Before the Summit
Hamin sighed as his legs dangled over the edge of the cliff, the breeze sending his braids dancing. He stared into the distant ocean and for once in his life; neither the sea nor the winds gave him hope for freedom. But as much as he wanted to run away, he knew his father was right.
He loved Hise and its people. He wasn’t willing to sacrifice them just so he could escape his responsibilities. And after what his father told him… It looked like the Summit was the last thing standing between his homeland and a war they might have no way of winning. So if someone was going to be sacrificed it was going to be him. It was so deliciously ironic that of an entire nation of freemen and women, he was the only one who couldn’t do what he wanted. Thanks, Pop.
“Ha! I knew you would be here. Whenever you go missing I know to find the highest place around and look there.”
“What are you doing here, Leala? Shouldn’t you be busy planning a mutiny?”
His childhood friend and second-in-command scoffed at him as she plopped herself down next to him, her short dark legs hanging over the cliff. “Like I would need to. We all know who is really in charge around here.”
“You are right. Her royal majesty Queen Pickle, the best rat catcher on land or sea.”
“Ugh. Don’t remind me. That cat hates everyone but you; she’s going to be so difficult to live with when you are gone.”
“You just say that because every time she sees your hair she attacks.” Hamin gave his friend’s dark braids, that were continuously sprouting more and more brightly colored feathers, a pointed look. “I don’t know why you do that anyway. It’s not like if you add enough you will suddenly be able to fly.”
“I could push you right off the cliff and then we can see who is right.”
She laughed. “You charmer. I can always count on you to know how to treat a lady.”
He raised an eyebrow. “If you find a lady, be sure to introduce her.” Leala elbowed him painfully in the ribs, quite eloquently proving his point, he thought. “Why are you here, Leala? Did my dad send you?”
“Of course not!” She gasped, horrified. “You know I avoid the company of anyone over thirty. What if their responsibility and gravitas is catching and rubs off on me?”
“I don’t think there is any danger of that. I’ve never met anyone more allergic to maturity.”
She stuck out her tongue at him. “If you are done moping here like a big old baby-“
“Hey! A little respect, please.”
“Fine, Captain Big Old Baby.”
“Thank you, much better.”
“If you are done moping, Captain Big Old Baby, I came to invite you to go watch the delegates drinking contest. There’s this girl who is just moping the decks with the competition, I’ve never seen anything so funny.”
“As tempting as that sounds, no thanks. You go watch.”
“Stop sucking lemons, Captain.” Hamin frowned warningly at her, but as was her usual wont, she completely ignored him and continued anyway. “It’s just seven weeks; it’s not like a life sentence. And knowing you, you will find someone shiny and get distracted and start plotting to kidnap them all and bring them back. And I’ll be the one who has to figure out how to fit ten new useless people onto our ship while escaping their real fiancés.”
“Psh, like I would ever kidnap someone useless.”
“If this is about Zachariah-“
He felt that familiar stab of ice in his gut. “Stop.”
“You know as well as I do he wouldn’t want this for you. This blame and guilt that keeps you frozen in time-“
“I said stop, Leala.”
“I’m just saying what I know he would say if he was still here. If you find a chance of happiness on that strange little island, don’t keep yourself from taking it as some sort of punishment. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life forcing yourself to pay penance. The future of Hise is important, but so is your future.”
“On second thought, I think I’m going to go the drinking contest after all. I bet they have lots of strong stuff, so I can go get thoroughly drunk. Maybe then I will be too drunk to hear you anymore.”
“Race you there, Leala! Loser swabs the deck. With their underwear.” He started running to the sounds of her loud barrage of curses, carried to the seas on the wind.
The Welcome Feast
There was nothing worse than good behavior. Okay, Hamin had to admit that he could think of three or three hundred things actually worse than being stuck on his best behavior at some fancy polite-two-faced-filled shindig. But he wasn't suffering any at this moment. So there was currently nothing worse than being stuck on his best behavior.
He was bored. And he felt suffocated by all the walls and people. There wasn't any fresh air or sun here at all. He was going to have to distract himself if he was going to make it through the night without losing his mind. What to do... What to do.
He had thought up and sadly, rejected many plans for his entertainment when he saw her. Coming up to talk to him like she didn't know better. Or she did, and just didn't care. Her eyes caught the light and they sparkled, like treasure. He took her in and couldn't help but feel the familiar clenching in his gut that meant it wasn't just treasure walking up to him, but trouble.
He had always liked trouble. He grinned.
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