Rogues to Riches

By Gerry Torbert


Kingdom of White

The preparations had been made. The group of seven hundred strange beings would traipse across a frozen wasteland of another world. But she said she would provide. That's what they kept telling themselves.

They filled the water bags from the streams of melted ice along the side of the ice river. Several of the larger Teregnaven men loaded themselves with the dried meat, actually using it to protect themselves from the cold by draping the strips around their shoulders and waist. They then covered themselves with a yak wrap in an attempt to keep the meat inside the mass from freezing. Several of them carried light branches for fire, fashioning sleds out of the trees and hauling the sleds with vines. Merolta and five others brought up the rear of the ranks, carrying spears. Several others flanked the strange line of people, constantly on the lookout for wolves or frost giants.

The most frightening sight on the glacier was watching the green world and mountains behind them disappear over the horizon. The thought of the children leaving their homes for something they couldn't grasp was difficult. They looked back less frequently, then stopped.

This part of the glacier was more difficult to travel than the portion uphill and to the south. The ice river had begun to neck down in width, and the ice had broken. The blocks were piled up across the vast expanse, propped up at odd angles. Large crevasses awaited the careless and inexperienced. Creaking sounds could be heard from beneath their feet. And the cold. The wind picked up late in the first day, whipping around legs and arms. Upwind Teregnaven traded places with those downwind on a rotating basis, protecting others with their bodies. The wicked air found in their clothing small cracks that scarcely could be felt on a warmer day. Snow began to pick up, stinging exposed flesh with a burning sensation. Still they pushed on. This first day stretched from early morning to mid evening, when they stopped and camped.

They picked a place where one of the ice blocks jutted up from the rest, across the line of wind, so as to afford some sort of protection. Members of the clan took care of business downwind, then huddled around the fires as closely as possible. They shared water, meat and yak skins to minimize loss of body heat, and fell into a deep sleep, to the last.

The second day started out rough. Not used to the extremes of nature, their new bodies were taxed by the exertion, and indeed, the Great Glacier was unnaturally cold. It was difficult to rise and regain body warmth. Muscles ached, joints were on fire. Nonetheless, they wrapped up and started out again. As the sun rose to noon, however, they were treated to a sound that curled their hair. A howl in the distance made them turn their heads as one to the north. A pack of Winter Wolves were on the prowl, and they sensed the wastes and smell of the Teregnaven.

The saved trolls were like children. They were children of Bestra, simple young males and females, not used to combat or violence, at least in this their new life. They had no idea of the terror they could be facing. Tall wolves, powerful jaws, pack attack mentality. Certain death seemed imminent. They didn't know much about the wolves, but the primordial howl of such a creature tells all within earshot all that is needed to be known. Like fingernails on a smooth surface, the sound rips a hole in one's psyche, vibrates one's very nerves and causes one's very heart to race.

Most of the spear-holders moved to the north side of the line and spread out. Eyes pierced through the white, the relentless expanse of white, looking for a spot of gray, some movement, anything, all the while hoping it was the wind. Yes, the wind. That was it. The wind howling past our ears at just the right angle. We'll just keep moving; it will go away. Again, the howl, the accursed howl of a being trapped here on land, knowing it will spend eternity in hell.

Beltondo turned back from his lead position, not knowing what to do. Gather in a circle...protect the women...make them attack one at a time from the outside...what is the best way? Suddenly, though he did not know why, he felt he had to look down, down at his feet. There, encased in the block of snow and ice, was a face, a beautiful face, yellow hair tied back now, a warm coat around her shoulders, blue eyes piercing through the ice. The lips moved, and he heard a whisper.

"I will provide, Belondo. Gather together...I will provide for you..."

Beltondo stared, then snapped out of his trance. He looked around to see the rest, stopped and watching him. Fear and concern was etched deeply in their light green skin, frozen on their eyes. "Gather around me, now. Pass the word to the others. Make a circle, spears to the outside. Hurry!"

They moved quickly. He looked down, but the face was gone. In two minutes, they were in a circular formation, looking outward. But for what? Several dozen dots appeared on the horizon, quickly getting larger, coming closer. They stood still, watching, hoping. "Think of the Lady. Think of her and her only!" called Beltondo.

The wolves galloped forward. When they were about fifty feet away, they spread out slightly to flank their prey and pick up any stragglers, any of the weak. Such was their way, the way of the pack. Clouds of deadly cold frost billowed from their maws. The people watched, some closed their eyes, but all thought of Bestra. As the slavering dogs, mad with blood lust, reached ten feet from the first one, a loud snap emanated from the snow around them. A crack formed in the ice a few feet away from the nearest Teregnaven and continued around the circle. The dogs slowed to a stop, fearful of the crack. But seeing no immediate danger, they then recommenced their charge.

