“Do you think we should help him?”
“He fell a hundred feet down a cliff, and landed rather uncomfortably on some jagged rocks. The blood is already pooling in the surf. I suspect he is beyond our help.”
Madrik looked back up to the top of the cliff. The old man in the grey cloak was storming off along the edge, flashing his fists at random in the air, his voice echoing back towards the boat. Madrik looked back down to the sea just in time to see the frenzied and savage dance of reddened water cut by the fins of numerous tailsharks.
“Pleasant,” commented Talyreina. “What do we do now?”
“We head for Helen’s Bay, Tally, to find Tailfin, and make him pay. Excessively.”
“Right, I get that. But how the hell are we to sail to Helen’s Bay when neither of us knows a damn thing about sailing?”
Talyreina, for some reason, seemed a little less confident about their chances. But Madrik had already made it out of the desert alive twice; floating along the coast in a nice sailing boat – and with a girl for company – was a rather more appealing experience. Besides, he was determined to make it back to see Tailfin. The previous two occasions hadn’t gone so well. The third time’s revenge.
“We just follow the coast. How difficult can it be? Pull a few ropes here, turn the rudder there…”
“Is it my imagination, or are the sails and rudder both doing very little right now? We seem to be headed directly to that straight. The one with the rickety rope bridge above, and all the rocks sticking out of the water below it.”
Madrik quickly scanned the sails, and looked back to the rudder. Talyreina was right. A current had taken them. He ran back to the stern and leant hard on the rudder, pulling some lines while he was at it.
“What the hell are you doing, Madrik?”
“Something. Anything. Those tailsharks seem to know where we are going better than we do.”
“Why did you have to go and throw the crew overboard?”
“Dammit, Tally, I told you – I didn’t throw them over!”
“Then who did?”
“No I didn’t.”
“Dammit! How do I know that?”
“I was with you the whole night!”
“Then why the hell do you think it was me?”
“I don’t know where you went when I was sleeping.”
“And I don’t know… argh, this won’t get us anywhere.”
The argument had gone the same way a few times during the day. They had woken up in the morning and found themselves adrift; sails sheathed, oars neatly stowed, and two plates of lukewarm egg and sausage cooling on the deck, but not a sailor to be seen. Where the hell had the crew gone?
Tally grabbed a line of rope and pulled on it.
“I have been working the salt pans at Rhytheport since I was a kid. What do I know about sailing?”
Still, it seemed to do something.
“Yes! Keep pulling that one.”
Talyreina smiled as she clung onto the rope, hanging most of her insufficient weight on it. The boat seemed to angle away from the shore, and soon the rudder began to take effect again. She slowly eased off the rope, and winked at Madrik.
“Don’t forget who got us out of this one!”
Madrik had no reply. He couldn’t give her the satisfaction.
“You can ease off the rope now,” he said.
“I already let it go.”
They were clear of the shore, but it was rushing past quickly. Extremely quickly. When they had left Rhytheport, the coast had appeared almost stationery as they crawled past. Now, it was disappearing at a remarkable rate, the trees flashing by.
“Doesn’t look like we need those sailors after all.”
Talyreina was clinging desperately to the rigging. She held an expression that suggested she stubbornly disagreed, but she kept the words to herself. Madrik soon realised he too was hanging on with all his strength.
“The boat isn’t even pointing forwards,” observed Talyreina. “Isn’t it supposed to do that?”
There was nothing they could do about it. They hung on helplessly as the evening drew near, the sea itself carrying them north while the coastline transitioned from forests to open pasture. Madrik’s geography wasn’t up to much, but he could tell they were nearing Helen’s Peninsula. In fact, they were nearing it far too quickly.
“Get ready to get wet, Tally!”
Talyreina didn’t need the cue – she was already bracing herself as the boat raced towards the shore, grinding quickly to a halt as it scraped over the sand, forcefully throwing both of them overboard. Madrik managed to land head first, and barely got his hands out in front as he tumbled onto the sand. The waves rolled him over a few more times, helping him to half a lungful of salt water as they washed him ashore.
