Deirdre – 2.22.8

Content warnings: death, gore, and mildly bad language

It was late at night, and Deirdre was beginning to worry. Neither Johann nor Rustyn, who had gone to look for him, were back yet, despite the fact that it had been almost a whole day. Deirdre didn’t know exactly what was in these mountains, but it couldn’t be good. Perhaps Stolas had gotten wind of them and was out in the mountains looking for them. Maybe he had brought a legion of demons with him. Or worse, what if the Things had followed them here? Deirdre took a deep breath. Johann and Rustyn were fine. Better than her, even. 

A sudden scrabbling noise of boots on rock echoed up the mountain. She leaned over the cliff and gasped because Rustyn was climbing up the rock face.

“Little help?” Rustyn shifted and almost lost his grip. “I’ve been doing this all day!”

Deirdre threw down a rope she’d had sitting beside her. Rustyn climbed up slowly, and gasped for breath as soon as he made it to the top.

Deirdre immediately began talking far too fast. “I thought you died! Where’s Johann? What about Monty and Richard? Did you see them? Are they safe? Where were you?”

Rustyn waved the questions aside. “All in good time.” 

He walked over to the cave entrance and shoved aside the blanket that had been hung up as a makeshift door, Deirdre right on his heels. 

Sylvia stood up from the fire they’d lit in the middle of the cave. “Rustyn!” 

Wilhelm turned and gaped at him. 

“Where’s Johann?” Sylvia asked. 

“Safe.” Rustyn said. “I mean, I didn’t see him unsafe.”

“Not unsafe?” Deirdre asked. “Where the hell is he?”

Rustyn sucked in a breath. “Listen, I’ve been thinking, and I’ve come up with a better plan than Johann did. We’re going to go by Stolas’ tower anyway. We need to go straight to Stolas when we do, because-”

Sylvia grabbed the front of his shirt. “Tell me where Johann is.”

Wilhelm rubbed his chin. “Well, I think we should simply not go to Stolas.”

“We should,” Rustyn said, ignoring Sylvia. “He’s the only one who can help us.”

Deirdre frowned. This was odd. From what she’d seen, Rustyn would normally want to sneak around Stolas’ place, and try not to attract any attention. Perhaps being out there in the cold looking for Johann had changed his mind. Or, possibly, he had weighed all the options, and thought that this was the best course. She had never trusted this guide, and this was just more fuel for the fire. Realizing that Rustyn was speaking again, Deirdre focused back on the present.

“We should just march right in there- no one will stop us. Then we can-”

“Absolutely not,” Sylvia said. “Where’s Johann?”

“I didn’t find him tonight,” said Rustyn.

“Let’s talk about this in the morning,” Wilhelm said.

“We can’t, because Rustyn’s going to be out as soon as the sun rises looking for Johann,” said Sylvia. “Aren’t you, Rustyn?”

Rustyn shrugged. “Whatever.”

Sylvia glared at him for a moment, then let go of his shirt, turned, and stalked off.

The others seemed content with that ending, so when they all went off to their separate bed rolls, Deirdre did, too. She lay awake in her bedroll for a long time, trying to sleep but silently hating Rustyn and thinking about Richard and Monty, and how confused and alone they must be. She lay perfectly still in bed, save for her fingers, which she tapped as fast as she could against the floor. Richard and Monty, all alone. Johann, all alone. Deirdre and Sylvia and Wilhelm, stuck with a person who was by no means trustworthy.

Sitting by the fire, Rustyn was keeping watch, staring into the flames. What a normal thing to do, and yet, Deirdre was suspicious of him for it. She chewed her lip to slow her fingers down, until it bled and she had to go back to tapping. When that didn’t do anything to calm her nerves, she looked up at the fire, watching Rustyn stare into the flames. Deirdre studied the dancing blaze, seeing the way the flames devoured any wood offered to them, leaping up eagerly, tasting the air like a snake. Then, she turned her attention to the demon in front of the fire. 

She didn’t trust him. That was plain and simple. He was a snake, a slippery monster that was deceiving them somehow, and so well that no one else noticed it, and Deirdre herself wasn’t even able to put her finger on it.

Maybe that meant there wasn’t anything untrustworthy about him. Maybe Deirdre needed to calm down and the only reason she distrusted him was bad experiences in the past. Her father had always called her biased when she was nervous about something because of that.

There was a commotion outside the cave, and Deirdre started. She flipped over very slowly to see what it was, and discovered… an owl, sitting on a rock right outside the cave.

Deirdre didn’t know much about the demonic, but she knew owls were associated with Stolas. That did it for her. She had to get out of here. Luckily, Deirdre was something of an expert at escaping watchful eyes in bad situations. 

She stood up and went over to Rustyn. “Do you think you could pretend to be asleep?”

Rustyn gave her a disgusted look. “Why?”

“It would make me quite a bit more comfortable.”

Rustyn scoffed, but stood up and went over to lay on the ground facing the wall. Deirdre pretended to go back to her bedroll and fall asleep, but about thirty minutes after she’d gotten up, she got up again and went to tap Sylvia’s shoulder.

