The Seven Of Sands
Madrik woke up. He didn’t like waking up. And he certainly didn’t like waking up in the middle of the desert, bleeding into the sand.
“Godsdammit,” he grunted. “Not again.”
He stood up, barely noticing the girl laying next to him in the puddle of blood, several wounds across her body. No, he was more concerned about the wounds on his body.
“Where are you?” he shouted. “Bloody hell, I am not having it. Not this time. Show yourself.”
“Who the hell are you talking to?” asked Talyreina, attempting to get up herself. “My head hurts. What did we drink last night?”
“Look around you, Tally,” he barked. “We’re in the middle of the desert. How many times has a big night landed you in the middle of the bloody desert?”
“Alright, calm down,” she said, scanning their surroundings. “I grew up in Rhytheport. So to answer your question, I have woken up in the desert with a hangover more times than I can remember.”
“And how many of those times had you also been ripped to shreds by some savage creature?”
Talyreina looked over her wounds and shrugged.
“Right, well this particular one is going to have you riding on the back of an invisible dog by noon.”
She glared at him, uncomprehending.
“It’s a long story,” he added.
Madrik searched around for any sign of their former captors – the bastards that had left them out there. He checked his pocket, and found a note neatly rolled up.
“Sorry to do this to you,” he read out aloud, “but you really were in the way. I hope you understand that you two are in fact the least important people in my grand designs. It’s nothing personal – a concept I am sure you are familiar with in your line of work. I do hope you enjoy your time in the desert; especially given that have remarkably better company on this occasion. Regardless, I’m sure you know the way back home by now, so I expect to be seeing you soon.”
Madrik dropped the note onto the drifting dust.
“That slimy servant bastard. I will kill him. I will kill him, and his boss. Arynlock will die. Tailfin will die. They will all die.”
“Okay,” said Talyreina, “calm down.”
“I am bloody calm!” he roared.
“What’s that?” asked Talyreina.
“That barking. Can’t you hear it?”
“Godsdammit,” he said, hanging his head, then turned to shout for help. “Abbikson! Lytette!”
He turned around again. As if out of nowhere, there was someone standing right behind him. Someone with tattered clothing, and very little at that.
“Lytette? Are you real?”
“Madrik? What are you doing back here?”
Madrik smiled, hoping he wasn’t talking to an illusion.
“I am just planning my revenge.”
* * *
The Seven Of Storms
Abbikson spun around, searching for the demon-goddess.
“Lytette?” he called out louder.
“Where did she go?” asked Ryleine.
He knew the answer, but he didn’t want to believe it. After so many years of waiting for him…
“She has gone to buy us enough time to escape.”
“The Three are close behind. She has gone to confront them, to make sure that we can get away, get back to Helen.”
“Well then… let’s go.”
“No,” he said, eyes fixed on the desert. “You go. I cannot leave her here to fight for me. To die for me. You go without me. Go now.”
Abbikson began jogging towards the desert even as the heat of the morning sun began to strengthen on his back. The soft dry sand made running difficult, but he had no choice, no other way to catch up with Lytette. He had barely made it a hundred yards before he heard her calling him.
“Abe! Come back here, you old fool.”
He turned around to see Lytette standing at the edge of the village. He ran back to her, slightly confused.
“What are you doing… there?”
“I was waiting to see you leave safely before I went after The Three. And I was trying to avoid an awkward goodbye.”
“I’m not leaving you to fight them off alone.”
Lytette smiled, remaining silent for a long while as she held his gaze. He could feel the reluctance as she turned away.
“Any of you three able to sail a ship?”
Kyrnrie and Ryleine shook their heads conclusively. Irikhart was more optimistic about his qualifications.
“I’ve seen others sailing ships,” he remarked casually, as if that was more than enough.
Lytette looked back at Abbikson as she shrugged, gesturing towards the unlikely crew. She had a pained expression on her face, worse than he’d ever seen.
“I could kiss you right now,” she said. “But I wouldn’t want to traumatise you before your voyage. You better board that ship before I change my mind!”
Abbikson hesitated while Irikhart, blind to the situation, interjected his own opinion.
“We’re running out of time, Abe,” said the god of fools. “Let’s go.”
“Abbikson,” he said.
“My name is Abbikson.”
“That’s what I said.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Yes, it is.”
“Ah, forget it,” he said, shaking his head, as the moment passed. “Lytette… thank you.”
He ran towards the ship; the god, the thief, and the huntress close behind. He climbed aboard and began shouting orders, preparing the ship for sailing. Fortunately, the guardians had kept it ready for a rapid departure so there was little for them to do, and they were able to cast off quickly, heading out to sea.
