A cacophony of wooden hulls slamming against each other clattered out of the darkness.
The captain twitched. “The sound of a thousand ships ramming each other.”
Alathea nodded. “Every ship that ever went over the edge of the world… here they are, all running into each other in the darkness.”
As their ship slowed its descent, the crew gazed into the star-lit darkness. “Hm,” Matt grunted. “Look. The water. All the water flowing over the edge of the seas… here it’s turning back into sea mist and rising to the world again. All the boats are caught in the middle. Keeps them from falling forever.”
“For which we are eternally grateful,” Talon added. “All right. So, we go in, get what we’re looking for, and get out, right?”
Alathea nodded. “Near as we can tell, Pellina went over somewhere near here. So her ship should be near wherever we, um, land.”
“Whip up a tracking spell, and I’ll get it before supper. Whenever that is.”
“Doesn’t work that way, Talon.”
“What? Every paladin that’s worth anything can do a simple tracking spell.”
Alathea grunted. “They sell themselves. They make bargains. My God doesn’t work that way. I can’t bribe him to do what I want.”
“So we need to go looking?”
“You saw the sketches of the ship. We’ll know her when we see her.”
Their boat eased toward the shifting, cluttering mass. Water droplets flowed all around in the thick air.
“Brace yourselves!” the captain yelled.
The boat crashed into the wall of ships. The deck jolted. Sailors steadied themselves. Matt fell to the planks.
Talon shrugged at him. “Captain warned you.”
“Quiet,” Matt growled.
Alathea leaned out over the expanse, her hand anchoring her to the rigging. “Can you see her?”
“Can’t see much. It’s too dark.” Matt squinted his eyes.
Talon held up a finger. “Smell that? It’s very faint.”
Matt squinted his eyes more. “Yes. It smells like candles and meat.”
Alathea shifted. “We need to be gone from here quickly. Matt, Talon, we’re going to swing over to… that boat there. And from there we’ll work our way inward.”
Matt nodded. “Narrow jump. Only about five paces from here to there. Should be easy.”
Alathea shouted over her shoulder, “Captain, keep her ready to shove off.”
The captain blinked. “Shove off to what?”
“Just be ready. Trust me.” Alathea smiled. “When we get back, there’ll be stories to tell, I’m sure.” She reached up to a line that hung from the yard. “Ready to jump, boys?”
“No.” Talon gripped another line. “What happens if we fall?”
Alathea shrugged. “We fall.” She ran and leaped off the edge of the ship with a brilliant laugh. She released the line at the height of the swing, her arms flung out wide to either side, her eyes closed in the wind.
Talon shook his head. “I don’t care what you say about her trust. She’s insane.”
“Aye.” Matt ran.
Alathea summersaulted as she landed on the deck of the next boat. The boards creaked under her weight. Matt and Talon landed a second later. As Matt touched down, he drew both large curved blades., scanning the empty deck for any threats.
Alathea placed her hand on the ship’s mainmast. “Look. I wonder how old this ship is.” She looked around, pacing around the deck. “I don’t recognize these markings at all.”
Matt grunted, “It’s not the boat we’re looking for.”
“No. But she is magnificent. I wish we had time to explore.” She sighed. “Talon! Get away from there!”
“What? If it’s old, it’s probably expensive.”
“Put it back. We’re here for one thing. And then back home.”
“Right. But it’s not stealing if the owners are all dead!”
Alathea shook her head. “If we survived the fall, others will have as well.”
Matt pointed. “I’d say so.”
In the distant murk, a wall of flames flared. Shouts echoed over the clattering of wooden ships colliding.
Talon pressed his lips together. “Think they’re friendly?”
Another fifteen minutes… probably closer to twenty. I went over this time. Alas. This continues the story began a few days ago in The Cheerful Paladin. I should probably attempt to wrap this up…
Thus continues The Graveyard at the Bottom of the World.