Eeliah waited inside the house until he thought that most of his people were asleep. They’d want to stop him for his own good, more than for theirs. The Oorcheen had a certain protection built into their shared consciousness that kept them from feeling a crippling attack or a painful death of one of their own. They felt some of it, but any more and they would all risk a similar fate. But if somebody did die, the grief was felt by all, and the empty space they left behind in the shared mind was impossible to fill. They mostly considered their closest groups family, and those connections were strongest, but they were still one with every single Oorcheen in the world. Thanks to Bee, all the other Sea People stayed away from the Wall. They could communicate with the other Seers, who were trying to slowly guide the Yavians through this new situation, but they desperately needed Bee and she wasn’t there.
Eeliah felt it necessary to help and, scared as he was of her kind, he rushed out of the settlement trying hard to keep his mind blank. Soon enough he heard his people behind him, pleading and worried. They tried to catch up, but he was fast and had a good start on them all. Soon he reached the shallows, and the others stopped chasing but stayed at a close distance, hoping to keep an eye on the situation. The worry and fear in the Yavians’ camp was looming over the Wall now. Eeliah listened intently, emerged from the water and quickly got closer to the coral, hiding in the shadows. The night wasn’t very bright, and nearly all the Yavians were already asleep or preparing to do so. He could wait a little.
Bee’s temperature kept falling and, by late evening, Maya thought it was safe to leave the girl to her parents’ care and let the process (whatever it was) continue without further outside influence. She announced there was no danger of the illness spreading, and that, for now, Bee was doing fine. The crowd waiting around the girl’s house dispersed somewhat with deep sighs of relief, and Maya went towards the camp, where her husband and houseguests were waiting. She found them seated around a fire with a few other people from the camp, which was slowly winding down for the night.
‘…and my brother somehow got out of jail,’ said a middle-aged woman who sat next to them. ‘He had a house inside a tree. It was massive – the house was, not the tree – and he held people prisoner there. They were all promised that one day he’d let them go, but every time someone did something he didn’t like, he added years to their stay inside the tree. Whaddya think?’ she said it all in one breath and the question was followed by a great big gasp for air.
‘I told you before,’ replied Thesius looking bored ‘I don’t explain dreams. There’s nothing to explain. They’re just dreams.’
‘But it’s not an ordinary dream,’ she protested ‘I know it isn’t. And I need to know what it all meant. You agree, right?’ she asked the rest of the group.
‘Well,’ started Bronek uncertainly, then stared at his lute and failed to say anything else. The woman looked at the two warriors who, completely unimpressed, were not even pretending to care. As crestfallen as the woman was, she ‘humpfed’ rather quickly, murmuring something about ignorant warriors. Bronek decided to clear the atmosphere and started stroking the strings of his lute. Maya sat next to him and enjoyed the silence that followed the first few notes. Everyone listened. As with most of his songs – not all, of course and she was always honest with him about it (he said he appreciated it, but sometimes she suspected he wanted her to always consider him a genius, just like everybody else) - it made people around him smile a little and put their heads slightly to the side. She always assumed it was because they were concentrating hard, but who knows why they did it. This was one of his sadder songs about the Ancients and how they used to roam the world’s forests and plains until the people’s creation and domination of the land. It made you sad for the times past and at the same time hope for better days. Unfortunately music only changes people for a few minutes. After that they’re right back to what they were before.
‘How’s Bealla?’ asked Bronek putting his lute away.
‘She should be fine, but when and how, I have no idea… Shall we go home? I think we could all use a good night’s sleep.’
‘Let’s hope without any prophetic dreams,’ said Thesius sarcastically and completely ignored the infuriated look from the woman nearby. They got up and started their way through the, now mostly asleep, camp. It was a pleasant night, with only some minor howling from beyond the village. They assumed Boruta and his wolves must be there.
It was a warm night, and slightly overcast, but still bright enough for a nice walk. They made their way from the main camp and walked along the beach towards the houses at the edge. There were still some lights in the windows of Bealla’s home, where her parents were contemplating if it would be safe to move her to her own bed. After all, her temperature seemed nearly normal, and her breathing was more regular.
