Ghosts in the Mist

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Blinking furiously, Patrik tried to push the disorientation back and pull together his thoughts as he willed strength back to his rebelling limbs. Whoever this woman was, she had done something to him; put something into his mind, which he would need moons to understand.

Finally his vision cleared and he was able to sit up. To his dismay, Patrik found the woman gone and thick bands of fog billowing about his gently rocking skiff, isolating him into a world of gray mist. The youth rubbed incredulously at his eyes, thinking the confusion still had him. But when they cleared again, the fog still rolled around him.

Then, with the soft crack of canvas sails rippling in a strong wind, a three-mast sailing vessel loomed out of the fog like a phantom. That ghostly vessel quickly bore down on the bobbing rowboat, the water hissing by its sleek hull even as an unseen wind belled out its vast spans of canvas.

The lad's eyes widened in surprise, then further into fearful realization. They were going to run right over him in this fog!

"Hey. HEY!" he shouted, waving his arms wildly as he tried to catch somebody's attention before they cut him in half.

But the ship came on, heedlessly continuing towards him. Seeing that the vessel wasn't turning, Patrik smoothly rose to his feet and, in one motion, dove out of the skiff, arcing like a fisherbird before slicing into the water without a splash. As he hit the water, he felt the slender ship rush by, cutting his rowboat clean in twain as it did so. Then he was struggling to ride out the current of its passage, which threatened to pull him beneath its keel where a suffocating death awaited him,

Kicking hard, Patrik managed to avoid the worst of the surge and he bobbed back to the surface where he sucked in a lungful of fresh air as surface foam carried by the remnant of some big waves slapped at his body. Both the foam and the waves were caused by a hard turn to port the ship had managed in the few spans it had left before it would've piled into the wharf some distance away.

Wiping the water out of his eyes, Patrick could see that the ship had hove to and was dropping anchor some ten spans off the edge of the wharf. Somehow it managed to swerve at the last instant, despite its speed, and avoided the wharf before curving around to its present position. It now faced away from the wharf and out to sea.

From where he bobbed in the water, the boy got a good look at the ship that now rode high in the waters of Gorgon Bay. It was a slender vessel, longer and sleeker than any Patrik had seen in the bay before. That included the occasional Xanchaldan merchant that stopped in the port to re-supply on its way to the Chain Islands to the south, or the odd Mamran warship passing through to make sure everything was well in its tiny colony. He was close enough to hear the creak of timber and the rustle of cloth as ghostly sailors high in the rigging made fast the main sails and smaller auxiliary sails with quick knots of almost invisible hawsers.

Then, from the fog-shrouded deck, a small rowboat was swung over the side and lowered via winch to the water below, its careful action an eerie and rhythmic creak from the heart of the fog, easing the boat to the surface, a distance of almost four spans. It was then that Patrik noted how high the ship rode in the waves, seeming as if it would roll over with each wave that pushed against its sides. But, amazingly enough, the slender craft showed almost no roll at all, even with a strengthening swell raised by a growing wind racing into the bay from the sea beyond.

That was when the astounded young man saw several forms ease over the edge and slide down the ropes to the waiting boat, which now floated in the shadow of the greater vessel. Four of them took up oars and shipped them into the water as a fifth, a ghostly figure in a dark cloak, stepped to the bow, watching their forward path as the oarsmen began to pull for shore, about five full lengths distant.

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