“I’ll…” Arlynne says, swaying down the alley, the woman very much inebriated from the potent liquor from the bar. “I’ll show em’.” After leaving the tavern, she had initially gotten lost – turning down the wrong dock lane – and has now found herself back to where she had taken the wrong turn.
Since she had missed the information concerning the remembrance get together, she – along with Torrinda, Mejoltman, and the missing Andy, are not currently not present at the gathering. Instead, she stumbles through the docks, squinting at the small torch lights, in order to find the right boat.
“I’ll find ‘er myself.” She snorts. “The look on Torr’s face when I come dragging Andy in.” She laughs, then has to hold her arm out to stop from over balancing and falling over. “What’d’ya say then Cap-e-tan? Hmmm?”
After a few more moments she is able to find the ship. She looks up to the loading ramp and tries to grab the rope supports, but misses. Seeing two of them, she goes to grip the one again, but her arm shoots out to grab nothing but air. Arlynne takes a deep breath and focuses on the double lines. Reaching again, she is finally able to snag the right one. With a squeal of victory, the young woman makes her way up the ramp to board the ship.
The ship is very dark and ominous, since everyone is gone, leaving it awkwardly creepy to Arlynne. Still a little drunk, and a headache forming at the back of her head, she decides to venture off towards the Captain’s cabin to tell Torrinda how she feels about her accusations. Instead, a wave pushing against the boat suddenly makes Arlynne overbalanced. She tries to counter it by stumbling to her right to stop the momentum, but ends up crashing through a few empty crates.
A rope falls from one of the crates and lands on her chest – the poor woman thinking she is being attacked – which makes her flail about wildly, wood chunks and pieces scattering away from her tantric-like defenses. Finally realizing the rope for what it is – a rope – she sighs and shakes her head at how foolish she must have looked just then. As she gets up to a sitting position she can hear something. She stops what she is doing and tries to focus…
“Please… Please… no.”
Arlynne crawls on her hands and knees stopping to ensure she can hear the words. When they are coming from inside the crate, two away from the ones she destroyed by falling and with her tantrum, she knocks upon it.
“Hello?” Arlynne calls into the crate.
“By the gods…” The voice whispers frightenedly. “She’s found me…”
Arlynne slowly pries the top corner of the crate up…
* * * * *
Another toast goes up, and another story is shared, but to Alex, his gaze going from the empty chair that would be Mejo’s, and that of the entryway to this establishment, begins to get worried. A few minutes late, sure. A half an hour, could be fine. But two hours have come and gone with no sight of Mejo. Missing a few toasts and stories, Alex, his arms on the table, rubs his balled fists, feeling that this isn’t how it is supposed to go concerning the ritual’s length. He is not a magical man – not in understanding anyway – but he knows when something is not going the way it should. He suddenly stands up from the table – amidst a tale from Huff – and exits them all, and through the building without a word, knowing he never should have left her alone with him to begin with…
* * * * *
“That is most odd…” The marvelous entity known as Blue Diamond replies as she sits on her throne. For some strange reason she can no longer feel Mejoltman’s life force. No, not her life force itself, but her connection to Mejo’s being. It was there – strong, maybe even stronger then it had ever been – then it felt as if the connection was broken off, like a branch snapped from the limb of a tree.
Horadrim, her most magnificent blue dragon, opens its eyes, the bulk of the massive wyrm curled around Blue as she sits upon her throne.
“She’s certainly not dead, but yet…” She closes her eyes and tries to grab a hold of the connection once more, but there is nothing. Just a void where it once was. “I don’t know what to make of it. Most peculiar…”
* * * * *
Malakai, awake from the ritual, looks down at Mejo, the woman lying on the floor, very much motionless and very much empty. He kneels down beside her with a grin, his hands grabbing her chin with the thumb of one hand. Moving the thumb up and down, he uses Mejo as a puppet, making it look like she is talking.
“Ooh, look at me. I’m Mejo and I’m sooooo powerful.” He grins and lets go of her chin.
Right as Arlynne and Andy stumble into the room.
Malakai looks up to see the two woman, Andy wide eyed and trying to slip behind Arlynne, and Arlynne a smug smirk on her face, brings Andy back in front of her.
