The Salt Box
170 pages

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170 pages

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A pristine planet is about to undergo a terrible change. Hepitia, the Star Goddess, watches a spaceship careen out of control through her galaxy. Embroiled in an old quarrel with her goddess sisters, Hepitia allows the ship to crash land on a green and silver planet, knowing it will unleash chaos where Arianhod and Ulyia rule. Augustus carries the last of his species in the spacecraft. They crash on a forested hill the natives consider a god-place. Before long Augustus finds the planet is unlike anything he’s ever experienced. Megaliths stand silent in the forest. Strange beings flit in and out of their vision. There are strange water-filled portals to the goddesses’ Otherworld. When a young man of the planet and a daughter of Augustus’ people disappear, the two species come together to search for their lost ones. When they locate Ruulf and Isabeaux, what will they find? Who will live and who will die?



Publié par
Date de parution 18 novembre 2015
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781772997675
Langue English

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The Salt Box By Kathyrn Pym Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-1-77145-527-5 MOBI 978-1-77145-526-8 PDF 978-1-77145-525-1
Copyright 2015 by Katherine Berryman Cover art by Michelle Lee Copyright 2015 Kll rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any mean s (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book * * * Dedication For Stella
Prologue The moment Arianhod, the great Mother Goddess, drea ded had arrived. She could no longer deny the coming signs of the new era whic h would bring violence—her realm’s destruction. She plaited her thick golden hair to keep her hands steady. Arianhod straightened her gown of emerald green, silver and mother-of-pea rl. She stood and paced among her elegant furnishings. A wet clamor neared and Arianh od turned. Her sister splashed into the gilded chamber. “What is so important that you sent several messengers to find me?” With a sigh, Arianhod regarded Ulyia, the Shimmerin g Goddess of the Oceans. She was the lovely one who enjoyed jewels on her finery , her gills decorated with sea gems. Ulyia’s vivid green eyes glowed in a pale face fram ed with long, silver hair. Ulyia was Arianhod’s favorite sister. They had far more in common than with their sister of the night skies. Arianhod tried to smile but failed. “Those who will bring our destruction have entered Hepitia’s realm.” “No!” Ulyia cried. “We must find good leaders to guide our people out of the chaos.” Arianhod folded her arms in front of her. “I have found one but I c annot see the other. A shroud obscures her.” This blindness filled Arianhod with disquiet, for it could mean one thing — a loss of power. Ulyia paced, the cloak of fish film floating around her. “I refuse to believe the end is near.” She flung about like a storm and water flowe d on the floor. “As goddesses we should be able to change this course of ruin. We ar e strong, vital. Where is our sister? She should stop this immediately.” Hepitia’s strident laugh sliced through the walls. Arianhod prepared for the bright glare that always accompanied her sister’s entrance . She stiffened and closed her eyes. Brilliant flashes of star-gems encrusted on Hepitia ’s gown singed their flesh when she stepped into their midst. “This is my fault is it? You may as well say it.” Her hot eyes glittered. Ulyia faced their sister of the stars. “You could h ave used your power to stop them but you did not. Do you still hold that old rancor in your heart?” The Star Goddess regarded them with disdain. “I was enjoying myself but you ruined it. And yes, I still resent what you did. Yo u have always preferred each other’s company while I am on the periphery.” “You did this to yourself.” Arianhod paced. Her hea vy skirts of mother-of-pearl swept the floor. “No one can tolerate your cold arrogance .” “Please halt their course.” Ulyia spread her arms i n appeal. “Direct them elsewhere. You have so many other worlds.” “Even as our realms are destroyed, yours will remai n untouched,” Arianhod said in a dull tone. “Our powers will diminish, allowing you to break the enchantment. You will be able to cast your charms on the god brothers while we,” she waved her hand to indicate Ulyia and herself, “will disappear into the mists.” Seemingly unmoved, Hepitia raised her chin. “Then l et it be so.” Ulyia plucked a sky-gem from her floating mantle an d threw it at Hepitia. “You gifted this to me when you were kinder. Now, you have no h eart.” Tears flowed. Water whipped through Arianhod’s chamber.
When the water receded, Hepitia remained beautiful, untouched. Her twinkling eyes flared. “Your attempts to quench me will not work. I am the eldest, the strongest. I will last forever while you will not.” She shrugged. “It is time for a new era.” Arianhod’s soul sagged with weariness. “Chaos and b itterness will rule this new era. Is that what you want?” She shook her head. “You ar e about to destroy the essence of who we are.” “You will not be completely destroyed, only pushed into the mists.” Hepitia smiled grimly. In spite of Hepitia’s callousness, Arianhod would n ot give up. The people of this world expected her protection. “We will fight you,” she warned. Ulyia raised her arms. “I will drown you out.” Water rushed and swirled about the chamber. The walls bulged. The sisters glared at each other in mute stubbornne ss. Arianhod’s throne room collapsed; the floor gave way. Hepitia threw her head back and laughed as they plu nged into frozen darkness.
