Eyes Like Gods
status: novel completed, currently shopping for agents
length: 85,000 words
Easter Island, 1795 A.D.
The breakers washed Akolo ashore, and he lay flat in the water beside his fellow assassins, chest beating hard against the wet sand. Twenty paces away towered a line of enormous Moai statues. Yellow moonlight beamed across their long carved foreheads. Their eye cavities gaped with shadows. Akolo hated that at any moment the eyes might glow intensely indigo and awaken the statues to full height to hunt them down.
But for now, he grinned. Their eyes were still dark. The gods had not expected them to dare the sharks and swim around the fire mountain.
In unison, he and his four men crawled up the beach into the knee-high grasses. Ahead, a small hut nestled amid a thicket of toromiro trees, tendrils of smoke rising from the hearth. A sweet whiff of burning toromiro on the midnight breeze reminded Akolo of the burning torches he and his older brother had carried through the lava tubes during their adventures. Here at the base of the fire mountain's cliffs, isolated from any other buildings, lay the hut of the Tangata Manu , the Birdman , as they called him.
Those rats who murdered his brother.
The raw memories from six moons ago still cut like obsidian. The Birdman's warriors rushing through village streets. His brother Ora bludgeoning a soldier across the forehead in defense. Two other invaders dragging Ora's screaming wife and son from their hut. The Birdman's blade slitting their throats before the whole village. Akolo's family, a bloody spectacle. And Akolo, holding his sister and father inside, helpless to do anything for his brother.
A torrent of rage surged through Akolo. He slammed his knees to the sand, ripped the dagger from its thigh sheath, and plunged the blade fast and slick into the belly of the beach.
Thick. Wet. Sand.
He wasn't helpless tonight.
Akolo wiped the knife against the grass and resheathed his weapon. His men were smearing mud over their own dark, tattooed skin. He coated the arrows etched into his thighs and arms. He pulled back his long wet hair and wrapped a black-streaked cloth around his head, positioning the large slits over his eyes and knotting it at the base of his scalp.
Akolo connected with each man's gaze, then clenched his fist against his chest. They signaled the same—strength and unity.
They crawled over the ridge into the low grasses and crept toward the sacred hut. Its thatched walls and roof looked unimportant enough—that was what the Miru wanted the slave clans to think—but inside slept one of the island's most important men.
Akolo edged to the front corner, staying just out of the moonlight. His senses were on edge. A rustle near the front door. The bitter scent of burning herbs. The blood drumming in his chest.
He crouched and peered around the corner, spying three inattentive guards at the door. Inside would be the Birdman and his personal servant. Alone.
The largest of the guards lifted a skag to his lips, inhaled, and passed the lit herbs to the next man. Akolo backed slowly away, taking a position between his men at the rear wall. He looked both ways and raised his dagger to the thatch. The other four nodded and disappeared in pairs toward the front of the hut.
A shock of cold shivered up Akolo's arms, and his eyes were drawn toward the dagger he held high. A plump drop of blood pooled at the hilt and dripped onto his arm. It isn't real, he told himself. As much as he wanted to right now, his hands had never killed anyone. It didn't matter that he could feel the blood coursing a path through the hairs on his arms. His fears were trying to keep him from the goal. That's all this vision was. Imagination and fear.