Phoenix Rising comes into port, the dock workers scurrying to and fro to tie off the vessel. With the crazy night behind them all, they have earned a little R&R. The workers continue well into the night, the supplies restocked, the minor repairs finished, and the crew begins to make their way back aboard. One pair in particular hashing things out in the captain’s quarters.
Alex and the captain are sitting down in the captain’s plush chairs, each having an untouched bottle of rum before them. A long silence is shared between them before Alex finally breaks it.
“You didn’t tell them everything…”
Pirate looks at his most trusted crew member and nods accordingly. “Aye, tis true…”
Alex finally grabs the bottle sitting on the captain’s desk, but instead of drinking it, he swirls the container, the liquid ‘whirlpooling’.
“Is there a reason?” Alex asks. “Should they not know the whole story?” He puts the bottle back down and leans back in the chair, a grimace reminding him of his ‘date’ with the wall. “This is no simple pirate raid…”
“BLOODY HELL, ya Sea-Dog!” The captain growls, then suddenly calms, a bit embarrassed. “Aye I know.. We be together when I snatched the jewel.” Captain takes the pistol and puts it upon the desk in open display. “We had no choice, we had to survive.”
“We fled..” Alex grunts, not happy about the past events that now have come to find them in the present.
“No, boy…” The captain corrects. “We be left with no other way, WE had to survive.”
“I don’t call sacrificing your crew surviving!” Alex, ever the one to stand to the end, yells. Even as the captain motions for him to keep his voice down, the anger is still very much there. “We left the crew to die. You know it, I know it… But they do not.”
“Do I need to be cuttin’ ya at the knees?” The captain’s tone telling him that a boundary is about to be crossed. “My word STANDS, BOY. What should I have done? Stay and DIE?”
“It is the honorable thing to do.” Alex states, his answer the very core principle his foundation of life rests upon. “Die with honor.”
Pirate leans back in his chair, a smirk present on his lips. “I though, after all this, time together, ye’d know yer captain better than that, Alex.” He folds his arms over his chest. “I’m a PIRATE! I swindle, I plunder, I TAKE… I survive. Always been that way, ALWAYS gonna be that way. So yes, I left me crew on that island hell so I, and YOU I might add, could escape and live another day! It worked, didn’t it!?”
Alex, still not agreeing that it was the right choice then, cannot disagree that because of those actions they have had one hell of a time since then. The big man eases back in his chair. “So what now?” He asks. “We know that the shadows are on to us. That thing we defeated is only going to be the beginning. Don’t you think we should let the rew know that, too?”
The captain, as the question is being asks again, shakes his head. “No. The less they know the better. I don’t need someone going of the deep end and sinking me dang ship in the process. Besides, as long as SHE isn’t involved, we should be fine.”
Alex involuntary shivers. He knows exactly who the captain is referring to and even though he is an honorable man – in the lineage of the paladins of old – does not want to cross paths ever with the likes of her EVER again. To accept the captain’s ‘orders’ Alex snatches the jug of rum and takes a swig, a nonverbal confirmation. He hands it to the captain and he, likewise, replies the same way.
* * * * *
In a different corridor, deeper in the ship, the mirror sits, still propped up, Torr blankly watching Tarnaa sharpen, then polish her gleaming sword. The woman smirks as she can feel the energy of the encounter, her adrenaline keeping her up and alert. That is why she chose to guard the mirror. She looks over to it now, seeing Torr speaking, but no sound coming out due to the mirror’s restrictive capabilities. She sets her sword down and motions that she cannot hear him. After a ew seconds of contemplation, Torr nods and looks around at the room. He then makes a writing gesture with his hands, unsure how this will work. Tarnaa, wise as she is, understands and looks around for something to write on. She finds a canvas satchel and tears off a large square. After searching in a few drawers she also produces a quill and a small vial of ink. She walks up to the mirror, suddenly dawning on her that this probably isn’t going to work. Tarnaa reaches the items out towards the mirror…
It is the same on her end as well. Not to be defeated, however, she places the items down on the small table just off to the side. She folds her arms over her chest as she searches for a means of getting him what he needs.
Torr, chewing his bottom lip, looks around as well, catching sight of the canvas and ink sitting on the table, on his side of the mirror! He quickly grabs them and turns back to see Tarnaa still in thought.
