Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chapter 2: The Causeway

  Over the next two days Olafur scarcely left his hammock. He felt more at home there than anywhere else on the ship, save on deck where he could look out upon the open sea. But on deck the crewmen were loud and their storm-beaten faces were twisted and dark from years of squinting at the sun, and it was an altogether frightening place for the boy. At times Ena would come to bring him food or drink, and she would speak to him about fair things that were far off, things that took Olafur's thoughts away to kinder places, and, if only for a few moments, he was glad. But these moments were fleeting and Ena would return to some place unknown to Olafur, for she too feared the crewmen. He would then close his eyes and pretend that he were laying in his father's boat on his way back to white shores where he would climb the steep stair and follow the well-worn path that led winding away to his home. But even in his dreams Olafur only walked the moors and paced through the ghostly mist, for he was afraid to enter the cottage and see his father laying quiet and still.
  It was dawn of Olafur's third day aboard when they at last came to the southernmost promontory of a great bay wherein lay the port of Seven Rivers. Olafur had ventured to come up from below, indeed he could not keep himself from it upon hearing that land was in sight. The ship came within a furlong of the shore, which was rich with forests that covered the banks and slopes beyond, and as the sea beneath the ship became more and more shallow, it was growing steadily from dark waters into a pale blue. To the west an island could be seen, low but blanketed in trees, stretching five miles or more across the open mouth of the bay as if to veil the inlet from the busier eyes of the world; a passing ship may have overlooked this vast alcove altogether should they be further out to sea and not studying the shoreline closely.
  Another three hours found them approaching the docks (five of them, altogether) that jutted northward, westward and southward from a long cape that reached far out into the bay, like a great hand seizing the waters. And on either side the bay became two and cut away inland out of site to where the mouths of strong torrents opened wide and rushed eagerly into the ocean that they longed for. Beyond the waters all was dense woodlands of hardwood trees and thick undergrowth. Low hills could be faintly glimpsed away beyond the golden shores, rising in the distant haze, then vanishing into the echoed rumor of mountains. It was strange and amazing to Olafur. Until now he could not have imagined a world that was different from Fisk, where there were more rocks than brush, more brush than trees, and more rain than anything else. But now they were coming near to the docks, and the crewmen were busy and agitated, so Olafur hid himself behind a pile of thick rope and hoped to go unnoticed until the bustle was over.
  Once the ship was made fast to the dock and the gangway was set, the Captain called on two men to find someone who could be of service, for apart from a solitary fishing dory the docks were bare. But then, from the lone and cheerless structure that stood at the tip of the cape, came a single figure walking briskly along the dock and speaking sharply. It was a portly man of middle age and course appearance. His hair was dark, his skin tanned thoroughly, his beard was unkempt, his clothes were long-unwashed and he wore no shoes on his feet. Onward he walked, muttering bitterly to himself as though praying some chant of dread; at any rate he seemed wretchedly annoyed at the arrival of travelers. He stopped just short of the Captain, who had just disembarked from the vessel, and frowned hard at the ship and those present.
  “Well?” he said, finally acknowledging the Captain's presence. “You've come far out of your step for supplies, I deem, and we haven't got them. You would have been better off keeping to the open sea until you came to Saltwash or Skailrum. They have enough for themselves and others, though you'll pay more than the stock is worth no doubt. In any manner, we have what we have for ourselves and are not in a way to be taking charge of tourists.”
  “Seven Rivers Port they call this,” said the Captain aloud to his first mate as he stepped past the strange man, disregarding him entirely. “And yet I see no merchant ships, no chandlers trading...I say, there's no business here at all.”
  “Business?” returned the strange man, nearly laughing. “None for you, perhaps, but business goes on even now. Why, the men are all out catching what they will, and come sun-falling these docks will be filled with boats that are heaped with a good catch. Carts will be loaded with fish, families will eat like kings, the town market will be fat, and good men will sleep soundly after a rewarding day of honest work. Business, indeed! But more importantly: a good life. No, no. You'll find no ships fat with spoil at these docks, my dear Captain. I've no doubt that from hence you come such values as preservation have long been sold for a sad price that took it's lonely place in time, only to be forgotten amidst a pale hoard of regretful misfortune: empty wants of waste and decay—indeed your faded eyes tell the tale. But we do not trade the honor and the pride of our homes for the gold of a greedy world. Not here.”
  Though the Captain had tried twice to interrupt he was now speechless, as were the crew and servants that stood about on the dock or onboard. Whether the Captain was taken off his guard by the man's right speech or simply stunned by his ability to say so much in one breath, he was nonetheless motionless and silent, baring an expression that could be likened to that of a corrected child.
  “Well said, my good man,” came the voice of Lady Mabel who now stood onboard with her coachman. “Your words are stones, the likes of which I had hoped to find in our coming here. If indeed your kind are the makeup if this place I shall at last feel at home in this world.” The man looked confused but the Lady went on, “We are not pleasure-seekers or excursionists, I assure you. And you need not worry about the Captain; he has no business here apart from leaving me and my servants on these shores in peace. I have not come to take your treasures or exploit your fair land, but rather to add to your economy what I can, and in seeking sanctuary be of what service as I may.
  “Now, where is this town you speak of?”
  “Forgive me my lady,” began the man, “but it is most uncommon for one of notable status and wealth, which you must be, to pass like leaves in the wind from what one can only assume to be an established domain—or at least a respectable society—to a poor and unknown land; and furthermore to come offering service. I find no soil in your words by which my confidence in you might take root. We may be people of simple ways, but not so simple as to be easily swayed by elegant words and lordly airs.”
  “Think what you will,” returned Lady Mabel sharply, “but from whence I come and why is my own affair. And if the soil in which your confidence needs to take root is a bribe or some other dishonest compensation then you can simply forget it. I've had enough of giving to covetous hands for diminutive doings.” At this she shot an eye at the Captain, who was now quickly growing impatient.
  “My name is Winfred,” said the man with a smile growing across his face, “But come, I am only the port keeper, and beyond is but the humble sea town. The town of Seven Rivers is yet some twenty miles to go. You must be on your way at once if you are to make the journey before nightfall tomorrow.”
  “I do not understand,” said the Lady as she stared hard into the man's eyes.
  “Had you offered me gold I would have turned you away, but your stern rebuke is soil enough for now,” he replied as a look of satisfaction fell on him.