“See!” Arlynne says. “Toll you I was inna… Inn… Didn’t do it. An lookie here! I found her too! So shove your thinkin’ it was me in your cannon an… an…”
“Wow.” Malakai says, clapping. “Well done, Arlynne. I have to admit that good ole Captain Torrinda was one hundred percent wrong.” He can see the glazed over look in her eyes and smiles. “You have my full pardon on my accusing you of.. What I accused you of. You are here by free of any wrong doings.”
“Ha! Good!” Arlynne says, scratching her cheek. “Now, since I have saved the day, I think i’ll juss go ta bed now.” The woman pats Andy – who does not like the idea of being left alone with this man – and leaves to go sleep off this haze she is in. Too proud that she proved Torrinda wrong, she is oblivious to Andy’s actions as the woman hides from Torrinda in the corner of the room.
“Andy…” Malakai quietly calls out. “Andy, it is OK. You are safe now.” He can only gather that she had seen something concerning Zoey’s death by the way she is acting right now. He also knows that she has to be the only one left who would have seen anything. “Andy, I want you to listen to me, and very carefully.” He slowly walks over to where she is hiding under a table, the chairs in front of her as a meager barricade. “I understand what it is that frightens you. I know that you are scared and alarmed, but what you do not know is that I can protect you. I can protect you from that demon and Torrinda. He and that demon woman are in league together. Torrinda is the bad one upon this ship. If you think about it for a moment, you will come to see it, like the others will. I am the protector of this crew and I am the real Captain of the ship. You have to trust me in this. You are the only one who knows.
Millions of things running through Andy’s mind makes it hard for her to cut through all the bull he is speaking. She looks over to Mejo’s visible legs from her vantage point. “What happened to Mejoltman?”
Malakai sighs. “Torrinda had done something to her. When I realized what was going on, I fought for control over Torrinda. That is when Arlynne and you came down into the room.”
Andy tries to find holes in the logic, but a few days without food and water has her mind too slow to comprehend what is plausible and what is not. She slowly makes her way out from the table, watching Mejo’s legs as she does. “What are you going to do to stop his, whatever he did to her?”
Still playing the part, Malakai shrugs and motions for Andy to help him get her onto the cot. “All right.” Malakai says when Mejo is on the cot. “Let us think about what we can do to bring her back. I feel Torrinda did a number on her and it will be no easy solution. Come, I still have some dinner left in my cabin, and by the looks of you, Andy, you could use something to eat.”
Andy, feeling very much the hunger in her small body, nods. “Food would be good.” They make their way back up to the main deck and walk over to the Captain’s cabin, Malakai, being the ‘gentleman’ that he is, lets Andy enter first.
Seeing no food at the desk, Andy looks on confused. “Where’s the…”
Malakai cracks her in the back of the head, the malnourished woman unable to get her question out before she falls to the floor like a sack of potatoes. “It’s all just too easy.” He says to himself, bending down to grab Andy’s ankles, dragging her behind his desk. “If only I had somewhere to put you…” He playfully jabs as he binds her hands behind her back, ties her ankles together and covers her mouth with a torn piece of clothing.
“Oh wait, I do!” He cackles as he runs his hands over the floorboards under the chair, finding the spot where they are loose. Soon he has enough of them up and is able to put Andy down into it. Popping them back into place, Malakai smiles at everything coming together wonderfully.
“All that is left now is to return to Mejo’s room. I’d say by now they are realizing both Torr and Mejo will not be attending the soiree and will come running.” He exits the cabin’s quarters and makes his way back down to Mejoltman’s room. Seeing her on the cot he shakes his head. “Gotta make it look authentic.” With no regard to the vacant vessel, Malakai rolls the body of Mejo onto the floor with a thud. He then jumps onto the table and gets comfortable.
“Ahhh. Won’t everyone be surprised.” He says closing his eyes. Time to let Torr take the reigns…” Slowly he falls asleep, letting the connection switch back to Torrinda.
* * * * *
Entering the ship, and making a B-Line towards Mejo’s room, Alex finds the scene almost as it seems. As he turns to leave, however, he spots Mejo’s legs lying on the floor, her limbs very nearly concealed. With a grunt of anger, he rushes over to her seeing she is virtually unharmed, alive, but unresponsive to any of his attempts to wake her.
