Midrae, 12 Augos NE398
One must always consider, is the storm of this world, or of Paradise? For many souls are capable of besting nature, but few are equipped to prove themselves mightier than the gods.
- Jovess Astaire
The distant horizon was marred with the gray haze of falling precipitation. The fog of rain fell in front of the backdrop of the early setting sun. Clouds were building, seemingly one on top of the other, growing darker and darker. A billowing mass of energy which, even to the naked eye, seemed to be gaining speed.
On a small vessel, bobbing in an endless sea of translucent blue water, a very tall, seasoned sailor repeated his statement.
“Rains uh’commin. I’s nearin us soon, gill-sap.”
An ordinary, stern looking, short haired woman stood at the small ship’s edge, peering down to the bottom of the sea floor some fifty feet below. “Call me gill-sap again, Rayf, an’ I’ll cast you off into the Blue with a water buff’s skull tied to your sack. Just cause your mother was a feral doesn’t mean I have to take your shit. I'm not scared of you.”
“Of course, Missus Faye.” The large, older man seemed annoyed.
The large man, Rayf was half feral. The principle comment on his appearance was almost always focused on his towering height of some seven feet. Feral men are brutes, standing at nearly 9 feet , while the surprisingly beautiful feral women stand a couple feet shorter. Rayf’s mother came from this land-locked race of traditionally barbaric and simple folk.
Ferals go about their days, living in constant paranosis of the intrusive, power wielding Eyrsan people, but they respect no true deity. Ferals are typically more spiritual than theistic, though this region’s populace has grown to worship a particular featherman (coincidentally feathermen just so happen to be the vessels of the true gods) who has been all but lost to history. Occasionally, the intermingling of Ferals and men would lead to a being like Rayf , a half-brute made to feel like more than half a stranger amongst the high and mighty Eyrsan humans.
Faye did not break her concentration from her gaze to the sea floor below. “Good. Now, set up the rigging over the stern.”
“Missus Faye, there’s bein’ no Grazier down there. It’s bes’ for us to ‘ead back a’the fleet. O’ur lil skiff can’ take this storm. I ai’n seen’a storm ‘is size on the Blue Sea in all mine--”
Interrupting, Faye raised her voice as she maintained her view of the animals below, “What are you talking about, Rayf? I can see a herd literally right now, as I’m talking to you,”she pointed down into the water. “Take the rigging aft an’ set to lower it. That’s an order.”
Even the untrained eye could nearly see perfectly through the godswater, the sea-mares calmly gnawing away at the aquatic grass, ignoring the small hunter vessel that floated on the surface above them. The sun was cowering behind clouds now, but the moon was still visible in the East and the moonlight made the Blue Sea glow its eerie hue. The water emitted such a powerful glow in the moonlight visibility was arguably improved in the hours of a clear night.
“They’rn some good size’d, but’he ‘erd’s too small...T’herd’s too small. Them ‘bein Nautix ponies, I bettin’,” said Rayf with confidence. “I’ll toss up a fat, gol’ Loren sayin’ you’n gonna find tags on the’manes.”
“Damn,” Faye thought to herself, “he might be right.” The huntress, however, was quite stubborn and she quickly turned her skepticism around. “No, no, the herd’s small ‘cause they have refuge by these rocks,” she pointed to the menacing, jagged boulders sticking out of the water’s surface, some hundred yards off. Faye looked back at the small herd, focusing on a particular beast, “An’ he’s a big one...”
“If’n this storm’s uh’commin we’s goin’ to be’in the ones on’dat rocks,” said Rayf, “but we’n won’ be livn’.”
Faye had had enough. “Rayf, go aft an’ set the rigging. If we return to The Ery'na with half a bull carcass and a pup, my father will send me back out with half a crew for another 18 hours. An’ who do you think my one partner is going to be? I need to sleep tonight. As do you.”
Rayf seemed to disagree in his mind, but his words were different. “Yes’n, missus Faye.”
