Chapter 18 Water

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Two days they cross the fields.

The grass only changing occasionally, but still remaining lush and green. The second day, clouds roll across the fields dropping rain on the group. They continue walking until the rain becomes so heavy they can’t even see their hands in front of their faces.

Huddling close together, they try attaching large pieces of cloth from the top of the caravan wagon to the ground, creating a tent. The rain still soaks the cloth, dripping onto the chilly group. Several crawl under the wagon to make more room beneath the makeshift tent, but the muddied ground makes it miserable.

It takes several hours for the rain to pass, the clouds disappearing in the distance as quickly as they came. Kelis does what she can to dry their supplies, but moves to cleaning those covered in mud. Others do their best, hanging wet cloths over the sides od the wagon until she can dry them.

Once everything is dry and ready to go, the ones pulling the wagon find it stuck. The muddy ground, used to the rain, swallows the wheels as they try to move it. Even with the help of half the group pushing as they pull, the wagon remains stubbornly stuck.

Eventually, the group decides to try digging the wheels free. This takes several hours as when they free the wheels enough to move, they only get stuck a few feet away. Soon the ground dries enough the wheels stop becoming stuck and they finally continue on towards the coast.

Ari walks with the wagon, needing to keep her hand on the wagon to keep her moving. She’s been unable to sleep through the night. Between her fear of the new magic and nightmares she finds herself staring at the stars until the sun rises. The endless fields don’t help with her exhaustion, the repetitive scenery blurring.

Her pace slows as she stares at the waving grass, her hand separating from the wagon. The wind grows louder as the group and wagon move farther and farther from her.

A sound rises above the wind. It reminds Ari of the river back home in Kellahn, the sound of the water rushing over the rocks. But this is louder, more powerful, sounding more like thunder the longer she listens.

The grass blurs, the green darkening to a blue so beautiful it reminds her of sapphires. A shadow moves smoothly across the blue fields, growing larger as it approaches her. She watches the shadow, a sense of dread slowly filling her. It grows larger and larger, impossibly large. A fin cuts through the blue, taller than anything she’s ever seen.

A blubbery back rises from the fields, too large to possibly be real, but the fear growing inside of her makes her heart race. The shadow continues to grow larger as it moves closer and closer. A low roar grows from the depths and the air sizzles with electricity.

“Look at that,” an excited voice shouts next to her.

She snaps back to the present, her eyes wide. She’s still walking next to the wagon, her hand resting on the heavy wood. The fields around them are still green and no shadows are moving beneath the waves of grass.

But the thunderous sound still fills the air.

The wagon comes to a stop as those pulling it eagerly walk forward, stopping several feet away. Excitement is palpable and many point downwards. Ari takes a moment to make sure she has the energy to walk without holding on to something. She forces her legs to walk forward, trying hard to seem like nothing is wrong. What she sees when she reaches the rest of the group makes her forget her exhaustion.

The fields abruptly end in a cliff dropping off and the sight beyond fills the group with awe. Many in the group are viewing the sea for the first time, the exceptions being Vico, Vesna, Link, Sten, and Guto. Though from their expressions, the sight is still inspiring.

The sea is a beautiful deep blue, but as it grows shallower, moving closer to the shore, the water lightens to aquamarine and even teal. Large waves crash into the cliff side, shooting white foam high into the hair and drenching the rocks below. The air is filled with the smell of salt and fish, as birds fly down to catch fish from the waves.

Ari remembers her mother describing the ocean, but she never appreciated the wonder of it until now. The water stretches far into the horizon, the sky seeming to go on forever.

Standing next to her, Tal takes a deep breath. “Gods above, I’ve never seen anything so…”

“Endless.” Indra takes Tal’s hand in his, a glimmer of fear hidden behind his wide eyes. “It’s as though one could journey to the land of the gods.”

“Let’s focus on getting to Deirak first,” Kemp says. “The land of the gods can wait.”

Crofton walks to Ari’s other side. “We’re getting closer to your dad. He’s waiting on the other side.”

She turns to look at him, but the excitement of reaching the coast drains the last of her energy. Her knees buckle beneath her and she falls forward. Crofton quickly catches her, surprised by her sudden collapse.

“Are you okay?” The worry in his voice brings a smile to her lips.

“Just tired. Haven’t been sleeping.”

She tries to stand, but Crofton swiftly lifts her up over his shoulder. He carries her back to the wagon and sits her on the back.

“Why didn’t you say anything sooner? We could’ve stopped to let you rest.”

She shrugs. “I couldn’t sleep at night, I didn’t even think to try while the sun was out.”

Glancing up at the wagon, Crofton climbs up and shifts the few supplies left to the side. He grabs blankets and lays them down before holding his hand out to her. “Come on.”

“What?”

“You’re going to sleep. Even if I have to hold your eyelids closed myself.”

“I’m fine.”

“You can’t stand. I doubt you can walk any further today.”

She takes his hand, allowing him to pull her onto the wagon. She sits on the blankets, but doesn’t lie down. “It’s not fair to everyone else. If they’re walking, I shouldn’t be napping.”

He gently places his hands on her shoulders and lowers her down. “We can argue, or you can sleep. I’ll wake you when we reach Marpidium.”

Her eyes droop now that she’s lying down and a yawn escapes her. She points at him and smiles. “You better.”

As her eyes close, he places a blanket over her and she succumbs to her exhaustion, hoping for a dreamless sleep.

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