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The Wandersail (Extended Version)


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A while ago, I wrote a fleshed out version of The Girl Who Looked Up that turned it into a complete story. I've finally managed to work up the motivation to do the same for The Wandersail. It was a fair bit harder, and I'm quite proud of it!

(Spoilered for length)


King Derethil was not an average man. In fact, most in his time thought him to be exceptional. Exceptionally tall. Exceptionally fair of skin, with eyes to match. Exceptionally regal in stature, towering over others with more than simply height. And he was exceptionally powerful.

He was not one to shy away from battle. While many kings were perfectly content to sit on their plush thrones far away from war, Derethil welcomed the fight. And he was not a man to lose a fight. He led thousands of warriors into battle against the most dreadful of Voidbringers, come to destroy the homes of his people. His skills matched those of the Radiants he fought alongside. Some said that he outshone the Heralds themselves, although he was too pious a man to admit such a thing.

He led his kingdom to peace, handily driving away the Voidbringers as one does an infestation of rats- with far more valor, of course. He returned home a hero, and a hero he was. His name would echo through the ages, known for centuries past his time.

What is said about him now is undoubtedly built on mythical rumors, grown over time in splendor as does an aged purple wine. It is human nature to let the mind wander past what is known, dreaming of the extraordinary. Derethil was no different. That we know for certain.

Above all, he was exceptionally curious.

King Derethil leaned against the balcony’s rail, staring out into the distance. It was a beautiful morning with nary a cloud in the sky. The rooftops of his city were spread out below, the people flowing through the streets seeming like tiny figurines from up high. They were matched by little toy boats sailing in the bay. The sea was calm that day, shimmering instead of breaking into whitecaps. Its tranquility was a stark contrast to his thoughts.

Now that the war was over, he had little to do. He had administrative duties, of course. Much of his time was dedicated to coordinating the rebuilding of villages and reclamation of torched fields. His kingdom was still recovering from the damage inflicted by the Voidbringers. But those tasks paled in comparison to what he had become accustomed to. He dearly missed the thrill of battle, of valiantly defending his home. There was nothing exciting left, and he found himself with a surplus of hours spent merely idling. That gave him far too much time to think.

What was out there, beyond the blue horizon? There had to be something. It couldn’t just be a vast swath of absolutely nothing. But if not nothing, then what? Perhaps it was filled with odd peoples who lived upon the sea. He had read tales of strange humans from far away as a child. Or it could be a land of lush vines, rockbuds covering every surface. He would give much to see a place unlike the barren landscape of his home. It might even be the origin of the Voidbringers themselves.

He heard someone clear their throat behind him and straightened. Derethil turned towards the noise, standing tall with hands clasped behind his back in a soldier’s stance. Before him stood a master-servant. His round features were quite different from the pointed angles of the king’s face, but both were stately in their own ways. The man, called Vareth, had the dignified air only a master-servant could muster. Vareth gave a short bow to Derethil. The king nodded, granting him permission to speak.

“My king, I apologize for the intrusion, but we have received no instruction from you in quite some time,” Vareth said. “The court has been… worried. Without your guidance, they fear that they may become lost.”

Derethil sighed. This was not the first time he had been bothered about this, but it was the boldest attempt so far. He suspected that Dorun had put him up to this. The Head of Commerce enjoyed constantly requesting meetings with the king to propose ridiculous ideas. His latest was to put the gemstone chips used as the kingdom’s currency in little glass balls. Spheres, he called them. Quite descriptively named. “Vareth, that is because there is little to do. We have found peace and our people have all that they need. Why risk that?” he replied.

Then an idea surfaced in his head. A solitary island rising from the frothing waters of his mind. It pushed on the roof of his skull, threatening to break free if he didn’t express it. He knew some might find it foolhardy, but Derethil was a confident man. He had faith that he could solve any problem and felt that he had found the perfect solution.

“However, there is one matter I must resolve before we can be truly secure,” the king continued. He turned back towards the sea. “We do not know where the Voidbringers came from. Our cartographers have mapped every inch of the land. We have scoured the continent and found nothing. There is only one place left that they could have originated from.” He broadly gestured at the sea. “They must be somewhere past the ocean, past where any explorer has dared venture.” He faced Vareth again and grinned. “I shall sail farther than man has ever been and find the Voidbringers’ homeland. If we know where they are hiding, we can strike at the very heart of their weakened forces. Ensure that they will never return to fight us again.”

“My lord, I fear I am not one whom you should be consulting on this,” Vareth said. “But I can gather others who can assist you.”

Derethil detected a hint of skepticism behind the master-servant’s refined tone. He didn’t blame him. Sailing short distances along the coast was a sensible thing. Going much further than that would be considered foolish. Highstorms would rip any ship to pieces if they dare tried to venture beyond the horizon. Even some unfortunate vessels near the coast suffered that same fate. The art of sailing required quite a bit of luck.

But Derethil was a mighty man. What was a mere storm compared to the legions of thundering Voidbringers he had defeated? The Radiants had overcome the trials of both, and they had been his peers. His equals, in many aspects. There had to be some way to weather the storm, and he was determined to find it.

“Vareth, ready my shipmaster. I must speak with him,” he commanded.

The master-servant nodded, leaving the balcony with a stiff gait to do as his king ordered. Derethil gazed at the ocean for a moment longer, then strode inside to gather his thoughts and prepare for his meeting with the shipmaster.

The shipmaster, known as Kavan, did a poor job of disguising his incredulity upon hearing Derethil’s request a few hours later as they strolled through the shipyard. “You wish to sail into a highstorm, your highness?” he sputtered.

The king simply stared at the man, his eyes like stone. Most hoped never to encounter such a stare. It seemed to drill into your mind and lay bare your weaknesses. Kavan shivered briefly.

“Right, right. You’ll need quite the ship,” the shipmaster continued as they passed a trading vessel being loaded with goods. “One of immense size.”

