Torn ApartMature

Time passed with the consistency of tar, Frederick burning minutes by organizing and reorganizing his medical satchel. Kelstrin sat huddled in the opposite corner, hugging his knees as a somber expression remained on his face.

“{So why then have you come for me?}” Frederick asked, breaking the silence.

Kelstrin looked up, his brows raised.

“{You cannot feel it?}”

“{There’s no use denying…}” Frederick conceded, looking away, “{Do you know what’s causing this?}”

“{Ever since your forces moved in, bad things have been happening. Fertile lands have grown barren, villages have been wiped out-}”

“{Elban villages?}”

“{Yes.}”

“{Because of the Lore Stones.}”

“{Yes, but also the rain.}”

“{How?}”

“{It is poison.}”

“{But why?}”

“{Que’Vallah is not meant to be torn apart. Everything must become whole again.}”

“{Going back to the source?}”

“{Yes.}”

“{So unless these stones are returned, this hell will persist?}”

“{Yes.}” Frederick couldn’t understand if it was mirth or sorrow he heard in Kelstrin’s voice when he confirmed his fears this time, “{It’s not just stones though. Anything of Que’Vallah…including us.}”

Frederick stared, unable to open his mouth.

“{We must return to the source, asagi. All of us must.}”

Frederick felt sick to his stomach and instead went silent, Kelstrin’s brows furrowing before he conceded and placed his chin on his knees.

“{But if the Shadowbroods are searching for the stones…}” Frederick’s eyes lit up, words lost to him.

The boat suddenly pitched forward, jars flying off the shelves. One hit Frederick square in the gut, causing him to gasp and roll onto his side. He realized now that the entire floor was tilted at a radical angle. More containers of food items rained from the shelves, smashing to pieces as the boat creaked.

“{Kelstrin, get up!}” Frederick shouted, wide awake now.

Kelstrin rose, falling back against the flour in his attempt as items rolled towards him.

“{Oh no…Not here…?}”

A low, reverberating moan answered their question, a question they didn’t want answered. Both stared at each other, refusing to believe the truth.

“{We hafta get out of here. Now.}”

Frederick tried to reach the door, but the ship lurched backwards, as if trying to launch from the water before it came crashing back down. Screams fluttered through the body of the ship, splintered wood and squeaking metal drowning them out as more of these hollow moans occurred.

Water spurt from a corner of the larder, spraying out and trickling against the door. Kelstrin went into high alert, trying not to scream as he tried to maintain consciousness.

“{Can you help me?!}” Frederick shouted over the water, the level now past their ankles.

“{I would risk further injury if I tried!}” Kelstrin said, trying to control his panic.

Frederick swore and fished out one of the jar shards, scratching open the wound in his hand as blood mixed into the seawater. Ur’Kan words flew out of his mouth, the water churning and bubbling as it drew up and smashed into the door. Nothing. The level now reached their knees, the wave receding and once again smashing into the door. Kelstrin watched in abject horror, trying to figure out how he could help him.

“{Plug the hole, I’ll blast the door!}”

“{Are you insane?! The debris will kill us!}”

“{What choices do we have!?}” Kelstrin squawked, the water level now passing their waists at an alarming rate.

The boat groaned and lurched, forcing both of them into the door. Kelstrin yelped before his head was submerged in the water, Frederick placing his hand on the door and closing his eyes. Blue light spread from his palm, pulling his hand back to watch the lines flare. He rapidly motioned Kelstrin to swim back, cracks forming in the iron.

With the explosion of the door, Kelstrin and Frederick were hurled out of the larder, spilling out across the floor while gasping for air. Frederick shook the water out of his eyes and helped Kelstrin to his feet, the gas lamps dimming before going out. All they could hear in the darkness was the roar of water, and the screams.

Frederick’s legs carved through the murky water as he made his way into the lower deck.

“Is anyone here!?” he shouted over the noise, tripping over something soft and falling face first into the water.

The salt burned his eyes, and spluttering, he struggled to his feet. Furiously wiping his face, he saw the object he had tripped over was a dead body. The boat bucked and rolled, sending Frederick into the wall as Kelstrin was not far behind.

Asagi!” Kelstrin hollered, knocking into Frederick.

Frederick felt along the walls, trying to navigate as the water rose past his knees. Bodies continued to crop up in corners, bumping into his legs. A cold shiver ran down the back of his legs, his hands curling into fists against the walls as he focused on finding a source of light and a way out.

Asagi! {This way!}” Kelstrin shouted, the sound of shuffling water catching Frederick’s attention.

Frederick followed the churning water towards the cacophony of screams, running up the stairs alongside Kelstrin as he witnessed the horror on deck.

Shadowbroods were tearing down the ship, people running and trying to find cover as the ship bucked in the water. Survivors dove overboard, some making it while others were snatched and flung against the steamstack. Others were drawn into their shadowy folds, the beasts evaporating soon after into the plum purple sky.

Frederick made his way starboard, narrowly dodging a Shadowbrood’s hand as they grew in size. Kelstrin was not far behind, calling out to Frederick while firing blasts of green light from his now cut hand.

