It was midsummer at the holt of Tagrith Whaletooth but there wasn't the accustomed laughter and merriment, instead there was only a hushed expectancy. The two otters, Tagrith Whaletooth and his son Gelroth faced each other, grave brown eyes of the father staring into the cold, deep blue eyes of his son.
- "I said leave! I don't want t' see yore face again 'til yore ready t' show some respect. Yore a disgrace t' th' 'olt. Now be off wi' ye!"
Gelroth smiled coldly, "Yes, father dearest. As you wish!" he turned abruptly and walked along the shore, twirling his sling nonchalantly. Tagrith watched him until he was out of sight around the cliff then turned toward his wife, Wavebloom who was crying silently.
- "Don't worry, beauty, he'll come back in a few seasons time, mayhaps a bit wiser. A few seasons on his own oughter do 'im good."
- "It's just so 'ard t' let 'im go," sniffed Wavebloom.
- Tagrith brushed a tear from his eye,"I know. Nothin'll be the same widout 'im, the liddle rogue. But he's got t' learn 'is lesson."
Moonlight and shadow fell intermingled to the forest floor, stars winked in the soft night sky and a soft breeze ruffled the tall grass along the dunes at the forest edge.
Gelroth woke remembering his dream. It had been nearly four seasons since he had left Holt Whaletooth. He kept telling himself all was well back home, that it was just a dream. But every time he tried to convince himself, a feeling of uneasiness would come upon him and now he'd been having the dreams for four nights. he shook his head as if to rid himself of the horrible images, homes burning, mothers and babes screaming, his father dead, and over it all the smiling face of a huge, sleek black fox whose wild, jet-black eyes held utmost evil.
Gelroth raised himself to his footpaws as the first rays of the rising sun broke through the trees, sending shafts of soft morning light splashing onto the broad leaves of ferns and other forest vegetation. With the morning light came somewhat to calm his worry, so he pushed it to the back of his mind, smiling at his own foolishness. Lifting his pack onto his shoulders, the broad shouldered young otter set out on his wandering way with a light step, out of the forest and onto the dunes by the great sea.
Looking out over the restless waves and darkening sky he was about to find some sheltered place to set up camp, when he thought he saw a mast. No. It couldn't be, its just the stormclouds playin' tricks on me, he thought as he peered closer. The wind began to howl a ghostly dirge and rain began pouring down in torrents. Gelroth headed for a small cave that could just be seen behind a large dune to wait out the storm. Whatever he saw would have to wait until the storm abated.
- Captain Wardeth of the Doomshadow stood on the prow as he watched the raging sea for any sign of the land the lookout had spotted before the storm had come, blotting out all sight but for about a spearlength ahead of Doomshadow.
His keen ears told him of the weasel, Brullg standing nervously behind him.
- Without turning around, he spoke, "What are ye doin' stannin' there twiddlin' yer paws, speak up!"
- "Er, Cap'n, sir...I b-b'lieve, er, I-I b'lieve th-"
- "Well, cummon! Out with it!" snapped Wardeth irritably.
- "I-I b-b'lieve, Cap'n, sir, th-th-"
- "An' stop that abominable stutterin'!" he roared, whirling around and looking the weasel in the eye.
- Suddenly, Garym, the first mate came running up and stood swiftly to attention, "Cap'n, sir! We've struck a rock an' there's a big hole amidships! We're sinkin'!"
- "Sinkin'? How bad is it?"
- "I dunno, Cap'n, it's 'bout as big as a rowboat."
- "Fin' out what th' damage is an' see if'n it can be repaired."
- "Yes, Cap'n, but I don't think it'll do any good, th' ship's done in."
- "I don't care what yer think! Yer not 'ere t' think, yer 'ere t' obey orders, got that?" he bellowed into the astonished face of the unlucky stoat.
Garym dashed off with alacrity in case his Captain's temper got any worse. Soon he was back with bad news, there was panic in his voice as he made his report, "Er, Cap'n th' 'ole's got bigger. There ain't no way we c'n patch 'er up. Better abandon ship afore we're all at th' bottom, feedin' der fishes!" Seeing that there was no alternative, Wardeth gave the order to abandon ship.
- "Abandon ship! All beasts to th' lifeboats! Abandon ship!" the cry was repeated across the vessel as the crew tried to salvage what little they could and headed to the lifeboats.
There was a massive shudder that rent the ship from stem to stern as it hit a huge rock jutting out of the sea.
- A call from the lookout as he clambered down from the crow's nest was heard above the chaos, "Laaaand hoooooo!"
Wardeth tried to peer through the down pour. The lookout was right. A rocky coastline could just be seen through the sheeting rain.
- "Turn th' boat around, afore we're crushed on th' rocks, land's thataway!" ordered Wardeth, pointing in the direction the land was in.
The boat was turned around just in time so that the broken mast of the Doomshadow narrowly missed it, sending up a wave behind them and shooting them closer to the sandy beach. Only three of the four lifeboats made it to shore, with only half their passengers each. Wardeth stood, spitting out sand, and took stock of their surroundings. The coastline was rough and rocky until past the tideline, where it became sandy heading on into forestland as far as the eye could see. All three boats had been smashed on the rocks and their crews flung clear up onto the sandy beach.The storm had abated but there were still quite a few dark clouds on the horizon and rain was still coming down in a faint drizzle.
The fox Riggla limped over to Wardeth and sat down on the sand beside him. He and Riggla had been corsairs together since they were old enough to clean a ship's galley. Riggla was the only beast not afraid of the quick-tempered captain and who called him by his name instead of Captain.
- He had an unusual accent, putting 'h's in front of almost every word and when he spoke only Wardeth could understand him, "Yarr, tha' h'ald tub h'were h'reddeh t' sank enehway, I'd h'sey.
- Yarr, but tain't nothing a few repairs can't fix an the Doomshadow'll be good as new."
Riggla nodded but looked at his pawclaws. Wardeth's first mate, Garym staggered over to where he sat and flopped himself down.
- I took count an' thar's 'bout a score ann' a half made it t' shore. We lost half der crew."
- Wardeth grunted as he pulled a splinter from his footpaw, "Well, how this happened I'll never know, that storm hit us out o' nowhere"
The stuttery weasel Brullg wandered over, a glased look in his eyes. Wardeth shook his head, "We lost a good crew, but I'd trade that Brullg in if I could 'ave me second mate back in the blonk of an eye, more's the pity that stutterin' idiot's still here an' Sturg ain't, 'e was a real wise un 'e was that Sturg."