La Isla de Desolacion

Chapter III: The Shape of Things to Come Part: One

“Wake up, boy…” 

Peridas ruefully opened his eyes to Skipper’s not-angry face, which meant something wonderful must have been happening. “What is it?” The boy attempted to ask, but his dry tongue and throat allowed only a hoarse croak to escape. He coughed, sat up, and gazed about him. The salty air stung his damaged eye. He winced and cupped it with his left hand. Skipper reached out and moved the boy’s hand. He studied the cut for several moments. “Well…?” Peridas asked nervously.

“It’s healing. Slowly.” Skipper responded. “And it isn’t the same color anymore. It’s green, not brown. Wonder shot through the boy. “Just… keep it closed when you can.” the seaman concluded. And so, using only his good eye, Peridas studied his surroundings.

The third survivor, Keeja, a short, irritable and overall ratty-looking overweight, was laughing gleefully, his mouth opened to the heavens. Above them was a gray sky, which was showering the survivors with its blessed freshwater. Peridas exclaimed joyfully, and, removing his shirt, began to construct a makeshift water basin out of it.

As he waited for the basin to fill, Peridas scanned the seas for any sign of life. It was surprisingly misty, but large waves could be made out in the distance. Peridas’ thoughts turned to his Spartan companion. Where are you, my friend? He thought. Are you safe, aboard the Gizmothian? Or are you buried in a watery grave, gazing up at us with the rest of your brothers? 

Peridas’ reverie was broken by the smell of smoke. He looked for the source and found it to be the basin. The rain had eaten a large hole clean through the padded fabric. The boy yelped and tossed the ruined tunic into the haze, and he realized with a shock that it wasn’t fog drifting over the water; it was steam. Fear sunk its icy tendrils into his gut, and with every raindrop than struck him his fear increased. “Burning rain? What is this, Skipper?” he shouted, over the hissing and the rain.

“I’ve heard talk of this among other sailors, though I’dn’t ever witnessed it meself. It only occurs around the summer solstice near a chain of islands South of Ibiza, from what I recall.”

“Will it burn us?”

“Only our clothes from what I heard,” he said, removing his own rapidly deteriorating shirt and dropping it into the roiling sea. “So long as we don’t drink it… .” A horrific realization took hold of the three men. Peridas and Skipper looked at Keeja, wide-eyed. “You mean… you think I am going to burn too!” the sailor asked, hysteria edging his voice. Skipper fumbled for words, “N… no! People exaggerate. I’m certain it was mostly lies. You will be fine. Fine… ,” whispered the weathered seaman, more to himself than to Keeja. “Yes- you are right. S- surely only a little water would not have caused me harm,” but even as he spoke clouds of smoke began to pour from his mouth and nostrils.

Mere moments later the ratty man was flailing about desperately as he was devoured from the inside. “Help… me!” he gurgled, stumbling into the other two men. Peridas rolled to avoid being knocked into the boiling ocean, but Keeja and Skipper’s sizable weight tipped the raft. The boy started to slide back toward the water and quickly grabbed a board to stop his descent as did Skipper. Keeja however, had not reacted as quickly and slid into the ocean with a single, desperate  yelp. The raft tipped again, on Peridas’ side, and slammed back into the water, splashing the remaining two with the boiling mixture. Peridas hissed; it felt as if his entire body had been soaked in hot oil. He rose, scrabbling at his skin while scanning for Keeja. All that remained of the sailor was a thick mat of bubbles where he had fallen in.

***  

The burning rain had stopped, but a heavy blanket of steam still hung over the water. Skipper suggested Peridas rest his shaking limbs, but he couldn’t close his eyes without seeing Keeja disappearing into the black waters. So, instead Skipper told tales of adventure and daring to keep the boy from slinking back to that memory.

Peridas took the ever-present locket that was hanging by his neck and studied his appearance on the polished, reflective surface. An unfamiliar face stared out at him. His left eye had nearly healed, but it wasn’t the eye he lost. This eye was bright green, not the dull brown of his old one, and it gazed with a haunted stare that even its master found unnerving. A scar remained, though, travelling from his brow to his lower left cheek. His round jaw was filling out with black stubble, and his neck was thinly layered with small blisters where he had been splashed with the boiling water. 

He gingerly opened the locket. A small portrait of Lenise smiled at him, and he felt instantly calmer. Skipper noticed it and asked, “Is that your wife?”

The boy’s eyes twinkled as he gazed at the locket. “I plan it to be. This is her favor.”

