Chapter Four: Water, Water Everywhere
They soon left the vallen wood trees of Solace and entered the pine forest surrounding Crystalmir Lake. Sakura heard muffled shouts far behind them through the use of her highly sensitive ears. Apparently Tanis' elf heritage made his hearing far more sensitive then the average human's for he too could hear the shouts. "They've found the bodies," he stated for those who had not been able to pick up the commotion. To all but Sakura, Tasslehoff seemed to materialize out of the darkness right beneath the half-elf's nose.
"The trail runs a little over a mile to the lake," Tas said, "I'll meet you where it comes out." He then disappeared back into the darkness.
"Where's the kender?" Flint grumbled as they continued to plunge through the forest.
"Tas is meeting us at the lake," Tanis replied.
"Lake?" Flint's eyes widened in alarm, confirming Sakura and Ranma's theory of the dwarf being afraid of water. "What lake?"
"There's only one lake around here, Flint," Tanis said. It looked to Sakura as if he was trying to keep himself from smiling. "Come on. We'd better keep going."
Sakura was forced to move closer to Raistlin as the dwarf shoved past her, much to the mage's chagrin. "I thought we were just going to lie low in the woods for while," Flint complained.
"We're going by boat," Tanis said without slowing down.
"Nope!" Flint growled. "I'm not getting in any boat!"
"That accident happened ten years ago!"-Exasperation could be heard in the half-elf's voice-"Look, I'll make Caramon sit still," Tanis promised.
"Absolutely not!" the dwarf said flatly, "No boats, I took a vow."
"So it was a boating accident," Ranma whispered to his sister.
Raistlin heard him as Sakura was practically carrying him. "My dumb giant of a brother," he explained in his raspy voice, "stood up in the boat and ended up turning over the whole thing over. Bah! He was trying to catch fish with his bare hands." The red-robed mages voice dripped with disgust at the mention of his brother.
His disdain for his twin didn't really bother Sakura that much. It was her observation that not all twins, or siblings for that matter, were close as she and Ranma. But even if Raistlin did deny it, she could see and feel the bond inherent in twins between him and Caramon. To deny ones twin was like denying a part of ones-self, simply it hurt. Unlike the rest of the group, Sakura knew that Raistlin loved his brother. She could feel the darkness of his soul that was kept at bay by his bond with the inherently good Caramon.
"Tanis," called Sturm, snapping Sakura out of her thoughts. "Lights."
"Blast!" The half-elf turned to see lights glittering through the trees. He looked at Sakura. "I'm afraid we're going to have to move faster, Sakura. Maybe Caramon-"
She shook her head. "I've got it." Mush to Raistlin's surprise and the others amusement, Sakura picked him up like the groom that was to take his new wife across the threshold of their new home. Even though the mage protested of this treatment, the group did move faster and so he made no real move to escape from her hold. Eventually, they stopped as they reached the dark expanse of Crystalmir Lake.
"Where's Tas?" Tanis asked, his voice low.
"There, I think." Caramon pointed at a dark object floating close to shore. A red moon and a silver one bathed the lake in molten silver and blood red.
"What wonderful targets we're going to make!" Sturm said irritably.
Sakura saw Tanis pick up a rock and throw it into the water. The splash acted like a beacon, as Tas propelled the boat to shore. "You're going to put all of us in one boat!" Flint said in horror. "You're mad, half-elf!"
"It's a big boat," Tanis pointed out.
"No! I won't go. If it were one of the legendary white-winged boats of Tarsis, I still wouldn't go! I'd rather take my chances with the Theocrat!"
Tanis, ignoring the fuming dwarf, motioned to Sturm. "Get every-one loaded up. We'll be along in a moment."
"Don't take to long," Sturm warned, "Listen."
"I can hear," Tanis said grimly. "Go on."
"What are those sounds?" Goldmoon asked the knight.
"Goblin search parties," Sturm answered. "Those whistles keep them in contact when they're separated. They're moving into the woods now."
She nodded and turned to Riverwind. Interest lost, Sakura looked elsewhere until she heard Goldmoon shout sharply. "Riverwind, gue-lando!" Whatever she said caused Riverwind to scowl in anger. He stalked off to the boat without a word.
"Can I do anything to help, lady?" Sturm asked gently.
"No," she replied sadness in her voice. "He rules my heart, but I am his ruler. Once, when we were young, we thought we could forget that. But I have been 'Chieftain's Daughter' too long."
"Why doesn't he trust us?" Sturm asked.
"He has all the prejudices of our people," she answered. Her eyes glanced back. "Tanis cannot hide his elven blood beneath a beard. Then there are the dwarf, the kender."
"And what of you, lady? Why do you trust us? Don't you have the same prejudices?"
"When I was a girl, I was a princess of my people. I was a priestess. They worshipped me as a goddess. I believed in it. I adored it. Then something happened-" She fell silent.
"What was that?" he prompted.
"I fell in love with a shepherd," Goldmoon answered. She glanced at Riverwind, sighed, and walked to the boat.
