Chapter 5: The Raid on Voènarà
It was some weeks before Brandyé had healed from the latàhní’s wounds, in which time he was allowed to rest and perform only minimal duties in Khana’s home. Khana, despite his injured leg, appeared unbothered by any pain, and limped quite contentedly here and there until his was able to better bear weight upon it. Brandyé was quite struck by the man’s resilience, for so it had been on Tahn-khafawō after the attack. No further sounds had been heard that night, whether by Andèlin’s vigilance or good fortune, but come the morning Brandyé had slept little, and was still in great pain.
Khana, however, was bright and sharp at first light, and managed to drag the latàhní’s carcass through the forest and over the plains, ensuring always that Brandyé was well and with him. For his part, Brandyé had begun to feel faint and feverish, though thanks to Khana’s remedy his wounds had not become infected. How Khana was able to descend the cliff stairs to the boat bearing the weighty carcass Brandyé was unsure, but somehow they found themselves in the open sea once more, having passed under the great rock arch at the lowest tide. Khana had allowed Brandyé to handle the tiller on the return, as he was too weak to bear the sails, and though it took longer, he was able to steer them back to Galawōmi under Khana’s directions.
What had happened when they returned had been odd; Khana had seemed unwilling to tell anyone of their catch, and instead returned to the boat after dark with a pair of strong men (Brandyé had spent that evening in bed) to retrieve it. All Brandyé saw of it after that were the fangs, which Khana brought home with him, and many, many sides of meat hung to dry in the smokehouse of a small merchant nearby. A very few of these ended up on their table, but the rest Brandyé never saw again. Khana would not speak of it, and when Brandyé asked out of curiosity whom the store served, his question was answered with laughter.
“That place sells not,” he was told. “Interested in money, they are not.” When he asked what this meant he was merely told that things taken there were ‘done well by’, which he took to mean that they served a good purpose. He never discovered what that purpose was, but he reassured him to think that their trip to the island – and his injuries therefrom – had not been entirely for Khana’s desire to sail.
For Khana himself, he appeared to return to his old ways; Brandyé saw little of him during the day, speaking with him only briefly in the morning, and when he returned late at night. Each evening after their meal, Khana would sit by the fire and gently grind and chip at the latàhní’s fangs with a sharpening stone or knife, and Brandyé saw a wicked, curved blade of ivory white take form in his hands. He realized that he had seen such blades only rarely in Cosar; only the most important of people carried them. He wondered if Khana was perhaps moving higher in rank and thus would need such a ceremonial piece, or if he aspired to such, and so made a blade in anticipation.
For a while Brandyé’s life seemed to return to its uneventful state, and he began to think that their small voyage had been but an odd singularity. He fell back into his daily routine, and for quite some time put Tahn-khafawō out of his mind. He tended his duties and chores, and if anything seemed out of place it was that Éliatí seemed somewhat more agitated than usual, though she would not speak of it.
Then, one day, a rumor swept Galawōmi, and indeed all of the Kharta-Tikh, in what seemed to be a matter of hours, and from the shouts and whispers in the streets Brandyé could only decipher that it was some misfortune during a raid upon the Green Folk, and there was quite a furore over it. It seemed to be all the worse for the fact that this was the first voyage made to the Great Land in almost three months; for disaster to fall so swiftly upon them served only to reinforce the deep pessimism that had rooted itself in the Cosari.
When Brandyé returned to Khana’s home with the water buckets from the salt house (the Cosari produced fresh water from sea water in a most ingenious fashion, whereby the sea water was boiled, the steam trapped, and its drops channeled into a large receptacle), he was quite surprised to find Khana there. It had become unusual for him to return during the day, and so after Brandyé set down the buckets, he approached the center room where Khana and Éliatí were speaking.
Brandyé had not meant to interrupt, but they both fell quiet as he appeared, and with a dip of her head Éliatí left the room.
“Disturb you, I meant not,” he said to Khana.
“No matter,” said Khana. “Upset she is. Ill news, we have received.”
“Tales in the streets, I have heard,” Brandyé told him. “On the Great Land, a terrible thing has happened, they say.”
Khana shook his head. “Not terrible…perhaps inconvenient it is. Unfortunate. Captured by the Green Folk, a captain of the Cosari has been. A man by the name of Yamarà; a high commander of the fleet he is. Greatly disturbed the dantí are – dangerous knowledge of our people he has, and theirs this knowledge must not become.”
