Tempest

Submitted into Contest #108 in response to: Write a story about a voyage on a boat.... view prompt

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Fantasy Fiction

Waves break against the bow of Tempest, as the water riders control the ebb and flow of the sea, propelling the ship forward. Breaking through the last of the waves, the riders dismount from their pedestals. Before they can get below deck they can hear Captain Galan at the helm congratulating them, “Another well ridden storm!”.  Each rider can’t help but smile at their Captain’s overwhelming positivity.

“Aye Captain! Call us back if you need us!” one of the riders exclaims. “Please don’t need us though!” the group chuckles to themselves.

“You know we can’t control the sea Zilmas. I can just offer you well earned rest and food.” Zilmas and the rest of the riders nod their heads at their large lizard of a captain before going below deck.

Galan looks up to the crows nest, at the five hanging lamps, none are lit. He turns to his helmsman, “Master Koldos, you have the helm while I’m away.” Galan states.

“Aye Captain. Get some rest.” The grizzled man says compassionately.

Once in his quarters, Galan grabs an apple and some dried meat before sitting down to study his maps. The ship continues to pulse with the sea as they stay on course. Suddenly, a descending three note pattern is heard in his head. Galan springs up tossing his remaining food on the ground before dashing out of his quarters. Once outside, he sees that many of the sailors are wrapping strands of air around their feet. Galan looks up towards the crows nest and sees the second lamp is now lit with a small red flame. 

The water riders emerge from below deck and look towards the lamps, they grunt before they move towards the sailors making boots of air. 

Galan calls out, “Silence the ship!”. He is met with a tense nod from his crew. He walks up the stairs to Koldos, who already has his feet covered. Galan takes the wheel, and Koldos bends down, lacing the air around his feet before retaking the wheel.

Galan examines his muted crew as they furl the sails. Three notes descend again, this time louder. Looking at the lamp, the flame is a bright orange. The water riders rush onto their pedestals, diminishing the ship’s speed to a halt. Galan focuses on the lamp, watching it burn more intensely. Cursing, he rushes to the main mast, grabbing the jutting stone firmly before it smoothly slides up. At the top, he quickly glances at Zel who sends the stone back down. Galan breathes in deeply before lifting his hands towards the sky. Black mist oozes from his hands forming an umbrella of darkness around the ship. 

Three deafening descending notes. If Galan could see the lamp, he would see the blinding white flame. He gulps as he concentrates on the shroud of darkness. The entirety of Tempest is a void itself.

Soundless.

Lifeless.

Empty.

He remains arms outstretched, for what feels like an eternity. 

Zel eventually taps his shoulder, “You can let go now Captain.”

Stirred from his concentration, Galan releases his arms, dissipating the mist. He inspects his trembling hands covered in black ooze. He sighs, hearing his crew do the same. “Take me down Zel.”

“Right away Captain.” Zel says.

Galan notices the lamps no longer burning as he descends. He examines his crew as he lands on the deck. Some shaking, but all smiling. “Master Koldos, I think we might have to take port earlier than expected. Change course to--”  Galan’s words are cut short as a single high pitched sound pierces his head. Everyone looks at the lamps. The fifth is burning red. 

The crew wide eyed begins to panic in their places. “All hands on deck!” Bellows Captain Galan. “To your stations! Unfurl the sails! Water Riders get us moving!” The crew of Tempest begins to move quickly to their duties. “Get us out of here!!” A small group of women emerge from the deck. “Battle mages, take your stations!” The women nod and glide over to their posts. Another piercing note. An orange flame.

Galan shouts up to the crow’s nest, “Zel! Do you see anything?” 

Before Zel can respond the note pierces his mind again. The lamp is burning white. The sails ripple in the wind, mists of water splash the faces of the crew as they move at their maximum speed. Galan glances over at the Battle Mages, flames of blue and red hover over their hands as they wait for their signal. 

Ocean water rolls down Galan’s neck as he waits, his anxiety rising. The flame remains white hot, as the ship begins to slow down with water riders collapsing from fatigue. The high pitch note crescendos halting some of the crew. Galan grabs his own ears and looks towards the lamp, staring in horror as the white flame is burning on the outside of it. He gets himself up and calls out, “Mages! It’s right on top of us! Be ready!” None of them seem to hear him as the lamp’s sound has only gotten stronger. 

Galan looks to the riders, one remains, but she too loses to fatigue. Tempest, only using her sails and the main crew has slowed dramatically. Galan places his hand on his chest, feeling his beating heart as he looks over the railing. 

Silence. 

The mind-piercing sound has stopped.

Galan looks to the lamp, moving his mouth voicelessly. The glass is shattered, and the flame is out.  Clinging to the railing, Galan descends to the deck in a haze.