He stood up and patted himself off, shaking the water from his hair. Talyreina stood beside him, drenched and looking rather miserable.
“We’re here!” he said. “Helen is right over those hills; we’ll be there in no time. And I don’t even need to pay the sailors!”
Talyreina glared at him.
“I knew you threw them overboard!”
Madrik swung his arms out in defence, but shrugged it off.
“It doesn’t matter,” sighed Talyreina. “Like you say: we’re here.”
They set off towards Helen, walking purposefully. Their target was not far away. It struck Madrik that he had been in a similar position just a week or two back, feet moving faster than his brain could come up with a plan.
“So, what is your plan, Madrik? What are we going to do to Tailfin?”
He was quiet for a while.
“We are going to feed him to the sharks.”
Talyreina glanced his way in her stride, unimpressed.
“No wonder he’s outsmarted you twice.”
Madrik grinned the most evil grin he could muster. Judging by her expression, it was convincing.
“You leave the thinking to me. Tailfin and I go back a long way. I know what he wants. I know how to outsmart him.”
“So you aren’t interested in hearing my idea?”
They stopped in front of a large door, and Madrik shared his evil grin with the seven-foot tall stack of muscles standing outside it. The man eyed them both. After considering for some time, he stood back, allowing them to pass.
They walked through the gambling house, heading straight for Tailfin’s office. There was no one standing at the door. Madrik felt his heart racing, and his palms began to sweat as he lifted his knuckles to knock. Talyreina shrugged indifferently. He took a deep breath, and knocked, three solid hits.
“Uh, Tailfin?” called Madrik as he knocked again.
“Bit of a let down,” noted Talyreina.
Madrik sighed, glanced around the room. The tables were full of the usual scum gambling away what little money they had.
“Maybe he went to recycle the ale?” suggested Talyreina.
Then Madrik spotted someone he recognised, hastily making his way out. Kyrnrie, the thief. A very good thief, as far as he had heard. Madrik wasn’t exactly surprised to see him hanging around Tailfin.
“Madrik!” shouted a familiar voice, hovering between anger and surprise. “Again? What the… how the hell?”
Madrik found his grin once again. Tailfin’s expression was one he would savour for the rest of his days.
“Tailfin!” he shouted with excited joy. “How wonderful to see you again!”
Tailfin appeared extremely uncomfortable. Then his expression became more confused.
“Tally? What… what are you doing here?”
“I’m here to collect the bounty on Madrik,” she said casually. “I brought him back to you in one piece. That should be worth quite a lot.”
Madrik’s grin vanished. He turned just in time to see the butt-end of her dagger slam into his forehead.
When he came to, he found himself tied to a chair, his wrists already in pain from the bindings. His head was throbbing too, but above the sound of his own blood pumping through his eardrums, he could hear the sweet sound of Talyreina’s voice.
“You could use someone like me,” she said. “Someone with more than half a brain and less than half a pair of peas in their trousers.”
Her eyes were fixed on Madrik as she said it. She looked happy.
“Very well,” agreed Tailfin. “I have a job for you. Somebody stole something from me recently. A thief named Kyrnrie. Track him down, and find out who the client is. Then bring him to me.”
Talyreina was nodding as she listened.
“In any particular condition?”
“One that would allow me to speak to him. I am not a murderer,” he said, glancing at Madrik. “I prefer to let nature run its course, even if it occasionally requires a little encouragement.”
“Very well. I will need a few days to get settled, of course,” said Talyreina. “What about Madrik?”
Madrik had just about shaken off the dizziness, and he finally found his tongue. He didn’t want to hear what Tailfin had in mind.
“Wait!” he shouted. “Kyrnrie? He’s a friend of mine. Good friend. We go back a long way.”
Well, he had run into him once or twice.
