THE FALL OF GRECY
The moment the sun bathed the city and the sea of Grecy in gold, Shaey opened up the doors of her father’s fish shop and greeted their first customer with her biggest, brightest smile.
Now, it was midday and she stood behind the counter, smiling at the second paying customer of the day as her brother, Fallon, stumbled through the store’s supplies, checking inventory with his trusty pad of paper and a pen he’d made out of a fish bone. He dipped the sharp tip of the bone in a well of squid ink and scribbled something down with a small sigh.
Shaey wrapped the silver hooks and feather lures in a scrap piece of linen, tying it neatly with some spare string, and sliding it across the counter with a gracious smile. When the door closed, the bell above it ringing with its summery song, Shaey pulled out an old tackle box and counted the silver coins in it for what seemed like the twentieth time.
“How much is it?” Fallon asked, peeking out from behind a shelf. The golden sun that shone through the shop window lit his azure eyes and Shaey felt like her brother held the entire ocean in his eyes.
She wondered if hers looked the same.
“Not as much as we need,” she said with a sigh. The silver coins shuffled when she put the box away and she walked to the door, turning the sign to “closed.” She leaned against the shelf next to her brother, tucking a strand of her blonde hair behind her ear. “We’re barely selling enough to keep afloat.”
Fallon put a comforting hand on her back and stroked her hair the way he had always done when he tried to ease her worries. She knew he was searching for words that would bring her a peaceful mind, but despite his efforts—despite the serenity and the silence that seemed to drown their little shop by the sea—nothing seemed to help the hopeless situation.
Fallon opened a woven basket and the smell of freshly baked bread dusted with flour, fire-roasted sugar apples, and savory anchovies stir-fried with roasted nuts filled the store. Shaey took a deep breath—smelled the summer salt and sea—and her stomach ached for food, but she knew Fallon hadn’t slaved away in the kitchen to make dinner. With their mother still bed-ridden, their father still at sea, Shaey knew her brother would have to sell their food to make ends meet.
“Even if we make the coin,” Shaey said softly, fingering the silver chain her mother gave her. “There’s no guarantee she’ll wake up.”
“The healer said the medicine would help,” Fallon said. “We just need more of it and she’ll wake.”
“Even if she wakes, there’s no guarantee she’ll remember who we are.”Shaey saw Fallon’s face fall and she bit her lip. She didn’t mean to upset him, but the truth had hung in the air like a thick fog—suffocating.
Their mother had been sick for months now and no matter the healer, no matter the medicine, no matter what they tried, she wasn’t getting better. Skin that was once bronzed by the sun turned pasty and white as seafoam. Some nights, she’d shake the entire house with convulsions or scream as her stomach twisted inside her and she’d vomit what little gruel she managed to eat that day. Their father took each sickness, each night terror, as a sign.
“At least she’s alive,” he had said, “At least there is still some of the sea, turbulent and vengeful, writhing in her soul.”
But last night, Shaey had sat at her mother’s bedside, stroking her hand and swiping the sweat from her brow, and when her eyes met her mother’s, Shaey realized her mother no longer knew who she was. Her eyes were empty of recognition—empty of love—and then her eyes shut again and fell into a slumber.
“Look, let’s worry about those things later,” Fallon said. “All I want is for mother to wake.” Fallon picked up the basket. “I’ll be back with silver. Just make sure—”
A high-pitched screech—a deafening whistle—pierced through the sky, racking the earth with such force that the shelves shook to the ground. Pails filled to the brim with hooks and lures rattled and rained to the shop floor.
“Fallon!” Shaey grabbed hold of her brother’s tunic as the ground shook. “Go get Mother!”
He nodded and dashed upstairs, his deep, indigo scarf trailing behind him. She stumbled towards the entrance, shrinking back from the storm of falling objects. She pushed the front door open and stepped outside, legs wobbling and hands shaking. Fear swelled in her chest, but she swallowed it down, scanning her town as she struggled to figure out what was going on.
In all her years, Shaey had never seen so much fire. The smoke and ash stung her eyes and she watched wide-eyed as her village fell to the flames. Black smoke, taller than any tree, soared into the skies as her neighbors cried and screamed and scurried to safer shores. Bodies littered the streets, their faces charred beyond recognition. The few survivors splashed buckets of water onto their homes in a futile attempt to save them. Shaey’s eyes widened when she saw a group of men strutting down the town square as though the entire world wasn’t crashing down around them in red waves of fire and smoke.
Black armor kept their bodies protected and their faces hidden. Heavy steel weapons glistened red with fresh blood as though the swords demanded it. Shaey stood stunned as the armored man stuck a sword into the belly of the village healer and kicked his body into the ashes as kindling.
Her eyes had seen it, but Shaey didn’t know what was going on. Just as she raced back to the door, the earth quaked violently and she stumbled and fell, her body scraping against the graveled ground. She pressed her hand against the wall of their home and hoisted herself up. All she could think about was her brother, her mother. She needed to get back to them.
To save them.
Someone grabbed a fistful of her hair and yanked her head back with so much force, Shaey thought her neck would snap from the pressure. The heat of the fire prickled on her skin like little embers. In the black of his armor, she saw nothing but an inferno of red and she pulled away, kicked him with as much strength as she could muster. He pressed a dagger hard into her neck and she stopped with a whimper.
