Gaining the boardwalk that leads to the sea proper I wedge my book and pen under the edge of a loose boulder and run down the sloped stone walk as a sending of wings fill the air. Bright bat wings, dragon wings, death wings bring them to the edge of the sea. Two pairs of green wings are pumping hard over the white capped waves carrying Rea’s red clad frame and another’s out towards something I can’t see.
Most Daithians drop short of following them and are down at the water’s edge, great sail appendages tucked hard against their backs. I run along the soft sand till it becomes browned and packed. Everyone’s taller than I am, and I snake through their wings and under and around arms and legs to the very front. Sea water smacks against my knees wetting me, and I stagger back as the whole group gropes for better purchase on the sand. Someone catches me under my elbows from behind and steadies me, lifting me up and then landing out of the reach of the wet. I look over my shoulder. Keigh. I relax and then dare to ask
“What’s the problem? She points, her red hair tied back in a braid, but pieces have pulled out and whip madly about her face and shoulders.
“There is a ferry boat that’s been caught in the squall” She tucks her mouth close to my ear and moves a green wing to partially block the wind. “The Selkei that reside past the edge of the Royal Circlet, in the deep places between here and the Vos’ Backbone, one of their clan swam in and begin the alarm.
They can’t get to the boat, the idiots aboard haven’t trimmed the sails and the selkei dare not try and get close to it lest one of their own get crushed between the boat hull and the shoals. So JaHani and Jan:tia go out to wind together to try and get the boat under control before she heels over and her passengers get dumped. The selkei are worried” she continued looking out towards the horizon again “Because the leviathan get stirred up when the storms break like this, the monsters know that food often comes when the demons of the heavens whip this cauldron to a froth.”
“Who is with Rea” I yell and she smiles, tightly.
“My brother, Eoghan.” Rain pelts against me, and I watch as the group on the beach heads back towards the boardwalk, some winging, and some running. Keigh flicks a wing up over her head and motions me to step under the curve of her wing.
“Where’s everyone going? Are they just going to let the guys do this on their own?”
She shakes her head.
“No, they’ve gone for the pull lines. If Eaoghan and Rea can get the sails down then one of the selkei might swim a line out to them and we can pull them ashore. Right now,” she said looking into the storm “Rea’s got the helm and Eaoghan’s up in the rigging struggling with the sails.”
“Eaoghan’s a sailor” I yell into the wind “Why’s he up in the rigging and not at the helm steering the ship? Rea’s knowledge of sailing involves finding ways that he doesn’t have to get wet”
“Rea’s a redclad” Keigh points out “And also at the moment,” the sky flashed, a line of white raking down the darkness to slam into the line where sea and sky met “A lightning magnet. If he got hit the whole ship would probably burn. Eaoghan’s used to tying down the rigging. “ She tenses “Stay here on the beach, they’ll need every hand they have available” she says as she turns and wings up to the boardwalk where a group of Daithians have reappeared and are hustling down to where I am. She leaps into the air, light green wings almost glowing against the gray sky. As the wet pours over me, I watch her wing after Rea and her brother, her appendages struggling against the wind as she bobs up and down between them. Something is playing out behind her, swinging low in a heavy swag. It’s connected to whatever is in the arms of the men coming down to the beach. Clink-ka-ta-clink-ka-ta-clinck-ka-ta, the dark links of the line sound. Chain. She’s winging out chain to them!
“I thought that the Selkei were going to take the line?” I yell as the men stagger closer to the water’s edge, four of them working to hold a great spool of metal links that is rapidly becoming smaller.
“They’re bringing in some of the injured. Keigh asked us who was swimming the line out and Taelio said that they’re swimming the injured in, that’s when she took off” the Daithian answered, setting the great spool down on its end so it could continue to wind-off as Keigh wings.
“Ah” I clear my throat “Is that really wise” I gesture to the links “I mean there is” lightning hit, crackling and flashing down into the sand a distance down the beach. “Electricity that is seeking to ground itself” I say, shoulders up against my ears.
“This isn’t metal, girly”one chuckles “It’s durit, made into links. Stone” he elaborates, seeing my look “And lightning don’t like stone. Plus, the triggers are getting put into place up a ways” he nods and I look towards the right. Vague figures are moving in the sheeting gray, down from the boardwalk and towards the sea edge. Thunder rumbles, and there’s another crack of sheer brilliance. The lightning spikes down into the sand turning the gloom to midday and a second later my lids flash down over my eyes. I can see the veins on the inside of them, and the lids themselves are the color of apricot jam held in a sunbeam. Slowly my jam-lids darken to brown. Wincing I crack a lid and see that in the gloom a great long pole has appeared and is striking into the silver sky. Blinking into the rain I watch as the grayish figures move fast back up the dunes towards the boardwalk and the seawall. Silent as a sea-serpent, lighting scores across the gray and snaps to what they’ve speared in the beach.
Flash. I turn my back to the brilliance and the thunder grumbles, making the ground shake. The stone links are still playing out from the spool and I step closer to the men making sure nothing tangles. Tucking my hair behind my ears I duck my head and ask the one crouching near the base
“What exactly is the line going to do?” He looks up at me, lashes clumping in the wet. I see the surprise flicker over his features and his brows come together as he opens his mouth. He shakes his head slightly and then says
“Keigh’ll get it to the ferry and make it fast. Then we’ll pull her in,” he looks from me to the line winding off the spool and shifts one of the long metal handles that brace the spool deeper into the sand “Hopefully they’ll have their own fastline winches onboard and when they get close enough they’ll shoot their harpoons to the shore and be able to help pull themselves up the beach.”
