Last Ship Out
by Robert Teague
This story was written for the entertainment of Sintel fans, and no copyright infringement is intended. This story may be reproduced, provided no changes are made, and you let me know.
Author's Note: If you haven't seen "Sintel", why are you reading this? : ) It's a short film, only 15 minutes. Go watch it on YouTube or the website www dot sintel dot org first. I'll wait. This takes place right after Sintel's fight with the hyena-creature in the eroded lands.
Chapter One: A Candle in the Sky
Sintel sat against the stone cliff, the small fire in front of her throwing shadows in the darkening hollow. Overhead,
glimpsed between the spires of rock surrounding her, the sky slowly darkened. A lone star winked into sight. To her right, the thick wooden staff she had carried since she left Ishtar leaned against the rock, ready if needed. It was somewhat taller than she, and had been her father's.
She sighed deeply and relaxed. It had been a hard day, struggling over and between the harsh yellow stones, only to be attacked by a creature weighing more than she did. She had never seen its like before, and had no name for its kind. She had managed to wound it and get away from its dangerous thrashing. It HAD managed to scrape her with its claws on the arm, but that had been dealt with. Still a bit painful, though. The gashes were deep.
Her stomach growled, and she thought about dinner. She had gotten two kinds of jerky from the last village, and both were very good. She decided to have some of the larger supply, and supplement it with one of her three remaining pellas. The juicy, salty fruit complimented the meat's taste.
As she reached for her backpack, a rumbling sound reached her, followed by a trembling of the rock. She sat up, alert. An earthquake? A thunderstorm? The rumbling grew in intensity, adding a crackling, popping sound. What WAS that? The ground stopped shaking, but the rumbling continued unabated.
She got up and followed the sound around the side of the rock, to a place where she could see the horizon. She was at the edge of the rocky land, and the ground at her feet sloped gently down to a forest. The last remnants of the sun's light were in the west, and shadows were deepening all around her.
But what caught her attention was something completely out of her experience. An upside-down candle had lifted into the air, standing on a pillar of blue fire, and was gaining height rapidly. The noise was coming from it. As she watched, it soared over her head, getting smaller and dimmer until it was lost behind the rock. She thought about climbing the rock to keep it in sight, but decided against it. Too dangerous in the dark.
Instead she looked at where it had come from. It was difficult to see now, but smoke was still rising over the circle of low hills miles away and to the southwest. She looked more carefully, and saw spots of light that might mean a village. She took careful note of where it was, and resolved to go there tomorrow and find out what had happened.
The next morning dawned bright and clear. Nothing had disturbed her slumber, and she felt rested and ready for whatever the day might bring.
Skipping breakfast, she packed her meager belongings and went back to the edge of the stones. In the clear light of morning the ring of hills was easily visible. Now she could see there was a break in the eastern wall, so that would be her goal. The lights she had seen last night were gone, but now she could see three boxy skeletal structures nearly as tall as the hills. One of them was supporting an object of some kind, possibly another upside-down candle.
Staff in hand, she made her way down the path.
The trip took most of the day, as unexpected obstacles had appeared. A wide, swift river with no way to cross forced her south, and she had to move past a field of keffa flowers that had both thorns and a pollen that made you sleepy, and easy prey.
In the afternoon she came upon a wide, paved road. It was in major disrepair, like much of the world's civilization. Tree roots had buckled the large hexagonal flagstones, and there were fallen branches and trees here and there. But strangely, there were no plants growing between the flagstones. She turned west again, and made her way along the road. A bridge crossed over the river that had blocked her way, which was a relief.
The road ended, as she thought, at a breach in the hills. A steel fence, rusted brown, would have barred the way but for the fact the gate stood open. On it was attached a sign in red. Sintel could read, but the alphabet was unfamiliar so she ignored it and went inside, past the abandoned guard house.
To her right was an open area with odd steel buildings here and there, and the three steel boxes. The nearest one was holding the candle, which she now saw was a machine in a dark, burnished bronze.
To her immediate left was a garden grove grown wild without attention, and a variety of fruits available that were ripe. She picked a c'nan and peeled it, munching the orange treasure as she walked.
The road here was in much better repair, and diverged in different directions along the way. Coming to the end of the grove, she stopped. Ahead and to the left was a long, low building painted black. There was one room on top, as a second story. Odd dish-shaped things were also on the roof. Some way past the building were several outbuildings, all rusted metal color, but still in good shape.
What was this place? Well, that was what she was here to find out.
Nearing the front door of the black building, it suddenly opened and a man stepped out. He looked to his left at first, his eyes scanning until they caught sight of the visitor. He was unarmed. He was wearing a white shirt, brown overalls, and thick boots. He was disheveled and a bit dirty, but Sintel thought he might clean up nicely.
"OH!" he said. "Uh, welcome!"
"Hello," replied Sintel. She put the end of her staff on the ground as a gesture indicating she was not hostile, but willing to defend herself if necessary.
"I wasn't expecting anybody else, and the shipment is already gone," he said, eyeing her curiously.
She shook her head. "I don't know what you mean."
As soon has she said it, he realized his mistake. She was not dressed as a merchant, but as a traveler. "Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you were from the merchants in the village."
"No, I'm just passing through," she said, gazing around at the unfamiliar place.
"I see. I offer you safety and hospitality for the night," he said, bringing her gaze back to him. He bowed slightly. "My name is Braan."
"I am Sintel," she replied, "And I accept. Thank you."
She followed him inside, where she found things neat and clean, but old and sturdy. He went down the main corridor and stopped at a door. Going inside, she looked around. A window was on the wall to her left, showing several large, square, flat black panels pointed toward the sun. Another door was across the room. A bed was unmade, but had a pillow and blanket folded up on the foot. A couple of chairs sat by a round table. She was surprised to notice the window glass was intact. That was rare in her experience.
"This room hasn't been used in a long time, but should be comfortable," he said, "The door locks from the inside, see?" He demonstrated the mechanism above the knob.
"This is the light switch," he added, flipping it sideways. A tube overhead lit up with a yellowish light. She stared at it.
He gestured at the other door. "You can clean up in there, if you like; even take a hot bath."
Her eyes widened. A hot bath? That was even more rare than intact windows.
"This will do, thank you," she answered, hiding her excitement.
"Very well, then. When you're done, go back up to the front door and turn right. Dinner will be ready, or nearly so, Just follow the smell." He grinned, nodded, and left, closing the door behind him.
She quickly went over and locked it, putting her staff beside it. She took off her backpack and put it down on the table, then went to the other door. Inside was a real luxury for her; tub, sink, and toilet, all working.
This little diversion from her quest was turning out very well.