The Serpent’s Map Part 2

Posted: June 15, 2016 in chuck wendig challenge, Fantasy, Fiction
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I know, I should probably call this “The Campaigner’s Return Part 3,” but I like The Serpent’s Map as a title better. Regardless, this is part three of who knows how many, continuing the adventure of Graciano and Viktoria. In this episode, Graciano reacquaints himself with an old friend, deals are struck, and pirates are fought. Still no magic, but this is a very alternative earth kind of feel to it. Will this continue? Yes, probably, even if I don’t use it to continue the Chuck Wendig Challenges. And yes, this in response to the challenger which was that it had to start with a knock on a door.

“Alright, alright, I’m coming,” Ramiro slurs, sliding his legs off the bed, his feet hitting the cold, rough wood of the floor. He peers through the grimy window, looks out over the harbor. Silver gleams off the dark water, telling him he should be asleep for a few more hours yet.

The pounding on the door does not relent.

He picks up the pistol from the table next to his bed, checks to see if it is loaded. He doesn’t think anyone who wishes him ill would knock first, but it is always best to be prepared.

“Who is it?” he growls, barrel of the pistol pressed against the door.

“It’s Graciano, you old sea dog. Open the door.”

Ramiro grunts as he opens the door, keeping his pistol in his hand and visible. He does raise the barrel to the roof in consideration, however. Graciano stands there, leaning against the door frame, his wide brimmed hat pulled low. Ramiro notices some suspicious looking stains on his coat, but lets it pass. Behind him stands a woman Ramiro doesn’t recognize, her eyes cold and hard behind her glasses and a saber strapped around her waist.

“Huh. I wasn’t expecting guests otherwise I’d have saved a bottle.”

Graciano snorts. “I need your help.” He tries to push past Ramiro, but Ramiro keeps his arm firm as an iron bar. Graciano grunts when he runs into it, his lips pressing together as he considers Ramiro.

“Last time I saw you, you were looking for, what’s his name? Reynard? Man who killed your brother.”

“Reynaldo. Already dealt with him. This is something different.”

“Yeah? Go find another pot to piss in. I’m done with you. There’s no money in revenge.”

“Come on,” the woman says, peering around at Ramiro’s Spartan room. “There doesn’t seem to be much here. Surely we can find another captain who can follow a map.”

Ramiro cocks an eyebrow. “What map? And who are you?”

“My apologies. This is Viktoria. She’s… my personal physician.”

“Your physician?” Ramiro looks at the saber.

Graciano shrugs. “It’s dangerous out on the streets this time of night. I’d not recommend going about unarmed.”

“A fair point, but it doesn’t answer why the two of you are on my doorstep at this hour.”

Viktoria holds up the folded piece of oilskin. “Know anything about snakes?”

Ramiro lowers his arm, ushers the two into the room. “What do you know about them?” He closes the door behind them, makes a show of drawing the bar.

Viktoria makes some space on the small, roughhewn table before opening the map. “Graciano’s recently deceased friend has this on him. He thought you might recognize what it leads to.”

“The dead man did?”

“No, Graciano.”

“Ah. Well. I’m guessing you already know this spot that’s marked is in the Serpent’s Archipelago, huh?”

Graciano nods. “That, we figured out.”

“So what’s the problem then?”

“The problem is that a few odd fellows attacked the two of us. We think they are after the map, but we don’t know why.” Graciano looks at the bed, decides that it isn’t worth sitting on and leans heavy against the wall instead.

“Odd fellows?”

Viktoria rolls up her sleeve, revealing a thin wrist marred by scars. She circles the fingers from her opposite hand around it. “A snake tattoo coiled around their wrists. They each bore the mark.”

“Friends of the deceased?”

“Reynaldo wasn’t the kind of person to have friends.”

“So, what do you want then?”

Graciano stabs his finger at the marked spot on the map. “I want to know why people are willing to kill for this map.”

“Are you sure it’s the map? Maybe it is your winning personality.”