Tarnaa looks over to the mirror and at Torr holding up the same items she had just placed on the table. She peers over at the table and finds that they are now gone! “How?” She asks, her instincts telling her it is impossible.
Torr shrugs in an attempt to answer Tarnaa when she looks back over. He can hear everything on that side of the mirror perfectly as if he is in the room… which he is… but not. He folds the canvas several times so he can continue to communicate beyond this conversation. After he has finished, he holds the piece up for Tarnaa to read.
She looks at the words confused, unable to decode the gibberish. She cocks her head to the side and then shakes it. “I don’t understand.” She slowly reads it aloud. “Sworra Namtlojem?”
Torr’s brow wrinkles and he shakes his head, turning the canvas back to he can read it. It doesn’t sound like that to him, so he puts it back up to the mirror, his other hand pointing to the words.
“I cant Torr. It is the same. I do not follow.” She sits down and sighs. She leans back and rubs her face, the adrenaline almost gone now from her system, looking down to her sword, the one thing she cherishes the most. As she focuses in on the blade, she squirts as she can see the silhouette of the mirror and the dark words still visible. “Mejoltman Arrows?”
It suddenly clicks into her head! She turns around and reads the message again and nods, exposing the riddle. “Mejoltman’s Arrows.” Torr nods, glad that she was able to catch on and read the message. “What about them?”
Torr brings the canvas down and begins to write again. He puts it up as soon as he is done, the new word under the first.
Without questioning it, Tarnaa looks to her blade and reads it like before. “Different..” She replays the events in her mind, the arrows of Mejo glittering as they soared in to hit the manifested shadow. She has seen her fair share of arrows, but those indeed stand out. The shadows fell by the wayside while her sword was practically useless.
“You are right.” She says to Torr. “I think it’s time we find out…” She grabs the mirror and her sword before she exits her room.
* * * * *
One person in particular is not quite as jovial, her party ruined by the uninvited guests. Huff finishes putting away her Hawaiian garb and walks over to the mirror set up on her vanity. Hesitant at first, she slides onto her stool and looks at her reflection.
“All that hard work, down the drain…” She shakes her head and notices her drink she left when she first entered her room. She reaches for it and takes a drink, enjoying the taste. “Thor did a darn good job.” She frowns knowing how the night turned out, Thor now trapped inside the mirror. She sighs and looks back into her bedazzled mirror to find Torr inside as well.
“What!?” She turns around and sees ‘Torr’ standing there, a smirk on his lips, a tell tale sign that he is not the real Torr.
“Don’t be alarmed.” ‘Torr’ declares. “You scream and I will have to do something horrible.”
Huff turns back to look at him through the mirror instead, the reminder of how evil he could be not lost on her. “What do you want then? To gloat?”
“Huffy..” The imposter begins. “May I call you that?” He asks sweetly.
“Only my friends can call me that…”
“Huffy, I am not here to cause any more problems… as of yet. I came to you because I have, what shall we call it? A proposition for you? One that could benefit the both of us.”
“Unless it involves Thor’s freedom, you have nothing I want.”
“Oh, but I do.” He replies, a grin on his face. “Watch…”
The mirror shows the same black smokey ripples, but this time the mirror turns dark gray before it shows the rolling seas. A large, magnificent ship cuts through the choppy waters with expert precision. The image cuts in closer and comes onto the dock where the shipmates are diligently at work with the lines, the great sails moving to catch the best line of wind. It moves from the decks and into the hull, down the ornate corridors until it stops at a jewel lined door. Through the door sits Huff! On a vast chair she sits, the detail littered in gold and sparkling with various colors and sizes of gems and jewels.
Huff’s knuckles tighten at her sides as she watches the imagery, all the while ‘Torr’ moving to stand off to the side and slightly behind her.
“Queen of the seven seas…” ‘Torr’ whispers. “The most fabulous pirate there ever was… And can be.” He lets it hang in the air, Huff fully mesmerized by her one dream coming true. She looks on and gasps as the crown she wears upon her head has Shimmergloom taking residence right in the center.
“What do you say Huff?” He asks, his voice soft and inviting. “Denounce your fealty to the crew and you and I could rule over it all… A shade and the Queen of the Seven Seas.”
