Keturan made his way down to the shore at dawn. The sky was a pearly gray, and the gulls swooped over the sands, their harsh cries echoing in the morning air. Kanmira met him on the other side of the dunes. Her hood was flung back, and her eyes reflected the sky as she spoke,
“The island of Llira has changed its course many times in the past century. Yet I have always known where it was. Sail north, and you will find it. It should only take a couple of days.” She sounded calm, as if she was certain of his success. More certain than he was, at any rate.
“I thank you,” replied Keturan. In the morning light, it was easier to forget his dream. “Goodbye.”
Kanmira smiled sadly, as if she was recalling another Arlesian exile from long ago. “Go, with my blessing.” She raised a hand in farewell as Keturan walked off to his boat.
Keturan managed to avoid everyone else on the docks, avoid getting handed any more packages, and sailed away from the shore beneath a cloudless blue sky. Behind him, he heard Kanmira singing in a language he couldn’t understand. But he kept his eyes on the course ahead.
Later that day Keturan dug in his bag, pulling out a token he hadn’t worn in years. The silver pin showed the eagle of Arlese, holding crossed swords. He hadn’t worn it on Thirty Isles during his time with Ahmes, because it seemed like showing off, and he hadn’t wanted to wear it while traveling because of its value. But if he was going to rescue Llirans, they ought to know who he was. They’ll probably be irritated. But I don’t care. The last Prince of Arlese is setting out on his mission. He ought to look like it.
Keturan sailed for two days, until he saw the storm in the north.
It seemed oddly fixed, as if it was behind a wall of glass. Yet all the same, the wall drifted, like it was floating on the sea.
“I can’t believe this,” Keturan murmured under his breath. This was what the sailors had always described, but no one had ever seen what was beyond it. He kept his small boat on course, the roar of the storm growing louder in his ears as he drew closer. “I can’t believe-“
Water poured from the sky, drenching him and cutting off his words. A massive wave struck the side of his boat, sending it spinning. Lightning flashed in the sky, and thunder ripped the air above him. He dashed water out of his eyes, trying desperately to keep his small craft on course, but it was blown back and forth like a leaf.
I’m crazy, thought Keturan. Why did I ever agree to this? Arlesian honor again . . .
Keturan lost track of how long the storm lasted. He bailed water until his arms ached. The sail flapped wildly in the howling wind, and the lightning gave the sea an eerie green glow. The waves tossed his boat up and down until he was dizzy. The greatest wave yet rose over the boat, a massive hill of blue-green water . . .
And Keturan sailed out of the storm.
It ended as abruptly as it had begun, and he sailed straight into fog.
It was all around him in an instant, dense, white and cold. He could barely see the boat’s prow ahead of him. The little wooden bird he had placed there as a figurehead was almost invisible.
Keturan tried not to stare into the fog around him. Though it seemed blank at first glance, he could glimpse shapes in it. The faces of people who he had known long ago loomed up at him, and he bit his lip to keep from crying out. Something about this place made him want to be silent.
And I still have no idea what’s ahead.
Then the voices began. Calling, sobbing, screaming; they seemed to be all around him. They sounded like voices from half a lifetime ago. From the day the horrified messenger had come and begged him to run, the day the people made a mad rush for the boats . . .
. . . the day fire fell from the sky.
Keturan huddled in the boat, his hands over his ears. Yet still the voices echoed from the mist around him. His father’s, I have to make sure everyone else gets out. I’ll catch up with you later. His mother’s I have to help your father. Go, and stay safe! The cries he had heard as his boat pulled away from the shore, tossed about by the waves. The frenzied swearing of Kelsor as he tried to keep the small craft upright. The great wave that had swept over the boat, taking him. Keturan’s own small voice, lost in the crying of the wind. The sulfurous smell on the air . . .
“Stop this, just stop it. Not this again, please . . .” Keturan’s voice trailed off into incoherent babbling. “I can’t . . .” The boat shifted and jerked sideways. This can’t be real . . . you’re going to crash . . . snap out of it, you idiot! He forced his eyes open, even though he knew what he would see.
The mist parted and blew away in ragged clouds. And Keturan looked into the eyes of a sea serpent.