Chapter 11 | The Sea Dragon
Unhappily, Aleksi was forced to command Asena and three other knights to head to Belmasse en Caux Port. There was no other way as he could not afford to lose more men. The camp would not hold.
"We will meet at Marrens Eve before the last bright light of the year."
Winter was practically around the corner, giving the Creatures of the Night longer domain over the lands. There were no dragons to keep them checked nor thriving towns with their powerful knights. Traveling to Haerford was their only choice or forever staying in lands like Hallerbos.
Marrens Eve was a conundrum to Asena, but she'd have to wait and finish her current task before she could find an inkling of an answer. At the least, she'd see how the port fairs with the threat of the infection.
It was a few hours ride without rest, two on each horse, reluctantly ignored by Panu.
"We are arriving soon, my lady." The knight informed the lady rested behind him, their backs to each other, an unusual way to ride a horse, but normal for Asena.
She leisurely laid back as if they were strutting through a meadow and not galloping through winding roads.
"Yes, I can see. We will leave the horse in the outskirts as to avoid losing them."
"Yes, Dame!" The most experienced stood out.
The port was quiet. No merchant was in sight. Windows and doors were left open. The four patrolled the area as cautiously as possible. And as instructed, the horses were kept far from the port, and the knights trailed a few steps behind.
Asena listened intently for the slightest of changes in the air.
"Did they all die?" The youngest asked.
"You'd smell death."
The knights shivered at her answer.
Eardrum-breaking screams and shouts traveled across the docks. The knights turned towards the water where little small dark figures in ships and boats started to wiggle. Hands were thrown in the air as they called for Asena.
"How did they know it was her lady?"
"The hair and clothes," another answered.
"It is quite distinct."
"Like a green-backed robin under the afternoon light."
"Like a fairy of the forest, more like it."
One of the knights chuckled, "a dryad is no fairy."
"I'll clear the area. The three of you take to the sea, bring them safely to land."
"One of us should accompany you, Dame."
"Rufus, go to the sea."
Rufus, the most seasoned of the three and the only one not to call her "lady", sighed. He was used to this treatment by the Dame. And he'd said so to the lord. He'd made sure to tell the lord that Dame Asena isn't one to rely on the knights in terms of combat skills. She never requires any assistance in that matter. Yet, three were sent, two of a rookie-ish status, to boot.
"There are more of them than expected, I cannot handle them," Asena found herself saying after analyzing Rufus's furrowed brows and slumped shoulder.
Disappointment. Hurt. Offended. Any of the three seemed to fit, and she had taken a wild guess with her answer.
Rufus grinned, "will do then, Dame."
No one in town looked to be infected to Asena's disappointment. She had nothing to do and watched the knights interact with the residents of the port.
"Lady Asena!" A child shouted happily, her black bun bouncing up and down.
"Jojo," she returned monotonously.
"Did you fight?" The child circled her. "Did you have to kill people too? Appa was like wham, bam! Whoosh. And I was like chhhhchhh. And then samchon was like boom, boom."
Asena couldn't tell what sort of fighting style the child was mimicking.
"What are wham and bam?"
"Like wham. Bam!"
Jojo, puzzled that her teacher couldn't understand, demonstrated again.
"I see. Like this?"
In a succession of movements, Asena stomped on the ground, lifting earth, and pushed forward, letting it fly out.
"Wham, bam, and whoosh indeed ma'am!" Jojo excitedly cheered. "So I was like, chhhhhchhhh. Then samchon was boom, boom. You ain't gettin' me, son! And Hyun-woo was like, awararar." Her hands were drawn out like claws.
Jojo had always been a particular child, unphased by things that would usually be unnerving. For example, she craved food whenever her father gutted fish. She wasn't bothered by the smell of vomit. But the strangest thing was that she hadn't mourned the death of her cousin whom she'd been close to like a sibling.
And to Asena, none of it was particularly strange which made them quite the enigma of the two towns.
"So then, I was like, duuude. Stop playing around. And he was like, awrrarar."
"Child!" Jojo's appa playfully dropped a fist to her head and twisted it around. "Sorry about this child, Lady Asena. She still doesn't understand what happened."