  For the next hour Olafur seated himself on a crate with his back against the shack that stood on the cape and waited as the crew and servants made themselves busy unloading the belongings of Lady Mabel. There were a great many chests, bags and crates, and Winfred brought four carts for loading them onto. The Lady settled her agreement with the Captain and he cast off in haste, but he let his first mate take the helm as he stood and gazed sadly upon the Green Lands until The Sea Wing had passed from sight.
  As there were no horses, the carts had to be pulled by hand. Armel himself took the first and greatest cart, followed by three young servant men pulling the others. Winfred had decided to walk with them and direct them for some distance. He walked next to Lady Mabel and they discussed many things concerning the Green Lands. Firstly that The Green Lands was a title wrongly given by outlanders. The rightful name was Nebreace, meaning “abloom” in the olden tongue. They then talked matters of business concerning the town and the people there, and of government. Olafur listened to them no more, as he walked holding the hand of Ena, but rather turned his attention to this strange new land. In his homeland of Fisk he had seen bent and twisted trees that stood sparse across the moors, giving little shade and standing no higher than his father's cottage. But here the trees reached high into the hot sky and stood as thick as grass. Lichen-riddled Water Ash, with their roots thrust deep in bright moss, stood between mighty Hickories that rested heedlessly on thick legs dug deep into the earth, as if they had come hence on their own accord in ages past to find this paradise of shining waters. Escaping their shade could not be done and Olafur was glad of it, for a dull breeze blew a cool air through the sleepy forest, and the sound of water seemed to echo from under every stone and fern as scattered rays of sunlight fought their way through the dense canopy, dancing and glimmering off elusive brooks that journeyed to the sea.
  Within a half mile they had passed many small shacks and cottages of the little sea town, those of the fishermen no doubt, and they were now quickly disappearing behind tree and bush. Due west they traveled on a narrow causeway that rose gently out of the damp woodland floors. After some four miles Ena grew concerned for Olafur, seemingly without cause apart from her born motherly nature, and seated him on the back of a cart. The young man who labored under the weight made complaint but was quickly checked by Ena and he spoke no more of it.
  And so, after nights of grief and unrest, the redundancy of the passing trees and the rhythm of the cart wheels on causeway slowly lulled the tired boy to a slumber that came at last without dream or vision, and he slept. He did not wake when they decided to press on through the night, nor did he wake at daybreak upon their arrival in the town of Seven Rivers. He slept on and on as memories of his home turned to dreams, and when he awoke, he awoke to a new life.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Here is a map to help make sense of things. I only have this crude hand-drawn one for now.
 ©All Rights Reserved                           (click to view larger)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chapter I: The Sea Wing

