The Sea of Trees
“I hear nothing.
There are no answers, only more questions.”
As the Black Copper began to drift away from the white castle a fog swallowed it whole.
The castle receded into the distance as Adorjan reached the Captain’s Quarters. When he entered the room he immediately asked, “was anyone off the ship looking for the two mutineers?”
Admiral Ra had an open copy of The Gatherings in his hand as he looked out at the receding castle.
“We move on our own. The Gods, they guide us now. The fate of the two mutineers is in the hands of the Four.”
“The crew,” Adorjan said exasperated, “I am speaking about crew members that might have been looking for the mutineers. Not the mutineers. Let them meet their fate out there with the mercreatures if they choose to abandon ship. So, was there anyone, other than the two men, out there?”
The admiral looked at Adorjan and closed the book pensively. He shook his head slowly. He was thinking about a line he had read in The Gathering. He had read the sacred writings as a boy like everyone else, but he had never given them much thought. Sure, he went to the temple a couple of times a year to receive a blessing for his family from the priests, but he was not a devout man.
He was a practical man. He was a man of action. Admiral Ra had climbed the career latter at the Armada steadfastly. He had sacrificed his family. He had two boys with a woman he never married and had provided for them, but he had been at sea for most of their lives. He made sure that his sons were well positioned for careers in the armada, but every once in a while he had pangs of regret. He had loved their mother. Had promised her a life together and here he was. Alone in a desperate situation. He had been turning to the sacred writings more since entering the Sea of Trees.
Adorjan banged on the table at the center of the room speaking to the unresponsive Admiral when Taav Iron walked into the Admiral’s quarters.
“There is a heavy fog coming this way,” Taav said. “Its fingertips are appearing through the branches of the trees but it’s getting heavier quickly. Pretty soon we won’t be able to distinguish anything.”
“Taav,” Adorjan pulled him aside, “the Admiral is lost in a stupor of inaction. Are all the search parties back?”
“Yes, they were back before the Copper started moving,” Taav looked at the admiral who had walked to the window overlooking slow moving trees. The fog was already making the trees hard to see. The Admiral still held a copy of The Gatherings. His finger wedged between the pages of the book; marking a specific passage.
When the ship heaved to its side suddenly and violently breaking through a thick wall of trees a channel, hitherto invisible, appeared. The Admiral had immediately withdrawn to the Admiral’s quarters and picked up the book. Adorjan had raced above deck to look for the search parties and Taav Iron had gone help those still on the ground board the ship as it started moving.
“Calm down Adorjan,” Taav Iron said patiently, “clearly, he is disturbed by the events of the last couple of days. Two of his men have abandoned him and he has lost control of his ship.”
Taav noticed outside the window a white wall blocked the Sea of Trees. The Admiral’s quarters darkened as a result of the fog. He went to the nearest lamp and lit it. Adorjan Corr went to the door and opened it. As soon as Adorjan opened the door a thick milky mist burst inside.
“Close the door,” the Admiral suddenly shouted and Adorjan complied but shot him a crossed look. The Admiral went back to the chair he had been occupying before Adorjan had walked in on his reading.
“It is like a mist of death is rolling over us.”
Adorjan scoffed, “get yourself together.”
Taav reprimanded Adorjan, “leave him be.”
Adorjan went to the window that looked onto the deck and could see nothing but pale whiteness. He was growing more and more frustrated with the situation.
Taav paced around the room thoughtfully and finally said, “our supplies are running low. The — men and women — are discontented. There is going to be problems from within soon. We must control those, at least, because the problems from without are clearly beyond our command.” He closed his eyes and then started to pace again. The crew was on half rations already, but another cut was going to be necessary to survive another week. Those tasked with fishing had not been successful.
And now this fog.
Adorjan went to the table and poured a glass of wine from a half-empty flask. He drank it in silence and thought about Joæn Park. In his mind’s eye, her voluptuous breasts appeared heaving up and down in anger. Thoughts of his wife soon replaced those of Joæn and he frowned in frustration. He corralled his mind back into the present.
“The ship, how will we navigate?” Adorjan Corr asked.
The Admiral gave a startling hearty laugh. He looked up from his book and asked, “navigate? Navigate? Since when have we been navigating the Black Copper?” His eyes fell back on the book.
Adorjan drew closer to the man and shouted, “well, at least I’m looking for a solution.” Taav grabbed Adorjan’s shoulder but Adorjan shoved him off.
The admiral slowly, deliberately, laid the book on the table. He looked at the window and after a few seconds of silence said, “this unearthly forest, brought me to the sacred text.” His face contorted in an expression of confusion. “‘The forest is a wall against impurity.’ That line kept jumping into my mind and I began to look at my nautical books, and pleasure books, and political books, and I found it nowhere. But, but,” he repeated himself drawing an invisible circle on the table next to The Gathering with his finger, “I looked on, for I knew that I did not conjure such language from the repository of my own thought. I had read it. I was certain. But it has been many years since. I was so young, so very young. And, in Avanna, in the capital, we don’t pay attention to the Southern scriptures. Those sections of The Gathering are for the mountain children of the South. A culture stuck in ancient history. We only look at the central writings. Oh, we have been fools. All of us.”
“What are you saying, Admiral,” Taav looked at the man sternly.
The Admiral lay his hand on The Gathering and continued, “it is there. All of it. We are the sacrifice. There must be a sacrifice to appease the quick ones. It’s all there, in the Writings of Deraj. The Dark Night is at hand. This” he gestures wildly, “all of this. It is here in the sacred writings. They Merfolk, the Sea of Trees, the white castle, all of it. All of it. It is all here.” He pointed at the book again. He looked more and more disheveled.
Adorjan made a face of disgust while Taav looked steadily at the Admiral. He could see that the man was going to give them trouble. Adorjan left the room and walked down the steps to the deck leaving the door wide open and the fog rapidly pouring into the room.