"Is it true," a woman spoke up with a whispery voice, "we'll have to leave our home, Lady Asena?"
Asena sternly turned to Rufus and then to the Chief of the Port approaching her.
"It is unfortunate," began the Chief in place of Asena, "but it is his grace's will that we leave this unsafe port. Much to our dislike, let us all pack and ready to head out. Let us meet our friends soon!"
The people of the port, and the visiting merchants bustled through the small town.
"Where are we going?" Jojo asked.
"To Marrens Eve."
"Get the supplies boarded on the ships. Make sure there is enough food. We must last the voyage across the river all the way to Grimdeen Bridge!"
"Why didn't the lady say anything more, like a speech to get us all riled up?" One of the knights asked Rufus.
"It is common for the Dame to not make speeches for hope or tranquility. Get used to it, kid. You'll figure it out as you watch her."
As he felt he was told, the knight kept a keen eye on Asena, an eye that she felt burning her back.
Rufus idly stepped into the shade where Asena decided to perch herself under.
"No one has reported having been bitten, wounded, or come in contact with the blood. They did fight off a few of their own as well as infected merchants, but for the most part, the healthy had boarded the ships. They say that the creatures sunk to the seafloor."
Intrigued by this sudden information dump, Asena's eyes twinkled with delight though she could not sense it for herself.
"I would suggest against diving into–" but Rufus was just a step too late. "Dame!"
Shedding her yelek off, she dove into the shallows. The water was already murky, a sign that something was moving the seafloor. If she had any sense of panic at all, she would have climbed back up the dock, but she didn't. Instead, she cleared her mind of any inquiries that flooded in from Rufus's report. She shut her eyes and let the unnatural waves of the water tell her.
The very first time she swam was when she was five and Aleksi was eleven. It was here, Belmasse but just down the shore at the beach, where she was taught how to hold her breath. Something was exhilarating about being in an unfamiliar environment, that was what Aleksi told her. Though she could not recognize any emotion, she surmised at that age that he must be right.
Aleksi had also told her that underwater, man cannot hear in the way that they usually do. But Aleksi was young, and he wasn't so sure how it worked otherwise.
At eight years old, Asena sought to figure it out.
Elder Monik had once said that a sea dragon lived in the waters. The dragon was the reason for the neverending abundance of fish and life at the port.
Like the sea dragon, Unda is a water mage. Unda can breathe underwater like a sea dragon.
"Evren, can you tell me if you can hear underwater?"
Evren questioningly stared at her sister but plunged her head into the bucket readily provided knowing well that her inquisitive sister would not relent any.
As she surmised before the experiment, she could not hear anything that her sister said and nothing was to be heard inside the bucket. She told her sister just that.
"Mother, we're going to the sea!" Asena announced one day and dragged her sister out.
"Be back by supper!"
The sisters ran at their fastest speed.
"Now, go swim and tell me if you hear anything."
Evren did indeed hear things underwater, things that she felt were not due to her affinity with water magic. But she continued to hold her breath underwater over and over again until her sister was satisfied with her findings.
And when Asena was eight and a half, she prepared a well and in-depth presentation for Aleksi, who'd forgotten all about the underwater theory. But the theory was no theory. Certainly, under the surety of science, Asena learned that she can indeed hear underwater without the need for water magic. And after, she developed her variation of enhancing her listening skills.
By feet, ear, and by the senses of touch, she heard the vibrations of the things not like a fish.
Satisfied, she climbed out unscathed. Thankfully, might Rufus add with an inaudible sigh of relief.
1. Yelek means jacket or vest in Turkish
2. Alexithymia is a broad term to describe problems with feeling emotions. Asena is indeed afflicted by this, as is Jojo.
3. Jojo's appa in this case is an endearing term directed at Jojo's dad. It's derived from Korean culture. Bonus: Jojo's full name is Jo Ju-yeon.
author's note. Chapter 12-14 are rated Mature and are not accessible by app. So, if you're reading using the app, be sure to check on the site directly. Uhm, but I have thought of rewriting it without the gore... Would that be better?