The Lords of Three Harbors sailed on to the monastery. Zy’an’s monastery. Above the dark blue, the ship slid along, in between the isles of green. The wind took them steadily on, cutting through the still sea. It was eerily silent. They were close now, close to finding the answers to the coming darkness. Close to the monastery where Zy’an once learned the many things he told them about. There were answers at the monastery. Answers they needed. Perhaps, all of Cellinor needed.
As dark blue turned to light azure, the coral reef below them came into view. Clear and vibrant was the reef. Frank looked over the railings, admiring it’s beauty. Thrak was next to him, fixing a rope more tightly to the edge of the bowsprite.
“It’sssss dangerous asssss well, Frank,” hissed Thrak. “The shallower portions, are where the thingssss we don’t like dwell, to eat usss.”
“Understood, Master Thrak,” said Frank. He had been calling him Master Thrak since his victory on the beach. It wasn’t sarcastic. The last time Frank remembered something so heroic was the day he was saved by his mentor, Tiresias. But that was a long time ago.
“Thrak, what are those?”
Thrak gazed down into the water and saw moving objects, dark against the lighter coral. Whatever they were, they were slinking along the coral below the hull. There were dozens of them. “Raise the alarm,” said Thrak. “ALARM!!” he snarled drawing his axes.
Before anyone could react, dozens of the little beasts that had tried to carry off the slaves for the Sassers, began to crawl up the hull from the nearby coral. They had gotten lazy, and now they were going to pay. Thrak slashed out and cut a few of them down. They spilled their putrid guts and fell back into the sea. But others came on. Their sticky claws and clacking mandibles grabbed onto the side. He knew, that what they were for and it wasn’t for climbing up the side of a ship. It was for holding onto their prey and dragging it back down to their lair. Thrak knew they couldn’t be aloud to board. They would carry off more than a few of their number. And they would not make it after that. A sailing vessel needed hands to work. There was only one thing to do.
“Sail on!” Thundered Thrak, and he heaved himself off the rail and out into the sea! He swam away from the vessel, splashing with his arms and tail purposefully. The creatures climbing aboard the vessel, saw his throes just as he had intended. They plunged back into the sea and crawled along the coral towards him.
“Thrak, No!” Hollered Frank, “What are you doing?!!!”
“Sail on!” Yelled Thrak. “I will lead them away! Sail….” but he couldn’t finish his thought. For just then, the sea erupted around Thrak. White foam churned and frothed. There had been a number of them below him he hadn’t noticed. Thrak had intended to swim away and use his powerful tail to bring him back onto the ship. But now, they surrounded him! Areia, from the crow’s nest, saw all too suddenly, that mixed in with the erupting spray were legs, black spidery legs, reaching and clawing. Gnashing and sticking to his many scales. The scales that so often protected him now entrapping him!
And then dozens and dozens of the creatures they had seen the Sassers use to capture the lizardfolk swirled around Thrak in a frenzy. They fused and locked onto his body, dragging him down, into the dark water, below the surface, down into the sea. The water around Thrak turned red. He cried out, his massive snout snapping and snarling above the churning foam. He roared at the things, his mouth snatching at anything he could reach. But he was unable to grasp at enough of them and his claws thrashed the creatures around him.
But for every thing he struck, another took it’s place.
And then, as if they moved in unison, Thrak was pulled below the surface, leaving behind only his blood. It spread out along the surface of the sea, still bright red, and crimson. Too much blood, too much blood for anyone to lose. Even Thrak the Mighty.
It had all happened so quickly. There hadn’t been time for anyone to react.
But then someone did. It was too late. And they were too little. And it wasn’t who Thrak would have hoped for, nor anyone.
As if there was nothing else going on, two little men the sized of wine bottles climbed to the top of the ship’s railing. They looked casually around while everyone else frantically drew weapons or prepared spells to save Thrak. “Having fun kids?” Asked Ding.
“Hey Iricah?” Said Dong. “A few of your maps were wrong. We went ahead and fixed them for…”
“You disgusting pixie!” she yelled and reached out to grab him, just before he disappeared in a puff of green dust. He reappeared a few feet away, laughing maniacally.
