A work in progress.
Dawn arrived with the hesitant kiss of rain.
The storm had passed but an hour ago, leaving in its wake the bedraggled and weary crew of the Lady Rhia. Rudder affixed, and crew abed, a lone deckhand remained awake on watch in the early unlit morning. The boy shivered in place just aft of the bowsprit, barely covered by a tattered quilt. He blinked uncertainly at the wall of fog ahead, and yawned.
“I should wake the skipper,” he mumbled drowsily. “Shouldn’t be long now.” Slipping in and out of sleep, he barely noticed the soft aria of birdsong drifting past the ship like a ghost. “That’s nice,” the boy murmured, turning over under his quilt.
Suddenly, he bolted awake. “Birds… land! Land ahoy!” Half-asleep, and still under his quilt, the deckhand stumbled to the bowsprit. “Captain, navigator, tower! Ahoy! Wake yourselves!” he cried. Peering intently into the mist, his supposition was confirmed by the hazy blue pastel of an approaching coastline. A door slammed open somewhere on the ship, and a hoarse voice rang out.
“Boy! What nonsense is this?” wheezed Izojo the navigator, stumbling up from the aft portal amid putting on his coat. “T’Isle of Verimoor should be leagues away, two hours past the break of day at me earliest estimations.” The older man stared keenly at the boy. “You best not be fibbin’, nor dreamin’ on watch. I needs me beauty sleep!” The deckhand looked away, rolling his eyes. He thought the navigator resembled a rather ancient pickled herring, but he wasn’t about to say it.
“Birdsong, sir. And if my eyes deceive me not, land. Looks to be a quarter league from us.” The navigator sniffed suspiciously.
“Right. Let’s have a look then.”
Below decks, an adept awoke to the sound of activity outside his cabin. Rubbing his eyes, he stumbled out of his cot, and promptly slipped on a puddle of rum. Muttering expletives, the young scientist Demetri Vespar rose and let his eyes follow the puddle’s trail to a barrel in the far corner.
“I forgot about you,” he grunted. The barrel’s nails had been used the night before to secure the porthole above his bed. “At least that didn’t leak.” Carefully tip-toeing around the puddle, and silently hoping the crew wouldn’t notice the missing rum, the scientist exited the cabin with his cloak half ’round his shoulders, making his way to the for’ard portal.
The captain met Demetri’s eye as he emerged above decks.
“Ho, adept,” bellowed the captain, laughter in his eyes. “It seems we’ve sighted land—the north-eastern tip o’ the Foregone Isle, if Izojo’s directional skills can be trusted.” Demetri chuckled as the navigator glared at his captain, disapproval etched on his face. “We’ll arrive at the coordinates ye provided in roughly three quarters o’ one hour. Me crew is preparing ye submersible as we speak.”
“My thanks, captain Nar’dasso,” replied Demetri. He shivered involuntarily. The mist was parting, allowing the sun’s rays to reveal the isle’s extensive coastline and massive cliffs.
This was the first step in the scientist’s operation to investigate the mysterious Isle of Verímoor: the search for a way to access its interior. The island’s long, obscure history was populated with attempts to reach beyond the massive cliffs that surrounded its coastline, with no success recorded in the past three hundred years. The last person to have supposedly achieved the feat was himself a legend; the Metallon adept Hiram, a High Prince of Kíramyn. Demetri’s thoughts wandered to the wooden receptacle hidden in the satchel he had stowed in his quarters. The mechanism… did Hiram know of it? Did he use it? How did it land in my grandfather’s hands?
“And why give it to me,” he whispered aloud.
“What’s that ‘cha say?” rasped Izojo.
“I love it—th-the sea,” said Demetri quickly. The navigator made a face, which Demetri realized after a moment was an attempt to smile.
“Aye. Guess you scientist types ne’er quite see the glorious face of Aøvotum, ‘lest ye work close to port. It’s a sight to behold indeed.” Patting Demetri roughly on the back, he began stumbling back towards his post. “This swabbie’ll have his sea legs yet, mark me words Captain,” he chuckled. Nar’dasso grinned.
“Indeed. Go on now, young ‘un. See to ye things, we’re approaching fast.”
Demetri nodded and turned to walk belowdecks. As he went, he recalled the captain’s request to aid in the ship’s protection if need be—it was pure luck that no such help was needed.
