7- Evil Beyond the Currents

As the bevy of shipwrights and Wayfarers Brotherhood crew readied to take the hulls of the enormous ship in Nedaria's Landing out into deeper waters to finish the final details, Morden Rasp stood at the bow of one of the hulls. He looked proud. Wisps of chestnut hair, free of his leather hair tie, wafted around his coarse face.

Nedaria Debeian was warmed by watching Morden stand there, knowing he was lost in great memories of adventures -- ones she had shared with him.

"I been thinkin' lass," Morden said to Nedaria without turning to see she was standing behind him. "I've got me an idea for a name o' this 'ere boat. What do ye think o' Queen of Thorns, eh?"

"I'm supposing you believe that everyone in our brotherhood is somehow a thorn in someone's side, hm?" she said smiling.

"Aye, mostly mine. I love 'em, but . . . I'm just not a leader -- not like they expect me to be. I'm just an adventurer findin' 'is way in this world, ye know?" Morden said thoughtfully. "I don't know 'ow we ended up 'ere . . . life used to be so simple when we 'ad no one else. I 'ave no regrets, as ye know, but I'm not sure I'm ready for what Calliav says might be down the road."

"The time for your selfishness has passed, so has the era of you proving yourself to those who doubted you. Face it, friend. You may have grown up," Nedaria said, with a grin. "We should embrace this opportunity and guide those who want to join us. We have a lot to offer as a result of our experience in this world."

"Don't ye go trying to be funny now," Morden jibed. "But I suppose ye're right. Bein' selfish was a lot easier, though. Ha."

Slowly, the smile he wore peeled from his face, the glint wore from his eyes.

"I don't think I can do it, Nedaria. I don't think I can be the hero these folk think I am. I'm just an ole barbarian lookin' for adventure 'ere and there. I don't want to disappoint 'em," Morden said, his eyes passing over freshly glossed planks.

"They love and follow you for who you are now, Morden," Nedaria said. "They expect no more from you than you've already given -- your charm, confidence, friendship, and love of exploration. They idolize you only because they can see that being outcast is not the end of the world, that they can make it on their own and do great and wonderful things."

"Bah, enough of the flattery," Morden interrupted, the glimmer returning to his gaze. "You'll make me too soft-hearted, darned, meddlin' Erudite. Ye sure are pretty though."

Nedaria shook her head and smiled.

"Just keep your wits about you, Morden," she said as she turned to leave and inspect the ship.

Morden stayed on the bow to consider their conversation. He turned in time to see Calliav Giniuar walking toward him.

"'Ello mage. Always grand to see ye up an' about," Morden said.

"Thank you, Morden. Do you have a moment?" Calliav asked.

"Certainly. Why don't ye come up 'ere and 'ave a look at this view and we'll chat a while," Morden said.

Calliav walked up to Morden and stood next to him, both of them watching the whitecaps foam and fade as the waves churned on the Abysmal Sea.

"I know where we're going and no one has been there, Morden," Calliav spoke suddenly. Morden put his left elbow on the rail and faced Calliav, staying silent.

"We're going to be going to a part of the Abysmal Sea that has never been navigated. It's never even been breached. That's part of the Grozmok Stone's secret and why I needed to find it. It turns out it's . . . well, in rudimentary terms, it's a compass," Calliav said, waiting for Morden to grow a look of a surprise, but it didn't come.

"Aye, go on," Morden said, his eyes fixed on Calliav's.

"We must discuss the possible route across the sea. Please, Morden, only invite your most trusted brothers or sisters," he added. "This is an adventure that is not to be treated lightly . . . all of our lives may be at risk."

"So ye keep saying. I've not seen a trifle of danger 'round 'ere," Morden said.

"It's not here . . . it's in a place yet undiscovered, a new land we've never seen," Calliav said, slowly. "Morden, hear me. Look at me . . . we will see things and creatures none could dream of -- and I know you have seen a lot -- but not this . . . not this at all."

"I really 'ate it when ye talk in riddles, Calliav. I don't want to say, but, truth be told, it's startin' to rub me the wrong way," Morden smiled.

"I want to tell you everything, but some things will have to be seen to be believed, even for me," Calliav said. "I know I've sounded crazy, and said many a strange thing, but what we will find will be stranger still."

"So, what do we do now?" Morden asked.

"Collect your best navigators and shipwrights," Calliav said. "We need to start plotting a course that will take us deep into the Abysmal Sea. The time for our journey is nearly upon us."