Spirit Splinters, part 9

The waters were dark and gray as iron, sloshing sullenly against the sides of the boat. The sky was roughly the same color, marred by black clouds that blocked the sun.

It was raining, a fresh sprinkling of water that dampened my hair. I wondered idly whether there would be a storm as I gazed over the horizon.

"We'd better go inside," said a voice behind me suddenly. I shook my head. "I want to stay out here a bit more," I said. "It's crowded inside."

"Do you still have you papers?" she said, coming to lean over the railing too. I sighed. "My pocket is buttoned, Mino- I mean, Laila. No one will steal them. Don't keep asking me every two minutes."

She giggled under her breath. "Out new names are going to take a bit of getting used to, aren't they?"

I stared at the water, still replaying the day over in my mind. We had taken a back way out of school and droven in a car to the seaside. There we had been issued new clothes and identities, and sent on this boat to the harbor of the capitol of Draell, Teroren.

I was no longer Cenobi Hannele. My new name was Saruyan Iu'Etreiss, and according to my papers I was an orphan sent to Draell to begin a new life.

I wondered what my parents were thinking right now. Had they been told everything? Did they know that I was being sent to a strange land, almost alone?

I hoped they would forget about me, for their sake. There was nothing they could do for me now.
I patted my pocket, feeling the weight of the papers and instructions I had been given. When we reached Teroren, we were to take a taxi with the money we had been given and move into the sparsely-populated woodland regions. There, we could do anything we wanted, as long as we kept a low profile.

I hoped no one would find us. People from the seven regions immigrated to Draell all the time when the economy failed, Ulnow Academy graduates making a large part of them. Custom-trained supernatural hunters were always in demand; I wondered if Minoka knew enough to start out own business. Or would that draw too much attention to ourselves?

I cast a glance at who had once been Minoka. Her new name was Laila Luuki, and she was now a fellow orphan accompanying me on our journey.

"Careful," I warned her, noticing how far she was leaning out over the rails. "Your glasses will fall into the water."

She grabbed for them just as they slipped off her nose. "Why don't we go inside, Saruyan?" she said, turning away. "It's getting colder. Please? We can just go into our room and not have to deal with anyone."

I nodded finally and followed her inside. I was surprised at how quickly she had taken to start calling me Saruyan. I guess she was more adaptable than me.

Inside was noisy and crowded, orange lightbulbs flickering from overhead as passengers chatted and drank with each other. Screaming children tripped and ran everywhere, and I painstakingly stepped over a sleeping man in search of our door.

It would be two days until we arrived in Teroren. Two days too many, in my opinion.

**

I let out a sigh of relief when I shut the door to out room behind me. All the shouting and noise was giving me a headache, and by the look on Minoka's face, it was doing the same to her.

There were two truckle beds in our room, and a small porthole that showed nothing but gray outside. I sat down on the bed, taking off my coat.

I was dressed warmly in civilian clothes, a turtleneck shirt, red sweater, and pair of jeans. I wished that I had been issued pyjamas, as I was not looking forward to spending two days sleeping in nothing but these.

"Laila," I said, tasting the name on my tongue. "It's real pretty. It fits you."

She smiled at me, polishing her glasses. "Thanks, Saruyan," she said quietly. Then she paused. "Hanna... This is the last time we'll be able to call each other by our real names. You know, I've always... always wanted to ask you a question."

I looked over at her. "Yes?"

"Why do you not like being called Cenobi?"

I smiled weakly, a little embarrassed. "Well... you see, it's kind of confusing if you don't know Vetayoran..."

"No, tell me!" she protested. "I'm interested!"

I couldn't help but give a small laugh. "'Ceno' means 'fall'," I explained. "And 'bi' is a word meaning 'born in', or sometimes just 'born'. So Cenobi means 'born in fall' or 'fall-born'."

"So you don't like it that you were born in that season?" she asked.

I shook my head hesitantly. "Well, not exactly like that. It used to be that fall was considered a season of bad luck, and babies born then were considered bad luck, too. We-- Vetayorans --have mostly discarded such traditions, but falling leaves are still a symbol of bad luck. The word for falling leaves is 'Nobi-hanna'. And my name is Cenobi, and when combined with the letters of my last name-- Hannele-- it becomes: Cenobi-Hannele; Nobi-Hannele, Nobi-Hanna. So I just like to be called Hanna, which means "Leaf"."

"That's pretty cool," she exclaimed, then flinched. "Sorry, that's not what I meant--"

I laughed again. "That's okay, I understand. Here, I'll show you something cool."