“Perhaps the storm subdued even the monsters,” Demetri mused. “The ill whispers of Verímoor remain, however. I’ll need to keep my wits about me.” Entering his cabin, he flicked his eye back to the port window, and down to the floor. “Now I definitely wish I knew more Aquarian grammar,” he muttered ruefully. A light suddenly turned on in his brain, however, and his attention turned to the large satchel sitting beside the wooden table. He focused his mind, and lifted his right hand. An iron orb floated out, coming to rest about four inches above the floorboard. The scientist blinked, and the ball rapidly transformed into a flat sheet of metal, covering the circumference of the puddle. “Xerokai,” he whispered, and the metal instantly became a dull red, puddle drying in seconds. However, the floor turned a slightly darker shade of brown, making him wince. He hoped they wouldn’t notice it. Like the rum barrel, he thought guiltily. With two flicks of his long fingers, the metal turned black once more and assumed the shape of a ball. Cold to the touch, he pocketed it, then picked up his satchel. Closing the door softly, he headed towards the storage bay.
The smell of fish and a peppy deckhand greeted him as he arrived.
“Here y’are, sir. Your submersible is nearly ready. Have you gathered all your things?” Demetri nodded, glancing around the bay as he did so. Burly sailors quipped to each other as they moved to and fro, moving equipment and preparing for a launch. The bay was small, but it was full to the brim with a potpourri of weapons, unidentified boxes, strange instruments and much more. The amused deckhand caught his wandering gaze, laughing. “If you can believe it, our Captain dabbled as a–”
“–military strategist for some time in his twenties,” finished Nar’dasso, appearing behind the boy with a smile across his wizened face. “He believed his Aquarian roots—or kelp, as he likes to call ‘em—could aid in the largely fire and earth-dominated Kíramyn military.” The deckhand smiled back sheepishly.
“What the skipper said,” he mumbled. Nar’dasso patted him on the shoulder fondly, then turned his attention to Demetri.
“All set, adept? The finishing touches have been made. Yonder vehicle is ready to engage.” The sound of an engine starting up greeted the trio, and a dazzling light suddenly arced across the northern wall of the bay. The submarine was rather small, enough to fit two or perhaps three people if they had little baggage, but it seemed very functional. Demetri scanned it carefully, sudden pain flashing across his eyes. It was not his—it was a prototype of his sister’s, Rhea, another brilliant scientist of the Academy with a penchant for marine zoology. Demetri’s eyes fell to the floor, downcast.
He had stolen it. After their grandfather passed away four years ago, Rhea had become increasingly distant, immersing herself almost entirely in her work. Demetri had been stricken with grief at first, though after a brief hiatus, followed suit. His grief had been channeled into his investigation of coronium—his sister’s grief, into her love of the sea. Their last interaction was two years ago, and it was a quarrel.
“Sir?” quipped the curious deckhand. “You look like something’s wrong. Don’t be worried about your ship, she’s a beauty. I don’t know where you found such a machine!” Startled, Demetri let out a sudden, rueful laugh.
“Yes, indeed she is. I have little doubt she’ll perform better than one could dream.” He turned to Nar’dasso. “Your payment, Captain,” he said, handing over a small pouch. “With a little extra for your kindness.” And for the rum and flooring, he added guiltily in his head. The Captain took it warmly, shaking Demetri’s hand.
“Thankee, young adept. May the grace o’ Poseidon guide thy journey.” He led the adept over to the submersible, permitting the deckhand to pass the scientist his personal effects as he climbed inside the dimly-lit interior. Eyes alight with admiration, Demetri nearly laughed aloud.
The little vessel was like a thousand mirrors of his sister’s ingenuity reflected back at him. Small details—dual teleperiscopes, cleverly lit identifiers on the myriad number of switches and dials, hand-crafted leather seats with soft padding, and cleverly designed storage compartments built into the floor—all acted as complements to the larger details, such as the tungsten armor that plated the cockpit’s exterior, the legendary AlcheLyst device in the central console which could amplify an adept’s power, and a strange near-luminescent orb that lay half-hidden in the dashboard. Demetri stared at it, slightly transfixed.
“I have no doubt I’ll be just fine, Captain.” He turned his gaze outside the vessel, smiling warmly at the ship’s crew who had gathered nearby. “Many thanks for assisting me in this endeavour.” Nar’dasso winked at him, and proceeded to shoo away the equally intrigued deckhand, who had also just noticed the pearlescent sphere. Attention regained, Demetri flicked the switch familiarly labelled Claudere, and with a subtle hiss, the doors of the entry hatch closed. The cabin felt cool, but there was a subtle heat growing in his chest. Even now, his excitement was palpable.
“Time to make history,” he whispered, and pressed Dyve.