Pektyne took his time getting dressed that morning, just as he always did. He wore his clothes with pride, carrying the uniform through Helen with his head held high. He was well respected in the city, albeit not quite loved. In fact, mostly loathed. Helen’s reputation wasn’t born from its law abiding citizens, but from its bounty of miscreant characters. Luckily, Tailfin kept them in order. Well, he had been keeping them in order, right up until his recent disappearance. Rumour had it the tailsharks had feasted.
Pektyne tightened the straps of his coat, the thick canvas held firmly around his waist. It was bright red, with a badge on the front pocket. A distinct lack of green bands on the shoulderpiece marked him as the both lowest rank in the city watch, as well as the highest. He was, in short, the city watch.
The constable walked out onto the street and gazed around as the local populace nodded their polite greetings. They may have loathed him, but they were ever civil in his presence. The city watch was, after all, the last line of defence between order and chaos.
It would be a difficult day for Pektyne. It was time for him to visit the upstarts that had claimed Tailfin’s throne. Madrik was well known to the constable; as thick in the shoulder as in the head, rash, unpredictable, dangerous, and generally a bit of a bastard. Talyreina, he had never heard of. Some girl from the east, apparently, but not to be underestimated.
He marched purposefully down Sevryne Street, stopping in the popular bakery for a light breakfast.
“Good morning, Nelly. How are you today?”
“Pektyne! How lovely to see you.”
The bakerwoman had been working there since he was a boy. She was a few years older than him, but he still remembered how she looked back then. He would never forget that night he’d made a fool of himself. He had collected seven flowers and arranged them to match a rainbow, and he had recited a poem, beautiful and loving. She hadn’t laughed at him to be nasty, but she had laughed. She’d told him to come back when he was a little older. That was four decades back, and he had never built up enough courage to try again.
On the other hand, he had gained something quite valuable from his efforts that night. He alone had skipped a training session with the city watch in favour of declaring his love for Nelysse. The rest of them had taken a ferry across to the mainland for the night, never to return again. Even while the rumours spread around Helen that the entire city watch had been lost when the mainland had vanished, Pektyne had been hiding for three days in his room for fear of word getting around about him being a smitten fool.
When he had eventually emerged from his room, Helen had already plunged skull first into chaos. Almost every shop had been robbed clean, and looters had stood right in front of him with gaping expressions.
No; the city watch still existed, and it was up to Pektyne to restore order. Trouble was, there was never any budget to hire more hands.
“Are you well, Pektyne?”
“Huh…” he said, shaking his head. “Sorry?”
“You have been staring at me unmoving for some time.”
“Yes. Sorry, I was just thinking back… about when the mainland vanished.”
“Don’t you mean the night before that?” she asked with a knowing smile, while he sheepishly ignored the question.
“I’d love something to eat. Whatever is freshest! But I need to take it with me, I’ve got business to attend to today.”
Nelysse handed him a warm bun sprinkled with a soft white cheese. It smelled amazing. The first bite confirmed that it was just that. Nelysse was often considered to be the best baker on Renryre Island. At least by those who had ever been to her store.
“You be safe now,” he said as he walked out of the bakery. “Watch out for those thieves!”
“I always do!” she called after him, swinging her walking stick in the air.
Pektyne managed to procrastinate quite successfully for the rest of the morning. He marched around town giving citizens pointed looks. He stood on windy corners and loosened the belt of his red coat to allow it to flap in the wind. He glared savagely at the kids on the streets that were clearly up to no good. Finally, and very reluctantly, he entered the gambling den.
Before he could even reach the office, he was almost run down by someone looking to make a quick escape. A familiar sight in there – no one spent more time with Tailfin than necessary, and that didn’t seem likely to change no matter who sat behind the desk.
The man apologised, and Pektyne recognized him as Kyrnrie. He knew Kyrnrie’s business of course, it was his job to know, but he didn’t like the fact that he was visiting Madrik and Talyreina. He supposed he wasn’t the only one having to check in.
Approaching the office, he saw a familiar henchman. One of Tailfin’s finest; all muscle, little energy wasted on thinking before acting.
“All right, Pektyne?” greeted the henchman. “His previous guest just departed, let’s go right in.”
Time to get this done. He took a deep breath, braced himself, and strode confidently into the office.
“Constable Pektyne?” greeted Madrik. “What brings you here?”
He was worried about that; Madrik didn’t seem to know what he should have known. He was suddenly glad the henchman had joined them in the office.
“Madrik,” he said, “nice to see you again. And you must be Talyreina?”
“Call me Tally,” she said. “You are the city watch? I can assure you that there is nothing out of the ordinary going on here.”
