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  1. Opening Scene- Establishes setting, protagonist, antagonist, and primary and secondary conflicts. CHAPTER 1 “Only one in forty are venomous.” The murmured reminder did nothing to banish the trickle of bright adrenaline down my nerves as the breakers began their telltale frothing beneath the water’s surface. I should have felt badly for skipping my voice session, but I was too sated on the sand’s warmth and a full belly to much care. Strands of hair coaxed on the sea’s winds floated across my copper cheeks, and I did not bother to restrain their path over slitted eyes which watched the ebb of the surf- waiting. The coiling of my stomach did not owe itself to breaking the unspoken rules governing my days, but what I now contemplated as I watched the equine creature emerge from the roiling waves. I began to sing, my ability to voice two notes at once drawing the animal nearer in swells of melding chords. She beckons with misting fingers And Tantrums of thrown limbs Join the waves, the wind, the storm Listen to her hymns Embrace her darkness, kiss her depths Taste salt upon your lip Your neglect of dawn’s blood skies Cost more than just your ship Closer it came across the sand, ears perked at the old ballad as I wove the chorus in the air around us. Half a dozen coves carved Cretoria’s coastline in aggressive gouges, but Oren and I had claimed this one. Tidal pools of varying sizes reflected the slouching sun like pieces of shattered mirror embedded in the dark rocks on the west end, while nothing but golden sand comprised the remainder of the small crescent. Neither the locals nor the summer sunbirds from the nearby capital city of Mytikas enjoyed traversing the narrow ledge of a trail down the slate cliffs over the cove, leaving this place to us most days. Dusk had coalesced in fading golden shafts suspended in the leaden hour of the evening- the hour in which wild sea horses sometimes swam onto shore here to fling their manes of kelp as they pounded across the sand. I had never approached one until now, the longing to run my fingers over its flaring pink gills overpowering the conviction that such a thing is never meant to be tamed or even touched by civilized hands. My hands were not soft by any means, not like the lavender oil scented ones of those in Mytikas. But they were human hands, and humans tended to ruin things they loved. I would only touch its muzzle, just for a moment. My notes fell softer as it approached. The hard plates of its nectarine-hued body rose and fell in ridges capped with skeletal knobs, ending in a curled tail. As it danced closer, my eyes drifted to its saddle fin, which rose high on its back tipped in lethal spines. Those needle-sharp points, and the smaller ones embedded in its ridges, contained a venom the barest amount of which would paralyze your limbs with creeping stealth as you were impaled further and dragged into the sea by the carnivorous animal. It was said that during those moments, the venom caused a euphoria, and you didn’t mind your imminent death approaching on the white-tipped depths. Her gills fluttered as she stretched her neck towards me, my nostrils catching the briny scent of kelp which hung in layers of twisting jade ribbon and bulbous air pockets along her neck. The orange of her shell absorbed the sunlight slanting across the cove like my own skin did. I was always famished for sunlight, for cool seawater, for the sound of the tide shushing my staccato heartbeat. She and I were kindred. The tips of my fingers brushed her fluted nose. A familiar voice sliced through the carefully cultivated haze around me. “Opi? What-” The horse reared back, tossing her head as she shimmied backwards and turned away from me. “Curse you, Oren!” I yelled as the creature sprinted for the surf, thundering into the undertow. I whipped towards him, eyes squinting to see the haloed outline of his rangy limbs. “What’s the matter with you?” my friend called, long legs ambling over the sand towards me. “Were you about to touch that thing?” I crossed my arms as he approached. “Maybe.” The white of his eyes showed as he sighed. “Did you skip voice lessons?” What was he, my mother? Kalliope, her lilting voice wavered in my mind. I won’t have it said you’re shirking your duties to the Opera… Anxiety curled in my gut, but I clobbered it down with an imaginary piece of driftwood. The Phoerian Opera could go rot today. I was not yet in its gold-fisted grip- or so I told myself. Rolling my eyes in answer, I picked up the lobster tail I’d been roasting and tossed it to him. “Got four today.” I didn’t mention I’d spent two hours diving for them, but they were his second-favorite food, so I didn’t mind. He caught it with a soft swear and then dropped the scalding crustacean in the sand. Flicking his nimble fingers as if to rid them of the heat, he commented casually, “Suppose it’s a good thing you’re here already.” He paused, and I almost threw sand in his sun-bronzed face before he finally spit