By EM Malachi
The flames consumed the parchment, the blackened edges echoing the paladin’s mood. After five failed attempts to write down his thoughts, Dupre had given up and finished packing his kit.
The soldier had done his duty. The ship he was responsible for had returned to port with all hands. Despite his own injuries and fatigue, Dupre had been part of the detail to move the critically wounded to the city’s healer. He had made sure he was not needed elsewhere. Vesper was safe. The threat of the Eventide had passed.
Dupre was on his way out of his room at the inn, when he bumped into the last person he wanted to see. Geoffrey gave his friend a surprised look but then held up a roll of bandages and a bottle.
“I’d heard you’d returned to your room. I was worried you might have an injury you’d refused to let the healer see to.”
Adjusting his pack, Dupre frowned. “I was about to head out.”
“Leaving town after a battle without rest or even a celebratory toast isn’t like you. We won, didn’t we?”
“We did the job and came back.”
“What’s wrong? What did you see out there?”
“I don’t want to talk about it. You can read my official report.”
“We all know things are left out of those. As your friend, I want to know what really happened.”
Dupre sighed and put down his pack. Taking a seat, he accepted the bottle from Geoffrey and took a swig. “Where to begin? The sea was dark with Jack’s ships. It was hard to tell where the decks and bodies began, and the whole bloody fleet screamed. Some of the younger sailors seemed ready to flee, but there was nowhere to go. I let them borrow the flask of liquid courage I keep for just such times.”
“I know such magic is terrible, but you must have seen worse during the fall of Trinsic. I remember how you rallied people even as we abandoned the city.”
“Necromancers make my skin crawl, but I stayed focused on the job. We did our best to fight off the bloated swimmers that tried to board, but we knew we needed to scuttle the ships. We were in position for a broadside against the flagship when I saw the face of Shamino. Our friend’s head, propped up on the prow like a trophy!”
Geoffrey grimaced but let him continue.
“Shamino’s head didn’t scream like the others. It spoke in a rasping voice. It said my name! It knew things only the ranger would have known. When our cannon blast knocked the head into the water and the head was sinking beneath the waves, it gave a final ill omen: ‘Do not be sad, not with a thread so short.’”
“It was a necromancer’s trick, to upset and confuse.”
“Maybe. Maybe not. These are uncertain times for the entire world, but I can’t be ruled by doubt. I need to know. Even if my life is near its end, I must know where I am needed.”
“What do you plan to do?”
“There was a seeress I met years ago, Penumbra. The Daughter of the Eclipse might have answers, so I will find her.”
“I don’t suppose the lone paladin needs allies on his quest?”
When Dupre shook his head and stood up, Geoffrey said, “Safe travels to you then.”