Chapter 15: A Party of Three
For many moments there was a silence, as Brandyé and Elven stared in shock at where the fierund had plunged into the dark water. It was Kayla who broke it first, approaching them with her bow still in hand. “You are fortunate I happened by, it seems,” she said.
Brandyé stared at her, speechless, but Elven frowned and said, “How is it you happened by at all? It seems a strange coincidence that you should appear just as the beast attacked, and armed.”
Brandyé gaped at him, and hissed, “She saved our lives – you should be grateful!”
“If you must know, I asked her to join us,” said Elỳn. “I thought she might help us with our crossing.”
To Brandyé this sounded more than reasonable, but Elven said, “Then why bring a bow?”
But Kayla merely said, “There are fierundé about,” and indicated the water.
Elven appeared ready to continue the argument, but Elỳn said, “Come – we should not delay. I thank you, Kayla – we might all be dead if you had not come.”
Kayla nodded, and slung the bow over her shoulder. She moved toward the boat, and – somewhat reluctantly, it seemed – Elven moved aside to allow her to board. Elỳn grasped the boat’s stern and with a great heave launched it into the water. In a smooth motion she leapt into the boat with them, and before long the land had disappeared into the mist, and they were floating silently, lost in the darkness.
There were two oars in the bottom of the vessel, and wordlessly Elỳn and Kayla took them up and began to propel them forward, away from the Illuèn’s island and toward the shores of the lake, where they would once more enter into the Trestaé, and resume their journey – to wherever it might lead. Brandyé began to feel uneasy at the thought, knowing that whatever he and Elven might think of their skills in combat, they would nonetheless be at the mercy of the fierundé, and whatever other beasts and creatures might roam the forests as they continued north.
He looked around them into the dark, trying to see where they might be going, but despite the faint glow emanating from both Elỳn and Kayla, he could see nothing but the very edges of the boat. With a nervous curiosity he leaned over the hull and lowered his hand into the water. The lake was icy, and rushed through his fingers – Elỳn and Kayla were clearly moving them at a prodigious pace. “We are moving very fast,” he whispered to Elven. In fact he was unsure why he was whispering, other than it felt unnatural to speak loud in such dark and such silence.
“Do you know where we are going?” Elven whispered back.
“We are traveling northeast,” Elỳn replied. “It is the shortest way between our island and the shore – perhaps ten miles.”
Brandyé withdrew his hand from the water and asked, “How soon do you think we will arrive?”
“Perhaps an hour – perhaps less,” said Elỳn. Then, with a sudden look at Brandyé: “Do not put your hand in the water again; there are many creatures in these waters that would hunger for your fingers.”
With a shiver Brandyé looked back toward the water, suddenly imagining things with scales and spines and jagged, sharp teeth darting here and there just out of sight. His mind was recalled to the last time he had been in a boat in the dark, floating along the Tuiraeth bound to a mast and unable to move. He had been certain then that there were great creatures in the deep, and wondered what manner of beasts might dwell in the immeasurably deeper waters of this lake. Then he recalled with a memory of horror the dreadful sea monster that had swallowed an entire Cosari vessel and sent Khana’s own ship crashing upon the rocks. Frightened, he withdrew further into the boat and did not speak again until nearly an hour has passed, and they were approaching their destination.
By that time a wind had risen, and the mists were lifted; the faintest gloom of day light was beginning to appear in the clouds above, and Brandyé found he could see ahead of them some way. Perhaps half a mile before them rose tall cliffs from the deep waters, and it seemed it was to these that they were now heading. Elỳn appeared to notice his stare, for she said, “There is a rock passage in the cliffs that leads high above the shore. It gives a safe route from the lake, and it is protected from fierundé and other creatures.”