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In The Shadow of the Watch by Barbara E. Walton

In the Shadow of the Watch

by Barbara E. Walton
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Page 1

The city of Unosa reached out into the Grand Lake like a child’s drawing of a tidal wave, curling a protective arm around the harbor. At the end of the arm was the clenched fist of Veza’s Watch, a tower of stone and scrub trees that rose from the narrow end of the sandbar like a dagger. In the rainy season, the Watch was often an island, accessible only to the Sheriffs on their winged steeds, and of course, to the prisoners in the cells that had been carved from its living rock.

It wasn’t rainy season now, and Alitza Kovencer stood on the sandbar, across the harbor from the imposing structure called the Hall of Apprentices. At this early hour, the shadow of the Watch fell across it like a stab wound. She looked away from it and up at the tower, at the seventh window from the top, wondering if there would be a sign for luck, or even an acknowledgement that the Quest was upon her. She wasn’t really expecting it, but it was possible. Anything was when it came to her father.

“I wouldn’t hope for it.”

Alitza turned around to find Maren Uteshi, the Chief Sheriff of Unosa. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man with skin the color of the sand and bright green eyes. He carried a sheathed broadsword and a Sheriff’s dagger. The dagger allowed the Sheriffs simple spells—binding, lighting, and some defense—but was otherwise like any other dagger in Unosa. Maren, on the other hand, wasn’t like any of the other Sheriffs. It was Maren who had arrested Papa, but it had hardly been without reason, and he’d seen to Alitza’s upbringing himself. “I wasn’t hoping,” she said. “Just looking.”

He frowned and looked up at the window himself. “Domin won’t handicap you by reminding the others.” He nodded over his shoulder at the group of teenagers behind him, all bidding their parents farewell before boarding the ship. “Not that they’ll have forgotten. I’m afraid you’ll always be in his shadow. Don’t expect much mercy from them, Alitza. There are only five apprenticeships open this year, and I can assure you, none of them will want you, of all people, to get one of them on your first try. At least one is on his fourth.”

“I don’t want any mercy from them.”

“Good. And you know you’ll get no favoritism from me.”

Alitza didn’t even bother answering this. If anything, Maren would make it harder on her.

He sighed and shook his head. “It’s time to get to the boat,” he said.

Alitza nodded, then turned away from the Watch and from Maren, walking alone to the large knot of people standing by the tall ship with green and gold Unosan sails. She knew Maren would be along, but it wouldn’t do either of them any good if they engaged in tearful goodbyes like everyone else did.

Keeping her eyes focused carefully ahead of her, she nearly ran into the little boy. He seemed lost, and her first thought was that he’d misplaced his older brother. His hair was red and curly, like hers, but somehow managed to appear crisp and neat despite it. He was dressed in the same white tunic as the would-be apprentices, but it wasn’t exactly an unusual style in this heat. She swerved at the last minute, but lost her balance in the uneven sand and fell down hard. A few titters came from the crowd.

The little boy offered his hand, and she took it to pull herself up.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I was in your way.” He raised an eyebrow coolly, and Alitza realized that he’d quite deliberately been where he was. He might be small, but he wasn’t as young as she’d thought. He might well be old enough to remember who she was.

She got up and dusted herself off, turning her back on him without accepting his apology. There was staring and pointing as she shouldered her way through the knot of people, and climbed the gangplank onto the boat. None of the crew made any gesture of welcome, so she simply climbed up onto a barrel and waited.

It took nearly an hour for everyone to make it aboard. Alitza watched them as they came. Most, once out of the safe spheres of their families, adopted a kind of devil-may-care swagger. A few cast their eyes down at the deck. Some seemed lost in thought. Only one seemed at all comfortable—the redheaded boy just sauntered onto the deck, looked around with cool curiosity, spotted Alitza, and came over to her.

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About the Author

Barbara E. Walton

Barbara E. Walton is a writer and librarian living in New Mexico. Her Amazon page is here.

Story Discussion

Stories by Barbara E. Walton

In The Shadow of the Watch by Barbara E. Walton

In the Shadow of the Watch

Alitza scrambled backward until she hit a barrel then pulled herself up on it, trying to keep her feet on the wet and thrashing deck. The serpent caught her movement and turned its head toward her, baring its teeth. Its neck was narrow and writhing, its claws lashing at the ship.

“Alitza!” someone yelled. She couldn’t have responded if she’d wanted to, and didn’t try…

Will Alitza survive? Will she earn one of the coveted Apprenticeships? Find out in this new original fantasy story by Barbara E. Walton, author of Quantum Leap: Odyssey.

Read More

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