The Adventures of Penney Dreadful Shivering Souls

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Reaves and his crew find themselves drifting in the far north of the world. As they begin the long journey back to civilization, a mysterious presence makes itself known.

Submitted: October 01, 2017

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Submitted: October 01, 2017

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The Adventures of Penney Dreadful

Shivering Souls

The Marianne Rose pulsed like a red-hot star. Her sails were aflame. Everything was aflame. Wood burned. Metal melted. Flesh bubbled. It all lasted a second, maybe even less, but for William Reaves, the pain was eternal. He was beyond physical suffering, even as his skeleton was burned like kindling. He suffered with his ship. He watched helplessly as he lost Rose for a third time. How many deaths could one woman suffer? How many would it take to truly break Reaves? At least this time, Reaves would die with her.

Life, however, was not done with Captain Reaves. The Rose shuddered to a halt, and the flames vanished. There was no sign of damage to skin or steel. Reaves looked around. His crew writhed around him, retching in pain and shock. Their moans drifted up into the night sky. Reaves was reminded of his aunts stories of lost, vengeful spirits. He shook his head, suppressing a shudder. Snow drifted lazily in a brisk breeze.

Reaves remembered the artifact. He remembered the chase and the duel with Penney Dreadful. That bastard pirate had tossed the artifact onto his ship. The artifact which had enabled the ash-black Fleet Foot to travel as quickly as a shooting star. Apparently, it had retained enough juice for one last jump. Now, the Rose could be anywhere. Reaves began making a mental list of tasks. He would need charts, lots of charts. He would need a damage report. He would need his engineers to examine the artifact. And of course, the wounded needed to be tended to.

That's when Reaves noticed the tower. It rose like an inverted icicle in the distance. At first, he thought it was a mountain, or perhaps a stranger, more dangerous leftover from the old world. But when he squinted, he could make out the shape of a tower. He could see buildings and gondolas and sprawling parks. It would have been very fortunate if not for one simple fact; the tower was frozen.

Ice encrusted the entire visible surface of the tower. A vast plume of snow drifted from the highest point. Pale moonlight was reflected on its surfaces, bathing the entire structure in an eerie glow. Reaves added a few more things to his mental list.

Marcus Gray, the surgeon, smiled down at Everett Smith. The boy lay on a cot, with a thick gauze wrapped around his leg. He was not alone in his suffering, but he was one of the few who remained in the infirmary. As much as his leg still ached and burned, his deepest anguish stemmed from his failure. He was a soldier of the Regency, serving under a legendary captain, and he had gotten himself shot in the leg. He had failed. Again. Everett cursed the pirate who had done this to him. He shivered as he remembered the knife. The glinting shard of steel soaring through the air. It had been meant for Janet. Almost killed her. Everett had reacted without thinking. He had seen where the blade was going, and he would not allow it to find its target.

In his heart, Everett knew he had done the right thing. He had saved a fellow officer. But to get himself hurt in the process...that had been careless. He had failed during the first bout with Penney Dreadful's crew. He had failed at Christina. Now, he had failed on the Fleet Foot. It seemed like all he did was fail. And he was still so afraid. Sometimes, he thought he should have followed in his father's footsteps. A baker's life was far less dangerous than his current line of work.

"How are you feeling, Mr. Smith?" asked Marcus, in a low, friendly voice.

"Fine," Everett lied.

"Good, good. You'll be on your feet within just a few weeks."

"Lucky me," said Everett, not feeling all that lucky.

"You are lucky, actually. That knife missed a major artery by a hair." Marcus almost sounded gleeful whenever he talked about terrible wounds. It certainly didn't make being his patient any easier.

Everett sighed. Not only had he nearly gotten himself killed, but now he would be bedridden while most of the crew were hard at work. Everett truly despised every minute he spent strapped to the cot. Marcus was still smiling. Normally, that would have been reassuring, but it would probably get old after a while. Everett was not looking forward to that.

"Seems you have a visitor," said the surgeon.

Everett looked to the door to see Janet standing there. Even wearing a thick winter coat and bulky goggles, she was still so beautiful. The goggles were pulled up, revealing those wondrously deep dark eyes. Her pale skin provided quite a contrast to the black coat and gloves. It was like moonlight shining in a dark, dark sky. She smiled uneasily.

"Shouldn't you be working?" said Everett.

Janet looked away, but not before Everett caught a subtle change in her eyes. Perhaps that had not been the correct thing to say to someone whose life you just saved. Everett silently swore at himself. He had never been particularly successful in the Art and Science of Understanding Women, and to his dismay, that had not been an area of study offered in the Academy.

"I'm sorry," he said, trying not to mutter. "I just...I'm tired."

"I know," said Janet, stepping into the room at Marcus' behest. "But you are correct. I should be up there." She pointed at the ceiling.

Janet sidled up to Everett. She laid a hand on the cot, close to his own. Everett was torn between moving it or keeping it where it was.

"I just wanted to check up on you," she said. "So...how are you doing?"

"Could be better," said Everett.

"Could be dead," added Marcus, in an alarmingly cheerful tone.

"Right," said Janet. "That's...uh, that's great. Gregory sends his prayers."

"Thanks," said Everett, though he was unsure of what use prayers would be.

"I also wanted to thank you, Everett. For...well, you know. Saving my life."

"Anything to help a fellow officer." said Everett, desperately trying not to blush.

"I just wish you hadn't gotten hurt to make that happen."

"In that, we are agreed."

Janet laughed. At that moment, it was all the medicine Everett needed. He would fight a sky full of pirates with no leg at all just to hear that laugh.

"Well," said Janet, ending her laughter all too soon. "Get better Everett. That's an order."

Everett gave a weak, half-hearted salute.

"Think you can manage without me?" he joked, trying to make her laugh again.

"We'll miss you, but we'll make it work."

"How's it look up there anyway?"

"Damage is minimal, thankfully. Reaves is keeping us on drift until we've all recovered."

"What a mess," said Everett. "Where'd those bastards send us?"

"North," said Janet. "Far, far north. Selena is on the horizon."

Everett's blood ran cold. Selena. The Frozen Tower. Many expeditions to Selena had been made over the years. All of them had failed. Not a single ship had come back.

"We're not going there, are we?" he asked.

"Don't know," said Janet. "But when I do, I'll report back as soon as I can."

"Thanks," said Everett.

"Of course," said Janet. "Now, I should go. Ship isn't going to fix herself. But I'll check in again, if you'd like. Maybe Gregory'll come along, if I can tear him away from his work."

