Author’s note: This is part 11 of 13 for Whore’s Voyage.
“Dennis of Kent, where were you hiding? For a pirate, you are not very brave, are you?”
Coming out from the cover of trees, Dennis offered a tight smile. “There were hidden soldiers in the trees.”
Alrik nodded. “It is as though they knew we were coming.”
Grawth stood on the other side of Alrik. “They expected you would come home. Not sure it was planned.”
The heavy rains had doused the fires. Moonlight slipped between clouds, but the source remained hidden. Alrik, Grawth and Dennis stood at the opening of the town square. Trees on one side, and three rain-muddied streets led between burnt out buildings in the other directions.
“How would they know who I am?” Alrik asked, turning to Grawth.
“Kadlin told them, perhaps?”
“It is not as though I’m a leader of the town. Why would they care?”
Dennis waited no longer and slipped around Alrik behind Grawth. His blade drawn, he tipped it to Grawth’s back. “Indeed, why?”
“How dare you,” Grawth growled. “I brought you here at great expense. My men are dead in this battle.”
Alrik looked around at the group still standing. “Only the younger ones. Only the newer additions.”
“Who caused the fire?” Dennis hissed into Grawth’s ear.
“Dennis of Kent,” Alrik held up a finger. “That was unexpected.” His finger pointed at one of the shacks nearby. “Lightning started this, not man.”
Grawth laughed. “Not men, indeed.”
“It wasn’t me they were waiting for, was it?” Alrik cocked his head.
Dennis glanced around. “Not men? I…” He sniffed Grawth’s hair. “Oh fuck, I should have known.”
“Dennis, no!” Alrik exclaimed.
The blade drove straight into Grawth’s back and Dennis twisted it.
Grawth laughed again, until his eyes widened and he collapsed to the ground.
“Dennis, why would you?”
Dennis crouched to pull the weapon out of Grawth’s back. He pointed around the circle at the approaching Celts. “These, my friend, are not men at all.”
None of the others had seen Dennis dispatch Grawth and continued with their work of piling bodies on the bonfire.
“What do you mean?”
“My blade is silver. Anything else would not have killed him.”
“Aye, keep your voice down.”
“How do you know this?”
Dennis pulled up Grawth’s right arm. “He began to change when I stabbed him. Then the silver took hold.”
At the end of the arm was more a paw than human hand.
“Howlers.” Dennis laid the arm back down.
“Are these the beasts that were killing my crew?”
“Perhaps.” Dennis knew it was not, but this would deflect any idea of Alrik as to what beast had been feeding during the voyage.
“They killed both our crews.”
“Yes. They were whom we were in search of when I found you.”
“In search of? You’re pirates.”
“Undercover as pirates. Also, I believe the Romans here knew about them, and this is why they were waiting for us.”
“Oh, my head is starting to hurt.”
“We must go find Koke.” Dennis stood and glanced around. “Once the others find him, we should not be here.”
“Yes, and Kadlin.”
The two moved away from the fallen body, squashing through mud. After getting out of sight down the road straight ahead, the howling began behind them.
“Sir Alrik, I think we must run. They’ve found him.”