Suddenly, the ice pulled away from the circle. A chasm appeared, a circle of air, as the ice pulled further away and down. The nearest wolf attempted to make the leap, but was stuck with a spear after sinking his teeth into the being's lower leg. The canine released his grip as he fell with a yelp into the circular hole. Two thirds of the rest fell into it as well, unable to stop their forward momentum. With yelps and screams, they tried to clutch at the edge of the ice, but to no avail. Their yips and howls could be heard for a full minute, and didn't stop abruptly, just tailed off to be overshadowed by the sound of the wind. The remainder of the wolves turned and ran.

The ice slowly moved back into place. The dogs had met their maker. As the saved trolls stepped off the circle of ice, tentatively at first, and restarted their walk, they whispered Bestra's name.

The injured teregnaven took several steps and sat down on the ice. The group looked back to him, wondering what to do, as the blood soaked into the packed snow. A woman emerged from the crowd, one known as Patisio Mel'ancola. She pulled out a sack made from the leg pelt of one of the yaks. Reaching into it, she pulled out some leaves and grasses she found along the way. "Here, let me treat you with these herbs. I don't know why I picked them up, but I seem to know they will cure your wounds." She bent over and rubbed the vegetation into the wound as the spearholder drew a quick breath. The bleeding stopped immediately, and he thanked her.

The trip across the ice continued with only numbness and pains to slow them down. The next two days passed with little trouble, and only an occasional wolf could be seen in the distance. Four days into the voyage across the dreaded glacier, the ice turned rough again, and some climbing over the angled blocks of broken snowpack afforded the beautiful view they wanted - a plain of grass and patchy snow, stretching as far as the eye could see. They camped among some trees, warmed by blazing fires, and sang a few songs with Sackota Belintwigia, the self-appointed bard among them. They sang songs of praise for a beautiful lady.

The next day was spent drying off, warming up, tending to almost-frostbite conditions and replenishing food supplies. Several of the group walked off and found a mountain stream rife with fish, and others located some root vegetables. The saved troll who had suffered wounds at the jaws of the wolf seemed to be healing well.

The plan was to head east-northeast to Laipedos, a fair-sized fishing village along the sea. The land stretching before them was known as Cadocia, a frozen tundra peopled by rather independent humans who owed allegiance to the Wintervale. These people wanted little to do with the nearby Orcish lands and governments, and the dark folk governing the eastern lands had little reason to force their culture or military upon them. There was simply little reason to invade them or populate their land, as it consisted of frozen waste minimally capable of supporting the inhabitants themselves. There were enough problems to handle and enough people to fight in warmer climes.

Beltondo planned the direction to travel in his mind. He used orienteering to maintain as straight a line as possible, watching landmarks ahead of him and lining himself with previous ones. It would not be an easy task, as much of the terrain would be snow, but a few distinguishable hills and trees gave some reference. As they walked, a few of them picked up branches and possible firewood, a few caught rabbits for food. They often broke up into groups of discussion, meeting each other and trying to piece together what they knew of what had happened to them, how they had arrived in this world. No one had the answers, but Beltondo seemed to be more at ease with his status and plight than the others. It seemed only he had seen the visions of the divine Bestra.

The first day was uneventful. The morning of the second found their encampment surrounded by some very strange people. Cadocians had enveloped their camp quietly, either in the night or morning, and were standing at the ready, spears in hand. The sudden realization coursed through the crowd as the Teregnaven arose, quite fearful, so Beltondo tried his best to quiet them by getting their attention and assuaging their concerns. He then strode out to where the group of humans seemed to be the thickest, assuming that that was where their leader would be. Smiling, he held his hands out to reveal he had no weapons. He shouted back to the group to drop their spears.

"I am Beltondo, leader of the Teregnaven. We come in peace and mean no one harm." From among the natives walked a slightly taller one, dressed in a well-fitted coat of fur and adorned with several necklaces of animal teeth and claws strung on gut strings. He was about five feet tall, hovering only slightly over the rest, but much shorter than the seven-foot-six Teregnaven. His spear seemed to be a symbol of his status rather than one of utility, as bright feathers were strung around it. His dark slanted eyes peered from a rounded face, framed by jet-black hair, and his demeanor indicated that he was the leader of this proud race. He began to speak. "Ooala mootuk Baloomoo, ookta hallooto ooma oolookah"?