As the other crew members begin to come to the room, they watch as Alex grabs Torr from the table, violently shaking him, both fists grabbing handfuls of his shirt.
“Whoa!” Torr says in between shakes, coming awake. “Whoa! I’m up! What the hell?”
Frustrated at being right, the situation not to his liking, Alex punches Torrinda in the face, his other hand still holding onto the shirt. “What did you do!?” He snarls, his face inches away from Torr’s.
Through the stars swirling around his vision, Torr – very much caught off guard – looks down to see Mejo lying very still. “I…” He tries to remember, the pulsating in his head slowly fading. “I only remember falling asleep during the ritual. Mejo blew some weird powder in my face and then I was out. Next thing I know is I’m getting slugged in the face.”
“I don’t believe you!” Alex yells, pulling Torr’s upper body off the table. Several gasps occur as the crew doesn’t know what to do.
“Put him down, Alex.” Huff boldly says as she has seen enough. She walks away from the crowd, a few short steps away from Alex.
“For all we know,” Alex says, his vision turned towards Huffette. “You, too, are in league together!”
“Alex.” Huff takes a step closer, the moment thick with tension. “I will not say it again. Put. Him. Down.”
Ignoring Huff’s warning, Alex turns back to Torr. “I swear, to all that is righteous in this world, if find out you had anything to do with this, I will kill you myself.”
“That’s enough.” Huff replies, the woman taking it upon herself to end this before anything happens that they cannot undo. With her superhuman strength and quickness, Huff wades in and grabs a hold of Alex’s wrist. Before the big man even realizes she has a hold on his limb, Huff twists it violently – the sudden shock and pain getting Torr released – and uses it to slug himself in the face, all of this before Torr hits the floor beside Mejo. Huff then releases him, hoping that this will end it here and now.
Feeling slightly embarrassed she was able to pull off the humbling maneuver, Alex storms off for the exit.
Torr, up on his elbows, is far from letting these actions of late go unpunished. “Alex.” He calls, boldly and cold all at once, the big man stopping at the doorway. “For your actions of late, and the fact that you assaulted me just now,” He rises to a standing position, Alex turning to face him. “You leave me no choice but to reprimand you.”
Chuckling as he digests the words, Alex grins. “Ha! I’d much like to see you try.”
Off to the side, Huff begins to make an attempt to ward off another confrontation.
“Uh uh.” Alex says, shaking his head, his comment pointed towards Huff. “If you are man enough. You should do it yourself, Captain. Don’t let your pet do your dirty work.”
Despite her mounting rage at Alex’s words, Torr motions for Huff to back down. “Very well, Alex. But know this, your treasonous acts will no longer go unpunished. Let it be known by everyone here, right here, right now. All communications to this man are here by ceased. If you wish to go against my word, the word of your Captain – a name Alex has forgotten means something around here – then by all means. You, too, can share a spot in the brig. Now…”
Alex raises his fists as Torr begins to walk in. Thinking to end it by knocking his head off his shoulders, Alex swings with the force of a hammer upon the anvil.
But hits only air, Torr no longer standing in front of him.
“Where are you, coward!?” Alex calls, looking about left and right.
Torr, appearing from the extra-dimensional doorway a few steps behind Alex – just like the battle with Bladen’Kurst – and wallops the man in the back of the head with a wooden log.
With his vision blinded by a flash of white light, Alex’s eyes roll into the back of his head, his balance failing, and comes crashing to the floor.
Heaving a great sigh, and dropping the log to the floor, Torr walks over to grab Alex’s ankles, beginning to drag him out of the room.
“What about Mejo?” Ivon, stepping to the side, asks with concern. With all the drama surrounding these two, most had forgotten it was Mejo’s prone form lying on the floor that put these events into motion.
“I really do not know.” Torr says, glancing back at Mejo. “Try waking her? Maybe she is still asleep from the ritual.”
Ivon and Tarnaa both walk over to Mejo and kneel down beside her. Delicately, Ivon tries to wake the woman. Tarnaa, however, has a different approach. Lightly at first, the warrior woman slaps Mejo’s cheeks until she is using more force than she had intended. With both of their attempts defeated, they each pick her up to rest upon the table.
