The Recovered Logs of Midshipman Gregory Samuels Part 1: Introduction

Chief Warrant Officer Edward Michelsson

February the 27th 1253 CNS

ship_04 blind hercules

Blind Hercules En-Route from Autumn Breeze

My name is Edward Michelsson, Chief Warrant Officer assigned as supporting investigator to the loss—possible scuttling—of the heavy transport Blind Hercules bound for Wolf Tertius from home-port of Autumn Breeze bearing a cargo largely consisting of vacuum-sealed rations, machining parts, and commercial-grade prosthetics.  Of the five-man crew, only a single corpse was discovered, drifting within the armored fuselage of the artillery-class panoply Plume surreptitiously secreted aboard the Hercules for transport with the knowledge of one Gregory Samuels, the corpse discovered within her largely unscarred auspices.  Cause of death was asphyxiation with the consumption of the several days worth of available oxygen.  The remaining crew are missing, presumed dead, their bodies perhaps obliterated in the explosion that was evident in the skies of Lacrimae Dearum on Sunday morning January 7, 1253 CNS.  What is known—in the investigation of the debris, the corpse, and from the Plume’s library, is that the remaining crew failed to compose routine logs—any logs in actuality—of their status and activities altogether as of September 13th, 1252 CNS, and that the only written and video records we have of the incident are recorded on an assembly of official ship’s logs, various and increasingly maddeningly-scripted writings on various scraps of paper, and even scrawlings apparently completed with bloodied fingernails on the internal lining of the cockpit of the Plume. 

samuels post-it 01It’s not always easy to make a clear determination of the chronology of such varied records.  When the midshipman ceased production of routine logs aboard the ship’s systems, he simultaneously seems to have lost track of the date, which he seems to only improvise.

It will similarly be evident the midshipman’s decay of mental state in his presumed long period of isolation aboard the Hercules, and while it’s not evident whether this was merely the natural cause of such a long period of isolation or whether the midshipman had successfully concealed from scrutiny serious mental disease, these remain our only written evidence as to the events that obliterated the Hercules, and as such remain a central focus of the investigation.  The events indicated within may seem fabulous, farcical even, the product of a deranged mind, perhaps the mind of a man that had slain all his own compatriots, but they nevertheless deserve investigation.  If there’s even an iota of truth to the accusations indicated within there’s more than just repeat and further danger to shipping in the sector but a lethal danger the entire scope of human endeavors.  I pray whatever authority makes the ultimate determination on these matters takes this investigation into serious consideration in his deliberations.

The Recovered Logs of Midshipman Gregory Samuels Part 2

Midshipman’s Log Part 92

Gregory Samuels

September 9, 1252 CNS

I can’t reiterate enough how lucky I was to get this job.  I can’t say it enough, and I’m not trying to kiss anyone’s ass.  But these opportunities don’t just swing around once in a lifetime; they don’t swing around at all.  I really need the money, and this job is a fair sight more meaningful than stacking shelves.  My head is clear, head is empty, which is no better or worse than any man could have asked for, circumstances being what they are.  Trying not to think about family.  Of course, they were the whole reason.

So, the monthly record of the mental wherewithal of my crewmates.

addendum_01 whatley history    Lieutenant Whatley, I think, has always thought very highly of himself despite being relegated to the command of military civilians.  He still carries around his sidearm, trying to spin it about like some hinterland sheriff.  I wonder if it even works anymore, how often he drops it.  Maybe he thinks we’ll be intimidated, but it’s not like the four of us have never seen a gun before; hell, we’ve all gone through at least superficial firearms training—on the off chance of hostile boarders.  Goes without saying I wouldn’t weep if he managed to plug himself with his own gun.  Not exactly much of a leader either, squinty eyed little shit with a chip on his shoulder.

Midshipman First Class Donnelly lost a huge quantity of cash to Midshipman Third Class Taticius in a recent illegal but nevertheless public night of gambling, and Donnelly’s been pulling rank on whomever he can ever since.  Under regular circumstances, he’d never see that money again, but it’s not like we’ve got a consumer economy here.  And Taticius isn’t the saving or the investing type, unless booze and whores can be considered a valid investment.  I figure he thinks by bullying the rest of us, we’ll somehow compel Taticius to return the allegedly misbegotten goods.  I don’t think he realizes how little the rest of us care, how used we are to this sort of treatment anyways.  I wouldn’t have joined the army, even as a civilian, if I expected sanity or sensibility.  All it takes is one barracks shit-head with a few bars on his shoulders.  Can’t resist saying I’m glad I’m just a civilian.  The enlisted are doomed.