"Don't worry about it," said Everett. "But...thanks, Janet. I'd like that."

Janet nodded with a smile. Before leaving, she turned to face Everett one more time.

"Thanks again," she said.

Everett nodded weakly and watched her go.

"Ah, young love." said Marcus, eliciting laughter from his other patients. Everett blushed. Was it that obvious?

"Unhand me, you cretin!"

The patients groaned as Barron entered the room. Robertson held him roughly, forcing him along.

"Come on, you bunter, get in there!" said Robertson.

"What seems to be the matter, Mr. Barron?" said Marcus, blissfully ignoring the ruckus.

"He fell down some stairs," said Robertson.

"I was shot at!" Barron screeched.

"Yes, but you also fell down some stairs."

"Hmm," said Marcus. "And why did you not come to see me right away?"

"Look," said Barron, "I'm fine! Perfect, even!"

"You were crawling on the floor when I found you." said Robertson, matter-of-factly.

"I do that sometimes," said Barron.

"Well, I'd like to take a look at you anyways." said Marcus. "Please, take a cot, will you?"

"You can't do this," Barron fumed as Robertson forced him toward an empty cot. "Look at his skin! I'm not letting this nigg-!"

Marcus decked Barron across the face before the writer could finish his sentence. Robertson, Everett and all the patients looked wide-eyed at the kindly surgeon.

"Lay him down there," said Marcus, as if nothing notable had happened.

Everett made a note not to get on his bad side.

 

When the crew recovered, Reaves put them to work. Donald Welter, his chief engineer, oversaw repairs to the ship. Marcus Gray attended to the wounded. Warm clothes and gloves had been provided as defense against the bitter cold. For the time being, Reaves let the Rose drift. He needed a plan before setting off.

"Reporting for duty, sir!" said Robertson.

Reaves started. The young cadet had a habit of sneaking up on people.

"Didn't I send you to fetch Barron a moment ago?" said Reaves, quickly composing himself.

"Done, sir."

"Oh. Well, go help Hennessy with the rigging, then."

"Sir, yes sir!" Robertson saluted and rushed off.

"Quick worker, that one." Blake remarked, approaching his captain.

"Indeed," said Reaves. "A bit scattered, perhaps."

Blake shrugged.

"What have you found, Blake?"

"You were correct in your assessment, sir. According to the charts, we are far to the north, nearly at the pole."

Reaves shook his head. It would take considerable time to return to Regency airspace. If his crew survived that long.

"Why would the artifact send us here?" he wondered.

"I'll have Welter examine it once repairs are finished," said Blake. "But I doubt he'll find any answers. Only the devil knows how those bloody machines work."

Reaves nodded absently. It was coincidence, he knew. It had to be.

"What of the tower?" he asked.

"You know the stories, sir. All expeditions have met with failure. Our best bet is to avoid it. Welter tells me our Aether supply is steady. No need to scavenge. Although I doubt we'd find anything on that blasted tower anyway."

"That leaves us only one option then." said Reaves.

"Yes," said Blake. "We fly."

"It will be a long voyage, my friend."

"I'm ready for it, sir. This whole bloody hunt has been a long voyage."

"Yes," Reaves darkly mused. "It has."

 

And so a course was set for Juliana, the closest inhabited tower. From there, the Rose would make her way to Georgia. Reaves still held some choice words for Ian Redford. The encounter with the Fleet Foot and the Ruckus had clearly been staged. Reaves was aware that the Regency practiced many morally dubious deeds, but he had hoped that Redford and Sim would be free of such corruption. He really should have known better. Reaves hadn't signed up to be lead along like a mongrel pup. He needed answers, and he would have them, even if he had to beat them out of someone.

As they passed Selena, Reaves couldn't help but take a look. The Frozen Tower was almost beautiful. Ice-encrusted metal glittered in the moonlight. Each fleck of snow was a star, slowly falling from heaven. In a strange way, the scene reminded Reaves of his winters with Rose. The two of them had made a tradition of watching the snowfall from the warmth of their living room. With cocoa for him and tea for her, they had sat together near a roaring fire, bundled up in a single blanket. Of course, simply watching the snow wasn't enough for Rose. No, she had to be out there. She had to set off into the garden, to dance amid snow-touched flowers and pines. Reaves had always been right behind her, pleading for her to come back inside. Instead, Rose had grabbed Reaves by the wrist and led the way into a long, slow dance. There, in the garden, the two had been lost to a song only they could hear.

Reaves shook his head. Why had those images come to mind? Selena was a place of death. It had been a great chunk of ice as long as anyone could remember. No one had ever lived there. Probably. As with all things in the sky, Selena's nature was not well understood. The only clues to Selena's purpose and history came from a scrambled, incomplete report  from the wreckage of the Blackwood. The expedition ship had been found encrusted with ice and littered with the dead just a month after she had entered Selena's airspace. The report had been torn and most of the contents had been smudged or sloppily erased. Reaves repressed a shudder as he remembered the few legible lines; "Ice...wind...go to...Tower...dropped...save...burning."

Reaves looked again to Selena. This time, he did shudder. Occasionally, he spotted a light that did not look like the light of moon. Here and there, some part of his brain registered movement among the ice. And as he observed Selena in all her baroque glory, he acquired a strange sense of déjà vu. No...not that. He didn't feel like he'd been here before. He felt like he'd be here again.

"Bah," said Reaves, ridding himself of such nonsense imaginings. He had never been a superstitious man, and he vowed not to become one now. Reaves ignored the sudden, rush of cold wind and joined Blake by the wheelhouse.

 

"What can you tell us, Welter?" asked Blake.

Donald Welter sat aside from Claude Blake and Captain Reaves in his cabin. The artifact, which Blake, in a moment of poetical inspiration, had dubbed the 'Mercury Engine' rested on the table. It was contained in a small, tightly locked chest. Welter had examined the artifact thoroughly,  a process which had taken the better part of an hour. Miraculously, he had not blown up the Rose.

"Well," Welter sighed, "I may be an engineer, but I ain't no expert on these...things."

"Is it dangerous, Welter?" said Blake, who was slowly reaching the limits of his patience.

"No," said Welter. "No, not now. It's empty."

"What do you mean by that?" asked Reaves.

"The artifact, or Engine, or whatever the hell we're calling it, runs on Aether. A lot of Aether. The Fleet Foot crew had it hooked up to their primary engine. That's likely why they raided so many damn ships. They needed to keep the thing fed."