“DO SOMETHING!!!!!” Yelled a member of the crew.
“Do what?” yelled another from the stern. He was bent over the side rails. “He’s gone. He’s gone. Sail on!!! Or else they’ll be onto US next?”
And then they heard a creak in the mast. As though time slowed, each knew in turn that Thrak had breathed his last breath. He was not coming back to the ship. He was gone below the waves. He had saved them.
But what was this new sound?
In a moment that no one would speak of later or ever (mostly because she had warned them that they would subsequently be stabbed if they did), a shadow passed over them. At first, Iricah remembered the blue beasts flying over head, the wings beating at the entrance to Enceladus. The heart pounding fear as the beast spoke. She instinctively hunched down, even as her mind swirled with watching the death of her reptilian friend.
“Hang on big smelly! I’m coming!”
Of course. It was Areia’s shadow and she was leaping out from her perch in the nest. Like a pelican diving for fish, daggers out, she rose up first into the air, did a perfect sommersalt, swiveled in midflight, and adjusted her body towards the splashing maelstrom where Thrak had gone down. She hit the water, like a bird would, and disappeared within it. It had been, in a way elegant. Which was not how one could quite see the situation Iricah thought, but that’s how Areia did these things some time. Diving into the water off the top of a mast as if she were dancing a jig from a night of hitting the King’s Rum.
“Oh!” shouted Ding from atop the railing. “It’s a ten!!! For sure! Dong?”
“I take off a point for the rope. A nine!” He shouted and clapped.
“What is she doing now. the big POO BUM? Yipped Ding to Dong. They were jumping up and down on the railing, nearly knocking each other overboard.
“Now we’ve got two lockers to raid! Yippee!” They cried out.
Ariea had indeed disappeared below the surface of the sea. The red water frothed and churned above. And a new wave of crimson seemed to rise up from the chaos below.
“No!!!” Yelled Iricah. Time had come back to her. “No Frank. We must. Can’t we?” She tried to say.
Zy’an had watched the whole affair, and it was his ears who heard Ding say “rope” and who then saw what he needed to see! “There!” yelled Zy’an. “The villain. The rogue! Pull you scoundrels. She wants us to pull!”
Somehow, a roped stretched from the water to the prime mast above them. Frank, knew in an instant then, that she had tied it to her person before her leap. She hadn’t just dove over the side. She had gone to bring Thrak back! “I can do that!” He yelled and quickly began to yank on the rope flicking and swaying just off the side of the ship. Iricah and Zy’an ran to help. And with renewed fervor, they pulled with all their might. To save two friends, not one.
At first the rope wouldn’t budge. “Heave!” Yelled Frank and he called upon the flame to guide his hands. Feeling the flame’s energy flow through him, the rope gave slack. Just a little, and then more. Something was coming back. He could only hope that something was Areia. And he knew if by some miracle that something included Thrak, he could only hope then, that he had it in him to call upon the flame to bring him back to the light.
It was a test beyond any he had ever had. He pulled hand over hand praying for the chance to take it.
“Bring them to the deck! Bring them to the deck!” Frank shouted. He was in full command now ordering the others back. He bashed boxes of foodstuffs aside with his shield and cleared an area off as best as he could. The sun was bright afterhead now, and his shadow was long. Two bodies were pulled up over the railing. One resembled Ariea. The other looked like a giant form of a bleeding skeleton mixed with grizzle and muscle. It looked like something that one would find hanging in a butcher’s shop near the outer wilds and Ariea, bleeding and slashed was still holding it firmly in her hands.
“Is that? Is that?” Asked Iricah. But she couldn’t get it out. She didn’t want to.
Zy’an moved around the area and kept the sailors at bay. Iricah stood behind Frank, strumming her lyre. A song came to her. It was a song of a famous hero from Kasillian lore. She had found it once amongst her research and committed it to memory. A hero with no name. The words came to her and she didn’t know why but a sense of absolute wonder built within her. Like a fire it grew. And the words came along with it.
The warrior called to her one day
And when she heard, she fell away
His life was hers, his life she held.
A rope betwixt, a soul was weld.