I don’t see much of Machinist O’Leary, but I can’t say that I’m surprised, virtually sequestered in the ship’s allegedly radiation-proof buttocks.  And I know it’s a lot of work maintaining the propulsion of a ship of this size, and her hours by necessity revolve around the needs of the engine, but I confess that I’ve only seen her in her bunk about once or twice this whole journey.  I mean, she’s the right to liberate one of us from our duties to give her a hand, but she doesn’t.  It’s not like we haven’t been trained in at least routine maintenance and under the direction of a proper engineer.  Anyways, I haven’t even seen her in a whole week, not that I’m entirely disappointed.  She has something of a slanted countenance; it’s hard to explain.  Spent too long staring into pieces parts, I guess.

At last there’s the Boatswain, an old-world effete by the name of Matheson that you’d swear could spin shit into gold, the way he’s always getting on.  I don’t even know why he joined the army, what his plan was.  He seems to treat his duties as some sort of pleasure cruise.  Ship does most of the navigating anyways.  His only responsibility is to ensure the navigational data is correct, not to even tabulate the data himself.  Can you tell that I don’t like him?  He’s always fidgeting about, absentmindedly performing magic tricks with scattered coins.  And his demeanor—gods above—so insincere!  When he tells you to “Have a nice day,” he’s really telling you to get fucked.  I can only hope he effects an early retirement before he gets his head caved in by a more ferocious man than I.

Anyways, as regards current events, there isn’t much to be said.  The cargo is in fine condition, due to arrive on time at Wolf Tertius, after which I can take a few weeks vacation away from all this mess.  I deserve that much, at least.  Anyways, there’s no rot.  No spoilage.  No unexplained bludgeoning, and there’s been no report of theft.  Ship’s huge.  Never know if someone’s made ingress on board.  Even then, it’s not strangers you’ve got to worry about.

Ship’s running fine.  The Blind Hercules has met all her way-points on time; we might even manage the terminus ahead of schedule, not that anyone would care.  The food is awful, but what do you expect without anything resembling a full-time cook?  Most of the loggerheads around here wouldn’t know a good meal from having their shit pushed in, so they don’t make a fuss, and I’m simply too smart to let on.

The Recovered Logs of Midshipman Gregory Samuels Part 3

Midshipman’s Log Part 93

Gregory Samuels

September 11, 1252 CNS

I’ll skip the usual pleasantries.  I’m unhappy, more than a little unhappy, and that’s enough; you’ll find out why very shortly.  We were making for the XV2308B transit buoy when—surprise surprise—something showed up on the sensor suite difficult in appearance and producing—what they said—a regular monotonous series of what sounded like key-strokes.  At the time I was again taking inventory in the seventh starboard storage module when Lieutenant Whatley sounded on the PA firstly that potential salvage had been located and secondly that he intended to alter course to retrieve this for what he termed an “unbelievable salvage bonus.”  Space detritus—salvage bonus.  Man must be out of his mind.  I have this dark impression that Donnelly put him up to this, which was ultimately his decision, and I can’t imagine Matheson, who most assuredly would have been present, would have put up much in the way of protest.  That thing, whatever it is, they placed it in the largely empty starboard storage module number 23.  Things haven’t been the same since.

room_01 container

Anomalous Object’s Container in Cargo Bay 23

Call it the ecstasy of gold, or call it space madness if you want, but our happy little status quo isn’t what it used to be, is gone, and I can’t truly account for it.  Everyone wants their piece of the pie, same regardless of work or station, but this is beyond the pale.  When I was making my rounds, I actually caught O’Leary huddled up against the object’s container, whispering something—I couldn’t tell.  I kept myself quiet, surreptitiously entered, staying to the shadows; now, I can’t be sure, but I think I heard her mumbling a bed-time tune.  When I presented myself, she didn’t seem particularly ashamed, rose slowly from her ankles.  I, pretending to be congenial, asked her where she’s been the last week, whether or not it had been hell back in engineering.  She didn’t make any pretense of answer, but she just slowly walked to the exit and then down the hall.  I haven’t seen her since.