"Huh," said Blake. "I thought they were raiding just for fun."

"Why did the device activate when it was separated from the Fleet Foot engines?" Reaves asked, ignoring Blake's remark.

Welter followed his league and said, "I found trace amounts of Aether inside the thing. Don't know how much was in it before it activated, but apparently it was enough."

"How is that even possible?" said Reaves. "No amount of Aether can produce such an effect."

"Truthfully, sir," said Welter, "there's a lot of things we still don't know about Aether. We do know it ignores gravity, we know it gives our engines a little kick, we know it keeps monsters at bay and we know that it effects light and moves in circles. Beyond that, we're pretty fucking clueless."

"We just need to know one thing," said Blake, pounding his fist on the table. "Is the Mercury Engine dead? Are we safe?"

"Yes," said Welter.

"Alright, good. Let's destroy the damn thing, then."

"Blake, you know the protocol." said Reaves. "We are to return any artifacts we find to the Admiralty Board. No exceptions."

"Are you kidding?" said Blake, abruptly standing up. "This thing almost killed us!"

"I wouldn't say that," said Welter. "But I certainly don't recommend hooking it up to our engine. One jaunt was painful enough. The Fleet Foot crew clearly overused it. They were weak, exhausted."

"Good to know," said Blake. "Now, let's throw it overboard, for fuck's sake."

"No," said Reaves. "We stick to protocol. We keep it."

"Funny," Blake hissed, "someone like you talking about protocol."

Welter watched as Blake stormed out the door. Reaves did not respond. He didn't even look up when Blake left. He only listened to the footsteps echoing away.

"He's an ass," said Welter, when he was sure Blake was out of earshot.

"He's also your superior," said Reaves, rising. "You should show him some respect."

"He ain't here now, is he?"

Reaves glared. Despite him only possessing one eye, it managed to be an effective, withering look.

"Fine," said Welter.

"Good. Now, I would like to continue this discussion at a later date. Unlike Blake, I think it's important to know precisely how something works before writing it off."

"Sure," said Welter. "I took notes. We can go over 'em."

"Good," said Reaves, heading for the door.

He hesitated. Reaves looked back at Welter, who was looking at the chest.

"Welter?"

"Yeah?"

"We haven't had much of a chance to talk...as friends. I know we both have work to do now, but just know...well, thank you."

"For what?"

"For signing on. For giving me another chance."

Welter regarded his captain with dark blue eyes.

"Yeah," he said. "Sure."

Reaves wanted to say so more. He wanted Welter and all of his original crew members to know that he was a changed man. That this time, things would be different. This time, Reaves would not let his own people die. That he was sorry. But Reaves had work to do. All he could do was nod.

Days turned to weeks. Even when the sun shined bright overhead, the sky was still suffused with cold. The crew sweated in their heavy jackets, but dared not take them off on deck, in fear of frost bite. Worst of all, Janet Bain was bored. She sat with Faith Walker and John Hennessy, eating lunch under a small patch of shade. Janet desperately wanted to do something other than work the sails or clean, or feed the engines. She thought back to the pirates. How exciting it had been, to chase those bastards until they were forced to plunge into the Abyss. How fun it had been to fight them with powder and steel. Janet had not anticipated combat to be all that interesting. But now that she had tasted it, she wanted a full course. Skewering Penney Dreadful would be a most entertaining experience. First, however, Janet wished to end the one who had hurt Everett. The pirate with the long black coat, graying hair and dull, dead eyes. She had already imagined a hundred ways in which she might accomplish her goal, and was always calculating more.

"So," said Faith, interrupting Janet's progress. "How's that Everett boy?"

"He's doing well, I think. Marcus says he'll be ready for action soon."

"Good to hear," said Hennessy. "Always liked the boy. Hard worker, if a tad timid."

"You've been checking on him a lot." Faith said to Janet.

"Have I?" said Janet, concentrating on her sandwich.

"You do it every day, in fact. Folks are beginning to talk."

"About what?"

Faith giggled. Hennessy rolled his eyes.

"You two are awfully close, aren't you?"

"'Suppose so," said Janet.

"Don't do this to her, Faith." Hennessy groaned.

"Do what?" said Faith, feigning innocence.

"What are you two going on about?" said Janet, after she had finished her lunch.

"Don't mind her, lass," said Hennessy. "Faith just gets bored easily. She needs something to talk about."

"This is true," Faith admitted. "And I thought you and Everett would make a good topic to discuss."

"Why?" Janet asked, tilting her head.

Faith, in a rare moment, was at a loss for words. She looked at Hennessy. The man raised an eyebrow and shrugged.

"Janet," said Faith, "you seriously can't figure this out?"

"Figure what out?"

Before Faith could open her mouth again, Gregory Ware shooed her away.

"Don't tease the lass, you two!" cried the big man.

"I had nothing to do with this." Hennessy insisted.

"Away!" said Ware, waving his pocket knife in their direction. "Let the poor lady digest, will you?"

Faith prepared to say something, but Hennessy stopped her with a hand on her shoulder and a shake of his head. The two sailors sauntered off. Ware took his place beside Janet, produced a block of wood from his coat and began to whittle away at it.

"Is that your lunch?" Janet joked.

"I may be tough," Ware laughed. "But I'm not that tough."

"Oh, don't sell yourself short. I saw how you handled those pirates."

"That was fun," said Ware, shedding wood onto the floor.

"Can't wait 'till we find 'em again."

"The pirates?" asked Ware, not looking up.

"Who else? After what they did to Everett...god, I just want to see their ship burn."

This time, Ware did look up. His age-lined almond eyes met with Janet's young, dark ones. He held that gaze as he said, "Take 'er easy, girl. There will be time enough for that. No point in raising your blood now."

"You seem awfully relaxed about this whole situation," said Janet. "Doesn't it bother you that those bastards are still out there? That we haven't caught them yet?"

"We will catch them," said Ware. "Just give it time. Hell, treat this as a vacation! We don't have to fight now, we just have to fly."

With that, Ware went back to his whittling. Janet sighed.

 

Down below, Donald Welter and his team were hard at work. The engines had to remain hot in order to avoid freezing. Normally, this wouldn't be much of a challenge. The upper skies were always a little chilly, and the engines always had to be running. But this weather...this cold posed a true challenge. The hotter the engines were, the more Aether they consumed. The Rose was well stocked, thanks to being a ship of the Regency. But even a Regency ship couldn't stay afloat forever. Welter had learned that the hard way. When he served with Reaves five years ago, many ships fell. That was when Reaves was an admiral, with a whole fleet at his command. After his wife's tragic death, Reaves had pushed his fleet in pursuit of Penney Dreadful. He had hardly noticed when his own ships began to fall. Reaves had been so dedicated to the destruction of Dreadful.

