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   Chapter 5 Acceptance

The Curse of Kalaan By Linda Saint Jalmes Characters: 22835

Updated: 2018-05-18 10:14

Kalaan was feeling queasy, and becoming conscious of the pain riddling his body as he slowly came out of the nightmare induced fog. In the nightmare he was continually fighting off the harpies, in a never-ending battle. He fought, succumbed, and came back to life, only to die again. Good God! It was infuriating to never triumph over women, especially as the confrontation was purely an illusion! Damned fever-induced hallucinations! The young man could find no other explanation. Never in his furthest memories could he find a time when an illness made him suffer so.

As Kalaan cleared away the last of the cobwebs that were clouding his mind; he heard two familiar voices, ringing in his ears. Salam and Lil' Louis must be standing very near and they had succeeded in getting him out of the building. Well done! If only he could open his eyes to see his surroundings and see where he was. But his eyelids were too heavy to lift. Opening them was beyond his capacity. One thing was certain, however. He wasn't lying on sand.

"Tanfoeltr1! It looks like Ar sorserez2 summoned the winds te bring us home rapidly!" The old sea dog was practically singing with joy.

"This ship does have a soul. It is doing everything possible to save its captain, " replied Salam.

Save me? From what? And why are we at sea?

These questions ran through Kalaan's mind but he couldn't open his mouth and was completely disorientated by what he'd heard. As hard as he tried, his body was no longer his to control. And yet he could feel everything; the swaying and heaving of the ship as it rode the waves confirmed what his friends said.

"We're making good time. We'll soon be past the coast of Sardinia." From what Kalaan could hear, the old sailor was looking at old maritime maps as he spoke.

"Is that good?"

"Verrrrrry good, " exclaimed Lil' Louis rolling his 'r's. "Only five weeks o' sailin' 'n we're 'ome!"

Kalaan's mind was now completely clear and he started to calculate how much time he'd spent in the terrible dream. Four weeks, counting the journey from Amarna to Alexandria on the Horus and the time it took to reach the sea on the frigate Ar sorserez.

The last day he could remember was November 7th at Tell el-Amarna, with Champollion. He could remember everything — the edifice, the long narrow tunnel, the chamber with is golden walls and...the black pyramid shaped stone. If his calculations were correct today would be the 5th or 6th of December and, if indeed the winds were favorable, they would reach the Isle of Croz during the first half of January 1829.

He tried to say something, but when he opened his mouth the only sound that came out was a high-pitched croak. It felt like he was hoarse or was just recovering from a synanche3. Apparently no one else heard it. But what was happening to his beautiful husky voice?

Lil' Louis sighed and rolled up the maps. "Oy hope the lad can 'ang on until then. We can't keep feeding him bouillon for much longer. He'll lose all his strength and…"

"The man is a lion. He proved it many times over in Egypt. If all the transformations haven't killed him yet, he will survive."

What transformations And why haven't they heard me? Kalaan was raging inside and trying to muster the strength to regain control of his body.

"I am more worried about the rest of the crew's behavior, " added Salam who, if the count's ears were not deceiving him, had moved across the rug closer to Kalaan's berth.

"Ya, sur4. And who could blame them? They're afraid of the curse. Those who were with us at Amarna saw their captain transform with their own eyes. Ever since, there has been talk of little else on the decks and in the cabins."

This was simply too much!! Kalaan managed to open his eyes and turn his head on the pillow. He could make out two silhouettes in the lamplight. It was night.

"What trans…formations..." he managed to get the words out, but instead of his normal, deep voice, he sounded like a duck having its neck wrung.

His two friends froze and rushed to his bedside.

"Elkent!"5 It is about time ye returned to the land of the living!" Lil' Louis could not hide his joy.

"Ahlan, 6 my friend." Salam's greeting, though more reserved was accompanied by a huge smile that said more than any words.

The blue man was still wearing his Tuareg clothes, but he had lowered the strip of his cheich, which usually covered his face. This was something he rarely did and certainly never in the presence of outsiders. To Kalaan's surprise, the Tuareg's features were more European, than Middle Eastern.

"Yes, bla, bla, bla... to you as well, " he muttered, clearing his burning throat.

"Ye need water!" Lil' Louis rushed to get a goblet and returned to Kalaan who tried unsuccessfully to sit up.

Not only did he have pain shooting through his whole body and had his voice disappeared, but he also realized with astonishment that his hands and feet were attached to the bed by strips of fabric. What on earth was happening? He stubbornly refused the water and glared at the two men, growling like a wild animal in a cage.

"Untie me… immediately!"

Salam and Lil' Louis looked over their shoulders towards the cabin's small window and then at each other concerting in silence before turning back to Kalaan.

"Nay, lad, 'tis almost daybreak."

"So?" Kalaan shouted back.

"So, it will shortly begin again and being as it's your first time awake, ye'd best be tied."

"That's enough! What on earth are you talking about?"