Rayf ordered the 2 other deckhands to set up the dive rigging off the stern of the boat. The 28’ boat was a satellite vessel referred to as a skiff, or a Hunter, to the hunting ketch The Ery'na. Each of the main ship’s half dozen Hunters were designed for quick tracking of herds across short expanses of the Blue Sea. This summer, The Ery’na had grown quite desperate. In a down season there was little product to show for their efforts. The captain had ordered the small fleet to the Joens Islands, an archipelago spread over many miles which had only small, desert islands, reefs and sharp protruding rocks. The archipelago was known as a virtual dead zone to both fishermen and hunters, but captain of The Ery’na, Faye’s father, had a hunch they would find something of value there.
Faye’s small Hunter boat had chased a surprisingly large herd of seamares for hours until they took refuge in a Shoal Forest. The gigantic trees growing up from the 30 foot seabed provided a safe haven for the animals from long range weaponry of the hunters. It also allowed the animals an advantage in defending themselves and even attacking the humans. Faye had ordered the skiff and it’s crew of 4 out to the open Blue Sea in search of another herd. They were now miles from the refuge of the harbored hunting vessel, and with very little to show for it.
“Wha’s our depth, Missus Faye?”
“I’d say fifty!...sixty!...” Faye yelled over her shoulder as she prepared herself for the dive. She stripped down to only a pair of smooth, sleek leggings and a sleeveless tunic of similar material.
Rayf held up what looked like a water pouch, but it was filled up like a balloon. “We’ve only 3 breaths to take with yur,” Rayf explained to her. “Woul’ you’rne care for us to halv-fill the res?”
“It’s a small herd,” said Faye, fighting the rocking of the boat. The storm had begun to grow in intensity. “I think I’ll be fine. An’ I’d rather spare myself the pleasure of tasting your breath every time I took to one.”
“Al’n’right, well i’m gone halv-fill this’n anyways” said Rayf, securing to the platform the air bladder he had filled with his own lungs. “Three’ll ‘ave to do yer, but you’n havin’ this’n jus’n case.”
A fresh pumped air bladder, or breath bag, is more practical and has more pure oxygen, but a secondhand breath wasn’t completely useless. Especially in an emergency. If the operation was well funded Faye would have a diving bell at her expense, but her father’s operation was not quite that affluent.
From the sky, a large flock of seagulls called out as they retreated from the coming storm. One gull in the rear of the flock suddenly dropped a few feet, as if it had momentarily fallen asleep, and then regained its flight only to turn straight towards the boat. The gull cawed as it careened towards Faye. The huntress’s reaction was to cover herself from the oncoming bird. To her surprise, the gull clumsily landed and tried grabbing the lone, unbroken hunting spear from the boat deck . It struggled to grasp the firm, heavy spear in its webbed feet, and struggled even more to fly off with its prize once it held a proper grip. Faye altered her reaction from self protection to that of protecting her hunting spear. The smaller bird was no match for Faye’s quick reach. She snatched at the spear and shook the gull from it. Giving up, the bird retreated but stopped to perch itself at the bow of the ship, peering back curiously at the sailors as they worked.
“The hell is going on today...?” Faye asked herself, staring at the peculiar bird that had perched on the front of her small boat. The crew working around her had heard her mumbling, and they agreed that things had seemed a bit...off. Ever since they left the safety of their flagship, The Ery'na, circumstances had been growing increasingly strange.
Hunters on the Blue Sea are tasked with finding grazier. Grazier is among the hardest and most reliable substances known to the world, and it is coveted in Eyrsa and beyond to be transformed into top of the line weapons and tools. Thanks to their gills and extremely heavy bones, Grazier sea-creatures, such as horses, bulls and elk, walk on the bottom of the sea as effortlessly as their land dwelling counterparts walk on land. The grazier animals are native only to the Blue Sea, and are killed mostly for their bones but as well for their hides and meat. The smiths mold the bones of rare sea giants into the most desired large weapons made by man, but the majority of bones, even those from large bulls and mares, can only be crafted into hand held tools, daggers and arrowheads. The meat of the animals is less valuable, but is still either shipped off to the mainland as feed for farm animals or condensed down into lamp oils. The trade of a grazier hunter is dangerous, but extremely lucrative.
