Chapter 26Mature

Wiping decades of dust off the filthy marble counters, scrubbing thick grime from the floors and exterminating a nest of large rats from a back cabinet, Davrou cursed Rayna repetitively. The Maddening Captain  had ordered him to restore the neglected back rooms of the vessel that served as its sickbay after catching him wandering the ship again, reprimanding him for floating about like a vagabond when he had responsibilities to tend to.

The sickbay was divided into two rooms, the first was a large main area with two beds along either wall filled with various cubbies and cabinets for bandages, tools, containers and Bedding, which were all bare. The second room was smaller but one Davrou could appreciate, the back had a large sturdy stone table, half or it held 5 depressions to be used as mortars with pestles laying in each, the other, cluttered with several apparatuses. Beakers, bottles, vials and tubes, of all sizes lined shelves, along with a variety of handwritten physiological and medicinal journals that by some miracle were still legible. Central to the room was a small second table and long stone slab Davrou was sure no one would want to lay on. Down the center and at each corner hung thick wide metal straps, a drain surrounding the cold rock.  Rusted out surgical tools and dark eerie stains adorned the small table before Davrou cleaned the mess.  It look like a fairly complete set up, it will serve well during his short stay, He thought.  All that was left was the supplies and a few specialty items for himself on the captain’s coin, he calculated. Until they left Valhalla and reached a new trade city, he needed to act his part properly but he’d take any benefit he found. He headed over to the engine room, predictably finding the lapdog of a first mate   working on the steel heart of the craft.

“Simon.” He called out, distracting the large man from his work to hand him a long list of goods and medical supplies need for the infirmary.

 “From the looks of this fine group, bruises, cuts and all, I’m sure we’ll need to be well stocked,” He elaborated

the Swordsman’s large fingers left smudges of oil and grease on the paper as he looked through the items listed, his brows creasing as he found a plethora of names he didn’t recognize.

“If you or your dear captain hand me some funds, I can find everything before night fall” Davrou said with only mild sarcasm

 "The dear Captain does not hand out money to anyone with an itchy palm. I do my own shopping, and yours as well. May I?" Came Rayna’s irritated voice as she entered, gesturing for Simon to hand over the list. The first mate obliged as she stopped in front of the two men. 

“As you will Captain.” He said respectfully.

 Folding the list in half Rayna skims the contents.

“Now if you'll just point me in the direction of the,” her eyes squinted as she attempts to pronounce, one of the name.

“Certainly”, Davrou offered pointing at the catacomb exit. “Floriales Garnveru is used to treat a variety of venom, a light purple means its of ripe quality, lavender mean premature, a deeper purple means it’s going bad and can intensify symptoms. Sinew cloves relieve muscle fatigue, but are useless if they aren’t purified in vinegar, but some use other method that lower their efficiency, you can tell the difference by a slight discoloration, Fae stools-“

Davrou rattled off until Rayna raised her palm to silence him. She glanced at Simon, who shrugs helplessly.

"I suppose you might be of some assistance Doc, this is a hefty list. Oh, alright, if you insist I shall let you come on an errand just this once.”

Davrou forced a smile "Such a great honor. After you, Dear Captain."

The city was in more of a hurry than normal, people crowding the street in and excited buzz. Rayna and Davrou trudges through them in pointed silence working toward the main market street. When the tall white tent of the Oracle’s abode came into view, Davrou let out a small groan steering away from it as he picked up his pace, feeling the hair on his body stand as he walked passed the looming fabric building from a distance. He was glad Rayna kept up without remark.  

The store they were looking for was easy enough to find, a large dilapidated home converted into a store, the sign showing several deadly flowers dripping nectar into a miniature bowl with the word Apothecary scribed elegantly underneath. With that prophetess in town, the shop’s sales were sure to soar, many were already bustling around.  The smell of tonics and potions thickened the air immediately just outside the threshold.  Rayna pressed her back to the wall just inside, presumably not interested in any part of the errand except keeping Davrou in check.  Davrou ignored the groups, examined a long red stemmed plant with dark fleshy leaves and small white. flowers picking a sample and scratching at the stem. The milky secretion welling up at the fresh wound marked it as freshly picked. Davrou walked up to the young keeper looked him over and dismissed his quickly.

“Fetch me your master, boy.” Davrou ordered before he could offer assistance

The boy, felt slighted, puffing out his chest but a calm glare made him shrink back and accept the task. A small aged woman came only a few moments later a looking of discontent on her face as she came to see the problem.

“You asked for my help sir? She asked politely. “I am sure my apprentice would be of great assistance in finding what you need, dusk ferns are a simple task.” She explained referring to the plant Davrou held.