out what I’d been waiting to hear. “My contact at the Nautilus Citadel replied to my letter.” Everything in me suddenly focused to a razor-sharp edge, my urge to ream him for the ruined lobster abandoned. We’d been waiting over a month for this response. This was it. The only answer to the only question that mattered. “Yes?” My hands twitched as I contemplated the urge to strangle him. “What did he say? The one-dimpled smile which crept across my friend’s face raised the hairs on my arms. “We leave in the morning for the Solstice Trade.” My breath hitched. It was true. The vanished peoples of Gomethra’s mainland were real. The Solstice Trade was real. And we were going to crash it. No rule for what we were about to do existed, but if it had- I’d break it faster than a sea horse could drag me beneath the indifferent waves, euphoric to the bitter end. **** The edge of my awareness drug on unfamiliar ground, a hem fraying further with each barefoot step we’d taken to arrive at the wastelands of Gomethra. Though the boat in which we’d traveled was only a mile away through the forest, I forced the image of its hull bumping against the rocks through my mind like a talisman. “Do bones burn to ash as well, or are they still beneath us?” Oren mused. Patience had never been my strong suit, but I could think of a thousand things I’d rather be than patient, so I wasn’t going to fill the Amphritis Sea with tears over it. My cheeks stung as I dragged ash-encrusted nails down them. The imbecile beside me had clearly forgotten the need for silence as we crouched on the edge of the vast, grass-covered Ash Plains, anticipation taught as a lyre’s strings in our veins. “Shut it,” I hissed, sending his larger form toppling over from where he crouched next to me. The azure of his eyes widened as he froze at the lofty grass rustling around us. I prayed to Chrosos no one in the envoy had seen the ripple in the silver vegetation. The company of a hundred soldiers waited in stoic silence a stone’s throw from us as they faced the undulating waves stretching out for miles in front of them like a sea of mirrored anemones. My shoulders dropped in relief as they stood unmoving against the cloudless skies. “Thought you were bringing food,” Oren growled, his mutinous wheat hair slipping over one eye. I heaved a token sigh, inhaling and exhaling the smell of burning leaves that still lingered in the soil after all this time. His nattering didn’t matter anyways while the breeze and the grass spoke so freely around us, drowning our words in their murmured song akin to velvet brushing over my ears. “No matter how long we wait, seeing dragons will be worth it,” I reminded him. “Where’s your food?” Face falling, he mumbled, “I hid some snacks from myself last night to save them and couldn’t remember where I put them this morning.” Vertical lines furrowed his brow as his eyes roamed the mental landscape of possible hiding spots he’d forgotten about. He’d find them eventually, as always. I patted his tightly coiled shoulder muscle. “My condolences. No, you can’t have mine.” There had always been rumors the dragons still existed. The official word claimed they had gone extinct from disease and starvation after The Scything, the war waged centuries ago between Nyskos and the northern kingdom of Volnyrocq. The mainland had not always been the wasteland of cursed grass which stretched before us. Oren had heard through his family’s connections in Mytikas that some Rocqes still lived beyond the Ash Plains and that an exchange of goods happened each year near the summer solstice. Yet none of the things we’d speculated about came close to the reality before us. Half a dozen cargo ships were tethered on the wide river mouth which flowed alongside the plains. The massive caravan of goods sitting behind the line of guards could have fed the capital city of Mytikas for a month. Nyskos had amassed hundreds of barrels of salted and smoked fish, live lobsters and crabs in enormous glass tanks pulled on wagons, towers of crated wine and sweet liqueurs, bottles of olive oil, sacks of grain and kafe beans...The smell alone carried over on the wind caused my mouth to water. I’d skipped breakfast for this (more like Oren ate mine on the way) to meet him at the docks and arrive here by the sun’s highest point. A distant rumble began to shake the ground beneath my knees, and I looked up to see the hazy outline of black forms marching through the grass. Those who believed in the tales of the Rocqes’ existence said they had lost their ability to breathe fire or fly, just as we, the race of Nereiden, had lost our sirenic traits over time. Whatever form they wore caused a rhythmic trembling of the grass around us, and we watched as the first row of two dozen black plates of armor came into focus. Their pace would bring them to us in moments, but that wasn’t what caused Oren to swear. “Holy mother of tentacles,” he breathed. Behind the Rocqe soldiers were massive carts pulled by beasts I had only read about in one of the texts from