Lil' Louis sadly shook his head and Salam tried to explain. "You haven't been yourself since we took you out of that building. When the sun comes up, your appearance changes, but when night falls you become, once again Kalaan, count of Croz."

Kalaan scrutinized his friends as if they had suddenly grown horns. Had they lost their minds? The story was so ridiculous that the young man started laughing, then coughed painfully.

Little by little, behind Salam and Lil' Louis, dawn started to bathe the wood paneled cabin in a pale orange light. At the same time, sharp pains were shooting through Kalaan's body, growing more and more painful. Soon the young man was trembling uncontrollably.

"Here it comes, " Salam said stepping back.

"Be strong, lad, " Lil' Louis murmured gloomily following the blue man. "It never lasts long. Once the sun is up, yer suffering will be over."

Kalaan heard him, but clenched his teeth. His whole body braced against the terrible pain running through his muscles and bones. He was in no condition to think. He could only endure, like a wooden puppet. He fought and fought but could not hold back the screams of agony. His husky voice returned for only a second, but as soon as the sun's rays reached his berth; it was a woman's scream that rang through the cabin

e said, lowering his head in shame. He should have remembered that a battle with the captain was always lost from the start. Yes, indeed, without a doubt, this was the captain.

"Does anyone else want to play?" Kalaan's tone was amused as he crossed and uncrossed his arms over his ample bosom. "What about you, Ar kaerell-vras?11" He was speaking to a pimply young cabin boy who was openly making fun of La Gouelle. He was a boastful, proud and lazy boy that Kalaan really wanted to put in his place. Now, on hearing his name the boy stood straight as a ramrod.

"Ma'am? Uh…s... sir?" he stammered.

Just because he'd said ma'am, Kalaan decided to go in for the kill.

"My friends, do you remember the lovely Flora, this young man's sweetheart that he presented you during a recent stopover in Saint Brieuc? Well, truth be told, she was nothing more than a strumpet who I paid to play the part so that you would stop teasing him."

The stripling turned bright red and tried to make himself as inconspicuous as possible when then sailors turned to taunt him.

"Who's next? Do I still have to prove who I am?" Kalaan had to shout to be heard over the pandemonium.

Then, everyone was quiet and together the crew all shook their heads to say no.

"Good, now that that is taken care of, get back to your duties, you lazy shirkers!"

The crew moved as fast as they could. Some went up the rigging, others went back to swabbing the bridge and gangways; but most of them disappeared into the belly of the ship, in direction of the cabins or the kitchens.

"Ye 'andled that splendidly, " Lil' Louis said after letting out a low whistle of admiration. "D'ye want te take back t'helm, now?"

"Yes, for we are turning back, returning to Egypt!"

Salam frowned and replied, "There is nothing more for you in that country, except certain death. The tale of what happened at Amarna and that building must have reached the ears of Muhammad Ali12 Pasha, not to mention that we ran off, right under his nose, an insult he will most certainly wish to make us pay heavily for."

"I must speak with Jean-Fran?ois, find out if he was also afflicted by the curse and find the remedy that will make me a man once again."

"Jean-Fran?ois goes well. We received a letter from him shortly before leaving Alexandria, " Salam told him. "You must know that he has forgotten everything that happened in that building, and he doesn't seem to have been a victim of any... transformations. You are the only one who can speak of this and help us to understand. Above all, we must not go back. It is important to accept the situation, as difficult as it may be."

Lil' Louis nodded in agreement with the Tuareg's words. He seemed extremely worried at the idea of turning back.

"That he was not affected, while I was, may be the beginning of an answer, " Kalaan replied. "I alone opened the door leading to the gold chamber and I was the only one to have held the cursed pyramid stone."

"What're ye talking about? What gold chamber?" Lil' Louis frowned in confusion. "We found the two of you lying on dark sand in a room destroyed by fire, and we did not find any pyramid shaped stone."

Kalaan sighed and ran his slender fingers through his jet colored locks.

"I should tell you the whole story, and then we will set sail for the Isle of Croz. There at least, I can be assured I will not encounter my mother and sister who are wintering at our home in Paris. By the time they return I will have found a way to become a man again."

"And how d'ye propose te do that?" Lil' Louis asked, astonished.

"There is a person on the isle who can help me."

"Who?" Salam inquired, his interest piqued.

"The guardian of the standing stones, " Kalaan replied as he took the ship's helm in hand.

"That old madman?" Lil' Louis' eyes widened in surprise.

"He is not as mad as you think. Now that I know magic exists as well as curses, the guardian is exactly the person to come to my assistance."

"Ya, " Lil' Louis agreed. "We know an abundance of legends and incredible tales. Yer right, let's go home."

Kalaan set sail for the straits of Gibraltar, and began to tell the tale of what happened to him and Jean-Fran?ois in the strange edifice, and the story of the harpies from hell. His heart was beating with joy for soon he would see the wild coast of his Brittany He missed the wind beaten scenery and the seas of his homeland. There he would find a remedy. He was absolutely convinced.

Unless he lost his mind before they reached destination!

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