Chapter 4: Songs of Reamere Ch. III (corrected)
What follows can‘t really be described as „an attack“. The monster hits the ship a few times but it‘s more in the manner of probing the object and then shoving it away from its path. For a moment we actually get to see the monster‘s head and find out it‘s some kind of a sea serpent. It seems to grow bored of us pretty quickly and resumes its previous course.
It is able to swim surprisingly fast especially in the straight line. Neither the Nullarbor nor Rex can hope to match its pace. Captain Warye, however, refuses to let the serpent disappear. On his order we shoot a magical blunt harpoon and connect the ship to the monster‘s body. It takes only a minute for the rope to straighten up. The ship jumps forward sharply and most of the crew ends up loosing their balance and falling down on their butts. Warye holds onto the rope affixed to the serpent and grins like a maniac.
„Y‘all ready for a little trip?!“
The sea serpent keeps heading north. The weather gets colder day by day and I‘m growing nervous. The sailors‘ve borrowed me a set of warm clothes fit for the arctic lands we are coming closer to every day. Rex gets annoyed every time he needs to plunge into the icy water to get dinner for himself. Many of the stryx that remained on land would surely be jealous of him, though, because such fat tunas haven‘t made it to inland markets for some time now, so in my opinion he has nothing to complain about.
No. What worries me are the icebergs that we started noticing floating around the sea about two days ago. Their number as well as size is increasing. Avoiding them with a large ship like the Nullarbor would be difficult enough even if we weren‘t tied to a giant underwater beast swimming dozens of miles an hour.
Warye doesn‘t want to hear my pleas. He only keeps assuring me of his steering and ship navigation mastery. We figured the creature might be following a migration route and the captain wants to find out where its final destination is. He refuses to go back without that piece of information.
There is nothing left for me to do than try to dry Rex‘s leg feathers after all his fishing efforts using a handful of towels and watch the horizon with a worried scowl on my face.
The inevitable‘s happened: In the early morning hours we crashed into a chunk of ice, whose larger part was hidden underwater. There was no saving the ship. Her hull was shattered into pieces and huge amounts of sea water were filling her belly.
I didn‘t care about that at all, however. The impact knocked Rex down from the railing, where he had been perched, into the ice cold water. I could barely see his black thrashing silhuette down there. His plumage must have soaked in water and was dragging him down. I tried throwing down rope with a hook at the end to haul him up, but I couldn‘t get a grip on any of the saddle straps.
The sailors were too busy panicking and trying to save their sinking vessel to help me, which I couldn‘t very well hold against them. Without much more thinking I jumped into the sea after my stryx.
We‘ve washed ashore on an unknown beach in the middle of nowhere. I have no idea, how we are still alive.
I know I reached Rex and attached my safety carbines to his saddle. I shouted at him to keep his head above the water, while swallowing mouthfuls of the ocean myself. The waves were forcing us further and further from the remains of the ship. It was hopeless, so I tried to steer us to a larger piece of wooden wreckage from the Nullarbor.
With the last bit of strenght Rex pulled us both onto it. It sank deeper under his weight, but it stayed afloat.
I don‘t remember much more, except for spotting another human figure in the water soon after and draggin it onto the flotsam with us.
It turned out, the figure was captain Warye himself. I could say a lot about the man, but there is no denying he saved both Rex and me, once we were on the beach. I felt completely drained. I wasn‘t able to move a single muscle to at least TRY to prevent us from freezing solid. Warye, on the other hand, somehow managed to make a fire using the soaked wreckage of his former ship, dried my poor dragon and kept us warm through the rest of the night.
I was grateful to Warye, but that didn‘t stop me from kicking sand into his face, when he announced we would continue the expedition.
I would laugh if my throat wasn‘t sore from just breathing. We were moreless lost, freezing, exhausted and without proper equipment. Rex recovered somewhat, while the fire was still burning, but now he‘s once again looking like a picture of misery – feathers puffed up, wings huddled together, eyes closed. He‘s certainly trying to conserve as much heat as possible.
Oh, well. The nearest village is north from here anyway, according to Warye, so I guess we can travel together and decide what to do next, when we get there.
Both of us put on all the clothes we had left drying by the fire before. Even after the unexpected bath some basic supplies like a map, my medicinal pouch, a coil of rope and some water-soaked food packages remained intact in Rex‘s saddle bags. We finalized our preparations by gathering a bunch of sticks to later use as firewood and filling our flasks with melted snow.
There was also a piece of the Nullarbor‘s sail that I folded and packed with us. For the first time since we‘ve met, Warye seemed deeply upset. The Nullarbor was his pride and joy. Although it wasn‘t a living creature like our mounts, it must have been hard for him to see it destroyed like this. I felt sorry for him.
