Flood

A sharp crack shattered the strained silence, echoing though the mid-morning fog.  Other noises followed, but they were quieter—more apprehensive.  A boot scraped the dirt.  Hands tightened on the hafts of spears, and armor clanked as the soldiers shifted from foot to foot.

Twenty strong they stood, sweaty even in the biting cold, surrounded by silence.  To their rear, the town was deserted.  Open doors revealed cold hearths, and the streets were strewn with belongings dropped during the fleeing.  That had been days ago, and the still air smelled of rotting food.

Twenty strong they stood, the only ones who stayed.  Twenty out of ten thousand, they stood at the end of the valley, facing the end of the world.  For before them stood the Last Wall, a god-built monolith of black marble that rose to the heavens and stretched from mountain to mountain.  And it was breaking.  Through the fog, the soldiers could see a web of glowing red cracks snaking across the wall—fissures large enough for two men to enter standing abreast.  Before their bleary eyes, another crack appeared like crimson lightning.  Its thunder shook the valley.

The face of the wall mas now more red than black, so covered with cracks as it was.  Midmorning was made to look like midday by the angry glow.  Another crack shook the valley, and the soldiers stood like ants before a mountain, alone at the End of All Things.

Help had never come, not that the soldiers could blame anyone.  Who wanted to face Death, certain it was coming, but uncertain of its form?  Everyone had heard the stories of what lay beyond the wall.  In that unknown hellscape the skies rained flame, and monsters roamed.  Some said they were beings of fire, with ever changing forms that could not be harmed.  Others were said to be armored in black chitin, with razor claws and suns for eyes.  Others still were nothing but shadows that stole life in silence.  Whatever lay Beyond, the soldiers meant to fight them.

A final crack sounded, louder and more violent than all the rest.  Sensing the end, the soldiers stepped forward and lowered their spears, glad to finally be moving.  At long last, Death was coming.

The cracks began to pulse, and there was a sound like an underwater explosion.  The wall didn’t fall, but seemed to dissolve into the crimson light, which grew more intense and began to rush towards the soldiers.  In the End, there were no monsters, only a cleansing fire that flooded the valley.  There was no fighting Death.

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We Never Heard Them Coming

Deep inside the twisting wood, there is a house, in a gully.  And beneath the house, spreading into the earth like the ancient roots of the wood above, there are tunnels that end in caves and rockfalls and inky blackness that leads nowhere.  Papa told us to stay away from the blackness and the rockfalls, but let us play in the caves, where we clambered from ledge to ledge for hours at a time.

Each cave was a different world to us.  There was the King’s Cave, where I ruled my siblings from the stone seat high on the wall, and they plotted to overthrow me.  The Sea Cave, its floor covered in shallow water, was the site of many naval battles.  My favorite was the Scorched Cavern with its burned walls and cracked floors.  It was the battlefield on which we fought the creatures from the blackness.

One day, tired of defending our home, little brother suggested we take the fight to the creatures.  I was unsure at first—father had forbidden it—but he and little sister painted such vivid scenes of glory and adventure that I caved.  We pocketed stones, tucked sticks into our underarms, and began our quest.

The blackness was well named, and it swallowed us whole.  I could feel little sister’s sweaty palm in mine as we marched forward, feeling blindly for the walls with our wooden weapons.

We never saw a light at the end of the tunnel, growing stronger and brighter as we neared it.  One minute we were in the darkness, and the next we weren’t.  We were standing beneath long skies the color of little brother’s eyes.  Beneath our feet sifted ash the color of little sister’s hair.  It was better than the caves; this ashen meadow was truly another world.

We never heard them coming.  Dark beasts the color of night that moved without form or focus.  We could not see them truly, we saw only patches of darkness, as if Papa had spilled ink across the dining room table.  They matched the birthmarks that marred his chest and arms.

They didn’t hurt us.  They consumed us, swallowing us into a dark limbo where everything floated and nothing was known.  Our quest had failed, now I knew it could never had succeeded.  How can you fight darkness itself?

I didn’t weep for our failure, though I could hear from somewhere in the darkness that little brother did.  I didn’t feel like crying, I felt like sleeping.

Outside, three specks of ash fell gently to the ground.  Silence blanketed the meadow.

Dreams of Death

A Flash Fiction Challenge from the blog of Chuck Wendig.  The prompt: “A necromancer believes it is her destiny to poison dreaming.”

