A selection from my work in progress series “The Wars of Vedam”
I hadn’t showered in days and immediately resorted to the luxurious bathroom and locked myself inside. Without Andi there to show me all the many aspects of the bathroom, I was able to enjoy the elegant nature of the aquamarine tiled walls and warm air. The running water in the shower reminded me of the rushing sea, the walls looked like that guest cabin…
The ship was larger up close. From the water’s surface, the ship looked like a cliffside, the loud sirens and yells and sounds of the cannons and guns echoed in my head and I saw Hera and Andi farther out. I swam for them but I would never reach them. The wide open sea was far too vast.
I shook out of the fabricated memory—had that all happened?—and turned the walls opaque, my undergarments were now drenched and almost hanging off my soaking wet body.
I felt the memory creep back. I saw the clear water as I jumped from the ship. The growling Pay’ev with their sparkling diamond skin and fish-like faces with such large dark eyes. The Captain was so angry. Lucia had saved us, her powers were that of a Chveneltan, yet stronger and more expansive.
Above me, I examined the various controls in the shower. Colored buttons and strange symbols I had never seen before. One of the controls read “sauna.” Gods, that sounds amazing, I thought.
Andi had a sauna at her home—or used to have—and she had invited Hera and I over once for a “girls’ day” whatever that meant. I had come to learn that it meant a pampering day. As fun as it was, the only thing that I had enjoyed was the sauna. I couldn’t quite understand why, maybe it had something to do with the fog or the smell…
I pressed the square mosaic button and jumped as the floor beneath me vibrated.
The wooden floorboards folded under themselves to reveal a stone staircase into the floor. A warm mist rose from the staircase and as I descended, there was a faint yellow and green light with echoes of rushing water. I started to make my way down and gasped at the sight.
Dozens of stone stairways descended to a wide open heated pool. Natural stone lighting provided a warm yellow-green hue to the white walls and indented stone benches lined the perimeter walls. A thick scent of jocofis filled the air, reminding me of Master Lenor’s study. Warm mists floated along the water’s surface and as I stepped into the pool, my whole body warmed.
“Didn’t think anyone else knew about this,” I heard a voice say.
Across the pool, Addin was sitting in his shorts on one of the partially submerged stone benches. His sculpted torso and arms droplets of water gliding down to his hips and wrists near the water line. I snapped my head away and tried to pay more attention to the rippling currents reflecting on the mosaic structures above.
Once I reached the water, I began swimming towards Addin. The bottom of the pool couldn’t be seen and I didn’t want to find out how deep it was.
“You finished the dishes fast,” I finally said, coming to sit next to him.
“They had an automated washer of some sort; I figured it out.”
All the colliding colors strung me back to the wave-like images that had illuminated the walls of the guest cabin…the walls of the halls in the Vessel…how terrifyingly beautiful the Pay’ev were…
“What is this place anyways?”
I forced an exhale from my lungs, trying to refocus on the sauna instead of the ship.
“They’re healing saunas, called opirit-ai, opirit singular,” I said. “The Domojale use them as well, the Almenti have their own version.” I looked around the space and wondered why the Ryma had opted for a communal opirit. “Most opirit-ai are private, and are usually used for healing purposes. According to legend, the herbal infused waters provide a spiritual connection of the Strengths and body, particularly the Ryma wings, with the spiritual realm.”
“Beacon of knowledge over here,” Addin finally said with a laugh.
“Master Lenor told me about them.”
“Well let me know if you have any other history lessons.”
Addin and I didn’t speak for a moment while we watched the walls of the sauna move and fall and glide. The smell of jocofis was soothing, comforting even. I could see Master Lenor’s training rooms and study hall in my mind. I wondered how he was doing now. Had he known I was leaving that night, when he wished me such a solemn goodbye?
“You still think of the ship?” Addin asked now.
“Yeah,” I muttered. “It’s even hard to be down here.”
“Do you want to go back up?” Addin jumped. I shook my head.
“It’s okay. It’s just strange to be around water and not,” I paused, “and not have it be so…”
“Heavy?” He finished.
The sound of the water, simply existing in the space before us, answered for me. I nodded, adding another layer of confirmation to the defining word. I still wondered how Addin and Farrow had finally made it off the Vessel. Had they jumped? Been thrown off? Had they fallen when it exploded? Had it exploded?
Addin moved in his space on the bench and closed his eyes to tilt his head back. “It’s not heavy anymore, though,” he whispered, his words floating from his lips and onto my exposed body and into the open sauna. I wanted to hide everything from him when he spoke like that, with such delicacy. “I know how hard that is to remember. I just keep telling myself that.”
With a breath, I tried to tell myself the same thing. It’s not heavy anymore, I repeated with a glance at Addin’s resting features and elegant lines.
“It’s done now,” I said aloud to him. He took my hand, interlacing his fingers with mine, and I watched the corner of his lips curl slightly.
“Yeah, it’s done,” he agreed.