[Karibekian's journal continues. . . ]
First moon of the storms, day sixteen.
I awakened in my cabin. The sun was already up, and the cabin was stuffy. I leaped nimbly out of bed.
My feet on the wooden decking looked and felt smaller than before. I keep a small piece of brass in my cabin that can be used as a looking glass. Taking it out and looking into it, I found myself staring at a rodent-like face: elongated snout, small pointed ears, fine hairs, and large, wiry whiskers. Only my eyes were the same as before.
Now I fully understood why Olrath had been watching the rats. He saw that they were survivors, immune to the red death.
I put away the piece of brass and bounded out of my cabin. Of habit I ducked at the bulkhead, and yet I was shorter than before, by a whole head. I was lighter on my feet as well. I climbed above decks, eager to see my crew.
I emerged into a warm day, patches of gray clouds dancing round the sun, strong winds. Some of the crew were there, and I spoke with them and we looked each other over. Strangely, I could still recognize each person, despite the change in his or her physical features. Alara, the helmsman's second mate, approached me and asked what we were going to do now. "Sail!" I replied, and rang the ship's bell. My newly reborn crew appeared on deck; of Olrath there was no sign.
"Hear this!" I shouted, "Brave sailors of the Tarandis, we have escaped the red death, and have been reborn. This is only the beginning! Once we complete this voyage, we shall return to Noffel, where I shall commission a new ship to be built, one that better suits our new shape and size, and we shall fearlessly sail these waters as we always have!" There were cheers and shouts from the crew.
"Our first task, however, is to get Tarandis around the horn and up the west coast. So heave to! Unfurl the sails! Attend the helm!"
The crew acted quickly, and soon we were crawling our way west once again.
First moon of the storms, day twenty.
Still battling the winds of the western sea. I put the oarsmen to work two days ago, but their strength is not what it used to be. Our rebirth has made us more agile, more able to climb in the rigging without mishap, and has even improved my sea legs. We are smaller now though, and not quite as physically strong as before. The fourteen warriors who chose against rebirth stay below decks, avoiding the rest of us, sitting apart at mess. If we do not clear the peninsula within a fortnight, I will give the order to make landfall—to rest, re-provision, and let the warriors go.
Second moon of the storms, day one.
Olrath came out of her berth this morning. She also has been reborn—she appears tired. But she also seems very happy, and she spent the day mingling amongst the crew, asking them all kinds of questions. We owe her our lives. She says, “Our own strength and courage have seen us through.”
I wonder: who is this woman Olrath? A sorceress, yes, but of such great power and ability that I find it hard to believe that I’ve never heard her name before in Noffel. Only one magus I’ve heard of has such power to do what she has done aboard the Tarandis. . .
Just after midday, a storm rose up in fury from the southwest, striking Tarandis like a fist. Before we could trim the sails, the ship was blown back toward the coastline, the main mast cracked. The winds howled, the sea boiled, and sheets of rain and seawater pelted the deck. Two of Baris’ oarsmen, above decks for a smoke, would have been swept over the side had it not been for their rebirth. In their new form they were able to leap into the rigging and save themselves.
Hours passed, and the storm only worsened. In all my years sailing this waterway, I’ve never met a storm like this. It blows us back the way we came, into the east. Tonight we sail tied down to our posts, helpless in the face of the darkness and the storm.
Second moon of the storms, day three.
Mid-morning, the storm has abated, but not before snapping the main mast completely. We will erect the spare mast, but I wonder what good it will do. Land out of sight, and a dead calm has fallen. There are no landmarks and no wind. We are lost.
Second moon of the storms, day seven.
Still no winds. Baris’ oarsmen have been working straight shifts for three days, pushing Tarandis north in search of the continent. But gods know how far the storm blew us, and the oarsmen need rest. Tarandis is frozen in time on a sea of glass.
Second moon of the storms, day eighteen.
Dead calm. No sign of land. I read despair in the faces of the crew. I cannot push the oarsmen any longer.
