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Chapter 1: The Tempest
Ivan felt it on the back of his neck first. True, the sun hung over the sky, its rays falling on the occupants of the Lemurian ship comfortably, but it was deceptive. Ivan's Psynergy began to course through his body, negligibly at first, then slowly increasing to a highly conspicuous flow. The power of the wind within his veins trembled in anticipation of the upcoming storm. Drained as he was from the recent venture at Magma Rock, he was concerned that what minimal power he had left was reacting so strongly. In a storm so powerful, even their mighty vessel's safety would be in danger. He hurried off toward the deck to find Felix.
Coincidentally, Felix was relishing the passivity of the weather. He loved piloting the ship, and he had become rather adept at handling it. He breathed in deeply, refreshing his lungs with the saline ocean air, a welcome break from the smoke and fumes of Magma Rock.
He let his ebony hair flow freely behind him, and took in the sight of the mountains that sheltered Vale. Far off in the distance, he thought that he could almost make out the peak of Mt. Aleph, but after a moment, he was sure that it had been his imagination. He sighed aloud. He longed to see his home. He was so close that he could almost reach out and touch it. All that stood between him and Vale was a "great power" at the zenith of Mars Lighthouse. Let it come, he thought to himself. He would return home, and in triumph.
A loud crash snapped him out of his reverie. He stopped the ship and turned around to see Ivan lying on top of Sheba, both of them moaning. Felix said nothing, raising an eyebrow at their awkward position as Sheba became aware of his presence.
"Get off me, you klutz!" growled Sheba, kicking Ivan squarely in the shin.
This brought Ivan back down to earth, reminding him of his provocative position. Despite the horrid throbbing in the back of his head, he rolled over, off of Sheba, and sat with his back to the wall, just outside of the main door that led from the hold to the deck.
Sheba and Ivan nursed their respective dignities, as Felix patiently awaited an explanation.
"Felix, there's something you…" said Ivan and Sheba simultaneously.
"Go ahead, Sheba," said Ivan, glancing to her and then back at Felix.
"There is a big storm coming, Felix. Hama was right when she said that the wind's power was going to put things out of balance. We need to get to somewhere safe."
Felix, the strong and silent leader as always, nodded in understanding, immediately returned to the helm. Sheba, receiving Felix's unspoken command, beckoned for Ivan to help her rouse the others to secure the ship.
As the rest of the group worked hard below deck, Felix watched the sky fade from the crystalline blue to a foreboding gray, which was rapidly turning black. Even as a Venus adept, he could feel the intensity of the electricity in the air. The halcyon breeze of a few hours earlier had been replaced by an aggressive wind, rocking the boat with its low, rumbling strength.
Felix guided the ship toward the North Sea. The ground along the coast was covered with snow, and there was no civilization in sight. He saw, to his chagrin, that they would be unable to reach Prox before the storm arrived, and he did not relish spending his last moments churning in an icy Northern Sea, only to be crushed beneath a giant block of ice.
"Kraden!" shouted Felix.
There was no reply.
"Kraden!" he hollered again.
"Yes, Felix?" the scholar replied, hurrying out on deck with speed surprising for a man of his age.
"We need to land. We won't be able to make it to Prox before the storm hits. Will you gather the others?"
Kraden nodded and walked off.
As the old scholar left, Felix looked up at the sky. The clouds were black and heavy with rain, but the sky itself had taken on a ghostly green hue. He resisted the urge to shudder, and halted the boat once more as his friends made their way to the deck. Once everyone had gathered, he began to speak. Everyone was attentive.
"We need to stop, and soon," he said simply. "The problem is going to be finding somewhere safe to lay anchor. Indra is too far away, and that heads into the storm, so we're going to have to try to run for the west coast of Angara. We'll try to find somewhere to wait it out. That's the plan, unless anyone has a more appropriate idea."
He waited for comments from his friends. None were forthcoming.
"Alright. Sheba and Ivan, go below deck and do what you can to slow the storm, or at least protect the ship. Piers, take the engine room. Will you need help?"
Piers pursed his lips in thought for a moment.
"Jenna and Garet would help me. I'll need them if anything breaks."
