Fog on the brine
Madame Lupita selected a tart, crimson cherry, and closed her eyes as she savoured the complex texture and delightful taste. She selected a second one, and teased the Freeborn merchant with it for a moment before allowing him to catch it in his mouth. He chewed it up, spat the stone somewhere off in the direction of the beach.
"There's more wine," said Efra. "I brought an extra bottle to be on the safe side."
He gestured vaguely in the direction of the hamper, but appeared to be comfortable with his head in the lap of his neighbour, the parador-mistress.
"I'm sure it is very content where it is, right now." She said a little archly. "I think one bottle is more than enough for the moment. There's no point ruining an excellent day by getting drunk too early, is there?"
Efra smiled up at her, loosing himself in her golden eyes for a moment or two. The sun was setting. He traced one finger along the delicate scales of her chin.
"No, no point in ruining such an excellent day. Such a relief to get away from the town! I appreciate the soldiers, I really do, but ..."
He frowned and tailed off. His pleasant companion was blatantly paying no attention to him.
"Am I boring you?" he asked, and cursed himself for the petulance he heard in his voice.
"No, no, not at all. It's just ... what is that?"
Madame Lupita pointed down towards the beach. A shimmering haze hung in the air. It seemed to be rising from the sea, like steam, clearly visible in the fading light of the sun. As the pair watched, the mist thickened and solidified, becoming a coiling fog bank that obscured the water of the Bay almost completely.
The naga woman pushed Efra out of her lap and stood up, shading her keen eyes and peering westward.
"It's spreading, it looks like," she said, a little excitedly. "It's almost to the horizon already. What on earth can it be?"
Efra sat up, making an unhappy face at the disruption. As he pulled his sandals on, he glared up at the twilight sky. "Probably some helpful magician is twisting our skies like they've done up in Madruga. To protect us from the Grendel or some such. A diabolical liberty it is, in my opinion!"
"I don't think so," countered Madame Lupita. "it's coming from the sea, I think. Rising from the water itself. We must go and look!"
The distinguished businesswoman took off across the grass down the gentle slope towards the sandy beach with the agility and enthusiasm of someone half her age. Efra grumbled, looked at the remains of the picnic. This was not where he had imagined the evening was going to end up.
He considered clearing away properly, and then shrugged. He simply rolled everything up in the blanket, and shoved it into the basket he had brought with him from the shop, ensuring that he liberated the other bottle of wine before he did so. Dusting off his coat, he called after his companion:
"It could be dangerous you know!"
And she called back, already picking her way across the sand towards the waterline, without looking back, half laughing:"Life is short Efra! Best live it while you can!"
A wonderful, unsettling phenomenon has crept without warning over the surface of the Bay of Catazar. It appears one evening just as the sun dips below the horizon on the last night of the half-moon before the Equinox. A curling, roiling, pearlescent mist rises from the surface of the sea - a bank of nigh impenetrable Autumnal fog. Unlike a natural fog bank, however, the swirling mist rises no more than perhaps six or seven feet from the surface of the water. The fog is mildly phosphorescent, glowing with a faint iridescent radiance that ebbs and flows and is eerily hypnotic. From a distance, it appears almost solid - especially by moonlight - but anyone stepping out onto it drops through into the water below.
The fog appears simultaneously along the coasts of Feroz, Madruga, Sarvos, Necropolis, Redoubt, and Spiral. It seems to stretch out to sea, and looks to cover the entire Bay of Catazar, as if someone has pulled the clouds down from the sky and smeared them across the surface of the Bay. It is greeted with a mix of wonder, excitement, and suspicion. In a few places in Sarvos and the Brass Coast, impromptu parties take place that stretch on into the night - enterprising boat and ship owners taking revellers out to explore the ebb and flow of the cloudstuff under a spectacularly clear night sky.
The next morning, the fog is still there. By daylight, it looks... sullen. Gloomy. It dampens sound oddly, and it makes the lives of the fisherfolk in particular difficult and unpleasant. There are a few accidents. The sun does nothing to thin it; it is as impenetrable and pale at noon as it was at midnight. More people begin to be concerned. The first trading ships from foreign shores arrive in the ports of the Empire and report that the fog begins a little over a dozen miles to the south of the tip of Feroz, and does indeed appear to spread across the entire northern half of the Bay of Catazar.
It is primarily a problem for smaller boats; trading ships pass through the fog without too much difficulty - as long as they know the waters. The fog hides any number of obstacles and hazards, including reefs, shallow waters, and jagged rocks. Several foreign ships, new to Imperial waters, suffer upsets as a consequence.
The captains and crew of several Imperial trading vessels describe the experience of being in the fog, away from sight of land, as if they are sailing through the sky, across a vista of clouds.The mist does not impede them - if anything, the fact it seems to be coinciding with extremely clear night skies that make it much easier to navigate by the stars at night.
The fog shows no signs of going away.
This eerie magical fog persists still. It does not spread inland - occasionally it will lap over onto the coast but it quickly withdraws. It flows where the sea flows - and it seems to extend only over salt water. While it chokes the mouths of the four great rivers, it does not extend along them. Strong winds whip the surface of the fog into concupiscent curds, but do not break it apart or even thin it.
So far, the only information the magicians of the Empire have been able to gather with their detect magic incantations is that this is a magical effect of the Night realm, of 30th magnitude, that conceals information - including information about it's own nature and properties. Most magicians agree that the effect could be examined with a suitably powerful performance of a ritual such as The Eye of the High Places, targeting one of the affected territories.
The fog is still there. It shows no signs of dissipating.