I have to say, the urge to cast this thing out the nearest airlock was overwhelming.  I can’t say why, but I had a loathsome impression of the thing, even within its obfuscating containment.  Taticius, who’d been a little standoffish since the thing arrived, said it sounded like a xylophone.  He didn’t mean that the electromagnetic signals as interpreted through the sensors had the impression of the instrument, but that it produced physical reverberations that seemed like a xylophone.post-it_02 xylophone  I wanted to see for myself, but whatever was in was silent, even though the container wasn’t sound-proof.  A little savagely, I gave the corner of the container a good kick.  Heaven and earth the thing must have weighed as much as a truck.  Lucky I didn’t split my toe in half.  But I didn’t hear anything.

As I was leaving, Matheson passed me in the corridor, walking straight ahead as if nothing had happened, but I didn’t believe him.  He wanted to take a look; just didn’t want to be caught doing it.  I have no doubt he doubled-back after he imagined me far enough away pursuing my duties.

post-it_03 gravityI began to realize that no-one was actually performing their duties—no-one aside from me.  It was only me taking inventory, performing routine maintenance—you get the idea.  I went looking for O’Leary to see if I could glean any more out of her bearing after our last encounter, but I couldn’t find her in the engine room.  Perturbed, I went up to the bridge to see if I might catch her on the PA, but there was no-one there, and the navigational computer seemed completely out of sorts, repeatedly calling for confirmation from the boatswain as to the validity of the updated navigational course.  I did what I could for her, not being a specialist.  Machine deserves a bit of love too.  I couldn’t find anyone, but I had a dark impression that I knew where they were.  I didn’t want to find out, didn’t want to learn.  I returned to my bunk and put the covers over my head pretending that the bogey man wouldn’t find me.

The Recovered Logs of Midshipman Gregory Samuels Part 4

Midshipman’s Log Part 94

Gregory Samuels

September 14, 1252 CNS

I can’t believe this!  I can’t believe this!  I must be out of my head!  I mean!  I mean!  I mean, come on!  How!  What what what?!  Shoot shoot.  I should calm down.  Really must calm down.  For posterity, right?  What else am I to do?  Command isn’t going to believe this.  I can’t rightly blame them.  But it’s real!  It happened!  And you’re mad if you take all this exclamation for child-like excitement.  Of all the places one could be in the universe, I would choose any—just not here.

I’ll start from the beginning.  In my previous log entry, I discussed the acquisition of an anomalous object and the subsequent bizarre behavior of my fellow crew members.  Well, I don’t know how to say it; they’re gone—all of them; they’re gone—flung to the far winds.  It began as if a maintenance accident.  I couldn’t get hold of Donnelly or O’Leary.  I got on the PA and called for the lieutenant, who replied as if I’d caught him masturbating, with the vile vitriol of which only the commissioned are capable.  But mid-sentence, without a word, a sound, or even a whisper, he was gone, his live communicator continuing to buzz with the noise of the ambient electronics.  Taticius was the last I heard alive.  And yes, I think they’re all dead.  I tried to get him up, tried to warn him—get to the armory—and get himself ready.  I thought we were being boarded.  He dropped the communicator which scratched and reverberated upon the ground from its fusilli cord, and I heard it.  But I couldn’t make sense.  I regret not coming immediately to his aid, but I had to put out a distress signal, lock out the command module, and then I went straight for the armory, using the lieutenant’s key I’d several weeks ago stole from his private compartment.  A short-barreled rifle and a pistol, and I was out like a flash—playing soldier—but Taticius was already gone.  No blood, no body, no hint he’d ever been there but for the dust and detritus of his ignored obligations.

I was in a daze.  I thought I’d give way and faint.  My knees buckled, but it was not out of fear; I just felt so dizzy.  I moved from station to station looking for any hint of my frankly incompetent comrades, but I found nothing.  The engineering bay was humming with the gentle ruminations of the octopartite engines.  The storage modules were undisturbed all but for one.  Starboard module 23, the object’s container had been violated; whatever within was no longer there, but even though I’m not a proper detective, I could swear it was forced from within.  It was difficult not to cry.

