The battle down below is filled with chaos, the bodies of the dead stacking high around them. From the crow’s nest, Jazz can see everything perfectly, whether he wants to or not. He winces as a crew member gets bitten on the arm, the poor man screaming out in pain before he is yanked away and into the hungry throng. He closes his eyes and sighs knowing it won’t be much longer until he is the only one left.
He turns around, finding Zoey climbing up into the crow’s nest, thinking the highest place in the ship is also the safest. Jazz nods to regard her, then looks back in time to see the captain and Alex, along with Mejo, Tarnaa and several others, Arlynne included, making little headway.
“Incredible.” Jazz mutters, never in his life would he believe things like this could exist. First one crewmate turns into a vampire, then a ship full of zombies. If he wasn’t so frightened, he would actually enjoy it.
“I don’t think they will last much longer.” Zoey says, stating the obvious. To accentuate her point, another crew member gets mauled, her body being eaten as she screams, then quickly stops. Zoey shudders watching it all. “We have to do… something. Anything!
They both begin to look around, not really knowing what they can do from up here. “Are you good with a bow?” Jazz asks his nest companion.
“Yes?” Zoey replies, not terribly confident, but willing to be in this situation.
“All right.” Jazz begins, a plan forming on the fly. “I need a few bottles of rum and a torch. Grab something, some type of clothing, that I can rip or tear apart.” He finishes, Zoey already climbing back down to grab the required items. Jazz pulls out his concealed dagger from his boot and stabs it into the inside of the crows nest. With one last look to the battle, every second now might very well cost them their lives.
* * * * *
“Clever…” Blue chimes in, watching the complete undead horde exit the entirety of the ship, scores and scores of them. She knows, as the ship is listing pretty badly, if they can hold off, the wreckage will take them all out. With her chin in her palm, her nails tapping away at the skull, she wonders, again, if she, too, should have some fun.
“Why should Bladen’Kurst have all the fun?” She asks peering over at the wondrous dragon at her side, feeling that it might do it some good to get out, enjoy some fresh air and stretch its wings. “It’s time, Horadrim. Let’s show them what REAL power is.”
Horadrim, yawning as it opens its eyes, breaks the thin sheet of ice that had formed on it’s body, the small shards crumbling to the ground. It looks over to the imagery, watching as one zombie is kicked away, the angling ship making it continue it’s slide, entering into the water. A shark fin swims by, the water suddenly turning red as the bubbles come to the surface. It scoffs at the animal, knowing it could freeze that entire area of the sea. What then from the ‘great’ white?
* * * * *
An arrow zips in, skimming a zombie’s shoulder, but the rum soaked, flaming rag covered shaft, does it’s job and ignites the zombie, the flames spreading along it’s shoulder blades.
“Here!” Zoey shouts, giving a yell, trying to also distract anyone of them she can. She fires off a shot, the shaft missing, but skipping across the decks, fireballs catching the wood as it slides through its momentum.
Jazz fires off another, trying to get them close enough to help the crewmates. If he could possibly make a ring of fire…
“Hey! You!” Zoey taunts. “Yeah, you! Ugly! Up here!”
The new sound, and the few zombies too far to get close to the other stranded group, look over and see the two tasty snacks. Sliding one foot in front of the other, the five of them trudge over towards the prepared boards, strained from the angle of the second ship, but very much still attached. Out of the corner of his eye, Jazz sees the mounting problem.
“Stop!” He tells Zoey. “If they swarm our ship, how will we ever get down? We would end up starving up here!”
Zoey, realizing that her idea may have helped the others some, but endangered the two of them up here, curses herself, but then looks at the bottles of rum in the nest. She grabs one and chucks it out.
“Hey!” Jazz argues, the shattering of glass off in the distance. “We need those!”
She surveys the area again and grabs another bottle, takes aim and hurls that one as well. As it crashes Jazz flinches, cringing as the fuel for their flaming arrows is literally flying away. She reaches for the last one, but Jazz stops her, his hand shooting down, covering the neck with his hand.