Davrou gave a slight nod. “I’m sure he will. You can send him to gather the simple herbs but the others I’m sure you rather I discuss with you.”  He told here reading the items off the list. Her expression grew darks as he reach the second half.

“ I’m sorry, We do not carry those items, even if we did, their restricted for priests and alchemist that understand their use.”

Davrou   pulled out the set of vials from under his shirt, revealing the small insignias branded as the top of each.

“I amm well aware, and well versed.” He told her quietly. She gave him a surprised look but recovered soon after, sending the boy to collect the minor merchandise.

“Careful who sees that, not all are friendly these days?” She said heading off somewhere herself.

 The boy was the first one back, carrying several bundles. Picking the small blue bell shaped flower off one and chewing it between his teeth Davrou measured its potency as the boy watched in pale shock.

Rayna in her boredom, muttered at the sight as she toyed with the same hunting blade she took from Davrou.

“You’re extraordinarily helpful aren’t you” he retorted squeeze soft bulbs separating them into good and bad piles.

Without bothering to look up, she answered with disinterest, "Worth my weight in gold, apparently."

The boy quickly returned to replace the rejects as his master returned with a large carefully organized basket.

“Do not to spill.” She urged, placing it on the table.  Davrou rummaged through slowly mentally tallying off everything he asked for.

"That’s a surprising value for dead weight." he said back to Rayna handing over payment.

“I assure you I'm a hot commodity. Dead or alive.” She stated, straightening up and taking the basket. “Can we go now?”

Davrou slung the rest over his back following here out, glancing at the basket he had intended to carry himself. “Just a couple more stops, you’re the one who decided these were your errand, you can leave anytime."

Holding the door open for him impatiently "Talk less, and shop more. My skin is crawling in proximity to you. Must be allergic to that wretched cologne."

"As you will Captain Rayna, But you shouldn't admit a bounty if you think I’m distrustful." He taunted with a smirk, walking back onto the streets.

"I never said a thing about a bounty, or that you were distrustful. Though now that you mention it..." She gave him a suspicious stare.

He rolled his eyes at her "Of course you didn’t."

Inspecting the items in the bags, she continued

 "Unlike you, Dav, I don't play games. If I think to insult you in my head, my voice is sure to follow. Now." Glancing down and picking something out of the items she add "This was not on the list I approved. So, it will come out your earnings.

He brushed off the shortening of his name and giving her a condescending look “How can you know? You barely know any of what you approved of."

She ignored his mocking tone." What should you need a lavender scented potion for anyway? What's it for?"

Davrou gave a noncommittal shrug. “Id advice against taking in the scent, or allowing it to touch your skin."

Rayna dropped the bottle back in instantly

“Careful.” Davrou patronized.

She turned back, stopping her stride to confront him “Now seems as good a time as any to confess. I don't trust you.”

He yawned at the declaration, moving to the side nest to a small fabric stand. “Likewise, I rather not get dragged down by someone lead by their anger....I can do a good enough job of that myself."

He turned to the merchant. "Six sets of sheets, cheapest material you have." He ordered before turning back to Rayna

"Just consider this an association of convenience."

"Yes, that’s all you are, a convenience."  Rayna agreed, picking up an expensive down comforter. "Add this too," she called to the man. "For my dog”

Davrou lets out a jeering chuckle at the sight muttering an old saying “Beasts are nobler than any man."

Rayna walked over to the clerk paying for the items. "As long as it keeps its toes in line, and its mouth off of mine."

Davrou conceded to her odd  rhyme, walking down the rest of the way in silence. After a few more stops, including a run to the weapon’s smith that added a dagger and pair of bracers that hid several knives to his arms , they finished just outside the city square.

“Now we’re done” Davrou announced weighed down by the heavy load of parcels and bags. It was going to be a tedious trek back, Davrou thought for a few steps, before a bizarrely frightening sight appeared. Emerging from the corner in front of them was a large crudely human shaped machine, its limbs contorted back and forth making each step look awkward and cumbersome.

“What in the nine realms…?” Davrou asked aloud without noticing.

The creature moved in their direction come closer every second. Invasive lasers scanning each pedestrian as they rushed off fearfully. Rayna pulled her hood up and averted her gaze as the thin beam reach them.

 "Solar bots, city sentinels. They aren't intentionally harmful. Just keep out of their line of vision."

Davrou mirrored her action pulling his hood low over his face, but his eyes were stuck on the animatronic soldier, wrapped in heavy armaments. The machine looked almost deformed, it head too round, joints and limbs sculpted into edged metal and attached with small pistols. The mock up torso over extended complimenting the long length of its neck. He tore his gaze back to Rayna, walking around the metal monstrosity after her.

