Here we have it, the first chapter (subject to change and editing) of Spurn. If you have read First World you may be surprised to see this is not from Abby's first person perspective. Don't worry we will return to Abby, this is just a brief view of Spurn to start the journey.
Talina floated on her back facing towards the half-sun. She barely noticed the expanse of sparkling blue and green waters surrounding her. Instead, she focused on the peace and quiet as she lay semi-submerged in the depths. Her one and only aim had been to escape the endless squabbles of her family. And she had finally swum far enough. She’d reached the edge of the territories, but despite the push of the drifting currents, she wasn't quite brave enough to cross out of Earons quadrant. After all, it was a punishable offence to enter any of the other clan areas.
The four moons were just beginning their slow spread across the pale pink skies of Spurn. They were the force dictating the measured ebb and fall of tides. Talina loved it when the weak light of their half sun was washed away by the bright moonlights. Sighing, she turned over to lightly tread water. It was probably time to stop hiding and face her mother. Gladriel had been in fine form today. As head of the Earon clan she took herself and her duties far too seriously.
Talina hated confrontations, and she hated being around other Spurns; that is, with the exception of her brother. If only she could escape forever, but there was nowhere to swim. The four clans divided their world, each with a distinct hierarchy and private quadrant.
Earon was the second strongest, and with her mother as the leader she should have loved her life. But instead, she hated it. In Earon, she was nothing but a half-breed.
She duck-dived beneath the water. It took a few moments (far longer than most Spurns) for her gills to kick in and the instinct to breathe through her mouth to cease. Talina hated her differences; they drew attention, marked her as weak. And on Spurn the weak were eaten, luckily not by each other, but there were plenty of other predators in the waters.
Even still, she had to admit there was truly nothing comparable to a glide through the ocean. She didn’t even care that her webbings were small and fragile. She ducked and dived with the currents, searching deeper until the strength of the moonlight waned. There was a fine line in the deep water between light and eternal night. Talina had never been able to venture any deeper, not without assistance. Her defects, her weaknesses, prevented it.
Talina, be back to our pontoon before half-moon. Do not make me tell you twice.
She flinched as Gladriel’s voice echoed through her mind. Her mother was the one Spurn she was forbidden to block out. She had the capability, but it wasn't worth the drama. Rising once again she swam closer to the surface. The protective clear lenses over her eyes flicked, clouding her underwater vision, before settling back into place. Glancing to her left, a pod of droltine’s swam alongside. The playful pink creatures with large fins and spout shaped noses were a very distant cousin to Spurns. She danced with them in delight until they moved off in a different direction.
Talina groaned as her stomach rumbled; she hadn't eaten today, refusing this mornings’ ration of Cucreamer. Normally she loved the sweet, pink fruit, but for some reason earlier she’d been unable to stomach any food. But with all of the distance she had travelled, her energy had depleted significantly. Through her lenses she noticed a small stock of Krillonia, the shrimplike planktonic crustacean that was her favorite. Gliding in the midst of the dense cloud it was simple enough to open her mouth, expelling the water through the small gills on her neck and take in the sustenance.
Satisfied for the moment, she increased speed towards her home pontoons. A flash in her peripheral brought a broad smile across her face. A familiar vision darted out of the gulf-stream to fall in beside her.
Raror, where did you come from?
She opened her mind to speak with her brother. He was the only one to never judge her, and she loved him dearly. His emerald colored hair, long enough to secure him as a future leader, streamed behind in the ocean depths. The visible veins beneath his skin were more prominent than ever; he had to have been swimming long and hard to get that amount of pump.
Earon has been called to Silver City for a meeting of council heads. Mother sent me.
The deep rich timbre of his voice echoed through her mind. Without fail it evoked memories of the many nights he had protected her, rocked her to sleep and comforted away her hurts throughout the years. His voice was the sound of safety. Talina had only been to the underwater city once. It was difficult for her to make that distance, the water pressure at that depth played havoc on her senses. But Raror was often there. It was the neutral ground where the four clans discussed all issues.
What has happened to bring everyone together?
She knew this was rare.
He didn't answer immediately; they’d just reached the edge of Earon’s pontoons, and needed to slow.
Some strange occurrences. Three Baroons and a Gerk have gone missing, and there have been disturbances on the Sacred Isle.
The last part was said with disdain and fear. For a world that was predominantly water the one section of land was protected and off-limits to everyone except the Keepers.
Some of the cucreamer and wood have been reported missing. The rationing systems are thrown out, so we’ve had to redistribute. The vote found the Gerks receiving less.
