The ground was soft and muddy on the edge of this vast swamp. He could hear water in the distance. "The fog's so thick, I can barely breathe." The warm humid air filled his lungs. He couldn't see far in front of him, but he stepped forward boot by boot into the mist. A glittering in the distance caught his eye. "Is that the...", he rushed, lunging his legs through the muck to pick it up. Fumbling, he dropped it back into the mud. Bending down, rubbing the thin mud to search for it. He feels his way along the slimy ground until he held it in his hands again.
"It is the gemin!". He took the stone into his hand hurriedly, examining it. Covered in the mud it was hard to see. A green translucent stone, about the size of his closed fist. A little jagged on one side, but otherwise flawless. "This... is incredible, I've never seen a gemin this clear before.", he held the gemin out in front of him as it mounted a squatting position. The gemin sparkled under the dim sourcelight. "I've seen dozens of gemin, but never one this clear.". Delicately, the gemin was placed into his backpack. He dropped the backpack onto a nearby damp stump, just above the marsh water. Wrapping the stone in his second change of clothes. Further, he marched into the mist, mud squishing underfoot. His foot slipped into the muck and he fell to his knees, scrambling to find something secure to stand on. Worryingly he turned to the young man next to him. "I don't think we have the equipment to keep moving through this. Perhaps we should return to camp."
"You know what Cowel, I think I agree... I agree mate. We should call it a night.", the young man about-faced with no resistance to the notion of giving in to the elements. Cowel turned around himself, but a strange noise stopped him cold in his tracks. He held his breath and started to listen. There it was again. The sound of running water. "There, do you hear it? In a swamp like this, running water?" As Cowel pointed to the sound, the second young man shook his head. "There is nothing here but muck and mosquitoes."
"I don't think it is anything physical, Ed. I just hear the sound of running water." Cowel squinted his eyes and strained his ears. He reached down deep into his senses for any sign of running water nearby but came up dry. "It must be your imagination." the young man boasted, interrupting Cowel's concentration. "If it is, it's powerful flow. Like a river. What makes the sound of running water, that isn't running water?", he looks up into the dim orb in the sky, and thought for a moment. "The wind?" His partner laughs. "No, the wind wouldn't make a sound like this." Cowel continued pondering as the young man watched, oblivious to his colleague's patronization.
"Maybe it is some kind of creature, or maybe even a keygemin. Though, it sounds so near to me." Ed looked at Cowel as if thinking, before shrugging. "Let's return to the camp. If you think it might be a threat then you should inform the captain."
Cowel nodded in agreement. He and his subordinate returned to the camp, after several hours of laborious trudging. They removed the thick-crusted mud off of their hide pants with wicker brushes and potted water. The captain sat up in her chair.
"Still awake captain?" Cowel asked probably louder than he should. She slid over in her seat to face him. "Yes, and I trust you have a good reason for walking back here after allnight, boy."
"To be frank with you mam, we just can't push through with this equipment." She looked up at the sky and chewed her lips. "You sure it isn't the birds?", she glances over to the two men. Suggesting their physical weakness. "No, I'm positive it's not just us. We stopped for a rest every beat. I've been through mud and snow before, this swamp is something else."
She sensed something in his tone, and peeked at Cowel over the top of her reading material, putting them aside onto the small table to her side. "So what's going on?" delivered now with mild concern. Cowel disrobed his backpack, opening its top flap to reveal the green gemin. She leaned to overlook as the backpack was opened, gasping when she saw it. "It's... it is bigger than I thought it would be."
"When Edven saw it fall, he said the same thing." Cowel said turning to the young subordinate crewman, who nodded in agreement. "Well, we can't keep going like this." She sighed, looking over to the dwindling amount of rations. "Can't we just fly over it?" the first mate inquired. "We could use the ship, and hover over the area, then lower ourselves down."
She rubbed her brow and shuffled some of her reading material around on the table. "Cowel. Hover where? Over this swamp?" She then rubbed her temples. "I know it's dangerous with this fog, but we really have no choice." Cowel spoke assertively, taking a step toward the captain. She shook her head wildly, "We're not losing anyone else. No way."
"No buts, kid."
Cowel clenched his fist. "We can do this. The team has had its past failures... I know. We have to find it. Otherwise, all our work will have been for nothing." There was a long pause. Cowel's chest tightened as he awaited her reply. She sighed again, "Fine, we'll push forward." Relief flooded over him, and the captain returned to reading. "We aren't going to use the ship to do that. I just can't risk losing either of you two, anymore of the ship's crew, or forbid the ship itself. Then we would truly be stranded out here until we die from starvation or get picked up by the military, and I don't know which is worse."
"Me and Edven are gonna take a niner though, I'll see you at brightset." She nodded. "Alright, I'll have the preparations made by the time you get up." Cowel turned to walk away, taking a few paces forward when she called out to him. "Yes, captain."
"How in the torrent did you get this far through the swamps in the first place?", she winced toward him.
"Simple captain, I walked twice that far the first time."
Stories set in the world of Una the Infinite Archipelago. Follow characters as they explore the skylands, as they discover secrets of Gemin; magical stones with the ability to summon powerful companions.
This is a collection of short stories, so they are not written in a particular order and may be rewritten or reordered time to time as permitted.