1.36: A Sixkiller Interlude, Part 1

Layla Sixkiller has grown into a young adult, and is on her way, roundabout, to live her life as the heir of the story of the Sixkillers. She’s a bit of a loner, loves the outdoors, and is tired of everyone expecting her to live life according to their expectations for her. On her path toward building life on her own terms, she lands on Ouroboros for a brief time. Many thanks to ShakespearesSunshyne for this fun collaboration. She has provided character insight, and written several of Layla’s words and thoughts for this interlude. You can read Secrets of the Sixkillers here.

This interlude also introduces the character of Joel into the village. Joel traveled from port to port throughout his late teens, living a life filled with adventure, women, and the perils of both. Ouroboros is off the beaten path of the rest of the world, and he’s decided this is just the place for him to find some respite.

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Layla looked curiously at the dark man behind the bar. He returned her look openly, watching as she tentatively raised the glass of amber liquid to her lips. Her mother would flip if she could see this. Alcohol was a nearly explosive subject in their house. Helen’s older brother had been a rowdy drunkard who caught the attention of Sim Nation with his antics. It had ended with his execution for crimes against Simanity. Helen firmly felt alcohol, not William’s inherited mental instability, was the problem, and let all her children know the evils of imbibing. Layla wasn’t so sure how much of Helen’s tale was true. Her mother was known to elaborate and embroider her stories when it suited her purposes.

At first she kept her gaze on him defiantly as she swallowed, but she couldn’t hide her suddenly rosy cheeks, nor her swimming eyes.  His eyes, she registered, were also an amber color. His white teeth flashed in his dark face briefly. He’s laughing at me! But then her eyes squinted shut as the burn hit her stomach and the fumes went up her nose.

 

 

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The bartender’s face was studiously smooth when she opened her eyes again. Breathing through her mouth, she looked out over the village to hide her watering eyes. As she took stock of the huts and tents that spread out over the beach, she listened to his strangely accented voice as he talked with the other man at the bar. There’s a lot less here than the sailors on the last ship had said. PlumbBob. Where am I going to stay?  Damn sailors, they’d played her for a fool. The last batch had been a superstitious lot, incredibly worried about having a lone woman on board.

“Excuse me,” she said. “Where is a hotel?”

The two men broke off their conversation at her interruption. The man with the shaggy hair looked at her askance, and the barkeep too looked surprised at her question.

“Ma’am there’s no hotel here,” the other man said. “Are you visiting someone? They will put you up.”

Layla shook her head, eyes closed, blushing under their combined gaze. “There is no one here for me. The sailors told me this island was a sight to see, and a wonderful hidden pearl with a lovely resort.” She grinned wryly at Maru, flicking her eyes at Joel. She slyly glanced him over before continuing. “Obviously they were more worried about having me on board than they were worried about how I would fare.”

“There’s a cot on the beachside of the Community Center here, you’re welcome to it,” the dark man put in, after a pause. “No resort though, sorry.” He grinned again.

“Thank you.”

 

 

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“Miss Sixkiller, you must be tired and hungry,” stated the shaggy-haired man. She nodded.

“You’re welcome to come to my camp and share a meal with us. My wife will be cooking about now and we’d be happy to have you.” As if on cue, her stomach growled audibly.

She learned the man’s name was Maru, and met his wife Kaila. Kaila was an interesting woman. Strange, somehow. But perfectly hospitable and receptive when Maru explained Layla’s situation to her. Layla was a bit fascinated that Kaila cooked fish and vegetables over an open fire.  It’s probably much healthier than most foods bought at stores. Is there even a store here? It was a little blander than she was used to, but she rather liked the taste of food not drowning in a condiment.

 

 

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Thanking them for the meal, Layla walked back through the village, toward the beach. A few curious but friendly stares greeted her as she went. Once on the beach, she slipped off her shoes and started walking up the shoreline, taking in the last of the sun crashing into the ocean.