Panic threaded through Talina’s mind. Who would risk the wrath of the gods to steal from the Sacred Isle? She pushed that disturbing and terrifying thought aside for the moment to focus on the caste system of the clans, something which she despised.
Why is it always the Gerks who are treated like lesser Spurns? They are no different. Hair color should not dictate status for life.
Raror internally sighed, sympathizing but not completely understanding the pain from his soft-hearted sister. Her own treatment from the majority of other Spurns had resulted in her possessing an unparalleled empathy. But the caste groups were a part of life on Spurn. The Gerks, or Greys were mostly found in positions of servitude, controlling less territory, power and status. It had always been that way.
They dodged the pontoon pets, cat and dogfish swimming lazily in the waters surrounding their family home. Talina gave a quick pat to Toto, her favorite little friend, whilst keeping an eye out for Earons guardian Chamandia. The large water dragon had never liked her, and since just one touch of its scales or breath of its venom would find you writhing in agonizing pain for days, it was worth the vigilance.
In sync, brother and sister surfaced. Talina sucked in a deep breath. This was the fastest way to initiate the respiratory valve switch inside, back to using lungs. Unlike other Spurns, for her this was a much more comfortable state. She stared with dismay towards their floating pontoon. As Gladriel was head of Earon, their home was the most lavish. Composed of the trees off the Sacred Isle, the timber slats were layered over each other, with small decks off each level.
The clans were granted a certain quota of the Lagoona trees. The leaders then divided this between the individual families. So it was no surprise that Gladriel’s was three stories of floating opulence. Talina’s room was at the top, lowest family members were the farthest from the water. Behind were low rows of tethered pontoons, spreading as far as the eye could see. The emerald flags of Earon swayed lazily in the cooling breezes. This was the majority of their community, with just a few lone Spurns scattered throughout the quadrant.
Raror was already at the edge. Talina watched as his lithe muscles rippled, and he shot himself up out of the water and onto the higher decking, a feat her weaker body had no chance of achieving. He lowered the ladder for her to climb. With a sigh Talina grabbed the bottom rung and started moving upwards. The fine webbings between her fingers disappeared, and each digit emerged. She was the only Spurn whose webbing completely disappeared when out of the water. Her long emerald hair trailed behind, but unlike the pure color of the other Earons, Talina’s had many flecks of black throughout.
According to Gladriel, this was courtesy of her unknown father, who was not of Spurn. They’d had a brief affair before he disappeared, never to be seen again. Spurns rarely stayed in long-term relationships; they tend to have mating seasons, and then move on. Off-spring are raised by the collective, though they stay close to their mothers for housing purposes, moving on when they have their own children.
Raror reached down, and hooked Talina under the arms, dragging her onto the middle decking - his level.
“Gladriel has requested us downstairs Talli.” Raror spoke aloud, his lispy voice courtesy of the Spurnians tongue structure and vocal cords, something she also lacked.
“I just need one day without her constant disapproval.” Talina groaned and hung her head. Her voice was so quiet Raror struggled to hear her words. He pulled her into a tight hug; she shivered slightly against his skin, always so much colder than her own. Spurns were not a demonstrative people, but Raror made the exception for his gentle sister.
“Come, we might as well find out what she wants. Get it over with.” He took her hand and led her downstairs. Talina kept her head lowered, not making eye contact with any of the Earons scattered throughout her mother’s vast quarters.
“Nice to see you Raror, my son.” Gladriel, shifted in her bright pink coralline chair. It was a living entity made by microscopic sea creatures that continued to grow even outside of the ocean. Gladriel lifted her emerald hair over one shoulder; it was free flowing down to her knees, as any good ruler’s would be. Then Gladriel turned her cold yellow eyes towards Talina.
“And you. Take a seat, and do not speak unless I require you to.” Eyes downcast, Talina scurried along before falling down to sit crossed legged on the floor. She was in the back corner, where no one could come at her from any side but the front. Raror took his appointed seat next to Gladriel in a smaller coralline chair. The rest of the floor space was taken up by the heads of the minor family units within Earon.
“Thank you all for gathering so quickly. My son has returned from the city with grave news of threats to the sacred Isle.” A gasp sounded throughout the room. They all understood the gravity of the situation. Spurns could not survive without that small stretch of land. “However, in the time since the meeting at Silver city, there has been a capture on the Isle.”
Gladriel’s slightly pointed teeth gleamed as she smiled around the room. She looked proud, as if she had made the arrest herself. “Foreigners, from a distant planet apparently. And the chosen of the clans are to convene for the trial.”