  Three leagues off the southern coast of Arquay, on an especially chilling April evening, a ship was being beaten mercilessly by a northwesterly tempest. She was not a large ship that might easily withstand such gales, nor was she a small ship that would otherwise be tossed and broken by the swells of the rolling sea. But she was an average merchant ship that had departed southward from Saltwash Isle in a bustle of urgency. The Sea Wing, as was her name, was short of crew and taking water from the high waves. All aboard had been long without sleep under the weight of what seemed to be an ever-growing inevitability of becoming learned in the breathing in of cold water and flailing in the deeps for the feeling of wind on one's skin, but only ever knowing the quiet dark until all is passed from knowing. None felt this stronger than the Captain who had been seventeen hours at the helm without rest, and though his years at sea had hardened his will and seasoned his fortitude, his threshold to abide the fight was waning.
The cargo was a sparse load, but it was of great consequence to one Lady Mabel of Gadion House, a passenger onboard. It was uncommon for the Sea Wing to carry cargo of the human sort, but this was no common voyage. Three nights prior, the Captain had been commissioned by the lady's coachman to take her, along with a handful of servants and belongings, from Saltwash Isle, through the South Passage, between Enberlot and the lesser land of Fisk and out into the Ocean of Atleas. From there they were to sail eastward to the Continents—the Motherlands and Fatherlands; a sixty day journey in all.
  Now the Captain had been eager to take his pay and be off without question of his passenger's requests for haste and secrecy, but he now cursed the need that drove him to such unguarded dealings. For he had found little sleep since departure and he was now sickened with worry that without warning his ship would rend her hull against the outlaying reefs that guarded the northern shore of Fisk like ageless sentinels, laying in wait to sink even the rumour of land-hunting fleets from the north. He had seen them before, like pillars, or great blades of obsidian rising from the foamy waters, but only from afar, and the memory caused him to shudder. It was at that moment that such a sight arose from the mist that the Captain shouted a startled warning to the crew and wheeled the Sea Wing to port. There, out of the black water stretched ridged silhouettes; looming towers of pitted rock that held no mercy, but only promise of death, should any vessel grace their sharp walls.
  With some skill the Captain turned the ship back to the open sea, but as others aboard would later say, it seemed like some greater will that sent them speeding on the back of an outgoing surge, further out to safety as high-flying waves danced off the colossal stones and rained down on their heads. They were now passing smaller pinnacles that reached at them from the rioting waters and teased of danger. As the rain lessened it was clear to see that they had, without knowledge, sailed into a great cluster of reefs and jutting pillars. Suddenly, though the storm had eased it's wrath, all aboard found words for a prayer or clung tight to rope or wood as a terrible screech rang out from below; the hull had at last found a reef to chafe against. But at length no leak sprang and all returned to breathing and contending with the great waves that still tossed them to and fro.