Abbikson looked back towards the land, searching for Lytette. She stood on the shore at the edge of the abandoned town, waving her goodbyes. A dust storm rose from nowhere, swallowing her in the darkness before striking the sails with immense force, pushing the ship out of the bay at incredible speed.
Even as the dust swirled in the rigging, Abbikson could hear her voice on the wind.
“Goodbye, Lytette,” he murmured back.
* * *
The Seven Of Seas
Gerylde stood on shore, staring at the various planks loosely fastened together. They formed a strangely familiar pattern.
“Four green coins, Mr Tailfin. Nothing less.”
“But that’s twice the price I paid last time, and this boat barely floats!”
The merchant was a skilled negotiator. Gerylde was thankful he wasn’t the one who needed to barter with him, or pay for the product.
“Supply and demand, my good sir,” explained the shipwright. “I have low supply, and you are being very demanding.”
“Shouldn’t I get a loyalty discount? This is my second purchase in only a few weeks.”
“I certainly value return customers, Mr Tailfin. I tell you what. I will knock a quarter off your third purchase. How does that sound?”
“I will knock three quarters of your leg off if you don’t start being reasonable!”
Gerylde blocked out the aggressive negotiations behind him as he studied the vessel. He had never been on a boat, of course, but he had heard of them. He may have lived in the forest for all his life, but even as a hermit he had met others that spoke of the sea. He had met someone many years ago that had lost his daughter in a storm – tragic really.
“Alright, all aboard,” said Tailfin. “Let’s get seaborne before I lose my temper and dismember this merchant thief.”
Gerylde wasted no time in avoiding the conflict. He clambered aboard, and loosely held onto the rigging as he rushed towards the stern, confident on deck despite the waves rocking the boat.
“This should be a quick trip,” said Tailfin. “The Whalebreaker current will more or less take us straight there. Gerylde, why don’t you… okay, you take the tiller.”
Gerylde was already holding onto it, swinging out the rudder to steer into the current.
“And you,” he said, pointing to The Scribe, “well, I guess you can write this all down.”
The Scribe nodded casually as he withdrew a sheet of parchment, and Tailfin came to sit next to Gerylde.
“You seem to know what you’re doing, old man.”
“It’s easy enough, I think,” said the hermit. “Just need to get a feel for it.”
Tailfin watched him with a curious expression, then gazed off to the storm clouds.
“Think you can handle that?”
The lightning flashed, and it was quickly followed by a deep rumbling that shook the boat, the rigging creaking as the woodwork struggled in the growing swells. Gerylde searched the boat for any weak points, anything he should know when navigating through the wild seas.
“Where are we going, exactly?” he shouted over the hiss of heavy rain on the ocean.”
“Helen’s Bay!” said Tailfin. “We need to get to Arynlock, assuming he is still alive.”
“Yes, he needs the coins to find the mainland,” he yelled. “Do you remember the mainland?”
The vessel crashed over a massive wave, water spraying over the deck and covering the already drenched sailors.
It sounded familiar to Gerylde. Very familiar. He looked at his hand as it clenched the tiller, naturally guiding the ship through the storm. His eyes were pulled away by the appearance of on apparition on the foredeck, a woman, standing freely, staring back at him. He recognised her from somewhere deep in the recesses of his mind, but he couldn’t find a name for her face.
“What is it, old man?” shouted Tailfin over of the clamour of the storm.
He barely heard the voice beside him, his concentration fixed on the woman on deck. The boat crashed over the next swell and dropped deep into the trough just as the following wave collided, sending a surge of water rushing over the deck. The woman was washed overboard right before his eyes.
“No!” he shouted, rushing to the side of the ship, searching the churning seas.
“What are you doing?” called Tailfin.
“Can you see her? Where is she?”
“Who? Who are looking for?”
“Her… my… my daughter.”
“There is no one there, old man. She wasn’t with us!”
Tailfin clung onto Gerylde’s arm, his eyes imploring him to return to the tiller.
“She wasn’t with us,” he repeated. “She wasn’t on the boat.”
Gerylde glanced at the waves again, searching for something. What was he looking for?
“Please, come back. You need to steer the boat!”
Tailfin was clinging to the rigging with one arm as he struggled to keep his balance, trying to pull Gerylde away with the other. Reluctantly, he followed Tailfin back to the stern and took hold of the tiller. He felt a little confused as he held it.
“But,” he protested, “I don’t know how to sail.”