my mother’s collection. Unlike most cart animals, the heads of the bone lynxes with their twitching feline noses stayed angled high in the air, looking out over the soldiers of the retinue in front of them. Black spikes of bone longer than my arms rose in pairs from the ringed white fur on their backs, chains connecting them to the carts pulled taut from the manacles encircling them. They moved as if the weight of the house-sized carts didn’t affect them in the least as they stalked forward with fluid grace. My head tilted. “Is it wrong I have an urge to see how soft their ears are?” “T’would be a noble death,” Oren replied. “I'll sing your song in the Nautilus Citadel.” Oren’s voice was terrible, so I hoped it wouldn’t come to that. More intriguing than the bone lynxes were the men encased from the waist up in armor of glistening jet black with horned helmets. As they drew closer, I could see the iridescent scales which made up the armor shifting over each other. There were what appeared to be wings for epaulets, flaring out beyond their shoulders and ending in a single talon at the tip. In contrast, the golden armor of the Nereiden almost blinded a person when looking at it in full sunlight. I was pleased to see that our representatives didn’t move a muscle in reaction to the approaching envoy. One of the bone lynxes snapped its head in our direction, looking straight at us through the grass. My lungs seized. Ducking back down, I pulled Oren with me. “Do you think it sees us?” Oren’s eyes were not teasing now. “I have no doubt it does.” Shivers chased over my scalp. Or perhaps the shiver had more to do with the way he lowered his voice to a baritone murmur that had developed of late. It was strange to realize Oren’s lanky form had filled out into broader shoulders and his face had developed new angles to it. He’d always had beautiful features, and I’d teased him mercilessly for being prettier than any of the girls on Cretoria. But now he was beginning to strike me as something different. When the retinues finally came face to face, it was rather anticlimactic. Two soldiers simply exchanged scrolls, and then we watched for almost an hour while they loaded and unloaded goods from the bone lynxes onto the ships and vice versa. My stomach grumbled as time wore on, but I wasn’t going to look away. “They managed to cross the Ash Plains unscathed,” I commented, sifting gray dirt through my fingers as I sat on the packed earth. Drawings on old parchment surfaced in my mind, images of the warped creatures which hunted in the grasses of the plains and made crossing a suicidal endeavor. Oren raised a brow at me like I was an idiot. “I would imagine it had something to do with the giant cats they brought,” he drawled. “Even if the shadow wolves are as big as they say, nothing would attack those things.” He had a point. As we watched yet more containers and barrels being hefted onto the flat carts of the bone lynxes, Oren voiced a question of his own. “Do you think the Prince of Volnyrocq truly started the war? That he burned an entire city to the ground?” I’d thought about the answer to his question a thousand times. “Wouldn’t blame him if he did.” Oren gave me a look like I’d grown another head. “Just because one person died doesn’t mean you can-” “She didn’t just die, Oren. Her fins were cut from her body and her heart ripped out.” We’d had this argument countless times, but I was more than happy to rise to the occasion again. “If I found the person I was supposed to marry like that, I might go on a fire-breathing rampage too.” Oren frowned. “He should have known better than to bring a nereid to the Winged Court. The Rocqes were barbarians, even without the danger of a Kymaera being produced from their union.” I shrugged. “Forbid something, and someone will inevitably be stupid enough to try it, daemon spawn or not.” He paused, then looked at me sideways. “You still believe those stories? I doubt any of us could shift into dragons or mer, even eight-hundred years ago. And the Kymaera were probably just deformed children. I pity them.” I turned my body towards him, jaw dropped. “What are you talking about? You’ve seen the Draekenmor Reef the same as I. The bones are piled from the sea floor to the surface. Thousands of dragons. They were pulled from the sky in The Scything.” He shrugged. “But what if it’s just casts and molds? Carvings? What if it doesn’t reach to the sea floor, Opi?” “I can't even hear you over your own horsecrap,” I hissed, struggling to keep my voice low. He didn’t deserve to use his pet name for me. “Those scrolls are not stories, Oren. Their histories. How can you deny that?” He sighed, leaning back onto one elbow. “Mytikas has different texts now, ones that are more accurate based on actual research. Your mother’s scrolls are probably just a collection of tales that were never meant to be taken seriously.” My fingers curled into the ash beneath us. He was suddenly revealing this misbelief now, of all times? Those stories of dragons and mer were an