“This is the worst idea you have ever had,” Pip groaned as he leant on the railing of the Yawl.
“I wouldn’t say that Pip,” Legin replied cheerfully.
“The worst idea,” Pip said louder, “Ever.”
“You’re just saying that ‘cause you feel sick,” Legin smiled in reply.
“You’re right, I am feeling sick,” Pip agreed, “and that is part of the reason. You know I always get sea sick. But you know what makes this worse? It’s the fact that we are on the Gornl Sea.”
“What are you on about?” Legin gave his friend a curious look. “This has got be the smoothest sailing I have ever experienced.”
“Do you forget it’s the Gornl Sea?” Pip exclaimed. “The bottom of this boat could be ripped open at any second by unseen rocks. Then the strong undercurrents will pull us down. Then, if a monster doesn’t eat us, we’ll drown. A fierce storm could come up out of nowhere and crush us against one of these high cliffs. It’s not just the fact that I feel sick, it’s the fact that we are sailing on the Gornl Sea. Like I said: this is the worst idea you have ever had.”
Legin scratched the back of his head and gave his friend a perplexed look.
“It was actually Vhindr’s idea,” Legin stated and he looked over at the rear of the boat where Vhindr sat piloting the vessel.
“I don’t care who’s…” Pip began but he stopped himself short as he leaned over the railing and dry-reached a few times.
Chuckling to himself Legin slapped his friend on the back and moved away. With a skip in his step Legin hopped across the small deck and swung up into the mast before climbing to the very top. Squatting on the cross-beam Legin curled his tail around the mast for balance and gazed at the tall and jagged cliffs around them and the crystal blue waters below.
It had been nearly two days since they set out from Chilldeep Prison and what had been open water was now a maze of rocks. They were moving through narrow channels at a snail’s pace with the islands towering over the top of them.
“Bear right,” Legin called down to Vhindr as he suddenly spotted the dark shadow of submerged rocks.
Vhindr was quick to heed his call and the forty-seven foot Yawl glided smoothly around the deadly obstacle before straightening once again. For the better part of the day that had been navigating this narrow watercourse through the labyrinth of small islands. But just now Legin could see that they were coming to the end of it. The yacht soon glided lazily from the rocks and the open water greeted them.
But Legin was not elated.
“We have come too far south,” Legin called to Vhindr over his shoulder. “We need to go back that way.”
Looking down to Vhindr, Legin pointed to the north where a large island stood with high cliffs. The jungle trees could be seen growing at the top and drooping down the rocks. In between the green leaves Legin could also see the white stone roofs of the ruins of Braydoss.
“Thank you Legin,” Vhindr called back irritably, “I am well aware of our destination.”
“Hey, you’re the one who suggested I navigate from up here,” Legin snapped back. “If you don’t like my directions get Pip to do it.”
“Don’t bring me into this,” Pip called out from his spot along the rail.
“Never mind,” Vhindr said, “Just keep an eye out for hidden reefs would you?”
Legin grumbled softly to himself and turned his gaze back to island. A sparkle of excitement came to his blue eyes. Eyes that were specked with green, yellow and pink. If Vhindr’s deductions were accurate, on that island Legin might very well discover who he was and why he was the only person with a tail. Subconsciously he scratched the base of his tail where it came out over the top of his pants.
It took the remained of the day to reach the bottom of the cliffs. A cross wind had sprung up and they had been forced to a crawling pace.
Dropping the sails Legin stretched his shoulders and arms as he looked up to the top of the cliff, which seemed almost sheer.
“It’ll be a hard climb that,” Legin remarked offhandedly.
“Perhaps too hard.” Vhindr added as he too looked upwards. “I do not want any magicks to be used.”
“So it will be impossible,” Pip groaned from the railing.
“Nothing’s impossible Pip,” Legin said with a grin.
“Still, I think we may find a better scaling point further to the east,” Vhindr said seriously. “We will anchor in this cove for the night though and continue our search in the morning.”
“You’re the Captain, Captain.” Legin laughed and moved to drop the anchor overboard.
“Not another night,” Pip said despondently.
“Look on the bright side,” Legin replied, “It’s only one more night.”
“By The Five I hope so,” Pip sighed heavily as Legin dropped the anchor in the water and sat down beside him.
The night came swiftly and silently. No moons were in the heavens this night and the darkness wrapped itself tightly around them. The stars offered little light and seemed veiled as Legin lay on his back on top of the small cabin, staring at them as he wait for sleep to take him. But it was late and still he found no slumber.