"Go," replied Felix. "You too, Ivan and Sheba."
As they rushed off to prepare themselves, Felix assessed his remaining allies.
"Kraden, stay with Ivan and Sheba, where it's safe. I'm sure Sheba and Ivan will need your help staying healthy."
Kraden accepted his orders with a nod and went below the deck.
"Mia and Isaac, I need you here on deck with me. Isaac, if anything happens to me, you need to take over the helm. Mia…"
"You want me to keep the waves off of the ship, right? Or at least slow them down so that you can steer?"
Mia had been totally subdued up until this point. Felix found himself surprised by the intuitive healer. She adapted to strange situations very well, and always kept her cool in a crisis. And, though he didn't want it to be common knowledge, he considered her very attractive as well. Felix knew better than to act on his feelings, though, however strong they may be. It wasn't appropriate for a leader to act in that manner, and to Felix, his quest meant more to him than anything.
He realized that he had been silent for some time, and affirmed Mia's statement. She opened her mouth slightly, then nodded firmly and stood a few steps away from the helm.
Felix returned his focus to piloting the ship, pushing it through the web of currents that only became more intricate as they approached the coast of Angara.
Felix's keen eyes scanned the shoreline for a break in the cliffs or a likely-looking alcove, but there seemed to be none. He glanced at the storm behind them. The fearsome tempest had begun to spit bolts of lightning and thunder, and the wind whipped Felix's hair into his eyes and face. This was becoming very dangerous, but there was no shelter in sight. Felix silently cursed himself for putting his friends into this position. Admittedly, no one would ever say that Felix had made a single mistake so far, but that was Felix's character.
"Isaac!" Felix yelled over the gale, "Tell everyone to get ready. We aren't going to make it. This could get rough."
He altered his strategy, moving the ship out of the shallows to make sure that their only opponent was the storm in the open sea, instead of the deadly cliffs. He continued to take the occasional off-glance at the storm behind him. The hulking wraith trampled the sky and the daylight, yet still no rain fell, and the thunder and lightning were still far off. At this point, Mia leaned over to Felix and spoke breathlessly into his ear as she pointed off into the distance.
"Felix… What is that?"
He followed her finger to the edge of the storm on the horizon. At first, Felix could not perceive anything other than a wide, distorted bump in the middle of the ocean. He continued to watch the strange phenomenon as it grew in size and came closer to the ship. After a moment, it was no longer a bump, but a curtain, and it flew toward the ship with furious speed, increasing in size all the while, until it was three times as tall as the ship.
It finally dawned on Felix exactly what that wall was, and he didn't like it. He used his Psynergy to drop the anchor, and then only had enough time to put himself in front of Mia before the brunt of the storm struck the ship with the ferocity to lift Felix and Mia completely off of their feet.
Felix instinctively grabbed Mia's arm and attempted to pull her toward him, to keep both of them from flying off of the ship. He caught her, and reached out with his other hand to grab hold of something, of anything, but the rain was too thick to see through. A fraction of a second later, the two adepts were flung off the vessel like rag dolls, and thrown into the open air above the sea. Mia, grasping Felix tightly, prayed that she had enough Psynergy to sustain them through the storm. She pulled herself closer to Felix as they plunged into the frothy abyss.
Isaac felt the bump as Felix released control of the wheel. He rushed to open the door, only to discover the same wind that had blown Felix overboard. Ivan and Sheba were down on the floor below him, faces contorted with the effort necessary to stop lightning from hitting the ship, not to mention slowing the winds. The power of the initial blast had abated, but the wind still blew furiously, forcing Isaac to use his arms as bars to prevent himself from flying out of the door. He planted his feet into the ground, and focused his mind on his Psynergy, using it to pull the door shut.
He knew that there was no way for him to get outside. He hoped that Felix and Mia were safe, but he knew that if anyone could keep Mia out of danger, it was Felix.
"Especially as overprotective as he is," thought Isaac, though he regretted the idea as soon as it crossed his mind.
The storm raged on for hours, and Isaac tried several times to open the door again, with no success. He resigned himself to the hope that somehow Mia and Felix were well.