[This is a multi-part story. If you’d like to read it in order, follow this list. Thanks!
As the painted warriors surrounded her, their faces and bodies marked with fierce death symbols, Liana knew terror for the first time in her twenty years. She wished she had perished in the volcano’s flames with the rest of her people; it would surely have been preferable to this horror. She had escaped nature’s wrath only to jeopardize the life of the baby she supposedly carried at the hands of strangers.
The largest warrior approached her, black and red claws painted in slashes across his forehead and cheeks. His eyes glittered in the glare of the sun.
“This is warrior’s ground. Women are not allowed on Scorpion Rock,” he announced in a slightly unfamiliar language, but Liana understood him.
“It was an error,” she said. “I humbly beg your forgiveness. I was lost and then the storm came.”
“First, a murmuration,” he said.
“Then a lightning storm mid-morning,” said another.
“Comes a rainbow,” a third joined in.
The large warrior held up his hands to the sun. “And then the goddess appears.”
They all stared at her.
Liana stayed silent.
“How did you get that canoe?” the first one asked her.
“I don’t know,” she lied, since she didn’t know if the truth would help her or make things worse. “I seem to have no memory before today. I awoke floating in a boat in the sea and it drifted here.”
“She knew to tie it out of sight,” one muttered, his shaved head painted with white bones. The leader gestured, and the men huddled together and spoke low among themselves. Liana couldn’t make out their words. She knew her outcome rested upon this conversation however.
The sun beat upon her as she waited for them to finish deciding her fate. Sweat trickled from her head down her neck and between her breasts. She felt conscious of the thin fabric of her light dress, the one she’d been wearing for three days now, ever since the morning she’d brought the coconut bread to Benji, the blind oracle, and he’d urged her to leave their home island. She remembered the beautiful waterfall on her lost island, where she liked to bathe. That was where she and Ken had first…
The warriors separated and resumed their aggressive stance, surrounding her, spears stabbed into the sand between their thick legs. From their impassive faces, Liana could not tell what they had decided to do with her.
“We will take you to our Queen,” the large one said. “She will decide if you are a goddess or an imposter. If the gods have sent you to bring us luck, you will be kept safe and treasured. If not…”
Skeleton Head laughed and licked his lips. His eyes were bright with an unholy hunger that gave Liana shivers in the sunshine as his dark gaze traveled up and down her body.
“Ray,” the warrior in charge said to him, “you will take the girl back in your boat. Ando will go beside you in her canoe.”
Liana tried not to show fear as Ray moved eagerly toward her. Of course, now that her luck had turned all bad, she would have to travel with him. She’d rather try her fate with the sharks. As he roughly grasped her arm, she decided she would dive off his boat at the first opportunity.
The commander spoke again. “She will not be harmed. In any way.”
Ray nodded as he pulled Liana along. His fingers dug painfully into the flesh of her upper arm, despite the warning. They arrived back at the beach, and he pointed to his boat. Wordlessly, she got in, seeing no other choice at the moment. Ando appeared with the tiny canoe Benji had given her.
As the men rowed out, Liana watched the warrior island grow smaller with the tide. Unlike her home island that had flamed out dramatically when she had left it, this one merely faded from view. She glanced over at Ando, but he didn’t look at her. In contrast, Ray leered at her nonstop, which was making her feel sick. Liana was not accustomed to either hostility or lechery and didn’t know how to cope with such vile behavior.
Nausea roiled up from her belly as his gaze stayed on her until Liana was forced to lean over the side of the boat and retch. When finished, she drank from the flask of water at her side as Ray smirked, his grin menacing in that tangle of painted bones.
“Goddesses don’t get seasick,” he said. He picked up a knife, and in one smooth movement, stood and flung it in the middle of Ando’s back. The other man softly slumped to the side, unbalancing the canoe, which tipped over and disappeared.
[to be continued]
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