Beltondo knew there was a problem right away. To learn a new language would be difficult with few objects in common. But from behind, a young Teregnaven female pushed her way to stand beside him. "Beltondo, I don't know why, but I understand him." It was Lulotto Mas'itario; he recognized her from some of the earlier conversations. "Very well, but be careful, for we don't want to upset them."

She nodded and walked to the Cadocian. "Ooala Lulotto, eetah ooma Teregnaven, ooma oolook seesootah." Surprised that she could speak the language, she stepped back slightly, turned to Beltondo, and smiled. Apparently, the smile was the wrong thing to do. Baloomoo, the Cadocian chief, became agitated and began firing away with a long stream of words, waving his arms, shaking his spear and stomping the ground. "What did you say, Lulotto?" asked Beltondo. "I introduced myself and our group and said we come in peace! That's all!" She raised her arms slightly to show she had no weapons, but Baloomoo continued his ravings, while others readied their spears. But Beltondo had another idea.

He stepped to the front and bent over toward the irate chieftain. Growling, he frowned at him, shaking his fist. "Baloomoo! Beltondo Mootuk!" He pulled his yak-robe aside to show the red sash of Bestra. Baloomoo stopped ranting and backed up a step, as the rest lowered their weapons. He then turned his weapon sideways and thrust it toward the Teregnaven, who grasped it and let it go. This seemed to satisfy the chieftain, who frowned and pulled back his spear.

He turned to Lulotto and the rest and said, "Nobody is to smile. I think they consider a smile a portent of veiled evil - it seems they have had bad dealings with the Dark folk. I recognized the word Mootuk as "chief," and the red sash seemed to indicate that to him. Stay near, but don't smile. We will have much to discuss."

With his foot, Beltondo scraped the snow away from the ground in front of him and waved to the men dragging the sled of firewood to approach. He placed some wood in a pile and pulled the knife from his sash and a piece of flint from his pants. Baloomoo watched warily as the sparks caught and the fire came to life. Beltondo sat cross-legged in front of the fire and motioned to Lulotto to sit to his left and Baloomoo to his right. Through the new-found interpreter, they sat and spoke for much of an hour as the two tribes looked on. Beltondo offered Baloomoo some salted, dried yak meat and was in turn offered several pieces of blubber and fish. The mootuks eventually got up and shook arms with each other, and the Cadocians turned and walked away to the north. Beltondo turned to the fire and motioned to the rest to gather around. "It seems that the northern wastelands are populated by these Cadocians. They are fierce fighters and proud, and so the dark folk have decided that they can be left alone. They make nothing or have nothing that the dark ones want, so they have not been attacked. They pay certain taxes to them, but are left alone. They thought we were trolls or some other evil race, but I explained we were born of a good goddess and follow peaceful ways. They will not bother us the rest of the way, and Baloomoo told me a little about the town that is our destination. It is called Laipedos, a trading and fishing village. There are few dark folk there, and they shouldn't be a problem. He said we could fish from their streams and kill yak, if needed."

A voice came from in the back. "But what then, Beltondo? We would be at the sea - where would we go from there?"

Beltondo replied, "Holy Bestra has told me she would provide for us when we get there. She hasn't said what she'll do, but I trust her. Whatever she decides will be the best for all of us."

They all nodded and began to pick up their belongings. There were three hundred fifty miles to go. Hopefully, they had seen the worst of their journey.


It was the morning of the sixth day past the glacier. They were well kept, as food was more abundant than what they dared imagine. Rabbits and yaks on land, trout and pike from the streams, roots from the soil, all served to temper their hunger and add to their clothing. A few scratches and scrapes from climbing a few low-lying rock formations and a minor broken bone were the only physical setbacks. The cold was not oppressive at this time of the year, but frostbite was still a concern. The sun darted across almost three quarters of the sky before dipping slightly below the horizon, only to pop up again four hours later. Baloomoo had said that this was the time of the Happy Sun, and that later in the year, the sun would not set at all.

As Beltondo walked over a ridge, a beautiful sight fell on his gaze. Before him, about five miles away was a simple town and port, framed against the stark expanse of a brilliant blue sea. They had arrived at Laipedos. Why, no one knew. But they were there. By a grove of trees they gathered, resting and contemplating their fate. Beltondo walked away from the group to a lone tree to think.

