"There's another in the sky--lurid-like, ye see, all else is pitch black."
- Herman Melville: Moby Dick
Sky and sea were a deadly calm. Visually they merged together in an impenetrable void of darkness, discernible only by a sense of gravity, by the stillness of the air, by the subtle rocking of the ship. If not for the deck beneath their feet, they might as well have been drifting through space.
Intermittent fulgurations did little to discriminate between sky and sea, illuminating both alike. But it served the alternative purpose--coupled with its companion, the war drums of the sky--of reminding the sailors of the vehement hurricane that raged on every side.
At the helm stood a Matoran, battered and rusted nearly beyond recognition of species. His element was as lost to the sea as his soul. The tip of a wicked hook hand stabbed and loosed itself from the wood of the taffrail, stabbed and loosed, stabbed and loosed; his eyes scanned the gloom in vain.
"Where is she?" he snarled with each stab. "Where is she? Where is she?"
A lone cry brayed from the masthead. "There she blows! There she blows! Off the port bow! There she blows!"
The lone exclamation became a frenzied cry taken up by all the crew as eyes turned toward the massive mound rising out of the ocean. The captain freed his hook and dashed to the port rail, searching with his one good eye until he had seen it. Was that deep resonance thunder or a moan? Yes--yes, it was the beast's moan!
"Quiet!" he bellowed; and in an instant all had become silence. "Helmsman," he hissed, "lean to starboard and we'll cut off her path. All Toa of Air," in a louder voice, "bring us wind to those sails--slow, now, slow and steady, but lose her and it'll be your heads."
It was a tense period of measureless time, when the minutes and hours blur together and all one can think about is the murmur of the gusts overhead and the waves beneath, the tottering of the deck beneath their feet, and how much faster the ship should be moving when it doesn't seem to be moving at all. Ahead, but for its constant shape and steady movement through the water, the dark form might have been another wave or an island--or entirely invisible in the darkness.
Gradually the beast in all its monstrous enormity and the ship in its comparatively insignificant hulk converged. The taffrail's surface had been scored into ribbons by the restless captain's hook. His rapacious eyes watched the distance close, bringing him closer to his quarry. Closer . . . closer . . . closer . . .
Without warning the silhouette disappeared. Cries and maledictions went up from the crew; the captain's own horrendous challenge rang out above the others. His horrendous wail rent the air with more ferocity than any could believe of a Matoran's lungs. The most stalwart Skakdi among his crew cringed.
"Karzahni take the beast! Karzahni take all ye cack-handed Brakas! I'll have heads dangling from the yardarms if we lose her!"
Frantic gazes searched the gloom. The captain's single gleaming eye raked the sea, baneful as a knife tearing through flesh. Suddenly he spotted the beast. "There she is," he murmured. A smile spread across his mask. "To stern! Helmsman, bring us about! She doesn't want to enter the storm any more than we! Give us all the worthless air ye've got in yer empty heads, Le-Toa! I'll not lose her again!"
The ship about-turned. The air overhead strengthened, howling in the throes of elemental manipulation. The beast had breached and was sitting still and unmoving. The captain laid his torments upon the rails as they forged through the placid sanctum at the eye of the storm.
The nearer they drew the more the beast's size was impressed upon its many admirers. There was movement towards its head--something round and large as the Great Temple. Was it blinking? Could it be an eye? What an eye!
A spout erupted from the monster's spiracle. It was as if a whole volcano had exploded and rocketed its contents into the heavens, vanishing in the darkness above.
The next moment the whole awesome form disappeared once more.
"Helmsman," the captain roared, "toward her head! We'll get over her! Bring more wind to those sails!"
"We're givin' her all she's got, captain!"
"Give it more! We'll have that beast or you'll be her supper! We'll have her yet if--" He broke off. The ship was turning the wrong way. The captain rounded on the helmsman. "What in Karzahni are ye--"
"T'ain't me, cap'm! The sea's draggin' us to'rd the center o' the eye!"
