The Island of Mist: Part One
"ALL HANDS ON DECK!" Logan roared. The Grarrl captain barreled through the middle of the ship, calling orders as he went and preparing what he could himself. The entire crew was preparing for the hurricane heading towards them.
Three weeks ago, when the crew had set off, it had been a beautiful day. The clouds were fluffy as a Gnorbu's wool and the sky looked as if the Air Faerie herself had blessed it. But now, with the sky bruised black and blue, it looked more to be the work of the Dark Faerie.
One thing was for sure: even if they did make it through this storm, their store of pottery from Qasala was not making it to Shenkuu in one piece.
"Captain!" Sareece called, her voice cracking with the strain of yelling at the top of her lungs to be heard over the howling. "The mast! Look out!"
Logan heard the Usul, his first mate, just in time to turn around and look up at the beams of wood above him.
And then there was black.
"Do you think he's all right?" asked a voice, tinged with concern.
"I don't know. Go over and find out, if you're so curious," another voice replied, sounding grumpy.
Logan grunted as he awoke. He could hear voices, but they were strange-sounding, like they were speaking underwater. He wondered momentarily if he'd sunk to the bottom of the ocean, before he registered the feeling of a warm breeze over his skin and the smell of flowers he couldn't place. It was a mix between roses and hydrangeas. The scent was marred slightly by the taste of sand on his tongue, affecting his ability to smell.
"Wait! SHHH, shut up. Stop talking. Did you hear that?" The concerned voice was excited now.
"Hear what?" scoffed the other.
"The big Grarrl over there. He made a noise. Listen!"
Logan could only assume the voices were speaking of him. Sunlight beaming down from between palm fronds made short work out of Logan's efforts to open his eyes. He blinked against the blinding light until his eyes could adjust. Heaving himself up to lean on his elbows, he searched for the voices.
"I told you I heard something," one of the voices muttered.
Logan whipped his head around towards the voices. Two Maraquan Aisha children who appeared to be twins were whispering back and forth to one another. Behind them, looking significantly older and more solemn, was an older Maraquan Aisha. From the resemblance, Logan guessed that this was their father.
"Greetings," the Aisha elder said. "Welcome to our island. That is, we welcome you if you are friendly towards us. My sons and I took a great risk in rescuing you from the sinking ship. Tell me, are you and yours of noble heart?"
Logan sat up straighter. He was still disoriented, and trying to make sense of the Elder Aisha's archaic way of speaking was taking him more time than usual. Putting a hand to his pounding head, he felt under his coarse hair soaked in sea salt to the bump underneath. He must have hit his head on something. No, wait... He remembered a beam. And before that, someone crying out to him...
A gasp escaped before he could stifle it.
"Where are my crew?" he asked no one in particular. He turned frantically side to side, searching for them.
"If it is the Usul, Mynci, and Shoyru of which you speak, they are lying further down the shore. They're fine," he added with a wave of his hand. "Napping, I should think. They were told to stay put, for their own health and safety. My sons and I told them we would search for you. They've waited for you for quite some time. We didn't think you'd wake up, but stood guard nevertheless."
"Thank you for that." Logan nodded with gratitude and breathed a sigh of relief. Everyone on their small ship was here. Tarin was safe. His surly but loyal companion had a survivor's spirit, but the storm had been harsh. Sareece was all right. He wouldn't know what to do with himself if anything happened to her. Both because she was the only other person on board who knew how to steer and captain a ship nearly as well as he did, and because she was his best friend. Even if nothing else in life was right, he knew that Sareece would be there. They had only met five years ago, but since then they'd been inseparable. Their best navigator, Del the Shoyru, was all right. That would be good for later, trying to get home without a map, since theirs had gone down with the ship. Not to mention that Del was an old friend, one of his oldest. They had grown up in the same small seaport village together, dreaming of when they would be sailors themselves. After some time, they had grown apart, but when they both apprenticed on the same ship, they had become close again. After some thought, Del had decided to join Logan on two or three trips. This trip was to have been the last. Logan found it ironic. Del had almost been home free.
Gathering himself, he rose to his feet. "Would you lead me to the others?" he asked. "I'd like to see them, make sure they're all right."
