Really enjoyed writing this one; here goes another Splinterlands - inspired tale!
Face to face with the beast
I still tremble when I remember that day. The day I watched death in the eyes; the day I faced IT. But I'm jumping too far ahead. In this tale from my memories, let me tell you how it all happened.
Once upon a time, there was a town, like so many in the Azmare Islands, near the Sea of damnation; that sea where only the brave ventured. Bigger fish for the fisherman, bigger loot for the pirates... and bigger dangers for all that ventured far beyond the shore.
On that town, pirates and townsfolks lived in harmony, as in the pirates did as they pleased and the rest of the villagers tried not to get in their way. My family belonged to the latter. Truth be told, my father had earned some respect, being one of the better harpoonists in town; but on that day, most people dared not to leave their houses, father included.
I noticed the concerned look on his face, as he ordered me and my little brother to go to our room and “keep the door shut boy, or I'll toss you to the pirates!”, when I started asking questions. So I did, there was no arguing with father, but I still heard my mother ask “All of them??".
All of them, I found out later, meant all the band of the Mad Archer, one of the more fearsome pirates that used the town as his resting place. Four ships he had, each of them well armed, and full of men that were no strangers to death (normally causing it). Five days ago, they had set sail to the deeper parts of the sea.
From those three ships, one single pirate was found by chance, on top of a piece of wood floating adrift, more dead than alive, the day before. A monster, he said, a monster the size of the town! Dead... all of them dead!
Madness of the sea, some said. It was not uncommon, for anyone adrift alone for a few days in the sea, to lose their mind. But truth was... the ships were nowhere to be found. Nor their crew. And as days passed by, more proofs that maybe the madman wasn't that mad started to appear, as scattered remains of shipwrecks came ashore.
A Sea Monster? Some started to wonder then. The surviving pirate kept repeating the same words over and over again, and although most people still dismissed him as being mad, truth was, in fact... not many things could have made a pirate fleet disappear. And a Sea Monster could be one of them. Everyone in Azmare knew the tales were more than tales, and that such creatures did existed, deep in the waters. But there was no memory of one big enough to wipe five ships at the same time, let alone five fully armed and filled with bloodthirsty warriors.
For the remaining pirate crews thow (and unfortunately for the non-pirates), returning to the day to day routine wasn't going to be an option. And as soon as the surviving pirate regained enough health to pinpoint the shipwreck in the map, the decision to venture the seas was made.
Honor among thieves, they said. Trying to find some of the loot that they knew the Mad Archer always carried, we heard. Whatever the reason was, the ships would be sailing the next day. And all of the townsfolk that could hold a harpoon were “invited” to join, just in case some beast decided to show up.
"Hide", my mother pleaded in that morning, "Hide so they won't take you."
"You know I can't, love". My father answered. And she knew he was right. The pirates wouldn't take the disappearance of one of the best harpoonists lightly, and pirates don't forgive.
A loud bang was heard in the door, one second before two massive-built pirates stormed inside.
“It's time, harpoonist.”
But then they looked at me, and I still remember my mother's face when they spoke again.
“And the boy is coming too.”
“But he's just 14, he can't even hold a harp...” My parent's tried to argue, but as one of them drew his blade, they knew the discussion was over.
And so it came to pass, that father and me, a couple hours after, were standing in a ship, with a handfull of pirates and another one of other townsfolk, sailing to the unknown.
Twenty-seven ships, I counted. Twenty-seven ships , with only three being fisherman ships, where the non-pirates sailed, along with a few pirates just to remind them that turning back wasn't an option, should a situation that might suggest so arise.
“Everyone keep their eyes open, arghhhh”, the pirates said, “we're to raise the flag if any one of them beasts appear, aye!”
It didn't took us more than a few hours to reach the spot on the map. The winds were good that day, and there was already no land on sight. At the captains command, all ships rolled their sails, scouting the water and the horizon.
"If they sank here, they're gone forever", I heard some of the grown man mumble. That part of the sea was deep... too deep. And it was indeed, the right place.
One flag rose in one of the ships.
The twenty-four more, as a huge shadow, slow but steadily, grew from beneath our ship.
And everyone else's ship.
The ships weren't that far from each other, but they weren't that near either. And the shadow was beneath all of them.
For a few moments, that seemed an eternity, not a sound was heard. And then it started.
All of a sudden, a huge bang. Everyone turned their heads in the sound's direction, and witnessed in horror as a single ship flew in the air, already broke in two, and crashed again in the water, as the screams of the crew echoed all around.
No one was able to see what hitted the ship. Only that shadow, that insanely huge shadow, persisted. And for a few more moments, everyone stood still. The pirates that survived the strike were swimming to the nearby ships. All around, the words "The tales are real!" were heard.
The main ship rolled out its sails, and the rest followed.
“Praise the gods” My father holded my arm, his other hand still clenching his harpoon, “we're going back.”
The beast had other plans.
One tentacle rose from the water, three folds the size of the highest mast on the fleet. Nine more followed, each one close to a ship.
Even in that moment, I still believed with all my strenghts, that that meant just a warning, and that we would be allowed to go back to our families. And maybe it was, as we'll never know. Because someone, from some ship, by fear, stupidity, or a mix of both, lashed a harpoon straight to one of the tentacles.
In seconds, it was over.
The tentacles came down, and with them ten ships were dragged to the depths of the seas, as the shadow grew bigger and bigger and bigger.
And as more ships met their doom, with the loudest roar I had ever heard, it appeared.
The Kraken, they called it.
I remember a wise men, writing about Sea Monsters, and how there were sea monsters big enough to swallow the sea monsters that swallowed the ships.
That's what I saw that day.
All around us echoed the sounds of screams and ships being destroyed, as the beast rose from the seas. I felt my father's hand grabbing my arm shaking, as the other one rose the harpoon, but without ever letting it fly.
As for me, I lost track of what was happening around me; scared to death in the inside, but I couldn't turn my eyes away as the Kraken came closer, and closer, until it stood in front of the ship, several meters above, looking down. And althought it was hard to know for sure ... I believe it was looking at me.
I couldn't hear the screams anymore. In that moment it was just me, the beast, and my father close to me, his hand still in my arm, his harpoon on the other arm.
As swift as it came, it went away, to the depths of the sea. And only a few minutes later was I able to look around.
Only four people were left in the boat: me, my father, and the two other villagers that didn't jumped off the ship as the the beast appeared. But what was even more shocking, was what surrounded us. Only sea, and nothing else. A few scattered pieces of floating wood; no sign of ships, nor anyone that had fallen in the water.
Up to this day, I still don't know why were we spared. But we learned our lesson, and so did the pirates, for that part of Azmare belongs to the Kraken... and he doesn't like strangers floating in its seas.
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