Ivon even goes as far as to open one of Mejo’s eyelids, but there is only the white of her eye, the pupil not present. The other one is the same story.
* * * * *
Sypher stumbles out of the tavern holding his right arm close against his body.
“Another fight? Poor Sypher.”
Sypher throws up, wipes his face with his good arm, and continues to walk away. “Wad’nt no fight. Damned red headed wench.”
Royal appears from the concealment of the shadows. “The barmaid?” She asks, but answers her own question. “No. She has brown hair.”
Nearly falling over with the motion, Sypher shakes his head in reply. “Nope. Some new body. Goin’ ‘round ta tavers an wrestlin’ peepses outta their coin.”
“Wrestling?” Royal asks, looking over at the tavern. “Do you mean with fists or more akin to grappling?”
“Uh uh.” Sypher replies. “With juss her arm.”
It makes sense now. Putting his babbling aside, she nods. “Arm wrestling.” She looks at Sypher’s arm. “She obviously beat you.”
Feeling a little slighted by that remark, Sypher grunts and leans upon the railing of another building.
“No.” He answers. “Everyone. She ain’t got beaten since she got here.”
Royal begins to think about it in a different, more interested, way. “Is she magical? Possess some ring to make her imbued with a giant’s strength?”
“I didn’t saw anything on her hands. Bare knuckles, wearing only a leather…” He grins thinking about it. “Only covering bits she don’t want anyone peekin’ at.” His grin remains as he ponders what is underneath.
Knowing the piggish nature of men, Royal sighs, but then an idea comes to her. “You said she has never lost? And takes every challenger’s gold correct?”
“Yuuup. Thass what I said.” He snickers. “You deef or somethin’?”
“Or something…” Royal remarks dryly, letting Sypher’s barb go. “Now, for this to work, I need you to pay atten…” She grabs him forcefully up to a standing position. “Sypher, I need you to listen to me. I have a way that you can rise above the thoughts and remarks that people send your way when they see you. Are you listening to me?”
“No.” Sypher blurts, erupting in a fit of laughter.
Until Royal slaps him, hard.
“I’m not fooling around. Listen to me. You like money, right?” Sypher nods, rubbing his cheek. “I can get you all of her winnings. But, you have to do as I say. Can you do that?”
“Mmhmm.” Sypher finally complies.
“Excellent. Now, here is what we are going to do…”
* * * * *
Huff closes the cell door after they placed Alex inside. The bars are weathered, corroded, but they will do for what they are intended for.
“I don’t know what has gotten into him.” Huff says sadly, looking at Alex as he sleeps.
“It has been building up to a boil ever since Greg was lost to us. I think he is taking it the hardest of us all.”
Huff slowly shakes her head. “This is madness. First Andy is missing. Well… First Zoey is murdered, then Andy goes missing, Mejo is… Whatever is going on with her, and now Alex and the way that all went down.”
“I know what you mean.” Torr says. “It seems like trouble is destined to follow us no matter where we go. Be it evil or coincidence, there is a dark cloud always above us. Just when we thought we would get some answers from Mejo’s ritual, the cloud comes back again.”
Partially up the stairs to leave, Huff stops and turns, both she and Torrinda the same height as he is a step behind. “What about now?” She kisses him, her arms draped on his shoulders. “How dark is that cloud, really?” She playfully bats her eyelashes and kisses him again, Torr holding onto her waist.
* * * * *
Cheers explode as Royal enters into the tavern, the arm wrestling still going on, and slips into the back so she can watch from afar and not be noticed. Fully comfortable in her chair, she leans back and waits, watching the powerful woman at work. She is reminded of that other warrior woman, Tarnaa, but this woman is more brutish in physique.
Sypher, awaiting the appropriate moment of time, enters – stumbles – into the establishment.
The arm wrestling champion peeks over, then grins, jingling a coin sack to mock the little man. “Well, well, well. If it isn’t the little one. How’s the arm?” Everyone bursts into laughter, the insult bringing Sypher a moment of sobriety. “Come to injure your other arm so you can walk a little straighter and not have to lean to one side or the other?” All the patrons bark and howl with laughter as the woman mocks Sypher by walking around, heavily leaning to one side.