"You may see them. But first," the Elder put up a hand, "you must assure us that you are friendly towards us. As I said, we have taken a great risk in bringing you here."
The boys rolled their eyes.
"Dad. It's a fairy tale," one said.
"Yeah. Nobody's been seen around here since before we were born."
"That is precisely why you believe it to be a fairy tale," their father responded sternly. "You weren't here back then."
"Back when?" Logan asked, his curiosity piqued.
The elder narrowed his eyes. "Are you friendly towards us?" he asked again.
"Yes, yes," said Logan, exasperated. "You saved my life. Would you think so little of my honor?"
The Elder gave a satisfied nod. "Then you shall hear of the tale. You see, years and years ago, there was a prophecy written with the instructions that it be handed down throughout the generations. It spoke of a great evil, and a dark mist that would obscure all that was good on the island. It was foretold that it would happen, and indeed it has. After the mists came, we noticed the population acting oddly. Their eyes were glazed over, and they could not speak intelligibly. Slowly, they came together and began an exodus. No one knows where they went or what became of them. No one knows what great force is responsible, only that it must be defeated. The answers are said to be in the Temple of Salzar at the heart of the island, but, as you can see, we are unable to look for ourselves. As it is, the best we can do is patrol the outskirts of the island. We protect it from what we can, and hope for a miracle. This is why we were present when your ship began to sink."
"Wait, wait, wait," Logan began, remembering the blinding light he saw when trying to open his eyes only moments before. "What mist?"
"You do not see what is not right before your eyes, do you, young Grarrl? Look around you."
Immediately, a feeling of dread came over him, his stomach a bundle of sailor's knots tied too tight. All around them, the light shone bright like one would expect on a tropical island. But high above them, like a dome or a cage, was a wall so dark and clouded that he could not see out. It swirled, a black and purple horizon ever in motion, but never let itself break apart. There was no way out.
"What is this?" he whispered in dumbstruck disbelief.
"It is the power of darkness," replied the Elder. "It is all around us, and has been for seven years now. And you are going to help us destroy it."
Logan was silent for a beat, in shock. Whoa, he said, putting his hands up in front of him. "I'm eternally grateful to you for your assistance in saving myself and my crewmembers. But this is beyond my control. I don't know the first thing about magic, dark or otherwise. It can't be us you're looking for."
"How, then, did you break the barrier?" The Elder had a spark of amusement in his eye, an Aisha cornering the Miamouse.
"I-I don't know. I was unconscious at the time!"
"You are the ones sent to save us. The prophecy says it is so. There were only two possibilities for entry, according to legend. Either one who would cause the darkness to fall for all eternity would appear before we had a chance to stop it, or a chance for light would shine. You are that chance, that possibility. You are our only hope."
Logan ran his hands through his hair, trying to think. "What if it meant someone else?" he asked.
"One crew in the past seven years?" The Aisha raised one eyebrow. Through hurricane season, through storms, through even the simple errors of mischarted maps, you would imagine more would lose their way and find themselves here. Not to mention that the barrier is unbreakable." He shook his head. "No. You were intended to be here. You will help us." The Elder was solid, determined. But, slowly, he began to soften. When he spoke again, his voice was lowered, intending his words only to be between the Grarrl and himself. "Please. My boys, they don't know the outside. They have never seen Maraqua, the great kingdom that was fought so hard for. All I ask is that someone would fight just as hard on their behalf when I myself cannot. We are separated from everyone here. We went on a trip, intending to come back within a week. Now my wife, my sons, and I... we have no hope of escape. Do you have a family? Do you have a family?"
A determined Usul with such a bright spark of life inside her flashed before Logan's eyes. A Mynci who had never let him down. A Shoyru with a near-constant mischievous grin on his face.
"Yes," he replied quietly. "I have a family. And I would not have them now, if not for you." He passed a hand over his face, sighing. After a moment of silence, he shook his head, unable to believe what a simple trade route had turned into. "I'll help, he said, meeting the Elder's eyes. We all will. Tell us where to go, and we'll go. But first you have to do something for me. Take me to my crew. Take me to my family."