 

 

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The moon had risen high over the village when she finally walked back up the beach, wondering how on earth she’d fill her time here until another boat came in. Damn sailors!

When she made her way back up the stairs of the Community Center, the bar area was empty, but for the dark man. He was wiping down the counter, and didn’t pause when he heard her step.

“I didn’t catch your name earlier,” she said.

“You didn’t ask,” he replied smoothly, dropping the cleaning rag onto the counter and resting one hand on slim hips. Standing there in the torchlight frankly appraising her, he looked for all the world like chocolate-covered sex–not that she would know what that was like, and really what did that mean? Was there actual chocolate involved? Hmmm. That would be interesting. She wondered at his shirtless chest. Men in Riverview didn’t wander around shirtless. But it would be a shame to hide a chest like that. And those abs… she jerked her eyes up, blushing slightly. He’s just so different looking, it’s hard not to stare, she told herself. Phedra would totally have told her to put her eyes back in her head had she been there. Loudly told her to put her eyes back in her head…

“Fine. What’s your name?”

His teeth flashed in the lamplight. “Joel. And pardon me for saying so, Layla,” he said, “but you look very tired. I’ll show you where you can hit the hay.”

 

 

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Suddenly, she realized she was exhausted and nodded thankfully. Joel retrieved her suitcase from the corner she’d stowed it in earlier, and showed her to a cot behind some bales of hay before taking his leave.

Wow, she thought. Todo, we’re not in Riverview anymore. Flopping down on the mattress, she realized Joel hadn’t been kidding about hitting the hay. But the straw-tick mattress was comfortable enough, and she liked being able to see the stars and hear the waves slide against the beach. Exhaustion soon pulled her under.

 

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The next morning she was awakened much earlier than she would have liked, by bright sun streaming through the open wall of the community center. Groaning, she climbed off the crackly straw mattress and walked the few steps to the railing. From this height, she looked down onto the beach. Well the view isn’t so bad at least. Actually, it was stunning. She could almost get used to this. The island looked like a photograph in a magazine.

 

 

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After buying an apple from the fruit stand, she set off down the beach again to explore. The sun rose higher, so she tied her hair back, and splashed through the waves on the beach to cool off. I wish I’d thought to put on my swim suit at least. Next time, she promised herself. Her eyes widened at the site of a beautiful stone lying on the slope just up from the shore, and eagerly bent to examine it. It was smooth and dark, with an iridescent sheen to it. I wonder what this is. It will fit nicely into my collection, something exotic to show for my stop here.

Layla returned to the Community Center, and changed into a tank top. The spring nights may be cool, but it felt like the sun was in full force right now. After tucking her newly-collected stone into her already-heavy suitcase, she wandered back to the bar and plopped herself down on a barstool.

Joel splayed his hands on the counter and leaned forward, giving her a big smile. Again she noticed how white his teeth were against the dark skin of his face. “So, Layla,” he sounded as if he were tasting her name. “Are you back for more rum?” He grinned.

“Uhhh? Rum? No, I’ll pass.”

 

 

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“I didn’t think so,” he chuckled. At that, she started to object, but he held up his hand and continued. “I did however think you’d probably be hungry and thirsty after your morning hike.” Walking around the bar, he directed her to a small table, which held a platter of fruit and bread and cheese. “Sit. Eat. It’s for you.” He gestured at the chair. So she sat. She really was hungry.

“I am hungry, thank you. What is this?” she asked, pointing at one of the fruits.

“Passion fruit. Have you never had it?” He looked at her levelly.

“No.” Does this man ever wear a shirt? She realized she was staring again–and that he was smiling, as if waiting for her to notice that he noticed. Dragging her eyes away, she picked up the glass of liquid and sniffed it suspiciously, at which Joel threw back his head and laughed. He had a nice laugh.

“It’s not rum, I promise. It’s sangria, mixed with a locally made nectar. You might like it.”

