Patreon LogoYour support makes Blue Moon possible (Patreon)

The Wild Frontier (Alex & Fates)

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Avery huffed with an exhausted sigh, frustrated by what he found; or rather, didn’t find. Once again he set himself to task, leaning over the large chart that took up most of the desk. He looked like a man ravenous for answers as he made the calculations silently in his head. The Captain had more than his fair share of experience at sea, and though it had its flaws, dead reckoning had led him to success on each of his ventures so far. If the math was accurate, then by all accounts they should have reached their heading by now. Yet, it had been well over a month now since they’d last seen a spit of land. Their world was an endless expanse of blue water, desolation in every direction. The crew was beginning to lose heart, as was their captain at this point. The longer this went on the more accepted that the whispers of this untapped paradise rich in wealth and danger alike, was nothing short of rumors. Unlike most rumors, all talk of this mysterious land pointed to the same general location, granting them a level of credibility, but Avery had scoured every square mile of these waters and still there was no sign.

And once again, the math added up, reassuring him that the problem lied not with his navigation. The wooden chair groaned as he leaned back, considering the implications of this. Had he truly just wasted over a year of his life chasing some fantasy? That’s what I get for trusting word of mouth, he scolded himself, soft blue eyes roaming over the cluttered mess of his desk. Navigator’s tools were strewn about, from his compass and quadrant, to the astrolabe and large celestial globe that helped him keep track of the heavens. But it was the hourglass his gaze lingered on. The sand had nearly emptied into the bottom half, making him bitterly aware of yet another hour spent trying to find a myth he was foolish enough to believe in. For a moment he wallowed in the fact, long fingers drumming against the arm of his chair while he watched the time literally drain away. Once the last grain had fallen, he rose from his seat, retrieved the time measure, and flipped it to start the process over again.

Not for the first time, he wondered if he should call off this search. It was a decision that weighed heavily on him over the last few days, and it did so especially now, as he meandered over to the elegant windows that adorned the captain’s quarters. He peered out into that great, sapphire expanse, looking back the way they’d come and pondering if they should turn about. The hard decision left him feeling much like the frothing waters left in the wake of their hull; churned up and conflicted, instead of calm and serene like the open waters abaft. No doubt the men longed to return to shore, to see and hold their families again. But Avery had none of that waiting for him back in the civilized world. He lived for the adventure of his journeys; for the thrill of setting out into the unknown and making new discoveries. Nothing got his heart pumping more than setting foot on unexploited soil; of exploring a world unknown and untouched by man. To turn back now would be to give up any chance of that rush for a long time to come.

What am I to do next? He ruminated, eyes latched to the sea, sparkling with a touch of gold in the afternoon sun. Before an solution could be deduced, there was a sudden knock at his door.

“Cap’n Brennan!” Boomed the voice of his quartermaster, who did not wait for a reply before throwing the cabin door wide open and showing himself inside. The quartermaster was a burly man, with sun-kissed skin that was blemished with numerous scars, fierce amber eyes, and a scraggly beard, once pitch black, but now bearing a touch of gray better suited to his years. He waited until he had the captain’s full attention before explaining why he had come. “Beggin’ your pardons Cap’n, but you’d best come ‘ave a look outside.”

Brennan gave him an odd look, stepping away from the window and back to his desk. “Why?” he asked, moving some of his instruments aside in order to roll up his sea chart and return it to the airtight bottle which kept it safe and dry. “What is it, Davy?”

“Something strange,” the seasoned crewman told him, shrugging his broad shoulders. “Might be something, or nothing at all.”

They’d been running on nothing for so long that any prospect sounded good at this point, so his interest piqued, Avery slipped the compass into the pocket of his coat, and followed the man out onto the main deck. The strong breeze tugged at his hair and clothes, and he breathed deep of the salty air as they walked. Everything seemed calm and peaceful for the moment, with the crew either attending to their duties or enjoying leisure time while they had the chance. A few acknowledged their captain as he passed, and Brennan nodded in kind while Davy led him to the starboard side of the ship. Once they had a clear view of the vast waters, the quartermaster fetched a spyglass from his belt and handed it over to the captain.

“Take a look,” he told him.

Avery accepted the scope and lifted it to his right eye, peering out in the distance. At first he didn’t realize what he was meant to see. It just looked like that same endless, blue world he’d spied every day before. The ocean stretched on and on, eventually melding into a mountain of clouds upon the horizon. Or at least, Avery thought they were clouds, but the longer he looked the less certain of that he became. It seemed, for all intents and purposes, like they were rising up out of the sea.

“What is that?” he asked, “Smoke?”

“Fog, I think,” answered Davy.

Avery frowned and lowered the spyglass. He gave the quartermaster a perplexed look. “Have you ever seen fog out in the middle of the sea like that before?”

“No,” he said, thumb and index finger coming to rub at his scratchy beard. “’least not in waters this warm. Could be a good indicator there’s land in that direction. Something’s got to be causing it anyway.”

“Mm,” Avery considered that, once more lifting the glass to investigate the mysterious haze. He couldn’t say for sure what the source was, but land would indeed make sense. It was possible mountains could push cooler air out over the sea and stir up a fog like that, but it would take a pretty large landmass; one they surely would have spotted long before now.

“What’s the order, Cap’n?” Davy asked, watching him intently.

Avery collapsed the spyglass and handed it back to the man. “Make for starboard,” he said, “Let’s have a closer look.”

“Aye Aye, Sir.” Davy relayed the orders, voice carrying across the deck, and an instant later the ship became a flurry of activity. The helmsman spun the steering wheel and diverted the course, while the rest of the men worked the sails to better catch the wind. As if the seas themselves willed it, those winds began to change. A squall rose up out of no where, filling their sails and speeding them onwards to their destination. “Maybe our luck’s changing for the better,” the quartermaster mused, amber eyes staring up at the rigging and sails as they reaped the unexpected bounty.

“Maybe so,” Brennan agreed, a spark of excitement coursing through his veins. A bank of fog wasn’t much to go on, but it was a little flame of hope and the captain was all too eager to latch on to it.

~

Despite having the wind at their backs, it took a considerable amount of time before they actually reached their destination. The sun had sank further towards the ocean, retreating beneath the great cloud of fog even as the stem of their ship reached for its misty embrace. The crew was silent as they penetrated the gloom, every man eyeing the fog with a look of apprehension as it swallowed their vessel whole. It was like entering a strange, ghostly world, mist settling all around them. Avery stood upon the prow, peering out with worry over the poor visibility. Scowling, he turned back, making for the helm and shouting orders along the way. “Take her down to half sail!” he barked, setting the men to the task. If there was actually land to be discover he didn’t want to do so by crashing into it.

As his orders were followed and the sails trimmed, the ship began to lose its speed. But it wasn’t enough to quell his fears of running aground. “Oi, Finn!” he shouted out, catching the attention of their fastest climber. “Get up into the nest and have a lookout!” The mist looked a little thinner up high, perhaps he would have a better view of any impending danger.

“Aye, Cap’n!” replied the sailor. Quick as could be, he made his way up the ropes, going hand over hand to scale the mast, and pulled himself into the bucket of the crow’s nest. While he took out a scope and kept watch ahead from on high, Avery joined his helmsman and kept a close view on the murky waters directly in front of them.

“Keep her steady lad,” the captain said to the helmsman, sharp eyes peering through the dense shroud that permeated the atmosphere. The further along they went the deeper the fog seemed to get. Worse yet, he moisture was thick enough that beads of dew clung to ship and their clothes, leaving them drenched before long. Avery brushed the back of his hand against his brow, clearing away the wetness before it irritated his eyes and made things even harder to see. If it got much denser than this they would be sailing blind, and only a fool would continue then. Yet Avery couldn’t find it in himself to turn around. Something deep down was calling to him, urging him on and daring him to take the risk. And then, there was a shout from high above.

“LAND HO!” Cried Finn from the crow’s nest, pointing into the distance. “Dead ahead!”

A rush of excitement broke out below, the men trying to see what he’d spotted. It came first as inky black shapes in the distance, imposing shadows deep within the mist that rose even higher than the masts of their ship. As they drew nearer, the fog began to dissipate, growing thin enough for them to realize the entities were towering citadels of stone. The bones of the Earth reached high above them, slabs of dark gray rock with crawling vines of green webbed around them. Some of the spires reached so high you had to crane your neck just to see the tops of them breaking through the mist. Others were far shorter, more jagged and reaching out like teeth keen to smash their hull to bits Avery knew there were likely to be far more they could not see, those short enough to be hidden within the fog and probably even beneath the surface.

“Best give her a wide berth,” he said to his helmsman, looking upon the sheer cliffs and spires with wary fervor. “Keep her to port.” As far as he could tell there was no where safe to dock. “Circle about and we’ll see if there’s any shore we can reach.”

But the helmsman didn’t seem to hear him. The crewman was looking straight ahead, his eyes wider than the captain had ever seen a man’s. He held an intense focus on his face, as though he could see right through the fog to behold some wonder beyond it that was invisible to the rest of them. The boat continued right along its course, drawing ever nearer to the perilous geological formation.

“Do you see it?” he asked, sounding almost breathless. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Avery might have assumed he was talking about the cliff face if not for that strange, bewildered expression he wore. “See what?” The captain demanded to know. He followed his regard out into the haze, but could see nothing worth any attention. “Sailor, I gave you an order.”

“Can’t you see it?” he shouted more eagerly, and suddenly, he spun the helm to starboard, the complete the opposite of the direction he’d been given, and putting them all the closer to those deadly rocks.

Avery stepped forward to reprimand the sailor but stopped. The fog grew ever thinner, and now he did see something. It was another inky, black, shape concealed by wisps of haze. But this one was contorted and strange, nothing like those imposing towers that reached for the sky. As they came closer other shapes popped up along in the distance, as twisted as the first. Avery stared out at the silhouettes, confused by the sight at first. What could they be? But now they were close enough to spy the figures in greater detail, and all at once the horrifying reality dawned on him. Those twisted shapes were in fact ships, enough for a small fleet of them, in fact, and all of them scattered and broken, their hulls torn to pieces across jutting rocks. But the helmsman didn’t seem to notice. He was sailing straight ahead to join the wreckage, as though this graveyard of vessels was in fact a paradise to his eyes.

Avery shouted at the man, trying to draw him back to his senses. But that was ignored , leaving him no choice but to act fast. He lunged for the helm, ramming the sailor aside with a shoulder and making a hard over to port in the same urgent motion. The crew had to fight for their footing over the sudden action, everyone stumbling about while the ship groaned and veered. Fast action saved them from the brunt of damage, but it wasn’t quick enough to avoid the prow of the nearest wreck. The starboard side of their hull scraped against it, blasting through and sending a weathered old figurehead sinking beneath thrashing waters. Avery set his jaw and continued to spin the helm about, trying to steer them clear of the next impending ship wreck. He began to shout orders to his men, only to find the helmsman popping back up and fighting him for control of the ship again.

“No! You’ll spoil everything!” the man was shouting, his voice raw and savage. He kicked and screamed, doing whatever he could to make the captain surrender the helm.

“Davy! Harper! Get up here!” Brennan roared, frantically trying to keep control of the ship while also fighting off the bewitched sailor. His quartermaster and boatswain hurried over and subdued the mad man, giving the captain the space he needed to safely maneuver them across the dangerous waters. Brennan’s heart felt like it was going to thump right out of his chest as he focused on the task at hand, continuing to bellow out his commands. “Hop to! Shorten the sails! And Davy, tie that fool to the mast!” Even now the helmsman fought against his captors, absolutely raving in his attempt to take over Avery’s position.

The men did as they were asked, the quartermaster dragging the madman over to the nearest mast and tying him in place with a bundle of rope. His captive screamed all the while, an eerie droning across the foggy mist. It made things all the more stressful while the crew worked tirelessly to navigate safe and true through the battered shells of those vessels which failed to do so. Brennan brought the ship to a crawl to ensure their safety. They were reduced to edging forward, making inch-by-inch progress through the wreckage and flotsam. Every man was on edge now, their eyes drinking in the shattered bones of all the ships lost, and keeping a watch for potential dangers. Their carpenter meanwhile surveyed the damage of their near miss, and determined it insignificant enough to carry on until making port.

Davy left his charge strung up and joined Avery at the helm. “Never seen a man go stark raving mad like that,” he said, sounding worried over this turn of events. His eyes scanned their surroundings, watching with apprehension while they crept past another ancient shipwreck. “You think that’s what happened to the rest of them?” he wondered. It was all too easy to picture themselves in that position. “Men sailing themselves straight into the cliffs? It’s like those old legends… The Sirens of the Sea.”

Avery wasn’t much for superstitions, but he’d been enough places and seen enough strange things that he was open to possibilities. And after seeing a man he knew to have a rational mind react like that… Well it was hard not to denounce it completely. “I don’t know,” Avery admitted of the shipwrecks and sirens. His hands were clutching the helm so tightly his knuckles were bone white. His attention shifted to the man tied down to the mast, then up to the towering cliffs above. “Let’s just find our way to a bit of safe land to tread. Then we can worry about whether old wives tales have a any truth to them.”

Old legends were starting to sound all the more probable as they passed yet another scene of wreckage. But unlike the others littering the water at the base of the cliffs, this one was garbled among a high outcropping, as though something had hefted it right out of the sea and thrown and effortlessly thrown it into the air, letting it fall and break upon the jagged cliff side. A crooked and weathered mast hung upside down, reaching for the surface of the water as though with longing. Its loose rigging and tattered sails blew about mournfully in the wind. Avery couldn’t help but gape at the sight, at a complete loss for what could have managed such a feat. Perhaps the water level was higher here at one point… he tried to convince himself, looking for some kind of rationale.

“Not sure I’m keen to step foot on this land,” The quartermaster muttered, equally enthralled by the sight of a battered ship hanging from above.

Then, out of nowhere, there was a great thud from below, and Avery found the helm locked in place, their ship finding itself at a full stop. The sudden halt jostled the vessel and her crew alike, knocking those with poor balance right on their asses. Davy managed to keep his footing, while Avery had a grip on the helm for support. Shouts of fear and surprise emitted the crew, and they ran side to side, gazing down at the murky depths to investigate what happened.

“What’d we hit?” the Brennan called out, releasing the helm and joining the others on the deck along with Davy. Everything was at an absolute stand still; even the wind seemed to die down, no longer filling their sails.

“No idea, Cap’n!”

“Sand bar, maybe?”

“Check below for any damage! Make sure we’re not taking on any water.”

“Wait, I think I see something in the water!”

Sure enough, there was a shout from the crow’s nest to confirm it. High as he was, he could make out the long, slender shadow that skulked about the waters around their ship. And it looked massive enough to spring up and wrap around the vessel a good two times. With hands cupped around his mouth, Finn shouted loud as he could, voice carrying down to the crew on the deck.

“Something big below!” he warned them, frantically waving his arms this way and that.

That got Avery’s attention, and he hurried over to spy the surface of the water. He caught only a glimpse of movement, another black shape, this time in those murky depths, before it disappeared beneath the hull. It might have been a whale, for that was the only thing the captain had ever seen that was big enough to fit the bill of what he glanced. Not long after it disappeared from view there came another furious thudding, the entire ship vibrating against the blow. This one seemed even more violent than the last.

“What is that?” Cried a stumbling sailor, the fear thick on his voice.

His answer sprang out of the sea not a moment later, exploding from the surface and showering them all with a rain of brine. It was a stupendous creature, a serpent covered in scales bigger than a man’s fist and appearing as hard as diamonds. Ferocious eyes settled on the ship as it rose above them. Even the mist seemed to quiver in fear, scattering away from the movement as a long tongue came snaking past huge fangs, and tasted the damp air with inquisitive menace. It attention snapped to the forms moving about on deck, and, opening its maw, it leased a piercing screech. Avery was rooted to the spot, paralyzed by his disbelief while he stared up at the monstrosity But somehow he managed to retain enough sense to notice the creature was rearing back. That broke the spell keeping him in place, and the captain managed to leap out of the way just as the monster struck.

The sailor nearest him was not so lucky as to escape. Snapping jaws closed around the man’s torso, and immediately the serpent began to lash about, swinging its prey around with the man’s bloodcurdling screams ringing out for all to hear. Another crewman attempted to flee the scene, only to be struck by the erratic movements of the serpent’s head. The sheer force was enough to throw him aside, hurling him right overboard and into the churning waters. Everyone else managed to steer clear while the monster retreated, long, serpentine body sinking back beneath the waters and muting his victim’s screams beneath the frothing deep. The moment was surreal beyond imagining, and Avery would have refused to believe what he just witnessed if not for the raging seas left behind in the monster’s wake. There was even less time for denial when he realized the dark shape of that leviathan was rising once more. The beast was coming back for seconds.

