The dwarf and half-elf took a step back. Overwhelmed by the audacity of his plan, no doubt, thought Baltrog. Their tiny minds could barely comprehend the scale of the destruction he was about to unleash. Sheep. Foolish little sheep.
They were still stepping back. And now the half-elf was pointing at him. A backhanded form of respect, he supposed. She was so terrified by his genius that she was pointing at him and probably saying something to the dwarf. Something like, that man is the incarnation of evil. A form of respect, really.
It began to rain lightly.
But enough gloating. Time to set things off. Before dawn. The citizens would be so much more terrified in the darkness.
It was really raining, which was puzzling because the stars still shone brightly. There were no clouds.
Baltrog looked up. The stars were blinking off as though something was blocking them.
A wave of fish smell so strong it made him gasp invaded Baltrog’s senses. The rain fell heavier and it seemed to be made of something other than water. Something slimy.
The stars were suddenly visible again, but now something huge was silently moving around the lighthouse, encompassing the top of the tower. Something impossibly huge, stinking, wet, and moving faster than something that size should be able to move. As it closed around the lighthouse just below the balcony, Baltrog recognized what it was.
The tentacle squeezed and the top of the lighthouse exploded.
Elros had the stone halfway out of its slot. Harder work than he thought it would be. But just a couple of more inches.
There was a flash of bright light. Or was it in his head? Whatever the case, Elros suddenly felt, well, different. And what was he doing pulling at this stone? That wasn’t his job. Boy, if the chief engineer caught him he’d be in trouble. No, better push it back and get to work on the sewer lines.
The scale of the tentacle that rose behind the lighthouse drew gasps from Voltag and Yolanthe. At first they were not even sure what they were seeing was real, for the giant thing moved so fluidly and quietly it seemed a shape from a dream. But when it circled the lighthouse and began to squeeze the building just below the balcony that Baltrog was standing on, it massive reality became all too clear.
The stones of the lighthouse were crushed inwards but the top of the lighthouse seem to blow out. The great tank of phosphorescence burst, sending a wave of glowing green liquid onto the tentacle and the destroyed building. Cut stone flew into the air, timbers cracked like twigs, and nails popped out of joists. The tentacle lifted into the air, taking with it the rubble of the top part of the lighthouse and leaving behind a tower that looked as though it had been severed with a blunt axe. The tentacle rose high and higher, towering above the ruined lighthouse, still clutching pieces of rubble and, Voltag thought, a body.
The tentacle moved away from the shore, back out into the sea, then slammed down into the water. A huge wave surged from the impact, heading straight for the island. As Voltag watched, that wave flooded over the low rocks of the ocean-side of the island and kept coming, submerging the island as it went. A ten-foot high wall of water was roaring at him.
He looked around in a panic. Maybe if he got to the base of the lighthouse the wave would be split by that building and go around him. But even as the thought formed the wave hit the lighthouse, split around it and rushed towards him. He just had time to register that Yolanthe was bracing herself to be hit by the water while the man with the gills was staring at the rushing wall of water impassively.
Voltag roared in frustration as the water hit him, knocking him back and off his feet, choking his voice with cold salt water. Pieces of wood and strands of seaweed lashed him as he was tumbled off the island and into the harbor. He kicked and flailed his arms in an attempt to keep his head above water but the force of the wave was too great. After what seemed an eternity the wave began to slow. Voltag windmilled his arms wildly, finally managing to bring his head to the surface just as the wave lost its force and flattened into the water of the harbor.
Struggling to keep his head above water, Voltag looked around. The water was rough from the kraken’s splash so he could only see any distance when he rode to the crest of a wave. He caught glimpses of pieces of wood and other flotsam, but no people. He was hundreds of feet from the island. An impossible distance. The weight of his chainmail and axe were pulling him down. He could feel the cold water in his boots acting like an anchor dragging him towards the bottom.
He began to shout for help, then stopped himself. There was no one who could hear him. He was alone. Pushing down the panic in his chest he forced himself to face the truth: he was going to drown.
Not what I wanted, he thought. Not the right way for a Grimm to die. Should have stayed in the mountain, swallowed my pride. Now it’s a watery death.
His arms began to tire.
Stupid, he thought. I’ve been a stupid vengeful man. Too proud for my own good.
The sun broke over the horizon, sending a beam of light across the water. Voltag could see that the Clasp was now empty of people, even the body of the gnome had been washed into the sea. There was no sight of the kraken. The shattered top of the lighthouse was the only evidence it had ever been there.