Derethil’s eyes crinkled with a slight smile. Finally, he could do something exciting.

“And how large must this ship be?” the king asked.

Kavan frowned briefly, thinking. The troubled look on his face was less than reassuring. “Do you see that building over there?”

Derethil nodded. He believed it to be a storehouse for goods brought from trading expeditions.

“The sail would need to be roughly the size of that.”

The king’s eyes widened. Storms, that was big. It would dwarf any other ship many times over. His slight smile broke into a grin.

“It sounds perfect.”

The shipmaster, in turn, frowned even deeper. They arrived at a dock and stopped walking.

“I am uncertain that it is possible to construct a vessel so large. And even if my builders could create it, the cost would be enormous,” Kavan warned.

“Well, then it is fortunate that we have a great deal of funds to contribute. The resources we were using to support the war effort have not yet been assigned to another task. This venture will be a wonderful use for them.”

The shipmaster resignedly nodded and went to begin preparations for the construction. Derethil was left standing on the empty dock. The king faced the sea, the boisterous sounds of the busy shipyard seeming to fade away. Calls from sailors to one another became whispers and the pounding of nails became silverware falling muted on a rug. He imagined himself sailing on the water over the horizon, watching the land slowly disappear from view. He could hear the wind rushing in his ears and waves crashing against the side of a ship. Derethil felt his spirit rising, knowing that he now had a new purpose. He would do what no man had done before. He would defeat a highstorm and discover the unknown behind it.

King Derethil was forced to wait many months before he could set out on his journey. His vessel was of an unprecedented size, and it took ages to work out the logistics of assembling such a beast. A new, incredibly long dock had to be built just for it. Each morning, he would stand on his balcony and watch the shipyards below. Hundreds of workers swarmed the area as if they were ants who had discovered a discarded pile of food. He could hear the clanging of mallets on nails from up high if he focused. The sound made him restless with excitement; each hammer thud meant he was closer to his dream.

Even partway through its construction, it became obvious that this ship was the best ever created. Its skeleton had begun to morph into an arrow-like shape that could pierce even the toughest of hulls. Its tall masts cast shadows for what seemed like miles. It was an engineering marvel, unmatched in size and strength. Like a Ryshadium among common horses. A ship certainly fit for a warrior king.

At long last, the finishing touches were done. Derethil watched the final worker leave the ship. This was a deviation from their normal schedule, and he knew precisely what it meant. Eagerly, he hurried through his palace and down to the docks. Along the way, he passed a peeved Vareth, likely come to tell him of the ship’s completion. The master-servant most certainly didn’t approve of the king’s distinctly un-kingly behavior in his hasty rushing, but Derethil was too excited to pay that much heed.

Arriving at the shipyard, now making an effort to regain his composure in front of his subjects, he strode past ship after ship. He knew that each one was nothing compared to what he had built. It took him very little time to find his vessel. The tall mast reached high above everything else, as if it were the great herald Talenel standing in a crowd of children.

Soon, the ship came fully into view. Derethil stopped in his tracks. It took quite a sight to make a man like him pause, and it was quite a sight indeed. The king had seen the vessel from above, but seeing it now in front of him was a different matter entirely. It was wondrous. It was perfectly constructed and seemed so polished that not even a splinter could be present. An incredibly sturdy structure had been built around the ship’s wheel for the helmsman to take shelter in, a large pane of glass set into its front. Based on its length, it must have taken an entire forest to gather enough wood to create it. The sheer size made one question how it managed to float. He was certain that it was the finest ship men had ever known.

He broke out of his stupor and noticed Kavan on the long dock adjacent to the ship. The king approached him. The man was nervously wringing his hands. “My lord, we have completed construction of your ship.”

“That is wonderful news! We must assemble a crew shortly,” Derethil replied. The shipmaster remained silent for a moment, his brow furrowed.

“I must tell you, sir, that we have no confirmation that this vessel can weather a highstorm. There is only so much we can do, and the odds of survival are most likely quite low. I would hate to lose my admirable king to a doomed expedition on the sea.”

“Nonsense!” Derethil said. “I have faced danger before, and this is no different. I am certain that we will be successful!”

Kavan almost began to object, but restrained himself. He instead nodded tersely. “I will gather men to crew your ship. Please meet me here in three days. Our stormwardens have determined that a highstorm will occur then.”

Derethil thanked the man and started to leave, but before he made it a few steps away, the shipmaster called out “Wait!” The king turned back. “What shall we name your ship, my lord?”

The king thought for a moment, resting his hand on his pointed chin. “We shall call her the Wandersail,” he said with a grin.

Three days later, Derethil arrived at the long dock in the morning. There, he was greeted by the sight of over a hundred men standing on the deck of his ship. They were the bravest sailors in his kingdom; lesser men would never have dared to be part of his treacherous journey. Unmatched in strength and cunning, there was no one better to travel with.

They were more than just sailors. As they were to seek out the origin of the Voidbringers, his men were warriors as well. Some he had even fought alongside himself. They had followed him into peril before, and were gladly prepared to do so again.

Of course, it might not be the origin of the Voidbringers they found. It was a possibility, but not entirely Derethil’s motivation for his expedition. He wished to see what was hidden out there, regardless of what it happened to be. He wanted to know the unknown.

The king stepped up onto the deck of the Wandersail, boots thudding on the solid wood, and addressed the gathered crew.

“My companions, I thank you for joining me on this journey. I know that with our combined might, we can sail through the fury of a highstorm. This may seem to be a daunting task, but we have the power of the greatest ship created by mankind on our side.” He looked to the sky. It was cloudless, but he knew that would change soon.

“We’d best be off before we miss the chance to test our strength,” Derethil said to the captain, named Jannat. The man had dark skin and even darker hair, sporting an impressive beard. “Ready the ship to leave. We shall sail at noon.”