The sky was darkening as the Elder swam alongside the shore, leading Logan to his crew. The young boys had long since been sent off to bed, much against their wishes.
"It's not long now... ah!" The Elder stopped his swimming. "Here they are."
The words are scarcely out of his mouth before Sareece came careening down the stretch of sand and crashed into Logan. It would have sent him tumbling, had he been any smaller. Tarin jogged behind, his eyes shining. The Mynci never smiled often or for long, but for a moment, there was a smile on his face. Del, on the other hand, never lost his grin, as if it were attached to him as surely as his arms were. He wore one now, bigger than usual.
Sareece stepped back. "We thought..." she cleared her throat, attempting to be discreet. It doesn't do for a sailor to cry. Instead, she shoved Logan's shoulder. "We're glad you're safe."
Tarin nodded, his arms crossed. He hung back a bit, but if you knew him well enough, you could see the mixture of relief, gratitude, and worry playing across his features.
"Yeah, you dork!" Del said, punching Logan's arm from the other side. "Try not to almost send us to sleep with the fishes next time, huh? Some kind of captain you are. I knew I'd regret signing up with you." His voice was bright as always, but shook despite the fact.
"Speaking of," Tarin spoke up. "Did the fish tell you the same thing he told us?" he asked, jerking his head in the general direction of the Elder.
"I would hardly call him a fish," Logan said, but grinned despite himself. The Elder stiffened with offence, but that only served to make the situation more humorous to the rest of them. "And, yes, he did. I told him we'd go. He did save our lives, after all."
"Might as well," Del said. "It's not like we have a way back at the moment, anyway, since you managed to wreck our ship."
Tarin shrugged. "If you're going, I'm going."
Sareece jerked her head towards Tarin. "What he said. But how do we get there? We don't have any maps. Even if we did, this island doesn't even exist, according to any map I've seen."
"No, a map wouldn't have our island charted. It was never a popular island, even before it was obscured by darkness," the Elder said. "I'll lead the way as far as I can. There is a stream that flows inland for a good ways. From there, I'll have to send you on your way with only the knowledge I've gathered from the islanders who used to live here, as I've never been the entire way on my own."
"Then it's settled!" Logan clapped his large, calloused hands together. "At first light, we'll rise to gather provisions, and then we'll be on our way. For now, we sleep."
The next morning dawned slowly, as if the sun had a hard time shining through the mist at first. Once it had found its way, however, the light was again blinding as it had been the morning before. The wind was calm, but the sea nearby served to make it humid and muggy.
"This weather isn't doing your hair any favors." Del smirked at Sareece while he packed up what little provisions they'd managed to gather.
"Since when have I cared about my hair?" the Usul scoffed - but then patted it down the moment Del had turned away. "Concentrate more on your packing, and less on my hair," she muttered.
The Elder had gone away in the night to rest, but returned as soon as the first light hit the sands and sea. His knowledge proved to be invaluable. The crew didn't recognize the large majority of edible fruits and plants on the island, and someone was sure to have ended up sick. As it was, they had gathered some fruits they did recognize, and quite a few large purple blooms with berries growing in their centers. These were called Bin-yan berries, and were the flowers Logan had smelled before - that strange mix of roses and hydrangeas. They were sweet to the taste at first, but left a strange feeling on the tongue, as well as a bitter aftertaste. They weren't the best berries any of the crew had ever tasted, but they were quite filling, given their size, even if they were messy.
There were also strange fruits, about the size of an apple, called Isris fruit, which grew from parasitic vines that tried their best to take over the palm trees. Their outsides were inedible orange-colored rinds with bumpy textures, but their insides tasted faintly like citrus-infused bananas. Unlike the berries, they had little scent.
"Are you almost done?" Logan called from a ways down the beach. "I'm going to collect a few more of these Bin-yan berries, and that'll be it for me."
"I'm finished," Tarin announced. It wasn't surprising, as he was typically the most efficient of the group. A few moments passed in silence as they each finished their tasks.
"Is everyone ready?" the Elder asked. He had been observing and directing from the sidelines as needed.
Logan took one last look around. "I believe we are."
"Well, then," the Elder began, his eyes alight with excitement and nervousness, "Let us begin!"
To be continued...