Harbinger - Part II Calvin Crowner Uskadesh felt his body might be catapulted over the side of the ship at any moment. If nothing else, he was thankful he didn’t have to run his errand on the deck of a foreign vessel. He winced adjusting his shoulder, feeling his wings press against the sea’s attacking winds. The minister flared then tucked his wings inward, balancing himself on the deck. He embraced the sea as Gargoyles embraced anything powerful and deadly: with reverence. Salt, mist, and the pungent promise of a distant storm bit his nostrils. There was hardly a need for a proper crew, so he mustered several recruits enlisted for The Void guard post, offering them a chance for adventure. He’d eliminate them once his task was done. This was going to be a one-way journey in many respects. They’d passed a few merchant vessels, and for the most part the trip to this point had been uneventful. Most of the human ships gave them wide berth once they could distinguish the Gargoyle crew. He shook his horns laughing, and shouting to the helmsman, “We should raise pirate colors, perhaps we’d get a better reception from our neighbors.” Each laughed considering the awkward truth, the schooner skimming over the waves. After more than a year since the bridge of the Abyss opened, and Sosaria and Ter Mur had opened alliance, he still felt a foreigner on friendly waters. “Helmsman! Where do we lie?” Uskadesh mused at himself inwardly for using the human phrase. Laughter continued as young guard answered, “Aye, Minister we should arrive … err come about …”, he stammered correcting himself, “in no time if the charts do be true.” The Helmsman, true to his word, brought them quickly to the arranged location. Uskadesh was parched. Pulling a waterskin from his hip he drank deeply, spilling some of the stream over his face and back of his neck. He shrugged, allowing it to refresh and clear his mind for the task at hand. If nothing else, this alliance allowed for fresh water. For so long Ter Mur knew ration and want. He sneered keeping his thoughts to himself: Yes. Yes. Thank you so much good Sosaria. Then he saw it. The vessel closed with caution. No flag. No crew to be seen. As the waning rays of the day fell, he could finally make out two forms. His eyes narrowed as he sorted what he was seeing, then slipping in mild shock as he spied the familiar face of the prisoner rogue. Uskadesh put bits of the puzzle together methodically. Ricardo: a man in two places. Zhah. You and your warrior queen have been quite busy. The wizened and fiercely hewn helmsman of the Britannian ship shouted. “State your business in these waters friend!” The Minister projected without effort, “We bring a message for Avery.” The helmsman spoke again. After the man shouted he nursed his temples from the effort. “Then you have his ear. What news do you bring? Speak and leave me to my retirement.” The schooners closed amidships. Prows almost colliding then passing as the two vessels slowed. Anchors plunged and held fast. The clamber of chain and lumber competed with a suddenly pummeling wind as sails were hauled in. Ricardo walked surefooted. His steps light, his body a coil of flesh and sinew, as if he could at any moment brandish a sword or dive over the side and swim miles to safety. Uskadesh took note of a thick leather cord about his neck. Something of obvious weight and bulk lay hidden beneath the thief’s crimson tunic. Uskadesh continued, “ To somber matters then. I bring grim news. As the duly appointed messenger for the Illustrious Queen Zhah, with remorse I am bound to inform you … Your Queen is dead. Services are set for the next several days, and your presence is needed in your homeland.” Wind stilled. The ships settled, and the sea seemed to calm and blacken in the dying rays of the evening. Avery blanched, turning to see Ricardo gripping the ship’s side rail. He brought in one long breath as his eyes closed, feeling bile taint his inside, seasalt and agony drying his lips and tongue. The lapping of the waves against the hulls filled both crew’s ears. No one spoke again.