My first story for Crayon Bingo! In my Things Unspoken ‘Verse.
The necklace had traveled a very long way, over the course of what Hideria thought was probably nearly a century.
It was gorgeous, as a matter of course; it had been owned by the Dowager Queen of Kelanthia, who was renowned for having excellent taste, and it had been stolen by the Pirate Duchess of the Golden Sea, who had very expensive tastes, if not quite always so excellent.
And it shone from the inside out with a sort of magical glow that only some people – and presumably the Pirate Duchess had been one of them – could see.
It was made of black coral, the sort of thing you never found anywhere outside of the Northern Sea, and the sort of thing that was punishable by death in at least three cities on that sea to remove from its waters.
But not in Scheffenon. No, there was much that was not illegal in Scheffenon, and among those things was the theft – no, Hideria corrected herself, that was judgmental thinking and not what she needed right now – the taking of the corals out of the Northern sea.
She had acquired the piece because it sang to her, and it sang to her because she had the sort of ears that could hear, as her mother had once said. She would have made a very good agent of the empire, but her interests lay elsewhere, and she (and her mother and her mother’s mother) had gone to great lengths to convince the Empire’s service of that.
Getting the necklace had taken her three years. She had broken laws in many cities, bent several Imperial laws and regulations, and ended up on the wrong side of two police forces – but that, in her line of avocation, was nothing all that new. Now she had it; she’d managed to get out of the city she’d taken it from, and she was riding on horse-back because, in her experience, the relay stables were far more understanding about things like “I seem to have misplaced my paperwork” and “My name is Joanna Sea,” that is, “I don’t want to give you a proper name but I’m not going to make you pretend I’m giving you a real name, either.”
Stagecoaches liked their paperwork. The railways pretty much insisted on such things. The relays, however, did a brisk business in providing transportation for people who were, for one definition or another, like Hideria.
The horse under her was worth what she’d paid for it. It moved almost like a machine, smooth and well-oiled and without stopping.
She did her part, whispering the oldest songs in its ears when she stopped to water it, giving it the breaks it needed, patting it down and telling it how lovely it was. And in turn, when she told it she needed more running, right now, it obliged her willingly.
The running was because of some local polizia. She was probably still fine with the Emperor’s agents and sheriffs and soldiers. While she had bent some laws and broken some others – she always bent and broke laws, because the laws weren’t really made for people who did what she did – when it came down to it, she would walk up to the Emperor himself and tell him what she’d done, and have no fear nor shame.
But the polizia, they were a different matter, and so she – and the horse – ran.
When she had to trade the beast in at a way-stable, she thanked it, and patted it down herself, and paid the stable extra. She did not stay in the inn there – too many traceable elements – but in another one, off of her route and out of the jurisdiction of the specific polizia she was concerned with (or who were concerned with her).
While she slept, the necklace sang to her. It told her of the deep, dark sea, and the dark, sharp creatures one might find there. It told her of whole homes and castles under the waters, where one could be Queen, for a price. It told her of cast wealth hidden just under the edges of those underwater cliffs, where if one could hold one’s breath long enough, one could be wealthier than anyone had any right to be.
She woke in the wee hours with the urge to run into the water and fling herself into its depths, and wondered how the Dowager Queen of Kelanthia or the Pirate Duchess of the Golden Sea had managed to stay alive, wearing this thing, holding it.
She stroked its rough edges. “I’m taking you home of my own volition,” she told it softly. “I choose to return you. You needn’t take me under with you.”
The necklace quieted, and she could, for a little while, sleep.
And in the morning, she was on the run again.
The Empire was huge. It spanned the continent and then some, save a couple pockets of resistance that were allowed to continue, likely because they were too far away and too isolated to be properly subjugated. Hideria had a long way to go to get to Scheffenon.
And the necklace sang to her the entire time.
It told her of riches and power. It told her of owning the sun, of climbing to the moon. It sang to her until she muffled it in silk, in burlap, in the most magic-proof box she could find.
Still it sang.
Her riding became more frenzied. She slept only a few hours a night. She hurried, hurried, to bring the necklace to its home, to put it back in the Northern Sea.
Still the necklace sang to her. It told her of bloody death, of violence, of starvation. It told her of riding off of a cliff, of being eaten by a bear, of being captured by the polizia and never released, forgotten in some dank, dark cell somewhere. It told her of being helpless, of being lost, of being nothing.
After a week of riding, she stopped sleeping altogether.
After four days of that, she started seeing things out of the corners of her eyes, monsters and gods and piles of gold.
On the fifth day, she rode into Scheffenon.
She finally understood, but it would do no good for the necklace. She had finally realized what it wanted.
It sang to her of the end of every thing, and she rented a boat and rowed out into the sea. It told her she would drown out here, wanting for gold, wanting for riches. Still she rowed.
It screamed in her ears and she stoppered them with cotton, knowing it would do no good.
Deep, deep into the Northern sea the black coral dropped, and even then she could still hear the singing.
Hideria collapsed in her boat and slept until a fishing scow found her.
“It didn’t want to be returned,” she told the fisherman. “It liked being out in the world. It liked spreading its poison. But now it’s gone.”
The fisherman patted her shoulder, understanding all too well. After all, he’d come of age on the Northern sea. “For now,” he assured her. “It’s gone for now.”
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