 

The idea came to Zytheria in a dream, borne on the rotting lips of an undead phantom.  The realm of dreams, a celestial haven from the horrors of nighttime, could no longer exist as a refuge for the tortured.  Zytheria knew that a necromancer of her abilities would be able to poison dreams, and make people’s sleeping hours as terrible as their waking ones.

“Have you had any dreams lately?”  Zytheria asked Janet over coffee.

Janet looked up from her drink, confused.  She and Zytheria had just come from a yoga class, so they both wore workout clothes.  Zytheria’s blonde friend was dressed in short neon yellow shorts and a bright pink sports bra.  Zytheria herself wore long black yoga pants and a black dry-fit shirt.  They weren’t her dark, billowing necromancer robes, but they would have to do.

“Weird that you would ask,” Janet said.  “I had one just last night.”

“About what?” Zytheria kept herself from leaning forward and rubbing her hands together, but couldn’t hide the excitement in her voice.

“Don’t get too excited, you weirdo.”  Janet sipped at her coffee before explaining her visions.  “It was just a weird dream about skeletons.  They were dancing in tuxedos.  What is this for anyways; one of your divination classes again?  Are you still keeping a dream journal?”

Zytheria nodded, not wanting to admit to her dark designs.  Magic users were frowned upon in Seattle—necromancers most of all.  “My teacher told me that our auras interact with those of our friends, so there is knowledge to be divined from their dreams as well.”

“If you can divine anything from dancing skeletons, be my guest.”

Zytheria set aside her still-full beverage.  “Speaking of guests, are Sarah and Josh still staying with you.”

“Yeah, they are,” Janet said.  “Sorry, I guess that means we can’t go to that midnight barbeque tonight.  Sarah is a pretty militant vegan, and I wouldn’t want them to ruin it.”

“That’s fine,” Zytheria said.  “Be a good host.  I’ll find something to entertain myself.”  In reality, she was glad that Janet had cancelled their plans.  She now had the entire night to perfect her dream-poisoning ritual.  The skeletons in Janet’s dream meant that it had partially worked, but the undead should not have been dancing.

Hours later, while Janet was dining on tofu and asparagus with her friends, Zytheria was weaving a web of spells around her room.  She had arranged candles around her in a dodecahedron, and a black crystal hovered above each stick of wax.  Energy from the crystals darkened the flickering flames, and a low thrumming could be heard as she chanted.  Zytheria didn’t stop chanting until the candles were depleted and the crystals dropped into the quickly-hardening wax.  When she was satisfied that dreams had been poisoned, she lowered herself into her silken sheets and cursed the lights out.

That night, she dreamed, finding herself on a barren plain beneath purple storming skies, surrounded by a horde of skeletons.  Rotting flesh still hung from their bleached white bones, and their frames rattled with movement.  At the sight of them, Zytheria began to cackle.  Her ritual had worked.

“Go forth, my undead army,” she cried.  “Invade all dreams and destroy that which is peaceful.  Replace contentment with strife, and bring hell to sleep.”

At Zytheria’s command, the army began to move, but not into other dreams.  The corpses began to shamble towards her, grasping sharpened ribs in their bony hands.

“What are you doing,” Zytheria screamed as they closed in.  “Go the other way!”  But for once in her life, the undead were not at her command.

When the first skeleton reached her, it grabbed her shoulder and stabbed her with its own rib.  When Zytheria tried to pull away, the corpse pulled her closer, further impaling her.  All around her, she felt more bones pierce her body, but she couldn’t see them, for her vision was obscured by the first skeleton.

Its gaping maw yawned before her, jaw barely hanging on.  Death and decay, normally such pleasant aromas, stank on its graveyard breath.  Out of control, Zytheria was falling from power.  Death was no fun when you couldn’t control it.

Screaming, she shot up in bed, sweating ice.

The Rock-Eaters

When Idorsus finally woke, he found himself less free than he had been in dreaming. The Winged Whale had shattered upon impact with the craggy island, and broken timbers from the splintered ship pressed him body painfully against the uneven stone. He could only move his head.

“Kovin!” he yelled, hoping his first mate was in a better position than he was. If that was the case, and the whole crew had survived, the violent storm may have been a gift. The pirates were hunting the Winged Whale, which now decorated the highest crags of this small island. Assuming no pirates came to search for bodies (and Idorsus was more than willing to assume that), Idorsus would be assumed dead.

So, the only thing between him and freedom were these damned timbers. The planks may have been liftable had Idorsus had a good rest and a good drink, but it had been days since he’d had either, and the storm had sapped his strength.