Realizing the danger, Brennan turned to his terrorized men. “Batten down the hatches!” He roared, his commanding voice of their captain snapping them all back to reality. “To your stations! Edwards, the cannons!”

“Aye!” shouted the master gunner, a barrel chested man who hurriedly put his underlings to work. Those who could swallow their fears were quick about it, manning the cannons and swivels with all due haste. The raging voice of the master gunner was enough to unfreeze a couple of trembling powder monkeys, and the boys set to work, helping the gunners to load the cannons and prepare for the fight. There was precious little time before their foe returned, the hulking monstrosity writhing angrily about their ship. The first one to action was Finn, who acted as their guardian from on high. The wily sailor had boldly drawn his flintlock and fired upon the brute. The crack of his gunshot echoed off the stone cliffs surrounding them, and Avery looked up to see the puff of smoke from the weapon, as well as the serpent hissing out and looking for the source of the sting it just received.

The attack distracted the creature long enough that the crew could get the cannons loaded, but it cost them more than they could have guessed. Enraged, the monstrosity lunged for the crow’s nest, massive jaws enclosing around the wooden mast of the mast perching the crow’s nest. The bucket holding Finn came apart easily between those gnashing fangs, breaking to pieces and leaving their lookout no choice but to leap. Luckily, old Finn had fingers like fishhooks, and he managed to catch on to a bit of netting before he fell to his death. But there was no escape after that. The serpent was lashing again, and in a matter of moments, had laid ruin to the center royal and topmasts. Avery watched in despair, horror-struck by the sound of cracking, splintering wood. The sails were equally thrashed, the topmost teetering to the side and threatening a foul-up with the rest.

“Hurry up with those cannons!” he Captain Brennan shouted. “Give it a broadside before it tears the whole bloody ship apart!”

Debris from the monster’s efforts came raining down, once more causing Avery to dash to the side. The swivels were already going off, yet the beast shrugged off the rounds, blind in its furious attempt to bring the mast low. That all changed once the port side cannons were loaded. Edwards gave the order, and the gunners set them off simultaneously, delivering a volley right towards their colossal enemy. The vicious rocking of their ship threw off the accuracy, causing most to miss, but one cannonball managed to graze the creature with another striking home. The close impact was damaging, and the serpent tore away, screeching with lament as it dove back into the safety of the depths. The top of the center mast was hanging by a thread at that point, held up only by an entanglement of rigging. But the hold was paltry at best, and with a groan it gave out. Finn had no choice but to make another mad jump for it. This time he made for the waters, recklessly dropping a height that would have killed most men. Avery saw his form crash into the sea, only for the remnants of their mast came down, sending them scurrying like bilge rats.

Not everyone escaped the fall. The helmsman had no way to run, bound as he was, but didn’t seem to mind. His eyes were wide with joy as he watched the beam come tumbling, not a care in the world as he was crushed beneath it. Three other men met his fate, caught beneath the heavy obstruction which also destroyed the cannon they manned. The broken half of mast left the deck in ruins, ripped sails hanging out over the surface of the water. Avery stared at the wreckage, scarcely able to accept what losing a master out in these uncharted waters meant for them. But there was no time to mourn; not time to think even. The danger was still very much alive and present. The serpent broke free of the surface yet again, angrier than ever after the blow it had been dealt. Avery stumbled back upon seeing its fury, his breath heavy and heart racing.
“Brennan!” he heard Davy shouting, and he looked over to see the quartermaster holding a pair of rifles. “Don’t just stand there gawking! Fight the bastard!” He tossed one of the guns over to him, and the captain caught it out of the air, bewildered by everything going on.

Once again the snake was poised to strike, and Avery abandoned all logical thought, losing himself in the adrenaline. With a furious shout, he lifted the weapon up to aim and opened fire. His quartermaster had done the same, their rounds joining in with the barrage from the swivels. Chances of survival were pretty much none, especially with a busted mast, but Davy was right. To give up now would be to accept death. They had to keep fighting against the odds, lest they ended up another shattered edition to that graveyard of ships around them. And so fight he did, the surroundings wracked by the sound of gunpowder and war as the sailors struggled in vain, their assault having little effect on the creature that savaged them.
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
The gloom of the night was split across the horizon, the golden warmth of the sun beginning to creep out from beneath the blanketing ocean blue. The stars above twinkled their goodbyes, their silver glow beginning to be smothered by the radiance of the glowing orb that crept higher into the sky, casting shadows and basking the world in light. The ocean, once a desolate, vast space revealed its true colours beneath the sun; shimmering turquoise, cerulean blue, sea foam green. Crests of tall waves were capped with white froth, bubbles swept between high rising pillars of stone and towards the golden sand that twinkled, the coast framed in glittering sea glass and shells. The mist lingered, casting a haze out over the sea and distorting view, but it crawled across the surface of the otherwise smooth waters as if it were patrolling a border.

The speck in the middle of wide ocean was far larger than any might first believe, cast away in the centre of swirling water and avoiding all attention. Just as bright as the warm water framing it, the island was a painting of vibrant colours; bold greens, soft chocolate browns, metallic hues. Neutral colours, that encouraged the eye to be drawn inward into the shadows cast by the tall trees and fern underbrush, to the colours of the rainbow that waited within. Vermillion. Tangerine. Indigo. Ochre. Teal. Almost strategically so, it was placed in the centre of a ring of jagged cliffs that told of the land once being far larger. Apostles left behind as sentries, keeping the outside world at bay and the island free from its greedy grasp. Rising up from the northern most shoreline peaked a mountain of volcanic ash, the stone a deep shade of black that absorbed whatever light fell upon it. The crater was fairly shallow considering, the cap smooth stone set with a ripple that had once been lava.

From afar, this island may have seemed like any other dotting to Pacific Ocean; tropical, warm, vibrant in colour and life. Yet, should one find themselves stepping onto the heated sand, they’d soon come to realise that this place was far from the rest; otherworldly even. Trees dwarfed whatever stood before them, reaching into the sky and casting dark shadow with the expanse of their canopy. Vines were as thick as waists, draped from high branches. Leaves of ferns were as large as a person, sharp edged like a blade. It was easy to feel like a speck of dust in a jungle that easily swallowed you whole.

Between the Apostles that sat like sentries just as the water grew a deep shade of cool navy, there were tendrils of braided vine that brushed each, before being tethered to the wide base of a tree on the shoreline. The island appeared abandoned, as if it were simply wild with little to no semblance of civilisation dotting its edge. This couldn’t have been further from the truth.

The morning was just like any other for Erri, tasked with overlooking the mist that clung to the horizon. It was a task set for four, one at each point of a compass to sit for the entire day and watch the vast seas. A typically boring task, one that made little sense to some despite how dedicated they may be. Tradition was deeply engrained in their people. There was reason in everything, a meaning behind all, and it would not be wise to question the rules that had kept them safe. Yet, as Erri had climbed the first vine, to tight-rope walk the next five until she stood atop the Apostle furthest out to the southern most expanse of the sea, she found herself questioning why watching the waters was so important. It was something she accepted long ago, when her role within their thriving community was defined by her innate Gift, but as she settled down into the lush green grass that swallowed up her frame she couldn’t help but wonder.

What was the point of this? Why were they sent out at each sunrise to sit atop the Apostles to stare out into the ocean? What were they supposed to be―

A mammoth peeled from the mist. Pointed snout pried apart the fog that rolled over the cerulean blue waves, cleaving apart the ocean with its wide-set belly. It’s skin was hard scales, lines cutting along its belly parallel to the horizon, the colour of coconut husk. It cut through the water, oblivious to the chocolate brown pair of eyes that watched its movement, or seemingly uncaring. It appeared arrogant, swimming forward into the graveyard that awaited it at the base of the Apostles.

Erri shifted, rising to stand as she tucked tendrils of white hair behind bronze ear, the curved shell pierced several times and decorated in obsidian studs. She sprinted to the edge, the bare of her feet skidding and sending a tumble of rocks down into the murky water far below. Just as the beasts before it, the one that slithered through the water bore figures atop its back. Figures that were dressed in dark shades of cloth and sunkissed skin; their frames both broad shouldered and withered. Brown eyes were narrowed as she bent at the waist, trying her best to see the faces far below.

The fog crawled out from the cracks of sandstone, snaking across the calm blue to wrap tethers about the beast as it carved the water in two. Erri kept pace, walking briskly along the edge of the Apostle as she kept her gaze down below. She should make the call. She should notify the others. Yet, she found herself trying to keep pace and soon running the length of one vine to the next. The wind shifted, no longer a tropical breeze but one that was chilled and plucked white hair from about her shoulders to cast it about her face. Sun caught her skin, illuminating the gentle metallic sheen of her exposed flesh as Erri ran the edge of another Apostle and skittered to a stop.

From the depths below rose an even more monstrous beast, one with scales the same colour as the sea and a sharp set of fangs. A creature that, once understood, was far more predictable than first thought. Erri might not have understood the reason for needing to keep post at each point of a compass the entirety of every day, but she understood a great deal about the beast that slithered up from below and rubbed scales spine along the wooden belly of the vessel. The wooden beast tilted sideways, the men becoming frantic below and causing brown eyes to narrow. Didn’t they understand?

Toes curled over the crumbling cliff of the Apostle, Erri swiped the backside of her palm over perspiring brow as the sun warmed her core. The vessel teetered sideways, knocked from beneath by the creature that twirled like a snake beneath the waves. Water rippled, a set of bubbles released from wide snout; foreboding and warning.

Then it erupted, the waves giving way to the colossal beast as it broke from far below. Water coursed over wooden scales, the vessel shoved sideways towards jagged rocks. Men screamed and cursed, their voices grating and unnerving. Teeth flashed, their edges jagged and piercing oak skin and mundane flesh. Men were ripped overboard but the beast ensued. Did they not understand what it wanted?

Erri scowled, a seed of anger blooming in the centre of her chest as she watched the chaos far down below. Don’t do it. Don’t go down there. Let them pay like the rest for being so foolish. Don’t alter the course of destiny when it is already written.

Grass was crumpled underfoot, cliff edge crumbling as Erri plunged herself into the air, arms held out like wings at her sides. She would have been a vision to behold; skin of shimmering gold, hair as white as snow, her tunic vibrant shades of mustard and neutral bark brown. Cloth fluttered about her, ribbons trailing above her as she fell down towards the awaiting depths. Just as the ocean rose to capture her in its palm, white cloth of a tattered mast swiped her from midair and tossed her onto the deck of the wooden vessel, discarding her as if she were worthless. Erri was plunged suddenly into a world that was not her own, a world that she had always watched from above with stoic eyes as fools were bled dry and cleaved in half. She glittered among them, the sun warming her golden skin and lighting her like the soft glow of embers as she stood in the centre of the deck and flipped white hair away from her face.

Hands were held upwards, the colossal serpent rearing back in the water as it bared two rows of sharpened fangs, her outward palms revealing black ink that marred calloused skin. “O Handia, barkatu mespretxu hau. Gizon horiek ergelak dira, ez dakite bizi dugun Ordenaren berri. Utzi damutzen, erregutzen dizut. Hartu nahi duzuna eta baimendu gainerakoei ur horiek igarotzea. Hurrengo ilargian, esker oneko eskaintza oparoagoa emango dizut. Ez dute guk bezala ulertzen.” Erri stood tall and she stood straight, her shoulders rolled out and proud as the serpent roared and spittle flew; as if it didn’t bother her in the slightest as hair whipped about her face in its sea salt breath. Her hand was swept sideways, a brief gesture at the joyous man who was in the grasp of madness as he continued to scream in euphoria as he remained tied to the broken mast. “Hartu zurea eta baimendu pasatzen.” Take what is yours and allow them to pass.

A fool might have realised what it was she was offering, even if they were captivated by the shimmering woman and the way her foreign tongue held the serpent in a furious trance. The chest of the colossal beast tumbled in a roar, nostrils and gills flaring with sharp, deep breath. Sea green eyes slid sideways, its monstrous gaze drawn towards the man who laughed maniacally. Then, in the blink of an eye, he was gone; the splintered wood along with him. Erri remained still, simply watching as the man was devoured before she gripped the shattered edge of a railing with bronze hand as the vessel was shoved roughly as the serpent disappeared beneath. Waves crashed, lapping at the deck from all sides, wooden beast bumped towards the golden shores of the island, the belly grinding over the beginnings of shallow sandbank.

Black inked fingers swept white tendrils of hair behind pierced ears, Erri taking a breath and marvelling at how well she’d done to save them all from their fate. Chest was pushed out with pride, hands dusting down the tunic that was splattered with sea water before she turned on the spot and met....

....Narrowed eyes and deep scowls, blades and bizarre mechanical weapons pointed at her slender throat. Not at all what she expected considering she were their saviour.

Nola eskertzen al didazu zure bizitza eskatu ondoren?” Erri scowled, holding her palms out to them as a universal display of submission and surrender. Blinking eyes and blank faces stared back at her, not the briefest moments of understanding seeming to cross them. Were these men nothing but barbarians? Chocolate brown brows were drawn deeper together, her soft features darkening into something dangerous. The air about her grew still, gold freckles illuminated across her skin as the sun shone down upon her. With the dissipation of the soft sea breeze came the darkening or brown eyes, her irises turning a frightening shade of all-consuming black, as if her pupils swallowed her eyes whole and barely left any whites.

The men about her, those who were perceptive enough, would feel the unease like nails across chilled flesh. It came as naturally to her as breathing, isolating the soft vibrations of adrenaline fuelled minds of the men standing about her from the rest of the life that buzzed with energy beneath her skin.

In each mind, her voice spoke clearly, no matter what arrogant tongue they spoke. Is this how you thank me after I begged for your forgiveness? Blades of steel and these....things? Perhaps I should have continued to watch from above as you met the same fate as those around you. Soft breeze caught the edges of her tunic, casting them about her lean muscled frame and toned legs as her feet stood apart in a stance of determination.

Black eyes met brown as Erri’s gaze was drawn into the face of a man who lingered at the back.
 
Last edited:
OP
Fates.Gamble

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
The world was utter chaos. The mad beast thrashed, it’s piercing cries battering their ears as easily as its fangs sundered their ship and crew. Avery did his best to keep a calm intellect, to block out the panic and focus. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, trying to steady his mind and shaking hands alike, all while staring down the gleaming barrel of his matchlock rifle. Their target was huge, but the giant serpent moved with such graceful haste that it proved difficult to hit. Even when they did, their rounds would bounce off those diamond hard scales with nary a scratch. Seeing this, Avery adjusted his tactics as well as his aim, and shouted to his men.

“The eyes! Go for the eyes!” Maybe they could blind it, it nothing else.

Those fierce orbs were bigger than dinner plates, yet the snapping head of the monster was the quickest moving of all. Avery swept his gun all around, struggling to line up his shot. Every squeeze of the trigger had to count; every instant spent reloading was more time for the mammoth beast to drag them down to the depths. Finally he had it, iron sights trained on a great, black pupil, furious with rage and an alien sort of intellect. But then something else caught Avery’s eye. He’d heard all about Angels growing up, having been raised a Catholic, but not even in the days when he still held to those beliefs did he think he ever think he would see one himself. Yet, what better way to describe the sight before him? Cerulean eyes grew wide at the beauty that came falling down from the heavens, her arms spread like wings, skin like pure gold, and a halo of white, radiant hair whipping about in the wind.

The beast that ravaged their ship seemed all but forgotten by the captain as he watched that daring heroine come sweeping in, fully trusting the billowing sails of the broken mast to deliver her safely aboard their vessel. Only a handful of the men seemed to notice her at first, those who did staggering back in likewise astonishment. Brennan, at least, was quick to snap back to his senses. As enchanting as the angel among them might have been, the savage creature towering above their ship was a far more impressive sight. He swept his firearm back up as the serpent came in, ready to deal them another grievous blow. A score of rifles pointed at the creature, yet all that firepower was inconsequential next to the mysterious woman raising her ebony stained hands and speaking to the beast. Avery heard only a fragment of her strange tongue before it was drowned by gunfire, his crew unwittingly doing all they could to undermine their angelic savior’s efforts. The monster seethed, it’s rage only seeming to mount at first. Then Avery saw the wave of the woman’s inked hand, and realized what was happening.