He was ill at ease lying there listening to Pip’s steady breathing and the gentle lap of the waves against the side of the boat. It was Vhindr’s turn to sleep in the cramped cabin below, but Legin did not mind the chilled night air and the stars above his head.
Trying to take his mind off the fact he could not sleep Legin quietly got up and went to the railing. Sitting on his hunches on the railing he starred out across the black water and to the stars reflecting off its mirror surface. For many minute Legin squatted there looking at the stars and to the Fog drifting below the surface of the water. Strangely it moved by its own volition regardless of the seas currents. As he continued to watch the rivers of Fog swirl through the darkness, an odd sense of fear and foreboding washed over him.
“It’s only the Fog,” Legin told himself in an attempt to quell the unusual stirrings.
Uncomfortably Legin turned from the water and hoped back to the deck before returning to his bed on the deck to try and sleep again.
Slumber eventually found him, but his rest was uneasy and caused him to wake many times during the night. Eventually dawn came, its light clear and bright, pushing aside the night and pulling Legin and his companions from their slumbers.
After a brief breakfast from the food stores Vhindr had in one of his extra-dimensional pouches, they pulled up the anchor and continued there voyage along the base of the tall cliff in search of a place they could attempt to scale to the top.
Mid-morning came slowly and still Vhindr had not found a suitable spot.
“Why don’t we just climb here?” Legin asked in boredom.
“I told you before, I do not want us using magicks,” Vhindr replied as he gazed at the clifftop.
“So we won’t,” Legin replied, “What’s the problem? It’s only a cliff face. Me and Pip could climb that in minutes.”
“I am sure you could,” replied Vhindr, his eyes still scanning the stone. “I, however, am not as talented at climbing. So we need to find a point with which I am confident I will not fall if I attempt the ascent.”
Legin grumbled under his breath and did not argue the point as he continue to stare dully at the jungle at the top as it drifted slowly by them.
As the morning went by Legin saw half a dozen more good climbing lines, but still Vhindr did not call him to drop anchor. Sitting there Legin’s eyes soon became heavy and the heat from Inüer on the back on his neck pulled him slowly into a slumber.
“This will have to do.” Vhindr declared just as Legin was falling asleep. “Drop anchor.”
Legin’s eyes popped open and he looked to the cliff eagerly, but that eagerness quickly turned to confusion.
“It doesn’t look any easier than the last places we passed.” Legin remarked and gave Vhindr a quizzical look.
“I am well aware of that,” Vhindr admitted, “But if we are to go any further I fear we might end up too far east. So, this will have to do. Hopefully I will not fall to my death or be forced to use magicks.”
Legin did not argue and he quickly dropped the heavy anchor. Then with Pip’s help, who was feeling better now they were leaving the boat, they maneuvered the Yawl as close to the cliff base as they could.
“Easy now,” Vhindr instructed as a sudden grinding noise reverberated up from under the boat. “I wish to use this craft to return to Pentra, so we cannot be ripping open the hull on these rocks.”
“I think your main concern should be a storm coming through and breaking it apart,” Legin replied. “Perhaps we could pull it up behind us?”
Pip laughed, “Good luck with that, bro.”
“It would be too heavy without magicks,” Vhindr stated and shook his head. “We will just have to chance it. Now, shall we make headway on this cliff?”
Legin smiled wide, “Gladly. Come on Pip, let’s show him how it’s done.”
Pip readily agreed and together they began the climb up the jagged rocks.
“Hey, Vhindr,” Legin called down as he held on securely with one hand. “Keep your body as close to the stone as possible.”
Vhindr nodded stiffly in reply as he slowly placed his feet and found hand holds on the rock.
Legin chuckled to himself as he turned his gaze back to the top of the rock face. It was actually quite easy going for him, the jagged stone provided adequate hand holds and it did not crumble or break away.
“Slow down there Pip,” Legin laughed, “We shouldn’t leave Vhindr too far behind in case he gets stuck.”
“Looks like I will be getting to the top first then,” Pip called down with a cheeky grin across his face.
Legin felt like picking up his pace and racing his friend to the top, but his concern for Vhindr held him back. Pulling himself up onto a small ledge Legin looked back down to Vhindr and sighed.
“Just imagine you are climbing a ladder Vhindr,” Legin remarked as he scratched his nose.
“Easy for you to say,” Vhindr replied and he let out a small laugh as he carefully placed his feet.
