“Beyond the Seas of Shackonia, cradled deep in the heart of The Beast
Lies the Singular Gem of Ambrosia, heeding way to where immortals feast.
Become one with rock and sea and air, only then will your hearts swallow whole
The depths of the cave of the vile Serpent’s Lair, deep within you’ll uncover the scroll,” recited Captain JOHN as he and the crew gathered around the map of Irk Island, attempting to grasp what it meant.
A sudden groan from Micca’s empty belly directed everyone’s attention to him, and he blushed sheepishly. “Well…” started Micca, from the shelter of a thick blanket to protect him from the sun, “we’ve travelled ‘Beyond the seas of Shackonia’, so now we have to cradle ourselves ‘deep in the heart of the beast”.
Lemonians cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, but what does that mean?”
Captain JOHN rolled up the map and slid it inside his jacket. “There,” he pointed to the island, at a tall, rocky mountain. “The island’s ‘The Beast’ and the mountain’s its heart.”
“That makes sense,” decided Ulysses, placing his hand on Micca’s shoulder, noting the boy’s resemblance to his brother, Borticous. “What do you say, boy? Shall we brave the jungle and feast with immortals?”
Micca smiled up at Ulysses and gave him a nod. “Yessir,” he grinned mischievously and slapped the man’s behind. “But first! I need some more sunscreen.”
“Then it’s settled!” announced Captain JOHN, standing tall before his crew. “Suit up, men. We depart in ten minutes.”
* * *
Two rowboats skid up the shoreline and wedged themselves securely in the sand as nine armoured men and one sun-shielded boy jumped out onto the beach. Captain JOHN withdrew the map from his jacket to determine the best point-of-entry into the jungle, mumbling in deep concentration while consulting his compass. “This way, men,” he said in a grunt and hobbled through the sand toward a small opening in the trees.
Micca scratched at his throat, already feeling parched, and secured his balaclava into his thin jacket and adjusted his shades. “It’s bloody hot,” he groaned.
Hearing this, Anubis raised his collar to protect his throat. “Don’t get any ideas, boy,” he warned.
“Pfft,” Micca rolled his unseen eyes, “like I’d snack on an elf this early in the day. Your blood’s far too sweet for me in the morning, but…” Micca turned his head and stared at Nytentia, “Templars, on the other hand…”
Just then a loud, hard smack echoed about the trees and Micca squawked in alarm. “Cut it out, Micca,” chuckled Ulysses, “or you’ll wait on the ship.”
Only seconds after the slap, Captain JOHN through his arms out at his sides to signal for the men to stop. “Quiet!” he said like an angry snake. “Beyond those trees,” he pointed ahead and the looked back at Ulysses and Alexander. “Left and right; come up at either flank and force it forward.”
The two departed without so much as a nod as Cirrus disappeared in the trees above.
Micca stood as still as he could manage. His stomach was growling and he felt weak and dizzy. Finding food for a vampire on a ship of only ten men was hard to do, especially after the rats chewed holes in his reserve and spilled his entire supply. The last two weeks he had taken care of the rat problem completely, but now with the heat and the bright sun above, it was getting harder and harder to think of anything else.
“Captain,” whispered Micca.
“Not now, child.”
“Shhh,” hissed Captain JOHN, and he nudged the boy back.
The boy’s weakened body wobbled back, and he would have fallen if it weren’t for cRyptic, who grabbed him by the shoulders. Micca looked up at the man and smiled in thanks as cRyptic gave him a wink. “Don’t worry, Micca. We’ll find you someone to eat after we figure out what’s happening.”
Micca nodded and carefully sat down on the trunk of a fallen tree.
Meanwhile, 100 yards ahead, Alexander and Ulysses crept through the jungle toward the rustling sound that had interrupted their journey. Ulysses slunk to the ground, wiggling his behind like a cat preparing to pounce as Alexander bit down on his blade and secured it in his teeth while gripping his hands against two trunks that he planned to use to launch himself through the air and down onto the assailant, and they both stared up at Cirrus and awaited his signal.
Just as the shadow warrior nodded for the two to attack, a deep, croak-like grumble alerted the creature of the approaching onslaught and darted through the shrubbery just as Alexander and Ulysses crashed down on the ground, one on top of the other.
Leaves and vines scattered about, like a narrow wind had been conjured, directly toward Captain JOHN. Cirrus dove from the trees at the beast but missed by a hair and hit his head on a rock, while cRyptic bravely threw himself in front of his leader, prepared to sacrifice himself for their beloved Captain JOHN.
Just as cRyptic’s weight began to descend to the ground, Micca flew through the air, directly over Captain JOHN’s head, crashing hard against the shadowy creature the split second it appeared from the jungle’s bosom. Micca and the beast rolled head-over-heels, down into the thick shelter of overgrown vegetation. Micca tore his balaclava from his head, fangs cutting through the air, and bit down against the creature’s jugular.
The gruesome, sloppy sounds of tearing flesh caused our heroes’ bellies to churn and knot, and for a moment even the powerful Mikaielle looked as if he was about to hurl.
In what seemed like an eternity, Micca, at last, popped his head out atop the jungle’s growth. His bloodstained face glowed with an innocent smile and his once-groaning belly whimpered with joy as he picked at his teeth with a fingernail… that wasn’t his.
“Micca! Are you…”
“Full?” Micca grinned at cRyptic.
The men forced themselves to approach the boy and take a gander at the remains of whatever had fallen victim to his hunger. And when they peered down through the tattered growth at the creature they all gasped in confusion.
“Is that… Matt?”