The group was slowly walking past the house when something caught their eye. A creature was hiding in the bushes by the windows. Mathias and Mateya considered what they saw with professional detachment, Bronek was fascinated, Thesius interested and Maya considered what it must be like to have such big eyes, and such big teeth. No ears though... As none of them were thinking anything negative Eeliah didn’t hear them at first. But when he finally did, he automatically covered his head and cowered for a second. Nothing happened so he emerged from his bushes a little and studied the group of Yavians, who were now coming closer.
‘Hello?’ said Bronek tentatively.
Eeliah’s massive eyes went slowly from one person to another as he lifted his arm in a gesture he learned from Bee. They did the same in silence as he glanced at the still lit windows. Everybody just stood there not knowing what to do, and Eeliah was desperately trying for them to understand what he needed, but they heard nothing. In the end he scratched his head and decided on something new. He pressed his lips together and, struggling to remember the way Bee did it, he tried speech. Well, it was more of a whisper with some growls in it but no tones.
‘Beee,’ he croaked and everyone, as one, leaned in closer furrowing their brows. ‘Beee,’ he repeated.
‘Be?’ said Thesius and Eeliah shook his head just as he knew Yavians did when saying ‘no’.
‘Beee,’ he said again and nodded at the house.
‘Oh! Bee!’ replied Bronek happily and Eeliah nodded ‘You’re here to see Bee? Why?’
‘I think you’ll find, dear bard, that he or indeed she, understands what we say but seems unable to communicate with us,’ interrupted Thesius patronisingly. ‘So you are here to see Bee?’
‘Do you know her?’
‘Are you friends?’ asked Maya.
Another one. This time more emphatic.
‘Well, I must say that’s not at all surprising,’ said Maya ‘But I’m not sure her parents would be very happy to have you see her. She’s not well, you see.’
‘But she is getting better,’ assured Bronek with a smile and got one in return, which was nice, even if a little on the sharp and pointy side.
Eeliah thought about it for a minute and considered them all. He now knew why the Oorcheen couldn’t reach Bee but he didn’t want to leave just yet.
‘Are you planning on staying then?’ asked Thesius to which Eeliah nodded again. ‘So you don’t believe us?’
Another nod. This time a bit confused. What did belief have to do with it? After all their thoughts just told him what happened.
‘I would advise against that,’ interjected Mathias and his sister nodded. Everyone was looking at them now.
‘It’s obvious, isn’t it?’ Mateya rolled her eyes ‘You’ll get killed,’ she said flatly. ‘Was it you, that someone spotted from the Wall today?’ Tentatively he nodded again to some ‘Oh, yeses’ from the others. ‘Well, I don’t think anyone would be willing to leave you alone if they find you here. There are patrols and armed men and women all over. You don’t want to stay.’
Eeliah looked at the windows again. The lights were out, and the house was completely silent.
‘She will be fine,’ assured Maya coming closer to take his hand ‘And you cannot stay here. You should go back home,’ she nodded towards the Wall but Eeliah vehemently shook his head. He couldn’t go back. They wouldn’t let him return for Bee later. He had to stay here until he was sure she got better and could help with this whole sordid story.
Maya glanced at everybody else. Thesius was still looking interested, maybe more so than before, Bronek was obviously thinking up rhymes because his eyes were glazed over, so no help there and the siblings were just watching with their usual detachment. It wasn’t their problem, whatever happened here. The witch sighed. She couldn’t probe the creature’s thoughts at all. It seemed resistant to magic, at least to her magic. It would certainly be handy to have the Sight right now. It was no wonder that Bee made friends with it. She sighed again.
‘We can’t leave you here,’ she said. ‘It would be very dangerous for you to stay. You’re going to have to come with us. We live up on that cliff,’ she pointed and he looked up. It was very dark, and so only an outline of it was visible, but somehow Maya was sure that the creature would see it. Those were some great, big eyes.
Eeliah thought about it. He rarely walked on land and his body wasn’t used to it. Like all of his kind, he sometimes emerged on little islands, but he had done more walking today than ever before. Hopefully though, he should be able to manage. They were right: it was a great danger to stay here. He couldn’t enter Bee’s home without waking her mother, who was sleeping right next to the girl on the ground floor. He still couldn’t contact Bee and for now he couldn’t go back to his settlement. He sighed and nodded.
‘Great,’ smiled Maya.
‘The more the merrier,’ agreed Thesius cheerfully ‘Come on out.’
