Chapter 91: The Final Test

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Iako made a mental note to never get on Eikagor's bad side.

They were getting close. Above them, the castle loomed, staring down at them imperiously, a colossus of ruin and rubble. It was a dark shadow on a dim sky, standing out only by shades of darkness. There were few rocks in the sea, and their boat was small enough to glide over the reefs that were so perilous to the trade ships. Once or twice, Iako heard the oars scrape against the tops of the reef.

Two minutes later, they stopped, and Gial threw the anchor over. "We swim from here, and make sure you have no food on you. Deathmaw eels infest these waters. We don't want them visiting," Raddas said. "Ready?" Gial and Eikagor nodded, as did the Vesperati, Halech. "Go."

With three small splashes (Or rather, two small splashes and a large one), the Ranger trainees slipped in and began to swim towards the island. The boat rocked, still shaken from the weight of them all falling out. It was good Tethyd make, allowing the long canoe to carry everyone.

Iako would go with John the Calixa and Jain Han the Erinyan. Raddas would follow, along with Laidu and Theophrastus. That was the plan, all laid out by Raddas the night before. The man was one marvelous strategist, Iako found out. When the teams had been posted, Raddas had taken one look at the names assigned in his group, and Iako could see the gears spinning and running in Raddas's head. He started coming up with a plan immediately. 

And so far, it was going swimmingly, no pun intended.

Iako grabbed the edge ofthe boat, making sure his tail didn't accidentally send Raddas swimming, and watched as the first three made it to shore. "Ready?" Raddas asked. Iako, the Calixa, and the Erinyan nodded. "Go!" Iako pulled off and dove straight into the water.

It wasn't cold, which was a relief. Iako pulled himself through the water. The others would have to stay above water to breathe, but Iako was Tethyd. Iako was born of the water. 

He inhaled. Well, it wasn't inhaling per se, but it felt like it. Instead of feeling the air rush through his mough and down his throat, he felt something wet course inside his neck, and felt the same invigorating air inflate his chest. Gills. They only kicked in when he tried to breathe underwater.

Iako swam through the murky darkness, his claws scratching at the seafloor. While the others used their feet to propel them through the water, Iako's tail did the work for him, swishing from side to side. He sped through the water, though he didn't see much. The moonlight, beautiful as it was, did not have the raw strength and force of sunlight, and couldn't penetrate the choppy seawater. All Iako saw was dark blotches in a slightly less dark field.

It was enough for him to navigate, and that was the important part. Iako was fine on swimming; he was a Tethyd through and through.  He was worried about the others. They limped through the water, tugging themselves forward instead of gliding through with the grace and style of a sea-born creature. Like Iako, for example.

But ten seconds later, that didn't matter. Iako got his feet under him and ran through the surf, breaking onto the shore in a mess of white sea foam and brine. The other two followed. Iako said a quick prayer of thanks under his breath that he didn't have to deal with the deathmaw eels. They weren't poisonous like some eels, and they only really got excited at the scent of blood, but occasionally they bit out of the blue.

Something wet fell onto the sand next to him, and Iako looked up just in time to see something fly into the water. It looked like a pail, a bucket. It made a tiny splash as the bucket (and its contents) fell through the water.

He leaned down and picked up the thing that fell next to him. It was wet and squishy. He felt it for a moment, rolled it between his fingers. Fish guts.

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