“No. We need this one.” He watches as Zoey, seemingly not caring about it, lights another flaming projectile and lets it fly. He peers over the edge, watching as her angle was all wrong.
And then the boarding plank roars with fire.
Jazz looks over to Zoey, a smug smirk on her face. “Nice.” He replies with a small nod of his head, agreeing with the effect of her actions. “That gives me an idea…”
He stands, gauging the distance needed. With a dramatic lick of his finger to check the wind, Zoey rolling her eyes with a chuckle, he tosses the last bottle with an, “Umph!”
They both watch as the glass soars over and through the night, crashing next to the catapult. The same one that was used against them earlier, the weapon surrounded by the glowing coals, pitch, and barrels of gunpowder…
* * * * *
The captain, fighting non stop for nearly an hour, barely gets his sword around to cut off a zombie arm, dismembering it at the elbow. He quickly scans the macabre scene, finding his crew – those still up and and battling – fighting gloriously despite the taxation on their bodies.
And then the arrows start to fly.
Thinking the undead things can suddenly man their own bows, he cheers heartily as he spots the flaming crow’s nest, Jazz – and somebody he cannot make out – are still alive. He grunts, chopping down with his sword to cleave a fiery zombie’s skull, the dead, again, thing falling to the deck where it starts another body on fire. He steps on the severed cranium and continues on until he hears a familiar crash of glass. He looks up just in time to see a second bottle of rum crash down on the boarding plank, several zombies making their way over to it.
He has to make a decision, here and now. Stay and fight, – probably dying in the process – or risk his ship being overrun by these abominations.
He no longer has to ponder as the liquid on the plank is set on fire.
“Ha ha! Good show!” The captain congratulates, suddenly frowning though as that bottle of rum will never get to meet his lips. Turning back to the fight, he watches Alex receive a gash on his forearm, his vulnerable arm exposed while trying to remove an embedded ax from one’s skull, and rushes over to help him before he gets overwhelmed.
Or at least he tried to…
The ensuing explosion rocks the ship, tearing pieces of wood and blowing away any zombies close enough to be caught in the area of the blast, the chemical reaction of the hot coals and rum setting the whole side of the boat on fire. Worse, however, is the ceramic pots of pitch themselves have become tiny, sticky – but sharp – flaming tar balls.
The captain is tossed backwards from the shock wave of the blast, his body slamming down on his backside, little dots of fire burning at his clothing. His head leans to the side, shaking the cobwebs, to find the ship engulfed in flames, several other areas burning as well. He feels a wetness on his cheek and rubs it away, wincing as something is stuck under the skin. He feels around the wound, his fingers covered in blood, and pulls out a fair sized shard of ceramic. He still laughs as he remains seated, watching as everyone else has felt the explosion just as much as he had.
“They always say I be a pretty one.” He begins to rise, propping himself up with the help of the railing. “All the prettier now.”
An extra dimensional door opens before him. A creature steps out, it’s bulky body a swirl of blue, a shimmer of black, and a touch of red. The pirate scratches his head thinking he might have knocked himself silly. When a woman walks through, however, he now knows he is dreaming.
“Always in trouble.” She says as the doorway disappears. “Always something with you isn’t there.”
The captain looks up, the woman wearing a dark blue robe, light blue trim at the feet and arms, her arms folded to indicate she is not amused. He blinks several times, his mind telling him that she is real.
“Blue?” He asks, groggily.
A zombie, up from the blast, half its face torn away, manages to stumble over towards them, it’s twisted foot scraping the deck as it moves closer. The captain looks at the thing and then searches for his weapon, finding it several yards away.
“I see I STILL have to do everything for you…” She unfolds her arms. “Nothing has changed.” The air around her suddenly becomes thick as she holds her arms out, palms facing each other. She claps, the sudden power smashing the zombie as if two stone slabs were slammed together, revealing a mess of gore.
Greg wipes his face, some of the splattered zombie reaching him, and looks up to Blue, a woman – if he can call her that, her real heritage unknown to him – he had once believed her to be like a sister to him. Things had changed, however, and he hadn’t seen her in several years.
