Woosh! The water ran upside the ship, splashing chaotically back into itself. A pair of red globes stood stark against the dark sea. Strange, puppet like claws clung to the ship as it rocked to and fro. The creature was bidding its time. Soon. It licked its lips in anticipation. Soon. The councilmen had promised it. A promise, yes, it seethed. Momentary obedience, and then, it would render that promise to shreds. There would be soul-shattering screams, horrendous tearing of the flesh. Beautiful, tasty flesh. The red orbs flashed as they closed in on the light above.
“Look, Gil, I know what he said. But it’s Tevkin’s decision, he’ll know best.”
“Right, because traveling to the heart of Aa’Nessam is the best idea yet,” his voice dripped with sarcasm, “By the light, Elliera, we’re at war with them! They’ll tear us to shreds.”
She was silent for a while. Beyond their cabin window it was dark, a black blanket of sea and sky. The lucien had snuck on to the boat and was curled up against Elliera’s thigh. She gently stroked the fur. She had her own doubts about Tevkin’s decision to travel to Aa’Nessam, particularly because it would be a long journey. For some reason, he thought it appropriate to travel as far north and then go down. It seemed an odd choice, however; she couldn’t help but think it was because of the man she had found. Varen’ka. Whatever reason Tevkin had for visiting Aa’Nessam, it had to at least have something to do with Varen’ka. And Elliera wasn’t sure how she felt about that.
She shook her head and her blond hair bounced around her face, “Gil, just give it a rest. You don’t have to go. You’re on duty for the council anyways.”
Gil was pacing the small cabin. Back and forth. Back and forth. He kept his chin tucked to his chest, “I’m going. I have to. With an opportunity like this…I couldn’t pass it up for the council. There’s a lot of information-”
“Stop, just stop,” Elliera stood up, “Are you daft in the head? Gil, you’re not even fully trained. Think of what could happen if they catch you!”
“You’re in the same boat, Mouse.”
She gave him a pointed look.
“You and Tevkin are in as just much danger. Even with that furball of yours.”
The lucien twitched an ear but continued to pretend to sleep.
After a minute, she spoke more softly, “We’ll be safe. Tevkin is more powerful than you think. He wouldn’t travel there if he felt we’d be in terrible danger. Besides, between all of us,” her eyes drifted to the trunk, “We’ll have enough protection.”
Gil stopped pacing and sat at the edge of his bed, head propped between his hands. Elliera was about to situate herself back on the floor when a loud craaaack! resonated up on deck. They stared at each other. Then both bolted up the stairs.
There was total pandemonium on deck. Crew members were scattered everywhere, some hosting horrible wounds, their blood mixing into the red wood. Gil held on to Elliera as he made his way around the side. She was going to pull away, she didn’t need a babysitter, but thought better of it when she saw a crew member with a complete hole through his chest. He gaped at them as they passed, his eyes glossy.
As they passed closer to the mid-mast of the ship, another crew member went flying into the railing and over board. The captain’s booming voice came over the rush of the sea: “Fall back. FALL BACK!”
The crew began to move against Gil and Elliera. They gradually followed until they saw what awaited at the front of the ship.
A creature, no taller than a man, stood hunched. It moved like a puppet on strings. It was all black, though Elliera could see the blood dripping off its fearsome claws. The only distinguishable feature was its eyes that were blood red and burned with a morbid fire. It regarded the retreating crew patiently not yet noticing Gil and Elliera. As lights from the ship cast different streaks across the deck, she finally got a good glimpse of its face. There was no nose, but its lips were sewn shut. It made it look like it was grinning. She shuddered.
The small movement must have caught its attention. Those hell-fire eyes locked onto hers. Then it launched itself at her.