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
Dorcia Decharas was every bit as difficult as Aravel and Iola had said. Anwyn sat on one of the big couches in the great room, watching as Dorcia fussed at everyone and everything. Aravel had insisted on wrapping Anwyn up in a blanket, not that Anwyn objected all that hard.
The hurricane overhead was like an animal trying to tear its way into the house. Gusts rattled the shutters every few moments. She could hear the roof creaking and groaning in time with the wind. Worse still, the wind had torn the roof up. Buckets sat in several places, catching the steady drip of water. Given how hard it was raining outside Anwyn was surprised that the entire house wasn’t wet. Everything smelled damp even if it wasn’t wet to the touch.
Through it all, Dorcia fussed at them all. It was strangely like watching Caddie when he was in one of his really bad moods. She snapped at everyone whether they were interacting with her or not, glared constantly and obviously didn’t approve of anything that happened around her. She was wrapped up in a big shawl rather than a blanket. If Anwyn wasn’t sure that Dorcia would insist that her blanket was somehow polluted, she would have given it to Dorcia.
The only real differences between Caddie and Dorcia were her painful coughs and the fact that she was a plump woman rather than a skinny boy. It was odd enough that Anwyn alternated between amused and annoyed. The eye of the storm had passed over them while Anwyn slept. Fortunately, Philotheos’ house was high enough on the hill and tucked deep enough into the hillside that they weren’t too affected by the storm despite the leaks and creaking.
“So do we know how the port is doing?” Anwyn asked Philotheos, grateful that his whole family understood Aingealese. It was so much easier than struggling with her poor Archaelaosian.
“That’s not something that a young girl should ask about,” Dorcia snapped before Philotheos could open his mouth.
“Yes, it is,” Anwyn said, raising her chin to stare at Dorcia. “I’m not staying on this island. I want to know if the Little Bird will be able to get into port or if we’ll have to take long boats out to her when it’s time to go.”
Dorcia glared back. “You should let your brother worry about that. Girls don’t concern themselves with such things.”
Anwyn couldn’t help but laugh at that. Dorcia gasped. For the first time since Anwyn had gotten up, color came to Dorcia’s cheek. It was a splotchy flush but at least she wasn’t so pale. Her illness might not be as serious as she’d pretended in the letter to Iola but it was fairly bad.
“Really?” Anwyn chuckled. “Oh my. You’ve really got things backwards. Aravel’s the one who lives a female life. I’m a sailor and a brawler. Treat me like a boy and you’ve got it straight.”
“That’s obscene!” Dorcia squawked.
“No, it’s accurate,” Anwyn said. “I’m the one who will be a sailor, who travels around the world and works business deals. I’m the one who gets into fights. Ravi’s the one who cooks and cleans and knits up a storm. Granted, he’s a bit girlish in that he’ll punch anyone who treats him wrong but that’s just him. Outside of Archaelaos it’s the women who rule and the men who tend to the home and children.”
Dorcia shuddered, wrapped a shawl more tightly around her shoulders. Anwyn snorted at her. Really, the woman was impossibly difficult about everything, not that it mattered. In a couple of days they would be gone and Anwyn was pretty sure that Iola would never come home again. She certainly wasn’t going to fall for the same trick twice.
“So about the port?” Anwyn said to Philotheos, completely ignoring Dorcia’s outraged huff.
“We’re not sure, honestly,” Philotheos said. “When Spyros and I ran down during the eye of the storm it looked… well, the docks were mostly intact but the ships had been pushed up onto shore. It’s a mess and I’m fairly certain that it will be worse when the storm is over.”
“I suppose that’s to be expected,” Anwyn sighed. “So does Spyros live here or what?”
A startled gasp prompted Anwyn to look over her shoulder. Spyros had just come in from the outdoor kitchen out back with Aravel, both of them carrying trays of food. Anwyn had to wonder how they’d managed to cook anything with the rain pouring down and so much wind but it really didn’t matter.
“Spyros is going to marry Iola,” Dorcia announced with the sort of defiant conviction that went along with trying to make something happen by sheer force of will.
“No, she’s not,” Anwyn said with equal amounts of conviction that was based on reality instead of fantasy. “Io’s leaving with us.”