Jannat nodded and began shouting orders to the crew. The massive sails were hoisted, large enough that it seemed to be a wonder the ship didn’t tip over. The rigging was situated, all knots tied in the proper places. Some of their boxes of provisions were strapped down on the deck as tightly as possible, but they left the rest in the hold in case their restraints couldn’t handle the stormwinds.

Derethil couldn’t help but feel giddy as the Wandersail pushed off from its dock. It took little time for the ship to leave the bay, rapidly outpacing the lesser boats. The king felt the gentle ocean winds on his face and smelled the salt in the air. It was exactly as he had imagined. Looking over the edge of the boat, he saw it chop through the water like a shardblade through stone. He watched the last vestiges of the land behind them fade from view. The sensation of being out on the open sea, surrounded only by the deep blue waters, was better than anything he had felt before. Even the pride of defeating enemies in battle paled in comparison to it.

The wind began to pick up, and a sailor shouted from the crow’s nest that the stormwall was approaching. Shortly after, Derethil was able to spot it without a spyglass. It barreled forwards at an incredible speed that churned water up hundreds of feet as it passed. The storm seemed to stretch upwards into infinity, completely blotting out the sun. Even though he was miles away, he could hear it bellow its thundering roar. The king had finally encountered his most formidable enemy.

And he realized that he had been very, very wrong.

The Wandersail would be no match for the raw fury of a highstorm. Seeing it now before him, he knew that the ship’s great size was nothing compared to it. He had been an incredible fool. You couldn’t defeat a force of nature with merely valor. Swords and inspirational words were useless against it. His ego had doomed them all to die. Derethil showed none of this on his face, however. He couldn’t let his men see that he had lost hope. So, as they headed below deck to shelter from the storm, he yelled words of encouragement. No one heard them, as they were drowned out by the howling screams of the wind. Their brave helmsman was the only one who stayed on the deck, huddling in his protective shelter.

Soon, they felt the ship begin to rock as waves started to batter it. Men stumbled, grabbing on to what they could to avoid falling to the floor. Looking out of a porthole, Derethil saw the water frantically roiling above them. The winds increased in speed, and the ship groaned, the creaking of wood somehow becoming near-deafening. Then there was a horrible snap. Staring out the porthole again, Derethil watched what had once been their central mast slowly sink into the depths. Its gigantic sail unfurled fruitlessly, as if desperately trying to slow its descent. The king assumed that he would soon join it. He took a deep breath, thinking that it would be his last.

The stormwall hit, and they were tossed like a child’s ragdoll. Sailors were slammed against the walls, the floor, even the ceiling as they were thrown. Many yelled with pain and fright. Something splintered, then shattered. Water poured in as planks were ripped free from the hull. Again and again, they were blown into the air. The porthole was now useless. The storm clouds completely obscured everything, making it impossible to tell where the ship was. The water spraying into the air and wind gusting through the clouds made it seem as if the highstorm was alive. The thunder was its voice and lightning its rage. It called them fools for daring to challenge its might. The king squeezed his eyes shut, knowing that it was right.

Derethil felt a sickening crunch, and they stopped moving. Surely, they had sunk to the bottom of the sea and it was only a matter of time before their boat completely flooded. But the rushing of water had ceased. The screams of the wind had faded. Everything was still. He opened his eyes apprehensively and found that they were free of the storm. They had run aground.

Joyfully, the king ran up the steps and threw open the hatch. Above, he felt a gentle rain on his face. The Riddens. Their helmsman had stumbled out of his battered enclosure, stunned. Somehow, he had avoided being crushed by the falling masts or blown away by the winds. The king descended back below and bade that his men come join him on the deck. They emerged, looking up at the grey sky. For most, it would have been a sorry sight. Their largest mast was gone, removing all hope for an escape. Part of the hull had completely caved in where it had met the ground. The strapped down provisions were gone and even the rails surrounding the deck had been ripped free. The Wandersail was destroyed.

But for the crew, the feeling of a calm rain spelled their salvation. They were alive. While they hadn’t beaten the storm, they had survived. Men laughed and cried, some pumping fists into the air and others sinking to their knees with relief. Jannat stumbled up to Derethil and placed a hand on his shoulder, not caring that he was of far too lowly a rank to treat his king so familiarly. Derethil didn’t care either, not then. They both exchanged tired grins.

After letting his crew gather themselves for a moment, Derethil ordered them to form up. Each quickly scrambled to their assigned places, making orderly rows on the deck. Gaps in their formation could be seen and the king’s heart sank. Counting, he found that they had lost eleven sailors. It was less than he had expected, but it hurt all the same. It was his fault they had died. They had trusted him to lead them to victory, and he had failed them.

Some men could hardly stand, sporting all sorts of injuries. Many a bone had been broken and a wound opened. Only a select few had somehow managed to remain unscathed. He himself had dislocated his left shoulder when he had been slammed into a wall at an unlucky angle. Absentmindedly, he popped it back in, grimacing at the pain. It hurt, but he managed it just fine- that was far from the first time he had been injured in such a manner. The crew’s medical officer immediately chastised him for this, then helped fashion a sling for Derethil’s arm out of some soggy bandages.

Looking around, he saw that they were on the edge of a ring of small islands that surrounded a massive whirlpool. Derethil’s breath caught. They must have reached the center of the sea. It was speculated that here the ocean drained. Seeing the enormous currents spinning, he believed it. While he was a great distance away, the longer he stared, the more he felt like he would be drawn into it. Had their ship not hit an island, they would have been pulled down into its depths. This was an incredible discovery, exactly the sort of thing he had been hoping to find. Unfortunately, he had no idea how they could return home to share it.

The king sat down on a broken piece of wood for a moment, brushing away a few splinters, and decided that it was not the time to worry about such a thing. For now, he would simply be grateful. He, and most of his crew, were alive. That was nothing short of a miracle. He spoke a prayer to the Almighty, thanking him for sparing them despite their arrogance. Many of his sailors did the same. After about half an hour, he heard a timid voice.

“Hello? Are you alright?”