Welter had hated him for it. Reaves didn't even listen when Welter told him of the damage to his own fleet. The ships that didn't fall from cannon fire and bombs fell simply due to a shortage of Aether. Reaves could have saved them all, but he was too focused on chasing Penney to the edges of the world. Reaves had been so angry, then. So full of life and hate.

Welter wondered what had changed. Now, Reaves seemed slower, calmer. Resigned, almost. Welter could feel the life in him, however. And the hate. Whenever Penney came up in conversation, Reaves practically boiled with it. But he hardly yelled. It was an old rage he held within him. It had grown cold, solidified into a heart of stone. Yes, Reaves still had some fight left in him.

And he had not pushed his crew to death. Not yet. Welter knew the day would come when that old rage erupted. And when it did, he would be ready. He would not allow Reaves to kill his own men. When Sim had asked Welter to rejoin the disgraced captain, Welter had hesitated. Reaves was a murderer. A blemish on the shining face of the Regency. So why, then, had Welter ultimately accepted? The man himself did not know why. Perhaps he had remembered what the captain was like before the nasty business with Penney Dreadful. Perhaps he had remembered the kind-hearted, carefree captain who he had once admired. The captain whose smiling face once graced the pages of every publication. The captain civilians and Regency officials alike had adored.

Yes, perhaps that was why. And perhaps he had wanted that captain back. Welter fed the engines, keeping them warm and full of light.

 

When Everett recovered, he almost danced with joy, although the doctor recommended against it. Everett had spent weeks cooped up with Barron. He had envied the patients who had recovered ahead of him. As they walked out of the infirmary, Everett had been forced to listen to Barron's incessant attempts at poetry. At first, he had almost wished to kill himself. After the fifth day, he had focused his violent fantasies on Barron instead. Which was much more sensible, really.

When he was finally released, Everett almost bounded up the stairs. He couldn't wait to see Janet again. The deck was nearly empty when he arrived, however. All was quiet, save for the hissing wind. Only a handful of sailors wandered about. When he saw the wiry form of cadet Robertson, he rushed over and asked him what was about. Robertson merely hushed him and pointed to the far stern railing. There, a small congregation of sailors were gathered, looking out over the dim horizon. Everett thanked the boy, who was about his age, and joined the group.

He found Janet right away. She didn't seem to notice him. Reaves, who was nearby, laid a hand on Everett's shoulder. He nearly started, but Reaves calmed him. The captain pointed out to the horizon. Everett followed with his eyes and squinted. When he finally realized what he was looking at, the boy gasped. A lone ship, broken and falling. A flock of harpies swarmed around it. From this distance, they almost appeared as birds. Large birds, but birds nonetheless. And though he could not hear anything from that distance, Everett swore he could hear them screeching. He looked away, feeling ill.

Reaves regarded the boy with a somber look.

"There's nothing we can do," he said.

"Are...are we safe?" said Everett.

"Yes, as long as we don't make a ruckus. We're safe, son."

Everett could only nod.

As soon as the Rose passed the ruined ship, Janet looked at Everett, tears silently flowing down from her dark eyes. The sight broke Everett's heart into a thousand pieces. Janet hugged him tight. Everett, thankful that she could not see the redness spreading across his face, returned the embrace.

"Good to have you back." said Janet, choking on sorrow.

"Good to be back." said Everett, meaning every word.

 

Weeks turned to months. By day, the crew sweltered in the sun. By night, they were besieged by numbing cold. It was on one of these sweltering days that things began to go wrong. Warmer weather meant less Aether consumption, but the engines had already eaten through eight tanks. And the cold, windy nights weren't helping. The crew grew restless. Minor fights broke out on a daily basis. The older crewmembers, including Reaves himself, had to break them up. And worst of all, Barron was free to roam about, tormenting everyone for his own amusement. Reaves almost wished that Blake really had killed him.

Blake himself was clearly letting his emotions get the better of him. He had never been a patient or particularly calm man. He was upset about the whole situation, and took it out on Reaves and the others. Penney Dreadful had been within their grasp. But through a stroke of bad luck, she had escaped once again. And now the Rose drifted on a long, slow journey to Tower Juliana. Blake had frequently apologized for his continuous outbursts, but that did not prevent them from occurring. Reaves understood his first mate's frustration all too well. Penney's escape gnawed at him as well. After five years of wallowing in quiet guilt and remorse, Reaves had learned how to conceal his rage. Or perhaps that part of him had simply died. Reaves doubted the latter, however. For every time he thought of Penney, which was often, his blood practically sizzled in his veins.

Reaves was currently in his cabin, preparing to jot something down in his journal. After struggling to locate his pen, which he swore he had left by the nightstand, he sat down to write. His pen barely hit the page when he forgot what he had wanted to say in his report. Was it even meant to be a report, or a reminder? Reaves couldn't remember. Not knowing what else to do, he decided to get back on deck. Not before indulging in a little brandy, of course. Rose had never liked the stuff, preferring fine wine instead. That didn't stop her from gifting him with the most expensive brandy she could find. In return, he gave her all the wine she could ever need. Reaves still kept all the brandy Rose had given him, most of it locked away in his flat on Rosaria. When she was alive, he had planned to drink them on special occasions such as birthdays and weekends. Now, he only desired to look at them. He stuck to the cheap stuff now. Reaves opened his nightstand drawer to find the bottle he kept there completely empty. Strange. He had sworn there had more. Not much more, granted, but enough. Reaves shrugged and tossed the bottle onto his bed. He would have to make do with wine.

Before he could indulge himself, there was a knock at the door. Reaves started, and chastised himself for doing so. Why had he been so jumpy lately?

"Come in!" said Reaves.

Robertson entered the room and saluted his captain. Reaves nodded at the boy, hoping that he did not notice the empty bottle of brandy laying in the open.

"What is it, Robertson?" 

"Trouble in food storage, sir."

"Another brawl? Is Blake trying to fight Ware again?"

