Ch. 33. The Song of the Hag

(Continued from Chapter 2)

Sea of Lyr, Center Reaches, the Vortex Zone

How like unto a summer’s day? …Not very, at the moment, thought Lord High Admiral Ruili Windwolf as he squinted up into the pelting rain.

The great, dark clouds coalescing above, roiling over upon themselves, oppressed the air with their weight.  The Wolf strained against the wind as Ruili gave the orders to adjust course and sails to approach the growing rotation at the center of the storm cell.  Every eye of every lookout was fixed upon the spot, calling out every change, however minute, but their captain’s eye was ahead of them.  Even as he managed his ship, Ruili never looked away from the sky.

Meanwhile, the Pious Drake sailed in from the far side of the patrol area, not too close but close enough to render assistance should it be needed.

The scholars were hurrying to arrange their arcane equipment on the rain-swept main deck. They looked up in excitement as the black storm wind began to shriek, howling through the rigging, playing the ship like a hellish violin.  The ship’s officers yelled to be heard above the deafening, foreboding noise.

The Hag Wind, that bit of sailor’s lore – the wind of Caillech, Hag of Death, screaming laments for those about to die.  Ruili had never given that superstition much notice until that day, so few years ago, when the Hag’s song gained meaning for him.

Unconsciously, Ruili rubbed his right hand over his left arm, feeling again the horrific pain of the slashed humerus, the shattered ribs on his left side.  The memory of that pain was still strong enough to overwhelm the still real pain of the injuries after years of medical treatment.  And the memories of all that had led up to them and followed them, memories of strange journeys, and battles, and dire tests, were strong as well as he watched the vortex form in the sky.

“Funnel!”

The cry from the lookout above snapped Ruili back to the reality of thunder and lightning, of the rain and hail whipping his face, and the deck rolling under him.  The first steel-gray tendril of the funnel cloud was beginning to snake its way towards the sea.

One of the scholars, an enthusiastic, pinched-faced fae with his soaked hat tied to his head by a scarf knotted under his chin like a grandmother’s bonnet, came running up to the castle deck.  “It promises to be a big one, Captain,” the researcher panted.  “The chances are good it’s more than a waterspout.”

“We’ll know soon enough,” Ruili replied, resisting the urging of the tingle in his scarred bones.

“How close can you get us, sir?”

Ruili shot the scholar a hard look, but immediately turned to instruct his helmsman, saying only, “As close as I deem fit, sir.”

Indeed, they would know soon enough, for a normal storm would last much longer and end without the sudden, thundering snap of a true vortex.  The scholar did not stop to argue the matter of distance, but ran back to be ready to do his work while he could.

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