The Emerald Sky | Teen Ink

The Emerald Sky

December 6, 2017
By MiyaNaomi BRONZE, Berkeley, California
More by this author
MiyaNaomi BRONZE, Berkeley, California
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
'Rat farts!' -The Bishop, Caddyshack

Author's note:

I love fantasy and medieval novels, and I love exploring religion and belief systems through stories- so this novel is a mix of the two. 

The author's comments:

I've got more chapters to come, they're just in the editing process right now. Thanks for reading, and please be critical and honest in the comments!

“Did you clean the bodies last night?”
“Yes, Ozias,” Zei said.
“Good. Would you please fetch the woman that came in earlier this morning?”
“The bloody one?”
“Yes, her. I want to wash her down. If you need any help carrying her, ask Irvin.”
“Yes, Ozias.”
“Good lass.” He kissed her forehead and returned to the back room.
Zei walked past the rows of labeled wooden drawers and into the entrance room. The room was small and simple, with only a heavy wooden front door and a skylight.
A woman lay slumped against the stone wall, eyes open. Light streamed from the skylight and hit part of her face, accentuating her cuts and bruises. Zei grabbed the woman by her underarms and tried to lift her. She was too heavy to lift, but Zei managed to drag her out of the entrance room and back to the main hall.
The woman left a trail of dirt and blood across the cold floor. Zei eased her onto the ground and lifted her burlap shirt. The bloody remnants of a stab wound covered part of her stomach.
She continued to drag the large woman down the hall and into the back room, where Ozias was waiting. 
“You’ve left blood all over the hall,” Ozias said. He wiped his hands against his trousers. “Why didn’t you ask Irvin for help?” He lifted the woman from the ground and placed her on a table in the center of the small room.
Zei grabbed a rag from a bucket beside the table and wrung it out. Ozias took it from her and began to wipe the woman’s face.
His cleaning revealed a pretty woman, firehaired and brown eyed, covered in freckles.
“What was her name?” Zei asked.
“Skilar Farbrook,” he said. “Attacked by raiders on the way to Zahar.”
“How’d she get back here?”
“Her sister was with her.” He began to clean her stomach, then changed the subject. “Viro Alstone has a full jar. Release him, please. And if you see Irvin, tell him I’ll meet him in the chamber once he’s readied the fire.”
Zei nodded.
“I told you about my excursion, did I not?” He said. “I’m leaving for Sailer this afternoon, I shouldn’t be back for a few days.”
Zei nodded again. She’d be in charge of the House of the Slain while he was gone.
“Thank you, Zei,” he said. His eyes wrinkled when he smiled.
Her heart beat a bit faster when she thought of running the Slain alone. She reached into the satchel at her hip and pulled out a waxen pouch.
Zei walked back out into the main hall and traced her finger along the drawers. Addiston, Aimer, Alltrap… Alstone. She pulled the drawer open and found the jar labeled ‘Alstone, Viro.’ She opened it and poured about an eighth of Viro Alstone’s ashes into the pouch in her hand.
She heard footsteps coming from the entrance room, then Irvin sauntered into the hall. He tossed his hair and smiled.
“Good morning, Zei,” he said.
“Ozias wants you to ready a fire,” Zei said. “He’ll meet you in the chamber when you’re done.”
“I can’t even get a good morning in return?” Irvin pouted.
“Good morning, Irvin.”
Irvin grinned. “Better,” he said. “Could use a smile, though. I’ve never seen such a serious little lass.”
“I’m not a little lass.”
“If you say so,” he said, then headed out back, to the firewood.
Zei closed the jar and put it back in the drawer, then stuck a hand in her boot to make sure her dagger was still there. It was. She put the waxen pouch, now full of Viro Alstone’s ashes, back into her satchel.
She went through the entrance room and out in front of the building.
An early morning fog floated in the air. People on foot and in wagons were beginning to fill the street, ready to head down to the docks and make the morning’s first catch.
Zei looked into the street, hoping to see a familiar face.
“Zei! Need a ride?” A woman said from her wagon. Kat, the best baker in Sied, and a friend of Zei’s. She rode to the side of the street and stopped. Zei gratefully pulled herself up into the wagon.
“Thank you, Kat,” Zei said.
