Bound to the Seelenfalle

The sea was calm against her side as she stirred the stew and her footsteps creaked on the deck above. She looked out across the Braun Sea from the top of her crow’s nest, adding a pinch of salt to the stew as she pulled in a net brimming with silver and green fish.

She leaned and pulled against twenty-four oars as the net spilled out onto the deck. She looked back west to land from the crow’s nest as she added coals to the kitchen fire.

The Seelenfalle turned, adjusting its course as she awoke. Slipping down from a hammock, she rubbed her eyes and ladled stew to taste. Pulling the oars, she scanned the horizon from the crow’s nest and pulled on a pair of leather boots.

A ship poked over the horizon to the east. Wrapping a kerchief around her head, she heaved the oars in perfect unison. Emerging from below deck, she stepped out into the sun as she moved the stew pot to simmer.

Thin white clouds hung in the sky above as she tied the Seelenfalle’s sails to the mast, useless. She climbed the steps from the kitchen as she dragged a barrel along the deck. Stopping next to the fish, she locked eyes with herself for an instant, her blue eyes and blond hair, her grey eyes and brown beard. She dropped her gaze and turned to the fish, scooping them up in her arms as she held the barrel at an angle.

Looking across the Braun Sea, the ship was fast approaching. She adjusted her course to north-east, and pulled hard on the oars. She tipped a bag of salt into the barrel and sealed its lid as she frowned at the ship from the top of the crow’s nest. The ship turned to match the Seelenfalle’s trajectory.

Letting go of the wheel, she ran along the deck to the bow as the ship matched the Seelenfalle’s speed as it lined up against the sides, its rowers pulling their oars in.

“Ahoy there,” she said, trying to keep her tone steady, amiable. The ship’s captain was thick and bearded holding a sword and pistol.

She scrambled from her hammocks and pulled on her boots as she sought her own swords and pushed gunpowder into the cannon.

“I say, ahoy,” she repeated.

“Are you the captain of this here ship?” the captain asked.

“The ship,” she said. She stopped rowing and slid down from the crow’s nest.

“Sir, I’m afraid to say this is not going to be your lucky day. Prepare to be boarded.”

She fired off a pair of cannon as she drew her sword and burst out from below deck. The ship wobbled in the water as men slid down ropes with hooks. The ship’s captain fired his pistol and she fell to the deck, grasping at her chest and pulling her daggers from beneath her seats.

A rapier stung her arm as it cut through her flesh. She fired off another trio of cannon as she charged from the bridge and the bow to meet another group of boarders.

The water hit her with a cold shock as she tumbled headfirst into the sea, tackling a thin man to the deck as blood filled her lungs. Swinging from a sail, she kicked the head of a boarder as she pushed a shot into the cannon.

Falling into the water, she felt a sword pass through her stomach as the wild-eyed captain strangled her.

Footsteps creaked along the Seelenfalle’s decks as the sea splashed against her hull.

Her eyes and ears were gone. She was blind. She was deaf. She was helpless.

The souls bound to the Seelenfalle were no more.

This text is copyright 2016 by Jon Cronshaw, released under a BY-NC-ND Creative Commons Licence.

Basilisk on a Yellow Field

I wore green on the day I performed my first kill. I stood on the edge of a large stone room lit by alchemical orbs casting soft white light across the faces of two dozen children as they danced to the drummers and pipers performing a traditional Ostreich folk song.

The adults looked on in their green finery. The men wore matching coats, tailored from silk. The women wore long hooded dresses in a darker green than the men. They were cut low along the bust and pulled tight at the waist, with wide skirts extending to the floor.

My dress was in the style of the other women, though, there was a hidden slit which allowed me to reach across with my left hand and easily grasp my blade, the Feuerschwert.

A red-faced dancer stared at me as she swayed from left to right, turning and twisting her hands in time with the music. I smiled, but my smile was not returned. There was fear in those eyes.

The Feuerschwert was cold against my skin. Though secured to my waist, I feared the ravenglass might cut into my flesh, bringing out its dormant power.

