At Alathea’s warning, Talon flung his arms over his face. Still he saw the brightness of Alathea’s light. The second it vanished, so did he. Across the chasm between colliding ships. Darting from cover to cover until he found his first archer. Even if the graveyard of boats didn’t make that horrendous clatter, none could have heard him. A whisper of cloth on the wind and nothing more.
There, ducked behind the rail of the ship. The man scratched at his eyes still from the sudden light. He wore ratty clothing, moist against his skin. His badly grown facial hair told Talon the man was still young. The man lowered his hands from his eyes and shook his head. He looked up to see Talon. Talon grinned and reached an arm back to throw his dagger. The man had no hope of escape.
The thief had seen many hardened men face death. He’d spied the last remnant of defenders on the Wall of Serpents fall with determination. He’d watched the heroes of the Winding Stair soil themselves when they realized there was no hope. He’d seen tears and rage and a spectrum of reactions.
This was new.
The archer dropped his bow. His quiver fell to the swaying deck. He raised his hands on high and he praised. He fell to his knees and begged, “What god does she worship? What god?!”
In short order, five men bowed on the deck before Alathea.
Matt wiped blood off one of his blades. “They thought they were beyond what the gods ever created. Their prayers went unanswered. And here you are, Alathea. Your God must be pretty powerful.”
“Get up,” she snapped. “Get up! Don’t worship me.”
Talon’s archer spoke to the deck, “Tell us what god you worship. Will he save us? What must we do to please him?”
“How long have you been here?” Her voice softened.
Talon’s archer answered, “I was born here, beyond the End of all there is.”
“No paladin ever fell off the edge before?”
“Many, my lady. But their gods fled them as they fell.”
Alathea shook her head. “You can’t do anything to please my God. But he will rescue you all the same.”
The men on the deck wept aloud.
Talon backed off.
The ships, undeterred, continued to crash into one another in the shifting currents of the humid air.
Alathea shook her head. “I — I’ve come on a mission.”
“Anything!” the men answered.
“Well. A boat fell a long time ago. Pellina the Bright sailed on it. And she had something I need.”
A guttural, weeping voice answered, “I told you before, I don’t know it. But I know a man who will. He’s traveled all the graveyard, catalogued every ship.”
“Does he live far from here?”
A man with a shaved head, long beard, and tear stains on his dirty cheeks sat up and pointed.
Talon scratched his cheek. “Well. By that wall of flames over there. Fantastic.”
Another fifteen-minute write and five minutes of editing! Huzzah! Of course this continues Alathea’s story.
Thus continues The Graveyard at the Bottom of the World.