  Less then an hour passed before the Captain dropped anchor and prepared to wait out the storm. Before the crew had time go below and latch the hatches, Lady Mabel and her coachman appeared on deck. She had dressed for travel, no doubt, but she and her servants were yet in the finest garments the crew had ever beheld, and her countenance was an agitated one.
  “What is the meaning of this?” demanded she. “Perhaps you do not understand, Captain, that I mean to put as much ocean between myself and Saltwash as humanly possible, and as swiftly as the wind will take us.” Her tone was resolute and she carried her aged self with poise; unblinking at the stinging rain and unfaltering on the tossing sea.
  “Those may be your wishes, my Lady, but this wind will have us toppled into the sea or turned out of our skin on the rocks if I raise the sail again before she has had time to go back to sleep,” the Captain had little patience by now for quarrelling and was focused more on the doings of his crewmen than the concerns of Lady Mabel.
  “If my memory serves me properly, and it most certainly does,” the lady began with a flash in her eyes, “It was agreed that double payment for a trip such as this would ensure a discard of the usual halts and time consuming rituals, Captain. An insult indeed to see my confidence squandered the moment you grow weary of a meager storm. Have you no other seaworthy young men who might keep this poor vessel afloat while you rest your dishonest eyes?”
  At this the Captain, tired and busy as he was, turned his attention to Lady Mabel—and with no lack of wrath. “If the good Lady bargains her life at a keeping price, then she would do well to make her way below. For I assure you that this is no modest rainstorm, but rather an Enkurn, a ship killer, my Lady. No man aboard is more seaworthy than myself, and it is my honesty—which you so swiftly tread upon—that will not allow a lesser seaman to take the helm in such a hateful sinker as this!”
  “Tell yourself what you will,” the lady coldly replied. “But if this cursed little boat is still laying dead in the water come morning I will demand a complete return of the wages I so wrongfully entrusted to you when you spat promises that you had no intention of keeping.”
  “Cursed little boat!” The Captain shouted. “I'll have you know—”
But Mabel's attention was drawn elsewhere as her gaze trailed off into the night. “Hush Now!” she said. “Did you hear that?”
  “You can count yourself fortunate that I accepted your employment,” continued the Captain. “No other captain with half a wit would have cast off in such hastiness!”
  “Harken for moment, my dear half-witted boatman!” shouted Lady Mabel in her frustration. “I tell you I hear someone out there.”
  “Of all the madness!” shouted the Captain in return. “You hear voices on the water amidst this storm, do you? Below with you! It's plain to see you need more rest even than I.”
  But Lady Mabel would not bend. “Don't be a fool, Captain! I tell you I hear a child's cry. How far are we from land?”
  “One can't be certain, but more than two stone's throw,” returned the Captain. “Tis the barren, northwesterly coast of Fisk: the kingless island. You hear no children out there, my lady. Surely you hear your servants below, quailing at the angry sea.”
  “My servants do not quail,” Lady Mabel retorted, glaring bitterly at the Captain. “Now, you put a boat in the water at once!”
  The Captain was now more surprised then ever. “I will not have a dory sunk and crewmen drowned because the wind plays tricks on an old ladies ears!”
  At this moment the Lady's coachman, who, until now had remained silent, lurched forward like an unleashed animal from the shadows and shouted viciously at the Captain—baring his teeth and clinching his fists. “And I will not have my Lady spoken to in such a fashion by so lowly a water dog without reprimand!” He said no more in his foreign and cutting accent, but it seemed to the Captain that he grew in stature, and his weathered, stone-like face was fiercer even than the Lady Mabel's. His grey and golden hair fell about his head and tossed in the wind while his dusky eyes laid heavy upon the captain, as a lion fixed upon his prey and caring naught of the world around him. The Captain was a thin, proud-looking man, not altogether young but younger than a life at sea would permit him to appear, and he fancied himself more hansom than he was. And though he carried himself high and had never lost control of his crew, the coachman stood taller, his shoulders were broader, and the Captain shrunk back at his booming voice, bewildered, and gave no reply.
  “Do you think a mother does not know the sound of a child in distress?” said the Lady. “There is a young one coming to harm on that shore. Will you do nothing?”
  The Captain remained silent for a moment, stumbling on his thoughts after being shaken by the voice and gaze of the coachman. “Fine. Hear what you will,” the Captain began. “But I've a ship of souls and cargo that are well nigh to harm as it is without sending men out to certain death to see after someone, who—if at all they exist—are most assuredly safe on land.”
  “You command the guise of man, Captain. You are, however, but a sheepish boy!” Lady Mabel jeered. “I'll be going, myself. And my coachman will row me.”
  “In no dory of mine will you do this!” the Captain shouted back at her as she and her coachman made their way to port-side where one of the small boats was stored.
  “Bear in mind, Captain,” said the Lady. “My fortune is stored below in your hull—indeed if there is else down there it is but refuse. Should I not return, which you say is so certain, you will be a terribly wealthy man. This should be a hundredfold of an adequate wager for the use of your dory. However, let not that thought nest in your mind, lest you cast off when I've gone.”
  The Captain gave no reply but ordered two men to help them into the boat and lower them into the vengeful waves. A lantern was lit and hung on the bow and they were off. The Captain stood watching. A bitter taste in his mouth was the dark hope that welled up in him every time the dory crested the shoulders of another angry giant: the hope that the dory would capsize and the Lady's fortune would indeed become his own. And though he hated this hope, it was nonetheless very real, and his hate for it was but a play for the easement of his own conscience; or the smouldering remnants there of. For the dark paths that he had chosen in his years had earned him even darker depts of the most burdening sort. His eyes were heavy with unrest, yet there he stood until all the crew had gone below and the dory's lantern climbed up and down until it was all together swallowed up by the night.