Whispers and murmurs echoed throughout. The last foreigner from another planet was Talina’s father. Talina sighed; she knew what this announcement meant for her. Raror would be gone, and life was almost unbearable without the protection of her brother. Nothing that she couldn’t handle of course, but the constant taunts and loneliness would wear her down after awhile. Plus Gladriel loved to leave her with all the worst jobs, in particular she hated having to de-barnacle the base of their pontoon.
As if Raror had heard her thoughts, he raised his head to glance in her direction. A small smile played on his lips. She wondered what he was up to.
“Mother, I cannot attend this with you.” He spoke without hesitation. The rest of the gathered members looked up at him in confusion. More and more lately he had been taking the responsibilities of the clan. Talina waited for her mother to explode, but instead Gladriel simply smiled out into the expanse of the room.
“Talina will accompany us Raror; you do not need to worry of your promise to her.”
He swung around to stare at the troubling smirk displayed by the head of Earon. Talina could tell by his expression he felt the same way she did; Gladriel was up to something. And right now she was not keen to be going on this adventure. But as always, she had no choice.
The next morning Talina and Raror hung their legs off the side of her top level balcony. Eighteen pontoons had been separated from the collective to head for the Isle. It would take them seven days powered by wind and sea-horses to reach the land. Earons quadrant was the second largest behind the Baroons; blue hairs were top of the food chain here.
“You know despite the fact Gladriel is probably going to have me sacrificed. I am really excited to see the Isle.” Talina rested her face on the railing, staring out into the half-sun lighting a pink sky.
Raror glanced side-ways at his sister. He’d always thought she looked like a mystical creature. The differences that marked her as weak among Spurns seemed beautiful to him. The thin lines of hair covering the ridges above her eyes and the flicked out strands along her eye-lids framed her brown eyes perfectly. Most Spurns had eyes that ranged from gold to marmalade, but always in the yellow variety. So Talina’s looked especially unique.
The black flecks through her hair, which she was so clever at hiding, transformed her emerald to that of the brightest polished stone. She was taller than almost everyone on Spurn. Only the Baroon’s leader topped her height, though she was leaner and less muscular. But more than all of this it was the innate goodness that shined from her; she was not like the rest of them, operating in the animalistic environment of eat or be eaten. She had imparted much of her gentle qualities onto Raror, and he believed himself to be a better Spurn for it.
“Don’t you worry little sister.” He patted her warm arm. “I will never let mother hurt you.” He had made a promise – to protect her from all of those that aimed to harm. And on Spurn, that was everyone.
Talina really enjoyed the journey, she didn’t see Gladriel once, and there was nothing more calming then the great expanses of the ocean. They were due to make land the next morning, and she wondered if she would get any respite tonight. This was the most exciting thing to occur in her nineteen year life-time. She’d never seen land that formed above the water. It was later than she’d thought, noticing the moons were already at full sky. She left her balcony.
Generally, Spurns require exactly five hours of closed eye respite, whether above or below the water. Talina functioned better on six or more. She opened her pod; it was half full of water, a calming level for her. Shedding her white mesh covering she stepped in. Lying back and closing her eyes, she allowed the pontoon’s rhythmic movement and water in her pod to calm her energized thoughts. Surprisingly she had no trouble drifting off.
The next morning the Earons gathered together.
“Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?” Talina held Raror’s arm as she bounced in excitement, a euphoric emotion that she rarely felt. They were standing on the balcony, waiting for Gladriel’s command to start swimming.
“It’s so strange, as if something has broken the ocean and there is a crack in it.” Raror was wide-eyed, the clear lenses flickering off and on as his eyes adjusted to the air. The sand was white, with just a tinge of gold. It was unlike any color Talina had seen on Spurn before. The sunlight sparkled off the grains like the precious jewels they were.
Earons, take to the water now. We are to make our way to the edge of the Isle and wait.
Their leader’s voice echoed through her mind, and without hesitation Talina dived into the depths. She let the water flow over her, and as her gills kicked in she took off. Speed swimming was one of her absolute favorite things to do. To her left Raror was keeping pace, although if needed he could almost double her velocity through the water.
Emerald hair streamed in the currents, as their collection of members approached the golden sands of the Sacred Isle. For the first time in her life Talina was shocked to see the tapering up of the ocean floor. It became shallower until at last she could put her feet down and stand above the water line. She wobbled precariously, but as her lungs kicked in, she found her feet on the squishy sand, digging her toes in for extra stability. Gladriel, who’d been the first to stand, shifted once or twice, but managed to stay straight at the head of their group.
