A small encampment of hunters sat behind the safety of wooden walls they stole from those now buried deep. A deep forest to their East shook gently in the winds rolling in from the Western channel. The camp was lit up from the full moon rising high into the sky, leaving a shimmering line over the ocean towards a distant landmass.
“Vars, what is out there?”
A man walked up onto the catwalk, covered in blankets. Parting with one for the man already on guard.
“Besides water that will drag you to the depths and monsters that swallow you whole. There is an island; you can sort of make it out on clear nights like this.”
“What’s on the island? Have you been there?”
“Technically, no, I stayed in the boat. Good thing I did too. Otherwise, I would not be here right now.”
The second man stood a little closer, eager to hear the story at hand.
“It was a couple of years ago now, back when I wasn’t a part of a group. I was wandering the Western shoreline when I came across a group of men preparing a boat. I assumed they were going to be fishing, but they were loading weapons and tools. Taking a risk, I approached them.”
3 Years Earlier
“That is a lot of weapons to go fishing with.”
I yelled as I slowly approached with my hands raised high in the air.
“If you are looking for a good fishing spot, I just left a poorly walled one about ten k’s in land.”
The group of men laughed as they continued to load the boat.
“We are not fishing on Nyil-Vispyr; we are going there to fish.”
The man pointed out over the water, his finger leading to a shimmer from the moon, which drew my eyes to a small island in the distance.
I peered out over the water; I tried to figure out why they would risk traveling the ocean for a spit of land.
“Why you ask because we have seen blue lights flickering over there. No way they are better armed than us; we are going to claim that land for our own. If you come, you can join us.”
I did not have to think for long; no one had ever tried sailing so far before.
“Hell, life here ain’t so great. Might as well live an exciting one while I still can.”
I walked over to them and shared what little supplies I had with them, and they, in turn, shared some with me.
“What do you call your selves?” I asked.
“Nothing yet, but we will be the five most famous men over all of Hollow if we can claim an island. Sorry I mean six.”
We laughed for a while, sharing stories, but as soon as the boat was loaded, we set sail.
“Alright, joker, your new here, so listen. You stay out of our way and watch what we do; we can’t afford any fuck ups, so stay down unless we call for you. Today is not a day for learning.”
I have driven many vehicles on Nyil-Vispyr, but nothing is as complicated as trying to sail in a boat. There are no dials and no information displayed; you just have to estimate how much rope to let go of, how much rope to pull, and how many degrees you will turn when you spin the wheel. While it is not that hard to do on land with constant terrain, it is near impossible as you travel over rolling waves that could crash down at any second. These men read the seas as if they were a part of them; they had clearly practiced this journey before.
“Joker, grab this; if you let it go, we all die.”
I ran over and grabbed the rope holding it with my life; beneath my feet were the splinters of what I assume was the thing that had my job before me. I held that rope; for nearly two hours, I held that rope. It would slip in my hands, tearing at the skin, but I would pull it back in and hold it again. There was not much more to the trip.
Once we reached the shore of the other island, we all collapsed, I had had the easiest trip, but still, I collapsed to the ground. Wet from the ocean waves and the tremendous amounts of sweat I produced. My arms fell to my side as my hands shook uncontrollably, the blood from my hands dripping into the sand beneath me.
I don’t remember what the other ones were doing at that time; I was focusing on breathing and the throbbing in my hands. I remember being lifted off the ground and tossed back into the boat; the others had taken the trip a damn sight better than me.
“We are going inland; you take the boat out to the deepest water before it gets too choppy. Then toss down the anchor.”
I was incapable of doing it; I could still barely breathe, let alone pilot that thing. One of the others did all that, then they jumped overboard and swam to shore. I fell asleep moments after I heard him splash.
The next time I opened my eyes, I heard cheering. I pulled myself up, and looking over the edge of the boat were the five guys. They were holding up massive crystals, not shards, but barely lifetable chunks that took two people to carry. They dropped the chunks and raised their fist into the air, shouting as if they had just conquered the world. But they were soon drowned out by the sounds of drums and flashes of blue.
They turned to see what was there; they should have run.
“Well, what was there?”
