By: Cypra Posted on: August 25, 2006
Avrenin's lovely fiancee waved vigourously from the Cyrene docks as the schooner Jambaali set sail. The stringy young man leaned against the railing, memorising her lithe body as they pushed off. Her colourful skirts fluttered about in the breeze, and her blouse had lifted just enough for him to see the dark skin of her stomach, including the faint glimmer of the small ring upon her belly button. Tied in numerous braids, her black hair framed a delicate face, with full painted lips and deep brown eyes.
The youth sighed miserably. He wasn't really interested in seafaring at all. But Shaylee was hypnotised by the thought of bold and honourable young sailors, braving the great seas, rescuing those in need, fighting off pirates, and whatever else Avrenine was supposed to do for her to marry him. He wasn't entirely sure on the specifics. Needless to say, he hoped desperately that this one trip would be enough to prove to her that he was brave, and bold, and honourable.
The ship made its way through the Muurn Valley Basin, and the houses of Cyrene blended together and finally faded into the distance as the open sea revealed itself, a vast expanse of sapphire stretching out beneath large, white clouds. The destination was a small island near Shala-Khulia. The caves were rich with bloodroot and irid moss there. A druid named Cafren, who was already green with sea sickness, had payed for the voyage, eager to be one of the first to harvest the bountiful supply.
"One monthâ€¦" Avrenine mumbled to himself, as he ran a filthy rag over the quarter-deck bit by bit. It wasn't really even necessary, as far as he was concerned, the ship looked clean enough, but he suspected the more seasoned members of the crew wanted to keep him working. His feelings were reinforced by the gathering of sailors at the aft of the schooner, sitting on unsturdy wooden boxes and playing a heated game of dice.
The first week passed like this, Avrenine cleaning the ship until his muscles ached each day, and the other sailors spending most of the time playing dice or drinking. Every night, the young man collapsed onto a sparse hammock below deck, surrounded by the snoring of the other men, an experience that was almost pleasant compared to the stench that had begun to fill the close quarters. The horrible odour was comprised of sweat, filthy feet, (the source of which jutted out from between thin blankets in each hammock, complete with toe jam,) urine, and something else Avrenine couldn't, and didn't want to, discern the source of.
Avrenine's dreams were filled with visions of Shaylee. She was sitting by the statue of the goddess Selene in the Pantheon. To Avrenine, she rivalled the stone representation of the Goddess of Love and Beauty with her dark eyes and slender frame. Shaylee played the harp and sang for him, her voice clear and pure. Even listening to her voice brought Avrenine such pleasure and joy that he felt the muse Euterpe would be green with envy over his beloved.
On the seventh day, Avrenine's dream started out the same as always, his beautiful Shaylee placed upon a pedestal as the object of his devotion. The dream was interrupted midway this time, however. The world seemed to jolt violently, and Shaylee's voice became little more than a strangled squeak. The disruption sent the dream into chaos, and an enormous worble had just begun to terrorise the Pantheon when he awoke.
Avrenine sat bolt upright in the hammock. The ship was rocking, there was screaming above, and the quarters were deserted.
"What the foozle?!" He muttered, dressing himself quickly and rushing above deck.
The night sky was alight with flames that ate at the masts and sails, sending burning debris below and threatening to pull the masts down upon the schooner. Avrenine could see shrouded figures moving across the deck, and his shipmates were scattered helter-skelter, desperately fighting off what could only be pirates. The youth hovered at the doorway; he felt his stomach turn and his knees weaken. He didn't know what to do. He had never had to defend anything before.
Avrenine did nothing. He just stood where he was, pale from fright, and watched as the invaders cut down each of the crew in turn. When he finally got up the nerve to act, it was to turn back towards the quarters in an attempt to flee.
A foot struck him squarely in the back, sending him sprawling down the short flight of stairs into the cabin. A dark form followed him, hovering over his body and sinking into a tekura stance Avrenine could not quite recognise. He felt his body being lifted high, then a quick descent upon the knee of his attacker, bending him painfully and nearly breaking his back. His vision blurred briefly, and then the faint light of the sleeping quarters faded into darkness.
Avrenine head ached unbearably. He could hear the waves and the cry of seagulls in the distance, and the air was warm. Something sharp jabbed at his ribs, and he moaned in pain, opening his eyes slowly. A hazy group of men stood before him, speaking to him in an odd tongue. One laughed harshly and said something directly to him that sounded like, "Dinik, flibbertigibbet."
"Huh?" Avrenine blinked, his eyes focusing.
A voice from behind the men spoke up in common, feminine and lyrical.
"And why is this one alive and tied to the mizzenmast, exactly?"
"This one didn't even try to fight. I found it humourous. I figure his cowardly actions have earned him a special reward." Another voice this time, deeper and masculine. It had a dispassionate edge to it that made Avrenine cringe.
"That rope is made from lycopod stalks. It is the best we have and is supposed to be used for repairs. At least make sure it doesn't go to waste just to tie up a worthless boy."
"Oh, it will be well worth it. I will be sure to make his suffering exquisite." The male voice moved closer, revealing its source as the other men stepped aside. A tall figure in a cobalt blue waistcoat and black trousers gazed at him coldly, checking his bonds with black-gloved hands. "You are going to want to break free from these. You won't be able to, of course, but I encourage you to try. It isn't nearly as entertaining if you don't respond."
Avrenine stared at the man in horror, whimpering pitifully.
"Oh, don't worry," the man assured him. "You'll respond even if you don't want to. Now, I don't want to spend too much time on you, otherwise we'll have to provide food and water for you just to keep you alive. Let's try to get as much out of our time together as possible, okay? My name is Dradyn. What is your name?"