unshakable part of us- so I’d thought. I was going to push him off a cliff when we got back to Cretoria. “What nonsense have those in Mytikas been spout-” A screech rent the sky in the distance, raising the dusty hairs on my body to stand. It was a shrill cry, ear-piercing in pitch and ending on a hopeless, echoing note like the last song of a dying glasswhale. We lifted our heads up out of the grass. All of the soldiers had stopped to listen too, and the bone lynxes had shifted to crouched positions as low as possible in their harnesses. Their great yellow eyes watched the sky to the north, and I turned to look at well. Another desolate shriek sounded, and I saw the vague outline of something high in the air- something too big to be any sort of bird. “Is that…?” I couldn’t even say the words, my heart pounding so loud the bone lynxes could probably hear it with their tufted ears. “It can’t be,” Oren whispered. “It’s impossible.” The creature was too far away to make out anything more than the outline of wings and a sleek body, but I knew. It was a dragon. Apparently, the soldiers thought so too. Shouting began, and swords were pulled from sheaths as the Nereiden guards faced their dark counterparts. It was clear this wasn’t part of the plan. The Rocqe soldiers also drew their weapons from their backs, wielding two wickedly curved onyx blades in response. “We need to get out of here,” Oren rumbled, taking my hand. “Now.” I couldn’t agree more, though I was dying to stay and see what happened. But if fighting occurred, there would be no predicting where the soldiers would go, and they could run right into us. I wasn’t stupid enough to think we would be spared by even our own soldiers in such a precarious situation. Looking up to the sky once more, I saw the shape of the dragon- or whatever it was- growing closer. I had never in my life wanted to stay put more than I did in that moment, whether I was burned to a crisp or chopped into pieces. “Kalliope, now!” Oren dragged me towards the forest with more force than I expected. Tearing my gaze away from the black spec in the sky, I followed him, awkwardly running while bent over as low as I could. When we were almost to the tree line at the edge of the Ash Plains, another primeval screech struck our ears as the clang of swords rang out, and we both abandoned our stealth for speed as we sprinted for the shelter of the trees. As we reached the first few steps under the forest’s canopy, I turned back. All I saw before Oren jerked me forward again were flashes of gold and obsidian striking each other. “Wait, Oren, I want to see if-” “No, you don’t,” he snapped, and I blinked at him. He never spoke to me in that tone, but the hard set of his jaw silenced any argument I had planned to use. Still- I looked back one last time before jerking into movement… The elegantly curved blade of a black-suited soldier plunged into the space between his opponent’s armor where the shoulder met the golden breastplate. I watched as it was forced deeper, piercing sideways into the man’s chest. My own ribs seemed constrict inwards as I pictured the perforation of his lungs, his heart, blood filling the cavities in between. The Nereiden’s cry was so small compared to the creature’s above and yet echoed through my nerve endings. It was final. It was desperate and fearful and knowing, his last sound. The gold-clad body fell to Ash Plains and did not rise. My blood had frozen, but it pounded in my ears nonetheless as Oren pulled me away. We sped over the forest paths back to where our small fishing boat waited. As we shoved off for the sail back to Cretoria, I thought I heard another wailing cry, and I caught my breath at the loneliness of it. Or, as Oren insisted on the way home, it was probably just the wind.
  2. Genre: YA Fantasy Logline: A spoiled noble girl with a good heart rebels against her parents to join a dethroned prince on his journey to build a team capable of reclaiming his throne and ridding the magical Islands of Rune of the injustices that plague them. Comparable to: It's can't think of anything with a similar storyline off the top of my head. I feel more comfortable saying I drew inspiration from Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Inuyasha, One Piece, Ouran High School Host Club, and Bridgerton. Pitch: A spoiled noble girl with a good heart named Josie has grown tired of the way her parents treat those beneath their station. While she certainly enjoys the luxuries of being nobility, she sees no reason for senseless violence or to treat others in an undignified manner. One day, she meets Malachi, a half-demon, dethroned prince from the magical islands that lie off the coast of the kingdom she is from. He sees the kindness in her heart and invites Josie to join him on his journey to build a team capable of reclaiming his throne and ridding the islands of the injustices that plague them. When her good heart and longing for adventure pushes her to accept, her parents disinherit her as a result. Josie and Malachi begin