They skittered across the graveyard, dashing from rocking boat to shuddering ship toward the beacons of burning hulls. They heard the rumors. In torn rags that once were clothes, the sailors that reached the edge of the world and beyond rushed for the chance to get home. Passengers and adventurers that had forgotten the feel of the sun stumbled toward the promise of light. They all sped toward the whisper: there was a god that reached beyond the edges of creation. There was a god who might yet save them.
If only they knew how to please him.
Alathea didn’t know. She didn’t care. She sat at a table on the deck of Jaraeden’s ship.
Jaraeden smirked in the light of the flames. He’d had another ship pushed adrift and lit. He raised an eyebrow and a bottle of wine.
Matt and Talon watched from the rail, their backs to the flames. Talon elbowed Matt. Matt scowled at Talon.
The crew that Jaraeden kept moved about their business.
Jaraeden snapped his fingers. A fiddler appeared and began a reel. The notes tripped along, sang of joy and abandon. The fiddler smiled as he bent into the music.
Jaraeden tapped his fingers to the beat against the wood of the table. He nodded along with a faint smile. The tall man stood and offered his hand to the paladin. Alathea stood and allowed her hand to be taken.
His soft but strong fingers gripped hers. He pulled her close with a faint smile. His knees bent in time to the music – five, six, seven, eight!
Jaraeden whirled her out. She flung her arm out at the end of the whirl. Jaraeden pulled her back. Spun her. His feet hit the deck in time.
Someone took up a drumbeat. A pipe joined in.
The clatter of the graveyard dimmed as the music grew.
The crew leaped into the dance. Laughing, cheering, spinning, singing! The flickering flames lit flickering forms joined in triple time.
Jaraeden lifted Alathea off the ground in an easy toss. He caught her, leaned in on her. Smiled.
Alathea felt his muscles through the soft cloth shirt.
Off again, another spin, another run of staccato feet on wooden deck, another laughing twirl.
She caressed his face as he spun her in again.
A voice hailed them. The music stopped.
“You’ll not hide her form us, Jaraeden!” a great basso voice boomed.
Jaraeden removed Alathea’s hand from his face, kissed the palm lightly, and turned to stride to the rail. He presented himself in the fire’s light.
The basso voice boomed again: “We’ve heard! You have a paladin whose god didn’t abandon her! Send her here! We’ll be the first ones home!”
Jaraeden’s lips tightened. “We all go home. Her god reigns even here. Either her god brings us all home, or we’ll know we’ve found yet another fake.”
Alathea stumbled. Her lips parted. “What?”
Jaraden barked a laugh, unheedful of her sudden confusion. “But for now, celebrate with us. Tonight, we dance. Tomorrow, she takes us all home. Or she dies.”
Thus continues The Graveyard at the Bottom of the World.