“She waits for you, then?”

“Aye. Though there will be no joyful reunion between us. Her father, Fultheim, wishes me dead.” To that, Skipper said nothing. Peridas handed him the locket.

“She is truly beautiful.” Skipper said, then hesitated. “Why would her father wish you dead?”

“Because I, a simple laborer, won his daughter. He is convinced I poisoned her against him.” 

“Was he wrong?” Skipper asked, grinning.

Peridas grinned himself. “Perhaps not. But, after all, all is fair in love and war.”

Skipper snickered. “I suppose that be true, eh? But that doesn’t seem reason enough to want you dead.”

The boy inhaled sharply. “‘Tis not. His son and Ionus and I were close companions as well, and I convinced him to come with me on this ill- fated voyage. I know not what became of him, but if he should be dead, I doubt I would survive long even if I made it home safely.”

Skipper gave the boy a questioning look.

“Fultheim is… a nobleman.” Peridas explained. “He gained his position by lingering like a vagabond in dark places, listening to the goings on of Athens. He gossiped with servants and spied through keyholes, and with his forked tongue and discerning mind he finally schemed his way to power.”

“You managed to make a noble your enemy. Well done, boy.” Skipper said mordantly.

Ignoring him, Peridas tapped the locket. “He didn’t allow his daughter to give me this herself, for fear that she would come with me to Ibiza. For that, I despised him- Lenise even more so, but I couldn’t help but admire the fierceness with which he guarded his children. It stemmed, I know, from the conscription of his firstborn son, followed rapidly by the death of his youngest at the hands of brigands. From then on, he guarded his remaining two children with a tenacity befitting only a crazed beast.”

Peridas seemed disinclined to talk further of the subject, so Skipper resumed his story. Drawn out of his shell of silence, Peridas would constantly interrupt to ask countless questions, but Skipper paid it no mind. In many ways Peridas could see his grandfather in the older man.

“…so, whilst I our fathers were out fishing, we were off playing in the sandstone cliffs outside of Athens.”

“We?”

“Aye, my friend Quentis Novale came with me. Well, while we were playing up in the cliffs, he lost his footing and tumbled down a rift in the rocks, an’ I could hear him cryin’ an’ moanin’ so what do I do but go tumblin’ down after him. When I got down there I saw him layin’ right in the arms of a skeleton!”

“A skeleton?” Peridas asked incredulously.

“Aye, and layin’ next to the skeleton was a map pointin’ to the other side o’ Greece, to a little island of the coast by Sparta. Well there were some enigmatic runes on that map, and neither of us could read ’em, so we took it to the library in Athens, and the librarian said there were maybe two people in Greece who could read it. She said there was a disconsolate old man living in a miserable little hovel down in the city slums. Apparently, he was a praised scholar who ran into a bit o’ bad luck, and fell to gamblin’. First, he lost his coin. And when he ran out o’ coin he bet his house, and once that was gone he bet away his wife! So anyhow, we brought the map to him, and he procured a tablet, which he compared to the map, and he could read it alright, but it was a fairly opaque riddle; it spoke of wants and needs being slaked, and of old allies being snakes.” Skipper chortled softly in his throat.

“The old man said that shortly after he had bet away his life, he chanced upon this very same riddle inscribed upon a stone tablet in Athens’ library. And that was how the librarian first came to know him. He said that he pursued the riddle to the limits of his wits, but came away even more incommoded than when he started out. He warned us that a curse lied upon the riddle, and only woe would come of following it.

“Once Quentis heard the story he was drooling at the thought of some long forgotten treasure. Neither of our families were very well off, mind you, and he saw this as his chance to obtain power. He told me that it ought to have been his since he found the map. I said that he still would’ve been stuck in that cave if I hadn’t went down and got him.” 

“So, who got it?”

“You have got to let the story develop, boy.” Skipper responded with a twinkle in his eye. “So our argument came fairly close to blows, and I bet him all I had that I would be the one to find that treasure.”

“And did you?”

“Peridas…”

“-Sorry.”

“For seven weeks we sped toward Sparta, hoping to arrive before the other. Everywhere I went, signs of his treachery could be seen. Leaf-covered pits where he hoped I’d camp; nets filled with rocks dropping along the main roads; bribed carriage drivers and boatmen that wouldn’t give me passage. Ours was a duel of wits, grand enough to be sung of by the bards for decades.

When I finally arrived at the southeastern coast, I learned that Quentis had already chartered a boat to take him to the island, and he’d threatened anyone with whom I might have procured passage.”

