For anyone who has read my posts recently, you are probably aware that my writing club and I have been working on a project in which we all work together to create a common world in which we can write our own individual stories. So far, I know of three of us who have taken a stab at actual stories, and what I have found is that we still have a ways to go before we’ve got some solid ideas. Still, though, the project has been great fun and I’m eager to see where it ends up.
There are currently 5 races that we’ve created so far: the Espeirians, a race that lives on islands that float in the sky; the Sireni, a human race that has the ability to breathe underwater and lives in cities beneath the ocean; the Sinti, a gypsy/American Indian/migrant race; the Aeryans, an Ancient Greek/Roman/Western European sort of culture; and the Crae, who are essentially cliff dwellers. Seeing as how the other two club members I’ve spoken with have been working with stories about the Espeirians, I thought I’d take a stab at a different race. For my story, I chose to write about the Sireni.
It’s actually rather ironic that I chose to write about the aquatic race, as it was the one race I was having the hardest time wrapping my mind around when we first started planning. I can’t say that it was particularly easy to write about. I’m accustomed to writing from a modern, retro, or medieval perspective, but it has always been based on land. With this story, however, I had to take a step back. What would life be like in the ocean? What would land-dwellers have that ocean-dwellers couldn’t and vice versa? What would change? What would they have in common? When settlers came to the New World, they used familiar words for unfamiliar things. Thus, the word “corn,” which originally meant “wheat,” came to be used to describe what we (we United Statesians, at least) now know as corn. It happened more than once in real life. Would it happen in a fantasy world, too? And if so, what words would be reborn?
What you will find below is the first draft of the story I’ve been working on. It’s still very rough, but I’d say it’s a good start. (No bias, right?) Happy reading, and don’t forget to leave feedback!
Working Title: A Coming Storm
Dappled sunlight glittered in through a nearby window as Ajla tightened the last of her bootstraps around her leg and glided to her feet, rocking back and forth as she stared down at the boots’ rounded toes. For a moment she didn’t look away, seemingly entranced by the sight. A moment later, however, a squeal escaped her lips as she twirled excitedly in the middle of her room.
“Mom!” came a familiar voice from just outside the bedroom door. “I think Ajla just hurt herself again.”
The young woman glared menacingly at the door before taking long, proud strides through her aquatic world and pulling the door open to glare at her younger brother, Luka, who lay placidly in the hallway playing a game with stones and seashells.
Quietly Ajla crossed her arms over her chest, tapping one foot against the stone floor, waiting for her brother to acknowledge her presence. It was several seconds, however, before the boy finally glanced up.
“What?” he asked, looking back at his game.
“I did not hurt myself, thank you very much,” Ajla huffed, tipping her chin up slightly.
“Uh-huh,” Luka grunted, hopping one stone over two tiny conch shells.
“I didn’t,” his sister insisted, stomping one foot slightly. “Look! Look at what I’m wearing!”
Luka glanced up slightly again.
“You look weird without your fins,” the boy said, sitting up. “How’re you going to swim with those things?”
“I have been specially trained for this,” Ajla smiled proudly. “And now I finally get to go to the capital to prove why they chose me as the top of my class!”
“The best warrior on Rising Hill,” Luka grunted sarcastically, crossing his arms and looking utterly unimpressed. “Yeah. That’s something. Hey, Ajla, when you leave, can I have your room?”
Ajla opened her mouth to respond, but before she could say anything, she heard a familiar laugh come from nearby. She turned to see her mother, Emina, come to a stop beside her, the woman’s fin-clad feet settling lightly on the stone floor.
“Luka, show your sister some respect,” Emina chided lightly, taking Ajla by the shoulders and turning her so that she could look her daughter in the face. “You are looking at a new Loviti. There is hardly a greater honor in all of Sirenia.”
“What do you think, Mother?” Ajla asked, motioning to the tight synthetic cloth that wrapped around her chest and waist and to the finless boots on her feet.
“You are the most beautiful warrior I’ve ever seen,” her mother smiled.
“That’s because all the warriors you’ve seen are old men,” Luka muttered.
He looked away quickly when both Ajla and Emina shot him piercing glares.
“Hush, Luka,” Emina sighed. Then she turned back to her daughter and, smiling broadly, wrapped her arms around her in a big hug.
“To think that the daughter of a couple of kelp farmers could reach the rank of Loviti,” she laughed. “You have made your mother, at least, very proud.”
A giggle escaped Ajla’s mouth while Luka merely groaned.
“Well, then, I’m off,” the young woman said at last, giving her mother one last hug before darting past her and down the hall.
“Don’t forget to tell your father good-bye!” Emina called after her daughter. “Otak be with you.”
Ajla paused long enough to wave in acknowledgement before disappearing around the corner. Emina and Luka watched her go in silence, then Luka stood up and tugged one of the sheer, fin-like pieces of cloth strapped to his mother’s arm.
“Mom,” he said, looking up at her with a serious expression on his face. “Now can I have Ajla’s room?”
Ajla listened quietly to the distant rumble of the ocean waves above her as she tightened one of the straps on the harness of her war mount, her dolphin companion named Zara. Tiny, bright-colored fish darted around the coral that had grown up on the stone stable where all the farm’s gear was kept, and Ajla giggled as a small school of them zipped around her head, one or two pausing to look her in the face before turning and continuing on their way.
The soft pulse of the ocean gently tossed Ajla’s jet black hair back and forth as it streamed out behind her, kept out of her face only by the shell-decorated tie that held it back in a simple ponytail.
“There now,” the young woman said, gliding back and placing her hands on her hips in satisfaction. “All set.”
Almost as if on cue, a familiar clicking sound caught her ear and Ajla turned to see another dolphin rider come gliding over the forest of kelp that danced on the near horizon. The rider, a young woman with sandy blond hair, raised her hand in greeting when she spotted Ajla. She, too, wore the tight synthetic clothing of the Loviti, and in her right hand she carried a blunted spear. A boarding axe hung at her hip and a small satchel was slung over her shoulder.
“Niada!” Ajla grinned, waving as the blond drew her mount to a stop nearby.
“Ready?” Niada asked, sitting up straight as her mount hovered just above the stable.
“Almost,” Ajla nodded. “Just give me a moment.”
Quickly the young woman darted back into the stable. A moment later she reappeared, a spear in her hand and a boarding axe at her hip. She then grabbed a handle on the harness that was located just above Zara’s dorsal fin and swung up onto her mount’s back, hooking her feet in the harness stirrups before sitting up straight.
“Now I’m ready,” she grinned.
The two young women exchanged smiles before leaning over their dolphins’ backs and with a wave of their spears they were off.
“I’m so glad they chose you as the second recruit,” Ajla said as Rising Hill disappeared into the blue void behind them.
“Me, too,” Niada laughed. “I’m just glad the number one student was my best friend.”
“What?” Ajla teased. “You didn’t want Ajdin to be the number one student?”
“Oi!” Niada huffed, frowning and glaring out at nothing in particular. “I couldn’t care less if I never saw that idiot again.”
“If you say so,” Ajla grinned. “Anyway, there were only three of us. Someone had to get left behind.”
“Right,” her friend nodded. “And in any case, Ajdin clomps around on land like a beached whale shark. If someone had to get left behind, it might as well be him.”
Other stories based on this project:
- A Hole In the Sky by Glen Robinson