by, 6-6-12 at 9:18 AM (138 Views)
This is Chapter Eleven from my fantasy novel. The working title is Daern, at the moment. It is a first draft and unedited, but I wanted to get some feedback if anyone would be so kind. FYI Mordray is the bad guy searching for the good guys. Hope you like it.
Light from the rising sun gleamed off of the river, and the sparkles of its reflection hurt Mordray's eyes. He closed them as he hung on to the rail dearly and heaved again. He spit and shook as his body purged the poisons he had drank. 'Never again', he thought to himself. Slowly he gained control and stood up weakly. Opening his eyes and looking at the water hurt less now, but it made him thirsty. Turning around, he looked toward the mast and saw the water barrel that was left out for the crew's drinking water. He walked unsteadily to it and looked at the crewmember who was at the ship's helm. He just stood there looking straight ahead as though Mordray had not just spewed all over the deck and over the side. Mordray looked at him contemptuously as he drank from the ladle. The water looked inviting to him so he plunged his whole head in to the barrel. His head flew up with a spray of water as he rubbed his face. Bits of debris and vomit fell back in to the barrel as the water dripped from his long hair. He shot one more arrogant glance at the helmsman and made his way to the lounge chair that he had passed out on the night before. The empty brandy bottle was rolling under the chair and, not being able to stand the sight of it, he picked it up and flung it over the side. Even that minor effort hurt his head. He would need to sleep more he thought. His eyes closed as he flopped on to the chair, waiting for sleep to carry his pain away.
He was trying to convince himself that the gentle rocking of the ship was putting him to sleep rather than making him want to puke again, when the helmsman's very loud voice broke the silence. "Wreck ahead." was yelled loud enough for all of the ship to hear. Mordray thought briefly of killing him, but lacked the ambition to do so. Why were they always shouting on the ship? It was always "tie that line" and "rocks to starboard" and other annoying chatter. It was beginning to get on his nerves. Curiosity got the better of him though, so he slowly cracked his eyes enough to let the light back in. It was easy to see what the helmsman was yelling about from his position on the bow. There, in the middle of the channel, was the burned out hulk of a ship with its mast jutting out at a harsh angle. Thin tendrils of smoke were still coming off of the mast. Mordray forced himself to stand up and take note. As they drew closer, Captain Stalwel appeared by his side. The helmsman's yell must have brought him.
"Good morning sir." the Captain said as he leaned on the rail.
"What's good about it? I feel like I have the plague."
"I only meant...to say...I wish you a good morning sir", Stalwel stammered.
Mordray nodded, "Yes, yes. Never mind. Now. What do you make of that?", he said as he gestured toward the wrecked ship.
Stalwel looked at the ship grimly. "That's the Black Rose I reckon. She left Tarnalin a day or two before we did I think. Don't know what happened. Could be river pirates but they usually don't work this far up river. They usually stay down by the marshes."
Mordray mulled this over as he stared at the ship. It could have been Daern's ship he thought, but how to be sure? He was about to tell the captain to take a closer look, but a yell from the distant shore caught his attention. A man was standing there waving both of his arms. He could make out a couple more standing behind him. "Looks like you have a couple survivors over there captain", Mordray gestured absently. "Perhaps we should rescue them and find out what happened here."
"Quite right sir.", the captain said as he turned and gestured for the helmsman to steer the ship toward the south shore. There were three of them and they looked no worse for wear, thought Mordray as they stood on the deck, hats in hand. They can't possibly feel as bad as I do at least, he thought as the pounding in his head hammered on. He was standing beside Captain Stalwel facing the three men. The one who had waved from shore was thanking Stalwel.
"Itís right fortuitous for us that you came along sir. We were scared those murderous dogs would be back. They killed everyone on board 'cept us."
"Who did?", Mordray said as a cold feeling came over him. Was this whole trip going to end up being a waste of time? Were the three thieves at the bottom of the river?
"Pirates sir. We never saw them this far up river before. Captain Draemus tried to give them a good run but they fooled us in to running aground on that rock." he gestured toward the ship. "Then they closed in and started killing. We fought hard but we was outnumbered by a lot. They whittled us down and when we saw that she was lost, me and these two jumped the side and swam for shore. It was terrible what they did to those they caught. Terrible. I'll never forget it."
"Well now. Your safe enough here son", Mordray said. "Tell me. Were there passengers? It is a matter of great concern to me, you see. There were three youths. Two boys and a girl. I think they may have been on this ship. Did you see them? Were they killed? They mean so much to me you see. I must know."
The man smiled, "You mean the girl with the red hair? Very pretty?"
Mordray nodded his head, "Yes yes. Beautiful girl and two boys. You knew them? Are they dead?"
"No sir!", he said with a smile, "At least I think not. The captain put them and First Mate Nollins off the ship before the attack. Back up there." He pointed up river to the opposite bank. "We looked across for them the next day but didn't see them until they were almost over that hill", he said, pointing in to the distance. "We yelled and waved but they was too far away and didn't hear us. Haven't seen them since, and that was yesterday morning. Their boat should be over there somewhere."
Mordray considered this for a moment. "Why did he put them off the ship? Isn't that highly unusual?"
"Yes sir, it is. Captain was trying to protect his niece we think. He put her off the boat with them. He was hiding her from the other passengers for some reason. They'll be alright with Khale looking after them. Don't you worry sir."
Mordray cursed inwardly. He hated complications. It was making his headache worse. "You say you saw them leaving to the north, over that hill?"
"Yes. They were way up there", he gestured to a hill across the river. "It looked like they had packs on. They were too far away to hear us calling."
"Where do you think they were going?"
"Could be they are walking to Baz", the man replied. "That's the best we can figure, at least. If you go north quite a long way you will hit a river that flows to Baz. I don't know why they didn't just stay on this river and wait for another ship to come along though."
"Indeed." , Mordray replied. Unless you are running from something, he thought. He looked at the captain, "How long would it take them to walk to Baz?"
Stalwel considered and sent for some maps. When they looked at possible routes they determined that it would take two to three weeks to walk that far. Mordray thought it was going to take almost two more weeks on ship to sail to Baz. A smile came over his face. "It's much easier to catch your prey by trapping than tracking, wouldn't you say Stalwel?"
"Yes sir" Stalwel said automatically. "No question.", not knowing or caring what Mordray was talking about.
"Get me to Baz Stalwel. As fast as you can" Mordray said as he walked back to his lounge chair dismissively. "Tell Marissa to drag her ass out of bed and bring me breakfast." As he walked past the water barrel he glanced at it and the helmsman at the wheel, "Tell her to bring me some fresh water also. I can't be sharing the same water as the crew."