Scribe of Texas Book Page Scribe of Texas Poems Scribe of Texas Short Stories Scribe of Texas Fan Fiction Scribe of Texas Preaching Politics Scribe of Texas email

Universe of G-Minor Logo
All the Heavens - Title

Chapter 39

Horace grinned broadly. “Now we’re getting somewhere,” he enthused. He suddenly turned businesslike, his voice brisk and clipped. “Jon, you’ve scouted the area, you’ll be in the lead taking us down there. Wear that ring of yours too, I like the idea of having an invisible point man.”

The rogue compressed his lips and nodded silently.

“Elric, I want you to prepare your best spell. The moment we get in the room, hit the big guy Jon saw. That’s when the rest of us will attack. We’ll fan out. I’ll take the center, the rest of you on either side of me. Except for you, Jon. Try to get around behind them.” He paused and looked around. “Let’s keep this short and sweet, no tricky maneuvers or special timing. Everyone ready?”

They all nodded tensely.

“Alright. Let’s do it!”

Jon slipped his ring on, muttering the command word, and disappeared from view. “Follow me,” his voice said from nowhere.

Horace hefted his sword menacingly and moved out, the rest of the Knights close behind. Jon moved swiftly down the tunnel, pausing now and then to whisper words of encouragement to his friends in a ghostly voice. As they neared the bunk room the sound of coarse laughter floated down the hall and he was forced to raise his voice slightly in order to be heard.

He poked his head around the corner to survey the room. Beds lined the far wall and three, long tables stood lengthwise across the middle of the room, forcing people to walk around them to reach the bunks. The four pirates were sitting at the middle table drinking and playing cards. Two of them had their back to the door. He pulled back and relayed his information to his friends.

The corners of Horace’s mouth pulled down at the news. “The tables are sitting crosswise to us?” he asked quietly.

Jon started to nod, then realized they couldn’t see him. “That’s right,” he whispered. “So?”

“It gives them a barricade to hide behind.”

“They’re just tables,” Katrina protested. “That’s hardly a barricade.”

“An obstacle then. Whatever you want to call it, it makes it harder. I wanted this to go down fast and neat, but it doesn’t look like it’s gonna happen that way. The tables will slow us down and they’ll have time to get ready for us, pull their swords, position themselves, and whatever else they want.” He shook his head angrily.

“What if they’re distracted?” Mira asked in a soft voice.

His brow furrowed in puzzlement. “What do you mean?”

It had been so long since they’d seen Mira use her bow they’d almost forgotten she had it. She hefted it and twanged the string gently. “What if they’re distracted?” She gave them a wicked smile.

Horace grinned at her. “That’d be just fine,” he said. He peered over his shoulder at Elric. “Ready?”

The mage jerked his head affirmatively. He moved up to the edge of the doorway and peeked in. He drew back, took a deep breath, and stepped out into the doorway. He extended a finger, shouting arcane words of power. The pirates jumped in surprise at the sound of his voice, but before they had time to do anything, crackling power struck the biggest one in the chest. He fell back with a roar of pain and the Knights spilled into the room, Horace in the lead.

Mira stepped up beside Elric and loosed an arrow at the gaping pirates. Without waiting to see where it struck, she nocked and loosed another. Screams of pain rewarded her marksmanship and she calmly reached for another arrow.

Elric ducked under her line of fire and darted across the room, hard on the heels of his friends. For his next spell, he needed to ensure they weren’t in his line of fire.

Horace rounded the end of the middle table and closed with the burly pirate. Elric’s magic had wounded him, but he was far from dead, and he was drawing a two-handed sword similar to Horace’s. They came together with a horrendous crash.

Aaren and Katrina closed with the pirates on the near side of the tables. Already wounded by Mira’s well-placed shafts, they staggered under this new attack. Within moments, one was dead and the other was bleeding from a dozen, jagged wounds. A spreading sheet of flame, cast by Elric, engulfed him and he went down in smoking ruin.

The last pirate, caught between the wall and his over-sized comrade, froze in indecision, torn between aiding his companions and fleeing for his life.

He never got a chance to decide.

An invisible flurry of dagger blows tore him to pieces. His disbelieving screams were cut short as the searching blades found his heart and stopped its beating forever.