“From them nothing to fear you have, I thought,” Brandyé said. “No boats they have.”
“Not false. Rare it is, that resistance we meet. Truly, little bloodshed there is; fight the Green Folk do not.”
“This time, they have fought, it seems,” said Brandyé. He had himself always wondered why the Green Folk did not better defend their lands; either they were masterfully poor fighters, or they gave no resistance to the Cosari when they descended upon them. Whichever it was, he understood the Cosari’s concern; quite suddenly, the Green Folk seemed well able to not only defend themselves, but take hostage one of their own.
“Indeed they have.” Khana seemed then to fall deep into thought, and Brandyé did not dare disturb him. He turned to leave, but before he left the room Khana called to him. “Hold. A question for you I have.”
“When on Tahn-khafawō, afraid, you were?”
Brandyé hesitated, for he was unsure if Khana desired a particular answer. “Yes,” he admitted. “Afraid I was; very. I should not be, but afraid of death I am.”
Khana then spoke no more, but only nodded and bid Brandyé leave. Brandyé could not help but think that this was an odd question at such a moment, and could not fathom the reason behind it.
It was not two days before Khana came to Brandyé in the middle of the day with two guards with him. The guards maintained their hands of the hilt of their swords, which gave Brandyé cause for concern, and Khana’s face was as impassive as stone, which gave him more. “Yes?” he asked.
“Your presence, Dantí Rahktà wishes,” Khana said, and his voice betrayed no emotion. “Your…thoughts, he wants.”
“My thoughts?” Brandyé was perplexed, and worried. “What thoughts have I, that a dantí would want?”
“Explanations I may not give,” said Khana. “Only he.”
And so with nervousness Brandyé was led by the guards from Khana’s home and began a slow march across the town. Khana remained with him, and for this Brandyé was glad, for he was afraid of the appearance he presented, escorted by armed guards, and felt some measure of protection from Khana. Khana, however, would not converse with him, and answered any question with, “Explain the dantí will.”
The dantí, it seemed, dwelt in a place of halls and large spaces, built upon and into the rock cliffs some way across the island, away from the town. From here they were afforded a view not only of the fleet and harbor far below them, but an expansive view of the open sea to the North and East. Only a narrow and exposed path led to their dwellings, and though he was not naturally afraid of heights, Brandyé could not calm his heart when he looked over the cliffs that dropped sheer away from them and to the unforgiving rocks below.
Along this path they progressed without incident, however, and Brandyé soon found himself passing through a great stone archway whose heavy doors stood wide, and into a vaulted chamber with many tall windows that looked upon the sea, and many chandeliers casting candlelight upon the crimson rugs on the floor. Here were two further guards, and with a deep nod those who had accompanied them thus far departed, and the new guards – garbed in armor far more ornate than their predecessors – commanded they now follow them.
Into the rock they were now led, and though the gray daylight faded, a warm golden illumination yet followed them, for many chandeliers and candelabra lined the passages and left few shadows. To a private room Brandyé was led, and here the guards stopped, and told Brandyé that here he must enter. Brandyé looked to Khana, but he merely shook his head, and so Brandyé pushed open the door and entered, alone.
“Welcome,” said one of the men who sat at the large table before him. He was much older than any sailor or captain, yet not ancient, for his beard was but streaked with white. “Please, sit.”
Brandyé felt only more perplexed, but came forward and sat upon one of the high-backed wooden chairs that surrounded the table. Two other men there were besides the one who had spoken, and they remained silent but kept their eyes always upon him.
“Who I am, you know?” the man asked him.
This, at least, Brandyé supposed he knew, and said: “Dantí Rahktà you are. So much Khana said.”
The man nodded. “I am. Why here you are, you know?”
At this Brandyé shook his head.
Rahktà sat back, and one of his fellows now spoke. “The tales of our lost crew among the Galamat-om you know. In part true, they are. Lost, a captain has been.”
“Captain Yamarà,” said Brandyé.
“Much, Khana has spoken,” said Rahktà, though he did not appear upset. “Yamarà it is. A great captain he is, and retrieve him we must.” He paused for a moment, and then said, “What we now say, you will not repeat. Servant of Khana or not, death you will receive.”
