Layten tried, and failed, to open his eyes again. He’d tried several times since he’d become somewhat aware that he was in fact, still among the living. Not that he should be. What had he done? He’d been on that blood-soaked hill, watching everything fall apart, and then… he’d grabbed the Anchor’s staff that she’d dropped. What had happened after that? He tried to make sense of it, a feeling of pleasure? Pain? It didn’t make any sense.
His eyes wouldn’t open. He couldn’t move anything, and worse yet, he was thirsty. Noticeably thirsty. Even thinking about the fact made him crave a bucket, no, a barrel of cold water. He could imagine it washing away his thirst, the mere idea made him want to a drink even more. But he couldn’t do anything. He was stuck inside his own head.
Or something like that. This wasn’t too different than when he’d made that bargain with the voices to save Wix. Wix. Hop. Delerie. The names of his friends and the girl he loved brought worry, pain, sorrow. He had no idea if they had survived the chaos of the attack. He was too parched to cry though, not that he could right now.
But this darkness held no voices but his own to talk to. He’d almost welcome the voices now. Something to distract him from the strange existence he found himself in. He’d doze off, or at least think he had then his mind would spring awake, but still not connected to the rest of him. That was it. He wasn’t connected. He felt like a paper soldier. When he’d been very little, his mother had folded and cut out a small army of paper soldiers. Each one had been connected to the next one. They had been fun at first, but then he’d cut them apart, which hadn’t gone well, as they needed the connection to the next to stand up.
He was cut off. It was horrible. Would he be like this forever? Until he died of thirst? Hunger? He might already be dead for all he knew. This didn’t seem like any description of the life with Sartum, but in his heart he knew he’d been less and less a good servant of the god. Maybe he was here because he wasn’t a good follower anymore, and his existence would just be this, forever.
That less than pleasant thought stuck with him for a while. The despair he felt at the idea grew over time, leaving him even more sorrowful. He hated this. I just want to be awake or die. This semi-existence is horrible. He imagined himself sitting at a desk, with a single candle, if he thought hard enough, he could almost see it. Feel its warmth, smell the faint hint of soot and smoke as the wick burned the beeswax.
A warm glow. One that reminded him of life, of reading at night in his room back home. Home. He was still not happy with the choices his parents had made, and he doubted he ever would be, but he did miss them. He missed that life. If he’d stayed and followed his father’s footsteps he’d be living at the marsh, making paper. Maybe he’d meet a trader’s daughter, a few had started bringing them along from time to time. He almost laughed, if he could have, at the realization that had been for him. Prospective wives.
Wives. His thoughts turned to Delerie. What would her hair look like in the candlelight? The copper redness reflecting the orange light. Her grin, her eyes always on the verge of either laughter or a challenge. Layten suspected that any life with her would be stormy. She was a strong woman with strong opinions, but he liked that. He never had to guess as to how she felt about something, if she was angry, he’d know. If she was sad, he’d know. And if she was feeling like she wanted to get physical, he would know.
So different than the women his friends chased after. Well, Hop chased after any woman who showed any interest. Ever. And a great many did. Layten by rights should be a bit jealous of Hopwell. A good looking nobles son cut a dashing figure through any location he was at. It was a fortunate thing that he was just a decent enough person that you found it hard to be mad at him about it. He never forced anything, and never talked anyone into any situation, he just seemed to make it happen by sheer charisma.
And Wix, the fast-talking, street-smart thief, had been hung up on that girl… what was her name? The quiet one, shy almost. Luiy. That was it, Luiy. Wix was different around her, quieter. No, gentler. That was it, he was gentle.
He hoped they were all safe. The events of that day were clear, up to a point. The fighting, the swirl of the fight below them, groups attacking, falling back, joining forces, and falling apart. In a strange way it had been almost fun to watch, if you kept the fact that those were people fighting and dying. The candle flickered in the dark. Flickered?
Layten knew this candle wasn’t real. It was just something he was imagining to keep his mind of the fact that he was either dead or dying himself. Wasting away due to thirst. Or grabbing that Anchors staff had done something horrible to him. He had no idea why he’d taken it up. He just didn’t want to die, that was all. He didn’t want to face that tearing feeling, as if he was going to be ripped apart.
It wasn’t a shield, designed for the army, for any old body with two arms and two legs to use. It was an Anchor staff. He’d been afraid of Anchors and those things for a very long time. Only his desire to not die had beaten his fear of getting involved with anything dealing with an Anchor. The candle flickered again.
