Rise of the Thrall Lord
The Battle of Fisheye Cove - Part 1
The newborn morning sun was already starting to burn off the mists from the small cove. Soon the white crescent of beach would be sparkling in the sun, and the only way to escape the blazing heat would be into the cool ocean waters. Usually she looked forward to such a treasured early summer’s day, but Meriwynn Fichgotz knew the holiday was a sham.
The baron was dead, and a dread pallor was falling across her entire village home.
Her mother suggested the trip in a cheerful, off-handed way; the smile never quite reaching her eyes. It took only one meaningful look from mum to convince her father; and she packed the family off with honey rolls and greenberry jam usually reserved for special occasions. There was going to be trouble in Ravenford, and everyone in town knew it. At the last minute, mother declared that they needed her at the keep, and the family was to go without her. There was no arguing with mama Fichgotz.
So they sailed their small fishing boat down the coast before the sun was fully up, and arrived at the cove at first light. Fisheye Cove was perfectly round and almost completely surrounded by a rock wall rising a tall man’s height above the waves and twice again as wide. It was rough and carelessly strewn like the work of giant children.
The cove was mostly shallow, one or two fathoms at most, except for the very center where the bottom fell away in a circular well, the depth of which her father had been unable to measure with his longest fathom line.
Their small fishing boat was anchored at the north end of the cove. And Meriwynn’s father and uncles were already preparing their nets in the shallow waves near the mouth of the cove, patiently waiting for the yellow-jumpers that were the Baroness’s favorites. They would be harder to catch this time of year, and smaller, but the fishermen were determined.
Her younger brother, Gulhalk, had found a wealth of driftwood and was busy making implements of war for his games. Before he could try to rope her into his escapades, or her father found some net that needed mending, Meriwynn made her way down the beach and carefully out along the south breakwater to a particularly large boulder that marked the end. There she brought out her journal and settled down.
She turned her back to the gentle bluffs that rose towards the rounded peak of Bone Hill in the distance. At the shore end of the curved breakwater, she and her brothers had found evidence of some ancient stone structures, overgrown by trees and shrubs, and an old, mostly buried road that headed, she imagined, to the old ruined keep on the hill. Someday when she was older, she would follow that trace of road to see where it truly went.
To her left, the coastline ran almost due north to the mouth of the Raven River, and her home town of Ravenford. It then curved back east and somewhat south, so that she could see the rock heights of Gelcliff across the water. And she thought that she could almost make out the lighthouse at the tip of Cape Marlin. The lighthouse had recently been burned to a stony husk in a magical conflagration by some evil conjurer yet to be caught.
To Meriwynn’s right, the coast curved south and then east, out to Colossus Point. Once, several years ago, her family had sailed out past the rocky prominence at the foot of the colossal statue. In her wild dreaming, the towering statue was the earthly incarnation of some forgotten goddess, so lifelike that it could come to life at any moment and recognize her as the long lost heir of a fabled kingdom far from here.
Some of her imaginings were too wild to share even with her journal. She held onto the precious book like one of the long lost treasures she wrote about. Although she needn’t concern herself overly with her family finding its secrets; she was the only one among them who could read.
Her brother was invited to the classes that the Lady Gracelynn taught for all the village children, but he rarely attended and could barely recognize letters. There was little reason for a fisherman to read her father would say in his gruff way, but she knew he was terribly proud of her and after a few drinks would go on at the tavern to anyone who would listen about how gifted his girl was.
Meriwynn carefully untied the ribbon from around her book. Knots were one thing the Fichgotz family members were uniformly experts in. Her brother would never fall for a thief knot; she used a grief knot instead, relying on the flat of the ribbon and an extra tuck to keep it from slipping.
She began humming a little tune as she produced a small quill and ink bottle from her pouch. It was a glorious twenty minutes before she was interrupted.
“There you are princess! Never fear, I am here to rescue you!” the voice of Gulhalk cried dramatically behind her. Meriwynn didn’t need to turn around to know he was striking some improbably pose.
“Get out of here vermin!” she snapped over her shoulder.
“Gods!” he complained, “you don’t need to bite my head off.”
Meriwynn looked back in disgust. Gully was dressed only in trousers. His skinny arms were brandishing a piece of wood that looked like a bent chicken bone with a bad case of gout.
“What’s that” she asked resignedly.
“It’s my axe!” he exclaimed.
“You’re the one who’s going to need rescuing if you don’t march back around the cove and leave me alone” she warned in a tone she hoped conveyed the proper amount of menace.
That was exactly the kind of challenge that ‘Sir Gulhalk’ was looking for. “Ho, it isn’t a princess; it’s a sea-hag in disguise! Good thing I brought my trusty axe.”“Oh no,” she bemoaned, “poor Sir Gulhalk is greatly mistaken.” Meriwynn rose and turned on her brother. “It isn’t a lowly sea hag he faces, but something far more dangerous!”
She paused for dramatic effect; then her eyes went wide as she looked over his head.
Gulhalk still thought it was part of the game when the powerful form flew less than thirty feet over his head. The great beast’s scales glistened like metal in the early morning sun; the wind of its passing stirred their hair with a pre-storm breeze. Meriwynn staggered as she felt pure primal fear buckle her knees and turn her guts to jelly as it passed.
The dragon banked as it glided beyond the cove over deeper water, and then it suddenly dropped beneath the surface with barely a ripple.
“That was…” Gulhalk began to shout, but Meriwynn’s hand cut him off and pulled him down as the second dragon skimmed over the tree tops and into the air over the cove. This one was smaller, no bigger than their fishing boat. And with the morning sun on its bright scales it seemed almost radiant. It didn’t invoke the same fear in her as the first dragon; perhaps because it was farther away or maybe because it seemed slightly confused to her.
It looked first at the ocean where the larger dragon had vanished, then at the small fishing boat and the people with nets in the waves, and then back the way it had come.
Meriwynn was certain that it was yelling to her father and uncle as it flew over their heads. It was too far to be sure, but she thought the dragon was telling them to swim for deep water.
Not likely she thought. Dry land and the woods would be safer with the ocean full of dragons. She looked at the over hundred feet of broken and slippery rocks along the breakwater to shore. She would have to chance it as fast as she could with Gully in tow.
She didn’t make it a step before the next wave of dragons appeared over the bluffs, diving for the cove.
Even as the certainty of their imminent death became clear to her, Meriwynn thought how odd and beautiful it was to see the multicolored flight of dragons descend out of the morning sky.