Through the whirlpool.., p.1
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       Through the Whirlpool - Book I in the Jewel Fish Chronicles, p.1
 

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Through the Whirlpool - Book I in the Jewel Fish Chronicles


  Praise for K. Eastkott

  “… takes me back to the joy of reading Anne McCaffrey as a child. K. Eastkott populates Kreh-ursh’s world with strange and wonderful creatures and yet the sea and the islands that the boy moves between seem as real as anything in our world, so completely has he imagined it.”

  “The language is beautifully descriptive.”

  “I absolutely loved reading this story. It was captivating and interesting. The characters were well formed and this was conveyed with apparent ease.”

  Through the Whirlpool

  Book I in the Jewel Fish Chronicles

  K. Eastkott

  Escapade Press

  (an imprint of Poble Sec Books)

  Through the Whirlpool, Book I of the Jewel Fish Chronicles, begins the story that will continue in

  Twilight Crosser

  and

  Lake of Stone

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,

  businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  Published by Escapade Press, an imprint of Poble Sec Books, in 2014. First published as an e-book in 2013.

  Copyright K. Eastkott 2014

  Cover design: copyright Kenny Estrella 2014

  All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner and publisher of this book.

  Printed in the United Kingdom by Lightning Source UK Ltd.

  British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

  A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

  www.poblesecbooks.com

  ISBN: (print) 978-0-9576551-7-1

  (.epub) 978-0-9576551-2-6 (.mobi) 978-0-9576551-0-2

  Also by K. Eastkott

  In the Jewel Fish Chronicles:

  Through the Whirlpool

  Twilight Crosser

  Lake of Stone

  Writing as Kevin Booth:

  Celia’s Room

  For Josh, that ten-year-old who dreamed of becoming a magician

  And for Ria

  Contents

  Praise for K. Eastkott

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Also by K. Eastkott

  Dedication

  1. The Sea Caller

  2. Sea-Nomad-Becoming

  3. Beginning the Dreaming

  4. Embarking

  5. Rena

  6. The Rift

  7. 100% Efficient! No Emissions!

  8. Alone

  9. Rescue

  10. Trance

  11. Playing the Hero?

  12. Death

  13. Clouds

  14. The Hollow among the Rocks

  15. Patrick

  16. Lesser Dragon

  17. The Life Code

  18. Shadows Within

  19. Twilight Crosser

  20. A Keen-Skur’s Fang

  21. Seatown

  22. Coming to Council

  23. Wavecrafting, Windcalling

  24. Approaching Storm

  25. The Volcano

  26. Trying to See

  27. The Birth of Kreh-otchaw-oh

  28. Current Reading

  29. Squall

  30. Pine Bluff

  31. Death Island

  32. Dusk Rendezvous

  33. Understanding

  34. Dr. Hagues

  35. Crossing

  The Story Continues

  Book II: Twilight Crosser

  Kree-eh

  Acknowledgments

  The Author: K. Eastkott

  1. The Sea Caller

  The heat, as she breasted the summit, buffeted her, throwing the old woman back downhill. During the final thousand paces of the climb, the ground had gradually warmed then scorched the soles of her feet through her thin sandals. Now sweat poured from her body and she dreamed of a cool place, some crystal mountain stream where she might sit and soak her tired legs. Such was not to be found on Kaa-meer-geh. The entire island was barren red rock. And her task was not to rest but to prompt, encourage, coerce—at times threaten, or worse. First among the shahiroh, the sea callers, she was there to supervise the rite, there for sea-nomad-becoming.

  Braving the furnace, she forced herself again toward the crater and stood on its very lip.

  “Taashou!”

  The distant shout barely penetrated the deafening grind of the lava’s music, and she ignored it, forcing her sight down into the lava lake, which tossed its bright spears high. Despite the flames, Kaa-meer-geh was at peace, its magma pulsating warm ruby calm encrusted with dark rock scabs.

  She bore the heat. Slim, athletic, her body taut skin over toned muscles. Random streaks shone silver in her plaited hair, belying a strength honed with the years. Against the rough basalt, she resembled the ancient trunk of a loman tree, polished and elegant.

  In trance she waited, allowing her prescience to roll down into the molten stone and through it to that fluid intermingling of time and space where the universe ground against other dimensions. Future and past possibilities—crackling snakes of time—interwove and sparked off one another. Then the rock flames brought her a single vision: a figure writhing far above, engulfed in flames as it fell toward midnight waves. Though no screams reached her, still she knew who… She fought to hold the sight… And her heart lurched as the victim disappeared beneath the ocean’s surface.

  “Taashou!”

  That shout broke the trance, dissolving the ocean into fire. Golden stanzas seemed to shimmer in the heat-drenched air even as the sight dissipated:

  The foreign seeker will be lost,

  An ocean’s guardian laid low,

  Before the one of touch afar

  Restores a peace from long ago.

  The strange prophecy seemed to echo a time long before when something else had emerged from the magma.

