A/N: Originally published on October 31st, 2013 on A Purple Panda. – Alixa
THE DAGGER OF EXION
The sea was sparkling under the sun, blinding me of with the millions of diamonds. The air was cool, a light salty breeze flowing in the large sails. There was not a single cloud in the sky, not a sign of a storm. It was a beautiful day and yet, I was green. Lying down on the deck, I felt like le world would never stop moving around me. I clearly wasn’t made for sea life but I had been the one to put this expedition together, thanks to Brendt. The sailors were making fun of me, but they assured me it would pass in a few days unless I was really unlucky. Silva was just as unlucky as me and spent most his days lying down somewhere.
The week following that night in the tavern where I met Brendt was quite hectic. Each night, we would go in a different place and he would sing the adventure I was promising. Some took it as a simple story, other thought I was crazy. A few were interested in joining and, as the word spread, I ended up with a nice crew and a ship.
Kaliana was a tall and beautiful woman. She had dark hair and dark eyes with a golden ring fitting her tanned skin. She seemed like she could see right through you and when she came to me, she said very simply that she would join for her own sake. She never explained and I didn’t ask questions. If she wanted to keep her reasons private, I would respect that. I felt I could trust her though she was a pirate, her eyes were honest.
But Kaliana was also the captain of the Ananda, a beautiful ship made of ebony wood. It was strong with white sails and a simple mermaid at it’s front. The name was written in silver on the side, glittering under the sun. When the captain let us visit it, I knew this was the one that would carry us to Exion. She told Brendt and me of her many adventures, treasure hunts and navy battles. She had experience on the capricious seas and she had an iron will.
The crew itself was composed of many of Kaliana’s men, but there were also some additions to the team. Beside me and Brendt, all had experience on a ship and fighting. If the bard’s main task would be to record the adventure, mine was to guide us all to the lost city of the gods. I had read so much about it I had to be able to recognize it. I knew, and they all did too, that there were many dangers in front of us, obstacles and monsters. There was a reason no one came back from this expedition, it couldn’t be ponies and rainbows.
So we sailed with about 30 men. One of them was quite huge, Barthol, and was the right hand and body guard of Kaliana. No one would want to mess with that guy, but the captain gained her respect all on her own. You could tell by the way she gave orders and people obeyed. They looked up to her and not one of them ever thought of betraying her. I knew I didn’t. It wasn’t just Barthol, I actually liked her.
The sea was calm, we hadn’t had any encounters so far. After a while, I got used to the movements of the ship but I was still not very comfortable. I was looking forward to some land again though I had no idea when that would be. Once we left the continent for the west, we crossed a few islands and then there would be absolutely nothing. Nothing we knew for sure anyways.
One evening, clouds started appearing in the clear sky. Our first storm. I felt chills running my spine. It wasn’t going to be pretty. During the night, the waves grew stronger as the rain started hitting us and I felt sicker. When dawn came, I could see through the window the mountains we were now riding. The dark of the water melted with the grey of the sky. We were trapped.
I got up and I made my way to the deck with difficulty. I had been sick during calm sunny days at sea. With this storm, I could barely move without my head spinning, but I couldn’t stay in bed. When I got outside, I saw that Kaliana had everything under control. She was shouting through the wind different orders to her crew, drenched under the rain. Had they even gotten any sleep?
– Aevik! What are you doing out here?
– It’s a beautiful day! I said, smiling. Anyway I can help you?
She shook her head.
– No, go back inside, it’s dangerous out here!
As she said that, the ship was passing through a giant wave and more water fell on us. It felt warmer than the rain and was definitely saltier. I looked in front of us and saw that we weren’t going to be out of this storm for a while. We would either make it to a calmer place or see it through the end. In both cases, I was actually useless.
I was about to leave when I saw a shadow in one of the waves. I pointed it to Kaliana and she frowned, looking at it carefully. She screamed a warning I didn’t quite understand and something emerged from the water, glaring at us. It looked like a giant snake with sharp teeth and large blue scales, and it wasn’t happy.
– Kaliana? What the hell is this thing?
She wasn’t the one to answer me. Next to me came Brendt when I didn’t notice.
– This is not good, Vik. I can’t say which of the legends this monster is, but it’s most likely going to kill us. There is no way to fight these things, unless you have a mage with you.
Jaw clenched, I took a decision. I wasn’t nearly confident enough in my skills, but Kirieth had taught me some spells that could be of use. I wasn’t sure how powerful it would be, but I hope it would at least help us survive this monster.
– Hang on, I am no mage, but I might be able to do something about this.
I took position in the center of the deck and started mumbling the magical words to create a barrier. The hardest part was to imagine this invisible bubble that would be strong enough to withstand any attack.
– What are you doing? Yelled Kali. You can’t Barrier a Grushaw!
– Are you sure? A Grushaw?
– Look at his eyes, they are red. And on his back, the spikes. It has to be a Grushaw. We need fire to kill it, but with this rain, there’s no way we can make anything decent.
– Then we are really dead…
I wasn’t listening to Brendt and Kaliana, not understanding anyways. I was concentrating on this barrier and surprisingly enough, it worked. The rain stopped falling on us and the ship seemed to be passing through the waves more easily. However, I wasn’t sure what would happen when the sea snake would attack. I couldn’t let my guard down and all I could do was to maintain the barrier.
Kaliana smiled at me and nodded.
– No more rain. Hiro! We need some fire!
A fox-like man came running. He wasn’t very tall but you could see he wasn’t an amateur. He was apparently the ship’s mage, though no one had thought of telling us about it. Brendt looked surprised and the captain saw his face and laughed.
– You didn’t think we were stupid enough to sail without a mage? Hiro is very useful, and not just for his magics. He can cook very well and is a really good diplomat.
The mage was starting his incantations when the Grushaw attacked for the first time. He seemed to have understood something wasn’t right and he lunged at us. I flinched when he hit the barrier and you could see it waver. It hit me harder than I thought it would, but I held. I kept the incantation going despite the headache that was slowly starting. It was the first sign I would reach my limit sooner rather than later.
Brendt noticed and said something to Kaliana. She nodded. She was about to say something when the snake stroke again. This time, he avoided the barrier dove under the water on the other side. He circled around us twice and he started tightening his grip. I groaned as the barrier was slowly squeezed, resisting as much as I could. Hurry with the fire, already!
Hiro was finally ready to fire. From where he was, he had a clear shot at the head of the Grushaw. The first fireball missed by an inch, the second hit his body. The sea monster let out a scream and released his grip a little, letting me breathe and strengthen the barrier. The headache was intensifying by the second. There was no way I could keep this up much longer.
The Grushaw started squeezing again. The barrier was starting to shatter where it was pressured and rain was falling through again in places. Hiro understood little time was left and shot a third fireball and this time hit the eyes of the snake. With a scream, he let go of us and returned to the raging sea. I finally let the barrier fall and I sat down heavily on the deck, breathing hard. Brendt was there in a second.
– You alright? That was something, I didn’t know you could do that!
Kali came over as well, Hiro by her side.
– Well done, Aevik. You understand now why we can’t Barrier a Grushaw, but that gave Hiro just enough time.
– Is.. is it dead?
– No, said Hiro. He won’t die that easily, but he won’t come back. Not for a while anyways. I hit his eyes and might’ve permanently damaged them.
I nodded. That was good. Now, I just wanted to sleep. Brendt helped me up and half carried me to my cabin. I was going to sleep through the rest of the storm, trusting everyone to get us to safety. My head throbbing, I just lied down next to Silva and passed out.