Yes, really, free. I've been so grateful for the support I'm getting from people reading my new novel, The Separation, and so I wanted to give back to YOU.
If you're anything like me, you pretty much live your life around watching Game of Thrones. If you don't, good GRACIOUS you better start. I mention this because the story I'm about to share with you is comparable to GoT's genre. If I had to label it, the label would read something like medieval-fantasy-awesomeness.
But you can judge for yourself. The story will be 10(ish) segments long, and I'll release them every week or so. If you don't like reading on here, check out my Wattpad account where it will also be available.
Happy reading, all!
The Feathered Egg -- Part One -- Yadia Habok
“I really must go now.” Sasia’s kiss fell on the apple of her sister’s cheek like a feather. She adjusted her headscarf and, after one last tearful smile, she disappeared from the little house on Munkai island. Yadia could not see her step into the narrow boat that would convey her twin sister across the Great Water, but she know that must be happening now. She had to get to the wedding somehow. It was Sasia’s marriage, after all.
Yadia sighed when she looked back at the house without Sasia in it. Not only was she gone, it seemed that she had taken their parents with her. Yadia’s mother was draped across the window sill, allowing herself to look haggard now that Sasia was out of sight. Her father was at work fishing the Great Water. They had all been working as much as possible to get the money to send Sasia to her husband. Even Yadia had stopped going to school and began helping her father fish. Now, with the wedding only a week away, Yadia could not even return. Not only had she missed the last exam of the term, the other girls at the Munkai school would never treat her the same now that Sasia was to be wed to a son of a Castor.
It shouldn’t matter, Yadia thought bitterly. It’s not as if Sasia’s new life will make mine any different.
But she knew that was not true. Sasia would be a Castor now, the richest people this side of the Great Water. Their floating barn was the envy of all the residents on Munkai. It was said that you could see its shape for miles and miles before you arrived. It was also said that the barn was a gift from the gods to Polix Castor in the years when magic was still alive and well. His sons had maintained the massive structure, filling it with stock of all kinds, for hundreds of years. Soon, Yadia would at least get to test the former theory. She was set to follow her sister across the Great Water to the floating barn of Castor in only a week. Though the wedding was sure to be dazzling, Yadia could not find it within her to be excited.
“Yadia,” her mother called softly. “Go into the market and find your father. You must help him sell today. Our work is not over.”
She sighed. Of course she knew it was not over. It would never be over. The family had hired a travel vessel for Sasia -- no cheap endeavor. It was for that vessel, and new wedding clothes, that Yadia and the rest of her family toiled. It would be easy for her to be angry with Sasia, but it would be no use. Yadia’s twin was pure, and she ought to know. They had shared a womb, a bed, and a mind for their entire lives. It was not like the stories the marketplace crones would tell; no magic was involved. But with only a look, Yadia could tell what her sister was thinking. She imagined it worked both ways, but now it would be hard to ever ask. Her sister was a half a world away, and Yadia was selling smelly fish in the market on Munkai.
It did not take long for her to locate her father’s tent. She’d been there time enough to know the tent solely from the feel of its canvas between her fingers. She did not need to read her father’s name hastily scrawled across its side. HABOK it read. Then, simply: FISH. Her father was not a clever man, and she wished he had let her do the lettering. She’d gotten top marks for penmanship at school.
As she swept the canvas out of her way, a gush of air entered her veil, and she held her breath to defend against the odor of fish. Yadia suddenly found herself in a new world of bickering men tearing money from each other’s fists one moment and laughing heartily the next. After she’d gotten used to this, Yadia found that she liked the cacophony of the marketplace. It allowed her to slip, unnoticed, tent to tent or dock to dock as the case may be. The men thought nothing of a dark clothed little Munkai girl, covered all but her eyes. That made it easy to get their money. She could tug on their arms just a little, lead them, guide them. And somehow they never seemed to notice the plain brown eyes that peered out from under her headscarf. They only noticed the fish, meager though it was, and usually they bought some. Yadia’s father said that business had never been so good as when she was there, “assisting.”