I checked on Sally.

I returned to my living quarters and locked the door behind me.  As I write this, I’ve got my rifle cradled between my legs and my eyes fixated upon the door.  If this is my last communication, I promise you that I wasn’t taken alive.

The Recovered Logs of Midshipman Gregory Samuels Part 5

Midshipman’s Log Part 95

Gregory Samuels

September 20, 1252 CNS

I can’t really deny it.  It’s getting to me.  It’s been a some time since everything’s gone quiet.  I spent the first few days stalking through the corridors painstakingly in search of unwanted passengers and some sign or signal of the whereabouts or final destination of my comrades, but it’s all just empty; there’s nothing there, not the rattling call of a hoarse throat down a long steel corridor or the paddling reverberation of fleeing or pursuing footfalls, but it’s just empty, as vacuous as the murderer that surrounds these stalwart six walls.

I spent the first day huddled up within the crew quarters; I don’t think I even blinked the whole time, fixated upon the solid-steel door encapsulated within the auspices of Hercules’s ponderous bulkheads.  But eventually I grew hungry, hungry enough to risk murder—or worse things only imagined.  The mess was immaculate.  Not a scratch and certainly not a boom interrupted the seemingly slow preparation of my freeze-dried rations. 
post-it_05 food
Biscuits and gravy—filthy stuff—I don’t know what alligator-besotted backwater concocted it, but hunger, you see, is the finest sauce, even if it is hard to eat with your left hand while your itchy trigger-finger violates the most sacred tenets of firearm discipline.

I couldn’t get over how quiet it was, how still the shadows, how crisp the recycled air.  I didn’t know what to do.  As carefully as I could, I went from storage module to storage module, seeking perhaps something that I’d missed, or perhaps it was merely loneliness; just to observe my duties might make me feel whole again.

I visited Sally again.  Didn’t have the heart to tell her what plagued me, though I’m sure she had an inkling.

I worry I’ll lose track of the days.

I returned to the command module.  We’re on course.  The navigational intelligence demanded the presence of boatswain.  I didn’t know what to say, tried to explain that he was wounded or hurt, and she called my bluff immediately, indicating that the roster still denoted him healthy and hale and presumably on-duty.  I couldn’t help being curious.  I brought up the roster window to see what the administering intelligence thought of our status.  post-it_04 rosterFour green lights accompanied the names of my comrades.  A yellow light presaged my own.  I didn’t know what to say.

I’ve returned to the crew quarters to make this report.  I sealed the bulkhead behind me.  I can’t be sure, but I think someone’s been here, rearranged a few personal items—but none my own, so I can’t be sure.  The sheets are unblemished.  I’m pretty sure I sealed the armory doors behind me.  I’m not sure if it’s just the groaning of an old ship, but I think I hear voices, but I can’t tell what they’re saying; I can’t even tell if they’re addressing me.

It’s hard to sit upright; I’ve a splitting headache—feel like I’m going to fall face-forward onto the metal panels adorning with adornment the subservient floor.  Feel sick.  Fucking biscuits and gravy.  Fucking freeze-dried rubbish.

I’ll sign in again soon.  I’ll get her there safely.  And if I can’t, I promise I won’t let them get her.

Sword of the Saints: Sinner Introduction

“Arius the Vagrant, Arius the Despoiler, Arius the Terrible, even Arius the Rake,” a villainous man certain to deserve such a variety of condemnation hurled from high and low, a pirate of no small notoriety with a fleet massive enough to more than worry coastal settlements both great and small.  On the other hand, elsewhere, in other climes chattering from the tongues of distant throngs he’s whispered heroic “Arius the Great, Arius the Magnificent, even Arius the Conqueror,” a long-time veteran, bitter exponent, and even savior of the Perihelion.  A complicated man, no doubt, and a man enveloped in a quagmire of myth and wild mistestimony, absent as he is an honest biographer.  To that end I will stick to the facts and dispel wild rumor, whether through the testimony of my own eyes or from the words of the man himself or his many lieutenants and companions.  What happened and what didn’t, these are objective experiences, facts blindingly clear under the great auspices of everlasting Brassos, high in the sky.  What follows is the accidental saga of Arius, the feller of the seven cities, the pirate lord of the Vorago Intervention, the endless seas that separate the sacred space of Middle Kingdom, Manfall, from the warring states of the West and the East and bestial kingdoms of the North and South; what succeeds are the tales of the man who ruled the far flung minor kingdoms, the disparate pirate cavalcades, a monstrous fleet beyond contempt.  I was honored as stripling to be taken into his fold as a midshipman, and I’m honored in my developing age to chronicle for posterity his countless deeds—much against his dying wishes I might add.  What follows here is the true reckoning of the man as he was and the honest recitation of his performances as they were genuinely.

