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
As soon as Anwyn wrapped the shield tight around her mind the nausea hit her. It felt as though she’d been punched in the stomach by someone four times as big as she was. At the same time the sunlight seemed to become a thousand times brighter. Every little noise the men made magnified in her ears, coupling with the slap of the waves against the ships behind them to create a wave of pure painful noise that felt like ice picks through her skull.
“Oh fuck,” Anwyn whimpered.
That was all she had time for before her stomach revolted entirely. The first round of vomiting happened so quickly that Anwyn didn’t have time to get the bucket into place. Fortunately Iola seemed to realize it was coming before Anwyn did because she shoved Anwyn’s head so that the vomit ended up in the bucket. The next round was right on the first heels. Anwyn threw up, then dry heaved, then heaved some more despite the fact that there was nothing to come up anymore.
Someone tried to press water into her hand but the mere sight of it triggered another round of dry heaves. Anwyn couldn’t breathe. The nausea was so bad that she didn’t have time to catch a breath before the next heave was on her. Iola took the bucket away and then sighed. Her hand was cool and comforting on the back of Anwyn’s neck.
“I’m knocking you out, Annie,” Iola said. “This is the worst yet.”
Anwyn nodded, tears creeping down her cheeks as the act of nodding set off dizziness so severe that she wasn’t sure which way was up. Iola’s blow to the back of her head was sharp and clean, if extremely painful. Hollow, echoing darkness swallowed Anwyn. She felt as though her body was a thousand miles away. The voices around her came to her as if through a long tunnel.
“What happened?” a young man’s voice asked.
“She gets sick when she talks to the Ladies,” Iola explained. “She said that before, Spyros. Give me a hand. I need to get her home.”
“Do be careful, dear,” Philotheos said, his voice seeming to come from further away. “She seems rather fragile.”
Iola laughed, sharp and derisive. “She’d probably break your jaw for saying it. Annie’s a brawler, Father. She takes on people twice her size without thinking about it.”
The world seemed to shift and whirl as hands pulled Anwyn up and around. Her faint grip on reality slipped away. Anwyn drifted back to reality as someone loaded her into some sort of cart, her head cushioned by a folded coat. She grumbled at the hands trying to arrange her comfortably, batting to make them leave her alone so that she could sleep. Whoever it was stopped fussing and Anwyn drifted back to unconsciousness.
“How is she?”
Ravi’s whisper sounded entirely too loud to Anwyn. She groaned and rolled, only then realizing that she was in a bed covered with blankets. A hard cool hand that felt like Iola’s brushed over Anwyn’s forehead only to jerk back when Anwyn whimpered.
“Not good,” Iola whispered back. “I think she needs more time.”
“Um, the storm’s leading edge is hitting, Io,” another man’s voice said nowhere near quietly enough for Anwyn’s comfort.
The bed shifted as Iola stood. Whatever she said to the other man and Ravi it was far enough away that it didn’t disturb Anwyn. She drifted back to sleep only vaguely aware that her stomach felt somewhat better even though her ribs ached and her head still throbbed.
When she woke the next time, Anwyn could hear wind wailing overhead. She blinked, looked around the dark room and then shrugged. It was so dark that she couldn’t make any details of the room out. Between the hurricane overhead and the darkness of the room, Anwyn had no idea whether it was day or night. She did feel someone on the bed with her but Anwyn didn’t bother to investigate whether was Iola or Aravel. Rolling over and going back to sleep seemed like a much better idea.
Her stomach woke her the next time, not with nausea but with hunger. Anwyn grumbled and rubbed her eyes, peering around the room. There was a little oil lamp on a tiny table by the bed. It gave enough light that Anwyn could see the room.
The bed was bigger than Anwyn was used to, easily large enough for two people to share. Someone had clearly slept next to Anwyn. The blankets and pillow on the other side were both rumpled. Instead of oil paintings like home, there were woven wall hangings decorating the walls. Other than the bed and the small table, the only furniture was a heavy black chest of drawers against the far wall.
“Iola?” Anwyn called. “Ravi?”
No one answered but the wind was screaming under the eaves so Anwyn wouldn’t be surprised if no one heard her. She sat up, cautiously swinging her legs over the side of the bed. Thankfully, her stomach didn’t revolt. Dizziness didn’t strike. That was better than Anwyn had any right to expect.
