Saturday, 25 November 2017

Episode I - XIII A Vengeance of Water

A Blood-soaked Legacy

A Vengeance of Water
(Full Chapter)

Tyverus opened his eyes into a darkness that surrounded him. As his senses came back to the world of the living from the depths of slumber, he could feel a mass of furs covering his legs and the pitched rocking of waves. The sounds of snoring mixed with the groans of wood with each wave that struck the hull of the ship.

He pushed the furs away and swiveled his legs over the side of the bed. The sounds of snoring sailors and Bhergom’s nasal whistling were all around him. Tyverus lifted his hand up and snapped his fingers to summon sparks from the air. With each snap, tiny embers came to life allowing him to see all the other beds and hammocks around him. Several metal lanterns chained to the roof of the hold swayed with each wave. The candles within had burnt themselves out a long time ago.

All around him, every hammock or bed was occupied by members of the expedition or the crew of the ship they had commissioned, that is all but the bed beside Tyverus’. A moment of concern washed over him as he stood up and ensured his breeches were tied secure. He let one of his hands run over the metal mantle branded into his exposed chest. He reached beside his pillow to pick up an old tunic and pulled it over his body to cover the metal and his exposed flesh. Next, he grabbed one of his wolf fur coats he had draped over the end of his bed for warmth.

The waves striking the hull of the ship didn’t affect him much as he made his way from the hold up to the midship. He was used to being on ships that had taken him to many of the battles he had seen in his short life. He made his way up the wooden stairs to the midship and grasped a nearby ladder to get up on to the deck. All around him the ship swayed in the water. Any crew manning the night-shift were practically invisible in their duties if they weren’t already asleep in the hold below.

As he opened the hatch to the deck, the chilled northern wind blew into his face and made him shudder for a moment. He pulled himself up onto the worn wood deck and made his way to the aft castle. He didn’t know where Isilda had gotten to, but she would suffer the cold out here if she was on deck.

“You can’t sleep either?” The now familiar and soothing sound of the young oracle came to Tyverus’ ears from behind him. He turned to see her pressing her back against the wall of the castle, with her arms stretched out and gripping at the wood frames on either side of her. “I don’t know if it’s just my nerves or all this damned rocking.”

“Nerves?” Tyverus walked towards Isilda and leaned against a nearby door-frame. “Don’t you want to go back down to the hold? You’ll catch your death out here.” Tyverus looked her up and down, seeing her barefoot and wearing nothing more than a nightgown covered by loose-fitting robes.

“I can’t be down there right now. I need to be up here and see the waves with my own eyes.” Isilda pushed her chin out to point at the dark mass of water around the ship barely visible over the deck. “As for the nerves, well, we’re almost there and I’m a little excited.”

“Oerstav Caelii.” Tyverus remarked rhetorically and looked to his right over the bow of the ship. “How can you see any of the waves when you’re hidden over here by the aft castle?” Tyverus leaned away from the wood with his arms crossed and looked around the deck nearby. “I can’t see anything from here. Don’t you want to move the rail to see?”

“No.” Isilda shook her head. “I’m afraid of falling overboard. The waves are too much for me.” She paused and sighed. “Well, I might not be able to see the waves, but I can see the stars, okay?”

Tyverus gave a chuckle and pushed from the door-frame to stand astride on the deck. The ship rocked and pitched beneath his feet but he kept still. He looked back to Isilda and then pressed toward the nearby port railing. He grasped onto the wood and raised an arm back to Isilda.

“No way.” Isilda shook her head vehemently and then stared down at her feet. Her nails dug into the wood around her. Her left foot slipped on the deck when one large wave tossed the boat but she caught herself.

“It’s fine. I’m here to catch you. You won’t go over as long as I’m here.” Tyverus smiled confidently back to Isilda and pushed his arm towards her a bit more. With his other hand, he patted the railing like it was a skittish horse. “I’m a knight, I know how these things work.”

“The waves are too much.” Isilda let go of one of the frames to clutch at her chest and then quickly grabbed the frame again. “The deck is icy over there, too. I trust you, I really do, but…” She trailed off and looked up at the sky above. “I’m from the desert, we don’t have ships like this and we certainly don’t have waves for that matter. I’m afraid.”