“So what did you do?”

“What did I do?” Skipper laughed. “Well, boy, I swam! Straight through the sea for three days! And when I arrived at that tiny little shoal, Quentis was busy digging up the treasure, hacking at the earth as if he were imbued with the fury of Poseidon. I was perfectly content to let him do the diggin’ for me, and once he brought up a large oak chest I revealed myself and told him to hand it over.”

“And did he?”

“Oh, no.”

“Then what happened?”

Skipper chuckled heartily. “Well, we beat each other to bloody pulps over an empty chest!”

“Empty!”

“Yes, bare as a bone. Long since had it been found and pilfered. Why anyone would re-bury it, though, I haven’t the faintest.”

“Well, what about-” Peridas’ voice was shut out by a deafening creak. The men looked in its direction and beheld an enormous ship looming out of the darkness. It suddenly slowed to a halt. Curiously, no anchor was dropped. Its figurehead was a woman, arrayed in armor, with her arms stretched over her head as if she was holding something. Whatever that something was, it had been ripped off in the storm. There was a single lantern alight next to the figurehead. Peridas opened his mouth to signal the ship, but Skipper clamped his hand over the boy’s mouth. “No, boy.” he whispered. “The figurehead, it’s a Viking deity.” The ship released another unearthly groan and lurched toward their raft. “Skkpprr…” Peridas warned. “I know boy. Jump!” The duo dove off the raft in opposite directions moments before the ship struck. 

From underwater, Peridas watched the ship ram the tiny raft, smashing it to pieces. As it passed, he resurfaced, paddled to the rigging stretched down its side, and grabbed hold with both hands. Ever so slowly, he began to climb, listening with every pull for cries of alarm. But to his surprise, there was a deathly silence hanging over the entire ship. Peridas feared for Skipper, but dared not call out. So he climbed in silence, mourning and hoping at the same time.

As he peered over the railing at the deck he froze in dread and confusion. A dozen corpses lay strewn across the deck, their bodies hidden and stuffed into every conceivable hiding place. Whatever killed them, it must have terrified them. Peridas thought as he gazed at the carnage. Rubble was scattered about the ship and all that remained of the mast was a jagged stump about three feet high, protruding from the deck like a rotten tooth. He waited and listened for several more minutes. Nothing. He mustered his courage and was about to leap onto the deck when, with a loud screech, the door to the first mate’s quarters scraped open, casting a bright blue light onto the deck. The boy sunk low, watching through a design in the railing. 

A figure appeared at the door, throwing a shadow onto the blue ring of light. The figured turned and stalked into the room again, reappearing a moment later. Only this time it cast no shadow on the deck. Peridas realized that it had retrieved the light source and was using it as a lantern. As the figure slowly exited the doorway, its features grew more and more detailed. It was slender, graceful and perfectly symmetrical. The blue lantern reflected off the creature, casting flecks of blue all over the ship. 

The light was too close to the figure for Peridas to make out a face, but its small bare feet could be seen, lightly stepping over and around the bodies and rubble. Oddly, wherever the creature stepped, it left a glowing footprint in its wake. It stopped at the mast and, to Peridas’ terror slowly turned and stared directly at him with ember-red eyes that seemed to burn into his very soul. The creature tilted its head and make an awful clicking noise. Then it closed its eyes and extinguished the light with a snap of its fingers. 

Peridas eyes were adjusted to the lantern, so he could see nothing but streaks of green and yellow wherever he tried to look. But he could hear it. He could hear it clicking and rustling. As the clicking grew louder Peridas moved farther left on the rigging. He looped his arm through the ropes and rubbed his eyes, trying to clear his vision. It helped, if only a little. He turned and looked over the railing again. A trail of glowing footprints was visible and he realized with dread that the footprints ended right in front of him…

                                                                                                                          

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La Isla de Desolacion

Chapter II: Adrift

“We floated for nine days and nights. We battled sharks n’ sea serpents the likes o’ which I’dn’t ever seen before, or ever again. It wasn’t until-“

“-Sea serpents, Grandfather? What did they look like? How big were-“

“-Now listen, boy, if you in’nerup me one more time you’ll be listen’n to the merchant’s dull negoshyations with that ugly matron yonder- you hear?”