Standing didn’t go quite as well. Anwyn’s knees buckled out from under her as she stood. She barely caught herself on the little table. It wobbled dramatically but didn’t collapse. The brass oil lamp, however, slid towards the edge of the table. When Anwyn grabbed for that her legs gave way for good, toppling Anwyn to the floor, the table thumping against her shoulder and the lamp smashing against the tiled floor. To Anwyn’s surprise the flame didn’t go out and very little oil spilled out of it.
“Anwyn?” Aravel called from the other room.
“Ow,” Anwyn complained.
Aravel sighed when he came in, staring down at Anwyn with enough dismay that she glared at him. “You could have called.”
“I did!” Anwyn complained. “No one heard me. I didn’t expect my legs to give out on me.”
She continued to grumble as Aravel came over and carefully put the table upright again. He set the lamp on it and then hauled Anwyn up and back into bed as if she was a bag of apples to be put on a shelf. Even her squawk of outrage didn’t bother him. Aravel just tucked Anwyn back in, firmly tugging the covers up to her chin.
“I’m fine,” Anwyn protested.
“You’ve been out for a full day, Annie,” Aravel said. He sat on the edge of the bed next to Anwyn. “According to Spyros you threw up so much for so long that you passed out.”
“No wonder I’m hungry,” Anwyn sighed. “I do feel more or less okay, though, Ravi.”
“And that’s why you fell down, right?” Aravel said with a snort of amusement. He grinned when Anwyn glared at him. “If you’re hungry then stay put. I’ll get you something to eat even if Dorcia pitches a fit at a boy in the kitchen.”
“You’re going to have to tell me who these people are eventually,” Anwyn complained. “I’ve no idea who you’re talking about.”
Aravel nodded, slipping out of the room with a barely heard mutter about getting something to mop up the spilled oil. He wasn’t gone more than a few seconds before Iola came in, firmly shutting the door behind her and leaning against it. Anwyn raised an eyebrow at her, trying not to laugh at the outrage on Iola’s face.
“I’m going to kill my mother, Annie,” Iola said so seriously that Anwyn grinned at her. “I’m going to do it. She’s impossible. I can’t deal with her any longer. She has to die.”
“That bad, huh?” Anwyn asked. She waved for Iola to come over, pointing out the oil on the floor. “Well, tell me what happened while I was out. Ravi said I’d been sleeping for a full day.”
Iola nodded, skirting the oil before flinging herself on the bed next to Anwyn so that she could bury her face in a pillow and scream. It was a pretty good scream, not that it was loud enough to be heard over the wind howling overhead. Anwyn patted Iola’s shoulder, chuckling at the disgusted face Iola made when she finally raised her face from the pillow.
“I should never have come back,” Iola complained.
“It was a trick?” Anwyn asked.
“That’s all it was,” Iola grumbled. “Mother’s not as ill as her letter said. She hasn’t been that ill since I was small. She didn’t let Father know she was writing it even. He’s annoyed at her because she browbeat Spyros into getting it onto a ship heading to Minoo and then onwards to Aingeal.”
“Who’s Spyros again?” Anwyn asked because that was the second or third time she’d heard him mentioned.
Anwyn started laughing as Iola glared at the door. Okay, that was obviously another thing that was annoying her about being home. Iola flopped her face back into the pillow but there were no screams this time, only growls that Anwyn could barely hear. Eventually Iola sighed and looked at Anwyn again.
“Apparently Mother convinced him that he’s my future husband,” Iola said. Her eyes were full of hostility but she kept her face carefully blank.
“Really?” Anwyn asked, immediately wishing her legs were stable enough to support her so that she could go punch this Spyros in the face.
“No picking a fight with him,” Iola said. “I’ve already cleared that one up. Mother’s the only one still nursing that idea. Even Father’s annoyed at her for that. Apparently she told Spyros that the letter was Father calling me home so that the two of us could get married.”
“Wow, she’s not good at plots, is she?” Anwyn asked. “That’s worse that some of the Delbhana plots when I was little.”
Iola snorted and nodded, finally looking amused instead of infuriated. They both stiffened as the door opened. Aravel came in with a tray, followed by a taller boy with a very neatly trimmed beard. He looked at Iola and blushed so brightly that Anwyn would have thought he was from home rather than this male-dominated island.
“That’s Spyros,” Iola said.
