Nothing in the Songs: Part 5
The sea tossed me. Briney foam sloshed into the boat. I struggled to pull the sail down so the wind would not tear it. The storm had come upon me without warning. The sky darkened and I thought the sun had finally dipped low enough below the horizon to plunge me into the night. I could not see stars, however.
A flash of purple lightning illuminated a thunderhead of angry clouds and at that moment I knew I could expect rough seas.
The wind tore a gaping hole through the sail's center. The two halves flapped wildly in the blowing spray. I managed to wrap one half in my arms before a swell nearly capsized the little vessel. I gripped the side and laid myself low, so as not to be thrown overboard.
Rocking, the little boat remained upright and I began to bring the other half of the torn sail down. I wrapped it in my arms and sat on it so it would not blow out. I lashed the oars to the side so they would not be swept out into the raging water.
Just as quickly as it came, the storm left me. The sky opened back up to the blue-gray of dusk. The sea flattened to gentle, swaying swells. Lightning and thunder rolled off into the distance. The rain ceased, leaving me sodden and shivering.
Before my fingers could freeze, I went to work repairing the sail. The needle I had stolen from the goblins had been fashioned from some sort of bone and had grown dull when I made my armor from the tough drake’s hide. When I repaired the sail the first time, it had hardly penetrated the canvas.
I decided to sharpen the needle’s tip so I would not break it by forcing it through the course fabric. I unsheathed my curved knife I had stolen from the goblins and began to shave small slivers from the needle.
Something struck the boat with a thud. The curved blade broke the bone needle in two and sunk into my thumb. Blood welled onto the knife and I shot to my feet. I roared into the dusk as the boat gently swayed under me. Another thump to the bottom of the boat nearly sent me overboard. I dropped low and drew the Ulfbhert, steel ringing in the calm.
“Come then,” I yelled into the water. “Come and find your death!”
For a long time, nothing happened. The sea was still and flat. The wind was gone. Then a shadow moved through the depths under the boat.
I held the sword over my head, poised to strike. The shadow froze just under me and I squinted into the dark, trying to determine what it was. It appeared longer than the boat, but it was not as wide.
A glint of light reflected in an enormous eye causing me to lurch back. Just then, several muscular tentacles exploded from the water and gripped the boat with wide suction cups. I hacked into one of the arms, severing it completely and lodging the sword in the timber. The severed tentacle wagged and writhed in the boat.
Tugging on the sword to free it, I let out a grunt. Another arm wrapped around my leg. A strength that I could hardly comprehend lifted me into the air. I did not release my grasp on the sword. The creature tried to pry me from the boat just as I tried to pry my weapon free. The bones in my back popped and my muscles burned. For a moment, I believed I would be ripped apart.
Finally, the Ulfbhert released its grasp and the tentacle whipped me upward. I dangled by my leg, high above my boat, swinging wildly back and forth. I swung the sword up and it sunk into the tentacle. With another chop, I had severed it completely.
I broke the water’s surface with a splash. I tried to pry the severed tentacle from my leg, but the grasping suction cups would not release me. The deadweight dragged me down into the depths. I kicked my heel against the tentacle one more time and I was able to wriggle my other leg out.
Flailing my arms and legs, I swam upward and burst through the surface gasping. I frantically looked about to find the boat. I was relieved to see that the creature had not dragged it down. It seemed as though the thing left the boat alone once I was out of it.
I dunked my head under and looked around me to find the beast. Saltwater stung my eyes as I gazed into the blurry darkness.
Nothing. Perhaps it left me alone.
Something wrapped around my sword arm and dragged me down. A long pale creature loomed out of the darkness. A massive beak opened wide at the center of the star-shaped base of the arms. I switched the sword to my left hand and cut into the tentacle that held me. The beast turned to look at me with its massive eye.
I plunged the sword into the eye and sunk the blade to the crossguard. The creature lurched away, releasing me. It disappeared into the deep trailing a cloud of dark blood behind it.
Again, I burst the surface of the water gasping for air. I swam to my boat and flopped myself over the side. I lay on my back in the swaying boat for several minutes until I started to shiver.
There would be no repairing the sail with the broken needle, so I began to row toward the mountains. The rowing warmed my muscles, but my fingers and toes were still icy cold. A thick fog formed at the base of the mountains and crept out over the water like the fingers of some giant creature.
I rowed into the thick fog. I lost sight of the mountains. I could hardly see two lengths of the boat ahead. Still, I rowed. I feared I had gone off course and so I corrected my course, turning to the right. Then I decided that was foolish of me, and turned to the left. I had doomed myself. There would be no finding my way out of this fog without guidance.
As if the gods heard my prayer, a sound rolled over the water muffled by the fog. A sweet sound like distant birds singing. I turned to the sound and rowed hard for it. My muscles burned. My back ached. My fingers and toes were ice, but this song lifted my heart.
Drawing closer, I realized it was not a bird song, but a woman singing. Her beautiful voice carried into the fog, guiding me to her. My beacon.
Soon, the sound of crashing waves accompanied her voice. Shore. She had led me to shore.
My imagination raced with thoughts of how beautiful this woman must be to match a voice like that. I became fixated on her song; entranced by it. I didn’t feel the ache in my muscles or back anymore. My fingers and toes were pleasantly numb. I had even forgotten the cut in my thumb.
The waves grew louder but even as they did, she drowned them out. Her voice pierced me, warming me from the inside. My oars dipped and pulled effortlessly.
“Stay where you are,” I thought, or did I speak it out loud?
A loud cracking viciously split her beautiful song. Water rushed into the boat. I had run aground. All around me, thrashing waves crashed onto jagged rocks. My boat was flung into them over and over, splintering the hull beneath me. I struggled to keep my head above water as I too was thrown into the rocks. I clung to a bit of timber and lifted my head out of the surf.
Clinging to my bit of rubble, I looked around for a way out. Then, atop a rocky ledge, I saw something that I couldn’t quite comprehend right away. It appeared to be a woman sitting on the ledge with her legs hanging over the side, but there were no legs. A large tail covered in wide scales hung where her legs should be.
The creature cackled laughter at me just before she dove into the seafoam with a minuscule splash. Before I had the chance to think too long about what I had seen, I was slammed into another rock and all went black.
I awoke on a dark, sandy beach under a blanket of seaweed. I shivered as I pushed the slimy wad off of me. Bits of my boat lay scattered all around me. After some difficulty, I put my feet under me and stood, arching my back. My bones crunched, and my head throbbed, but I seemed to be alright, given the circumstances of my arrival on this beach.
All at once, the thought hit me. Where am I? Have I made it across? The land sloped steeply upward as I looked inland. I looked up and down the beach. I gazed over the water. I couldn’t see the mountains anywhere. I am standing at the foot of the mountains, I thought.
A dark evergreen forest lay before me with a carpet of pine needles and dry wood. I needed to build a fire. Drying out was my first task before beginning my trek up the mountain.
I collected needles and fallen wood and sparked it into a small crackling fire. A column of sparks rose into the sky and I thought about what terrors lay ahead of me. There was no telling, given the terrors that lay behind me.
Nothing in the songs had prepared me for this place.
Thank you for reading. Make sure to stop by next Friday for the final chapter of Nothing in the Songs. I wanted to write something a little more along the lines of traditional dark fantasy but, of course, with my twist on it.
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Until next week,