So the holidays got involved and things went to a general hell. Lots of confusion and chaos and well, you know the rest. Let’s get back to the quest.
Vesper sat in shock. His tired eyes stared across the table at an image long in his nightmares. A fear rose within him. Was this some trick?
“What devilry is this?” he gasped.
“There is no trickery, Captain,” Thalon offered. “She is your daughter.”
Vesper slowly rose. “My daughter is dead.”
The old pirate captain gave a curt bow and left the mess. Emerald felt the walls closing back in. Memories she didn’t want came back, mocking her. Her father was still alive. She’d given up hope of finding him so long ago, yet here he was, taking them up to see a wizard. Emerald struggled to keep the tears back. Only the Mad Hosking seemed unaffected by the sudden shock. He reached over and gently touched Emerald’s shoulder.
Emerald sat in one of the seats running along the great bay windows of the cabin deck. Tears ran down her cheeks, though she gave the illusion of staring into the endless sea of flames. Pain reached up to consume her. The pain of ignorance. The pain of childishness. She grimaced at the waste her life had become. The soft hands gripping her shoulders did little to comfort her.
“Care to talk about it?” Nathan asked.
Emerald fell back into his arms and said, “He’s my father.”
There was no way to conceal the surprise he felt. “I thought you said he was dead.”
“I did. This is too much for me, Nathan. How can I go back in there and face him after I gave up on him all those years ago?”
“At least you’re being given the chance to start over. Most of us don’t get that. I know I never will.”
She turned to kiss his cheek. “You already have.”
Vesper Razorback sat in his cabin staring at the tired gray wall. He always thought of himself as a practical man faced with certain difficulties. This went beyond any reasoning. It had been decades since his ordeal in the Northlands, decades since he last held his daughter and knew joy. As much as it lifted his heart to see her again, he was too proud a man to accept the obvious. A lifetime of being a pirate brought suspicions and questions. Proud and troublesome as he was, he stood a torn man.
“Come in, Thalon,” he replied to the gentle knock.
“I don’t understand.”
Vesper sighed. “Nor do I. Do you know what it’s like, Thalon? To lose those dearest. To hold them dead in your heart for so long the pain fades? She and her mother were the most precious things to me. Seeing her again, now, has opened the old wounds. How can I go back to her? How can I hold her in my arms again and tell her everything will be all right? Those days are lost to me, my friend. Time has seen to that.”
“I stopped believing in miracles long ago, but a wise man once taught me to never ignore a gift from the gods. You have been given a gift, Vesper. Don’t throw it away on stubborn pride. Go to her. I’ve done many things I will regret when my time for judgment comes, and I know a mistake when I see it. She’s hurting as much as you are. It’s one thing going on this suicidal quest of theirs but another knowing that a world long lost to her has suddenly been there the whole time. How troubled do you think her heart will be now when they storm the Berserkers lair?” Thalon shook his head. “Go tell your daughter you love her. At least make this parting one you both agree upon.”
Vesper smiled despite himself. “You are a man of few words, friend, but what you say always has a point. Aye, I will go to her once she’s had time to think some. As you say, miracles don’t happen, but an idiot will ruin the day. Thank you.” Thalon nodded. “That’s what a Mate is for, Captain.”
Later that night, Vesper Razorback gathered his courage and made his way to his daughter’s cabin. Never was a simple task so difficult.
The early hours of the morning found Kane on the bridge with Vesper and Thalon, marveling at the ship he was on and the view before him. Spouts of lava dotted the sea at random. Night and day had little meaning out here. The world seemed bathed in a host of reds and blacks with orange and yellow mixing in. As breathtaking as it was, he had other concerns to focus on.
“Your friends still sleep?” Vesper asked.
“They keep their own hours,” the Slayer stiffly replied. “Two of them are on the mid-deck practicing hand-to-hand combat.”
“This is quite the entourage you’ve assembled. I have seldom seen a more dangerous group,” Vesper went on.
“They all serve a purpose, I suppose.”
Vesper stared into Kane’s silver eyes and said, “I’m not in the habit of taking on passengers without a price, and I always find out their reasons for hiring me. Think what you will, but we’re not mercenaries. This wizard is an odd sort, and it is unwise to question his motives, but you, on the other hand, I have no compunctions with questioning. I shall enjoy your company more after you’ve told me what this quest is all about and how it concerns my daughter.”
Kane stood unflinching.
The pirate laughed. They were both too proud to bend a knee, and it was getting them nowhere. “Really now, Kane. This is ridiculous. I know about your wars with those damned Berserkers, and I truly understand the secrecy, but there is nothing out here save you, me and my crew. Why does the wizard summon you?”
“I would have thought you could answer that question better than I,” Kane said. “It was your crewman who came to me. We would be days into the desert by now and getting close to a finish.”
“One way or the other? How did you manage to collect so many?” Vesper asked.
“They have their personal reasons. Some came because it is the right thing to do and some for the nobility of the quest. The lure of forgotten treasure drew others. I command none of them and can only offer guidance on our journeys.”
Vesper nodded. “Admirable and utterly foolish. Would you throw away your life so easily? And the life of my blood?”
“I never asked them to come. Each of us lost something dear to the Berserkers, and we now have the chance at striking terror in their hearts. With a wizard to guide us, could the end be so bad?”
Neither man was willing to voice an answer. Some matters shouldn’t be brought into the open air, not without grave consideration.
“This gets better and better, doesn’t it?” Emerald asked, lying on her side with the sheet partially covering her legs and front.
Nathan brushed her long hair over her shoulder and kissed her neck. “What does?”
“He asked me to stay here with him so we can get to know each other again.”
No words made it past his lips. She was torn between two of the greatest influences of her life and was hopelessly confused.
“What should I do?”
Pulling the sheet up to cover her exposed flesh, he kissed her again and said, “Don’t worry. You’ll know what to do by the time we get back to the Port of Lies.”
“Would you stay with me if I decided to join him?”
“You know I can’t answer that.”
She closed her eyes and tried to cry but found the tears were all used up.
The Viper stood alone. Thousands upon thousands of distorted monsters surrounded him. Untold riches lay strewn everywhere he looked. It was his, all his. The ones he came with were all dead, leaving him to stem the tide of war. He slew his foe with each breath and knew no mercy. The bodies rose in great piles.
The illusion of success faded quickly, announced by a sharp clang of his empty rifle. Realizing what was happening, the dying Berserker leader gargled his last command, and his hordes converged on the assassin. The Viper drew his sword and asked for a good death. Soon, there was only pain and darkness.
He jumped awake, covered in sweat and refusing to believe what he’d just envisioned. It was a death dream. He found himself afraid for the first time. Death was come to pay respects. Wiping the terror from his brow, the assassin slid from bed and quietly dressed. The new dawn was uncommonly cold. Nothing he did that day could keep his mind from the impending doom, though it lay several weeks away. He mostly kept to himself, afraid the others would pick up on his laments. Not even the treasure at the end of the tunnel was strong enough to win his mind.
The Misfortune raced steadily on.
Like what you’ve read? Swing over to Amazon and leave a review for book one- you know, since you’ve already read it. Even if you didn’t like it please leave a review. As long as it’s honest, I dig it. Tomorrow’s Demise.