[Note: Here Captain Karibekian’s log begins to refer to “Olrath” as Awra. Perhaps the captain merely surmised this; perhaps he confronted “Olrath” and was confirmed in his suspicions. The log does not tell. –S.]
Second moon of the storms, day twenty-one.
Tarandis still adrift. This morning I was standing on deck with Awra, and a gray sea bird (which sailors call “Suhl” after its piercing cry) came and landed upon the railing directly in front of me. “Suhl! Suhl!” it cried. This is unusual because normally the birds keep their distance from us, flying around the ship but rarely landing onboard. This one perched there and stared at me. Odd as this may seem, I felt as if it were trying to communicate with me.
Awra noticed this too, for she said, “Captain, it seems your friend here is talking to you.”
“Yes, but what is she saying?” I asked.
Awra replied, “Perhaps she is a guide.”
With another cry of “Suhl!” the gray bird took to the air, flying in a long loop to the northwest, then returning to the rail.
Strange things happen at sea, and I have seen even stranger things on this voyage with Awra. My intuition told me that this little sea bird was indeed a guide of some sort, and was indicating a direction to me. On this impulse, I ordered the helmsman to alter Tarandis' course. We would sail to the northwest.
My guide seemed pleased, and gave me an approving “Suhl! Suhl!” before fluttering up to perch on the bowsprit.
Second moon of the storms, day twenty-six.
We have followed the strange bird for five days now. Late in the day, the watch reported seeing something to the northwest. Land! The oarsmen jumped to, and by nightfall we were within shouting distance. No fires or other signs of habitation. Tomorrow at dawn I send a party ashore.
Third moon of the storms, day one.
The landing party has been away two days, and meanwhile I put the crew to work repairing storm damage and taking stock of the ship’s provisions. After the noon watch today, Lors gave me the quartermaster’s report: enough supplies to last for twenty-eight more days at sea, forty if the crew goes on emergency rations.
As a mariner I have heard tales of vessels that have been caught up in storms and blown out of sight of the mainland. Most of these meet with a grim fate. With no way of knowing our exact location, we must hope that this landfall we have made will give us a familiar sign. It resembles no known feature of the Arandish coast that I have seen, but hope is not lost. I await the landing party’s return.
Third moon of the storms, day fourteen.
We have been so busy in the many days since my last entry that I hardly know where to begin. We have begun to establish a settlement here, and Baris and his men have begun harvesting timber from the island's interior in order to build temporary shelters and craft suitable for fishing. Despite the occasionally threatening weather, our good fortune has held and I feel we will survive to establish more permanent settlements by the time winter season fully arrives.
Awra claims that in time we shall forget our Noffellian roots and come to think of ourselves as Suhlians, after our new island home.
Rogath and his men have expressed their wish to leave us, risking a perilous sea journey on the thin hope of somehow finding their way back to the Arandish mainland. Some of the changed felt resentful upon hearing this, and a duel broke out between one of our Suhlians and a human. The latter, unprepared to defend himself against the superior speed and reflexes of our man, was killed--fortunately the cooler heads on both sides, myself included, were able to intervene and prevent further combat and loss of life. But this bloody denouement only widened the rift between the Noffellians and us, and bolstered their desire to be gone.
At the appointed time (two days ago now) we accompanied them to the jetty, and giving them the two ship's boats from the Tarandis, we bid them our final farewell. Awra proclaimed, "Go forth now, thou thirteen unbelievers, to meet your destiny! I now lay an enchantment upon these boats that they may see you swiftly whither thou will. And I lay upon you a curse of forgetfulness, so that should you reach the mainland, not one among you will remember this place or this voyage. But. . ." here she paused, closing her eyes and drawing in a long breath, ". . . your blades will bear the mark of these events forever."
And lo! dark thunderheads swept the sky surrounding that rocky shoreline and the frantically bobbing sculls. And as the Noffellians climbed aboard their two tiny craft and began to row out into the engulfing, black sea, their thirteen swords--just for an instant, in a sudden flash of lightning--seemed to gleam in the windy darkness, every one the same: a dull, deep crimson.
The two boats rowed out of sight and it is not likely that we shall ever see the Noffellians again.