These are short stories put up each Friday that you can read for free. By the next Friday the post will be taken down and a new one will go up.
Special Note: This is a new chapter for my book The Jongurian Mission. I’m touching up that novel now, ironing out some of the boring parts, and adding a bit of spice. This is some of that spice.
The ‘False King,’ as he’d come to be known in his native country of Adjuria, put down his arm and turned away from the ship. He’d requested to come along with the small landing party, a few Jongurians in a rowboat heading out for water. Leisu had been adamant that the small island had no name, but Grandon wasn’t so sure of that. He didn’t trust the Jongurians, and the wily leader of the crew he was with rubbed him the wrong way. He was glad the man had stayed behind on the ship, though he’d sent his subordinate along, the man named Ko. Grandon chuckled inwardly to himself. Might as well call the man ‘Can’t Talk,’ he thought. Since boarding the ship he’d heard him say two words, if that.
He couldn’t say the same for the rest of the crew. The men chatted all the time, and laughed too. It was all in Jongurian, of course, so Grandon just assumed they were chatting about him, laughing at his expense. It’d put his hackles up for the past few days, and caused his temper to flare several times. The first was the first full day on the boat. Grandon hadn’t been around another person in five years, and he quickly set to snapping at people. The crew hadn’t responded too well to that, and one surly member in particular had made it his mission in life to get under the Adjurian’s skin. The man’s name was Bochi and on the third full day out he and the other men had been scrubbing the deck. Grandon had come out of his small bunkroom for some air and Bochi had purposefully tripped him up and sent him over the railing. Without his fast hands, Grandon was sure he’d have fallen into the shark-infested waters below. Grandon couldn’t prove that the man had tripped him up, though the look on his face and the way he’d tried not to smile told the Adjurian all he’d needed to know.
That was probably why Leisu sent Ko with them, Grandon thought as they continued onward toward the small island – Bochi would be heading to the island as well.
The place was a small affair, with a few scraggly trees clinging to the rocks for life. The whole place was a mile across, if even that, and probably half as much wide. But it held water, and right there in the middle of the place. The men walked forward, several making slower progress as they rolled the empty water barrels forward. The island was small and in a few minutes they were within sight of a small pool of water, really nothing more than a collected bit of rainwater in a shallow depression in the rocks. They walked on and then sat down to wait. The men with the barrels finally made it, and then set about filling them. Grandon soon grew bored watching them, and started to walk over a bluff.
“Stay close,” he heard someone call out behind him, and looked back to see Ko looking his way. With a nod he continued on.
The island was a giant rock, Grandon quickly realized, and little more. Over the bluff was more rock, all the way to the far shore in the distance. The place got a lot of storms, that was clear from all the driftwood washed up, even here in the near-center of the island. Grandon walked over to some of that driftwood, and looking back toward the bluff and the men he couldn’t see on the other side of it, he got an idea. Sticking his finger into his mouth and then the air, he gauged the wind and set to work. Gathering together many of the larger logs, he set about raising them up so that some were standing, propped up by some of the smaller. In a matter of minutes he had what he wanted.
Coming back over the bluff a few minutes later, Grandon saw that the men were nearly done with filling the barrels. He headed down to the pool, toward where Bochi was standing and watching. There he waited, and judged the wind. It would only be another few moments, and then–
There was a series of bangs from the other side of the bluff. The sound drew the men’s eyes, and Ko and another few rushed over a bluff to get a look. That was all that Grandon needed.
He rushed over the ten yards separating him from Bochi. The Jongurian had been looking toward the sound as well, and didn’t detect the movement until it was too late. Grandon barreled into the man and they both went down into the pool of water.
Grandon knew the splash would draw the men’s eyes back their way, and that he only had a few seconds. He immediately shot his hands up to Bochi’s throat and grasped hold. He pushed the Jongurian’s head down into the water just as the man’s own hands shot out and grabbed hold of his. The two thrashed in the water, and Grandon had to act. Drowning a man took time, he knew from experience, and already Ko and the other men were rushing back down the hill. Besides that, the–
Grandon’s thoughts were cutoff as he was struck in the back of the head. Another Jongurian was there and had just hit him, with his fist it felt like. Grandon knew they wouldn’t kill him, but the next blow might be a stick or something else that could really do harm, knock him out even. Not wasting another second, he reached down and grabbed hold of the dagger at Bochi’s belt. With one swift motion he extended his arm backward in a throw that sent the blade flying at the man behind him. Grandon didn’t look to see if it found its mark, he didn’t have to – the ‘ugh’ and then the small splash was all he needed to hear to know the man had been hit in the gut or the chest and was now down. Turning his attention back to the matter at hand, Grandon–
Grandon looked up to see Ko standing on the edge of the pool, the other two men he’d rushed away with now at his side. One of them held his crossbow, nocked and pointing Grandon’s way. The Adjurian smiled, and slowly released his grip on Bochi’s throat.
The Jongurian shot upward and gasped for air, then his eyes locked onto Grandon and he began to lunge for the man.
“Stop!” Ko shouted again, and nodded at one of the men beside him. That man rushed forward and grabbed hold of Bochi, pulled him back.
“Enough of this!” Ko shouted. Grandon was surprised to hear the man say so much, and surprised to hear him speaking in Adjurian. He quickly realized that Bochi understood the words as well.
“I will not have you men fighting!” Ko continued. “I will not have–”
Whatever Ko was going to say was cutoff as Grandon lunged forward and shot the flat of his hand forward at Bochi’s throat. There was a sickening ‘crack’ and then Bochi was grasping at his throat with both hands, desperately trying to breath through his broken windpipe. His eyes grew larger as he realized he couldn’t and he looked to the other men for help. Grandon stepped back and crossed his arms and took on a smug look, while Ko only looked at him, a burning anger in his eyes. A moment later, Bochi fell to his knees on the ground, then toppled over onto the rocky island, dead.
“Leisu will not be happy to hear this,” Ko said after a few tense moments where the men looked from him to Grandon and back again.
Grandon shrugged. “I guess he’ll have to take me back to Desolatia,” he said, then started back toward the rowboat.
Behind him Ko frowned. Already this was becoming a mistake.