He and his men jumped back with a start when the colossus struck, seemingly at the strange woman’s command. The captain watched, both horrified and mystified, while those massive jaws snapped around the madman and the wooden beam that supported him, and dragged both into the blue waters. But their troubles weren’t over yet. The wake of the monster sent waves strong enough to throttle their ship about, shoving it closer to the island. There was no time to brace, and little they could do to circumvent it with a destroyed mast. Then came that clamorous tremor from the belly of the ship as it brushed against the sandbar. Normally that would have set Avery and his men to task, doing whatever they could to prevent the catastrophe of a grounding; especially with that monstrosity still lurking about. But instead, all eyes were on the golden skinned woman who stood tall and proud; as were all of their weapons.

Avery was not among those who came to threaten her. The Captain was too entranced to contemplate lifting his weapon, but he couldn’t blame those who did. After that display, she came off every bit as dangerous as the serpent. Her intense, chocolate eyes bore such confidence as Brennan had seldom seen. Intelligent, too, he concluded, as the woman threw up her hands in obvious surrender. But that didn’t mean much when none of them could understand a word of that bizarre language she spoke. She could be a scholar and they still couldn’t communicate properly.

While she may have appeared submissive, something strange and foreboding began to take hold of her. Dark eyes grew ever darker, turning black as midnight. Suddenly that golden beauty felt less angelic and more like a demon, a thought which was further seeded by the cold tingle of unease that crept down Avery’s spine in her presence. Some of the others were also affected, the more cautious of their lot retreating a few steps at the strange and menacing change. That’s when he heard it; the smooth words of another voice, streaming through his mind. It felt like every hair on his body stood on end when the woman looked past his men, eyes landing squarely on their captain. Even though the words were meant to dissuade them from violence, the supernatural act only served to put all of the men on edge. Apparently she could communicate with them.

“D-Did you hear that!?” Cried one of the sailors to the rest of the crew. Though, it was clear from the frantic, uncomfortable, shifting that every man present had the same experience.

“What is she?” Demanded another.
“She’s a witch if I’ve ever seen one!” His boatswain uttered with a note of fear and wonder. “We should kill her now, before she bewitches the lot of us!”

Several men looked agreeable to that, and were all but ready to carry it out. The terrified look in their eyes told Avery all he needed to know. Men in that sort of stare were unpredictable. “For God’s sake, put your weapons away!” He ordered them, passing a stern look at the men who surrounded her like bloodthirsty wolves. “She saved us from that thing.” Even if it had to cost one of their own... That’s what he thought he saw, anyway. In truth he didn’t know what the hell just transpired, but he knew if that monster had stuck around they’d all be dead and their ship counted among that grave of vessels. He wasn’t sure what her words of ‘forgiveness’ meant, exactly, but he knew the only reason they weren’t dead right now was because she’d chosen to come falling out of the sky, and that was good enough for him. His crew, however, was not as quick to welcome her aboard.

“Saved us?” His boatswain continued to argue. “She fed one of us to that sea devil! She’ll curse us all or worse.” Disregarding his captain’s orders, Harper stepped forward, cutlass raised high and ready to fell the fiendish woman before she could worm her way into his head again. Sailors really did tend to be a superstitious lot, and Avery had to wrestle with their bone headed beliefs more than once in his life. Yet, even he was perturbed by this spectacle; easily one of the strangest experiences of his life. He still couldn’t get over that eerie, fascinating sensation of another person’s thoughts penetrating his own. Maybe the woman truly had bewitched him, for against his better nature, Avery found himself drawing the flintlock pistol he kept at his waist, and aiming it directly at his mutinous boatswain.

“Lay down your steel!” He growled, stopping the man in his tracks before he could reach their golden skinned savior. “That’s an order!”
While Harper came to a standstill, he did not lower his sword as commanded. His furious, amber eyes swapped between the captain and the witch he deigned to protect. Finally, they glanced the muzzle of the hand cannon pointed at his face, and he was left no choice but to step back, his blade lowering. He didn’t dare return the cutlass to its proper place at his hip, though. Sharp edge was kept pointed at the deck, ready to rise again should the occasion present itself.

“That goes for the rest of you as well,” Avery ordered the lot, holstering his own fun as example. Reluctantly, all of the nervous sailors stepped away, their weapons no longer trained on the source of their anxiety; their eyes, however, were still as sharp as daggers as they watched her, all of them as wary as they were interested.

Luckily one among them managed to pull his eyes away from the gravity of their visitor long enough to spy the waters ahead. Davy stirred, shoving men aside and dashing to the prow of the ship. To their fortunes, the sandbar was low enough that their ship just managed to scrape by, permitting them into the sapphire lagoon beyond, but now land was quickly approaching. The closer they came to the island so too did the mist grow thinner, revealing a stony shore rife with jagged rocks. Like sharp teeth, they poked out of the fog, looking eager to gnash their ship as it gravitated towards them with the tide. “Brennan!” Davy shouted, turning back to snatch Avery’s attention from the woman with hair as white as snow.

Avery managed to pull his gaze from Erri at his Quartermaster’s call, and following his gestures, quickly came to understand the danger. All at once, his demeanor changed; the angel forgotten as he set about snapping orders like the strict, ruthless captain he had to be on these unforgiving seas. It was bitter work operating their devastated ship. He might have thanked the creature for relieving them of the hinderance of the broken mast if it didn’t mean that it would be all the more difficult to repair in the end. But for now he did the best with what he could, having the men work the sails that remained to guide them away from the rocks. Their rudders were still in tact, but with their mad helmsman now in the belly of a sea serpent, Avery had to take the position himself. He gave the helm a hard over, steering her away from the dangerous terrain while his eyes scanned for a heading that wouldn’t tear their hull to shreds. The men were engrossed moving the sails as he commanded, giving Erri a chance to wander the deck alone, without their blades at her throat. But all the while, their eyes bore into her as they worked, brimming with distrust as well as fear.

Davy joined Brennan at the helm, his eyes swapping between the savage woman and the world she came from. “What are we doing here?” His quartermaster wanted to know, sounding frantic. “Do we have a plan?”

“I’m beaching her,” Avery told him. “We don’t have the faintest idea as to whether or not that monster will be coming back. If so, there’s no way we’re surviving another attack like that. We don’t even know the extent of the damage, but the mast is bad enough. Without repairs we’re never going to survive the open water. I doubt we’ll find a dry dock here, but we might find the timber we need.”

“Won’t be all we find, I reckon,” Davy said quietly, indicating Erri with suspicious eyes. “What if there’s others like her? The way she talked...” she shuddered at the memory. “Maybe Harper is right. Maybe we should kill her now while we have the chance. Bad luck having a woman aboard... let alone one that can talk with her bloody mind! You ever hear anything like those words she spoke with her tongue, either?”

Avery shook his head, gaze likewise falling upon the woman who’d fallen the sky to save them. “No,” he admitted, and he’d heard a great many languages in his travels. He considered the proposition, but quickly denounced the idea of harming the witch or whatever she might be. “We can’t kill her,” he told him. “If there are others, they already know we’re here. They would have heard our cannon fire. When they find us, what do you think they would do upon learning first thing we did was kill one of their own on arrival?” He forced himself to look away from the girl, another shiver tickling his spine. “There,” he said, pointing to a stretch of beach that was clear of any jagged spears, and large enough to accommodate their vessel.

“We’re gonna run her aground, lads!” He told his crew, issuing the orders to increase speed. It was paltry compared to when all of their masts were in tact, but favorable wind and skilled navigating delivered them to the shallows and eventually the shore, where everyone aboard was left to brace as they came crashing in. The impact jostled the ship, the entire frame reverberating as the hull dragged across dry ground, and rapidly slowed until it could go no further, where they finally came to a stuttering halt. The wooden construct continued to shudder in the aftermath, complaining at the harsh treatment. The sailors sluggishly gathered their bearings, getting used to the feeling of stable ground beneath their feet for the first time in months. But they didn’t have long to adjust before the captain was bellowing yet more orders, seeing to it that every man was set to work. Rope ladders were thrown out as some of the men prepared to disembark and secure their position, while others went about assessing damage and checking supplies.

Avery meanwhile, turned to the woman who’d help to ensure their safe arrival, his curiosity about the world they’d just discovered a pittance compared to his interest in her. Now that they were safely docked, the man finally approached her, remaining wary even as he came near. “Can you understand me?” He asked first and foremost, thinking back on that peculiar language she’d spoken in. “Who... What are you?” She may have looked human like the rest of them, but seeing what she’d done, and even just standing in her radiant presence, Avery couldn’t help but feel like she was so much more than that.

“You helped us back there, didn’t you?” His eyes fled her face, looking instead to the beach they now found themselves stuck on, and to the expanse beyond. The waves lapped at their hull, almost like it was begging to pull them back out into the blue expanse, where lurked the beast that successfully shipwrecked them, even if they weren’t in the graveyard. “What is this place?” He asked, gesturing out at the island his men had only just taken the first steps upon, completely unaware if she was understanding a word of what he was saying.
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
The men about her proved to be nothing more than she had expected; cumbersome fools who didn’t understand the balance of this world. They spoke in a tongue she had learned to comprehend long ago, from the fearful screams and terrified shouts that echoed between the towering pillars of the sandstone apostles. They called her a ‘witch’, something that earned the crook of a chocolate brown brow in response. They called her bad luck being atop the wooden deck, and that in itself earned a dark scowl at the man who announced such a primitive thing. For a superstitious lot, they certainly weren’t understanding the hierarchy of this place, of her world. They were bottom run. Fodder. They were nothing, not meant to be here. Alien. The hands that had held out to them in universal surrender lowered to her hips, gripping the flare in her palms as fingers dimple ample flesh. Now, she was just offended. She understood the lot of them, albeit it took some time to process heavily accented words slurred with slang. Erri certainly did understand their rallying to kill her off despite her brazen act to save the lot of them.

Foolish. The lot of them. They have absolutely no idea what I’ve already sacrificed in order to save them. Why couldn’t I have just sat by like all the other times and watched them perish while they fight the nature of this world? Why did I feel this sudden altruistic urge to save them? Absolute fools. Erri chastised herself internally, growing a little bitter as the men carried on about her.

Shoulders, lean muscled, rolled out as shoulder blades flattened against the ribs of her back. Erri was not impressed, to say the least, considering how she’d had to set aside her pride and grovel at the serpent’s proverbial feet. If she were expecting a thanks, she realised that she would certainly have to wait quite a considerable amount of time, if she were to hear it at all ever. Yet, those warmer brown eyes that met with hers promised an intelligence beyond the rest of the men about them; holding almost blunt steel and weapons of some description that she was sure would be able to create significant damage. Brutes. That’s what they were. Foolish brutes. But not this one. This one is different, she thought to herself as she remained eerily still, after arms wove together to cross beneath her bust. Pink tongue ran the seam of her lips, leaving behind a wet sheen that caught the warm sunlight as she moistened the rose pink tiers.

Erri had little time to say much else, after she chose to remain mostly silent as they became distracted and soon busied themselves with ropes and anchors. A dark smile took hold of her lips, lifting just one corner of her mouth as she found an odd sense of pleasure knowing that she had assisted the first men to ever have survived the beast to set foot upon her lands. But what would she pay for this trespass? What would she pay for this breaking of rules and tradition? Most likely a lot, she knew, but that was to be considered later. Instead, she remained still amongst their chaos, unmoving from her place atop the sea-salt slick deck as they hurried about her like flies and carrion to a carcass.

Weathered wood bow carved through the sandbank, plunging deep into the golden sands of the shoreline that greeted them. Ropes and ladders were plunged down over the ship’s edge, crunching softly in the warm, yellow grains that she knew would burn gently underfoot. The salt of the sea still clung to the air, but this much closer ashore the wind carried with it the sweet scent of succulent jungle fruit and blooming flowers; citrusy with a sharp tang. To her, it was the inviting scent of home that lured her deeper within the shadows of the tropical forest to the Home Tree, something that she was certain would never be revealed to these buffoons given their initial reaction to her and continual treatment.

The man with those soft brown eyes gifted her his attention just as he had done so prior, though there was curiosity hidden within their depths as he spoke to her in his tongue. His words, unlike the rest, were far more simpler to understand; not accented terribly with rolled or dropped letters that made it difficult for her to comprehend. Instead, he spoke eloquently and with purpose, revealing a child-like wonder as he called to her. Erri did not untangle from her crossed-arm stance of defence, remaining a being of surreal frustration. She was not pleased, and it would do this man well to realise this. Yes, she licked at his mind, those dark saucers of pupils a gathering storm that penetrated his chocolate gaze. Though, this time she chose only to share her silvery words with him, concealing them from the others who bustled about and watched her from the corners of their eyes. I can understand your tongue, though I cannot speak it. You can tell your buffoons that I am no witch and to stop watching me from the corner of their eyes as if they are waiting for me to strike and have their heads. If I wanted you dead, then I need have only done my duty and simply watched the serpent have you lot for tea from my post. A little appreciation goes a great way, I would have you know.

Dark eyes were drawn to a man that lingered just beyond the one who dared converse with her, this one’s eyes a pair of steely blue eyes chilled like ice. Brown brows drew together in a scowl, met with an equally toxic frown before the steel eyed man disappeared into the chaos of preparing to step foot onto land. Her gaze drifted back to the man before her, the scowl softening a touch as her arms loosened a fraction into something far more casual.

I am not much different from you and your men.....though far more intelligent I would say. The corner of her mouth twitched with a smirk, a playful one that appeared almost chilling with the dark recesses of her eyes. A laugh escaped her, the sound silvery and musical though edged with something that almost chilled to bone; foreboding. “Zer naiz ni?” White hair was caught in sea breeze, tendrils tossed over bare shoulder, the contrast of the snow curls against glistening caramel skin predominant beneath blaring sun. Erri found humour in his question of what she was. I am what you could have been, what your people could have been if they understood the rules of this world. I could have been your future if your kind were not so far gone in death and destruction and turmoil. Arms unravelled, a hand pressing to the space above her heart as a gesture to herself. “Erri,” she called to him. “Zein da zure izena?” What is your name?

Blatantly ignoring his next question, Erri moved towards the edge of the ship, gripping the wood of the balustrade as she leaned most of her weight forward and into the air. Her fall before, from atop the gigantic apostles that stood as sentries on the outskirts of her home, was proof that she was beyond trusting when it came to the elements; maybe even reckless. The pale of her cloth attire whipped about ankles in the same gust of sea salt air that plucked tendrils of curls from her shoulders and tossed them about the features of her face. With her back to him, she revealed the dark ink that was etched into her skin; some raised with scar tissue from both the process and previous fights. Golden body, it seemed, was not completely pristine in its gleaming glory; scarred, marred, inked and bruised. Erri was a woman who’d seen steel many times before and knew how it felt to have it carved through her flesh.

I simply gave the Sea-beast what it was owed; that maddened man you had tied to the remnants of the mast your crew seemed adamant in saving. Everything has a cost, and he was the price that needed to be paid to ensure safe passing. The weak go mad, those whose minds would have grown feeble on land if he had made it anyway. You are lucky that you lost only one, and not many. I have seen an entire ship go mad save for one who succumbed to the serpent. Erri tossed the man a look from over her shoulder. You may not understand the ways of my world, as I do not understand the rules of your own; but I expect that you will do your best to respect my word and that of my people.

Turning in place, Erri pressed her back into the wood that remained slick with sea water from the roaring waves sent into the vessel from the aforementioned beast. Arms folded at her back, hands captured between the round of her buttocks and the wooden balustrade as she leaned against them; trapping them and making herself just as vulnerable. “Nire herriaren arauen kontra joan naiz, burua izango dute konturatzen badezakete zuetako askok gure ertzera iritsi direla. Galdetzen nion ea gutako batek merezi zuen aurreztea merezi duen. Niri ez zait batere kezkatu.” Erri hummed lowly as she spoke in tongues, seemingly in thought as dark eyes travelled from the features of his face to his leather boots. I will lead your men to a more hospitable section of the beach, where you shall find enough fresh water and fruit to sustain yourselves for the day. I do not want you to venture into the forest, there are things that must been seen to. You must keep quiet, you must remain unseen. You may not understand the gravity of what I have done, but perhaps it is best if your men have my head to save me from the fate that would await me should my people learn of your presence before I am able to explain. Black eyes narrowed at him, the look glowering. Do you understand?