The voice had a heavy accent, making it a bit difficult to understand. It was unlike those he had heard from ambassadors hailing from far away kingdoms in Roshar. It was as if the words were being overenunciated. Derethil stood up and saw that a group of people were standing at the bottom of their boat, looking up at them. The king couldn’t believe his eyes. There were people living at the center of the sea. They had long limbs, longer than any he had seen before. They wore shells he didn’t recognize in their bright white hair and flowing, solid-colored robes. Their skin was even fairer than the king’s. Squinting, he could have sworn there was the faintest blue tinge to it. Their slender forms reminded him of spirits from stories told late at night.

“We are indeed alright!” he called. “Wait for a moment, please.”

Conferring with Jannat in a hushed whisper, they appointed a few of the healthier sailors to accompany Derethil off of the ship to speak with the strangers. They knew not if they were hostile or dangerous. He had encountered many devious tricks from Voidbringers before, although something about these individuals conveyed a distinct benevolence. The group cautiously approached the almost otherworldly looking people. By now, the rain had faded.

“I am King Derethil of Roshar,” he said. “We were on an exploration expedition, but have accidentally marooned ourselves upon your island. We deeply apologize for the intrusion. What may we call you?”

A woman at the front of the strange group responded. “We welcome King Derethil. I am Nafti. We are Uvara, the People of the Great Abyss.” They bowed in unison, uncannily identical in their movements. Derethil and his men did the same. Nafti looked past the king with pale blue eyes, seeing their mutilated ship. “Do you need assistance?” she asked.

“We would greatly appreciate it, lady Nafti,” Derethil said, internally sighing with relief. The local people seemed to be friendly. That meant they had a chance at surviving past when their provisions ran out, if the Uvara proved to be as generous as they were polite. It was important that he and his crew gave a good first impression lest they be turned away.

Nafti nodded, as did those behind her. “We will lead you to help. Please follow us.”

Derethil directed the rest of his men to join him on the land. They gathered up what few provisions they had remaining that were not entirely waterlogged and slung their weapons across their backs. The Uvara waited, standing silent and still with hands clasped behind their backs. Not quite a military stance, merely a patient one. When all were ready, they set off towards the east. Soon, they reached a town. Upon entering, the group that had accompanied them dispersed, Nafti remaining as their guide.

It was beautiful. Each building was painted a pastel color and adorned with the same shells they wore in their hair. Uvara strolled orderly down the streets, cheerfully greeting those they passed. They way they moved reminded Derethil of soldiers marching in straight lines. No one strayed from their side of the road and they all walked at the same pace. Everything, even the alleyways, was sparkling clean. Unlike the streets of his home, it was completely free of any refuse or discarded junk. It felt oddly empty.

Nafti led them through the city, eventually arriving at a pristine looking building. The walls were whitewashed and an unfamiliar glyph was painted over the door.

“This is our hospital,” Nafti said. “For your wounded.”

The king looked over his shoulder at his battered crew. Medical help was sorely needed. “We deeply appreciate this,” he said.

Nafti smiled. “You are welcome.” She pushed open the door and said something to a man inside. He emerged, wearing the same calm smile. His robes were similar in cut to Nafti’s light yellow ones, but of a white color.

“We will heal your wounds,” he said. “Those who are injured, please come inside. Our doctors are very talented.”

Those with the more grievous wounds complied with his instructions, disappearing through the entryway into the sterile building. Derethil peered inside and saw that there were no other patients, just a few doctors. Nafti continued walking. “You must also be hungry. We can provide you with food and drink.”

After traveling through the city for a while more, passing rows upon rows of houses of identical widths, they approached a large hall decorated with a fascinating pattern of blue shells on a red background. It formed a teardrop shape that outlined the door. Their guide led them inside, and they were seated at several long tables. Food and drink were brought to them quickly, faster than one would expect. All of it was delicious and neatly arrayed on their plates, though the fare was unfamiliar to the Rosharans. There were orange leaves and strange pink bugs that vaguely resembled cremlings, which the Uvara called shrimp. Each cup was filled with exactly the same amount of a red, sweet liquid.

Derethil joined Nafti, who didn’t partake in their food, at a side table. She was sitting with hands clasped in her lap and watching the crew eat. Her posture was perfect and shells still neatly arrayed in her hair.

“Your people have been incredibly hospitable, for which we are grateful,” he stated. “Might I ask, why have you been so kind to us?”

Nafti turned to face him. That calm smile still had not left her face. “The Uvara are kind to all.”

“But what if we had been intruders, sent to harm your people and conquer your land?” countered the king.

“We have never met unkind people and no reason to assume otherwise. You have been polite and courteous, so we feel that we need not fear you.”

Derethil sat back, confused. “Do you mean that your people know no conflict? That you’ve never had wars or battles with each other?”

“We have not. There is no reason to. We all do as we are told.” She gestured towards a woman clearing away some empty plates. “Janya is a good server. She does not drop plates or spill drinks. She is careful, because she wants to contribute as well as she can.” Nafti then pointed towards the kitchens. “Our cooks are good workers, too. They prepare excellent food in a timely manner.” She spread out both of her elongated arms, as if encompassing the entire town. “Even our children strive to behave well. We all have our parts to play, and we do them perfectly. Why would we not? We are happy. Arguments and conflict are for unhappy people.”

The king mulled over her words. He found himself envying the Uvara. “I am impressed by your people. Where I come from, peace can be hard to find.”

“I am sorry, Traveling One. I hope that one day your kingdoms will learn how to act as we do.” Noticing that the men had finished their meals, Nafti stood. “Are you tired? We can provide sleeping arrangements.”

The crew, now becoming weary, were led to their final destination for the day. There, they found sleeping quarters. Somehow, they had already been prepared for their arrival. Each bed was perfectly made and a multitude of servants were ready to help store their equipment. Several Uvara wearing the white robes of a doctor joined them shortly afterwards and went from sailor to sailor, tending to those with minor wounds who hadn’t stopped by the hospital. The king’s haphazard bandage sling was replaced with a proper one. Then, once he ensured that each of his men was comfortable, Derethil left himself drift off to sleep, his exhaustion overtaking him.