“I’ll never know unless I try,” she said with an answering smile, echoing her words of the day before. My new motto: you’ll never know unless you try. She found indeed that she did like the sangria, much better than she had the rum. It was light-tasting and grape-y, and left her with a pleasant glow when she drained the glass.  “This is made here on the island?”

“Yes, Mr. Meadowstone grows some fine grapes,” he acknowledged. Layla had to agree. “So there’s a vineyard around?” She hadn’t seen one.

“I’ll be happy to introduce you to he and his family.” He looked around the community center. Apart from some folks at the fruit cart downstairs and some children playing on the swing, there weren’t many people around. “In fact, I can take you now, if you’re done eating.”

 

 

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During the short walk to the Meadowstone camp, Layla questioned Joel about how often ships came to the island. “My uncle and aunt in Appaloosa Plains are expecting me at some point. And beautiful as it is here, I’d kind of like to and settle into my own house, my own life. My way.”

“Now that winter is past, ships will be stopping by every few days, most likely, so you can be on your way any time you like. So why did the sailors put you off here on Ouroboros?”

“The gist is they apparently thought it was bad luck to have a lone woman on board,” she replied, rolling her eyes.

“Luck is what you make of it.” Giving her a sidelong glance, he said, “And I can’t see anything about you that’d be bad luck.”

Well at least someone thinks so.  “You don’t seem like you’re from around here either.”

He shrugged. “I’m from Around. I traveled a lot from port to port. I thought here might be a good place to stay for awhile. It’s out of the way. Secluded. Peaceful.”

 

 

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She was going to ask more, but a pregnant woman walked out of the wood building ahead of them and shielded her eyes in the sun. “Joel! And who have you brought with you?” she called out to them. The strawberry-haired woman gave her a friendly smile.

“Ma’am. This is Layla Sixkiller.”

“Oh, you can call me Lilith, you know that Joel,” she teased. “Layla, welcome, what brings you to Ouroboros?”

Layla explained about the sailors, and Joel told her that Layla was interested in seeing the vineyard.

 

 

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“Sure! Shane’s out there now, I’ll take you down.” Lilith led her down a path behind the house, into a small grove of fruit trees, Joel trailing behind them. “It’s his pride and joy,” she told them over her shoulder. “He’s been working nonstop in his orchard.” A tall man—not as tall as Joel—stood up from weeding some kind of plant, his face lighting up when Lilith called to him. “Hey babe.” He loped over and gave her a quick peck on the lips before turning to the visitors.”Shane, this is Layla, a visitor to Ouroboros. She’d love to see your orchard and vineyard.”

Shane wiped the dirt off his hands, and greeted Layla and Joel with an open smile. “I’d be delighted! Come with me,” he started striding back to the patch of grapes he’d been tending, and Layla’s curiosity compelled her forward. Looking around this little sun-and-shade dappled orchard, it was so perfect.

 

 

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Shane pointed out different varieties of grapes to her and showed her how to harvest them herself. She was soon immersed in the garden. Lilith excused herself, explaining that she needed to get back to the children. Joel waved to Layla and walked Mrs. Meadowstone back up the path toward the house.

Shane gave her a tour of the orchard, delighted when she asked questions about this plant or that. He had quite an extensive garden, actually, apart from  all the varieties of grapes, including vegetable and herb plots. As the sun was setting out over the sea, Shane led her back to the camp. “Stay and eat with us,” he invited. A pot was simmering over the fire. Are there no stoves here? Layla wondered. Whatever it was smelled good though.

 

 

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Lilith walked out of the house, carrying a little girl on her hip, who happily crowed for her daddy when she saw Shane. Shane took her in his arms and snuggled her before she struggled to get down. Resting his hands on Lilith’s belly, he leaned forward to kiss her on the nose. They were obviously very much in love.

 

 

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Just then a boy skidded around the corner. “Dad! Dad, I–!” He stopped short when he noticed Layla there.