Erri rolled out her neck, reaching up to clasp at taut muscles at her shoulder as her gaze was drawn over the deck of the ship. What is it that you have travelled so far in search of?
 
Last edited:
OP
Fates.Gamble

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
If the dark, incensed look cast by this sorceress wasn’t enough to disturb him, the feeling of her words crawling through his mind again certainly was. Avery stood as tall as he could in her overwhelming presence, doing his best not to visibly shudder at the way she communicated. He was like a fly caught in a spider’s web whilst meeting those dark, stormy eyes. He couldn’t bring himself to break free of that black gaze, not even to confirm whether the rest of the crew shared in her thoughts this time as well. Luckily they did not, for this woman insulted the lot of them as casually as they offended her. Avery couldn’t blame the woman after that reception, though he was far too intrigued to relay her peaceful message to the suspicious men. Simple words would never be enough to persuade them to trust her anyway.

Such eloquence, he wondered at her speech, surprised to learn this peculiar foreigner had such a good vocabulary. That begged the question: How could she understand a language she could not speak? Wasn’t she technically speaking it in his mind? Brows furrowed with confusion. But then, that brought another idea to light. Can she hear my thoughts in return? More disturbing than her speaking directly to his mind was the prospect that she might possibly be digging around in it. The captain felt naked as a babe before he when he considered this, and promptly made efforts to keep his thoughts from running astray. Having his true perceptions known was the last thing he wanted, for he was just as perturbed and uncertain of this woman as he was fascinated by her. Insulting her further was a feat he had very little interest in.

“You have my thanks,” he confessed at her complaints of gratitude, or the lack of it, rather. With difficulty, his eyes managed to shift away, glancing his crew who remained as busy as worker bees. “You have their’s as well, even if it doesn’t show. My men are slow to trust, but they know they wouldn’t be alive if not for you.” But how long would they stay that way? He had to wonder as his gaze lifted from their place on the beach, and viewed the lush, tropical world beyond. His attention quickly snapped back to Erri, though, once she found a way to offend him in kind, belittling his intelligence. Dark eyes narrowed just a fraction, though he held his tongue at the slight. For all he knew it could be true; never had he met one that could speak with their mind the way she did. Her following laugh was musical and taunting, touched with a hint of darkness that made the hairs on his arm stand on end. She said she was no threat, yet Avery was growing less sure by the moment. Even when she used her actual voice her words were just as mystifying and alien to him. ‘Witch’ didn’t seem like too far a stretch, considering it was like she was casting some spell every time she spoke.

“What we could have been?” he questioned, face twisting into another look of confusion. He mulled over what that could possibly mean, and wondered ever more at this place and its inhabitants. Just what kind of land did we stumble upon? She refused to tell him, it seemed, blatantly walking away at the query, but not before giving him her name at least. Or at least what he assumed was her name, judging by the gesture she made to herself. “Erri…” he repeated, testing the name on his tongue. He offered his own in return, albeit it a little bumbling. “Brennan,” he blurted, using his surname as was custom among the sailors he’d been with for so long. “Erm, Avery… Captain Avery Brennan,” came the clarification, no doubt complicating what should have been an easy concept. His names and titles suddenly felt like a mouthful compared to her much simpler one.

Avery watched as she clung to the balustrade, the sea breeze tugging at her garments and her hair, as pure and white as snowfall. His eyes continued to roam while her attentions were elsewhere, investigating the patterns of ink that adorned the golden skin of her back, much like it did her hands. Even more telling was the sheen of numerous scars, an indicator that this woman had seen her fair share of conflicts, something Brennan could both respect and relate to. He forced himself to look away, a flush creeping between his cheeks once her ethereal voice sounded in his mind again. Was she aware he’d been watching her so intently? Could she read emotions as well as thoughts? A million other questions rang out despite his efforts to silence them from her potentially prying mind. It was much easier to focus, however, when he learned the particularly of dealing with the serpent.

“Safe passage requires sacrifice?” He spat the question out, revolted by the idea. Weak or not, it was a savage concept. But he reined in his own opinions, knowing it was not his place to speak on the customs of this strange and dangerous world. And besides, what other choice was there? Not even their cannons could slay that beast; what could they hope to do other than appease it? The captain avoided her gaze when she tossed a look back at him, his own attentions pointed back the way they came, where the leviathan yet loomed. “I still have men unaccounted for,” he grumbled, and Erri’s proclamations weren’t setting his mind at ease about his surviving crew. They hadn’t suffered many casualties, true, but the losses were still sorely felt. And how many more would succumb? How many men would this place consume before they made it back home, if they ever did?

“Of course,” Avery agreed. He knew full well that respecting this world was the only chance of surviving it. An uncertain look, however, was passed at his crew. Though, he did a fine job of hiding any of that doubt from showing in his eyes. It was a difficult thing once they landed on his boatswain, who was too busy lugging cargo to notice the pair at the moment. His sailors were obedient for the most part, but he knew all too what desperate men were capable of. Harper showed that all too well when he raised his cutlass against her despite the captain’s order to stand down.

Earthy eyes settled on Erri when she twisted back around to face him, leaning casually against the railing as though she were born to stand upon the deck of a ship. Granted, they weren’t exactly sailing at the moment, but given the way she came tumbling out of the sky and landed on the deck without a scratch told him how skilled she was. Not to mention how she seemed the very definition of pose, what with the graceful way she carried herself. But Avery was at a loss as again, she began to speak, muttering something in that language he could not decipher. “I’m afraid I can neither speak nor understand your tongue,” he confessed at the end of her long narrative, though he wasn’t entirely certain if she was speaking to him or to herself. Soon enough she spoke in a way he could understand, even if he couldn’t make sense of how. He was getting use to the way her thoughts slithered into his own by now, but it could still make his skin crawl with eeriness.

Avery regarded Erri with a serious expression, silently weighing the terms she laid out. Denying them access to the forest was a complicated blow. Even now, the men would be unloading the tools and supplies they would need for repairing their ship. A new mast would need lumber, and if she didn’t even want them venturing into the woods what would happen when they began cutting down trees? But the bounty of fresh water and food to sustain themselves, not to mention the cooperation of her and her people, was too important to disregard. However, for all intents and purposes, he seemed to ignore it, treating her with a likewise unanswered question. Oh, he understood very well; understood he would have to find a way to negotiate to a peaceable conclusion if they were to ever make it off this island. His men would not be happy with sitting on their haunches, no matter how much fruit and fresh water she promised. Working men could not sit still for long, especially with their way home left a wreck. It wouldn’t be the first time he had to bargain with the natives of an unknown land, but never was the situation quite so unique at this. Shipwreck aside, Erri was an experience unlike any other. For once in his life, he was not sure which chart to course.

For now, Avery put aside his misgivings about the strange creature before him, and approached the balustrade. He kept his eyes carefully averted as he took a position at her side, callused hands gripping around the wooden railing. His crew was still working around the ship, though several of the men had taken notice of their captain’s absence, and he caught a few suspect glances passed at him and the fearsome company he chose to keep. Edwards, their carpenter, was to engrossed with inspecting the hull to care, though Brennan could tell from his dismayed expression that assessments were not good. Being so close to the dark skinned goddess at his side, Avery did not let the concern reflect on his face.

“I understand,” he said at long last, view still glued to the beach they were stranded on. “But you must understand that I cannot simply abandon my ship. This is our only chance of getting off this island, something I’m sure you’d be happy to see us get on with, judging by the sound of things.” His dark eyes swept over her, stern and challenging, despite her lofty presence. “I will come with you to this place, but not without leaving some men behind to mind and work on the ship. I will, however, make certain that no one ventures into the forest. For now, at least…”

Lastly, she asked the question Avery knew would come eventually, and again he took his time responding. “We’re explorers,” he told her finally, settling on giving her at least part of the truth. “We’ve come in search of new lands with the blessing of Queen Elizabeth.” That said, he was quick to change the subject from the why of his arrival, and turned his attention back to the carpenter working below them. “Edwards!” he called to the chap, grabbing his notice. “How’s it looking?”

The old carpenter looked up from the barnacle encrusted hull at his captain’s voice, then removed the pair of golden spectacles from his face. “Not good,” he shouted back up, wiping his lenses on the linen of his shirt. “I don’t need to tell you how bad the mast is, but the rest of her’s had a rough time of it as well. She won’t be back out on the water for some time, I’m afraid.” If at all at this rate, though there was no point in voicing that.

It was what he expected to hear, but Avery sighed with disappointment all the same. He looked back to Erri, carefully considering her for a moment, before shoving away from the balustrade. “We’d best get a move on, then,” he announced, and gestured for her to follow as he breezed past and hurried down to join his men on the beach. Once they reached the golden, burning sands, Brennan whistled out loudly, grabbing the attention of everyone present. He waited a moment while they all came to gather before him.

“Listen up, lads!” he boomed, chocolate eyes scanning the crowd whos attention jumped between their captain and the dark skinned woman beside him. “I don’t need to tell you lot, but we’re hard up in a clinch with no knife to cut the seizing. There’s a lot of work to be done iff we’re to make it out of this mess, and the most important thing now is making getting our hands on some fresh water and grub. Lucky for us, Erri here tells me she knows exactly where to find it, and she’s willing to lead us there on a few conditions.” A numbering of mutterings broke out in the group, mostly uncertain protest over accepting her help. Avery silenced them all with a single word and a fierce look, then explained her terms regarding the forest and keeping their overall presence and impact to a minimum.

“Some of us will go on ahead and see this place for ourselves,” Brennan explained, “The rest of you will stay behind with the ship. Davy!”

Avery waited for the burly man to come forward, then quickly introduced his second in command to Erri. “This is John Davy, my Quartermaster,” he told her, switching his regard to the man. “Davy, I want you to stay behind and oversee the men here.”

“Maybe you should leave Harper to it,” he suggested instead.”Separate him from the problem, as it were…” He couldn’t keep his eyes from flicking towards Erri.

“I’m not ready to let him out of my sight just yet,” Avery admitted, passing a glance at his boatswain who continued watching them with a loom of vehemence. “Keep Edwards along with a handful of men with you. I’ll be back with news once I am able.”

“Aye, Cap’n Brennan.”

Once that was decided, Davy picked out the men who would stay behind, while Brennan gathered up a few vital supplies, including the rifle he used when fending off the serpent. One their group was ready, the band of weary sailors gathered abaft Erri and their captain, and uncertain, distrusting mass. But, current fiasco aside, Avery had never steered them wrong. They weren’t ready to putt their faith in this strange and indigenous woman, but until they had a reason not to, they would trust the Captain with their lives, even if it meant following her to this unknown locale.
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
With her eyes drawn forward, Erri was left to sense the brown-eyed man’s approach. The rest of his men felt like spiders crawling along the peripheries of her mind; wrong, alien, suspicious. Dark eyes closed, the whites of the orbs almost entirely swallowed by inky black irises, as chest rose with a slow intake of sea-salt breath that warmed the depths of her lungs. It came to her as easy as flexing a muscle, a natural and automatic action that came with little thought but simply occurred. Her consciousness pushed forward, like an aura about her growing wide to encompass the entire vessel before it captured and sensed each vibration of these foreign minds. They shivered beneath the weight of her consciousness, even if the bustling men below on the sands weren’t entirely aware of the ethereal presence that counted and assessed them. There, indeed, had been losses beyond just the man who was required sacrifice and driven mad since passing through the mist that separated worlds, and there was a great deal of men who continued on with their tasks down on the shoreline who felt these losses sorely. Yet, as her consciousness grew, there was a mind that did not vibrate with the same, dull frequency as the rest; but rather with something tinged with musicality. Like a taut rope that had begun to fray, the aura of her consciousness snapped back violently inside the cage of her skull just as dark eyes opened. The swirling ink of her irises appeared less stormy, less foreboding, as she cast her gaze sideways at the man who had come to stand beside her.

“Avery Brennan,” Erri tasted his name in her mouth, murmuring vowels and humming consonants. It rolled over the pink plane of her tongue, sweet despite his clear wish to be addressed by some mundane title that made no matter here. There is a balance to this world that must always be upheld. A sacrifice, perhaps. I see it as an exchange. One life of a man that would only have been driven into deeper madness for the lives of these men. An exchange that was necessary to avoid complete devastation, one that is hard to make but often necessary. Dark eyes were drawn over his features as Avery looked down at the men that milled about beneath them. Sculpted lines of sharp cheekbones. Skin that did not share her metallic sheen but was golden nonetheless from weeks, if not months, out on the sea beneath harsh rays of unforgiving sun. Dark tresses of hair, knotted slightly from equally harsh wind that would have torn at him throughout their voyage. Eyes that did their best to hide the truth of his feeling, but were too clear a window into his mind. This world, this land, does not take without reason. There is a balance that even it abides by. A babe born into the world at sunrise casts an unseen ripple. A ripple that will take the life of a weary crone who wishes to be with the rest of her kin whom have long since gone to the grave. It is hard to explain to someone who has not been exposed to such a concept, a reality, and I feel that I am not doing my best in explain it. It may be something that you need to see, to be shown, but all in due time.

Arms uncrossed from beneath her bust, one remained circled about her stomach to hold the opposing hip as the other moved to the wooden balustrade she leaned against and Avery faced. The touch was just one finger, a delicate pinky that shone in the light of the sun in deep gold, tattooed with several inverted triangles and decorative, geometric lines. The soft pad of the digit brushed over paler knuckles, his skin far more matte against her own as she looked at the side of his face that he chose to give her. I am sorry for your loss. This is the way of my world, but it is not the way of yours. While I cannot understand in this circumstance, I can imagine the emotion you must be feeling. Time can be a healer, if you allow it.

Slender finger remained, hesitated, before it was quickly pulled away as Erri turned in place to lean over the wooden railing to watch the men busying themselves with numerous tasks down below. She couldn’t trust them. She couldn’t believe that they would take her word and abide by her rules. She could, however, trust that Avery Brennan would try his best. Why she was able to trust this man, she wasn’t sure, and it earned him a sideways glance from the corners of her eyes as the sea breeze caught and lifted a white lock of hair, making it brush the underside of her jaw before it was caught between forefinger and thumb to be tucked behind pierced ear. Erri remained silent as Avery expressed his stubborn wish to remain close to the vessel, to continue working upon its repairs so that they would be able to soon leave. Soon, however, she found herself caught in confusion and wonder at his words, never mind the complexity of emotion it struck within her.

Do not take this as invitation to stay, Avery Brennan. Erri slowly turned to face him, one hand clasping the wooden balustrade and the other clasping at her hip in a stance that demanded attention. I find it interesting that you label yourselves as explorers for this Queen Elizabeth, and yet you seem so eager to leave this place. Is it not of your character to remain and discover the secrets of this world? Are you not curious as to what I am hiding from you and your men? It would seem to me that you would be no explorer at all if you were so easily defeated with rules and stipulations, ready to turn hide and run as soon as chance would allow it. Her words were a bold challenge as she watched the smooth lines of his face, wishing that he were so much more like the rest and far easier to read. White brow arched elegantly, a clear attempt at provoking him as she came to cross her arms across pale cotton robes and beneath ample bust. Unless, of course, this place was not something that you were seeking and only happened across. Although the way that you charted your course would suggest otherwise. Why turn away from something that you have sought for so long? Does it frighten you? Does it not intrigue you as you thought it would?

Those very same pale brows came to knit together as Avery shoved harshly away from the balustrade, declaring a need to continue with the tasks at hand, which she doubted involved her at all. The look that he shot her, however, suggested otherwise which earned a soft scowl from Erri as she trailed after him with sudden discontent. This conversation will continue, Avery Brennan. Be it this day or the next. Taking pause at the top of the rope ladders that swung gently in the breeze, she looked down at the feeble craftsmanship with a frown. At first, she conceded, turning her back to the men below that would surely off her the moment they believed they had the chance, and took two rungs at a time. It wasn’t until halfway, however, that Erri grew tired of the act of their belief of normalcy, releasing the rope and allowing herself simply to plummet towards the sand to land with soft knees, the skirts of her robes fluttering about her. Golden hands dusted themselves down on her thighs, a little raw from the harsh hessian. Erri, rather pleased with herself, wandered slowly to come stand beside Avery as if she had all the time in the world and didn’t care for the lot of them. Dark eyes were beginning to return to a shade of deep bronze, flecked with golden light that swirled within irises, and were cats upwards at the clear sky. She only half listened before a man stepped forward rather suddenly, causing hand to swing back to the outside of her thigh were a carved blade was strapped snugly beneath a pleat in her robes.

