Chapter 4: Visions in the Mist

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"Scattered by the winds of despair, cast out by uncaring Fate,

They were seed cast onto the most fertile of soils.

Springing up to grow into warriors, princes and heroes.

Each day their skill, strength and ability increased,

Until they were unstoppable juggernauts in the Light's name,

Ready to stand fast against the Evil that would destroy them all."

- from Alric of Eventide's 'Lay of the Wielders'


He scrubbed a rough hand over his exhausted face, hoping to dispel the dark images still dancing in front of his mind's eye. It was just as well his uncle had sent him on his way after nearly falling overboard for the fifth time this morning. One more false step and he would've broken a leg or worse, mull-headed and scatterbrained after yet another night haunted by the nightmare that filled his veins with ice. 

Refocusing on the task at hand, the broad shouldered young man grabbed another furry worm from his small bowl of bait. With a practiced twist of his wrist, he impaled it on a crude hook before tossing the whole affair back into the clear, body-temperature water that surrounded his gently rocking rowboat.

It was a warm, beautiful day in Gorgon's Port on the Sea of Polua. A soft wind blew in from the bay and the sun blazed down out of a cloudless sky. As the waves softly lapped at the worn, wooden hull of the small rowboat the boy yawned and stretched like a human version of the wharf cats that infested the bayside fishing village, keeping it free of vermin and pests. He blinked sleepily then glanced over at the massive ruins of the old fortress known to the inhabitants of the port only as the Dagger, its thick, stone walls, or what was left of them, baking in the hot, midday sun. It stood well over a league across the bay from the port, yet there was no mistaking its titanic bulk, heat-blurred and distant.

The old fort had sat at the bay's mouth for countless cycles, unchanged by weather or man. No doubt it would sit there for countless more.

This summer day, however, the sight of the rambling mass put a frown on the young man's darkly tanned face. For good reason: recently it had become a central feature in the nightmares that seemed to plague the lad's sleep with increasing frequency. Until, in the last few moons, his nights were filled with nothing but. Perhaps, banished from his uncle's boat the Sea Pony, he might find respite from the dark images and even a little sleep here, under Ri'im's faithful gaze.

Oddly enough the broken down fortress was a source of calm in the heart of the turmoil that seized the young man's mind during the worst of the nightmares, a lodestone that he could cling to, anchor-like, when the mental storms threatened to wash him away. Perhaps that was the reason he chose the rowboat, pulled out from shore to a clear line-of-sight to the ancient battlements, for his temporary solitude, snatched between fishing runs out beyond the bay. It was a calming landmark to help him find fleeting rest and recuperation in the midst of chaos.

The young man leaned back with another yawn to stare up at the sky, his fishing line coiled between his toes to alert him to any fish nibbling on the worm he had tossed into the depths. Chaos seemed to be the word of the day, with the lands north of the bay suffering from war, disease and famine. It served only to increase the demand for the sea's generosity, thankfully untouched by the strange spirit gripping the land-bound nations to the north.

Unfortunately that also served to increase the already staggering workload each Gorgon's Port fisherman bore just to earn a living from the rich southern sea. Cursed by the fact that they shared the Sea of Polua with the powerful fishing fleets of Septus and a handful of Scattered Kingdoms that had Polua coastlines, the independent Mamran-born fisher folk of the Port found it difficult to compete with their smaller, and more fragile vessels.

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