While Iricah sang, and the others looked on in wonder and hope and despair while Frank bent over Areia. She was dying, or perhaps already dead. They couldn’t tell. None spoke. Would Ariea be saved?
Frank, praying for the light’s grace, called, pleading for guidance, for mercy, for pity. He knew she was slipping from him. He knew that his healing powers were exhausted. But he couldn’t say it then. He couldn’t tell the others. So he didn’t. Instead, he called, and called. Exhausted, alone. He felt the light leave him. Floating away. His shadow fell upon the rogue while the sun shone behind him. He had failed.
“I’m sorry my friends. I’m sorry Tiresias. For I know what goodness lies before me, but,” Frank was crying. Choking on his words, his greatest test failed.
He looked down at Areia’s face. And that’s when he noticed that his shadow no longer covered it.
“What?” Frank muttered. “Where?” He looked down at her belt and saw the lanthorn, still attached, began to glow. Radiantly, it shone back at him, while the sun from above did too. Frank, glistened, awash in light from all places. From the front and back. He was like a gem in the sun.
I’ve told you what you’re going to get called if people in the colonies see you doing all that crying, Frank.
“Ariea? But how?”
But Areia didn’t answer. Instead, another voice, they hadn’t heard for some time, yet familiar spoke. It was calm, compassionate, kind. “Fear not, my friends. Fear not, heroes. For I am with you.”
“Ulua?” said Frank. He wiped the tears from his eyes and tried to see the face before him. It was too bright. Too powerful. Too glaring. It’s energy, immense and wonderful began to blaze out from the ship, like a diamond sparkling in the brightest of day, even more powerful than the sun overhead itself! The others, gathering around stepped back. They shielded their eyes, blinded by the light.
“It’s working! It’s working!” cried Ding. “Dong! They’ve figured it out finally, the big dumbasses!”
“Woot, woot!” answered Dong.
Iricah played as if something guided her hand. The song. The song of the hero. But their was another. And she remembered it. The ballad. The ballad of light and darkness.
For what felt like a long time, the light radiated out, washing over all. They couldn’t describe it but each of them, Iricah, Frank, Zy’an felt as though something was leaving them. Something wonderful. A sense of loneliness came to them, somehow in all this brilliance. What is happening? thought Iricah.
I don’t know answered Zy’an. Do you feel her, she’s here. I feel her.
Who? thought Iricah. But she knew who. Confused, her loneliness though turned to joy. She didn’t fully know what was happening, but she felt. She was feeling. And what she was feeling was pure joy.
It’s power so intense that none dared look through their hands, through their eyelids. They cowered and fell back, hiding their faces. But then, the light began to diminish, slowly and when the pain of looking had finally faded, Frank did peek out between his fingers.
Before him lying on the deck were three figures.
One, Areia the rogue who was just opening her eyes.
The second was Thrak. Who, no longer resembling a slab of meat, was nevertheless whole once more. He stirred, but only just.
The third was a darker skinned woman. Beautiful with a proud face. It was Ulua.
And that’s when Iricah remembered her verse.
The Warrior shall be duty bound
His weapon rests upon the ground
His mortal wounds shall bring him down
And he will rise anew.
“That’s it, that’s it!” Cried Ding. “The freaking archeaologist is figuring it out Dong! There’s hope for these dumbasses after all!”
For once Iricah didn’t respond, or attempt to strike them. She was in awe of what she saw in front of her.
Ulua opened her dark eyes. She looked up at them.
“You saved me?”
“No,” answered Frank. “I did not.” He saw Thrak’s eyes opening now as well! “Where have you been Ulua?” asked Frank.
“She’sssss beeen with usssss,” hissed Thrak.
Iricah stopped strumming her lyre. The deck went silent. She was staring at the lanthorn, then Thrak who couldn’t seem to stand, and appeared as though he really wanted to do so.
“Thrak?” cried Ariea. “You son of a lizard! You’re alive!” And then she did nothing that they had never seen her do. She hugged the big lizard in a huge bear hug. “Thrak, where’s your, where’s your…?”
“The big dummy lost his tail!!!!!!!” laughed Ding and Dong. And they fell over the side of the rail holding onto their belly. And disappeared into a puff of green dust halfway to the sea.