  It was evident that the coachman had some skill in the water; he rowed with a strong back and gained great distance in the tossing sea with long strokes. Over his shoulder he kept watch, steering here and there between the rocks until at last they came to a sandy shore, shrouded by rising reefs and dark pinnacles that were hammered by tall waves that struck without warning. Once out of the boat they had only to go left or right, for a grand wall of black stone, carved by the restless sea, rose from the sand and stretched upward into the clouded night and out of eye's reach. They turned right.
  “It is a strange place,” said the coachman. “Let us not stay long.”
  “It is a place and that is all, Armel. Now, let us find this child.”

  It was not long before they heard the cry again—ahead of them—this time as clear to Armel as it was to Lady Mabel. It was a dreadful wailing in the black night, as of someone who was hurt or even mad, and it grew louder and shriller as they made their way along the beach and between the rocks. They were bested by the waves no few times, and keeping the lantern lit proved a difficult task for Armel. Lady Mabel uttered remarks of her displeasure under her breath, and of her inconvenience at being wretchedly cold and wet, and how she had never been so utterly miserable in all her years, but she plodded on nonetheless.
  How far they had landed from where the ship was anchored would have been hard to relate. And where about it lay waiting for them in bearing to where they stood would have been even harder to know, for the shoreline darted this way and that, sometimes deceiving them so that it seemed that the voice came from out upon the ocean itself. And it was at these moments that Armel pressed Lady Mabel to return to the dory for fear that some evil thing was leading them to their doom, but the Lady was certain of her resolve and pressed on.
  Soon they came upon a short length of shore that was bare of boulders or jagged stones and there, against the white sand, a long shape stretched from the seawall out into the falling waves. Armel knew it at once to be a fisherman's boat, for the better part of his life had been spent as a fisherman in warmer sea's; though this boat was larger, and of strange fashion to Armel. It was all of two times the size of the dory they had come to shore in and had strange engravings on the bow and about it's edges. In the lantern light, reels of line and tackle could be seen but the boat was draped mostly in a tarpaulin, and it was from under this that the cries came. And now, between a wall of black rock and a ghostly, restless sea, standing on the shifting sand, from which stood tall and looming figures in the mist, the cries seemed evermore haunting and they both silently wondered if some outlandish devilry had not indeed led them here for unthinkable purposes.
  At length Lady Mabel managed to bellow out two words with some amount of commanding presence, “You there...” but her voice wavered and she said no more.
At once the wailing ended and all was quiet, save the sea. After a time of waiting for a rift in the silence, Armel stepped forward and crossed the length of shore that lay between them and the boat—the Lady followed a few paces behind. He hesitated for a moment and then with an unsteady hand quickly withdrew the tarpaulin. He was at once relieved and, perhaps, felt a bit foolish to find a young boy no older than six years lying in the boat, staring up in bewilderment through tears and red curls that hung wet about his face.
  “Pray child, you haven't even a frock!” exclaimed Lady Mabel. “Where are your parents?” But the boy only stared and said nothing. “Your mother, or father?” she continued. “Is your home near to this place? Are you lost?” But still the boy said nothing and only studied their faces with frightened eyes.
  “Could it not be, my Lady, that he speaks another tongue?” suggested Armel.
  “Doubtful.” replied Lady Mabel. “To my knowledge Fiskans have spoken common language for centuries. Unless, of course, he knows only the olden tongue, Aershia, and that is doubtful. I've known few who still speak it. In any case it is plain to see that the boy is cold and frightened. Leave your greatcoat and carry on down the shore some distance. Try to find another sign as to where this child belongs. Here there is a fisherman's boat: somewhere there is a fisherman.”
  With some difficulty Armel lit another lantern that was uncovered in the boat and he was off. Lady Mabel wrapped the boy in her coachman's coat and did her best to make him feel at ease. But at length it seemed that her presence only distressed him all the more; as it had been many years since she had had a child in her keeping, and simple, warm words of assurance seemed to have deserted her. And so she let him alone under the tarpaulin in what she could only guess to be his father's boat. But though the rain had eased to all but naught, she found it a difficult task to make even herself feel at ease in this vexing place where the wind on the stones seemed to whisper a curse; the rumor of crushing waves was ever echoing in the darkness and the thought of the untrustworthy Captain raising anchor and sailing on danced heedlessly about her mind as she paced from the boat to the crag and back again.

