I’m celebrating the holidays and the new year with my own kind of giving – 8 weeks of extra stories and scenes from the world of Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin. Each week I’ll be unveiling a deleted scene or extra story from a different character’s point of view, culminating on February 11 (my birthday!) with Lilano, a novella from Mati’s point of view that tells the story of what happened to him and Raisa while they were out of town during Dagger and Coin.
Some of these stories were originally parts of the books, some were writing exercises for me when I got stuck, and some I simply wrote for the fun of developing the world of the books more fully.
This week’s extra is something completely different – a story from the point of view of Rorie ko Ben, a character who is only mentioned in passing in Dagger and Coin. Rorie, like Loris, is from the island of Longa and is one of the Melarim. Originally he was going to play a part in Soraya’s story, but ended up getting cut. However, writing this piece from his point of view helped me to bring more detail to the Melarim and their experiences.
Rorie ko Ben
CALLA WAS CRYING again.
Rorie couldn’t stand it. He longed for a bow and arrow, or a slingshot with a good round rock, or even the knife their latest captors had taken from him. The foul men might have missed it, if he hadn’t jumped on the one who’d leered at Calla; the three who had pulled him off had beaten him and searched him thoroughly before tossing him into the cell. At least they’d been so busy punching him that they’d left Calla and the others alone.
He might have been proud of himself, despite his swollen eye, busted lip, and aching side, if he had meant it as a distraction. But as usual, he’d just been acting on pure adrenaline and anger. He and his fellow Melarim had been so stupid to trust that these Qilarites would really send them home, to believe the things Jonis ko Rikar had promised.
Rorie crawled over to where Calla sobbed gently in the corner, and stroked her hair. “Don’t cry,” he whispered, but the words came out raw instead of comforting.
She sniffed. “I thought you were asleep.” The others in the cell around them were, curled up on the stone floor with the walls at their backs, children cuddled up to their parents, and, in some cases, whatever adult had taken on that role since they had been torn away from their island homes by Qilarite raiders. During the day, Calla could usually be found with three or four of the youngest ones pressed close to her like kittens to a mama cat, but now she had removed herself to the far corner. It wasn’t the first time Rorie had found her that way; she never cried in front of the children when she could help it.
“Can’t sleep,” he muttered, and winced as he eased himself against the wall next to her. He put his arm around her, and guilt tugged at his heart at how easily she rested her head on his shoulder. It should have been his older brother Bradik here with her—or rather, it should have been Calla and Bradik back home on Longa, preparing for their wedding. It would have taken place in just a few Shinings, at Qorana Qia, the beginning of the rainy season. Most of the island would have gathered in the sarya, the open place at the center of their village, to watch Calla and Bradik write the symbols of marriage on one another’s forearms with the sacred ink that wouldn’t wear off for a year or more.
Rorie realized that he was tracing symbols on the back of Calla’s wrist: protect, the same that his mother used to trace on her children’s foreheads before parting. Mother had even taken the time to do it when he had come pelting into the cottage with the news of raider ships on the horizon, before she and his younger sisters had fled for the mountain caves.
Well. Rorie’s finger wasn’t a quill, and it left no yearlong ink on Calla’s skin. Once they got out of here—if they got out of here—she’d probably hate him for the way he’d stepped into his brother’s role. Goddess, he rather hated himself for it. After all, he didn’t even know if Kira was still alive.
But Calla was here now, and he thought maybe she needed this comfort as much as he did. She tilted her face up to his, and didn’t move away when he kissed her. The heat of her lips would only sate the dark thing inside him for a little while; the shame would come afterwards, but right now, he didn’t care.
Rorie and Kira had been out in the bay checking the fishing nets the morning the raider ship came. He’d been teasing her about the attentions that Kale ko Foy had been paying her, listing all the K names they could give their babies, speculating about whether those babies would have Kale’s turned-up nose or her freckles. Kira had grown steadily redder, and had finally launched a crab at his head. Later he would realize that he had been testing her; though she was only a year younger than he was and had been his best friend ever since he could walk, he hadn’t been sure how to feel about the fact that most of the village assumed they would marry eventually. He was only fifteen—how was he supposed to know who he wanted to marry? Still, he hadn’t liked the pull in his gut when he’d heard his twelve-year-old sister Jillanne talking about Kale walking Kira home from lessons or picking flowers for her.
“If it bothers you so much,” Kira snapped, “you could always-”
“What? What could I do?” he challenged, his heart thumping.
But the color drained from Kira’s face, and she pointed behind him. Rorie turned, and saw it too: a huge ship, black, except for the red flag. “Maybe—maybe it’s just a trader,” he said.
But they both grabbed the oars and paddled for shore with all their might, not wasting time on words. Traders came to the island periodically, but the People of Sotia didn’t take chances. If anything larger than a rowboat appeared on the horizon, the mothers and children went to the caves, and anyone with the strength to fight prepared to do so. Raiders hadn’t come to Longa in twenty years, and Rorie had stood with the others in the sarya not long ago and listened while Calantha ke Bri of the Learned Ones, with her stocky, silent apprentice Loris ko Puli at her side, announced that Sotia had triumphed over the other gods and that her people had nothing more to fear.
Maybe Calantha was right. Maybe the ship was just an Emtirian trader, come to exchange sugar and tea and salt for the tender mushrooms the Longans harvested from the mountain forests. But Rorie knew from the tense set of Kira’s shoulders as she rowed with him, their heaving breath in perfect unison, that fear was coursing through her blood too.
Kira leaped out of the boat as soon as they hit the shallows, and dragged it forward so he could climb out. He shielded his eyes and looked back at the ship. It had anchored out in the bay and two longboats full of men were on their way toward them. The steel at their belts glinted in the sun.
“Not traders,” said Kira grimly. “Go warn the village. I’ll find Calantha.”
“No, I’ll go to–”
“Don’t be stupid. I’m faster, and it’s a longer run,” snapped Kira. “Just go.”
He squeezed her hand, wishing he hadn’t teased her about Kale, and they’d both turned to run when Kira cried out and fell to her knees.
An arrow protruded from her right shoulder. The men in the boats were in bow range.
Definitely not traders.
Read the rest of the story here: Caged by Kathy MacMillan