“Are you going to get up?” Blue asks, seeing that most of the crew are still down. “Or are you going to continue to rest while they suffer?”
He begins to argue, then laughs. “Glad ta see ye, too, Sis.” He walks the few feet and retrieves his rapier, checking to make sure there are no burrs or defects present on the blade.
“How much do they mean to you, this time?” Blue asks, the question more of a slap in the face. Back when he sacrificed his crew to escape the island they seem to be returning to, he didn’t listen to her warnings about Bladen’Kurst, that act driving a wedge between them that only grew as time went on.
“I could live without a few…” The captain jokes, the chuckle beginning to anger Blue. “Aye.” He stops, a serious expression showing he is now being truthful. “These scurvy ridden, fleabags, I would die for.”
“It may come to that.” She says, rolling her sleeves up passed her elbows. “You continue down this path and it will cost you your life. I have seen it.”
The crew begin their slow rise back up, each one of them covered in blood, much of it their own, continuing to fight off the unrelenting bodies still making their way to them.
“Because of our past I have come.” She looks to the captain, Greg, as she knew him back then, her firm visage telling the captain what he already knew. “And after this, I will not help you again.”
He nods, expecting as much.
Her right arm shoots forward, her hand clenched into a fist. Extending her thumb and pinkie, she motions her arm up, then down, in a ‘Z’ pattern, the trailing blue lines of power solidifying in front of her.
“Horadrim.” She nods, indicating that the dragon is up first.
It inhales deeply, the bulk of its body growing in size as the oxygen is sucked in, it’s head slowly rising along with the motion. Like a whip, it snaps it’s head down and out, a cone of ice blowing out of it’s maw, instantly freezing he dead bodies around it, the breath creeping through the deck to halt the walking dead in their tracks. When it plays out, Blue continues to trail runes in the sky beside her first one. When completed they are absorbed into the first, a wall of fire erupting on the deck. It splits apart, to the left and right, engulfing everything it it’s path. When the power is played out, all that remains on the ship are boiling, discolored puddles, the crew of Phoenix Rising, and the three back where it started from.
“There.” Blue says, unrolling her sleeves. “Do not expect this kind of help again.” She turns towards Horadrim. “Let’s go home. The stench is assaulting my nostrils.” Blue opens up the doorway once again and walks through. Horadrim makes it’s way over and looks at the captain, it’s reptilian neck raising it’s head to look him in the eyes. It snorts, a puff of cold frost coming forth, telling the captain to stay away from the hurt woman. With a long stare, it finally backs off and enters the doorway before it vanishes.
Several quiet minutes turn to ten, then another, as the crew are helped back to the ship, Zoey dumping a bucket of water on the boarding plank so they can come back aboard. No one says anything until the captain, carrying Alex by the armpits, the man unconscious, his feet dragging behind him, walks up to Jazz and Zoey.
“Ya did well you two. Smart thinkin’ and ye saved us.” He smiles briefly. “Help get Alex down below so we can get him right again.”
“I will go with.” Mejo adds, the man’s state causing her to worry. “I will help tend to his wounds.”
“Aye.” The captain concedes. “What about yer own wounds?” He asks, nodding at her. Mejo, her arm tightly held at her side, has a possible separated shoulder, the blast throwing her to slam hard upon the deck.
She nods slowly. “I will be fine. Alex takes precedence over my injuries. With these filthy things getting a hold of him, I would like to make sure his wounds are properly cleaned.”
“As do we all.” The captain somberly states, handing Alex off to Jazz and Zoey. “As do we all.”
“What now?” Arlynne asks, eager eyes looking upon their trusted leader for support and guidance.
He looks at them now, their battle hardened, beat up faces caked in blood. Before he might have held illusions of abandoning them, taking one of the row boats and sneak off while they were unaware. The reminder of Blue’s cold words, and a large reason they did not see eye to eye back then, sobers him up to that notion.