  After a worrisome amount of time Lady Mabel caught sight of a light flickering between the tall stones that riddled the shoreline. She could soon make out Armel hastening towards her. As he approached she could see that his face was flushed, he was short of breath and his close were soiled with mud.
  “Where in all the world have you been?” she demanded. “Do you realize how likely it is that our dear friend, the Captain, has cast off by now?”
  “I found a stair cut into the stone,” Armel began, speaking as quickly as he could and trying earnestly to catch his breath. “It climbed very high, and many times the wind came near to plucking from the face of the precipice and throwing me down upon the rocks far below.”
  “Yes, yes.” interrupted Lady Mabel. “But did you find anything? A house? A village?”
  “Well,” began Armel, trying still to breathe rightly. “After I had reached the top there was a path, but on and on it stretched across an open plain of green turf. And just when a thought it hopeless I saw a flame in the black mist. It was a cottage, and therein I found a fisherman, the boy's father.”
  “Are you sure?” asked Lady Mabel. “Did he say it was so? That the boy is his own?”
  “There was no other. Who else could it be?”
  “Well where is he? What had he to say for himself?”
  “He was dead, my Lady.” replied Armel in a dismal and fading tone, glancing at the boat to see if the boy was listening but he lay still under the tarpaulin.
  “Preserve us! And his mother?”
  “There was no sign that a woman had been there. It was a crude shack. I find it doubtful a wife would endure such an unrefined dwelling.”
Lady Mabel was silent. She had been pure of intent when she insisted on coming to the aid of this child, to set to rights whatever could be mended or to help him find his way home. But this was a condition that could not be cured, and a bitter reluctancy crept over her.
  “Fever, I believe, was his murderer.” Armel continued. “I made a burial for him, callow as it was, I could not disgrace his remains so as to be left for animals.”
  “Yes, of course.” the lady replied distantly, and there was a long silence as she seemed to strive for some resolve to the status of things. Whether she fought against her conscience or her reason Armel could not say, but long it seemed to him that she stood unmoving in the biting wind and let her gaze wander in the dark. At last she spoke again, and, as was her custom, with sternness and purpose rather than emotion.
  “Get the child and let us be off. He is our charge now.”
It was a fair distance back to the dory, but none felt it more than the boy as he watched his father's boat disappear into the night and all familiarity dissolve, replaced by strange, harsh voices and cold faces, speaking of things he did not understand. Nor did he desire to understand. He wished merely to be lying in his own bed, his father recounting stories of far off lands as he mended his nets and tackle. How exciting those stories had been, even only three nights before, when his father was yet well, and how he had fancied himself roving those far off worlds, but not now. Not like this.

  It was with great relief that they found the Sea Wing where they had left her, and once aboard, Armel took the boy to where the servants were lodged and ordered two girls to clean him and make him ready for sleep. But as he crossed the deck with the boy in his arms, the Captain laid a long, almost horrified gaze upon the child until he was below and out of sight. It was a strange and frightening place for the boy. Many faces peered at him from hammocks that hung from the ceiling. The air was clammy and the water in which the servants bathed him was cold. When at last he had been clothed in a dressing gown, the older of the two girls led him between two rows of hammocks, from which eyes still gazed at him, and to the very last hammock on the left side that hung next to a door that Armel had passed through, and so far had not returned.
  “Here now.” said the girl. “This is where you are to sleep tonight. Do not fear. The ship may pitch this way and that at times, but I find it quite peaceful really. I am reminded of when I was little and my mother would lull me to my dreams. Have you a mother?”
The boy said nothing.
  “Nor have I. Not anymore, at least.” said Ena. She pitied the boy but she wished to go back to her hammock, for she stood outside the chambers of Armel. In addition to holding office as the Lady Mabel's coachman he was also headmaster of the other servants, and Ena, like the other servants, revered him greatly and did not wish to annoy him. But as she left there came the sound of a small and timid voice.
  “Please.” said the boy, now with tears welling in his eyes. “Don't go. I am afraid. I want to go home.”
  “Come now,” said Ena, moving to his side. “What is your name, little one?”
  “I am Olafur.” he replied, finding his voice.
  “You need not be frightened, Olafur. The Lady Mabel is an honorable master, and Armel is her most trusted of servants. They would most assuredly not have born you from your home had it not been the best and most right deed that could be done. With us you will be looked after in such a manner as most will never know. Now, sleep and dream well, my dear Olafur, for when we make land we will all have a new home. And one can guess it will be most glorious or Lady Mabel would not be going there at all.”
Ena left him, and for some time Olafur lay wide awake, trying to make out figures in the dark, or counting the hammocks that swung all about him. At last exhaustion found him and he fell fast asleep. But his dreams only took him back to the morning before.

