The path through the coastal mountains had been gruelling; full of hairpin turns, sheer drops, and jagged cliffs, leaving Beddigan and his companions exhausted before they even reached the summit. Upon learning of the route through the mountains to the abandoned sea port of Se-Hille, Ragnon had been assured by his source back in the west that the path needed to be completed in a single day, and that camping overnight was strongly advised against. The rumour was that no one who had slept in the pass had ever been seen again. Depending on who you asked, the reasons for the disappearances ranged from cave-dwelling monsters that never left the mountains, to the mountains themselves refusing to let sleeping travellers pass, swallowing them whole as if a giant creature themselves. Beddigan wasn’t sure if he believed any of it, but he didn’t want to take his chances, not with the things he had seen in his time as an Adventurer. Usually if there were fantastical stories about a particular place, there was a reason for it, and he didn’t want to find out what that reason was. So they had pushed on, despite their aching muscles, if for no other reason than the practicality that a hunter or military search party may still be following them; to say nothing of the fact that they needed to meet Captain Marlog that night.
The last stretch of the pathway burst out of the craggy mountain pass and ran down a gradual slope. The sunset bathed the ramshackle cottages of the abandoned town in brilliant orange light. It has clearly been many turnings since the village had been inhabited, and Beddigan felt a stab of uneasiness as they walked out onto the overgrown, dusty streets, with the mountains looming behind them.
“It’s a bit eerie, that’s for sure.” Ragnon drawled over the strong winds coming off of the water. William moved ahead of the group to scout around the few buildings that were still mostly standing, just in case someone or something still called this place home. Ragnon followed William curiously, giving the Bear a bit of space, and Beddigan turned back to see how Shianne was doing. She had been uncomfortably silent through the trip; having not spoken a single word since she had left him in the stand of trees just before their journey through the mountains began. He was surprised to see her still at the foot of the path, turned back to face the mountains. He moved quickly to her side, anxiety stabbing through his gut.
“Did you see something? Have we been followed?” he asked her nervously, staring up into the darkening mountain pass for any signs of movement. From the corner of his eye he saw her slowly shake her head.
“I don’t like this.” She said softly, her voice almost swallowed up by the howling winds.
“This place? Me either. It feels… wrong.” Beddigan responded, feeling momentary relief that his counterpart hadn’t spotted a hunter in the hills. Shianne shook her head again.
“The place is fine; nothing lives here. This journey is not fine, though. These circumstances are not fine. And this village… there isn’t a way out, Beddigan. If we missed something… if someone followed us through…” her voice drifted off in the wind. Beddigan swallowed the lump that instantly formed in his throat.
“I’m sure we’re fine.” He lied, gently taking Shianne’s arm by the elbow. “Come, let’s find a place to shelter from the wind and wait. It won’t be long until Captain Marlog is here and once we are on the Lorring Sea, we won’t need to worry any longer.” Shianne allowed him to lead her away from the path and towards where Ragnon and William stood near the wall of a leaning dramatically, but still standing cottage. He offered her a reassuring smile, which she didn’t return. She stepped away from the group, moving past the shelter and into the wind towards the sea. Though it was hard to tell over the gale-force wind, Beddigan was sure he heard Shianne murmur,
“You are a fool to think the worry stops here.”
Beddigan and his companions didn’t have to wait long in the eerie village, once the sun had dipped past the horizon and the wind had calmed a bit. The sky was littered with sparkling pin-hole stars, and the moon was a crescent of brilliant light by which they first saw the ship sailing towards Se-Hille.
Much smaller than the Fillsner’s Muse, Beddigan was astonished to see how quickly the ship made its approach to the rickety dock. The ship moved in a fashion and of a speed he had never seen before. And once it had made the slight turn to come in to dock, he saw the Mormant Flag flapping in the wind and felt his heart plummet into his stomach.
Shianne lunged at him, slamming him back against the wobbly wooden wall with a hiss of fury.
“I warned you about trusting that wolf!” Beddigan groaned and shoved against Shianne’s grip, loosing himself of it. Ragnon had slunk low against the wall, cowering and muttering curses under his breath, and William had unsheathed his daggers, preparing for their defence.
Beddigan crept forward, staying close to the buildings as he made his way towards the dock in cover. Heavy boots landed on the dock as a figure disembarked from the small ship. He recognized the towering wolf as Captain Marlog, despite the dower Mormant military uniform that he wore instead of his usual brilliant regalia.
“You can come out, Beddigan. Don’t let the uniform fool you. You know the Wolves would never take me back!” Marlog’s voice rose up over the wind followed by his trademark maniacal cackle. Beddigan waited a moment before stepping out from behind the building. I have to trust him, he thought. I’ve no other choice.
“Forgive me for doubting you, Captain, but that flag and those uniform colours will get you no love amongst me and my companions.” Captain Marlog’s face was illuminated by the sliver of moonlight, revealing a wolfish grin.