“Genne!” he yelled. Kovin hadn’t answered, but maybe Genne would. She had been in a safer position that Kovin, who had been vulnerable at the wheel. Had she survived?

Still no answer.

“Durgrum! Twin one! Twin two!” No responses. Idorsus wondered if the twins would have responded if he had ever bothered to learn their names, but decided it didn’t matter.  More likely than not, they were dead. On the bright side, he was spared the awkward conversation where he explained that he didn’t know who was who.

But maybe they were still alive. Idorsus had no way of knowing how big the island was. There was a chance, though a small one, that he had been flung to the top of the crag with the ship, and his crew was even now searching for him.

In either situation, Idorsus decided that he needed to free himself. If help was coming, it would come slowly, and he hated waiting. He began to move his limbs as much as he could, hoping to upset the logs enough for him to slip free.

As Idorsus was trying to wiggle his right arm from beneath a heavy plank, he heard a faint sizzling, followed by a staccato sharp clicking. He stopped moving so as to silence the creaking of the wood, and cocked his ear. Without other noise, he could pinpoint the location of the sound. It was coming from behind him and to the right.

He craned his neck, turning as far as he could. At first, all he could see was the rain-slick grey stones and the brightening sky beyond. Then a small movement drew his gaze, and he could make out a creature the size of a melon not ten feet from his head.

The creature was the same grey as the stone, which is how it had escaped Idorsus’s gaze. And it’s skin didn’t only have color in common with the rocks; it was thick and rough, and seemed to be as hard as the rigid ground that it walked and Idorsus was being crushed against.  The creature was sturdy, with four chubby legs that ended in sharp, spade-like feet. It had a beak that scraped at the ground as Idorsus watched.

That’s where the sizzling and clicking came from. As Idorsus lay pinned, the creature spat a stream of acid onto the stone. The rocks began to melt and soften under the effect of the green liquid, and when it reached a desired state, the creature leaned in and bit off the chunk of rock. Its beak clicked together as it chewed.

The small creature fascinated Idorsus, and he was beginning to be very happy that the storm had tossed them from the sea. Not only had they lost the hunting pirates, but he had discovered this strange animal.

Idorsus whistled at it, then began to clack his teeth together in a poor imitation of the creatures chewing sound. The rock-eater glanced up from its meal. When Idorsus continued his clacking, it began to waddle over.

The rock-eater stopped by Idorsus’s shoulder and plopped back onto its hindquarters.

“Hey little guy,” Idorsus said.

In response, the rock-eater spit a stream of acid dangerously close to Idorsus’s head. It landed on the stone and began to eat away at it.

“Now, now. If you want to spit, please do it on the wood.”

The rock-eater ignored him, following his spit with its beak and taking small bites from the rock. It chewed noisily in his ear.

Somehow over the cacophony of chewing, Idorsus heard heavy footsteps. He looked past the little creature and saw another rock-eater emerge from what he had assumed to be a natural cave, but he now realized had been created with the creatures’ acidic spit.

The second rock-eater was massive. It was still sturdy and thick, but where the little one had fat, the adult had corded muscles. It’s spade-like feet were wickedly sharp, and its beak like a cutlass. At the sight of the little rock-eater by Idorsus, the mother let out a bird-like shriek and spit a torrent of acid.

The acid splashed over the broken planks, and the mother thundered across the stone to get between Idorsus and her baby.  As she backed away with her baby between her legs, Idorsus could feel the load on him lessening as the acid age through the wood.

He moved his arm as soon as he was able, throwing free the beam that had been holding it down. Then he threw free the dissolving wood and scrambled to his feet, clenching his teeth as some of the acid dripped onto his shoulder.

“Idorsus!” From nowhere, Durgrum leapt in front of Idorsus. The huge sailor had somehow kept hold of his warhammer during the shipwreck, and he now held it high. “Get behind me,” he said. “I’ll take care of it.”

“No,” I said, putting a hand on the haft of Durgrum’s hammer and pulling it down. “Leave her be.”

The mother hadn’t spit again, and had made move but to retreat with her young.

Durgrum resisted for a moment, early still threatened, but lowered his hammer and retreated with me.

“Where are the others?” I asked as we picked our way down the crag.

“We split up to look for you.”

I sighed in relief. “So you’re all okay.”

Durgrum nodded. “And ready to get the hell out of here.”

 

This is Part 5.

Click here for Part One//Part Two//Part Three//Part Four

Sudden Storm

The Winged Whale made decent time as it skimmed across the crystal waves of the Javan Sea. The ship’s newest captain, Idorsus Cragfin, was almost annoyed by the pace, but kept reminding himself that she was only being towed by five sets of arms–Durgrum and himself on one side, Genne and the twins on the other. All that considered, it was a wonder they were still going.

