THE WARSWORN AND THE WITCH
cHAPTER ONE: pART ONE
The quill fell and rose in fluent efficiency, its tip tainted with the darkest black. It fell again on a scroll ruined with age and rode along in a tongue unfamiliar to the common eye. As the hand wrote, the mind wandered carelessly unhinging itself from the complexities of this simple world. The candle beside flickered violently in protest against its tormentor. The hour was late and the night grim, enveloped in a thin mist that frequents these lands this time of the year. It wasn’t wise to be awake at this hour, the hour of the night when all that is dark and evil slithered its way to the hole that it came from. The hour of the night when the first blood is spilt, when dark arts is at its might.
The candle was the brightest before it died ceasing the shadows that danced on wall. It wasn’t until the pool of wax stained itself to the table that Faye woke up, a frown immediately finding familiar lines on her forehead. The room had grown a lot colder since she sat down to write her novel. The musty smell of the floor rags however were accustomed to by now. His lips weeped a slow grievance, but tired as she was , she didn’t word them. Instead, she leaned back in her chair, closed her eyes and listened. Another would’ve heard just the ordinary sounds of life that one would usually hear from a fishing village that is slowly stirring itself awake. But if listened closely, they would hear the rhythmic thumping of rain as it drizzled onto the window, the lashing of the wind as it battled the curtains, or perhaps even the slow cadence of waves as it caressed the shorelines. But not Faye. When she listened, there was only silence. A nullness where only chants and spells existed. She whispered a name.
She was soon flying, through the depressing dark clouds that hung low in the sky, the tiredness of her age leaving with each flight of her invisible wings. A storm was brewing elsewhere. She swirled down to the cobbled market-streets of Cloves. There were a few on the streets, men too drunk to have walked home, men disregarded as poor and diseased, and among them women with fairer skins and aching loins walking home after a night’s labour. There were some in the alleyways, concealed in the shadows, readying themselves to prey on the unwary. There was a scream as Faye passed. The shadow man had just robbed the woman and disappeared into the shadows. Her scream woke the ones around her, but one doesn’t rise to help at this forsaken hour, the hour of the dark. Several shouts followed, and a scream unlike none other. The scream of a woman clawed by flesh-hungry dogs.
There were several others by the shorelines, on the tables outside the famed inn where whores meet at the crack of dawn to pool their wages. Cruel men sat on them, clashing tall mugs of ale and sharing one last story before they embark on another adventure, an adventure that would encompass them sinking a royal vessel or slaying a kracken. Those hard faces leaked signs of fear when Faye flew down low. Of course, they didn’t see Faye. Faye couldn’t fly. But her thoughts did, an intangible black mass that cleaved the air, sending ripples upon the onlookers. They bit their lips and watched it pass until it integrated with the darker shades of the birches standing guard to the road that led to the old lighthouse.
The shadow man emerged out of the shadows and made his way to the abandoned dock at the far side of the village. There were a few buildings here as well, but the wilderness had encroached over them, turning walls to ruins and ceilings to rubbles. But a shelter they were, for thieves and scrawny pirate breeds like him. There was a stillness in the air, a need to fear, as if a bigger beast was waiting to strike and all it needed was a sign of weakness from its prey. Him. He could feel pale yellow eyes watching him from the woodlines. He pressed the coin sack hard to his chest and ran. Soon enough, he saw fire concealed carefully between two fallen walls and a tall oak. The sweeping branches kept the flame low and the sea wind dissolved the smoke as soon as it rose. Commodore Cervantes de Leon overlook nothing. He owe his life to that man. He eased down to a slow trot when he saw his fellow crew standing vigil by the walls. They greeted him with a slight nod as he approached. He had been with Cervantes long enough to garner that respect. Cervantes, with his back to the oak, was reading a book when he stepped nearer to the flame. Without taking his eyes off the book, he enquired.
“Any trouble, Gabe?”
“None. But not a lot of gold. We need to hit the inns if we got to …”
There was a loud thud as the bone-skinned book was forced shut. Green glistening eyes met Gabe’s, and for a moment a terror lurked in them until a smile weakened the tension. Gabe bowed apologetically and sat down on his usual stone on the right hand side of the Commodore, as the Quartermaster of the crew. Cervantes pulled his quartermaster closer.
“Hitting the inns might reap more gold, but it would cause us great worry in the long run, Gabe. We stick to what we do best. And … do not mention our plans in their earshot.
He gave a quick glance at the men outside. “Hire-hands cant be trusted.”
Soon the other stones were filled by those who’d gone hunting for gold. They tossed what they stole into a small hollow of a rock beside the fire. Coins after coins they fell, of different shapes and colors. Whores, after all have the most diverse of clients stretching from the lands as far as the setting sun to the local coinery of Threshe. It wasn’t much and they knew it. One of them, who had been rubbing his knuckles all this while, expressed his annoyance through silence. The others however were not too discreet.
“Its too little”, said one of them, a young lad leaning on the wall. His ruthlessness in words and deeds were famed to be older than his age. But he was only saying what the others were all thinking.
“It would do for now.” said Cervantes, pulling back strands of damn hair from his forehead and glanced at a stone that was still empty.
“Where is Farrell?”