Hand hesitated as Avery introduced the man as seemingly having a significant role in his band of buffoons, earning a polite nod from Erri as eyes assessed the man before her from head to toe. His mention of her being a problem, with gaze cast towards her from the corner of his eyes had her huff with a dark smile taking possession of the corners of her lips. Problem. That, indeed, does have a particular ring to it.

Whatever spell Avery had over the men gathered about them, held true even as she lingered at his side as an eerie presence that was not all too welcomed. Without word, Erri simply dug her heels into the burning sand and set off towards the east shoreline, a destination in mind where they would mostly be safe. Her choice of location was made easy by the fact that the Home Tree was on the opposing side of the island, and prying eyes would be far from this edge. Lost in her thoughts, she carved a path in the sand for them to follow; small footsteps that, if one were to pay particular attention to, would fade and no longer exist after several moments, as if she had never been.

The musicality of Avery’s mind was easy to pinpoint, the only tone that didn’t throb inside her skull as she focussed, and her words dipped into his consciousness far more easily than she was willing to bet that he liked. There are several things that hunt at night, and may become bothersome. Keep to the trees and they will not bother you. At sunset, extinguish all fires that you may have lit, even those kept for warmth. Light attracts darkness in this place, a kind of darkness that would swallow you whole if you give it the chance. I am leading you to a glade of trees that we call, arima zuhaitzak. In simple terms, she let the slight insult sit for a moment, Soul Trees. They are not to be harmed or felled. They are not to become lumber for fire or for that vessel of yours. I will know. We will all know, and then your safety is compromised. During the nights, they will provide you with enough warmth that there will be no need for fires. I will, however, leave it to the Trees to show you their power. A sly smile was cast over her shoulder at Avery. Those trees would do more than just warm them. If these men were intelligent enough to take her word and instruction as easily as they did their Master’s, then they would all be there upon sunrise. Those trees had a rather particular need to protect all that comes to rest within their branches.

The forest line grew nearer, the golden sands becoming broken by the occasional twig or bright bloom of a flower as shoreline gave away to the green of the tropical forest. The air here was scented less with salt and more so with citrus, a fresh tang that licked at their senses as Erri led them onwards up a steep sandbank without breaking her stride, before disappearing into the shadows of the forest growth. Taking pause for only the briefest of moments to ensure that they would follow, Erri continued her course until they were just inside the jungle but broke into the warm glade of the Soul Trees.

Standing in the centre, face tilted upwards at the canopy high above, she smiled with such warmth as if she were regarding family. “Hemen gaude,” she called to the men behind her just as the breeze rustled deep green leaves far above that gave an eerie sound of tinkling bells as if each part of the foliage were made of delicate glass. This time, she released Avery’s mind, only to clasp at the entirety of the men’s. We are here.

Beneath a set of golden bare feet and an army of leather boots were the soft blades of vibrant gras, mown short by the herbivores that grazed in the early hours of the morning. Canopy whispered high above, the sun filtering down through deep greens to cast the glade in an earthy glow. It was mystical and beautiful, the wide trunks of the Soul Trees almost as large as their mundane vessel. Moss had crept over branches that had fallen long ago, though dark wood never rotted. Everywhere that they were to look was cast in green glow, illuminated from the canopy. Boulders sat at the base of one particular Soul Tree, a sliver of clear water trickling over its crest to fall and mingle with the mirrored sheen of a freshwater pond. Blooms had crept towards the water, enticed by nourishment and sunlight; their petals various shades of sunlight yellow, pastel blues and fire reds. The Soul Trees, however, were by far the most eye-catching flora in the glade; reaching miles into the sky and monstrous in size. Erri smirked as she wondered whether the men finally felt small and inconsequential in this world of hers. Dark wood bark seemed to be etched with runes, softly glowing a gentle silver that flickered with its own intrinsic light. Branches were considerably low hanging considering their height, but appeared as steps to wider, thicker branches that were nestled several feet from the forest floor.

This is where you will stay. I presume that it will not be difficult to guess which are the Soul Trees that I speak of. Treat them with respect, and they will keep you safe for as long as you choose to remain here. I cannot stress enough the need to extinguish all sources of light come nightfall. Do not attack anything that you may see, or think that you may see in the shadows, you will only provoke them. Erri turned around to face them, a look of cold stone upon her face as she pinned every single one of them with a pointed stare. No matter what happens, or what you believe you see or hear during the night, do not leave the Trees. From nightfall to dawn, you must remain in the Trees. Bronze eyes shifted to Avery as she grasped at his mind, releasing the rest. Your men on the shoreline will be safe so long as they remain there and do not come searching for you after dusk. You must make that clear to them, or they will surely not survive beyond the night.

Erri, rolling out her shoulders, gave them her back despite how much she hated to do so, untrusting, before she moved towards the edge of the freshwater pond that was brimming with life. Fish, colours of autumn leaves, flitted about beneath the surface, disappearing into its depth before appearing for a split second as the sunlight caught their scales. This pond is freshwater and clean enough to drink. The fish that reside in the pond are enough to sustain you for a short period of time, by then I hope to have taught you how to hunt.....without those brutish weapons of yours. Take only what you need, do not be gluttonous. Golden fingers dipped beneath the surface of the mirrored pond, sending a ripple over the water to lap at the opposite edge as a fish brushed gently against her knuckles, lingering in the touch before it flitted away. Rising to stand, her fingers of one hand dripping with the remnants, Erri faced them and looked towards Avery.

The darkness about her seemed to settle into the shadows, falling away from her aura until a simple, young woman remained, her power dissipating into a presence rather than a manifestation. With the soft tinkle of the leaves far above, it would be hard to imagine that a place so wondrous and beautiful could be as dangerous as she was suggesting. Erri didn’t think it would be all too difficult, however, if they were as hardened as Avery made them out to be. She cast a hand to the side in a gesture that suggested they were free to roam about the small glade and find their place to rest for a little while. Watching them from the corners of her eyes, however, even tracking them with the edge of her mind, Erri stepped towards Avery. I would like to show you what the Soul Trees have to offer you in your time here. Unlike the rest of my world, they are altruistic and ask for nothing in return for the protection they will provide you. They have an occasionally frustrating lack of prejudice. They protect all and they protect many. Will you come with me?
 
OP
Fates.Gamble

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Throughout his travels, Avery had come across many natives who kept to foreign customs and philosophies. He’d always listen to their ways with a keen interest, intrigued by the all the different peoples and beliefs that spanned this seemingly endless world. But never had he put much stock into these varied ideologies; until now, that is. It was hard to discredit the things Erri believed in when feeling the influence of her abilities; when hearing her speak in the sanctuary of one’s mind. Already the captain’s thoughts were running wild with this idea of balance, trying to understand the logic behind it. Yet, more concerning than the laws of this lost world were its dangers, not the least of which being this plague of madness she spoke of. A worrisome glance was passed over his crew, and for a moment Avery had to wonder if they’d all gone mad. Insanity would go a long way to explain the mysterious voice in their head, no matter how tangible this golden woman appeared to them. The situation was perplexing and odd enough that her shy touch and attempted words at comfort were more off-putting than anything else.

More daunting even than her ways of communication were Erri’s skills of deduction. She sized Avery up quicker than he expected, cleverly latching on to his supposed eagerness to be rid of this place. He remained darkly silent about it, though his eyes narrowed a fraction of an inch when she suggested cowardice might be to blame. Undoubtedly there was much to fear on this island, but such thrill was what he lived for. The truth was he had no intentions of leaving so quickly, but it was best she believed otherwise. Surely her people would be more forthcoming with assistance if it meant seeing them away from these lands. The apprehension over their arrival was more than a little clear. And even if there were no tension, Avery was no fool. He’d dealt with natives enough to know it wouldn’t be long before trouble brewed between his crew and her people. Already she was restricting the places they could venture, and the Queen wasn’t funding this expedition just so they could do a little sightseeing. What would happen when she learned the true purpose behind this voyage?

Once again he was struck by the fact that she might not only be able to speak in his mind, but read it as well. “Well what good is an explorer who can’t pass the tree line?” He managed to counter, hoping to steer his thoughts in another direction just in case. She said it was no invitation to stay, yet it seemed an awful lot like she was baiting him to do just that. A bit of suspicion sparked within his dark eyes, especially when she hinted about the things hiding within that dense forest. Avery did not let curiosity get the better of him, though, once again falling silent. He didn’t need her promise to know the discussion was not over; stuck on the beach like they were, he couldn’t escape the inevitable truth even if he wanted to. Assuming she doesn’t already know, he reminded himself, ever perturbed by her ability to touch upon the human consciousness.

“Try not to take it personally,” Avery said, apologizing for the unsavory term. “Where we come from... Well, let’s just say these men have never seen anything like you.” Even Avery, open minded and accepting as he was, had a hard time not stealing glances of her. Eyes roamed her golden skin, marveling at the black ink that adorned it and wondering at its purpose. “Men have a way of fearing what they don’t understand, and you’re... mysterious to say the least.” And secretive, he thought, pondering over just what she was hiding in that forest. If she was trying to bait him it was working; as often as he stole glances of Erri did he spy the trees, eyes peering into the dark, unknown world beneath their boughs.

Whether his words made any difference to her, Avery was left to guess once Erri made off without another word, leaving the group of weary sailors to linger with a moment of uncertainty. It wasn’t until their captain barked the order and set off in her wake that the group began to follow, albeit it with mumblings of their doubt. Avery understood their misgivings, but there existed within him a seed of excitement as well. And already that seed was budding, growing stronger with every step into this new and hazardous world. Yet there was hesitance as well, apparent in the way he kept stealing glances back at his ship, and the paltry crew left behind to fix her. Just as his excitement his worry grew stronger as they ventured on, tall masts and white sails the last visible feature of the vessel that brought them.

From the left, a flicker of movement caught his attention, pulling his eyes away from the receding masts to focus on the brush instead. There, upon the thick, gnarled trunk of an old tree, clung two strange looking mammals no bigger than a cony, if conies were covered green fuzz. But their brightly colored colored fur wasn’t nearly the oddest thing about them, for both of the creatures wielded feathery, bird-like tails and a pair of tucked wings to boot. Avery thought he was imagining it at first, his eyes playing tricks on him while he watched one mousey animal chasing the other around the scraggy tree bark. Once the pursuer finally caught his playmate, however, the two wrestled briefly before breaking apart, spreading their wings wide and leaping out into open air. Avery tried keeping track of them as they rode upon the currents, but so quick was their flight that they were little more than a couple of emerald blurs before they disappeared into the canopy of leaves above. Others had seen them too, a couple of men pointing with wonder, though the pair had vanished before the rest happened to spot just what had excited them.

Like clockwork, Erri’s unnatural voice sounded in his mind again, warning him that not all creatures would be so pleasant a sight. And just like that, Avery’s growing wonder was replaced by this potential threat. Wonderful... he thought to himself, wondering if she would hear the his own mind’s voice. Better she than his crew, for they were on edge enough without knowing they would be hunted in the night. For that reason he remained silent for now, eyes locked on the woman in front of them. By now he was growing used to the way she lorded herself over them, though he couldn’t help but bristle as she again referred to their way as ‘simple.’ After hearing all the syllables thrown about in her name of the place, he had to think he preferred the layman’s terms here.

“Soul trees?” He couldn’t help but blurt, revealing to those nearest him that a silent conversation yet took place between them. The sailors immediately grew uncomfortable, casting suspect between their captain and their guide. “Why do you call them that?” Avery questioned, the name sounding particularly ominous to him. Her answer of letting the trees show him their power was hardly settling. Brows furrowed in confusion. Other than fuel for a fire, he couldn’t see how a bunch of trees were supposed to keep them warm. And what was all this nonsense about ‘light attracts darkness’? Again he glanced towards the trees, silently pictures all the other creatures that lurked beneath their boughs. After the strange things they’d already witnessed, his imagination had no limits. It was all too easy to envision what sort of beasts might come for them with slashing claws and gnashing fangs. The sly smile Erri flashed him made it all the more worrisome. He couldn’t tell if she was imagining the same, or if she was hinting there might be more to these soul trees than a bit of warmth. As if the name weren’t macabre enough...

Avery must have created a whole menagerie of fantastical creatures they would be fending off by the time golden sands gave way to forest trails. The smell of citrus was a heavenly aroma after so long at sea, and as the last of their group came over the steep sandbank, even the most skeptical had their spirits lifted; albeit marginally. Dangerous or not, the solid land felt good beneath their feet, and the earthy air was invigorating. But loftier spirits could not lift their apprehension, and few if any were certain about following this witch into the dark trees. Avery felt that same cold tingle, watching Erri as she lingered before melting into the shadows. But the promise of this strange new world was too much to consider fear, and the captain found himself striding after her without a second thought. The others would follow behind him; they’d come this far and there was no turning back now. So one by one they stepped into the shadows, eyes jumping to the towering trees that made them.

Avery found it hard not to picture themselves as a wary herd of sheep, nervously following their shepherdess through a menacing grove of gnarled trees and their upturned roots. And where was she leading them, exactly? Would it truly be the place of safety she promised? Or did she have a far more sinister purpose for taking these men under her wing? Avery seemed to forget about the mysterious corpse around him while his eyes bored into the back of Erri instead. His gaze rolled over what he could see of the ink that accentuated her golden skin. Even as he found himself pondering at her intentions, the captain felt a strange sense of trust in this woman. He couldn’t say why... After everything they’d witnessed he should probably be as frightful of her as the rest of his men. And yet, he felt more drawn to her than he did afraid. He wanted to know more about her; everything about those peculiar markings and this place she hailed from. And perhaps most of all, he wanted to know about the strange power she wielded over them.

Curiosity was set aside for now, as Avery did not dare pose these questions in their current situation. Fortunately, their trek was not a long one, and before he knew it their motley crew had arrived at their destination. The men hesitantly entered the warm glade, their eyes inevitably drawn upwards as the gale teased over the foliage above. Avery’s wars were treated to a symphony of chiming, as though those deep green leaves were made of some sort of crystal. He marveled at this place, dark eyes greedily drinking in the impressive trees. Most of the others shared his wonder, though a few remained doubtful, peering at the trees with distaste and mistrust. Yet even they couldn’t fend off the bewilderment of this place. One couldn’t help but feel small when staring up at that endless canopy. Avery tried to judge how tall they were, but it seemed an impossible measure. Before long dizziness forced him to look away from the mammoth sentinels and take in the rest of the beauty surrounding them, Erri included. She looked at home here, joyful beneath these mile high goliaths she promised would keep them safe. After seeing the sheer mass of them, he could see why. But there was more to it than their size alone, according to her.

Avery stepped forward in the emerald light, brushing right by Erri to approach the nearest soul tree. She told him these trees were possessed of some sort of power as well, and Avery wasn’t sure if he was mad but he could swear he could feel something emanating from these slumbering giants. As he drew near, his gaze locked upon the glowing runes carved into the ancient bark. Like everything else in this new world, he’d never seen their like before. Compelled to investigate, he reached out and gingerly laid a hand upon the rough surface, running the soft pads of his fingers across the flickering light of a symbol. His brain was telling him this shouldn’t be possible, yet here it was, as tangible as anything else he’d witnessed. “This place is...” Avery cut himself off with a sigh of disbelief, unable to find a word that would describe the feeling.

“Bewitched,” his Boatswain managed to finish for him, though the man fell silent once Erri began to speak to them. His face twisted into a perturbed snarl when he felt the meaning of her words slither through his mind. Her ominous warnings were not helping the situation, though every man listened with a keen interest all the same.

“What does she mean things we ‘think’ we see?” One sailor couldn’t help but ask.

“This place ain’t right, I tell you!” Another blurted.

“I don’t know, they feel sort of... gentle, don’t they?”

“What will we see in the night?” demanded one of the men, but Avery silenced them all with a booming command.

“Now is not the time to lose our nerve,” he announced to the lot of them. “For now, let us only concern ourselves with doing as she says.” That was answered with a groaning wave of uncertainty, but Avery looked away from the grumbling sailors once Erri’s mind took hold of his and his alone. “I’ll make sure of it,” he told her, nodding his head to the instruction. He thought to say more, but she turned her back before he could summon the words. Instead he found himself trailing in her wake, ambling towards the pond to stand at her side. Avery avoided looking at her, attention focusing on the colorful flowers around it before gazing into the clear water. Eyes followed one of the little fish as it darted about before diving out of sight. The captain was prickled when she suggested he didn’t know how to live off the land. Had it been any other sort of land he might have interjected, but after seeing the size of the trees and some of the wildlife, he thought it might be more pertinent to keep his gob shut.

