For nine days we traveled east, weather not withstanding. We had traveled nearly nonstop since my chance encounter with my traveling companion. During our trip we had crossed over diverse terrains ranging from a waterless desert to a place that made the bottom of the ocean look dry. The further we wandered the odder the landscape became more alien and hostile towards visitors. Very little would surprise me about this journey, past the still unusual terms that I had come to be the traveling companion of a cougar.

From either lack of proper rest or a whim of fate, I could swear at times that the cat was speaking to me. I mostly ignored this, I may have been weary of the creature to begin with but after it had brought down a foal, for which the two of us made short work of. Somewhere along our wanderings I had begun to call the cat Kasha. From my brief stay in the valleys of my homeland, that accursed place where they prosecuted me and executed all those like me, I had learned that cats were some of the most fearsome creatures that graced the mountain side and it was their job, according to the villagers, to eliminate anything that god did not see fit to live within humanity.

It was on the dawn of the tenth day when we came across a bewildering sight. As we rested at the base of a lake we had just come across the sun seemed to fade from existence momentarily, only long enough for me to see a great spire of flame erupt from the depths of the lake, licking at the sky and scorching away the clouds above. Though the spectacle only lasted a few moments, my eyes came to rest upon a spot in the lake that appeared to be bone dry, as if the water was never there to begin with. By the time my eyes properly readjusted to the shift in light the spot had disappeared beneath the glassy exterior of the lake.

I tilted my head to face Kasha and saw by the odd expression on her feline features that she had seen the mysterious spectacle as well. I took a quick survey of the surrounding waterfront and decided that such an oddity was worth investigating, at least to satisfy my growing curiosity. After spending most of the day wandering around the periphery of the lake, trying to figure out what had caused the eruption I had found nothing to show that it ever happened, it's existence sealed by a smooth body of water. Though momentarily defeated, I felt the need to stick around this place before I would allow myself to travel elsewhere.

It was some ungodly hour in the morning when the next eruption happened, immersing my body in a wave of heat and sucking away a good portion of the air in the surrounding area. I gasped for breath while fumbling to get myself up to my feet, eyes crusted over from the dust that they had accumulated during the days travels. By the time that I had finally managed to pry my dreary eyes open I could just barley make out the flat spot in the center of the lake. I looked up towards the heavens in hopes of some more useful clues but all that was above me was the forceful glowing of the stars above, something rather unnatural for this time of year. It took me a while before my breath came back to me normally while I continued to gaze across the lake. There was something different about the shoreline this time and I was curious to find out what had changed during the last eruption. I continued to let my gaze wander until they crossed an unfamiliar lump on the shore opposite of mine.

I quickly scrambled over the shore line, the sharp stones and gravel cutting at my padded feet, barley enough for me to notice but just enough to cause sharp pricks of pain if I stepped down wrong. I had promptly thrown any semblance of caution to the wind. In my graceless hurtle towards the shape I had managed to trip over a sleeping kasha, sending me sprawling over a mass of gravel and other stones, cutting up my arms and hands to match my feet and earning me a nasty growl from her. It was only a momentary delay, but it had managed to knock the wind out of me. I was completely exhausted by the time I made it to the object, lungs burning and panting heavily.

Boats and other water going vessels were out of my jurisdiction, things of mystery and awe for me and something that I had never become accustomed with. Living in a sheltered valley had seen to that. The little I did know about such things was enough to tell me that the small, gleaming lump on the shore was one and that it was made of nothing I had ever seen a boat made of before. As I made my way around the vessel I took note of a pungent odor emitting from beneath the gunnels, not one that I immediately recognized but it was eerily familiar. I eased my clawed fingers underneath the railing and was startled when they came in contact with a sticky, warm liquid that coated nearly the entire length of that portion of the boat. I eased my hand up to my face for a better look but it looked black against the matted fur.

I lifted my hand up to my face and brought the substance up to my nose for further examination. My nose not providing any useful clues I decided to test it with my tongue. A slightly sickly sensation shimmied down my spine as the metallic taste slid down the back of my throat, only topped by the amount of salt I could taste in it. It was human blood.

