Mists of Kel Doran
Season 1 - Dragon-Touched
Episode 1 - The Weave of Fate
Chapter 7 - Black Water
Original Artist unknown...Concept Art for Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Chapter VII - Black Water
Approximate read time ~ 8 minutes
Life aboard the Promenade was full of hope. The deck bustled with excitement, a stark contrast to the life they left behind. With the great city of Wyvern’s Rest in despair, families and merchants deserted in search of prosperity in other regions of Cyrea. Taryn leaned against the wooden rail, joining other passengers to peer back into the desolate skyline. Some reminisced of opportunities lost, others condemned the crumbled walls and empty spires. They severed their ties to years’ of pain and suffering - a debt never to be repaid.
The ship was alive with chatter and conversation, but Taryn could do nothing more than stare. His eyes unfocused as they set themselves upon the old stone inn, and the empty second story window. He patiently waited for a blonde haired, fair skinned angel to appear before him, yet was secretly relieved when she did not. He wanted to be there, to rescue her from her prison, but the years had taught him that was nothing more than a dream.
Varin Wray cast a wide net of influence. Taryn knew the more he tried to pull her away, the more endangered she would be. He could barely go a moment without thinking of her, yet those were the feelings that threatened her the most. His stomach churned as the Promenade signaled for the last time, then slowly pulled away from the docks and the old, familiar market.
A carnival atmosphere permeated the vessel as people sang and danced away the thoughts of years lost, yet Taryn’s mood remained unmoved.
“Bet you’re glad to be rid of her, aren’t you,” shot a joyous voice over Taryn`s shoulder. Taryn spun around, rage in his heart for the man that dare make such a claim. His eyes hardened and his brow narrowed as he turned to face the insolent street rat. He puffed his chest and clenched his fists, ready for the fight to come.
“What do you know, you pompous…” Taryn began, expecting to find something, anything but a small, happy child. Before him, his hair a jostled mess, stood a freckle faced young boy waving a small banner in the air. The boy's eyebrows drew skyward as he recoiled, stumbling onto the deck of the crowded ship. His flag flew from his hands, trampled under the mass of dancing feet. The young boy's eyes filled with tears. He crawled away from the monstrous expression on Taryn's face, then turned, fleeing through the sea of joy and happiness.
“No,” Taryn said, reaching for the young boy. “I didn't mean to…” he continued, peering through legs while the child scampered away. As he knelt, he felt a sudden blow into his side. With a “thump,” another child collapsed back onto the deck. Her light, blonde hair fell into a tangled mess, her mother’s careful knot a distant memory. She pulled her hair aside, revealing the fair-skinned, freckled face of a young girl. Her apologetic, blue eyes looked up to Taryn while he stared back in disbelief.
For a moment, neither spoke. The girl was too afraid while Taryn couldn't distant himself from the resemblance. “Ava,” he whispered, looking back to the city. “I mean…I’m sorr,” he continued, but turned back to find an empty deck. He spun to see the young girl galloping toward the stairs and the juggling act that had just begun.
Thoughts of Ava continued to weigh on Taryn. He stood once more, leaning into the railing while the Promenade distanced itself from the failing city. His eyes scanned the skyline and the broken walls, but like a moth to a flame, could not avoid the old stone inn and its second story window. A silhouette passed the darkened opening, and Taryn's heart leapt…for a moment. The darkened shadow was not that of a pretty young girl, but of a fat, repulsive man with a sinister expression.
A dark weight enveloped Taryn. I left her, he thought. His mind gripped his new reality while his stomach continued to invert upon itself. I just…left her. He stood heavy on his feet as the sails let loose. The hope of the passengers filled the giant cloth, urging the Promenade further away from the ruin of Wyvern’s Rest. Taryn looked into sails and felt an incredible weight bear down on his chest. He closed his eyes as the canvas flapped and stretched, the air filling them to their limit. He heard the rope strain and the knots squeeze to their moorings. He opened his eyes as panic gripped at his chest, surveying the other passengers. Several had joined Taryn, their gaze set into the giant sails. Others sat in quiet reverence, content to stare back into the city as the crumbled skyline grew ever smaller.
“Excuse me…Pardon me,” Taryn said as he hurried his way toward the back of the ship. After several moments, he arrived, the details of Wyvern’s Rest disappearing from sight. A frenzy enveloped him as he looked at his former home. Between the haze of the fog and the morning sun, a shadow enshrouded the city. He looked upon the fallen citadel and felt the helplessness and despair. He envisioned the collapsed buildings and the crumbled walls. He pictured the murderers, robbers, and mercenaries that now called Wyvern’s Rest home. As the inn faded into mist, he looked upon the city as it really was, a broken promise nestled against the black waters of the Abyssal Sea.
He stared as a single word fell from his quivering lips. “Ava.”