“{Look out!}” Kelstrin shouted, turning into his feline form and leaping over Frederick’s head.

He rammed into the Shadowbrood’s side, causing it to moan and topple overboard into the water with a violent splash. The water rose up and slammed into the deck, causing the boat to roll against the waves. Kelstrin stumbled, digging his claws into the wood to steady himself as he fought fatigue. Frederick slipped and slid across the deck, nearly going overboard as well. Kelstrin let go and threw his body against the railing, blocking Frederick.

Shünah!

A smile grew on Kelstrin’s muzzle.

Balku na.” he responded softly, thrusting his hip out to help Frederick back onto his feet.

“{We need to get on a lifeboat!}

Kelstrin began to fade back into his original form, caught between feline and human as his knees sagged. Frederick caught him and forced him onto his feet, guiding his way through panicked survivors, splinters and tendrils of darkness.

The captain was ferrying people onto the boats, sending them off with less finesse and more urgency. His face went pale when Frederick grabbed his arm, copper glowing his eyes.

“You! But how-?!”

“Let us passage and we will protect what lives are left.” Frederick commanded above the noise of chaos.

“I can’t…I mustn’t…” he feebly replied.

“Do you want these people to die?!”

The captain was at a loss for words, Frederick quickly tossing Kelstrin into a lifeboat as he spun around to form a shield over the boats.

Blood dripped from his palm, shining a brilliant cerulean as it plopped against the deck and sprouted into symbols. Shadowbroods were hurled back each time they tried to reach for villagers, denting metal and smashing windows. The captain cowered and leapt into the lifeboat behind Frederick, looking down at Kelstrin before he and four others grabbed fistfuls of his chiton and hurled him back onto the deck.

Frederick fell over from Kelstrin’s weight, the shields dissipating as rage and horror took his senses.

“You backstabbing monster!” Frederick hollered, blasting back another Shadowbrood, “{May roots grow in your eyes and your fields remain barren!}”

The captain sank into the lifeboat as the rage filled words of Ur’Kan rang out in the night, rowing away from the doomed ferryboat as Frederick tried to survive.

From the belly of the ship came a horrible grinding noise. The white steam funneling from the stack turned to a charcoal black, the decks quivering as whining gears began to scream from below.

“{Kelstrin, up!}” Frederick shook Kelstrin’s shoulder violently, his body now reverted back to flesh.

A Shadowbrood rounded the stern of the ship, rising its fists above its head to smash in the bridge. With a hollering fury, the boiler exploded from the core of the ship, launching into the night sky in a flurry of steam and showering iron as the boat snapped in half. Shadowbroods bellowed as they toppled into the ocean, others evaporating into the clouds.

Frederick shielded his body from the blast, flung up into the air along with the failing heart of the ship as wood and metal sprinkled the surface of the water. Kelstrin was launched into the ocean from the blazing fire, vanishing from sight as Frederick plummeted into the water. Parts continued to fall from the sky, Frederick bursting through the surface to gasp for air.

“{Kelstrin!! Kelstrin, where are you?!}” The sense of panic in his voice felt alien and familiar to him at the same time, narrowly dodging pipes and planks.

He spotted Kelstrin floating away against a scrap of steamstack, his body partially submerged as the glow of lifeboats were fading away over the horizon.

“Help us!” Frederick shouted, spluttering on seawater, “Please, help us!”

The boats did not turn around, nor even stop as they continued to drift, the lanterns becoming pinpoints of light.

“You demons!” Frederick hollered, his voice hoarse as he choked on seawater, “You pathetic dogs!”

He tread water as he tried to reach Kelstrin, his limbs exhausted as the last of the Shadowbroods dissolved into thin air. As he reached the Mystic, horrible thoughts rammed into him like a fist to his stomach. Everyone on that boat was exposed to the rain, including his family. What if they suffered the same fate? Were they safe in Ferezandra? The thought of his sister becoming one of those creatures made him sick enough to vomit, nearly drowning from the shock as he managed to grab hold of a section of deck.

Kelstrin continued to drift away, and now he seemed to be the only anchor in Frederick’s consciousness. Five years, this terror remained dormant until now, and he swam with all his strength to try and reach him.

“Oh Lord, please, don’t do this to me!” He panted, spitting out seawater before a pipe smashed into his shoulder.

He cried out, thrashing in the water as he frantically struggled to stay above the surface. Pain spiraled through his body, both hot and cold as his fingers tingled. He cleaved to the section of deck as he felt himself sag in the water, heaving himself on with his good arm. He pulled his legs in, fingernails digging into the wet wood as he lay on his stomach. He dragged his face to look over his damaged shoulder, colored spots flooding his eyes.

He helplessly watched Kelstrin float away on the metal scrap of ship, trying to move his arm in a feeble attempt to reach out to the Mystic. Just moving his fingertips caused tremors of pain to fire up his arm and attack his brain with sensory data. Frederick watched his world blot into darkness, the sound of roaring ocean and twisting metal deafening his ears before silence overcame him.

 

 

 

~ END OF BOOK 1 ~

The End

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