Chapter 10 - Alex

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Below the water there was chaos. A silent chaos, dominated by the beating of her own heart in her ears. The salt burnt her eyes as she opened them. A play of shadows and silhouettes; everything sinking. 

The power of the maelstrom twisted around her waist and yanked her down with all its might, sucking her to the bottom of the sea along with pieces of torn off wood and the vague outlines of the men she had shared her first sea voyage with.

There was no time to mourn them.

She clawed at the water, kicking and screaming. Out of her mouth came soundless bubbles that stirred the water around her. Every muscle ached, stung even, most of all her upper body, the spot where Billy had banged his hoof into her. She had to continue fighting. Giving up would mean letting the sea take her and failing her mission before it had even properly started.

Prayer was her only answer as the maelstrom swallowed her further. Kindness and her virtuous siblings, Charity and Temperance, wouldn't leave her here to die.

Her head pounded with the same cadence as the beating in her chest. She was tumbling around, her body weightless and useless. The light of the surface grew dimmer. Her lungs throbbed as they fought the urge to gasp for air. 

Even as black and red spots floated before her eyes, she told herself to hold on a bit longer. One more second. Just one more, and then the Gods would come to aid.

Just as she felt her eyes falling shut and braced for death, an unknown force enveloped her. A hand made of water grabbed her by the wrist, and she soared up like an arrow. The Gods were sending her home to her family; she would be reunited with Mother, Father, Charlie, and Ben.

Yet as she broke through the surface, her first reflex was to inhale. It was a breath like she had never taken one before, a gasp of life.

The sky rumbled as she smacked back into the water, not as deep this time. She swam up, barely able to exhale before a violent wave crashed onto her, sending her down once more.

A shadow floated above her head, a large chunk of wood large enough to fit a human being riding the waves. She flailed her arms, trying to grab hold of it, but it was out of her reach.

From above, a greasy hand came for hers. It snatched her up. As she got heaved onto the wood, she embraced her saviour's bony arms and soft words. "I got you. It's alright. It's gonna be alright."

It was Len. He had saved her.

Her muscles trembled as she took shaky breaths, her clothes and hair dripping with water. She had made it. She was alive.

Lightning ripped through the sky as she let go of him. From sheer shock, she nearly lost her balance. Len had scratches all over his face, a deep cut bleeding from his right temple. A piece of wood still stuck out of the wound. But that wasn't what caused her heart to skip a beat: his hair, from his forehead to the tip of his braid was no longer black, but white.

She edged as far away from him as she could. "What are you?"

"Alex," he started, but stopped as a giant wave approached. He stretched his hand and twirled it, the wave parting around them.

"Are you...?"

"It's not important. You're alive—that's all that matters."

"But you are..." The horror of Laneby played in her mind; she couldn't say it out loud. "You can control the water."

"I need to find other survivors." Ignoring her, he peered into the depths of the ocean, his face twitching in pain.

A smaller wave broke over her. There wasn't another soul around but them, dead or alive. Just water and more water. Where the Acedia's Revenge had been now floated pieces of wood and other debris between the foam. No more ship to take her to Mora. No Billy to stand by her side. She was all alone with this Jade Islandic boy; a magician.

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