Eeliah emerged from his bushes and gave them a tentative smile.
‘Join us, join us,’ added Bronek and Eeliah made a step forward. A second later he was writhing in pain on the ground with a quarrel stuck under his shoulder. There were some screams behind the Wall but nobody heard them as a few voices cheered maybe twenty or thirty feet away. Maya and Thesius bent down towards Eeliah who was now convulsing on the sand. They were speechless. Five men walked closer, one of them still holding a crossbow to his beard.
‘Well spotted,’ said the oldest one to the crossbow man ‘Just as it was ‘bout ter attack ‘em, too. I know ye shot first but can I finish it off?’
‘No! I shot it first and I’m finishing it. I want to show the head back at home.’
They sauntered closer and found Mathias in their way. He stood with his arms crossed, one of them holding his axe, the other a dagger with four blades merged along the middle creating a pretty star effect. And as pretty as it was, the positioning of the blades and the serrated edges would make it rather hard for anything to heal after a close encounter with it. The group stopped, confused. Bronek was still in shock, his wife and Thesius were desperately trying to help the now silently screaming creature and Mateya just shook her head.
‘Come on, friend,’ said the old guy ‘Yer not goin’ ter try an’ take that kill away from Garth, are ye?’
‘Oh, yes I am. And I’m not your friend.’
‘He just saved yer life, boy.’
Mathias raised an impressive eyebrow.
‘Really? You think I needed saving?’
‘Well,’ said Garth as they all gave him a proper look ‘I suppose not… I’m sorry if I stole your kill, but I got it first and it’s only fair that I finish it off.’
Something snapped inside Bronek then, as he grabbed his sword and full of shaking rage, joined Mathias before the group who exchanged amused glances until, with a roll of her eyes at this clearly very manly display of force, Mateya stepped out from behind her brother’s back and also crossed her arms—with a sabre in each hand.
‘Yer willin’ ter fight over who kills it?’ asked the old man with disbelief and, his companions shook their heads in distaste.
‘No,’ growled Bronek ‘We’re protecting it. It wasn’t doing anyone any harm, and you attacked it for no reason!’
‘It’s a monster! What other reason do you need?’ said a younger man with a short sword in his hand.
‘And, pray, tell me,’ interjected Mateya sweetly, seeing that Bronek was close to starting a fight and she would prefer to avoid one. ‘How is it a monster?’
The men looked at each other lost.
‘Well…’ started the old man ‘…there’s the teeth.’
‘My uncle has teeth like that, similar anyway. Not very smart, mind you, and people say that his mother might have had a… let’s say a close friendship with some sort of a water sprite, but it’s unkind to speak ill of the dead so I will not believe those rumours. Still, my uncle is a lovely, kind man and even managed to find a wife. Likes his fish raw but that doesn’t make him a monster, does it?’
‘What about the red eyes?’ said another man from the back. He was undoubtedly there for moral support rather than anything else, as his large dagger was obviously weighing down his tiny hand.
‘My uncle doesn’t have red eyes. Just the teeth,’ replied Mateya and the short man giggled nervously.
‘He meant the monster,’ insisted the old man.
‘He doesn’t have red eyes either. They’re rather large, but personally I would love to have bigger eyes. I think they’d be terribly attractive, don’t you?’
Another man giggled and shuffled his feet.
‘Don’t ye try yer womanly tricks ‘ere. It’s a monster! And it dies tonight.’
‘Oh, there’s a monster here, all right, but he’s standing right in front of me.’
‘How dare you, hussy?’
‘The hussy will kick your sorry old arse in a second if you don’t show her some respect,’ advised Mathias with a smile.
‘Ye show me respect! I’m yer elder!’
‘You’re not my elder. You’re just old.’
Everyone fell silent for a moment with the old man looking for some comeback, when another moan of pain came from the ground under the leaned over magicians.
‘Any of you professional warriors?’ asked Mathias with a grin. Nobody looked him in the eye. ‘Then you better leave now.’
‘We will not!’ shouted the old man but his companions silenced him rather quickly and left murmuring something amongst each other.
‘They’re going to be back with more men,’ said Mathias to the magicians behind him, still not taking his eyes off the departing group.
‘We can’t take this quarrel out here,’ said Maya and looked at them. ‘I don’t think we’ll be spending the night at our place in the end. Let’s take him inside,’ she nodded at the house.
