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Eyes (Working Title)

Novel By: QueenAnne
Fantasy



In a land where powers, rank, and station are determined by the color of your eyes and the felines are the repository of knowledge, tended to by the Keepers, a young green-eyed Keeper, Kerah, and her feline, Torrent, must find a way to stop the insiduous drain of knowledge. Helped by Shrenik, a young boy who has run away from home to escape his tyrannical and bitter mother, they face a monumental task that requires even the gods' intervention. View table of contents...


Chapters:

1 2

Submitted:Feb 21, 2007    Reads: 152    Comments: 1    Likes: 0   


Kerah sa Tienwon pressed her cheek against the white marble pillar, enjoying the cool sensation. Her fingers traveled around the pillar, attempting to embrace it. Anything to embrace would be welcome to her. Torrent gently butted against her leg.

{We are here for a reason, do not forget. Donlei will be waiting.}

With a sigh, Kerah opened her vivid green eyes and half-smiled at the huge white feline. She didn't know what she would do without her life companion.

{You don't?} Torrent asked, feigning surprise. {Why, you'd probably waste away your life hugging marble pillars when there is work to be done. Important work!}

"Sorry, Torrie. Donlei is expecting me?" Kerah asked, dropping her arms from the pillar.

{Nearent says she is waiting for you. And--} Torrent's voice changed to a perfect imitation of Donlei {--nobody keeps the Master Keeper waiting!}

"No one, indeed." Kerah smiled, placing her hand on Torrent's head. "Come."

Kerah's footsteps seemed to be absorbed by the marble floor as she approached Donlei's office. Torrent padded along beside her, especially quiet. Kerah worried at her lower lip as she knocked on the office door.

"Kerah?" inquired a voice from within. It was strong and sure, perhaps just a tad impatient: Donlei's voice.

"Yes, ma'am," Kerah replied, now all too well aware of and chagrined by her tardiness.

"Take a seat; I'll be right with you."

Two long marble benches lined the wall outside of the door to Donlei's office for just such a purpose. Nobody was ever allowed into the Master Keeper's office; at least, not since Donlei had taken the post ten years previously. With a small twinge of anxiety, Kerah took a seat on one of the benches, the coolness seeping up through her rather thin Keeper robe. Torrent, her grey eyes showing indifference, settled herself on the floor near Kerah's feet.

"Don't look so frightened, child," Donlei admonished.

Kerah looked up, her eyes widening. So silently had Donlei exited her office that Kerah'd had no idea Donlei the Master Keeper was even standing there. She was grinning as she took a seat next to Kerah; her feline, Nearent, settled next to Torrent.

"Good afternoon, ma'am," Kerah stammered, bobbing her head.

"None of that nonsense, please!" Donlei wrinkled her nose. "It makes me feel old."

That comment rather surprised Kerah. The Master Keeper was only 47, and she exuded an air of vitality and youth. Her short red hair held no hint of grey, and her multitude of freckles made her look young.

"Oh, don't look at me like that. I may not look old, but I'm starting to feel it. I've still got years in me, though, so no need to look frightened.

"Now, what is it you wished to speak to me about? Nearent said Torrent sounded impatient."

Suddenly reluctant to confess her suspicions to Donlei, Kerah shifted her leg and began to pluck a stray thread in her robe. Torrent placed her head on Kerah's knee, which gave Kerah a degree of certainty. Keeping her eyes fixed to the ground, she began in a faltering voice.

"Well, ma'am-er-Donlei, you may know I've been completing further Keeper training. The year before last I had a post at a small school in town, and I felt woefully inadequate. When Torrent and I first began our second training, last year, we learned at a rapid rate. After a while, this began to slow, which I assumed was normal. Now, though, Torrent is-well-Torrent is forgetting things." Kerah held her breath, waiting for Donlei to denounce her as stupid and foolish.

"It's as I feared," Donlei confessed. "I have noticed it, too. At first I put it down to Nearent's advancing age, assuming that she would naturally forget some. Then a few others began to approach me, and the first seeds of worry began. Now they've sprouted into looming trees. How old is Torrent now?"

