Crossed Paths and Blades: Part Nine
Upon reaching the bottom of the ridge and at the edge of the lake, Garin’s feeling of inevitable dread washed over him even more, though he kept it hidden from the others as they walked onwards to the bottom and the edge of the lake. There was a small rope bridge leading out to the ship that sat in the center of the lake, but it was clearly old and fragile. Hannah knelt down and touched her fingertip to the water, then put it in her mouth to taste it.
“Salt, just like I suspected!” she whispered to herself.
“Think it’s safe to cross?” Talak asked.
“I think so...” Hannah said, feeling the rope bridge with her fingers. “Still, I don’t think it can take too many people.”
“Well, once we get to the ship we can use the boats to haul the treasure out to the shore,” Garin suggested, and Hannah nodded.
“Good idea,” she said.
“And just to be safe, the four of us will go aboard. The rest of you remain here and keep a lookout. If Scarblade and his men show up, don’t try to fight. Hide under the water with your potion rations,” Garin said, turning to his crew. They nodded, and then he, Hannah, Armin and Jacques started across the rope bridge to the ship.
The bridge wobbled back and forth and nearly gave out underneath the four of them completely, but eventually they made it safely, with Jacques the first one aboard the large ship. He extended his hand to help Hannah aboard, and she took it, allowing him to hoist her over the railing, while Garin grabbed it to steady himself on the bridge, then climbed aboard, taking a hold of Armin’s hand to help him up. Jacques took Armin’s other hand to help as the railing nearly snapped in two under the small Bori.
“Sheesh! You’d think a ship this big would at least be in better quality after all this time!” Jacques said.
“I know, and not even in the weather!” Garin said with a grunt as he helped Armin to the floor.
“Well, I dunno know about you two, but I—AAAH!!” Armin suddenly screamed and fell backwards, causing Garin to jump and draw his dagger, whirling around to look and see what had scared the Bori, but then he saw exactly what it was.
“Captain Frigget in the flesh!” he muttered aloud.
“Sorta...” Hannah said, grimacing.
There, fastened firmly to the cabin door was a Lenny skeleton, dressed in rotting pirate garb. Armin whimpered in fright and hid behind Hannah while Garin and Jacques walked over to the skeleton and looked at it a bit closer.
“Why would the captain bother to guard his cabin in this manner, unless...” Jacques started to say.
“Unless he had something pretty valuable to protect inside.” Garin finished. “Here, let's cut him loose!” he said, lifting his dagger to one of the ropes.
“No, wait!” Hannah shouted, but Garin already cut through the first rope.
Suddenly a barrage of arrows flew out of the wood wall the ropes were fastened to, and the four barely dodged them, ducking and rolling behind what cover they could find. Jacques dove into a barrel, Hannah and Armin ducked behind some crates, and Garin hid behind the mast. Garin winced in fright as an arrow came close to hitting his ear, but then waited until they stopped flying to peek back out and look around. He stepped out of hiding and wiped sweat from his brow.
“Everyone okay?!” he asked in urgency. Jacques stood up out of the barrel and Hannah and Armin came back into view.
“Aye, I’m okay,” Jacques said.
“So are we,” Hannah said, then scowled at Garin. “Don’t you ever think!?”
“Hey! I’m sorry! But how was I to know there would be flying arrows coming out of a wall?!” Garin snapped. “And you could’ve told me sooner!”
“I didn’t see them until the last minute!” Hannah growled.
“Then why are you yelling at ME!?”
“Stop it, you two; we don’t have time for this!” Jacques yelled over them. “Scarblade and his crew have to have made it through that door by now, we don’t have a lot of time!”
“He’s right!” Armin agreed. Hannah sighed and rubbed her temples.
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry,” she said. “Lets just get what we can and go...”
“Right...” Garin said and walked over to the door to the old cabin. He turned the handle and forced the door open with a good shove of his shoulder, then stepped inside.
It was dark, and he scoured the cabin with squinted eyes to try and see, then ripped away some of the boards that were lashed to the windows to allow in more light. He looked around as Jacques, Hannah and Armin walked in.
“Not much to this place...” Armin commented.
“Even so...” Garin said, but did not finish his sentence. He still had that terrible feeling he had earlier... but what was making it worse was he couldn’t figure out what was causing it!
“Even so, what?” Hannah asked.
“Nothing. Let's just get what we can of the loot and get outta here,” Garin said, beginning to rummage through the cabin. Hannah narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him, and looked around at the floor. She took a few steps forward, gently pushing Jacques aside as she heard the board he stepped one squeak.