traveling from island to island on his boat. Early on in their journey, Josie finds out that her line is descended from a great priestess that defended the mainland in a war long forgotten by her people. She reconnects with her roots and throughout their journey she develops her own spiritual powers. As the team grows, they are joined by Johanna, a warrior who can speak to nature spirits and falls hopelessly in love with Malachi, Kai and Cal, who possess ground runes and become involved in a poly relationship with Josie, and lastly, Jameson, Malachi's half-angel cousin who is also prince whose family is still in power and possess water runes. As the team comes closer to completing their goals, they find that they are sacrificing a lot in the name of the greater good. For some, it is their freedoms, for others, it is any chance at true love, and some even sacrifice their lives. Josie finds herself lost in a sea of pain and rage as a result of this, that is, until she is given new hope by a great chief who informs her that the prophecy he once gave her has not yet been fulfilled. When a visiting prince comes to negotiate a new alliance, the team sets out on a new journey to solidify it. Josie has another mission in mind as well: to find answers about the prophecy. This leads into the second book, which I've already titled 'Runes in Rallem'. Chapter One: In a world much different from the one you know today, a world of ancient ways and the most fascinating of skill sets, there lies the land of Loft. Loft used to be an average kingdom at the time they held no magic and because of that, the people of Loft were almost dangerously unaware of the truth about the world they lived in. Just a few miles off the coast was a group of five islands. These islands were called the Islands of Rune. They were beautiful and full of magical runes but hidden well beyond a cloud bank that never left. It protected the people of the islands from the people of the mainland so that mainlanders would never find out the truth about the islanders. Both the mainland of Loft and the islands had been riddled with many injustices, that is until one man decided to make a difference. Today, I tell the story of what happened all those years ago for the first time. In my old age, I have come to fear that if the histories of our lands are not passed on, future generations will come to repeat the mistakes of our past. Of course, hiding the truths of the world is how things got so messed up to begin with, so it makes sense I would feel this way. Therefore, I am writing this to document the truth of what occurred when the team now known as “The Inter-Kingdom Board of Peace and Foreign Relations” was formed. In truth, we started out as a group of kids with an impossible dream and a boat. I was about nineteen at the time. As most of you reading this will know, I was highborn. My father was first cousin to the Queen of Loft, his title was Duke, and I was the heiress to the title of Duchess. I was a spoiled child who had little regard for those beneath my station, though, even I was kinder than my parents in that sense. I suppose it did not help that my mother and father were who they were, they made me believe that my behavior was normal. They also saw being kind-hearted or caring as a flaw. They were also not the nicest people I have ever known; I honestly cannot say if they meant harm by what they did or if they were just ignorant to the harm had they caused because of the world they knew. It is not my place to judge whether harm was intended though, I did come to find that no matter one intentions, if harm if being done it is my place to stop it. That, my friends, is everyone’s place. Perhaps my biggest regret is never having an honest conversation with them. The beginning of this story goes back to a single moment, on a day that changed my life, I was walking through town when I met him for the first time. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was young and my views about the world were so limited, my biggest concern was figuring out how to rid myself of the guard my parents had following me so I could have an adventure. Eventually, I produced a plan to disappear into a large crowd after creating a panic. I pretended to faint and people crowded around. The guard was overwhelmed trying to keep them all back, so I slipped away and made a run for it. He realized quickly, so I kept running in an attempt not to get caught. However, I turned a corner without looking much and ran into a young man. I fell into a puddle and got mud all over my clothes. I scoffed at him and said, “Watch where you are going, peasant!” He cleared his throat. “Excuse me, my lady, but I do believe you ran into me.” Then, he reached out his hand to help me up. I rolled my eyes and stood up ignoring his hand. I began to answer him, but then my guard caught up. He saw the state I was in and overreacted, grabbing the man by his shirt. “How dare you do this to my lady?” I saw where it was going so, I quickly interjected out of