Frontier Dreams

Interlude: Stormy Seas

In Which We Revisit the Other Side

Benjamin hauled hard on the lines, cursing to himself. The sails were whipping about furiously and if they weren’t tightened soon, they’d never get out of this mess. Every sailor knew not to sail near the Stormwall. The waters here were treachery made manifest. But ships had to go farther and farther to still find any fish worth catching. The captain had insisted the waters here were still unfished. With good reason, the crew mumbled when they learned the course.

Ben focused on the knot he was tying down. Not because he needed to; he was fairly certain after years at sea he could do it in his sleep. Maybe he even had. But the knot was something to focus on that wasn’t the terrifying gale, with crooked purple lightning off the starboard bow. The lightning and dark clouds loved to play tricks on the eyes, and lure fool hardy sailors to their doom.

The lookout had already been twice reprimanded fiercely for falsely reporting the sighting of a ship within the raging waters. He claimed to have only seen it in a bright flash from the chaotic strikes of lightning bolts, but he was certain. He was confined to quarters until whatever madness possessed him passed. Everyone knew to sail within was certain doom. Those fool traitors and refugees had tried it over a hundred years ago, and they all sank to the depths.

Satisfied that the sail would behave having been sufficiently bound, Benjamin moved to the side to inspect the fishing nets. The deck suddenly bucked underneath him and his heart skipped a beat as he was briefly airborne. He hit the waves with a hard smack, and icy water filled his lungs. Coughing violently, he grabbed for the net, and desperately clung his fingers into it. He could barely make out the “Man Overboard!” cried coming from the deck over the wailing winds.

As he clung to the side of the boat lashed by waves, Benjamin hurled all manor of sailor curses at the Stormwall. But in a brief flash of lightning, he saw it, unmistakably. It was not a boat that was illuminated by the lightening, but bound to it. As the bolt struck the ocean, where before there was not but churning tide a gigantic silhouette defied the clouds. And just as quickly, the phantom hulk vanished. As the crew hauled him on board, he coughed out the last of the briny seawater. He never told another soul what he saw in those clouds, but he did get the lookout released from his quarters.



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