In the Land of Stories Old
The rest of that day passed very slowly, not entirely because the destruction of the Blood Wood had been accomplished by mid-morning. Mist and smoke hung like curtains in the air all around the trapped Rescuer, the sun a blurred disk behind them that only managed to cover everything with diffuse yellow light which cast no shadows. Keeping the watch under such conditions was nerve-wracking, as nothing could be seen until it was almost close enough to touch the ship—not that there was much of anything to be seen except for the occasional bobbing log, several of which had managed to pile themselves against the magic-raised pillar of stone which was keeping the ship from sinking. The current had finally dwindled from the force of a rushing river to that of a noisy stream, still glittering here and there with remnants of Merlin’s magic as it bore debris from the island out to sea. Some of the drifting debris also caught on the logs and the stone, leading Kio to say it must be trying to form a new island from pieces of the old.
He’d been saying that from the place where he and Noki were bracing themselves between the stone and the outer hull of the ship, trying to remove the length of the uprooted tree which had been driven through her port side; Pino was on the inside with Arthur attempting to hack off that end at the same time. It took hours of hard work, but they finally managed to reduce the tree to a thick ring of wood stuck in the hull like a cork in a bottle, and then they finished off their project by heating a salvaged pot of tar which was used to patch all around the splintered hole. The crew pumped as much water out of the hold as they could, and although they didn’t dare move their supplies below again, the repair did at least return some of the bunks to being usable. The rest were broken down and set aside with the other damaged wood for either burning or raft-building, whichever became necessary first. Hans and and Captain Gerralt did most of the watch-keeping while this was going on, and once Jack woke up Hans poured a mug of Merlin’s tea down him and he joined them. Even though by that point there weren’t even logs to be seen, just aimless waves that slapped the sides of the ship and rearranged the debris that was piled up around the logs and the stone.
The yellow light gradually dimmed as the day drew to a close, and was just turning a rosy orange when it started to rain. Luckily not too heavy of a rain, or one which went on too long, but enough to be annoying to everyone who was on deck even though it did wash a good deal of the smoke from the air around the ship. The Isle of Deer was still thickly wreathed in sickly gray clouds, of course, and the men on watch were less than happy to be staring across the waves at the menacing remains of their victory over the Blood Wood, but it was still a relief to everyone to be able to see the moon rise and the stars come out, and the night passed as uneventfully as the day had.
Merlin, of course, was magically exhausted and slept through it all, the mixed blessing of the rain included, and he still hadn’t moved an inch when the new day rose out of the western sea and lit up the morning mist that was hovering over the waves. A carefully rationed breakfast was served on deck along with a desultory debate over what they should do next. Waiting for Merlin to wake up and release them from the holding stone was the obvious choice, but only so long as that happened within a day or two and no one present could guarantee that it would. Attempting to free the ship themselves was suggested and discarded, although Jack did say he would dive down later to see how the stone was attached to the ship. Building a raft to try to get to shore was deemed a necessary thing to be done regardless of any other plans, even though nobody really thought it was a good idea as they weren’t likely to find water fit for drinking or any kind of food at all. And no one was even considering being rescued, as only a very few people knew where they were.
Which was why it was such a surprise when not half an hour later Hans called out his first and only alarm on watch as a prow bearing a green jack poked through the morning mist and the Northern Rover slid into view. She drew in broadside to them, and Captain Roberts was waving from the rail. “Ahoy, Rescuer!” he called out. “Permission to come aboard?”
Captain Gerralt waved back, more relieved than he wanted to show. “Granted!”
Aboard the Northern Rover, Mr. Taylor directed two men—one of whom looked a great deal like Roberts’ oldest son—to get the ramp. “They seem to be caught on something, Captain. We should be careful.”
Roberts shook his head, trying not to look at the fog-shrouded ruin that used to be the Isle of Deer. “If we were being careful, Mr. Taylor…we wouldn’t even be out here.”
In the Land of Stories Old