Three Weeks Later
Location: Madruga Shore
The barest wisp of a person stood vaguely silhouetted against the pre-dawn sky. Most people would, to her aggravation and amusement, mistake her for a child upon first glance. She hadn’t quite made it to 5’ and just about disappeared when she turned sideways.
However, as she gazed steadily at the water of the Lamisti Gulf, her mouth set in a determined line, no one would mistake her face for that of a carefree child. She reached her hands up to the sky, then to the right, left and down to her toes, focusing fully on the task at hand. If she let her concentration slip –
She ran to the nearby grass, falling to her hands and knees to heave up all that was left of the food she’d eaten the night before. Kamino sighed, wiped the back of her hand over her mouth and returned to stretching, refocusing.
Some 30 miles of turbulent open waters separated the Madruga states from Paonia. This was at the narrowest point of the Gulf – slightest error of navigation to either the north or south…well, you didn’t make it, suffice it to say.
Paonia wasn’t known to other nations as the Walled Kingdom for nothing. With the Wall to the North, the Towers to the East and the Ports to the South, all entrances were carefully blocked off. The only reason the West was left open was that the Lamisti Gulf was believed to be un-sailable due to its temperamental weather and rocky shorelines.
However, Kamino was not just Paonian, but, as her azure skin declared, Oceanian. Oceanians learned to swim before they could walk, and spent more of their life in the water than out. Other Paonians (most of whom couldn’t swim a stroke) called them squids, not entirely kindly. They felt their love of the Ocean was unnatural. Which was probably why it never occurred to anyone that someone could swim the Gulf.
That and the fact that few maps existed with both Paonian and Madrugan shores outlined, showing this small chink in their armor. Kamino had as a child seen one such map, carefully worked out as a delicately tiled mosaic. The artwork in the room had been done eons ago when Madruga had still been part of the Chikil empire. As a child, she’d wondered if the map was fact or myth.
Two years ago she’d been desperate enough to find out. And here she was again.
Kamino pulled on the glass goggles she’d discovered near Beedar Lake – an area known for its divers. No true Oceanian would ever wear goggles – but she was only part Oceanian, the ocean irritated her eyes and she’d given up the impossible task of trying to belong on the small, xenophobic island nearly a decade ago. She’d had to adopt practicality over pride and tradition.
Kamino raked her hands somewhat viciously through her amethyst streaked white hair – her father’s hair – pulling it tightly back. No, she’d never be mistaken for a pure Oceanian – or pure anything for that matter – but now she’d made herself more than any one people.
First by studying under the High Warress she’d acquired the knowledge of Paonia – both Boofon and Chikil, a feat in itself. Then she’d done what few Paonians ever had done – she’d left. This gave her the chance to live in Madruga and Mahsheean, learning their ways, adding their skillsets to her own. She’d even studied for a time with an Arlainian instructor and been trained by a Vylnese guard. She could do this.
At fifteen she’d been strong enough, smart enough to escape Paonia. Two years wiser now, she’d spent every moment improving, honing. She’d hoped never to need that skill and knowledge. Her stomach trembled. Muchovan wouldn’t allow her any peace.
Again Kamino fought back panic. She could do this. Yes, last time she had failed, but she wouldn’t do so again.
Couldn’t do so again.
Okay that wasn’t helping. She couldn’t seem to find the steady, calm, peaceful frame of mind that Chikils strove for, so she decided she’d settle for anger, righteous indignation and pride – a trick she’d learned from the Boofon. She found she liked the irony of it – it seemed appropriate.
Kamino poked at all the old wounds she could think of, working herself into a fine fit, then puffing herself up by thinking of all the things she’d accomplished on her own,
She gracefully dived into the cold water.
She knew the anger wouldn’t last, but once it wore off she’d have the swim to capture her whole attention, and eventually she’d be too tired and numb to think of anything beyond her next stroke. Honestly, she was looking forward to the swim. It would grant her a peace she’d not known in the three weeks since she’d left Mahsheean. The journey would be physically taxing, but didn’t worry her.
It was the idea of returning home that terrified her.