Tyverus felt the ship dip hard to port and saw a wave crash against the hull, sending spray over the deck. He pursed his lips and let his outstretched arm drop. He didn’t want to force the young oracle into anything if she would be fearful of it and there wasn’t much to do about the waves. He wanted to help ease her nerves and show her that the water below wasn’t as frightening as she thought, none of the elements were.

“I have an idea.” Tyverus raised his eyes to stare at Isilda. Her green eyes shone back at him expectantly. “Would you come over here if the waves stopped?”

Isilda gave out an incredulous laugh and turned her face from Tyverus. “Yeah, sure. If the gods came down and quelled the entire Heartsblood Sea, I’d gladly go over there.” She smiled and looked back to Tyverus. A shock of her golden hair flew over her face on the wind. “Good luck with that.”

Tyverus grinned at her words and lifted his arms up over his head. “Well, then let’s see if I can call down the gods.” He closed his eyes and concentrated on his elemental energies. He reached out to the sea around the ship and let his consciousness meld with it. He thought of the feelings that were building up in him concerning Isilda and the soothing presence she provided him. That same soothing and serene feeling he sent out to the sea. After a few smaller waves caressed the hull the ship ceased its pitching.

Isilda gasped and then slapped one of her palms on the wooden frame beside her. “No. It’s just a calm. The waves will start up again.” She muttered to herself under her breath. She reached out a foot from her place of safety to touch her toe upon the distant wood. “No way.”

“It is done.” Tyverus opened his eyes and looked back to her. “I have summoned the gods and quelled the sea.” The ship remained perfectly still despite the sounds of distant waves crashing against each other. He stepped away from the railing defiantly and kept his arms raised to his sides.

“You’re joking.” Isilda took a few steps away from the door-frame and then quickly ran back. She patted on the wood with one of her feet and then took another furtive step away from the frame. “Is this another of your pranks? You got me three times now since we left Morrthault City.”

“No pranks. Come see for yourself.” Tyverus let his arms drop and patted the rail beside him once more. “Everything is safe, no more waves.”

Isilda took another cautious step and then ran at Tyverus. She stopped on her heels and grabbed onto the railing like a falling climber might grab onto their last bits of rope. Taking advantage of her momentum, Tyverus pulled his fur coat from his shoulders and caught her in it, draping it over hers so that she might be warm. She looked at the water quickly, and then back up to Tyverus. Concern marred the beautiful features of her face. She tucked the warm fur around her and smiled up at him with thanks.

“You’re glowing.” Her remark was flat. She cocked one of her eyebrows up and lifted a hand to pat the tunic Tyverus wore. He looked down to see that his mantle was glowing a soft blue from beneath his clothes. Isilda turned away and looked back out to the water.

All around the boat the sea was completely calm. The black surface was like a dark mirror reflecting the light of the stars and the glowing white of Ishep on the starboard horizon. A hundred feet from the boat on all sides, waves crashed and spilled over the glass-like surface of calm water. Beyond that barrier, the world resumed its usual chaotic dance, uninterested and entirely blind to this bubble of serenity.

“I heard that the Guardian Knights of Morrthal could command the elements, but I never thought it was like this.” Isilda kept her eyes on the ocean around her. Getting braver with each moment, she leaned slightly over the rail to look at the water below. “I heard the stories about the devastation they caused. That they violently stole the powers of the elementals away. Tales about wars and bloodshed.”

“In some respects, the tales you were told were true.” Tyverus leaned forward to see what Isilda saw of the sea. He lifted his head to look her in the eye for a moment. “We are all trained as warriors. We don’t work with the elementals like those druids in Fyrrantha. We command the elements directly.” He paused for a moment, as some old memory gnawed at him. “I wish we were more peaceful with our arts, but we serve a vital purpose to the Hoelatha people. We are their defenders, and to defend things, sometimes we have to resort to war.”

Isilda bit her lip and gave a little puff of air. “Well, at least I can see now that this particular knight isn’t all war and duty.” She gave a sheepish sort of grin and went back to looking at the water with fascination. “I suppose even powers meant to destroy can create things that are beautiful.”

Tyverus felt his heart skip a beat and he neared Isilda by a step. He wanted to reach out and hold her hand, but he didn’t know if that would be too forward. He was duty-bound to protect her, and her master, by the Paladarc of his legion. He didn’t want to muddy the waters between them in case she rejected his feelings. He knew it would be hard for her to trust him to protect her if she wondered if he would keep pressing himself on her.

