En Route

The caravan started early the next morning. Iniara, still half asleep and dazed sat in the carriage behind the driver's seat. On the other hand, Ad'cero seemed cheerful and bright.

Iniara, dear, Ad'cero politely addressed the mistress.

Wha? Iniara returned, not particularly paying attention nor caring, as she stared out one of the carriage's windows.

Um, congratulations on winning the egg, Ad'cero spoke in a calm, hopeful voice.

The eeggg... Iniara trailed off, the... egg... egg... EGG? Iniara's eyes lit up at the pronunciation of the last word and quickly scanned the area with her eyes and frantically moved her garments from placed to place in search for the missing item.

Perplexed, Ad'cero politely coughed and pointed to the small basket that lay on the seat next to Iniara. Really, Iniara, how much sleep did you manage to receive last night? You are not your usual, perky self this morning, Ad'cero commented, slightly smirking at her latter remark.

Iniara quickly calmed herself and attempted to straighten her posture in her seat, Oh, a FINE rest indeed!

When the caravan arrived back to Crykst through the portal, they prepared their vessels for departure across the straight back to the mainland of Rhul.

I don't particularly care for this weather, Iniara, Im'os struggled to squeak as the winds of the island raced past his body, nearly knocking him over.

The skies were gray even though, to Iniara's knowledge, it was almost midday. I think we will be fine, she replied, gazing to the sky and mentally challenging any storm that would attempt to best her.

She held Eidea'col close to her as she boarded the makeshift vessel with Ad'cero and Im'os. The currents ran swift that day and worried Ad'cero as much as it did earlier to Im'os.

You know what they say about stormy days, eh, Iniara? Im'os attempted to nudge Iniara in her seat. Well, don't you? She pretended to ignore him and stared down at the dark blue egg that sat in her lap. Hrm, he grunted and forlornly bent his head.

What do they say about stormy days, Im'os? Ad'cero politely questioned and leaned forward in her seat across from Im'os to hear well.

The old imp produced a wistful smile, Oh, in ancient folklore, sea storms symbolize a test of some sort. Err, yes, like the defeat of a great monster or simply overcoming a seasonal drought I suppose...

Ad'cero laughed, Yes, storms usually help the droughts...

Im'os blushed slightly, Besides that, the folklore predicts these challenges after a long storm. And if the person's test is successfully completed, they will be rewarded. Such that, well, you know how sometimes large waves carry small fish to the land after the storm? Well, the fish symbolize prosperity in the coming days.

Ah, Ad'cero nodded. As a child, she recalled, she sometimes traveled south of the Mardesos Cove with her father, a skilled fisherman. On some mornings, she bathed in the sand by the cove and watched the waves roll in. Other mornings, after a storm, she could see many little fish washed up on the shore, some still flapping in the sand, struggling to return to the safety of the sea.

Of course, her father would instruct her to gather the fish to sell. Now she would wonder about the great fortune in finding the fish those mornings, but realize that something still had to suffer for that prosperity...

Iniara chose to listen to Im'os' story after all, Im'os, you understand folklore is not anything but children stories!

Pausing for a moment after a breath of air, Im'os replied, From what I remember, a certain empress used to enjoy hearing such ‘children stories'!

Taken aback, Iniara flushed a strange shade of blue at her cheeks. Are you calling me a... a... child?!

No, no. Of course not, Im'os mockingly expressed, obviously gaining some momentum in the conversation, If you had ever been a child at all, it sure slipped my recollection!

Outraged, Iniara made a movement to stand in the makeshift vessel when a large crack came from the exterior of the ship.

M'lady! a crewmember shouted from outside the cabin door, We near the land and the boat scraped across a laden rock!

A ruckus emitted from the boat and continued to sway in the heavy winds, as the storm grew insinuatingly worse.

By Aille! Iniara screamed as she lunged forward in the cabin and gracefully knocked the back of her head on the doorway when attempting to compensate for her fall. With a groan, she rolled over on the small floor and passed out.

The boat continued to drift southwestward, slowly filling with water, and rocking without containment. Many crewmembers flung from the edge of the boat and met their end in the shadowy waters below.

Ad'cero and Im'os could see through the blistering rain and made out the sight of land near off to the direct south.

Im'os! Ad'cero yelled as she exited the cabin to the other fleeing members of the crew, Grab Iniara, make sure we still have the egg and grab only what is necessary!