Vars wrapped himself up in his blanket as he stared out towards the island.
“Men. Their skin was dark, and they stood a foot taller than those on the beach. They just appeared out of nowhere; within seconds, those on the beach had crude clubs smashing their skulls open.”
“Well, how did you get out Vars? You said yourself you did not know how to pilot the ship.”
“Fucking got lucky.” He said, turning to his fellow guardsman.
“I cut the rope holding the anchor; pulling ropes, I fumbled my way into the unrelenting waters. The wind took out the sail, knocking me out in the process. I woke up in this camp; someone saved me, and I now owe them my life. So here I am, working the shitty night shift.”
“Well, work no longer, for it is I, your relief.”
Vars looked at him; he gave back the blanket he was given as he walked off.
“While you should always look to the tree lines for nightmares, keep an eye out on the shore for those who come from over the seas.”
“Oh, look at me; I am Vars; I tell scary stories about the sea.”
Vars stopped in his tracks.
“I heard that Zen.”
Zen waited till Vars left earshot.
“I ain’t worrying about voodoo men from across the sea; I am not wasting any of my time watching the waters. The only concerns to this camp are the nightmares from the East, dumb fucking idiot.”
Zen slowly made his way to the other side of the camp, getting a better view of the woods. Meanwhile, over the turbulent waters, unrest was stirring.
The tribal camps of the distant shores were readying boats; they loaded weapons and drums, ready for slaughter.
The largest of men stood by the boats; he stood tall, covered in intricate tattoos. His body was illuminated by the moon above; his grass skirt was the only thing obscuring the light from his body.
“Too long we have been raided by those who cross the blue; they defile our shore with their ships. They invaded our lands, took our blue gems, and harvested our resources.”
Those standing in front of him cheered with each statement told by their leader.
“Tonight, we will row across the blue, we will invade their land, we will harvest their resources, and we will kill all who stand in our way. The small men stand no chance against us; we are stronger, we are faster, and we have the blessing of the god of war.”
The whole camp cheered, and the leader signaled for everyone to enter the canoes. Cheering, everyone climbed into the canoes lining the coast. With an oar in hand, the war canoes left the shore.
“The small men use the wind; they have big boats, and the blue chew them up; we will cut through the blue with our war canoes powered by muscle. The blue respect our strength; demonstrate your strength, men, calm the blue with your ferocity; tonight, the Aza’Roe bring the war to foreign shores.”
Men at the ends of each canoe stood, hands rising above their heads they grasped sticks. Their fists brought down unto the drums before them, flashing blue with every strike, lighting up the runes painted on the drums. The heavy drumming echoed over the seas as the Aza’Roe powered over the waves with relentless paddling. The drumming got louder, and a blue glow wrapped itself around the Aza’Roe; their muscles growing, they paddled harder and faster. Right as the waves seemed to be at their worst, the chief stood once again; he began to speak in a tribal tongue. The other men followed in chant, their voices drowning out the sounds of the drums and calming the waves ahead of them. The waves that once rose to oppose them calmed, carving a path through the waves to the shores of Nyil-Vispyr. All around them, the waves crashed down, narrowly avoiding their ships, but ahead there was nothing but the moon’s reflection over the glassy water.
Back at the camp, Zens’s foot started to tap to the beat of the drums, it took him a moment, but he eventually turned, looking for the source of the sound. He turned to the sight of a hundred war canoes gliding across the waters between the crashing waves; blue flashed to the beat of the drums as those on board chanted with a deep thundering voice.
“Everyone up, up, up, everyone get the fuck out here.”
Zen dropped his blankets as he ran through the camp screaming.
“Pistols, rifles, bows, swords, get everything. We are under attack.”
The camp was shocked to life; they scrambled around, fetching all the weapons at their disposal. The catwalks were lined with men wielding ranged weapons. Zen looked for Vars, finding him heading to the east side of the camp.
“What are you doing, man? They are invading from the West. You were right. The tribal men are coming.”
“I know, I can hear their drums. If you are smart, you will leave; everyone who stays here will die.”
Vars strapped his pack firmly to his back; he loaded his rifle then headed out the East gate.