Of course, Idorsus had kept his crew in mind when deciding what ship to steal. The Winged Whale had been the only ship in the pirate fleet that might even be moved by five rowers.  Idorsus counted their crawling pace as a victory.

Below decks smelled of damp and mildew. Idorsus had never imagined he would associate those smells with freedom, but now they were sweet in his nostrils. This smelly rowing bench was his way to safety. As he rowed, his eyes burned a hole in the hull. He knew that just through the thick wood were three fully crewed pirate ships, all bearing down on his escaping craft.

“Almost there boys!”

Idorsus could hear Kovin yelling down from the deck. The first mate struggled to make himself heard over the creaking of wood and pounding of waves.

“And girl,” Genne called back.

“Not the time, Genne,” one of the twins growled from behind her, his face twisted up as he pulled on his massive oar.

“We’re almost out of the harbor,” Kovin said. “On my call, make a sharp turn to starboard and get your asses to the deck to work the sails.”

The rowers called up their agreement and returned to their task.  Once out of the harbor, they could hitch a ride on the southern-blowing winds. Their smaller ship could then put some distance between herself and the pirate vessels.

“Three!”

Idorsus pulled steadily; ready to heave for the turn.

“Two!”

Idorsus kept his rhythm.

“One!”

Rough hands tightened around rough wood.

“Pull!”

With roars of effort, Idorsus and Durgrum pulled hard on their oars, bringing the ship swinging starboard. The thick oar creaked and complained under the pressure, but held.

“On course!” Kovin yelled. “Come get the sails!”

Idorsus slid his oar from the sea and racked it before heading above. As he stepped onto the deck, he stepped into a different world than the one he had left. When he had descended below decks, the sun had been out and shining heavily. The wind had been only a soft, warm breeze.

Now, clouds darkened the sky, and cold wind lashed the deck.  Idorsus shivered, half from cold and half with excitement. This new wind would send the Whale speeding towards freedom.

“Looks like a storm’s brewing,” Idorsus said. “Get these sails up and we’ll be gone before the raindrops can hit the deck.”

He was wrong about that, as it turned out. Rain started to fall the sails unfurled and were filled by the driving wind.

“I think this is too much,” Kovin said as Idorsus approached the wheel. “The ship won’t be able to handle it.”

“She’ll do just fine,” Idorsus said, bending over to lovingly pat the deck. “She’s flying right now.”

And she was. The Whale was hurtling southward, racing through the sea. The pirates and the harbor were fading quickly into the distance, obscured by sheets of rain that fell more heavily by the second.

The ship was creaking and straining in the gale, but that didn’t mean anything was wrong. The sails were full and the rain was giving the crew a much needed wash.

“We should bring the sails in!” Durgrum yelled from the prow. “The winds are too strong!”

“You too?  Durgrum, the ship is fine.”

“Listen to him, Idorsus,” Kovin pleaded. “We’ve put enough distance between us and the pirates. We need to find shelter.”

Idorsus mulled it over. He was used to Kovin worrying, but Durgrum usually sided with him against the first mate. That the big sailor had also advised caution gave him pause.

“Alright,” Idorsus said, “bring the sails in. We can find shelter past those rocks.”

The rocks he pointed to were spikes that jutted sharply from the churning surf just off the forested coastline.

“Thank you,” Kovin said, and shouted for the sails to be furled.

But before any orders could be carried out, a gargantuan gust of wind swept across the deck. The sails filled and the mast strained. Then, with an ear-splitting crack, the mast splintered in two and was blown violently into the sea.

“Get to cover!” Idorsus yelled, suddenly scared.  The Winged Whale was thrown off course by the separation of the mast, and was headed straight for the rocky monolith.

Durgrum, Genne, and the twins all found something to grab onto as the rocks loomed closer.

Kovin wrestled with the wheel, but could do nothing, and the ship slammed into the spike of rock.

Idorsus was thrown by the impact, hitting the stump of the mast. His head whipped back, and the storm faded to black.

 

This is Part 4.

Part 1//Part 2//Part 3//Part 5

To Unwanted Passengers

Idorsus Cragfin sat at the edge of the cliff, feet dangling, watching the pirate fleet that was docked below. The night before, the pirates had set the old Royal Harbor ablaze, distracting the Javan guard long enough for them to take the Low Berths, then the cliffs, then the entire island.