“….aye.” Peridas answered defiantly. A twinkle appeared in his grandfather’s eyes. “Alright then. As I was saying”…

Peridas was startled out of his dream by blood-curdling yelp, accompanied by an enormous splash. He looked in it’s direction just in time to see a tail fin disappearing into crimson water. A volley of curses erupted from the mouths of the other three sailors on Peridas’ slat of wreckage along with the word ‘shark’. He continued to stare, dazed, at the awfully discolored patch of ocean. Then, to his horror, an arm rose to the surface a few feet away. Just an arm. No body. “What is…”

“It just ate Malkus! ” cried one man.

“Where-“

“I curse you Poseidon!” shouted another, fatter man.

“Be silent, you fools!” hissed Skipper.

The fat man ignored him and continued shouting and cursing. “I said be-” Skipper fell silent as a colossal white shark launched itself out of the water and caught the fat man in it’s jaws. The other soldiers on the raft were spattered with blood. The monster flew past with its screaming prize and slammed back into the water on the other side of the raft with another splash; Peridas blinked, water pelted him, by the time he opened his eyes again, all was still. The remaining three men instantly dropped down on their bellies. Peridas’ heart thumped and his muscles tensed. Everything around him seemed ultra-detailed and slightly orange-hued as an adrenaline rush flowed through his body. Every fiber of his being yearned to do something, but moving meant death. He had no choice but to let the adrenaline run its course.

They waited for an interminable amount of time, then, warily, Skipper peered over the raft; nothing but calm seas and a haggard, monocled reflection. They waited for a few more hours, during which time Peridas became painfully aware of just how many wounds he had sustained during the storm. Innumerable cuts and scrapes smarted in unison and some of his fingers felt out of place, but what hurt the worst was the gash over his eye. His vision was still cloudy and indistinct, and his entire eyeball throbbed.  He looked at the other two men. Each of them was in as bad, or worse condition than he was. They would soon be leaving a substantial blood trail, something that he learned from his grandfather was a very bad thing on the open ocean. Skipper eyed the boy nursing his damaged hand and quickly reached across the raft, grabbed Peridas’ fingers and yanked them into place. The boy inhaled sharply, but relief was instant. 

At long last they concluded the monster had gone. They sat up stiffly and probed the depths with their eyes, a useless tactic in the glare of the setting sun. Evening eventually turned to night, and despite themselves the soldiers began to drift to sleep…

Peridas was standing in an endless, rolling wheat field. A soft breeze was gently swaying the stalks, and carrying with it the sweet smell of Lenise’s perfume. Peridas grinned. He scanned the golden fields until he spied a single hill, upon which the silhouette of a girl stood serenely. He waded through the whispering columns of wheat, taking in the pleasant sights and sounds.

Her back was turned to him when he finally reached her. Her raven hair was tied back into a pony tail. She wore a collared, gray tunic and heel length dress. They were not, he thought, garments that befitted such a beautiful creature. He attempted to call out to her but could not find his voice. Again and again he tried to speak, but the words always caught in his throat. And still the girl gazed ahead wistfully.     …In fact, she hadn’t moved so much as a hairsbreadth since Peridas had first seen her. The boy finally realized that it was only a dream, and all the memories of the previous two days came rushing back into his mind. He let out a sigh of depression. She is still waiting for me… and I am still lost. He strolled over to her and touched her shoulder. She turned and stared numbly at him. Her small nose was red, and her large, hazel eyes were glistening; dried tear tracts ran down her face. You are late… I have been waiting for you here for days.” He simply stared at her sorrowfully. Lenise let out a shaky breath. Can you stay?” The boy shook his head. Another tear rolled down her face. He moved closer to her and took her hand in his. “Peridas!” Skipper’s voice echoed over the amber fields. “Stay?” she asked again. “I… can-not…” He managed to force out. Will you leave me again?” He nodded slowly. Several more tears. ‘I am sorry’ he mouthed to her. And then he regretfully turned his back on his sobbing lover and closed his eyes…

 

La Isla de Desolacion

Chapter I: The Maw

Peridas stumbled and fell as the Omicron lurched to the side. Enormous waves crashed against the sides of the ship. Wind howled through the sails like screeching banshees. The sky overhead was black as pitch, though it was only mid afternoon. Curtains of rain bombarded the few crew-members that had not yet been swept overboard. The Greek and Viking fleets were in complete disarray.

Peridas painstakingly crawled through the horrid mixture of water, blood, and vomit to the ship’s mast and held on to it as tightly as he could. He stared at the carnage, horrified. Crates and barrels tumbled and rolled back and forth at the whim of the ocean. All the bodies had been swept off the deck by the ravenous hurricane, but the shifting streaks of blood running across the deck betrayed the storm’s attempts at concealment.  