The deal, so tempting and inviting, pulls Huff closer to the mirror. She hasn’t blinked since the image began, but does so now as one thought begins to nail itself into her mind.
“Queen of the seven seas…” She whispers to herself, the sound if it bringing a smile to her face. However, that one thought has taken hold in her mind and is causing her to squint.
A sudden flash of an image flies to her; the day she met the captain, the bonds that they shared. Another comes to her; the cremates she has come to know and love. She may have lost her true family, but this family is strong. It has never let her down. The final image comes to her of the princess party where they played a prank on Ole Pirate by painting his cabin pink and dressing him up like a ‘Lady of The Night’. She smiles and then chuckles as Torrinda, good old Thor, wearing one of her dresses, helped with out complaint. No, in her heart she knows she could never betray her family, no matter what reward dangles in front of her.
“You have made several mistakes, shade…”
The shade, cocking his head to the side since the change in her body language, raises his eyebrows at the proclamation. “Oh?” He asks innocently. “By all means, Huffy, what would that MISTAKE be?”
Without being able to react, Huff elbows the shade square in the face, the blow so hard that blood begins to pour from his nose.
“We are not crewmates!” Huff says, rising from her stool, gritting her teeth. “We are a family…” She stalks in closer, suddenly unaffraid of anything at this moment.
“Oh, Huffy…” The shade says through his hands that cover his face. “I really wished you hadn’t done that…” He removes his hands from his face and throws the blood down at the floor by her feet. The droplets connect to each other and then reach out like red sticky chords, wrapping themselves around her ankles! She tries to struggle and get free, but they dig in and won’t let her go. She looks up, the shade’s face right in front of her, all blood and trauma gone from it.
“You should have taken the offer.” He whispers harshly.
Huff rears back and punches out, her fist being caught mid flight, the shade’s grip stopping the momentum dead. In one excruciating move, he twist her arm awkwardly behind her back and spins her body so she is facing her mirror once again, the lines holding her ankles cutting thin lines with the movement. She watches in horror as the shade grins, his eyes turning blood red, both of his K-9 teeth elongating to double their size.
“Fine, Huffy… We will do this MY way…”
Again she is forced to watch those teeth inch closer to her neck. He wrenches up on her arm behind her back, the jolt of pain making her head tilt to the side, exposing her even more. The teeth sink in as he bites her!
A thousand explosions erupt in her brain, the pain of the bite the least of them. It’s the feeling of her life force being pulled out of her body, like sucking the tasty pina colada from a straw. Lines of blood trickle down slowly as he backs away from her, licking the red moisture from his teeth.
“Sleep well, Huffy… Tomorrow is going to be a HOT one…” He laughs and releases her, the shade exiting the mirror’s image and her room.
She tries to call out, but can’t find the power to move her lips. The blood ties at her feet, too, vanish, but again she cannot make them heed her call. All she can do is stare into the mirror and see the two puncture wounds on her neck, the small trails of blood staying as they begin to dry. Her vision starts to blur, the darkness on the outside pulsating slowly inward until her eyelids close and she begins to fall to the ground…
* * * * *
While all that was going on, down the hall, another fact finding quest was underway with Tarnaa and Torr granted access to Mejo’s room where they could discuss the arrows more intimately.
“You could have said you were handy with a bow.” Tarnaa says propping Torr up so he can see both women.
Mejo smiles. “I prefer to stay behind the scenes until my services are required. Element of surprise.” Tarnaa nods with the answer, agreeing with such a battle tactic. “Why don’t we cut to the chase.” Mejo says as she puts her tools away on a table. “And tell me why you have asked for my company?”
“Show her.” Tarnaa orders. She motions Mejo to look in the mirror where Torr is putting up the canvas, only the first word visible.
“What does ‘SWORRA NAMTLOJEM mean?” She asks politely.
“Oh.” Tarnaa explains. “Sorry, I forgot. Here.” She grabs a small hand mirror and gives it to Mejo so she can read the backwards letters.
She nods once she clearly sees them the right way. “What about my arrows?” Torr unfolds the canvas to reveal the second word. “Different. My arrows different.” She states, both of the other two nodding in reply. “Well, I will show you…”
Mejo gets up and reopens the drawer she had just closed when they entered her chambers. She pulls out a few crafted arrows and sets them down. Then a few arrowheads are placed beside them, they, like the arrows, have the sparkles they both are inquiring about.
