At once the captain gave the order to abandon ship. Water swirled around their ankles, and yet still the crew were slow to move. They were far from land and no doubt they knew in their hearts that there was little chance of reaching safety in the lifeboat, assuming they could even make use of it in the storm’s high waves.
Sephane watched the chaos unfolding around her with growing horror. These people were going to die. But more awful still was the realisation that they knew it and were spending their last minutes not trying to save their own lives, but simply in doing something - anything - to avoid focussing on the reality of their situation. From beneath her tunic she drew out the soapstone amulet her father had given her, then gathered her courage and ran up onto the deck. Mere seconds later a wave carried her over the side and she was hurled, tumbling, into the waves.
When Sephane awoke she was on the shore. Carzena was visible in the distance, its dock thick with tall masts. Around her on the sand were the crew and even the captain. Some were waking as she was, but even the others, cut and bruised as they were, still lived. She looked down at the amulet. It bore the symbol of Byath, the Avatar of the Ocean. She had grasped it with no expectation of being saved, doing so only because she had no better recourse. And yet, here she was.
The shrine to Byath in Carzena had not been tended since the month of her father’s death. That day it was swept and dusted, new mats were laid and new varnish applied to the polished wood. And from that day on Sephane never took off her father’s amulet.
When recorded history began in Urthauld, some of the first records were of old tales handed down orally for generations. In many of these folk legends every part of the natural world was a living being in its own right. Seen later as deities, in the oldest tales these personifications were the everyday characters in many of the dramas of the mythic epoch. They fought one another, fell in love, stole, created, travelled and slept.
The sages of the Six Castles called them “avatars”, taking the view that they were merely projections of the self and no more than fractional parts of the powers they seemed to represent.
Most of these beings were gone from the world by the time of the age of wars. Byath, the avatar of the oceans, was one of the few exceptions. As the power of the mortal races waxed, so they retreated into ever deeper waters, but they never left.
Whilst the power of the avatars is considerable, they are beings of very little ambition and are both sympathetic to mortals and surprisingly similar to them in their outlook. They are hostile to most other great powers, particularly those with the potential to harm whatever natural force they embody. In the case of Byath, it is not uncommon for them to make efforts to assist mortals who are endangered during sea voyages and they frequently battle against aquatic beasts whenever they are not native to the oceans.
Although Byath is often worshipped by mortals, this worship means nothing to them and they do not encourage or respond to it.
According to the elders amongst the images, all the avatars are gradually fading from the world. In the case of Byath, there have been no confirmed sightings since the end of the age of wars, but many sailors claim that deep within the ocean Byath still waits. For what, nobody can say.