Burtrend begins his journey, sailing dangerous oceans to study Salatoria's crystal-tech
I do not wish to sound as though the ancient texts are insignificant. I believe they are still valuable when used properly. Sometimes, within the decaying tomes, the pages will whisper names of noteworthy people and dates for main events. The difficulty lies in sifting through trivial information that is insignificant to your current research. Once you have found an important person and event you can begin to seriously dive into memory retrieval. Without having a clear starting point and instead randomly diving into the memories of the past it would overwhelm you in a mass of irrelevant experiences. Searching for information vital to your research would be nearly impossible. You would be lost, as though adrift on an endless sea.
Burtrend stood at the stern of the ship the Adalina watching his home, the port city of Bar, slowly shrink in the distance. The tall mountains wrapped around the ocean like a crooked finger sheltering Bar from ocean storms and potential attacks from the sea. Anyone that would war against the city would need to either destroy her naval fleet at the mouth of the fjord or travel over the dangerous tropical mountains. Its strategic placement is the reason the High Council of Vitar called Bar home.
The glistening white spire of Emerau Tower, seat of the High Council, disappeared from his sight as the Adalina rounded the tip of the fjord. One day... His thoughts were filled with determination, one day I will return. I will finally enter Emerau Tower and I will show them exactly who I am and what I can do. He stared blankly at the craggy cliffs and they sailed along the shoreline.
Sailors crawled about the ship like small insects on a larger prey, securing lines and rigging. The sails billowed out while steam and smoke rose from the smokestack. Many of the words Captain Marcell and his first mate shouted out at the other sailors were foreign to him. He ignored them and filled his thoughts with the little he knew of Salatoria and its crystal technology. It both scared and amazed him that such a thing could truly exist. Feeling a strong drive to learn and understand it, he let his heart soar in anticipation of his future.
It was only a month after speaking with the assassin and receiving those papers that held so much information within their ink. Paying the assassin to spy out Salatoria had left his coffers near empty so he'd needed to convince Signor Sevron Rainier, his guarantor, to finance his expedition. It had been extremely difficult to do without showing him what the spy had found but Burtrend really wanted to surprise him with the crystal technology upon his return. Eventually Signor Rainier begrudgingly agreed to it, but only after Burtrend threatened to quit as an inventor and become a temple proselyte. Doing so would have rendered the years of funding him through college worthless. He graduated younger than most with high ranks from the Machinists College of the Arte in Bar and he was never conservative when it came to his inventions. His most recent development, still under construction, was the hydro-electric dam of Lake Teirne. Signor Rainier is fully expecting Burtrend's future projects to bring an even larger return on his investment than he already made. Greed can make men easy to manipulate.
He turned his thoughts back to his current situation sailing along the coast. This trip was quite dangerous. He quivered deep inside from a strong wind that felt like it was trying to blow straight through him and refused to think the shivers meant anything more. They would navigate through hostile waters off the Fayneland coast. Vitar had been warring on and off with Fayneland for his entire life. Meeting a Faynecian naval vessel in their waters was entirely possible.
While lost in thought Burtrend fiddled with a bronze medallion hanging around his neck, normally hidden beneath his clothes. Realizing it was in his hand he studied the medallion as he had a thousand times before. Stamped on its face was an elder-vaus, a creature resembling a giant golden eagle, its wings spread while clutching a three-headed hydra with two tails. The elder-vaus symbolized Korhan, Vitar's god of fire and order. This showed him keeping the goddess Tres, the goddess of ice and chaos symbolized by the hydra, in eternal submission.
Priests taught that should she ever escape Korhan she would take vengeance on all life, chaos and ice would swallow the world. Burtrend knew better than to believe Korhan held her securely. She was free to wander the world, wreaking havoc, and bringing chaos. Though he was sure if she became powerful enough she would destroy the world. That is why it was so important for Vitar to conquer the other nations and bring order to the chaos. Sadly, the ocean was her home as much as the frozen waists of the far south. Hoping she would not discover his trespasses on her domain Burtrend slipped the medallion back under his shirt.
