To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on the first Monday of every month. At the end of the month, I’ll take the story down and post another.
June is the first month of summer, so here is The Beast from the Sea of Blood, a summery sword and sorcery story of a trip to the seaside, a crab boil on the beach… and a monster.
So accompany Thurvok, Meldom, Sharenna and Lysha as they face…
The Beast from the Sea of Blood
From the ocean called the Sea of Blood for its red waters the colour of freshly shed blood rose a small rocky island. Nothing and no one lived here except for a colony of noisy seagulls and some crabs, which scuttled across a narrow strip of sandy beach. This was the Desolate Isle, a place avoided by sailors far and wide, because it was believed to be cursed. At least, that’s what old Danvalk said. But then Danvalk would believe his own bed was cursed, should he happen to fall out of it in a drunken stupor.
Thurvok the sellsword, on the other hand, did not believe in curses. But nonetheless, the red waves, so very much like the fresh blood sprouting from an enemy’s cut throat, unnerved him. As a son of the Eastern steppes, he did not much care for the sea in general. Any body of water larger than a well, a puddle or bathing pond tended to make him nervous. But the Sea of Blood with its eerie gory colouring made him even more nervous. Water should simply not be that colour and only the cannibals of Grokh bathed in fresh blood.
Nonetheless, he was stuck here for the time being. For the Mermaid’s Scorn, a small fishing sloop that Thurvok and his friends had purchased from the one-legged sailor Danvalk, sole survivor of an ill-fated expedition to the lost city of Nhom’zonac, had run aground on the sands just off the Desolate Isle. Until the tide rolled in, she would not sail again. At least, that’s what Sharenna had said and she prided herself in her knowledge of the sea. Even though she had run the Mermaid’s Scorn aground, come to think of it.
Worse, the quest that had brought them here, a great pirate treasure supposedly hidden among the seagull nests, had proven to be a bust. Thurvok’s friend and companion Meldom — thief, cutpurse and occasional assassin — had gotten the story of the treasure from an old acquaintance, who’d claimed that he’d been right there, when it was hidden.
“Well, if the treasure really is so great, why doesn’t he get it himself then?” Thurvok had asked.
Meldom had no answer to that, probably because there was none.
Not that it mattered much. For as usual, Thurvok’s objections had been overridden. For Meldom had never heard a rumour of a treasure he did not want to go chasing after. His lover Lysha inevitably sided with him and besides, she was forever concerned about replenishing their dwindling funds. And the sorceress Sharenna, who would normally have been the voice of reason, liked feeling the sea wind in her hair a little too much. And so Thurvok was outvoted and the quartet set sail for the Desolate Isle. Only old Danvalk, whom the foursome occasionally took along on their quests to take advantage of his sailing skills, flat out refused to come.
“I’m not setting a foot, let alone two, on the Desolate Isle,” Danvalk had insisted, “That place is cursed. Cursed, I’m telling you, and beset by monsters and evil powers.”
Of course, Danvalk only had one foot left — as Meldom was about to point out, when a jab from Lysha silenced him. Nonetheless, the old sailor had a point. For there was something very off about the Sea of Blood and the lone rocky island that rose from its waters.
As soon as the quartet reached the blood-red waters, things started to go wrong. The wind became erratic, alternating between eerie calm and violent gusts. And then, when they reached the Desolate Isle, the Mermaid’s Scorn had run aground. Meldom and Sharenna were still arguing about whose fault that was.
But whoever was to blame, they were all stuck here until the tide rolled in, which should happen in approximately eight hours. And so Thurvok and Meldom had busied themselves scaling the slippery rocks to look for the legendary pirate treasure. They found lots of seagull nests and even more seagull shit. What they did not find, however, was even a hint of any treasure.
“All this bother and nothing to show for it,” Thurvok grunted as he and Meldom sat side by side on top of the highest rocks looking out across the tiny island and the bloody sea roiling all around as far as the eye could see.
“Maybe the seagulls ate the treasure,” Meldom mused, “After all, they seem to eat everything else.”
“And shit it out again,” Thurvok added, “No, if there was a treasure here buried in a pile of bird shit, we would have found it.” He sighed. “This whole expedition has been a waste of time.”
“Would you rather sit in The Rusty Nail in Neamene and drink yourself into a stupor?” Meldom countered.
“As a matter of fact, yes.”
Meldom shook his head. “Some adventurer you are.”
“Better a happy, well fed and drunk adventurer, then hungry, thirsty and shipwrecked.”
This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in The Beast from the Sea of Blood. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.