As I faced the warmth of the amber sun, the breeze of the lambent sea tussled the individual strands of my hair not tucked away in the bun atop my head. When reaching out with outstretched fingers, I swear that if I had stood onto the tips of my toes, I could reach the fluffy clouds that lazily wafted by. Although, the brine of the sea was strong in the air, it lay far beyond the rolling emerald hills, the fields filled with waving sunflowers, and the tilled fields filled with wheat. From this height, I could see beyond those fields, past the small ruddy town, past the little brook that giggled and fell down a hill—before being swallowed up by another sea—made of white, twinkling tree's known as the, Alabasters. These tree's winked and sparkled much like starlight when the sun slept, and glimmered like polished crystal found smooth in a meandering river.
In the crow's nest, a small tower made of stone and wood, I sat just a half hour away from the ruddy little town of Raven. There was my home, my birthplace. It was quaint, made of old stone and new timber—a town that had been ransacked, destroyed and rebuilt several times over, in the past two centuries. For the past hundred year's though, it seems as if the pirates have either forgotten us, or found fatter, greener pastures. The crow's nest, was not alone—old timbered buildings surrounded the watch tower, that the guard would take turns sleeping in, eating, and breathing, all the while keeping their eyes towards the sea.
My father, and his father before him were watch-men, and his father's father, before that. It would have only been natural that I too become part of the watch. But, as the years passed, and the pirates never showed, the once respected station as watch, became less glamorous, less cared for. The timber buildings became derelict with time, as the families and watch-men moved back into Raven, leaving only one line of watch-men to care for the now crumbling tower, and the collapsing buildings—like the washing away of sand castles by the tide.
I have two brothers—one tall, one short—but both unimpressed by the old crow's nest, both unimpressed with watching the sea—and taking in the silence of the saffron sun. And so, it has fallen to me, the first woman to take up the task of watch. But, as my father had passed on—now nothing but a memory tumbling through the briny waves of the sea—I no longer have any company. An island alone, even when walking down the cobbled streets of Raven. I often think to myself, that in the absence of fear, our town has grown fat, and whenever gazing out at the horizon I swear that Raven will one day lure them back. I try to lure my brothers to come to the crow's nest, but their concern for me reaches only so far.
The old lore is all I have now, and while their voices sing quiet in my head, they are far from dying, far from dead. The stories of old buxom banes, of pirates from lands far and bizarre, of the dreaded pirate captain Illicyian and his rotting, skeleton crew. The stories of old gods, and old powers, that were seeped into the very land itself. Many say, the lore is erroneous, and made up to frighten children grown too headstrong. Often I hear my brothers calling me headstrong. But all I do, is smile my toothy grin, and tell them.
"Well, you say then I'll never give in. And so, for me, it be a sin if I did not."
They close their eyes, and shake their heads. Again, I would grin. Even when I doubted myself.
Another day, another sun-rise. The amber sun arose from her slumber in the sea, now casting brilliant rays of red and orange over blue and green. I opened my eyes, feeling the warmth, uncurling myself from the small cot in the crow's nest. I look out to the sea, and in disbelief I see a mirror where should be a rippling, living thing. The sea stands still, and as I stare, a stifling warmth suffocates me—no breeze, no brine, no cool to suffice. It is then that I see that shadowy silhouette on the horizon. My heart sank, while simultaneously leaping for joy—the vindication, oh the vindication. I was right! Oh, gods, I was. Right. I feared it to be Illicyian.
Quickly, I reach upwards to the old iron bell hanging above my head suspended by a small beam—and pull the rope. But the rope snaps after one tug, and the clapper inside, hits the bell once before causing it to crack—in a loud thudding, whack. A small flurry of rust falls upon my ruddy hair, and exhale sharply, coughing in a fit. I look up again, and the silhouette has grown larger, but now with it, detail becomes observable. It is not Illicyian's pirate ship—but the sails betray to me, a strangeness just as concerning.
On the back of the massive ship, were sails of coal—yet translucent with glowing orbs that floated behind them. When I looked too strongly, my soul leapt to my throat, banging on the backs of my teeth to escape—but I grit my teeth hard, looking away from the sails. The bow was long, slender, the hull dark, glittering like snake scales. No, it was not Illicyian but something far worse: immortals. Of the lore of Raven, the oldest enemy, and her keepers, were demi-gods, immortals who dined upon the greedy souls of man. They also had a lust for Alabasters as well: said trees were believed to be as old as time, and capable of being formed into great weapons of power—for they were containers, the remains of the old gods. Of course, as I hurried down the ladder, I wondered even if I reached Raven in time, what it is, I could do? I was but the daughter of an old watchman, who spent hours staring at the sea. Who would believe me? A young girl, who daydreams, who believes in mad things. Steeling myself, I know that at the very least, I must do something.
Than an idea springs to my head, and I stop in my tracks. I turn away from Raven, and set my eyes towards the Alabaster forest. Even though it is a normal thing to see the wood every day, to admire its awesome splendor—everyone knew, that the forest was cursed. Even if they didn't believe in the lore, that the trees were the remains of old gods, they knew those who entered often met an unlucky, malignant end. Despite the fear, and panic that threatened to subdue me, I remembered how my brothers told me I was headstrong. I ran headfirst into the Alabaster wood.
Immediately, I felt as if I had stepped into another world—perhaps onto another plane—where the old Gods still lived, and breathed. Breathing to me sounded as if I had smashed into a window, repeatedly—the silence there was complete. Each step, too added to the racket, and I found myself questioning my sanity as to what made me think this was a good idea. Clutching my tan fingers to my chest, I gulped—another loud thing. My steps slow, my breath shaky, I turned my head this way and that—all I could see were shadows and the glimmering bark of the Alabaster trees. It seemed an eternity, stumbling through the underbrush that I finally heard something other than my bumbling self—laughter. Laughter like a child, yet eternally older, and wise. And mischievous. And it was coming from behind.
I turned—and in that moment, the trees came to life. They broke free from their roots, and stepped away, until a large silver courtyard was exposed—the pillars themselves made of the Alabaster tree, twisting and intertwining with one another. It was all beyond the description, for the words alone could not describe the awe felt there. But, it was the figure who stood in the courtyard that made my jaw drop. It was him, my father.
"But…you had been lost at sea." I stutter in disbelief. "How can you be, here, standing…there...?"
Staring at my father I see that he is glowing—much like the Alabaster tree's encompassing the silver courtyard. He smiles—but it is sad, and he says not a word. Instead he gestures towards me—while a table forms before him with a twisting of the Alabaster roots. On the table, in a show of gleaming gemstones, appears a single sword—the single most beautiful thing I had ever laid eyes on—much more so than the silver courtyard. The blade is curved, made of sterling silver—the hilt is grey, and soft—yet sturdy, a blue stone is cast at the bottom of its hilt. Without words being spoken, I hear him, say to me,
"Take the sword, go to the sea, stick the blade within the water—and then you will see."
Hesitantly I took the blade into my uncertain hands, the moment it was tight within my grasp, the courtyard fades, and the forest marches away. The glimmering trees, are on the move. Cool air returned to me, with a rush—as if I had been running—for now I saw that I was on the beach—and the ship with the immortals was but a few yards away. I could see their curling tusks, and massive hooked fangs. I could also see, the fear within their blood colored eyes. With that I grinned my toothy grin, and stuck the blade deep into the water. In a burst of light, that swept over land and sea, the great immortal's ship was obliterated—yet the power of that light, knocked me over and darkness began to take me. But, just before the darkness came—I saw the saffron sun. I grinned.