“At last, the hour was nigh. Elgorra had become a permanent fixture of the sky, hanging both day and night for some weeks. And she loomed now like a burning jewel on the horizon, daily growing larger and larger. Until that day came where she was ready to break through.”
“I and my cohort sailed with Amarran, a radiant sky lord and captain of the first cloud ship, and captain over all the other captains. In the final accounting, Iluora ordered only ten cohorts to muster in cloud ships, leaving one in reserve in the Court of the Muses, and another below at base-camp for reasons unknown. We trusted their guidance implicitly, though, and obeyed without question.
“With Amarran and his crew, we raced to the reaches of the upper airs. From the deck of the cloud ship, it seemed almost as though we might reach up and touch the face of Elgorra, though she was still a short way off from us. The air was becoming hotter and hotter.
“We immediately began our mission, aided by Amarran and his crew. Their orders, and those of all the other cloud ships, including the two with no weather workers, were to strafe out exhaust plumes in a grid across the upper airs. Us weather workers had orders, using the power of our incantations, to grab hold of those plumes, and enlarge them into standing wave forms. The ten airborne cohorts then, working in concert, would transform the inert grid into an activated resilient mesh-work, acting as our first barrier and buffer against the fiery blow of Elgorra.
“We sang as we sailed, cloud ships criss-crossing the upper airs in a delicate ballet, plumes trailing behind. The months of rehearsals we had undergone, the endless practicing of the traditional weather songs and enchantments all fell into place. Though our flight paths were to my knowledge completely improvisational, we found again and again as we came into proximity with the weather singers of another cloud ship, that our music fit in perfectly with the songs of other cohorts. This too was unplanned, as each cohort was autonomous, as were the cloud ship captains. But somehow we all just knew. We were in total sync, in tune with one another. The depth of our communication and communion surpassed all common understanding. We had become, truly, the Order of the Tempest. And the tempest was upon us.
“We completed this brief concerto of the plumes apparently just in time, as Elgorra’s hot face made the upper airs intolerable. We were forced below decks, but continued chanting all the same. Amarran and the cloud ship captains began their descent to the middle airs, and phase two of the operation began, as Elgorra came to block out the light of the sun.
“As the cloud ships descended, they cut their plumes, and assumed instead their cloaks. It was not known whether Elgorra was an intelligent entity perceiving us too, or an object hurled by blind fate across the universe. But they decided to take no chances either way. We went back above deck, where our voices could mingle with the common air, and the sprites and creatures who lived there. And we called to them with all our songs and powers. The sylphs, meanwhile, those friends of muses and sometimes sky lords came to our aid, picking up our song and translating it to all the beings of the airs in their own language. Explaining to them what was happening, and the urgency of the situation, the need to overcome all fear, and join us in our mission. Survival for one of our species meant survival for all. The message of our song and its amplification took several moments to pass through the radiant network of sky beings, but they hummed in positive response, and the sylphs transformed this into visible scintillations we could see passing through the vast sea of air in accord. Thus activating our second layer of defense, and leaving the sylphs to marshal the beasts of the sky, we dropped to the lower airs, where the real work began.
“Elgorra was on the threshold of bursting through the natural barrier separating the upper airs from the lower heavens, which meant the plume net would be activated and its strength tested at any moment. To better communicate with the winds and the waters, the cloud ships put down their cloaks, and touched down on the surface of the waters. Amarran and the other captains engaged their crews to drop oars in the water, and row in formation. They made a great circle, and we, the Order of the Tempest, began our Great Work.
“The song we all sang that day, we sang in unison from the decks of all the cloud ships, paddling in a great ring on the sea. It was the Call of Our Mother, which Iluora, Lustra, and Ileafa had taught us from their childhood, and which they too sang from high up in their Court, with the cohort in reserve there. The song had been taught to them by their older sisters, who had learned it from their older sisters, who had learned it from Our Mother, before her Temple departed this world.
“The final cohort, held in reserve at base-camp, was then sent out by Iluora into the great green fields of the island of Edeb, and they sang their own song of summoning. Not to the powers of the sea or airs, but to the race of leptoms who lived there too, but who often went unseen. The leptom chief, Archef, heard their song, and sent forth his people from their burrows. There, the two peoples exchanged silent words in the language of their minds. And the muses spoke through the cohort, explaining what was needed. The leptoms understood, and used their powers to open links between the minds of their peoples and the cohorts out now far at sea, and the sylphs, and muses, and beings of the airs. We became a network, all with one mind and a million bodies, fingers, hairs, claws, feathers.
“The Order thus circled and chanted in the waters below, spirits of the airs joining their songs to ours. At this same moment, Elgorra struck the plume net, which flashed red and hot with the weight of its payload, but seemed, uncertainly, to hold.