We are here, great goddess. We are prepared to do your bidding. Tell me how to lead them. No response was seen - no face, no voice, just a landscape of patchy snow and grass and a background of sea. Nothing much moved that he could see, just a lonely sea gull flapping its wings and navigating the light winds that rustled the leaves on the tree. He stared at the ground, picked up a twig and absent-mindedly twirled it in his fingers, peeling the bark off of it, turning it this way and that, watching as the sun's rays played on its surface. Something, anything, he thought. The gull lazily heeled and flapped against the wind, turning as it came closer.

He stared back at his people. How far they had come, how much they had accomplished. They talked among themselves, some standing and walking around, some sitting down with other groups to begin new discussions. One looked to him, but looked back to the sea and then rejoined a group. A flap of wings startled him, and as he turned his head back toward the town, the gull landed on his foot. It stepped around for a few seconds, getting a good hold on him to find a stable place to sit. It turned to look at him. Shocked and drawing a startled gasp, he found himself staring directly into the face of a gull. A human face, with long, blonde hair and beautiful blue eyes, eyes that mirrored the sea to her back, eyes alive with understanding. She smiled, as did he.

"I have not left you, Beltondo. You have done well. My children are here, safe and sound. You are half the way to your home. The rest of the journey will be dangerous, but you will find it worth the suffering. Go to the port. Seven ships await you."

Beltondo interrupted, "We know nothing about ships. How will we sail them? How will we survive?"

The gull replied, "Have I not provided for you? You will have all you need. You have special powers. So do my other children. Use them wisely, and beware of the dangers. You will meet a man named Derg. He is a human, but a good one. I will provide for you, Beltondo."

He had so many other questions, but he knew, somehow, she would not answer them. She had said all she needed to. It would be up to him to read between her words. The gull turned and flapped lazily to the sea. He stood and watched her, then turned to his people. As they saw him coming, they stood and waited. "Follow me. Make no contact with the people, just smile. No, don't smile," he smiled, "just walk and follow. She has provided for us."

The Teregnaven made the final walk to the port as inconspicuous as possible. They gathered together closely, rather than allow the line of people to drag out and appear much longer. Beltondo led them to the south side, skirting the city proper. Unfortunately, there was little in the way of terrain to hide them, but they made their way to the docks without problem, just a few sideward glances. There in the harbor floated dozens of ships, some large, some smaller. The group waited a few hundred feet to the side while Lulotto and Beltondo walked onto the first dock. They asked a few men of the whereabouts of one Derg, and the first two shrugged and didn't know. The third directed them to the second dock, pointing to a man seated on a small stool, fishing.

They approached him. Lulotto spoke in Teregnaven, and the man seemed to understand. He was a greasy man with long dark hair, beady wide eyes, old disheveled clothing and the smell and demeanor of a life at sea. He stood and began gestating wildly with his arms in an agitated manner, talking incessantly.

"Where the hell have you'se guys been? You know how long I've been waiting? That fish..." He harrumfed, flushing, looking away and wiping his face... "I mean, that lady...." He stammered, not knowing how to describe his meeting. "Th-th-that ...provider...of yours gave me a strict deadline, now I've been sittin' here for three days...THREE DAYS, I'm tellin' ya...I could've been fishin' in that time, fella...Hey - what kindsa guys are you'se guys, anyway...look like trolls, orcs, I don't know...Anyway, here I am, sittin' danglin' my hook, just enough to feed meself...what kept you'se guys, where'd ya come from that took so long....Awwwwww, never mind, it doesn't matter. Here's yer damn boats." Derg pointed toward seven of the ugliest, most beaten sailing vessels in the harbor. "Not pretty, but beggars can't be choosy, ya know. You'se guys know howta sail? Ya don't look it. Got the looks of trudgers, ya know...guys atta been trudgin' along ...joke...Awwwwww, never mind. Anyway, I hadta pull some strings, make people dance and sing, rub a few fuzzy bellies, if ya know what I mean...No, I guess ya wouldn't...know...what I ...mean...(sigh)...SAY somthin' for god's sake..."

Beltondo smiled, caught himself, then figured it was okay to continue smiling. "Our provider will make sure that..." He felt something in his pocket. Surprised, he stopped talking and reached into his pants, pants that suddenly felt heavy. He pulled a handful of gold coins from it, so many that he had to reach in a second time. "I do believe that this will compensate you for your troubles." He handed the coinage to Derg, whose eyes were wide in shock. It was more than he spent, plus more than he missed fishing, by far.

