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Nocturna League: The Record of Ambition
Copyright 2015 by Kell Inkston
“Every door leading to the present is painted differently. But only the darkest-painted doors are the kind that their owners will not open for you.” -Unknown ( probably an idiot )
Chapter 1: A Step Back into the Fire
This story upon The Nocturna… does not actually happen on The Nocturna, for the most part. Months in the past, rather, we loom our heads and gazes over a younger Colette and a younger Grancis— before they met The Captain… before their many adventures…. before they met a man-eating lobster-thing named Boris… and even before Colette became the very embodiment of an indignant crusader for vengeance.
We find them over by the stream on a radiant summer’s day. The insects cry out, and the scent of pollen is saturating the air as the lazy babbling of the brook sings in the shade of the trees. In the hands of the blond girl with a tomboyish cut, the line pulls and she springs to action. Colette Ketiere leaps back and pulls high, tugging out a glistening, silvery fish; no tentacles, and no horrific maws of teeth— just a fish— a spring trout, as it happens.
The brunette girl, her strands wrapped into a relaxed half bun, closes her book and claps in admiration. “That’s the third one today. You’re awesome at this!” Grancis Vereyrty remarks, her voice feminine, song-like, almost maternal to her friend.
The blond snaps the fish into her hands tightly like the neck of an opponent and removes the hook. “Thanks,” she says, “I think I’ve been improving.” She plops the fish face-first into the wooden bucket, containing her other two victims. “This should be enough. Let’s go back.”
Grancis nods and takes up the bucket as Colette bunts the rod to her shoulder like a rifle. The remainder of the worms are returned to the mud, and the two turn to leave. They exit the woods, and the beams of the blinding sun stretch over them— warming every inch of their pale bodies. As they find the dirt path that leads to Colette’s home and then the village, Grancis turns to address her best friend.
“So, how’s your mom been?” Grancis asks.
Colette shrugs. “Same as ever, I s’pose. No real way to get her outside with the way she is. She’s been reading all day, as usual.”
“I wish I could read all day.” Grancis sighs.
“What, you’d rather stay cooped up all day? It’s not because she wants to, you know.”
“Well, yes, I understand she’d rather be outside; but I wouldn’t mind being inside. I’d love to have a kid just like you. You could feed me all the time,” Grancis says with a smirk.
Colette grits her teeth. “Gran.”
“That’s creepy. I don’t wanna be your kid.”
Grancis sputters sheepishly. “Wh-well yeah! Of course! I didn’t mean to imply that! I just meant that,” she takes a breath, “when I become a mother, I’d like to have a child that could take care of me, is all.”
Colette nods. “I’m sure.” A few steps farther and Colette nudges Grancis with a sly smirk.
“You’re probably not too far from having your own kid, just saying. Johannes’ been checking you out.”
Grancis straightens and her gaze becomes wide. “He…He has?”
“Yeah. I’ve spotted him a few times while I was doing woodcutting. He sneaks around to your side of the room and looks in.”
Grancis averts her eyes to the ground. “Wow, I didn’t know.”
“Pretty sure he wants you to throw your underwear at him or something,” Colette says with a sharp grin before being mysteriously tripped by a root that looks strangely like Grancis’ foot.
“O-oh! Are you okay?!” Grancis exclaims in measured shock.
Colette catches herself quickly and springs right back to her feet. “Damn, I keep catching these stupid roots,” she grumbles, looking back to see what she tripped on, but finding nothing.
“Oh, well maybe you should be more focused on walking home than talking about the head farmer’s son’s interests in my nether items,” Grancis recommends with an amiable smile.
Colette shrugs. “Yeah, okay. But he really does super like you. Like definitely in a creepy way too. I don’t know if you’d like that.”
Grancis waves her head about uncertainly. “I don’t know. I’d have to talk to him first… How about you?”
Colette squints an eye. “How about me what?”
“Is there a boy in the village you like?” Grancis asks with a sugared smile.
Colette crosses her arms and bites her tongue in thought. “Couldn’t say for sure. Vastere’s kind of cool.”
Grancis nods. “He’s great at building. I’d imagine you’d have a nice home.” she replies as they round a corner and start up a hill.
“Yeah, but damn, he is a great fighter!” Colette says with sparks of admiration in her eyes.
Grancis smiles awkwardly. “O-oh. You’ve been visiting the pit again?”
“Eh, yeah, sorry. It’s just… I don’t know, cool? Yesterday he smacked Beltra so hard he spun into the wall!”
Grancis sighs. “That’s dangerous, you know. A girl’s more delicate than a boy.”
“Nonsense! I’m just watching, after all!”
Grancis’ smile dies down to a cool, calculating suspicion, and Colette instantly feels a chill. “Just watching?”
“Of course! I’d never actually fight the guys… that’s just… you know, crazy!” Colette says, subconsciously stroking the large bruise under her left breast she received yesterday at the hands of none other than Vastere Tereiay.
Grancis stares Colette down a moment more and suddenly her smile reappears along with the sort of mildness Colette knows her for. “I suppose it would be. So long as you’re not actually doing the fighting though, I’m happy. Take care of yourself, okay? My dad keeps me busy, so I can’t be with you all the time.”
