Taibald’s not much of a fighter, but he needs what’s in that pewter box.
The ‘Blood and Discovery’ Series
For the Flintlock and Folly Award Part 1
Chapter 1. Awake
Taibald’s lying with his feet in the surf, but it isn’t the water or the sand or the salt that wakes him; it’s the sensation of human fingers on his skin. He opens his eyes to see a small, barely clothed man covered in some kind of orange dye with feathers in his hair. When Taibald twitches, the man turns and Taibald can see his face is covered in dripping, dark red blood.
“Good god!” Taibald screams as the terrible looking monster opens his mouth to smile. His lips part to show a ring of blackened gum without a single tooth.
Taibald is up on his feet and running and he takes a single second to look around. He’s on a black sand beach with the enormous, gorgeous ocean behind and a jungle only fifty paces ahead of him. There are thousands of other horrible looking devils further down the beach, utter thousands. Taibald absorbs the image of the horde of orange painted savages strewn across the black beach and he sees one of the beasts with his pewter box.
Damn it! They have the box!
Every single pair of hungry eyes look to Taibald and the closest of the crazed creatures run towards him.
Taibald is sprinting past the tree line and his left foot is sore. He sees that he’s wearing only one boot and his shirt has been mostly ripped away so it sits around his neck like a noose.
Taibald runs his fingers over his body and curses to himself when he finds his sextant and sailing gear was all washed away when he struggled against that terrible storm at sea. All he has left is the knife in his boot.
“Thank the lord,” he mumbles as his fingers touch the wooden crucifix he wears around his neck.
He’s moving quickly, frantically scrambling over low branches and charging through loose foliage. The ground here is wet all over and Taibald’s feet sink into the mud as he presses his back to a tree to hide. He lowers himself to the ground and listens for his pursuers. Taibald hears nothing, but there’s a putrid smell like rotting fish. It’s so strong he has to wrap the remnants of his shirt around his face to shield him from the feral stench. It’s getting stronger and Taibald knows it must be the savages closing in on him.
He slowly, silently, begins to climb the tree above him. He places his feet as close to the trunk as possible so the branches don’t sway and he shimmies upwards, praying for some luck.
The orange devils appear. They move quickly through the jungle, using their hands and feet in unison like expert scavengers creeping over the Earth. Each killer has severed fingers, ears and noses strewed about their body like jewellery and in a second, they’ve moved on.
Taibald releases a long sigh of relief. Then he drops down from the tree and begins to follow the creatures. He must retrieve the pewter box, or the mutiny was for nothing.
Chapter 2. Bravery
Taibald follows the terrible people to a wide clearing in the jungle. He hides in a winding, thorny bush to look out on their macabre citadel.
The entire, strange structure is made from vines and long, dead tree branches. It’s a massive pontoon, a single level vessel floating on a lake of liquid orange fungus. Everything the fluid touches is instantly stained and everyone moving around on it is a varying shade of orange.
Taibald watches the savages as they watch something suspended in the center. He shifts to get a better look and clutches at the crucifix around his neck when he realises exactly what they’re doing.
There are two people, a man and a woman, bound and suspended above a sheet of hot coals. Their bodies are masses of boils and burning sores and a bowl has been placed under each victim. As they cook and leak the warm, fatty juices, the bowl fills. The horrible, toothless citizens of the stinking orange horde are taking turns to drink the filthy slurry.
Taibald falls to his knees to vomit on the moist ground.
“Heaven take their strength, lord make me brave,” he prays as he watches a savage carry his pewter box to the bed of coals and lays it in the middle of the cannibalistic proceedings. Then he stands and moves quickly, stealthily, to the edge of the orange lake.
Without a second’s hesitation, he slips into the strange warm substance and swims below the pontoon. He sticks his mouth above the surface of the pond, scraping his nose against the porous, handmade structure.
Before long, Taibald’s reached the centre. The ritual continues above him and he can hear muffled chanting with his submerged ears.
He draws the knife from his boot, gripping it in his trembling fist. In a flurry of savage slashes, he cuts every vine and tether binding the floating platform he can reach. Then he swims to the left and continues.
A cry of confusion rings out over the throng of killers as the ground beneath them sways and fails. Whole sections of the structure begin to tear and split away like a woven basket being torn apart. As Taibald reaches up through a hole in the enormous raft to grab his pewter box, he sees the coals rolling around on the wood, leaving trails of tiny flames.
Chaos claims the gathering and the screams of the burning and the drowning and the trampled can be heard all over the jungle as a stampede of confused cannibals ripples across the orange lake.
Taibald is laughing as he pulls the silver box to his chest and dives down into the depths of the pond.
Chapter 3: Escape
Taibald swims as fast as he can in a straight line, deep below the surface. He knows that when he hits solid ground again, he will have found the bank.
Soon he’s emerging from the orange fungus and looking back on the carnage he’s caused. The entire fortress is ablaze and sections are tipping up, dumping the horrible citizens into the liquid below.
Taibald’s enemies are pointing to him and the box and he needs to run again. He sprints trough the jungle as fast as can, but he knows the beasts will catch him this time.
He’s sprinting and he looks back to see that the things are only a few paces behind him. He can’t keep this up, he’s too tired and too weak and he’s not a warrior.
Taibald takes one more stride onto a high boulder and opens the pewter chest he’s carrying.
“The lord will take you now, demons!” he cries down to his pursuers as he pulls the two weapons from the embossed container. He grips the handle, places a finger on the trigger and points the barrel at the closest enemy. The creature is only a single step away, it’s long, flat club raised above it’s head and it’s nasty gums gnashing together at it leans forward for its kill.
Taibald pulls the trigger, the hammer falls, a cloud of smoke explodes around his hand and the metal ball smashes into the forehead of the cannibal. A single stream of blood trickles from the hole in the monster’s skull as it collapses back onto the jungle floor.
Taibald stands high above the crowd of pursuers as they hesitate and look down on their fallen comrade.
Taibald’s hands are shaking and he wonders if the creatures realise he only has a single shot remaining. He takes a step back and they step forward to follow. He takes two steps back and again, they follow.
A single, foreign scream explodes over the congregation and a new wild and terrible threat falls from the trees above. This hairy, blackened thing drops to the ground and Taibald watches a pair of swords begin to whirl in a flurry through the crowd of devils. This new arrival is driving the creatures back and trails of blood follow the blades wherever they go.
Severed orange body parts fall to the jungle floor.
Whatever this is, it’s killing the cannibals and Taibald steps up to help.
The enemies are already fleeing when Taibald fires another ball into the skull of one of their largest warriors. Soon, the swarm of orange devils has dispersed and Taibald stands alone with the new arrival.
The thing turns and Taibald sees it’s a man. The dark skinned arrival has a crazed look about him, with an impossibly long beard and huge fistfuls of hair jutting out in all angles from his head.
“Oh, thank the lord. Christ be praised, a companion. Please, kind sir. I have so many questions. There is so much I need to know about this terrible place. What is your name?”
There’s a blank and uncomprehending look on the new arrival’s face as he opens his mouth and says, “Bonjour.”