Sanity is forbidden Circulation: 99,729,623 Issue: 198 | 8th day of Swimming, Y7
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Paths Not Seen: Part One

by fierwym


Part One:

The Voice

He could feel the sunlight on his scales. It was warm and soft, entering from the realm of winter and passing through the budding spring, warming each day with the approach of summer. He sighed, closing his eyes. His eyes. His eyes. Why did it have to be his eyes? The awful memory resurfaced in his mind. What fear, what terrible fear! What terrible pain! And then that awful darkness, darkness so great that even to this day it wore upon his heart, even years gone. Years gone.


     "Steven, you have that look on your face again. It's not good when you get that look."

     The young yellow Krawk sighed again, opening his eyes. Not that opening them made a difference. He could see about as well with them open as he could when they were closed.

     He turned his blind, silver eyes toward the voice, the voice of his best friend since hatchling-hood. The Krawk was his brother, and what Steven could remember from his childhood, he was a blue Krawk. Steven had not always been blind. No. It was that day. That horrible day.

     "You're still thinking about it," his brother's gentle voice said.

     "How can I not?" the soft, whispering voice of Steven asked. "It haunts me, Jem."

     "I know," Jem replied, voice sad. Steven had the feeling that Jem was looking at him now. He could hear the footsteps of his older brother crunching in the sand of the beach they walked across. He could hear the waves of the sea some ten yards to his right. He could feel the warmth of the sun, sinking lower into the sky.

     But he could not see.

     It had happened in his early childhood. He had been playing on this same beach, running around and laughing. He had been playing tag with his brother and friends. He was the swiftest. He was the best. He charged past his brother, smacking his shoulder lightly, and charged forward before the blue Krawk could retaliate. He looked over his shoulder as he ran, laughing at the shocked look of his brother. Then suddenly, he was flying. He had tripped over a rock and hurtled himself into the air. The rocky ground met him with crushing force, and he faded quickly into darkness.

     When he awoke, he didn't open his eyes right away. His head ached. His body ached. But deep inside he felt that something was wrong besides those pains, that he had lost something, that…

     "Steven?" asked a young voice. That was his brother! But why did he sound so sad?

     He opened his eyes to find his brother. He could trust that Krawk easily. He had expected to see the blue Krawk waiting there.

     All he saw was darkness.

     "Oh, Steven!" the teenager whispered, voice stunned. Instantly the yellow Krawk was terrified. He could not see! His brother was afraid! His brother was never afraid! What had happened?

     "It's alright, Steven," Jem said gently. Jem was almost a father to Steven, for their own father had been washed away by a storm long before, along with their mother. Jem was the protector. Jem was the comforter. "I'm here now."

     "I can't see," Steven said, voice choking. "Jem, I can't see!"

     "I know, Steven," Jem said, voice tight. Steven felt the older Krawk's hand clasp over his own. "I'm so sorry."

     "Jem, what will I do?"

     The older swallowed. "Live. Just live. I'll be here for you always. I'll never leave."

     Jem never did leave. He had always kept that promise, that beautiful, brotherly promise. He had stayed with Steven, guiding him, teaching him, helping him with his new problem. They stayed on that same beach, talking walks up and down it, Jem leading Steven all the way. Steven had learned how to do different things even with his blindness. He could wash dishes and even make his bed.

     His trait of pride, though, came with his ability to memorize trails. Though blind, if he went on a trail several times, he could remember all the twists and turns and navigate through it without mishap. There was a trail that even his brother had a hard time finding, a trail that Steven could take without having to see where he was going. It was his favorite trail, something that he could do that few others could. He could walk that dangerous, twisting trail in his sleep. It didn't matter that he was blind. He knew that trail by heart.

     Suddenly his thoughts scattered. From his right, from the direction of the sea and its tossing waves, came a voice.

     You wander still beside this sea,

     And wonder still what you can be,

     He who acts unselfishly

     Will with the truest sight see.

     Steven looked toward the sea and that voice. "What was that?" he whispered.

     "What?" Jem asked.

     "That voice." Steven searched with sightless eyes, listening hard. The voice did not come again. "It was a beautiful voice."