It took me a while to jockey enough of my hands underneath the boat to get a good grip on it. The vessel was unnaturally heavy for its size and other than the trickle of blood streaming off of it; it was freezing to the touch. It took nearly all of my strength to flip the craft over but when it did the entire forest went silent for a moment, the echo of the hull against the shore ominous, as if expecting fate to intervene in some inexplicable way. Beneath the gleaming body of the craft was a rag doll of a man, all of the color nearly drained from his face leaving him looking ghost like, his features reminded me briefly of one of the dolls that the pagan's would use to exact revenge on those that had betrayed them. His eyes were like small lumps of coal set back deep in his face, casting a shadow over something already immersed in darkness. Across his forehead was a jagged gash oozing out blood. The man's vacant expression scared the hell out of me but he was my only source of information about the lake.

I am no healer in any way shape or form but I was one that could take a subtle hint, like the bleeding mess on his face. From the tattered remnants of my trousers, I improvised a makeshift bandage and tied it firmly across his head, soaking it in his blood and slowing the bleeding to a near halt. I sincerely hoped to get some information out of him, presuming that he would survive until nightfall.

I spent the remainder of that day forcing water down the throat of a dieing man waiting for his dusk to come, never getting anything useful out of him other than his glazed stare at the center of the lake. From the first time he reopened his eyes that day to the last breath he drew, he stayed transfixed upon that spot as if something was calling him to it. As far as trying to communicate with him, all I managed to get from him was gibberish, nothing he said made any sense and the way he said it made me think that fever had taken his mind long before I had gotten to him.

He finally had the courtesy to die when the full moon casts its sliver reflection upon the glass face of the water. Curious by nature and easily amused by a challenge, I saw it only fit for me to take out the little boat to investigate that awkward spot in the lake.

Beyond the boats ungodly weight and the smell of dried blood that permeated it, it was a simple chore getting it in to the water and to my surprise, when it touched the waters edge, a small bank of mist erupted just around its base, letting out a pleasant crackling sound as it slid into the water. Truthfully I had more than expected the little vessel to sink immediately when it touched the waters edge, but much to my chagrin it stayed marvelously afloat. Unfortunately, after I had pushed myself off into the water, I had realized that I had forgotten one very important thing. A paddle.

Hands may have not been designed to push through water, but under the circumstances, they made a descent pair of paddles. The water itself was frosty to the touch and it only took a few moments for me to loose feeling up to my elbows. Despite this little drawback, I continued my way across the silken face of the water, leaving gentle ripples in my wake. A short while before I reached the center of the lake I heard a loud splash come from along the shoreline. It took less than a second for my frozen and numbed palm to contact my forehead when I realized that I had also left Kasha on the shore. I snickered for a moment, realizing that that she'd follow me most anywhere and that a little bit of water was not going to stop her from figuring out where I was going.

Within the next five minuets there was a large, soaked mountain lion and a freshly showered me along with the stink of soaked fur. It was amazing that she hadn't capsized the vessel when she pulled herself in, it didn't even rock when she clambered up the side, but I decided that it wasn't worth arguing with at the moment. Before either of us had the chance to react, the entire vessel was immersed within a rainbow of heatless flame. The water below us dissipated into nothingness, leaving us dangling in midair for a moment before I could make out a crimson tarnished pit below us. The trip down was not a pleasant one, aside from my stomach trying to escape through my mouth, the deeper we got the harder it became for me to fill my lungs.

The boat landed with an earsplitting metallic clang, causing my face to become one with the bow and sending me into a lovely state of unconsciousness.

_

LordUltima: Well, I have not been around for a while and I saw it fit to do this update first before I head back to my main project, which might be trading places with this from time to time. If any of you are wondering where I dissipeared to, I frequently work at a camp during the summer, one that is completly devoid of the internet, cellphone reception, and 99% flush toilet free.