“Are we already dead?” Galan mutters to himself. The tension in the crew building as they continue to wait for the inevitable. 

Nothing happens.

Galan is stirred from his worries by the sound of footsteps. Turning to the doors below, he sees a woman with disheveled hair, draped in a gown of water, tied loosely with a wolf headed belt. Galan rubs his eyes, then turns to look at his crew staring in shock at the same thing.

The woman cocks her head and fashions her mouth into a smile. “Hello.” she says, her voice melodic and soothing. 

Galan looks around in disbelief at his crew, before realizing he has to be the one to speak to her. “Ahoy”. The word comes out dry and weak. 

The woman stares blankly at him, “Why are you here?” 

Galan clears his throat, “Well… This is my ship.” gaining confidence, he asks, “Where did you come from?” 

Puzzled, the woman says, “I’ve always been here.”

Galan chuckles, “oh. I understand.” Galan wipes his hands on his trousers, “That’s a relief. You must have been startled by the warning signal.” he starts walking closer to her, “It’s still dangerous. Our lamp broke, but.” He pauses before hesitantly saying, “I’m sure we will be fine. Here. Come to my quarters. We’ll get you fed and get you some real clothes.”

The woman lowers her eyebrows and asks, “Why?”

“It’s concerning that you’re only now coming up since we last left port. So I’ll take care of you the best I can.” she glowers at him in silence. “Besides, it will be safer in my quarters than on the deck.” Captain Galan gestures for her to walk with him, “I’m Captain Galan by the way. How might I address you?”

Her smile fades as she responds, “Scylla.” she looks at his darkened hands before walking with him.

Galan opens the door to his quarters while observing his anxious crew. “Here we are.” He sweeps his arms welcoming, “go ahead and make yourself at home. There’s food on the table, and clothes in the drawer on the left.” Galan points to the side of the cabin. “I’ll be right back. My crew needs their commands”

Wordlessly, Scylla inspects the food as Galan leaves the room. He exhales before addressing his crew. “Master Koldos.” Galan says sternly. 

“Aye sir?” Koldos asks.

“Status report.”

“There are no damages that we know of. The riders are exhausted from using them twice in one day and the Battle Mages have yet to spot their target. I think the monster might have gotten right to us, then decided to leave.”

“We’re lucky then.” Galan says, stepping further towards the crew. “There’s supposed to be an island towards the east not far from here. Master Koldos, take us there. We will rest docked for the rest of the day.”

Koldos responds, “Right away Captain.” He turns the ship starboard before steadying out facing east. 

Galan orders his crew, “Get the riders to their beds and give them water. They’ve worked harder than expected, they need to rest.” They pick up the unconscious riders at their captain's orders before he heads back to his quarters.  

Entering the cabin Galan notices that Syclla is standing in front of an open window. She turns as he walks towards her, a fish in her hand partially eaten. Galan stops, “I see you’ve found some food.” Scylla nods. Galan goes to the drawer and pulls out a pair of trousers and a shirt, “Here”. Scylla looks at the clothes offended before sitting down at the map table. Cautiously observing her, “do you know how to read maps?”

“Yes.” she says flatly, while tracing a path along one of the maps with her finger. “You’re headed to a dangerous place.” 

Galan scoffs, “It’s the sea. Everywhere is dangerous.”

Scylla looks up at Galan, her eyes narrowing, “You’ll be entering a storm soon.”

Chuckling, “The sky was clear when I was out but a moment ago. It won’t storm for some--” his words are cut off by the sound of thunder. He glances over to Scylla, “How’d you know?”

“I’ve been in this sea longer than you. Her lair is nearby. You stand no chance.” Scylla says nonchalantly. 

“Who’s lair?” Galan says, noticing the lightning flashing out the window.

“An undying storm.” she says, meeting his eyes.

He laughs, “No storm is undying.”

Scylla shakes her head, “Not this one.”

“If you expect me to change course over this, I won’t. Tempest has survived over 3000 voyages.” he runs his hand on the wood of the ship. “It will survive this ‘undying’ storm too.”

“It won’t. Once you’re in the rain, it’s too late.” she says dangerously.

Concerned, Galan briskly leaves his quarters. “Where’d this storm come from?”

Koldos tightens the grip of his wheel, “Not sure. But it’s picking up. Should we change the course?”

“Heavy rain ahead!” shouts Zel.

“No. Stay the course.” Galan affirms. 

As soon as Galan feels the first drop of rainwater touch his face, the waters become harsh. Waves hit the hull of the ship rocking it. Steadying himself, he looks at the sail, flapping one way, then the next, then another. Then it stops. He turns to Koldos who looks horrified at the sail then him. “It’s coming from every direction.” Galan says, his voice lost in the wind. 