"Seven years," Kerah answered, smiling fondly. Seven years she'd had a friend as good as one could want, a companion, a lifemate.

"Too young to be losing her knowledge-much too young for that, but young enough for something else. You, too, Kerah. You're only 22, right?"

"Twenty-three, ma'am," Kerah told her.

"What did I say about that ma'am business?" Donlei mock growled.

"Sorry...Donlei."

"Don't be. You're much too subservient, child. You should speak up, be heard."

"I don't mind," Kerah replied quietly, folding her hands in her lap and studying a fingernail. "What am I young enough for, if it isn't out of my place to ask, Donlei?"

"It'd do you good to step out of your place every once in a while. Or at least in to it," Donlei muttered. "Yes, well it seems quite obvious to me that we cannot just let the knowledge of our felines slip away. As Keepers, we are responsible for bringing knowledge to the people of Kaden. We are, to be modest, the backbone of society. Something has to be done."

This seemed quite obvious to Kerah, too, but she didn't see where Donlei was headed. What did this have to do with how old-or young-Kerah was?

{You don't see?} Torrent asked. {I think it's clear.}

{Thank you for that, Torrent,} Kerah said with a touch of sarcasm. {Why don't you tell me then?}

{Because Donlei is going to.}

{Torrent, you do know that you are infuriating?}

{Yes.}

"Kerah," Donlei sighed, "I don't want to tell you this, but I cannot leave you in the dark."

Kerah twiddled with the end of her thick black hair. Why did Donlei sound as if she was delivering a death sentence? Something wasn't right, and it was jarring a sense deep beneath Kerah's lily skin. She just hoped that Donlei would get it over with.

"There has to be a way to stop this drain of knowledge. You, Kerah sa Tienwon, a true Keeper of the Knowledge, with your feline mate, Torrent, must find that way. I cannot pull anyone from a current teaching position, and the others here are too old. Torrent is young; you are young. Within you I see strength, courage, and a chance to succeed.

Kerah just stared.

***

"Shrenik!"

The shrill voice rent the air, making Shrenik grind his teeth. Any time he got settled, his mother invariably called for him. The tasks she had for him were often pointless, tasks just for the sake of being tasks. Still, there was no escaping his mother when she had that edge to her voice. Shrenik unfolded his legs and hoisted himself up.

"Shre-" his mother began again, but Shrenik interrupted her.

"I'm coming!" he shouted, careful not to sound angry or impatient. She'd give him a verbal whipping for that.

"You better be," came the reply, threatening.

As Shrenik hurried towards his house, he noticed one of his sleeves was wet. As usual, he had been sitting in the grass by the pond, watching the water. It always soothed him, but it incensed his mother. With care, he rolled back his sleeve, hoping his mother would be too busy to notice.

"Here I am, Mother," Shrenik announced, bending his head towards the floor. He did not feel like getting slapped for impudence at the moment.

"And not a bit too soon," his mother snapped. "How dare you keep me waiting? And what is that?"

It appeared his mother had noticed his wet sleeve after all, for she was angrily unrolling and glaring at the wet patch as if it were a personal affront. She pursed her lips and made a disgusted noise in the back of her throat, but to Shrenik's amazement, it appeared no further punishment was forthcoming.

"You needed me?" Shrenik prompted, aching to be outdoors again.

"Yes. Kenten is waiting for you in his workshop."

The conversation was definitely at an end, and Shrenik took his leave with appropriate meekness. Sometimes he just hated his mother. His father always counseled patience and understanding, often explaining to Shrenik that she had become very bitter after the death of her feline ten years ago. Tint had only been fifteen when she was crushed in a rockslide along Shrenik's mother's traveling Keeper route. Ironically, it had been her last scheduled route before she was to take up a permanent Keeper job in order to spend more time with her husband and seven year old son. Shrenik knew, however, that his mother's bitterness wasn't just blaming him for Tint's death. It was because of his eyes. His mother was horribly disappointed by his brown eyes, having hoped for a blue-eyed son to someday become a Keeper as well.

