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Beyond The Horizon

Excerpt:

     Emery wandered to investigate one of the shelves flanking the bed. Her spine prickled as she felt his gaze on her back and she stroked along the rectangular objects lined up with an admittedly satisfying neatness. “What are these?”

     “Books,” the Scourge replied

     She pulled a particularly large one from the shelf and sat down with it, gasping when it fell open in her lap. “I’m sorry, I didn’t –”

     “It’s alright.” Was that a chuckle? “It’s meant to do that.”

     More of the same bark-like material spilled up from the book, hundreds of little black symbols covering each sheet. The aroma wafting from them was heavenly, heavy, like almond oil and dried flowers.

     She ran a hand over a line of symbols. “How does it work?”

     “You read it.” Again, the corners of his mouth tilted up ever so slightly. “Then the pages tell you a story. Or give you information.”

     Emery stared at the pages, at the hundreds of black marks squished together on each one. “You get meaning from these…wiggly things?”

     “Mhm.”

     What a marvellous thing, to be able to preserve stories, or even histories, like this, to protect them against the ravages of time or simple forgetting, rather than having to pass everything on orally, or through pictures of flame or sand. 

     Perhaps, if her people had been able to venture from their island, they’d have learned about books by now, and how to read them. And who knew what else. 

     The Forbiddens had helped ensure that remained impossible. 

     Another hot wave of anger flared under her skin, and she slammed the book shut. “Why do you do what you do?”

     He didn’t respond.

     She turned to look at him, and his eyes were blank and empty once more.

    She knew she probably shouldn’t aggravate him, lest he go back on his promise to wait for Tavor’s presence to kill her. But she couldn’t stop her sudden rage. “Why do you go around slaughtering people? Is it fun watching innocent people die by your hand?”

     It may have been a trick of the light, but she could have sworn he flinched. He was certainly fiddling with the trinket hanging from his neck. “You know nothing of what you speak.” 

     “Do you enjoy spilling blood?” she pressed him. “Or knowing that your own people are hiding away in terror, generation after generation, because people like you are making it impossible for us to come out of hiding?”

     His fingers stilled, his eyes narrowed. “Us? You mean…you’re an elemist?”

     Perhaps she had been too open, but it was too late to take anything back. 

     “Whether I am or not is beside the point. We’re talking –”

     “What are you to him?” he cut in. “Why would Tavor want an elemist on his ship?” 

     “Because he’s a good man.”

      The Scourge snorted, but there was no humor in his expression.

     “He’s trying to help!” She bashed the desk, unable to control her frustration any longer. “Why did you try to kill him? What has he done that you want to hurt him so badly?”

     Sean’s teeth were grinding and his fingers were back to fiddling with his trinket. 

     “Who are you trying to get back?” she asked. When Sean stiffened, she pressed further, casting him a wicked smile. “Did she leave you for him? Is that why you want to hurt him? Can’t say I blame her – ”

     He stood up, chair scraping against the floor as he shoved it back. 

     Flinching, Emery gripped the book as tightly as she could. If he swung his blade at her, would it be solid enough to act as a shield?

     “Bite your tongue before I rip it out,” he growled, that spark of fury in his gaze flaring to life.

     Emery swallowed down her fear. She’d clearly pressed him too far, her temper getting the better of her. But she couldn’t show weakness now. “Were you born so violent and bloodthirsty?”

     He stalked around the desk towards her, his voice low and menacing. “Has it occurred to you that we’re not all violent and bloodthirsty?”

     Emery stood her ground as he kept approaching. “I’ve heard the stories.”

     “Stories can be skewed.”

     Just like the night before, he stalked so close he had to stare down his nose at her. She glared right back up. Again, she felt his heat, and the book she clutched to her chest was the only think separating them. The bookshelves dug into her back, but she refused to shift.

     “I saw all the dead bodies you left on that ship you set on fire,” she spat. “I watched you try to kill Tavor.”

     The memory of watching Tavor and his men gathering the corpses made her feel sick and the memory of watching the Scourge’s fingers dig into Tavor’s throat fanned her own rage.

     She stared right into his wrathful eyes. “I wish I killed you that night in Tavor’s cabin.”

     Something dark flickered behind the wrath but his voice remained eerily calm. “Do you?” 

     He pulled a dagger from his belt. Emery’s grip on the book tightened even more but he flipped the dagger so he gripped its by its blade, offering her the hilt. “Here’s your chance to right your mistake.”

Emery stared at the dagger but didn’t take it. Was this some sort of trick? If she tried to take it, would he just stab her?

     In one quick movement, he yanked the book from her grasp, tossed it to the floor, and pressed the dagger’s hilt into her palm. Her fingers gripped it automatically. He guided the dagger’s blade so it rested above his heart.

     “Go ahead, kill me. Sink down to my lowly level.” 

     Emery’s eyes darted from the dagger to his face, which was as frighteningly calm as his voice. He dropped his hands to his sides, and Emery was certain there was no way he could stop her from driving the dagger into his chest. This was no trick. She realized Tavor had certainly been right about one thing. The Scourge of the Sea was truly insane.

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