Deadfire Part 9: The Curse of the Trade Lanes, Part Two
“IT DOESN’T happen all the time. And everyone’s prepared for it.”
I stared at her. “You totally were. Everyone’s prepared for it, huh?”
The horse came back after a moment and I was glad to see him. “Well, looky, looky, here he is. The man of the hour. Without his quick wit and loyalty we’d be dead.”
I grabbed his reigns gently. He seemed to let me, and I could see the horse was shaking a bit like one that had been left overnight in the open while a thunder storm played out. Without looking back at Alexis, I asked. “So what do we do? Get stuck here on the open road and get eaten if that happens again?”
She shook her head. “There’s bothies all over, built by The Trade. Safe places. Some look like light houses. There’s-“ She took a moment to take out a piece of parchment she had in her own pack. It took her a second to keep rooting around for it.
“You don’t have that on hand? I think I would want that on hand.”
“I already know where many are. I’m making sure.” She said quietly. She handed the parchment over to me. I took it my hands and spread it open.
“One pretty close by. And I see another-“ I said. “That little x marks the spot.”
The sky turned black and the stars came out. Again there was a cacophony of noise and the creatures began to come out of the ground. The horse bolted and we ran forward as fast as we could down the road, knowing that the bothy was just a few hundred yards around the corner by way of the map, that had an odd green glow to it. Two X’s marking us moved forward the same time we did so, so I could tell it had some sort of odd enchantment to it, like Google maps.
I ran as fast as I could, screaming my head off and holding the parchment over my head like it was going to protect me from some non-existent rain. Alexis was well ahead of me and the horse was far gone. One of the things got in front of me and I knocked it down by slamming into it with my shoulder. Another rushed at me and grabbed me but I spun out of its grip and sliced its neck with my dagger. The thing staggered and fell down with a gaping black wound. Some putrid yellow fluid poured out of it as well as little black flies.
The bothy was this small stone building, the size of a house that had some sort of odd wooden charm hanging from its wooden door. There were no lights inside, just two black empty squares where the windows should have been. There was a blue ring of smoke around the entire bothy and I wasn’t sure what to make out of it until I saw Alexis run right through it, unafraid. She barged through the front door of the place and shut it behind her. I chased after and got near the ring of smoke just as one of those creatures grabbed me. I managed to pull back and the thing’s arm went right through the blue ring with me. Instantly the thing disintegrated into dust, looking like a giant clump of black ashes from an even bigger cigarette.
A horde of those demon things was nearby but they couldn’t do anything, the blue smoke ring protecting us due to some charm that was at work. Some sort of instinct had kicked in and they stopped in place, watching me with dull eyes the color of almonds, blinking and turning their heads like a lizard trying to track a fly. You could feel the hate pouring out of their leathery heads. The anger and hatred and whatever was so thick in the air you could taste the ugliness.
I took out my crossbow and put my foot down into the stirrup. I racked the thing back and put in a crossbow bolt. I didn’t bother to fire it at anything but I just wanted to have something ready to go. Another one of those creatures slammed itself into the blue smoke ring and disintegrated itself in a moment. A pile of dust a foot high was all that remained of that cursed thing.
“Ha ha, bitch.” I said.
I knocked on the door behind me, very casually. “You should watch this.”
“No. Come inside.” She said, her voice high and tight. She sounded like she having a difficult time trying to defecate.
“Oh, come on this is sort of cool-“ The world returned to normal. I spit on the ashes that still remained of the creatures. The rest disappeared into whatever hell they had come out of and boy was I happy at the thought of that. I was shaking a little from all the adrenaline and I didn’t feel cold anymore. I felt pumped. I took a deep breath and opened the door of the bothy only to find her there on the floor with a little devilish looking black gremlin looking bastard chewing on her neck. Blood was pouring out onto the straw covered floor in spurts.
“No, come inside.” The thing said in Alexis’s voice it said between bites.
I yelped and shot my crossbow but the shot went wide and missed, the bolt banging off the stone wall in the back. The thing then jumped towards me and with its black tail wrapping around my neck and I fell back outside onto the ground, not being able to breathe. Things started to turn black and I held onto the slippery thing before I saw Alexis stab the thing with her own blade. The thing fell off me and flopped to the ground. I took several deep breaths while lying on the dirt, watching the blue and endless sky above and the white clouds go by, as the thing died besides me. I took out a dagger I had and stabbed the thing again to make sure. That’s how you do things in such a place. No mercy.
“Jesus, what was that? What the hell was that?” I muttered. “Kicked my ass, all right.”
She stood over me, holding a piece of cloth against her neck. She was breathing heavy. Blood was seeping through the cloth. “Bothy fiend, fellow bard. A bothy fiend. Rare but known. Some sort of evil that can make it past the blue ring of smoke.”
“A what?” I said again. “Jesus, this is just, I don’t know…” I stood up after a while. “I’m getting tired of this game. Sky turning black, shit just, you know, done jumping out and everything. Ugh. This game sucks, I’m getting mad. I wish I never did Project 99-“
She stared at me for a long moment before saying.
“Who is Jesus?” She put the cloth away, as the bleeding had stopped. She put the wet piece back into one of her many pockets. She hissed her words out, the pain still sticking with her. Her neck looked fine now.
I shook my head. “Long and very old story. You all right?”