The small ship had set a course southeast at the directive of The Ery’na’s captain, and hardly found anything to hunt after their initial herd managed to elude them. After that, only one rather skittish and distant sea-bull had even come within sight, and Faye had been more than fortunate to kill him at such range. Faye’s lone other kill ended up being rather useless when what she thought was a sizeable bull ended up actually being a porpoise hiding behind a small boulder at the bottom of the sea. The kill wouldn’t have been completely worthless if it had been fully grown, but when Faye realized the animal was only a young pup, she nearly left the carcass to rot at the bottom of the sea.
Luck did not merely elude them in their hunt, but in fact luck actively turned on them, rearing its ugly side. The crew had been attacked by a school of scalehawks which was unprovoked and, to the experience of all 4 shipmates, unprecedented. Scalehawks are water dwelling, bird of prey-like sea creatures that were capable of flight as long as their gills can absorb enough water vapor from the air. Their “beaks” actually housed mighty teeth and they sported claws capable of cutting off a hand. The school had barrelled into their sails, ripping the canvas to shreds. Faye had ordered the sails to be brought down for repair as they continued onwards, solely under the power of oars. It had all been so strange, and now this seagull...
Weather had also proven to be a queer enemy that day. After the scalehawk incident, they were hit with a blistering heat. If not for her normal practice to pack extra rations, the small crew of four would have been dehydrated from rowing hours on end, inevitably drying up their freshwater reserves and would have been forced to return to The Ery’na. The heat had passed but now a massive storm was brewing, approaching quickly from the west. Storms are almost never this strong over the Blue Sea. Something was afoot, but this concern became lost on Faye.
“No’n, you’not goin’ down a’the sea bottom wi’f’out y’ur sea’legs,” said Rayf. He tossed Faye a strange looking pair of footwear, designed for maneuverability in the strange, blue godswater. “You’n can’(t) swim for damn’s wi’f’out these’n.”
“Rayf, I can’t move around on the floor. I hate wearing fins, you know that. I can’t hunt in them, I need to be able to move.”
“You’rn worry ‘bout movin’ on the floor, I’m worry’n bout you’rn movin’ in the go’swa’(t)er. I don’ care’n if you’n gonna wear em’ or no’n. Your’n takin’ em with’ya. If you’rn fath’r see’n me back a the’ship wi’f’out ya an’ I tol’ him you’n dove wi’f’out yo’ur fins, he’n will toss me o’erboard. You’n gotten ‘way wi’f iht early, bu’ wi’f this’torm a’comin’, you’n takin’ em down wi’f yur.”
Faye had enough of his talking. She scoffed and took the fins, tying them around her thigh with a leather band. They were good to have just in case something went wrong, but mostly she did it to shut Rayf up.
Faye secured her hunting spear under the crossing shoulder straps which held her small weight belt in place and climbed aboard the rear platform hanging from the ship’s rigging. With only a nod to her shipmate, an iron lever was released, sending the weighted platform down into the depths of the Blue Sea.
The blue godswater comforted Faye, as she had grown accustomed to it as a young girl growing up in Oren’s Drift. Though the godswater was poisonous to drink, it was harmless to the touch. It let off beautiful blue glow in the moonlight which had a certain allure that spoke to Faye. As the platform surged downwards rapidly in the glowing, blue waters, a distant glimmer caught her eye. Something more than curiosity came over her as her focus held in the distance--
The platform struck the seafloor with an incredible amount of force. Rayf and Faye had guessed the depth wrong, off by some five feet or so. Typically Faye leaps from the platform as it approaches the bottom, but her focus that day was lacking for some reason and she paid for it with a generous shock sent straight up her spine. Faye collected herself from the crash and began walking out on calmly on the sandy bottom, all the while holding her breath.