Watching it all, and quite unnerved at anyone, other than herself, bringing Sypher down, Royal clenches her fist at her side, the lump of iron in her hand warming from the force.
Despite it all, Sypher walks up to the small table and drops the sack of coins upon it. “Best put your big girl panties on, cuz Ima gonna beat you.” The crowd surrounding them chuckles, the woman laughing as well, though condescendingly.
“I’ve already beaten you, and easily.” She says, all laughter gone now. “So why would I even consider you again?”
“Because you’d be a coward.” Sypher says, like Royal and he had rehearsed a few moments ago. “A lil’ girl who couldn’t beat the likes of Sypher.”
The crowd begins to gasp with a few ‘ooh’s’ thrown in.
“Fine, little man.” She replies to the bait. “This time I’ll break your arm.”
“Double or nothin’, I beat you here and in front a everyone. What’dya say?”
In response the warrior drops her elbow to the table. “Lets see if you can back those words up, little man.”
Peeking over, and getting a nod from Royal, Sypher and the woman are set up at opposite ends of the small table. A large man positions their hands, one clasping the other, then places his own on top, holding their’s in place in the center. Counting down from three, he releases his hands and the match begins!
The woman’s arm surges quickly and forces Sypher’s hand and arm down.
But not touching the table.
The powerful sorceress, amazed at the raw strength of the woman, squeezes the lump of iron in her hand all the more, her knuckles glowing white, closing her eyes to further concentrate.
All around the bar gasp as they watch Sypher bring his arm back up, inches at first, until it is a quarter of the way, then back to where they first started.
“How?” The warrior grunts, her arm pumping with blood, her veins popping out of her forearm and bicep. She watches as her own arm is beginning to move backwards towards the table. Wide eye and not to be out done, she braces her legs in a warrior’s stance, nothing short of a giant able to move her, and meets the power with a push of her own, making the two wrists wobble back and forth.
Whispers start to rise of “Red’s gonna lose” and “Sypher’s gonna win”, filling the proud woman’s ears.
“No!” She growls, the sound almost primal, animal-like. Her face and chest turning red from the strain and blood flow, Red surges once again, Sypher’s hand slowly returning to the middle and then slowly makes it’s way down to the table.
“That all you go?” Sypher asks, barely breaking a sweat at all.
“We.. Will.. See..” She says through the exertion. “Look.. Who’s.. About to.. Lose..”
Grinning from ear to ear, Sypher’s arm shoots over and slams Red’s arm down on her side of the table in one sudden burst of strength. The tavern is so quiet, each of them shocked and in disbelief, you could hear a pin drop.
As the blood flows back through her body, Red stares at her arm lying on the table, Sypher’s own lying on top of it.
Sweat beading on her forehead, Royal opens her eyes, surprised that the woman at the table had so much strength within her. With her own hand numb, she shakes the feeling back into it, watching as the burly men – the same ones who would shove him away on any other day – are now hoisting him up on their shoulders, cheering loudly and congratulating him on his victory over the unbeatable woman. Her focus then switches to Red, seeing that unmistakable emotion displayed all over her face.
“There is no way.” Red mutters quietly, replaying the match over in her head. “I had him, twice. There is no way.” She rises from the table, eyeing the masses carrying Sypher. “There is no way!” She yells. “You are a sad, pathetic, little man. One who couldn’t even put up a struggle in our first match. Now you come back at me, waving the ‘double or nothing’ wager at me, blackmailing me into fighting you once again. Now I see the ruse for what it really is.”
The men, listening to her, begin to catch on, putting ‘one and two’ together, and are not surprised to find out he had somehow weaseled his way to victory, turn him so he can stare into her eyes, her hard, intimidating, angry eyes.
“You paid someone, a wizard perhaps, to enchant you with a giant’s strength. That is how you won.” The crowd begins to lower Sypher down to the floor. “So, cheater. What do you have to say for yourself?” She ends by resting her hands on the pommels of the two bastard swords at her hip, each gem embedded pommel covered up by her strong hands.
