The Jewel of Thalass

The town of Thalass was eaten alive in the wake of a war, a battle fighting for the jewel that only had one map - Ithaca, a mermaid boy with eyes so cold they've scarred Chene's soul and the minds of his crew. They set sail, all for the jewel that was made a curse by what raged in the magic of jealousy, and that of broken love.

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3. Witch Hunt

The magic folk of their realm gave off an aura - a certain light.  The wicked part of their world gave off a similar sort of energy.  The more light that shone, the less you could notice.  It became a glow, not a warning light.  Is that not the way?  Who can see fire when you live in the sun.

So the cursed magicians spent their lives out in cities and villages overrun by other people of the same past.  Ogres, crackens, banshees, sirens, chupacabras, wenches, demigods, nymphs - any creature with the ability to mix potion or cast spells, they were used to hide the crimes of others, unbeknownst to themselves.

And when the dark riders found their way to the town of Thalass, they knew it would be a very long time before anyone ever found out that the town was dead.

Josook pulled Harper in under her arm, Berns finding each weapon from his bag and pressing it into their coiled fists.  A thorned staff for Harper, and Josook’s encrusted scabbards.  Chene’s axe felt cool in his hands and if he had the time to be still, he could feel the blood pulse between the iron mand his core.  It would calm him.  He’s still alive, still fighting, and as they drew up their weapons, so were his friends - if only for now.

“We are the Marchers,” the horseman began, the world stopping on its axis to listen in, “We have come for a spell.”

“We have shops for that, we have stores and witches,” a man, a gremlin elder said.  His right hand held his sword, the left his wife.  They glowed and hummed with strength, but the horses didn't even pull back their hooves.

The leader pulled back half his face, a snarl, maybe a smirk.  His eyes settled on not the gremlins but the magic women who swept thunder from under their feet, dust sparking and catching fire from around their long coat trails.  He swept a hand through the sky, a single arc of long taloned hands and the sky became clear.  A piercing blue came through the clouds and for a moment it seemed that all was normal again, the fires faded and the guards spears wavered.  For a moment, all was as it always is.

“If we wanted a wizard, a warlock, one of your faux fortune tellers, we could have gone to the king himself and found his advisers.  We are looking for something of much…” the still raised hand waved the air lightly.

“Stronger quality.” another marcher said.

“Yes, thank you.”

“And what exactly would that spell be?” the gremlin man said, now wincing in the morning sun spilling down unfiltered again.  The night creatures began to retreat again, the Marchers began to sheath their weapons as the defence forces dropped again.  The guards never protected the town, only the magic few could do that.

“A water spell, could we find that here?”

“Ocean dwellers live closer the the coast.  We'll send word of your arrival down there.”

He shook his head, and pushed his hood further back.  He was missing his third eye, they all were.  Ex-convicts of a wiccan prison, but heavily tattooed, reds and purples, like petaling bruises.

“That won't do,” he sighed, “We’re looking for a sprite maybe, a siren, a kraken -  and a wicca practicer.  We need a water wielder.  I'm sure you know one, is that right?”

The crowd eyed each other, drifting back, back in the crowd.  Josook’s knees cracked again.  Her eyes fell forward, unshifting.

The Marcher smiled, too kindly, “Captain?  Would you?”

Chene took a step forward, the crowds parting and letting him through.  His axe cut the way, his name giving away his ranking.  Even in peasant clothes, torn and grey, there was something that gave their captain away.  Maybe the bright eyes, maybe the scars.  Maybe how the crowd stared him down.  His crew followed along, Josook last, her steps growing heavy.

The leader of their gang hopped from his horse, fingers unlatching from the reigns and taking Chene by the back of the neck.  He leaned him forward and glided his hand down his back, sending a shiver as he went.  It was a mountain clan greeting, a sign of trust.  Chene did the same.  He felt where the vertebrae in the man's back protruded from under his robe.

“A raum…” he thought aloud, “With the third eye, or lack there if I suppose, I guessed that you were all wizard-kind,”

“Unfortunately only half-blooded, half demon born, that's where your help would be appreciated, Captain.”

“And you think I will?”

“Tell me why the crowd looked to you when I called for a captain?  Captains know the seas, know the ocean folk who would aid my search, but these people,” he spread his arms like crows wings, “These people seemed to know that you'd be willing to help us.  Why is that?”

“I'm not exactly a noble.”

“No, and I would argue not a crook.”

“A pirate.”

“Ah,” he scanned the crew, his gaze nonchalant, and still rising in Josook, her hands balled by her sides, “Pirates.  So tell me this, Captain.  Your crew, an orc, a pixie, and what are you two?”