He dreamt of thunder rumbling and lightning setting the landscape before him aflame.

They awoke the next morning to the sight of several caretakers waiting outside of their door, Nafti seeming to be their leader. She stepped forwards, and all gave a polite bow. She wore her hair in a bun today, blue shells woven across the sides of her scalp. A larger red shell was set at the center of her hairline. Not a strand of hair was out of place.

“Did you sleep well?” she asked.

“We found your accommodations to be wonderful, my lady,” replied the king. “But I am afraid that we must be going. Our ship, the Wandersail, needs repairs, and it is time we turn our attention back to it.”

“You need not worry about your ship, Traveling One. Our shipbuilders have already begun repairs.”

Derethil was taken aback. They had already started to fix their vessel? It had not yet been a full day since they had crashed.

“Please, do not trouble yourselves with this task,” he pleaded. “It will be a massive undertaking, and we do not wish to place this burden on the Uvara. You would need to travel a great distance from your city to work on the Wandersail, as it was marooned half an hour from here.”

“That will not be a problem. We have relocated the vessel to our shipyards, where it can be accessed with ease. Follow me, please. I will show you.”

Nafti exited the building, and Derethil trailed behind her. His shock grew with each step he took on the street’s pristine cobblestones as he considered what she had said. How on Roshar had they managed to move such a massive wreck overnight? It seemed an impossible task, one he would never make even his strongest workers attempt. Did the Uvara use some sort of magic, like the Radiants did? They soon reached the docks, and indeed the Wandersail was there. Basic repairs had been applied to the hull to allow it to float without being completely flooded with water.

“I am greatly impressed that you were able to relocate my ship so quickly,” the king said, shaking his head with amazement. “Tell me, how did you accomplish this? Through surgebinding, perhaps?”

Nafti cocked her head, puzzled. “We do not have this surgebinding you speak of. Our workers are skilled. They are used to doing things such as this.”

“We must compensate you for your efforts,” Derethil said, wrenching his attention from the ship and back to her. It felt odd to speak to someone of the same height. The Uvara were taller than his people. The king had been accustomed to looking downwards when he spoke. “Is there anything we can do to repay you?”

Nafti smiled. “This is not a bother to us. We need no payment. Besides, it is impossible for you to repair the ship on your own, and you would be stuck in our care forever.”

The king had to admit that she was right. Aside from what their ship carpenter could provide, his men had no resources or knowledge on how to fix a simple boat, much less a vessel the size of the Wandersail. It was a job for many artisans with years of experience. Still, he felt poorly that they were taking from the Uvara without giving anything in return. He decided to keep an eye out for something he could do to repay them.

The following day, Derethil was approached by a servant. The man awkwardly held the king’s sword in his hands, clearly unfamiliar with the proper way to carry it.

“My lord, I am sorry to disturb you, but we know not how to store this object. Is it a tool you need?”

“That is my sword. I use it to defend myself from any who wish to hurt me or my companions,” Derethil said. It was quite odd that the man seemed to have never seen one before. He supposed that made some sense; he hadn’t seen any aggression between Uvara, not even requests to follow orders in a different manner. They would have no use for weapons. Still, he found it hard to believe.

The king continued. “We would appreciate if you brought our weapons to us. They need maintenance.” The crew had managed to salvage some of the required oils and needed something to occupy their time.

The man nodded, and went to hand the sword to Derethil. However, the servant’s grip slipped, and the sword clattered to the ground, leaving a deep gash in his fingers as it fell. A few drops of the blood spilled onto the king’s shirt. The servant’s face went pale, and he numbly stared at the new stain on the king’s outfit. Derethil quickly yelled for aid, trying to console the poor man. It looked to be a painful wound. Immediately, another servant arrived and escorted the man out. Both remained completely silent.

A few moments later, another servant came to replace the hurt one, wiping a few specks of blood from his hands with a handkerchief. He must have helped bind the gash his associate had suffered. He picked up the sword and handed it to the king, who accepted it with a worried look on his face.

“Will that man be alright?” asked Derethil.

“He is no longer fit to serve,” the servant responded. It must have been a debilitating wound, then. The king hoped that they would be able to help the unfortunate man heal well. “We will provide you with a change of clothes,” the servant continued. “A bloody shirt is not fit for a king.”

After Derethil and his men had stayed with the Uvara for a couple of weeks, they began to grow bored. Their hosts were certainly pleasant, but that also came with a great deal of pleasantries. Every morning, they would be greeted with the same bows and questions about the quality of their sleep. Then, they ate breakfast, idled until they ate lunch, then continued to idle until they ate dinner. The Uvara refused to accept any help or to allow them to do things for themselves. Without a job to do, the crew became restless.

The king also found that, while the Uvara were always happy to engage in polite conversation, it was universally dull. Whenever he would try to start a debate, they would steer the conversation away from the topic at hand and speak of less controversial things, like the weather. They really liked to talk about the weather. They declined to pick a favorite type of food, citing worries that they might offend the king by implying that his tastes were incorrect. Not a word of negativity escaped their lips. Derethil couldn’t even get them to acknowledge that accommodating over one hundred extra people was at the very least a minor inconvenience. He wondered if they truly had nothing to complain about.

Once the men in the hospital had mostly recovered, Derethil and his crew began sparring to help regain their strength. None could defeat the king in a regular bout, of course. His skills were unmatched even in this elite group of warriors. He opted to limit his attacks, finding the challenge of playing below his skill level invigorating. He held his sword in his nondominant hand, the left one. The practice might have a real-world usage if he happened to injure his right hand.

Derethil grew frustrated while cycling through his sword stances as a warmup. While he no longer wore a sling, his left shoulder still hadn’t recovered its full range of movement after being dislocated during the wreck. There was only so much that stretching and strengthening exercises could do without access to Progression healing. He had fought through pain before, but it was still rather annoying. Noticing that he was using his left arm, the ship medical officer glowered at him from across the courtyard.