 "Why is something like that, here?" he asked as another came in to view, they looked far more suited to a war zone, or slaughter house then city streets.

"Shh. Keep your voice down." Rayna warned.

It was too late, the robot craned his neck. The cylindrical head pushing closer to Davrou face, scanning him again. The glass retinas fogging into a red glow as the metal creature peered down. The arms chattering as they raised into an attack stance. “FUGITIVE, FOUND. SUSPECT IN SEVERAL MURDERS” The machine stated as its counterpart drew closer.

 "I hate this city." Davrou muttered taking several steps back, dropping several of the bags.

Rayna shifted her eyes towards him. "Fugitive. I should have known. Just how many did you murder Doc?" She demanded in a harsh whisper.

"Not nearly enough, apparently" he admitted

 “SUSPICIONS OF VIGILANTE ACTIONS UNDER THE GUISE OF AN IRON MASK, POISONING OF CITY OFICIALS, CRUELTY AND DISFIGUREMENT." It continued.   He ignoredthe last part as he shot Rayna a dark glare.

 "Iron mask? That was my doing?" he asked bitingly.

"Maybe if you didn't go around killing everything in sight, you wouldn't be a suspect." She shot back.

Davrou opens his mouth to retort but the Sentinels we already at his sides with no interest in their argument.

"SURENDER OR PERISH, SHOW NO RESISTANCE."  They said in broken record unison. A large vicious looking gun barrel protruded from the robots' midsections. Davrou dropped the rest or the supplies, raising his hands as he fingered at his sleeve, moving away from Rayna.

 "Looks for a large amber color bottle in the same bag as the lavender like potion." He instructed.

She found the bottle quickly, lifting it up for him to confirm.  The robot sentinels advance cornering him against the brick wall of  the smith shop building. The razor edged steel claws reaching for his arms and neck.

“Throw it now.” he insisted, “Preferably before they kill me.”

 

Rayna responded right away, uncorking the bottle and launching it at the nearest robot. Glass shattered of impact coating the machine in viscous fluid. The corrosive was already hissing, eating at the metal and confusing the simple drones.

“Run!” Davrou yell diving away as he flung the flaming dagger at the damaged robot. The sound of explosive rounds, tearing away into the wall where he just stood, was imitated by the jarring boom of the fluid igniting, shattering the sentinels head.  Rayna shielded herself from pieces of machinery blasted into the air.

"How was that something you needed for doctoring my crew?!"

“Great for headaches. Now run.” He called watch the insanity of the other robot.

The second sentinel entered a frenzy. Its sensors damaged by the explosion, it discharges pistols and cannon in Davrou’s very general direction, sending innocents screaming in panic. He  tried to use the mess to fade out of the killing machine line of sight but it pushed forward narrowing its aim , forcing Davrou to jump at any cover he could find.  He grasped at the guns still stuffed in the satchel and shot at the steel guard uselessly, four shots ricocheting as the other two missed completely.  Several thuds came in retaliation, cracking the last pillar of the structure, collapsing half the roof of the building with an already demolished wall.  He couldn’t see Rayna anymore in the dust fog, if the woman had any sense she’d have fled, he thought,  not willing to waiting to find out Davrou ran low into the alley, praying for an escape as he shoved dumpsters into the path of the metal killer barreling in behind him. The rhythmic pattern of short bullet burst rang on behind him until a sharp pain tore at his hip causeing him to stumble on the turn to the next ally, slamming him into brick knee first.  Davrou ignored throbbing sting, limping into the narrow corridor without looking.  Fear struck him when he looked up, no exit. The Robotic guard already sealed of the entrance the entire ally empty of obstruction. The lead rounds flew instantly the second Davrou jumped to one side, unsheathing the blade and walking forward in desperation, waiting to be devoured by bullet.  The hollow click of an empty chamber resounded like a beautiful requiem.