Faithfully,

Major Cantor Thrasymedes

Sword of the Saints: Sinner Chapter One

It was the sickly rollicking back and forth amidst a medium sea that sent men, land-lovers all, bound hand and foot hither and thither to expel the contents of their tenuous viscera upon the blood-stained planks laid below quivering feet.  Blood, vomit, and shit—it was everywhere, crossed every boundary, and found port-of-call between unsuspecting knees and unwilling digits.  His head, throbbing, pulsating, was braided with more than the mere consequence of a night’s heavy drinking, gift to those that can’t stand the light of day.

“Wha-wha-wha,” he began, a creature damaged, but he couldn’t finish, as the poison’s garden delights had only begun to ebb from their magnificent apex.  “Who who who?” he rejoined, blearily looking out from between the pin-points of his bascinet into a wandering basement realm of meandering skylight.

“It smells like shit in here,” he muttered to which a hoarse repeating cough was his only rejoinder.  “Who the hell?  What the hell?”

His vision, with the painful lack of urgency given to living flesh, connected upon a singular focus, and he looked this way and that amidst his new close compatriots, slavishly garbed sun-scarred  men altogether unified in chorus of miserable groaning punctuated with the throaty recollection of yesterday’s gruel.

With an undulation he flicked open his visor and surveyed his newly-graced comrades, suffering with heat-stroke mere notes away from the gentle pall of shadowed death bearing away holy souls into a different dawn under a different auspice.  Those that could, those that hadn’t collapsed utterly upon the sparing space of the floor, those huddled together thickly in this mid-space maritime deck with him eyed with the severity of a thousand angry mothers, the responsibility his to raise them from misery countless.

“What the fuck is going on?” he spat from between bloodied teeth.

“I didn’t believe it when I saw it,” muttered one from beneath the pall of dense shadows.

“I mean, who would imagine it?”

“One of our own.”

“The best of us.”

“Taken like this.”

“Taken.”

“Food for the scaled slavers of the south.”

And the world returned to him with a swoon—the troop, the mission, the missive, the gambling den he’d foolishly visited for the vain purposes of possible enrichment and an evening’s entertainment.  The women had been less than attractive.

“Me?!”  He struggled against the iron links of his bonds.  “The southern shore?”  The panic became tangible as the clinking of his armor rose above the general sickly din.

“It won’t help you.”

“Won’t help.”

“Not at all.”

“Not like they run these cruises at a deficit.”

Reacting against the growing terror of his wrists’ suffocation he cried out, “Have you no pride as men?”

“Men!  Hah!”

“That attitude won’t help you.”

“They’ll have you learn to lick the floor.”

“And like it.”

Sword of the Saints: Sinner Chapter Two

The irregular plod of bored seamen, their eyes virtually blind against the unmitigated glare of a lackadaisical sea absent a cloud in the sky, came suddenly and screeching to a halt with the unmistakable clink of the armor in the hold below struggling in vain against the iron yokes of the sturdy bonds.  A windowed door creaked open succeeded by the heavy plodding of an overweight sailor pounding his hard wooden soles in some facsimile of eager glee across the main deck while the clinking of the struggling man cloistered in the hold below grew ever louder in apparent growing panic and developing terror only coming to a faux-friendship cessation when the footfalls began to reverberate down and down the half-rotted staircase whither hailed the stinking and feces polluted hold perverted with the broken dreams of countless stolen men.

