Posted by: jolantru | August 2, 2010

Tenth Branch: Hope Runs Eternal

I did not see much of Farhadi. He often retreated into one of the warehouses, perhaps for a bit of solitude, very much like Auri with her jewelry making room. The sting of Fiona’s death had eased a little. We were preparing to move now, packing our belongings. I had grown used to the caravansari, to the rhythms of herds and travellers who dropped in to rest for a couple of days or two before moving into the Innerlands to ply their trade or other business.

News came via traders who passed by the City. The devastation was thorough. Anak Jamu had ceased erupting. Most of the buildings were covered with ash and rubble. Could we go home? Did Josh’s precious she-oak ever survive the eruption?

When will we go home? Auri?

Auri and Josh had begun talking again. We managed to get some time alone, all three of us. Making love in a crowded caravansari was a feat. But we touched, skin to skin, warmth to warmth. Auri washed my hair with the clean water flowing from the blue cistern, her lips on my shoulders. I held Josh against my chest, my arms around his waist. We breathed, allowing our bodies to fall into that beautiful rhythm once more. Breathe in, breathe out. Our chests moving in synchronicity.

I had discovered a little miracle one day, after helping Heri with the chore. The pouch I’d brought from the City, hastily grabbed and stuffed with she-oak seeds held something: a tiny and delicate green shoot, curling forth from an engorged seed. It had somehow managed to germinate. I quickly planted it in soil and watered it faithfully.

Hope is a tiny green shoot with the promise of new life.


Farhadi’s broad figure slipped into the warehouse. It was not much to look at: a plain white building, more like a barn than a warehouse. For me, sea-bred and more used to open spaces, buildings are claustrophobic. I felt closed in, my chest constricted. I gasped, in desperate need of fresh air. Yet Farhadi’s furtiveness intrigued me. What was in the warehouse? Goods? Contraband? I did not know much about Farhadi’s past.

It felt like murky water, with the hint of deeper and darker currents. Treacherous rip-tides.

I wrapped myself with my shawl, another reminder of our flight from the City, thrown in together with a pile of clothing. It had gotten cold.

“I suppose,” Farhadi’s deep voice startled me out of my skin, “I should explain.”


The collection was wildly eclectic and bizarre. Silver rectangular panels cluttered in piles, some with oddly familiar inscriptions. Old Terra Firma writing script, I realized with some amazement. I thought I had seen them before while crossing the Sea of Dead Ships. The old women talked about this writing script at times, commenting on the passing of the old days.

Rows of grey boards embedded small cubes, again with Old Script letters, lined the walls. They were similar to the consoles of silver fishes. There were two long white tubes, glimmering metal cylinders resting on tripods: telescopes. I rolled the word with my tongue. Farhadi showed me how they worked. With them, I could see things from a distance. The mountain ridge suddenly became clear, as if it stood right before me in its marvellous shades of white and blue.

Boxes too, with glass covering them. They looked like fish tanks, only that they were encased with a material Farhadi called ‘plastic’.

“I collect them,” the caravansari owner said simply, “so that I can remember them.”

He led me into another separate room.


It was a silver fish. An abandoned one, lovingly restored to prime working form by Farhadi. It rested in the middle of the grainhouse, surrounded by the rest of the collection like admirers. The light from the fading sun turned the burnished silver casting to vivid gold. I gazed at it, feeling indescribable. Home. First Father. The men hauling basketfuls of oysters into their silver fishes, their arms glistening with sweat, tired after a day’s work.

“I found it one day, resting like a sick bird in the Sea of Dead Ships,” Farhadi explained, showing me around the silver fish. “Sea Goddess make, fairly new, about twenty sun circles old. The pilot must have encountered freak winds or something.”

I peered inside. The consoles and panels were all polished to a shine, including the palm lock: the shape of a five-fingered hand. This lock is where men control the silver fish. The mechanics are never explained to us, only gibberish words like telekinesis and pyrokinesis which make no sense and confuse the listeners even further.

“Go on,” Farhadi nudged me kindly and I could only stare at him dumbly, until I realized that he wanted me to power the silver fish. How did he know…?

My heart was in my throat. All the while I had waited for this moment. Could I possibly power a silver fish? Could I?

I stepped into the silver fish, the suspension creaking slightly as it absorbed my weight. I placed my shaking right hand into the indented palm lock. My temples throbbed. My mouth was dry. I could hear my blood rushing in my body. My magic, my power was going into the silver fish. My knees grew weak and I grabbed the panel in front of me to prevent myself from falling over.

The silver fish shuddered, a tremor coursing along its flanks. A deep rumble vibrated up the soles of my feet, rattling my bones and teeth. Through my closed eyelids, I could see a green light suffusing my hand like a shimmering corona.

I was afraid.

Another tremor, this time more intense, more bone-jarring. The silver fish creaked alarmingly. Suddenly, I felt myself going… up.

Nausea overwhelmed me then. Vertigo.The world spun. There was a loud metallic rattle, my spine feeling the jarring impact. My barely-healed side throbbed painfully.

Farhadi helped me down the silver fish. My legs were jelly. I hung onto the silvery side. Auri was at the door, a knowing smile on her lips.



  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joyce Chng (JDamask), Lyn Thorne-Alder. Lyn Thorne-Alder said: RT @jolantru Tenth Branch added: #sff #weblit […]

  2. hello all the best have a gud new year

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