“Not a problem,” Kat said. She looked her over. “Is Ozias starving you at the Slain? The old man might not eat a thing, but no growing lass should be looking as skinny as a fishing rod.” She reached into the back of the wagon and pulled out a pastry. “Take this.”
Zei took the pastry. It tasted like raspberries and cream, and it melted in her mouth. The wagon started up, headed towards the docks.
“Thank you again,” Zei said. She took little bites, in an attempt to savor the treat.
“My pleasure.” Kat looked at the satchel that Zei had tied around her dress. “Who’s that?”
“Viro Alstone.”
“I know his sister,” Kat said. “What happened to him?”
“Ozias said it was a brawl,” Zei said. She was beginning to see fewer homes and more shops, selling everything from shoes to firewood. The tailer waved to her from the front steps of his little store.
“The siblings share a temper, then,” Kat said. They were silent for a moment. “How are Ozias and Irvin?”
“Ozias is leaving for Sailer today.”
“Ah, another trip. Have his others been successful?”
“Very,” Zei said. “He’s created Houses everywhere.”
“Everywhere?” Kat asked.
“As far as Veriport.”
“He’s got the North covered, then,” Kat said.
“I suppose. North in the Empty East, at least.”
“Is he looking to go to Westward?”
“I don’t know,” Zei said. She hoped he wasn’t. She didn’t want him going so far from home.
They pulled up to the docks. Zei thanked Kat for the ride, then walked down to her boat. It was a little wooden thing, without sails, just two oars hooked to the edge. She climbed inside, released the ropes from the dock, and paddled away.
The sun was rising now, poking bright holes in the heavy fog. The light bounced off the water and forced Zei to squint as she paddled into the ocean. Fishers were out too, their boats gliding silently as they dropped their lines.
Zei closed her eyes for a moment and felt the morning chill run through her. She hadn't bothered to grab her coat at the Slain, so she was wearing only her burlap dress and wool stockings. Still, she knew the cold would clear by late morning, and for the time being, the chill felt good.
When she felt as though she was far enough, Zei stopped paddling. The boat came to a slow glide, and she tugged her satchel loose and pulled out the pouch. She opened it, careful not to drop any ashes in the boat, and held it over the water.
She tipped it over and watched the ashes float and rest on the surface.
“Viro Alstone,” she said.
She grabbed the oars and paddled back to the shore. Low tide would be setting in soon, which meant she’d have to hurry if she wanted to dock before the clam-catchers crowded the Siedan waters.
Once she’d docked, Zei headed back towards the House of the Slain. By now the waterfront was crowded and noisy, filled with merchants shouting “Oysters, oysters!” Or “Fine fish here, scaled and ready to cook!” Children from the House of Mothers flooded the streets, buying shellfish to bring to the Elders.
She wouldn't be able to get a ride- no one came back from the waterfront until noon. So she wove her way up the street, her satchel bouncing at her hip, bumping into the horses and carts and people streaming down to the shore. Today was especially busy, because there were three major cargo ships leaving within the day.
Eventually Zei decided to take a detour. She turned after the tailor shop, and slipped into a skinny alleyway. On her right side was a small window, and above that, an ugly gargoyle stood guard on the roof. She reached up and grabbed the windowsill, then scrambled onto it. When she was younger she could stand on that windowsill easily, but now, only her toes fit on the ledge. Wobbling slightly, she wrapped her arms around the gargoyle and pulled herself onto the roof.
From there it was easy. She jumped from rooftop to rooftop, over thin alleyways, stopping only once to wave at the children from the Mothers. The sun was in full view now, and Zei could clearly see the entire city of Sied. She could see the busy docks and crowded waters, and the relative calm of the streets further from the shore. She could see the House of Stolen Angels, its roof adorned with strips of cloth. Soon enough, she was across the street from the House of the Slain.
Something was off. The Slain stood, plain and nondescript, just like it always did. But there was something different about it.
Then Zei realized the door was open.