A reprieve, the chamber clicked empty five more times, by the third, Davrou's sword slammed against the  a gap between its neck an torso, leaving barely a dent, the new dagger stabbing into the cavity holding the heavy barrel with little penetration. There were no signs of success except small burst of spark. The robot charged, scythe like arms extending to slice at his flesh. He moved the blade to intercept, each block of steel numbed his arms and slowing the next parry.  The torso gave a sudden awkward twist swing the thick arm into Davrou’s ribs before he could back step, snapping bone on one side and cracking it again the wall on the other, the surge of pain made him yell in agony. The thick chainmail was the only reason he wasn’t cut to the spine. His breathe became shallow feeling the barb of bone pressing against his lung with the slightest inhale, stabbing pain with every step. Humans were easy he thought, a drop of poison, fire, a well place hit, a thousand easy ways to take life. But stopping a soulless machine was proving the end of him. As the arm retracted he buried the dagger into the socket controlling the limb, with another cry of agony, before evading back to avoid the other. Cold stone met his back telling him theirs no more room. The red inanimate eyes almost seemed to glow brighter in declaration of victory. Davrou’s mind raced he would give his clan the satisfaction of dying, not until he found Thaelon’s killer and not in such a pathetic manner.  He kicked of the wall, using the force to pierce one of the taunting eyes and force the blade out the back, forceful widening a seam.  The strain ripped the blade out of his hands as he tumbled under the robots arm carving gashes across his bask before it came to a halt. His body screamed in protest, hitting the floor. This time the Robot detonated by itself, burning piece raining down, stopped from searing his skin only because of the long coat. He stared at the burning pile that just second before was on the verge of ending his life. The handle of his dagger poking up from the pile. The small weapon was still intact, the longsword though was broken beyond use.

He staggered away, wanting to be gone before anymore city guard arrived, living of animated. He berated himself for being so careless, why did he just stay in that bleak hole in the mountain.  Remembering the injury on his hips Davrou probed his leg as he walked to make sure it wasn’t severe. To his relief the blood flow was low so his arteries were intact and he could feel the exit hole in front,  the ribs were far worse.  His hand clutched one of the vials as he assessed his damage. His finger trace the seal. He would survive, he decided dropping the small bottle to lay against his chest.

“Still fearful of your inheritance,” came the voice of a woman. Davrou tried to spin Dagger in hand to meet the threat but his knee didn’t allow it.

“Easy child, you are in my sanctum as my guest, I’ll do you no harm.” He calmed him.  He looked about to see the walls of white canvas decorated with concoctions. How had he arrived there? His only thought were to escape, maybe the cave, but his legs brought him straight hear.

“It took you long enough to arrive. Ignoring my call until one of those abominations not sense into you.” She chastised, brewing some foul drink.

“You sent that guard?” he asked in angry confusion.

“Gods no, those revolting things are a stain” she clarified “had you come earlier however, I could have given you fair warning.”

Davrou scoffed at that. “Never without a price, prophetess. You do nothing without a price. It the ways you follow.”

“Yes, young priest, it is our ways, your have not forgotten them I see.” Her gaze lowering to the amulets under his shirt.

“I’m no priest, elder one. I learned my skill for me, and me alone.” Davrou corrected.

“You were taught because you had what was necessary, you accepted your role and will serve your purpose.” She assured him adding a finely ground white powder to the boiling pot.

The pain was beginning to intensify, as the adrenaline wore off. Making it difficult for him to speak “Your sight is…exaggerated if that is your belief. I never fit my… so called role, and lost my purpose…. However I’ll still put the practical teaching to good use.”

She continued her retort as if talking to a child. “Your weak child, you never had purpose to begin with, it’s what hold you back. The high priestess that chose you would feel shame at the sight. She gambled on you boy. Would you throw that away?”

“Her...mistake.” He answered throw gritted teeth. His breath growing difficult

 “I knew your mother, boy. She was not one for mistakes.” The oracle poured the contents into a large tankard.  

“Drink child, before you collapse. The damage is greater than you think.” Davrou pushed the cup away weakly. “I said I will owe no favors, Oracle.”

“Then save yourself, use what was left you.” She insisted. Davrou clasped the vials once more tempted by her words. The ache was becoming unbearable yet his hand fell once more.

“I’d kill myself if I tried.” He admitted

“You have not the courage to use them.” She said shaking her head. “Pray you will when you need to.”

“My price, is for you to follow the thorn in your side, and hunt those that have taken your blood.”

Davrou barely understood her. The thorn? But the second must mean she was blessing his hatred.

“Do you accept the price.” He asked offering the tankard.  Davrou couldn’t bare the pain any longer grabbing the cup and draining its contents, relying on the last of his strength to keep it down.  The pain receded instantly, for a handful of seconds, then struck a hundred times worse, his mind blanking white in pure agony, suddenly it vanished again. Davrou found himself drooling on the floor his body more sore then he ever felt in his life.

 “Glad you woke, however in wont last, you should hurry back before that prideful thorn leaves you behind.” She dismissed him.

“And don’t forget you belongings” she pointed to the bundles of goods he left behind out side the weapon smith's, now neatly stacked against the wall.

The End

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