A slow murmur crept from the front of the Promenade. At first, it was like a small ripple in a large pond. In time, the echoes of concern grew to panic as passengers inched their way toward the back of the ship. Soon, grown men pushed and shoved their way through to escape whatever loomed ahead. Women, children, rich, poor…all were fair game as it became survival of the fittest aboard the once joyful deck.
In the excitement, Taryn heard a muffled scream. He looked down and saw three small children pressed against the back rail as the ship’s complement backed up. Helpless and pinned, he knew what would happen if the passengers did not come to their senses. The children cried, but their bodies were trapped against the wooden frame, the air escaping before anyone could heed their call.
“S-Stop” Taryn muttered. No one listened. “You…You must stop this!” His words grew agitated, but that did not yield the herd of frantic passengers. He braced his feet and pushed against the throng of bodies, but had no effect. He screamed and cursed as they continued to compress against the rail, “Stop, dammit! You must stop this madness!!” But Taryn might as well have been cursing at a dead man.
Desperate, he climbed onto the rail. His hands latched onto tethered ropes as he clawed his way up random arms and legs. He crested the mob in one final effort to convince them to stand down. As he peered over their heads, the source of their fear materialized in the distance. Another ship steamed toward them. This was no ordinary ship, however. It was like death upon the black water. Its hull was a ghostly black, blended seamlessly with the water below. Its sails were full, triumphant, and absorbed the light around them. The goal of these pirates was not to frighten; it was to ignite terror, to strike a chord deep within the soul of their victims, to pray upon their fears and quiet the hearts of courage before any shots were fired.
Taryn knew of pirates in this area. In Wyvern’s Rest, those that frequented the Guilded Wyrmling Inn often spun tales of these high seas mercenaries, though the fear he now felt seemed oddly absent from all those well-worded stories. The young man’s eyes widened, then heard wooden boards creak and groan under the strain. He looked back to the rail and to the pinned children, their lifeless bodies tangled in a mass of legs and feet, crushed against the contorted rails.
A loud “snap” shot across the deck. The ship’s tired rail gave way as dozens spilled from the back of the Promenade into the cool waters of the Abyssal Sea. Men, women, and children all fell in a chaotic blend of humanity and splintered wood, culminating in the water below. Several jumped to safety or clung to tethered ropes; but as more climbed on, the belly of the ship groaned. A low, dull ache reverberated throughout the ship, an ache every passenger felt.
A series of shattered echoes shot through the air as the ropes slackened. Shadows loomed large as the rear mast gave way. Maddened screams rang out as the massive pole crashed through the remnants of the back rail, spilling over the deck. Several passengers plummeted over the edge while others braced themselves for the impact…with disastrous results. The enormous mast carved a hole through the forecastle on its way into the sea before landing across the helpless victims below.
The panic turned into terror as the passengers no longer had an avenue of escape. Men and women hurdled the rails while most clogged the main stairways to the belly of the ship. Others crammed into small rooms flanking the center of the deck and huddled together for safety.
Taryn dangled over the back of the Promenade, his boot caught in a rope as he hung upside down a few feet from the water. His mind reeled at his fate and the rope still clung to the hull. In that moment, he had a decision, jump into the chilled water, or climb his way up and prepare for whatever comes.
Taryn had never been a strong man, nor had he ever needed to be brave, but he managed to muster a combination of both as he reached up and scaled toward the deck. While other passengers jumped over the edge, the young man pulled himself up and emerged back into the light. He surveyed the wreckage. The scores of Promenade passengers was reduced to a few dozen fighting men, ready to defend their families. All others had cowered below deck or joined the women and children in the sea.
He continued to scan the deck and saw the faces of the brave few, some equipped, some not, all of them scared out of their minds. A few had crude weapons, but most had nothing. They scoured the ship for any implement that would serve as a weapon, the naive hope it would be effective against a combat-trained pirate. This is madness! What hopes would we have in repelling boarders? What would they even want?” And the most important question of all, what am I doing?!
Taryn had little time to reflect, however. As the black ship approached, it let loose a volley from its front catapults, a fiery barrage meant to instill dread in the hearts of anyone left onboard. As the projectiles exploded across the deck, many that were brave enough to stand and fight realized they were not. They joined the others, flung themselves overboard, and escaped the fiery explosions, some engulfed in flames, some to simply flee. Taryn’s heart sank as more defenders preferred their chances in the Abyssal Sea.
Pirates swooped down from their sails and landed on the deck of the Promenade, their screams meant to create nightmares in children and able-bodied men alike. Taryn scavenged for the only weapon he could find, a large pole that had snapped when the mast collapsed into the sea. It was splintered and bent, more suitable for firewood than as a weapon. He squeezed the end and felt the splinters wedge between his fingertips. The young man looked up when he heard a mighty roar. Wooden planks fell across the sea, the gap between the vessels now bridged. For the first time in his young life, Taryn felt sheer terror
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Mists of Kel Doran