“Vythe was really good at climbing things,” Legin remarked offhandedly.
“Vythe ran away from home and joined the Thieves Guild at a young age,” Vhindr called back. “I did not.”
“Well, you are doing pretty good actually.” Said Legin as Vhindr finally came alongside him. “Keep it up. Let me know if you get stuck.”
With that Legin swung himself up to the next narrow ledge and virtually ran up the side of the rock. In truth he could have been up the rock face in mere minutes but he continued to find spots not too far ahead of Vhindr where he waited patiently.
The minutes passed by slowly as they continued to make gradual progress up the cliff.
“How are you going to get back down if you are having this much trouble getting up?” Legin asked as he again waited, hanging from a crevice with one hand.
“I will use magicks,” Vhindr replied through heavy breaths.
“Which you don’t want to use now,” Legin said slowly, not really understanding.
“If I use them now I will tell everyone on this island that we are coming,” Vhindr replied and looked up at Legin.
“Right,” Legin mumbled and continued his climb, “Come on Vhindr, not far to go now. You are well passed half way so I would advise not looking down if you don’t like heights.”
Legin glanced down at his friend and chuckled as Vhindr predictably looked down at the waves many feet below them. The man quick looked back to the stone before his eyes and breathed heavily.
“Don’t tell me you are stuck,” Legin remarked with a smile, “Perhaps Pip could toss down a vine or something.”
“I am fine,” Vhindr replied determinedly and began to climb once again.
Eventually Legin made it to the top and pulled himself up through the overhanging plants to see Pip lounging amid the ferns eating a piece of fruit.
“I tell you, it is good to be back on solid ground,” laughed Pip and Legin shook his head at his friend.
“You could have thrown down a vine,” Legin remarked as he sat down.
“Legin,” Vhindr called from behind him, “Perhaps I could use a little aid.”
Quickly Legin rolled on his stomach and bent low over the edge to see Vhindr having trouble moving through the foliage that hung down.
“I got you,” Legin smiled as he grabbed Vhindr’s wrist and helped the man up the final stretch of the climb.
With a great pull they tumbled onto the clifftop and collapsed among the plants. Breathing heavily Vhindr shook his head and sat up.
“That is last time I do that,” Vhindr remarked as he forced himself wearily to his feet.
“The second time is much easier,” Legin laughed and jumped to his feet.
Vhindr took the lead and Legin and Pip followed as the jungle trees closed in around them. As the trees and vines grew in so too did the humidity and heat. Inüer became lost above the thick canopy where hundreds of plants vied for dominance. Even without the light of Inüer being in abundance below, the jungle was thick with vines stringing between trees and through the branches. The undergrowth was a mass of large leafy plants and green ferns that caused the companions trek through the jungle to be slow and difficult.
Legin did not mind the pushing and weaving through the foliage though, and he gazed with wide eyes at the jungle around him. Calls from strange birds and animals filled the air, although, he rarely got to glimpse of any of them.
“Don’t move,” Vhindr said suddenly and he froze mid-stride.
Both Legin and Pip were quick to heed their companion’s instructions and stopped still. Curiously Legin glanced about to try and see the source of Vhindr’s sudden caution, but there was nothing.
Legin was about to ask what the matter was when he heard it.
A soft rattling-hiss sounded in Legin’s ears louder than the rest of the animals and a cold sweat beaded on his forehead.
“Endreaga.” Pip whispered and gasped quietly as he also heard the sound.
Slowly Legin turned his gaze upwards to the trunk of a large tree. Barely five meters above their heads sat the deadly insect as it clutched to the bark with its sharp claws.
The creature let out another long low hiss and sprung from the tree. Legin sucked in a breath as the pony sized bug landed beside them, its hardened scale body quickly changing colour from the brown of the tree to the greens of the undergrowth. The endreager turned towards Legin and readied its tail to strike. Legin’s muscles tensed as he prepared to spring desperately to the side. There came a sudden rustle from the ferns behind the large insect and the endreager turned away.
Breathing steadily and softly as he could so not to attract the endreager’s attention again Legin watched with relief as the insect seemed to vanish into the undergrowth.
Vhindr breathed a sigh of relief and he visibly relaxed as he ran a hand through his shoulder length hair.
“That was an endreager, wasn’t it?” Legin remarked with a slight smile. “I’ve never actually seen one before.”
“We are lucky to be alive.” Vhindr said seriously, “One sting of its poisonous tail and you would have been dead in seconds.”
