grew stronger.
From the suitcase, the blackness of a shadow erupted and a three-foot tar-black figure took form, skyrocketing to the ceiling, as if being freed from a prison. Several terrified screams filled the room.
‘Now, now, people,’ came the unsure voice of a startled Riktor Silkbatton.
‘Let Miss Dessenmire continue,’ he warned, motioning to the man in the purple suit before returning to his normal speaking voice.
‘Quickly, tissues for Miss Rosenne. Mr Dofter, would you, please? Must I ask you! The lady has been frightened. Quickly!’
He nodded at Dessenmire to continue.
‘What was that?’ Kurt had inched closer. His eyes were wide. Leven couldn’t help but stifle a smirk at the boy’s sudden change in attitude. Flora had buried her face in Leven’s arm.
Riktor’s businesslike manner seemed to reassure the frightened faces in the crowd. The blackness continued to rise as she continued her song. The shadow grew larger still as Dessenmire moved away from the suitcase, revealing that it was empty.
Floating above the suitcase, was a black shadow with physical form. It was alive, moving to its own rhythm.
‘Pron el’n neth ver’ie’, Dessenmire said in a controlled voice.
The darkness changed form. The unmistakable form of a man. A beast. Then it shrunk and seemed to become the shadow a woman.
‘A’sha, fi ney. Return,’ she spoke.
The room was plunged into blackness for a split second. It returned to brightness. Candles, coloured deep purples and firey reds, appeared where the shadow had been. The playing of circus music interrupted the silence.
Dessenmire took a bow to thunderous applause. The noise of a crowd in awe overtook the room. Amidst the noise, Dessenmire could hear questions flying: who and how, was she an enchantress. Enthusiastic voices were trying to figure out what they had witnessed. The Chairman stood for a second before departing the box.
‘Brilliant, Miss Dessenmire,’ Riktor said, briefly taking her hand. He led her off stage and waved for the resident porter to follow behind them with the suitcase.
He strode back towards the microphone, ‘Judges. Scoring please. As usual, hand back to me at the conclusion of the event. With that, we break!’
He swung around singing as if an opera countertenor, ‘My hands, eyes, and the rest of me, are currently busy. Jadler, I will be handing over to you. Jaddd-lerr.’
‘Yes, boss, ne’er a problem,’ the lanky gentleman in a matching maroon suit lazily spat out a half-chewed toothpick and shook Riktor’s shoulder, ‘Off you pop, lad.’
Riktor straightened his tie grinning. Noticing the room emptying, he stepped down into the backroom.
‘Did they like it, Riks?’ Dessenmire took the boy’s arm gently. Without the glaring lights, she was different. Plainer, much more like the woman he remembered her to be. Her eyes were the same, asking a million things. The innocent way she spoke hadn’t changed. He felt she always valued his opinion much more than her own.
Riktor looked taken aback for a moment. ‘Riks,’ his eyes danced as he paused, ‘That’s the first time anyone’s called me that in the longest time!’
She noticed his hand shaking.
L’Ouvelle prompted, ‘Well, how did I do?’
He regained his composure. ‘What can I say, whatever that was, you had me scared there. What was that?
Where exactly did that come from?
You have us all spellbound.
I’m not meant to say this, but there’s no point pretending otherwise: Holsteins will want to see you. Haakon will have heard.’
His voice grew quieter, ‘Also, there’s a lot I don’t know about you.’ Riktor leaned in, placed a hand on her shoulder and procured her a jacket in the other.
‘Everyone knows you’re the witch, after that performance. A witch at the Port, that’s quite unbelievable.’
He looked her dead in the eye, ‘Twenty-one years it’s been. I’m not sure I believe it.’
She took that as a cue to kiss his cheek: ‘I am back Riks’. Caramel and tiger orchid filled his nose. He couldn’t help but blush.
‘Tomorrow, how about I meet you at Wesley’s, the pub down near the riverside? Stage one will continue during the day and I’m going to bored out of my wits. There are no magic acts. I will need something to perk me up a bit. Wesley’s, I have heard, does fine burnt marshmallow pies.’
She nodded, amused, ‘Burnt marshmallow, really.’
‘Really,’ Riktor laughed.
Alone in the cabin Leven was pacing. He was glad he had managed the three of them to the inn. Not many places accepted foreign tender, Qos coins especially. The pudgy woman who had served him had raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Flora had been shaken by the shadow. Referring to it as ‘the monster’, she had complained it was out to get her and refused to leave Leven’s side. Hot chocolate with extra chocolate seemed to have worked and she had quickly fallen asleep.
Kurt had retired to his room after attending the pub foot rub, an advertised bonus for staying at the inn. He had remarked at being thoroughly impressed with the result. Kurt had explained that the foot rub consisted of a burly man filing his feet before applying a sweet-smelling apple oil. He had happily paraded his new callous-free feet and surprised Leven with an apology for their tiff earlier. His jolly spirits had Leven wondering if the explanation had been entirely truthful.
They were ahead of schedule by a day. No one would be expecting them back until evening tomorrow.
The In-Charge turned a blind eye to most things short of a disaster. The captain, whose views seemed always to take precedence amongst the six of them, had been especially moody.
Leven scoffed at the idea of Flora’s father deciding to take an interest in his daughter, envisaging the captain jumping at the opportunity to suggest that Flora had been put in danger. Raul Wintershire would have them grounded on the Starlock. Raul was good at being a captain. Experienced, knowledgeable, and generous with his time on matters relating to the ship. Other matters, Raul kept to himself. Leven could never distill what exactly the captain did in his offtime, observing only that he disappeared on and off at odd hours. Whatever it was, his plans rarely included Flora.
Moraen would no doubt be spending the majority of his time below deck, scoping out potential swinging voters, and making the most of their absence. Leven had tried his best to stay out of the politics and games, but there was no denying that they were important. He had resigned to the idea that he would be roped in more than he already was for the sake of appeasing the Consociate and keeping his position.
He reassured himself of his decision to delay a return to the Starlock: it would avoid needless dialogue. Whispers of Dessenmire would find their way to the ship. They didn’t need to hear it from him.
The shadow stayed on Leven’s thoughts. Tension was wearing on the stony-faced appearance he had been keeping up.
Where had the shadow come from? What he had witnessed was not from this world. It did not matter if it had all been a trick. Dessenmire was real. Whatever creature she had brought to the Port was neither human nor animal. What of the stories he had heard? There was more truth to tales of the sea than people believed. Long-winded as they were, the warblings of Warlin, elders aboard the ship, had given him glimpses into lives lived before him. He had listened to ancient lives of another world. Stories of things unbounded, unexplainable by the laws of this world. Happenings that had fed his curiosity and more recently forced his attention.
The mark of Ith’sazar had been lost on the commonfolk of the Port. Dessenmire had not cared to hide whatever link she had with them. If the Ith’sa were back, that meant there were others. Witherey as they were known among seafarers were not to be trusted. They were different. Human, but a different breed. The spells and the creatures they liked to create had wreaked havoc before.
He watched the glowing embers in the fireplace. His thoughts drifted, unable to settle. His past, his present, his future. The uncertainty was never-ending.
He swirled the drink in his glass. He felt a war brewing.