Shaking himself out of his godly speculation he returned his attention back to the rugged cliffs. Peeking out above them he could see the tall mountains and foothills further inland. Cities and towns occasionally peaked through the trees, dotting the lush greens of the tropical forests. Mists clung to the deep valleys, giving the land a mysterious ambiance. Memories of having sailed this coast and seeing the land like this once before crept into his thoughts. They were memories long forgotten, discarded, like broken toys and shattered dreams. His mother's frail hand holding his tightly. He felt so small standing next to her tall, thin frame. The wind from the ocean blew her long blonde hair from her pale shoulders as they sailed to their new home, Bar. He cut the thoughts short, knowing the memories only became darker from there.
The beautiful coastline now sickened him, so he returned to his cabin in the bulkhead. The balance of the ship shifted slightly with each wave causing him to gently weave back and forth while he attempted to walk a straight line. He had heard that sailors had a difficult time walking on steady ground after they have been out at sea for a while. Now he could understand why.
He finally made it to his small cabin. A small hooded glow-lamp illuminated the small room where he found his luggage secured in a corner and his hammock swinging slightly as the ship moved. He could hear the loud purr of the engine and roar of the boiler room reverberate through the walls. There was even a tiny desk and chair secured to the floor. Burtrend wasn't sure how he was going to suffer living a couple of months in this miniscule living space. Maybe I should have paid for a larger ship, but I was told the Adelina was one of the fastest ships in the port. Putting that thought aside, he rummaged through his luggage and produced a blank journal. He settled into the chair that was much too small for his tall frame, placed his journal onto his desk, and wrote a simple entry about their departure.
The next journal entry he wrote was a couple days later after they traveled to the bustling port city of Cabuay. There they picked up an ambassador and a linguistics professor that Senior Rainier had required he bring with him. Ambassador Alvorez will start and maintain political relations with the Salatine people while the professor will study the Salatine culture and language to become and train future translators. He was just finishing this second entry when he heard a knock on the cabin door.
"Enter," he said, putting the quill pen down and closing the ink well. He sighed and turned to see who opened his door. "Professor Gustavo, I hope you have settled in."
"Yes, although I lost most my lunch over the railing due to the blasted tossing of the ship. Are you absolutely certain there isn't someone you would rather take?"
"I'm sorry if you feel inconvenienced by this journey but you are my only choice. You have studied Iddean ancient history and you have a natural knack for language. Besides, we have already left port and I'm not turning around. I hope the money I paid will be enough to compensate for any discomfort." Burtrend looked sympathetically at the portly professor's sickly face. "Don't worry, Professor, I'm sure you will get used to it in time." He smiled politely until Professor Gustavo got an uncomfortably green look on his face and quickly excused himself. I hope he doesn't fall overboard while he's relieving his seasickness. He's too much of an asset to lose him to the ocean.
After a few days the professor's seasickness subsided and the constant stream of complaints finally ceased. At first Burtrend was grateful for the quiet but it started grating on his nerves every time he met Ambassador Alvorez's haughty, sneering gaze or Gustavo's resentful glances. The two of them seemed to become fast friends but neither one was interested in conversing with Burtrend for any length of time.
The captain tried ignoring Burtrend as much as possible. Whenever forced to converse with Burtrend it was with obvious disdain, so Burtrend treated him equally. The rest of the crew just avoided him as much as possible, making the boredom intensify. They had just made it through the hostile Faynecian waters, but they were still not safe and that kept everyone on edge.
He spent time pacing above decks, occasionally getting in the way or making a nuisance of himself. The lack of activity gave him time to reflect on how tremendously huge the world was, seeing the ocean spread out in all directions with no land in sight. In the evenings, he would usually lay on his hammock reading the now well-worn pages from the leather envelope.
At the end of a long week, Burtrend awoke to the sound of running feet and Captain Marcell shouting even more obscenities. He rushed to dress, hurrying to discover the reason for the commotion and almost ran straight into a sailor rushing down. Once above deck he immediately noticed a storm that had advanced during the night. He stumbled through the blustering wind to the captain.
"Is there a way to avoid the storm?" he shouted to be heard over the wind.
"We could if we want to battle a Faynecian warship. There is one on the northwestern horizon. My small steamship can weather that storm. It can't fight a warship." He pointed to a sizable dot on the horizon.
"It doesn't look that big," Burtrend argued. Captain Marcell handed him the shiny brass spyglass and suggested he take a second look. He took a while to figure out where he was looking, especially since the rough seas and wind were tossing him about, but he finally got a lock on it. He could clearly see the Faynecian flag, with the flag of their naval fleet. The spyglass shifted with the swell and he saw the ram head, ironclad hull of the Faynecian steam frigate. It was a massive war ship. Its bulk wasn't a hindrance with the addition of an advanced propeller system. Such a ship wouldn't take long to intercept them. He closed the eyeglass and handed it back to Marcell.