Caramon, Raistlin, Ranma, and Sakura reached the water's edge. "I'll hold her steady," Caramon told them and the approaching Goldmoon and Riverwind. Without effort the Saotome twins hopped into the boat, Sakura still holding Raistlin. She set him down; he huddled in the aft part of the boat as he shivered from the cold. The Plainsmen moved to sit in the stern, behind Tasslehoff. Caramon turned to Sturm as the knight drew near. "What's happening back there?"
"Flint says he'll burn before he'll get in a boat—at least he'll die warm instead of wet and cold."
"I'll go up and haul him down here."
"You'd only make things worse. You were the one that nearly drowned him, remember? Let Tanis handle it—he's the diplomat." Caramon nodded. Everyone waited in silence; the only sound was Raistlin's uncontrollable cough and shivering. Without a word, Sakura moved to sit by him. She placed her hand on his back and gently rubbed in soothing motions. Mysteriously, his coughing quieted and his shivering stopped.
Ranma caught his sister's gaze. "You shared your ki with him," he accused in Japanese.
"So what? He needed the help," she shot back in the same language, quieting him. Ki is life energy. A true martial artist could use ones ki to help heal, increase speed, stamina, power, and use as energy blasts.
"I'm going up there," Sturm said finally. "Those whistles are getting closer. We don't dare take anymore time." But at that moment he, and the rest, saw Tanis shake hands with the dwarf, and begin to run toward the boat alone. Flint stayed where he was, near the edge of the woods. Sturm shook his head. "I told Tanis the dwarf wouldn't come."
"Stubborn as a dwarf, so the old saying goes," Caramon grunted, shaking his head sadly. "And that one's had one hundred and forty-eight years to grow stubborner. Well, we'll miss him, that's for certain. He's saved my life more than once. Let me go get him. One punch on the jaw and he won't know whether he's in a boat or his own bed."
Tanis heard the last comment as he approached. "No, Caramon," he said. "Flint would never forgive us. Don't worry about him. He's going back to the hills. Get in the boat. There are more lights coming this way. We left a trail through the forest a blind gully dwarf could follow."
"No sense in all of us getting wet," Caramon said, holding the side of the boat. "You and Sturm get in. I'll shove off."
Both got in, the warrior pushed the boat out into the lake. He was up to his knees in water when they heard a call from the shore. "Hold it!" It was Flint, running down from the trees. "Hang on! I'm coming!"
"Stop!" Tanis cried. "Caramon! Wait for Flint!"
"Look!" Sturm half-rose, pointing. Lights had appeared in the trees, smoking torches held by goblin guards.
"Goblins, Flint!" Tanis yelled. "Behind you! Run!" The dwarf never questioning, put his head down and pumped for the shore, one hand on his helm to keep it from flying off. "I'll cover for him." He unslung his bow. Between Tanis cover fire, Flint made it to the lake, plunged in and nearly drowned. Fortunately, Caramon hauled him up. Soon all were on the boat.
Goblins shot arrows at them. "Goblin target practice tonight," Caramon muttered, "We show up beautifully against the water."
"Take cover!" Tanis warned as he noticed Raistlin sitting up. The mage, scowling, slipped his hand into a pouch on his belt. Sakura caught an arrow before it could strike Raistlin in the chest. He didn't react. Tanis started to pull the mage down.
"Don't" Sakura hissed, "he's casting." The half-elf gritted his teeth but obeyed. Sakura may have been trained in a different type of magic than the one in this world, but she had a feeling that some of the basic rules were the same. Disturbing a casting was strictly a no-no, the caster could unwillingly miscast the spell with disastrous consequences.
Raistlin lifter his thin frail hand and allowed the spell component he had taken from his pouch to fall slowly from between his fingers onto the deck of the boat. Sand, Sakura realized. "Ast tasarak sinuralan krynawi," he mummered and then moved his right hand in an arc parallel to the shore. One by one, the goblins on the land dropped their bows and toppled over. Goblins farther a way howled in rage and ran forward. But by that time, Sturm's powerful strokes had carried the boat out of range.
"Good work, little brother!" Caramon said heartily. Raistlin blinked and seemed to return to the world, then the mage sank forward. Sakura caught him, holding him in a way that looked suspiciously like a hug. Tanis looked like he wanted to say something but a glare from her silenced him. Tired, Raistlin didn't protest when she sat down or when she had him lay his head in her lap. He stared up at her face with he gold iris, hourglass pupil eyes, actually looking at her as the moons lit up her concerned face. His eyes widened at something he saw. With confusion, Sakura watched as the mage reached up with his pale hands and traced her facial features. "What are you?" he demanded, his face hardening as he withdrew his hands and sat up.
"I'm human, of course!" she said a little too panicky.
His eyes narrowed at her blatant lie. "You do not age," he stated.
Sakura gulped as she noticed the rest of the group starring at her. "Uh…"
So she was forced to explain how Ranma and she had been on a training trip and come across the dreaded Cursed Springs of Sorrow, she translated it for their benefit. "Ranma fell into the Spring of Drowned Girl-" To demonstrate she splashed her brother with a handful of cold lake water.
"What you do that for?" spluttered Ranma as SHE wrung out Her hair.
Goldmoon spoke the whole group's mind. "Oh, my…"