She leaned closer, and I fished in the front of my shirt and brought out a small pendant.
"My mother gave this to me when I was born," I told her, handing it over for her to look at. "Babies born in fall are given jade leaf pendants, because fresh, green leaves are a symbol of good luck. Hence, falling ones, dead ones, are seen as bad. So we believe that if babies born in fall are given these charms, they'll stop bringing ill fortune."

She smiled, but her eyes looked strangely watery. "I'm sorry, Hanna. You must have had a hard life."

I shook my head, tucking the necklace back under my shirt. "Not really. Like I said, those superstitions are mostly defunct now. I was treated just the same as all the other children, and if I wasn't, my mother made them treat me well."

"She was a real battleaxe, huh?"

I sniffed. "She still is. I bet she's going to give those people trying to move her merry hell."

Minoka's face fell. "Hanna, don't..."

I couldn't help it. Tears beginning to slide down my cheeks, broken sobs echoing from my throat.

"Don't..." whispered Minoka. "Don't cry, Hanna. Please, don't... I don't want to see you sad."

"It'll work out, right?" I whimpered. "We'll be together, and we'll survive. I guess I'll just have to forget about my mother... about my family..."

"Hanna," she said quietly, taking me by the shoulders. "Don't ever say that. They are important people to you, and you should keep them in your heart forever. Never forget anyone who cares about you, ever... please."

"Minoka..." I started, wondering what was prompting her sudden flow of emotion. She stared at my eyes, her face set, and flushed.

"Hanna, let's go to sleep. A lot has happened today, and it's getting dark," she said suddenly, turning away.

I glanced at the porthole, and was shocked to see that it was quickly darkening outside. Then I sighed, preparing myself for a cramped, uncomfortable night in the small, dingy cabin.

**

The next two days passed without incident. Minoka, or Laila, and I spent most of out time playing cards in our cabin while I alternatively moped and cried about my situation. To her credit, Laila almost never complained about me or told me to shut up, and seemed content just to hug me and cry herself about what was happening. Quality girl time, with just the two of us.

The day when we arrived dawned bright and early. I, of course, was burrowed in my blankets, trying to desperately shut out the sunlight.

The door creaked open. "Saruyan, they've spotted land!" Minoka's usually quiet voice was high and loud in anticipation.

I pressed my face into the pillow and groaned. "Wake me up when we actually dock."

"Saruuuuu..." Her voice turned soft. "You'll need to be awake so explore the city. Here; they were serving coffee in the dining room, so I brought you some."

A plastic cup was edged into my hand as Laila pulled me up out of the warm cocoon of covers. I yawned and brushed a strand of hair out of my eyes as Laila sat on the edge of my bed, her hands folded in her lap.

"We need to get you a haircut," she advised me as I sipped the bitter coffee. "And some sunglasses. And maybe a hat. Anything to change your appearance."

"How about a fake mustache too?" I said, crabby at having been woken up early. "Seriously, Laila, we'll only be in the city for a day at most. Didn't the instructions say we had to get to the countryside?"

She clucked her tongue. "They suggested that, Saruyan. It wasn't explicitly an instruction."

"Yes it is! It clearly said--"

"Come on, two days won't hurt. And I'll get a makeover too, just so you won't feel alone."

"No, Laila! You're the older one, why are you acting so immature? We're running from a wealthy, maniacal criminal! We don't have time for fun!"

She looked at the floor, her dark eyes clouding. "Saruyan, I know these days have been hard on you. But I just..."

She drew her knees up from the ground, wrapping her arms around her legs. "I think we should just have a little, tiny bit of fun, because this might be the last time we can." Her voice was quiet, but trembling

"Last time?" I said, frowning.

She nodded. "In a few weeks, people will be crawling the seven regions, searching for us. And they might even come to Draell. This is our last chance, before people are looking for us, to have an enjoyable weekend all to ourselves. The rest of our lives might consist of moving around the country, constantly running, living in slums in fear of being caught. So just this once, can we..."

I stared at the dregs of the coffee in my cup. She brought up some good points, and I hadn't been in the city in a decade. I wondered what it would be like, just having fun with my friend for a few days.

I wasn't ready. I'd been separated from my family, probably forever. I was soon to be a wanted fugitive on the run, in a strange country.

But maybe some sightseeing would cheer me up. I sighed, then nodded.

The Story Continues...

Thanks for the answers on transportation and identity papers.

But Draell -- even its backwoods -- ought to be high on their pursuers' lists, if that's a popular place for former Ulnow students. And with splace weapons and the intention of going into the supernatural-hunting business, it's going to be impossible for them to conceal their origins to those in the know.

Then again, I suspect that this quick sightseeing trip will interfere with their plans somehow.

Eric

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