72. A Crossing by Moonlight

Night is falling over Lake Amm Borod.

On the far shore, or where he thinks the far shore must be, Till sees lights flickering in the dark, a great many of them. It is the city of Fora Tanni, Hargis tells him, and that one day, he will see it. For now, his destination is the black shadow of the Forbidden Isle. The soldiers have remained behind, commanded by Hargis to return to some garrison in or near Fora Tanni. Aside from the men manning the boat, Till is alone with Hargis and Lord Osdath.

A wind springs up and a rift opens in the clouds. Above it, a pearl floating in ink, shines the moon, sending shafts of ghostly radiance down onto the cliffs of the Forbidden Isle.

Osdath points to a rock jutting out from the island. It stands apart from the cliff, and from where he is looking at it, Till can’t see for sure if it is connected to the rest of the island. On top of this, he glimpses a large round building standing amidst trees or tall bushes, topped by a dome that shimmers in the moonlight. At the bottom of the dome, he thinks he sees light behind wide, low windows, but it is so faint that he cannot be sure. On the side facing away from the island itself, a staircase descends all the way from the building to the water. It is of lighter stone than the dome and the rock, and looks pale like bone in the night.

“The great domed building you see there,” Osdath tells him, raising his voice over the brisk wind, “that is the Storm Hall, where the Guardian resides, with the White Stairs that are only for her. You will dwell there with her, during your time on the Forbidden Isle.”

The boat moves up and down in a frightening motion Till’s stomach squirms like a snail trying to retreat into its house. He glances over his shoulder to see where Hargis has gone, and whether she is as ill as he is from the boat’s rising and dipping. He sees her standing by the single mast, easily balancing herself against the boat’s movements, her eyes fixed on the rock atop which her home awaits. Her constancy reassures him a little, but he is still afraid that the wind might push the boat over, and that he will drown.

“You live there, too?” Till asks Osdath.

Osdath shakes his head. “On the far side of the island is another great hall, where we who serve the Guardian in the Council of Twelve live. It is not far, however. Nothing on the island is. A man could walk from end to end in an hour, perhaps less if he were to hurry. I have done so many times.”

Without warning, the boat rises on a wave. Till comes close to spewing.

For the rest of their passage, he stares fixedly into the water, and avoids looking at the distant lights of Fora Tanni that dance wildly up and down with each rise and fall of the ship’s bow.

NEXT: The Bridge


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