The melodical voice came from above him and to the left, slightly softened by the overarching sound of the sea wind which was rushing by around them, accompanied by its usual odour of somewhat rotting seaweed. Enveloped in this stench, Wayloch shuddered, suddenly feeling far more afraid than he ever had before in his two-and-twenty years of hardy, humayne existence. His prodigiously stocky torso shuddered as his chest rose and fell, struggling for breath, and his somewhat squarish forehead pulsed with a sharp, spiking pain from wherever the freaks had hit him to knock him out. He called them such in his own mind, because they were very different from himself, but amongst themselves he supposed they must probably feel very normal. Or so he thought to himself now.
How strange, he thought. They’ve finally attacked me, and now they’re going to sacrifice me right to it, yet all I can think about is how their bizarre cult thinks of itself. Maybe I should have joined when I had the chance. Too late now. He opened his eyes into long narrowed slits, his bushy black eyebrows arching downward on their ends toward the bridge of his wide, cauliflower nose; an unmistakeable expression of fiery, raw, incensed rage. His eyes were of a deep sapphire blue, much like that of the ocean, which he could now hear as it hurled its waves, both of water and sound, in his direction. These eyes possessed a cast of the keenest intelligence, in a sharp and utter contrast to the malformed and ultimately homely rest of his body.
The sharp rocks of the hill’s edge cut cruelly into his back, and he abruptly realized that he was drenched in mud and water, ropes of it hanging thick on his forearms in irregular patterns like globs of potter’s clay. He’d been cast into a bank of pure mud; he was now a mudman. The nebulous mist was all around them as well, much like the overpowering aroma of the Harsh Sea – it blotted out portions of Wayloch’s range of vision intermittently, the midnight blue background of the predawn here at the water’s edge diminishing and reappearing around the hateful figures during the moments while his eyes were indeed open. Counting these shadows, he realized that there were four of them. They were really only the obscurely viewed silhouettes of robed figures, as not much detail could be discerned in the lack of light. One of them, the one more or less straight ahead of Wayloch after the relatively stubby length of his legs, was the owner of the musical and feminine voice he had heard. AH NO! – he choked then, gasping and spitting up seawater – had they thrown him right into the water? He was soaked all over, half-drowned almost. IT’S HER … IYE LER HARL! AI MUR RAYL! IT’S THE BLOOD WITCH COME TO GET ME, TO GIVE ME TO –
“Urser. Can you speak? ACH CRAHL! Turn him over, he can’t breathe water like you fools.” Shifting, the other three of the robed figures (it wasn’t yet dawn and their full robes were darkly grey in colour, almost black) seized him by the midsection and each arm, rolling him to his immediate right and then almost consolingly rubbing his left shoulder, as if encouraging him to retch up into a small puddle. This depression, formed in the rock of the crag they stood on, was made of granite or another very solid stone. Wayloch, who had scraped his face slightly as he wavered tremulously above it, yelled at them at the top of his lungs, “Get your bloody snake-arms off of me, you miscreants!”. Getting his legs underneath himself as rapidly as he could, he prepared to dash off. But no, he was indeed a prisoner, as the three dark shadows with the strangely elongated, loose chins seized him again quickly by his now crusting arms and brought him to his feet, wheeling him to face the fourth figure, the dissimilar one.
The black clouds hovering above them must have parted just at that moment, because now Wayloch could almost make out the features of the person before him in the semi-darkness. She was plainly the leader of the small group, just judging by the way they gestured and murmured amongst themselves. Her small, oval face had a dainty nose, two large and expressive eyes, and a small, pouty mouth; she probably would have been very attractive to him had not the situation with which he was now faced been so grave. Her long, curling hair was merely dark coloured in the moonlight, it could have been any hue; it billowed slightly backward in the noxious wind as if moving of its own accord. Very long, it easily had to extend down to the small of her back when undisturbed. She was smiling slightly, as if the five of them were at tea in a parlour somewhere or something, exchanging pleasantries with the most utter abandon. Like it was the first day of a week-long vacation from a particularly stressful job and they had to make the most of it, living for the moment before the clock struck twelve and everyone turned back into a pumpkin or something. Wayloch almost found himself smiling back in return, but came back suddenly to reality, as he became once more painfully aware of his head’s pronounced throbbing. Anger thus suffused his being again, and terror, and rage. He strained against his captors’ holds, but these were like bands of newly-forged iron and he was truly helpless to get away. They would converse, indeed.