“If I weren’t so wobbly I’d punch you in the nose on principle,” Anwyn announced.
“I’m sorry!” Spyros squawked, holding both hands up as if afraid that Anwyn really would get up and come at him. “Dorcia was very convincing.”
“The oil’s right there, Spyros,” Aravel said, nodding at the floor and tapping next to the little puddle. “If you could get that, I’d appreciate it. Annie needs to eat.”
“I can feed myself!” Anwyn said, horrified at the sheer thought of Aravel trying to spoon-feed her. “Damn it, Ravi, I don’t need you to baby me!”
“What you need is food and another twelve hours of sleep,” Aravel said. “You’re certainly getting the food. Not sure about the sleep. The storm’s every bit as bad as predicted, Annie. Philotheos is worried about the roof’s integrity. We might have to go hide in the caves behind the house.”
Aravel very carefully set the tray in front of Anwyn. It was the sort that had legs on it, allowing it to be used like a table when the person was in bed. Anwyn sighed at that. She really would have preferred to go out in the other room and talk to Philotheos about the storm and whether everyone would be all right. Apparently that wasn’t going to happen for a little while.
The soup smelled good, thick with vegetables and some sort of meat broth. Anwyn thought it might be salt pork but she couldn’t be sure. Really, it didn’t matter. All that mattered was her stomach not being so empty anymore.
“So, this is what’s happened,” Iola said as Anwyn ate eagerly. “Mellas has apparently decided that you’re a saint.”
“What?” Anwyn asked, a spoonful of soup halfway to her mouth.
“Just accept it,” Iola said.
She rolled so that she could look at Anwyn more easily. It made her hips cant and her breasts squish together distinctly enough that Anwyn blushed. When she glanced at Aravel he was eyeing Iola appreciatively. Spyros, on the other hand, looked away with a blush twice as fierce as Anwyn’s.
“Because of how the Ladies interacted with you,” Iola continued, “Mellas has decided that you’re some sort of holy figure. He came over before the hurricane hit and talked about how you were a blessing to the island and that they should build you a house where you could be safe and worshiped forever.”
“And then I broke his jaw, three ribs and threatened to castrate him with his own belt knife,” Aravel said so cheerfully that Anwyn grinned at him. “He decided that it was a bad idea to make you stay after that. At least I assume that’s what he meant. It was hard to tell. Broken jaws make it hard to talk properly.”
Anwyn snickered as she finished off the soup and then started eating the thick rolls that Aravel had brought. Iola and Aravel grinned at each other so apparently there was more to that story than Anwyn had gotten.
“What are they leaving out?” Anwyn asked.
“Ah, well, Mellas thought you should marry his son, too,” Spyros said, still not looking directly at Iola.
“So when we get home,” Aravel said, smirking, “I’m telling Mother that it was you who almost got married off, not me.”
“Ravi!” Anwyn groaned. “No fair! I wasn’t even awake for it!”
“Doesn’t matter,” Aravel sing-songed at her. “It still counts.”
Anwyn grumbled and flapped a hand at him. She drank the juice that Aravel had brought and then pushed the tray away. To her dismay, filling her stomach seemed to have made her body decide that it was time to sleep some more.
“Doesn’t count,” Anwyn said. “And the permit?”
“Heh, he signed that willingly,” Aravel said. “Before we got into the whole ‘holy daughter of the Ladies’ and ‘marry my son’ thing. We’ve got the permit and we can start working with the pepper producers whenever we want. Philotheos even thinks that Mellas isn’t likely to rescind the permit despite the broken jaw. He did overstep himself, after all.”
“Good,” Anwyn said. “Now go away again. I’m getting some more sleep.”
Aravel patted Anwyn’s leg. Iola chuckled and deliberately rolled over so that she could press a kiss against Anwyn’s cheek. From the smug look on her face when she rolled back off the bed it was entirely for Spyros’ benefit. He looked miserable and, oddly, a bit aroused by it but he didn’t say a thing as he nodded and hurried out of the bedroom.
“Get some sleep, Annie,” Aravel said. “I’ll be listening for when you wake up again.”
“Thanks, Ravi,” Anwyn said. “Watch out for Io for me? She’s about to murder her mother.”
“We all are,” Aravel snorted. “Really, the woman is impossible. You’ll see when you get up. Sleep well.”
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