Apparently, Ware had been quite a fearsome boxer back in the day. Blake, being a brawling man himself, had been trying to coerce Ware into fighting him, just to alleviate his boredom. So far, Ware had refused. Reaves had been trying to stop Blake from antagonizing the other man, for he did not desire fighting among his crew. That, and he did not support such barbaric sports. That had been something both he and Rose agreed on. Still, he idly wondered who would win in such a battle. He had known Blake a long time, and he was well aware of how strong and brutal the man could be.

"No, sir," said Robertson. "Someone's been at the food."

"What do you mean?" said Reaves.

"Better if I show you, sir." said Robertson.

 

Reaves soon stood with Robertson in food storage. Barrels containing salted meats, dried goods and rum were neatly stacked in rows along the wall, secured by leather straps. Five of those barrels were open and nearly empty of their contents.

"Any idea who did this?" said Reaves, trying to hide his shock.

"No, sir," said Robertson.

"You were here all night?" said Reaves, pointing at Stevens, the other young boy in the room.

"Yes, sir," said Stevens. "No one else was in here. All rations were handed out equally for mealtime, I made sure of it."

"And did you check the whole room?"

"Yes, sir. We checked the whole deck."

Reaves nodded in approval.

"I want another man in here," he demanded. "Keep a light on, and don't let anyone in here without my say so."

"Sir, yes, sir!" said Stevens and Robertson in perfect unison.

Reaves frowned. The barrel tops had not simply been removed. They had been torn open in a rush, judging by the scratches and broken bits of wood. The contents had been messily devoured, with most of the food still laying on the floor. Despite the heat, Reaves suddenly felt very cold.

Strange. Very strange indeed.

 

Night fell, smothering the sun. As soon as the light began to fade, the cold returned. The crew bundled up. They worked in close groups, hoping to share as much heat as possible. Reaves sighed, and his breath rose into the air. Juliana was close. Not much further now. His crew would not have to endure such hardship much longer. Reaves looked to the night sky. A million eyes looked back. Reliable Polaris burned in place, watching the world tumble in darkness. Demonical Algol rested like a diamond on its shapeless throne of Aether. As a sailor, Reaves knew the stars well. Fortunately, he had gained a liking for astronomy in his training. He had attempted to show Rose the wonders of the heavens, but her focus had always remained on Earth. She had cared not for the movements of stars and planets. No, she had cared only for her home and those who suffered on it. Thinking of her, Reaves momentarily forgot all about the chilling air.

The fire was snuffed from his heart when Hennessy rang the warning bell.

"Graveyard," yelled the spymaster, "dead ahead!"

Sure enough, a mass of derelict ships came into view, directly in their path. Reaves ordered Welter to slow the ship. Blake joined his side and together they regarded the way ahead. For miles and miles, dead ships floated on the dying wind. The ships came in all shapes and sizes. Some were old, some new. Reaves couldn't even recognize half of them. Aether residue must have been keeping them afloat. Strangely, none of the ships displayed signs of serious damage, aside from a few torn sails.

"Can we get around?" asked Blake.

"Look at the size of it," said Reaves, gesturing to the devastation. "I doubt it. Even if we could, it would take us considerable time."

"Then we go through?"

"We go through." Reaves nodded.

He gave his crew the order, and the Rose plunged into the heap of dead ships. She moved slow and cautiously. Reaves, now at the helm, maneuvered his ship to avoid the dead as best he could. Faith Walker, his navigator, aided him in detecting smaller, less noticeable bits of debris. Everett, Bain and Ware watched each dead ship pass by. Everett attempted to read the names, but each one was faded or obscured.

"What could produce so many derelicts?" the boy wondered aloud.

"Doesn't look like harpy work," said Ware.

"Pirates, then? Or...monsters?"

"No visible damage," said Janet, shaking her head. "This doesn't make any sense."

"Maybe they all went mad and killed each other!" said Barron, startling the whole group.

"Why do you sound so excited about that?" asked Ware.

"Who wouldn't be?"

Ware rolled his eyes and returned his gaze to the graveyard.

"No bodies," said Barron.

"What?" said Janet. She, Ware and Everett turned to face the deranged writer.

"No bodies," he repeated. "Did you notice that?"

The trio exchanged glances at each other, but said nothing.

"That's what I thought," Barron sneered.

"They were likely scavenged," said Ware. "By birds or harpies."

"Perhaps," said Barron, in an unnecessarily menacing whisper. "Perhaps."

While Barron tormented his crew, Reaves noticed something odd. It wasn't the lack of corpses, although that was concerning. It was the ice. He hadn't notice it at first due to the rapidly fading light, but ice encrusted nearly all of the ruined ships. Once again, Reaves felt that familiar, sudden cold in his gut.

"What now, sir?" Faith asked.

"It's too dark to navigate through this mess now," said Reaves. "So it looks like we'll be camping here for the night."

Faith and Blake looked around at the desolation around them. In total darkness, the dead ships looked even more intimidating.

"Great," they moaned in unison.

 

 

In the brightly lit storeroom, Stevens watched Robertson pace back and forth. The boy had been at it for hours now, ever since he joined Stevens in his duties. Stevens usually tolerated such behavior. Now, however, it was beginning to wear on him.

"Relax, Robertson." he said.

"Sorry, Stevens," said Robertson, briefly pausing his pacing. "You know me. I get...well-"

"You get antsy, yeah." said Stevens. Granted, everyone had been antsy lately. But Robertson had always been like this.

"Yeah," said Robertson. "I just...I need something to do."

"I know, I know. You need to work. That's great."

"No," said Robertson, "I need to serve. I need to be useful."

"And you are, buddy. I know that. Blake knows that. The captain knows that. You got nothing to prove."

Robertson thought about this, shook his head, and resumed his pacing. Stevens sighed. Despite the warm gaslight illuminating the room, Stevens suddenly felt very cold. It was as if he had just swallowed a great chunk of ice. His blood turned to slush. His stomach growled so loudly that Robertson froze.

"Sorry," said Stevens, holding his stomach. "I don't know what's come over me. I just feel so very hungry at the moment."

"Well," said Robertson, "I suppose that's understandable. We are in a storeroom, after all. We're surrounded by food we can't touch. That's probably a form of torture on some towers."

Stevens almost laughed. His stomach was practically howling now.

"God," he groaned, "I'm so bloody hungry."

"You know the rules, Stevens. No touching the food until mealtime."

"Just one bite...that's all I need."

Stevens rose and made for the closest barrel. He curved his fingers and began clawing at the lid.

"Stevens," cried Robertson, "what the hell are you doing?"