“Well, how else did you expect me to sneak you lot into Reene? They would have us sunk before we even got close to a harbour in anything else.” He noticed that the Captain was looking past him, and turned to see his companions had all came out and moved closer to the beach as well, hearing the Captain’s reasoning for the ship’s flag. Shianne looked furious as she stalked past him, up the dock, and stopped inched from the Captain.
“You are lucky that you don’t have several daggers buried in your back, Wolf. Next time you best make sure to let everyone know your plan in full, less a more diligent assassin take you out before you can explain.” Beddigan rushed up behind her just in time to hear Captain Marlog laugh in Shianne’s face. Looping an arm around her middle, he drug her back a few steps just as her arms lashed out towards the Wolf.
“Oh, I like this one, Beddigan. Wherever did you find her?” Captain Marlog said, eyes twinkling as he watched Shianne fight to free herself from Beddigan’s arms, hissing and throwing colourful curses at him. Wrenching Shianne off of the dock, he shoved her towards William and Ragnon.
“Now that’s enough!” Beddigan shouted, his annoyance breaking free of the rein he had held on it. “Both of you, just stop it. We must go. We don’t have any time to poke fun or argue or kill each other.” Marlog, eyes still twinkling with laughter, nodded with exaggerated solemnity, and gestured for them to follow him aboard. Shianne had contained her rage and walked woodenly back up the deck, flanked by William and Ragnon.
Once they had boarded the vessel, Beddigan made sure to give William careful instruction to keep Shianne away from Marlog for as much of the trip as he could, before joining the captain at the helm of the ship.
“Where did you even get your paws on a Mormant flag?” Beddigan asked as the Captain hollered instructions to his crew and the boat shoved away from the dock.
“Came with the boat.” Captain Marlog replied with a playful wink, and Beddigan’s eyes rounded, then fell to the crystals that hung at the Wolf’s belt, remembering the enormity and power of the Kracken that the Captain commanded. Looking around the vessel he noticed that there were shards of crystal set into the wood of the railings and mast. Moving to the edge of the boat, he looked over the edge and saw more crystals along the sides dipping low into the water.
Rejoining the Captain, Beddigan whistled at the impressiveness of the ship.
“It seems the Wolves have upgraded their Navy.” Despite being impressed by the vessels capabilities, Beddigan felt a wave of uneasiness at the thought of Mormant’s military having a fleet of deadly fast ships at their disposal. Even without the troubling cooperation of the Council of Elders in Katheyra, the country wouldn’t have a chance against a fleet like this.
Marlog cackled a moment before answering,
“Though they may eventually have one, such a fleet doesn’t exist yet. From what I’ve seen this was only one of three ships like it, mostly being used as cargo transport from Mormant to Reene. They aren’t using them for shipping to and from Sinnerah from what we have seen, either. It seems they may not trust the Bears as much as we have all been lead to believe.” Beddigan nodded, tucking that information away in his mind to analyze later.
“So how long until we make landfall in Reene then?” he asked and Captain Marlog grinned at him.
“Usually it takes several days to cross the Lorring Sea, especially through the rough waters south of Sinnerah, but in this ship we will be at the harbour before dawn.” Beddigan’s rocked back on his heels, eyes rounded in shock.
“Such power.” He murmured, his eyes lingering on the crystals spiralling up the mast of the ship. Marlog chuckled,
“It is impressive, yes. Expensive too, I reckon. When all is said and done, I will make a handsome profit selling this back to Mormant.” Beddigan shot the Captain a harsh look.
“You would hand them back such a dangerous weapon? Have you not heard of what has happened in Katheyra? This whole land will be under the Wolves paw if things continue like this!” Captain Marlog chuckled softly and laid a paw on Beddigan’s shoulder.
“You know I care not for anything but the Sea, Beddigan. I will not get involved in anyone’s wars. That is the whole reason I fled Mormant to begin with!” Beddigan made a frustrated sound, shoving Marlog’s arm from his shoulder.
“You have to care. You have to get involved. If the Wolves run the land, how long do you think the Kracken will keep you safe?” Marlog’s eyes twinkled in the night.
“My dear boy, the Kracken is but one of my toys. You needn’t worry of my safety.” Beddigan glared at the Captain a moment before sighing with frustration and turning away. He headed towards the bow of the ship where his companions sat in a cluster on the ship’s deck, out of the way of the crew. Ragnon raised his head from his knees and looked up at Beddigan,
“All’s well?” the Wolf asked, uncertainty and fear still shadowing his eyes. Beddigan snarled and took a seat next to William,
“Far from it, but most of it is problems for another time.” He blew out one last frustrated sigh. “On the positive side, we will be in Reene before dawn.” Shianne let out a small squeak and turned to face him.
“So soon?” she asked, and he watched as she tried to regain her composure. It was odd to see her so out of sorts. She was usually so cool and calculated, seeing her rattled was unnerving.
“It’s a very special ship.” He said softly, reaching out to Shianne but she shifted away from him, nodding briskly and turning back to face away from the group. He looked to William but the Bear’s eyes were closed in rest, so Beddigan said nothing, and settled back against the wall to wait.
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