“Hold it there,” she said, then bent down to feel at the board.
“Its just a loose board, Hannah,” Jacques said.
“In my experience, loose things hold secrets...” she replied, felling at the board and reaching under it with her fingers.
Then, suddenly, the floor beneath her gave way to reveal a deep trap door. She nearly fell, but Jacques grabbed her under her arms and leaned back so they both didn’t fall down at the sudden misbalance. Jacques let out a grunt as Garin and Armin helped him both to straighten up and Hannah out of the hole.
“Yeah...” Jacques said. “Secrets that nearly break your bones!”
Garin chuckled. “Now who was it who said to think first?” he joked. Hannah scowled at him, then looked down the hole with Jacques as he kneeled over and stuck his head down.
“We need some rope!” he said as he peered down into the blackness. Hannah reached down to her side and took off the rope that she carried with her often. She fastened it to the leg of the large desk next to them, then lowered the rest down. Jacques brought his head back up and let the slight dizziness wear off a bit before giving the rope a slight tug and lowering himself down to have a look...
Darkness, split only by the light coming in from cracks in the walls and the ceiling. Jacques felt his foot touch wooden floor and he stood up straight, spinning around slowly to have a more careful look around the room. Finding it visibly safe, he looked back up to the hole he just descended from.
“It’s alright, come on down!” he called up, and Garin slid down the rope, followed by Hannah and Armin. Garin looked around and saw from where he stood a hallway that led deeper into the old ship.
“I guess we go that way,” he said, pointing, then starting to walk down the corridor. “Everyone stay close, and be alert, no telling what we might find down here!”
With the first step, a loose board gave a loud creak, which made Garin stop in his tracks, just to check and be sure that the board would not break under his weight. As he stood still, he heard the scuttling sound of hundreds, perhaps thousands of tiny feet, also the sounds of screeching as well. He jumped and almost fell into Jacques, who held him up with one arm and looked around.
“What was that?” Hannah asked with a slight cringe.
“Sounded like... spyders, a lot of them!” Garin replied. “Or something else...”
“I-I’m scared, let's go!” Armin whimpered, holding Hannah’s arm.
“We can’t turn back now, Armin!” Hannah said. “We’re so close!”
“Besides, it's only a few bugs!” Jacques comforted.
“Spyders aren’t bugs...” Armin muttered.
“Whichever, let's go!” Hannah insisted, taking a step forward, but Garin grabbed her arm.
“...Maybe the kid’s right,” he said. “Maybe we should go.”
“What?!” Hannah asked, shocked. “After all we’ve gone through, and when we’re so close! What IS the matter with you!?”
“There’s something rotten here!” Garin snapped, unable to contain his feelings of uneasiness about his surroundings. “I know it doesn’t make sense, and I sound like a fool, but there is something terribly wrong here!”
“What do you mean, Garin?” Jacques asked. Garin paused and growled in aggravation, letting go of Hannah’s arm.
“I don’t know! I just can’t put my finger on it!” he said, clearly frustrated. “I just feel like we’re walking into a dead end, or... or worse.” He sighed and looked down at the floor, gritting his teeth together and letting out a slight, quiet growl of frustration. Hannah paused, then lightly punched his shoulder and smirked slightly.
“Well, hey, isn’t taking a risk here or there all what being a pirate is about? And besides, we won’t know for sure what’s going to happen until it happens...” she said, and Garin looked at her.
“I guess so...”
“Then what are we waiting for?” Hannah asked. “Let’s go find us some treasure!”
Garin nodded as she turned and headed down the corridor, which led to a small flight of steps, that headed down into utter darkness. Jacques took a lantern off the wall and opened the rusted glass door to light it, and then Hannah took it from him and set it on the ground, reaching into her pockets and pulling out two small objects. She struck them together and small sparks hit the candle inside, and it lit. She stood back up and handed the lantern back to Jacques.
“Like my granddad always said, ‘always carry flint and stone’,” she said and Garin smiled.
“Your granddad sounds like a smart fellow,” he said. Hannah blushed and smiled a bit, then followed Jacques down the stairs. At the bottom, he held up the lantern to reveal a door just ahead of them, locked, but he knew a quick way to take care of that. He looked at Garin, and Garin nodded and drew his dagger. He walked forward, and with one clean stroke, cut the lock clean off the door, leaving it free to be opened. Garin smirked.
“Time to see what Frigget’s loot looks like!” he said, reaching forward for the handle. He took it in his hand, gave it a turn, and then pushed the door open to reveal what might lie inside...
To be continued...