When Anwyn heard her best friend cursing over a letter from home, she thought it would be nice to give her a hand. A quick trip to a new country to protect Iola from an unwelcome marriage would be a chance to have fun while doing a good deed.
But the trip revealed plots against the Dana that Anwyn could never have anticipated. The simple trip became a complicated political trial that threatened not just the family’s fortunes but Anwyn’s safety as well. Stopping the Delbhana’s plot might be the hardest thing Anwyn had ever done but failure wasn’t an option.
Storm over Archaelaos is an epic coming of age fantasy set on the matriarchal world of Muirin. People of all ages will enjoy this thrilling adventure.
Storm Over Archaelaos
By Meyari McFarland
19. Pelagio Mellas
The trip back down to the ocean was considerably faster than the trip up had been. Anwyn let gravity pull her into a faster walk, the focus on where to place here feet as she walked keeping her mind nicely focused away from the Ladies’ excited chatter. She wasn’t entirely certain that she would be able to stand once they slowed down but that was a worry for later.
As they walked, Iola and Philotheos talked over Anwyn’s head. Any discussion of the hurricane coming in disappeared within moments. It seemed to surprise Iola. Anwyn wasn’t surprised at all.
“So how did you meet your… friend, Anwyn?” Philotheos asked.
“I work for her family’s shipping line, Father,” Iola sighed with enough aggravation at the not so simple question that Anwyn had to fight a grin. “Really, not everything is complicated.”
“Well, you are quite protective of her,” Philotheos said. “I wondered.”
“Anwyn’s thirteen, Father,” Iola huffed. When Anwyn dared a glance away from the ground at Iola’s expression she was glaring ferociously.
“Doesn’t bother Berrach,” Anwyn commented and then cursed as she stumbled and nearly fell. “Damn legs need to stop fighting with me.”
“Berrach is perilously close to being a pedophile!” Iola snapped as she caught Anwyn’s arm and kept her from falling flat on her face. “The woman’s years older than you and she won’t back off no matter how many of us tell her that she’s being rude. I still think I should break her face like Ravi did with Captain Helene.”
Philotheos made a strangled noise that sounded as if he was trying not to laugh. Anwyn didn’t look. Focusing on where to put her feet as they rounded the last switchback was far more important. Iola apparently did look because her fingers tightened on Anwyn’s elbow as she growled.
“I am sorry, my dear,” Philotheos chuckled. “But you’re doing a terrible job convincing me that you’re not romantically involved with Anwyn. Not that it matters. You know that I accept you just as you are. Granted, I wish that you lived closer to home but that’s neither here nor there. You’re my daughter and I will always love you.”
This time Iola sounded embarrassed and flustered rather than infuriated. Anwyn smiled. With a father like this Anwyn was surprised that Iola was so quiet, secretive and defensive but then she hadn’t met Iola’s mother yet. All of Iola’s fearful tendencies might have come from her mother rather than her father.
“So where are we going?” Anwyn asked. Her feet skidded on the steep hill through the fields just outside of town.
“Down to the port,” Philotheos said. He grinned behind his bushy beard when Anwyn stared at him. “Pelagio Mellas spends the majority of his time at the port supervising the ships coming in and out. He’s very rarely in his office as he should be.”
“Lovely,” Anwyn sighed. “So we might have walked right past him without knowing it.”
“Quite likely, actually.” Philotheos nodded and guided their steps through a narrow alley, down the street and then onto the main street that led along the sea front. His steps slowed as they were able to look out over the ocean “Oh. That’s… very wide.”
“Mm-hmm,” Anwyn agreed, frowning at the smudge of clouds stretching across the entire horizon. It had grown darker and wider during their walk down the hillside.
Philotheos frowned at the storm and then strode, far too quickly for Anwyn’s wobbly legs, purposefully towards a group of men arguing over some barrels. Iola and Anwyn followed more slowly, Iola still gripping Anwyn’s elbow.
It didn’t take long to figure out which of the men had to be Pelagio Mellas. He was taller than the others, with a sleek, well groomed beard that hung in ringlets down to the middle of his chest. Instead of Philotheos’ graying hair, Mellas had stark black hair and a youthful carriage despite the wrinkles surrounding his eyes like a net cast out for fish.
More importantly, every single man surrounding Mellas stared at him as though he was the most important person in the world. Anwyn sighed. Hopefully he wouldn’t have an overblown belief in his own importance the way Siobhan and the other Delbhana did. Far too often she’d seen people who took that sort of worshipful attention much too seriously.