“Do not move too quickly. It will take time to get used to the stillness of land.” Her lisped words echoed around. Judging by the tumbles already being taken in the shallow water, she was very correct.
Talina turned at the sound of another pontoon. The blue flags indicated that the Baroon’s had arrived. They were currently tethering to a nearby station. Her heart skipped a few beats at the possibility of seeing Ladre, their intimidating leader. She swung back around as Gladriel spoke again.
“We have permission to move onto the land. Take it slowly. Maybe start on all fours for balance.” Gladriel waved everyone forward, before turning away to concentrate on her own journey. Their leader was still slightly off-kilter but otherwise made it onto the flat sand without drama. Realizing she was getting left behind, Talina took her first hesitant step.
Her muscles made their usual adjustment for the sway and ebb of the ocean, but for the first time there was no movement from below. So, of course, she over-balanced and sprawled headfirst into the shallow water. Raror moved to help her up, but he was just as un-coordinated, splashing next to her. Dragging herself forward, on hands and knees, Talina landed on the still dryness of land. Her head started to sway, and an instant nausea rose as her body tried to compensate for the lack of movement it was so used to.
“I think I’m going to be sick.” Raror dived past her to heave his morning cucreamer all over the sand. And he wasn’t the only one. Talina flipped over to her back and using the half-sun as an anchor breathed deeply for a few moments. Finally the nausea abated, well enough, so she wasn’t about to join the hurling ranks. Sitting up, she straightened her shaky legs before pulling herself to stand.
She guessed that this was how it felt when learning to walk for the first time. Balancing without the movement of the ocean required different muscles and a centre of gravity that Spurns lacked, but eventually, most of the Earon clan was able to stand and move further along the sandy beach. Talina loved the delicious texture between her toes; it tickled as it scrubbed her feet. Once walking became easier, she was able to observe her environment. And she wasn’t the only one; most of the Earon clan was trying to walk and take in the vast wonders surrounding them. So of course there were plenty of tumbles, golden grains flying up in small clouds all around her.
The sand started at the water line and drifted gently up a curved mound. From there on it looked to Talina like a mix of sand and wafts of green vegetation. She knew that the entire island was only fifty miles wide and ten miles long. At least eighty percent consisted of the Lagoona Tree plantations, which she could see stretch out across the distance in long straight rows.
It was simply incredible to see. Everything looked so free and unencumbered with no water surrounding it. She was distracted at just that moment as Raror fell down next to her, and a grin spread across her face as she reached out a hand to help him up.
“This is not exactly how I pictured this experience.” He shook his head, dispelling the masses of sand that had accumulated in his long straight hair. It was such a warm day that already sections of the emerald looked dry.
“We need to get you to water soon, Raror.”
Talina examined him in worry; she had never forgotten that story of the Baroon, the blue haired Spurn who’d gotten lost on this island. They had found him almost at the water edge. His hair, which looked to be reaching for the water, had lost all color and was brown and shriveled. From that day they’d been warned to never let their hair completely dry. It was a living entity that was physically part of every one of them. If you cut a Spurn’s hair, you might as well cut off their arm. But Talina knew that in this case she was also different. She’d been curious when she was younger and allowed her hair to dry completely – having water ready just in case – but she only experienced mild discomfort and a dry mouth.
“I’m sure they will have water available when we reach the buildings.” Raror attempted to placate his fretting sister.
It felt like forever, but eventually Talina noticed a small building with a court-yard in the distance. It had been a slow progression and the members of all four clans were staggered along the beach. Already standing under the eaves of the building were the Yetles with their sunlight yellow hair. Behind their people were the Baroon’s. They marched in a coordinated line. None of them had land-sickness, and their dark blue hair was sand free. And at the very back, farthest from the meeting were the Gerks, the smallest group, their hair shorter and steel-grey.
Finally, the Earon clan finished their complete trek across the warm sand, to halt in the shade of the large building. Raror sighed in relief as a cool spray rained down on their group. The entire perimeter of the building had shooting jets delivering a constant stream of the briny ocean water. Talina strained to see where this water came from, finally she noticed a few Gerks off to the side pumping a large handle. It was attached to some type of water well.
“Talina ... Raror, it is nice to see you again.”
Talina spun around at the sound of a familiar voice. Ladre was the first of the Baroon’s to arrive. He was her secret fantasy, so much more than the average Spurn – taller than her by at least two inches, the darkest blue hair, and a skin tone that was pinker than most others. She had admired him from afar, since ... well it felt like forever. And the most important part, he was always kind to her, even going out of his way to offer her jobs in Silver city, preventing his clan from treating her as less and always stopping for a chat. Despite the fact he was considered the most powerful Spurn alive, he was honorable, and she wished that there wasn’t such an unbridgeable gap between them.
