The Érenyel: Part 5 (The Sailing)

Fiction By James // 7/17/2010

Note:  Please re-read Part 4 before you read part 5.

For the first day and night, Durfil and Vúnyeðel encountered what they had expected – during the day, they sailed their boat into the wind, turning the sail and tacking from side to side; during the night, the wind was at their backs and they continued bearing North. But on the second day, the wind changed and began blowing them slowly but steadily to the North-East. They also observed that the water itself was carrying them in this direction, as if they were on a river in the midst of the sea. “Let us follow this course that is chosen for us, and discover where it takes us,” said Vúnyeðel to his brother. Durfil agreed with this counsel, and so they continued bearing North-East.

Night came, and the direction did not change. The brothers did not yet understand anxiety, and so they did not worry as to how they would return home; nonetheless they did wonder about it. “I am sure, one way or another, that Áronyeh will guide us back when he deems it right,” said Durfil.

The waxing half-moon set, and Durfil sat in the back of the vessel, holding the boat’s tiller steady. Vúnyeðel lay on the vessel floor, gazing up at the stars. He began humming a tune, making it up as he went along. Presently he stopped. “I wonder, Durfil,” he said. “Perhaps across the water there is land; maybe in another day’s sailing, or maybe many times that distance. But suppose that the sea goes on forever. We will have to turn back at the end of a week. Even should we have provisions for a year’s voyage, how could we ever know?”

“I don’t suppose we could,” said Durfil. “Should we sail for a year and not find anything, perhaps we would do better to let the matter rest.”

“Yes,” said Vúnyeðel, “I suppose so. Still, I hope that we will find something.” He fell silent for a few moments, then began to hum again.

“Do you suppose,” said Durfil, interrupting, “that the sea may simply go on until it meets an edge? Perhaps, as it appears to us, the sky bends down and meets the sea.” “Perhaps,” said Vúnyeðel. “Yet somehow that does not seem right to me. But maybe, if the horizon appears closer tomorrow or the day after, then such could be right after all.”

Morning came again, and the horizon was no closer. But Vúnyeðel became excited as he scanned it, for there appeared to his eyes a distant smudge, straight ahead of them. The wind and the current brought them closer. As the shape drew nearer, they could tell it was land. “Durfil!” shouted Vúnyeðel. “Lo, it is land! Can you see the trees on the shore and the birds in the air?”

“The birds in the air, yes: I can here them too; your eyes are sharper than mine, for I cannot yet make out trees. But is it not strange, brother, that only in one place do we see the land? In front of us it is, but to the left, and to the right, there is only water. A small land it must be.”

“Perhaps,” said Vúnyeðel. They drew closer, and Vúnyeðel wondered at what he saw. At first, though his sharp eyes beheld the trees on the shore, they saw no shore: the trees seemed to rise straight out of the water. But now as they drew closer, it seemed that a sandy beach had floated up from the waves: it was the reverse from when they had left the shore north of the Vale. Vúnyeðel mentioned this to his brother. Durfil shook his head. “I know not what it means,” said Durfil, “but this truly I know: your eyes see far beyond any of the rest of us. Even now I can barely make out the points of the trees on the top of the land.”

“All the same, I must ponder what I see,” said Vúnyeðel. The brothers began to look at the sea about them. Out of the water several different kinds of fish began to leap and dive, and they saw large whales and grinning dolphins. Then the water grew shallower, and they could see to the bottom: it was covered with chorals of every color. More fish were swimming down there; there were crabs, worms, snails, squid, jellies, anemones and many other creatures. Durfil looked below the waves, and the colors dazzled him. The wind continued to blow them straight toward the land until they came to its shore; they got out and beached their vessel. In front of them was a pleasant land of grass and trees and ferns, rising steadily away from the beach.

“Come, brother!” said Durfil, “Let us walk up this land a bit and see what it is like.” And so the brothers ran up the land; it rose to a hill, and when they were upon it they gazed around in amazement.

“Why, you were right, Durfil: this is a small land!” said Vúnyeðel. “All around it lies the sea; we could sail around this land in a day!”