“I can help!” he insisted. “Tally and I can find your man!”
“You expect me to let you go?”
“Where am I going to run? We’re on a bloody island! Unless you happen to have seen the mainland recently, there’s nowhere I can go!”
Tailfin was quiet for some time, his fingers rapping against each other, but Madrik could see his eyes lighting up.
“You have a rather large debt to pay, Madrik. For the tables, and for your stupidity. I guess you are more use to me working that debt off.”
“What?” shouted Talyreina. “No. He will try to kill me the second we walk out of this door!”
Tailfin’s man was already cutting the binding ropes, and Madrik’s arms were free to move.
“As I said. I let nature run its course. Besides, I only need one of you to bring me the buyer.”
The henchman stepped aside, allowing Madrik and Talyreina to walk out of the office and back onto the street, tentatively eyeing one another.
Madrik was about to say something when the sky lit up. The two of them gazed as the star fell, seemingly landing in the forests to the south.
“Only one of us has a blade right now, so don’t try anything stupid,” said Talyreina.
She spun the crude dagger on the end of her fingers, nearly dropping it in the process.
“So where do we find this Kyrnrie?”
“Kyrnrie? Not a clue.”
Talyreina sighed and shook her head.
“You lying bastard.”
“It’s late,” said Madrik, holding off his smile. “And it’s been a long day. What say we head to a tavern and get something to eat and a good night’s sleep? I hope you were paid well for my head?”
“Luckily, one of us had a good strategy going in to see Tailfin.”
She shook a purse, poured some coins into Madrik’s hand.
“Seems all the risk was on my side.”
“Don’t complain. You got your fair share.”
“What you don’t see is that your play was flawed all along. Going one up on Tailfin is a death sentence, not a victory. You are holding his coin now, and he won’t forget. He needs to die, Tally. You know that, don’t you? It’s him or us.”
Her expression soured. The girl had the taste for the gangsters’ life, but she was in too deep far too early.
They soon arrived at the Spotted Seahorse, one of the few taverns that Tailfin didn’t have a greedy hand or ear in. If Kyrnrie was hiding from Tailfin, it seemed like a good place to start.
The barman tilted his head in greeting.
“Two?” he asked, glancing at Talyreina as she nodded her eagerness.
“I’m looking for someone,” said Madrik. “Gentleman named Kyrnrie. Seen him?”
“Kyrnrie? Yes, nice chap,” he said nodding thoughtfully. “Not seen him for months.”
It was a long shot – worth it, but ultimately unimportant. Taking their drinks, they sat at a table in the corner, eyes open to the room.
“Let’s stay here for a couple of days,” said Madrik. “I have an idea.”
Talyreina rolled her eyes, but didn’t argue. Madrik grinned confidently.
* * *
Two days later, as evening fell, Madrik was once again standing outside Tailfin’s office, his knuckles hanging in the air, only inches away from the solid wood. He swallowed, collecting himself, and knocked hard.
“What do you want?” asked the massive henchman, but Madrik pushed straight past him.
“We found him, Tailfin,” said Madrik urgently, “he’s not easy to get to, but we know where he is now. Tally’s keeping an eye on him.”
Madrik waited while Tailfin hesitated.
“Come on, we should go now before we lose him!”
Tailfin nodded to the henchman, who promptly whistled at the gamblers outside the office. In no time, five of them were there, ready to escort Tailfin.
“Do you know what happens to people who mess me around?” asked Tailfin, lethal venom almost dripping from his teeth.
“I do. I have first-hand experience, Tailfin. Twice. I’m not making that mistake again!”
No. Third time’s revenge.
Tailfin stood up very reluctantly. He didn’t become the most powerful crime lord on Renryre Island by falling into traps. Today would be different.
“Keep up!” called Madrik as he trotted down the street towards the port.
They soon came to the water’s edge, and tracked along the verge while Madrik searched for Talyreina.
“Where the hell did she go?” he cursed under his breath.