A cold passed through Brandyé, and he felt his stomach tighten. This was to be a thing he wanted no part in, he was certain, but he had little choice now. Instead, he said simply, “I understand.”
“Yamarà we must rescue,” continued Rahktà, “for much knowledge of our strength he has.”
“Of equal importance,” said the third man, “a matter of justice it is. Punishment to the Galamat-om we must bring.”
“The way of the Cosari this is,” acknowledged Brandyé, “but why of importance am I?”
“Your assistance we will have,” said Rahktà. “A skill and a weapon you have, and on this matter our soldiers you will help.”
Brandyé’s chest froze, and in a moment he knew that Khana had used him. He forced himself to speak, though his words were weak: “For the death of men my bow is not.” And he knew the falsehood of his words, and dug his teeth into his lips for he felt tears.
“Nonetheless, kill men it can,” said Rahktà.
“But why me need you? My bow you can take; certainly more could you make.”
“With your aid, faster it will be. Also larger and more powerful they would be; from a fahnatèr[death-bite] at sea they must fly.”
“A thing I wish not, this is,” said Brandyé, and he knew now his voice trembled.
“Death you will receive, if of this you speak. Death also you will receive, if you refuse. With or without you these weapons our engineers can create; only death or life your choice is.”
And so it was that Brandyé found himself working alongside Cosari engineers to build weapons of death, and his every day was clouded in black, and hopelessness dragged at him from his wake to his sleep, which was poor and interrupted. Many times he thought it would in fact be better for him to accept death than to build the death of others, and only two things kept him at his work day after day: the knowledge that these terrible instruments would nonetheless be built without him, and the tiny, almost forgotten voice of Elỳn telling him that he will – he must – live.
Despite the horror of his labors, Brandyé found he learned much from the men with whom he worked; a great knowledge of woodcraft they had, and they grasped the construction of the crossbow quickly as Brandyé explained it to them, testing the flex of the lathe and the tension of the string, and measuring the bolt’s flight and its impact into thick planks of wood. They soon began to construct and test bows that were twice the size of Brandyé’s own, and there were many revelations for him during this process; considerations such as increasing the thickness of the string would not have occurred to him. They discovered that not only a thicker string but a stronger material was needed, and so they made twines of finely separated seaweed whose strength was well-known to them.
With the increase in size, they discovered there was an equal decrease in accuracy, and it was here Brandyé was most often called upon. His skill and marksmanship was well recognized, and he would be asked to fire upon small and distant targets, for they knew his aim was ever sure.
Soon, however, Brandyé discovered it was not just this one size of bow they wished to make; alongside these began the construction of bows of phenomenal dimensions. They stood higher than a man, and their bolts were longer and thicker than a man’s leg. With these they encountered unexpected difficulties, for the principles they had applied to the smaller bows did not scale to this monstrous weapons, and they found the lathe would often crack and splinter under the terrific tension of the ropes.
It was here that Brandyé made two suggestions that were in fact quite ingenious. It was clear that the wood they were using could not bear the stress required, and he realized that if the wood could be reinforced, it would bear a far greater tension. So it was they lined the lathe with an iron frame, and indeed it ceased to break. However, this presented a new difficulty: the iron was not flexible, and would not allow the wood to impart its full energy to the bolt. For many weeks they were unable to find a solution, until one day the thought struck Brandyé that if the iron-bound wood would not bend, then perhaps splitting the lathe in two – a limb, pivoted on each side, might allow the required force. It would require a great force to prevent them folding on themselves, and so the Cosari engineers created a system of ropes and pulleys that would lay an equal force on the bolt to move forward, and the lathes to retract. On its first test, the bolt pierced three feet of board and became embedded in the very rock of the wall.
So it was that the Cosari built new engines of destruction, while Brandyé descended ever further into dismay. Tears would come often at night, when he was alone in a small stone room in the dantí’s tunneled palace, and he thought upon the dreadful uses this great weapons might be put to. Their bolts would fly fast and far, and would cause much damage.