Sypher gulps uncomfortably, looking at Royal – over Red’s thick shoulder – silently pleading for her to intervene.
“I am Red Sonjaa, amazon warrior of Five Points, destroyer of giants, defeater of orcs and goblins alike, and have taken down a dragon while it was in it’s mountain home.”
At the mention of a dragon, Royal sits up straight.
“And you are a sniveling, drunk, rat-faced cheat. If I have done all of that, imagine what I will do to you.” The crowd moves away from Sypher as Red begins to draw out both of her blades.
The barkeep, known for detecting brawls, sighs deeply and prepares for the worst.
“What?” Red asks, stopping her advance on the whimpering man.
“I asked, what color?” Royal asks again from her chair, pulling the cowl of her cloak back to reveal to all the others who she is. Those that do know of her gasp as they commonly know the stories surrounding the sorceress; most people catching a glimpse of her face before their lives are ended. “The dragon you claim to have destroyed. What color was it?”
Putting her blades away, Red turns towards Royal – not knowing who she is. “Do you doubt my claim?” She asks, a mischievous grin coming to form on her face.
“I care not if you have or have not, but to mention a dragon you must have encountered one, or know of the location where it makes its home. Be it in stories or tales told by campfire. So, I ask you one final time, warrior of Five Points, what color of scales does, or did” She nods to Red, giving her the respect she has earned if it is indeed dead. “Your dragon have?”
“Green.” Red says without hesitation. “It had green scales.”
Feeling elated at the news, but hiding her surprise – and luck – Royal nods indifferently, not wanting to tip her hand at the mention of a dragon scale color she has yet to obtain. “Interesting.”
“Interesting?” Red scoffs. “Interesting is the fact that many of my warrior sisters, my kin, had been decimated by the wyrm, villages set ablaze, skin melted from friends and family alike as it spits acid from it’s maw like a cobra of the desert.” She stands tall and proud, bearing the wounds both physically and emotionally. “Interesting is the small detail about how we, a group of seven brave women, invaded it’s mountain home, evaded death, only to find the thing counting it’s gold and treasures to make sure none of it had been stolen while it was out destroying whole civilizations.”
Royal, actually hanging on every word, plays the ‘I am bored’ card, her face telling Red something different entirely.
“You wish to know how I defeated the green dragon?” Red asks proudly.
“Oh, I think we all are going to.” Royal, still down playing it all, replies dryly. “Whether we want to or not.”
Red grits her teeth at Royal’s nonchalant attitude. “Perhaps I should show you instead!”
Slightly caught off guard, Royal looks upon Red with a smirk. “What makes you think you could?” She rises from her chair, unimposing to Red – since the woman knows nothing of who she is – not backing down. “I am no simple minded man too drunk to put up a fight. Now, I understand that you are from a far away land, and thus do not know the lay of this port city, and the underbelly that goes with it. Since you are unaware of who I am, then, by all means, I invite you to try.”
For some reason, maybe the warrior instincts in her, Red looks at the seemingly harmless woman at the table, but has caught the looks and actions of the other patrons in the establishment and feels it is best to be on her guard. “I wouldn’t want to stain my blades with your blood.”
“A wise decision, I assure you.”
Red laughs, a tension breaking chuckle that puts everyone back at ease. “I like you. If these fools are that scared of you, you must be someone to fear, thus earning my respect.” She extends her hand across Royal’s table. “I am Sonjaa. Red Sonjaa.”
Royal looks at the hand, making no motion to shake it. Instead she makes her way out of the tavern.
“Hey!” Red shouts as Royal is leaving. “Don’t you wish to know more about the dragon I had slain?”
Without slowing, or looking back, Royal responds. “No. Unless you carry any of it upon you as a trinket, or souvenier I do not care.”
“I do not.”
“But I do know where I sold it…” Red quickly adds.
Royal turns and looks at her as she is in the doorway. “Red? Didn’t you say that was your name?”
“Sonjaa.” She confirms with a nod. “Red Sonjaa. Warrior of-”
“I’ve heard you from before.” Royal says, her hand up to stop the warrior from repeating her glorious deeds. “Come than, Red. We have a story that needs to be told…”
Buried At Sea by Matt Wright is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://www.atramentous.net.