Chapter One Captain Augustus watched his crew strain against th e instrument panels, and knew his old spaceship was doomed. Shaped like a conical seashell, it sped through a new galaxy, spinning around and around. Stars were stre aks of light outside the portholes. Augustus dragged his fascinated gaze from the elong ated stars streaming by and turned to his own instrument panel that buzzed and squawked. His ears rang with the crew’s struggle, and over the intercom, passengers cried as they clung to their families. His was the last ship to escape the destruction of their home planet, and after all his troubles, Augustus refused to believe this was the end. His old Nelly was made of stern stuff, reinforced with I-beams and carbon fiber tha t would hold it together. What was left of his species had to survive. Sputtering on the last vestiges of fuel, the gravit ational pull of a green and silver planet had snagged his ship like a tight vise. Augu stus sighed, for even as Nelly fought against the strong pull, it was time to find new su stenance. Freeze dried foods wouldn’t last indefinitely. He stared helplessly at the gaug es in front of him, and prayed the crash wouldn’t crush the hull too badly. He heaved a breath and pressed the intercom button. “All hands, prepare for a rough landing. Strap yourselves tight, and keep you r children close. We’ve found our new home.” After he turned off the microphone, fear bled throu gh the walls of the ship like hands grasping him around the neck and Augustus shuddered . In his mind’s eye, children buried their heads in their parents’ coats while ot hers closed their eyes and waited for the crash. It came suddenly. Powerless, Augustus watched through the main viewin g screen as the craft dove through the thick atmosphere of a silver and green planet. The vessel shivered and shook but the heatshield held. Suddenly, they slice d through a field of silvery, green grass then plunged into a thick wood of tall trees. The ship skidded on its smooth sides through underbrush, saplings, and stout bushes unti l it came to a halt at the edge of the tree line. The scrapes against the outer hull stopped. The shi p’s instruments that had produced comforting whistles and mechanical whirs s puttered to silence. Augustus blinked, not expecting this utter quiet. With no in struments working to indicate what they had landed on, whom they might see, Augustus felt l ost, alone. Vulnerable. He shook himself from these ridiculous thoughts, re leased the straps that bound him, and looked around. His crew seemed unhurt, who le. He breathed deeply and reached for the intercom, wondering if it still wor ked. His hands shook as he pressed the button. Static, a good sign. Augustus cleared his throat, then faced the microph one. “Well, we’re on a terra-firma of some sort, and our little ship is still in tact. I’ll need injury and damage reports. Everyone stay calm. Out.” Second Captain Gerald climbed to his feet and hunch ed over the instrument panel. “Instruments are back on, so damage must be minimal , but I’ll do a diagnostic.” Voices with reports piled on top of each other from the intercom. Augustus smiled. His crew advised there were no deaths or serious in juries, but their squawks indicated the ship would never fly again.
He turned to Second Captain Gerald. “Before gravity pulled us in, your quick readings showed this a habitable planet.” Second Captain nodded, still gazing at the instrume nts. “Aye, sir, this planet has a breathable atmosphere, liquid water, and is of mode rate temperature.” “But what sort of life?” Augustus softly asked. Second raised his gaze to Augustus. “We’ll find out , won’t we? Our species must adjust if we are to continue.” The door to the bridge opened. Gemma and Isabeaux r ushed to Second and hugged him, babbling relief they were all safe. It was against protocol to have family or friends on the bridge, but for once Augustus ignore d it. Usually a stern taskmaster, Second melted whenever his wife and daughter came n ear him. They deserved a moment. What remained of their race had been through hell, and still lived. Head Chief Doss entered the bridge. Augustus groane d, for the man was a snake. “Get off my bridge. Only first crew is allowed.” Doss gave him an arrogant sneer. “You’ve let Gerald ’s family up here, and as primary chief, I will go wherever I want. I have th e power to enter your private quarters and you know it.” “What do you want?” Augustus demanded. “As your commander, I will be part of the decisions on this new planet. You will include me in all matters.” Augustus shoved down his irritation. Doss had crawl ed aboard his vessel after the real head chief and aides were killed. In an instant their leaders, their world, all dead. He frowned, and hit the intercom button. “We are sa fe, and I will take a landing party to explore. Everyone else remain aboard. Second Cap tain Gerald will be in charge.” “Now, wait a second,” snapped Doss. “As your leader, I expect to go along.” Augustus shook his head. “As temporary leader of wh at is left of us, you must remain behind. You’ll be safer.” Doss grabbed his arm. “You will take me with you.” Augustus shrugged from his grasp. The seeding of their galaxy had sprouted violent ra ces. Even though this new world was light-years away from their dead planet, the na tives might be of similar temperament. Once they learned of Doss’ arrogance a nd cruelty, they might kill him. Augustus grinned. One can only hope. “You will address me with respect,” Doss demanded, his eyes narrowed. “I am your leader.” Augustus raised a brow. “I did not elect you. No on e did. You weren’t even selected.” “I was tenth in line. When everyone disintegrated, I remained standing, therefore I am here.” Augustus grunted. “Second Captain Gerald, attend to this man.” * * * Elder Thorse sat on a stool with his back against t he outside wall of his house. He raised his face to the sun and let warmth fill his being. He closed his eyes and smiled.
