Penetrating the Mystery Part 3
Another dispatch from Gavrel has reached the Falcon editors from the west coast of Arun. We still don’t know exactly where Gavrel is, but at least now we know where he was until recently: a place called “The Island of Dawn.” Read on for details.
The Island of Dawn—
Wherever I’d landed, I needed to find a place to lay low and get a feel for my surroundings. Judging by the size of the passenger compartment floating above the cargo hold, there hadn’t been more than a few dozen people on board, and a stranger was going to stand out like a stonebeak in a flock of bluebirds.
I looked around the loading dock and noticed a female elf giving me the evil eye. I snagged a load of tent canvas from a passing popori porter. “I’m with you,” I told him, and shouldered the roll of canvas between my face and the elf.
“Human’s with me, Axelle,” the popori told her as we hurried by. He walked me past some open ground where workers were erecting a pavilion, and gestured at me to drop the canvas.
I pulled him aside behind a tree and turned my back to the activity. “Where are we?” I asked him.
“A new place, never smelled in the world before,” he told me. “Still wet from the ocean that birthed it.” He held out a furry palm, and I filled it with gold pieces. “Mmmm. Tasty gold buys you a guide to the supply base,” he said, showing a lot of sharp little teeth and pocketing the gold. “I’m called Barzon. Never mind your name—I won’t remember it.”
“What you can ask before we reach the base, I’ll answer. South now!”
As we passed under a stone arch that looked awfully weathered to be standing in a “new place,” I looked up and saw an immense white-and-blue stone column in the distance, hundreds of feet tall. Out of it grew a lavender-colored tree that reached even higher into the sky, twinkling with a million lights. Around the column, stone fragments spun slowly, like an explosion that never happened, but was always imminent. “What in Arun’s name is that?” I asked him, stopping dead, and unconcerned for the moment about being seen or heard.
“No one knows! It’s new!”
“It can’t be new! That tree must have been growing for centuries!”
“Our world has never tasted its music,” he shrugged. “So it’s new.”
The rest of our conversation wasn’t a great deal more enlightening, and I struggled to get answers while running to catch up with him. That wasn’t easy, considering I couldn’t tear my eyes from the astounding sight of that column, that tree, and that frozen explosion. The island—they’re calling it the Island of Dawn—had only recently risen from the ocean between Arun and Shara, and after a series of hurried secret meetings in Velika, Kubel, Elleon, and Dargarish had assembled a hasty expedition to explore it. “Who knows what we’ll find?” Barzon enthused.
Unfortunately, we were about to find out. As we crossed over a bridge (more worn stone, mossy with age), a ghilliedhu the size of a modest house came crashing toward us, eyes glowing red in a disturbingly human face. Barzon screamed, and we ran in the opposite direction, straight into another ghillie, even bigger than the first, this one with six eyes and a single horn taller than a baraka. Barzon ran between its legs and kept on going, but being twice his size, that wasn’t an option for me. Neither was freezing in place, since the second ghillie was raising a giant fist to pound me into raw meat.
“Roll!” someone shouted, and I dropped and rolled in what I prayed was the right direction as the ground shook. I looked up into the rage-reddened face of the nearest ghilliedhu, and a moment later a ball of ice struck it just above the eyes with a sound like the shattering of a thousand wineglasses, and it flew backward, stunned. Two fireballs in quick succession hit it square in the trunk before it could regain its balance, and it reeled back and collapsed with a throaty death rattle that vibrated through my bones. The first ghillie followed it down in about three seconds to the one-two punch of ice and fire.
“I’m Viria,” said a tiny castanic woman with fiery-red skin, putting away her sorcerer’s disk. “And you’re in a lot of trouble.”
So that’s how I came to be arrested and held at the Expedition Supply Base until the arrival of the next airship, then packed off back to Velika with stern warnings from Kubel and other expedition leaders. Viria came to visit me, but she had no more idea than Barzon what this island was or where it had come from, and she claimed no one else in the expedition was any wiser. One thing they were learning quickly was that it was dangerous. I had to agree with her.
News has reached the Falcon that while Gavrel was en route from the mysterious new island, the expedition was attacked by a wave of local wildlife led by what may have been demons. Many expedition members were killed, including the majority of the fighters sent to guard the researchers. Elleon is among the survivors, but Kubel is missing and presumed dead.