The Tale of Captain Johne

The Eve of the Summer Solstice

A flash of lightning illuminated a scene of chaos. My crew scuttled across the deck, some screaming as the arms of the ocean embraced them. Others fought with the rigging, desperately trying to furl the sails. I began to shout orders, but my voice was lost to the thunder and wind.

Then another voice sounded above the storm. "Vas Rel Por!"

A brilliant light showered the Ararat as a luminescent, azure portal rose from her deck. Sutek stood before the mystical gate, his arms and staff outstretched, his white robes shimmering like veins of crystal.

"May the Virtues enlighten me," Nosfentre said, his eyes wide. "A moongate."

"The passengers!" Sutek commanded to a figure. In the blaze of the moongate, I saw that the individual was Astarol. "See them to safety!"

"I must help them," I said to Nosfentre, pulling away from his grip. "Find Faulina and bring her to the gate. We must abandon the Ararat if we are to live!"

Nosfentre nodded and stumbled away, his figure soon lost in the curtains of rain. I ran to where Astarol guided the terrified passengers to the moongate. Those who were left of my crew abandoned their posts, slipping as they scrambled for safety, for the ship now leaned to the port, as if a hand steadily tipped her over. Nosfentre and Faulina arrived moments later, and they too helped.

Most of the passengers and crew had disappeared through the radiant gate when the ocean suddenly swelled off the starboard. A wave higher than the walls of Trinsic rose from the maelstrom like an amorphous beast.

"Quickly!" I screamed. "Through the gate!"

I saw Astarol dive for the portal. Nosfentre tried to shove Faulina toward it, but the wave struck us all. My vision reeled as I was thrown back. Tendrils of cold, foul seawater slithered down my throat, stung my eyes, and flung me into a stack of barrels secured to the deck. I grabbed a length of rope just as a second wave hit me. There was nothing I could do but hold on as I toppled over the barrels and fell overboard.

The rope went taut. I slammed into the Ararat's hull, bounced away, and there I hung, peering down into the heart of the maelstrom. Time seemed to still and along with its slowing, an unsettling silence befell me. A few barrels, surrounded by shimmering droplets of the sea, toppled from the deck and tumbled end over end past raging walls of water, shrinking silently as they disappeared into an inky void where the ocean and all reality dissolved.

And in that void, for just a moment, I thought I saw stars.

"Johne! Hold on!"

I looked up. Time and sound returned to normal. Nosfentre was leaning over the edge of the ship, pulling on the rope. Above him roiled the sky, thick with clouds, laced with lightning.

With the help of Faulina and Astarol, Nosfentre hoisted me up by my belt. Even as I spilled onto the deck, I knew something was wrong, for there was no light. "The moongate!" I cried. "Where is it?"

Nosfentre's grim expression was answer enough. He did not need to point at Sutek's body, which lay unmoving among a tangle of riggings and barrels.

Thunder roared. I had a brief glimpse of lightning toppling the mainmast like a scythe scourging wheat. A few moments later, the shrieks of splintered wood wailed from below us: The hull of the Ararat being torn apart. I heard screams, mine and those of my companions, as the ship tilted. For one last time, I looked into the maelstrom's black soul, then it reached up and swallowed me.


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