“The Scintillating Crown of the World is strong tonight.” Isilda pointed up to the northern sky ahead of the ship. Ribbons of green, orange, and purple flowed over the northern center of the world-plane high above the concerns of the mere mortals below. “Do you know about the significance of those lights?”

Tyverus turned to look at the slowly moving ribbons of glowing energy. “Not really. I remember hearing stories when I was still a child.” He paused and took in a sharp, cold breath. “I’ve seen them so much on the fields of battle. I remember they shone brightly during the Battle of the Wounded Wolf a year ago. I guess I never really bothered to think about them.”

Isilda made another little puff of air and continued on. “Well, they are a very important part of the world. It is said that they flow in a ring around the northern center of Aelth Myrris.” She let her hand slide down the weathered wood of the railing near to Tyverus’ hand. “It is said that within those ribbons of light are portals and conduits to one of the realms of the gods.”

“Which god?” Tyverus continued to look up at the lights gliding among the twinkling stars high above the clouds and mists of the northern lands. His mind began to wonder if it was a god of war that looked down upon the slaughter of knights and would-be conquerors here on the world. What god was it that watched his friends die at the hands of bloodthirsty savages.

“Nesharr.” Isilda’s voice cut through Tyverus’ thoughts with a matter-of-fact tone. “He is the god of visions. He is the one who graced the first oracles with their sight when our ancestors fled their old world for this one.”

“Nesharr?” Tyverus contemplated the name for a moment. “That sounds similar to the name of the ruins you and Bhergom want to go to. Wasn’t that once a city on Oerstav Caelli?”

“Yep.” Isilda pivoted from heel to toe and smiled at Tyverus. “It is said that Neshran was where Nesharr came to earth, from his realm in those ribbons, and he graced the first Morthavi survivors with the arts of Haeth. That was before the Morthavi faded away, but those who rebuilt society and called us Hoelatha did the same.”

“So your order was gifted by one of the gods?” Tyverus gave a chuckle. “Must be nice to have the sanction of such high beings.”

“I take it you’re not a believer in the gods? Have you not seen their works in your life? Look at those lights there. Look at the stars in the sky. Look at the waves crashing around us. The beauty of the world comes from them.”

“The only god whose work I’ve seen in my life is that of Vaekas, the god of war.” Tyverus slid his hand away from hers on the railing. “More than that, I only see the power of humanity. The power to destroy, to enslave, to corrupt, and to squander.” He paused for a moment and leaned on the rail to look at Isilda. “My apologies for the morose words. I do wish I could see as you do. I wish I could see the beauty of the world through your eyes.”

“You can. You just have to open yourself to it.” She slid her hand a few more inches after his. She looked at him with determined eyes and her lips tightened with a smirk of wisdom.

“If the world is filled with such beauty, answer me this…” Tyverus leaned further into the rail and sideways into Isilda’s ear. “Why do you fear the waves and the sea? Can’t you see the beauty in this living sea around us?”

“I do, but I fear it.” Isilda’s voice was filled with energy at the prospect of Tyverus’ philosophical challenge. “Is it not the nature of us all to fear what we don’t know?” She lifted her hand to point at the waters around the boat. “Like I said, I come from a land of deserts and mesas. A body of water this wide and deep is beyond my understanding. It doesn’t cease to be beautiful, any more than a dire wolf or wyvern ceases to be beautiful. Yet, each must be respected and feared.”

Tyverus gave a nod and looked at the still water for a moment. “I understand.” He turned back with an inquisitive look on his face. “So how do you travel in the lands of the Alsira, then? I know there are river ships in Haaken Vaultaen to your south, but how do you traverse the deserts and plateaus? Surely horses couldn’t stand such harsh lands.”

Isilda openly laughed and patted her side. “You call that place, Haaken Vaultaen? Only the Haakuenth call it that. We call it Gullcrest City, and it’s not a part of our lands anymore.”

Tyverus remained silent for a moment and took in the information that Isilda was giving him. He knew from several knights who had been stationed near the Alsira lands that the Haakuenth and the Alsira had squabbles. He had always heard that name for the city in the Haakuenth language, hearing its name in common Hoelatha was strange.

“Anyway, as for how we travel. We do so by air or by foot. I guess it’s all traditions really. We don’t really believe in beasts of burden, or in building strange contraptions like this ship.”

“How do you fly by air? Do you fly on brooms like witches, or do you soar by the currents of magic like sorcerers?” Tyverus gave a chuckle at the absurd notion.

