By the time Banarat had finished his tale, the hour had grown late. Evening, and then night had closed around the little walled-in court yard of High Dock castle. Thanks to the enchanted never-empty wine goblet, Eradus had long since passed into a heavy, snoring sleep. Banarat himself seemed quite drunk, but still unstoppable as ever. Benda, however, out of deep curiosity, had kept his head, and hung carefully on Banarat’s every word, sipping only occasionally from the enchanted goblet.
“Tell me this,” asked Benda, after the two had sat in silence a time under the stars. “Where were the Quatrians when Hard-Hammer struck? Why did they not come to your aid?”
Banarat motioned for Benda to fill again the goblet, and he obliged. “When the Four Ships people left, they sailed away over the deep ocean, and the way was closed behind them. They say that Quatria and the Wide Lands fell out of tune with one another, and no voyager since has traversed the two.”
“But the Muses, they trained you in Quatrian arts. Surely they must still have had contact or commerce with that people?”
“If they did, they did not speak of it with those of our Order. Our mission was singular: to survive the blow of Hard-Hammer. In that, at least, we succeeded — after a fashion.”
Eradus, somehow, had roused himself from slumber — if not drunkenness — and blurring together his words, said, “But… Sea-Rise… happened many long ages ago…”
“Aye,” Banarat nodded, wistfully. “That it did.”
“In the stories of my people,” he had to calculate on his fingers, “it was more than a… dozen generations back, when Kremel was still young.”
“In the reckoning of your people, it must be so,” Banarat replied cryptically.
“In the reckoning of his people?” Benda demanded. “Are they not your people too?”
“The Kremellians?” Banarat chortled. “My people are Seftari.”
“Seftari?” Benda asked.
Eradus waved his hand bluntly, “A far away and ancient land, across the desert of Ner. But, there’s no way… Seftar was — ”
“Pulverized in the shock-wave when Hard-Hammer struck, and obliterated by Sea-Rise. Aye.”
“And by your reckoning, this was…?” Benda quizzed him.
“Long ago,” Banarat said, sipping from the goblet, adding mysteriously, “In my youth.”
“Seftari, then,” Benda said, “must be long-lived.”
“Apart from me, their light was extinguished. I am the last.”
“The last of your race. The last of your Order,” Benda mused.
“Sound familiar?” Banarat said.
“Never mind,” the old wizard laughed, without offering an explanation.
“You said that the Isle of Edeb,” Benda reminded him, switching tracks, “was sent wayfaring across the face of the oceans, when Hard-Hammer struck.”
“It is so,” Banarat replied. “The Tumult was so great, that the stem of the island deep beneath the waters was broken.”
“But is this not the very same island whereupon we now find ourselves?”
“It is,” Banarat said. “But the under-side of it.”
“In the cataclysm which broke the stem, the island was flipped over completely by the waves, just as sure as she was sent wandering.”
“And the Muses?” Benda gasped in horror.
Banarat sighed, “The Court of those Three Beloved Sisters was over-thrown, and cast beneath the sea, and they became the Melusines, which according to their tempers may guide ships and sailors to safety or to ruin.”
“Or to far off lands…” Benda said, absently.
Banarat only eyed him wordlessly.
“Never mind,” Benda said.
“What you see then, as the Cloud Spire…” Banarat resumed.
Benda’s mind closed on it at once, “…is actually the ancient stem of the island, once pointing down into deep water, inverted now to touch the very sky.”
Banarat nodded, pleased. “And our present geographic location is simply where that self-same island ended up, when it crashed into the shores of Kremel, when even the Kings of Devera were young.”
This was too much for Eradus all to grasp in his present state. His eyes fluttered open and shut.
“And the Arch of Passing?” Benda ventured.
“The Arches anchor Edeb to the mainland of Edebia in Kremel, and are the only way to cross the Electric River. For of our two lands, it too can be said, are slightly out of tune. It takes more than a boat to get from one to the other.”
“And what of the Elgorrans?” Eradus broke in.
“Yes,” Benda said, taking up the cause for his drunken accomplice. “You said after the Tumult subsided, and the seas and rivers took their new courses…”
“We began to realize Elgorra was populated,” Banarat completed his sentence.
“How?” Eradus demanded.
“Those of us who survived — on cloud ships or otherwise — were visited by the people of Elgorra in our dreams. They explained to us in pictures how their world had fallen into chaos, and spun out of all control. Much like the Isle of Edeb, it too had been sent wayfaring across the Vast Deep.”
“Only, in its speed as it hurtled, it picked up power and great heat. And the people who lived on the fore-face of Hard-Hammer, despairing, were all burned alive. In the intense pressure, and flame, their essences were hardened into crystals. And the people who lived on the back face, the cooler side, were turned to ash, and to smoke, and the stuff of dreams.
“In our language, we called them Vespers. When Elgorra struck into the deep muds of our seas, the crystal embers containing the sleeping fire of that people were buried deep in the most unreachable places. And the Vespers, though insubstantial in form, ruled that dry part of the new continent not submerged beneath the waters. Invisible by day, their apparitions became visible at night, as they walked their continent to the edges of the sea, looking for the crystal embers.”