“I must interrupt,” Philotheos barked over the other men attempting to convince Mellas that their way of dealing with the barrels was the best method. “This concerns the Ladies.”
Mellas jerked and stared at Philotheos, one hand upraised to silence the others. To Anwyn’s surprise the raised hand actually worked. If any of her relatives had been in the crowd it would have gotten a snort of derision or laughter instead. Apparently her automatic desire to say something in the sudden silence was obvious to Iola because she snorted quietly and lightly jerked Anwyn’s elbow in warning.
“The Ladies?” Mellas asked. His voice boomed as if he was shouting through a gale.
“Yes,” Philotheos said. He nodded at Iola and Anwyn before turning back to Mellas. “My daughter Iola has come home for a visit. Her employers are the Dana. This is Dana Anwyn, one of the daughters of the line. She has the ability to hear the Ladies and bears terrible news for us all.”
“Really?” Mellas said with far less respect and belief in his voice.
Anwyn automatically bristled at how Mellas failed to take her serious. “Yes, really. The Ladies have been talking for days about a huge hurricane coming in. It’s the biggest they’ve seen in generations. You can see it out there right now. It’s going to be worse than anything this area has seen in hundreds of years.”
Everyone in the little crowd surrounding Mellas turned to look at the horizon. They all clearly saw the clouds but Anwyn could tell that they didn’t take it seriously. Even Mellas looked as though he wanted to dismiss the storm’s size, darkness and breadth simply because it was Anwyn telling him about it.
She’d never had anyone dismiss her so utterly before. Sure, Siobhan and the Delbhana had undercut Anwyn at every turn but they still took her seriously enough to consider her a threat. From the expressions on the men around Mellas none of them thought that anything Anwyn had to say might be of value. It was as though, simply by coming from her, the warning was something that could be ignored.
“What is this news?” Mellas asked Anwyn. His expression suggested that he was talking to a child, not surprising given Anwyn’s size. It was the tone of talking to someone particularly stupid that set Anwyn’s temper off.
“See the clouds?” Anwyn said, jerking her chin towards the sea.
“Of course,” Mellas said.
“That’s a hurricane that’s so large that the Ladies are retreating into deep water for shelter,” Anwyn declared. “It’s so big that they’re all excited about the power of it, the potential to study it. It’s headed straight for Archaelaos and if you don’t prepare quickly you’re going to lose a lot of people.”
It shouldn’t have surprised Anwyn that Mellas immediately looked at the storm and waved one hand as if it was nowhere near as serious as Anwyn had said. The men around him looked as though they wanted to disagree with Anwyn just because she’d spoken up. She bristled, pulling her elbow out of Iola’s grip.
“That is a common storm,” Mellas started to say.
“You want to hear it direct from the Ladies?” Anwyn snapped so sharply that every man, Philotheos included, frowned at her. “I can call them, have them tell you personally since you’re incapable of listening when any other female speaks.”
Behind her, Iola sighed. It was that sigh that said she was bracing herself for a fight to break out. In front, Philotheos frowned so severely at Anwyn that she revised her first impression of him as a reasonable man who happened to live in an unreasonable culture. She almost thought that he wanted to smack her for being so abrupt with Mellas. Mellas glowered at Anwyn, his hands going into fists that Anwyn automatically responded to by going up on her toes despite her still aching ankle.
“That is nothing to joke at, child,” Mellas growled at her.
“Who’s joking?” Anwyn asked. “I’m serious. I can call them in and they can tell you how big the hurricane is. After all, it’s not like they’ll listen to you. You’re not people to them.”
“What?” Philotheos asked, visibly shocked.
“You’re male,” Anwyn explained in the same ‘talking to a child’ tone of voice that Mellas had used on her. “The Ladies don’t have men. There are only women. Their entire society, their whole species, is female. I’ve been talking to them since I was seven and I’ve never once heard them use a male pronoun, heard a male voice, seen a male among them. Only women exist to them.”
As soon as she finished talking Anwyn wanted to kick herself. Telling a group of men she whose cooperation she wanted to obtain that they weren’t real and didn’t exist wasn’t exactly effective. Surprisingly, none of them seemed upset by it. In fact, Mellas nodded as if she’d just told him something he’d already known.