It was wide open, swaying slightly, brass knocker shining. Ozias never left it that way. If there was a particularly foul-smelling body, he might open the back door or a window, but never the front door. An open front door, Ozias said, was a sure way to usher in the ocean’s backhand. Zei had seen the ocean’s backhand once before, when she was around twelve. She’d been forced to stay on the roof with Ozias and Irvin for days until the flooding subsided. But because the doors had been closed, the Slain suffered less damage than the other buildings in Sied.
She climbed down from the roof and warily crossed the street. She peered into the entrance room, but no one was there. The door to the main hall was closed.
Zei didn't go inside. Instead, she walked around the side of the building and towards the pile of firewood, careful not to make any noise.
She was beginning to hear voices from inside the Slain. Mostly male, maybe one or two women. She ducked behind the firewood and tried to listen, but couldn't make out what they were saying.
Suddenly she heard the back door swing open. The voices emerged, laughing and shouting.
“There’s a girl,” a woman said. Her voice was pitchy and hurried. “Around fourteen. That tailer said so.”
Zei heard the clang of steel as the voices disappeared around the other side of the building.
Zei sat with her back against the pile of wood. She tried to imagine why so many people would be in the Slain. And with swords? There was no military in Sied. As long as the dead swam in the sea, there was no need for such protection.
She reached into her boot and pulled out her dagger, then slowly stood up and walked towards the back entrance. She gripped the dagger tightly in her right hand.
Then she stepped on something soft. She looked down and saw a hand, thin and pale and calloused.
Why’d Ozias bring Skilar Farbrook outside? She thought.
She looked around the corner and saw the rest of the body. It was tall and skinny, dressed in burlap trousers and a bloodstained shirt. Its hair was splayed out like a halo, as luxurious and blonde as it had been in life. Irvin’s throat was sliced clean open, blood still coursing into the grass. His eyes were open.
Zei stared down at him. Her heart was beating in her throat. She knelt down, closed his eyes, then looked up at the back door. It was opened slightly, so that there was only a sliver of space between the door and its frame. She leaned her ear against the opening.
“You fail to listen, old man,” said a young man’s voice. “Neither Sailer, nor any other Empty city, needs more ‘no-god’ horseshit shoved down their throats. Have you not received a single rider? Or, in your stubborn age, have you neglected to give a s***?”
There was a pause, and an inaudible reply. Zei tried to peek through the tiny crack in the door.
A man stood with his back to her. He wore boiled black leather armour with silver patterns sewn along his neck and waist. Thin mail hung from his shoulders. His hair was light and curly, tied back with a cotton strip. One hand held a gleaming sword, while the other was wrapped around Ozias’s neck. Zei could see a thin line of blood dripping down Ozias’s bald head.
“Time and time again, you steal away the people of Sailer to join your Siedan cult. Time and time again, the Flockstaffs kindly ask you to stop. When we caught wind of your next excursion, well… here I am, am I not?”
Zei pulled the door open, one inch at a time. The door was silent- it had never been one to creak. Dagger in hand, she crept towards the man. He didn't hear her.
“You’re the king of the morgue, old man,” he said. “It’s about time you earned the title.”
The man lifted his sword and drove it into Ozias’s back. He grunted.
Ozias toppled forward and lay on the stone ground, completely still.
Zei felt herself go numb. She took one more, much less quiet step toward the man. He turned around.
Zei knew where to go. She knew where every single organ was placed in the human body- she’d known since she was six. She knew her dagger was eight inches long. She knew an average human torso was around twelve inches thick. She knew how to sharpen a blade until it could shave a leaf.
Her right hand shot forward. The blade cut through the leather and planted itself in his heart.
His eyes widened for a moment, then went blank. He sank to his knees. She pulled her dagger out of his chest and watched him fall.

Similar books


This book has 0 comments.