The Serpent’s Map Part VI

Posted: October 4, 2016 in Fantasy, Fiction, The Serpent's Map
Tags: , , , ,

Ugh… this took much longer to get done than I would have liked. Something something something about not getting into the right groove. This is the muddled middle after all, trying to present characters with meaningful choice and trying to get them to act instead of simply react.

Anyway, this is the continued adventures of the soldier Graciano, the physician Viktoria, and the “poor honest sailor” Ramiro who have recently escaped captivity and are pondering on how to get home. While on an island. Without a boat.

As always, comments are welcome!

“Well, the good news is there’s a boat.” Ramiro ducks his head back down, his voice a whisper as he relates the information to Graciano and Viktoria. “It’s small, it looks like something I’d scrape off the bottom of my foot, but it’s a boat.”

“How small?” Viktoria asks.

“Not so small it can’t take the three of us, along with enough provisions to get us home again.”

“So what’s the bad news?” Graciano asks.

“What makes you think there is bad news?”

“No one says there is good news if there isn’t also bad news. Otherwise it is just news.”

“Hmm. Good point.”

“So?” Graciano sighs.

“There are at least six sailors I saw,” Ramiro replies.

“You’re not sure?” Viktoria asks.

“That it was six or that they were sailors?”

Ramiro shrugs. “Both, probably. If we had pistols, maybe…”

Graciano shakes his head. “If we used pistols, who knows how many of their friends would come running?”

Ramiro grins, his eyes hard and flat. “Good thing you have me along then, isn’t it?”

“What- wait!” Graciano hisses, but Ramiro is already gone, slipping from Graciano’s fingers. Helpless, Graciano peeks around the corner, watches as Ramiro slips between crates and sacks. He strikes quickly, hand going over the mouth of one of the sailors, his knife biting quick and deep as he stabs. The other sailors don’t notice, preoccupied with their own tasks.

“Should we help him?” Viktoria asks.

Graciano rubs his hand over his face, but shakes his head. “No. Not yet. We’ll watch and wait. He seems to know what he’s about.”

Viktoria raises an eyebrow at him, but otherwise keeps her opinion to herself.

Graciano watches as Ramiro slips from sailor to sailor, his knife flashing deadly in his hand, dragging the fresh corpses back into shadows. And then, what Graciano fears happens.

Ramiro steps onto the boat. From below deck, a massive figure steps, a curved sword at his belt. The shaved head gleams dull in the torchlight, but his eyes lock on Ramiro, whose knife is stained red. Ramiro smiles and shrugs, then hurls the knife. The sailor ducks the blade, tears his blade free from his belt. Ramiro backpedals, avoiding a slash that would have left him disemboweled, but stumbles at the boat’s railing. Graciano sprints toward the boat, his feet slipping on the wet planks of the dock. He sees Ramiro go over the edge, hears him hit the water. The sailor looks down, and shakes his head, only to gasp in surprise as Ramiro’s hands shoot up and grab him by the back of the neck, hooking on to his shirt, and pull him in with him. Graciano skids to a stop on the dock, realizes Viktoria is with him only when she nearly collides with his back.

The two companions stare into the water, but it is too dark and murky to tell what is occurring under the surface. Then blood blooms out, a red rose in the water opening its petals. A body bobs to the surface, the sightless eyes of the sailor staring up at the cavern.

“Do you think he’s-?” Graciano lets the thought hang in the air, scared in that giving voice to his fear that it will become real.

“Think he’s what?” Ramiro states, coming up behind them, water dripping from his body. He stretches his arms out and rolls his neck.

Viktoria blinks at him. “But-”

“What, you thought I was in trouble? Worse thing that happened to him was letting me fall in the water.” Ramiro grins, a bit of light glinting off his one gold tooth. “If he kept me up with him, he might have had a chance. Once he was in the water…” The smuggler shrugs and stabs the air with his knife. “So. Let’s see what this scow looks like, shall we?”

“That’s it then?” Viktoria asks. She runs her long fingers along the hilt of her sword. “Cut our losses and run? No map? No treasure? No idea what Evaristo and these… things are plotting?”

Ramiro frowns and tugs at his ear. “We’re still alive, aren’t we? At a certain point, a good captain must understand when e is overwhelmed and fly before the wind.”

“Not much of a captain without a boat or a crew, now are you?”

Ramiro’s eyes go flat and hard, his knuckles turn white around the handle of his knife. “You hired me, remember? If I knew the risks- If you told me the risks-”

“Let it go, Ramiro,” Graciano interrupts, his voice a low growl. “You knew the risks as soon as you intervened back in Salamander’s Cove. You could have said ‘No, Graciano, I decline risking my life and the life of my crew against a bunch of known pirates.’ You took the commission knowing as much about the risks as we did. Now, we can cut and run or we can stay and see if we can’t find that damn map.”

Ramiro spits into the water, but holds his tongue.

“Why do we need the map?” Viktoria asks.

Graciano looks at her, his eyes blinking slowly. “What do you mean?”

“We wanted to find Evaristo, correct?”

“Yes.”

Viktoria pauses, looks around the area, slowly turning around to take it in. “What are the odds that we’ve already found where the map led to?”

Ramiro twists his lips and tugs on his ear. “She makes an excellent point.”

Graciano sighs. “All right. So let’s say we found the map’s destination. What are our next steps? We have no firearms, a few blades, and only the three of us.”

Ramiro stares down one of the other tunnels, the walls reflecting flickering torchlight.

“It would be a shame to come all this way to simply go back home. And I did lose my ship after all.”

Viktoria pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose. “It might be somewhere else on this island. You didn’t search it before coming to find us, did you?”

Ramiro shakes his head, his smile getting a little wider and his eyes gleaming. “I must confess I didn’t. And it would be wrong not to take a bit more payback for my poor departed crew.”

“And it isn’t as if we won’t be able to find the boat again, right?” Viktoria adds.

“Graciano?”

“Yes, Ramiro?”

“We need to be unanimous on this.”

Graciano grumbles, but nods. “Alright. What’s the worst that can happen?”

 

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Comments
  1. […] is the continuation from this post. For a quick recap, the soldier Graciano, the smuggler Ramiro, and the doctor Viktoria have found […]

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