“The old legends speak of the Ladies’ mystical purity,” Mellas said. “They do not need men to reproduce, unlike normal women who require a man’s seed to conceive. It is still no joking matter to speak of summoning them as if they were lackeys.”
“Mystical purity?” Anwyn asked Iola. “Is he serious?”
“I’m afraid so,” Iola sighed. “It’s a common believe on Archaelaos, that a truly pure woman wouldn’t need a man to conceive. They think that a woman’s monthly cycles are proof of her ‘impurities’ preventing a child from coming to term.”
“Wow,” Anwyn said, shaking her head in disgust. “That’s… something. Not sure what. Well, be all of that chum as it is, yes, I can talk to the Ladies and yes, I can call them in. Not as lackeys but more like a favored daughter asking for a little bit of attention.”
“That’s obscene!” one of the men behind Mellas snapped.
“No, it’s literal,” Anwyn disagreed. “The term doesn’t translate exactly. It’s sort of…” She paused, trying to find words in her poor Archaelaosian that would come close to what the Ladies meant. After a moment she turned to Iola who raised an eyebrow but otherwise didn’t comment. “How would you translate something like ‘female-child who engenders interesting chaos in the environment’?”
Iola blinked at Anwyn, her mouth slowly dropped open though no words came out. Instead she cocked her head at Anwyn as if asking whether Anwyn was serious with that phrase. Philotheos made a curious little noise, prompting Anwyn to turn and look at him. He looked nearly as confused as Iola did. Mellas apparently understood Aingealese quite well because he looked positively perplexed by the phrase. Everyone else, though, had that blank expression that people always got when they had no clue what had just been said.
“Chaos-daughter?” Iola offered hesitantly.
“Maybe daughter of chaos?” Philotheos suggested. “Daughter who causes chaos? That’s what they call you?”
“Pretty much,” Anwyn said. “There are images and feelings that go along with the term but I’ve never quite understood those. I do know that they’re fond of me. They’re always curious what I’ve been up to and where I’m going next.”
Mellas waved one hand at Anwyn, disbelief written all over his face. “How did one such as you get the Ladies’ holy attention?”
Anwyn sighed and shrugged. “I got in a fight with a girl who’s my rival. I dared her to walk out to the City of the Ladies south of Aingeal City even though it was forbidden. When she only pretended to do it and then came right back, I got taunted until I actually did do it.”
“City…?” Philotheos whispered.
“They have cities under the water,” Anwyn explained in Aingealese because that was easier than fighting her Archaelaosian. “Full of huge crystals that make things like buildings for them to live in. In Aingeal the city is close enough to the surface that the crystals poke into the air. The water is as solid as land, clear like perfectly blown glass, but only within the confines of the city itself. It was pretty. Amazing and occasionally terrifying but… pretty. White and lavender and sea foam green crystals that tower over your head. Their songs are like nothing I’ve ever heard. I sort of wish I had my old panpipes with me. They liked listening to me play.”
When she started talking Mellas looked as though he didn’t believe a thing she said. Eventually, as Anwyn described the water being solid, his expression shifted into one of fearfulness, then into a sort of worshipful awe that made the hair stand up on the back of her neck. No one should ever look at her that way. Ever.
“You truly have spoken to them,” Mellas breathed. “You have visited their home.”
“Yes,” Anwyn said. “And I’m telling you that there’s a big ass hurricane coming in that is so large that the Ladies are running for cover. Now if you think you’re more powerful than they are then by all means, keep on doing what you’re doing.”
Mellas exchanged a long look with Philotheos who had a terribly conflicted expression on his face. The other men who had been talking to Mellas looked at Anwyn with a strange mixture of awe and derision, most of them apparently awed by what she’d said but scornful of the fact that it had come from a mere woman.
“If I am to convince everyone that they need to prepare,” Mellas finally said, “it would help to hear directly from the Ladies. The men here will listen far more closely to their words than to yours. No offense intended.”
“Offense still taken but yeah, I understand that,” Anwyn sighed. “Great. Well, someone get a nice bucket. I’m going to need it.”
“A…?” Mellas asked, head slowly cocking to the side as he stared at Anwyn.
“Talking to the Ladies makes me sick to my stomach,” Anwyn explained as she pulled off her jacket and passed it to Iola. “I refuse to throw up on top of them though so, bucket. Sooner is better. You’re all going to need every minute you can get to prepare.”
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