“Selkei! Coming in, coming in and fast” a voice calls from the other side of the spool and I dodge under the shaking links and run to the edge of the sea. There is a white-flash and then a crackling pop. I wince, look over my shoulder, and see the after image of lightning serpenting to the pole. I drag my gaze back. Some fellow is standing up, waist deep in the wet, staggering towards shore. Two other Daithians rush to him, and take the figure from the water-man’s shoulders. A third runs into the wet and grabs the man’s arms as he folds in half. The Daithian half drags, half carries the man up the beach, supporting him under the arms, and then when they are nearly to the stone walk, he lays the water-man down. Weaving through the others I run up along the dunes to the stone walk and stop as water geysers from the prone figure. Out of his back, out of his neck, the water blasts like a dolphin. I gawk. Bare from the waist up, I see that his skin is a light teal color which fades from the outside of his frame towards his spine in an ombre pattern. White hair is plastered and skewed over his head. He gives an allover shake and then pushes up on his arms, gasping. The slits along his back and neck suddenly seal shut and he turns over, shivering in the rain.
“She all right?” he rasps “She fell over when the ferry began to heel, the knight, he got the boat to stand like a lady but she was already in the wet and floundering” he says leaning back on his elbows. His chest is coated in sand but the rain is taking it away. Someone brings a cloak and puts a hand on his shoulder as he uses it to dry his features.
“Well done, lad. Well done” the voice murmurs.
“Tis a’tein” he pants. It is as nothing. I half smile. It’s weird to hear the word I created used as an actual word in this world of ink and paper.
“You’re a hero” I say and he looks over and up at me. “Swimming her into shore, and she’s a stranger to you.” More pointed and sharply angled then Daithian features, they are still remarkably similar to the Daithians. He draws his knees up, and half kneels, half sits, his sides working as he pants.
“Not half as much a hero as that other suckerfoot is” he manages between gulps of air. “He was hanging out over the side of the ship, feet planted on the hull and leaning back towards the wet so she didn’t go over while Eaoghan was working to get the sails down. Never seen anything like that. Not from a suckerfoot or a dryskin, anyway” he says and then runs a hand over his hair, working to slick it back against his skull.
A cry goes up from the shoreline, and he staggers to his feet. “They’ve made contact with the ferry” he lurches towards the waterline as the lightning hits, washing everything in white. I shove an arm under his and pull it over my shoulders, helping him along. He smiles faintly but leans hard over my offered support. Daithians are lined up along the chain, wings against shoulders, and tight down despite the driving rain. We’re all soaked, and I suppose no one wants to chance a lightning strike by raising a limb.
“PULL” comes the cry and the beings along the chain heave in synch. “SET” they get their legs under themselves “PULL” and they drag the line together. “SET” the selkei and I get to edge of the line and he abandons me, his webbed fingers closing around the stone links and he sets his legs into the sand. “PULL” he heaves with the rest. I get behind him, and grab a handful of chain. “SET” everyone digs their feet. “PULL” I haul on the line as hard as I can. It goes slack for a moment and everyone in front of me slides their hands down to a new point on the line “SET” and sets their frame. “PULL” we all drag it together. More slack. Over, and over this repeats. The crack of thunder, the snap of lightning, and the endless links that burn through my fingers are the only things that exist.
“DOWN” comes the command and everyone flattens into the sand. There’s a whistling hissing sound and then behind me and to the left something explodes. I curl into a ball as dirt and stone and sand reign down. There’s another whistling hiss that goes over head, and a second explosion.
“They’re firing at us” I hiss and my neighbor laughs.
“Not at us, the shore, she’s close enough now for them to help pull her in” he explains as we unfold ourselves. “Those are” he nods at one spade shaped device in the beach “The fastline harpoons.” Through the haze of wet, I see that the spade shaped object has a line attached to it. Now, there are three points pulling the ship towards the shore.
“PULL” rings the command. I scramble up and grab the chain.
In another moment, there’s a cheer and the line bows, nearly touching the sand.
“There she is!”
Everyone surges to the water’s edge, eager hands reaching for the vessel but no one foolish enough to splash down into the water. I take that back. One foolish enough. Someone’s in the water, up to his hips and he’s carrying someone else over his shoulders. He’s forcing himself through the water, running through the wet. Lightning hits the rod and in the flash of over brightness, I see him. Lucien. He’s powering through the breakers and then staggering up the beach. He’s got a Daithian on his shoulders, now, they’re being taken away. I run down to him and grab his hand as he doubles over, bracing on one knee, and his sides heaving.
“Who was hurt, who? Lucien, please, you have to tell me” I beg and he fights for breath, even as the figure is moved onto a gurney and whisked onto shoulders and up the sand dunes to the harbor proper.
“Lucian, who was hurt?”
He straightens, wipes the hair out of his face, and then fingerspells three letters.
Not as many questions answered this time around 😉 But there are some. And a real hero showed up. Look at that.