Chapter 40: INCURABLE HOPE
Brynn stood on the castle walls, long after everyone but her and two guards she didn’t recognize, were stationed there to keep their eyes on the black mass of skeletons under them. It was hard to exactly see any details in the moonlight, but they were there, the hard bones knocking together, creating a percussion of death that was offsetting in the simple fact there was no rhythm at all, just a constant tapping together that mixed with the breathless gasping of the skeletal language everyone in the Kingdom had come to know well that day.
By her side was her old friend Jimmy, looking pretty confident himself after a long day of traveling and sharing the shame fear as the guards who were carrying his bones, even though there was no real danger that the skeletons would harm him. What Jimmy had found out that day was that the skeletons did not know of Jimmy’s presence, much like the living. Therefore he was safe from all things, except he was imprisoned within a proximity of his remains, which Aidan had left with Brynn; the bag of his bones, seaweed, and sand. The guard asked Brynn what he should do with it, and Brynn asked Jimmy, who simply shrugged. So, Aidan left the bag with the necromancer and travelled the last leg of his journey through the city streets to the castle for dinner, and Brynn and her friend looked out from the castle walls, as they looked out from Quakenfalls, worried for her brother and her parents.
“Do you think if we burnt your bones, and spread the ashes, you could go anywhere in the wind?” Brynn asked.
“I don’t wish to try,” Jimmy responded.
Brynn turned around to see a face she had seen most of the day. The ghost of Myron stood on the castle wall steps, his piercing blue eyes on Brynn. His mouth, as if expecting disappointment, was turned down at the sides; his lips hidden by his mustache. Brynn’s smile faded when she saw Myron, not because she wasn’t happy to see him, but because she knew she owed the poor man something.
“You want to find your remains, Myron?” Brynn asked, cutting the man off.
“I do think it’s rather urgent, Brynn.”
“Did you see everything that happened today? All of the skeletons? Do you see a whole field of them before us? You do realize why it was that I couldn’t drop everything before for you earlier?”
“I can see you’re not very busy right now,” Myron posed.
Brynn thought about talking about how worried she was for her brother, how her parents might be somewhere out there, out where the skeletons were, and quite possibly, they were alone. Her mother, Jaklyn’s, blow dart would do very little against these things. Her father would fare better, but she didn’t want either of them to suffer at the boney hands. On Quakenfalls, she only worried about her brother’s hazardous journey on the seas, and waited for her parents to get back. Now, in Springborough, looking out onto a world of death, she worried about all three of them. She wondered if they worried about her.
“Let’s go, Myron.”
Jimmy decided not to follow. He had enough adventure for the day, and decided to simply stay on the wall, and talk to the moon. It was true that he didn’t have much memory of the Kingdom, and he told Brynn he was going to meditate to try and find some answers. He knew that he had a lady, but didn’t remember her. He knew he was a guard, and some guards did remember him. So, maybe when Brynn was done with some other spirits, Jimmy said, maybe she would be willing to help him figure it all out. But, for now, he said she should help out the others. He was perfectly content with how his life, or rather death, was working out.
Myron walked with Brynn down the dirt streets lined with huts and burning torches. A slight wind played with the shadows on the dwellings walls, making anybody’s shadow dance, and wave, and grow taller. The kingdom, while well lit, also seemed to be littered with shadows, making Brynn uneasy. She was glad she had another bow in her arms, and a quiver on her back. However thinking of her hunting material made her belly rumble. She had gone another day without eating anything until night, a habit she would hope to break tomorrow.
Myron seemed to know exactly where he was going, not taking a second to rethink turns at streets that turned to alleys and alleys that turned back to streets. It was as if he traversed this many times that day, waiting for Brynn to be available so he could show her. As if, if he got lost, she would turn around and leave. As if she was the kind of person who was so impatient that wrong turns would absolutely annoy her.
This hut, his remains, were pretty far, and she was getting pretty hungry.
“How much farther?”
“Couple more huts,” he said, mumbling something to himself. “I’m going to miss my bar.”
