Episode 35( No Comments! )

Scribed by: CB Ash in The Seventh Knife

“It’s this deck,” Journeyman Alfred Maris snarled. “He’s supposed to take her down to the end of this deck.”

“Who is he meeting? Duke RiBeld?” Durante Marino asked.

Maris clamped his mouth shut and refused to answer. Adonia Salgado braced herself for the pain from her bullet wound, then shook the journeyman by the collar. The long bullet gash on her arm tormented her for the abuse.

“Answer him!” she snapped.

“All right! Bloody hell, woman. Stop that!” Maris struggled against his captor, but stopped when he felt the touch of a knife in his back. “It’ll be one of the other boys, maybe even her grace if she set foot out her stateroom.”

“Her grace?” Marino asked. His tone was suspicious.

“The Duchess Von Ferrin,” Maris said with a sigh, exasperated that he had to explain who he meant.

Marino and Salgado exchanged a stunned look.

A rumble from an explosion rattled the fixtures on the walls. The monk put out a hand to steady himself against a door frame. Adonia Salgado stumbled, but caught herself against a small table. It creaked in protest when she bumped into it. A lone blue and white china flower vase teetered and threatened to topple to the floor.

“That came from inside the Britannia,” Salgado said. Her eyes were nervous while they wandered the walls.

Before she could restrain him again, Maris turned and snatched the knife from Salgado’s hand. The charybdian woman bared her fangs and hissed. Maris shoved her backwards against the table before he elbowed Marino in the ribs. There was the immediate sound of a bone being snapped. Marino dropped to one knee.

Senhor Marino!” the charybdian exclaimed wide-eyed.

Maris spun back towards Adonia Salgado as she grabbed the vase and lunged for the journeyman. He ducked under her swing, stood up and sliced the knife across her forearm. She winced and stepped back.

“Idiot.” Maris slapped the vase out of her hand. It sailed to the carpeted floor and shattered.

The charybdian reached for Maris, but the journeyman stepped in close. His hand gripped her throat like a vice as he raised the blade.

The young woman clutched Maris’ wrist and clawed at the hand with the knife. She gasped for air, her natural pale-green skin a sick gray pallor. The journeyman sneered and shoved her back against the small table. Weak from blood loss, her vision swam in front of her. Salgado’s charybdian instincts took hold and her snake-tendrils lashed out. With no fangs but a scale pattern that resembled snake heads, a charybdian’s medusa-like hair often terrified anyone who got too close. But not this time.

“I’ve known charybdians before, so I know about your so-called snake hair.” He swatted away three tendrils of her hair as hard as he could. “I also know you don’t turn anybody to stone with a look! That’s just tall tales!” Maris sneered. He leaned forward. “I’m going to enjoy this. I should have done this to you much sooner,” Maris whispered in a chilling tone. He licked his lips, lowering the knife to the charybdian’s throat while she struggled, wide-eyed.

Before the knife could touch her, Salgado hammered her right boot down on the journeyman’s instep. He screeched, dropped the knife, and reached for his damaged foot. Off-balance, Maris reeled sideways. Salgado shrieked in rage as her fist crushed his nose. The journeyman yowled in pain as he hit the floor.

“Tall tales?” Adonia Salgado repeated, her eyes blazing. “It isn’t a glance that turns one to stone!” With a slow, deliberate motion, she let her fangs unfold from the roof of her mouth.

The journeyman’s own eyes grew wide and his heart hammered in his chest. In a panic, he scrambled away from the infuriated woman.

Salgado made to follow him, but her rage had sapped her strength. Exhausted, she leaned on the table to keep herself upright. Her yellow eyes shot a flinty glare at Maris. She moved toward him another step, but her strength abandoned her. She collapsed in a heap.

“Cold-blooded strumpet!” Maris spat at Salgado. “I’ll cut those fangs from your head!” He reached for the knife on the floor, but received a hard kick to the jaw from Marino. Maris reeled back, howling in pain.

“Manners, signore!” The monk, one hand on his ribcage, loomed over the journeyman.

Maris rubbed his jaw, then climbed to his feet. The man grunted at a chorus of aches that plagued him. The monk relaxed and reached out to help Maris up.

“I’m glad you see reason,” Marino said. “Now, we should be on our way.”