"We are securing everything and heading into the storm. If they try following us, the storm will likely sweep us apart. After it blows over I'll figure out our heading and get back on course." Seafarer legends held that in the eye of the largest ocean storms is an unexpected calm. Burtrend wasn't sure he believed it and wasn't willing to find out.
"Captain," Burtrend spoke tensely, "Surely we are fast enough to avoid such a large ship. Is it possible to skirt the storm? We just need to get close enough..."
"That," Captain Marcell cut him off, pointing to the Faynecian ship, "was built for war. If we try to skirt the storm, they will get close enough to bombard us with their cannons. I also can't guarantee that the storm won't turn and overtake us anyway. You hired me to get you safely across this ocean, but you need to trust me to do that. I've been sailing longer than you've been alive so don't take me for a fool, and don't act like one yourself. " Marcell was right and Burtrend hated him for it.
"What do you need me to do?" The question came out quietly from his lips.
"Nothing, go to your cabin and wait it out." Captain Marcell replied briskly. As an afterthought he added, "Perhaps you might try praying to your god. Although, I'm not sure how it'll help, seeing as we are in her domain." Burtrend Bristled at the reference to Tres. He had heard that many seamen refuse to worship Korhan for fear of Tres. They didn't want to worship Tres and her chaotic, spiteful ways, but worshiping Korhan brought down her wrath. He despised that cowardly belief in the sailors, almost as much as he despised Faynecian gods.
Burtrend was sure he could help with something, so he wandered around the deck watching the dark clouds move closer and the men run about. He wondered at the darkness of the storm. It appeared too ominous to be safe. Surely Tres is behind this. Somehow, she learned I was here. He saw the captain glaring at him between orders. Glaring back, Burtrend went below deck. He noticed the professor peeking out from behind a cabin door and ignored him. Once inside his cabin he started pacing the small room, a few feet at a time. Eventually he stopped to check the binding on his things and packing loose items that had been in his desk. He finally collapsed into his hammock and dozed lightly.
Burtrend woke, noticing that the tossing of the ship had become extreme. The steel hull seemed to amplify the drumming sounds of the storm. Boredom and curiosity drove him to venture out and was tossed about by the violent waves as he tried to walk. He found water splashing down the stairs from rain and waves crashing over the gunwale. He attempted to go above deck, but the force of the storm threw him back down. Wiping the water from his face, he stubbornly climbed the stairs again, clutching the rail with all his strength.
Once above deck, he lost his footing and tumbled to the side, grabbing anything he could before he finally managed to stop sliding. Captain Marcell is going to get us killed! The captain of that war ship would have to be insane to follow us! Another swell crashed over the gunwale, blinding him with the salty sting of ocean water in his eyes. Captain Marcell was right, I should have stayed below deck. I'm no match for this storm.
"Burtrend! You fool!" The captain's voice was barely audible through the drumming of rain and thunder. Time slowed down, or it seemed to, as a sailor with a rope lifeline tied around his waist slowly stumbled toward him. Burtrend watched as a large wave crashed onto the deck just before the sailor reached him. Salty ocean water instantly filled his mouth, choking him. The full force of the wave slammed into him and knew he didn't have the strength to hold on any longer. The large swell swept him from the deck, sending him quickly beyond the sailor's reach. Pain seared through his head when it hit the railing. Then his body jolted as it slammed into the ocean.
The dark waves of the ocean tossed him about helplessly, like a bristle seed in a strong wind. Water lapped against his face, threatening drown him. In the chaos he barely noticed a crate that had loosed from the ship and had been tossed overboard by a wave. He used every bit of strength he had left to swim to the crate, struggling to move in the turbulent water. Finally reaching it he desperately grabbed hold to keep his head above the water. Horrified, he watched the storm tear him and the Adelina further apart. This is what I get for wandering into the realm of Tres. He prayed, Korhan forgive me and guide me to do what is right. He lifted his body onto the crate, grasping tightly to the edges to hold himself secure. He couldn't tell how much time had passed but it felt like an eternity before the storm had calmed enough for the waves to stop crashing against him and he could finally relax his grip. Eventually exhaustion took over and his world went dark.