The pair glanced at each other sheepishly.
“I suppose that would explain why the best thief on Renryre Island just walked out of your office?”
The two looked rather uncomfortable sitting behind the desk; they would need to find a larger table if they insisted on sharing it. The henchman was smirking beside them, Pektyne noticed. He continued before Madrik and Talyreina could come up with a response.
“I have come here to make sure that my previous arrangements with Tailfin remain in place.”
They were silent for a short while, but a grin soon grew on Madrik’s face as he began to understand.
“Of course,” said the gangster, nodding slowly, “a regular, and generous contribution to the city watch.”
“For the good of Helen,” added Talyreina. “I understand.”
“Actually I’m not sure you do,” said Pektyne, offended. “It’s not a bribe. I am not dirty, a corrupt watchman. Tailfin paid my salary. He was my employer. The city cannot afford to pay the watch, so Tailfin took responsibility.”
Madrik burst out laughing.
“You are kidding, right? You mean Tailfin didn’t just own the city watch. He literally… owned it?”
Pektyne looked to the henchman, who gave a supporting nod. He might not be the brightest, but he was present for the majority of Tailfin business dealings. He probably held more secrets than most others in the city.
“So, I guess that explains why Tailfin’s business never had any problems with the law?”
Pektyne cleared his throat, buying a little time to think. He was, after all, speaking to his new employer. At least, he hoped he was.
“The city watch is a legitimate crime fighting organisation,” he began. “I… we do everything we can to reduce crime in Helen’s Bay. Trouble is, we are severely low on resources, and we need to utilise those resources as best we can. For instance, there is no way that we could possibly hope to fight organised crime. Instead, we concentrate on disorganised crime, where we can make a real difference.”
Pektyne noticed that Tally and Madrik were visibly relieved upon understanding the situation. The pair were new to this. They needed to practice concealing their feelings a little better, put on a better show of appearing unconcerned except when they wanted people to think they were concerned. Pektyne would never support organised crime, as such, but Tailfin had more or less kept it in order for the last few decades. If these two didn’t get a grip, all that would go to waste when the city’s criminals struck out on their own.
“Do you know, Constable,” said Madrik, “I totally respect what you are doing for the city, and I want to help as much as I can. Tell me, how many men would you need to begin fighting organised crime?”
“At least three,” shrugged Pektyne.
Madrik sucked in a deep breath and feigned concern. Interesting – a little talent there after all.
“I’m afraid we don’t have the budget for that,” he said, shaking his head sorrowfully, “but we can extend it a little. It’s about time you had a little help, don’t you think?”
Pektyne brightened up. Was he serious? They hadn’t hired a second watchman since the mainland vanished.
“Lackey,” said Madrik, “welcome to the force.”
The constable turned to see the scrawny man in the corner with an aghast expression.
Pektyne sighed. It wasn’t quite what he had in mind, but he would make do, he guessed. The lackey had the look of someone that would cut off your toes one by one while asking for directions to the nearest rainbow. Worse, he would be messily eating a meaty sandwich with a generous helping of red sauce while doing it. The constable suspected that was why Tailfin had hired him. Probably the same reason Madrik was getting rid of him.
“Thank you, Madrik, Tally. Glad to see we are all in support of fighting crime in Helen’s Bay.”
“Happy to help!” said Madrik. “Henchman, see to it that they get their salaries.”
* * *
“Where ar’we going ‘en?” asked the newest member of the city watch.
Tyke had an annoying voice, realised Pektyne. Sort of, no, extremely twangy. He also dropped half his syllables and pronounced the rest of them incorrectly. That wouldn’t be so bad, but the trouble was, he asked an awful lot of questions.
“We are just doing a round,” said Pektyne. “Making sure people see us.”
“People are less likely to commit crime when we are watching. They are scared of being caught.”
“Ah. I see. So we gone round scaren ’em not a’do crime. Got’ya now.”
“Well, no, not exactly—”
“Oye, you,” yelled Tyke. “Wha’r you up ta?”
“Nuffink, Tyke,” said the unsuspecting youth on the street.
“Don’ go lyin’ a’me. I know you t’well.”
“Tyke,” interjected Pektyne, “you don’t need to…”
Tyke withdrew a large dagger from somewhere obscure, and started gently tapping the blade on the end of his fingernails, casually looking at the suspect.
“Now wha’ ya go’an draw a stabber for, Tyke?”
“Alrigh’ calm yaself. It’s just a lil bu’er knife to keep my fingers busy. Nuffink to make a fuss about.”