“It looked a bit like and overgrown leaf insect,” Pip laughed uneasily, causing Legin to snicker as well.
“I’d rather not meet one of those again,” Legin said as Vhindr continued on.
“Keep your eyes open,” Vhindr replied over his shoulder. “There are other, just as dangerous, beasts within these trees. Be sure of that.”
Legin and Pip both glanced uneasily to the shadows under the trees as they followed after Vhindr. The trees continued to crowd them and the humidity increased to the point of it being unbearable. But then everything seemed to change. All of a sudden there were ruins of old building among the trees. Their white stone blocks standing in stark contrast to the jungle’s green. Under his feet Legin also felt stone instead of soft soil and pathways appeared winding through the trees.
They had come across the ruins of Braydoss, the once capital of Gornl, but over the years the jungle had claimed much of it. Trees could be seen growing out of the broken roof tops of the houses, ferns and other ground plants had pushed their way up through the stone roads and everywhere green vines snaked over the stones and though the cracks. Much more light from Inüer streamed over the ruined buildings and broken roads allowing other plants to grow, plants with large pungent flowers with vivid colours. Among the ruins of the great buildings more animals could be seen and Legin was delighted to see a herd of monkeys run form them as they came around a corner.
“There’s your family bro,” Pip laughed aloud and pointed to the fleeing monkeys.
“Shut up.” Legin snapped back and punched his friend in the arm.
Pip skipped away as he continued to laugh.
“We came here to find out where you are from, well lets go ask the monkeys,” Pip jeered playfully. “One of them might even be your father.”
“I’m going to throttle you, Pip,” Legin growled back and he chased his friend across the fallen stones and around the few trees, smiling all the while.
“Legin,” Vhindr called, ending their fun, “Stop messing around. Let us continue on, shall we.”
“Continue on to where?” Legin asked as he Pip joined Vhindr again.
“Back to the northeast,” Vhindr replied, “To where the Azarě Monastery once stood. The Monastery was the center of the city.”
“Won’t it be destroyed,” Pip remarked as they walked along the old road with broken houses on both sides.
“Yeah it would be,” Legin agreed, “Right, Vhindr? All the monasteries devoted to The Five were destroyed when the wave of Fog thundered across the land. Just like the Nevārancien ships.”
“Perhaps,” Vhindr shrugged, “Only one way to find out.”
“I guess so,” Legin nodded absently.
“Hey, what do you think those Warriors from Nevārance will do?” Pip asked curiously.
“Don’t know Pip,” Legin replied, “Maybe they will try and go back home by ship? Or go through the northern passage? Don’t think they will have much luck though.”
“Maybe they will just settle here in Essinendeür,” Pip said, “Like the Nevārancien Lord who established Port Na’brath did.”
“Maybe,” Legin said and yawned, “What was his name? Lord Thredredid?”
“Who?” Vhindr asked as he raised an eye brow.
“The Nevārancien Lord who built Port Na’brath,” Legin clarified.
“That was Lord Tharadain,” Vhindr corrected and looked back to the path through the thick jungle trees. “He is a distance ancestor of house Varrintine.”
“No way,” Legin exclaimed with a smile, “So you would get along just fine with the Warriors from Nevārance?”
Vhindr scoffed at the question, “Lord Tharadain was considered a traitor to Nevārance. So no, my family would not get along with them.”
“That’s a shame,” Legin replied, “The Nevārancien I met after we left the prison seemed the decent sort. What was his name again?”
“Bel’eak,” Pip said.
“That’s right, Bel’eak,” Legin smiled, “It would be good to meet that guy again.”
“Why is that?” inquired Vhindr.
A smile appeared on Legin’s face, “He challenged me to a fight. And he seemed as if he would in fact be a challenge. The rules were no weapons or magicks though.”
Vhindr gave him a curious look before he shook his head in bewilderment.
The rest of the day continued on in a similar fashion as the wide road led on a straight path through the masses of trees and broken buildings. As the evening closed in chill began to seep into the shadows and that night they camped in the recess of an old house, using dried vines to light a small fire to cook their meal.
Legin slept pleasantly enough that night. He awoke with a start on one occasion when he thought he heard the soft rattling hiss of an endreager. But as he sat up there was no danger about and all he heard was the flap of the heavy wings of a night bird. A sickly sweet stench filled his nose and Legin covered his face with his hand before falling back asleep wondering if he had simply dreamt it.