"Well, lemme tell YOU, mister...that's a mighty fine payday. Ya sure ya can part with that much?" Thinking better of even asking such a question, Derg filled his pockets. "Okay, big guy, the boats...They're not the prettiest, like I said, but they're sea-worthy. Been buyin', collectin' 'em, ya might say, for a month now. He chuckled a bit, then caught himself. "Got some of the strangest things in the holds below - blacksmith anvil and forge, spinnin' wheel, potter's wheel, bowls and spoons, hoes and rakes, seeds - lotsa seeds, I means, LOTSA seeds - food, water, weapons, tarps, lotsa fishin' hooks, stone-cuttin' tools, I SAID STONE CUTTIN' TOOLS, for god's sake - where the hell you'se guys goin'? Awwwwww, never mind, don' know, don' tell, I always say. Looks like enough crap ta start a city 'r sumpthin'...Anyway, ya better get goin' 'cuz, well, there might be some folks lookin' fer a boat'r two, if'n ya knows whats I means, heh, heh, heh...joke...Awwwwww, never mind, I guess ya don't know what I mean...Let me help you'se guys on with yer stuff...damn! More coin'n I've seen in one place... You sure you'se guys ain't from around here? kinda look familiar..."

Devil and the Sea

Salty water lapped the boards of the old ship with an annoying random cadence. It wasn't always noticeable. Sometimes it wasn't there, but other times it was as loud as the thunder from the storm that had just passed. Still other times the sound was barely noticed over the creaking of the old, poorly fitted boards. It was a wonder that the ship was still afloat. He looked down to the lovely Isola, curled in his arms, soundlessly sleeping. The sun on his face, robbing him of untold dreams, precious minutes with her in his arms - it will awaken her, and these minutes will be gone, but remembered...

Isola woke when the sun's light crossed her eyelids. Beltondo could tell. He had been watching her sleep. She looked around, then up to him and smiled. Then she looked around again, noticing her surroundings, and quickly sat up and straightened her clothing, embarrassed. "Don't be frightened, Isola, no one was even noticing us."

"I know, I guess I-I-I don't know, it's just not proper to sleep next to...Oh, never mind, I'm sorry..."

Beltondo smiled as he watched her struggle. She caught his smile and returned one of her own. Suddenly he frowned slightly, and she noticed it. He reached down into the pocket of his pants, a strange look on his brow. He pulled out a stone - simple, rounded, but exceedingly light. He scratched it with his nail, but found it very hard. "Strange...I didn't notice this those coins...I'd better keep it, just the same..." The stone began to faintly glow a dull orange. "Did you see that!? It glowed!"

Isola looked carefully, but saw nothing. "It must have been the light, Beltondo. I saw nothing."

He quickly stashed the stone back in his trousers. "Yes, that was it, the light, it must have glinted off of it. How silly I am." But he knew better.

Beltondo spent some time in the morning chatting with Galomo. The captain needed a rest from the helm, and after a short lesson, he took over the ship's wheel to spell him. The breeze was chilly, but it somehow felt good to direct a vessel of this size. At full sail, most of the ships were doing well to stay together and still maintain speed. Soon after they had left, they developed a system of signals to communicate between the ships with some strange flags that were left on board each one. It seemed everything here was here for a purpose, a reason.

Isola walked up to him and smiled. He showed her how to watch the wheel, how to steady the ship while not putting too much strain on the rudder. She watched, but mostly she looked at him. Several others aboardship were paired off in male-female relationships. Both noticed and had talked about it. Although he was sure that in his previous life he had taken a mate, he was equally sure that the relationship wasn't like this. They both cared for each other, not as a tribal woman to a meat provider, or as a tribal man to someone who satisfied his lust. No, this was different. They sailed throughout the morning. Sun to your right, sun to your right...

Merolta S'angrecia and Stalwoto Lamodoro now fished off the side of the boat. They seemed to have a knack for it. Merolta was very helpful with the harvesting of the yak, and Beltondo knew he had known him from a previous life, but his memories of that life seem to have faded somewhat. They liked each other and knew they had something in common, but they weren't sure what, and the subject was never breached. Stalwoto had a natural knack for fishing, it seemed. The food in the holds below was sufficient, but they had no way of knowing how long they would be at sea, so since the meat would keep, it was better that they eat fish while they could.