The brothers decided to explore the land – the island – for another three days. They sailed around its shores, and walked over its ground: they met the beasts of the land; they felt the ocean breeze on its hills, and drank from the brooks in its vales, and ate the fruit from its trees. The brothers loved the place, and decided that if they could, they would return to it often. Almost with regret, yet also with excitement, they restocked their food and, on the seventh day of their voyage, they sailed off again. Vúnyeðel looked at the receding land, and saw what he had seen before: the shore and the lower parts of the island dropped out of sight, yet still he could see the trees on the top of the island’s hills, before they too sunk below the waves. “This is a mystery I must know,” he thought. At the end of the next day, they came to another island, similar to the first, though with a different shape. “Maybe there are many islands like this,” said Durfil. “You may be right,” said Vúnyeðel. “Let us put a mark on this island, so that we will know that we have been here.” Finding on the island a large stone, they carved two lines into it; they spent the next day on the second island, and sailed away from it when evening came. The sky was lit up with stars that night, for the moon had waned away. Durfil was right: there were more islands. In the next three days they found three more, all about the same size. On each island they left a mark. On the fourth day of the second week, they came to another island, but this one was much bigger than all the others, put together. The two brothers spent three days on this large island. They climbed to the tallest hill, and looked out over the sea. Vúnyeðel was sure he could see another island to the North-East, where the sea’s current still took them. The sun set at the end of the second week, and the brothers left the big island. Early the next day, they came to the Island Vúnyeðel had seen. It was also big, about the size of the first. They spent that day on its shores, and then sailed away that evening. At the end of the next day, they came to a third Island: it, also, was large. They spent the third day of the third week on that island. The following morning, having restocked their food, they sailed away again.

They sailed for eight more days, without seeing any land. The current and the wind began bending away from the North, taking them due East. Vúnyeðel and Durfil grew used to seeing nothing but the sea below the heavens. They spent much of their time talking. Vúnyeðel explained to Durfil what he had seen each time they had approached or left land: how the heights appeared first, and disappeared last, rather than the whole land coming into view together. “I don’t understand it,” said Vúnyeðel. “The land seems to rise when we come to it and sink when we leave it.”

The moon had waxed into its full circle, and Durfil gazed at it. He quoted what their father had told them: “‘The moon is a ball; it reflects the light of the sun as it moves through its course in the heavens.’ A good thing, too,” he added. “It is much easier to see at night when the moon is out.”

“Probably the same is true of the shape of the sun,” said Vúnyeðel.

“Yes, a ball of light, rather than a disk,” said Durfil.

“A ball. Not a disk,” repeated Vúnyeðel. He lay silent for a while in the boat, counting the stars. Then he suddenly sat upright, startling his brother. “That’s it, Durfil! ‘A ball, not a disk!’” He clapped his hands in excitement.

“What do you mean?” said Durfil.

“Arah, Durfil! Arah, the ground we stand on. Arah, the seas we sail. It’s all one giant ball!”

“What makes you think this, brother?” asked Durfil. “See it, Durfil! It explains the mystery of the land appearing to rise and sink! The face of Arah is curved, both land and sea; there is an upward curve between us and any distant object. If an island is far away, the curve hides all but the highest of its hills. Do you see?”

Durfil thought a moment. “It seems strange to me,” he said at last, “but perhaps it is true. But then would not everything fall off of it, into some emptiness below?” “It would seem so,” said Vúnyeðel, “but perhaps it is not that everything is pulled down, but rather pulled to the center of the sphere.”

Vúnyeðel and Durfil continued to talk about the shape of Arah, and its lands, and the heavens above it late into the night. The next morning, they found land – not an island, but a long coast – much the same as their own beach below the vale. They turned South, and spent another week traveling along the coast, which bent back ever Westward toward their home – for indeed, it was one and the same coast.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

When Vúnyeðel and Durfil returned to the Vale, they had many stories, discoveries and ideas to share with their family. They began making plans to build a bigger vessel to carry them all to the islands the brothers had discovered, so they could explore them together as a family. Vúnyeðel and Durfil continued to design and test vessels with various kinds of sails. The family also explored other areas inland.

During this time, a second union was formed in Arah, for Vúnyeðel took his sister Shereynah, whom he loved, and she became his wife. Durfil built them a house down the stream in the Vale, and there they lived happily as the years passed.

Comments

This is tragic!

Because even though I know what's inevitably coming and there's absolutely nothing I can do about it, everything is just so perfect and I don't want it to change! 

*sigh* But, what's done is done.  And, regardless, this is still an excellent piece of writing - very well-executed.  I would say that I can't wait for the next installment, but in all honesty I dread it.  I'm not looking forward to seeing perfection get thrown down the drain.

Mary | Sat, 07/17/2010

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Brother: Your character should drive a motorcycle.
Me: He can't. He's in the wilderness.
Brother: Then make it a four-wheel-drive motorcycle!

This is such a

This is such a well-thought-out story--excellent!

Heather | Sat, 07/17/2010

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And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

Figures. I go on my first

Figures. I go on my first lengthy vacation of the summer and you post a new section of this story. Two, nonetheless! Amazing.

Julie | Sat, 07/24/2010

Formerly Kestrel