A Light in the Fog
New Life, Spring of 29 SC
The wailing gale that sang through the cold night air had a different key to it. The Aiolian helmsman, well experienced from his many voyages to the Anemoan canal listened, his brow furrowed in concern. Anemos was well-known for its banshee-like wind, but this was different.
“What is it?” The young captain spoke, looking at the scarred man for guidance.
“‘Tis no normal screech, lad. Prepare the men. We make for Anemos, the screams worry me if we were to stay here.” Dennis nodded and ran to each of the seamen aboard the Spiro, whispering in low tones. They trickled to the hold, where they disappeared below deck. That is when the fog faded into view. Black and dark gray, it washed over Spiro’s prow like gentle waves, wafting across the deck like some organic thing. Deacon squinted, but it was no matter. He knew where to look for the Light of Anemos, the lighthouse that would steer them into the safety of the port. None would dare attack the bastion of trade that was kept by the might of Aiolia, Koh, and Ostaria.
As the two sailors filed back onto the deck accompanied by his charge, Deacon began to see a light through the seabound cloud. It was in the right place, at the right height, but something was wrong. Dennis reached the helm and opened his mouth, but Deacon silenced him with the words, “Take the helm. Keep right of the light.”
Deacon took the bow and quiver from the frightened boy’s hands and moved quickly to the captain’s quarters. He took a sheet of parchment, inked a pen, and wrote a phrase in a tongue none but the shapers knew. As he clomped back up to the helm, he could tell what was wrong with the light. Even through all the black fog, he could see that the Light of Anemos was too bright. He rushed to the helm, realizing the mistake he had made. The crew watched, stunned, as they finally broke through the dark mist to see the Light of Anemos aflame, dripping with sparks. The port burned around it, as sails of shadow swept across their bow, pinpoints of light flying from their decks into places where the inferno had not reached.
The old, experienced helmsman stood aghast. This was beyond anything he had seen before. He could see bodies, bodies of women and children and the soldiers that died defending them dropping into the cold depths of the sea as the fire hissed and broke the supports of the piers.
Their spell was broken when one of the two sailors collapsed, Keelan, with an arrow in his side. The other, Giles, rushed to his aid. The wound was fatal, Deacon could tell even from here. It had pierced between his ribs into a lung. He would choke on his own blood.
“Dennis! Steer us clear!” Deacon commanded even as he strung his longbow. Arrows began to rain down on the deck as a black-sailed ship, unnoticed before, approached them from the side. Dennis spun the wheel, but it was too late. The old man’s seasoned eye could tell the ship would ram them shortly. He took aim, straining against the massive strength of the bow, and fired into the eyes of the man at the prow of the black ship, seeing him thrown back into his comrades.
“Giles, get to cover!” Giles had stayed at his dying friend’s side, watching the life drain from his eyes. Now he looked up, his own gaze filled with rage. He grabbed his bow, drew back, and fired, catching one of the attackers in the arm.
Dennis had fired thrice more, his strength waning against the strength of the bow, but catching a pirate in the neck or chest each time. Arrows studded the deck around them, but the first shot of the black ship seemed to have just been luck. Giles stood, ready to lease his arrow, screaming in rage and loss. Then in pain, as an arrow struck him in the chest. He collapsed to the deck, before falling, dead. Deacon almost missed it, seeing it out of the corner of his eye. Another good friend, another of his charges lost. He couldn’t dwell on it, as the black ship was too close.
“Brace!” he screamed to Dennis, who was huddled behind the wheel, hiding for dear life.
Even prepared, Dennis barely stayed on his feet. The sickening groan and crack of the hull injured his weathered soul. The Spiro likely wouldn’t survive this. Dennis had been thrown from the helm, landing next to him. Deacon shook his arm. “Can you swim?” Dennis nodded. “Then get out of here.” Deacon stood, and with the last of his bow strength, he threw Dennis into the dark water. The old helmsman turned and barely avoided the slash from the crude weapon of the boarding pirate. Backing up, Deacon saw that the grate that covered the hold had been thrown clear in the ram. None of the boarders were between him and it, assuming he’d flee some other way. Not today. Dennis had to go free. Deacon sprinted to the opening, almost dropping into it when a black arrow hit him in the arm. His body fell the rest of the way in, bashing his head on a crate. His mind nearly blacked out but struggled to consciousness. He began dragging himself through the half-foot of rushing seawater to the limp figure at the back of the hold, reaching the head just as the pirates began dropping into the hold. He looked back at their joyous faces, certain of their victory. He shoved the parchment into the mouth of the figure, saw its eyes open, and whispered, “attack.”
Dennis swam from the Spiro, listening to the hissing of arrows hitting the water just beside him. The jubilant noises of the boarders could be heard behind him, making bets on who would kill the “drowned rat.” This was interrupted by an inhuman roar, followed by horrified screams. Looking back, Dennis could see the scrambling forms of pirates back to their ship, followed by the hulking figure of the golem they carried in their hold. The golem could be seen smashing the deck of the ship, throwing bodies out into the dark water lit by the yellow flames of the port.
Finally, he reached the shore, his ordeal at long last, complete. So Dennis, son of Deacon, sat on the shore, and mourned, his wails joining the chorus his father had heard only a short time before.