As the sun had reached its height and began to move down and to the west, Beltondo was greeted with a tap on the shoulder. The captain was back, shaking the sleep from his head and wiping it from his eyes. With a sizeable fish in his hand, he swallowed a bite and pointed to the fishermen. "I've gotten my rest, Beltondo. Thank you for spelling me. I can take over now. Why don't you and Isola go get some fish? It seems that they are plentiful right now. They quit using the hooks and are now hauling up nets of the little delicacies. I never thought we'd have so many. They all seem to be coming our way, too. You and Isola...just enjoy the day." He winked at Beltondo, who was not sure what he meant, and Isola flushed and looked away.

As they made their way to the fishermen, Isola asked, "Is it that obvious that we enjoy each other's company? Is that wrong?"

"No, I certainly don't think so. I wouldn't rather be anywhere else. Besides, I'm sure he means well." He smiled at Isola, and she at him. As they reached the fishermen, they both threw their shoulders and biceps into the haul. The fish were literally leaping out of the net as they poured them onto the deck. Others came and grabbed handfuls of them, and as most of the passengers were becoming satiated, the rest were thrown back. It was strange how they could be in the midst of such plenty.

He heard Galomo's call and turned to see him pointing ahead. He spun to see a beautiful sight. Dolphins were leaping almost completely out of the water, turning in mid-air and splashing back into the sea. There were a few heavy waves near them, but he wasn't sure why they would be leaping so high. One after another, they seemed to play. Others saw it and were watching, enjoying the games of these huge fish. Something in their motions, however, seemed out of place. They didn't seem to be enjoying it, if they do indeed enjoy the games they play. They had all seen dolphins swimming and leaping before, but not quite this high, not as determined as they appeared to be now. Urgency, it seemed to be...

Beltondo trotted to the captain's loftier perch. "What do you make of that? They seem to be swimming away from someone, something..."

"I don't know, Beltondo. They're still too far out to tell."

Beltondo ran aforedeck and climbed the ladder to the main mast. Isola ran after him. "Be careful...where are you going?"

"To get a better view. Don't worry, I'll climb carefully. Just wait; I'll be back."

He climbed the rope ladder nearly to the top, just below the crow's nest, and stopped to look. What he saw nearly made him loosen his grip on the ropes. He scampered down to the deck and ran back to the captain.

Nearly out of breath, he relayed what he saw. "Hole in...the water...sea is twisting...around in a circle. The water is ...disappearing into a hole!"

Galomo's face turned pale. He had never imagined such a thing could happen, and was frozen in place. "What do you mean - the water has to go somewhere, it can't just go away - let me look!"

He started for the mast, but Beltondo grabbed his arm. "Don't waste time, turn the boat. There's not enough time to look. It looks as if we'll be swallowed up if we don't get far enough away! Those fish are running from it, that's why there are so many! The dolphins are trying to escape it! We have to get away!"

Galomo was stunned. "Yes, yes...get away..." His eyes were vacant, as if he didn't know what to do nor how to do it.

Isola jumped down off the deck and grabbed the signaling flags. She raced for the stern and began signaling the others. She found the signals, hence the words of caution, to be streaming out of her consciousness without effort. The second ship veered to the south almost immediately, trimming her sails and tacking steeply. The rest of the ships followed suit, straining against the wind and listing hard to starboard. Galomo's ship, Old Reckless, wasn't as prepared as the others or hadn't enough distance to the maelstrom, however, and all of Galomo's work was in vain.

The Captain fought the wheel, ordering the sails to half mast. The dolphins could be seen leaping higher now, but their efforts were useless. A black lump reared out of the water as well, trying desperately to work its way out of the pull, but the whale apparently fell victim too, as it was seen no more. The din of the waves now turned to a roar, and bolts of lightning flew from a dark cloud that was forming over the whirlpool.

Galomo, with Beltondo's help, forced the wheel sharply to the right, trying to use the hump of water surrounding the swirl to their advantage. They both thought they could ride the ridge of sea and it would aid in steering the ship.

"Isola - go below, where you'll be safer!" yelled Beltondo above the roar. "No, I won't leave you." His concern was mirrored in the lines on her face. She grabbed the wheel and tried to help steer. As she looked over her shoulder at the other ships, she could see them skirting the danger area and saw the fright etched in the face of each passenger as they watched the plight of the Old Reckless. She looked back at Beltondo, who attempted a smile. It wasn't convincing.

Then, as if things weren't bad enough, a sickening sound emanated from below. Galomo and Beltondo nearly fell as the wheel suddenly gave way and the rudder shaft snapped like a twig in a storm. They were leaning from starboard and swinging over to a steep lean to port, the hapless box of ill-fitted wood now breaching the ridge of water as the ship began its descent into the tornado of water.