“As we sang the Call of Our Mother, we sensed the winds and waters rising in response. The Call’s purpose was to bring all the wandering waters of the world together, here, in one place. And it had just that effect. We could sense the seas rising around us, though we lost all reference to the featureless horizon around us, and now the burning hot mesh holding Elgorra only slightly at bay.
“We circled and sung, circled and sung. The wandering waters from across the world were all drained from their resting places, and came to heed the Call of the Mother. At precisely the moment when the plume net protecting the upper airs failed, the unity of mind which the leptoms held together was broken, and we split off again into our various cohorts, engaging autonomously in the next phase of the plan.
“The sylphs and all the air beasts, sprites, and spirits, sprang then into action. Instead of attacking Elgorra as an enemy, they flew up to caress her face with love, and welcome. Their kisses and kind words touched the burning flames, and here and there, the sweetness extinguished the rage of the inexorable visitor. Her speed was diminished slightly from our net, but impact was still certain.
“And on the surface of the seas below, we weather workers took up our song. It was actually an old sailors’ song. Not of the sky lords, but from the Buorth, that mythic realm which had birthed the mariners of old who knew how to traverse the sea bridge to the upper oceans. It was both a weather song and a bawdy drinking song, sung only when storms were raging, and death seemed certain. We sang it then, and it went in part:
“‘Rise up, rise up,
Sea’s up, drink up,
Fill and drain your cup…
Fill and drain your cup…’
“Not very complicated, but an effective charm in bad situations. And from their Court, the muses at that same moment lead the two Edebian cohorts in a musical rendition of the Tale of Tirnunen, focusing on the verses where Wormwood the Changer causes the mischievous memlen to replace Valgorh, the anvil of Tirnunen with a bucket of water.
“As we sang, the seas did rise up. And through our magic, and the magic of the muses flowing through us, they rose up in a neat massive column, within the ring of our cloud ships, which leant their powers to our aid as well. This massive column of water pulled from all corners of the world rose up into the air, and it was to be our bucket, to absorb the blow of the Hard-Hammer, as in the tale of Tirnunen.
“Though Elgorra’s speed was somewhat lessened by our mesh barrier, it at last failed completely, and her massive body breached the middle airs. The creatures who lived there with their welcome had sweetened her somewhat, cooled as they could her rage. Themselves only thinly bodied or immaterial beings, they offered no physical resistance whatsoever, but with their love and sweetness guided her along our chosen path to our great Bucket, the column of water which had grown enormous. And she hurtled towards it, seeming at the last to pick up speed in her descent.
“We sang with all our might on the waves raging below, round the base of the column. We broke not rank, for we knew it would mean collapse and destruction. As the beasts of the air gave way, Elgorra smashed into the Bucket. What rage remained in her boiled instantly the waters of the top third of the column, diffusing a third of the world’s water into hot vapor. Even on the decks below it reached us, and burned our eyes and lungs and throats and skin, but still we sang.
“Her fire seemed to cease, however, when she passed out of the middle airs, into the lower, with the speed and energy of her impact being diffused and absorbed by that second third of the column of water. It was our only remaining protection against this celestial mass, which covered our whole sky. She had turned from red to blue. But the waters she displaced in the fall of her hammer-face splashed out in all directions, and fell on our ships below as massive torrents, walls of water from the sky, and flew out as rain towards other parts of the world.
“And as she passed through to the lowest part of the column of standing water, her force bearing down hard against ours, our strength was broken, and the waters of the column came rushing back down. And the cloud ships and their cohorts were flung away across the face of the world, as the waters rushed back out to their resting places.
“They say that in this massive shock-wave, in which Elgorra smashed the Bucket of water we had created with our weather work, the stem below the Isle of Edeb was broken, and the island too was dislodged and with great force sent wandering across the face of the waves, like the floating islands at the beginning of time. And Elgorra splashed down with full might into the surface of the sea, torrents of water still falling and mixing with hot vapor. And down, down she went, displacing the seas from their beds, until her body lodged into the dark cold muds of deep places, and finally came to rest.
“We did not know it then, but several of the cohorts and cloud ships foundered and were lost in those waves, which re-assigned all the beds and courses of the waters in all the lands of those days. And a hot rain fell. Elgorra did not destroy our world, however, for as she came to rest, so too did the waters find their new places. Many cities close to the coast were lost in those days, such as Decaraguan, from where I had left on my journey. But despite our losses, we succeeded. We survived.
“And soon, we came to realize, that we were not alone. For Elgorra, the lower half of which was below water, and the upper half of which was above, forming a new land, a new continent in fact, was populated. But that is a tale for another time.”