The Tip.It Times

Issue 1899gp

A Dying Flame

Written by and edited by Tip.It

Craymer’s heart nearly stopped as a shadow, dark even in the perennial twilight of Meiyerditch, passed overhead. He pressed himself against the wall and counted to ten, straining his eyes and ears for any sign of the Vyrewatch. When he was sure—or at least a little bit confident—that there was no one in the alley but him, he pressed on.

He was nearing the edge of the sprawling slum, after having painstakingly made his way through the labyrinth of ramshackle houses that was all the poor Sanguinesti knew. He stopped before rounding yet another corner and felt for the lump in his pocket. As he had so many times before, Craymer felt at once relieved and alarmed that his package was still there. So much rested on it, being caught did not bear thinking of. But he hadn’t been caught yet. Drawing in his breath, he peered around his penultimate corner.

The land opened up from here on out, with only a few more buildings between him and the sea. Craymer could not quite make out the water, but what he could see of the horizon between the buildings was perfectly flat. He quickly checked the house he was leaning against. It was the right one. He edged around the corner and to the seaward side. With another nervous glance about and a fluttering heart, he slipped along the short length of wall and inside the unlatched door.

It was even darker inside than out; Craymer was momentarily blinded. His eyes roamed about unseeingly, and his already overtaxed heart jumped yet again when the disembodied voice of Old Man Ral said, “Right on time.”

Craymer felt a hand grab him roughly and turn him. He found himself staring at a vague human shape, its most distinctive aspect being the dully shimmering length of white beard. Old Man Ral could be vague and intractable sometimes, but tonight he was in his true element. Craymer felt vastly reassured. “I’ve planned for a few minutes’ window,” the Myreque agent said. “Calm yourself, man, or the Vyrewatch need not bother with catching you.”

While Old Man Ral moved to the door and peered out, Craymer focused on controlling his breathing. He fingered the object in his pocket again, and for the first time reached in his other pocket. The object in there was rough, about six inches long and narrowed to a point. Touching it had a similar effect to the package he carried, though the sense of terror it conjured was significantly stronger. Please, let me not have to use it.

“Alright, come on over here now.” Craymer moved to stand next to the old man at the door. “We’re watching for a signal from that house.” He pointed. Craymer focused on the window of what he recognized as the shack where trader Sven conducted his questionable business. “When the signal comes, you’re to run—run, you hear me?—straight from this door to the coast. Once you’re there, stay low and hustle to the eastern wall. The boat we found is hidden there, the place marked with a sickle symbol. You know the one. Take the boat and get out. You know how important this is.”

Craymer knew. It was important enough for him to swallow his fear of the vampyres and of the unknown lands outside of Meiyerditch and risk his life to escape to the latter. He reached for his package again, but there was a sudden and brief flare of light from the window and Old Man Ral was hissing in his ear: “Go, go!”

Craymer went. He put his head down and pumped his legs, barreling between the last pair of buildings and into the wide open space between them and the shore. So focused was he on reaching the sea as fast as he could, he almost ran straight into it. Belatedly he stopped his mad forward dash, splashing in the shallows. Not stopping to see if the sound had alerted anyone or anything, he turned and shuffled eastward. His new focus was the looming wall of stone that had imprisoned the Sanguinesti for a thousand years.

Before his thoughts had time to catch up, Craymer reached the wall. It extended out into the water, its condition worsening the further it stretched until the final stones were a tumbled heap. That seemed the most likely place for the boat to be hidden, so Craymer struck out for it, wading until the water reached his chest and then swimming with an awkward stroke.

Soon enough he found the sickle symbol lacquered onto a piece of driftwood. He shifted the wood aside and found smooth planks underneath. Jubilantly he climbed into the tiny rowboat, where he promptly collapsed, breathing heavily. After his breath came easily and his heart beat normally, Craymer fumbled for the oars and pushed off the assorted stone and driftwood into the open ocean.

At last he allowed himself to relax. He was away. For the first time, he stared out at the vast body of water before him. It extended seemingly infinitely, glittering dully in the pale light that seemed to come from everywhere at once. And now he was on it, gliding away from the life of hell that had been his since the day he was born.

A sudden weight descended violently on his back, accompanied by a horrendous shriek. Craymer screamed in response and fell to the floor of the boat, where he attempted to twist out from under his attacker. When he attempted to look up, he found his vision blocked by a massive pair of ribbed wings, their red hue diaphanous. In his blind panic, Craymer managed to keep a grip on one rational thought. He felt claws digging at his flesh and could already feel the impending teeth, but reached into his pocket and drew out the rough wooden object. The claws tightened, rending huge gashes in his arms and sides, and sudden pain blossomed in his shoulder. With a surge of strength, he let out a wordless grunt and thrust the wooden stake upward.

The monster above him screamed, and Craymer was violently thrown back against the keel of the boat. His head connected with wood and he saw no more.

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Tags: Fiction

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