“A bu’er knife? Ya could bu’er the head of a bluddy blun’oof dragon wiff it.”
“Now why would I wanna bu’er the head of a blun’oof dragon?”
“Well I don’ know. I ain’ gone an brough’ ou the stabber now, ‘ave I?”
Pektyne was struggling to keep up. It was difficult enough to follow Tyke, but this conversation was beyond him. What the hell was a bluntoof dragon?
“Righ’, look ‘ere. We ain’ ‘ere a talk abou’ wha’ blade I use for wha’. I’m inna watch now. A Consable. An’ I fink you up ta somefink funny ‘ere.”
“Actually,” added Pektyne, “you are not a const—”
“Wha’ you mean consable? Wha’ u mean somefink funny? I ain’ up ta anyfink funny.”
“I go’ my eye you, boy.”
Tyke pointed the dagger at him as he began walking away, and the suspect lost interest as quickly and turned away.
“Scary enough fa ya?” asked Tyke.
“I honestly don’t have a clue what just happened,” said Pektyne. “Who was that anyway? Why does he talk like you? Why do you talk like you?”
“Wha’cha mean? Tha’s my lil bruvver, ain’ ‘e? Tha’s ‘ow I know ‘e’s up ta somefink.”
Pektyne shook his head. This might become more of a burden than it was worth. Forty years he had been in the city watch – been the city watch. Never had any help, never needed it. Well, that’s not true; he needed help, just better help.
“What’s a bluntoof dragon?”
“You ain’t ‘eard of ’em? ‘Ey’re like lizards, right, only bigger, like a ‘orse. Only ‘ey’re no ‘orses neever, on accoun’ of the scales an’ all. ‘Ey live up inna norf.”
“You mean, Blunt Tooth? They live on the Bluntooth Peninsula?”
“‘At’s right. Blun’oof.”
“It’s two words.”
“No it ain’, s’just one word. Like the peninsula inna norf.”
“Well, yes, it’s spelled with one word, but it’s pronounced as two words.”
“Why don’ ‘ey spell i’ wiff two words ‘en?”
“Well… It doesn’t matter,” he relented. “It’s not like we’re ever going to go there. Or see one.”
Pektyne tried to shake the pointless conversation and clear his mind. They had more patrolling to do – perhaps they could do it in silence. He almost heard himself take one full breath before they were interrupted.
“Mr Pektyne,” said the man on the street. “Ah, and Mr Tyke.”
“Consable Tyke,” clarified Tyke.
“Actually,” added Pektyne, “you are not a const—”
“I’m wiff a ci’y watch now,” added Tyke with wide grin. “Consable Tyke. And you are?”
“Right,” said Pektyne. “I see. How can we help you?”
“A concerned citizen wished for me to inform you of a shipwreck.”
“A concerned citizen? Wait. What shipwreck? Where? We should go now.”
“No rush, Constable. It hasn’t sunk yet. Just thought you should go up there and prepare. Should be any day now.”
“What? It hasn’t sunk yet? How? What?”
“I can assure you my information is completely accurate. Besides, it would do you some good to get out of the city. There is a tavern quite close to the soon-to-be wreck; a nice place. Head to the Sharpened Bluntooth inn, and wait there a day or two. You will see.”
Pektyne dropped his head in hands.
“And where does the Sharpened Bluntooth happen to be?”
“Why, on Bluntooth Peninsula, of course.”
* * *
A few days later, Constable Pektyne and Const… Tyke were standing outside the Sharpened Bluntooth. It looked to Pektyne just like any other tavern, except something was wrong. Something was very wrong.
The front door’s hinges looked to be in perfect shape, as though no-one had ever kicked through the door before. There were no broken windows either. There weren’t urine stains along the outside wall. The sign, depicting a horse-sized lizard, swung happily in the wind without making a single sound – it wasn’t rusted, or faded, or sun-warped. Worst of all, the tavern was in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
The city watchmen walked in through the front door, which silently swung back and closed behind them, a faint click to confirm it was shut. The tables were neatly arrayed, cutlery prepared for all the chairs. The stools were lined up in front of the bar, evenly spaced, at just the perfect distance from the bar itself.
They walked over and sat down on the unexpectedly comfortable stools.
“Good evening, gentlemen. What can I get you?”
“Deklow? What the hell are you doing here?”
“Opened a new tavern,” shrugged Deklow nonchalantly. “You are my first customers, in fact.”
“You opened a tavern in the middle of nowhere?”
“Ingenious don’t you think? Countless leagues separate me and my nearest competition!”
“And your nearest customers,” said Pektyne.
“‘Ere was ‘at one fella down onna beach. Fancy cloving an’ all.”
