A bit like writing actually. Hard (sometimes), but IT'S WHAT I DO! And I love it.
I mean, er...why would I be doing it otherwise?
Enough about that, anyway. Adventuring After Altin got the most diverse votes we've had for a while. *checks back* Uh...yeah. A while. Like, three weeks. ( Excuse me, Bob. Three weeks is totally a long time)
Ahem. But in the end, option three won, so I don't get to say my one won one thing this time.
And something really cool I wanted to tell you all, I had no clue what was going to happen but I still finished the story at ten twenty. In the morning (heh, yeah, morning. Not night. That wouldn't be good). After starting at about...eightish? So yeah. That's pretty exciting.
Well, I thought it was at least.
“What’s happening?” Warin’s sharp voice barked in my ear. “Someone check around for a snake, she’s been hurt somehow.”
You cannot hide away forever.
You were destined to come to me...
The agony ripped through me, blinding everything else.
Let me show you...
Marius crouches in the Darkness, struggling and twisting against the iron shackles that hold him to the cold stone wall. The steady dripping of water is the only other sound.
Then a slow, cold laugh chuckles its way out from the darkness, coming from every direction at the same time. Echoes bounce off the walls, multiplying the sound thousands of time louder than it started.
A man steps forward, hood shadowing his face, shrouded in fabric Darkness.
Water splashed over my face, jerking me from the dream. I lurched up, gasping and panting.
Warin was crouched beside me. “Are you alright?” he asked, eyes worried.
I swallowed, the back of my throat dry and hoarse. “I—I think so.”
“What was it?” another man asked with a frown. “There ain’t no snake, and you ain’t deid.”
“I...” My throat was dry again. “I don’t know.”
Warin looked at me, a concerned frown creasing his brows. “Perhaps you should stay on the ship,” he suggested.
I shook my head, stumbling to a stand. “No. I’m coming,” I insisted.
The gathered pirates glanced uncomfortably at me and then at one another.
“Are you sure that’s a good idea, Louise?” Warin asked, his expression genuinely worried.
“I think I’d be safer with you,” I pointed out stubbornly, doing my best to stop my hands from shaking.
I couldn’t be left behind again.
I couldn’t just sit around waiting.
What was the point of travelling all this way if I was just going to hide?
No matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t run from everything.
Drawing a deep breath, I squared my shoulders.
“I can do it.”
Warin pressed his lips into a thin line. “Very well.” He didn’t sound completely convinced.
A cold tendril trailed down my spine and I glanced over my shoulder.
The island blurred on the horizon, the dark line of trees shifting in the mist.
What was happening to me?
“Louise?” Warin’s hand touched my shoulder. “I can take you back to the Rift if—”
“I’m fine,” I interrupted, blinking my eyes clear and turning toward him.
His eyes showed his concern.
“It was just a dream...vision sort of thing.”
He nodded slowly. “If it starts again. Tell me.” It sounded more like a request than a command.
I crossed my arms over my stomach, locking them in place to stop their shaking. “I...I’ll try,” I promised.
Warin kept his eyes on me for a moment longer before turning away.
I could tell he wasn’t satisfied.
The forest wavered in speckled light as the sun peeked over the horizon. Golden rays touched the topmost branches, but shadow lay thick down below.
Warin led the way, pushing through undergrowth carefully, stopping short and skirting around a narrow-eyed serpent lying across a fallen log dappled with sunlight.
I focused on the light, trying not to notice the shifting shadows that waved like tendrils of Darkness.
Every movement in my peripheral vision made me jump.
Every whisper of breath kept me on edge.
What was happening to me?
A snake slithered through the bushes to my left, its tail disappearing beneath a fern frond.
Focus, I told myself, stop thinking about it. You’re not afraid of the Dark.
Except I was.
The walk blurred into a maze of trees. Hung with vines and moss, and all exactly the same as the one before. I couldn’t tell one from another.
Luckily Warin knew the way, he led steadily through the forest without hesitation, pausing at midday for a short rest.
It was late afternoon when we reached the pirate camp.
Crouching hidden in the bushes, we watched the tall, brawny men of Rantu’s crew raising tankards of rum or heaving about massive barrels of supplies. Rantu himself was sprawled by a fire, laughing broadly.
“Now what?” I asked Warin.
He glanced sidelong. “Haven’t you come up with a brilliant plan yet?” he asked.
“Now we find out where Gypsy Boy is,” Warin said with a half smile.
“By the bli—”
Captain Wielder clamped a hand over the crewman’s mouth. “We’ve got a lady aboard, bucko, none of that talk,” he said sternly.
The man ducked his head. “Sorry captain. Sorry m’ lady.”
“By all means continue what you were saying though,” Warin invited. “Just skip the first part.”
“We’re just going ter walk right in?” he asked.
“No,” Warin snorted. “I don’t fancy another try on what happened last time we tried that.”
“Last time?” I raised my eyebrows, glancing back toward the pirate camp. “What happened?”
“Not sure you want to know, lass,” a crewman rumbled from behind me.