As he met her stare, a familiar heat flooded her cheeks. Among Spurns, this only happened to her and only when she was around Ladre. Raror had discretely asked others, and not one Spurn had ever experienced this warm face sensation. Talina always wondered if they were too cold blooded.
“Ladre, it is good to see that your clan arrived from Silver city.” Raror lowered his head slightly, showing the Baroon leader the respect due to his position. Not that Talina had ever seen Ladre impose his position on others, unlike Gladriel.
My son and I have to step inside for the initial meet-up. Everyone else stay on the beach.
As if she’d heard Talina’s thought, the harsh order sounded from her mother.
Raror touched her arm briefly before stepping under the overhanging eaves to enter through the open doorway. Ladre, who would definitely be expected inside hesitated before leaning closer to Talina.
“Are you not joining us for the meeting? The clan leaders have been called.” His hairless face, and dark yellow, almost ochre eyes looked confused. Normally daughters of leaders would be included in all important clan decisions.
She shook her head. “Gladriel likes to keep her mistakes as far away from her as possible.” Her deep brown eyes widened in shock and she covered her mouth with both hands. What was she thinking saying something so honest? She just got flustered around Ladre, and when her mind was muddled she said stupid things. Understanding replaced his confusion and with a genial nod, he left her there, leading his members into the building. It took a few moments for Talina’s cheeks to cool again.
The remaining Spurns stayed in their clan groups, sitting under the spray. A few made their way back to the ocean, finding it uncomfortable to stay on land. But there was no mingling between the hair colors, and Talina hated that more than anything. Frustrated and bored she moved away from the collective to explore their surroundings. The longer she was on the land, the more it felt right. She loved the vast expanses of ocean, the quiet, the freedom. But there was that other side that apparently craved the stillness of land.
She made her way through a small section of Lagoona trees. She knew that she shouldn’t wander off. The woods were patrolled by Baroon Keepers, and their job was to make sure nothing was disturbed. Each stick of tree was precious, and all allocations viewed and voted on. It was a versatile material, with both thin and thick stems that were quite pliant and springy, yet never deteriorated in the salt water. The older plantation had stems that extended high in the sky, with just a few scattered leaves up top. The leaves were pretty useless and were mainly utilized as stuffing for day beds.
While wandering aimlessly she accidentally stumbled through a bush into a clearing. Before her was a small building. Curious as to what this secreted area was, she crept closer. She noticed two armed Baroons at the entrance door. Is this where they were keeping the prisoners?
There was a small window, high up on the back wall. Most Spurns would have no chance of reaching it, but with a little help, Talina might have a shot. Curiosity drove her forward, and she managed to find a rock that wasn’t too large. She dragged it beneath the window. These actions were definitely outside her normal behavior. She didn’t go looking for trouble; she’d already spent far too many moons being disciplined. But something urged her forward.
She stood on the rock using the wall to balance herself. She still had to stand on her tiptoes to be able to see in through the barred window. It was definitely a prison, and two of the four small rooms were occupied by a collection of strange humanoids. They had the same basic shape as Spurns, but ... with no webbing or gills ... and their skin was the wrong color. Her eyes were drawn to one of the females in particular. A stunning red-head, she was statuesque and much taller than Talina. She stared in amazement at the pale ivory of this females’ skin and the cat-like green eyes. Talina couldn’t believe what she was seeing ... green eyes ... crazy.
But the reason this female, in particular, stood out from her own group, were amazing red markings that framed the left side of her face and moved down her neck. She strode around the prison, so sure ... confident. This was a woman who was afraid of no one. Talina was instantly jealous; she’d always wished for one ounce of the composure and attitude this female effortlessly displayed. But that would never happen.
Talina could see that the prisoners had hair on their faces, just like her own. Twin lines about their eyes and flicked out blackness along their eye lids. Were they from the same land as her father? Excitement and panic flooded her. She needed to break in there and speak with them before they either disappeared or went to trial. The red-haired female turned to yell at someone in the opposite cell. Talina’s shifted her view to observe him, a giant man with broad planes and flashing dark eyes. He was unlike any of the males on Spurn, but Talina found his chiseled jaw and muscular physique attractive, for some reason. She had just started to observe the rest of the inhabitants when strong hands grabbed her, pulling her backwards off the window.