Voltag pushed at the water one more time with exhausted arms, took a gulp of air, then let himself slip under the surface. As the light receded and he sunk into colder and colder water, he forced himself to think of Griselda.
When the wave rushed towards Yolanthe she turned and ran in the direction it was headed. When it swept her off her feet she leapt forward, arms extended, allowing herself to be carried by the wave’s force but not tossed by it. The force of the wave held her under water for what seemed an eternity, but she did not panic. She waited for its power to abate before swimming to the surface. When her head broke free of the waves she scanned the water for Voltag. She knew he would drown in minutes, if not seconds, without help.
The salt water stung the wound on the back of her neck. She waited for a wave to raise her slightly in the water, and scanned around quickly.
There, in the trough of a wave some 100 feet away, what might be Voltag’s head. She began to swim towards it.
A hand grabbed her foot.
Tinder had been sitting on the bottom stair inside the lighthouse, weeping in frustration and exhaustion, when the kraken struck. She looked up to see the stone walls at the top of the structure implode under an impossible force and she jumped under the staircase before debris could come smashing down. She curled herself into a ball as stone and wood rained down on the circular floor of the lighthouse, some of it covered in noxious slime.
When the debris stopped falling she carefully crawled out of her hiding spot and looked up. The entire top of the lighthouse was missing. She looked at the smashed open door. A wall of water was rushing at her. Before she could react, it slammed into the base of the lighthouse and flooded through the door. She was pushed across the floor by its force, banging into chests and trunks. In seconds she was chest high in cold water grabbing at floating pieces of wood and wondering how high the water might climb. She tried to push herself towards the staircase but the water swirled so violently in the crowded space that she was swept off her feet. Just when she thought she might be crushed or drowned the water began to recede. In minutes she found herself slumped on the ground, cold and bruised, but alive.
She climbed over a trunk that had jammed in the doorway when the water retreated and stepped outside. The green light of the lighthouse had been replaced by the red glow of an approaching dawn. In its dim light she could see that the surface of the island had been entirely wiped clean. The dwarf, the half-elf, the others. They were all gone. And so was Edwin.
But what about her wounded friends on the other island? Had the wave reached that far? Tinder could not see them in the dim light, so she ran to the edge of the island nearest the rest of the Necklace, threw herself in the water, and began to swim.
Voltag’s vision of Griselda’s face came swimming out of blackness. Those mismatched eyes, the dimples, her broad strong teeth. But she was so cold. And wet. And there was a red glow behind her that grew until her face began to fade. She was leaving him. Again.
He forced his eyes open to find another face close to his, shining in the low morning sunshine.
Voltag coughed. “I’m not drowned?” he asked.
“Not yet,” said Yolanthe. “But the third time’s the charm.”
“What happened?” asked Voltag. He had no intention of moving. His body was bruised and numb. Even his beard hurt.
Yolanthe told him how they had been swept from the island by the wake of the kraken and how she had tried to swim to him. When she got to the spot where he had gone down a hand had grabbed her leg. The hand belonged to the strange man with the gills. He surfaced beside her and she begged him to find Voltag. He swam down and pulled the dwarf to the surface by his beard. The two of them squeezed the water from his lungs, and brought him back to the lighthouse island.
“He saved your life,” said Yolanthe.
Voltag’s heart sunk. Another obligation. He had to stop relying on people to save him.
He rolled on to his side, then up on all fours. He spat out seawater and picked some seaweed from his beard. No time like the present, he thought, forcing himself to his feet.
The man with the gills was sitting on the ground watching the sunrise. Voltag crossed over to him and cleared his throat. The man did not respond.
“I’m obliged to you,” said Voltag. “I am Voltag Grimm of the Grimm Mountain tribe. What’s your name?”
“I am my master’s sl . . .” The man did not finish the sentence. He turned to look at Voltag. His scarred face showed utter bewilderment.
“He’s gone,” he said quietly.
“Who’s gone?” asked Voltag, growing concerned.
“The master,” said the man with amazement. “He’s freed me. I’m free.”
“You mean the fish?” asked the dwarf.
“Yes. He’s freed me. He’s not in my mind. I’m free.”
Voltag smiled. “It’s a day for freeing minds,” he said.
The man began to smile, then caught himself and shook his head.
“There’s something else,” he said. He whispered in amazement: “I remember my name.”