“Let’s be gettin’ ourselves together.” He answers , the throbbing along his arm reminding him that he, too, might be needing some attention. “Then,” He says, his teeth clenched and his jaw firm. “We be makin’ our way to that damned island. Kill the one who be responsible for all them dead shipmates.”
“What about Huff?” Tarnaa, stepping up through the beleaguered crew, asks defiantly, her firm tone telling the captain that the question will be answered, here and now, in front of everyone. They had seen what she had become, and wants the question out in the open so they can all weigh in.
Reminded of the image of her leaving, the captain is heavily burdened. His feelings for Huff, weighed against the fact that she could kill every single one on board, quite easily he might add! And not be able to make the killing stroke.
“We will deal with her if, and when, it so be.” He doesn’t leave any room for debate, on his end, by turning around and leaving them. Tarnaa, not sure if he believes how dangerous Huff has become – after all she ran her through and it didn’t even phase her! – eyes the captain as he enters his cabin…
* * * * *
In the cave of Bladen’Kurst, the queen of demons sits on her throne, examining Huff. With a fresh kill on her face, the body lying near to the entrance a member of the nearby tribe, she cannot believe how much power of her will she had to use in order to stop her from biting the captain’s arm. Compromising and allowing her to taste it instead, was no small feat! She cocks her head to the side, coming to the conclusion that this one is powerful indeed!
“How did it feel?” She asks.
Huff opens her eyes, normal once more, looking at her. “Satisfying, to say the least.”
Bladen’Kurst nods as she felt the elation of the thirst being quenched. She turns a sly grin her way and asks, “How did the captain’s blood taste?”
Huff twitches slightly, Bladen’Kurst catching the emotion, and shrugs. “I… I don’t remember.” Huff boldly lies.
“Oh, but I bet you do!”
“You cannot make me go against him!” Huff proudly clarifies. “I won’t do it.”
“True enough.” Bladen’Kurst agrees, then grins, that evil smirk coming across her face. “Right now. But what about when you are overwhelmed by the thirst, with no other option? I think your demonic urges would disagree.”
The two glare at each other, Huff unwilling to back down.
“So what now?” Huff asks, cutting through the tension. “Am I your prisoner?”
“Hardly.” Bladen’Kurst confirms. “You are a guest. Free to leave here at any time.” She smiles sweetly. When Huff turns to leave, she adds, “But if you stay… What wonders might we share in? After all, do you actually like drinking rodent blood?”
She knew! Somehow she knew of the attempts to live among the crew without succumbing to the thirst. She turns back slowly, another glare coming back at the demon.
“I didn’t think so.” Kurst finally concludes. “I can give you all that you want. That tasty morsel you just had?” She points to the body with her chin. “These tribal members that live on this island worship me. They would, and do, jump at the chance to be considered a ‘chosen one’.”
Huff chews on her bottom lip. The idea is sound. If she stays, she also will not be in a position to hurt anyone of her ‘family’. She glances back to the prone form lying on the stone, wondering if she could possibly come up with some sort of plan to foil Bladen’Kurst’s reunion with the captain. She licks her lips and turns back to face the demon queen.
“I accept your hospitality…”
* * * * *
“Are you seeing this!?” A red headed woman exclaims in hushed tones, she and the two other men crouched behind the lush plant life. They are adventurers, – rather she is – the other two are there to carry supplies and are handsomely paid, seeking to study the lost tribes that civilization has forgotten. They watch as the bone armor, trinket wearing leaders dance around the campfire. She writes in her journal, depicting all that she is seeing.
“Umphh!” One of the supply carriers goes down.
The female turns to see what the commotion is all about and stares down the shaft of a crude spear. She follows it up to the tribal member’s eyes, dropping her journal and raising her hands.
“Unga Konga, tik tik!” The other member, the one who knocked her helper out, states as he kicks the fallen body.
The spear holder grunts at the female, jabbing the spear tip towards her chest. “Unghh.. Unghh!” With her hands up, she slowly stands and watches the two get their hands tied behind their backs, the supplies dropped right there. They are ushered out from the outskirts and make their way back to the encampment…
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.