A Once Distant Memory Chapter 1

Land Ho!

By Shaun Curran

I was a child once.

I think we all are in the sense that we are innocent, pure bystanders thrust into a world full of hate, pain, and suffering. Before my tenth birday, I was one of those people, tossed into life like a person would toss a salad. I didn't ask to be born, and I don't ask to die, either. When my time is up, I'll go quietly, not making waves before my death. I wish to be remembered as a kind person when I die, right up to my death, rather than some cold-hearted person, like I am now, that people always take advantage of.

Up until my tenth birthday, perhaps it was a little before then, I was an innocent person. I don't remember too much before my fifth birthday, but I certainly do remember my father's funeral. My mother told me that he would be back someday, and I honstly believe her. And, like a fool, I believed her until I was perhaps nine, when I seriously started to wonder. My mother was always a beautiful person, but when she had to take over the throne her beauty rapidly went down. Soon she was an ugly woman, stressed out, restless, and taking care of three kids while reining Zeal.

When mom left, Magus took over. Magus was Schala's half-brother from another marriage, and I suppose he is my half-brother as well. I never think about our relationship very much, other than the fact that he is a born warrior, a great thinker, and a good friend.

We landed in a little rowboat on land, the Doreen behind us, her anchor dropped and sails neatly folded.

"We've made it," Schala said.

Where, was anyone's guess.

Each of them, with the exception of me and my cat Alfador, had amnesia. The first fifteen minues after I had brought our boat into the harbor had been spent orienting ourselves. Each realized that I knew more than them, and wished me to tell the story. My sister Schala knew me and Magus, but after that morning we had left, her memory leaves her with a blank. The same goes for Quelchen and Sarbll, two of Magus' friends who decided to help us out, well, that was Magus' idea to drag them along. I don't care for drunkards very much, and that is what Quelchen is. Sarbll I wouldn't mind but she's dressed, or should I say undressed? She's a stripper and a prostitute as well. What a pair, Quelchen and Sarbll. They should be locked up together- no, not together. They'd like that too much.

"Where are we?" asked Quelchen as he got out to tie the rowboat up against a fig tree. I doubted that the little tree would be much help when the tide came in, but I said nothing about it.

"You said you wanted land, we're on land!" I snapped. Anyone else would have taken that the wrong way, but even with amnesia, Quelchen realized that that was the way I acted on a regular basis.

"So what are we to do now, Janus?" asked Magus. "It's obvious we're ill- prepared to walk through the woods."

"Ill-prepared to walk through anywhere," I replied. My arm throbbed and I rubbed the weak muscles with my hand. That was where I had taken a hit. Luckilly for me, the healing potion worked, but it was still tender. I sat down on the sand, ignoring the sand kicking up on my purple tunic. It was already torn in a few places, a little sand wouldn't hurt much. Schala sat down.

"Janus, please tell us where we are!" she cried in desperation.

"If I knew, I'd tell you!" I snapped. I was immeditely sorry. I hate yelling at my sister, even when I'm so angry I could tear her to shreds.

"I'm sorry Janus," Schala said," I'm just so confused!" She buried her face in her hands.

"No, Schala," I replied," I'm sorry. I'm sorry for yelling at you. I doubt anyone is more confused than I am. I can remember everything, but why can't you?" Quelchen stood up.

"A boat." He pointed. I glanced over my shoulder. A boat was coming in, charred black on its starboard side. Three shafts stuck up from the main deck to nothing, where the balloon had once rested.

The Blackbird.

"Come quickly!" I yelled, dashing into the jungle not less than fifty feet behind me," don't lag!"

"They could be friendly," said Sarbll.

"Don't be an idiot," I replied. "I know exactly who they are and why they're here."

"Why?" Magus asked. "Why are they after us?"

"Don't ask me stupid questions, either, Magus. Come on!" We ran into the woods as fast as we could, Alfador in my arms. He whined pitifully; he hates to be picked up and dragged along anywhere.

"Janus!" screamed Schala. We all stopped to see Schala helplessly caught by some bushes; her dress was too long. Completely unaware of what I was doing, I tore her dress apart until the only thing covering her were rags and her underwear.

"Janus!" she screamed. But I was certainly in no mood to listen to her complain. I grabbed her wrist and pulled her.

"Where are we going, Janus?" demanded Magus.

"They know we're on this side of the island because of the damn boat! We go to the other side of the island!" I ran with Schala damn near tripping over every branch and bush she could. I kept close to the shore: our boat was still there and I knew we'd probably have to jump into the water to get it back.

We finally stopped for a breather when I was certain no one was following us. I peered out of the bushes to the boat that was rapidly making advances to our landing point. Inside the boat was Kamus and Dalton. Impossible! I thought, Kamus and Dalton were killed!

But the Blackbird had survived the raging inferno, and I knew that had been impossible. Imagine what we'll know tomorrow.

"Damn," I said as they pulled up near the boat tied around the tree. Immediately Kamus pulled out an axe and furiously began to chop the little boat into splinters. Satsisfied that he had done a good job, he looked around. I froze; I swear he was staring straight at me. I didn't hear the voices, but I could tell by the gestures, and Dalton agreed: search the beach. I withdrew back into the woods.