Near him, the villagers and their children bustled about their houses made of sapling branches and flowers, or threw small seashells onto the gaming grid, laughing when their shell hit its mark. The ocean’s gentle surf b eside their village sang calm songs and sweetened the air. He allowed pleasant thoughts to trundle across his mind, much better than the recent dreams that plagued him. Last night’s still vibrated deep within his soul. In exquisite, dark detail, a bright flash of light rip ped through the dusky skies to land in their god-wood that sat darkly above the village. Thorse sighed. The spirits of their planet must kno w of a coming disruption, too, for of late, tremors of unease moved the ground beneath his feet. The blanket of protection had changed. The pearls and mist that kept the vill age safe during the night had altered its colors. Whatever came would forever disturb their way of life. Suddenly, a vivid spot blazed across his closed lid s and he opened his eyes. So close to his dream, the flash of light fell from th e sky, near blinding him. He covered his face with his hands as the brightness plummeted into the forest above the village. Dust and debris exploded above the treetops, boilin g toward the sky. The mysterious light that could only be an angry deity thundered its way across the god-wood and skidded toward their side of the hill. Thorse leaped to his feet as a cloud of sticks and leaves dropped back into the wood. His grown son, Owyn, ran to him and grabbed h is arm. When the bitter churning stopped, the world paused. Soft groans from the flora in the wood rolled down the hill, growing louder as it neared the village. Cries of acute pain pierced the ir hearts. Owyn moaned and Thorse quaked at the carnage in a place where only the god desses walked. His villagers ran to him, fear in their wide, silve r-rimmed eyes. Children clung to their mothers while great silver tears dripped down their cheeks, clinking solid onto the pebbles at their feet. “What is amiss?” Owyn asked while staring up the hi ll. “What has come to us from the heavens?” Thorse followed his gaze toward the forest. “I know not.” The strongest and bravest of men feared the god-woo ds, fraught with especially mean tempered foliage whose purpose it was to prote ct all that lay hidden there. The tops of trees shook from distress, boding ill. “But we will soon find out,” he finished. The villagers gathered behind Thorse and Owyn. They climbed the hill through the green grasses that waxed softly in the breezes, but they did not go into the wood. An event such as this had niggled along Thorse’s sp ine since youth. He should have realized the dreams of late foretold a great c hange was near. This deity that had thundered into their midst was predestined. Surely, their great Mother Goddess must know of these new gods who had entered her wood. Inside the bushy barrier, something hummed and buzz ed like swarming insects, then with a loud gasp it stopped. Thorse and the vi llagers held their breath. Even the trilling of birds whimpered silent. A ragged whirring noise broke the silence. Thorse a nd his villagers stretched their necks toward the trees and waited. A large door opened in the thick brush, the doorway to and from the gods’ kingdom. Soon, big deities emerged. They were thickly built with heavy brow ridges. Their skin
seemed dense. A heavy odor of confinement emanated from them, and something else Thorse could not define. Perhaps, he smelled a type of spice. With astonishment, Thorse and the village people st ared, while these new beings regarded them. No one spoke.