Now the pirates were busy up in the city executing the Javan Council, so the fleet was left with only a token guard.

The ship Idorsus was going to steal was a fast one. The Winged Whale sat high on the sea at the edge of the fleet, and only four pirates paced her deck. He and his crew would soon deliver them a message. The Whale was to be his, and other passengers were unwanted.

“Good thing all those council members are getting the axe,” Idorsus said, grinning at his luck.

Kovin Drake, his first mate, frowned. “Those are good people dying up there,” he said.

“Which means there are less bad people down here,”Idorsus said. It amazed and troubled him that Kovin was so skilled at finding something to complain about.

“Remind me again why I’m going to be doing the talking.”

“Because, Kovin, if a pirate was having an excellent time looting, then was sent back to guard a ship, he’d look grumpy. And I’ve never seen anybody look quite as grumpy as you.”

“Besides,” said Genne Porter, approaching with her hands wrapped around the hilts of her daggers, “The rest of us are going to swim around and climb over the side, and you can’t swim.”

Kovin scowled. “When were you planning on telling me this, Idorsus?”

“I wasn’t. You get worried if you know the whole plan.” Idorsus scowled at Genne, then decided to forgive her lapse. Maybe something good would come of Kovin knowing. Genne was a smart girl.

Idorsus patted Kovin on the head and started down the switchback stairs carved into the cliff, calling back over his shoulder, “Grab Durgum and get to distractin’.”

With Genne and the twins following, Idorsus stepped into the surf. He had shed his boots, but was a strong enough swimmer that he kept his other equipment. His broadsword, sealed against the water in its scabbard, was only a slight inconvenience.

The water was calm, and Idorsus made his way to the Whale easily. He pressed himself against the hull, joining the barnacles in clutching at the wet wood. As Genne and the twins arrived, Idorsus thought the barnacles must be glad for the company.

“…here to fetch you,” Kovin’s voice drifted from the deck. “Grimson sent us.”  The name was one Genne had heard two pirates saying.

“Grimson can send a hundred men; I’m not leaving until Vardon says to.”

So Grimson wasn’t in charge of these men. Unfortunate, but the mistake distracted the other pirates on board. Idorsus heard three more sets of boots stomp across the deck towards Kovin.

“Now,” Idorsus whispered, and one of the twins tossed a small grappling hook over the side of the ship. One by one, Idorsus, Genne, and the twins hauled their sodden selves up the rope and dropped quietly to the deck.

“I understand that you have your orders,” Kovin was saying, “but so do I.  Grimson isn’t going to be happy if I don’t return with you.”

“I might be able to help you there,” the pirate said. From where he crouched on the quarterdeck, Idorsus could now see the pirates. The one speaking was the largest of the lot, but they were all fairly scrawny and filthy. “Vardon wrote down his orders. I’ll give them to you, and you can show Grimson.”  The pirate started to turn. “I left them up on the quarterdeck.”

Worry was visibly taking over Kovin. If the pirate turned, he would see Genne and the twins sneaking up on him, blades bare. Idorsus drew his broadsword as a precaution, but gave Kovin a moment to say something.

“Don’t walk away from me while we’re speaking,” Kovin said.  He looked furious; Idorsus knew it was because he had been forced into the speaking role, but the pirates thankfully took it to be directed at them.

“What did you just say?”  The pirate turned back to Kovin and drew his cutlass. He and his three friends looked surprised by the sudden change in emotion.

“I said,” Kovin replied, calming as he saw Genne and the twins move into range, “Don’t walk away from me, filth.”

The pirate leaped forward, sword raised high, but collapsed to the deck with Genne’s knife buried to the hilt in his back.  The other three pirates dropped just as quickly, two to thrusts of the twins’ blade and the last one to Genne’s second dagger.

“That was close,” Kovin said, stepping over the corpses.

“Just close enough,” Idorsus said, grinning as he approached. “You sure kept it exciting.” He thumped Kovin’s chest in appreciation and began to give orders. “Durgum and Genne, cut the ties then get to the oars. The twins and I will join you. Kovin, take the wheel.”

The mate nodded solemnly and took his place on the quarterdeck. “Let’s be quick about it,” he said. “We aren’t out of this quite yet.”

“I know.” Idorsus grinned. The fun was just beginning.

 

This is Part 3.

Part 1//Part 2//Part 4//Part 5

All Flags Fall

Read part one of the adventure here.

 

Idorsus Cragfin peered over the crest of the red tiled roof, trying not to let the executions in the square before him dampen his spirit.

