Jayna stands on the balcony of the bleach white tower. She tucks a stray golden lock under her scarf as she searches the deep green ocean waves that stretch out underneath a foreboding sky.
A small, but furious storm nears, and Rustin is out there. Earlier he took the hydro-skiff out to meet this anomaly and discover more of its nature.
Fifteen years as weather-keepers of Magorria has brought many storms over its coasts, but nothing like this. It is approaching too rapidly. Hearing the transmitters crackling in the tower, she rushes over to the crystal console.
“Falkyn, is that you? Respond, Falkyn,” she intones through the mouthpiece.
“Cork…” Static. “Cork…” The reply is choppy and muddled. “Leave!” More static. “Warn the…” More static. “True, Jayna! They’re real!” Then nothing. Nothing at all.
Jayna scans the crystal displays. No sign of the Falkyn. Its com-signal is gone.
What could he mean? Cork? Does he mean Corkan? That’s a hundred leagues away. Why was he shouting?
She flips a series of red switches and signals the Capital Tower.
“Hightower, this is Magorria Weatherhouse. Acknowledge!” Jayna sends out.
After a moment, a response crackles through.
“Magorria Weatherhouse, this is Hightower. We hear you.”
“We have a situation.” Jayna bites her lip, unsure how much alarm to raise.
“I’ve lost contact with Falkyn. Captain report is incomplete. Garbled communications.”
“What about the storm?” the Tower queries.
“No further information. Proceeding at 45 knots. Never seen anything like it. Storms don’t move this quickly. And, Carl?”
Jayna rarely breaks formality.
“I’m listening, Jayna,” the Tower answers.
“Something’s wrong. Rustin kept saying something about Corkan. I couldn’t understand him. He said to warn them. Or someone. He said that ‘they’ were real. Then he cut out completely.”
“How fast is the Falkyn?”
“About sixty knots,” Jayna responds. “It should arrive ahead of the storm.” I hope.
“Keep monitoring the storm. Report back if you hear from Falkyn, or if anything changes.”
“I will. Over and out.” Jayna switches off the mouthpiece and scans the crystals again. The storm has quickened its pace. How is that possible?
The skies darken and the approaching dusk brings portent of the fiercest maelstrom Jayna or anyone in Magorria has ever witnessed.
Suddenly a blip appears on the crystals. The Falkyn, Jayna realizes. She attempts repeatedly to establish transmitter contact, but no one answers. The skiff should be close enough to see, she reasons.
Standing, Jayna peers out over the blackening sea and spots the mottled red hull of the Falkyn, racing full speed – not toward the dock, but straight for the coastline.
Jayna dashes through the door and down the steps toward the beach just as the Falkyn plows into the shore, sending rocks and seabirds flying in every direction. She reaches the skiff just as it finishes grinding to a halt, and scans the bridge where Rustin should be.
She sees only what remains of him. Twisted black shapes are strewn about. She heaves and empties her stomach into the sand.
Then she understands. It’s not a storm coming. It’s a swarm.
The Korkurri have returned.
There is no time to waste. Jayna runs back into the Weatherhouse and calls for the twins.
“We’re here, Mollom!” her son answers.
Her voice is resolute. “Go to the vault! Take your sister and lock yourself in it! Now!”
She shepherds the children into the vault, reminding them how to activate the seals.
“Is it the storm, Mollom? Why aren’t you coming? Where is Daka?”
She cannot answer their flurry of questions. Jayna looks down at their creamy faces, their lavender eyes framed with curled ebony locks.
“Trust me, children. Wait. No matter what you hear, no matter what you think, don’t come up till three days have passed. Be brave.”
With that, she shuts the door and darts back up to the crystal console.
“Hightower! Respond, Hightower!” she shouts into the mouthpiece.
“Rustin is dead! It’s not a storm, Hightower. Repeat. This is not a storm!”
“Come again, Magorria. Transmission not understood.”
“The Korkurri are coming. They’re almost here. You must mobilize the defenses. This is an emergency!”
“Jayna, what’s wrong?”
“The Korkurri! Mobilize the defenses!”
“The Korkurri are a myth, Jayna. What do you mean Rustin is dead? What’s going on?”
“Listen to me!” Jayna pleads, realizing they will not.
“We’re sending someone over,” comes the reply. “Stay right there.”
She switches off the mouthpiece. Ten minutes earlier she thought the Korkurri were a myth, too. It was centuries ago, the last time they swarmed the land.
She opens an observation window and already she notices the buzzing. The stories always mention a buzzing.
She throws open the Emergency Channel. No time for authorization.
“Magorria! Magorria! Activate the defenses! The Korkurri are here! Repeat. The Korkurri are here!”
She goes on like this for several minutes until she see the transmission core power down by itself. The Capital, no doubt.
The buzzing is louder now. In the distance she discerns villagers scrambling through the streets. At least some have hearkened. She can do no more.
Jayna knows that if the stories are true, there is little one can do against the Korkurri. Their numbers are vast. She finds the glass-cannon in a dusty storage cabinet and hurries to the deepest room of the Weatherhouse, the bath-chamber.
At least my children will live, she thinks as she hunkers into the tub and awaits her fate. They won’t sense them, if the stories are true.
She remembers as a child she was always told to hide in a bathtub when a swirler appears. Hide in the bathtub. You’ll be safe. Why do they say things like that?
She hears their metallic claws ripping through the plastered walls of the tower. Stone and wood crumble and crack all around her as the first hideous shape makes its way into the room.
She fires the glass-cannon, again and again.
If only the stories weren’t true.