Warin’s lips twisted into a wry smile. “It didn’t end well,” he admitted.
I looked from Warin to the rest of the crew. “Alright. I agree. We won’t do that then, whatever that was.”
“He’ll either still be on board the ship, or tied to some stake somewhere,” Gripper muttered, running his finger along the blade of his dagger to test that it was sharp.
“If he’s on the ship, it’ll be relatively easy,” Warin said. “Stake, not so much.”
“You had a plan though, right?” I reminded him.
“Yeah. We get here. We see if we’re all alive. We find Gypsy Boy. We get him. We run.” Warin narrowed his eyes at the camp. “That’s the plan.”
“That’s the plan?” I repeated in disbelief. “You call that a plan?”
“It was vague, I’ll admit. But the more vague, the less details that can be ruined. At this stage we’ve got here, all alive. Next step is to find Gypsy Boy.”
“And then get him and run,” I said flatly.
“You’re catching on,” Warin smiled.
“Those are pretty big details to go wrong,” I pointed out.
Warin finally looked my way. “Do you have a better plan?”
I thought for a moment. “Three men climb the highest trees they can find close to here and scan the camp from above. If they can’t see Gypsy Boy, two others swim out to the ship and search that. If he’s on the ship, they grab him and swim back, and we can do the running part. If he’s not there, or the people from the trees do see him...” I blinked rapidly, trying to think of some plan. “If they do see him, then...”
“Then what?” Warin prompted, his eyes alight.
“Then we set their ship on fire,” I said, inspiration coming.
Warin sat back. “We set the ship on fire?”
I nodded. “The sails should catch pretty well, right? And the ropes would burn easily.”
The captain rubbed his neatly trimmed beard, eyes fixed on the ground. “I guess we could give it a shot,” he said eventually.
Gripper broke out into a grin. “She’s a brilliant lass, I tell ye! Makes a fine crew member.”
“She does that,” Warin said, looking consideringly at me for a moment. Then he shifted, turning to his crew. “Right lads. You heard the plan. Three climbers. Up the tallest trees you can find. And don’t be seen.”
With a scuffle of movement, three men crawled backward away from the edge of the trees, disappearing into the ever lengthening shadows.
The sun hung low, most of the beach cove shadowed in semi-darkness. The light from the blazing fires across the sand sending flickering shadows across the fringe of the trees.
“Right.” Warin kept his voice low. “Two men to swim out to the ship. Gripper and Del, you’re strong swimmers. Do you think you can do it?”
The men nodded, the red firelight reflecting over their faces. “Aye captain,” Del grunted. “We can do it.”
“Turn out your pockets, everyone. Any oily rags, hand them over.”
The pirates shuffled around, tossing strips of greasy fabric, handkerchiefs and odd scraps of rope. Gripper gathered them into a bundle, knotting it together with a large rag.
“You can start the fire with those. You got flint and steel?” Warin asked.
“Course,” Gripper grunted, tucking the objects in question into the bundle as well.
“Make sure you keep it out of the water,” Warin reminded the two pirates.
They both nodded, unbuckling their belts and piling them on the ground so they wouldn’t get wet.
Warin thought for a moment. “You can start now. Search the ship before you light it. If you see an explosion of fire from the shore, get off immediately and swim as hard as you can.”
Gripper and Del nodded, crawling away into the darkness.
I gripped my hands together, clenching them tight.
The plan would work.
It had to.
Warin waved his hand at the rest of the crew. “Get back further away. We’ll be seen or heard if everyone stays here for much longer.”
They shuffled back obediently, fading into the shadows.
I brushed my hair off my shoulder, peering at the camp. Where would they be keeping Gypsy Boy?
I stopped myself.
When had I started thinking of Altin by that name?
Blinking the thought away, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt.
An extra loud bellow of laughter brought my attention back to the pirate camp. Something was happening. Warin leant forward, frowning.
The men were gathered in a wide circle just aside from the fire. I caught glimpses of movement between their clustered bodies.
It was fight.
I frowned. “Why would they be fighting?” I hissed, leaning forward to try see clearer through the bushes.
Reaching forward, Warin bushed a twig out of the way. He tensed beside me. “That’s not a fight,” he said, his voice a growling whisper.
Altin’s lanky form tumbled through the ranks of men, sprawling onto the sand. A pirate grabbed his hair and pulled him up, sending him stumbling back into the circle again.
“It’s a beating,” Warin said.
1. “Change of plans. I don’t know about you,” Warin started to stand, “But I’m not sitting here letting that happen.”
2. “They know we’re here.” He narrowed his eyes. “Rantu’s trying to drawn us out.”
3. Fear clenched my throat. “Something isn’t right here,” I said, a cold touch of dread tingling the back of my neck.
This is slowly getting further and further away from my original plan. I honestly have no idea where this whole thing is going. No, I do have some idea. But not as much as I thought I did.
Stories...they're always sneaking away from the plot on me...
Really hope you enjoyed reading this week's part.