The Sun Door Part 15
by Joe Solmo
Ugh, a night of drinking to excess right before a riverboat voyage. What the hell possessed me? I pondered this as I threw up over the side for the second time since leaving the village. Dead-Eye was dead to the world, laying on the deck of the boat as it slowly made its way down the river towards the northeast. It wasn’t the largest vessel I had been on it but it was pretty big for this river.
It sat pretty low in the water due to its cargo so the captain was constantly on vigil for rocks and shallows, keeping us in the center most of the time. I saw two other boats have to almost run aground to miss us ramming them, our captain cursing them for being careless and not giving right of way.
I have a little more love for boats than I do for horses so I couldn’t tell you who was in the wrong and I didn’t want to upset the crew so I tried to stay out of the way. They already gave me shitty looks for puking over the side. Snide comments abounded.
Weebly found my little corner of hell and sat next to me in between my vomiting sessions.
“Do your people really not remember the Gods?” he asked me as he pulled a small pipe from his pocket and lit it, offering it to me when he took a puff. I turned down his offer and nodded my head.
“It is a sad thing, lad. Your people should remember where they came from, but I’m not here to teach you about your past. This Skittessa really worries me though. Even if she is some kind of wizard using the likeness of the dark goddess it is bad news,” he finished.
“Maybe that’s why Drejnin doesn’t trust Magi! His old lady is one,” I deduced rather cleverly, I thought.
“Maybe so lad, but Drejnin doesn’t seem to recall her, I talked to him this morning while you were,” slight pause, “Feeding the fish,” he said.
“Do you think he is telling the truth?” I asked.
“No way to know for sure. Maybe Skrat could use his magic to check for lies, but short of that we have to take his word on it,” the dwarf said.
“Those magic weapons of the brothers, think they would help if we end up having to fight Skittessa? Whatever she might be?” I asked.
“They do possess a tremendous amount of power buried in those runes, but she is a goddess, who knows for sure. I am not a betting dwarf, but if I was I don’t think I would take our side in the fight,” he said. I loved the little bastards’ enthusiasm. Well I did want to add some excitement in my life, I guess I shouldn’t bitch, even though this seemed to be a little extreme as far as excitement went. The to and fro of the boat brought me back to reality as I pitched my head over the side for round three. I swear I saw that little bearded bastard smile.
Hall gave me some kind of root to chew on, he said it would help my stomach get over the punishment I was putting it through, like I had any say in it. I chewed it in silence for a little while lost in my thoughts watching the trees on shore pass by and listening to the lapping of the small river waves on the side of the boat.
Maybe an hour later Skrat came by. I liked the kid, he seemed to be really on the ball about everything. I could tell he was really intelligent; his eyes were always scanning and analyzing his surroundings. He plopped down next to me on the deck with his back to the side rail of the boat and asked me if I was feeling any better.
I lied and told him I was feeling fine, well it wasn’t totally a lie, I was feeling less hung over, but if I closed my eyes the rocking of the boat made my stomach turn over. I just had to focus on not paying attention, should be easy enough for me. I had enough practice not paying attention when I was on guard duty back at the Sun Door.
The young Magi placed his hand over my head and chanted some words three times in the language of magic, instantly my queasiness went away and I felt like I was standing on dry land once again. He explained with a smile that was how the spell was designed. He had made it himself to deal with Moose’s sea sickness years ago, smart kid.
He told me a little about himself and his brothers as we passed the day away, I shared a quick meal with him, feeling better with his spell cast on me, and we talked about some of the places we have traveled. It seemed the brothers were always just behind me as I traveled with the mercenaries across the continent.
I told him about the time when Brakkus had tried to stop us from leaving. It seemed like so long ago that happened. Skrat agreed that Brakkus seemed like a dick. He did ask about Drejnin but there wasn’t much I could fill him in on. I told him about The Sun Door and the circumstances of our meeting on that fateful night. He listened intently and I knew his brain was working overtime behind those eyes that studied me.
Sometime in the afternoon Sreg came over to pass the time with us. He was a likeable fellow as well, I asked him to show me his bow again and he complied. I tried to use it to fire arrows at the shore, but couldn’t pronounce the words correctly so I let it go and handed it back towards Sreg. Before the woodsman could grab it his brother Skrat grabbed it up and turned it over in his head. “Hmm,” he said as he studied it. “Can I borrow this for a little while?” he asked his brother.
“I’m not shooting anything at the moment,” Sreg said and flashed a smile. That was all Skrat needed and he stood and carried the bow to the front of the boat where the hatch was to the hold. When he had disappeared below deck Sreg turned towards me.