“Arius!  Arius!  So good to sea you again, my old friend!  How has life treated you these last ten years?”

Against the wobbling of his vision and the throbbing of his skull, the cavalier in struggle met the gaze of the mustachioed wassailer, visible only in silhouette in the virtual darkness of the hull punctuated with the day-star’s glory just rounding the corner of the posterior stairs.

“Macheda?  Macheda?  Is that you?”  He wasn’t sure he was losing his wits.  “On god’s green earth what are you doing here?  What have you done with me?  Release me at once!  Are you out of your mind?  Have you lost your wits?  When my father hears of this, when the Perihelion learns of my abduction there will be nowhere on earth, nowhere under heaven, that you might hide and avoid their ceaseless wrath!”

“God’s green earth you say, Arius?” he quizzed, slowly supping the fantastic irony.  “Look around you.  Do you think it’s the soil that warbles around you?  Do you think your comrades yet know you gone?  Do you think you hail for familiar shores?  You’re mine, you scruffy little shit!”

“How dare you!  I’ll have you hanged, quartered, pickled, and then fucked three times from Saturday!”

“I see you haven’t lost any of that legendary wit, my friend.”

“Where are you taking me?”

“The others will have undoubtedly already told you.  The southern shore.  Do you know how much a knight is worth to the right people?  I’m going to fancy myself a proper commodore, new clean ships and dirty rotten women!  Just be sure you look proper knightly!”

“I’m not sure that I’m hearing you right.  Are you really this stupid?  Doesn’t matter whithersoever.  They’ll come for me, and they’ll find you.  I’ll find you.”

“Nonsense.  Nonsense.  They’d have to turn over every pebble on earth.  My flesh will remain unfortunately untarnished with all the bells and whistles of mankind’s discipline, my friend.  Meanwhile, you’ll be lucky there’s enough left of you in four years time to feed to the crocodiles, and I’ll be left to lament the mean disappearance of my own gambling buddy lost and shanghaied to serve out the rest of his miserable existence pulling cable and pushing the oar.”

In all that darkness, the blindness of arriving from under the glory of mighty Brassos, nothing clear could be further from the truth; expanding the fullness of his lungs, tightening in mighty cords every last millimeter of muscle, he silently undid the clasps of his bonds, which slipped away with a chattering tintinnabulation as his form again came to rest.  Smiling the weird toothy grin of a man with nothing to lose, he rose to his feet, meeting his captor eye-to-eye.

Sword of the Saints: Sinner Chapter Three

“I knew you were stupid, Macheda,” the tawny-bearded cavalier rejoined, his voice wavering as if the words unusual.  “But there’s nothing I can do for you now.  No more cheap whores and expensive swords.  You’ve already stepped into your grave.  Your crew will arrive insufficiently.  My apologies, in advance.”

With the experience of decades, the captain’s hand flashed to the golden-engraved ivory handle of his cavalry saber, bitten and struck with indelible marks of edge upon edge blows, a survivor—if not always a victor—of a lifetime’s worth of battles, what had once been an excellent prize robbed from the stiffening corpse of an overcome privateer.

“Comrades,” the captain announced with a concluding whistle, “the cargo’s escaping!”

“Fool,” the cavalier mumbled, as he stepped into the elegant crescent of the falling saber, which clattered helplessly against his pauldrons.  Grasping the captain firmly by the offending wrist, he launched his gauntleted fist with the force of an angry god into his low cheek-bones, which yielded into the air the sanguine spray of uprooted teeth which danced upon the shit-soaked deck like dice.

Having liberated the long-lived saber from his tumbling opponent, with a single motion handed down in the scope of long generations in the Perihelion’s alabaster square of childhood bruising, he freed the captain’s head from his shoulders, completing the sickle-shaped motion with the return to an imaginary sheath held customarily in the free hand.

They were falling over each other in the unabashed greed for a day’s more freedom even if it should be bought with enough sweat and bloodshed to drown the decks altogether in sweet crimson.  Their chains jingled as they vainly arose to the reverberating thud of the checking links, slipping and falling upon the slick, feces-stained wood finish.

“They didn’t have to ask,” Arius marveled, spell-bound by the obscene display of wicked and contorted limbs indivisible in motion.  “I need a good slave revolt.  And gods, miserable as they are, they look ready.”

