Around four decades ago, on a cool spring morning on the quiet island of Renryre, a young lady awoke from her slumber…
A commotion downstairs startled her, ending a night of sweet dreams, beginning a day that would see her life change forever. Of course, she didn’t know that, all she knew was that there was an unfamiliar noise coming from below. Nothing to get too upset about, she supposed, after all, nothing of much interest ever happened on Renryre Island.
Nelysse climbed out of bed, sacrificing the warm covers for the cool draught sliding in through the old warped wooden windows. She searched her closet for her best outfit; she wouldn’t show herself downstairs in anything less, even if it was her own home, which it was. Nor could she enter the ground floor bakery underdressed, even if was her own store, which it was.
Once dressed, and satisfied that her hair was tied perfectly, she began applying her make-up. Despite the ongoing disturbance below, she made sure that she would look her best when she discovered the cause; it was the proper thing to do.
Finally, she began her descent down the two flights of stairs to the bakery. She entered through the rear doorway, and discovered the bakery was open as usual. Her mother stood behind the counter, her head held high, her nose raised to the appropriate angle above the horizon.
Also in the bakery, a gentleman was inspecting a set of silver trays laid to rest on one side. Evidently, he reached a decision that he rather liked the trays, and with a quick glance and a sly grin, he ran out of the door, disappearing into the street, with the trays neatly stacked under his arm.
“Mother,” said Nelysse, “I believe that young gentleman has robbed us.”
“Nonsense, I suspect he only needed to borrow those trays for a time,” concluded her mother.
“Did he happen to mention how long he intended to keep them?”
“He didn’t. I suspect the matter was rather urgent, and given his lack of time, he was unable to explain the situation.”
Nelysse stood still for a long while, her eyes fixed on her mother, who kept her own stature proper, as always, just in case someone were to catch her eyeline pointing below the horizon. Nelysse was about to say something more when another gentleman entered the store. He too appeared to be in rather a hurry, his eyes hastily scanning the bakery.
“May I help you, good sir?” asked Nelysse.
He flashed a savage grin, but refrained from speaking. He continued searching for whatever he needed, which evidently wasn’t in the display room. He pushed his way into the kitchen, and soon emerged with a handful of silverware. Without stopping to discuss the terms of the loan, he too vanished out of the entranceway, and into the calm streets of the city of Helen’s Bay.
“Mother. I rather suspect that gentleman doesn’t intend to return those goods.”
“Nonsense, girl! There hasn’t been a crime in Helen’s Bay for forty years, or even on Renryre Island for that matter. The Chief Commissioner has made certain of that! The city watch does little more than patiently wait to be called upon, perhaps on the occasion where a visitor from the mainland ponders committing a crime.”
“Yes, Mother, I understand all that,” said Nelysse. “But I am having a difficult time understanding why these two gentleman elected to borrow our possessions without prior discussion.”
“Well…” hesitated her mother, “there have in fact been a few more than two this morning who required items on short notice, and without any official arrangement.”
Nelysse glanced around, for the first time noticing that the bakery appeared fairly sparse.
“And you have just stood here doing nothing? All morning?”
“There hasn’t been a crime in—”
“Yes, I can see that!” she snapped, barely able to retain a proper composure.
Nelysse hurried out as quickly as her uncomfortable dress allowed her, the wide bottom frame bending as she forced it through the doorway. On the street, she noticed a gentleman leaving the blacksmith’s next door with a large forge hammer. He was struggling to hold it, his arms skinny and weak.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said, “why are you borrowing a hammer?”
The man looked confused, his eyes darting between her and the worn tool in his hands.
“Borrowing…?” he queried.
Nelysse noted there were plenty of other people on the streets, many of them carrying equipment that usually belonged in shops.
“Sir, what is going on, may I ask?”
He shuffled nervously, struggling to hold the hammer up.
“Take a look for yourself,” he said. “Go down to the beach or the docks, and have a look at the mainland.”
He attempted to run off, but almost immediately dropped the tool. He hesitated for a moment, and then appeared to decide that he no longer needed such a cumbersome hammer.
Nelysse, intrigued and confused by the morning’s events, made off towards the coast as fast as her high-heels could carry her over the cobblestone road, following the gentleman’s advice. Usually she would inform her mother beforehand, but her memory failed her and proper procedure diminished.
She soon arrived at the water’s edge, a quiet beach at the outer edge of Helen’s Bay. There were numerous citizens standing around, nervously chattering in their groups. She noticed a gap between the various groups, where a young man lay sleeping on the cold stony ground. Beside him was a puddle of vomit, and she rather suspected she detected the odour of urine. The poor man was clearly unwell, yet everybody ignored him.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said, prodding him with her foot. “Are you alright?”
“Piss off!” he moaned.
“Well, I…” she exclaimed, discovering she lacked the vocabulary to answer appropriately.
Instead, she turned away, and walked towards the sea wall, head held high. As she gazed out over the water, the events from the moment before vanished into history. Searching for the sprawling cities and the snow-topped mountains that made up the coast of the mainland, she soon noted something was missing. In fact, it was all missing: there was no mainland! All she could see was a vast open ocean.
Dumbfounded, she searched again and again, certain that her eyes were deceiving her, or that her imagination had taken control of her senses. Finally, she turned her attention to folk standing nearby, all of them showing the same perplexed expression she imagined she was displaying.
“Excuse me, sir,” she said to the nearest gentleman, “where exactly is the mainland?”
He looked back at her with an incredulous expression.
“How the hell should I know?” he demanded rather rudely. “Do you think I did something to it?”
“I meant no offence, sir…”
Just then, a little boy no older than six slipped his hand into the gentleman’s pocket, removed a bloated leather purse, turned, and ran off back into town.
“You little bastard!” shouted the man as he gave chase.
Nelysse selected another person to direct her questions towards.
“Why is everybody acting so strangely?” she asked a rather unkempt lady wearing a dark scarlet dress.
“You didn’t hear? Commissioner and his lads were off on training, right. On the mainland, you see. It’s why I was working last night, understand. But then, as it turns out, they didn’t come back last night, if you follow.”
She shrugged, pointing out into the ocean.
“What? There are no city watchmen left in Helen’s Bay?” asked Nelysse.
“Not even that little cowardly one that would rather take a peek than shake you down for wearing a tight little dress, if you get me.”
The lady appeared disproportionally pleased, she was grinning and winking, and Nelysse wasn’t convinced she did get her, at least not all the time. Just then, the little boy ran back, and jumped onto the sea wall. He held a crooked wooden branch in his hand, and raised it to the sky.
“The reign of Tailfin begins!” he yelled, and then ran off into the crowd, wildly swinging his stick.
He vanished as quickly as he’d arrived, and the crowd returned their attention to the sea as if nothing had happened.
Nelysse considered the events of the morning: the suspected crimes committed in town, the disappearance of the mainland, the unfortunate lack of city watchmen. She sighed as she gave up her search for any sign of the mainland on the horizon.
“I rather suspect,” she said to nobody in particular, “that things will be a little different from now on.”
I hope you enjoyed reading Renryre Island Prologue
Next, Chapter I: The Bloodied Sands.
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