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 VI - 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. As they sailed away, many passengers looked 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 the sandy haired little boy sat motionless, his head still submerged in his hands. The image of the girl in the window continued to haunt his thoughts. His mother knelt before him and pushed his hair away from his freckled face, wishing there was more she could do for her baby boy. She looked to her husband and gave a sympathetic shrug, but they both shared in the same confusion. He scanned the ship to derive his son’s sudden despair, but came up empty.
A carnival atmosphere permeated the vessel as people sang and danced away the thoughts of years lost, yet the boy’s mood remained unmoved. His restless sister gave up on her parents’ attempts and sought to immerse herself in the excitement of the Promenade. She peered through the sea of arms and legs to catch a glimpse of a man juggling near the stairs. Her eyes grew wide with excitement.
“Daddy!” she cried out, as she pulled away. “Daddy, it’s a show. Let’s go!” The little girl tugged and twisted to free herself from her father’s grasp. She darted through the crowd while she navigated the maze of trunks, legs, and possessions. Her heart raced as she hurdled several small, ripped bags, then ran head long into something solid. With a “thump,” the girl collapsed onto the deck. Her sandy hair fell into a tangled mess, her mother’s careful knot a distant memory. She pulled her hair aside, only to reveal the concerned expression of a tall, long-haired young man.
Before Taryn could assess the little girl’s injuries, she bolted upright and shot across the Promenade’s deck in search of the ‘show.’ Moments later, her father burst through the crowd with a mixture of panic and anger across his face. Taryn stood, stepped aside, and pointed in the direction the little girl. As the nervous father swept past, the young man smiled and gave a gentle nod of understanding.
Taryn’s face was still full of life, though time in Wyvern’s Rest had aged him considerably. His brown eyes gave the appearance of warmth and honesty, though a deeper look revealed years of mistakes and regret. His dark hair was long, pulled into a tight, well-maintained knot. He hoped for a look of sophistication, but knew it was merely to keep it out of his eyes.
Taryn chuckled and gave an honest shake of his head as he watched the anxious father bound across the deck. The slender young man stood light 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 lift from him 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. For the moment, the past few years fluttered away, filled with air and blown out to sea. He opened his eyes and surveyed 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, sir…Pardon me, ma’am,” Taryn stated as he worked his way toward the back of the ship. He thought of his old home and the closure in seeing it disappear beyond the horizon. He continued across the deck and saw a concerned mother as she clung to the arms of a young boy, his face a mask of intense sadness. Taryn found it hard to pull his eyes away, captivated by his innocence and how one so young could feel such loss.
As Taryn stared, his own sense of longing overtook him and thoughts of his own loss stirred. While the crowd around him churned with excitement, Taryn’s memories fell back to the beautiful blonde woman and her imprisonment within the inn. He remembered Ava’s soft, blue eyes and her genuine smile. He ached for the scent of her hair and the sound of her voice. A darkness consumed him, even aboard the ship that would take him away from all the pain.
With resolve, he placed a hand on the boy’s shoulder and another on his tearful mother. Their faces looked to his, both marred with countless layers of dirt, the scars of a tough life on an unforgiving street. Her clothes stuck to her bony shoulders and her cheeks were sunken and filthy; yet, even in their suffering, something existed within this woman that sent a wave of emotion through Taryn…hope.
In all her hurt and pain, a smile crept across her face. She acknowledged Taryn and looked back to her son. The sandy haired boy, eyes swollen and red, lifted his head. Though another tear had worked its way free, it was plain to see their smiles had comforted him. The little boy let go of the anguish and swept his arms around his mother. A warmth washed over Taryn as he fought back thoughts of Ava and the pain of leaving.
When Taryn arrived at the back of the vessel, the troubles of Wyvern’s Rest were disappearing from sight. A calm enveloped him as he looked at his former home. Between the haze of the fog and the morning sun, a soft glow had enshrouded the city. He looked upon the fallen citadel and forgot the helplessness and despair. He forgot about the collapsed buildings and the crumbled walls. He forgot about the murderers, robbers, and mercenaries that now called Wyvern’s Rest home. For a brief moment, he looked upon the city as he remembered, a shiny jewel nestled against the black waters of the Abyssal Sea.
As Taryn reminisced, 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. Taryn thought to himself, “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