"Time to go," I said," they're coming!" I grabbed Schala, scooped up Alfador, and ran through the woods.

There was a clearing up ahead that I doubt could have been crossed without being seen by running across. I don't even know if it was a great idea, but there was tall grass, and getting on my belly, I crept through the grass. I stood up on the opposite side of the jungle, and turned. Kamus and Dalton were still far off, but they were running toward us.

"Come on!" I raced out into the open, running as fast as I could. A small cliff was coming up, and rather than stopping at the cliff, I jumped straight off of it, Schala in one hand, Alfador in the other.

Down and down we plunged, finally hitting water. Schala and I surfaced. Alfador climbed onto my head. He was obviously Not Happy, but what could I do? I'm sure Dalton would have slow-roasted him over an open fire if he had been captured. Magus, Quelchen, and Sarbll had already jumped, and when I could confirm that everyone was safe, heads out of the water. we all began to swim back to the Doreen.

When I had finally put my feet on solid ground, I turned around. Dalton and Kamus were already in their boat, making their way toward us.

"Come on!" I yelled. "Pick up the anchor, Magus!" Magus was baffled. I remembered then: I had had to drop the anchor and do everything as far as docking the boat. I furiously tugged at the strings as I explained to Magus how to pick up the anchor. Magus finally caught on, and raced over to the anchor.

Less than a minute later, we were moving.

I turned the wheel; half of our sails weren't even down yet, but we could always do that in transit. Dalton and Kamus, instead of coming aboard our boat, went to their's.

"They could have come aboard!" I shouted," why didn't they?" Sarbll shook her head. There was a deafening roar and a splash right next to the Doreen. The Armageddon Cannon.

"How the hell did that survive?" I demanded. "The Blackbird crashed!" But there it was, aimed at us and prepared to fire. I knew it in my bones: Doreen was going to go down.

"I don't know," Schala replied, softly.

"Schala! Take the wheel!" Schala gripped the wheel tightly and we sailed out of the harbor.

"Quelchen! Untie those ropes!" I screamed as loud as I could. Quelchen untied them. The sails began to open. Once they were in position, I told Quelchen to tie them. He did so, and we were sailing at full speed.

"They're coming!" shouted Sarbll. I took the wheel from Schala.

"What do we do now?" asked Magus.

"Last meals, anyone?" I asked. Magus shot me a very dirty look. Schala pointed.

"Rocks!" I glanced out and spun the wheel as hard as it would go to the right. We narrowly missed the rocks by a distance of inches.

The Blackbird continued to follow. The Armageddon Cannon fired once again. The shot slammed into our rear end.

"Down!" I shouted, seconds before it hit. The explosion jolted our steering. The Doreen scrambled for the rocks.

"Jump out!" I yelled, knowing that the moment the Doreen hit the rocks, the Armageddon Cannon would surely do her in. I scrambled to grab Alfador, who was clearly disgruntled, and jumped over with Schala on my heels. Quelchen followed, hand in hand with Sarbll.

We woke up on the beach. I woke first. The Blackbird was still heading toward us, but was rapidly slowing down. I looked around. Schala was near me, Quelchen and Sarbll were a little further down, and Magus was running for Quelchen, hopefully to rouse him. Schala groaned. I sat up, sitting her up beside me. I gave her a few whacks on the back. She spat and coughed up salt water, and then looked at me.

"Janus, where?" she asked.

"No time. Come on!" Magus had roused Quelched and Sabll. With Alfador still in hand, though really upset, we rushed into the bushes, again.

I forget really how long we ran or how fast we ran, and none of us talked. I got the feeling that they now understood Kamus and Dalton meant business, no matter how anyone looked at it. Perhaps they were scared. I know I was scared, and I knew that things would get worse from that point on.

I remember this much: when it got dark, I began counting the number of times Schala stumbled. Her hands and feet are totally uncaloused from tender work, or no work at all. My hands are dirty, I've been working on spells and magic for quite some time.

We finally stopped when it was so dark even I was running into things. I had a severe headache and did not, no wait: could not go on I was so exhausted. The chances, though of Dalton and Kamus catching up with us was very good; probably near 100%.

We lit a fire and got some conversation going.

"What was that?" Quelchen asked, after hearing some sort of animal cry out.

"I don't know," replied Magus," some sort of flying animal, I presume." I glanced at Schala. She was thinking.

"Schala?" She looked at me. "What's wrong?"

"Janus, it's awful! I can't remember anything after the night Kamus stole your pendant!"

"You remember that?" I asked. "What about you, Magus?"

"I remember something about your pendant. That's it." I turned to Quelchen and Sarbll.

"I don't even remember meeting up with you, Janus," replied Quelchen. Sarbll shook her head.

"Why don't you know anything?" I asked, almost whining.

"Janus, you have to tell us," said Schala. "Please!"

"Why the hell does it have to be me?" Everyone was silent, anticipating the story. I sighed, and with my agitation, began to tell.


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