"As if I'd want to be a niffing Keeper anyway," Shrenik grumbled as he pushed open the door to his father's workshop. There was no point in knocking, for it was unlikely his father would even hear, so engrossed he was in his work.

The workshop was in its usual state of disarray. Kenten di Servaman was an inventor, but he'd never invented anything of use. As far as Shrenik knew, the only one of his father's inventions that had actually worked was a device designed to clean between the toes. Anything more useful than that always failed.

"Mother said you needed me," Shrenik announced. His father looked up, startled.

"Yes, yes, my son. Take a seat."

Obediently, Shrenik sat, sighing to himself. He knew it would be long moments until his father reached a stopping point in his work and remembered his son was there. Just when Shrenik had begun to amuse himself by counting the number of inventions his father was working on, he was stopped.

"This is a serious matter," his father told him, folding his hands and looking grave.

"Apparently," quipped Shrenik. If it was more important than his father's work, it was serious indeed. His father raised an eyebrow at the remark but otherwise chose to ignore it.

"As you know, your mother has always desired a Keeper position for you."

Shrenik frowned, narrowing his eyes at the floor. Why was his father bringing this issue up? Shrenik had brown eyes, and everyone knew male Keepers had blue eyes. It was pointless to keep harping about it, for it was marked on his face as clear as could be-he was common. Shrenik fumed to himself for a second before jumping to his feet.

"Can't you give it up?" he roared, surprising himself. "I know you and mother want me to be rare, but I'm not! Just because you two are rare-eyeds doesn't mean anything! I am common and that's that! Can't you see my eyes?"

"If you're finished, take a seat," his father said, still calm.

For a second Shrenik stared at his father, defiant, but then his shoulders slumped and he looked at the floor. Might as well listen to whatever his father had to say so he could go back out to the pond. With a sigh he sat back down, nodding at this father to indicate he was listening.

"I can see your eyes, Shrenik, but I refuse to accept them," began Kenten. Shrenik made a disbelieving sound in the back of his throat. "For several weeks now I have been finish up the invention that has consumed my last three years. You are at the prime age, my son, to form a bond with a feline and become a Keeper."

Shrenik snorted, half with anger, half with amusement. He'd known his father was a little absent-minded, but how could he not know that Shrenik could never become a Keeper? He was Shrenik Servaman, not Shrenik Tu Servaman, and there was no point in pretending he was something he wasn't.

"Do get to the point," Shrenik griped, his voice colored with annoyance.

"I know you think that you can never become a Keeper, but that simply isn't true. I think you have all the traits of a good Keeper, except for your eyes. My invention changes all that." Shrenik's father picked up a small wooden case made of a reddish wood and carved with flowers. "Inside here, Shrenik, is a pair of lenses that you can wear on your eyes that will make them appear blue."

This was so preposterous that Shrenik laughed, pushing away the offered box. Was this some joke of his mother's, hoping to make him feel ashamed of having brown eyes? His father would always go along with his mother. If that was the case, Shrenik would not give them the satisfaction.

"Let's say these lenses do work. They make my eyes appear blue, and I go try to be a Keeper. I don't actually get blue eyes, though, so I don't get any of the powers. I'd be found out in a second."

"Keepers never use their elemental powers," Kenten said, dismissing that problem with a negligent wave of his hand.

"Well what if the other blue-eyeds try to talk to me subvocally?" demanded Shrenik.

"It's considered bad manners to use subvocal communication in a group of mixed eye colors. Make sure you aren't in the presence of only blue-eyeds. You're a bright boy, Shrenik, you can make this work."

"Oh, can I?"

"Yes," his father replied. "Take these and try them out. Be ready to leave in three days. Your mother will take you to Tien, where you have the best chance of finding a feline litter."

A thousand more arguments sprung up in Shrenik's mind, but before he could protest more he found himself looking at the closed door to his father's workshop. A quick test of the doorknob told him it was locked. He pressed his ear to the door and could hear his father moving about, as if he had not just almost thrown his son out the door. Shrenik looked down at the red box in his hand. What was he going to do?





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