‘But…’ started Bronek.
‘Just get the door,’ she interrupted ‘It’ll be unlocked. We’ll deal with the rest later.’
She and Thesius slowly levitated the still writhing Eeliah and tried to keep his position stable so as not to cause him any more internal injury. They moved him towards the open door to the dark house and went in first, followed by the other three.
Bronek was sent to get June as quickly as possible, and Maya had to deal with Bealla’s, now awake, mother. She was a bit disgusted by the creature, which seemed to find it all more and more painful, but got rather excited when she found out that her daughter had made friends with it.
‘Just like her,’ she said and considered going upstairs to talk with her husband but decided against it. For now.
June arrived shortly, a bit out of breath, followed closely by Bronek with a worried face.
‘They’re coming,’ he said quietly.
‘Who?’ asked Lara.
‘The ones who shot him,’ explained Maya ‘They want to finish the job.’
‘Oh? Any of them from the village?’
‘Not the ones we met,’ said Bronek ‘And they’re coming from the camp, so I think that we probably don’t know any of them.’
‘Right,’ answered Lara. She got up, wrapped a shawl around her shoulders and left the house. The siblings followed but she stopped them at the door. ‘I will call you if you’re needed,’ she said.
A group of about twenty armed men was coming in her direction. One of them was carrying a pitchfork. This wasn’t even a farming village, and they still managed to find one. Lara shook her head. Troublemakers always managed to get their hands on pitchforks rather quickly.
She stood tall looking them all in the eye. One after another they were losing their spirit and slowed down before reaching her.
‘Move aside, woman,’ said the man leading them.
‘I will not, old man. This is my house and you were not invited.’
‘Move aside or I will move ye!’
‘You will do no such thing. Don’t you know any manners?’
‘Yer harbouring a monster under yer roof!
‘So this is about my husband?’ she asked and some of them laughed ‘I’m sorry. He’s asleep and if he’s awoken without a good reason, he’s likely to bite your head off, so I advise you to leave here before that happens.’
‘We will not leave without the monster!’
Lights were coming on in nearby dwellings and faces were now appearing in the dark attracted by the man’s shouting.
‘You’re not from here, so I can understand that maybe your ways are a little different. But you are guests in this village, and we’ve welcomed you and fed you for a while now. This is our way. Will you,’ she looked at them all again ‘force your way into my house and take what you want? What we have provided is not enough? You are guests here,’ she repeated, ‘I treat my guests with respect and ask for the same in return,’ she was staring down some of the men now and most were looking away in discomfort. ‘If someone needs help, I give it to them. It’s our way. Right now, I have someone requiring help bleeding out on my floor, and I will provide them with my help, whether you like it or not.’
There were quite a few people around at this point. Some of them came closer to Lara to make sure she was all right, and others just stood beside her without a word. The old man was shaking with anger and pointed a finger at her.
‘Give us the creature! I order ye, obey woman!’
The door behind Lara opened and her husband and sons emerged. He put his arm around his wife and their sons stood to their sides.
‘I would not order my wife around, if I were you, old man. You wouldn’t like what she does to you for that.’
Some of the villagers sniggered.
‘Bill,’ whispered Lara.
‘It’s all right. Maya explained. I suppose we cannot choose our daughter’s friends for her, can we?’
‘I’m just glad she has a friend,’ added Alec, their younger son.
‘Now, will you kindly leave, so I can get back to sleep, please?’ asked Bill and the group of men looked at him and the villagers with hesitation.
‘Don’t listen ter that! We shot the creature… What?’ someone whispered in his ear ‘Fine! Garth shot the creature and it belongs to us. Him!’
‘He may have shot it, but we will help it. Now. Go to sleep. I have a feeling that tomorrow…’
Whatever he was about to say disappeared from his mind when a piercing screech echoed above the Wall. It sounded like a lot of voices screaming in pain and anger and another one, clearly in agony, coming from inside the house. It was followed by complete silence from everyone gathered around.
‘Well,’ said Lara ‘I suppose June removed the quarrel… Well done!’ she called at the gathered men ‘When shooting the creature you didn’t consider it may have a family? Or friends?’
‘Go,’ said Bill ‘I think that thanks to you, we all have a bigger problem now than one bleeding creature inside my house.’
