When Idorsus finally woke, he found himself less free than he had been in dreaming. The Winged Whale had shattered upon impact with the craggy island, and broken timbers from the splintered ship pressed him body painfully against the uneven stone. He could only move his head.
“Kovin!” he yelled, hoping his first mate was in a better position than he was. If that was the case, and the whole crew had survived, the violent storm may have been a gift. The pirates were hunting the Winged Whale, which now decorated the highest crags of this small island. Assuming no pirates came to search for bodies (and Idorsus was more than willing to assume that), Idorsus would be assumed dead.
So, the only thing between him and freedom were these damned timbers. The planks may have been liftable had Idorsus had a good rest and a good drink, but it had been days since he’d had either, and the storm had sapped his strength.
“Genne!” he yelled. Kovin hadn’t answered, but maybe Genne would. She had been in a safer position that Kovin, who had been vulnerable at the wheel. Had she survived?
Still no answer.
“Durgrum! Twin one! Twin two!” No responses. Idorsus wondered if the twins would have responded if he had ever bothered to learn their names, but decided it didn’t matter. More likely than not, they were dead. On the bright side, he was spared the awkward conversation where he explained that he didn’t know who was who.
But maybe they were still alive. Idorsus had no way of knowing how big the island was. There was a chance, though a small one, that he had been flung to the top of the crag with the ship, and his crew was even now searching for him.
In either situation, Idorsus decided that he needed to free himself. If help was coming, it would come slowly, and he hated waiting. He began to move his limbs as much as he could, hoping to upset the logs enough for him to slip free.
As Idorsus was trying to wiggle his right arm from beneath a heavy plank, he heard a faint sizzling, followed by a staccato sharp clicking. He stopped moving so as to silence the creaking of the wood, and cocked his ear. Without other noise, he could pinpoint the location of the sound. It was coming from behind him and to the right.
He craned his neck, turning as far as he could. At first, all he could see was the rain-slick grey stones and the brightening sky beyond. Then a small movement drew his gaze, and he could make out a creature the size of a melon not ten feet from his head.
The creature was the same grey as the stone, which is how it had escaped Idorsus’s gaze. And it’s skin didn’t only have color in common with the rocks; it was thick and rough, and seemed to be as hard as the rigid ground that it walked and Idorsus was being crushed against. The creature was sturdy, with four chubby legs that ended in sharp, spade-like feet. It had a beak that scraped at the ground as Idorsus watched.
That’s where the sizzling and clicking came from. As Idorsus lay pinned, the creature spat a stream of acid onto the stone. The rocks began to melt and soften under the effect of the green liquid, and when it reached a desired state, the creature leaned in and bit off the chunk of rock. Its beak clicked together as it chewed.
The small creature fascinated Idorsus, and he was beginning to be very happy that the storm had tossed them from the sea. Not only had they lost the hunting pirates, but he had discovered this strange animal.
Idorsus whistled at it, then began to clack his teeth together in a poor imitation of the creatures chewing sound. The rock-eater glanced up from its meal. When Idorsus continued his clacking, it began to waddle over.
The rock-eater stopped by Idorsus’s shoulder and plopped back onto its hindquarters.
“Hey little guy,” Idorsus said.
In response, the rock-eater spit a stream of acid dangerously close to Idorsus’s head. It landed on the stone and began to eat away at it.
“Now, now. If you want to spit, please do it on the wood.”
The rock-eater ignored him, following his spit with its beak and taking small bites from the rock. It chewed noisily in his ear.
Somehow over the cacophony of chewing, Idorsus heard heavy footsteps. He looked past the little creature and saw another rock-eater emerge from what he had assumed to be a natural cave, but he now realized had been created with the creatures’ acidic spit.
The second rock-eater was massive. It was still sturdy and thick, but where the little one had fat, the adult had corded muscles. It’s spade-like feet were wickedly sharp, and its beak like a cutlass. At the sight of the little rock-eater by Idorsus, the mother let out a bird-like shriek and spit a torrent of acid.
The acid splashed over the broken planks, and the mother thundered across the stone to get between Idorsus and her baby. As she backed away with her baby between her legs, Idorsus could feel the load on him lessening as the acid age through the wood.
He moved his arm as soon as he was able, throwing free the beam that had been holding it down. Then he threw free the dissolving wood and scrambled to his feet, clenching his teeth as some of the acid dripped onto his shoulder.
“Idorsus!” From nowhere, Durgrum leapt in front of Idorsus. The huge sailor had somehow kept hold of his warhammer during the shipwreck, and he now held it high. “Get behind me,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”
“No,” I said, putting a hand on the haft of Durgrum’s hammer and pulling it down. “Leave her be.”
The mother hadn’t spit again, and had made move but to retreat with her young.
Durgrum resisted for a moment, early still threatened, but lowered his hammer and retreated with me.
“Where are the others?” I asked as we picked our way down the crag.
“We split up to look for you.”
I sighed in relief. “So you’re all okay.”
Durgrum nodded. “And ready to get the hell out of here.”
This is Part 5.