Horace’s dark-haired opponent curled his lips derisively at the speed with which his fellows met their ends, but Elric’s magic and Horace’s sword had both struck him hard and deep. Drunk from too much ale, his parries were slow and ill-timed. Horace penetrated his guard time and time again.

Seeing how badly the man was wounded, Horace slowed his attack. “Surrender,” he shouted. “Surrender and we’ll let you’ll live.”

The man coughed blood and sneered. His voice wheezed brokenly. “I don’t need to live. I’ve made a bargain against my death, a bargain nothing can stop.” He laughed evilly and drew himself up with newfound strength. Roaring with sudden volume, he launched himself at Horace in a suicidal frenzy.

Horace was caught off guard and for a moment it looked as though the pirate would win free, but he recovered and fought back smoothly. His friends surged forward to help him but before they could, the burly pirate was skewered on his blade.

Blood foamed out of his mouth and he smiled through his pain. “You . . . have not seen . . . the last . . . of me,” he gasped brokenly. “You . . . have . . . not . . . seeee . . . .” His voice trailed away and he sagged limply.

Horace pulled his sword out and the body fell with a mortal thud. He wiped off his blade and looked at his friends. “What was that all about?”

“A nut case,” Elric opined.

Jon faded back into view. “A strong nut case,” he said. “Did you see the way he threw himself at Horace? That guy must have had the constitution of a bull!”

Katrina was putting her blade away. “I’m not sure he was crazy,” she said slowly. “A lot of ballads talk about people who don’t stay dead. They come back to life or turn into zombies or something. Maybe he’s one of them.” She shuddered.

Mira gave her a strange look. “I think your taste in ballads needs to come back to life. Where do you come up with that stuff anyway?”

Katrina’s eyes flashed with fire. “Taste has nothing to do with it. Ballads are stories set to music and many of them are true. What about the stories of the destruction during the Chaos Wars at the end of the First Age?”

Mira shook her head in irritation. “That was real.”

“So are the undead.”

“Indeed they are,” Aaren added. “Many of my classes at the temple dealt with exactly that problem.”

“Trust you to say something like that,” Mira flared at him. “Unless, of course, you’ve had another accident.”

He winced, lapsing into silence as he backed away from the angry ranger. The fragile truce that had held while they were planning and executing the attack dissolved in an instant, and he cursed bitterly at himself for not keeping his mouth shut.

Wanting to keep the peace, Katrina quickly retracted her comments. “Maybe you’re right, Mira. He was just an overgrown pirate with a bad sense of humor . . . that’s all.”

The others chimed in with their agreement. Somewhat mollified, the beautiful ranger relaxed and leaned on her bow. “In that case let’s search the place then get ready to leave as soon as the storm lets up.”

She pointedly ignored Aaren.

Still trying to remedy the tension in the air, the Knights followed her suggestion quickly, rummaging through the tunnels and dusty rooms. But the pirates were either extremely poor or they kept most of their loot on the absent starship for they found little except some bulky food supplies. The dead bodies yielded up a few pieces of silver and some mediocre weapons, but little else.

They completed their search of the pirate hideout and returned to the tunnel entrance. They settled down there to wait for the end of the storm, which had started to show signs of weakening.

Time dragged by.

The tension between Mira and Aaren stifled any attempt at conversation. If one spoke, the other refused to participate. If the other asked a question of the group in general, the first turned to stone, refusing to answer or acknowledge the questioner.

At last, the group gave up trying to reconcile them and just sat, each alone with his own thoughts. When the storm finally slowed to a drizzle and Horace suggested they leave the caverns, the Knights acted on his words with an almost audible, sigh of relief.

They marched out into the icy drizzle and headed down the mountain, slipping and sliding on the rain-slicked rocks. Cautiously descending, their full attention was focused on putting one foot in front of the other, so it wasn’t until they were halfway down that Elric noticed the full extent of the storm’s aftermath. “This place is flooded!”


They stopped and peered through the mist at the swamp below.

Swollen by the pounding rains, the series of lakes they’d encountered during their trek through the swamp was now revealed as one gigantic lake, twisting and turning, sending fingers out in all directions.

“No wonder we kept running into water everywhere we went,” Mira cried in wonder. “It’s all one lake.”