The king called out to one of his sailors, Yonak, challenging him to a friendly duel. Yonak was a talented warrior considered to be the strongest among Derethil’s crew. Yonak gladly accepted, jogging over to the center of the courtyard with a grin. They found sparring to be a relief from their boredom. There was a gap in his smile left by a missing tooth, another casualty of the wreck. The man readied his blade and shifted his weight to his front foot. Stormstance. An aggressive choice.

Derethil stood with both feet firmly planted, facing his opponent at a slight angle. He opted for seastance. It focused on smooth, powerful movements. It didn’t require much speed, so it would ideally prevent excess strain on his shoulder. Plus, it felt like an appropriate stance for their location.

The king let Yonak strike first. He came at him in a sudden burst of movement, his sword aiming to pierce instead of slash. Derethil caught the sword with his own and pushed it to the side with one fluid motion. Seastance was about redirecting the currents of your opponent’s attacks. The clang of metal sliding against metal rang out, and both men grinned. Yonak immediately responded by changing the angle of his next strike, but the king easily countered it. Yonak continued to attack relentlessly, never losing momentum as he thrust his sword as fast as possible like bolts of lightning.

Derethil began to struggle. His injury and self-imposed non-dominant hand handicap forced him to stay on the defensive. Yonak suddenly slowed and switched to a slashing motion, taking the time to put all of his strength into a swing. Stormstance’s thunder caught the king off guard. He managed to block him, but his sword nearly slipped out of his grip. Sloppy.

Derethil grimaced as pain shot up through his shoulder. He knew that he needed to end the bout soon. Yonak would outlast him if it became a contest of endurance. Yonak switched back to lightning in an attempt to again throw the king off balance, but Derethil was now prepared for such a trick. He allowed Yonak to stab at him a few more times, letting him build up his momentum. Each hit he blocked caused another surge of agony in his shoulder.

Then, as Yonak reached his fastest speed, Derethil tilted his sword at the last second. Instead of trying to redirect the force to the side, he pushed it downwards with all of his might. The sword was ripped from Yonak’s grasp, impacting the ground with a loud clank. Unfortunately, this motion caused a sudden spike of pain in the king’s shoulder, leading him to also drop his sword.

Both men stood still for a moment, breathing heavily. Then they laughed. A tie. That was certainly a rare outcome. The Uvara ringing the edges of the courtyard politely clapped. A lone sailor watching from the side cheered, and Yonak glared at him.

“You owe me five diamond chips, Yonak!” called the man who had cheered.

“That wasn’t the bet!” Yonak yelled back. “I only owed you chips if Der won.”

“Yeah, ten chips! A tie is halfway between losing and winning, and half of ten is five. Besides, you only tied ‘cause he’s injured. It doesn’t really count.”

“Well then you owe me five chips too!”

“…no I don’t!” The man clearly hadn’t considered that.

Yonak stormed over to his friend and they began arguing. The nearby Uvara shied back, looking uncomfortable.

Derethil chuckled and shook out his left arm. After being stuck together for weeks, his men had started to treat Derethil as a friend rather than their king. They never would have dared refer to him as “Der” previously. While before he might have found the nickname improper, he now enjoyed having people who didn’t constantly bow to him like the Uvara did. It was a wonder they didn’t have back problems from bending over so often.

After practicing sparring for another hour, his men grew tired and took a break. They still were not yet in the prime condition they had been in before the wreck. The familiar soreness was welcomed, however. It reminded them of their duties back home. The king’s pain from straining his shoulder during the duel still lingered, not fading away as quickly as he had expected. Perhaps the medical officer had been right to object to him taking his sling off early.

Nafti summoned some Uvara to the courtyard, who carried refreshments for the crew. One, a serving girl no older than twelve, walked rather quickly. She was short for an Uvara her age, and struggled to keep pace with the other servants. Because she was intently staring at the goblets on her tray to ensure they didn’t tip over, she didn’t notice an uneven stone in front of her. Her foot was caught on it and she tripped. She dropped the goblets, and they shattered upon the ground. In a flash, the other Uvara descended upon the girl while she frantically tried to gather the broken shards. They carefully set down their refreshments, then picked up stones and brutally used them to bludgeon the hapless child. Within a few seconds, she was dead. Derethil and his men were stunned, and by the time they regained their wits, the Uvara had already dispersed, leaving a little, still body lying on the ground.

The king dashed to the girl, but he was too late. His proud form bent over her fallen body, and tears welled up in his eyes. Derethil watched blood flow over her skin, the bright crimson sharply contrasting with its blue-white color, and between the gaps in the stone floor. He felt a great anger course through him and his hands became fists.

“Why did you do this? Why kill this innocent child?” he demanded of one of the killers.

She looked to him, her face completely expressionless. “Our emperor will not suffer failure.”

He turned to Nafti, who held a bloody stone with the same blank look. “Why did you kill her? All she did was drop some goblets!”

“Our emperor will not suffer failure,” she repeated matter-of-factly. Along with the other servants, she placed her bloodstained stone in a pile on the side of the courtyard. Her calm smile returned.

The servants picked up the refreshments and continued their previous task. They tried to give them to the crew, but the men turned them down, shocked at the horrifyingly nonchalant behavior. The Uvara showed no frustration at the refusal and walked stately back inside.

Derethil sunk to his knees, looking at the broken child and ignoring Nafti’s attempt to hand him a goblet of water. He had seen death many times in his life. A soldier faced it on a daily basis. He had become hardened to it. The sight of blood, its metallic smell, open eyes still staring up at the sky with fright. That no longer phased him. But this was different. This wasn’t a battle. It was a murder.