"Just one bite," said Stevens, ignoring his friend. "One bite."

"That's enough, Stevens!" said Robertson. He grabbed the other boy by the shoulder. "I'm taking you to the infirmary. Come along, now."

Before Robertson could even blink, Stevens twirled around and grabbed his arm. Stevens was grinning. His eyes were wide as moons.

"ONE BITE!" Stevens howled, sinking his teeth into Robertson's flesh.

Robertson screamed. He tried to push his friend away, but Stevens was suddenly possessed by some great strength. Neither of them noticed as Axel Saxon burst into the room. The older man had been sent by Reaves to check on the two boys. He had been on his way when he had heard the scream. Now, he ran to Stevens and knocked the boy over the head with his pistol. Stevens fell to the ground, releasing Robertson's arm.

Robertson covered his wound and looked down at his friend, hardly aware of Axel's presence.

"You kids must've been real bored, huh?" said the older man.

 

Reaves and Marcus peered down at Stevens. The boy lay on a cot in the infirmary, breathing softly.

"He just went mad, you say?" Reaves inquired.

Robertson merely nodded.

"Interesting," said Marcus. "Of course, we can't be sure of that until he wakes up. Did you really have to hit him, Axel?"

"Seemed like a good idea at the time." Axel shrugged.

"Was Stevens acting strange before he...attacked?" asked Reaves.

"No, sir," said Robertson.

"Strange," said Reaves. "What do you think could have caused this outburst, Marcus? Boredom?"

"I'm more interested in the cannibalism bit," said Barron, peering over Reaves' shoulder.

"No one asked you," said the captain.

"He was...awfully hungry," said Robertson, touching his bandaged and treated wound. "Just before his attack."

"Hungry enough to resort to cannibalism?"said Marcus. "Quite unlikely. Right after dinner, too."

Stevens awoke. He nearly bolted up, but the leather restraints held him down. He frantically looked around the room, his pupils as small as pins. Marcus laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"How are you feeling, young man?" asked the surgeon.

"I-I'm...how did I get here?"

"Mr. Saxon and Mr. Robertson brought you in. Seemed you caused them quite a scare, my boy."

"I'm sorry," Stevens stammered, "I don't know what came over me."

"What exactly happened in there, Stevens?" said Reaves, more roughly then he intended.

"I don't know sir...I was just...so hungry."

Suddenly, Stevens convulsed. He thrashed against his restraints to no avail.

"Hold him down!" Marcus cried, rushing to prepare a sedative.

Reaves and Axel restrained the boy, struggling against his wild thrashings. Robertson and Barron backed away from the scene, glancing nervously at one another.

"It's back!" Stevens cried. "It's back! So cold...so cold. Don't let it take me again!"

"What the hell is he going on about?" Axel grunted.

"Oh, god!" Stevens screamed. "It flies on burning feet, it feeds on death!"

"What did he say?" said Barron, breathlessly.

Marcus applied the sedative. He waited, but there was no obvious effect. Stevens continued to thrash and wail.

"What is this?" Reaves bellowed. "What on Earth could possibly cause such madness?"

"Wendigo," Barron whispered.

"What?" said everyone.

"It's a wendigo," said Barron. "A spirit capable of driving perfectly sane men to cannibalism. A spirit of cold, high places. God, it was so obvious!"

"Great," Axel said to Reaves. "So he's an occultist and a poet."

"You'd be surprised how often those two professions overlap," said Barron.

"How do we cure him?" said Reaves, still holding the raging Stevens.

"You don't," said Barron. "There is no escape from such a creature. Once it takes Stevens, it will take us all."

"What do you mean, 'take'?" said Robertson.

"You really don't want to know."

"I really do," said Robertson, "that's why I asked.

Before Barron could murmur a retort, Stevens went silent. He slumped in his cot, whimpering softly.

"Guess the sedative kicked in," said Marcus.

"Or the beast simply released him." said Barron.

"Enough," said Reaves. "Marcus, look after the boy. Axel and Robertson, stay here. Assist the doctor. And Barron, you will explain everything you know about this disease."

"It's not a disease," Barron huffed. "Were you not listening?"

"Barron, I don't have time for your nonsense. Tell Marcus everything you know. If you don't, I'll throw you overboard myself."

"Duly noted," said Barron.

"What about you, sir?" asked Robertson.

"I shall inform Blake of this development. If there are any problems here, let me know immediately."

"Sir, yes, sir!"

Reaves nodded and skulked out of the room.

"So," said Marcus, looking amused. "What do you know, Mr. Barron?"

"More then you'd think," said the grinning scribbler, "much more."

 

Reaves wondered how Blake would respond to this new emergency. Would he be delighted at the prospect of solving a problem? Or would he be horribly disappointed? After all, you couldn't punch a disease to death.

Wendigo.

The word lodged itself into Reaves' brain like a thorn. Wendigo. Reaves had heard the legends, of course. As with stars, every good sailor learned about legends. Believing in them was a different matter. As a child, he had believed. He had believed in a great many things. Ghosts and demons. Monsters and ghouls. When you were a child, every shadow held a monster. And every monster told a story. But there comes a time when the shadows fade. The light of reason and adulthood cast the amniotic darkness of fancy and childhood into the very corners of the mind until only truth is left. It was sad, in a way. Rose, even in adulthood, had believed in shadows. She had not been an occultist or anything of the like, but she had always indulged in childhood fancies from time to time. Reaves had never believed in much of anything, but he had believed in Rose. That had been good enough for him.

Reaves grimaced as he felt a familiar feeling creep into his bones. A sudden, shocking cold, starting in his belly and working its way up his spine. This time, the feeling was strong enough to stop him in his tracks. He leaned against the wall, breathing heavily. An icy claw clutched his heart and squeezed. Someone began to whisper into his ear, but when he turned around, he saw no one. Not a soul. He couldn't understand the words anyway. They were familiar, but jumbled and arranged in nonsensical patterns. They were archaisms. Old words from an old time. Reaves nearly screamed as he was bombarded with a stream of unwanted glossolalia. Every word was an icy spike impaling his brain. He shuffled along the wall until he came to Welter's door. He leaned against it, wheezing.

Without warning, the words ceased. For a moment, he felt relief. But only for a moment. A scream pierced his very being. He surged with pain until his vision went white. He felt a vibration coming from beyond the door. He shut his eyes and saw the artifact. He saw the Mercury Engine, pulsing with red light. That. That was the source of the pain. Reaves began to run. But it wasn't really Reaves. An unseen puppeteer was commanding his movements. Reaves struggled against it, but the pain was too great. Reaves, or the thing within Reaves, ran. Welter opened the door just in time to see his captain running off, screaming like a banshee.