The captain drew his blade and relieved the taffrail of a number of its posts. "Karzahni take the beast! Karzahni take the sea and swallow all your wasted skulls! Karzahni take this infernal ship!" The captain paused in the effort of collapsing a whole section of the rail. "The ship!" he said, eyes alight. "Burn the ship! Burn the sails, burn the masts, burn all the world if it will light the night! Toa of Lightning, give the storm what it wants! We'll see what it wants to show us!"
Soon flames began their ravenous feast upon the ship. The fire laughed in derision, the lightning cackled. In the distance thunder rumbled, accompanied by a profound groan and something new: a whoosh, as if all the ocean were inhaling.
Fire and lightning illuminated the night. The galleon, already a majestic sight in magnitude and craftmanship of its great body, became something evocative of awe in its lurid sublimity, a blazing vessel of the netherworld; and yet it was as nothing, a pitiful fishing canoe, to the eye of the storm.
The ceiling of turbulent clouds glowed red, as if an inclement eye were watching them with cruel glee from above; its fangs closed in on every side, dripping with molten venom imbued by a dim flame. Nearby the beast's back glistened bare and ardent, her tremendous eye aflame.
Their tranquil garden of darkness had become the lair of a terrific evil. The sea itself had fallen away at its center. A vortex stretched wide its mouth, eager to consume all existence.
What was their dinghy to this insatiable hunger? What was the great beast to the eye of the storm?
"C-captain?" came a feeble voice from the deck.
The Matoran closed his eyes, gripping what remained of the taffrail even as tongues of flame licked at his hands. When his eyes alit again, the crew watching in awed silence wondered if he were not as ruthless and diabolic as the terata of nature that threatened them on every side.
"Keep straight to course," he shouted. "We'll have that beast if we have to go to the bottom of the sea with it!"
The Toa of Air had long since relented their efforts. The helmsman had released his useless tiller. There was nothing left for the crew but to wait and find peace; the powers at play were too great for them.
The captain moved, a demon gliding across the deck. He seized the tiller and turned for the great beast. Flames laughed, thunder bellowed, the monster moaned, the whirlpool squalled; yet above it all an eerie silence hung in the air, quelling sound.
Ship and beast both were falling toward the void. The beast seemed near to the point of deferring to the better power of the storm; its vain resistance was weakening. The captain gritted his teeth and held his breath, willing the beast to hold on a few moments longer. Any moment the ship would be near enough . . .
It wasn't. And then, without warning, it was. As if time had skipped or the ship had teleported, there was the beast, tantalizingly close to the prow. The captain knew he could make the jump. He sprang down the stairs. His swift footsteps across the deck were the only sound to be heard aboard the ship. Eyes followed his progress, but nobody spoke, nobody moved.
The captain mounted the forecastle and sprang upon the bowsprit. He ran its length and there, on the tip, found himself hesitating. Had he misjudged the distance? No . . . impossible; he could make the jump. He had no other choice. The void seemed near enough to reach out and touch its abysmal depths. It was now or never--and never was not an option.
The captain looked down upon the beast. It looked up. Eye met eye. Gaze locked with gaze. Brows narrowed. In the optic depths of each of these two demons swirled all the intensity of the vortex. In them surged all the ferocity of the eye of the storm.
The beast released a savage groan. Its tail was disappearing into the void that waited to engulf them all. The captain let out a wild cry. No fear touched the heart of mighty beast nor adamant enemy; the sea no longer held their souls, for caustic hatred had consumed them.
The captain's cry died out. He spoke, words that reverberated from the chasms of a soul far deeper than any mere Matoran.
It was a mere whisper. "You are mine now . . ."
He drew his cutlass and launched himself from the bowsprit. The beast gaped its cavernous jaws. Ship, crew, captain and creature hurdled over the precipice of the sea, falling as one into the yawning void.
A stridor of shouts, screams, howls, bellows, hissing flames, rolling thunder; and the ocean closed. The sea recomposed itself to quiet placidity. All was a dead silence. The light of the flames had been swallowed. The eye of the storm had once more sunk into darkness.
An entry for the "write about a BIONICLE fish" Ambage Writing Challenge. Now go enter!
Sincerely, Nuile: Lunatic Wordsmith
Edited by Nuile: The Wiseguy, Feb 27 2013 - 01:20 PM.