All the while, whispers of plans and preparations continued to reach his ears, and he gathered that a great fleet was to be assembled, and it would be a raid such as few Cosari had seen in their lifetime. Brandyé was certain Khana would be among those captains who would command the voyage, and he had difficulty in this thought. He had been deeply betrayed by Khana; their voyage to Tahn-khafawō had been, it seemed, merely a chance to see his bow used in the hands of one who had great skill with it, and it left in him great doubt over the sincerity of any of Khana’s past actions. Yet he could not bring himself to condemn the captain entirely, for he had seen him speak to his wife with gentleness; recalled his giving the slain latàhní to what he guessed were folk who were in need; remembered his openness and gentility on his ship when he had first found him.
And then a day came when he was returned to Khana, for he was told he was no longer needed among the dantí, and set upon the narrow road that led whence they dwelt. Certainly, he had felt that the engineers and craftsmen had moved beyond his own skill, and spent much of his time watching, with no further advice to offer. Projecting machines were created before him, ever stronger and lighter, and he found his mind quite suddenly empty of thoughts of destruction, as though they might be a torture he could not bear.
Khana was awaiting him as he once more entered the town, and he looked somber. He greeted Brandyé, but Brandyé would not speak to him, but to say a few words here and there. Naturally, Khana was not insensitive to this, and after they had been walking for some way in silence, he spoke: “Betrayed be me you feel.”
Brandyé could but look at the stone beneath his feet, and Khana continued, “Important this battle will be. You may not understand, but this thing we must do.”
“Then do it,” Brandyé finally spoke. “But me you leave. Why bidden to aid in the death of others, am I?”
“Vengeance, not death, we desire,” said Khana. “To murder we wish not.”
Brandyé shook his head. “Then why such weapons need you? For hunting latàhní they are not.”
“No, they are not. I will not lie; to kill they are made – but only if required.” He sighed. “To deceive you I wished not. My own orders I have, as yours you have.”
This was a thing Brandyé would not reply to, and he lapsed once more into silence, until they had arrived at Khana’s door. Here, before the entrance, Khana spoke to him once more. “On this voyage, my ship I will command. With me, you I would have.”
At this Brandyé looked up, and was shocked. “Why?” he exclaimed. “On a ship no use I have, nor desire! A massacre I will not witness.”
“A massacre I hope not for,” said Khana. “You as a companion I would have; thoughts you have, and sights, that other Cosari have not.” And then he smiled, a sort of crooked, toothy smile. “Killing, you may prevent.”
But Brandyé did not smile; not then, nor in the days that followed, and though Khana gave him few tasks, he did them with lackluster, and felt the familiar weight on his heart grow ever heavier. A single man’s trial and punishment he had once helped prevent; an entire fleet intent on battle he could not stop. Nor could he simply defy Khana, for not only would he face punishment, but despite all he felt an inextricable loyalty to Khana – a sliver of hope, perhaps, that he was not like the other Cosari; that he might perhaps have a measure of compassion for the Greek Folk. He knew not what influence Khana might have upon the direction of the fleet, but there was some chance that he might stay the Cosari soldiers, and thus prevent a terrible bloodshed.
Brandyé would not listen to further talk of the impending attack, and ignored the details that were discussed between Khana and other captains that came to visit him. All seemed anxious and excited, and it was with dismay that Brandyé saw Khana also succumb to the fever of certain battle. Only Éliatí seemed to share in his anxiety and fear, but she was also proud of her husband, and spoke no words of discouragement, either to Khana or in private.
So it was that Brandyé was able to very nearly forget about it all, living in a closed world that included only himself and his work. Two weeks passed in this way, and then a thing happened that Brandyé could not ignore: the day of their departure had come. Khana roused him early, long before light, and with sleep in his eyes Brandyé rose to the light of Khana’s lantern and the sweat of his excitement. “Come,” he spoke, and his voice was hushed and fast. “Set all is; at dawn we sail!”
The reality of what was to come eluded Brandyé still, and he followed Khana blindly as he dressed, and pocketed the bread Khana gave him to eat as they descended to the docks. As they stepped into the streets, Brandyé saw that many, many folk filled them, wives and children and bakers and blacksmiths and old men, all accompanying the soldiers, clad in steel and thick leather, as they made their own way to the fleet that lay on the dark waters below. So many lanterns were there that light pervaded, carried by the mists and fog.
