The Tale of Ander Collins--chapter twenty six

Fiction By LoriAnn // 12/15/2009


They set sail on a warm, humid day; the sort of late-summer afternoon when the air seems so thick you might as well be swimming. Ander’s hair stuck damply to his forehead, and he brushed at it nervously.
He had never been on a boat before. It wasn’t exactly required training for a kitchen boy, even one taught by an ex-governess. He eyed the three large ships warily, trying to estimate how many feet from shore they could get before sinking. He shook himself, trying to remember that these ships had made many successful voyages—but then he thought well, all the more reason they might sink now. Needless to say, this didn’t improve his mood.
It had been three days now, since the conversation in the garden, and Jagsod had hardly spoken a word to anyone. He wasn’t outright rude—rather, he was frighteningly polite in a cold, distant way. Ander ached for what he had lost; the easygoing friendship he had shared with the young ogre. If only they had thought to tell him sooner, before it was too late to turn back. Actually, Ander suspected that Jagsod might have come along with them anyway; but the fact that he hadn’t been given any choice in the matter…that was another problem entirely.
All through their preparations—recruiting willing men, loading supplies, fitting out the four ships they would need—Jagsod had been very helpful, but grim and forbidding whenever Ander tried to speak with him. They all knew that the ogre was committed to the cause, but the baleful glances he shot in Ander’s direction every now and again kept them all on edge. No one—not even Thraluic—was sure how to treat a glowering ogre.
Thraluic was distracted enough as it was. Shyllen told Ander—privately, of course—that her uncle was fare more concerned about his present form than he let on.
“He’s just keeping busy with all the preparations,” she said, as they sat in the parlor on afternoon, taking inventory of the food needed for the voyage. She glanced out the window into the front yard, where they could see Thraluic and Dorlan bend intently over some list or another. “But I can tell how worried he is. Maybe even—“ she lowered her voice, as though it were a dirty thought. “Maybe even afraid.”
Ander was shocked by the idea. Thraluic the Strong: afraid? What a preposterous notion! Then reality shoved its ugly, pointed nose into his thoughts, and Ander realized that Thraluic was no longer the Strong. So why shouldn’t he be afraid?
Strangely, though, that thought gave Ander some comfort as he dithered on the wharf. Those ships looked so fragile…but if Thraluic could be afraid of something and still go on, then so could Ander. He took a bold step forward, onto the gray planks of the pier—and froze.
The whole horizon was moving, he abruptly realized with terror. The sea was a great, ever-shifting maw, just waiting to swallow him up. Ander swayed heavily, unable to control his sudden vertigo. The pale foam leered nearer, and he weakly tilted into it, helpless to stop himself—
“Whoa, cousin!” a firm hand grabbed Ander’s shoulder and yanked him back from the edge of the pier. “If you’re that thirsty, Mother has barrel of water over there.” Dorlan turned Ander to face him, and examined his ash-white face. “Are you alright?”
Shaken, Ander nodded. “Just…just tired, I guess.” He looked down the waterfront, where Aunt Maire stood by a water barrel, passing out cool drinks to her son’s workers. “I could use a drink, now that you mention it.”
But Dorlan didn’t release him. “Are you sure you’re alright?” he asked again; but this time Ander understood that the question wasn’t merely about his dizzy spell. He tried to meet his cousin’s concerned gaze, and failed. “I’m fine.”
Dorlan freed Ander and sighed. He sat down heavily on the edge of the pier, and patted the wood beside him. Ander cautiously sank to sit beside him, and tried not to look at the water.
 “Are you nervous?” Dorlan asked after a moment’s silence.
“Yes,” Ander answered ruefully. “But that’s nothing new.”
Dorlan gave a short, warm laugh. “Well, I’m glad I’m not the only one, then.”
“What?” Ander gaped at his cousin unbelievingly. “But you’re…”
“The rightful king? Sure.” Dorlan shrugged his broad shoulders. “So what? I’m still allowed to get nervous. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re all on edge. Thraluic’s worried about a thousand little things; Shyllen’s worried about him; your ogre friend is worried about failing—as are most of the men—and I’m worried about failing them. I think Mother’s the only one who isn’t bothered—but then…” he rolled his eyes. “She’s just like that. Dad was always a thundercloud, ready to burst with brilliance and rumbling; and Mother’s a tree in the wind. I envy her.”
Ander gazed at his cousin, seeing him in a new light. The realization that Dorlan could be apprehensive about this quest too made him seem more human, more solid somehow. But in Ander’s eyes, it also made him more noble, more suited to the task that awaited them.
He stared out over the busy waterfront for a moment, mulling over these new thoughts. “I think,” he said slowly, “I think we’ll make it, Dorlan.”
The young king nodded, very thoughtful. “We just might.” He flicked a splinter into the water. “We just might.”
Ander finally managed to board the ship—christened The Lady Bianca, but just called Bee by her crew—by closing his eyes and holding onto the rope handrail that led up to the deck. Once on the ship, he surprisingly had very little problem with seasickness, as long as he stayed away from the deck rail and didn’t eat too much.
Jagsod had been correct in his statement that it would take longer to sail back to Alkemen than it had taken to fly to Scyth. In all, they were at sea for a total of fourteen days and thirteen nights—Ander knew, because he had counted.
Finally, however, the shoreline of Alkemen came into view.
“Land ho!” shouted the lookout in the crow’s nest. Ander looked eagerly ahead, and there it was: land at last.
But instead of relief, Ander was annoyed to find that panic started to build in his stomach. No matter how you looked at it, he couldn’t ignore the fact that they were heading into battle—a battle with an evil witch that was somehow related to him, and who just might kill them all.
Not exactly happy thoughts.
As the ship pulled into harbor, at a small coastal town called Arsheel, Ander shouldered his pack reluctantly, trying to stay out of the way as Ravin’s men—or rather, Dorlan’s men, now—bustled about the ship. They shined their swords and waxed their bowstrings and checked arrows for faults in the fletching; they shouted questions to each other across the deck and through the rigging—
“Paulous, hey Paulous! Have you seen my other gauntlet?”
“What time are we putting into port?”
"Did anyone pick up an extra pair of socks?”
“Whose gauntlet is this?”
“Hey, Jagsod, do you know where they put the extra leather?”
“I found a sock—but it looks like the other one got tarred somehow…”
Ander waded through the melee, feeling small and pleasantly unnoticeable among the men. A cool, smooth hand suddenly slipped into his.