“Authrocs.” Isilda said curtly. “We raise them from chicks. Each member of the Authrakallin Order is bonded to an Authroc from the time they are born. They are our soul-animals.”

“Authrocs…” Tyverus furrowed his brow and pursed his lips at the word. “Those birds are descended from the ancient Phoenixes. How on earth do you domesticate them to use as mounts?” The thought of this demure oracle before him riding a bird twice the size of the ship they were now on was perplexing to Tyverus’ mind.

“We don’t domesticate them, silly.” Isilda crossed her arms for a moment and then lifted one of her hands palm up. “We are soul-bound to them. They are like our…” She looked up to recall the word. “…Familiars. We don’t ‘mount’ them, they help us and we care for them.”

“You fly these giant birds around.” Tyverus turned and pushed his back against the railing. “You soar across the skies, with nothing beneath you but open air.” He held his hands up, together, mimicking the wings of a bird soaring around. Isilda nodded at his words and smiled. “With all that danger. One slip. One fall. One well-placed arrow in the heart of your bird, and you fall to the earth…”

“I know where you’re going with this.” Isilda looked at him with a deadpan expression. “I can handle the dangers and fear of the air, but I can’t handle the dangers and fear of the seas.”

“Exactly. They are both elements. They are both things to be conquered.”

Isilda looked at Tyverus with a slacked jaw, her eyes were wide. “Conquered, you say. I think that’s the difference between us.”

Tyverus turned and leaned back on the railing. He had set lines in the sand between them with his words. He had failed in building trust and companionship between them. She no doubt thought of him as just another meat-headed soldier, now.

Isilda leaned in and got up on her toes to whisper in Tyverus’ ear. “I suppose that is what one must do with fear. I suppose that is what the knights and the oracles do. We both conquer things in our own way. Whether its the elements of nature or the mysteries of the past. To conquer something is to understand it, and by knowing it, you strip the fear of it away.”

Isilda reached forward and placed her hand on Tyverus’. He lifted his gaze to look up into her beautiful green eyes. She gave a genuine smile and took a step towards him. She pressed her body between him and the rail, lifting up his arms and putting them around her.

“You conquered the seas for me. You showed me their beauty without fear. I hope I can do that for you in the future, in my own way.”

* * *

Beneath the surface of the underground river, Tyverus continued to wait for his end to come. The moments dragged on as his lungs continued to burn hungrily for air. Other than a few rocks falling into the water around him, the moments continued to drag on.

The memories of Isilda popped up in his mind and he wished her soul could reach out to him and pull him away from all this pain and suffering. If he could seal away Merithault once and for all, maybe he would be rewarded by whatever gods existed by being reunited with the woman he missed so much. If all of his life lead to this moment, this final sacrifice, that was worth it to save the world from such a fiend.

The moments continued, making Tyverus begin to wonder if the gods had chosen a different fate for him. Maybe he was trapped in a hell of this eternal moment. Maybe he had made wrong choices in his life, or this was the price he was to pay for all the lives he took in battles and wars. He was doomed to sit here in the cold waters waiting for the end but it never coming for him.

He resolved to break the cycle of hellish waiting as he put his left hand and feet beneath him. He pressed himself up to a standing position on the bottom of the river. The rock and metal still clinging to his ravaged body allowed him to stand firmly despite the soft current of the water flowing past him.

One step and then the next through the cold water. His lungs screamed for air, but he continued on with one foot ahead of the next until his face broke over the surface of the water. He took in a large gulp of air and spit out the ice-water that had filled his mouth and throat. The world around him hadn’t ended as he expected.

All around him he was blinded for a moment by veins and ribbons of overpowering energy. He could feel the crackle of power on his exposed and torn flesh. The very air, the very rock, the very water of this place was alive with some unholy energy. If this was the end, it was something he had not expected.

Tyverus looked up from the surface of the water towards the ceiling of the cavern and instinctively stepped back into the water at what he saw. Above the entire roof, the cavern had collapsed under his power, yet every rock, every chunk of ice, and every vein of ore was suspended like dancing planets above his head. Flows of sea water from far above flowed in between the pieces of slowly rotating rocks with no regard for gravity. Ribbons of shadowy power shot through the air like chaotic lightning.