* * *
The Seven Of Selves
“Deklow,” she insisted, “I want to buy the inn. I have a whole bag of gold. How much do you want for it?”
“I told you, Merilyce, The Perfumed Fisherman is not for sale.”
“Fine. You know what. It stinks of fish, and I’m done with fish. I will find another inn to buy, and I will be your competition.”
Merilyce stormed out of the inn, and kept marching to the rhythm of the persistent arguments within her mind. She didn’t stop until she reached The Spotted Seahorse, a tavern well known for not having any dealings with the criminal underworld. She stormed right in and went straight to the bar.
“I want… Deklow? What are you doing here?”
“Me? I work here. What are you doing here?”
“I… what? I just saw you in The Perfumed Fisherman?”
“Yes. I run a few places, actually.”
“Well… I assume you aren’t planning on selling me this one either?”
“Fine,” she spat, and disappeared out the door.
On she went, determined to purchase a tavern, and still be able to settle in before the evening rush. She crossed the market square and followed a seedy road filled with women wearing barely enough to satisfy Constable Pektyne, should he happen to be in the neighbourhood. It wasn’t the most reputable area, but men looking for paid company were prone to reducing their inhibitions before doing something their women wouldn’t be too pleased about. She stormed into The Wretched Wife with renewed vigour, and slammed the bag of gold on the counter.
“I want to… Deklow? What the… how the hell?”
“Merilyce? Nice to see you again. Would you like a drink?”
“Would I… no! I would like an explanation! Just how many taverns are you working in… at exactly the same time?”
“Look, if I tell you, will you leave it alone?”
“No, of course not,” she said. “But if you tell me, and show me how to do it, then I won’t tell anybody else about your little secret.”
* * *
The Seven Of Saints
Pektyne was furious. It wasn’t that he was completely against crime. No, crime had its place in society. It was disorganised crime that riled him. Makyron wasn’t working for someone, he was just an opportunist. It was up to Pektyne to stop these heinous acts of unsanctioned crime.
“Wha’?” exclaimed Tyke. “Issa broken compass. Wha’ you wanna go chasing him down fa?”
“It’s my compass!”
“You foun i’ onna ship.”
“Yes, well, it’s still mine.”
“Bu’ it don’ even work.”
“I know that.”
“Jus ‘ave an ale and forge’ it, please,” rasped Tyke. “Deklow?”
The innkeeper brought two more drinks to the city watchmen. He had a strange expression on his face.
“You alright, Deklow?” asked Pektyne. “You seem… worried.”
“No. It’s nothing. Just… not what I expected.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well,” said the innkeeper, thinking out aloud, “it’s just not how I would have planned it, I guess.”
“Planned what? What are you talking about?”
“Oh, nothing. I’m sure it will all work out.”
Pektyne took a sip of ale, eyes still fixed on Deklow. There was something very wrong going on. Everything. That messenger that had sent them to the Bluntooth Peninsula in the first place. The Sharpened Bluntooth opening in the middle of nowhere just when a ship happened to run aground nearby. The empty cave. The torch, burning in the empty cave. Why was the torch burning in a godsdammed empty cave? And then there was the compass. There was something odd about that compass, he just couldn’t quite grasp what it was. As if it was leading him somewhere, but not by pointing him in the right direction.
He shrugged and shook his head. These thoughts had been plaguing him, getting worse all the time. He felt like something was watching him. Nudging him along, perhaps. Something… beyond his understanding.
“That does it,” he said. “I am going to find out what the hell is going on. If it’s the last thing I do, I am going to find out what the godsdammed hell is happening on this island.”
* * *
The Seven Of Stars
Arynlock studied the Seven Sevens, trying desperately to work out what he was missing. He must have overlooked something, some fine detail that would aid him in bringing it all together.
He had the seven Navigator’s Coins laid out before him, and a map of Renryre Island, alone in a vast blue ocean. Somehow, the coins would help him find the mainland, but… he was missing something.
He broke his attention on the map and raised his hand to his head, cupping his forehead and rubbing his temples before running his fingers through his thinning hair. He had repeated the motion countless times over the weeks; every time he thought he had found the solution, he became lost again in a sea of confusion.
He glanced around the room at the patient, silent onlookers, their eyes fixed on him, intent, eager. All except his servant who, curiously, was looking unusually down.
“What’s the matter with you?” he asked in a slightly annoyed tone.
“Nothing, sir. Nothing at all.”
“Why don’t you make us a pot of tea, then?” suggested Arynlock. “Our guests look rather parched.”
“Yes, Mr Arynlock. Of course.”