As they came upon the ocean’s edge, there grew a great din, the sounds of loading and pulling and hammering and shouting, and the noise deafened and held promises of excitement and glory. Here there was even more light than in the town above, for every pier was lined with high-strung lanterns, and thousands more burned bright upon the vessels that lay on the water.
And this was a sight that brought a great lump of fear to Brandyé’s throat, for never could he have imagined such a sight. A hundred ships floated in the bay of Galawōmi, from vessels that would hold but a few men to great warships that could not even approach the dock, so great was their size. Sails wafted in the wind as they were raised, casting eerie shadows on the decks as they began to fill. Of the largest of these there were ten, and they held a hundred men each, and were called fahnatèr, which meant Death Bite. One stood alone, and was singular in that it bore sails of a dark blue, while all the others were white. Khana told him this was the dantí’s vessel, and that they would be accompanying the fleet on their voyage.
Khana’s own vessel – the same that he had commanded when Brandyé had first come across him – was not one of these gargantuan ships, but carried nonetheless a score of men, and was swift upon the water. It stood moored to a pier, and it was the first time Brandyé had seen it since he had first arrived among the Cosari nearly three years ago. It looked as though it had only just been constructed; the wood shone in the gloom, the sails were unspoiled, and not a wear or mark was to be seen on the ropes and rigging, nor on the decks, or at the wheel. A number of crew were at their work, and some Brandyé recognized.
He and Khana boarded, and he was bidden to wait at the rear of the craft, while Khana passed from man to man, speaking with them, encouraging them, and laughing with them. Regardless of of anything else, Brandyé saw his worth as a commander of men: there was not a man aboard this vessel that would not follow Khana to their death, such a loyalty had he built.
There was much of the goings-on that Brandyé could not follow, and though he recognized crates and barrels of salted meats and fresh water, there were many tools that were unrecognizable to him. Here and there went Khana’s men, climbing upon masts and halyards, making fast endless lengths of rope, descending into and reemerging from the belly of the ship, and making such a great number of preparations that Brandyé felt quite confident of their at least arriving at their destination whole, though he had yet to discover if they would leave in such a state as well.
So preparations continued for some hours, but as daylight crept into the bay the sounds and noise grew less, and finally there was nothing left to do or say, and Khana’s crew waited, unmoving and breathless. An anxious silence descended upon them, and Brandyé realized he could hear no sound from the other ships either.
And then, piercing the morning quiet rang the low note of a great horn, loud and powerful, and it echoed from the rocks and cliffs, and in a moment was answered by another horn, and another, until the bay filled with their sound and the very rocks seemed to tremble. A deafening cheer rose from the crew of every single vessel, and across the water Brandyé saw the dantí’s vessel let loose its sails as its anchor was hauled aboard, and with a massive, pondering movement began to move toward the rock channels that led to the open sea.
Khana called for the mooring lines to be cast off, and with a great heave they too were slowly moving from the docks, in the wake of a hundred other ships destined for war.
It was a long voyage to their destination, a great coastal town by the name of Voènarà, which meant Town of the East Water, though no one knew it. Brandyé learned that it was one of the few towns of the Green Folk whose buildings were made not only from wood but from stone also, and it spread wide such that it might hold several thousand inhabitants. Set in a bay it was, into which flowed a river, and its buildings extended to the very water itself, so that there was no shore.
The Cosari had rarely ventured as far north as this town, and most knew of it only by rumor. Khana was one of the few who has seen it with his own eyes, and it had never been attacked for its defenses were strong; archers this town had, and its buildings would not burn.
From this Brandyé understood the significance of this event; the Cosari did not expend such effort on their raids, leaving well-defended towns for those of less resistance. Not a man among them could remember a time when their fleet had been so amassed, and it was this that gave to them their strength and excitement. For any one vessel to assail such a town would be foolhardy, but in the company of so many their confidence was assured.
A further encouragement came from a thing that Brandyé was not proud of, and it was the weapons he had helped design. The crossbows had been manufactured in their hundreds, and most soldiers of the fleet were to carry one, supplied by endless crates of bolts. These bows had a range and accuracy far beyond a longbow, and so they could stay the fleet beyond the reach of the Green Folk’s arrows. Far worse, however, were the enormous ballistas that stood tall upon the decks of the largest fahnatèr. Their design had been greatly improved since Brandyé had left the engineers, and they were light and powerful, operated by only a handful of men. They stood upon pivoting daises, allowing them to be aimed with great accuracy. Brandyé could not imagine the destruction these terrible creations might impart, and had no wish to see them put to use. Despite Khana’s reassurances, however, he had little doubt that these new weapons would launch their first bolts in only a few days.
