BLACK HOLLOW: 1.2 The Black River

The jungle was alive with bird calls and strange howls from deep and dark green cavities in the trees. On either bank of the river, the exact position of which was obscured by low hanging trees, things stirred and voiced their displeasure at the unannounced visitor.

The ship sailed up the slowly moving river, and through the noises from the unwelcoming hosts. It did not make much in the way of noise itself, except for the crew’s singing.

Seven signs on a dead man’s chest.

Bring up the oar while another lad rests.

T’night we’ll drink to the draaaaaa-gon

and send the rest back down to Ket

Fight for Cellinor and a bottle of rum!

The crew’s oars pulled and tugged the bloated ship onward, up the river. The men paddled it along through the Black River slowly, surely. Churning and dark waters swirled by and every so often a piece of driftwood came along with it. The Black River wound it’s way through the valleys and mesas of the Island Of Three Harbors, to the east of the three ports. Various creatures lived in the river, and various others used it as a means to navigate the island as well.  It was dangerous and deadly, yet still far easier for moving goods than a trek through the volcanic rock strewn landscape.

Haryk was downing a cup of Oorst mead and considering whether or not to get in a bit of target practice before the light faded into dusk. On the first day of the journey, he had shot a magnificent specimen.  A bird of strange plumage, as large as a man.  He sent a young sailor out in a long boat to collect his prize before it drifted too far downstream. Suddenly, a maelstrom appeared in the water below the boat, white spray erupting around it on all sides. He stood with the others at the ship’s rails, and he watched as the boat was pulled under into the dark swirling waters.

The river meandered and wound peacefully, but it was to be respected. He had forgotten that briefly, and it had cost him a valuable member of the crew. Respect.  He had lived his life around the word, either for it or because of a lack of it. The river too demanded respect, just as he did. This no doubt is why the shipment of gold and silver they were supposed to receive never made it, he reasoned.  Consequently, it was now also the reason they were here.

The Lords Andril and Haryk remained belowdecks most of the trip.  Andril had a variety of research to do and the Lord Haryk had seen enough of the innards of the isles to last a lich’s lifetime. Andril, a wizard as all knew him to be, had brought his laboratory at great care and what he was doing with it, there in the belly of the ship was cause of much speculation, even before the voyage began. The Lord Haryk, son of the great, yet tragic Commander Haryklon was more often than not predictable. He stayed below decks because he wanted to do so.

Both were in their quarters when a call came from the bowsprite. “Three masts my lords!”

Three masts? sighed Haryk. Blast it, now we’ll have to raise the vessel.  He had hoped that it could have been scuttled.  As far as he was concerned, the cargo was the only reason he had come.  Enough gold and silver to stock their coffers for the year was a big incentive to go on a search deep in the black hollows of the isle.  If they had found it

He set his drink down and climbed up onto the foredeck.  The light streamed warmly through the sails, and his eyes took a moment to adjust to it’s strength.

There they were. Three masts, and below them a perfect yet light cargo ship at anchor in the middle of a lake, a lake of several hundred acres set back in the elbow of the river. It sat high in the water. Damn.

“Looks like we’ve got ourselves some goodly pirates, Haryk,” said Andril. He had gotten there quickly, no doubt by magic.

“The ship is unharmed besides the loss of it’s payload no doubt.  We’ll lose that, and the insurance from Cellione on the vessel.” Haryk knew that no crew, pirate or colonial loyal or otherwise would sail aboard a ship found derelict as this. The Celns were far too superstitious for that.  Haryk pointed out the markings at the hull for Andril,  With a spyglass, he was able to discern that the sails were tapered, yet still strung.  There was no movement on the deck.  Here in this unwelcoming place, it simply sat in the water, silent as a ghost.

“Pirates.” It was a statement not a question, but Andril answered it anyway.

“Perhaps.  I’ve sent a longboat out to check.”

“Who did you send?”

“The new one.”

“Good thinking.”

__________________________________________________________________________________-

“Why am I the one who has to go?” Thought Tahg.  For the third time since he had been selected to row over to the abandoned vessel he wished he had said it out loud.

Just a greenie, lad, gotta earn your ale. That’s what his father had told him before he joined the Black Hollow shipping corps.  Do as ye told. And then ye’ll be telling others soon enough.

So now Tahg was doing as he was told by the Lords Andril and Haryk themselves. A sign of honor and respect tonight when the ale would be passed out. He knew there were several greenies aboard who would have volunteered. Much braver than myself they must be he reasoned.  He figured the others may actually think he would have volunteered too. If he kept his mouth shut about it.

If he lived.

The lake was calm and Tahg rowed through the still water, past the lillies and plants that floated along the surface. He had been given an eyeglass, and was told to look for signs of movement along the deck. If he did see anything, he was to row back and alert the others.  So far, so good he thought.

Tahg wouldn’t need the eyepiece though for he had incredible vision and besides, he had friends.  They were small, but they were helpful in moments like this.  The captain and the Lords had insisted, along with detailing the consequences of what would happen to him if he lost it. He tucked the eyepiece away in his satchel safely in the middle of the boat and rowed on.

The ship loomed before him and the first thing he noticed was that the anchor line was taut. Perhaps this will be easier than I thought.  Come on Tahg, when has that ever happened in your whole life?

Right. Tahg smiled.  Well then, let’s do this together. What do you say my little friends? Tahg placed a hand in the water, and as he had learned from his father, he called a tone of magic inside of him. It wasn’t speaking words the way mages would. It wasn’t a prayer. Tahg likened it to a great bong being struck. It was a resonance, a resonance that built inside of him.  Through him.  He could feel it’s vibrations spreading out into the air, into the water, finding, striking those little ones he could tell what to do.  Although he didn’t think of it like that.

It’s teamwork Tahg, his father had said once.  The way the fish in our streams move in schools.  The way the insects collect nectar in a field and return at the end of the day to their hollow. It is a request.  And it aids all.  Remember that, for it is a gift to use such a power.  And to abuse it is to loose it. Forever. 

“Seek. Seek, my friends,” Tahg asked them. Around him, in the water, and in the air, he could feel their minds stir and awaken.

He was connected.

 

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