The scent of roasted pork hung in the air as I examined the revellers’ faces. I took care to note the features of each person in an effort to remember. There was a woman whose face sparked a memory when I saw her from the side, but when she turned to me with an unsure smile, it was clear we shared no recognition. Just one smile, just one nod of recognition was all I craved. Someone to tell me who I am – to tell me my name.

I moved left along the wall as the beat continued. Though the festivities were held in honour of Jorg Shultz’s fiftieth year, the Viscount had retired to his chamber during the final course of the feast. I stepped around a stone bust of my target, staring expressionless from a marble plinth, and skirted past a colourful tapestry that was fifteen feet across. It showed a knight bearing the Ostreich sigil of a black basilisk on a yellow field thrusting a lance into the belly of a green-scaled wyvern.

Reaching the end of the great hall, I slipped through a half-open door. The alchemical glow faded as I made my way along a bare stone corridor illuminated by wall candles. The handle of the Feuerschwert brushed against my side as my steps grew urgent. I found my way to a spiral stairway.

I ascended the steps until I reached a thick door in varnished oak. I placed my ear against the door and listened. Hearing nothing, I turned the handle. I held my breath, pulled up the hood of my dress, removed my shoes then stepped through the door.

The corridor was dark and the floorboards cold beneath my soles. A faint glow seeped out from beneath a door at the end of the passage. I reached into my dress, removed the Feuerschwert and felt a trembling as I held it my hands. Its ravenglass blade was a deep black, a much deeper black than than darkness of the passage.

I unhooked the skirt from my dress and freed myself from the corset, dropping them in a heap next to me. I stepped towards the door and teased its handle. My heart thundered in my chest as I pushed the door open.

A fire burned in a hearth at the far right of the room. Above it, a portrait of a long-dead Viscount looked on with a dark, vacant gaze. Thick green drapes hung in front of the windows overlooking the Braun Sea. I heard a shuffle to my right – it was Jorg Shultz. Our eyes met.

“What is the meaning of this?” he asked.

I said nothing and pricked the index finger of my left hand with the Feuerschwert. The Viscount’s eyes widened at the blade turned from deep black to a glowing red as it consumed the blood.

“Ravenglass,” he whispered, his eyes bulging.

I jumped back on my toes as he tipped his chair towards me. Jorg unsheathed a blade, longer and thicker than my own. With a fluid motion he rolled up his sleeve and sliced the blade across his left forearm. His blade too glowed red.

A wolfish grin rose beneath his thick blond moustache. Nobody had warned me about this.

My hands were slick with sweat. I danced on my tiptoes, feinted left, then right, trying to draw him into dropping his guard, to making a mistake.

“Who sent you?” he growled.

I shook my head. I was not going to answer him. How could I answer him?

He swung his blade in a broad vertical arc. I hopped to the right and stabbed forward with a twist of my wrist. He jerked his shoulder to the side. We both straitened up, regaining our stance.

We circled each other, his blue eyes locked with my own. I dived forward, struck the back of his leg. He let out an agonised scream as the blade hissed, its magic tearing through his flesh, burning him from within.

He swung and I moved to parry, but instead of the expected ricochet, his blade went through my own, like two jets of water crossing each other’s paths. His blade nicked my arm and I felt its fiery heat swell inside.

Neither of us were bleeding from our wounds, but I sensed Jorg’s pain as it spread through his body. He fell backwards, looked up at me in terror. “What do you want?” he managed. His words were weak, his breath shallow.

I stood over him. His blade returned to black as it dropped from his convulsing hand. I pulled my hood down and pushed my blade into his chest.

“It’s you,” he gasped. “What–.”

I pulled the Feuerschwert from his chest. “Wait,” I said. “Who am I?” I leaned down and shook him. “Please,” I pleaded. “Tell me who I am.”

But he was already dead.

This text is copyright 2016 by Jon Cronshaw, released under a BY-NC-ND Creative Commons Licence.