Sevrin is a land of islands, and many of its people make their living from the sea. Two fishermen called Askur and Bejarki live in Whalespout, a small village on the island of Heartstone, not far from the port city of Sevrinspire. The village’s name comes from the geyser that bursts from a rocky hillock overlooking the village. Legend has it that the hill was once a living whale, turned to stone by dwarven magic in a time before humans came to the islands. The geyser is evidence of a spark of life in the stone creature. If its struggles to free itself succeed, or so the story goes, it will roll back into the sea, crushing the village in the process.
Of course, the only time anyone even half believes is when tales are told around late night firesides, or when they’ve indulged a bit too freely. A great deal of mead is required to bring a man to that point, and there are many states of inebriation between sobriety and credulity. Along the way a man is likely to become boisterous and pranksome. So it was with Askur and Bejarki, who after several mugs decided it would be a fine jest to fashion a whale out of the abundant new snow.
They set to work, rolling large balls of snow over to the base of the hillock and shaping it into flukes and fins. The top of the hillock stood bare, snow melted away by the steam, but at night the pale rock gleamed in the moonlight and the whole blended together well enough. After an hour or two of labor, Askur and Bejarki fell back to admire the results, chuckling over the start this apparition would give to those who beheld it.
A soft hiss warned of rising steam. The friends’ grins widened, for they’d had experience enough with steam and spray and winter chill to know how quickly ice crystals formed. Their handiwork would be nicely encrusted and would last for many days.
Just as they were turning to leave, a patch of snow fell from the lower part of the hillock. As Bejarki leaned forward to pat it back into place, a stone eyelid flew opened. A dark eye, big as a barrel’s lid, glinted in the moonlight as its focus shifted toward the slack-jawed fishermen.
The monstrous eye narrowed, and the snowy tail rose from the ground and swept back like a cocked fist. Azkur and Bejarki shrieked as they turned their own tails and half ran, half rolled down the hill to the village.
Behind them, the snow and stone appeared as it always had, though glistening now from mist falled from the geyser. A dark-eyed girl rose from behind a nearby thicket, The Book of Vishni’s Exile tucked under one arm. The young man with her leaned against a tree and folded his arms.
“Nice illusion. But if you keep tormenting these two fools, sooner or later they’ll either go mad or figure out there’s a fairy at work.”
“Not when there’s a simpler explanation.” Vishni stooped to pick up an empty jug. “Come morning, they’ll blame the mead. And when do you suppose they’ll give that up? Sooner, or later?”