“The Mermaid?” Brynn asked.
“The Dry Mermaid,” he responded. “You know, like something from the sea that was on land too long.”
Brynn smiled at him, and he smiled back. She was happy for the conversation, because it took her mind off of the emptiness inside her yearning for food.
“The sailors would come in if there was no work, nothing to ship, and they would sit, and they would eat and they would drink. Oh, man, the food we’d serve, I’m going to miss that as well. We had lamb, properly spiced with rosemary, stewed in a type of chutney, and when we served it, the meat would fall off the bone. You ever watch a fox eat a rabbit? The way they rip at the flesh, gives the appearance that every bite holds such sustenance. That’s the way biting into The Dry Mermaid lamb was. Every bite could fill a man’s stomach for days.”
“Can we not talk of food, please?” Brynn said, trying not to sound like she had an attitude.
Myron smiled back, clearly taking no offense. “Yes, sorry, that wasn’t the point anyway. The point of talking about my Inn was that it was there that I first saw your brother, small lad, blonde hair, but you know that. It was at my establishment he walked in with the money, talking about how he needed a crew to go find a kingdom. A lost kingdom.”
Brynn blushed. “The Lost Kingdom of Gambrille.”
Myron looked at her, pursing his lips which simply hid them under his mustache again. “Mm-hmm.” He motioned to the doorway of a hut, showing Brynn they had arrived, and then he disappeared inside of it. Brynn looked around noticing that nobody was around to see her. Not a soul would know where she had gone off to. She cursed herself for not having a guard by her. It would only make sense to have one, especially in these times of enemies.
Still, she grabbed a torch that was lit on the road, and ducked into the hut.
It was clear why Myron had been pacing back and forth all day. By the look of his body, he was freshly murdered. The spirit that stood before her, and the body that sat in the room were almost identical except for the coloring. Myron’s body had begun to turn, to smell, and was, obviously, solid, where Myron’s ghost was still a caramel tan and transparent. Myron’s body was seated at a table, but the chair was pushed back, and in his stomach was a long knife. His head was tilted up, looking at the ceiling, resting on the top of the chair back, his mouth was open.
Both of them took a second with the body, simply looking down at it, giving it the respect of a peaceful moment. Brynn leaned over with her torch, and lit the stove, and two more candles. She then placed the torch in the holder by the door before crossing her arms to inspect the body closer.
“So, what is it you think you need to continue on with your after death?”
“It’s about what you need.”
“I heard your brother. I hear them all. Oh, they all came into The Dry Mermaid and talked. This one of this, that one of that. And if one person, one person like me, could hear it all, he could piece of the puzzle together. And I did. I knew of something. So I came to Springborough for it. But, it was going to cost a lot of money. I paid for it, thinking I could just sell it to you, to your brother, for profit. But, before I could leave, they killed me, taking their money back.”
“That’s not important.”
“Who murdered you is not important?”
“I work at a bar that caters to pirates. I was pretty sure one day I would be murdered.”
“Than what is important, Myron?” The necromancer asked, starting to get worried that the murderers might return at any moment, and unlike him- she did care that she might die in such a fashion.
“They did not get what they sold me, back,” he said and she raised her eyebrows. “They stabbed me, fished their money from my pockets, but thought I was some kind of magician with the fact that their precious necklace was missing.”
“I swallowed it.”
Brynn turned to the body, Myron’s body which sat there, as if passed out, but turning green and collecting flies. She sighed, and turned back to the spirit who was so happy with himself; a smile was spreading across his face. He clasped his hands in front of him, rubbing the palms together.
“What?” Brynn asked.
Brynn remembered last night when they discovered Lucky the Bear had swallowed something, and they had forced Ipecac down the bear’s throat, and waited for it to vomit. Unfortunately for her, dead men didn’t vomit.
“They’ve already done the work for you. The knife in my body has pierced my stomach.”
“What?” Brynn asked again, foretelling where this was going.