ChapterTwo Captain Augustus gay werezed at the indigenous people of their new home. The small and ethereal. They looked at him with big, si lver-rimmed eyes, and their perfectly formed bodies seemed to waver in the sunlight. He h adn’t known what to expect, a species similar to his or not, but their appearance came as a pleasant surprise. It was a relief to be on solid ground again. The ai r and flora smelled fresh after their long trip. He smiled. His ship had been one of few to escape the death th roes of their world. Speeding out of orbit and harm’s way he had taken a chance a nd looked back. It still staggered him to realize how close they’d come to annihilatio n. Only moments after they had left the gravitational pull of the planet, a shift in sp ace vibrated through the ship with its destruction. It had happened so fast, he couldn’t b elieve his eyes. In the glare of the sun, his home planet drifted dead, a charred lump o f coal. His throat had closed at the finality of it, his pa rents and sisters all gone in the blink of an eye. His marriage hadn’t worked and he never had children which gave him freedom to travel the galaxies, all the while his h ome planet inched toward annihilation. Sometimes, when on leave, he wished for someone clo se, but now, he was glad to be alone. Augustus shrugged off the sadness in his heart. He would face the future and guide the remnants of his people to safety. It had been a hell of a trip packed with civilians who, because they’d paid dear for their narrow berths, felt they had the right to dic tate everything from how he should steer the ship to who could have first choice of freeze-d ried foods. He’d gone through a nightmare, but the trip was over, thank God. Augustus nodded as an elderly man of the planet ste pped forward and raised his arms in welcome. Suddenly, the old man fell to his knees in reverence, the people behind him following suit. What’s this? It looked a s if… Doss sidled up to him. “They’re bowing to us. They must consider us gods.” He grinned. Augustus narrowed his eyes and regarded Doss who wa tched the people prostrated before them. Oblivious to his regard, Doss smirked, his face filled with anticipation. “If you do anything to these people, I’ll wring you r neck.” Augustus considered it a shame the guy didn’t die with the rest of their spe cies. Doss laughed. “Who, me? They are clearly primitive which equates to small brains. Naïve, too, if they think we are gods.” He pointed. “They’re small with little substance. You can almost see through them.” Doss’ lips curled in derision. Augustus stepped from the ship’s hatch through a ta ngle of bushes and onto a grassy hill. It was time to greet the natives of th is planet. Bending down, he tapped the elderly one on the shou lder. “Please rise. I am Augustus, and we are not gods.” The people of the planet gave him blank stares. He turned to a crewman and saw Second Captain Gerald’s wife. “Gemma, hand me a tra nslator. Maybe, that will help.” She dug in a pocket and handed him the device. He t urned it on. The translator beeped and whistled, and the natives gasped in fear . Their eyes wide, they pulled themselves to their feet and scampered in a clump d own the hill. “Greetings, I am Captain Augustus.” He spoke into o ne end of the translator and his voice came clearly out the other end.
It cheered him when these new people raised their h eads in wonder. They seemed to understand his words. He pointed upward. “We hav e come from the sky to this world, and cannot return. We must live here, now. Will you share this lovely planet with us? We will do you no harm.” He stepped forward and ext ended his hand. He wondered if the natives would understand this simple form of gr eeting. They shrank away from him and Augustus frowned. * * * Stunned they had come from where the sky-gems spark led, Elder Thorse listened to the leader of the gods speak through the box. He regarded the thing in this new god’s hand with caution. It could strike them with death or madness like a sith-fey enchantment. Where was the great Mother Goddess? She should be h ere to greet them. With their arrival so sudden, perhaps she had been taken unawares. Thorse was weak, unable to take care of these new gods on his own. Of course, he and those of the village would honor the new deities. They must not anger them but ominous fear held Thorse in its thra ll. Their faces, the colors that emanated from them said much without words. Muddy h ues showed not all were good. He heaved a breath and took a step toward the one w ith the voice machine. His colors were more clearly defined. He would be easier to ho nor. The god extended his hand. Thorse stared at the hand, not knowing what it mean t. He bowed. “I am Elder Thorse. Where would you have us build your houses? Ours are small and too humble for such as you.” His eyes widened, for although ga rble poured from the machine, the deity seemed to understand him. Augustus laughed. “You do not have to do anything. We will stay on this hill, and build our houses with the gear we brought.” He moti oned behind him. “Have everyone come out and meet the natives of our new home.” In dismay, Thorse and his villagers squeezed togeth er. More gods than they could count spilled out the sacred portal at the tree lin e. Men, women and children, all tall and gangly, their skin opaque, stepped onto the grasses . Their eyes sank into rounded heads. They had a great deal of hair, too. Even the squalling baby in a woman’s arms was hairy. With more gods before them, the strange smell of spice was stronger. He lowered his eyes. “Of course you must stay on th e hill. It is a god-place where you will see many things.” Augustus smiled. “We are not gods. We will take car e of you, be your guides to our technology. It will please you to step out of your primitive state and transcend into ours.” Another deity stepped forward; his colors radiated darkly. “Don’t worry, old man.” He jutted out his jaw. “We will live with you and your people, on this land and sea.” He gazed around then faced them, again. “And we will m ake it better.” Thorse stared at him. He did not understand some of his words. “What is a-a sseee?” “Sea?” Augustus seemed confused. He pointed to thei r ocean. “There. The great expanse of silver water at the edge of your village . That is a sea.” “It is our ocean with many fruits.” Thorse said with a nod of his head.
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