"Avrenine," the youth croaked, looking around at the group surrounding him.
Dradyn motioned to one of the other men, and a bench was brought out momentarily, which was set near the mizzenmast. A large satchel was delivered shortly thereafter, and Dradyn began pulling metallic devices from it, which he laid on the bench. The instruments were horrid. Sharp, pronged objects, odd clamps, and a small assortment of needles comprised the bulk of what sat menacingly upon the bench.
"Avrenine, when I am done with you, a social visit with Belladonna herself will seem pleasant," Dradyn smiled stiffly.
Dradyn picked up an clamp with a large screw attached. Placing it over Avrenine's knee, he hummed cheerfully to himself and began turning the screw. The sharp end twisted into the flesh of Avrenine's kneecap. The youth let out a cry and pulled against the ropes. The screw tightened further, past the flesh, and into the bone, making an unpleasant cracking sound as it went.
Avrenine screamed, the sound akin to a wounded wildcat. The bone cracked further, and eventually it shattered. The young man wretched, jerking against the ropes.
Dradyn removed the clamp, causing Avrenine to wail and thrash further as it twisted out of his crushed kneecap. The man then placed the bloodied mechanism on the bench and picked up a hammer and a spike.
"I don't want to get repetitious, even when repeating a procedure on each limb. Tell me if it gets boring?" Dradyn pressed the spike to Avrenine's other knee and smashed the hammer against it hard, sending the spike into the boy's kneecap and crushing the bone. Avrenine let loose another scream, pain running through his entire body.
Dradyn spent the majority of the day working on his "project". Avrenine's screams could be heard below deck, and he passed out several times, only to be forced awake by smelling salts. His body shook and his skin was rubbed raw from straining against the ropes. By the end of it, his knees and feet were crushed beyond repair. The skin on his thighs was shredded from a device Dradyn explained was called a spider, and his ears had been cut away with a set of dull scissors.
"Avrenine, do you want to finish up now? I'm getting a bit tired." The young man nodded his head weakly, trying to speak, but unable to find the strength. Dradyn smiled.
"Alright, just one more touch, then."
Dradyn took a pair of pliers from the bench. He took Avrenine's jaw in one hand, digging his fingers into just the right spot to force the young man's mouth open. He looked into Avrenine's mouth and pushed the pliers inside, causing the boy to gag violently. The pliers grabbed hold of Avrenine's uvula, crushing it. The youth gurgled, his eyes lolling back in his head as Dradyn pulled hard, ripping the small piece of tissue clean away.
Avrenine lost consciousness, and Dradyn made no attempt to wake him this time. Instead, he carefully undid the ropes, supporting Avrenine's limp body and laying it gently on the deck. Packing up his belongings, he casually walked away.
Avrenine woke up in a puddle of blood, his throat swollen to the point that he could barely breathe, and every nerve in his body alive with pain. It was at least an hour before he noticed that no one seemed to be around. Through the shroud of agony clouding his thoughts, he formulated a plan.
His arms were still in good repair. He could drag himself. If he could just get himself into one of the dinghies, surely he could get away. The throbbing nerves in his body assured him that it would not be easy, but some part of him, the same part that brought him dreams of his Shaylee and promises of home, convinced him that it had to work.
Avrenine stretched out his arms slowly and dug his fingers into the deck. Counting to three, he pulled his body forward. His mangled legs ran along the wooden boards and he let out a weak moan that would have been a scream if his throat wasn't so swollen. It took him half an hour before he got up the strength to pull again.
There was a lantern right beside one of the dinghies. Avrenine could see it. It shone for him, guided him. The world seemed to sway gently around him, and he envisioned his beloved within the sputtering flame.
One, two, three, pull. Each time he thought of Shaylee, how she would miss him, how he could not fail her. It kept him conscious when he would have fallen into darkness. One, two three. Shaylee, my beloved.
One, two, three. Most beautiful of women.
One, two, three. I will be brave for you.
He was almost there. So close. Somehow he would return to her.
A black mist swirled in front of the lantern light, coalescing into a human figure. Dradyn stood before him, wielding a large hammer.
"It's amasing how predictable people are when you get right down to it. If you manipulate the situation, you can pretty much guess what they will do. You see why I did not crush your arms? I wanted you to see the opportunity I set before you." Dradyn chuckled. "I wonder how you intended to actually pull yourself into the dinghy. Or how you would survive a voyage home before dehydration and gangrene set in."
"More interesting still, I wonder what kept you going. Was it worth it, Avrenine?"
Avrenine groaned in misery, his body sinking against the deck, his hands no longer clutching the boards.
"This is it, Avrenine. I have enjoyed our time together." Dradyn turned the youth over gently, then stepped back, examining him. Swinging the hammer once to test its weight, he drew it back, letting it crash down upon one of Avrenine's arms. The young man barely made a noise. The hammer descended again, crushing the other arm. Avrenine could barely feel it now. He would never return to Shaylee. He knew he was dead, and everything seemed to happen from a distance.
Dradyn's hand crackled with a blue flame, and he ran it along Avrenine's torso, which gave way before it. Avrenine felt bone and viscera pulled from his body, and then felt nothing, his body impaled to the deck by his own sternum.
Shaylee sat at one of the tables in the Dancing Boar Inn. She sipped her drink casually, her dark eyes surveying the room. It had been a lovely day today, she had spent most of it in the Lyceum gardens, just enjoying herself.
She spotted a wealthy-looking man sitting at the bar. His eyes met hers and she winked at him. Picking up his glass, he smiled at her, moving to join her at the table. It had been a perfect day, and it looked like the evening might be better still.
Briefly, she wondered how Avrenine was enjoying his time as a sailor. Either way, she knew that she certainly was.