  Her concentration had been shattered by that distant cry. She turned to face the horizon. The sea lay dark: a pan of murky oil awaiting a taper. Here and there, long swathes of water gleamed: the kree-eh—primeval life forms that glowed phosphorescent in its depths. A few final stars above were fading like sparks on the breeze. Dawn was near. She searched for whoever was calling her name, but the volcano’s slopes lay in gloom and she could see no movement below.

  From her belt, she unslung two objects and laid them on the sand: one a carved mask, its features defying description. Seeming to breathe as if alive, it sighed—a heritage ground out of rocks. It held its mystery to itself. Not yet time for its secrets to emerge.

  The woman picked up the other, an arm-long, twisting shell. Fluted fingers flowered from a conical opening. It had a rough exterior of deepest purple but inside shone like sunrise. Another shout from below. She ignored it again. There would be time to address it later. For thirty-two years, this had been her role and none had dared to interrupt; they would not do so now. So it was that pride condemned her to her dearest mistake.

  On the horizon, gray dawn softened into lilac, from there to indigo and copper. Celestial depths chameleoned into gold. Though almost full daylight up here, below the beach lay dark. Then a sparkle at the sea’s far reach, and the sun’s fire leaped above the horizon.

  She put the s
hell horn to her lips—hesitated—and blew. A high, sad wail drifted out, gliding away over the island as the sun floated up into the sky, its rays saluting. The trumpet call rolled down the volcano’s slopes as far as the barren shore and outward over the ocean beyond. Moments later, an answering wail—a fading moan from the mainland shadows. Seven horn blasts in total sounded from the mainland. Sea-nomad-becoming had commenced.

  “Taashou, wait!”

  Lowering the horn, she peered down into the predawn gloom. A figure was toiling up the slope, close now. It was Lehd, youngest of the sea callers, he whose shouts had meant to distract her.

  “We shouldn’t have started,” he panted. “It is… too dangerous. The others have seen it… sent me to tell you… the rift has opened!”

  If he could have seen her expression... but from where he was standing her figure flickered ghostlike in the volcano’s hot embrace. He knew she was angry with him for interrupting the ritual, but he could not see that shadow sliding across her face as she turned back to the fire, its highest flames now invisible in the sunlight. Her thoughts were her own as she pondered the rift… So it had returned. But where would it lead them this time?

  2. Sea-Nomad-Becoming

  Night receded, lifting him from sleep. In the silence—as still as the polished surface of a moonlit lake—some whisper had nudged him in his dreams. His fingers reached for the leather bag looped on a thong around his throat, caressing a hidden shape. Yet there were only the sounds of every night: the rolling crash of surf on the beach, soothing, repetitive; and a hissing rattle that flapped around their hut like a clumsy bird—the wind clattering the palms. The surf ebbed and broke almost in time with his parents’ breathing—a guttural snore and a gentle whistling—both rhythms entwined in their own melody. These were the comfortable sounds of his world—so familiar he had to listen carefully to pick them out. It was something else, a subtle scratching of claws on the walls of his mind. Then other mental noise intruded. People had begun to awake. The village was stirring.

  He sat up, remembering what must be begun, where he was headed today. He was ready. Stretching limbs and cracking joints, he shook off sleep, threw aside his blanket, relishing the predawn chill. He washed his face. As he ran through his exercises, he heard his father’s feet hit the floor with a slap as he too rolled from his hammock. His mother groaned, imaged a sleepy question, but his father replied in words: “Sea-nomad-becoming.”

  Sunrise was close. Finishing his exercises, he closed his eyes for a moment. Sea-nomad-becoming. Today he would shed his former life. Tomorrow he might be a man.

  A mind question from his mother…

  No. Later he could eat. The rites demanded that he fast until arrival. Zjhuud-geh Island would be teeming with fruit, and he was capable with a snare, handy with a fishing spear and line. Food gathered by his own hand... that would be the easiest part. His mother pushed aside the curtain defining his personal space and placed a full gourd beside his tools. This was the only sustenance he could carry. A potion of herbs steeped in a mother’s knowledge. A life source.

  He spent a few moments checking his tools, though they had been polished, sharpened, repaired repeatedly over the last week and were as honed as could be. He was wrapping them, securing them in their woven bag when it came: a faint, high moan floating across the sea, from Kaa-meer-geh Island... the summons. Another call rose in answer. Closer this time, down on the beach. The call of the sea, inviting him, Kreh-ursh, and his friends to embark on sea-nomad-becoming. The long wail died away, then sounded again moments later. And again. He held his breath: seven horn blasts. Seven hopefuls about to set off. Seven... who should have been eight. Kaar-oh, his friend, who had trained with him, would never attempt the nomad-becoming now.

  Perhaps it was wrong, but the impulse was too great. Kreh-ursh stooped into a corner and opened a wooden chest. He took out a tiny leather bag, similar to his own yellow one but crimson. Inside, another unique carved shape, which only he had looked at since... it had been his friend’s. He hung this second bag around his neck too. The best he could do. Might Kaar-oh know. Then it was as if, in his imagination, he felt his friend stir, breathe again. He heard his laugh, found himself smiling at the gap-toothed grin... Crazy!