“Right. So one potential customer.”
“I have plenty of room here, as you see,” said Deklow. “Spacious, don’t you think? And I have beds upstairs too. Enough beds for the crew of a large ship, I reckon.”
“‘ow many ships ya seen ‘ere?”
“Well, none yet. But, I only opened today, and I already have my first customers,” said Deklow as he handed them drinks.
The barman hadn’t waited for their order, he had gone ahead and poured two large cups of ale. Pektyne had a growing suspicious that the gods were screwing with him. Tyke had been assigned to him as a joke, and then a man on the street happened to send him to a tavern on Bluntooth Peninsula on the same day. It could have been a surprise party, had he enough friends to arrange one. And what about this ship that had yet to be wrecked?
“Where would I go looking for a shipwreck around here?” asked Pektyne.
“Just follow the coast a little further,” said Deklow. “It becomes very rocky down there. Seems a good bet. But no hurry, you can have a look in the morning. I’ll have dinner ready for you soon, and then you can get a good night’s sleep.”
Constable Pektyne couldn’t wait for the joke to end.
* * *
“It’s a shipwreck alrigh’,” said Tyke, pointing out the massive ship that had quite clearly been wrecked upon the rocks just out from the shore.
It was the biggest ship Pektyne had seen in many years; since he was a boy in fact. The mainland used to build ships that large, but they didn’t usually dock in Helen. It looked more or less intact, apart from the large hole in the hull, but it could have done with a little care. The sails appeared to have been repaired a hundred times using nothing but old sails as thread.
“What are they doing, do you suppose?” asked Constable Pektyne.
He was referring to the two-score old men rolling around in the sand, most of them wearing little more than torn underwear, in many cases sewn together from patches of cloth of a variety of faded shades. The entire crew had left their ship to its fate, and were laughing and singing and throwing sand in the air. It seemed more a delirium than a celebration.
“I reckon ‘ey ain’t seen dry land in some time.”
“Very observant of you, Tyke.”
“I reckon ‘ey been at sea too long.”
“One day you’ll make a fine addition to the city watch.”
One of the former sailors spotted them, and called out to the others. Within moments, the entire crew was bearing down on them as fast as their skinny legs could carry them across the soft sand. Pektyne noticed that not all of them numbered amongst the privileged that had scraped together cloth for multi-coloured underpants.
The first of them arrived with an excited look on his face, panting frantically, and slowed to speak.
“Where are the women?” he asked eagerly, his eyes searching the surroundings.
A repeated chaotic chorus of women echoed through the stranded sailors behind him.
“The women?” queried Pektyne.
“Aye, the women!”
The second chorus sounded practiced, arrayed with perfectly timed nods all around. Pektyne glanced toward Tyke, who shrugged back at him.
“First fing I’d ask fa,” he said, adding a supportive nod to the sailor.
“Look, there are no women around h—”
“No women!” gasped the talkative one, shock and surprise swinging to anger. “What do you mean, no women? Dammit, where are we?”
“This is Renryre Island—”
“Renryre Island… Renryre…?“
“Where are you from, old man?”
“We’re from… ah, we’re from…”
He looked around his crew questioningly. They all looked at each other, blank expressions on their faces.
“Well, I don’t remember what it was called. We’ve been at sea for some time now, you see.”
“About four decades, I presume?” said Pektyne.
The sailor nodded uncertainly. Not one of them had black hair, and none of them were less than fifty years old. Pektyne could imagine them on the high seas sailing for port, and simply never arriving. The mainland had vanished, and those at sea had been left worse off than those on Renryre Island.
“So, to clarify, there are no women at all on this island?”
“Of course there are—”
Pektyne was cut off by an excited outburst of cheers. He was about to suggest they make their way back to Helen’s Bay when Tyke interrupted.
“Consable Pektyne, can we, ah, confer over ‘ere?”
“What is it?”
“It’s just… do you really wanna loose for’y odd ‘orny sailors, who ain’ seen a girl in for’y years, on our luvvly ci’y of ‘elen? I should fink as consables, it would be our du’y to, you know, do just the opposi’e.”
“You’re not a cons… never mind. What do you suggest?” asked Pektyne, sighing, as he already knew the answer.
“Well. It just so ‘appens there be a tavern near by tha’ has just enough room for a ‘ole ship’s crew.”
“You are referring to the tavern that coincidentally opened a day ago in the middle of nowhere?”
“Tha’s the one. It would be like a quaran’ine, like ‘ey use ado inna old days.”
“A quarantine? I suppose that makes sense.”
