Samson kneeled in the soft sand, with his head bowed, whispering into the darkness. He sat amongst the corpses that littered the beach.
Reaching out with his right hand he rested it upon the forehead of the corpse in front of him. His hand shook uncontrollably and he quickly pressed his palm down harder on the wet, cold skull trying to control himself. Glancing around he made sure that no one was watching. The others went about their own business, giving him space. The tremors went unnoticed.
What is happening? He took a moment to glance at the lifeless eye sockets of the skull.
This had been the corpse he had cut down first. The boy. Samson felt his anger starting to bubble beneath the surface. The flashes of the men the sailors had been was not something he had ever witnessed before. He saw them. He had witnessed, even for a brief moment, who they had been.
Were those their spirits? Have I released them into Her embrace?
He didn’t know.
What was worse was that he had almost died. The death was not what angered him. He knowingly and willingly would accept such a fate if his goddess demanded it. No. His anger was brought on by what could be after his death. That his soul wouldn’t go on. That he wouldn’t be received by his Lady.
Will I too become a mindless beast? Will my suffering only be stopped by a blade? Will I be able to keep such a thing from ever happening? Who is responsible for this? The questions went unanswered as he continued to stare at the corpse before him.
These men had suffered too much. They had been lost at sea, only to be cut down once again. To suffer death twice was beyond Samson’s understanding.
“My Lady, you have been cheated,” his voice was barely a whisper. He looked around at the bodies that surrounded him. The sands were starting to soak with the sea water running off of them. His goddess was surely angered by what had happened here. Undead were an abomination that needed to be wiped from the world. Samson was more than happy to carry out such a task.
Further out from his place on the beach, spread across the sands, were the bodies of dead villagers and fuath. Blood ran down the shoreline to streak through the waters.
“Kastis, will I see all of them for who they were? Is that one of the costs, my Lady?”
His whispers were carried away on the cool night breeze.
There was no answer.
Letting out a breath Samson pushed away his thoughts of doubt and his anger, for the moment. His goddess would answer in due time. All would be well as long as he trusted Her.
Without further hesitation he closed his eyes and started the prayer for last rites. With renewed resolve he spoke the words with more passion and determination.
This boy, these men, would all await Kastis’ judgement. He would be sure of it.
When the prayer was finished he silently moved to the next corpse, glancing briefly over towards the Captain.
James stared out towards the sea, refusing to meet anyone’s eyes.
He stared at Freya bent down by the water. It took all of his energy to stay where he was. Her being that close to the water was dangerous and reckless – and she was doing it to anger him.
He hated it.
She was always good at getting under his skin, annoying him was as natural as taking breath for her.
There was a part of him that was angry with himself for how he had reacted. He would never forget the hurt he had seen in her deep hazel eyes. He didn’t trust her, at least not completely, and she knew it. For Freya this was the worst thing that he could possibly do to her. Especially with their history together. She had lost too much.
The other part of him was angry with her. She had pushed him to this. She was constantly putting herself in danger. She was always, always, in trouble – since they were kids. But he couldn’t protect her anymore. She wouldn’t let him. She was going down a path that he couldn’t follow. He was already risking so much for her.
He always would. He didn’t lie to himself about that.
James was torn, like parchment, down the middle and in jagged edges. Freya had saved Samson. Without her swift thinking Samson wouldn’t be with them. His life had been saved and that was truly a miracle in Aggramon these days.
But she had stolen from another, and he couldn’t overlook that. If she was caught again he wouldn’t be able to save her.
Beyond that, was the person she had stolen from. Were they alright? What if this potion would have been used to save another of Aggramon’s people? What if it could have saved a child? Taking the potion might have damned another soul. Something he knew she couldn’t live with, but was refusing to acknowledge as a possibility.
She was constantly living within the breaths in between moments. Always thinking that there was nothing that could harm her anymore. She had put up her walls, built them up over time, and they trapped her in her own mind.
Some would call her selfish, though he knew that was not the case. She would do anything to protect those that she cared about, despite herself. After her sister had died Freya knew no other way. She wouldn’t lose like that again if she could help it.
Freya stood, her arms wrapping around herself. She stared out at the sea. Some of her deep red hair had escaped her long braid and was dancing in the wind. He didn’t need to see her face. He knew she was closing herself off, shutting down just that much more. There wasn’t anything he could do.