Colette looks away stubbornly. “I know.”
“And if you got hurt. What would your mom do?”
“I know, Gran,” Colette repeats as they reach the top of the hill.
“I just thought it was worth restating. You’re more important to the health of the village, and especially your mom, than I think you realize. The boys can take a few hits, but my dad told me that when girls are hurt, it’s more painful, and it takes longer for them to recover. I’m fine going fishing and catching stuff with you, but if you get yo-” Grancis halts her monologue, spotting smoke in the distance. A billowing cathedral of black smog towers ahead of them from the hill.
“The hell?” Colette asks.
“A forest fire?” Grancis questions in turn.
They bolt up the hill and see, blazing in an inferno, Colette’s home. In the distance, armed, jovial men are carrying along out resources like food and jewelry, anything they can carry that may be of value.
Colette’s eyes are widen in disbelief, reflecting back the great light of her home. “Mom,” is all she utters before throwing her rod aside and sprinting for the house. Grancis drops her fish and starts just short of Colette, but Colette is much faster. In only seconds time, Colette leaps equal to the porch and bursts in through the fiery open doorway.
“Mom!” Colette shouts. She starts to her mother’s bedroom, located on the first floor to circumvent the need for going up stairs since her mother is often too weak to climb them. As she passes the stairs, Colette hears a sharp splitting sound from just above her. It’s not an unfamiliar sound, but it’s usually much farther away; the lumberjacks generally do their work a kilometer off, rather than a meter overhead. Spryly, she dodges a beam that brushes her left leg, cutting it with the splintered surface and speed of its decent. Colette inhales sharply and pushes on just as Grancis gets to the door.
“Is she there?” she cries.
“I don’t know!” Colette yells into the flames, just before another beam falls. Colette opens the door, and finds the room undisturbed, but now marked with fire. “Mom! Where are you!”
There’s no answer.
Colette runs to the kitchen, then the living room, but she’s nowhere to be found.
“Colette! Get out of there! If she’s not answering then there’s nothing you can do!”
Colette ignores Grancis, and starts upstairs. “She’s here. I know it!”
“No! Get down here!” Grancis exclaims. Colette ignores her again, and starts bursting into room after room on the second floor, picking up singes and small injuries along the way. Before she gets to the last room, before she can be absolutely sure, a beam falls from above— and this time, she’s not fast enough. Colette screams in pain as she’s caught into the burning floor, and Grancis bursts in.
“What is it?” She calls over the fire.
Colette takes a breath. “My foot’s stuck!” She says this while pulling against the small catch point of the beam and the opening floor.
Without pause, Grancis thrusts her hands into the ashen opening, applies pressure to Colette’s ankle with her left hand, and pulls down as hard as she possibly can. There’s a loud snapping sound, and this time it isn’t the wood.
Colette inhales with every capacity available to her lungs. “Fuck! Grancis! Fuck!” Colette exclaims as Grancis frees her disjointed foot and pulls it through the catch point. With every fiber she has, Grancis drags Colette downstairs and out of the building, Colette screaming for them to turn around the entire time. In only ten seconds of movement, they reach the safety of the yard— just in time for them to witness the destruction of the roof as it collapses into the house. It lands in a fiery heap, crushing everything inside. Grancis collapses in a heap as well, listening to the senseless curses that Colette’s flinging at her, at the men leaving, and at the overlord who was supposed to protect them.
“I’m going to kill everyone responsible! She’s dead! and it’s your fault, too! Grancis, you bitch!! I could’ve sa-”
Grancis slaps Colette across the face. “Either you both died or one of you died. I had to choose! We don’t even know if she’s dead!”
“Of course she’s dead! If those bastards didn’t do it, the house sure as hell did!”
Grancis slaps her again. “W-we don’t know that! Let’s go back to the village. Get some help. We could get some of the men to track down the guys who did this and make them ta-”
“No! Grancis! She’s dead! She never leaves the house! There’s no way… there’s no way. Why didn’t you let me get her?!”
Grancis shakes Colette. “Hey! Why would she go up in that last room?! That doesn’t make sense!”
“Yes it does! She hid from the raiders and couldn’t get back down! She lost consciousness from the smoke!”
“She’s okay, Colette! You nee-”
“You’re lying!” Colette snaps, gripping Grancis by her shirt.
Grancis slaps the girl again. “Colette! Seriously! Get a hold of yours-” She’s cut short the moment Colette punches her square in the face. Blood runs over and Grancis curls on the ground.
“C-Colette…” She mutters this as she presses a hand into her bloodied face.
Colette’s curled fist, covered with a drop of Grancis’ blood, ridges again for another shot; slowly, her breaths become deeper, her expression less excited— and finally, she lowers her hands. “I’m sorry. You were just… you were just trying to help me. Let’s get to the village.”
Grancis takes the hand from her bloody face and she supports the limping Colette by the shoulder. They start down the road towards the village. Colette, for one, has a focused, furious gaze the entire way.
All said and done, expect another update in the near future, turns out I have another book for your enjoyment in the works, and the rough draft’s almost done!
All the best,