Fifthmonth 4 (Continued)
A most fascinating afternoon. I was woken up by a more-hyper-than-usual James (which I hadn't previously thought was possible) yelling, “Quartermaster Halstead! Quartermaster Halstead! Land ho! Well, not really land, but stones... giant stones.... Anyway, Commodore Blank wants you on deck!”
I woke up and looked at him,“James... you know you're allowed to call me Sigrid...”
“Yes, Quartermaster Halstead.”
I started to respond, but felt it would probably be easier just to let this one go. “Go tell Blank I'll be up there in a second.”
I laid there on my hammock, looking at the deckboards above me. This was it then. This was Xanadu. I sat up in my hammock, stretching. I jumped down onto the floor when Gannen came down below deck. I froze,staring at him, not entirely sure what to say. He looked back at me for a moment, before awkwardly interrupting the silence. “Er... Blank says we're at Xanadu. I wanted to... well, you know, make sure you knew or whatever...”
“Yeah... James told me... but, thanks,” I smiled at Gannen. He gave me a small smile back before quickly looking away.
“There was something I needed to talk to you about... well, you—plural, like you, Jocy, Blank and Mark.”
“Shall we, then?” I asked, motioning towards the ladder. He nodded and we made our way up to the deck.
Once up on deck, Gannen pulled Blank, Mark, Jocelyn and I aside and warned us not to trust the Aur Xica. He told us that it “wasn't good.” He quoted Monala, claiming she said the sword was bad. Apparently she was also amused at the possibility it was manipulating us.
After Gannen talked to us, we confronted the Aur Xica about these allegations. It claimed that Monala was lying. It went on and on about how she was obviously trying to get us to mistrust it, on account of it being our only connection to the Hora Quan or whatever. Truth-be-told, I side with Gannen on this matter. I have never trusted that sword, or any intelligent item for that matter. A sword's job is to kill what I want dead, not to chit-chat with me.
Taking the cursed blade with me, I climbed up to the crow's nest and we continued sailing towards the city. As it grew closer, I had this strange feeling that someone—or something—was watching us. I would see little blips of movement that varied from the usual ebb and flow of the ocean, but when I would try to get a closer look, the movement would be gone. Just as I thought about calling down to Blank about it, a giant sea monster emerged from the water!
“Octopus!” I cried out.
“No...!” Commodore Blank yelled, “It's not an octopus... it's a Kraken!”
I leapt down from the crow's nest. Armour-less, it was much easier than it normally was, and I landed quite gracefully. Running to the starboard side of the ship, I watched as the Kraken swung its massive arms about, grazing the side of the Ocean's Blade. The boat rocked violently, knocking me backwards into Mark. Pushing me away from him, he ran up to the beast and attacked. I pulled myself back up and followed suit, leaning precariously over the railing as I hacked away at a tentacle. Gannen and Mark stood on either side of me, fending off the beast as well.
The creature violently flailed about. One of its tentacles caught me hard in the ribcage, causing me to fall into the water. Another tentacle swung down towards me. Instinctively, I raised my arms to block it. The Kraken's arm hit the Aur Xica and my summoned shield with enough force to shove me underwater. I was surprised that I had managed to hold on to the Aur Xica, and I hadn't remembered calling a shield at all, but I suppose it is as Lord Morek often tells me; I have good instincts in battle.
Though I have those “good instincts,” I was seriously thrown off-balance by the Kraken. I hovered in the water, not entirely sure which way was up, rather disoriented. The seawater stung my eyes as I opened them and looked around. There was water all around me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a steadily building orb of light. It grew brighter and brighter as I swam towards it. Was this some sort of divine sign? My head hit the surface and I gasped in a mouthful of air mixed with saltwater. I glanced up at where the light had been and realized Blank had been summoning a burst of icefire, which he now released at the Kraken. I decided that Commodore Blank was probably not a sign from the gods, though I suspect he might think that he's a god.
Looking back at the side of the boat, I saw Mark continuing to beat on the Kraken. Gannen, however, had stopped attacking and only made glances at the creature when a tentacle strayed too close to him. Instead of putting his full concentration into the battle, he appeared to be scanning the water beneath the Kraken. Catching sight of me, he tossed a rope in the water. I grabbed it and swam towards the boat. Gannen pulled me aboard. I spent a moment coughing up inhaled seawater. Gannen stood there, staring at me with a concerned look on his face.
“Fight, damn it!” I yelled at him, annoyed. He returned to the side of the ship and slashed at the Kraken. I caught my breath and joined him. Before I even got a single attack in, however, a massive blast of fire emanated from Soern's hands, utterly decimating the monster. Its corpse slowly sank back into the depths from whence it came.
“Hahaha!” Blank laughed maniacally, “Take that, Kraken! Never again will you terrorize the seas!” Blank's ecstatic mood didn't last long though. Mere moments after he declared the oceans safe from the kraken, the awful beast re-emerged.
“Zombie...” Gannen muttered, “Zombie Kraken... who would do...” he paused for a moment before angrily growling, “Monala....”