Viktoria wrinkles her nose. “Normally I’d agree with your friend here, Graciano. But they tried to kill me as well.”

Ramiro sighs. “Look, I’m not saying that I don’t feel for you, I do. But to go into the Serpent’s Archipelago with nothing more than a scrap of paper, not knowing what you are looking for? I can’t say I feel this is the course of action most likely to lead me to fame, riches, and glory.”

Viktoria sighs and reaches into her long coat. Ramiro tenses, fingers tightening around the grip of his pistol. “We can pay.”

“We can?” Graciano asks.

Viktoria rolls her eyes. “Being a physician pays better than being in the army.”

Graciano smirks. “I’m better at cutting people than stitching them back up.”

“I’ve noticed.”

Ramiro opens the pouch and gives a low whistle. “Alright, I’m in. I don’t like it, but I’m in.”

Graciano smiles. “How soon can we leave?”

Ramiro gathers his few belongings. He stuffs the pistol in the sash around his waist, hoists an oilskin bag over his shoulder, then takes down a heavy curved knife down from over the doorframe. “It’s going to take me a few hours to roust a crew, clear leaving with the harbor master, all that. You remember where the ship is?”

“I remember,” Graciano replies, his brow furrowing. “You aren’t looking to cross us are you?”

Ramiro opens his arms wide. “Why would I do such a thing as that?”

Viktoria raises an eyebrow at him, peering through her glasses. She taps her fingers against the hilt of her saber.

“Ah, yes point taken. So. It’s still a few hours until dawn. Why not meet me at the docks then, and we’ll be under way.”

“Think you’ll be able to convince the harbor master?” Viktoria asks.

Ramiro smiles, one tooth gleaming gold in the dim light. He hefts the pouch of coins. “I think I’ll find a way.”

Dawn breaks hard over Salamander Cove as Viktoria and Graciano make their way to the docks.

“What’s the name of the ship again?” Viktoria asks.

Graciano coughs into his fist. “I’m not sure it’s fit for polite company.”

Viktoria arches an eyebrow. “Come now. You’ve seen me elbow deep in a corpse before. You don’t think I’m still polite do you?”

“Ah, all right. Fair point. It’s the-”

“There they are!”

Turning, Viktoria and Graciano see five sailors running towards them, a variety of crude cleavers and knives in their hands. What draws their eyes however, is the massive brute standing among them, stripped to the waist, a broad sword clutched in one hand as easy as Graciano would handle a dinner knife.

“It can never be easy, can it?” Graciano asks, his rapier clearing his scabbard.

“Afraid not,” Viktoria replies, drawing her saber and dropping into an easy stance.

Graciano lunges forward, his rapier punching through the throat of the lead cutthroat. He recovers, spins, ducking his head under a massive swipe from the broadsword. One of the pirates screams, his arm caught by the backswing from the sword, a shower of blood spraying the wood of the dock.

Viktoria parries a cut from a cleaver, pivots on the ball of her front foot, her blade spinning in the early morning light. The pirate clutches a wrist, the tendons neatly severed. A second pirate rushes at her, but she dances to the side, her blade slicing the back of his knee.

Graciano takes the attack to another, his blade pushing against his opponent’s cleaver. Graciano’s lips pull back from his teeth, and he smashes his fist into his opponent’s nose, leaving pulped flesh behind. He pushes off, nimbly avoiding a cut from the broadsword.

The massive pirate drives his sword forward, and Graciano backs away. He misjudges his footing and slips. He rolls quickly, trying to remember where the edge of the dock is, trying not to impale himself on his own weapon.

The pirate howls in rage, raises his sword up for a killing blow. Behind him, Graciano sees Viktoria, too far away to help at this time. He raises his rapier, a meager defense against the blow to come.

A pistol shot echoes through the morning air. The pirate’s chest explodes out, gore showering Graciano. He wipes his face of the bloody mess, looks toward Ramiro’s ship. Standing there is the captain, a smoking pistol in his hand.

“Well don’t just lay there! We’ve got to sail out with the tide.”




  1. mdflyn says:

    Great tension!

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