The Creak of the Hull

A ring of fire writhed around the bottom of the world. Jaraeden watched as the horizon lit. Flaming masts pointed burning fingers toward a dark undersky. Hulls broke apart and tumbled in flaming ruins into the abyss. The sound of hissing filled the air as the mists that plummeted from the edge of the world above struck fire and turned to steam.

A shadow approached beside him at the rail. He turned and lifted an eyebrow.

“Everyone we know of made it out. A flotilla of seventeen boats have joined us inside the ring.” The young man bit his lip. Good lad. Controlling himself as he watches the only home he’s known fall apart.

“Everyone?”

“They all saw the flames coming. Everyone got out into the middle, away from everything else.”

Jaraeden gripped the rail before him. He pressed his lips together.

“Sir, everyone we know of. Yeah, we never really explored the other side of the ring too much, but everyone we know of is safe.’

The tall, quiet man straightened and gestured down to the darkness below. He raised his eyebrow again.

“Well, yeah, the paladin died. But she earned it, didn’t she?”

Jaraeden turned away. He paced the deck. More and more hulks fell, tumbling stars in a dark undersky. The population of the graveyard pointed and gasped as their homes burned to ash, one by one by one. Men turned away, fists balled, arms shaking. Women gasped. The sailors busied themselves with whatever tasks they could find.

The hull creaked.

He stopped his pacing, looking at the deck. Several of his sailors raced below to the hold. A few threw rope overboard and rappelled to see what might be making the sound.

The hull moaned.

Jaraeden knelt on the planking and put his ear to the wood. He glanced up, all around.

More moans sounded from the flotilla.

The burning ring flickered. More and more ships fell, their bright comets tapering until nothing was left. It almost looked like the ring itself ascended, leaving behind scattered boats too damaged to rise to the skies.

No.

That’s what it was. The ring actually rose!

Jaraeden lifted his hand. The top cooled in a slight breeze.

His brow creased. Was it true? Could it be?

His heartbeat quickened. He marched to the side and peered over at a sailor there.

The man saw him. “Sir! We’re creaking because. Because! We’re moving!” He shook his head, placing his hand flat against the hull. “She’s rising, sir! There’s nothing wrong with her! She’s rising!” His smile lit his face.

Jaraeden gazed out across to the rest of the flotilla. Yes. They moved at different rates, but they were all floating upward. Toward the light. To the land never forsaken by gods.

Cheers rose from the other boats. His sailors raised fists in joy. Someone produced a fiddle. Dancing broke out across the ascending fleet.

Jaraeden peered into the darkness again.

Alathea…

 So continues The Graveyard at the Bottom of the World.

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