     "What did it say?"

     "She said something about wandering beside this sea, and that he who acts unselfishly will see with the truest sight. Something like that. It was so beautiful."

     "I heard nothing," Jem admitted. "Perhaps the voice was only for you."

     "Perhaps," the younger Krawk said. "Perhaps."

     The two walked on in silence. Steven could feel the approach of night, as the sun somewhere to his right continued to sink lower and lower. What was the sunset like? He could barely remember. It was colorful, with red and orange and violet. He could remember that. But he could barely remember the feeling that a sunset gave him as it sank. He could barely remember that last flare as the sun slipped passed the horizon. He could barely remember.

     You wander still beside this sea…

     "What's that?" It was Jem who spoke this time.


     "I don't know," the older said. He had stopped walking - Steven could no longer hear his footsteps. "It's something on the water. A black shape. Perhaps it's a ship." Both brothers had the same thought at the same time. It was Steven that spoke first.

     "A ship? From this side of the sea? At this time? Something's not right, Jem. No ship ever comes from that sea."

     "Yet one comes now," Jem whispered. Steven turned his head to where he knew the sea was. Though he could not see the ship, a premonition had sprang from Jem's words. Something great was about to happen. What was he, a blind, defenseless Krawk, supposed to do about the evil that was coming?

     Suddenly he heard it - cannonfire. "Cannons!" he whispered harshly to Jem. The older, knowing that Steven had much better hearing than he, quickly grabbed the blind Krawk's arm and tried to pull him away to safety.

     "Stop, Jem!" the yellow Krawk said. "Screaming… There's two ships, aren't there!? One must be firing at the other! Jem, they're trying to escape!"

     "I can't hear it," Jem whispered softly, tugging on the younger Krawk's arm. "Come, Steven, we have to hide. There are some pirates out there that will kill you soon as look at you."

     "I can't see it," the younger muttered, though he allowed himself to be led away. After all, what could a blind Krawk do?

     And wonder still what you can be…

     He shook himself of the memory… Or was it that the beautiful voice really speaking again? They hid, ironically, at the base of the secret trail that Steven knew so well. There they waited, Jem to watch, Steven to listen. Steven felt a sudden drop in temperature, and realized that the sun was gone and night had come.

     And still the ships came closer.

     "You were right," Jem whispered. "There are two ships. The closer one is fleeing. The other is firing cannons."

     "The first will be here soon," Steven replied, trusting what the sounds told him.


     They waited there for a while, sharing some silent agreement that they would wait for the first ship to arrive and see if they could help them. The night grew gradually cooler. The cannonfire grew louder. Steven could hear harsh voices, and frightened voices… and a baby's cry. A baby?

     He could then hear the sound of the first ship coming through the water. A few more minutes, and it would be upon the land. What then? Did the fleeing voyagers hope to escape pursuit on land?

     "Let's go to them," Steven said.

     "Why?" Jem asked.

     "There's a baby onboard. We have to help them. What if the pirates decide to keep coming after they destroy this ship? Our village may be destroyed."

     There was a moment of hesitation in the older Krawk. The younger looked to him, eyes frightened for he could not see his danger, yet willing to go and help. He didn't yet know what a blind Krawk could do, but he might try.

     "Come on," Jem said, grabbing the yellow Krawk's shoulder and leading him quickly to the ship. Steven could hear the sounds of wood scraping across sand. The ship had landed. The cannonfire was as loud as ever. The crashing of the cannons into the water and ship was deafening. Still the two raced on.

     People leaped out of the ship into the shallow waters, coming onto the land. Steven could only hear the splashes followed by footsteps over the sand and rocks. The pair stopped.

     "Who are you?" asked a rough yet frightened voice.

     "Krawks that belong to a village near here," Jem said quickly, glancing at the oncoming pursuer. "Can we help you?"

     "Not unless you can sprout wings and fly!" the other said. "There is someone onboard that must stay safe! The pirates wish to kill her! We were tasked to keep her safe, but we failed. Unless you can sprout wings and carry her away, she is doomed, and so is our hope." The other ship was slowing, the cannonfire stopping. The pirates knew they had their quarry now.

To be continued...

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