  Olafur was accustomed to being wakened by his Father before light but this time it was he who woke Father. And when Father did not feel well enough to rise he sent Olafur out to play. Now Father had been ill for two days, and so Olafur worried for his father and did not play long. When he returned he found Father still in his bed, not moving or moaning as he had before, but still and quiet. And when Olafur lay his hand in his father's, because he did not wish to leave his bed again until he was well and eager to go fishing, his hand was cold. Olafur did not know of death, but he knew that once the fish was taken from the sea, and it lay still and cold, that it would never wake again. Olafur was afraid to see his father like the fish that were brought home at the end of the day, and he fled from the cottage and down to the sea where he hoped his father—the only one he had ever known—would come and fetch him home again. And though he lay there until day had passed into night and a terrible storm blew in from the sea, he did not come.

  Olafur woke in his tears and suddenly hushed himself for fear that he had been crying aloud and might wake the mysterious figures that hung about him in white canvases. He wished that he knew where Ena had gone so that he could climb down and go to her, but then he heard the creaking of a latch, and light came from the foremost end of the long room. He peered from his hammock but he could not yet see anything. Then came the sound of soft footsteps as the light grew closer, and long, strange shadows were cast from floor to ceiling, and Olafur was frightened. A robed figure passed where he lay, and he could see in the light of the flickering candle that it was the Lady Mabel, but she did not turn her grey eyes to look at him. Forward she walked and forward she looked, until she reached Armel's chamber, and there she stopped and lay a quiet rap on the door. In a moment the door was opened and as she entered, it was quietly shut behind her. Olafur then heard a great many things that he did not understand. But whether or not he comprehended it all, this is what he heard:
  “I have made arrangements with the Captain,” said the Lady. “There is a port two days north of here, the southernmost port in Arquay: a place called Seven Rivers that lies within The Green Lands. There we will discharge him and make for ourselves what we can.”
  “Turn back to the north?” returned the coachman. “This is dangerous. And what of the south passage? Do you mean for us to reach the eastern sea by land?”
  “No, of course not! We will simply not be returning to the Continents, that is all. I am told that The Green Lands are a quiet and respectable place and perhaps there we can be left in peace to pursue our lives as we will.”
  “I would pursue my life according to the plan that we set into action when we left the shores of Saltwash,” the coachman quickly replied. “What of your estate on the Continents? The vineyards in the south lands and Cogne Hall? You would abandon such things to dwell among simple strangers? They are but hunters and unlearned fools.”
  “You dare try and frighten me with ignorant information? You know as little of said place as I. Yes, my dear, late husband had in his possession a domain of considerable grandeur, far away in the south lands of the Continents, and since his untimely passing, and under most any other circumstance, it would customarily be relegated to my tenure. But must I really remind you that these truly are extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves adrift? I think it less than likely that our presence at Cogne Hall would be expected or welcomed at all, especially given our unique and bothersome status which, to all persons of past and present—excluding those onboard—is quite assuredly deceased.”
  “You fear your son would return there, my Lady?”
  “I'll hear no such thing! My son went to sea with his father four years passed and there he died. It is a bitter pang to me and I wish never to speak of it again. Real concern I have, but a son I do not.”
  “As you wish it. But why, if I may be so bold as to ask, has this plan arrived only now, when you were ever so intent upon sailing for the Continents just three days ago? Have the dangers behind us become less real in your mind? Because they have not in my own.”
  “Do not be indignant, Armel. And do not think for a moment that I have lost hold of our delicate situation. I have but strengthened my grasp round it. Upon our departure I was sorely vexed, and it seemed that only distance from Saltwash could remedy the state of things. But now, after striving long in thought and prayer in the belly of this tossing vessel, a brighter and sharper plan has sprouted in the shaded confines of my hope. For you see, while it may well be guessed that we would sail for the Mother and Father Lands, it would be far from reason to search for us in the nearby south of Arquay where we have no alliances or bonds. I see no reason why we could not fare just as well there as elsewhere. And even still I have hope that the honorary man who bore us our ill news before turning us from our home will not waver when he stands before the serpent and is pressed for truth; he risked much to see us to safety—arson as he was.”
  “Your trust in such a creature is as frail as your hope of finding this foreign wilderness to be a suitable home. Long have I awaited the day when I would be told that the winds of fortune would take me back to those fair vineyards and kind skies. I have forsaken much to honor my Lady, but the hope of seeing that golden land being first given and then plucked from my hand is a cruel thing, and I am pained greatly by this.”
  “I know it is your home and so I will this once overlook such intentional enmity. But you likewise know that it is not my home, nor any of the servants. Do not be so selfish to fill your longings that you would place innocent lives in danger. I daresay it is a great deal more than fortune that takes us to the Green Lands, all that lives and grows within me is pressed to seek refuge in this place—though it is strange to me, and I admit that I am not without fears or doubts. But alas! I have such peace and complacency at the thought of obliging this notion as I have not known since before my good husband took to the sea.”
  “None of this folly clouded the air until we discovered that foundling on this most haunted night. He has bewitched you.”
  “That is most certainly enough, Armel! You shame yourself. A slave you are not, and if you so wish to walk among your vines then be free of my employment. But do hold yourself in higher regard and do not dishonor your only name by cursing those who have most faithfully blessed you.”
At this there was a long silence and Olafur thought that he may drift back into his sleep, for while it was plain that Armel and Lady Mabel stood firmly upon opposite ground on the subject of destination, he had little idea what this would mean for him. He knew only that he was being taken far from his home, and whether it was to a place called Cogne Hall, or the Green Lands of Arquay, was of little consequence to him.
  At length the voice of Armel came softly, “I beg your forgiveness, my Lady. I know not what possessed me to speak thusly, and I do not wish to be parted from your service. One day I may see my homeland again, but this day I am your trusted coachman as I have been these eighteen years.”
Lady Mabel did not speak as though she were satisfied with Armel's apology, nor did she speak as though she were still annoyed by his previous behavior, she merely transposed the exchange into one concerning the onboard goods and the manner in which things should be packed and transported when the port of Seven Rivers was at last reached. It was at this time that the dialogue of adults, murmuring away in the distance as Olafur retreated down hazed halls of slumber, were cast like the discursive songs of birds against the ever-ebbing and suppressed crashes of the waves against the hull, like the constant tossing and turning of trees in the wind, and Olafur fell fast asleep.