“Ok, now. Ok, calm down. You just had a little tumble, my friend. No harm done. So tell me… what were you doing in that little thicket over there by the woods?” Her smile gradually relaxed at the corners, tightening into a primly-set line a few inches in length.
Wayloch held her gaze as best he could; it wasn’t easy. It was as if the woman wasn’t even blinking as the long, tense moments passed by. Thoughts raced through his large head as he struggled to come up with some form of legitimate explanation for being there at this time, in the dead of night. None came, but he managed as best he could by coming up with a contrary question to answer hers. It would have to do, for the time being.
“Just passing by. And you, my lady? The wharf is a couple of leagues that way…” – here he managed to point, feebly, down the coastline to the southeast with his damnably restrained right arm and hand – “… if you are going to sea. You are, aren’t you? I can see that you and your… friends are well-dressed for it.”
The dark-haired woman dutifully heard him out, and as his words trailed off into the darkness she paused for a few moments, studying him intently. When she was apparently entirely sure that his lies were ended, she resumed her inquiries.
“That it, Urser. You done? Finished?”
Wayloch swallowed hard, the metallic taste of pure fear in the back of his throat. “I don’t know what you mean, my lady. Surely.” At this point he attempted a smile, but it was only a half-hearted attempt that failed miserably as she gave him only a stony, couched facial expression in return.
“I believe you do, Wayloch. And yes, I know who you are, as you most certainly know me as well. Why don’t we dispense with the pleasantries. Why are you spying on me? Do you know why we’ve come here?” She leaned forward, her eyes now a few inches from Wayloch’s own, their gaze now vindictive in tone.
Seeing this abrupt change, he avoided her upthrust face, manuevering his own off to his left hand side and catching a glance of the nearest craggy cliff-side in his peripheral vision. It seemed to be… lit? Oddly enough, it was, an amber light cast upon it. And the source of that unseemly glow was apparently in… the surf itself. Immediately perceiving this, he quickly put it away into the depths of his mind and tried to focus on the task at hand. Also, he realized suddenly that the sweat was dripping off his brow into his eyes, salty and stinging. His captors made no motion to wipe it away, seeming almost amused as he squirmed and shook himself to avoid the hot, fluid stream.
Wayloch began his retort. “As I said before, I just happened by. I live nearby, in Greyrush, that little village over there.” He tried to point again, this time almost directly to the east, but by then the cloaked strangers with the veiled faces had him held fast and he couldn’t move but an inch. Their vise-like grips were becoming painful, almost cutting off circulation to his stout, hairy little arms. Wayloch then reminded himself to breathe, wheezing slightly as the angle of his restraint became more and more pronounced; they were forcing his shoulders and head downward, so he was now looking upward slightly into the bizarre witch’s almost perfect face. An ominous gleam had overtaken those expressive eyes now, and she gazed back down at him with the air of a player whose match was won, for good or ill. A corresponding wave of utter despair seized Wayloch, and he struggled again, futilely, against these hulking brutes whom were surely Leuthlaren’s chosen sorcerors.
The dark-haired woman smiled, more broadly this time. “Ah, certainly. You’re a native of Greyrush, just out to catch a draught of refreshing night air, is that it?” She was nodding; Wayloch gratefully nodded in return, smiling more successfully now. They each held the gaze for a few moments more, and then hers suddenly faded. It was replaced with a baleful expression of frigid hate; this was unmistakable, and even from his subjugated position Wayloch shrank from it, throwing his substantial weight against the right arm of his westmost captor. The bond did not break, however, and he was again forced to face the witch’s hideous eyes, which were now… glowing? Just like the water was, he thought.
She continued. “If that would happen to be true, Urser, then tell me why I’ve seen you around my tavern at least five times this weke alone. Across the street, at the blacksmith, buying milk from Dath Worthy… I mean it goes on and on. You could very well be the worst spy ever. Honestly… I mean I won’t lie to you.” She smirked again at that. “Well, I mean to say that you were the worst spy ever.”
The witch nodded in response, almost gleeful. “Mmm. Yes. Were.”
Wayloch straightened his person the best he could, given the circumstances. He was a sight to behold; his dark brown hair stood out at all angles as if he were a human porcupine, but he was far from being self-conscious at that particular moment. He was freezing cold.
This ineffable sweat is drying, he thought.
And then it hit him. They were going to put him back-
“No…no…NO! …”, he began to mutter, then shout, as the robed wizards began to drag him southeastward through the mud, legs dragging, down the coast to the ocean. It was still full dark out, and the surf flung itself against the pebbles of the beach like a thing alive in its fury.
A Kicked Cur is an original short story written by Wrychard Wrycthen.