This was what Rayf had referred to when had called her gill-sap. One in an endless lineage of divers, hunters and salvagers, Faye is a professional Grazier Hunter. Talented hunters are capable of navigating the shallow depths of the Blue Sea for minutes at a time, holding her breath before for almost 7 turns of a clock’s hand. The older hunters were called Gills, while the unproven, younger divers were called saps. In the eyes of her counterparts, Faye seemed to fall somewhere in the middle, as 'gill-sap'.
The thin godswater of the Blue Sea causes a lack of water pressure, which increases the length of the initial held breath at depth, increases the effectiveness of air bladders and of course makes it easier to walk along the bottom of the sea. Boats were specially designed to float in the less dense liquid, nearly required double the draft to keep a normal sized boat afloat. It was almost impossible to swim up to the surface in this water, and extremely difficult to swim through at any speed or stay afloat for any amount of time. One man compared swimming in godswater to swimming in freshwater with hands and feet made of cannonballs. The fins that Rayf had forced Faye to take with her made swimming a bit more bearable, but it was still an exhausting venture.
Faye looked up at the wide hunting skiff. She found in her gaze Rayf, standing just below the surface and at the ready on the lowered harpooning platform. He was pointing at the herd, shaking his head.
“DAMNIT!” Faye shouted, letting precious bubbles of air escape from her lungs.
She should have known this when the mares didn’t run off at the sound of the platform crashing, but this confirmed it. Immediately, she had recognized the gleaming silver tags hanging from the beast’s neck. These mares had been claimed by the Nautix. It was strange for the Nautix herders to allow their horses so far from their keep, and to Faye’s knowledge the waters off of Joens Islands weren’t inhabited. Faye looked around the sea floor, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive sea dwelling humanoids, but there were none to be seen. Even with nobody around to witness the hunt, if she brought back a Nautix branded sea-mare she’d be in violation of centuries old Eyrsan/Nautix agreements, and be thrown in the brig until she was returned to Oren’s Drift. And now, even if she left it to rot, a Nautix would surely report it missing and if it were to be found slain, there would be an investigation launched. Faye didn’t want that trouble on her hands.
Almost as a surprise to her, Faye realized that she was falling short of breath. She headed back to her platform with a graceful motion, throwing her body forward like a spear being thrust through the water. As she did this, the fins Rayf had insisted she take with her fell from their tether, coming to rest at the sea bottom. Faye didn’t notice. More than likely Faye wouldn’t have turned back even if she did notice their absence, as she always felt they were unnecessary to her dives.
Cursing to herself out of frustration (as well as to rid her lungs of expended air), Faye took one of the secured air bladders, sucking every bit of available oxygen out from it. She felt a new wave of freshness. Without thought she glanced up to see Rayf. He was motioning, nearly begging for her to pull the lever on the platform that drops the weights and sends her to the surface. The seas were getting noticeably rougher and she could see him being tossed around on the lowered harpooning platform.
Faye sighed, ready to admit defeat. Begrudgingly she placed her hand on the lever and was prepared to pull, when a gleam of light somehow caught her eye. The godswater is incredibly clear and well lit from the glow of the moon, but the glimmer she saw was curious since there wasn’t any sun shining to send off such a powerful reflection. Something took Faye over. She was curious beyond any measure that she had previously known. She was almost hypnotized.
Faye was jolted awake from her half-slumbered gaze by a loud WHOOSH and a small explosion of debris that had happened only a few yards away. Rayf had shot the harpoon to get her attention. The seas were swelling to very intense levels, and the small hunting skiff wasn’t prepared to handle it. Faye noticed Rayf suddenly scramble for the edge of the boat, and watched as he hoisted himself up into the vessel just in time for the (relatively) delicate harpooning platform to splinter, breaking free from the skiff. The heavy metallic harpoon and its platform fell through the godswater towards the sea floor almost as quickly as it would have in the dry air. This startled and outright frightened Faye. Her panic was enough to get her out of the temporary hypnosis she was experiencing, and she again put her hand on the surfacing lever.
