"Once a Knight...Now Fallen...Seeks the Timeless Glory of Adventure...in a Land Between Worlds."
Their small boat was tossed and battered by dark waves. A heavy down-pouring of rain beat on their backs and made a deafening roar as it boiled the ocean around them. It had been seven days since they had last seen land...the coast of the Jacobe-Feron Empire...and now they were at the mercies of a vicious storm. Two souls clung to the boat, one clearly the sailor...pulling in the sail with one hand and holding the rudder steady with the other. The other man did no work, but simply sat towards the bow, clinging to the boat with one hand.
The man at the bow had an incredibly angry look on his face. "You damned fool. You said you were sure you could find it again! Why in Rukin's name did I trust a used-up-drunk telling tall tales for free drinks!?!" The man was dressed all in expensive black leather. The smooth skin of his clean-shaven head glistened with water, and his dark eyes told much about the long-hard road he had travelled. his right hand tightly gripped the bench he sat on, while his left hand appeared to be tied firmly to his side with black leather straps.
The sailor stopped pulling in the sail and shook his head vigorously at the man in black. "Begging your pardon, Lord...but you were warned this was a dangerous journey. And a drunk I may be...but I swear to you...I've seen her, Lord, I've seen her. A city of shining towers, rising up out of the sea. Hills as green as the Grasslands of Shronth...and mountains, tall and unscalable...."
"Delbrook, I am not a 'Lord.' Once I was a knight, and was called Sir Kradock, but I have long since left that life behind and the title with it...."
"Delbrook adjusted the rudder to prevent the waves from capsizing their small boat. "'Master Kradock,' then...I tell you...I have seen Sona-Nyl...I have walked among the towers of Nexus."
Damon Kradock laughed then. "What good will your drunken visions do me, when we both lie at the bottom of this endless sea? I think this is but another cruel joke played upon me by the Fates! All the better to end things early, really...lead on, brave Delbrook...lead on towards sweet oblivion!" The man in black laughed now again, a deep hearty laugh that blended with the roar of the storm. "Do you hear me, old man...DO YOU HEAR ME SNEED!?! SWEET OBLIVION!!!"
The sailor simply shook his head again, and muttered under his breath. "Who is this 'Sneed' he speaks of? Why is it always the mad ones that seek Sona-Nyl? Always the mad ones...."
Hours later the storm still rage on...and Delbrook was exhausted at the rudder. Night was approaching, and the darkness of the storm deepened with the setting of the well-hidden sun. Damon Kradock's laughter had long ago subsided, and he sat slumped on the floor, clutching the side of the boat with his right hand.
The sailor looked at the man in black leather armor. He had occupied his mind for the last hour trying to figure out why 'Master Kradock' kept his left arm tightly strapped to his side. "Perhaps his arm is crippled, and he keeps it restrained out of a sense of vanity? Or he could be an injured warrior (he had mentioned once being a knight, hadn't he), and keeps it tied while it heals...or to keep it out of the way. He could suffer from some rare form of palsey, and keeps it strapped down to keep it from shaking or constricting uncontrollably."
Finally the simply sailor could take the wondering no longer, and voiced his curiousity out loud. "Master Kradock, may I ask you a question?"
Damon looked up, a distracted look in his eye. "Ask it, Delbrook...I would hate for you to die with unanswered questions on your mind."
Delbrook looked away into the sea, wind and rain pounding his face. "Why do you keep you left arm strapped so?"
Damon Kradock moved like a blur, and in two quick steps and with a flash of steel, he stood before the sailor...his sword at Delbrook's throat. His face was white and drawn...his eyes open wide with a mixture of fear and anger. "Never...ever...mention my arm...do you understand me you stupid drunk? Never mention it again...DO YOU HEAR ME?!?" His black form swayed with the violent rocking of the boat.
"I hear you, Kradock. Now hear me. You smell of death, friend." I smelled it when I first met you in that tavern in Citadel...and even now in this storm...you reek of carrion! So either run that sword through me quick...or have a drink and get back to the bow of the boat." The sailor pulled a flask from his coat and thrust it at Damon. "I die...you die, unless you know how to navigate and sail."
"Maybe I want to die...."
"Then run me through, and be quick about it."
Neither man moved. Damon, with his ornate sword at Delbrook's throat, and Delbrook with his silver flask held out before him. The rain and wind whipped at them. Finally, Damon grabbed the flask, spun around, and slumped down where he had been sitting before. He held the flask in his right hand and unscrewed the cap with his fingers. He drank deeply of the liquor, and then shrouded his face with his arm. "I'm sorry...I should not have reacted like that."
"Drink deeply, Master Kradock. I should know better than to pry in other people's affairs."
Damon drank again...and then again. "Will we live through this storm, Delbrook?"
Delbrook tilted his head back and looked up into the pouring rain. "We might just live...I think it is easing up a bit."
"Just my luck. Sneed wouldn't let me die that easy...would you old man?" Damon laughed deeply and tipped the flask back...draining it dry.
The morning sun shone down on his small boat, and Delbrook was running a steady wind in the sails. He hadn't slept yet...he was too happy about their turn of good luck...and good weather. His gaze turned from the frothy white and blue of the sea to the sleeping black figure in the bow. Delbrook chuckled softly at the sight. This madman, who had seemed so deadly and frightening during the storm the night before, now looked sickly and pathetic. The black hair of his mustache and goatee contrasted drastically with the stark white skin of his face and shaved-head. The skin below his eyes and in the hollow of his cheeks was a dark gray. He looked awkward, slumped over in the bow with his left arm strapped tightly to his side.
"Land, HO! Master Kradock...wake yourself! Sona-Nyl, sir! Wake up!" The sailor's voice was filled with an honest excitement...and a sense of wonder.
Damon Kradock lifted himself from the bottom of the boat on his right arm, and drew his legs beneath him. He rubbed his eyes, and then squinted over the bow at the horizen. At an incredible distance, on the edge of the world, there was the faint outline of mountains. "'Land, Ho'...indeed. Sona-Nyl, Delbrook?"
"A land between worlds, Master Kradock."
"A land between worlds, Delbrook. We've made it...."
Azure Kingdom / SONA-NYL MAIN PAGE / Void Pulp Press
E-Mail Mark Stinson