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part three.


Something grasped Tristan’s shirt collar. It was amazing that his shirt had survived everything the day had put it through, really: pirates, cannonballs, an exploding ship, that murky, phenomenally large scale…

Something jolted inside him, like that last memory had sent a tingle of electricity down his spine. He made a butterfly motion with his arms, which were worn down by general aches and the weight of the water. The movement sped his ascent for half a second, propelling him closer to the dappled light above. The thing holding him by the collar made a renewed effort, and between them they broke the surface of the water, gasping.

It was Celidon, of course. Tristan barely had time to register the Cu Sith’s enormous face, thinned by the wet, green fur plastered to his skull, before before a wave pushed him under and away. Without hesitating, Tristan gulped down a breath of air and dived under the water, his body rippling under the strength of the different tides of water crashing into it. His fingers closed over the giant dog’s fur. They rose again, buffeted by the ocean, but Tristan clung on determinedly.

The surface of the water was as chaotic as the depths beneath. Screams rent the air, the sound piercing over the backdrop roar of the turbulent waves. It was even more disturbing because Tristan couldn’t actually see anyone else. Water and debris filled his vision, the waves soaring several metres up in every direction, seemingly at random. If one of them brought a piece of the ship crashing down onto his head, he wouldn’t stand a chance. The water was violent, uncooperative; it was all they could do to keep their heads above water, let alone dodge splintering beams of wood.

They were thrown under again. Tristan clung to Celidon’s neck, relying on the dog’s incredible strength to propel them back up to the surface. As he leant in to Cel’s shoulder, a burst of agony tap-danced across his chest and almost made him lose his grip. How had he landed when he hit the water? On his front? Back? It would be a miracle if nothing was broken. His head broke the surface of the water a third time, but he inhaled a split second too soon and took water in with air. As he coughed, his chest spasmed. Something was definitely wrong. Even if he had been perfectly fit and healthy, swimming all the way back to shore from this far out to sea would have pushed him to his limits. Cel must have been having the same thought. His eyes were wild, wild; the pupils dilated, spiked with adrenaline.

“Tris…” the Cu-Sith gulped, his eyes fixed on something behind Tristan’s head. The prince kept one arm over his shoulder and flipped around.

If the sudden movement and the buffeting waves hadn’t ripped the breath from his lungs, that sight would have. A great, silvery-blue mountain, too large to form a distinctive shape, was rising out of the water several hundred metres away. It moved so fast that the scales were only visible because of their enormous size. Tristan looked up, craning his neck so far back that he could feel Celidon’s fur against the top of his head. The top of the mountain had a smooth curve and a series of prominent spines, each one as tall as the great hall in the castle and as sharp as a spear. The water rumbled beneath them. Further away, to their left, the monster’s head emerged from the surface of the water. It was silvery-blue like its body, with an enormous frill which made it seem like it had wings instead of ears. Its eye - huge, bulbous and lavender with visible red veins criss-crossing across - was as large as the castle wall, and framed with spikes which resembled eyelashes. A pair of slender white whiskers sprouted from the nostril of its crocodilian snout, trailing in the water as the impossibly large head rose higher and higher. It wouldn’t even need to stretch to full height to touch the clouds.

Therait, the leviathan-dragon. Tris had never actually seen him before, but the stories were legend. Therait had arrived through the cracking dome and been subsequently vaporised by Tristan’s grandfather, Mallos, but not without taking three deities down with him. He hadn’t been seen since then.

The prince’s breath came in ragged, shallow bursts. His chest felt hollow. Therait had put three deities out of action, including his grandfather; what chance did anyone else have? Even if Tristan survived sharing the same ocean with him, he’d have to swim all the way back to the Silver Cove and run half way across the mainland in order to warn his father.

The worst was yet to come.

Therait roared. The thunderous noise was easily the loudest Tristan had ever heard; he thought his eardrums might burst. He thrust the side of his head into Celidon’s shoulder and clapped his spare hand to his other ear. The sheer force of the noise sent debris flying across the surface of the sea, smashing into the tempestuous waves which threatened to drag the boy and his dog under again. In front of Therait, a wall of water began to climb out of the ocean. Celidon yelped and peddled backwards - hoping, perhaps, that he could put some distance between them and it before he and his fairy got sucked up. Another wave smashed over their heads, threatening to loosen Tristan’s grip. He clung on with his free hand grimly, realising that the water was chaotic as ever. Rips and tides were formed by the leviathan-dragon’s slightest movements, often smashing together with enough force to send fountains of water spurting into the air. However, there was no general suction of water towards the beast, despite the fact that the water-wall was now almost as tall as Therait himself. He must have been using magic to generate more seawater.