“Ander?” he turned to see Shyllen standing beside him, a bothered expression in her violet eyes. “I’ve hardly seen you this whole voyage. Is something wrong?”
He tried to smile reassuringly, but it came off more as a wry grimace. “The sea doesn’t agree with me,” he said, waving out across the water. “I’m fine if I can’t see it, but…” he shrugged. “Nothing is really wrong.”
The dragoness nodded, and looked out at the gray horizon. “I think it’s lovely,” she said. “Like silk, almost.” Hesitating for a moment, she pulled Ander a bit closer and spoke in an undertone.
“I wasn’t going to tell anyone, because I’m not sure that I was supposed to be up there, but I spent most of the night hours at sea up in the crow’s nest. Would you like to see it, before we disembark?”
Ander shuddered internally at the thought of willfully placing himself in a little wooden basket on a stick in the sky—but the hopeful look on Shyllen’s face couldn’t be refused.
“Sure,” he said, trying to keep the reluctance out of his tone. “Lead the way.”
They wove through the still-busy sailors and soldiers, completely ignored by every adult aboard the Bee. Ander swallowed, looking up at the seemingly-immeasurable length of rigging he had to climb, but he didn’t want to look stupid.
“Ladies first,” he said, bowing gallantly to the dragoness.
She grinned at him knowingly, but said nothing. Putting her left foot confidently on the lowest rope, Shyllen began to climb, as lightly and nimbly as if she were some tree-dwelling creature like a squirrel or chipmunk.
Ander followed as fast as he could, placing his feet exactly where Shyllen did, and following her handholds precisely. He refused to look down, though part of him—insanely—wanted to do just that.
Surprisingly, it only took a few moments to scurry up the ropes and into the crow’s nest. The “bucket” was larger than Ander had thought, but it was still far too small for his comfort. He leaned against the mast, which continued through the center of the nest like a sapling.
“Nice view,” he said, crossing his arms over his chest and trying to look casual.
Shyllen laughed at him, beckoning. “Get over here—you can’t see anything from there.”
Ander nodded. “I can see plenty. Lots of water, lots of sky. A few clouds. Nothing exciting.”
The dragoness grabbed his arm and yanked him over. Ander gave a yelp and tried to pull back, but Shyllen was still stronger than he was, and he had to give in to keep from overcompensating and falling off the other side.
“Look,” she said firmly, waving a hand over the water like a magician right before a magnificent trick.
Ander swallowed—and looked.
The sea stretched out before them as an undulating plain, frothy white in places and deep greeny-black in others. The day was calm, but slightly overcast, and it was difficult to tell where the sea met the land. Despite the woozy feeling in Ander’s head, he had to admit—it was breathtaking.
“We dragons have a special love of the ocean,” Shyllen said softly, her gaze fixed on the gentle motion of the waves and a few bold gulls that flew in spirals just beyond the ship. She leaned on her elbows, resting on the wooden edge of the crow’s nest. “I’m not sure why—we’re creatures of fire and heat and smoke…but something in us is always drawn to the water, and especially the sea.”
Ander nodded. “I like the sea myself—when I’m in it, and not trying to float on it.”
“Oh. I was going to ask why bothered you now, but hadn’t on the beach.”
They were quiet for a moment, remembering the afternoon they had spent with Thraluic and Jagsod, playing on the beach. The sounds of the ship’s crew were faint and wind-tossed from the height of the crow’s nest, and it seemed almost peaceful.
“There’s a dragon poem about the sea,” Shyllen said at last. “My mother made me memorize it. Would you…” she looked at him with a combination of shyness and challenge. “Would you like to hear it?”
Ander nodded again. “Go ahead.”
Shyllen stood up straight. “Da grecen pa dore,” she said in a guttural voice, her fingers tapping out a rhythm against her leg.
“Kela torn bentor en teca
Pas padorme galarome
Trechen jeg betro
Miu gresay feror
Da grecen pa dore
Hebnon bellan seleno
A hebno brak et tore
A hebno jelan
Grecen pa hebnon
Da grecen pa dore”
She cleared her throat, and said “That was in dragon-tongue. In your language, it translates to:
The sea alive
Like a curling whisper
The sea’s swells waft
Like sodden smoke.
These night-hued billows
The sea alive
They sing a song of haunting
A song of sand and water
A song of hidden things
The sea’s heart sings
The sea alive”
Ander felt gooseflesh ripple down his arms. “That’s lovely,” he said, looking out at the waves with new eyes. “The sea alive…I like that. It is alive, isn’t it?”
She smiled. “Yes…in a way.”
A muffled shout from below brought Ander’s attention back to the ship. “We’re coming into the harbor,” he observed.
“We should probably get down,” Shyllen agreed. “Like I said, I’m not completely sure we’re allowed up here at all.”
Climbing down was even harder than climbing up, in a way. Shyllen’s poem, beautiful as it was, had only taken a little bit of Ander’s unease away, and he felt his heart in his throat the entire trip down, afraid that at any moment his foot would slip and he would plummet to either a crushing death on the deck below, or a drowning in the water past even that.
“Attention, men!” Dorlan’s voice—clear and authoritative—rang out over the general clamor. The sailors and soldiers quieted just as Ander and Shyllen reached the deck again.
“We cannot hope to go in secret,” Dorlan said. “Celzara will be expecting us. But from what my advisors—“ meaning Thraluic, Jagsod, and the captain of the Bee “—have told me, we are either matched for her army in size, or even possibly outnumber her by a little.”
A light cheer went up and Dorlan smiled.
“We will march almost directly east, and should make Anamere within the week. We will be bold—but we will be courteous. There is to be no appropriating of supplies from the villages and farmsteads we pass. We are full up on food—if we need any more, we will hunt or buy what we need at full price. Is that understood?”
Murmurs of agreement.
“Then we march!”
Dorlan threw his arm into the air, grasping his father’s sword—the shining havolack that Raven had wielded the night of the Raider attack. He stabbed the sky, and the men shouted with one voice, their weapons also waving wildly against the grayish sky. Ander had no blade or bow to flourish—he had “misplaced” his sword back on Scyth, and hadn’t gotten a replacement yet—but he waved his fist and yelled with the rest of them.
Beside him, Shyllen glittered violetly, though she didn’t shift. The purple claws Ander had seen before snicked out from her fingernails, and she flexed her hands experimentally.
“You ready?” she asked him.
Ander glared out at the semi-distant green shadow that was the edge of the Denwold. He defiantly ignored the jittery feeling in his stomach—it was time to act like the man his father Percival and Uncle Ravin would have expected him to be.
“I’m ready.”