“What is this foul magic? Is this some cosmic joke to punish the great Commodore Blank?” Blank asked, his voice a bit shakier than normal. I could tell that he was afraid. I was as well.
Regaining his composure, Gannen loudly announced, “It's a zombie! We have to kill it!”
The creature reared. It was the most terrifying thing I had ever seen. A burst of warm, glowing light streamed down from high above the Kraken. It flowed over my skin, restrengthening me. The light seemed to have a profoundly different effect on the Kraken, which flailed angrily. I was confused for a moment, but then remembered the dichotomy of the Green and the Dark. I didn't have much time to ponder magical laws though. The undead monster was angry, and it was taking its anger out on our ships.
We continued our assault on the Kraken. We were chipping away at it, but the going was slow. That is, until Soern threw some sort of paralytic magic at it. Once it wasn't flailing madly at us, it was much easier to slay once and for all.
Once the Kraken sunk back into the water, everyone was still and silent, as if waiting to see if it would re-emerge. When it didn't, everyone relaxed. Gannen walked over to me, asking me, “Are you okay?”
I opened my mouth to respond, but didn't know what to say, so instead, I just kissed him. I broke away from him, and he just stared at me with a rather stunned look on his face. He looked like he was about to say something, when Blank interrupted, completely ruining the moment.
“Hahaha!!! Sigrid kissed Gannen!” He laughed. I glared at him which didn't seem to deter his laughter at all. “That's absolutely hilarious!”
Ignoring Blank, I turned back to Gannen, who looked back at me, silently. Whatever he had been about to say will remain unsaid I guess. Turning away, I looked out at Xanadu. The stone city appeared dark and forboding, and suddenly I knew.
I knew Monala was standing in that city, staring out at our ships on the horizon. I knew she knew we were coming. I knew she was waiting for us. I closed my eyes and I saw her standing a stone platform. I saw her as if she was standing right in front of me. She saw me too. She looked right at me and smiled. I opened my eyes and found that I was still on the Ocean's Blade. I had seen Monala because she had wanted me to see her. I took a deep breath and realized that I may never leave this place. Death was a distinct possibility.
“We might not survive this,” I said.
“Excuse me?” Jocelyn questioned.
I sighed, “There's a distinct possibility that we might die here. But we have to fight. We have to try. We can't just let Monala win without a fight.”
“Has it ever occurred to you that we might not die?” Gannen interrupted, “Why are you acting like we're marching off to our deaths?”
“We might die,” I protested.
“We also might live, Sigrid. Anything worth dying for is also worth living for.”
I looked at him for a moment, before responding, “What an odd thing for a Champion of Death to say.”
“Maybe so,” he admitted.
Just at that moment, Soern called over from the Fearful Lightning, “Hey! What's our plan here?”
We all convened on the Ocean's Blade and decided to leave Blank's henchmen and my squires on the Fearful Lightning, away from Xanadu, and hopefully away from danger. They have strict orders to go back to Ao-Manasa and Pental if we don't return in one week's time. If we die in Xanadu, both the Diamond Throne and the Order must be warned about Monala. After we said goodbye to our young crew members, we ventured off towards Xanadu on the Ocean's Blade.
I stood in the crow's nest, watching as the ominous city grew closer. I heard someone climbing up to join me. Without even turning to look, I knew who it was. Gannen. I continued staring off into the storm, scarcely moving.
“You can go dry off and warm off if you'd like. I can take watch,” he offered.
I shook my head. “Thank you, but no. I like being outside, even when the sun's nowhere to be seen.” I looked skyward for a moment, and then added, “I don't think I'm ever going to see the sun again.”
“Okay Sigrid, that's enough,” he said with a tone of impatience in his voice, “You're a knight. Is this mood you're in any way to go into a battle? State-of-mind is incredibly important. I'm sure you know that.”
“Then why are you doing this to yourself? Are you trying to make yourself less afraid of dying?”
“I'm not afraid to die,” I stated adamantly.
“Yes, you are. You're absolutely terrified. Why, though? You've seen combat before. Every time I've seen you in combat, you've been completely calm. Why is this different?”
“Because for the first time in my life, I feel like I might not be able to handle an impending battle. Monala's powerful. Last time we met,one touch from her and I became her marionette,” I paused. “I fight a lot, but I'm always confident. Now, I'm not so sure.” Looking out to to sea, I added, “I really don't want to die. I do want to see the sun again. And besides, we still need to talk about... things.”
“Things. Yeah. We will talk, Sigrid, just not now. Later, after Xana...”
“What if there is no 'after Xanadu', Gannen?” I interrupted. “What if 'now' is all we have?”
“This isn't the end. We WILL survive this,” Gannen proclaimed.
“I hope you're right. I want to be alone. You're on watch now,” I told him as I climbed down the crow's nest.
I've taken a break to decompress and to rest. I don't feel much better though. Xanadu calls to me now. I hope this isn't the end.