by Matt Millr
Roughest of rough drafts. First 6 pages. Never wrote a book. Just experimenting, really.
|Enfernos, the kingdom that ruled a world now forgotten, was finally waking up. Dawn was breaking in the east and shadows began to dance across the land. To the south, a storm was beginning to take shape, only a few short hours from breaching the cliffs that the city was built upon. Until the storm hit, the morning was to be the brightest in months. The recent weather had not been as cruel as a storm, but the skies had been blackened with the ash from an erupt volcano many miles to the north-east. The castle grounds and the lower-class town just east was thinly coated grey, as though a dusting of grey snow had fallen across the ground. The upper-class citizens who lived in the cliff-side near the markets had little to no ash fall; the wind that brought the dark clouds, gently pulled the ash over the cliffs and down to the ocean shore and ship docks below. The gardens on the housing pads of the bluff created a bright contrast to the grey world above. The new dawn brought hope to the people of Enfernos; even a brewing storm would not dampen their spirts. The sun had been born once again.
A ship, docked at the base of the towering cliffs, was being prepped to sail west across the Lunar Sea; the first ship to sail since the last sun. The ship was long with two large masts and a captain’s quarters located at the back, above the main deck. Carved beautifully along the rear was the name Estonia, and fine gold trim outlined the carvings. Along the railings clung a thin coat of ash that had collected during the long night. Most of the ash on the ship floor had already been disturbed by crew hurrying on and off the ship during preparations, but some ash remained in less traveled areas with only a few footsteps passing through. On the ship was a hand-selected troop of soldiers, but this was not a war ship. Instead, Estonia was a transport ship, designed as the fastest ship in the Enfernian fleet.
The current captain and navigator of the Estonia was Hektor Wayd. Hektor was the finest captain in the entire Enfernian fleet; where most captains were bound to a specific ship, Hektor was allowed whichever ship he desired when asked by the king to complete a task. The Estonia was Hektor’s favorite ship in the Enfernos fleet because the king allowed him to modify it to his liking. The only ship he preferred over the Estonia was his personal ship, The Leviathan. On this day however, he needed a fast escort ship, for his mission was to deliver a group of advanced warriors to the ruined kingdom of Arvin to scour the land for any signs of life.
“Pull up the anchor and free the sails!” Hektor called to the crew, just as the last soldiers boarded the ship. He spoke with a heavy breath, and a raspiness that should have made his voice soft, almost as though his voice had been damaged from the salt in the air during his many years at sea. However, Hektor’s voice cut through the air with ease, and the unique sound was something that went unmistaken by anyone around. Hektor looked south towards the encroaching storm, and then back at the troops. “Bring in the gangplank and tie down anything loose! Today, we sail for Arvin!” And with that command, the gangplank was pulled from the docks and dark green sails rolled down the masts. A cloud of gray burst into the air as the sails fell, but once the cloud dispersed, the emblem of Enfernos became visible. The main sail had embroidered on it a red dragon encircling a golden-yellow rising sun, an important and ancient symbol to the people of Enfernos. The symbol depicts a dragon guarding the light of the morning sun – the source from which dragon fire was believed to originate. On the shoreline, several men handled large wooden rods tipped with flat boards used to push the ship out from the docks. The docking area at the base of the cliffs was too narrow for the ships to drift out on their own, and the small cavern north of the docks that stored the smaller boats used to pull large ships out, had been temporarily blocked by fallen rocks.
Once the wooden landing was cleared, oars stretched from both sides of the ship and submerged into the water. The voyage from Enfernos was underway.
“Wait!” a voice cried from the docks.
Hektor looked back, and at the edge of a dock was a heavy set boy waving his arms in the air. The boy stumbled into a rowboat, and began rowing towards the Estonia. “Oars up!” Hektor shouted back to the crew. The oars rose out of the water, but the Estonia continued to drift quickly through the water.
The boy continued to row, but each thrust into the water became rapidly slower. “What is it boy?” Hektor called out.