“That’s just unnecessary,” Durgum Wurs said, wincing as the harbormaster’s arms were cut from his torso. The massive sailor was quite the sight as he tried to keep his bulk out of view.

Idorsus agreed. It would be much easier to stay positive if the pirates had only been decapitating the Javan officials, not dismembering them.

“Shit.” Idorsus’ first mate, Kovin Drake, was pressed thin against the roof tiles. “Shit, shit, shit.”

“Keep your curses,” Idorsus said. Kovin irritated him sometimes. Would it kill the man to show some optimism?

“Keep my curses?” Kovin whispered back as they watched another group of pirates marching the members of the Isle Council into the square. “How about you keep yourself in the present. I don’t know what world you keep drifting off to, but in this one a fleet of pirates just seized control of the entire isle.”

“I’m on the same roof as you are, Kovin.”  Idorsus knocked on the red tiles as proof. “I’m just not convinced that we’re doomed.”

Screams swelled up from the square as another official was relieved of their limbs.

“You’ve never thought we were doomed.”

“And we never have been.” Another knock on the tiles. “Otherwise we never would have ended up on this beautiful roof on this beautiful island.”

“He has a point,” Durgum said. “The cap’n has always gotten us out alive.”

Kovin glared at him. “Fine,” the mate said, turning back to Idorsus. “Let’s look at the facts: there are thousands of bloodthirsty pirates in control of the Isle. There are six people in your crew. Our ship is a burnt wreck at the bottom of the harbor.  How, since none of those things worry you, are we going to get out of the Isles alive?”

“You forget,” Idorsus said. “We got into a bit of pirating before the council gave us honest work. And we’re better at it than these brutes.  It won’t take much to steal a ship and be on our way.”

“Even if we make it out, what are we going to do about the Javan Council?  They’ve clothed us, fed us and given us work for six years.”

The pirates had moved onto the council members. The master of law lost a leg with a piercing wail.

“We won’t do anything.”  All flags fell, and the green Javan tri-star was no different. The wealth of the Isle had been sure to draw trouble, though a fleet the size of the one that had attacked was surprising.

Kovin’s frown deepened; he was clearly struggling with the plan. Idorsus had known he would. The mate could never see the good in things. He was the type of man to focus on the storm keeping them from the harbor and not the rain it was gifting the mainland.

“Okay,” Kovin said, “we’ll do it your way.”

“I know,” Idorsus said, and nodded towards the square. “Look.”

As a small group of pirates started down an alley past the butcher’s shop, presumably to fetch more victims, Cragfin’s plan leapt into motion.

Genne Porter stepped from the back door of the shop and slid silently into the group, daggers flashing, her movements sharp but subtle. The twins moved in behind her, longswords sheathed, hands ready to quiet any noise made by the dying men.

As the twins dragged the corpses into the shop, Genne threw sawdust over the pooling blood and flashed a thumb up to Idorsus on the roof.

“Time to go,” Idorsus said. Without waiting for a response, he slid down to the eves of the roof and dropped lightly to the cobblestones. “You coming?” he whispered back up.

Kovin and Durgum followed, the big sailor trying and failing to land lightly behind the mate.

“When did you plan that?” Kovin asked.

“As soon as I sent Genne off to scout. I gave her different orders as soon as you were out of earshot.”

“And why the hell would you do that? I’m your first mate, Idorsus; I have to know what is going on.”

“You worry too much. I didn’t want you to fret about it.”

Genne had the small wooden door cracked as the three approached, ushering them quickly in and shutting it behind them with a soft thud.

The interior of the shop was dimly lit by faltering torches, and the ruddy light shone on a floor slick with blood; a mixing of the animals’ and the pirates’. Rows of meat hung behind a filthy counter, and most knives were absent from their pegs.

One of the twins (Idorsus could never tell which) was trying on one of the black leather tunics worn by the pirates. The other was busy stripping the remaining corpses down.

“You were supposed to avoid cutting the leather, Genne,” the clothed twin said as he fingered a puncture in the tunic.

“He moved. I was aiming for his throat. Don’t worry about it; we can explain it away once we reach the ships.”

“This is your plan?” Kovin asked, incredulous. “We’re going to dress up as pirates and try to steal one of their ships?”

Idorsus nodded, exited about how well everything was going. “Most of their force is ransacking the Isle, not guarding the fleet. We’ll be off before they notice a thing.” He gave Kovin what he knew was an infuriating smile. “What could go wrong?”

 

This is Part 2.

Part 1//Part 3//Part 4//Part 5