As the days progressed and they approached the town, the weather became ever worse, with first darkening clouds, and then high winds and rain. The winds were with them, however, and sped their journey by a great extent, so that they arrived in the dark of the morning a full two days ahead of their plans. In the gloom and the rain their lanterns burned bright, and Brandyé felt the terror that was certainly striking the people of Voènarà as they looked upon the countless fires of a vast fleet of death. The fleet came to a slow halt perhaps a quarter of a mile from the town, and Brandyé watched with numbness as fires lit across the town, and the sounds of voices and cries and horns reached his ears.
Yet they did not attack, and after some time Brandyé saw a small boat, akin to that which had borne he and Khana to Tahn-khafawō, launch from one of the great fahnatèr and proceed in toward the shore.
“With the lords of this town we will speak,” Khana told him. “If Yamarà they return, without violence we may leave.”
Brandyé watched as the small vessel drew into land, and eventually came to rest at a small pier that stood out into the water. At this distance he could not make out more than the vague movement of figures, and they were led into the town. Many minutes passed, and as the hour drew nigh, Brandyé felt fear rise inside him. The longer they were delayed, he thought, the less chance there was of peace.
Khana appeared to feel the same, for he began to pace the deck, and would peer often through his glass at the town, lowering it in frustration each time. So the wait continued, and so the tension continued to build, until quite suddenly Brandyé spied a commotion on the pier, and Khana raised the glass to his eye once more, and uttered a curse.
“One man there is…but one man!” he said.
The crew grew loud at this, and bitterness and anger was in their voices. Khana continued to look, but Brandyé could see with his own eyes that the lone Cosari had verily leapt into the boat, and he swiftly saw the sail rise, and the boat slowly drew away from the pier.
And then a terrible thing occurred. Onto the pier came a dozen men, and Brandyé saw a glint of light and knew they bore armor. Great bows they carried, and without pause they let loose a hail of arrows upon the fleeing man. Brandyé watched with sickness as the man was struck and fell, and Khana who saw it all the clearer, cried out in despair.
And no more than a few moments later the horns of the Cosari rang loud once more, and the rain poured down, and the raid upon Voènarà began.
Less perturbed by the waves that were now rising high, the fahnatèr drew ahead of the fleet, and Brandyé saw the huge ballistas swing around and come to bear upon the town. And then he saw that they were loading them not with great bolts of iron but rather with some shot that flamed and burned, and he was struck dumb with horror, and could not speak or cry as the first one was loosed from its ship and flew like a hailstone of fire through the rain, and as it crashed down upon the town the light blinded his eyes, and when he was able to see again a great portion of the town was in flames.
More and more bolts of fire were launched, and not a one missed its target, and soon blazes raged throughout Voènarà, and as the day rose it was like a new sun under the clouds, but one that burned flesh like no summer heat could. The roar of flames became audible, and could cries and shouts, and Brandyé began to weep, for this was a horror beyond anything his imagination had conjured.
But even as their town burned around them the soldiers of Voènarà were yet brave, and flanks of their archers rose upon the outer walls and the docks and piers, and as the smaller vessels moved in towards them under the continuing rain of fire, they began to let loose their arrows upon the Cosari.
And this was when the Cosari revealed their second surprise to the Green Folk, for they drew forth their large crossbows, and the soldiers began to fall before a single one of their arrows struck a Cosari. This brought to them a new fear and they scattered, seeking what cover and refuge they could find. Some undoubtedly fled the fighting altogether, but many remained true, and continued to fire upon the approaching ships from behind walls and through small windows.
Khana’s craft was one of these that was bound inward, though it was some way behind the others, and by the time they were within range of the Green Folk’s archers, others had already leapt from their ships onto land, and were falling upon the Green Folk with sword and dagger. Many had hoped to repel their attackers with their arrows, and bore no such weapons; these men were slain where they stood, their bows cut through as surely as their bodies.
