Link Search Menu Expand Document

“So, what’s the plan when we get there?” Jorn asked as he practiced with the scimitar, swiping the air and changing positions. The boat creaked under the waves of an otherwise calm sea. To the horizon was nothing but stars and the moons overhead. A single, dim lantern hung over the boat as Jorn moved about in his practice.

“Our first priority is to secure Achara,” Camon answered. “If the imbecile behind all of this presents himself, we take care of him too.”

“I’d be more apt first to get your ‘imbeciles’, then find Achara,” Jorn said.

“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, honestly. Whenever we get there, I’m sure they will know it.”

“Let me at him, and you find Achara.”

“He will mop the floor with you, Jorn,” Camon rebuked. “Your newfound power is strong, but don’t be deceived. He’s the one that gave it to you, and I am sure that he knows how to counter it. Moreover, consider the rescue effort back outside of Neuasut. You did well, but you had a difficult time dealing with numbers. They were flanking you.”

“Komir thought that unleashing on them would have resulted in failure, and advised conservative use of it, which I did. Going against one means I could unleash on them,” Jorn said, flexing his blade against the mast.

“You don’t know who or what we’ll be up against there. I’d advise being cautious too. If we get in a situation where it’s us against one, then you can let the one have it, but they will likely have the same sort of defenses that the mages had, only stronger.”

“Then how do you plan to destroy them then?” Jorn asked. “Whack them with your sword?”

“I’m not,” Camon said.

“Wait. What? You want to face them, but not destroy them? Don’t tell me this is a mercy thing…”

“No, it’s not mercy. It’s Achara. She’s the only one of us three that even stands a chance.”

“Then why go up against them at all?” Jorn said, pausing for a second.

“We’re the bait. Achara is the trap.”

“You’re putting a lot of faith in her to do this. What makes you think she can?”

“I trusted you to get me out of the grip of the Inquisitors, did I not? And you succeeded – for the most part.”

“I hope you’re right. The seer girl in Neuasut – the elves said that you gave yourself up to protect her and that she had something to tell Achara. Is that true?”

“Exactly that.”

“What is she telling her that is so important?”

“Basically, how to defeat the Gray Elf magic. Achara will know how to do that,” Camon said.

“So it all comes down to her, then,” Jorn said.

“Well, she’s had help. You played an important part in that as well. Even as a Paladin, I don’t think of myself as being able to do everything myself. It’s important to have allies and people I can trust to make things happen. It’s why I am still here and able to do what I’m doing. You and Achara have both bailed me out. Never underestimate the power of friendships.”

“I’ve always been more of a lone wolf, but I see your point,” Jorn admitted.

“We don’t know what will be there. We’re walking into this blind too, so whacking anyone may or may not happen.”

Jorn stretched his legs and arms and leaned back, looking into the night sky above. His face contorted, and his eyes squinted as he followed something across the sky.

“Did you see that?” he asked. He ran to the side of the deck and peered into the darkness.

“See what?” Camon asked back.

“I could swear I just saw something flying across the sky overhead. Not bird-like at all….”

“Could have been anything, but a bird this far offshore is not likely, unless we are getting near shore. Was it large?”

“Hard to tell, I only saw its silhouette across the sky. But it was moving fast.”

“Could have been anything,” Camon said.

Kelah came out from the cabin, “Heard ya say somethin’ about seein’ a bird overhead?”

“Jorn says he saw something,” Camon said.

Kelah went back to the cabin and returned with his chart and laid it out on the deck. He looked skyward at the moons and then flipped through an almanac. “We are get’n near the coordinates ya wanted me to take you. Should be seeing somethin’ in the next day or so.”

“I thought we might be getting close,” Camon noted. “It’s been a few weeks since we left Rhatsaan. But we’ll have to see. Otherwise, it’s been a nice pleasure cruise.”

“Pleasure? Ha!” Kelah laughed. “Maybe for you. You’ve done nothin’ but sit and stare at the sea,” Kelah said. “I thought you’d gone mad by now.”

“Who says I haven’t?” Camon smirked. “Going to the middle of the unknown is pretty crazy.”

“Don’t know what you’re up to, but it don’t sound good. I heard you sayin’ stuff about whacking folks with swords and being bait and all that.”

“I’m not asking you to participate,” Camon said. “But the last time I hired a ship and crew, they went missing.”

“As I said, your gold speaks. She’s not going anywhere until you say so.”

“I’m glad we are still clear on that,” Camon said.

“Yep,” Kelah said.

Camon went back to staring out at sea. Even without his stones, Camon worked on probing the waters and world about him. He hadn’t told them this is what he had been doing most of the time, looking for the magic. He worked the magic more and more each day, learning to build and control it by focusing without the stones. Eventually, Kelah put the lantern out, and the two passengers and some of the crew went to sleep. They awoke the next morning, seeing birds in the air, circling and diving for fish in the water. Clouds had rolled in overnight, creating an overcast sky.

“Looks like something’s near,” Kelah said. “But navigating with this mess isn’t going to be easy.”

“I know,” Camon said. “But not like you do.”

“What are you? Some kind of priest?”

“You could call me that,” Camon said.

“Then why no robes, commission, or any of that stuff?”

“I studied to be a priest, but never became one.”

“Man of the cloth, without the cloth,” the captain laughed. “Seems ya wasted your time.”

“I don’t see it that way,” Camon said.

“You know magic?” Kelah inquired.

“Priest magic, yes. Plus, what I’ve picked up along the way that isn’t exactly sanctioned by the Church or Empire.”