Layten stared at the candle. It wasn’t real. Why was it flickering like a real flame? Why? Layten concentrated, trying to figure this out. He felt… strange. Stranger than he’d ever felt since he became aware here. Something was different. The candle, it flickered and oddly grew. The light from it did at least. What had been a tiny glow, expanded, growing brighter, and stronger. And as Layten was bathed in the light, things changed.
Pain. Pain came next. Every muscle in his body let him know in no uncertain terms just how much it hated being inside him. Every joint ached, every inch of skin hurt. The light grew stranger still, and a sound could be heard, a low murmur, which expanded. It changed and swirled. A voice he knew. He tried to make it out but failed. The pain made it hard to think.
And the thirst. Because as the light finally expanded to envelop him fully, the dull ache for a drink became a spike, breaking through the pain, and plunging into his gut. Thirst. He was sooo thirsty. The light changed, the orange became yellow, which in turn became white.
The thirst came again, and for the first time in who knows how long Layten could feel his body. He could make it do things; he was sure of it. He concentrated and opened his mouth, he couldn’t see yet, but he was sure it was open. He tried to speak, but all that came out was a broken cracking hiss.
But whomever that voice was knew. They knew what he wanted, what he needed. Something cold and metal was placed near his lips, his dry cracked lips. He could feel that. It wasn’t all just pain! He could feel the broken and peeling skin on his lips! The cold metal cup, which is what it had to be, tilted and a thin blissful stream of cold water poured into his mouth.
He swallowed, marveling as the water rushed over a dry tongue and down a throat that was in agony except for the thin cold line the water made as it headed down. Water. He was alive! He lowered his head, desperate for more of the liquid. More, he had to have more! The stream grew, and a feeling of blissful happy exhaustion hit him.
Layten Grayread opened his eyes.
Calmar threw another massive ball of fire at a retreating northern ship, screaming as he did so. He had been so close! He’d had them, he’d almost had the Anchor and all that magic, and she’d slipped away. And even worse, someone had found a way to blunt his new ability! They had, taken, his attack. He couldn’t put it any other way.
Taken. The Anchor had somehow managed to block it, at least somewhat. He suspected it had something to do with the odd bond the Anchor and their guards had. What to the empties call them? Protectors? Yes, Protectors. There was some link there that he’d not expected. The Anchor had used it and their staff to block the taking of the power, at least long enough to open a portal and vanish.
That had been bad enough. But then, someone else had grabbed the staff. At this distance he’d not been able to make it out well, and he’d been concentrating too much on his attack to bother with workings that extend his sight.
And then… the working had been torn from him. Taken. Stolen. And not used against him. No, it had been broken apart, the threads of the power torn asunder before his very senses, and then, absorbed by this new figure. It should be impossible. There had been only one Anchor there. And yet, it had happened.
And worse, before he could do anything about it, a new portal had opened, and grabbed the staff and the person holding it, and dragged them into it, closing behind them. Gone. His prize was gone. All that power, just gone. He was wasting his power now, but no matter, he could refill it, he just had to be more careful next time. And right now, he was angry.
The ship caught fire of course as the flame smashed over its side. Port, starboard… who cared. It needed to be sunk. He wanted it to sink. He wanted to hear their screams. The other ships had already escaped. But this one was the last. The battle was over, the south had beat them back. But this one, this ship was his to destroy. Calmar focused and drawing all the power from a well, made nothing more than a lance. A lance of pure fire and rock.
With a flick of a wrist and an order in his mind the lance flew, trailing fire and smoke, a giant spear to wreck his vengeance for losing his prize. The lance struck, exploding against the already on fire ship. A massive hole appeared, and water rushed in. Even from here Calmar could hear the ships bell, and voices yelling. A few tiny figures jump off the flaming wreck, but soon the ship was gone, sunk down into the water.
“Good.” Calmar scowled at the water. This would fit that fool of a northerners plans just fine. And it made Calmar feel better. He would get his prize. He would. From now on any Anchors would be captured and held until he could arrive. Oh, the experiments he could do. The power he could attain.
They were just empties, so they weren’t REAL people. His reserves were low though, he’d need to refill soon. It was just a needed sacrifice by the south. Just a small sacrifice. He could sense a few survivors of the ship that had gone down. Not many, but a few. He briefly considered draining them but decided against it. Now, they might be useful, he could just capture them. There were workings to enforce their loyalty. Ways of control. And if they proved to not be useful, he could drain the power from them anyway.