By EM Malachi
Fog rolled over the bridges and islands of Vesper, cloaking the canal-city in grey. San-Lem shivered and walked faster, so she wouldn’t be left behind by those she had accompanied to the human city. Her employer, Aurvidlem, had requested that his entourage follow human custom and walk from place to place. Now, with such poor visibility, San-Lem was thankful for this rule.
Being the personal healer to a merchant who had grown rich from trade between Ter Mur and Britannia was not what San-Lem had expected from her life. Still, it was better than struggling in the crowded refugee settlements where most of Ver Lor Reg’s survivors had ended up. She was paid in gold and food, a bounty she shared with kin who had escaped with even less than she had. Singularity was worth a few sore talons.
Forewarned of the problems along Britannia’s roads, Aurvidlem had rented passage on a merchant ship. The late summer waters had been warm, and the winds had gotten them to Vesper in excellent time. Then the weather had taken a sudden turn. A human merchant whom Aurvidlem was trading with had mentioned that such fog was out of season.
After leaving Aurvidlem at his opulent room at the Ironwood Inn, San-Lem and the rest of the retinue made their way back to more modest lodgings at the hostel. As they were crossing the bridge from the Marsh Hall, San-Lem noticed that the local birds and insects had gone quiet. She distrusted silence, for she remembered how quiet the machines of Exodus had gone right before they tore her home apart. She listened for a moment, and the sea to the east sounded wrong, rumbling and churning. San-Lem told her compatriots she needed to check something and flew up into the sky. Moving up past the dense ground fog, she had a clear view of the ocean below and the source of her worry: a giant wavefront moving toward the vulnerable canal-city.
She landed quickly back on the ground and shouted a word of alarm, “Jux-wis-re!” The other gargoyles recognized the warning and took to the air, each flying in different directions across Vesper to warn people. San-Lem herself flew toward the most vulnerable part of the city: the docks where they had disembarked.
She yelled warnings as she sped over the canals and cobblestones. Seeing her distress, most seemed to understand well enough. As quickly as she could, San-Lem got to the docks. The waterfront had been cleared by the fog, and she saw only two children were playing at the end. The force of the onrushing waves was clearing the mists. Suddenly seeing the wall of water up-close filled San-Lem with fear. Having the whole docks to themselves, the little boys were jumping from piling to piling, oblivious to the approaching danger. While the same instincts that had saved her from Ver Lor Reg screamed at her to flee, she flew down the dock.
San-Lem grabbed a child under each arm and turned in midair as quickly as the weight would allow. She considered flying into the open sky, but so burdened, she did not think she could stay aloft for long. The door of the Magicians Friend was standing open, and an alchemist was waving for her to hurry. Nearing it, she tossed the small boys into the alchemist’s arms. Hearing the roar behind her, she slammed the door shut and barred it with her body as the cold water hit her.
Vesper was flooded in minutes.