“I am Reglan,” said the captain. “No Matter, know this…
Your flesh will not be wasted.”
Mattoby the Gat takes his motley crew on a quest to uncover the secret of the Lumenstones and the evil forces unleashing them. On their journey, they encounter the disturbing Goblin Haunts, battle a group of witches and struggle to survive hostile terrain and each other’s tempers.
Their path takes an unexpected turn when Anditor, the young son of Vidor, describes his encounter with Reglan, the Lord of the Werewolves, and the chest of stones aboard his pirate ship…
…a story that will lead the nine into peril.
Chapter 3 – Reglan
The chest landed with a thud a few feet away from his hiding place, kicking up sand that almost made him sneeze. It was black with a strange marking on the side and chained heavily all around. The mark was shaped like a D on top with twist dropping down from it. Anditor squinted and cocked his head. From that angle, it looked like a snake falling off a ledge. Once he righted his head, he thought it looked most like a D.
He had listened, trembling but curious, as the group of noisy men approached. One of them sat down on the log he was hiding behind a few feet down from him. The man tossed a pile of furs to the ground, still wet with sticky blood, fat and skin. It made Anditor’s empty stomach churn. He thought he might vomit and clamped his mouth shut. He stared at the pile. It included small game pelts, like rabbit, and larger game, like lynx, all freshly killed and skinned. Each of the men had a similar pile strung together. There were five men in all and dozens of pelts.
“They have spotted us.”
“Good. Best to get this over quickly. We’ll take our pay and head into the woods,” the man sitting on the log responded.
“Didn’t Legard mumble some warning about nightfall? It is getting dark,” said the man standing closest to the chest. Anditor could only see his legs, but those were skinny and bent.
“Legard was drunk.”
“We all were drunk. Still…,” he said.
“Look, Fink. Legard is a moron. If he had any brains, he would have brought this chest here himself and collected the money. The pay on this job is worth hundreds of pelts.”
The other men started laughing. A long boat was lowered into the water. Several men climbed into it and picked up the oars. Another man, larger than all the rest, with a mane of dark hair swirling wildly around him in the wind and his ripped shirt flapping over his broad chest, climbed over the side of the ship and down the ropes to the boat. The boat swayed under his muscular mass. A slender, hooded figure, much shorter than all the rest, followed him. The men on the shore stopped laughing.
“They are huge,” whispered Fink.
“Bah…,” responded the man on the log, but Anditor caught the flash of the steel blade of a dagger and heard the crunch of bark as the man pushed it into the log.
“I don’t like this,” Fink said softly. “I don’t like this at all. It doesn’t…feel right.”
The men watched silently as the boat arrived at the river bank and its passengers disembarked. One of them anchored the boat on the shore and stayed beside it. The others approached. As they got out of the boat, Anditor caught a glimpse of the face of the hooded figure, a face with delicate features and large eyes that sparkled in the moonlight. He thought it must be a woman.
As they came closer, he could only see them from the thighs down. He cocked his head again to try to see their faces, but he could only see to their hips. The captain approached the man on the log. Anditor was shaking, trying to be still.
“You are the captain?” asked the man on the log.
The captain stepped over to the pile of skins that man had tossed on the ground next to the chest. He stooped down and sniffed them. From that angle, Anditor had a close-up view of his face. He had a strong, rigid jaw line and thick, powerful neck. His dark, piercing eyes studied the pile with an intensity that made Anditor’s heart race with fear. He reached down to touch the topmost pelt. Even his hands were hairy and strong. The man growled deeply under his breath and stood. Anditor shuddered and fought to keep still.
“You are Skinners,” the captain said in a low, throaty voice.
“What is that to you?” asked the man on the log. The tremble in his voice betrayed his otherwise cool demeanor. “We have delivered your chest. Give us our money, and we will be on our way. That was the arrangement.”
“What is your name?” the captain asked.
“No matter,” the man answered. Anditor heard the crack of wood. The man had removed the dagger from the log and scraped it along the bark. “Pay up. We will be gone.”
“No Matter,” asked the captain. “Did you eat these animals?”
The man on the log said nothing. There was an uncomfortable silence. The captain responded with a low, impatient growl.
“We…we,” responded Fink. “We didn’t have time, Sir. We…we were in a rush to deliver…your goods. They are right here. Look. See?”
Anditor’s father had warned him about Skinners. They were reviled among the hunters of the Trividian Forest. Skinners hunted solely for the pelts they could trade in far off cities, harvesting as many skins as they could carry and leaving the rest of the carcass to rot. The hunters of the Trividian wasted nothing. The animals were their source of food and clothing. Even the fat of the animals was used to make oils and soaps and the bones to make stews and tools. Skinners only wanted a profit. The man was lying. The captain knew it. Anditor did also.
“No Matter,” the captain said.
The man on the log stood, the dagger in his hand pointed at the captain. The captain laughed in a crazed manner.
“We don’t want any trouble. Just pay us what we are owed, and we will be gone,” the man stammered. His dagger shook as he spoke.
The captain growled again and stepped directly in front of the man. Anditor dug the side of his head into the sand so he could just see the dagger touching the side of the captain’s shirt. The captain’s laugh echoed through the woods. He extended his arms openly.
“I am unarmed,” he challenged.
He moved his chest into the dagger until the tip sank into the folds of his shirt. Surprised, the man jerked back to pull his dagger away, but the captain grabbed hold of his arm and pushed the blade in until blood started to trickle down the garment. He laughed again. The captain pushed the blade in deeper and stared in the terrified man’s face.
“I am Reglan,” said the captain. “No Matter, know this…”
He thrust his free hand into the man’s chest in one motion, grabbed hold of the man’s heart and ripped it from his chest. Blood spurted everywhere.
“Your flesh won’t be wasted.”
He tossed the heart behind him. It was caught in the teeth of a werewolf. Reglan tossed the body back. The four men who had come with him, now all transformed, descended on the body in a flurry of growls and flying blood. The other men began to run. Anditor watched in horror as werewolves jumped off the deck of the ship into the water and disappeared under the surface, only to reemerge on the shore moments later. They tore into the woods in pursuit of the fleeing men.
“I loathe Skinners. Grab the stones.”
The hooded woman walked over to the chest and picked it up. When Anditor looked back at the captain, he had taken the form of an enormous werewolf, covered in dark fur. He lifted his head high and howled a long, mournful howl. Anditor shut his eyes tightly and held his breath. When the howl ended, he peered back again. Two werewolves were fighting over the leg of the man who had been sitting on the log. Two more were standing in front of the woman. The hair on their backs was standing straight up and their teeth were bared. Reglan’s werewolf jumped between and attacked the two. He bit one by the neck and tossed it to the side. It yelped as it hit the ground. The other ran off.
The woman walked past the injured werewolf and placed the chest into the long boat. She gathered the anchor and climbed in, taking up both the oars. She waited. Reglan followed her and sat at her feet, his large form completely hiding her from view. She rowed them back to the ship. Anditor watched as she tied a rope around the chest and scaled the side of the boat. She hoisted the chest onto the ship. When she was finished, she looked down at Reglan. Her hood flew back in the wind, and her long, dark hair cascaded in waves around her. Reglan scaled the side of the ship with his claws, his massive body rocking the entire boat. From the deck, he howled again, then he followed her down the steps and below deck. Anditor lay in the sand, afraid to move, barely able to breathe.
Book 2, “Nine”, is available now in all eBook formats at Smashwords
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All material Copyright ©2017 Tanya Cliff