I love it! Post more. And the sea alive poem was great.

Kay J Fields | Tue, 01/05/2010

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Yes!! March onward, Ander, to

Yes!! March onward, Ander, to victory!

And LoriAnn--march onward to more posting! See you soon at orchestra! :0)

Heather | Tue, 01/05/2010

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


Where'd you come up with your Dragontongue poem? I didn't read it aloud, but I will when I get home. I only wish you would have described Ander's discomfort on the voyage more...yes, I'm a glutton for written punishment.

Julie | Wed, 01/06/2010

Formerly Kestrel

the dragon tongue is a very

the dragon tongue is a very vowel-y harsh sounding language, perfect for dragons.

Kay J Fields | Wed, 01/06/2010

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the dragontongue poem...yes, about that. See, about, I dunno--three years ago, or so--I wrote a poem called "Voyage" and Shyllen's poem is a reworking of part of that poem. As for the dragontongue parts, I just made sylables up as I went and tried to associate a few words--like,  grecen means sea, and Da grecen pa dore means "the sea alive".


LoriAnn | Wed, 01/06/2010

I knew grecen meant sea! 

I knew grecen meant sea!  This was amazing, and I'm gonna memorize that poem, and I like the end of the chapter.

Bridget | Sat, 01/09/2010

"I always wonder why birds stay in the same place when they can fly anywhere on the earth. Then I ask myself the same question." - Harun Yahya