A Christmas preview: the Crystal Mage
The water caressed her ankles. Slowly, it sloshed back and forth, and every time, it took a piece of herself with it. Under the starry night sky she stood alone in froth of the breakers. Soon the waves were enclosing her hips. They moved with increasing impatience but her body continued to sink slowly and calmly into the cold water.
Once the water would cover her body completely, her eyes would open and she would have entered into an inseparable connection with the element. From then on, the sea and all that lived therein would obey her. And she, in turn, would be their representative onshore and protect them.
The sea and the Sea Guardian live in perfect harmony, so tells the legend.
Thick fog hung over the harbor and only from out of one of the nearby taverns, some light spilled out into the darkness. Boisterous singing and roaring laughter broke through the stillness of the night as a lightly dressed woman pushed the door of the ‘Cheering Fisherman’ open and entered the small wooden shed. At once, silence fell and over thirty men stared from the corner of their eyes at the newcomer. With sure steps, the young woman crossed the tavern and lent against the counter.
“The strongest you have, good man,” she asked of the barkeeper. Quiet mumbling interspersed with some snickering filled the room as the big-bellied innkeeper placed a double-walled iron tankard in front of the petite woman.
“‘Grousing Grim Gut’,” the innkeeper announced.
The woman took up the mug, and many a seaman could have sworn that some of the drops rolling down the sides had already eaten into the countertop. She brought the brew to her lips and drained it all at once. Tense silence hung in the air like a sheet. For several seconds, she kept standing as she was, not moving a muscle. Only after the first had returned to their previous discussions, her body twitched and a resounding belch let the tavern shake.
“I’ll have another one of these!” she exclaimed elatedly. “A ‘Grousing Grim Gut’ for everyone!” Her face, before shrouded in shadows, glowed in ecstasy as she joined two men that were talking about their last sea journey. She put her tankard on the table and again some drops ate into the varnish. “So, you’re the toughest seamen here, eh? Come on, then, spill, what’s been your greatest feat?”
Frowning, the first, a bear of a man, took a deep swallow of his drink and stroked his beard. “It was back when we sailing around the Cape of Dimona, searching for those islands that are supposed to exist there in the South. A Cranguilla came and tried to destroy our ship, but as it was a pretty small one, we managed to catch it with our bare hands and throw it back into the sea. It couldn’t even let out the fog of death.” He looked to the other man. “And what tale do you have to tell?”
His comrade who was just as large but who was missing an eye, spoke: “I lost this eye fighting against a giant squid. It had entangled our first mate and I ripped the tentacles with my own hands off of him. During the fight, the beast wrapped itself around my head and ripped out my eye. Mind you, it didn’t get off scot-free, either; I could cut off a piece of a tentacle of his, and let me tell you: it tasted delicious!”
The woman shook with laughter and took another swallow of the Grim Gut. “That’s what I call a yarn! Throwing a Cranguilla barehanded back into the sea and ripping off the sucking tentacles of a squid off equally unarmed. But let me tell you something, I’ve also defeated a squid, just here in the bay. Surely the body will wash up soon.”
This time, it were the sailors that laughed. “If you’re really as strong as you claim, why don’t you prove it? Let’s have it out with arm wrestling.”
Quickly, the woman agreed and put one elbow on the table. “Which one of you wants to lose first? Well?”
One-Eye sat down across from her and let her petite hand disappear in one of his enormous paws. All eyes were now directed at the two opponents and it quickly appeared as if One-Eye would win. But then, after she had nonchalantly taken a third swig, the small figure threw her arm around in a quick movement that shattered the table top as her opponent’s hand bashed against it. Rubbing the numbness from his limbs, her opponent rose and made way for the bearded sailor.
This time, both their strength were evenly matched and none seemed to be able to gain the upper hand. After some time, the bearded man proposed to have it out with a drinking contest instead. Tankard after tankard piled up on the table and the drinkers around them began making bets. Then finally the bearded fell from his chair and asleep in exhaustion.
Crowing, the woman jumped up, collected her betting wins and ordered a new round Grim Gut. Again, she failed to noticed that as before, everyone else got a small tumbler while she alone was presented with a sizeable tankard. She mingled with the crowd of seafarers and began to bawl songs with them.
After she had emptied this tankard as well, the innkeeper asked her incredulously: “What are you?”
“A Sea Guardian, of course!” she answered, falling over as well.
Surely, she was only spinning some yarn, too, the innkeeper thought and, after tidying up, brought her outside. As he was about to put her, snoring loudly, on a coil of thick rope, he couldn’t keep from seeing the giant squid, laying on the beach and cradled by the waves.
Thus tells life.