Pektyne turned to scan the sailors, searching for any sign of rank. Aside from slightly more colourful underwear, there was little to differentiate.
“Alright, who’s the captain?”
The men all looked at each other guiltily. Eventually one of them offered an answer.
“We ate him.”
“Okay…” said Pektyne after several moments trying to untie his tongue while considering how appetising he might have appeared at that very moment. “What about this first mate?”
A sea of heads turning to each other revealed an obvious answer.
“Fink ‘ey et ‘im too,” added Tyke helpfully.
“They stood up, see. They volunteered. When times were tough and the catch too lean…”
“Fine,” said Pektyne, taking a deep breath, “who would be the highest ranking sailor who has not been eaten?”
The talkative one raised his hand nervously; he was, after all, next in line.
“Why don’t we take you and your crew to the nearest tavern, where everyone can have a nice warm meal, overindulge in chilled ale, and pass out on a soft mattress?”
The cheers returned, not quite as pronounced as when they’d thought there would be women, but food, ale, and sleep would be an acceptable distraction.
“But first,” said Pektyne. “Let’s search the ship for anything of value. It’s going to be a hefty price at the tavern to pay for this lot.”
The city watchmen were accompanied by only one sailor willing to climb back aboard the ship, while the rest of the men made their way towards the tavern. Leaning at a heavy angle, it wasn’t easy to walk on the ship’s deck, but they soon found their way to the captain’s quarters.
Searching within, they found a chest, full of gold and silver. An absolute fortune. Enough to buy the tavern, and stock it for years to come. The sailor didn’t seem impressed. Forty years at sea with nothing to buy had rather diminished the precious metals’ value. Enough so that the whole crew hadn’t bothered retrieving it when they’d struck land. Pektyne, as a responsible and honest city watchman, would need to spend some time thinking on what to do with it. Tyke, he noticed, had already made some plans of his own. Or at least, the first part of his plan.
They were just about to leave when Pektyne noticed an ornamental compass on the floor. He collected it, studying the fine artistry. The face was covered in a script he didn’t understand, and symbols etched on a copper plated base. The back had a thin gold plating, with more script carved around the circumference and seven stars cut into the middle, arranged in an unusual pattern.
“It doesn’t work,” said the sailor.
“What do you mean?” asked the constable.
“Sailors don’t get stuck at sea for four decades with a working compass,” he said, shrugging.
Pektyne looked at it again. Seemed worth holding onto anyway, so he did just that. Never know when a compass might come in handy.
Carrying the chest of treasure, they emerged from the ship to find a monster standing right there in front of them, a few yards away on the beach. It looked like a lizard, but it was the size of horse. Of course, it wasn’t a horse, on account of its scales, but it was impressively large. Its eyes were a dark green that could pierce the inflated ego of any hero. Its teeth were the size of fingers, dirty with age-old food, and powerful enough to grind bones to fine powder. The fabled bluntooth dragon!
Tyke wasted no time. He drew his stabber and leapt for the creature, roaring with an odd twang as he soared through the air. His dagger came down hard on the beast’s forehead, snapping and sending the silverware flying away. Panicked, Tyke kicked at the bluntooth under its belly, and jumped backwards holding his foot, hopping around.
“Dam blun’oof is as ‘ard as a godsdamned rock.”
The bluntooth dragon, Pektyne saw, hadn’t moved. It didn’t appear to have noticed Tyke’s attack at all. It kept chewing on something. Fish?
“Dam blun’oof, I’ll ge’ you!”
“You ‘ust wai’—”
Tyke was limping toward it for another attack. Pektyne suspect he was going to try kick it with his only good foot.
“I’ll ge’ you, you bastard!”
“I don’t think it’s dangerous.”
Tyke stopped to look. The creature slowly dropped its head into the shallow water, picking up a few stray pebbles, and chewing on them as it lifted its head back up. It snorted casually, and swung its head slowly around to face Tyke. It looked at him while chewing, then turned away and went back to its business.
The three of them crept past cautiously, treasure in hand, while the bluntooth dragon continued to ignore them.
Allowing the other two to carry the chest, Pektyne glanced at his new compass. Where it was supposed to be pointing north, it was actually pointing more or less south, and a little to the east. Towards the tavern? Helen’s Bay? Nothing at all?
“Hmm,” he sighed. “Seems this compass is broken after all.”
He was about to toss it into the sea when something told him not to. A feeling. Like it was important. He shrugged, tucked it back into his pocket, and continued on his way back to the Sharpened Bluntooth.
I hope you enjoyed reading Renryre Island Chapter XI: The Might Of The Watch.
Next, Chapter XII: A Fish Too Big.
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