Shane walked over to ruffle his son’s hair. His hand on Carrick’s shoulder guided him forward to be introduced to Layla. Although he greeted her politely, Carrick seemed a little shy, nervously meeting her eyes and looking away. He solemnly announced he had homework to do and disappeared. Shane too excused himself to go clean up.

 

 

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““I’m ‘Yala, who are you? You’re pretty! Cary’s shy. I’m not,” Layla looked down into the little girl’s violet eyes and ‘Yala lifted her arms up. Unsure what to do, Layla stooped and lifted her up. “Will you read to me?”

“Ayala, Layla is a visitor,” Lilith chided gently. “Daddy can read to you later.”

“Ok!” Ayala sang out. She squirmed in Layla’s arms, so she let her down, as gently as she could. The girl ran off, calling for her brother.

“She’s quite a handful,” Lilith explained. She didn’t sound apologetic, but rather, proud. Layla watched as Lilith stirred the pot. She didn’t see any chairs, so she seated herself on one of the stumps in front of the camp fire.

“What are you making? Can I help?”

“You can help us eat it,” Lilith said with a smile. “It’s a fish stew with tomato sauce, potatoes, onions, peppers, and a little roasted garlic.”

“It smells great. Sounds like something my mother would cook, she loves soups and stews. Except she cooked on a stove. And dad was always the one who cooked the fish. Never like that though. Do you always cook over a fire?”

Lilith nodded, looking into the simmering pot as she sprinkled in some herbs. “Yep, no stoves here. Although I did cook on stoves while I was in Champs Les Sims years ago.”

“You’ve been to France? So you do go off the island? I mean, it seems so…remote here.” She wondered if that was insulting to say, but Lilith seemed unperturbed.

“That’s why we like it. Life is simple here, but we have everything we need. But yes, boats come here, as you know, so we can travel when we want or need to. I understand you’re doing some traveling yourself.”

 

 

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“Traveling, yes. I guess you could say I’m taking a very long detour on my way to my new home. And I’ve had a great time going ashore whenever and where ever I like. It’s been freeing. Just what I’ve been needing after the last year or so at home. I just wasn’t ready to settle down like my brother, and not like Anthony wanted, and there were far too many people who thought I needed to be another cast in the same mold as everyone else.”

“Anthony? Was he your young man?”

Layla grimaced, feeling sadness at the thought of Anthony. It had hurt her too, to hurt him. “He wanted to be. He wanted to marry me. But I never felt that way. I wanted to see some of the world, make my own life, not be boxed into a life that everyone else expected of me.”

This caused Lilith to look up at her. “I’ve been in that position before. You were right to follow your heart. It will lead you where you’re supposed to be.” Lilith stood and walked into Shane’s arms. He’d just come out of the house, having washed off the sweat and grime of a day’s work in the orchard. And Lilith is where she’s supposed to be, Layla observed, watching the couple embrace.

 

 

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The next day, Layla went again to visit the Meadowstones, and the next day too. They never seemed put-out by her presence, even offering for her to stay the night when evenings around the fire got late, instead of going back to her cot at the Community Center.

Layla found the family endearing. She loved how immersed they were in their simple, happy life. It almost made her envious. These people were completely self-sufficient and happy, and Layla felt there was a lesson in there somewhere for her. She absorbed all she could. Eagerly she asked Shane questions about the vineyard, the nectars he made, and she was especially interested in the garden. Who knew all those fresh vegetables and fish caught straight from the ocean could taste this good! Shane happily obliged all her questions, and Layla could tell he loved his work.

 

 

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4 days after Layla had arrived, Joel came to tell her a boat had dropped anchor off the island. When the sailors and merchants came ashore, Layla was almost relieved to learn they were on their way to a port some distance away that Layla had already passed through after leaving Riverview. She found she was enjoying her stay in the raw beauty of Ouroboros and its inhabitants.

Besides, what was a few more days? This is life–on my terms. 

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