He turned his head and puked over his shoulder just as the ship lurched again, and the airborne vomit turned mid-flight and splashed back into him. He gagged, revolted and even more sick. Still… I am better off than them, he thought, glancing at the vacant railing; any crewman who was foolish enough to attempt to retch over the side of the Omicron had instantly been washed overboard.

Debris smashed into Peridas; chunks of wood, shards of glass, rent metal; it looked as if all the objects on the ship were possessed by spirits as they dashed through the air. One such shard struck Peridas on the brow, leaving a deep gash that traveled over his eye and onto his cheek. Hot blood oozed from the wound, clouding the boy’s vision and tinting the already hellish scene red. Dark amber ropes twisted and writhed like burning snakes. Crimson cannonballs and broken boards were constantly being tossed about.

The splintering mast dug deeper into his soft hands. Blood seeped out from under his fingernails. His boots might as well have been filled with lead. They had long since been completely saturated with water.

Curse those mewling wretches, the Vikings, he thought, enraged. All these pointless deaths…. The destroyed homesteads, murdered citizens, the terrorized orphans constantly flooding into the cities; it was all on account of the Vikings. But these were not the medieval savages of popular myth and legend, these were the true Elder Nords of the northern reaches. They were brilliant tacticians, expert shipbuilders, and master smiths; these Vikings were enemies capable of razing Greece to the ground. And that seemed exactly their intention.

Old resentments and hatreds were remembered, bitter and dark from festering unresolved in the caverns of the Vikings’ minds. They remembered the time when Greece was young and wild, the time when they, too, proudly called themselves Greeks, but their neighbors scoffed at their beliefs, scorned their gods and mocked their rituals, and preferred instead their own deities of logic and science. War broke out, fathers killing sons, brothers killing brothers, and eventually their neighbors drove them into the icy reaches of the North, where for centuries they bided their time, growing in numbers and body until they were prepared for their revenge. Tens of thousands of their kin had lost their lives on account of their enemies arrogance, their foolish pride, and now the reckoning had come. They had started by sacking all Greek territories near the western coast, every town and village that was accessible by river or canal. And now they were through the Strait of Gibraltar with Greece in their sights. The Greek fleet was assembled, underage soldiers were conscripted, and swords were hastily forged. Then the Greek fleet mobilized and raced to meet their foes. The two massive fleets met in uncharted waters in an unmapped part of the sea, but before any blood was spilled a hurricane of unparalleled might was upon them.

The rain had turned to sleet, and lightning crackled through the sky. A bolt struck a Nordic ship on the mast, igniting its sails. Even through the deafening wailing of the wind and pounding of the waves the almighty boom of the thunder was clearly audible. And then he heard another sound: screaming. The Nords, the hardy, “honor in death” Nords on the burning ship were screaming and offering prayers to their gods. He knew not what they were saying because they were speaking Old Norse, but the intensity of their wailing paralleled that of the Greeks still on the Omicron, who were bemoaning, and sometimes cursing Poseidon. “I beg of you, Brothers- spare us! Direct your fury elsewhere!” Peridas pleaded, as his grandfather had taught him. Another flash of lightning, another volley of screams, this time from a Greek ship. “NO!” He screamed. Have we provoked Zeus and Poseidon? He wondered. Things cannot get any worse. Another flash of lightning cast a rapidly expanding shadow directly on Peridas. He sidestepped the shadow, then started with a horrified yelp as a body hurtled toward the deck and crashed through it into the flooded quarters below. Peridas stared, gaping, at the hole in the deck. He traced the man’s fall upwards; he had been the lookout in the crow’s nest.

Peridas had never seen anyone die before. He hadn’t even wielded a sword before. He was an Athenian youth who had just become old enough to be conscripted, not a hardened Spartan warrior who had known battle all his life. Not for the first time he thought of home. He remembered the smell of the vineyards drifting over the walls of Athens, the pleasant chatter of the marketplace, the perfume of his sweetheart Lenise which was always about her, no matter the time of day. Lenise…. She was an individualist, an adventurous, fiery soul. She was the pride of his life. Thinking of her led him to think of her brother and his friend Ionus, whom Peridas had met soon after he was conscripted. Ionus was a Spartan, which was odd, since he had been born Athenian; Ionus’s father had gifted him to a general in order to heighten his own standing. Ionus had known only war, but his quick wit and dry humor bespoke a lightness of the soul that Peridas would not have expected from a Spartan. Peridas took a liking to him immediately. They had both been sent to Ibiza, but on separate ships. Ionus was aboard the Fist of the Gizmothian. Peridas worried, now, for the safety of his friend.