“I watched you stitch the seamstress up. I watched you bandage people all day. All of that work should have prepared you for this. There’s no better time. No other time. For once they get wise to it, they might be back, and this could be lost forever.”
“Tell me what it is, and I’ll consider-“ Brynn began but Myron’s face grew dark.
“No! You get it, then I’ll tell you. You owe me. We had a deal. I waited all day. I’ve been back and forth from my corpse to lead you back to it. I’ve been extremely level headed seeing as how I just died, and I ask you for this. Get the necklace from my stomach. The necklace I died for.”
Brynn sighed. She looked again at the body. Surely, performing some type of surgery on a dead person was no worse than performing surgery on a live one. A dead person did not move, did not struggle, did not cry at the pain. A dead person’s body was motionless. It just sat there, it did not pump blood, it did not release sweat, it did not let tears fall. This should be easier than anything else she did all day, except for waking up.
But, Brynn had seen dead things living today, and so she admitted to herself that her worst fear at this point was having her hand deep in Myron’s chest when his body reanimated and attacked her. There she would be, her hand stuck and lodged in his rib cage. She couldn’t imagine a more terrifying scenario.
“Myron,” Brynn began.
“Promise me if I do this, your corpse won’t attack me.”
“What?” Myron asked, clearly flabbergasted at the question for it was a situation he had not considered. “Brynn, forgive me, but if my body wakes up without me in it, I’m going to be equally as angry with it.”
“Fair enough,” she said, and pulled the quiver of arrows off of her shoulders, and lifted the bow over her head. She thought about washing her hands, but decided that it was probably unnecessary. Any dirt on them didn’t matter for performing surgery on a corpse. She had thought about, and discussed infections all day, it was a sort of relief not to have to think about it right now.
She stood over Myron’s body, looking at the common knife handle that was jutting out of his torso, at the blood covering his hands as he clearly tried to keep himself alive, much like she kept Leeza alive earlier in the day. She looked at the spirit who was watching her, a smile on his face and in his eyes. She wondered just how peaceful one had to be in life to be as equally peaceful in death, or was it the opposite?
She first removed the knife, and just like she predicted- no blood came running out of the wound. Myron had been dead long enough, the knife had done enough damage where there was nothing to worry about. No more gore to be considered, to spew out on the ground. She placed the knife on the table, and went to a knee, getting level with the wound. With another glance at the dead man’s face to make sure it wasn’t waking up with some sort of living blood lust, she was satisfied.
Slowly, with her fingers, she moved past the hole in the man’s shirt, and then reached inside his wound. The body was room temperature, meaning that it felt colder than she was expecting because she was used to body heat and warmth. Myron was right about one thing. she was used to this kind of surgery by now. The feeling did not gross her out like it did earlier in the day. What her fingertips were touching was more a matter of curiosity now, and less a reaction that might illicit a dry gag from her. She felt past the hard edges of his skin, felt the muscle fibers underneath, and the slippery walls of organs past that.
And just like he said, in his stomach, she felt the rope and the definite solid of the necklace.
She pulled it out, backing quickly away from the corpse, still half-expecting it now to be very angry for its missing of whatever it was it had swallowed, what Myron had swallowed. But, nothing moved. The only sound was Brynn’s heavy breathing. When she held up the necklace in front of her, the blood had collected dirt from the ground, and she had to wipe it away with her equally bloody-dirty hands.
On the necklace, etched deeply, were two halves of a triangle, perfectly symmetrical, facing each other. Between the triangles were three lines, one in the middle, and two nearer to the bottom. The bottom lines ran straight, parallel with each other, connecting the two sides of the triangle. The middle line crested twice, reminding Brynn of the sea.
She stared at the necklace, holding it by the rope up to the torch light. Myron smiled while watching her, a luminescent light beginning to wrap around his body. He held out his arms, as if being wrapped in warmth.
“Wait,” Brynn said, realizing what was about to happen. She had so many questions, but she got one out. “What is this?”
He looked at her and smiled with such a sense of accomplishment.
“It’s the way to Gambrille.”
And before she could ask another question, Myron had turned into a Raven.