It was dark, and the port was already quiet, having closed down for the night. Fishing skiffs were tied up along the docks, while pleasure boats were anchored out in the bay, some of them with tenders swaying behind them, and light shining through their portholes.
“Tailfin, you wait here. I’ll check that way, maybe one of your lackeys can check the other side?”
Tailfin looked angry already. If he wasn’t already suspicious, he was becoming so rapidly.
“You two, don’t let Madrik out of your sight,” he said, pointing to his lackeys. “And you two, check for the girl down that way.”
Madrik feigned an insulted expression before running off, two men close on his heels. He was running as quickly as he could, intending to tire them out. They soon came to a decrepit dock house with several stacking crates lying outside. Talyreina was hiding behind them.
“What took you so long?” she demanded. “He’s on that… where’s Tailfin?”
“I left him behind to look for you!”
“Well, go fetch him, quickly!”
Madrik eyed the lackeys, then began running back. One of them followed after a brief hesitation, while the other stayed with Talyreina. Madrik ran as fast as he could, and was breathing heavily by the time they reached Tailfin, who was waiting with the biggest of the henchmen.
“She’s back there,” Madrik huffed. “Where are the other two?”
“Down that way, still looking for the girl.”
Madrik breathed heavily for a second, looking around as if searching for a solution.
“We have to go now.”
He looked at the lackey that had been running with him.
“You stay here and wait for the other two.”
Tailfin looked nervously at the lackey.
“She’s down there, sir,” he said nodding furiously. “I saw her.”
Tailfin waved at the henchman and Madrik, and the three of them began running back towards Talyreina. Madrik was grinning inwardly despite his lungs complaining. They soon made it back, finding Talyreina just where he’d left her, urgently waving to them.
“They are just preparing the ship; they look like they are going somewhere. We need to go now!”
Talyreina began climbing down the wall at the dock, but Tailfin slowed the pace.
“What are you doing?”
Tally pointed to a little dinghy in the water tied to the bottom of the ladder. Tailfin looked unimpressed.
“You were supposed to bring him to me,” he chided. “Now you want me to row out to his ship in this little dinghy?”
Talyreina looked around impatiently, then shrugged her arms.
“Well, we couldn’t… Look, we found him. Let’s just row out towards them, pretend we are sinking, then they’ll have to help us.”
“He’s a rich merchant,” added Madrik, “he doesn’t know who you are, or what you look like. Plausible deniability and all. That’s why he hires Kyrnrie to handle his… acquisitions.”
Tailfin was agitated, but he soon relented, pointing his two remaining men to the boat. The lackey was quick to follow direction, but the henchman stood his ground.
“I can’t swim, boss.”
“What? You don’t need to swim. We are going in a boat.”
He shook his head furiously. Madrik could swear the man grew two feet shorter while he watched.
“You live on a gods-damned island not three hundred yards from the waterfront. How the hell have you survived this long? Get in the damn boat!”
“Sorry, Boss, can’t do it.”
Tailfin was furious. Perfect.
“We need to go,” urged Talyreina.
Tailfin climbed down the ladder and into the boat. There were only the four of them, and Tailfin was clearly anxious.
“You two at the back on the oars,” he said, and then looking to his last man. “And you will hold a dagger halfway through Madrik’s throat until I say otherwise. If he even accidentally raises the oar an inch out of the water, start cutting.”
Ah. That was inconvenient. The plan had gone perfectly thus far. Better than perfect – who knew the henchman would be afraid of water?
Madrik and Talyreina rowed the dinghy out towards the boat. They looked at each other, tried to communicate with eye contact, but neither of them had a clue what the other was trying to suggest. Instead, they kept rowing towards some ship without any idea who was on board. Madrik held his only weapon in his hand, a five foot long oar, but he couldn’t use it; not with the lackey holding the dagger to his neck.
Tailfin was using a bucket to fill the boat with water as they went. When they got close to the ship, he took command.
