Taura looked to where Aria pointed; a large patch of choppy, churning water on what was otherwise a sea of glass, moving deliberately toward the sailboat.
Though Aria knew Corvin or Serranna were too far away to hear the anything but the screams from her mind, she yelled to them. "Danger starboard! Come on!" She jumped up and down, waving her arms. "Steer to port! To port!"
The boat Aria helped her father built, though seaworthy, was no match against the mass which soon engulfed it. Aria desperately searched the waters for the thoughts of any Terressan sea creatures able to assist. Either the Malorian creatures had already chased the Terressans out of the area, or they had killed them, for she heard no reply to her pleas.
The patch of restless water grew into a dark mass made of creatures of the ocean, jumping and swimming as though they were one limb, reaching out across the water toward Corvin and Serranna. As the swarm reached the boat and surrounded it, Aria could see some of the larger creatures circling out farther away. A black dolphin sprang from the water, crashing into the hull of the boat. Then a second and third, followed by a small whale.
Suddenly, Aria charged into the water. Taura remained motionless in shock for a split second, knowing if Aria swam out to the boat, she would not return. Determined not to lose her entire family, Taura plunged into the ocean after her sister.
With a burst of desperation, she caught up with Aria, tackling her in waist deep water. Taura regained her footing first, and held her sister tight.
"Let go of me!" Aria screamed at her, violently trashing her limbs in an attempt to escape. "Onae mara ceren sennen!"
"You can't save them," Taura yelled back. Her arms were firmly wrapped around her sister's waist, just keeping her feet off the sandy bottom. "It's already too late!" Taura knew Aria would keep fighting until the ship sank. "I don't want to lose you too," she said softly. You're all that I have.
Then, Aria stopped struggling. She looked ahead, toward the ship. It was being tossed from side to side and she knew her parents were both gone.
Taura released her sister, and they stood helplessly as they watched the ship sink beneath the water. Slowly, at first, but, it was a small boat and it didn't take long.
Aerodar flew out, circling with several seagulls, but, there was nothing any of them could do. The churning continued until the tip of the mast had disappeared, and then less violently for a little while longer, until it stopped altogether.
At the base of the temple, the crowd stood transfixed on their leader, towering one hundred steps above them, preparing to give his daily oration regarding the status of their true master. There was a different energy in the air than on every other day, one that everyone could feel and attribute to the promise they were made that this day they would begin to enact their revenge on Malough's enemies. This was the day their kind had waited for over three hundred years to come. He spoke:
"The spirit of Malough is still very much alive," proclaimed the High Shadoar. "Today he succeeded in eliminating those who sought Ile Lumesare and his destruction, even as he is disembodied and trapped by their Siyen witchery!" He paused and nodded his head to acknowledge that it was acceptable for them to cheer the victory. "The time for his reawakening drawn near, and he will liberate us from the prison of this island. Then we will take the continents of Isiterra back for our own!"
Another roar rose from the crowd below. The High Shadoar let them go on a few minutes, then raised his arms in the air, and they fell silent. "These last five hundred years of suffering and waiting to claim what is ours are nearly over! Let them be cast off to the uncharted waters on the other side, or remain and be made slaves to our whims! Our people will soon take back the lands and riches that were theirs, and we will send those Terressans who will not succumb to their Malorian instincts - those that deserve the ultimate torture - here, where they will know more pain than we’ve ever endured."
The twelve Shadoaresses that stood blending into the background behind him then stepped forward to form a circle around him, dancing with their gowns flowing about them with such fluidity, it seemed the Shadoar was engulfed in a black sea. They raised their arms above their heads and he disappeared from view, a red cloud of smoke rose from the center of the circle.
When they stepped away the High Shadoar was gone. The crowd began to chant loudly and rhythmically "Mal-ough! Mal-ough!" as the Shadoaresses turned and filed two by two through the doors behind them, entering the temple.
The first and last pairs took torches from the wall to light their way down the many steps to the deepest chamber of the temple, far below the surface where the mob still stood chanting. They never bothered to count the steps, though they made the trek up and down them twice each day. The passage seemed to take hours, which ticked by silently as they spent the time to reflect and replenish their energy.
They had each been chosen, as all other Shadoaresses before them, for their Siyen lineage and ability to channel the powers of the Orbs.
While in their chamber they chanted the spell to release Malough, and enforce his power. The chant was constant, the priestesses taking turns to sleep, eat and attend to other needs, while the others continued to drone. They were channeling their energy, the power of their minds, sending it to feed him, to empower him to break free from his bonds, so he could, in turn, release them.
Though not yet able to grasp the concept of what they had just suffered, the orphans did realize that they should get out of the water, lest the Malorians come after them next. Awkwardly, they back to shore with their arms wrapped around each other's waists, and sat down a few feet away from the edge of the water.
Aerodar continued circling with the sea gulls, searching the water for any sign Corvin and Serranna might have escaped. The sisters did not move for hours, even as the tide rose, and the air and water cooled around them.
The sky burned with the setting sun by the time the falcon finally returned to Aria's shoulder. I’m so sorry, Aria. There is no sign of them.
Aria replied aloud, "We’ll wait a while longer. I’ll not give up hope yet. They’ll need us here when they reach the shore." Despite her verbal denial, deep down she knew their parents were gone forever, lost in the depths of the ocean.
They made camp for two more days at the point, halfway hoping by some miracle their parents survived and would make their way ashore, halfway dreading the return to the Cernaah without them. They spent the hours without speaking, sleeping or eating. They just waited.
On the third morning, without a word, Aria and Taura got up, packed their things, and went.
As they approached the Cernaah's wall, a new wave of grief struck them simultaneously, and the tears they’d held back for days poured out. Informed of the news and their approach by Aerodar, Hunter, the yellow dog, was the first one out of the gate to meet them.
Aria slid down from Romburr's back, and took the dog into her arms, drenching his golden fur with her tears. Taura had dismounted from Liia as well, putting her arms around the horse's neck, sobbing into her mane. Soon they were surrounded by dozens of their crennas, all sharing their grief.
When they finally made their way inside the wall, they went to the stable, unsaddled the horses and made them comfortable for the night.
They ate their meal of bread and smoked deer, choking the food down with water. When they finished, they left their dishes on the table and headed for their parents’ room. Exhausted, they curled up in the bed, and fell to sleep wrapped in the scents of their mother and father.
The next morning the sisters woke up and ate breakfast, again in silence. After, they sat on the cushions in the common room holding each other, with Hunter curled up at their feet. They were now alone in the world, except for each other and their crennas. And, neither girl knew what to say to comfort the other.
When at last she did speak, Taura asked what they were both thinking. "What are we going to do now?"
Aria knew her younger sister would now look to her for guidance, only, she still didn't know if she could provide it. "We’re going to take it one day at a time Tauri, and make it up as we go along." She paused in thought, and stroked her sister's hair. "We've gotten on these last few months, and months at a time before, without them. I suppose the only real difference is this time they're not coming back." Taura sighed as Aria continued, "I know, it's no comfort. I am just as lost as you are right now. But, we have the crennas-" Hunter's tail thumped on the floor in affirmation, "-the Cernaah, and each other. We will be alright. That much, I can promise."
Thanks for stopping by and checking out Chapter Two of Quest! In the next chapter, we'll be jumping forward to about a year later...
I hope you're having a beautiful night, day, or some time in the between!
I hope you're having a beautiful night, day, or some time in the between!