“This thing about a Dark Goddess, what’s your take on it?” he asked.
“I don’t know, I guess if it’s true we will be meeting her soon enough,” I said wondering how long Skrat’s spell would work for.
“Aye, maybe I can sweep her off her feet with my charm,” he said giving me a winning smile and reached into his pocket and pulled out a small knife. He took a small block of wood from another pocket and held up a rough carving, I couldn’t figure out what it was but it resembled a bird, I guessed a hawk and he was pleased. I guess even I can get something right once in a while.
We leaned on the rail looking out over the river towards the eastern shore. There were a line of large rocks there from the river pushing them down during flood stages. We both heard a crashing sound in the forest and looked up from the shore to see two of those large beasts loping in pace with the boat. We were being followed.
I called over to Drejnin and pointed them out to him. Serius gave the creatures a hateful look and asked the large man what he should do. “Ignore them for now, unless they try to swim,” he said and went to talk to the captain.
The brothers and I took turns watching the creatures for the better part of the afternoon. I almost hoped I would catch a glimpse of the beautiful evil huntress as she followed her faithful hounds downriver in chase of her prey. If she was there she was blending in too well for these eyes to find, then again it could have been the piss poor watered down whisky I found in a snoozing Dead-Eye’s pack. Yeah I know, I’m a glutton for punishment.
Sometime around dinner time the forest grew out over the water’s edge and the boat seemed to pull ahead and we lost sight of the creatures. I’m sure they were there somewhere though, probably just out of sight.
Just before getting dark the captain informed us the Town of Barten was coming up and we would dock there for the night, we could travel on again with him in the morning if we chose, but had to find rooms at the Inn. Only the crew was allowed to sleep on the boat apparently.
Soon it was obvious something was wrong, the captain told us we should be able to see the bonfire the town lights near the dock for boats to navigate at night by, but it was not in sight. Darkness was sweeping over the land pretty fast and it was getting hard for the captain to steer the boat around the rivers dangers.
We headed to the docks near the town. We could now make out hulking stone buildings in the fading light of the day. Still no fires or light of any kind could be seen from the deck of the ship. I tried my best to stay out of the crew’s way as they maneuvered the boat slowly into the docks and jumped onto the wooden planks on shore to tie the vessel up.
We gathered up our gear, and grabbed Skrat who was still in the hold with Sreg’s bow. I had forgotten all about him when those creatures were spotted earlier. Drejnin lead the way off the boat and I was so excited to be off the damned vessel I nearly kissed the ground. Dead-Eye couldn’t understand why I was so unhappy with the ride down river, since he slept his hangover away it didn’t bother him. Wait, can he get hung over if he was just constantly drinking?
Three steps off the dock and Drejnin froze we all crowded around to see what it was that caught the large man’s attention. On the ground was a human arm, severed at the elbow. Hall bent down and poked it with some instrument he carried on him all the time. It didn’t jump right up and bite him, so I’m guessing that was a good sign.
Drejnin bent down to examine the arm and the pool of blood it was sitting in when Myder let out a gasp. I looked in the direction he was looking and saw instantly what had surprised him. From where we were standing it looked like the entire town was dead. In a square not far from us, maybe thirty yards, was a pile of limbs, barely visible in the fading light. Arms and legs, torsos and heads, no one part connected to another piled as high as a man was tall. Women, children, and men populated the stack of carnage in front of us.
The captain looked out on the pile and turned around heading for his boat. “I’m setting sail now, shallows be damned,” he said and didn’t waste any time.
Drejnin stood looking over the carnage with a stoic stare on his face and Myder’s sobs were the only sound in the night. Hall had taken the arm we had found earlier and headed for what we assumed was an Inn, a three story stone building with a large sturdy door still intact with most of its windows still there. We headed inside and began the task or fortifying the building as Zeeg got a fire going for light.
The inside was a mess. There was blood everywhere, and what could only be described as guts littered the north corner. Hall was interested in those as well, the morbid bastard. Dead-Eye found the liquor and took watch at the fireplace, to make sure the fire didn’t go out. I helped the brothers place a few of the large oak tables in front of the windows and staircase to the second floor in case whatever did this returned. I really didn’t like the idea of facing whatever can destroy and disembowel, or maybe I should I say de-limb an entire village. Near the bar was a large bloody footprint that made everything come together in our heads. Those creatures didn’t get left behind on the river, they had run in front of us! Son of a bitch!
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