The servant trudged away, his sour mood infecting the room.
“Right, where was I,” mused Arynlock, focusing back at the map.
He checked the seven coins again, looking at every minor detail on each individual coin. The constellations were different on each coin, an apparent pattern, yet not one he could follow. Surely they must mean something.
He slid the coins around, rearranging them in different orders, different shapes. He tried replicating the arrangement on the stars of each coin, tried aligning them with the features on the map of Renryre Island. He wondered if his map was to the wrong scale, if he needed to try a different map. Perhaps one with markers in the sea.
But there were no landmarks in the ocean, just a vast empty nothingness, not a single island or rock piercing the waves. Nothing with which to orient the island. If it weren’t for the consistency of the sunrise, he wouldn’t even have been sure which way he was facing. At least he knew that Renryre Island itself wasn’t moving.
“I am so near to figuring this out,” he mumbled, mostly to himself.
He places all seven coins the left margin of the map, searching again for something, anything he might have missed. He slid the first coin out, gradually moving it toward Goldryke Caves. The next he moved over Rordynne Forest, followed by another over Littleren, the seat of the Godstone.
“Huh,” he said appreciatively.
He kept moving the coins one by one, over Fools’ Escape, Helen’s Bay, and finally the last two he moved to Helen itself. He studied the arrangement for some time, a constellation in itself which formed a near perfect arc that followed the western coast of the island, crossed the mountains, and wandered over towards the northern coast before looping back down into Fools’ Escape. He considered the pattern for some time, nodding to himself slowly.
“Huh,” he repeated.
* * *
The Seven Of Sevens
If there was one word that Nelysse could use to describe herself, it would be patient. Through all the years, she had never rushed a loaf of bread. It was a skill in itself, patience, one that was earned through tireless practice.
“Well,” she said eagerly, “where is it?”
Arynlock didn’t seem to hear her, so deep in concentration he was. Unsurprising really; if locating the mainland was an easy task, somebody would have found it already. People had been searching for decades, ever since it had gone missing. Many had lost their lives to the endless quest.
The elderly gentleman Nelysse had met in the drawing room had been one of those who had spent many years of their lives in pursuit of the elusive mainland. Abbikson had given up after losing too many friends, and had finally gone to live in solitude in the desert, trying to forget what he had lost.
“Anything?” she prompted, but still there was no answer.
Nelysse could remember those early years well, when sailors embarked on their perilous journeys almost daily, many of them never to return. The port had grown quiet after some time, ships’ berths left empty, families broken, and loved ones mourning the senseless deaths.
“Huh,” said Arynlock, tilting his head to one side as he studied the coins.
Nelysse wondered what they might find on the mainland. Would they have been forgotten? Would the mainlanders welcome them back?
“Can I do anything to help?” volunteered the bakerwoman, but there was no response.
Nelysse had inherited the bakery when her parents had passed away. She had lived in the same building her entire life, struggling with change while she remained ever the same. Since the city watchmen had been lost on the mainland, criminals had roamed free in Helen’s Bay, while poor Pektyne struggled to keep order against the odds. Two of those criminals were right there in the room with her. Tailfin, the infamous gangster, crime lord of the island, and Kyrnrie, the thief who she had caught nosing about in her bedroom.
“Huh,” added Arynlock to his previous statement, evidently oblivious to his audience.
There were others in the room too. The young good-looking fellow who had arrived wearing nothing but his underwear. Fortunately, the servant had found a cloak for him, as the young lady with Kyrnrie really shouldn’t be exposed to such sights. Ryleine’s grandfather had joined too. A sweet old man, though evidently he had left a large part of his mind behind at some point in time along his long journey. Another strange man that she had seen many times in the bakery had also joined them. The Scribe, he humbly called himself.
The eight of them stood watching as Arynlock tried to decipher the coins. Well, nine if the servant was to be counted, but he appeared to have little to do with it, pouring tea with a sour look on his face.
“Huh,” said Arynlock in high-pitched voice, nodding as he appreciated the arrangement of coins in front of him.
Silence hung in the room, stretching out as far as time could reasonably extend without snapping.
“Well?” urged Nelysse, excitement getting the better of her.
“Huh? What?” asked Arynlock, concentration broken as he looked up from the map.
“Well… where is it?” she asked. “Where is the mainland?”
Arynlock glanced back down at the coins.
“Do you know,” he said, as he sucked in a deep breath, “I haven’t the faintest idea.”
I hope you enjoyed reading Renryre Island Chapter XIX: Don’t Mind Me
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