The Dark Shore (p0)

Waves crashing against a hollow shore. A raven caws in the distant, cold wind which sweeps across the surface of the black sea, sending a barrage of icy droplets over the fleeting warmth in Jattel's body. Jagged rocks claw against the bottom of his skiff as he cracks open his eyes for the first time, in what seems like weeks, to see a grey light stretching across the sky. Thud and scrape jar him to consciousness. The chafing of salty skin under damp, sticky clothes let him know that he was alive. Were those hooves clattering on the stones? He pushes himself upright, an acrid steam releasing from his huddled figure.

Peering over the edge of his skiff, he sees the shoreline, a stony, cold hope. Similarly, a frozen heart leaps as he fumbles forward toward the bow. Hunger and thirst tightened his throat as he lurches forward awkwardly, disregarding the dark figure sitting tall on a small horse. Hunger and thirst ached deep within his gut and his limbs burn, though the frost had settled deep.

Blood blossoms at his knuckles as he gripped the edge of the skiff, waiting for the tide to pull him closer to the grey salvation that lays just a short span away. The dark figure on horseback stands still, unaffected by the cold gusts that toss the skiff this way and that. The figure watches. He is the watcher on the hill, the character out of stories that warns against trespass. Jattel sees no horseman, nor the foreboding figure that stands in his path, just the dry land and the promise of safety. The skiff lurches forward on a wave and Jattel's ears adjust. Waves crashing. Waves pulling. Waves against the stony shoreline.

When the shore comes within reach, Jattel lets hope fill him, a warm and eternal sunshine. It was a futile hope. To be stuck on dry land does not fill his belly with food or water, but dry land he could navigate and in that there was hope. He still disregards the dark figure on the hill who hadn't moved. The skiff lurches again, but this time the scraping against stones turns to the splitting of lumber, the cracking of timbers, the sensation of slush filling boots.

Jattel rolls into the icy water. His knees dragged across sharp stones, his head strikes a large, immovable boulder. He rolls up onto the shore and crawls, smaller pebbles freezing to his palms and knees. And there, just out of the reach of the tide, he collapses. It wasn't until he settled down to die that the horseman moves. He did not heel his horse into action, nor dismount to run to Jattel's aid. He raises a curled ram's horn to his lips and let out a single bellowing note that splits the air and rattles the stones on the shore.

The vibrato washed over Jattel's body, his ears felt like they were stuffed with wool and the sound of waves crashing against the shore faded. His vision slowly ebbed and darkness rolled in. His mind was awash upon the distant shores where dreams play out.