“Well, well, looks like I caught a live one,” he said with a rotten, yellow smile. He moved closer to her and the stench of death singed her nostrils. He slapped her across the face and Shaey cried out in pain. “What should we do with this fish bait?”
“Throw her into the sea.” Another man in the same black armor stuck in sword into the ground and leaned against it. “And if she keeps squirming, then roast her in the fire with the others.”
Shaey struggled to keep still. She gasped. With every breath, the silver of the dagger bit deeper into her skin, threatening to cut her open as easily as she’d slice up a fish. Her scalp burned and her lip had broken until a trail of blood oozed down to her chin.
A muffled scream came from inside the house and Shaey shot a glance at her house, terrified.
“What do we have here?”
One guard hid beside the door, bow slung on his back. It was only a second before Fallon toppled out of the house, covered in ash and coal. His mouth was open like he wanted to say something, but he stopped himself the moment his eyes met hers. He rushed towards her and the man with the bow grabbed him.
“Caught me another,” he chuckled. For a second, her brother broke free, but the man struck him in the back of the head and Fallon fell. “Slimy little thing.”
“No!” Shaey screamed. “I’m begging you, please, leave him alone!”
The guard holding her back gave a harsh cackle, “You know what? I’m craving fish on the spit. Let’s gut them and get on with it.” He nodded to his men and they drew their weapons. The one with a sword lifted it high above his head and swung at Fallon.
Shaey shut her eyes and screamed, praying that someone—anyone—would hear her. She prayed to the salt and sea that they grant her the power she’d seen on stormy nights: the power to overturn hundreds of men and swallow them whole. A piercing, bubbling feeling rose in her chest like waves and she sunk into the crashing madness.
Water, cold and unrelenting, washed over the rocky shores of Grecy, curved and coiled around the burning town, and rose up into the air as towering tsunamis. Shaey’s eyes widened and she started to shake at the sight. Water from her tears found water from the sweat of Fallon’s brow and they floated in front of her, as if waiting for a command, to turn what little water they had into rushing rivers that could cut—that could kill.
When she raised her hands instinctively to protect herself, she watched as the men wobbled before her, their bones shaking as she harvested the water from their bodies, draining them dry from within. The hand that held silver to her neck, that held her hair tight in its grasp, finally let her go and she pushed him away, sending a powerful blast of spewing water through his body. She watched as the water broke him as easily as shells on rock—she relished it—and then the fire came to swallow whatever was left of his soul.
She fell to the ground, fingers twitching like a fish pulled up on the shores.
Fallon hurried to her side and wrapped his arms around her. He ran his fingers through her hair, to soothe her as she shivered in fear of what had happened—of what she had done. Shaey could not tear her eyes away from her hands. Had she just bend the water to her will? A turmoil of emotions swirled in her chest, making her feel sick.Their world lay in ashes around them, but the screams had ceased, none of them answered but Shaey’s. The only sound that broke the silence was their breathing, their sniffles, their cries. The last of Grecy.
Shaey turned to Fallon. “Mother?”
He shook his head and said nothing, but Shaey saw him swallow back tears and she didn’t ask anything else. She clutched at his arms and hugged him so tight that her chest ached from the pain. He shook in her arms, hungry for warmth, for peace. They sat, afraid to let the other go, to return to reality.
“—ave to see if there are any survivors—”
Shaey looked back at the sound, nervous. She heard a woman’s voice, but whether she was a friend of a foe, they could not tell. Hooves beat heavily against the ground and Fallon’s head shot up. He shook her arm. “Come on, Shaey; we have to go.”
She looked for a place to hide, but everything around them was either buried in ashes or bodies and she was in no mood to cower behind neither. If these were friendly folk, she’d welcome them, tell them stories of the humble city of Grecy and the Galahads that knew everything there was to know about the ocean and the heat and the fish. But if they were enemies, reinforcements of the men in black armor that painted her village in red and black, then Shaey would be ready. She looked down at her fingers that had bent the water to her will and bit her lip.
If they wished to fight, she would try to summon the storm and the seas.
“Over here!” A woman sitting atop her grey speckled horse rushed to their side. She signaled to her companions and a small group on horseback rode towards them, swiftly dismounting.
Shaey backed away, sinking into the safety of her brother’s side.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“My name is Dana Sinclaire,” the woman said. With a prompt gesture, she pointed to her companions. “These are my companions: Rita, Brandon, and Tanner. We are soldiers of the Inquisition.” Her gaze came back to Shaey and Fallon. “And we are here to save you.”
“To save us?” Fallon asked, his hands clenched in anger. “Grecy is gone, a pile of rubble and ash. Everyone we’ve ever known is dead and we’re all that’s left. If you had come earlier—just an hour or two earlier, then maybe—”
“Your town has been destroyed by someone we started chasing long ago,” Dana continued, unfazed by Fallon’s outburst. “We’ve tried to analyze where he would make his next move, but it seems we were too late this time, and for that I am sorry. But you must know that The Inquisition has been keeping Amos safe for months now. We promise to find the men responsible, and to save anyone lucky enough to survive. That includes you two.”