“You have my word,” he promised instead. “We will make as little of an impact as we can.” For now, anyway. It was looking more and more likely their presence here would be too loud for her before long. There were simply too many ground rules being applied, and far too many variables in the number of his men. Avery had a sinking feeling it wouldn’t be long before at least one of these rules were broken. To that end, it was imperative he became as amicable with her as possible. But her presence was so... palpable that his mouth ran dry, and he mostly found himself speechless. Better to remain silent than make a fool of myself, he thought, watching as Erri dipped her fingers into the water. Eyes followed the ripple she made, and he was reminded of her speech from earlier; of how the first breath of a newborn babe created its own, unseen ripple, eventually robbing another of their last. It was an odd thought, but he had to admit that he saw some logic in it.

The men were no more relaxed once Erri extended their official invitation to them. The evident shift in her demeanor only helped to set them on edge, yet they shuffled deeper into the glade all the same, not even the skeptical able to hide their curiosity as they roamed and investigated. Like Avery, most were drawn towards the trees and their mysterious glowing tunes. Though few were so bold as their captain, too mistrusting to reach out and touch them the way he did. Avery didn’t need her ability to pry into minds to know that Erri was just as mistrusting. He noticed the way her eyes never fully left the men, even as they spread out and settled into the glade. Well, one of them had tried to kill her, after all. “You have nothing to worry about from them,” he told her confidently, voice loud enough that the others would hear. “They’re a rough lot, but they know how to follow orders. No one will not betray your trust.” At least not intentionally, he hoped, but no need to mention that.

Mistrusting or not, she didn’t seem overly concerned about it. In fact, she was already willing to leave the rest of their crew to their devices, requesting that Avery step away with her. He looked between her and the men plopping down to rest their weary bones. He wasn’t quite so concerned with leaving them on their own, but what the men might think about their captain spiriting away with this apparent witch was another matter entirely. They would only follow his orders as long as they kept confidence in him. But nor could they afford to offend Erri, on who so much of their survival depended now, whether the rest of them were willing to admit it or not. Not only that, but the more he learned about this place the better their chances would be. So inevitably, he agreed.

“Very well,” he told her before looking over to where his boatswain lounged. “Hoy, Harper!” He shouted, catching the man’s attention. “I’ll be back shortly. Keep the men in line.” The boatswain narrowed his eyes suspiciously, though nodded in agreement. Avery wasn’t so pleased leaving things under his watch so soon after the altercation, but malice or no, the man was still his boatswain. With that settled, he joined with Erri, following her lead as the two ventured off on their own.

“The way you talk about these Soul Trees...” he began to say once they were alone, passing a glance up at their impossible height. “You make it sound like they have thoughts of their own; like their conscious.” Avery had never known a tree to make decisions for itself, but then he’d never known a woman that could speak with her mind either. It was hard to say what was the bigger oddity. Regardless, he had to admit, he felt like the trees were listening to everything that was said about them. Maybe it was just the way she spoke of them mingling with his shot nerves over this whole mess. Or maybe there was something to it...

“What exactly do you plan to show me?” He asked, those his mind was quickly jumping tracks. “Those runes back there,” he continued on, remembering the way they pulsed with silvery light. “Is it... some sort of magic? Are you really a witch, like they say?” Would she even know what that word meant? Hopefully she would find it more amusing than offensive if so, but Avery was quick to excuse himself either way. “Forgive me, it’s just, I’ve never seen anything like this place before. Our world is... quite different from yours.”
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
You are far more perceptive than I first gave you credit for. Although, I must admit, your mind hums a different tune than the rest; something far less chaotic and more balanced. A harmony, I would even go as far to say. It has always interested me how easy it is to assume intentions just from the soft vibrations of the mind. Though you are proving far more difficult than most.

Bronzed fingers combed roughly through snowy tendrils of hair, brushing aside loose wisps that had fallen about the shape of her face. The smile that she cast him was one of wicked mischief, as if she was, yet again, luring him to question what it was that she meant. If Erri had revealed anything at all in her time with the new-comers, the men that believed that she were a witch of sorts, it was that she had a fondness for speaking in riddles. The more that they needed to question what it was that she meant, the more pleasure she felt watching their brows crease with slight confusion. Avery, however, was proving to be both difficult to understand in himself but also a formidable opponent. He seemed, at least, undeterred by her rhymes and riddles; not entirely falling for the traps she carefully laid out.

A twig cracked underfoot, the sharp edge of the wood grazing the bare flesh as it splintered beneath her sole, but Erri continued on. This world had been hers for more years than Avery would believe, and a splinter penetrating the underside of her foot barely caused her to blink as she continued to cut a path through the larger-than-man ferns. A hand brushed aside a green frond, holding it at bay long enough for Avery to safely pass before it was released like a spring to snap back into place. Dew drops sprinkled their skin, cold as they beaded and rolled over bare flesh. They were lucky to have arrived when they did, missing the worst of the day’s storm that had rolled in from the eastern sea. The night would be relatively clear, save for a shower she predicted in the early hours of the morning.

You seem concerned when I call them Soul Trees. You imagine something dark and foreboding, something ominous even. You do not need to worry, they do not feast on the flesh of unsuspecting men who sleep within their limbs assuming safety. They will feed on you, yes, but in a far more pleasant way. The Soul Trees gain sustenance from dreams. When your men drift to sleep, I dare you to keep awake to watch. You will see what I mean after only a little while. They are harmless, Avery Brennan, that much I assure you. Do I look like the kind of woman who would lead you to carnivorous trees so that you would die a painful death and the island would be rid of you?

Dark eyes glanced over bare shoulder towards him, the look she possessed telling Avery that he didn’t really need to answer. In truth, she hadn’t really given any of them a reason to trust her; that much she could understand. The ways of her world were not the same as their own, and it would prove difficult to simply assume that they would trust her blindly. She wouldn’t put it past them to believe that she would lure them to their deaths so that she could be rid of them.

Suddenly, Erri came to an abrupt stop; her halt fast enough that Avery would have little time to side-step her. She spun, white hair flowing about narrow shoulders as she found his wrists and circled them easily with bronze fingers. “Avery Brennan, ez zara inoiz ausartu behar bizitzea nahi baduzu.” Dark eyes shone intensely, even in the low light, as she scanned the features of his face. The grip on his wrists was tight, commanding even, but not forceful enough that he wouldn’t be able to shake her off if he wished. There was more than just the difference of the metallic sheen to her skin if Avery would compare his own sun-kissed tan to her bronze. Her fingers came with the same scorching heat as a burning iron, though not entirely unpleasant; hot enough even to raise goosebumps of pleasure as it scolded sensitive skin.

You must not venture beyond the clearing if you wish to live. I cannot be any more blunt than this. Things will visit you in the night. As much as I wish to, I cannot stay simply to ensure that you all see morning. You must keep them safe. The things that stalk the night will come to you in all shapes, but you must not believe what you see. Do you understand what I am saying? In this world, not everything is as it seems. Beasts are able to change their forms into whatever the heart desires in order to lure their prey from the safety of the trees. You may see a loved one, but it will not be them. You must stay in the trees until it is dawn, until I come for you. Only then are you safe.

Her touch lingered, fingers tightening just a fraction about Avery’s wrists before she slowly, hesitantly, released them. The corner of her mouth twitched, her smile more akin to a shy grimace as fingers slid from around sturdy bones and Erri stepped backwards to gift the seaman space. “Utzidazu erakusten.” A finger traced the inside of his palm, the touch soft enough to be teasingly light as she moved towards the thick base of a Soul Tree, set apart from its brothers in the clearing. Although she had released his wrists, she clasped at his hand, tugging Avery towards the Goliath. Just as she always moved, Erri was graceful even now as she spun about him, moving to his back as she encouraged him forward. With bronze fingers slipping between caramel, the meat of her palm pressed into the back of his hand, Erri pressed his palm into the bark of the tree. She had risen onto the tips of her toes, leaving only an inch between her chest and Avery’s back. Yet, as she felt the bark begin to quiver beneath their combined touch, she pressed forward against him to drop sharp chin to his shoulder as she sighed softly. “Soul Tree,” she murmured, almost sleepily, into his ear.

The wood quivered and trembled beneath his hand like the twitching muscle of a beast responding to a gentle touch. It vibrates softly, to the very same tune that Erri knew to be the hum of Avery’s mind, as the warmth from their palms began to spread over the bark. It took only a moment before the magic began, and Erri remained pressed to his back as if to ensure that he would not move away out of fear. This tree, much like its kin, was engraved with archaic symbols and runes; markings very similar to those inscribed in dark ink over her own skin. An ember of blue light began to glow beneath their stacked hands, the light pulsing gently before it began to spread like wildfire; bleeding into the neighbouring runes until the entire trunk began to pulse with iridescent glow.

It wasn’t until Erri was sure that he would not pull away that she withdrew her hand from over his own, though she remained lingering over his shoulder; watching the side of his face intently. There was a pulse of light, a throb like a heartbeat, that drew her attention from his features. The pale blue glow was like a tendril of smoke, weaving its way over the caramel flesh of his hand. She knew the sensation, how it would have tickled as it lightly grazed over his knuckles in an inquisitive touch, but she held her breath as the runes across the bark began to pulse a little quicker.

It thinks that you are one of us, she murmured softly within his mind, pressing her feeling of wonder against the forefront of his mind as they shared this. As the sharp point of her chin remained nestled atop his shoulder, Erri tiled her face just a fraction to the side to eye the side of his face. What did this man have that the other’s did not? What did he have that meant that the Soul Trees recognised his as one of their own? Why did the hum of his mind feel so familiar to her? Eyes closed in contemplation, just as the tendril of blue glow transformed into the resemblance of a small creature.

The magic of the light was still connected to the runes by a small wisp that acted as an anchor, but the glow that had once been a tendril was now something more akin to a small field mouse. It hovered above his hand, chittering silently, before it revealed a set of sparrow’s wings and leapt from his knuckles. It spun and it dove, the mouse crafted from nothing but light dancing mischievously. With a small sigh, Erri’s eyes fluttered open once more to find the mouse bouncing over Avery’s knuckles to dive off into the air. The smile that tugged at the corner of her lips was genuine as it was warm.

Do you see now that there is nothing ominous about them? We call them Soul Trees because of their innate magic. They can create life from nothing, if they wish. They maintain the balance of this world, just as they are the Gatekeepers of the After. As suddenly as she had invaded his space, Erri moved away from him, turning her back to both Avery and the tree as she moved towards the shadow of a fern. We should return to the clearing before your men grow suspicious. But Erri did not move on without him, nor was her tone its usual cold and smooth tone. Instead, something inside her had seemed to shift as she lingered in the gloom, watching Avery with a certain fondness, the hint of a warm smile ghosting across rose lips.
 
OP
Fates.Gamble

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
She may have complimented it, but Avery didn’t feel overly perceptive at the moment. If anything, he felt like he was losing his mind, what with all the things he’d witnessed over the last couple hours. But never mind being astute, it was the following compliment that really caught his attention. The mind hums? He thought, but dared not speak out his ignorance for fear of tarnishing the praise he just received; especially after that taunting smile practically dared him to. So he held his tongue, feeling an odd swell of pride while she described the tune of his consciousness. He couldn’t say how much of a compliment it truly was, but it at least gave him solace to know that she couldn’t glean his every thought and feeling.

“I’m afraid I don’t have your gift of hearing such harmonies, so I’ve no other tune to compare it to,” Brennan confessed, as if she didn’t already know he suffered such deafness. It sounded a stupid thing to say, now that he thought about it. But then, most words felt like mush in his mouth when he spoke to her. Bloody hard woman to talk to, he concluded. He could converse for hours when it came to way-finding and general life at sea, but he hadn’t a clue how he was supposed to respond to all this talk of reading minds. Even so, he was burning with a curiosity to hear the song of Erri’s. In his head, he pictured a lovely, yet haunting melody of thoughts, one befitting her captivating mystique.

The captain shuffled a step closer to the snowy haired goddess, keeping up with her graceful stride as though the proximity would allow him to better hear the hum of her mind. The tune of her thoughts was still lost to him, but the life of the forest remained a rich melody that teased his ears. The insects all about treated them to a concert of thrumming and buzzing, while avians high above them added their chirps to the song. And ever was there the crystal-like leaves tinkling the tree tops to listen to. It filled the silence as Avery once more found himself struggling to find the right words. Everything about Erri was such a culture shock... How was he supposed to form coherent sentences in the presence of such an eerily powerful woman? Erri May have praised the complexities of his mind, but if he was honest, he felt as clueless as a child next to her.

The sound of the twig breaking pulled him from those thoughts, bringing him to quietly observe and wonder at Erri. She wasn’t the first native he’d seen to forgo shoes, but usually the rest of their clothing was equally crude. Erri’s people, however, seemed possessed of skilled tailors. Her garb was far more elaborate than he would have expected from the inhabitants of such a brutal, isolated environment. And she knew of steel, too, he remembered her referring to their weapons. Her people had to be somewhat advanced, and Avery could only ponder what her home must be like. As vast as this forested world seemed to be, they could likely hide entire cities within it.

“Thank you,” Avery told her as Erri held aside the foliage barring their path, allowing him to pass. As the let it spring back into place, the resulting shower of dew was a cold shock against his flush skin, a refreshing surprise that brought him to shiver. The smell of rain yet lingered in the air, and based on the wet, muddy terrain, it looked as though they’d just missed a substantial torrent. One thing to be thankful for, he noted, glad they hadn’t been caught in such a storm. Better to be stuck on a beach than capsized by the waves. Or so he hoped, anyway. It was only by the skin of their teeth they made landfall, and based on everything Erri had to say of this place, the dangers were far from over.

By now, Avery was becoming used to Erri’s means of communication, though he wasn’t sure he would ever fully grow accustomed to it; the sensation of a foreign entity penetrating his mind was just too alien. But at least it no longer sent a wave of goosebumps a across his skin every time she spoke. “Well, it does have a sort of eerie ring to it,” he confessed of the oddly named trees. She said they were harmless, but her explanation, while intriguing, left him no less on the fence about this. “They feed... on dreams?” This place was just growing stranger and stranger. Avery looked up into canopy above them, hundreds of thousands of dew-covered leaves appearing like sparkling emeralds while the sunlight spilled across them. Could those goliaths truly reach into a man’s mind and feast upon his reveries? He never would have believed it before meeting Erri, but it was far more tangible after speaking with a woman that could whisper thoughts into his head. And he was still on the fence about her, as well, evidenced by the way he came to a dead stop in his tracks, watching Erri critically over her jest of a question. The look she sported said it was rhetorical, but he found himself searching for a response anyway.

“I’m not sure how I’m supposed to answer that...” Brennan admitted in the end, his thoughts turning back to when he’d seen her eyes go blacker than the abyss. Had he not the gift of forethought or personally seen her drive away that sea serpent, Avery likely would have shared the fears of his men, and struck her down then and there. “You do have a certain... air about you.” Eyes swept her form in contemplation... But regardless of her appearance or preternatural abilities, Erri had proven sincere and compassionate so far. She didn’t have to save them from that terrible beast; she could have let them all find their way down to Davy Jones’ Locker.

The question now is, why did she save us? Wondered Avery in his confidence. There was still every chance it was for more selfish or nefarious reasons. If the Soul Trees feed on dreams... what do her people feast on? He felt a little silly over the thought, but he’d hardly be the first explorer to have run amok of cannibals. Such an idea was quickly denounced, however, washed away with a smile as he fell back into stride. “Well, if that’s where you’re taking me I suppose I’ll just have to be content with my fate,” he said, stepping over a large, gnarled root, and catching back up to her side. “If it was either to be eaten by trees or eaten by that huge sea snake, I think I’d take the trees. Far less teeth.” And better to die in your sleep any day. His unspoken question from before sprang to mind again, though Avery merely eyed Erri with a sideways glance, and could not bring himself to ask why she interfered just yet.