“She’s my daughter and she’ll take over the household after me,” Dorcia hissed at Anwyn. “Your filthy disgusting affair isn’t going to last. Iola will see what a good boy Spyros is and marry him. You’ll see!”
Anwyn shook her head in disbelief, turning back to Philotheos. That sort of fanatic belief wasn’t anything Anwyn was willing to fight with. She really wasn’t sure how Dorcia could ignore and dismiss Iola’s personality, desires and the fact that she’d left the island to escape her demands. Not that it mattered. If it came down to it, Anwyn was perfectly willing to knock Dorcia out to get Iola out of the house safely. Philotheos didn’t seem like he’d try to force Iola to stay, no matter what his wife wanted.
“Spyros does tend to spend a lot of time here,” Philotheos said, patting Dorcia’s ankle and then sighing when she kicked his foot away. “After Iola left I needed the help.”
“Ought to just adopt him,” Anwyn said as Aravel set his tray of food down and then took Spyros’ from him. “Make him your son officially.”
Everyone stared at her, from Dorcia to Philotheos and onwards to Spyros and Aravel. Even Iola stared as she came in the front door, dripping wet from the rain. Anwyn rolled her eyes at them. It wasn’t that outrageous of a suggestion. From what she could see so far Spyros was the next best thing to Philotheos’ son already.
Aravel sat next to Anwyn on the couch, poking her feet until she made enough room for him. He had his ‘I hope you know what you’re doing’ face on so maybe it wasn’t as obvious as Anwyn thought. By the door, Iola shook her head as if despairing of ever following Anwyn’s leaps of logic.
“He… has a family,” Philotheos said slowly while passing food to Dorcia who took it with a glare that made Anwyn think she expected the food to be poisoned or inedible.
“So?” Anwyn said. “Spyros, are you the first child? Big family? Small family?”
“Ah, well,” Spyros said. He hesitantly passed Iola a towel nearly as big as Anwyn so that she could dry off. “I’m the fifth son of five.”
“Any prospects of getting inheritance from your father?” Anwyn asked. “I assume you guys inherit things from your elders here. Most places do.”
Spyros’ smile was so wry that Anwyn didn’t need him to shake his head no, even though he did. She turned back to Philotheos, taking the bowl of surprisingly hot soup that he offered her. It was just clear broth with some vegetables floating in it but it was warm so that was more than she’d expected with the storm. The scent of green onion and what she thought was spinach made Anwyn smile.
“How in the Ladies’ name did you manage to cook, Ravi?” Anwyn asked. She sipped the soup and then winced. “Hot!”
“Let it cool a bit, Annie,” Aravel said. He shrugged as he took his bowl, cradling it in his lap. “There’s a second kitchen built into the caves behind the house. Nothing fancy but good enough to make some simple food during the storm.”
“Huh,” Anwyn grunted. She blew on the soup to cool it, waving one hand at Philotheos. “You need help around the house, yes?”
“You like Spyros,” Anwyn continued even though Dorcia had stopped glaring at her soup so that she could glare at Anwyn. Philotheos only looked at her as though he thought she had gone insane. “Dorcia likes Spyros or she wouldn’t be pushing for Iola to marry her. No, don’t try to deny that! If you hated his guts you wouldn’t let him anywhere near your daughter, no matter who she was.”
Dorcia grumbled something probably profane and obscene under her breath but it was too quiet for Anwyn to hear. Probably fortunately given the venomous look Dorcia threw her way. Anwyn ignored that, turning back to Spyros whose hands shook so hard that he nearly spilled the soup that Philotheos handed to him.
He looked as though he was terrified that he’d be thrown out into the storm because of Anwyn speaking up this way. It made Anwyn wonder just what his actual family was like. It couldn’t be very good if he reacted so poorly to people paying attention to him. She couldn’t see any bruises but Anwyn knew perfectly well that sometimes words hurt more than any physical blow.
“You’re obviously comfortable here,” Anwyn continued, nodding to Spyros. “Otherwise you wouldn’t stick around. There have to be other things you could do and other places you could go.”
“Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean that adoption is the logical response,” Spyros said. “I have a family. They have a claim on me. I can’t just leave them.”
“Yeah, but that’s the thing,” Anwyn said, grinning as she warmed to the idea. “Marriage is one way to forge ties between families, yes, but so is adoption. Spyros has no son. Even with the brief amount of time I’ve spent here I can tell that’s a huge problem. Iola’s not staying, no matter what anyone says about it. That means that Philotheos and Dorcia are basically childless. Your family giving you to them would be a good thing. It would tie the two families together, promote good will, and help both sides out.”
Aravel hummed and nodded slowly as if he could see how it worked too. He was good at this sort of thing so hopefully he’d give her a hand convincing them that it would work. Of all of them, Aravel was the best at making relationships work.
A particularly strong gust of wind ripped over the roof, making it rattle and moan alarmingly. Anwyn looked up, startled. Philotheos stood, already moving to scoop Dorcia up in case something happened to the house. The second gust never came, just more rain battering down against the roof and walls.
“Should we be in the cave?” Aravel asked.
“Still thinking about it,” Philotheos admitted.
“It’s too cold,” Dorcia complained with not one bit of angry spite. She put one hand over her chest. “And too wet. You know how sick I get in there.”
“It’s a damp cave?” Anwyn asked Aravel.
“Yeah,” Aravel sighed. “I’m not entirely certain that it’s safe either. The ceiling was dripping pretty badly when we were cooking.”
Anwyn waved for Philotheos to sit back down. He stared at the ceiling for a moment before doing so. Despite how wet Iola was, Anwyn almost wished she was strong enough to go outside and see for herself just how bad the storm was. Seeing the Ladies’ image of it wasn’t the same thing as feeling the wind and rain. Of course, doing so would be stupid. She honestly wasn’t sure why Iola went outside other than to get away from Dorcia for a little while.
“Anyway, as I was saying,” Anwyn said, “It’s a good thing for everyone, as long as Spyros’ family is a respectable one.”
“Quite,” Philotheos said as he passed Iola a bowl of soup. “They’re actually rather well off compared to us.”
“There you go then,” Anwyn said with her best ‘making a deal’ grin. “That’s part of what you tell them. After we leave, of course. We could do some big dramatic departure, full of shouting or something. Make it painfully obvious that Iola’s not coming back ever. Then you could go to Spyros’ father, complaining sadly about the lack of children in your household when he has so many and if only Spyros was actually your son.”
“The scary part of this is that I believe that would work,” Philotheos murmured.
“And then Dorcia can find a nice proper young lady to set Spyros up with and everyone’s happy,” Anwyn said, smiling at them all. “It’s a great solution.”
Dorcia blinked at Anwyn as if she couldn’t believe that Anwyn had just said that. Granted, it was a little weird to talk about a ‘nice proper’ girl taking care of the house but that was how things worked on Archaelaos. Iola sighed quietly, shaking her head at Anwyn’s dramatic gestures. On her other side Aravel nodded, a big smile blooming on his face.
“That’s a great idea!” Aravel said. “I love weddings. They’re always so lovely. I’m sure that Spyros would be a great addition to the family. He’s been very helpful all through the storm. Finding him a nice sweet girl would be lovely.”
“Oh no, you are not matchmaking while you’re here,” Iola spluttered at Aravel. “No. Just no. I don’t care how much you enjoy it, you’re not doing it.”
“He’s a matchmaker?” Dorcia asked, her glare transferring over to Aravel though it was a lot less severe than it had been.
Anwyn and Iola both sighed, Iola rolling her eyes. Their expressions just made Aravel grin and bounce a little on the couch. Dorcia had to sip her soup to hide the little smirk of amusement that twisted her lips. None of which mattered compared to Spyros staring at Anwyn as if she was the most incredible thing he’d ever seen.
That might be a problem, Anwyn thought as she sipped her cooled soup. Not much of one but a problem nonetheless. The last thing she wanted was a boy with a crush on her. She had enough problems dealing with her attraction to Iola and Berrach’s persistent courtship. Adding another interested person to the mix wasn’t something that Anwyn wanted but hopefully Dorcia and Aravel would deal with the problem for her.
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