Saturday Short: The Pass through the Mountain Mists

photograph of a rocky island by the sea with encircling clouds near the top of a mountain

By the time she spotted the shore, if it could be called that, Miranda had half given up on ever spotting land again. The fog hadn’t lifted for over a week and from what she could tell, the mariners were navigating by faith alone. No sky was visible, yet alone a star and there was no coastline to follow. She pretended she hadn’t seen one of the men, the one in charge of plotting the course, throwing runes below deck. It made her question the wisdom of coming out in the fjords, following what some would consider worse advice than that found in runes.

She leaned out over the deck, the land drawing her forward like a magnet as the fog parted, leaving only a sinuous line of clouds that reminded her all too much of a snake guarding its prey. A strong hand on her shoulder pulled her back and she scowled.

“Don’t get too excited, they’ll take you overboard.” His eyes flicked down to the waterline before they went back to scanning the mountains. “Would hate to lose you so close to the end.”

His laugh, low and like scrapping boulders, was joined by a few of his men on deck.

Miranda didn’t find him, or the dark roiling shapes under the sea’s surface, amusing. “Don’t worry, you’ll get paid.”

“I don’t worry,” he replied as he turned. “Waste of time…as is going into the mists,” he added more quietly so only she could hear him.

Everyone said going into the mists was a waste of time. Especially for a woman. Especially for a woman with no sea experience, no business out in the wilds. But she’d studied more than anyone she knew, watched the signs better than anyone had ever recorded, and she knew there was a pass through the mists, one that had to be reached before the siren songs of war reached the edges of her homeland. It was the only way.

Miranda forced herself to look away from the sea demons below the water, to ignore the snickers from the men behind her on deck, and raised her hand as if she could part the mists still clinging to the rough edges of the mountains yet to be climbed. The sky trembled and, after three weeks at sea, she smiled. She would find the pass yet.