It was Erri who came to a stop this time, and Avery halted in surprise, finding his wrist seized in her unnaturally warm grip. Dark eyes swept up to her face in confusion as she spoke his name aloud, and captured his undivided attention. The action was so sudden, her gaze so serious and intense, that his heart skipped a beat and the whole world seemed to fall still and quiet. In that moment he could swear he understood the meaning of her words; that he could decipher the foreign language as easily as though it were his mother tongue. Yet no sooner than clarity arrive did it flee, escaping his grasp to become a faded memory he could no longer make sense of. It was hard to make sense of anything at all, really, what with Erri staring into his eyes like that, her scorching touch burning away his every concern until she was the only thing on his mind.

His mind was a haze, even as her voiced echoed throughout it. Though, once he understood what she was saying, Avery seemed to sober up, lucidity returning to his chocolate eyes; only for brows to knit in confusion at her words. “I can’t say that I do understand...” he admitted. “What are these, things, exactly?” Her explanation was quick to follow, and had Erri’s touch not been so tantalizingly hypnotic, he might have pulled away from her grip, revolted. “Beasts that wear the face of loved ones?” He was as skeptical as he was appalled by the idea, even with how convincing her urgent tone was. “Have you any idea how crazy this all sounds?” And yet, there wasn’t much room for doubt; not when he’d seen her abilities, and felt the thrum of energy beneath the bark of these curious trees. Avery had to look away from her piercing gaze a moment, leasing a sigh that seemed to carry all of his tension and confusion with it. “I still can’t make much sense out of all this, but very well. I will do as you say.” Perhaps once he saw these horrors for himself he would gain a better understanding. But, after the description, he wasn’t all that keen to witness one of the preternatural beasts.

Even after Erri released his wrists, Avery could still feel the lingering heat of her touch. Her fingers left a molten trail where they grazed across his palm, but just as it seemed the warmth would fade, she snatched up his hand, returning all that fire as she ushered him on and excitedly nudged him towards the colossal soul tree. It was far more than her touch that had him running hot as Erri took her place abaft him, melding their hands as one and encouraging him to reach out and touch the tree as he did the ones back in the glade. His mind felt clouded at the proximity; at the mesmerizing heat of her skin and the sweet fragrance of nature that she emanated. The vibrations of the tree helped to clear the haze, bringing him back to this strange reality even as Erri pressed herself into his back and rested her chin upon his shoulder. The soft words whispered in his own tongue were like a spell, causing a shiver across his skin as the tree came to life and revealed its true nature.

To feel the tree move as a living beast beneath his touch was both wondrous and frightening. Avery stiffened at first, his body tensing against Erri, though her careful position ensured he did not step away. Though, even if he had squirmed free, nothing could have drawn his attention from the tree. Dark eyes widened, the blue light of the soul tree reflecting in them as he watched the energy spread out to create a spectacle the likes of which he’d ever seen. His gaze traveled up the dizzying heights of the enormous tree trunk, now ablaze like a sapphire beacon, until the wisp of smoky blue light playing across his hand brought his attention back down back down. Avery’s breath hitched with some surprise at the feel of it tickling across his skin, yet even more astounding was the how alive and inquisitive it seemed. Erri herself confirmed this with the comments ushered into her mind. Her own wonder flooded into his mind, mingling with his own emotions over the event.

“It... thinks?” He blurted, unbelieving even as he watched the wispy energy curiously investigating his hand. He soon learned it could do far more than that, his eyes as wide as teacups as the tendril transfigured into a far more complex imitation of life. The little creature looked as though it was torn right out of his memories, resembling the winged mammals he’d seen earlier, though much smaller in scale. Avery’s eyes tracked the mouse’s every move, watching in amazement as it danced about his knuckles, only to dive away and take to the air on silent wings. Even as Erri spoke to him, explaining the nature of the trees, he could not manage to look away from it.

“But how is this possible?” He demanded, only granting her his full attention once the little azure mouse had fluttered out of sight. “To create life from nothing... How can these trees have the power of a god?” And furthermore, what did she mean by Gatekeeper of the After? He wasn’t entirely certain he wanted to know the answers if he was honest... Avery’d hardly been here 10 minutes and already this place was making him question everything he thought was real. Maybe that serpent devoured me after all, he thought, for surely this could not be the same, rational Earth he’d always known. Maybe he was already in this ‘After’ she referred to.
And just like that, Erri swept away, granting him his personal space back, which he was not certain if he was grateful or disappointed for. The girl was unnerving at best, but now the world felt much bigger, much more confusing than he was used to. Suddenly devoid of her close proximity, that realization now has plenty of room to settle in. Avery turned to face her, only to find her back as she inched towards the shadows of the foliage. Avery’s gaze dropped to his feet as she suggested they return.

“Yes...” he agreed, albeit it hesitantly. So many questions now lingered at the back of the mind, leaving unsettled with the idea of parting from her now. But she was right of course; now was not the time for the captain to be gallivanting off with her, not while his men sat idly by with their growing suspicions. And more than that, daylight would be fading before long, and Avery was none too interested in meeting these creatures Erri described. But those worried were quelled as the golden skinned goddess looked back at him with a warm smile. That warmth radiated out to penetrate him, heating Avery right down to his core.

“We’d better get a move on then,” he suggested, feeling smaller than ever beneath the weight of everything he’d seen, and that heated look Erri passed his way. Somehow it made her even more difficult to talk to than she already was, rendering Avery silent as he followed her back the way they’d come. All the while his mind was running wild, recalling the amazing scene he’d witnessed and lingering over what Erri said. One of them... Why the Soul Tree had declared him as such was a mystery to Avery. In his heart he meant these people no ill will, of course, but his reasons for coming to this land were anything but diplomatic. The sudden trust he was granted worked only to form a small seed of guilt and doubt in the pit of his gut, for even as they walked these beautiful woods, his eyes occasionally jumped to this tree or that, silently contemplating if it would be good enough timber for repairing his vessel. This made him even more reluctant to carry on a conversation, though he finally spoke up once they were a short distance away from the glade where they’d left their men. There, he came to a stop.

“Not to be rude, but, maybe we should part ways here,” he announced, looking at Erri softly. “I have much to discuss with my men, and given the tension, I think it would set them at ease to see me returning alone.” It felt painful saying as much after all the help she’d given them, not to mention the wonders she showed him. Even as they stood there, lingering on their farewell, he was still batting around the implications of it all. “You’ve given me more than enough to think about for a while too, I’d say.” With something of an exasperated sigh, Avery ran a hand through his hair, smoothing down the dark locks. “And fear,” he added, thoughts jumping back to the horrors she promised. “I’m still not sure what to make of all this, but I will make sure my men do as you suggest...”

Avery found himself lingering now, caught glancing between the way he had to go and the woman yet standing before him. Why was he so hesitant to see her off? Must be the nerves, he decided, remaining anxious over everything to come. If her words held true, this dangerous world would be far more harrowing without her expertise. But Avery couldn’t help but think there was more to the hesitation. “When can I expect to see you again?” He found himself asking, a spark of excitement tingling through his veins at the prospect.
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Darkened eyes glanced backwards over golden shoulder, just as Erri turned to retrace the path she had guided them along. Your world must be a particularly mundane one if everything that I have said so far seems like insanity. I have never truly considered what the world must be like beyond the sea mist; it had never been something that stirred my curiosity. Now, however, you have me wondering what kind of world it would be to live without something as beautiful and as fantastical as the Soul Trees. Where do you go to grieve after you have lost a loved one? There was more to the Soul Trees than she had lead him to believe, they were something far more fundamental to her world than just towering monoliths that were able to create life from magic. She had mentioned that they were the Gatekeepers of the After and, in Avery’s world, they would have been likened to grave markers without such a macabre insinuation. They were places to grieve, loved ones’ souls absorbed by the roots after a thirteen-day ritual, gifting the magic that had created them back to the earth from which it came. The Soul Trees were the centre of their universe, deities in their own right, and they symbolised more than just the chaos of magic and life.

Fallen leaves were yet to decay, lining to forest floor in a colour still a vivid green. Erri’s pace, however, seemed to have slowed; not the previous rush to put as much distance between Avery’s men and herself. It did not take an overly observant individual to know that they watched her with distrust, likely plotting ways to be rid of her so they could enact some deplorable plan to deplete the island’s natural riches. Erri, however, didn’t need to watch their faces and read weathered expressions, instead only needing to listen to the rapid and rather irregular thrum of their minds as they began to grow nervous in Avery’s absence, despite her assuring them that the small grove was safest for them. A call of a primate creature called high above, its limbs spindly as it hung from a thick vine and looked down at the pair with glowing golden eyes too big for its face at the people who walked beneath it. It hesitated only a split second, Avery’s gaze needing to be quick to turn to the canopy if he were to catch sight of the beautifully nimble creature that was painted the same orange as the hibiscus flowers that grew closer to the shoreline, its tail a striped grey and white pattern. It chattered, its jaw clicking, before it took off into the dense canopy, calling for its troop.

“Colebrezi,” Erri murmured to the sailor, her tone soft with awe as she kept eyes to the twinkling green canopy far above them. One of the many benevolent creatures of this forest that appear far more fearsome than they truly are. They are gentle creatures, and fear fire. I doubt very much that they would come to visit you after nightfall, since they tend to migrate into the mountains after dusk. Another creature that is more likely to alert you to a coming threat than to be said danger. Her smile was small, encouraging, when warm chocolate eyes finally lowered to Avery’s face; the sailor once again stealing her attention before she nodded by way of suggestion at the track that continued to peel off to their right. Erri would be sure to deliver him to his men prior to nightfall, the walk not taking very long at all considering, as she wanted to ensure that they were all within the grove before dusk, so that she would be able to assist them into the trees.

Avery’s sudden hesitation at the edge of the glade, however, earned him a confused furrow of her brow as she looked between him and the warm grove. He was quite firm in his wish that they should part ways, suggesting that he required time alone with his men prior to nightfall in order to discuss something she wouldn’t, or shouldn’t be privy to. The primal instinct within the young woman twisted instantly, warning that something sinister would surely only come from such secrecy. What was he hiding that he didn’t wish for her to find? What did he want to discuss in the privacy of her absence? Why was Avery so suddenly certain that he wanted to be rid of her, despite how much she had already revealed to him? That slight furrow of her brow only deepened the more questions that gathered within her mind, as she took a step towards the captain and frowned with suspicion.

What I said before was not a suggestion. It was an instruction. Your men will not see the light of day if they do not obey, if they are greedy and foolish enough to believe the illusions the forest will paint beneath them in order to lure them from the trees. Even if they do manage to survive the night, but take more than they need and tread where they are not welcome….then it will not be the forest that they will need to fear.
Eyes had darkened once more to those inky orbs as her threat remained somewhat subtle and unspoken. They would not need to fear the forest if they ventured beyond the grove, they would need to fear the woman who had saved them in the first place. Erri set Avery with a firm look, one that dared him to test her words before she added; Do you understand?

With a sharp look sent over his shoulder towards the men she could hear chattering away in the glade amongst themselves, as if she could hear their whisperings of suspicion towards her, Erri turned from Avery and was swallowed whole by the shadow of the forest; like smoke of a breeze she was gone. The young woman left nothing behind in her wake to suggest that she had even been present, the dirt where she had stood left undisturbed and without footprint. If Avery were a man of lesser intelligence, there’d be momentary consideration as to whether he had either dreamt her, or whether he really was going stark-raving mad. The scent that was carried on the wind, the salt of the sea breeze and far more earthy tones, was the only suggestion that she had not been a figment of his crazed imagination, and that she was something tangible.

Avery was yet to see the way of her people, how they had traded so very many things in order to remain one with the land about them. The shadows had welcomed her like a parent would a child, encompassing her form so tightly as it whisked her away. Dark tendrils of these very same shadows lingered about her ankles as she crouched high on a branch of a Soul Tree, able to watch over them for several minutes more before deciding to leave them to their own fate. If Avery was so determined to take her words as a simple suggestion, and to believe that they did not require her assistance at least from dusk until true night fall, then they were not worth the time she would spend guarding them from above. Whatever it was that stalked them this coming night, she hoped that they would learn quickly that she was not the foe they needed to be concerned about, nevertheless that they should heed her words.

With a somewhat exasperated sigh through pursed lips, Erri ran fingertips briefly over the rigid bark of the Soul Tree, shifting her weight forward to press forehead against aged wood. What she muttered beneath her breath was a wish and a hope, but far from an instruction. There was no commanding the willowy trees that cast shadows that seemed as long as the island itself, just as there was no instruction. Instead, Erri’s people prayed and wished to the Trees, full of hope, and whether they were listened to or not was an entirely different story. After a little time, she straightened and stood proudly upon the thicker branch closer to the canopy, visible by the men below if they craned their necks and paid enough attention to notice the tendrils of white-glowing hair that curled as they were caught on the breeze. Just as the shadow had swallowed her whole before, it did again now; Erri disappearing from the grove only to reappear a little while away from the tree-line city of her people.

That night, Erri had very little rest; her mind contemplating how many would be left alive by morning, and whether she was a fool for saving them at all.
 
OP
Fates.Gamble

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
The guilt was like an iron nail, hammering into his chest once Avery saw Erri’s reaction to his decision. In truth, he was not so keen to see her off. There was still much and more to learn of this place, and Avery relished a chance to continue their conversation. But not all of the crew shared in their captain’s thirst for knowledge. The longer Erri remained around the superstitious lot, the greater their discontent. The seeds of mistrust would continue to grow, becoming as tall as the Soul Trees that sheltered them before long.

Before he could properly explain any of that, she stepped forward, the mistrust clearly written on her face. Avery held his tongue, carefully regarding the words she planted in his mind. Her warning struck a chord with the captain, though his expression betrayed none of it. So she will kill us if we explore these woods, he realized. That, or her people will. It made little difference which in the end. We may as well be her prisoners, then. A warm glade and a sandy beach made for fine cells, but if they had to remain on threat of death, then they were prisons all the same. Avery did not much favor the idea of incarceration.

“I understand,” he told her, a little flatly after the threat. “I will see to it those instructions are followed.”

Erri did not seem to convinced, her eyes saying more than her ethereal voice ever could as she gazed over his shoulder, eyeing the glade where the ones in question waited. Avery thought he might be relieved to see her go, but her silent and uncanny departure left him more unsettled than anything else. It was all he could do to stand there for a moment, gazing into the shadows that swallowed her without so much as a trace. He might have thought Erri was never there at all, had the experience not felt so tangible. Even then, he had his doubts. Maybe he’d gone mad at sea...

What is she? Avery wondered again, dissatisfied with the answer Erri had given when asked: ‘I am what you could have been, what your people could have been if they understood the rules of this world.’ What did she even mean by that? What rules? But then, a more pressing, more complicated mystery blanketed his mind.

What in the hells have I gotten us into? Captain Brennan ran a hand down his weary face, a heavy sigh pouring out of his lungs.

A fine mess, that’s what.

Somehow, he managed to put all that aside and take his leave, following the voices back to the glade. There he found his men much as he left them; a bit more vocal, perhaps, but that fell to a hush once their captain emerged from the foliage, no sign of the witch he’d left with. Some men stood upon his arrival, others remained seated, propped lazily against the roots of the monolith trees, but all eyes were on the man as he marched back into the glade. Consciously aware of that fact, Avery strode to the very center, and lifted his voice to address them all.

“Right, boys! I won’t lie to you, we’ve sailed ourselves into a proper nest of vipers, and as far as I can tell, there’s no easy way out. Given the situation, I understand any concerns or questions you lads might have, but down to business first, eh?”

Avery took the time to explain what Erri warned him about, telling his crew of the vicious creatures said to stalk these woods at night. He did not go into quite the detail Erri did, not wanting to spook them with the prospect of these macabre illusions she mentioned. Still, he made sure to emphasize the danger, making sure they realized that to disobey the instructions would result in death. And, despite their already growing suspicious, he explained the danger Erri and the rest of her unseen kind posed as well.

“That’s why it’s imperative we stay up in the trees,” he told them, gesturing to the more than questionable path leading up into the boughs. “No matter what you might see or here, do not leave the branches before sunrise. Now, I’m told the lads back at the ship should more or less be out of harm’s way, but I’d still rather they be informed of all this. So I’m going to need a runner. A couple, actually. As long as we’re stuck here, we move in pairs or more. No one goes anywhere alone, nor unarmed.”

A couple of volunteers stepped forward, boasting of their speed and ability to get the job done. Avery sized them up, eyeing them seriously before relaying the rest of his instructions. “The sun will be setting soon,” he told them. “You won’t have time to risk a return trip, so you’ll have to stay with the others for the night. Be on your guard, we still can’t be sure what to expect from this place.”