fear that my guards would harm him, even back then I was not a fan of senseless violence. “Put him down, now!” On my orders, the guard put the man down and said. “But my lady…” “But nothing!” I interrupted him, “This man did nothing wrong. It was a stunt I pulled so I did not get in trouble for running off. Now, leave him be.” I turned to the man. “My apologies, sir. Please, join my family and me for dinner tonight so that we may offer you a proper apology.” The man nodded. “Thank you, I’d be honored.” I nodded and began to walk away before turning back. “It’s the biggest house on Main Street, it should be easy to find, seven o’clock, okay?” Then I continued about my day. Right on time, he came to the house. I welcomed him in, saying, “I don’t believe I got your name earlier, sir.” “Please, stop calling me, ‘sir’.” He sounded annoyed, “My name is Malachi, I’m from the Island of Tendu, and you?” I gasped. “You’re from the Islands of Rune! I have always wanted to go! I hear no one from the mainland has ever been to one of the islands. You have to tell me all about them!” Malachi laughed. “Jeez, I just asked your name. What are you, crazy?” I froze in embarrassment for a moment, then pouted. “Hmph! I am Lady Josella Marie Spade Lucietta III. My friends call me Josie though.” Malachi rolled his eyes as we sat down. I guess he thought I was a bit obnoxious. I do not suppose it would have been complicated to think such a thing. We sat in silence for a few minutes waiting for my parents. It was an awkward silence. I did notice though, Malachi carried himself differently than most other peasants. I wondered about him. He was rather handsome. He had a bronze complexion and his skin was perfectly clear, but he was muscular and his hands were callused from labor of some sort. His hair was untamed, but kind of gorgeous in a way and he had blood red eyes. They looked unreal. When my mother and father entered, my mother said, “I am so sorry my dear, we got a bit caught up with the Kightington family. And you must be the young man my little Josie inconvenienced earlier. I am so sorry about her; she’s always been a bit eccentric for a noble lady.” Malachi looked surprised, “No, actually I find her quite lovely. She’s an exceedingly kind and brilliant young woman.” I was honestly a bit shocked that he came to my defense, at the time, I did not think he liked me much. As it turns out, Malachi did like me. My mother replied, “Well aren’t you just a gentleman? You better not flatter her too much, my dear boy. She already has an ego ten times her size.” Then my father added, “He is rather well-spoken too. For a peasant boy, that is.” “Father! That’s rude!” I exclaimed, “Both of you stop. I am not a child anymore and you can’t just speak to Malachi like he’s beneath you because of who his parents are.” “I am absolutely astonished at you, Josie.” My mother said, “We have a guest, and you are having these ridiculous outbursts. I’m sure Malachi understands his place in the world perfectly fine.” Malachi spoke up, “With all due respect, Madame, Sir, I do understand my place in the world. I am the man who is going to change it, once I assemble my team of course. I came here to find someone to represent the mainland and I decided that should be your daughter, Josie.” My mother and father laughed. “Young man, you will not be taking our daughter anywhere and you will not be changing a thing.” He chuckled in return. “Again, with all due respect, I do believe that is Josie’s decision to make. By my estimate, she is legally able to make those decisions for herself, am I correct?” At that moment, I do not know if it was spite, or just for the thrill, but said to him, “Of course, I’ll go. Thank you for the offer. Out of curiosity though, why me?” He explained, “Even though you act like one of those arrogant nobles, it truly is just an act. On the inside, you are driven to defend anyone you feel is being done wrong. That is why you stopped your guards and that is why you stood up to your parents. In a world like this, there are not many people I would be willing to put my faith in. But you have my full trust, even if I’m still earning yours.” I nodded and we left my parents’ home. I did not really believe in what he was doing at the time, but it seemed like the type of adventure I needed in my life. My parents disinherited me. All I had to my name when I left was whatever I could fit into my travel trunk. I did not know where I was going, but I knew I was not coming back to that house. Malachi and I spent a few days after that stocking up on supplies and loading them onto his boat. I never knew how much went into sailing; I had never paid it any mind before. Malachi asked me as I was looking at some spices, “Can you cook?” I replied, “Yes, of course. I am a woman. Regardless of social class a woman should know how to cook. My mother feared that if I did not learn to perform womanly duties that I would not marry well, therefore I was trained by the best all because I am not as eye catching as some of