A good majority of the prisoners were held by a system rooted in place by a single, long chain of particularly heavy and cumbersome character, much more than a man could violate with his hands; it would take a stout hammer and a broad steel splitter to see them off, things that weren’t available, unless he should deign to risk alone the hurricane footfalls streaming this way and that overhead.  He addressed a connecting link, fixing his newly acquired decades-abused blade like a wedge, and he began to twist with all the might that was available him.  And while to a common observer, it might have seemed an impossible task, the blade more surely to break itself than the impossible rounds of iron, a sufficiently holy man might have observed to glow from the circular brand, the burned imprint of his right palm as he strained against the very powers of nature herself.  It split, his woeful saber, the shattered edge launching itself like the blast of lightning to come to rest into the oaken walls, but so split the rung as well, which clattered to the floor in miraculous pieces shining like starlight.

So taken were they that all the madness and confusion at once terminated, and their eyes rose to meet his, as if staring into the unmarked countenance of a saint.

“Up there,” he began with a whisper, “they’re arming themselves, ready now to return you to bondage.  Come with me.  Stand by my side.  And follow my way.  We’ll win your freedom by the sweat of your brow and the blood on the timbers.”

Sword of the Saints: Sinner Chapter Four

Like the seven winged bearer of light rising from the deepest throes of endless Erebus, he shined in the undifferentiated dark like sparkling starlight, tawny mane fluttering in an imaginary wind reflected upon only his unblemished features.  Time seemed to slow, time seemed to crawl, and time seemed to cease as slowly he ascended the ashen and grimy staircase at the head of the starving and insatiate damned, doomed to live evermore—according to the firmament’s canon—eking out a miserable existence underneath the unfeeling tread of the living, persecuted for merely being on the wrong side of fate while the common man and the abbot both call it “justice.”  The sailors were dumbstruck, weapons held only limply in their crinkled hands, having already long forgotten the miserable death of their leader and employer, whose head even now tumbled back and forth upon the shit-riddled deck, reverberating through the timbers as its fractured fence of the mouth rolled to and fro.  His smile was remarkable, his teeth shining white, his cheeks a-glow with genuine crimson; they nearly threw down their weapons then and there.  But he wouldn’t stop, climbing at a resting rate ever closer, step-by-step, as all and one were universally held firm, only able to address his approach with the twinkling glimmer of their awe-struck eyes dilated almost entirely black.

He laid his hand upon the foremost’s shoulder like father and son, and reproachfully withdrew the man’s battered and half-rusted hewing spear once clasped tightly in hand, but before the man’s eyes could again address his face, the armored knuckles of the cavalier’s free hand collided with the force of typhoon, rendering concave utterly the whole of his face, and as if stricken by lightning, the man fell down there at once dead.

All thoughts turned at once to flight, but he was already heaving forward their whole host under the length of his liberated hewing spear, untowardly mighty and emboldened with the pedagogical fury of the daylight bronze that robs midnight.  And as he rose above decks, the sky smiled again to see him, and he hurled a full score of men backwards, who fell helpless to be the prey of his lethal lacerations to stain his gauntlets crimson bright.

But he did not relent and lunged on ahead, the collapsed to be the prey of the eager hordes throbbing with the unimaginable fury of the enslaved.

His first succeeding opponent, unarmored and unprepared, fell down dead, bludgeoned lethally through the lungs with the reverse stroke of his haft.  Another, terrified stiff, he smote down to hell with a draw across his carotid that sprayed his immediate companions in a spurting shower of his essential ichor.

But a third found his wits, casting forward with the poorly constructed blade of a sailor’s dirk, but erring of his target he was fortunate to just very nearly turn the eerily concise and immediate counterstroke of his opponent’s spear intended for the yokes of his head.  Nevertheless the cavalier was a talented fencer, abounding in ruses, and the rebounding point lodged in the throat of the sailor’s immediate compatriot staggering in a wild-eyed jig before slumping to the rollicking floor.  Unnerved, but not to be outdone, the sailor lunged once again for the undefended face of his striking assailant, only to collapse upon the point of split wood, the haft in the cavalier’s hands smitten in a moment of need.