The night was full of anxious waiting. Not many people were able to sleep after the wailing from behind the Wall had stopped. Eeliah was now submerged in the tub of water, which had never got emptied after Bee had been in it. Mathias thought it wasn’t very wise to put someone bleeding into water, because it just made you lose blood faster, but June assumed that since the creature obviously lived in water, then it may actually heal quicker in a similar environment. They added some table salt to the well water in the tub and it appeared to be working. The bleeding stopped but they couldn’t be sure of what internal organs were injured since they knew nothing of its anatomy. All they could do now was wait, and to add to their troubles, Bee’s temperature began to drop rapidly and they had to fight the urge to bundle her up in blankets. She did say to let it all happen.
The village stood behind Lara’s decision to help the creature but the camp of newcomers was divided. Many people were considerably upset about the previous night’s events, as what had taken place could potentially start a great deal of trouble with all the Ancients around the forest and in the village. And many were also preparing for an attack or some manner of skirmish with whoever lived behind the Wall. Patrols were one thing, but now everyone walked around with a weapon on their person. People would come by and try to catch a glimpse of the creature in Maya’s care, but she was firm and the doors remained closed to everyone throughout the morning and the early afternoon, while Bee seemed to be coming out of her coma, or whatever it was. Her temperature stabilised and her eyes were moving under their lids which indicated a healthy sleep rather than an unconscious state. June had left by dawn, and they’d all kept vigil in turns. Everyone else had slept in guest bedrooms or downstairs, and Bronek was particularly moved by how nobody complained and just did the right thing. He even started reciting some sort of a poem about it on the spot but stopped when he noticed them yawning and looking away. Singing was one thing but poetry… They were obviously tired. He would recite it later.
By the afternoon they were getting bored and restless, but Thesius thought it might not be a good idea for them to leave the house just yet. One small fight might just set this whole village alight.
There were now also, permanently, people on the Wall with crossbows, bows and spears. Some just carried stones. Since the screaming of the previous night everyone was already on edge. And the complete silence coming from the sea and its lovely calm surface at the moment made it even worse.
It was Lara’s turn to watch over the sick when she took her daughter’s hand and sighed with relief to feel a strong pulse. But something caught her attention and she pressed a little on the girl’s fingers. There was something odd about her bones. She moved to the arm and felt the same thing, and then in her legs and feet and forehead. It seemed like coral underneath her skin. She was turning into that blasted Wall!
‘Maya!’ she called and, as could be predicted, everyone stood up. ‘Come and see this.’
The witch took Bee’s hand as instructed.
‘Don’t you feel anything weird?’
‘What do you mean?’
Lara pressed Maya’s fingers harder on the girl’s bones and the witch’s expression changed. She grabbed Bee’s head in her hands, and then checked her arms, ribs and legs.
‘What in the name….’ she managed.
‘What? What is it?’ asked Bill leaning over and everybody was now straining to see.
‘Her bones… They’ve turned into coral.’
‘Oh, don’t be…,’ he started and touched his daughter’s forehead only to wince and move his hand to her cheekbone. ‘What’s the point of that?’ he asked finally. ‘I mean, you can see no difference really, you can only feel it. But if it was for a reason, then what’s the point? Have you ever heard of anything like it?’ he looked at her and then at Thesius. They both shook their heads. The old mage was staring fascinated, and Maya envied him his constant interest in things, especially at his age. He’d already seen so much that things shouldn’t be so bloody exciting to him anymore. But they were. The only problem was that he found things fascinating, and she simply wanted to know how to deal with them.
‘I think we should assume that it’s normal,’ she finally said.
‘Normal?’ asked Bill ‘Our family has lived by the sea for countless generations but to be turning into a sea reef?’
Lara smiled at him and held his hand.
‘No, I mean, it’s normal for her,’ tried Maya ‘She did say that the transformation was normal for Seers, and since there’s no other explanation and we know so little about them, I would be inclined to believe her. Especially considering that when I contacted her through her mind she had built a protective dome out of coral to hide in.’
‘From the noise. She could see and hear so much it was painful, so maybe…’
‘…at some point, when they grow up, an actual coral skull is created to protect their mind!’ exclaimed Thesius. He was practically jumping with excitement. ‘As their powers grow they’re exposed to more and more noise, and so they require something to compensate for that! That’s amazing. What other creature can rebuild their entire skeleton in a day?’