Once more, her eyes were caught again by a faint glimmer. Again, her eyes glazed over, even underwater. Her focus was directly at the base of the large rocks which Rayf had been so scared of being shipwrecked on, some hundred yards away. Ignoring her duty as the skiff captain, Faye reached for another air bladder, ready to head out towards the glimmer.
Just as Faye was ready to breathe in, she heard a booming thunder approaching her on the seafloor. The large Nautix sea-mare had returned, uncharacteristically trying to trample over Faye. She dove out of the way, narrowly avoiding being killed by the beast. Scrambling up from the firm, sandy floor, she again took out her spear and stood up as the beast raised its head and began to charge. The noise it produced underwater was a muffled, blood curdling yell. Its’ eyes were cold and black, berating Faye’s resolve with every bit of eye contact. Faye’s reactions were quite impressive. As she reared back her throwing arm, a small crystal embedded on a leather band around her wrist began to glow a bright, obtrusive yellow. The spear was released with a great velocity, but effect of the impact was dwarfed by the explosive blast of energy that resulted. She had transferred the power of the gods into the spear. When the tip pierced the beast’s skin the result was an explosion of electricity and energy. The seamare came to rest with a loud crash as it died almost instantly, sliding on the sand towards Faye.
“What a waste,” she thought to herself.
Faye approached the animal, knowing that her use of the god’s power had ruined any chance of salvaging the bones for tool use. The shock of electricity weakens the grazier beyond practical use, and the meat would be rubbery and tough, good only for consumption by the most desperate of men.
The Nautix tags on the beast stared her in the face and she briefly worried of what the consequences would be for killing one of their herd. Interestingly enough, Faye noticed that there was no matching brand on the hind legs. But Faye was not set to be distracted by this now. Her mind raced back to the glimmer she had seen in the distance, the speck of light that had whispered to her before was now shouting. She left the animal carcass where it had fallen, her spear still impaled in its hide.
Faye gathered herself and reached for the air bladder. She quickly breathed in every ounce of freshness that she could and turned to dive towards the rocks. She had no idea how much time had truly passed as she vaulted herself towards the rocks. As she arrived, she paused when she came to realize what she had come across.
This wasn’t simply a collection of rocks jutting out of the sea. Faye had stumbled upon a very old and seemingly untouched shipwreck. The contents of the rather large ship had settled between the rocks that had undoubtedly been the demise of its voyage. She ventured closer, wishing she had more air in her lungs. She could hear the sea above, thrashing and pounding at the rocks. Without much concentration, Faye reached up above her as the crystal on her wristband began to glow once more, this time a soft yellow color. An orb of light grew from her exposed palm, and began following her around as she explored the wreck site, like a pet desperate for attention.
The wreck was unearthly. It was as if it had been untouched even by the animals of the Blue Sea, even untouched by the decaying effects of the godswater itself. The noise of the storm sounded strange, and Faye all of a sudden realized how still the water was around her. Where only 15 feet away she was able to feel the surge of the swells above, the godswater around her was stagnant.
After a brief, scurried search around the site for a few minutes, Faye came across the starboard bow, which had been scattered far from it’s original juxtaposition amongst the rest of the ship. There was a large, engraved nameplate for the ship that had been stamped on the wood, covered in sludge. Her floating orb came closer with a simple thought, but even still the words were too hard to make out. Faye took her hand and wiped harshly at the nameplate, half exposing the oversized words just to the point of legibility.
Loose memories and thoughts of old stories came to mind, but they were in muddled fragments.
“The Rook...the rook, the rook, the rook,” she played the thought over and over in her head. Faye’s concentration led her to drown out the thundering noise of the storm and the churning water above her at the rocks’ edge. “I know this. What in the hell is The Rook from...”
The storm above was swelling into a fearsome rage at this point, but she was oblivious to the commotion. Suddenly, just at the crescendoing point of the storm, a deafening crash from above seemed to clear her mind.
“The Bloodsailor...” Faye thought to herself.