The storm persevered, and Peridas was aware of an immense current, powerful enough to haul both fleets, pulling the ships ever so slowly South-West. The waves had ceased, at least enough for another man to climb into the crow’s nest. “Pray, what do you see?” yelled Peridas. The man opened his mouth to speak but he could find no words. He simply stared, transfixed, at some unknown point. “What. Do. You. See?!” He shouted again along with every other warrior on board. Broken from his reverie, the man replied, “I-I see a… void.” “A whirlpool?” someone asked.

“Aye.”

“How large?”

No answer.

Again: “HOW LARGE?!”

“Uh… well- large. At least two miles across.”

A pit of fear formed in Peridas’ stomach. Two miles! A silent gasp ran through the crew. For a brief instant they stood, absorbing what they knew would be their last moment of relative safety, at least compared to what they would face in the open ocean. And then the order was given to abandon ship.

The frigid water engulfed the crew as they leaped from the crippled vessel. Underwater, the great vibrations caused by the whirlpool were already painfully evident. Peridas’ eardrums felt ready to shatter. The crew remained submerged as long as possible to avoid the warships being swept overhead. Whenever lightning bolts flashed in the heavens, the entangled fleets were visible; nearly solid masses of disarrayed ships being drawn toward the fatal abyss. Huge clouds of phosphoric green algae swirled around the funnel, illuminating the mortal danger; an enormous underwater twister, two miles wide at the surface and reaching all the way to the ocean floor. It was as beautiful as it was terrifying. Soon, the lightning revealed that the first of the ships had reached the maw. They were mercilessly drawn in, borne down the funnel, and crushed against the sea floor where dark clouds of sand and rubble erupted at the base of the whirlpool. One by one, warships were devoured by the ocean. Two of the largest fleets in recorded history gradually reduced to a hazy, drifting,  underwater debris-field.

The crewmen too were being pulled toward the funnel at a frightening speed; their lungs were bursting, and the last of the warships had been obliterated, but there was no struggling against the ferocious arbiter. All they could do was watch as they were continuously drawn closer to their grim fate. Then, to the amazement and dumbstruck joy of the entire crew, the funnel slowly retracted, eventually vanishing at the surface with a deceptively calm ripple. The current ceased with a jolt, the pressure lifted somewhat from Peridas’ ears, and his body was at his command once again. As the men began their long ascent to the surface, some went unconscious and died silently in the cold embrace of the sea; others thrashed about uncontrollably, expelling what precious little air they still had. Peridas worried that he himself might pass out as his vision dimmed, his head throbbed and his limbs refused to work in cohesion. He struggled desperately for the surface but it seemed impossibly far away. So far…. A startling realization took root in the boy’s heart. He stopped struggling and drifted limply. He believed he was doing himself a mercy, preventing days of suffering on the open ocean. His will to live deserted him; he exhaled air… and inhaled water. And he was at peace as his eyes closed.

Peridas awoke confused. Where- what…? Why was he still underwater? Or… was he? Had he died? What is…. His senses flooded back to him with a curious whooshing sound. He was indeed underwater, he had not died, and a familiar-looking man was blowing air into his lungs. His vitality returned to him in part. He was now half alive- and scared. He nodded to the man and together they clawed ferociously to the surface. They emerged and quickly filled their lungs and Peridas had never been as grateful for anything as he was for that single breath. “Thank you.” he coughed, glancing at the man and realizing it was actually the ship’s skipper. Skipper grunted in response. Peridas scanned the horizon. The moonlight revealed the true devastation of the storm. Miles of wreckage floated calmly on still water where just moments ago thousands of men stood trembling with fear as the heavens poured down upon them and the ocean pulled them into it’s mouth and rent them to pieces. Precious few ships had been spared. Four or five mangled silhouettes were all that remained of the two colossal fleets.

The crew remained drifting for several moments, paying their respects to the fallen warriors. There wouldn’t be any bodies to bury. Ionus… Peridas turned his thoughts away from his friend. It was too painful. There was, of course, the minuscule chance, the insane hope, that among the miles and miles of carnage Ionus was there somewhere, grieving just as strongly in his own conviction of his friend’s death. There would always be an impossible hope… a prayer.