While she led them, she listened. They spoke of all sorts of things, in all sorts of words, most of which young ladies should not use. Yadia’s mother made sure that she never repeated what she heard in the market ever since she got caught whispering curses in Sasia’s ears. If her sister hadn’t been so quick to blush, they may never have been caught. But, as always, Sasia was too good of heart to be found guilty.
That’s why it was so easy for her parents to choose Sasia to become the bride of Tristan Castor. And her beauty didn’t hurt. But even the most beautiful girl in the world would have no chance to gain the admiration of a Castor without some intervention from the gods, which is what Yadia’s father attributed their good fortune to. Yadia wasn’t so sure. The story seemed to have reached legendary status on Munkai Island for as often as he told it. Each time, she thought it grew more and more extravagant. The last time she had heard it, it had gone something like this.
When Crispel Habok had married Amya Bodom, it had been for love, not status. Such was the way on Munkai, and thankfully his bride was thankful for it. What Crispel lacked in cleverness, he made up for in affection, though he would shower most of it on his wife before he fathered twin girls. Even then he worked as a fish merchant, long days spent on the Great Water alone and even longer nights finding his way back to the young Amya. On one such journey home, he came across something that would change the course of his life forever.
It looked like half an almond silhouetted in the reflection of the moon. After a moment, even Crispel could recognize that it was an overturned vessel, and the water was deadly still. Unlike most people of the Great Water, Crispel could swim, a side effect of having watched fish every day since he had gotten old enough to row. And in that moment, something struck him, and he leapt overboard.
At this part in the story, Yadia always rolled her eyes because her father said that the gods led him beneath the water with a glowing orb, an orb which led to a motionless body. Once Crispel had pulled the man aboard his own humble vessel, his body leaden with wet silk, he discovered that the man was not breathing. Somehow Crispel revived the man, and if the story was to be believed, a solid gold fish had spilled from his open mouth and disappeared into the Great Water. Regardless, when the man regained his senses, he was so overcome with gratitude for his savior that he made a significant promise: his first born son would wed the first born daughter of this man. It was then, and only then, that his life’s debt could be paid. Crispel readily agreed, although it wasn’t until morning light that he recognized the golden C emblazoned on his clothes as standing for Castor. The man was Lord Oryan Castor, and to be married to his son was better fortune than anyone on Munkai Island could ever dream of receiving. It was indeed a blessing from the gods, until Crispel fathered twin girls two years later.
As the story went, Crispel and Amya had decided to wait until they came of age to decide, but when Amya gave birth to Sasia, her beauty was so profound that they chose on the spot. And as she grew, she only became more comely, not to mention sweeter than any child the island had ever seen. And Yadia simply grew up beside her.
That was the part in the story when everyone would clap and cheer and Yadia’s parents would take Sasia’s veil off so that everyone could see how truly beautiful she was. And Sasia would blush and stutter until everyone had taken their fill of her face.
At least she was able to escape that, Yadia thought. She knew, just as she knew everything about her sister, that Sasia didn’t much like being shown off. When Yadia yearned to take her scarves off in the heat of the day, Sasia wrapped hers even tighter. The only person she allowed to look upon her face was Januel, the boy who helped her father sell in the market. Januel knew that in order to keep his job, he mustn’t stare, so he seemed the only man around whom Sasia relaxed.
“My darling!” The booming sound of her father’s voice pulled Yadia from her reverie brusquely. “I’ve needed you all day. Thank the gods you are here! There, a traveling group has just docked, go and lead them my darling.”
With a kiss on the top of her head, Crispel pushed her gently out of the tent toward the new group of men. Within just a few moments, Yadia had them all laughing in her father’s tent, buying scrawny silver baitfish. The haul today was especially pathetic, but they hardly seemed to notice. She only hoped she could keep providing them to her father. Before long, she would need to find a husband herself, though the prospect brought her no joy. In the meantime, she decided, she would stay married to the fish.