That said, the two sailors wasted no time in dashing off, rifles strapped to their backs as they disappeared back into the brush. Then came the tiresome forum of questions and worries, which Avery did his best to answer and quell. The captain was used to being the man with answers, but most of their concerns revolved around the mysterious woman who guided them here, and Avery could do very little to satiate that curiosity. He himself was burning to know more of the woman, and until he did it was nigh impossible to say what her true motives or abilities may be. Worse yet were the inquiries of their damaged ship and the plan of action for getting her sea worthy. The men were none too pleased to hear that all they could do for now was wait and gauge the situation. Their anxiety was palpable by the time the discussion cane to an end, Avery deciding the time had come to make their way up into the canopy above. He’d already scouted out the climbing path, finding it manageable, but staring up at the Goliath from below felt more than a little precarious.

“Alright, let’s take it nice and easy boys,” he warned them, watching as the first brave soul stepped forward to first of the laddering branches.

The rest of the men were unsettlingly quiet as they watched him begin the climb, traversing the first few branches without incident. Once he was a decent way along, Avery sent up the next man, and the next, and so on. Before long, most of the men were off the ground, spreading out into the branches up above. As was customary, Avery and Harper remained behind, waiting to see that all of their men were safely on their way before finally making the climb themselves. Just as the anxiety was palpable, so was the tension between the captain and his boatswain. Neither had words for other, the hostility of the day still fresh in their minds. But Avery didn’t put much stock in it. Spats happened; it was to be expected when so many different personalities shared such tight quarters for so long. Surely by the morning they’d make amends; or so they might have done, had one of his two runners not come bursting back on the scene, heavy of breath and a face riddled with concern.

“Cap’n Brennan!” He shouted, breathlessly. Eyes picked out the captain easily enough among the few men that remained on the ground. He rushed over, gulping down a quick breath of air before explaining himself. “Sir! Me and Winslow was headed to the ship like you ordered.” He paused for more air. “We’d made it out of the woods and back to the beach when we came across a set of tracks.”

“Tracks? What sort of tracks?” Avery inquired, wondering why such a thing would warrant disobeying his orders.

“Man tracks,” he told him pointedly. “Bare footed prints coming right up out of the drink and stumbling into the woods. Reckon its got to be Finn or one of the others that went over, Cap’n. Winslow went on ahead to relay your orders, but we thought you had to know about this.”

“If one of our men are out there,” Harper started to say, jumping ahead of the captain before Brennan could get so much as a word in, “Then we’ve got to go after ‘em. We look out for our own.” There were some murmurs of agreement from the lingering men.

Avery ruminated over this turn of events, head turning to the canopy above, where he tried to measure roughly how long they head until sunset. It was difficult to tell, what with the dim green light that filtered through to the floor, but judging by how quickly that was fading, they didn’t have long. If Finn or one of the others truly were out in that jungle, there was no way they could find him and get to safety before darkness fell.

“We can’t,” Avery told them, his tone firm as he made the most difficult of decisions. Looks of incredulity greeted him, but Avery met each of their gazes with a steely one of his own. “I’ve told you all what awaits us if we don’t get into the safety of these trees before nightfall.”

“Told us what she told you, more like,” his Bostswain argues, his anger spiking like before. “How do we even know she’s telling the truth? We’re to abandon one of our own while some foul witch spins us a yarn?”

“You’ve all seen what she can do. What cause do we have to doubt her words? This place is unlike anything we’ve ever seen, yet she calls it home. Until we know more, we have no choice but to accept her words as truth. To do otherwise is to tempt death.”

“Stay if you want,” Harper replied to his captain, seething. He then lifted his voice, letting it carry across the entirety of the glade. “That goes for the rest of you as well! Go ahead, cower away up in those trees where the demon tells you it’s safe. As for me? I’m goin’ back into those woods to look for our man! Any of you that still know how to find your balls are welcome to join me.”

There was a moment’s hesitation, tension filling the atmosphere while the crew found themselves caught between two feuding officers. Harper’s eyes roamed over each of them accusingly, before falling on Avery once more. The captain met his boatswain’s steely gaze, his face placid all things considered. He uttered not a word, the glade falling victim to an uncomfortable silence while the men weighed their choices. Then, a few shuffled forward to join the mutineer. Likewise, a couple more climbed down from their place among the branches. By the end of it, Harper and five other insubordinates stood before their captain.

“Let’s go,” announced the boatswain upon eyeing his flock. “That is, unless you plan to pull the fuzee on us again.” Cold eyes were narrow as pinpoints as they stared Avery down.

Avery would have been lying if he said he wasn’t considering it. Yet, instead of reaching for his flintlock, he merely stepped aside, granting them passage into the woods beyond. “No need,” he told them, attention focused squarely on Harper, “If you leave this glade, you’re as good as dead already.”

The comment was met with a scoff from the boatswain, who shoved past the captain without so much as a look back. The five other sailors were hot on his heels, weapons held nervously as they struck out into the brush. Avery watched, eyes furious as the last of them disappeared into the fading light, sealing their fate. If Erri was right about this place, which he had little reason to doubt, than whatever end they met would be punishment enough for such disobedience. But there was another reason for letting them go as well. What would Erri or her people do if they found sailors wandering where they shouldn’t be? Perhaps it was a cruel experiment, but as of now, they were mutineers anyway. As for the rest of the crew, they stood by awkwardly, unsure of what to make over the sudden departure. A sharp command from the captain to continue their ascent set their wits straight, though.

Once the last man began his climb, Avery finally scrambled up after them. The intrinsic, emerald light of the glade was just enough to see by, granting up safe passage up into the bows with his men. A fell breeze crept through, creating an ominous melody from the strange leaves as they stood there, many gazing down at the impossible height. One misstep from these gnarled branches and that would be the end of a man. And that seemed all the more likely once Avery gave his next order.

“Right,” he began, leasing a weary sigh, “We’ve got to put out the torches,” he explained, drawing looks of incredulity.

The glade protected them well enough from the wind, keeping them warm as Erri promised. That said, no man was eager to give up their light to see by. Yet, they were even less eager to test the captain after having weathered one act of insubordination already. There was no plank to walk, but he could throw them from these branches just as surely. And so, one by one, the crew doused their torches. The air filled with a thin clip of smoke as the flames hissed away, the dying light closing in around them.

Already, the forest was alive with sound, it’s many hidden inhabitants making their presence known through a symphony of unfamiliar noises. It was unsettling to say the least, leaving the sailors on edge even as they nestled themselves among the boughs as comfortably as was possible. The concert only grew louder, more menacing by the time the sun had set and darkness truly embraced the land. Sleep would not come easy if at all. Mournful howls and ominous chitters had them all jumping at shadows, Erri’s descriptions vivid in their minds.

“Sounds like they’re close enough you can touch ‘em,” said one quivering sailor, matchlock rifle gripped tightly in his hands. “Haven’t seen a damn thing though.”

“We’re safe up here,” Avery assured him. The captain was sitting with his back propped against the large trunk of the soul tree, legs stretched out and crossed at the ankles, and his own rifle laying at the ready across his lap. “Just stay calm and try and get some rest.”

His own eyes drifted closed, Avery trying to take his own advice and block out the terrible music of the night. Out in the distance their was a terrible scream; the unmistakable sound of some poor creature finding itself between the jaws of another. It did much to undo their captain’s assurances...

“We never should have come here,” another member of their crew was uttering. “Even if we make it off this rock and back on the sea... That leviathan will drag us to the bottom of it just like it did the others!”

Avery was keen to agree that they might have a made a mistake in coming to this place, but in truth he did not fully believe that. If they’d never come then he never would have witnessed Erri and the incredible power she possessed. While the majority of his crew sat obsessing over the many things that might come for them in the night, Avery found his thoughts drawn more to the mysterious woman and her hair as white as snow. He could still hear her words emanating throughout his mind... Her alluring, ethereal voice captivating him even in its memory.

How does she do it? he wondered, trying to picture how one might speak with their mind. Eyes jumped around, investigating the nervous faces of his men and reflecting on what Erri had said of them. She could feel their minds, or so she led him to believe. Avery tried to clear his thoughts and focus on the idea of feeling such a thing, but it was to no avail. Even if he were able to pull off Erri’s tricks, no doubt all he would sense was their anxieties, for their fear was thick enough to taste even without psionic ability. All this he considered even as his crew murmured amongst themselves, most agreeing the with last sailor’s assessment.
~

Time crept by slowly as the men kept to their safe haven, each doing his best to nestle into the most comfortable spot possible in the branches. So far, it seemed as though Erri’s warnings were for naught. While the sound of faceless predators could still be heard in the night, they remained in the distance, none seeming interested in their sleepy glade. Avery kept his firearm nearby all the same, remembering too well the look upon Erri’s face as she spoke of the potential danger. While no beast had shown its face, the mists that initially cloaked this place had crept inland with the night, smothering the forest floor and making it impossible to see one even if it had. But a few hours on now, most men were comfortable enough to close their eyes and allow sleep to claim them. Even Avery was starting to nod off by the time they finally heard it: the sound of a familiar voice, wailing in pain and sorrow.

The shrill cry roused every one of them, confusion and alarm settling in. There was no pinpointing the direction of the voice; it seemed to come from no where and yet everywhere all at once. Avery found himself on the feet, possessed by the eerie vocals as he took gun in hand, and crept towards the edge of the branch that housed him. Straining his eyes, he peered out into the darkness, looking for the source of distress. Silence was all that greeted him, the scream dying off. Then, there was a note of excitement from one of his crew.

“There they are, Cap’n!” The man called, pointing down into the mists with enthusiasm. “It’s Davy and the others! Looks like they’re in trouble!”

“Where?” Avery demanded, following the gesture with his eyes. All he could see was the fog, milky white and all consuming. In the excitement, Erri’s words were lost to him. He continued to scan the most, as did the rest of their group, all eyes searching for the missing half of their crew. Yet, none save the first could see them through the shroud, and, frustrated by their shortcomings, he decided to climb down and prove it. That’s when the reality settled in.

“Wait!” Brennan shouted, moving to intercept the sailor. But he was like a man possessed, showing reckless abandon in the way he dropped from the topmost branch and landed upon the one below before the captain could even reach him. Avery was instantly reminded of his helmsman and the way he’d carelessly steered their vessel towards the rocks. He’d only caught a glimpse of it, but this new run away sailor seemed to have that same glossy look to his eye; the look of a madman rushing to his premature death.

Dreading the idea of losing yet another man, Avery rushed after him. His sense of self remaining, however, the captain could not throw himself down the climb quite as fast as his crewman. It was miraculous the man hadn’t slipped to his death the way he was going about it. Yet, somehow, the crazed man moved as though he were one of Colebrezi living among the canopy. Avery remained a good five steps above even as he flung himself from one branch to the next. There was no reaching his quarry before he reached the mist, and only once he had did his senses finally seem to return.

The sailor came to a stop, standing perfectly still upon the precipice of the fog. The bottom of the glade was close enough now that a fall might leave a man broken but alive, but the haze remained so thick you’d be forgiven not to realize it. To Avery, however, it seemed like the crewman was only just seeing the mist for the first time. He stumbled back a step, head whirling this way and that as he looked for something that appeared to vanish right before his eyes.

“I... I don’t understand,” he stammered, gazing into milky haze. “They were just here! I saw them!”

Davy and the others were no where to be found, but Avery was just a few branches above when he spotted something else. His heart leapt into his throat when he saw a giant, black, spindly arm shoot up out of the mist, and watched it’s gnarled, four-clawed hand snatch the crewman. He was gone an instant later, screams muffled by the bony fingers closing around him as he was dragged into the mist.

Avery’s heart started up again, racing faster than ever now as he turned about and began to climb back up the branches. He didn’t dare look back to see if that arm was reaching for him next, but the creature was probably too distracted, if the retreating sound of gnashing teeth and tearing flesh was anything to go by. He did his best to ignore that, sparing no time to mourn the loss as he climbed furiously, fighting to make it back to the safety of the boughs. He could scarcely remember the climb by the time he finally made it, the whole moment surreal as he fell against the tree trunk and gasped for breath. The men bombarded him with questions, having not quite seen what transpired from their perch, but Avery could not find it in himself to elaborate.

“He’s dead,” was all he could say, heart still racing even several minutes later, “And if any of us follow him down there, we will be too.”

That was enough to dissuade them for now, discouraging the crew from so much as glimpsing the misty floors and the fate that waited down there. Though, unfortunately for the lot of them, it also meant one hell of a restless night, not a one of them getting more than an hour’s sleep as they attempted to hold out until sunrise.
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
The sun was slow to rise the next morning, tendrils of caramel light filtering down from atop the glistening canopy. Whatever horrors that had visited them during the night had disappeared with the darkness, creeping back into the holes of the earth as shadows grew shorter. Erri did not need to brush against their minds to understand what little sleep they were able to get had not been of great quality, their fears of what stalked beneath far from calming. There was little that she could fault them for, being in an unfamiliar place with dangers at every turn, under the instruction of a peculiarly coloured young woman who seemed more witch than human. Still, she stretched lean muscled arms high above her head, the motion rather feline in nature, as she yawned and peered down at the resting Avery. He had seen what she had warned him of. He had seen the truth; the skeletal hands that would snatch those who wandered only to devour them alive. Avery was yet to understand the worst of it all, to see the human-like faces of the creatures that haunted even her nightmares. The world was crafted from opposites; wherever there was light, there would always be darkness to follow. Bronze eyes assessed his face, wondering how many hours of rest he was able to get had been peaceful.

You saw them.

Erri would not wish him the petty pleasantry of a ‘good morning’, knowing that the halved numbers of those who remained with him within the tree tops would surely weigh heavily upon him once mind cleared. She had counted a significant loss when she had arrived on the narrower branches above them, knowing precisely where the rest would have ventured to in order to meet their bloody ends. Glowing white hair was braided away from her face, though wisps still licked at the dimples at her cheeks, only to be quickly brushed behind pierced ears. Brows were pulled together, her look one of contemplation as she searched his face.

You saw what I spoke of last night, Avery Brennan, but you did not see the worst of what is to come.

The thick branch which he had found himself upon, his back pressed into the solid trunk of the Soul Tree, shifted just barely as Erri dropped into the space before him. Long legs straddled wood, swinging either side as she pressed olive palms against the branch between them, edging a little closer to the man she had hoped would listen to her warning. Head cocked to the side, Erri taking several moments to read his features as the warmth of her mind licked against the inside of Avery’s own, her presence clearer now as his spirit became more receptive to her intrusion. Chocolate fingers found the flesh of his knee, squeezing a little more tightly than she intended, the motion an attempt to be reassuring as she contemplated what it must feel like to be in a world so far away from one’s own, with dangers waiting around every corner.

Were you able to get any sleep? I suppose not, considering. One of your men went wandering from the beach, straying from the others you had left behind. He was lucky that I remained behind to watch you a little while longer, or else he would have ended up meeting the same fate as the rest who dared to question your authority. Your man is safe, though a little shaken as is to be expected, though I cannot make comment about the others.

Olive finger pointed down into the glade beneath them, an act aimed to draw Avery’s attention to the man who squatted by the pond’s edge, dipping a stick into the mirrored surface as he annoyed the fish. Though Avery may have looked away, Erri did not dare to do the same, instead shuffling a little bit closer towards the man before her, glimmering golden eyes not leaving his features as if she were afraid he’d disappear should she look away. Two fingers found the crook of his jaw, the touch gentle as they swept along the sharp edge of jawline before they caught his chin. Her touch now was far more firm, turning his face back to her and holding his chin between curled finger beneath and the pad of her thumb as amber eyes glanced between the vividly coloured orbs of his own.

You did well last night, Avery, despite all that you faced. I gave you far less credit yesterday than I should have. I may have saved you from the sea-beast, but I cursed you to survive my world, the leas that I can do is ensure that you remain safe. I understand that you have little reason to trust me, and I understand that you have even less of a reason to do so after all that I said yesterday when we were alone, but I hope that you can also understand that I need to keep my people and my world safe, also. Perhaps it was a mistake saving you and yours from the serpent, but I cannot know. Something drew me down from my post, something that made me act before I could think, and now I am left to wonder what, or who, it was.

The smooth pad of thumb caught the centre of Avery’s lower lip, dragging it down before it was released with a wet snap. Her hand fell away, Erri leaping to her feet to stand above him, balanced perfectly on the branch as she grinned down upon him.

Shall we take your men on an adventure today?
 
Top Bottom