She wouldn’t trust him completely anymore either.
So he stood firmly planted in the sand with his hand on his bow, wishing he could do more for her. Wishing he could turn a blind eye and not be a Captain. Wishing he trusted her completely, like when they were children.
She turned ever so slightly. The wind moved her hair away from her face and he could see her smooth skin and her small lips. Memories of her smile filled his thoughts. She used to smile all the time. She would try to fight it at first, pursing her lips together, trying to act tough. But she never won. The smile was small to start but as it grew it touched her eyes. You couldn’t help but be captivated by it.
When the smile turned into a laugh was beyond mesmerizing.
His eyebrows furrowed. I don’t remember her laugh. He remembered how it made him feel complete and content, that there was only that moment. But the sound of it was lost from his memory. He stared at her. Has it been so long? He wished he could witness it again.
He watched as she closed her eyes and gathered herself.
Freya turned and caught his gaze. Her eyes were piercingly deep. He quickly looked away as a flutter rushed through him.
He wished for many things.
James watched as Samson approached the shoreline, walking up to Freya. James tightened his grip around his bow, the knuckles going white. He didn’t like this. He knew Samson’s type. He wanted to move next to Freya, to be by her side should she need him. He wanted to know what they were saying so badly.
But he knew better.
Samson approached Freya with caution, not wanting to upset her further but wanting to talk to her privately.
Cursing himself, James turned away and walked closer to Charlie. But he made sure that he was close enough to get to them quickly.
Should she need him.
She had turned, her arms around herself, finally facing away from the beach. She stood patiently waiting for Samson as he moved closer through the sand. He noticed some of her red hair was loose and flying about. Her eyes, which had clearly been crying, now looked colder. She looked determined.
“I’m sorry to interrupt,” he stated unsure of what else to say to her.
“No need to apologize,” her voice didn’t even waver. It had a renewed fire to it. “What can I do for you? Other then saving your life.” Her tone was light, and the side of her mouth curled up ever so slightly.
He was impressed. She wasn’t letting what had happened consume her, at least not in this moment. She had locked it away and she was here. She was focused on what they needed to do. He could admire that. She knew there were bigger problems than her own.
“Please love, that was nothing,” his voice was flirtatiously dismissive. He was playing with her and they both knew it. He smiled at her.
Freya placed her hands on her hips and cocked her head to one side. “Absolutely. I save people all the time.” As the words left her mouth her smirk slowly faded.
He knew the look of someone lost in memories. She was briefly caught by the ghosts of her past and he didn’t dare ask her to explain them.
She looked away, took a calming breath, and looked back at him. The moment was quick. Something she had practiced before. As she met his eyes again she was calm and serene, as if she had not a care in the world. She was very good at hiding behind her own faces.
“So what is it that you need, love?” She asked, staring into his eyes.
He smirked at the name.
“Well,” he looked back up the shore at the corpses briefly, then back to her. “I wanted to know if you noticed anything strange when you gave me that potion,” he crossed his arms over his chest.
She stared at him for a few heartbeats, mulling the question over. He saw her thinking back on the moment.
Freya opened her mouth to answer but all that came out was a hurried cry of pain and surprise as she fell forward with a thud in the sand. The air left her lungs in a whoosh and she was suddenly being dragged backwards.
She let out another cry of pain, this one ragged and low.
Samson watched as an octopus wrapped its tentacles around her legs. It dragged and pulled her closer. Her hands instinctively dug into the sand trying to gain purchase. Trying to stop the creature with no effect.
Freya let out a cry of agony as her body was dragged further into the water. Samson could see around her left foot was the mouth of the octopus, with razor sharp beak and dripping algae. The beak had sliced through her boot and he saw blood spilling out around their entangled forms.
He raised his polearm.
Not this day, beast!
James had turned away from Freya and Samson, unsure of what they had been discussing, but not liking it all the same.
He heard her cry out and quickly looked over as she fell into the sand. He heard the air leave her lungs in a whoosh as she hit the ground.
“Freya!” His voice echoed out into the night.
He rushed forward without hesitation, notching an arrow.
As he did she let out another cry, this one frantic and painful. He saw the blood surrounding her and the octopus in the water. Still moving forward he took aim.
Not this day, Freya. Not this day!