“Beautifully crafted.” Tarnaa says as she examines both an arrow and a headpiece. “What is this head made of?”
“Stone.” Mejo replies and then laughs knowing that is not what Tarnaa meant. “I infuse moon dust into them.” She pasuses as Tarnaa looks at them in confusion. “Moon dust is what I call it anyway.” She opens up the same drawer but puts her finger into a small hole towards the front and pulls the false bottom out revealing a secret compartment. She grabs a small leather pouch tied with a thin leather strap and joins them again.
“How do you get it to stick to the stone?” Tarnaa asks, looking from each item.
“I… Have my ways.” Mejo says cryptically.
Tarna, noticing the cue, turns to Torr, the new word already written. “?HCTIW” She pulls her blade form the scabbard just enough so the words can be seen and reads, her look of fear evident as she looks back to Mejo.
The woman smiles and shrugs, not denying it, but not admitting to it either. “I prefer ‘Purveyor of the Arts'”
“So you ARE a witch?”
“Purveyor…” Mejo repeats, her calm voice more insistent this time. “Of the Arts.”
A tense moment occurs between the two women, one that is broken suddenly.
Tarnaa looks to the mirror and gasps as Torr is holding his face, blood running through the cracks between fingers. “What happened?” Tarnaa asks Torr, the ‘witch’ business long forgotten in the face of this new ordeal
Mejo looks on as well, an idea coming to mind.
Neither can say another word, a loud crash echoing from outside of Mejo’s room. Both women run off, Tarnaa gripping her sword hilt and Mejo grabbing her bow and arrows from the table, in search of that noise
“Huffette’s room!” Mejo explains, Tarnaa wondering how she knows it came from there since they were inside a different room and it could have come from anywhere.
However, she is right. As they enter Huff’s room, they look around, Tarnaa noticing Huff’s bleeding ankles. “There!”
As they come to the woman’s aid, Mejo is the first to notice the marks on her neck, bite marks. “What did this?” Tarnaa, now up from Huff’s feet, notices the two small holes in her neck. Mejo checks her pulse and breathes easier as she feels one. “It’s weak, but she is still alive.”
“We have to tell the captain!” Tarnaa says in the face of this new danger. “I have seen similar markings before where I am from…”
“What?” Mejo asks looking at Tarnaa in disbelief.
“We used to hunt them down, but that was in another life…” She looks down at the ankles, not feeling like it is one hundred percent accurate.
“WHAT, did this?” Mejo asks again, eagerly awaiting a response.
“Never.” Mejo counters. “In my dealings with the lycanthropes, the victims are never this clean. The only other marks upon her are on her ankles, but as I look at them, it is as if she was bound. No claws made those wounds.”
“So?” Tarnaa asks, coming to believe that she was wrong. With the marks on her neck, Mejo can only guess, but no one else has shown signs of being a creature of the night. Except…
“You dont think its the evil Torr, do you?” Tarnaa asks, suddenly fearful that this could repeat with anyone, at any time.
“That’s the only thing that would make sense.”
“Then we HAVE to tell the captain!” Tarnaa boldly states as she stands up to leave. Mejo grabs her wrist to stop her.
“No.” She states calmly. “I think we keep this between you and I until we can find out more. In the meantime, find a place where she is safe and out of the way. If she is what we both believe, I don’t want someone stumbling in on her…” She leaves the thought hanging in the air, Tarnaa nodding as she agrees.
“Leave it to me, I will handle it.”
“Good.” Mejo smiles feeling like she will be in good hands. “Tomorrow will bring in more recruits, new bodies to help man the ship. I’ve seen the postings in some of the local establishments and with our ship being the better one docked at this port, there will no doubt be plenty to come aboard.”
Tarnaa, thinking about how she was once one of those ‘hired hands’ that came aboard. “I know what you are saying. What about Torr? Can he know?”
“Better yet.” Mejo answers and nods. “Let them both be together so there is nothing out of the ordinary when the new hands come aboard. Remember. This is between you and me.”
“Yes.” Mejo agrees with a chuckle. “You, me, and Torr.”
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.