the other noble woman, particularly in the bust and the romp. I can’t help it that I have a smaller frame though.” He nodded. “I agree, but I can’t cook. So, do you mind doing the cooking on the ship? If I do, it'll taste terrible every time.” I giggled. “Well, of course. I figured I’d have to pull my weight.” He laughed. “I honestly didn’t plan on having you do anything. We are friends, friends take care of each other. So, even if you did not have anything to offer, I’d take care of you.” “Friends, huh?” “You’ve never had a friend before?” “Not really.” “It’s okay, I’ll teach you.” We smiled at each other. Given the circumstances; Malachi seemed like a nice guy. There was something magnetic about him. He was the type of guy who was just good-natured. I started to think that if someone could fix all the things wrong with the world, it would be him. I then thought, it was impossible for anyone to do, even with a team behind them. Reality is the world is a horrible place because people suck. I was sure even Malachi had major downfalls. Perhaps he was a liar, cheater, thief, or something of that sort, either way I felt that genuinely good people were far rarer than they are. Not to say that good people are not still flawed, but they try to correct their behaviors and do better. By the time we finished readying the ship for departure, it was late and we were both tired so we decided to rest for the night to get a fresh start and a full day at sea tomorrow. Malachi showed me to my cabin on the ship and made sure I had everything I needed. After he left, I sat on the bed and looked around. I started to doubt myself. Could I really live in such different conditions from what I was used to? The cabin was so small, the bed was hard, and I could feel a draft. But then it hit me, Malachi really lived like this every day and he still felt he had enough to share with me even though I had no money without my parents? I must do this; it is the right thing to do. From that moment, I had made up my mind, I was going to walk this path and be strong enough to face everything ahead of me, no matter how impossible it seemed. After a while, I fell asleep with a powerful resolve in my heart. Early the following morning, Malachi knocked on the cabin door. He called out, “Josie! It is time to get moving! Wakey, wakey!” I groaned, “Ugh, okay! I’ll be out in a minute to start breakfast!” I stumbled out of bed and got myself together for the day. When I went on deck, Malachi was hard at work to get the ship out to sea. He paused when he saw me and said, “Well, good morning. You finally decided to join the land of the living. We have a long trip ahead of us so make sure you make a good breakfast.” I asked, “Where are we going next, out of curiosity?” “I think we’ll go to Pallentine first; we can collect another teammate easily there. The Pallentinians are rather friendly if you do not judge their culture. We should be cautious though, Pallentine is hard to navigate. The rainforests there are so thick that only the natives bother. Once we dock, we should try to always stay with a guide from the village. Otherwise, I can’t promise we will find our way back to the ship in one piece.” That made me far more nervous to hear than I cared to discuss with Malachi. “Okay, well, I’ll go start the food. Just eat once we are set on course, I guess.” I became anxious as I thought about the possibility of getting lost in such a place. I wondered why anyone would want to live in such a place. Then I caught myself, I was judging them without even realizing it. I thought about it and concluded that there had to be difficulties to living anywhere. I could not look down on others for their lifestyle choices. Besides, who knows? I was free of my parents finally; I had no clue what kind of place I would choose to settle down in once we finished our journey. Malachi nodded then continued messing with ropes as I headed toward the kitchen. After a little while, the boat began to move. Malachi called out, “Hey, bring the food up here and eat with me!” So, I made some plates and carried the food up to the deck where Malachi had a table and some chairs set up for us. I sat down with him and looked out at the sea as we started our journey. I smiled and said to Malachi, “We should make a toast.” “To what?” “We’re two friends set out on a magnificent adventure to change the world, take your pick.” “I’ll drink to that.” I raised my glass to his. “To friendship and adventure!” “To friendship and adventure!” And with that, our adventure began. We had many challenges to come. We would cry many tears, meet many people, lose other people, laugh, and cry in the weeks and months to follow. However, one thing was for sure: our friendship and our hearts would set the course for a new future, a better future. I could not wait to find out what was next. At the time, I had no clue how ill prepared I was for the journey I had agreed to go on. ---------- Contact: marialevato6@gmail.com
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