"Well," he said, "that's not a good sign."

 

Reaves and the thing within him ran out into the cold darkness beneath the stars. He collapsed on the deck, panting heavily. His insides were ice, but he felt something warm beside him.

"Sir?" he heard Everett say. "Are you alright, sir?"

Reaves whirled to the source of the heat. Everett gasped. Reaves snarled and lunged at the boy. Everett was too shocked to move, but Reaves stopped himself. He forced his body to remain still. The puppeteer struggled in place, making Reaves' limbs twitch grotesquely.

"Run," he whispered to Everett. "Run. Find Blake."

Still, Everett made no move. He only looked at his captain, wearing a mask of confusion, concern and fear. He wanted to help Reaves, but he also didn't want to get eaten. Reaves screamed and doubled over. A crowd was gathering now. Janet had her gun halfway out, unsure if she should use it. Ware pulled Everett back and stood in front of him, protectively. Reaves was burning now. Flames consumed his feet and hands. Sparks flew into the night. Yet the fire did not melt his flesh. It did not truly burn. Instead, Reaves only felt more abominable cold. The more he 'burned', the more the coldness spread. And worst of all, the voice had returned, with its nightmare sentences.

"We need to help him!" Everett finally managed to say.

"We don't even know what's wrong with him, child." said Ware.

"The Engine," said Reaves, in a hoarse, choking whisper.

"What was that, sir?" asked Ware, cautiously leaning closer.

"The artifact!" Reaves hissed, baring his teeth. "Get the damn artifact!"

Without hesitation, Ware dashed off. Moments later, he returned with Welter, Robertson and Barron in tow. Barron stopped to whisper something into Blake's ear while the others walked forward. Welter held the Engine in his hands. Already, Reaves felt the beasts voice subsiding.

"Give it here," he groaned.

Welter held out the artifact. Reaves grasped it with trembling hands. In an instant, the cold was gone. No longer was he plagued with freezing fire. He sighed, nearly collapsing with the artifact still in his hands.

"It's done," he whispered.

"Are you daft?" Barron laughed.

Reaves and his entire crew glared at the man.

"I don't know why it was repelled by the artifact," Barron continued, "or how you knew to use it, but I sincerely doubt the beast is dead. When mankind built the towers, their nightmares followed them to the heavens. What makes you so sure that a simple machine could exorcise a wendigo?"

"It's gone, isn't it?" said Robertson.

"For now, yes."

"Could someone please fill us in?" said Janet.

"Yeah," said Everett, "it feels like we missed something."

"Say," said Robertson, "does anyone else hear that?"

"Hear what?" asked Axel.

"That...that voice,"

Reaves's eyes widened.

"No," he whispered, struggling to rise.

"God," said Robertson, covering his ears. "What is that? And...oh god, that's cold."

"No," said Reaves, "please, no."

"Captain," Robertson cried, clutching his chest, "I think something is wrong! I'm...so...very...hungry."

Robertson burst into flames. The crew quickly backed away. Everett grabbed Reaves and hefted him to his feet. Janet and a few others had their weapons out and trained on Robertson. Axel, who stood right beside Robertson, was caught in the fiery blast. Before he could even react to being on fire, Robertson lunged at him. In one swift second, the boy twisted Axel's head off. The flaming body of Axel Saxon fell to the floor. Robertson held his head in claws of cold fire. Reaves thought he saw it blink. Robertson roared, holding his prize high above his head. Blood dripped down into his mouth, and he greedily lapped it up. Now, everyone had their weapons drawn.

"Don't shoot!" Reaves screamed, against his better judgment. "He's one of ours...don't shoot, for God's sake!"

"I'm sorry, captain," said Blake, "but I have a better idea."

Blake shot Robertson in the gut. The boy fell to one knee, snarling. Slowly, Reaves approached the boy, holding out the Mercury Engine.

"No," Barron cried, "it'll simply jump into another body!"

Reaves was about to write off the writer, but then he remembered what he had just been through. He paused, looking on helplessly at the poor, suffering boy.

"Sir," said Blake, his pistol still trained on Robertson. "Barron told me what happened. Told me of this 'wendigo' thing. He claims there is no cure. But in my experience, bullets solve most of the world's problems."

"No," said Reaves, glaring at Blake. "We can't kill him. Hell, we don't even know if that will work!"

"What  other choice do we have? It's either him, or us, Reaves."

"Captain," said Robertson.

Reaves took a startled step back. He looked down at Robertson, and the boy met his eyes. His flesh was whole, uncooked by the fire. Instead, it was covered in frost. He was entombed in a moving cage of ice.

"Robertson," said Reaves, "are you-?"

"I know what it wants, captain. It's...I can't understand everything. The words are so...broken. But I know, captain, I know."

"Can we help you?" said Reaves, forcing back tears. "Is there a cure?"

"No," said Robertson, shaking his head. "But I can help you."

Robertson rose. Blake and the crew prepared to fire. Robertson looked down at himself and groaned.

"I'm sorry," said Reaves, "so, so, sorry."

Robertson looked at his captain with frozen eyes.

"It wants a sacrifice," he said, "or a feast. Not sure which. If it can't have you...it can have me."

"Why?" said Reaves. "Why you?"

"Tainted," said Robertson, shaking his head. "Cursed. It gets...jumbled after that. Something wrong...it interrupted something. A ritual, maybe. A...purpose to fulfill."

"I don't understand," said Reaves.

Robertson laughed. It sounded like breaking glass.

"Neither do I,"

Robertson walked to the railing. The crew slowly lowered their weapons, save for Blake.

"What the hell are you doing?" Reaves cried, rushing over to him.

"It won't kill me," said Robertson, "if that's any consolation."

"Stop, Robertson, that's an order!"

"I don't know why it spoke to me," said Robertson, climbing over the edge. "But it told me of my purpose. And yours."

The boy looked back at his captain and smiled. He thought of his friends and family back home. Of all the people who had not needed him. Who had not wanted him. His time aboard the Rose, short as it was, had given him a purpose. And with that thought, he resigned himself to his new function. The beast-no-the man who had died in the snow told him that.

"Goodbye, sir," he said, saluting to Reaves. "It was an honor serving with you. I hope I was of use."

Robertson jumped.