“Oh no,” Cel whimpered. “He’s facing the land.”

Tris hadn’t seen it, but he trusted the Cu-Sith’s eyes and sense of direction. His stomach did a flip.

“I’ve got an idea.” He had to shout over the roar of the waves. “But you’re not going to like it.”

Cel listened. Tris was right. He didn’t like it.

He also didn’t have much of a choice.

Cel did most of the swimming, with Tristan just using his legs to help propel. Celidon’s size, strength and two extra limbs (as well as a fully functioning ribcage) gave him an advantage, but even he was tossed by the waves as if he were nothing more than a puppy. The effort required forced his breath from his lungs in sharp pants, but every time he opened his mouth it was immediately filled with seawater. With the currents tugging at them, it was all Tristan could do to hold on.

The closer they got, the bigger Therait seemed. It was breathtaking. Every time Tristan thought they were almost there, he’d look across the choppy surface of the water and realise they were still a hundred metres away. Eighty metres. Fifty metres.

A powerful and helpful wave thrust them the final five metres or so and slammed them directly against the monster’s thick hide. Therait didn’t seem to notice. Tristan supposed they must be like fleas to him. He scrabbled at what appeared to be part of the flank, searching for a handhold before the wave came back to pull him away. Each one of the dragon’s scales were about the size of Tristan’s head and protruded significantly enough that he could hook his fingers around them. Celidon’s method was simpler and just as effective: he simply dug his claws in. He shifted sideways so as to be underneath while Tristan climbed up, ignoring the fact that his chest felt like it was about to burst. If they could get to the top, gravity and those enormous spines would be on their side. Fortunately, only a fraction of Therait’s body was out of the water; even that was as high as the castle stables. If they’d had to climb up the full width of his girth, they’d never have made it without being shaken off or dropping from exhaustion.

Tristan pulled himself over the edge just as Therait roared a second time, his body quivering beneath him. It was like being on top of an earthquake. Celidon leapt up behind Tristan and managed to get a grip on the monster’s scales just as he started to move forward again. Tristan only just had time to grab a deep breath before they were plunged back underwater, clinging desperately on to the dragon’s scales.

Riding a giant leviathan-dragon was… horrifying. The plan only worked because Therait moved so fast. His long, lean body dove in and out of the water and formed visible humps, just like the Loch Ness Monster. Each time the section of his body Tris and Cel clung onto went underwater, they would have to hold their breaths for just under a minute. Given Therait’s sheer size, it would have been a lot longer had he not been moving at impossibly swift speeds. Every time the section of the body came back up out of the water, Tristan and Celidon gasped for air. The prince’s head felt light after only the first two dives, his chest was agony and it was all he could do to keep his grip. Airborne it wasn’t so bad, but underwater the ocean rushed past them, trying desperately to dislodge them from their place. His fingers screamed. Each time they dove, it felt like his arms were about to be ripped from their sockets.

Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. As they rose up out of the water for the last time, Tris shouted at Cel to get off, hoping the Cu-Sith could hear him over the tumultuous wind. Therait’s body angled downwards to dive again. Just as it hit the water, Tristan let go and flung himself off at an angle, keen to put some distance between himself and those spines. He sank beneath the waves, smoother now, and used what felt like his last bit of strength to push himself back up to the surface. A second later Celidon appeared at his side, panting, and Tris placed his arm back around him for support. They treaded water for a moment, shivering, feeling the current pull them gently away from Therait’s monstrous scaly body.

Finally, Tristan took a breath and looked around him. What he saw - or rather, didn’t see - made his heart sink to his toes.

They were in the middle of the ocean. Still. No land was visible in any direction, no matter how hard either of them squinted. Tris closed his eyes and pressed his face into Celidon’s neck, his breathing quick and shallow.

“I thought you said he was facing Shaman?” He croaked. “He didn’t turn around!”

“He was! And he didn’t,” Cel looked around helplessly, as though expecting land to just appear out of nowhere.

Tristan’s heart twisted in his chest, sending a new burst of pain through that region. “You don’t think… that wall of water he made…”

Beneath Celidon’s wet fur, Tris could hear his heart quicken. “No, no it can’t - ”

He broke off with a whimper. Tristan glanced at him with a tired, enquiring expression which immediately transformed into panic when he felt it too: something below, nudging against his foot.

To be continued.

Written by Aspelta.

    • part four. -
    • part five. -

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