  Looking around his small section of the hut, he surveyed it all—hammock, chest, floor mat, spears, fishing tackle, wooden toys from when he was a boy—a pile of things, so important once. Nothing he would take now. He tightened his belt from which the gourd and his knife hung, shouldered the heavy bundle containing his tools, cooking utensils and a few other belongings, slung blanket and sleeping mat across his back, and ducked under the curtain.

  In the family space, his parents were waiting for him. His mother smiled tightly as she hugged him, though he sensed her tears. His father’s frown shielded his feelings as he too embraced his son.

  “Just follow what you learned at training. Good luck.”

  This was it. Kreh-ursh left the hut, heading for the beach. Sea-nomad-becoming had begun.

  3. Beginning the Dreaming

  Barely was she out of bed before Jade was reaching for her wetsuit in the dark. The clammy neoprene was still damp from the day before and, as she pulled it on over her swimsuit, she reflected on her mother’s words. It was true she was not supposed to go by herself, but this sunrise ritual was one she just had to complete alone. Besides, of her mates, neither Miguel nor Darren would be up this early.

  Creeping downstairs, she left the house quietly, and grabbed her board from where it was leaning against the side of the house. After a short walk down the road and through the dunes, she was soon on the beach, which was deserted at that hour. The sand felt pleasantly cool under her toes, but the surf, as she pounded into it in a rush, hit her like ice after her warm bed.

  Mauri Cove, known as a fairly safe, east-coast beach, was protected from the full anger of the ocean swell to the north by Pine Bluff’s looming bulk and the outflow of the Mauri River. To the south, Mauri Point speared the ocean eastward, with the lighthouse crowning its tip. Between these two arms, a long stretch of water produced some of the best surf on the entire coast.

  Paddling out to where the waves rolling into the bay heaped themselves into long, arching ridges as they rounded the point, she sat on her board and waited. Rank upon rank of those blue-gray hills stretched to the choppy horizon. When the sun came up, it transmuted the water to gold before her. This was the perfect moment in her entire day. The only features marring the view east were three pale, distant towers. Though resembling an oil rig, they were in fact a new research station for some sort of ecological fuel that was being developed.

  Once she could feel the sun on her face, Jade turned her board and, searching for the first wave of the day, which had to be perfect, began to surf. The larger waves were breaking at the north end of the beach, close to where the Mauri River emptied into the bay. It was a tricky place to surf because of the turbulence the river caused, and she needed all her concentration.

  Ten minutes or so later, she had just jumped off her board in the shallows to head for deep water again, when her attention was caught by the sound of a speedboat. The early hour, plus the direction it came from, seemed strange. Glancing over her shoulder as she crested a wave, she saw a slick, fiberglass craft come skimming around a bend in the Mauri River. It bumped across the rapids at the river mouth, and aimed straight for the open sea. As it passed her, sunlight reflected off its windshield and she could not see the vessel’s occupants. She forgot all about it, and kept paddling out to where she could catch her next wave.

  With her attention focused on the surfing conditions, she did not notice the speedboat’s return, half an hour later, until it was almost too late. Cresting a wave, she found the craft’s shining bow bearing down on top of her.

  “Hey! Watch it!”

  The driver saw her and swung the wheel hard left. Jade threw herself to her left also, but there was a clunk as her board smashed against the vessel’s hull. Som
ething sloshed from a tank on board. Then Jade was underwater, trying to kick back away from the launch’s spinning propeller. Multicolored ribbons of some sort of seaweed filled the water around her, clinging to her body and twining through her hair.

  When she broke water, a strange taste filled her mouth, something other than the saltiness of the sea. She also heard a familiar voice:

  “It’s Weasel! Hey brat, I’m coming for ya!”

  That was when she recognized the boat’s occupants: Rena, accompanied by her two cronies. Jade knew she was in trouble. Some years older than Jade, Rena worked as the security guard up at the new lab. That was where they had first clashed. To Jade, Darren and Miguel, it had seemed fun at the time to tease her, careering around in the darkness on the half-built site, trying to stay ahead of Rena’s torch beam. That was until the day Miguel, had “fallen” from his bike out by Point Mauri and broken his arm. Jade now knew that Rena was bad news. Beside her in the speedboat sat the Head, a thick-shouldered boy of limited intelligence but unswerving loyalty to her, and Screwdriver, a rat-faced youth, who was steering.

  Pulling herself onto her board, she began to paddle furiously, expecting to hear the craft gaining on her. Yet when she threw a glance back, the launch had turned and resumed its course for the river mouth.

  Once it had gone, she sat on her board and thought. Her hankering for surfing had disappeared, and she began to paddle slowly shoreward. It was strange that the gang had not chased her. What might be more important to that crew than settling their score with her when they had her there, trapped in the water? It must be some shady job they could not afford to delay.

  She was swimming. Deep in the green, beneath the waves, far down where massive blocks of stone piled in weighty majesty to create palaces. She was swimming. Clouds of sparkling color surrounded her like ribbons of fine sea kelp. Yet this stuff seemed aware, sentient. She felt it brush against her as she propelled herself forward and ever downward through the green… through the phosphorescence… and almost felt its whispered thoughts. Far off, sea creatures wailed and moaned, distracting her with their guttural syllables that sounded so achingly familiar.

 
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