“Right. You three, hop over. Start screaming for help. Leave the oars with me.”
Without any backup plan, they jumped overboard and began calling for help. Tailfin stood up, waving an oar in the air. In the dark, they probably looked like the real deal. A man soon appeared on deck, and called to them to swim over, but Tailfin had no intention of getting wet.
“Push or pull, you get this thing to the ship!”
A rope was thrown over, and Tailfin climbed up first, still dry, followed by the rest of them. They rolled onto the deck in a puddle of water, each of them looking more miserable than the next.
A man stood before them, making no effort to help them up.
“What might I call you?”
Tailfin, maintaining his lead, was quick to answer.
“I am Perwyce, a shipwright and merchant. These are my… assistants. Madrik, Tally, and, uh…”
The lackey looked offended, but Tailfin didn’t bother putting any more effort into it.
“And you are?”
The man glanced overboard at the half sinking dinghy.
“You are a shipwright?”
Tailfin shrugged, and feigned an embarrassed look. The man didn’t seem to care.
“This ship belongs to Arynlock, a gentleman way above your stature. You will—”
“Oh, do be quiet,” said a new voice on deck. “Are you all alright?”
He was well-dressed – way above their stature indeed. He probably didn’t deserve it, but Madrik wouldn’t mind if Tailfin threw him overboard with a weight tied around his ankles. Food for the sharks, well-fed all his life, he would make a good meal. Proper food.
“Arynlock?” said Tailfin with anger boiling in his voice. “You are the man that stole my gold coin?”
Arynlock looked surprised. Poor man, caught in the wrong place. Tailfin would never believe him if he denied it. Madrik would easily get away with the false accusation.
“You must be Tailfin then,” said the innocent victim. “I did indeed steal your coin, in a manner of speaking.”
“What?” cried Madrik.
“But I had hoped Kyrnrie would have kept such information confidential,” said Arynlock, ignoring Madrik’s outburst.
“Kyrnrie said nothing to me,” said Tailfin. “Most honest crook I know; that’s why I use him! These two upstarts tracked you down.”
Madrik was staring at Arynlock, eyes wide, confused. Then he heard a splash, followed by a thud. He turned around to see that the lackey had vanished, and Tailfin was lying motionless on deck. Arynlock’s servant stood calmly behind him, not a weapon in sight.
“I wish you wouldn’t do that in front of me,” said Arynlock.
Madrik was trying to make sense of the scene. From what he could tell, Talyreina hadn’t fared any better than he had.
“Wait. So you really did steal the coin? Hah!”
“Who are you?” said Arynlock, who was calm as summer breeze while his servant eased himself nearer.
Madrik was trying to keep one eye on Arynlock’s man as he circled behind, while his other eye remained fixed forward at Arynlock himself.
“She’s Tally,” he said. “I’m Madrik. Entrepreneur, adventurer…”
“Madrik? You are the one who survived the desert run? Twice?”
Madrik’s eyes lit up. He liked that his reputation was reaching the upper tier. The gentleman with fancy estates up the mountains should know who he was.
“Fool enough to get thrown in there in the first place,” added Arynlock. “Twice. But I may have use for you two yet. How would you like to become the most powerful crime lords on Renryre Island?”
Madrik eyed Tailfin, unconscious on the deck. The current most powerful crime lord on Renryre Island. Supposedly. He would need to play this carefully.
“What of him?” asked Madrik.
“What of him?” shrugged Arynlock. “Any suggestions?”
Madrik’s grin stretched across his cheeks, and Tally couldn’t help but laugh.
“Third time’s revenge, Tailfin!” he shouted. “Feed him to the sharks!”
Arynlock nodded to his servant, and waved Madrik and Tally to follow him below deck.
“Please, come in,” he said. “We have business to discuss.”
Thanks for reading Renryre Island Chapter VII: Third Time’s Revenge
Next, Chapter VIII: The Call Of The Coins.
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