“A letter” the boy cried back. A long pause followed – being fat and out of shape, the boy had quickly lost his breath from the rowing. “A letter from the king!”
Hektor sighed and turned around to his crew. “This boy is clearly more use behind a pair of forks than a pair of oars,” he laughed. The soldiers aboard began to chuckle and Hektor’s laughter turned silent. “Someone go get him!”
The roar of Hektor’s command scrambled the crew as they grabbed a rowboat of their own and raised it over the side. One man got in and was lowered into the sea. Quickly he rowed out to the boy and retrieved the letter. Hektor shook his head at the men aboard the ship, and mumbled under his black and white-speckled beard, “Crew a ship with soldiers, and you’re dead by nightfall, Wayd.”
The soldier sent to retrieve the letter returned with haste. “Captain, the letter from the king,” he stated as he offered Hektor the rolled up paper, stamped with the kings seal. “The boy said this was for both you and the Commander.”
“Fine,” Hektor replied as he took the letter, “go back below deck. I’ll find Brandr. Tell the men down there that they’ll have to make up for lost time. You don’t want to get caught above the trench once the storm hits.”
“Aye captain!” and with that the soldier ran down towards the stairs leading below deck.
“The correct response be ‘Aye-aye’!” Hektor called after him. “Don’t pretend to be at home on the sea, boy!”
Hektor sat quietly in his captain’s quarters as he stared intently at the open letter on his desk. The sounds from the ship had all but faded in his mind, but breaking his distraction was a loud knock at the door. “Hektor, I need a word with you.” The voice on the other side of the door belonged to Brandr Castro, Lord Commander of the first ranking division in the Enfernos army, Division D.
“Come in Commander,” Hektor replied with a tone of remorse. Brandr then entered the room slowly; he dreaded the news that came with the king’s letter.
“I have been informed that the letter from earlier was intended for the both of us. Why did you not tell me?”
“My ship,” Hektor slid the letter towards Brandr as he spoke. “I put the safety of the crew above all else, and I do so by judging what to do with new information without the counsel of others.”
“I take it you want my counsel now?” Brandr looked down at the letter, but would not yet pick it up. “Why would the king write to us now? I spoke to him just earlier this morning.”
“The letter is an apology,” Hektor sighed. “I do not expect you will welcome what he has to say. I did not.” Brandr turned grim as he picked up the letter. While reading the letter, he began to understand why the king felt need to apologize. This is how the letter read:
Hektor Wayd, Naval Captain of Enfernos
Brandr Castro, Lord Commander of Enfernos Army Division D
Until now, the details of your current mission have been vague at best. I write this letter to warn you of the dangers I put you in. You were assigned as a scouting party to sweep the land of Arvin for any indication as to what happened to the previous inhabitants. The details were deception to swear you under oath into the quest. The true purpose of this voyage is to face what evil lies within the forests of Arvin and eliminate it if all possible. During the dark days I sent ten other fleets with the cover of ash and yet none have returned. I have decided now that I shall send in eighty of my best soldiers to identify this threat. Let it be known, if you turn back now, you and all of those under your command shall be charged with treason. From this point forward, you are on your own.
King Victor of Enfernos
Brandr slowly folded the letter and handed it back to Hektor. “I don’t know of any reason to continue on this voyage other than honor.” Brandr looked through the window behind Hektor that looked straight at Enfernos. The cliff that not long ago had towered over them was now but a large rock in the distance with a hint of a castle rising above the northern pinnacle. “Swearing us as a scouting party into a land that has killed more men than we have was smart. Sometimes I think the king is too smart.” Brandr drew his sword and looked at the blade. His sword was the size of a doubled handed sword, but Brandr handled it as if it were light as a feather. This might have been the last time he was to hold his sword in admiration. “I am sorry Hektor, but I cannot promise that we will return to our homes again.”
