The Death of a Deity Part III

Through the outskirts of Serenti wound a long, deep offshoot of the Firewine River. The channel meandered around corners and flowed under bridges, its surface dappled by rainfall. Beneath one broad bridge perhaps two hundred yards east of where the river emptied into the sea, a shadow formed beneath the water. It molded into the shape of a man as he swam up from the depths. But this was no ordinary man.

Joshua Cronen’s head broke the surface of the water silently and he drew in a deep, even breath. The Y-shaped scars on his cheeks glistened as he swam powerfully for the protected stone shore beneath the bridge, close-cropped hair plastered down around his head. He found handholds on the rocky ground and pulled himself out of the water, droplets cascading from his brown cotton breeches and black lace-up shirt. His black metal boots left the water last. The enchanted footwear had slowed him down surprisingly little during the swim from the sea.

For a moment Breaker crouched beneath the bridge, listening to the rain and sniffing the air. This close to the ocean the could still smell the salt, and it reminded him of Am’aleh. Of late he had spent a significant amount of time with the Patron of the Sea, communing with her beneath the surface. A part of him longed to join her on the ethereal plain, to sink comfortably into her eternal embrace. But there would always be time for eternity… other matters, such as Olin Rutland’s presence in Serenti, could not be left to wait.

After the showdown with Smarteye Sam at his Temple to Draconus in Lornius, Breaker had done some research. He’d learned the names of the Terrinore escapees from reliable sources and visited an archivist in Gisela. He had not liked what he learned. All of the former prisoners were responsible for long lists of crimes, but none so notoriously as the Lunatic of Serenti. The last time he’d visited the pearl coasts Rutland had taken over the city by way of terror. Most memorable among his misdeeds was the time he’d staked twenty randomly selected citizens in town square and torched them to death, nearly burning down the city in the process.

Breaker ducked out from beneath the bridge and searched his surroundings with keen hazel eyes, listening for any sounds beyond the relentless drum roll of rainfall. He saw no one and heard nothing, so he moved swiftly across a cobbled street to press his back against the stone wall of an abandoned seamstress’ shop. If history was any indicator, by now the City Watch would be firmly within Rutland’s grips. For that reason Josh had arranged to meet Shinsou at a tavern near the city’s fringe. Am’aleh herself had carried the message, for Josh rarely entrusted his words to paper.

“-can’t bloody believe the captain dragged us out of bed for extra patrols in the rain.” A voice echoed around the corner. Josh slipped into an alleyway that smelled of stale garbage. He flattened his back against the wall behind a small shed meant for storing firewood and waited.

“Don’t I know it,” came a second voice, along with the sloshing footsteps of two sets of boots. “At the moment I truly wish I’d moved my wife and the children to Radasanth last summer. You don’t think the rumors are true, do you… about the Lunatic’s return?”

Through a knothole in his wooden hiding place Josh saw two men turn into the alley. They wore heavy cloaks with the insignia of the City Watch over chain mail armor. Both were of an average height and medium build, one young and the other older and scarred. The young man shook his head.

“Can’t be,” he said with the confidence of youth, “the captain wouldn’t work under such a-”

As the two guards passed his hiding place Breaker stood up suddenly between them. Their eyes widened in shock as his heavy hands landed on their necks. Josh squeezed gently, applying pressure to the arteries and veins either side of their throats. Both men clawed for their daggers but collapsed as blood flow to their brains was cut off.

Josh crouched and caught both guards as they fell, lifting their considerable combined weight on his broad shoulders. He walked a little deeper into the alley and kicked open a side door to the seamstress’ shop. Inside smelled of must and mildew, and he dumped the sleeping guards on the dusty floor. Finding old bits of cloth to bind their wrists and ankles proved easy, and he left them there and closed the door behind him as best he could. They would escape in time, but likely not before he had his meeting with Shinsou.

Back out in the rain, Breaker flitted through the streets like a ghost. He had confidence in Shinsou’s ability to invade the heavily guarded city. The man had more spells up his sleeve than a court-wizard and a uniquely clever mind, not to mention the resources of the Brotherhood of Castigars at his disposal. Josh liked Shinsou well and trusted the man implicitly. Although he had a somewhat checkered past, the Telgradian had forged a path to redemption at Breaker’s side.

The street outside The Seaman’s Shanty was blessedly empty, save for some soaked bits of trash blowing in the wind. Breaker entered through the main door and made directly for a corner table, sitting down without giving anyone a chance to recognize his abnormally scarred face. A serving girl came by to take his order and he turned away from her and asked for ale without any intention of drinking it. The place smelled of sawdust and sour wine. Fortunately only a few other patrons occupied the bar and tables. Breaker leaned back, producing a creak from the shifty chair, and waited for Shinsou.


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