The ship crashes into another wave, leaning it slightly. Galan looks up in disbelief, “Gods blind me.” 

Eyes of lightning peer down from the thunderous sky. Limbs sprout from the clouds crackling with energy. Standing on the cloud itself, the creature raises a single hand and brings it down, forcing the wind to cleave the main mast in two.

“Battle mages!” Galan screams.

Sparks fly from the storm's raised hand as it ignites the air. The Battle Mages rush onto the deck flames in hand. Seeing their target they look to Captain Galan. “Protect the ship! Destroy that storm!” Galan shouts.

The Battle Mages engulf their hands completely in flames, transforming their skin into a malevolent red. In unison they bring their hands up, unleashing a fire storm strong enough to sink a Galleon ship; but, the flames arc over the storm’s head as it creates an air draft with its foot.

The storm releases the lightning from its hand like a javelin, slamming into the ships deck, blasting crew and mages alike. An inferno erupts from the hole as the Battle Mages siphon its flames, redirecting them towards the storm just to be blown away.

Zel crawls out from the broken mast, coughing and wheezing. He shapes the stone from the mast into a razor sharp disk. Two of the crew stand behind him, shooting the disk towards the storm with a violent stream of air, cutting its arm and releasing electrical discharge.

Clapping its hands the storm creates a thunderous crash bringing everyone onboard Tempest to their knees. When Galan opens his eyes, he sees Scylla on the main deck. He stumbles to her, “You shouldn’t be here. It’s not safe.” She moves her mouth but her words are muddled and he can’t make them out. “Come with me” Galan shouts, leading her by the arm to the port side of the ship. 

Galan flounders his way to the lifeboat, as Scylla graces the ship with her steps. “Go” Galan says while ushering Scylla into the lifeboat. “Let at least one person survive this.” his voice cracks, “Tell them what was here. Tell them what blocks the way.” He glances back to his crew fighting, “I need to stay with them.” Another mast falls, “Let the Gods have mercy on you.” Captain Galan hits the switch to lower the boat, then takes two steps away before grunting. Looking down he sees water wrapped around his waist before being lifted off the ship's deck and flung into the boat.

Dazed, Galan looks around to see that the water is coming from Scylla’s arm like a tentacle. He blinks a couple of times before noticing confusion on her face. As he attempts to get up, Scylla morphs the arm into a blade, slicing the ropes holding the lifeboat. The fall is short lived as water rises to meet them and take the boat away from Tempest. Galan stares in dread as the storm creates a sword of lightning, cutting his beloved ship in half. 

Galan screams out at the loss of his crew, catching the attention of the storm. Walking in the sky, it approaches. 

Galan begins a silent prayer to himself, then looks at Scylla, who is smiling no human smile. She turns to him, speaking in no human voice, but a voice closer to a wild animal, “Stay. I’ll deal with this.” Before Galan can say anything, Scylla leaps over the edge of the boat, and stands on the water.

The waves bend themselves to Scylla’s feet as she walks. Her legs split into six dark grey tentacles with course bumps and toothy maws at their tips. Hair grows from the howling wolf belt as it replicates five heads around her waist. Scylla’s robe billows behind her, coating her body like armor as she stands face to face with the slowing storm.

Scylla whips one of her tentacles forward releasing a pressurized ball of water, slamming the storm back. Before the storm can attack, balls of black flame shoot from her wolven heads. Galan stares wide eyed at the scene unfolding as the storm cries out in pain.

The storm steps back, then pushes forward with a strong gale. Scylla manipulates the ocean into a wall of ice that cracks as the wind hits it, then turns the ice into a fog. Panicked, the storm lashes out with streaks of lightning, only stopping when multiple canons of water break away the clouds. 

Scylla presses in closer, each tentacle biting the frame of the storm's body, pulling it out of the clouds. She stares at it as it speaks in a low boisterous tone, “Mercy”. The storm freezes from each bite until it can no longer move.

Scylla drops the frozen storm into the sea, letting it sink. The weather changes immediately, rain lets up and the storm clouds break, revealing a calm sunny day. She walks back to Galan, transforming into the woman from earlier.

Galan stares unblinking at Scylla, “What are you?”

“I’m Scylla.” She says matter of factly.

“Why did you save me?” he asks with tears in his eyes, “why didn’t you save my crew?!”

“I only need one of you, and you offered me your quarters.”

“Any good captain would do that.” He stares off at his sinking ship and the floating bodies of his crew.

“No.” The word is cold as ice. “Not many have done this. Most understand I am the calamity their little lamps are synced to.”

Realization dawns on Galan, “Oh.” He slumps into the boat, defeated, “what now?”

“Help me find my sister.”

August 28, 2021 01:46

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