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The Tales of Enberlot
Olafur of Seven Rivers

If never have you heard of the land of Arquay, stretching from the cold north, along the steep western shores that look out upon the O'Sephron Sea; or of the great city of Winsmore with it’s towers reaching to the heavens; or of The Ghost of Mt. Neveront that spills a hundred miles westward across the rain-laden plains; or of the green lands of Nebreace that roll down to the south passage, where one can see across the grand ribbon of ocean to the kingless island of Fisk, and where the seven great rivers meet and run into the sea; if never have you heard of the land of Mourniff that likewise runs from the south passage along the eastern ocean of Atleas; or of the vast Fields of Alkri that stretch far beyond sight, between hedged roads; or of the shining city of Valtice, where proud, learned men live in white palaces and read in grand halls; or of the legends of the Nordumn, ever-hidden in the deep forests by their unknown arts; or of the great gate of Amuli, where the giants of old went to their final rest in the mountain; or of Eversun Gap, the golden valley that lay between the kingdoms of Arquay and Mourniff, then never have you heard of Enberlot.
Of course it is very likely that it has become a part of many bedtime stories told to countless children. It is probably the ancestor of fairy tales that have been told for ages upon ages, as you will see, should you care to learn about Enberlot. What ever became of that great land no one knows; or where it it once lay none are now certain; or even if it is there still, hidden by some ever-present haze or lingering cloud—none can say. Perhaps it has long since been found and is now known by some another name altogether. But such things are not told in this book. Here is written one of the many Tales of Enberlot. And it is in the kingdom of Arquay—particularly the south of Arquay—that our story is concerned. And so in the thirty-third year of His Majesty the King, in the spring of the seven hundred and tenth year of the Second Reign, upon the waves of the angry O'Sephron Sea, our story begins...

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Now Project

Hey guys,

It's been awhile since I've posted on here. The last story I had been posting I pulled and put on the back burner for a bit. I'v been reworking it, as it needed some work (and I needed to mature as a writer), but you may still see it finished in the future. For the time being I am working on a different story. It also takes place in Enberlot. I had not planned on posting another book on a blog, and as such I won't, at least not entirely. I will be posting a new chapter every week (hopefully) for a time. I'm sure that as postproduction of the book draws near the story will be pulled and put into real books--the kind you hold. But I enjoy getting you guys' feedback, and so I think it will be fun to let you guys read the first drafts of the story. Here's the preface and first chapter for now...