“There’s no Empire or Church out here, so I don’t guess it’s illegal?”

“Operating outside the jurisdiction of the Empire has its advantages, as I’m sure you’re well aware of as a sailor.”

“Ya got that right,” Kelah bellowed. “They tax the shirt off a man’s back at the ports. But it’s the only place to find work. And colonists in the east need stuff and also need to ship stuff. Stuff out of Rhatsaan support ‘em. Occasionally some stranger comes strollin’ in and wants to go somewhere that isn’t normal. Occasionally, and they typically look like you did in the pub.”

“And like a buzzard, you swoop in and feed,” Camon remarked.

“Man’s gotta eat,” Kelah retorted.

Just then, from the helm, Ngo called out, “Something’s on the horizon, boss!”

Kelah jumped up and went up to the helm and looked out, “Yiyd, up the mast. Tell me what you can see!”

The skinny man shimmied up the mast as naturally as a man walking and then from atop a sail yard and called down, “Land, captain!” He then came back down and landed on the deck with a flip from the mast in a display of acrobatics.

“Yiyd used to be a jester,” Kelah said. “I’ve found them to be useful for that sort of thing.”

“That looks like our destination, then,” Camon said.

“You were right all along. Don’t know how you know, but honestly, I’m not sure that I want to either. You, Mister Camon, are a mystery for sure.”

“He’s got you pegged,” Jorn commented.

The ship cut through waves for most of the morning, and the island came into view. From the helm, Camon observed the island towering over the water. Waves crashed against the island as swells pommeled the base and created towers of spray. Camon then made out perched atop of the island a tower the same color as the island. Still, with distinct architectural elements like windows and battlements, he knew not to be natural formations.

“That’s your island, but I don’t how you’re gonna land,” Kelah said. “From here, there’s no beach, port, or docks.”

“It could be on the other side,” Camon said. “But you needn’t worry about that. Jorn and I will take the skiff and see what we can find.”

“Wait till we get closer,” Kelah said.

The captain gave a command, and the ship altered course, passing to the south of the island before Kelah commanded they turn back to the north. The ship arced across the east side of the island and then across the north side, while Camon strained to spot anything that would facilitate a landing.

“We’re just going to have to get closer,” Camon said. “That basalt is not giving up the details. And the diffused light in this overcast sky isn’t helping much either. It looks like just a gray monolith from here.”

“Suit yourself,” Kelah said. They dropped some sails and approached the island more slowly with Ngo calling out depths to Derac, who was now at the helm. They worked as close as they could comfortably before Camon lowered the skiff into the water and then took the oars. Camon and Jorn boarded the little boat, and Camon rowed the boat towards the island, staying away from the cliffs that towered above them, but always observing. The small skiff worked its way about the island again, now in vivid detail. Camon kept searching for something that might help as they went about.

“Something’s amiss here,” Camon noted. “There is no way this fortress could have been built without sea access.”

“Unless the Sky Elves built it with magic,” Jorn noted.

“Architecturally, though, this is not elven.”

“Then what is it?” Jorn asked.

“It’s something, but it’s not elven. The tower is block construction. They would have had to have hewn it from the island itself…” he paused. “It’s high tide, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, but what’s that got to do with it?” Jorn asked.

“The reason we don’t see the entrance is because the water hides it. We have to wait for low tide to see it.”

“A tunnel?”

“Exactly, that takes you into the fortress. Like a city wall with a gate.”

Camon turned the boat back towards the ship and was back after a few moments of rowing.

“Giving up?” Kelah called.

“No, waiting for low tide. I think it will reveal what we’re looking for. Keep circling and look for an opening or cave at the base.”

The ship circled the island for hours until near midafternoon as the tide was falling. Derac noticed an opening and pointed to it, “I believe the holy man is right.”

Camon leaned over the deck’s side at what Derac was pointed at, and just above the waterline, they noticed an arch. Camon then, without a word, went back to the skiff. Jorn followed. He lowered it back into the water and rowed with Jorn directly for the arch above the water. When they got to it, the arch was only three feet high and six feet across, but Camon waited for the water to drop more.

“The waves will make entering into the opening dangerous,” Jorn noted. “And we don’t have much tide left. I hope you’re right about this entrance because it won’t last long.”

“Then let’s hope it is,” Camon said. They waited a while longer, then Camon pulled against the oars and sent the boat straight for the opening. The waves tossed them up and down as they approached. Camon kept the boat as straight as he could, directing the small craft right under the opening’s highest point. Another wave passed, then they entered with scant to spare. Camon pulled hard against the oars now in the cave, which was now much wider. Another wave came into the opening, which broke it some, but the remnant lifted the boat up, forcing Camon and Jorn to duck down not to hit the tunnel ceiling. Camon then pulled a few more times before the next wave came, and they repeated this until the effects of the waves were minimal, and the light from the tunnel entrance was dim.

Camon reached to the floor of the skiff and got a lantern out. He lit a candle and placed it in the lantern and then gave it to Jorn, “Here, make yourself useful.” Camon continued to row the boat into the cave, which then opened into a room with a much higher ceiling and a large stone dock with stairs leading up to it from the water. Camon rowed the boat to the stairs and moored it. He and Jorn climbed out of the boat and up the stairs, holding the lantern high in the darkness that surrounded them.

<< Chapter 79 Chapter 81 >>

Paperback from Amazon

eBook from Amazon (Kindle App)

Copyright © 2020-2021 Blaize Stewart