Reaves rushed to the side and looked down. To his bewilderment, he saw nothing, not even flames. On the wind, he heard a whisper. The whisper turned to a scream. The scream turned into...something else. Then, at last, there was silence.

"Sir?" said Everett.

Reaves turned to see his crew standing before him. They were all scared and confused and cold. Axel lay dead and headless on the deck. Blake still had his gun out. Reaves ran a hand through his graying hair. He was going to need some wine after this.

 

It took two more days to reach Tower Juliana. The rising sun cast the bluish-silver spire in a lovely glow. The fading stars shone gently down on the world. Reaves leaned against the railing where Robertson had ended his life. Wine warmed the captain's soul a little, but the cold remained. He sighed, looking out to Juliana. He ought to feel relieved. But he voyage did not end at Juliana. The voyage only ended with Penney's demise. At what cost would his victory be achieved? How many more of his crew would die? Losing a man felt worse than losing an eye, and Reaves had lost too many men already. True, his crew was large, thanks to the size of the Rose and hiring policies of the Admiralty Board. But losing even one man cost too much.

"Sir?"

Reaves did not turn as Blake joined his side.

"How're you holding up?" said the other man.

"How does it look like I'm holding up?"

"Not well," Blake admitted.

Reaves only nodded.

"Hard to believe what happened there," said Blake. "Wendigos and all. Who would've thought that Barron would be right for once?"

Reaves grunted. He did not care about that. He was more concerned with the loss, and the effect it had on his crew.

"How is Stevens?" he asked.

"Recovering well," said Blake.

"Does he know what happened?"

"Not yet," said Blake.

The men were silent. Someone would have to tell poor Stevens. It would not be a pleasant conversation.

"William?" said Blake. Reaves looked up at his friend, who rarely used his first name.

"Hmm?"

"I want to apologize for my behavior," said Blake, shuffling his feet on the garnished wooden deck. "Picking fights, disobeying orders...all of that. I was out of line."

"It's alright, Claude." said Reaves. "I know what you're like when you're restless. You are forgiven."

"Really?" said Blake, cocking an eyebrow. "That's it? You're a Regency captain, for Christ's sake! Give me twenty lashes or make me do some pushups, at the very least."

For the first time in months, Reaves chuckled.

"Maybe I've lost my edge," he said.

"Maybe we all have. It's been so long since either of us have taken a voyage like this. Perhaps we've forgotten what it's like to have wings."

"Perhaps," said Reaves, although he was quite certain that Blake was right.

"What a pair of rusty old birds we are, huh?"

"Yes," said Reaves, "I admit, it has been a while since we've been at this. You were serving at the Academy, were you not?"

"Aye," said Blake. "And let me tell you, it was boring! I'll take clouds and monsters over cobblestones and beggars any day. Civilian life is not for the likes of us."

Reaves nodded.

"What were you doing?"

"Oh," said Reaves, savoring his last bit of wine-derived warmth, "this and that."

"Right," said Blake.

For a while, the men were silent once more. They watched Juliana glow as the sun rose and the night died.

"Sir?" said Blake.

"Yes?" said Reaves.

"When Sim asked me to sign on, he appointed me with another task."

"And that was?"

"Keeping an eye on you."

Reaves turned to Blake, puzzled.

"I know I should have said it sooner. But...well, I was under orders."

"So, Sim doesn't trust me. There's a shock."

"It's not that, sir. He's just wary, you know that. Especially after Isabella."

Reaves closed his eye. Sim had Reaves undergo a lifetime of psychological treatments after Isabella, for good reason.

"So," he said, "Sim doesn't trust me and he thinks I'm crazy. What else is new?"

"He wanted to be sure, sir."

"I understand. But why are you telling me this now?"

"I don't know," said Blake, pausing to appreciate the sunrise. "Perhaps to make up for being a complete ass?"

Reaves chuckled again.

"To be serious, sir, I want no secrets between us. The other night, I saw a man die for you. That's how I know Sim is wrong. You aren't crazy, William. You are a true captain of the Regency."

Blake clasped Reaves' shoulder. Reaves looked up to his friend and smiled.

"Thank you, Claude. You've always been a reliable first mate, and even better friend."

"That may be true," Blake laughed, squeezing Reaves' shoulder just a little too hard. "But I'd make a poor captain. Nobody would die for me. I'm a brute. No one respects a brute, not in the way that matters."

Blake patted Reaves' shoulder, which was becoming rather sore, and strode across the deck, humming an old tune. Reaves watched him leave, contemplating his words. Did Blake expect Reaves to be happy to have his men die for him? Was suicidal devotion something to aspire to? If that's what being a true Regency captain was all about, Reaves wasn't sure if he wanted the title. He almost laughed. What would his teachers think of that? What would his parents think? Hell, what would Elizabeth Colt think? Reaves was Regency through and through. It was in his blood. To escape from that would be to escape from his life's purpose. And yet, to have men die for him felt wrong. Monstrous. What would Rose think of that? If she were here, she would set him right.  

Reaves looked up at the stars, wishing to take one last glimpse before they faded into nothing. He said goodbye to Polaris and Algol and all the others. He noticed something odd as he stargazed. Two pale green points, blazing high in the darkest patch of the diminishing night. He had not noticed those stars before. He didn't even recognize them. He racked his memory, but could not recall reading anything about twin green stars. They did not appear to be a part of any constellation. As he examined the stars, he noticed something even stranger. No other stars were visible anywhere below the green points, as if there was a long ship or a tower in the way. The darkness below the green stars was absolute. Reaves felt cold just looking at it. Then, the darkness moved. It turned, and the green stars turned with it. Reaves received the impression of a tall man in a cloak moving down a dark hallway. It was like a scene from a cheap horror novel, reproduced on a cosmic scale. The great shadow stalked away into the night from whence it came. Although it made no sound, Reaves could somehow feel the impression of titanic footsteps lumbering in the dark. He felt a sudden chill pass through his bones, as if it were following the Shape in the Night.

The thing was gone. And in its absence, Reaves realized the truth of Barron's words the other night. Humankind's nightmares had followed them through the ages and through the skies. The world was just too big. It was foolish to think that humanity held sway over all the winds above and below. No, they shared the Earth with timeless things. Things like the wendigo and the Shape in the Night. Harpies and spirits. Reaves failed to repress a shudder. He returned his attention to Juliana, to remind himself that civilization was only a few leagues away.

 

Fin


© Copyright 2018 Daniel Borin. All rights reserved.

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