Brandyé found himself cowering behind Khana at the rear of the vessel, his head in his arms and his wet eyes shut tight, though try as he might he could not block the awful sounds of battle – the flames, the cries, the sharp ring of swords, the shattering of stone and the splashes of the slain and wounded falling into the water, and above all reigned the ever louder patter of rain as the dismal weather began to turn to a veritable storm.
So it was that Brandyé heard but did not see the new terror that came upon them, neither of the Cosari or the Green Folk but of a much older, darker and more sinister origin. As the fervor of battle grew to its height and all the focus of the Cosari was bent on their conquest, from the deep and out to sea there came a prodigious and terrible moan that raced through the sea and rose the waves, and shook the ships so that their timbers shuddered, and the cliffs rang with the falling of rocks, and many of the burning buildings crumbled.
A sudden quietness fell over the battle, and while the clash of soldiers continued to ring out from the town, those yet aboard the vessels turned as one to look out to sea and discover what terrible thing could give voice to such a noise. So taken by surprise and confusion was he that Brandyé rose with the crew, and he beheld a sight so impossible that it made his blood freeze, and all sound ceased and his heart stood still.
The sea, which had to this point been rough and crested, had at one place become smooth, and was impossibly beginning to slowly flow out to sea. So great was this force that the fahnatèr themselves were drawn by its current, and even with their sails struck and anchors out, they continued to move away from the land.
The flow of water became ever more rushed, until it was now white with the speed of its course, and then it began to draw down into a vast eddy that sunk lower and lower below the waves so that ever more water rushed downwards. And then, even as the water rushed down, the waves behind this maelstrom rose ever higher, and it was then apparent that something enormous, something so vast it dwarfed the largest of the fahnatèr, was rising from the depths.
And as the monstrosity rose from the waves, it became clear that what was emerging was a mouth, and what it belonged to was alive, some colossal beast from the black chasms of the deep. Above the waves emerged an enormous eye, dead and black and as large as a cart wheel, and despite the dim light rows of black teeth the size of boulders became apparent. In a moment Brandyé was brought to his knees and the scar on his chest felt as though it had burst into flame, and he knew this was a creature of Darkness.
The jaw of this creature rose so high that it towered over the masts of the nearest fahnatèr, on which Brandyé saw the blue sails of the admiral’s vessel, and then with horrific slowness it began to come down, and with the ease of a bear rending a fish in two the great ship was splintered and shattered, screams rising from the crew as the decks collapsed beneath them and the lanterns were extinguished in the cold water.
So great was the creature’s impact that a vast swell twenty feet high issued from it, lifting the vessels of the feet and casting them onward toward the shore. In moments the waves fell upon Voènarà and washed far into its streets, and though many of its fires vanished, yet more buildings were crushed by its force, and many were crushed and drowned beneath the weight of water.
Khana’s ship was lifted high and propelled towards the land as the crew could but grip with all their might onto what fastenings they could find. Khana cried out in urgency, and Brandyé turned to the bow to see that they were being driven not toward the town itself, but upon the cliffs of its bay. Disbelieving, Brandyé watched as they bore down upon the rock, and the foremast and bow shattered at their impact, and the air was filled with the sounds of splintering wood and bowing iron, and men were cast into the sea or dashed upon the stone, and as the ship drove itself into the cliff and its demise, Brandyé was thrown violently from the ship, and before he could take a breath he was plunged far beneath the waves. In his loss of sense he knew not even which way was up, and a desperate panic took him and he began to thrash, and by pure chance he had thrust his head above the water and took a great, heaving breath. Splintered boards surrounded him, but he heard no cries and believed that he alone was alive. The high waves cast him into shadow and blocked out the light of the fires, and in the early dawn he could see little; his eyes stung also, so that he had to keep them shut. His clothing weighed at him, threatening to drag him further under, and though he tried to swim toward the land, the swell and current tossed him about, and he was soon exhausted, and could barely move.
He felt his mind fade and his sight go black, and it was only with the vaguest of awareness that he felt a great weight on his throat, and it pulled relentlessly at him, and though his face was often covered by water he did not sink, and so did not drown. He passed in and out of sensation, and time ceased to have any meaning, and he began to believe this was the sensation of dying, until there was suddenly a firmness beneath him, and he was being dragged so that his whole weight lay upon solidness. He could not lift his head, nor open his eyes, and it was then that his consciousness fled him.