Not, not a murder. Murders were supposed to have emotion behind them. Some sort of benefit to the killer, at least. Born out of hatred, fear, greed. A desire to remove an annoyance or potential risk to yourself. What had been done was pointless. There was nothing behind the eyes of these killers. They were deep pools of water without any ripples. Peaceful in the worst possible way. No, it was wrong to call them murderers. They were slaughterers.

He should have saved her. He was a warrior, sworn to protect the defenseless. He could have easily fought off those slaughterers. Derethil had been holding a storming sword, for the Almighty’s sake. But he had simply watched, too surprised to do anything. His heart constricted with guilt.

He closed the girl’s eyes, then shut his own, unable to bear the sight of the slaughter. These people were supposed to be nonviolent. The Uvara claimed that they never raised a hand against each other, didn’t even exchange harsh words. Surely there was an explanation for this sudden act of cruelty. Perhaps the goblets had been sacred in some way, a cherished artifact of their people. But the king knew that was a lie.

By the time he opened his eyes again, the pile of stones and broken body were gone.

Over the following days, Derethil paid more attention. He saw that such slaughters were a startlingly common event. He always reacted just a second too late to stop them. By the time he noticed that an Uvara had made a mistake, they were already beyond saving.

An elderly woman was killed for entering the wrong house. She was frail of mind, and had mistaken her neighbor’s abode for her own.

A middle-aged serving man mispronounced the king’s name as “Derethal” instead of “Derethil.” As the hallway they were in was bare aside from lamps bolted to the walls, the Uvara used their fists to kill him. Feet would have been easier, but they wanted to avoid staining their shoes.

A child made smacking noises while partaking in a meal, so he was slaughtered by those nearby with their eating utensils. His mother was one of them.

A young man accidently bumped into someone, causing them to fall to the ground. He was killed shortly after. The streets were not busy at that hour, so his death took longer.

Each time he witnessed one of these killings, Derethil begged Nafti to explain why, to give any semblance of legitimate justification. She would always deliver the same response with not a hint of sorrow in her eyes.

“Our emperor will not suffer failure.”

Eventually, Derethil could no longer stand by. The Uvaras’ astonishing cruelty was mandated by a single individual- their emperor. What kind of monster would force a normally peaceful people to commit such heinous acts? What twisted sense of morality had possessed him? The king had to stop the evil man from exerting his influence. This was how he would repay the Uvara for their help.

Asking around, he found that the emperor resided on the eastern coast of the largest island of the Uvara. There were no guards at his residence. He was said to never step outside; the Uvara had not seen him in years. The emperor was a coward too paranoid to face his own people. Of course, the Uvara never spoke of him that way. They called him their magnificent, flawless leader who was responsible for their prosperity. How could they not see his wickedness?

Derethil gathered his brave group of sailors and they armed themselves. No Uvara moved to stop them as they marched across the bridges between islands and through the pristine streets towards the emperor’s home. They simply stared with fright, shying away like rockbuds before a highstorm. The men found that he lived in a tall, thin tower, with an open structure at the top. The pathway leading to it was eroded, not maintained like the streets were. The lack of foot traffic was likely the only reason its stones hadn’t been worn away. Unlike the pastel homes of the Uvara citizens, the tower was a bleak grey color. Patterns of multicolored shells ran up its dark stone in spirals. Those colorful additions attempted to lessen the structure’s dreary atmosphere, but their success was limited.

They stormed the tower, weapons drawn, and found that the locked door broke inwards easily, its hinges loudly squeaking. Inside, it was a strange sight. Once beautiful paintings of serene landscapes hung on the walls, but they had molded almost beyond recognition. The dim lighting enhanced the effect. There were no windows, so their only way to see was from the sunlight spilling in through the open door. The slightly stretched forms of the men’s faint shadows resembled silhouetted Uvara on the wall across from them.

A few well-prepared sailors lit torches. Their inconsistent illumination caused their shadows to now dance on all sides of the circular room. Dust flew into the air with each step, making the group cough. They ran to the stairs, some of the steps groaning under their weight. Their Uvara shades kept pace. Strange bugs fled into holes bored into the walls as they ascended.

Climbing to the top of the stairs, they entered a dining room. A meal had been laid out on a lavishly decorated table, but it was unrecognizable. The food had rotted away long ago and even the stench of spoiled meat had faded. Derethil picked up a napkin, and it crumbled away in his hand. The singular chair had collapsed, parts of the legs eaten away by some sort of pest. Much of the gilding on the table had flaked off. The intricate carvings of vines on the wood remained largely intact, however, the last untouched reminders of the furniture’s former splendor.

Continuing onward, they found a bedroom. Side tables with the same design as the dining table flanked a large bed with silken sheets. Lying in it was the emperor. He had fine robes with a complex pattern unlike the solid-colored robes of his citizens, mimicking the swirling design on the outside of his tower. Opulent jewelry adorned his neck and fingers, gemstones of incredible worth set into precious metals. The crown atop his head rivaled Derethil’s own in splendor. The golden headpiece tapered to a singular point above the forehead, a sizeable ruby resting at its center. Sapphires were inlaid along the band.

It was all worn by a corpse.

The emperor was long dead, his flesh withered away to a point where he was little more than a skeleton. A cremling-like bug crawled out of an empty eye socket, skittering down to the floor. The overlapping, elongated shadows of the crew seemed to stare at the desiccated corpse. The man had died alone and his body had wasted away for years. The monster had gotten what he deserved, yet his people were too terrified to enter his tower to realize it.

Derethil roughly picked up the man, showing little respect for the corpse. The crown fell from his head and clattered onto the floor; none of his men cared enough to retrieve it. Exiting the tower, he found that a large crowd of Uvara had congregated outside of the building. The crew’s shadowed companions disappeared in the sunlight. The king held the emperor up in the air.

“This is your emperor?” Derethil demanded. “We found him in the top room, alone.”

For a moment, there was silence. A final second of tranquility. Then the screaming began. The Uvara broke down and wailed. Many wept, falling to their knees in torment. He heard some people begging for forgiveness, but they were talking to the air. Others merely curled up into balls on the ground, rocking back and forth. Not a single one was spared from the misery.