A resounding crackle echoed throughout the cavern and slowly the sound changed to the semi-human cackling of Merithault. “You dare to try and destroy my home?” The monster’s voice seemed to be omnipresent throughout this place that had turned into a realm of chaos. “You think you could just seal me away like that?” The cackle intensified. Overhead several boulders of rock impacted each other and exploded with terrible force.

Tyverus took a few steps forward until the water was only up to his hips. He looked around to see the monster standing at the arch of the bridge. The tendrils of indigo energy around her were busy in a dance conducting the shards of this place above her. Her icy eyes narrowed at him and that same predatory snarl returned.

The gods had forsaken him, his sacrifice was for naught, and nothing he could do seemed to stop this abomination given life from some dark power. It was not yet time for him to be reunited beyond the veil of death with Isilda. The fighting had to continue, the pain had to be endured, and the rage within him burned all the brighter.

Tyverus raised up his left hand at the creature above him and clenched his fingers into a fist. The water of the river around him responded to his command and began to slowly spiral around him. The monster looked on in a state of amusement as the waters spiraled away from Tyverus’ feet and into a whirlwind with him at its center.

With a sharp pull, Tyverus brought his fist close to his shoulder and the river moved with his limb. The whirlwind formed into a giant tentacle of water and ice. With a swipe of his hand, the tentacle impacted the body of Merithault, lifting her from her perch. The tentacle of frozen water pounded upon her, lifting her from the ground, and then with one more motion, sent her flying with extreme force toward the far wall of the cavern.

Merithault’s body flew through the air until she impacted the stone altar by her wall of skulls. The altar cracked and shattered beneath the force of her body. The force of the water continued to assault her and shear at her flesh with shards of ice. The wall behind her cracked, sending hundreds of skulls to fall behind her.

With some powers of air and water, small rivulets of elemental power lifted Tyverus from the empty riverbed and up to the crest of the bridge. The water continued to flow around him, creating spirals around the bridge. The energy he commanded continue to grow with each moment as he barraged the monster with everything he had.

“You should not be!” Tyverus screamed at Merithault from the higher ground of the bridge. The water continued to attack her, pinning her against the debris of her altar. “Die already!”

Shards of ice the size of a grown man tore away at Merithault’s prone form. The water pinned her against the rock as Tyverus’ rage-filled assault continued upon her. Her left arm broke backward at a sharp angle under the force of the river. A chunk of ice tore away fingers from her right hand. Her legs were twisted behind her with bones sticking out from torn flesh. Still, the monster had light in her eyes which shone at him with mirth and a cold rage.

A sound like rusted metal being dragged on granite began to echo up from the fiend. Slowly the sound turned back into the same inhuman cackling as before. No human could withstand such an onslaught. No mortal frame could still survive the crushing weight of an entire river wielded in rage.

Tyverus focused harder while drawing more water into his attack. He would drown the beast in his rage if he had to. He would keep going until all the dwindling energy in his mantle had been spent. Even when that had been exhausted he would choke whatever substituted life from Merithault with his bare hands if he needed to.

The cackling stopped and all that remained in the cavern was the constant roar of waters flowing faster than a mortal eye could fathom. Tyverus was about to let up, but he resolved to press on. It wasn’t until he began to doubt himself, that he noticed the tonnes of boulders flying toward him from above and to his sides. The monster still had energy and she was now using the ceiling of the cavern as a weapon against him.

Tyverus managed to dodge the first few volleys, but the rest struck him hard. One rock knocked him in the head, sending him dizzy spin. Several others impacted his chest and legs. Between flashes of light, he could feel the dull pain of his legs breaking as he was cast backward with tremendous force.

Sparks from the metal he used as armor went off around his eyes. Chunks of his elemental armor went flying as it shattered around him. Beneath all the impacts, he could feel the cold ground of the cavern hit his back. He slid for a moment as more rocks and pebbles took their turns pummeling him. Eventually, his head hit the far wall of the cavern and everything went blissfully dark.

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1 comment:

  1. That scene with Isilda and Tyverus was particularly sad, but effective once again in introducing the narrative to his control of water. I would have liked to see more of her beyond flashbacks, but these all still serve well in establishing character traits to someone who is unfortunately deceased. More importantly, I like how much of Tyverus's apprehension we get to see with her, and it just makes the pain of him losing her all the worse.

    Still, he's putting up quite the fight against Merithault. I wonder if he'll win, or what will change in the last minute to affect his circumstances or otherwise.

    We have seen his destructive control of water, earth and air so far. Only one element of roaring heat left to go.