“I… Was a Jinn.” Chene said, a faint blush below his neckline.

“A genie, huh?”

He swallowed hard, “And she is a witch.”

Josook looked at him then, the first time she had even spared a glance to anyone but the man.  She wondered why he had said that.  To take the attention off of himself, so that no one would press him to hear more about being born Jinn.  Did he throw her under the bus for a shameful past, or because they might as well speed up the inevitable.  She let go of a breath that held deep in her lungs, it cutting into her ribs as it came forward, and Josook to a step with it.

“A witch, really?”

“I suppose you would see that, no?” she slotted back her daggers.  The man gazed around.  She must have given off some sort of magic glow, because for a moment he nearly lost interest.

“We’re one and the same, so.”

She nodded, “Different family, however.”

“True, how do you see without your third eye, may I ask?”

“I could ask you the same.”

He grinned, black teeth like caves between his lips.  His fingers dipped into the hole in his head, and came back up clean, “If we could see, we would not be here, miss.”

“I could imagine.  My sight is weak.”

“Are you half-blooded, like us?”

With the next step her legs cracked audibly, her knees near giving out, “Yes.”

“What is your other half?”

“I don’t know.”

For a moment, if only that, he looked at her as if it were the truth, and as if there was no way of them knowing.  He near shrugged, his head busy with deciphering her worth in their journey.  The townspeople just as well went back to work, the guards one of the few left not making use of the morning work.

“She’s lying,” one of the Marchers said.

“I know,” the leader sighed, blinking long and hard as if he were tired of what he had nit-picked from her head, and turned to his horse, where he pulled a bottle of liquor from the saddle, “Disappointing too, miss, I was sure you would speak with honour.”

“Sometimes honour is a restraint, sir.”

“I’m sure,” he popped the bottle with his teeth, “Would you mind?”

He held the bottle inches from the bare skin of her legs, her heart beating so fast that there was no answer in her head for a moment, nothing but a pulsing and swelling.

But Josook was clever, and it only took the sound of one of the Marchers readying their arms for her to whip around, and with her back to the horsemen, grab her blade and dig it through the bone in their leader's shoulder.  He hardly cried out, but crumpled to the ground, used.  The town stopped again, gasping as if they hadn’t seen this coming - but of course, only happening to their outlaws.

She swung onto the back of his horse, it neighing and swinging wildly as she pulled a bow and arrow from around its ears.  She turned again, back flush against the wide neck of the beast, and she fired into the army until the air was filled of the snap of her string and the clopping of unsteady, free horses.

The others took their places, swinging wildly and hitting whoever glowed red and was in arm length.  The onlookers walked back, gremlins and orcs helping where they could.  The guards watched, watched to see if Chene’s crew slipped up and had stocks waiting for them in the castle dungeons.

But before long, before the black of the clouds even came into full effect, Josook fell on the ground, near limp and calling out into the chaos above her head, between hooves and falling arrows.  She wasn’t even sure if anyone could hear her, but she called.

The woman held the bottle still above her, a water canister.  It dripped down onto her bare-again flesh, clean green scales that shook with adrenaline and moulded into the flat silver of her stomach’s skin.  She wanted to lurch forward, to grab for a weapon, or a friend, or anyone - but her legs were already caught in the nets of her own design, her feet spiraling into a thread tail, her nails already longer than her fingers, and bleeding back into the sparkling fins that lined her body.  She stopped calling and cried instead, a pathetic sob as her body morphed into what she thought as horrid.  What she knew to herself as horrid, and so, so powerful.

“A water wielder - mermaid, is it?”

“No, she’s far too good at hiding it.  Look at those brown eyes.”

“And too pretty, I’d say.”

“Yes, she's a siren. And witch too.”

One of the monsters above her that looked down with content and the catch she had become knelt down, and grabbed her by the tail.  She screamed as still-growing scales ripped straight from the bone.

“You’re going to help us,” they said, maybe their leader, maybe not, “You’re going to find us a spell.”

“I won’t!”

“You will, and you’ll want to, what’s more,”

“I w- I…”

She gagged on her own spit and sweat, her mouth now dry, her limbs heavy.  The pin prick in her neck from whatever drug they’d filled her with made her feel like she was being cracked open like plaster.  She wanted to struggle, but she couldn’t.

“You’re going to find us a seeker spell, miss, and you are going to make us very, very powerful.”

“I… Chene…” she said, as her eyes screwed shut, pure panic the last thing to pass on her Captain’s face, and to cross over into her mind.  Before she could reach for him, she had woken up in a very far place, draped in silk, and to her neck in water, the panic still very much alive.

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