Hektor pocketed the letter into his coat and pulled out a flask. He took a large drink and slammed the flask down. “My dear Lord Commander Castro, you may be away from home, but out here on the sea is where I hang my hat. Let the legends never say that Hektor Wayde turned his back in fear of the unknown.” Hektor grinned curiously at Brandr. “We will return home, and we will bring the rest of these men with us. The fiercest things in this world come up from the depths of the sea during a storm.” The sound of thunder echoed in the distance and Hektor nodded slightly towards it. “If we survive that, gods have mercy on whatever evil walks the forests of Arvin.”
The storm fell upon the crew a few short hours after their departure, and as Hektor promised, fierce things came with it. While the storm was noticeably encroaching on the ship, the first strike seemed to come without warning. Lightening shot down through the clouds above, and struck the water directly in front of the ship. The men quickly reacted to raise the sails, but they were not fast enough. After the main sail was secured, a gust of wind picked up the front sail and thrust the bow of the ship into an oncoming wave. The ship struck the wave and the sail tore from the yard. The top of the sail fell to the deck of the ship and caught around the bow.
“William!” Hektor called out from the back of the ship, “Cut loose the sail!” William was first mate on the ship, the only other person aboard the ship from Hektor that knew how a ship worked, and he was posted lookout at the time that the sail broke free. William rushed over, and cut free the ropes that continued to connect the sail to the ship. As the ropes were cut, the sail ripped to the front of the ship and disappeared over the bow.
For a moment, the winds had calmed and the waves had lowered, but the storm clouds had now surrounded the ship. Thunder boomed across the skies. William went to check that the sail didn’t hang up on the ship, but he found something far worse. “Captain, can you tell me what this is?”
Hektor rushed to William’s side and looked into the water where William was pointing. The water looked calm. Then, a long spined back broke the water, and disappeared back into the depths. Hektor looked back and saw that these creatures had surrounded the ship.
“OARS! Pull in the oars!” Hektor cried across the ship.
The soldiers below deck, led by Brandr at the bow, scrambled to pull in the oars, but the troops at the stern of the ship hadn’t heard the initial command and failed to react in time. The final oars were only halfway into the ship when suddenly one of the portside oars was ripped from the ship, tossing three men into the wall of the ship, and dragging one soldier out into the dark void that the sea now had become. Before the men could react, three starboard oars flew into the ceiling of the deck as though something fell on the paddles outside the ship. The oars snapped in two, and caused several men to jolt upwards before being knocked back down by the splintered wood.
Back above deck, Hektor ran to the helm to stabilize the ship. Just as the starboard side was tossed into the air by the oars below, Hektor, on the opposite side of the ship, slammed into the railing of the stairs that headed to the upper deck. A large wave struck the port side at the same time which kept Hektor on board, and somehow it fueled him with glee. Hektor cackled as he continued towards the helm, now drenched in saltwater. He grabbed the wheel with both hands, and grinned menacingly as he spun the wheel hard towards portside. “William!” Hektor shouted.
William was still running about the front of the ship, attempting to contain broken scraps from the front mast that were damaged. At first he didn’t hear Hektor’s call, but the second time his name seemed to thunder down from the skies. He turned to Hektor and saw the sea captain laughing as water splashed around him and he spun his wheel back and forth as he weaved through large serpent bodies breaching in front of the ship. “What do you need captain?!” William called back.
“The third lever, starboard! Reach over and pull it!” Hektor replied. “The sávra have had enough fun for today!”
William turned back around to look at the bow. A wave struck the side of the ship and sent William down to his knees. He crawled forward and grabbed onto the railing. Slowly, William peered over the bow of the ship and noticed several levers lining the side. Nervously, he looked ahead of him as a large spined back broke the surface so close that he could have reached out and touched it. Instead, he reached down, grabbed the third lever and pulled upward. As William stood up he looked behind him and noticed the water turn dark green.
“Great job William!” Hektor applauded. “Now it’s smooth sailing from here!” And just as Hektor said that, the serpents in the sea began to disperse. The storm continued to pour down and thrash the sea, but the danger was gone. William, for the first time since the storm hit, felt like he could breathe again.