Saturday, December 11, 2021

Abyss & Sea 23

(And finally we come to the end.)

All over the Great Realm there was devastation like that which Disan and the Sorean fleet could see, but these things we can only know from what little can be pieced together from scattered remnants who by happenstance survived. Everywhere there was destruction, but most of it is beyond all human memory. Only the Powers that govern the world saw the whole.

It is said that the great Khalad Mountains burst open and spewed out fire and molten stone across the western half of the land, and that fishing boats scattered in view of the Golden Shore saw entire mountains glowing in the distance. It is said, too, that the fountains and springs of Ezrym began to boil with a sulfurous smell, and that a great chasm tore through the land at the Great Canal as both banks suddenly splayed apart and the sea rushed into the space. It is said that the great orikhalh walls of Talamir were torn from their foundations and twisted like paper. The entire land seemed to tip itself into the sea, or else the sea somehow rose up to invade the land, and with a great turmoil of waters, the Porphyry Mountain, the greatest human palace that has ever been or that ever shall be, sank beneath the waves with only foam to mark its place. It is said that, in the months that followed, many corpses continued to wash up on the Chipou shores, tangled in the flotsam, bloated with ferment and partly eaten by the fish. Sailors have legends that ships in fog or storm sometimes by some strange enchantment come across some of the highest peaks of the Khalad mountain range, now mere rocks in the sea, and that these places are haunted by ghosts. What is known is that in clear daylight you may diligently search the seas where the Great Realm once was and find no trace of land. 

The Sorean isle, too, crumbled into the sea. Many saw it as it did so. With it went down all life on the island, except for the ravens and some other birds that were wise enough and strong enough to fly through the storm to the ships. Disan saw none of this, for he was sinking into the sea, only half-conscious, as it happened. Down he went, or rather tumbled, for he had no sense of direction, and would likely have drowned. But as he came near to death he seemed to see, or at least later vaguely remembered that he had seemed to see, an Ezryman child in the depths, one form taken by Fulné of the sea, and he seemed to hear the sea around him speak to him: "Foolish king, your people still require your service." Then he seemed to move at great speed through the depths, and broke the surface. The last thing that he later vaguely remembered, although he could never say whether it was real or just a dream concocted by the mind of a drowning man, voices all around, although very distant, and hands on his shoulders, and then all went black.

What is known is that he was pulled from the water, very near death, but only very near. He woke up briefly at some point later in an unfamiliar room. His throat and sinuses felt raw and his head throbbed with pain, sometimes hard enough to bring tears to his eyes. It was dark, but a stormy-green light came through a narrow windows, enough to see some things. It was a state room in a ship, in one of the ships in which Disan had placed some of the treasures to be sent ahead; he could see on the floor the long, narrow crate in which he had carefully placed the Black Tapestry of Maia of the Pearls. There was a cage for ship ravens along a wall. It was covered with a blanket, but the blanket had partly slipped, and Disan could see none other than Ker, hunched down and obviously unhappy to be on a ship, peering at him. He wondered how Ker had come to be there. Then he tried to sit up, but it set him to coughing, which was painful in his throat and head, so he sank back down. As he slipped back into sleep, just before all went black again, he prayed that Baia had evacuated with the ships at Mir Salal.

Outside the storm only grew louder.


Abyss and Sea 

The thunder shatters air and will, the rain is cold, the lightning fierce.
The world is battered, broken, upside-down; its heart is deeply pierced;
and all our hope beneath the wave is sinking now, beyond our reach.
Not wealth nor strength nor lore can move the lands to rise; they, shattered each,
are crushed beneath the heavy sea, and nevermore will they return.
Yet I recall the shining streets, the lamps that seemed like stars to burn,
and I remember meadows, fields, and mountains like a summer dream
surrounding cities bright with lights that like the snow in sunlight gleamed. 

On sandy shores we once would walk and feel the salty, sea-sent breeze,
but nevermore shall footsteps grace that sand; the roaring, angry seas
have seized it all in chilling grasp and nothing free of flood remains
save fragments made of memories, their razor edges trimmed with pain.
And I recall the winter snows on little houses, trim and neat,
where children played with shouting voices, endless games, and nimble feet,
but where are they? They too are gone. The earth and sea will spare no soul.
They spared not me, for what they left to sigh and grieve is not the whole. 

 The storm is pounding; not a sound can break its roaring, rumbling wall,
but still inside I hear the songs that honeyed voices used to call
beneath the dewy apple trees in autumn days, cool, crisp, and clear.
The trees are driftwood-dead and lost; the songs are dim in yesteryear,
but I can feel the ache inside, and I can feel that they once grew,
and I can feel the loss of glories past that you and I together knew.
But harsher still the tearing pain, suspended doubting, cold as stone,
of never knowing where you are: Are you alive? Am I alone?