‘Creature?’ asked Lara with disbelief, and Thesius was met with a few disapproving glances.
‘Apologies,’ he muttered without much conviction.
‘What do we do now?’ asked Bill after a moment of uncomfortable silence.
‘We wait for her to wake up,’ said Maya simply.
‘No need,’ said a quiet voice from the bed ‘She’s already awake.’
‘Bealla!’ exclaimed her mother and grabbed the girl from the bed, joined immediately by her husband and sons.
After a few more moments of joyous reunion, hugging and squeezing, Bee was sat on the bed and facing the room with a smile.
‘How are you feeling?’ asked Bronek during a long, silent pause when nobody knew what to say, and as an entertainer he felt strangely obliged to end it.
‘Is that Bronek?’ asked Bee happily ‘I didn’t know you were here.’ Everyone fell silent again. After all, the girl was looking right at him. ‘Who else is here?’
‘But, but…,’ started Lara.
‘Mom, you always knew I was blind. I just hid it well.’
‘I don’t understand,’ said Bill ‘What?’
‘Apparently Seers are blind,’ guessed Thesius quietly, trying not to seem interested ‘I assume that yet one more way of getting information into their brain was redundant and probably dangerous.’
Bee’s parents looked at him, and he shrugged his shoulders. ‘I assume,’ he said ‘that too much information would just hurt even more.’
Bronek was still lost, and Mathias and Mateya looked incredibly bored. They’d been stuck in this house for an entire night and nearly a whole day now and were growing increasingly restless. It was nice to see the girl was all right, but it was time to leave.
‘But, she’s safe now,’ said Bronek ‘After this… this change that happened. Aren’t you?’
‘Hmm?’ asked Bee distractedly ‘Oh, sorry, it’s just so lovely to only hear a few things at a time… Um, I can see if I choose to but right now I prefer being blind for a while.’
‘But why?’ asked Bill.
‘Because she would have to use her Gift to see, and she’s not that fond of it, are you?’ asked Maya.
‘It’s noisy and painful… So who else is here then?’
‘Well,’ said Lara after a moment ‘We have Maya and Bronek, of course. Thesius, a king’s mage. And don’t worry; he can’t take you to the Academy if you don’t want to go apparently…’
‘Oh, I know,’ she smiled.
‘Right… And we also have Mathias and his sister Mateya... and…’
‘They’re warriors Bronek met on his way home apparently.’
‘Really?’ asked Bee excitedly ‘Real warriors? Trying to look mean and all? Leathers and metal studs and that?’
‘Well, yes,’ said her mother and Bronek sniggered. He assumed he was allowed to make a little fun of them now. They were practically friends. The siblings didn’t look too pleased, though.
‘Hello there,’ said Bee and lifted her hand in greeting ‘It’s lovely to meet you.’
‘Same here,’ they grumbled in unison.
‘It’s so nice to meet someone and not know them, you know?’
‘Not always that useful,’ commented Mathias.
‘Why would you need warriors for me, mom? I understand the magicians but…’
‘Oh, they’re not here for you, my dear. They came to the village with Maya and Bronek and saved someone else’s life last night. He’s also here.’
‘Well, we don’t know his or her name. But apparently he’s your friend. He got hurt and is sleeping now.’
‘My friend? What friend?’
‘Well, he’s in the tub.’
‘What?’ she looked worried now.
‘It’s all right, my dear. You found a… a different kind of friend but we’re fine with that.’
‘No, but how is he?’
Bill knelt in front of his daughter and held her hands.
‘He was shot by a crossbow quarrel. Someone from the camp did it, and these two brave warriors saved him and brought him here.’
Bee was looking really worried now and was close to tears.
‘I need to see,’ she decided, stood up, took a deep breath and winced. ‘Oh, you poor, silly thing. Why did you come here?’ she said ‘He should be taken to his people. I am very grateful for this, and he is in no immediate danger but… NO!’ she screamed.
‘What? What?’ asked her mother looking around the room in panic.
A piercing noise came from behind the Wall. A scream of pain and anger.
‘They’re shooting at them! They only came to the Wall to make sure that he was alive and well and to make peace, but now they are shooting at them! You have to stop them!’
Another scream came through the windows, but this time fury was carried with it.