The rain beat down hard on the boat's deck. Ad'cero continued to cross the exterior in order to reach one of the makeshift lifeboats that hung from the side. The boat shook and Ad'cero fell to her knees. She gripped at the loose planks of the boat and finished the way to the side by crawling. In the meantime, Im'os gathered Iniara's staff and placed the egg in one of Iniara's pockets. He gazed down at the woman and quickly remembered the first time he saw her.

Just like before, all alone and unaware... he whispered. The seemingly old and feeble imp bent his knees, extended his arms underneath Iniara's back and lifted up. Urrggh, he grunted, but this time a lot heavier! and escaped through the doorway of the cabin.

Over here, quick! Ad'cero had the boat prepared. She wearily watched a wave crash against the side of the weakening sides of the boat. Throw her inside here and let's depart quickly Im'os!

The imp gathered his strength and quickly leaped across the boards to the raft. Leaning over the side, he calmly put Iniara into the boat and hopped in himself. Ad'cero quickly discharged the raft and the two paddled away from the boat.

When the waters became slightly calmer, Ad'cero commented, I am not even going to question how you jumped around on that moving boat so skillfully back there, she coyly smiled. In turn, Im'os flushed a bit and did not respond.

The calming sensation lasted but a moment when a large wave shadowed the interior of the raft. Im'os! That wave will topple the boat! was all Ad'cero exasperated before the wave dropped over their heads.

Ugh... Iniara groaned as she heard the singing songs of birds over her head. It was much more moderate and she could feel the sun on the back of her neck since her face had been firmly planted into the sand. Where... where am I? she questioned as she moved her arms, stiff and sore, to lift her head from the ground, but found it much too demanding. Instead, she somehow managed to flip her body over and lay on the sand with a warm sun overhead. Her eyes closed.

Mother... I think, I think she is waking up, a male voice whispered over Iniara's head. Come over here, I don't know what to do.

Iniara heard a few slow steps limp across the floor and make their way to her side.

Ah... more color in her face, I see. Yes, son, she will be alright. Iniara was still sore. She could feel her muscles tense as the woman walked closer to the bed and lay a hand on her forehead. It is so strange to see this woman, especially since she isn't a part of our tribe, Derik.

I know, mother. I really don't know where she came from. My only conclusion was that she was on a boat and it must have tipped over in that storm a day or so ago. Lucky for her, I passed by the shore last night and found her! If she would have stayed out there all cold and wet overnight, who knows if she would have survived...

Iniara cracked her eyes open slightly. To her amazement, she saw a young man with teal colored skin and dark red hair sitting off to her right, facing an older woman, also teal in skin tone with silvery hair. What... where am and who are these people? She thought and rested her eyes shut again and sighed loudly, unfortunately without realizing that it would signal the young man's attention.

Mother! She does awaken! Oh, by Aille she'll be fine!

Oh what have a gotten myself into now...? She silently spoke in her head. She deduced that she might as well stop pretending to be unconscious and weakly opened her eyes again. The man, named Derik, sat prepared next to her and hung his head over hers and as she opened her eyes, she was startled by his appearance and twitched in the bed she lay in.

Oh! My, I'm sorry... Miss? Derik's eyes were a cool blue and reflected the light from a nearby candle at the bedside and he sympathetically gazed down at Iniara. Not a speck of inconsistency of his skin tone, his face looked soft and kind. His body, like Iniara's, was thin but strong like iron. She estimated that he was about his height, which was new to her since she had never met anyone that stood her size.

I... I... she spoke softly while staring in his eyes and tried to lift her torso, only to fall back from her weakness.

M'lady, please remain reclined. You've been through a lot. Last night I found you on Bradshaw's all torn up and soaked! I carried you back to my house and my mother, Merold, and I, Derik, he smiled a bit mentioning his name, cleaned you up and nursed you. He sounded eager to tell Iniara everything about her ordeal. Oh, my, he paused, now that you are awake, tell us your name and about yourself! We have to know where you came from.

Shush, Derik, let her be! Merold hissed, Please don't mind my, silly, son. She attempted to smile slightly through her wrinkled cheeks.

Iniara lay motionless but gave a wistful stare to the couple. My name... is Iniara.

Iniara? Derik questioned. Wait...

No, no you must be delirious, dear? Merold whispered and leaned closer to her bedside.

Heh, Derik laughed, If your name was that, you've risen from the dead. He patted Iniara's leg, But I'll call you Nara, for short, it seemed that he wanted to be cute with the empress.

She sighed silently to herself and closed her eyes again.

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