• E. Paige Burks

The Story of Gladianima - Chapter 12

The 30th day at sea in the 56th year of the reign of King Brieuc of House Erdos.

The mist around them swirled silently, like tendrils of a ghost drifting through an abandoned house. An unearthly silence had filled the night; there was no boat creaking and no waves lapping at the sides of the ship.


There was only Thyra and the bright yellow eyes glaring down at them.


And then there was chaos.


Tentacles suddenly smashed into the ship, wood splintering under their weight. Sailors were snatched by the coils and launched into the water. More unfortunate men were thrown into a gaping maw filled with teeth like swords. Lifeboats were shattered, making escape impossible. Just when it seemed like things couldn't get any worse, webbed and clawed fingers emerged from the depths, gripping the ends of the boat like a child grips a toy. With one easy stroke, the beast snapped the ship in half, lifting one half toward its gnarly face to search for hidden snacks.


If Thyra had the time to consider it, the beast would have reminded her of when she and her friends used to use twigs to draw insects out of their mounds to eat when they were starving. But she didn't have time to blink, much less to think about the peculiarities of the monster. Before she knew it, she'd been slung from the cracked-open ship and into the murky waters.


The surf was rough and black and she didn't know which way was up or down as she struggled through the water. Finally, just when it seemed she would lose her breath, a light caught her eyes and she swam hard toward it. She drew a ragged breath as she surfaced, her lungs screaming for air. She treaded water as she realized the light was lightning, illuminating storm clouds heading toward them.


"No, no, no," she breathed, spinning in the water to grab a nearby piece of wood. Despair sat heavily in her chest as she watched the beast drag the ship's bones down into the depths, leaving the night silent, save for booming thunder.


"Hello! Is anyone alive out there?!"


Thyra jumped at the sound of the voice, turning toward it. She tried to pull herself onto the piece of wood she'd snagged, but it was too small to bear her weight. "Here!" she called. "I'm here!"


She heard splashing and soon she could see a face paddling toward her.


"Thyra!" Kegan gasped, a splintered piece of wood under his arms keeping him afloat. "Thank the gods you're alright!"


Thyra felt instant relief, but the thunder and flashes of lightning in the distance reminded her it was too soon to let her guard down. "Find some rope, Kegan," she ordered. "We need to lash ourselves together or that storm will sweep us apart!"


Kegan floundered around in the water, grabbing at pieces of flotsam that drifted past. Thyra did the same, and they finally came up with enough rope to bind some boards together in a makeshift float. With the remainder, Thyra tied a loop around her waist and watched Kegan do the same.


"Do you think anyone else made it?" Kegan asked.


Thyra looked up, seeing swells forming in the distance and realizing the storm was nearly upon them. "Does it matter?" she asked, feeling a knot in her chest. "We might be soon wishing we shared their fate."


Kegan followed her gaze, gripping her hand tightly as a massive wave suddenly rolled under their float and rain began to beat down on them.

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