“And it’s probably the Syth-Finn to boot,” Jon added miserably. “Beorn warned us not to get caught in it, and we headed straight for it the moment we landed.”

Katrina was mentally kicking herself. “It’s my fault,” she said. “I was the one who was supposed to be navigating. I was the one who told Aaren where to land.” She paused. “That means the hydra was probably the monster that killed everyone who went near the Syth-Finn.”

Horace nodded then leaned over and gave her a friendly squeeze. “Don’t be too hard on yourself kiddo, none of us could have done any better,” he reassured her.

She smiled weakly at him but remained unconvinced.

Elric was busy scanning the scene below. “Didn’t Beorn say Seasar’s village was beside a small lake?”

Aaren nodded. “That’s right.”

“Well, if this is all one big lake, Syth-Finn or not, then we’re nowhere near the village.” He called Katrina over and dug through her pack for the map. He spread it out on the rocks. “Look, there’s more of this lake stretching around to the east of that big, rounded mountain in the center, which looks like the one we’re on now, then another mountain range, then two small lakes to the east of that. At least, they look like two different lakes.” He glanced pointedly at the swamp below.

Katrina draped an oddly caressing arm across him. Striving to keep a defensive note out of her voice, she said, “I think you’re right. We should have come down between those two lakes instead of beside this one.”

“Then we need to head back to the Wanderer and try again,” he answered her.

Aaren winced at the thought of having to land the awkward, little shuttle again but nodded his agreement. “Looks like it.”

Horace cast a jaundiced eye at the murky swamp then surveyed his filthy armor with distaste. “Not another night in that muck,” he protested. It was already getting late and it was a foregone conclusion they wouldn’t make it back to the Wanderer in one march.

Jon snickered at Horace’s distraught expression. “Ah, is he going to get his widdle armor all messy?” he said mockingly in a high, falsetto voice. “Isn’t that too bad? And no baff water either.” He shook his head, ‘tsk, tsking’ gently.

Aaren hurried to redirect Horace’s gathering wrath. “Uh, we’ll need you to set up a strong watch tonight. There’s no telling what kind of monsters got flooded out by the storm. They’ll be all over the place tonight.”

He started in surprise, then his eyes lit up and he grinned with eager anticipation. “Yeah!”

Elric poked an arm in Jon’s ribs as a warning to keep quiet then busied himself folding up the map. “We better get started,” he said. “It’s getting late.”

They turned and resumed their perilous journey down the mountain. The drizzle, which had been growing lighter, now reversed itself and turned into a steady drumbeat of pouring rain. The wind, lightning, and fury which had characterized the storm through most of the day were absent. The world was simply a dull, flat gray, washed of all color. Rivulets of water ran down the rocks, gathered their strength, and turned into streams that threatened to become rivers. The falling sheets of water drew a curtain across the landscape. Anything more than a few cubits away was reduced to a hazy outline.

When they reached the base of the mountain they stepped off into waist-deep, icy rainwater. A swift current dragged at them, increasing the chance of a treacherous misstep that could cause them to be swept away. They paused to rope themselves together and continued on. Mira was in the lead, finding her way more by feel and intuition than by landmarks.

What little light there was began to fade.

Slowly at first, then with gathering speed, the light dimmed and died. Shadows piled up under the trees and fronds. Jungle creepers and vines took on the menacing air of coiled serpents, waiting to spring on the unwary. Savage crocodiles turned out to be waterlogged trees floating half-submerged in the water and lurking hydras were revealed as harmless plants. After their third close call with an inoffensive plant, Mira finally called a halt. They gathered around her as the last light faded from the sky. “We can’t go any further,” she said. “We’re cold, wet, tired, and we can’t see where we’re going. We have to stop and make camp.”

Katrina laughed incredulously. “Make camp? Where?” She waved an arm at the water surging around them.

Mira’s reproving expression was lost in the dark but her icy tone was unmistakable. “We’ll sleep in the trees.”

Horace looked down at his heavy armor then up through the driving rain at the water-slicked trees and groaned in despair.

Everything on my web site is free but if you like my writing, please consider donating. Thanks!
donate button
Chapter Index
arrow-back-chapter-38 arrow-forward-chapter-40