“Fucking coward, once we slay these tribals, we will come for you.”
Zen ran back into the camp, joining those lining the Western catwalk. The Aza’Roe were still too far for the guns to reach, yet their war call could be heard word for word.
“Why are there no waves where they row? I have never seen the ocean so flat.”
“Must be some kind of tribal magic, do not fear men; we will gun them down before they reach the shore.”
The encampment waited for the canoes to get closer while the chief watched the shoreline carefully. Right before the Aza’Roe got in range, the Chief changed the chant, and the waves reared up before them, once again, hiding them from view.
“Hold men, once the waves break, we will let loose hell on their ships.”
The encampment waited, watching the white tips of the waves as they finally came crashing down. The Canoes had changed course; they had started a diagonal approach veering away from the front of the camp. Their forward canoes already hitting the shore before anyone had noticed.
“Fire, kill the savages.”
A volley of gunfire was let loose to no fatalities, bullets burnt through flesh as arrows tore at it, but the Aza’Roe continued their charge with inhuman speeds. The second volley fell the lead men, but by this time, the majority of the Canoes had landed on the shore. The drums changed their beat; those running on the sands once again were wrapped with a faint blue as their legs granted them extra speed. Gunfire and arrows greeted all of those who marched the beach, but the tidal wave of men was bearing down on the camp.
Those leading the charge plunged their long spears into the base of the walls charging even after the spear had made contact. The spears bent till they could take no more; they started to straighten, dragging the Aza’Roe high into the air, flinging them over the wall of gunfire. The next men charging gripped the same spears for the same result; the camp tried its best to gun down those sailing through the air but was incapable of keeping up with a sea of men.
The whole time the Aza’Roe charged, they all chanted, empowering themselves with the runic magic they had mastered. The first men over the wall drew their weapons mid-air, landing firmly on their feet.
Zen ran down to greet their guests; he ran towards one still knelt over from his landing. Zen screamed as he raised his mace above his head, alerting his presence to the tribal in front of him. The man stood up, towering in height above the already short Zen; Zen leaped into the air, reaching eye height with the warrior. Letting off another scream, he brought down his mace, but the tribal man caught his swing with one hand and his throat with the other. Not once did he stop his war chant; he screamed it into Zens’s face before he broke his arm and choked and slammed him to the ground. The warrior reached behind him, pulling a flat wooden club from his grass skirt; he brought it down into the chest of Zen, silencing his winded moans.
Vars watched from a nearby hill as the wave of blue consumed the encampment, the screams of those inside occasionally sounding louder than the Aza’Roe’s war chanting. He lowered his binoculars and spoke to himself.
“That is probably the most beautiful slaughter I have ever seen; I am just thankful that I got to see it and not be a part of it.”
Vars walked off into the night, rifle at the ready, prepared for the horrors that lurked in the night.
The chief witnessed one of his men being cut down by a small group of Holites.
“Brother, call upon the god of war. Die for a deity, not for a small man.”
The dying tribal began another chant, his body swirled with wind. His tattoos began to glow, and he stood strong once again. Once the chant finished, he picked up his tribal war club, upper-cutting the closest Holite to him, sending him flying over the walls. The tribal man roared at the sky before sending Holites flying into the walls of the encampment with every swing. Once there were no more men around him, he leaped half the encampment to reach a small crow’s nest filled with gun-wielding Holites. His club was shot out of his hand as he sailed effortlessly across the camp.
Once in the crow’s nest, he tossed the first Holite he could get his hands on; the others were ripped into pieces, limbs sent flying from the crow’s nest as the tribal man started to turn blue. All the Holites had been killed, but the tribal man slowly turned to crystal as his war chant wore off.
The chief stood victorious in his new encampment.
“Claim what is of use; burn the rest. We ride back to Triskya-Svelt tonight.”
The chief looked upwards at the now inanimate crystal warrior above him.
“Bring him down; he will be remembered by being ground up and added to our tattoo.”
The Aza’Roe took as they pleased before they set light to the encampment that had stood since the beginning of Hollow. Once back in their canoes, they chanted again, clearing a path back to Triskya-Svelt, back to their home.