She kept yammering away about her God. Every single one of them listened. Every. Single. One.
Except the one who had run ahead, of course.
Matt grunted, wished he could have followed. Fool runners were always too fast for him to keep up. Kids, that’s what happens when you take an arrow to the knee. And the back. And pretty much everywhere.
At least Alathea’s God knew a thing or two about healing. He still had the arthritis on damp days, but it wasn’t so bad most of the time.
Unless he wanted to keep up with a runner.
He and Talon trailed behind the main group as they made their way through the shuddering graveyard of ships. Matt kept a weather eye on the horizon, trying to spot the ship with three triangular sails. Really, it wasn’t exactly a common design, but you’d think there’d be something more down here.
Talon skidded to a stop on yet another heaving deck. This one was a little oar-powered number. How it ever got to the edge of the world must have been some story. White chalk tally marks lined the inside, along with some foreign tongue Matt didn’t recognize.
“She said we weren’t taking anything but what we came for,” Matt rumbled. No one hiding in this boat. He sheathed his blades and readied himself for another jump.
“Sure. She came for one thing. I came for more.” Talon shrugged. “She knows I’m a thief. That’s why she hired me.”
Matt made ready to leap to the next boat and took off with a grunt, catching the side railing in the gut. He heaved himself over and flipped to standing, blades out. No one hiding in these shadows either. Talon leaped right over him and slid to a stop. This one was a bit roomier. Alathea and the entourage were getting farther ahead.
Talon scanned the deck. “Come on, old man. I can’t steal anything, anyway. All these boats of have been stripped bare of anything I could pocket.”
“Of course they were. Pirates above, pirates below. If anyone survived, they’d still need currency for whatever kingdoms they set up down here.”
“I don’t think so. Those archers? Not one had a wallet, a purse, a necklace. Nothing.”
“You were going to pickpocket them while they were worshiping Alathea.”
“Well, yeah.” Talon sprinted, grabbed a line from the rigging, and sailed into the air between ships. As they got closer and closer to that spurt of flame over yonder, it got brighter. “Anyway, you’d think there’d be more survivors down here. No one on our boat got more than a broken bone on the way down. This many boats?”
“Maybe they starved. Hard to grow anything without the sun,” Matt answered as he attempted to match pace.
He landed heavily. No one moving in the open hold. Safe again, for now.
“I don’t think so. I noticed something else about the archers. Something that I’m sure Alathea noticed, too.”
Matt landed on the deck with a loud grunt. “You mean the cuts.”
“Every one of them tried to kill themselves. Most of them not long ago either, I’d wager.”
“When you’re cut off from your gods, there’s not much reason to live.”
Talon shook his head. “I don’t get it, Matt. I don’t live with a god. Doesn’t mean I want to die.”
Matt raised an eyebrow. “Really? If no one down here has any money, how long do you think you’ll make it?”
The younger man frowned in answer.
A few more boats. Matt pressed his hand against his side as he landed heavily. Alathea and her entourage waited. “They say it’s the next boat,” she said. “Someone named Jaraeden. He’s been all over down here. He should be able to help us.”
Matt nodded. “What’s his price?”
One of the archers answered, “He only takes what doesn’t matter.”
“See? That’s where all the money went,” Matt muttered to Talon.
The thief shuddered.
Alathea grinned. The nearby flames lit her face. “Come on. This should be fun.”
They made the final leap onto the deck of the next boat. It was one of the larger ones; at least three decks below and a raised deck above. Matt made sure to land in a defensive stance, blades out. Three men on the deck waited, all lightly armed, none of them reaching for their weapons.
A tall, thin man stood looking over them. He lowered himself down a steep set of stairs to their deck. He approached Alathea with a whisper of movement, offering his hands.
Matt bristled but let the tall man pass.
She took the offered hands with a smile. “Hello. I’m Alathea. Are you Jeraeden?”
The man offered a courtly bow and a stiff smile.
“Are you…. are you crying?” Alathea asked.
The man darted a quick nod.
He licked his lips and spoke, “Because you have come to take us all home.”
Not much plot advancement in these fifteen minutes of writing… but we got to know more about Matt! And Talon!
Thus continues The Graveyard at the Bottom of the World.