Derethil watched with amazement and confusion. He had never seen them express any negative emotions before, and certainly not remorse. Why now were they upset? Perhaps it was sorrow at the death of their emperor.

Several Uvara sprinted away, running through the streets and yelling that the emperor was dead. In the distance, smoke began to rise into the air. Derethil and his men followed them and saw that riots had broken out. People ran through the streets, smashing windows and ripping shells from the walls. Some clawed their nails across their faces, carving bloody lines into their flesh. Others bashed their heads against the stone. Derethil nearly tripped over the body of an unmoving Uvara on the ground. The king knelt down and felt for a pulse. He couldn’t detect one. The man’s heart had stopped, although there were no visible external wounds.

Solemnly rising to his feet and venturing further in, the king saw homes engulfed in flames. Ever efficient, it had taken little time for the Uvara to set the fires. The colorful buildings became blackened and charred. No one made any attempts to rescue their possessions. They set fire to their own homes and cared not that they were inhaling dangerous amounts of smoke, some not leaving as the building burned around them. The king wanted to run in and pull them out to safety, but he suspected that they would only resist his efforts.

Seeing such horrible sights, Derethil knew that there was nothing he could do to help these people. Their peace had been shattered beyond repair. His crew’s only option was to flee the carnage. As they ran through the streets, they were assailed by the constant screams of the Uvara that faded into sobbing. He led his men to the shipyards, rushing towards the Wandersail. Its repairs were nearly complete and only a few problems in the interior remained. The Uvara had already begun to stock it with a small number of provisions. It would have to do.

As they boarded the ship, Nafti ran up to the king. She dropped to her knees. Some of the shells once woven into her immaculate hairdo had fallen away.

“Please, take me with you. Let me escape. Please,” she begged.

Derethil pulled her onto the boat without hesitation, not wanting to waste any time deliberating. She murmured a thank you and stared at her dying home with a blank expression. Derethil realized it was the same expression she had held whenever an Uvara had been slaughtered. They raised the gangplank, and shortly after saw Uvara dashing into the shipyard carrying torches. They ran to each ship and haphazardly set them all on fire. The Wandersail left the dock and narrowly escaped being torched by the mob. They screamed curses at Nafti as they sailed away.

The winds were still that day, and the crew feared that they would become stuck. They moved painfully slowly, as if the Wandersail was still gripped by the tragedy on the island. But Derethil devised a clever idea. He looked to the place where the oceans drained, ringed by the islands. The Great Abyss.

“Jannat, take us to the whirlpool. We can use it to gain momentum,” he said.

Jannat saluted and did as he commanded, shouting orders to the helmsman. They entered the whirlpool’s powerful current, and the ship suddenly accelerated. It tipped so far to the side that they worried it would capsize. However, the king’s plan was wise and their helmsman skillful. At precisely the right moment, he jerked the ship’s wheel to the side, and they were spun out and away from the islands at an incredible speed.

As they hurtled further away from the Uvaras’ home, they watched the destruction slowly spread from island to island like an infection. Soon, that sight was lost over the edge of the horizon. Long after they left, they could still see the smoke rising from the ostensibly peaceful lands. They gathered on the deck, watching, and Derethil asked Nafti the reason for the terrible riots.

Holding a blanket around herself, staring with a haunted expression at her lands, she replied, “Do you not see, Traveling One? If the emperor is dead, and has been all these years, then the murders we committed are not his responsibility. They are our own.”

Looking into Nafti’s pale blue eyes, Derethil swore he could still see the fires of her home burning in them. He leaned against the ship’s railing and stared into the distance. The lack of wind meant the ocean was calm that day, entirely unaware of the chaos they had fled. No, not unaware. Indifferent. The sea had no sympathy for slaughterers. Glancing at Nafti, King Derethil wasn’t sure if he should feel the same way.


Edited by Lunamor
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On 1/25/2024 at 5:43 PM, Lunamor said:

His latest was to put the gemstone chips used as the kingdom’s currency in little glass balls. Spheres, he called them. Quite descriptively named.


On 1/25/2024 at 5:43 PM, Lunamor said:

The servant’s face went pale, and he numbly stared at the new stain on the king’s outfit. [...]

“He is no longer fit to serve,” the servant responded.

oh noooooooo 

On 1/25/2024 at 5:43 PM, Lunamor said:

Noticing that he was using his left arm, the ship medical officer glowered at him from across the courtyard.

Big fan of the medical officer just glaring at him 😆 

On 1/25/2024 at 5:43 PM, Lunamor said:

The streets were not busy at that hour, so his death took longer.

All the details on how these people died are PAINFUL to read, aaaaaa 

This was great! 

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8 minutes ago, Pineap-spider said:

I need an extended Fleet now. Or maybe The Dog and the Dragon. This is so good.

I’m glad you liked it! I’ve considered Fleet, but it’d be tough since it’s basically just “man runs a really long distance” :P To be fair, though, The Girl Who Looked Up is basically just “girl runs to wall, climbs up wall, climbs down wall, runs back” so maybe it could still work.

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Just now, Monkey King said:

woww that's really good! what writing style do you prefer to use?

Thanks! I generally prefer a semi-causal/slightly whimsical style, if that makes sense. I’m not too sure how to describe it. I aim for a style similar to Sanderson’s, basically :P

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1 minute ago, Lunamor said:

Thanks! I generally prefer a semi-causal/slightly whimsical style, if that makes sense. I’m not too sure how to describe it. I aim for a style similar to Sanderson’s, basically :P

Ok, yeah that makes sense. do you typically write in 1st or 3rd person?

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4 minutes ago, Monkey King said:

Ok, yeah that makes sense. do you typically write in 1st or 3rd person?

3rd person. It leaves a little more wiggle room for the narrator to describe things the POV character might not necessarily be able to notice and just sounds better to me for some reason.

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