Before he could touch him, Maris swung a vicious uppercut at the monk’s damaged ribcage. Marino tried to deflect the blow, but he was too slow. The journeyman buried his fist into the tall man who let out a sharp cry of pain. Maris followed this with a sharp jab that split the monk’s lip and snapped his head backwards. The monk careened off the wall while Maris bolted for the intersection at the end of the hallway.

Adonia Salgado growled, her snake-hair clenched so tight against her head they threatened to tie into knots. Once on her feet, she gritted her teeth against the pain and scooped up the knife. She raced after the journeyman with blood in her eye.

Signora! Think! We need him alive!” Marino implored.

She stopped after a few steps and glanced over her shoulder. Her eyes burned while her fists shook. “He is a rabid dog! Given what he did to Moira, what I’ve seen him do and what he tried to do to me? He has earned this, senhor! We know where Moira is being taken. We don’t need him!”

The monk used the wall to brace against while he pushed himself to his feet. The exertion drained the color from his face.

, that is true,” he replied with a faint wheeze. “But we do not have to meet him on his own terms. We can be better. We must be or we are no different than him.”

Adonia Salgado gripped the knife as if she would choke the life from it. Seconds ticked by before she nodded.

“He will still pay in some way for the manhandling when this is done,” she snarled and turned on her heel to stalk down the hallway. “I will see to it myself.”

By the time Salgado reached the end of the hallway, her wounds forced her to stop and catch her breath. Marino arrived a second later with a protective hand on his sore ribs. The end of the hallway where they stood joined a similar one that ran in a perpendicular direction. They glanced left and right, but there was no sign of Maris. There was only a scattered arrangement of spark lanterns interspersed among closed beige-colored stateroom doors. It was the typical decor for any of the passenger hallways aboard the Britannia.

“We should have tied him with something,” Marino complained.

Salgado shot him a perturbed expression. “I’m of a mind to wonder that about you, senhor.” She sighed. “But you’ve kept a dagger out of me twice now, so thank you. I appreciate it. You have yet to explain yourself though. We left you in a stateroom for safety.”

Marino smirked at the young woman, then eased out into the hallway. Maris was nowhere in sight. He glanced back at his companion and shrugged.

“Before you ask, I did nothing deadly to my guards. Just a small application of a makeshift sleeping vapor I created.” She protested, but he held up a hand to interrupt her. “I was not there for safety, signora. In truth, I was put there because it was believed I am a danger to the passengers and crew of both ships. I am no fool.” He gripped the knob of the nearest stateroom, it was locked. “It’s best to assume he may have locked himself in.”

Sim, I agree,” she replied. “We check for any not locked, just in case. After that, we rouse a porter with a key.”

Marino nodded, but did not reply.

Salgado followed a short distance behind him. “So, are you?” she asked and regarded him with a skeptical eye. “A danger, that is?”

He reached for another brass door knob, then stopped. “No. I regret the conflicts between myself and your companions. I misjudged my opposition. Every moment I cornered a confederate behind this scheme, I found I had been set up to be the criminal everyone saw as the problem. That pushed me to take desperate steps to recover the daggers, and salvage this entire affair.” He glanced back at her with a tired smile. “You know how poorly that turned out.” He moved to the next stateroom door. “I may be bound by certain oaths, but no, signora. We were trying to prevent Duke RiBeld from getting the daggers and uncovering their secret. In fact, I’m still working towards that goal. I just never realized that I was chasing the Duchess Von Ferrin instead of Duke RiBeld.”

A woman’s chilling laugh stopped them both dead still.

“The word ‘chase’ implies that you might catch your quarry,” The Duchess Von Ferrin said from behind them.

Adonia Salgado and Durante Marino spun around as the flurry of needles stabbed them both. Marino rushed forward, but the tranquilizer took effect too fast. He collapsed after two steps. Already exhausted from blood loss and pain, the narcotic had a more abrupt effect on the charybdian. Salgado tripped, slammed into a wall, and slid to the floor like a rag doll.

The duchess lowered her needler pistol and smiled. “But we’ll have time to talk about that now, won’t we?” She glanced over at Maris who appeared out of a stateroom three doors away. “I’m glad I came along when I did. Maris? Bring them. I’m of a mind to have a chat.”

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