I sigh and go over to Rex. I pull out my compass from one of the bags. The sight of the little red box seems to have the intended effect of cheering the Harpy up a bit. He gets up and shakes his whole body like a dog spraying me with sand particles. His condition can‘t be too serious, if he‘s already got his humor back, I think to myself, while I make a big show of combing through my hair with my fingers and dusting off my clothes.
Warye ties the last laces on his shoes and a confident grin returns on his face. „Ready for a little hike, you two?!“
I only huff and signal for Rex to start moving in the direction I‘ve determined using the compass and Warye‘s previous instructions.
The shortest way to the village leads directly across the Reamere. Rex is still too shaken to carry us both in the air, but it doesn‘t matter, because at this point the sea‘s frozen over. Fortunetely the ice is covered by a thin layer of snow, so it‘s actually not as slippery as I‘ve feared.
We quicky fall into a slow but steady pace. Moving on foot is not the prefered form of travelling for avian stryx, but they posses longer and stronger legs than most birds, so they can endure it for some time. Talking would only be wasting energy, so both me and Warye walk in silence. The landscape is quite barren, only with an occassional glacier rising higher above the surface. Warye checks our course in regular intervals using the sun, a tiny hourglass and my compass.
Although our situation is not ideal and far from what I would call a pleasant experience, I‘m confident we can make it to the village. If we don‘t get lost, that is. I‘m not afraid. I used to be quite angry at Warye for chasing after the serpent so recklessly, but I‘ve grown too tired for that by now.
We‘ve set off pretty late and after a few hours of walking the night begins to descend. The snow reflects what little light there still is, so I believe we should go on for a while longer. My gaze is glued to my feet. I take one step after another without thinking, like a robot. I can feel my body shivering from cold, but I‘m too numb to really be uncomfortable.
That is, until I trip over my own freezing feet multiple times in a row. Rex gives me a yellow-eyed glance full of worry. I want to reassure him that I just need to catch my breath, but when I try to make another step, my legs just give up under my weight.
Warye turns around, when he notices we no longer follow him. He‘d probably like to check up on me, but he isn‘t able to get closer due to a giant black Harpy frantically pacing around my crumpled form. Rex croaks and squawks and pays no attention to his surroundings. I hate being the source of such a fuss, but all my limbs suddenly feel so heavy I can‘t imagine getting back up right away.
Suddenly the noises stop. I turn my head to see, what Rex is up to, but then I get completely enveloped in feathered darkness. That dork of a bird‘s sat down on me like a broody hen! I wiggle and poke Rex with my elbows to make him go away. Fortunately, he didn‘t put his whole weight on my back. Otherwise, I wouldn‘t probably ever get up. He was actually very gentle sitting down and opening his wings slightly to create a little crevice for me and to prop himself against the ice above me.
Frustrated that my efforts aren‘t doing anything, I stop and just lie there. Rex‘s body shields me from the arctic winds and in a short while I realize it‘s not that bad. After such a long time I feel… warmth. Rex‘s body produces enough heat to slowly bring my half-frozen muscles back to life.
I don‘t know how much time I spend in there, but just when I‘m getting used to it, the nice feather blanket is lifted and I‘m left having to face the harsh icy wasteland once again. An involuntary grunt of dissatisfation escapes my lips, but then I look up and see the most breathtaking show this arctic land has to offer. Aurora Borealis. Streaks of green, blue and purple dance across the sky and twirl among the twinkling stars. Everything around us suddenly gets a colourful hue and the ice crystals sparkle in the moonlight like tiny diamonds.
Rex‘s jumped up and watches it all with wide eyes and half-open beak. His pupils are twitching, trying to adjust to the sudden changes in lighting. Our brave captain considers the moment safe enough to step in and help me up to my feet. I smile and thank him with a nod. Then the sky draws our attention as well. Warye must have seen the Northern Lights on his travels across the Reamere many times before, but from the look on his face, this seems to be one of the things a man never really gets used to.
I pet Rex‘s leg, which makes him glance down at me for a moment, but he gets captivated again by the light show above almost instantly. His previous demostration of love and care for me warmed up not only my limbs, but my heart as well. I feel so incredibly grateful to have him as my partner.
The moon shines brightly above our heads. I don‘t why, but I didn‘t notice it earlier. I wonder, whether the great Goddess of Night, Nokt, herself‘s arranged this incredible spectacle to cheer up this poor group of exhausted travellers and to remind us, what actually matters.
word count: 2008