The euphoric moment of clarity was cut short by the fact that she realized she was extremely short on breath. With one last glance back to the wreck, as if to cement the location of the wreck in the recesses of her mind, she started back for the platform.
Throwing herself quickly towards said platform, her only source of fresh air and her easiest way back to the surface, Faye’s mind was racing with excitement. The rumor within the Bloodsailor’s stories had been true all along. The most notorious pirate of both the Old and New Eras, possibly of all time, in Eyrsa! It was rumored that his original ship, The Rook, had been sunk but he vehemently denied the allegations. The rumors held that he had The Rook’s sister ship transformed to look just as the original. The rumors were just that, rumors, as nobody in 5 centuries had been able to discover the original wreck site of The Rook. Faye was excited beyond belief for she was, without any semblance of hyperbole, easily set to immediately be among the most wealthy of all the people in the known world.
Lost in her excitement, was all perception. Faye had hardly taken notice to the bellowing crash that was above her at the wreck site, the sound of her small hunting vessel being effortlessly vaulted into the jagged rocks by the swells in the sea. She didn’t notice the three limp bodies of her shipmates being tossed into the godswater, dragged down to the shallow depths by the entanglement of the small sails and rigging. The first thing Faye did notice was the loose line resting on the sand between her and the platform.
Unadulterated panic began to set in. Faye reached the platform, which had been knocked on one end, and looked up only to see an empty, boatless sea above. The luminescent blue water looked erie when lightning struck from the overhanging clouds. Faye’s lungs began truly heaving within her chest for air. It was as if she could feel her heart beating in her brain.
Ready to try the desperate swim to the surface, Faye was struck with a jovial realization, “There’s still one more breath on the platform.”
In a moment of euphoria that would have brought a tear to her eyes, she turned to the platform optimistic and almost with a smile on her face. But her happiness was fleeting, for the platform had been knocked over when the line was pulled taught by the ship and the storm. The final full air bladder had ruptured. All that remained was the secondhand breath, the one that Rayf had filled himself.
Desperate, she took the final skin and breathed in all of the air she could. It was far from fresh, and Faye could feel the inadequacy of the oxygen levels as the air passed through her lungs, but it gave her a bit more life. She didn’t even remember the fins that lay on the sea floor just a few feet away. The odds that she could scale the depths in short enough time were exceedingly small, but she began her struggle to the surface nonetheless.
It is truly amazing what these humans will go through in order to live just a bit longer.
I feel bad, I truly do. I never want to kill any of my people, least of all by drowning. Drowning proves to be a quite painful death. Yet, I was left with little choice. The shipmates, I was lucky enough, were all three knocked unconscious as they were being thrown into the sea. Their deaths weren’t as painful to cause or to witness. But poor Faye, she had her wits about her. The struggle she put up, the fruitless efforts she expended trying to get herself through the thin godswater up to the surface, it was truly heartbreaking to see. And to hear, as well. The downside to reading the mortal’s thoughts, I suppose. Thoughts of her struggle, then of her friends, her family, her lover were all shouted in her mind at a frequency of desperation beyond the perceptiveness of men’s ears. I didn’t like that I had to kill them, but it was necessary.
I tried to keep them away, honestly. I vehemently tried my best to spare their lives, but they were determined. I possessed a scalehawk and tore through their sails. I cleared the air for the entire day, hoping that the rays of the sun would dry them out early. I even tried to push the herds of sea-mares away from the wreck, but nothing worked. Not the seagull, nor the attacking seamare. Faye was stubborn and she ignored my final sign, the storm. I didn’t like killing the crew of that hunting skiff, but I had to. It was necessary.For I’ve been keeping the shipwreck of The Rook a secret for hundreds of years. Hundreds of years! I’ve only just recently determined who will be destined to discover the wreck, and most importantly of all, the treasure that lies hidden within. It has been no small task, this secret. Doing so with only the influence of weather and animals has proven more and more difficult as the years have passed on. Such is the responsibility of a deity. Such is this god’s burden.