“What?” Sylvia asked. Apparently she hadn’t been sleeping either.

“We’re leaving,” said Deirdre. “Do not talk above a whisper.”

Sylvia shrugged. “How are we gonna escape hellboy, here?”

“Get Wilhelm up.”

Sylvia crawled out of her bed and over to where Wilhelm was passed out asleep. He wasn’t too hard to wake up. She motioned to the door, and Wilhelm followed her in a crouch-run to the door of the cave. Now Deirdre was the only one left.

“I heard them leave,” Rustyn said. “Where did they go?”

“They went to piss outside.”

Rustyn grunted. 

Deirdre drew the dull, blunt knife from the floor of the mill. She picked up a smooth, heavy rock from the floor of the cave and stood poised over Rustyn’s head for but a moment before bringing the knife down hard on his temple.

He screamed, of course, but Deirdre hammered the knife in with the rock, and his screaming soon stopped.

There was gore everywhere, too, but Deirdre wasn’t coming back to the cave. She pried the knife out of Rustyn’s temple, stood up calmly, and walked out of the cave. When you were in a bad situation, you did what you had to to survive, and that was that, and you waited until afterwards to feel bad about it.

“Where is he?” Sylvia asked. “Rustyn, I mean.”

“Dead,” said Deirdre. Her tone invited no questions. “I think we should head to Wolf Icefall to look for Johann. That’s probably where he went.”

“We need the map,” Sylvia said.


“No, I can get it.”

Sylvia went back in to get the map, then came back out and handed it to her. “Holy hell, Deirdre.”

Deirdre shrugged. “Wolf Icefall is here. Let’s go, everyone.”

They walked in silence until Deirdre couldn’t bear it any more. “Wilhelm, would you play us something on your pipe?” She sort of regretted singing in that cave. It was like giving a piece of her soul away.

Wilhelm began to play softly. Somehow, he managed to ask, “When were you born, Deirdre?”


“I was born in the year 0.”

“I’m younger than both of you,” said Sylvia. “I can’t believe this.”

“You’re older than Johann,” Deirdre said.


They soon came upon Wolf Icefall. To get into it, it was a lovely choice between a frightening slope of molten rock and jagged obsidian, or a sheer rock wall that would have been death to fall from. 

Deirdre pointed to the rock wall. “We’re going down that.”

Sylvia shrugged. “Doesn’t seem too terrible hard.”

She led the way over, and was the first one to start the treacherous climb down. Wilhelm was next, and Deirdre last. She wasn’t afraid of heights, though the climb, with the jagged rock walls pressing in on her, was more than a little triggering of her claustrophobia. She closed her eyes, which might not have been the best idea, but it was the one she chose, and eased herself down the rock wall. It was just one foot over another, one handhold at a time, slowly but surely, until she was at the bottom and the danger was past.

Sylvia pointed to a rock ledge. “Behold, a man!” She began laughing hysterically.

“I’ve no idea why that’s funny,” Deirdre said.

“It’s actually a quote from ancient Greek philosophy. Diogenes. You see-”

“Not now,” said Deirdre. “Is Johann under there?”

“Oh. Yes, he is.”

“Someone go and get him. Please.”

Wilhelm crawled under the ledge and dragged the sleeping Johann out.

“How is he still asleep?” Sylvia asked.

“I don’t know. Someone has to carry him, though.”

“I wish Monty were here,” said Sylvia. “He could do it.”

Wilhelm put his hands under Johann’s arms and lifted his upper body up. “I can drag him along like this.”

“Sylvia, get his feet,” said Deirdre.

Sylvia grabbed his feet, and they awkwardly carried Johann up the steep part of the icefall. Really, it should have been called a rockfall, and Deirdre didn’t know why it had the word ‘wolf’ in it, either. The name was entirely inappropriate. 

That had her thinking about names. People had the same first names a lot of the time, so they were often told apart by their last names. What was her last name? Deirdre strained herself to remember. Surely she’d had one, she just couldn’t remember what it was. For the longest time, she’d just been Deirdre. Had she ever had a last name? Surely. But she’d already come to that conclusion. She would have had a last name, and she would have shared it with her father and mother. Her father’s face was a blurry silhouette in her mind, and she didn’t remember what he’d sounded like, or his name. She only remembered his actions, and one extremely clear scene from her early childhood, when she had found him butchering a rabbit and asked why he was leaving the foot attached. That was because a dead and skinned cat was indistinguishable from a rabbit until you’d already bought it, so a foot was left on to identify it as a rabbit.

Apart from that memory, where the smell of blood and metal and rabbit flooded her senses too much to think of her father, Deirdre hardly remembered anything about what he had actually been like. That had faded, and only memories of what he had done remained.

“What the Hell?” Sylvia asked.

Deirdre looked up. They had crested the steep part of the icefall, and could see the further land spread out beneath them. A perfectly flat road cut through the mountains, and seemed to lead off forever in either direction. There was a wagon rumbling down the road, they could see it in the distance.

“Well?” Wilhelm asked.

“That’s not a well, it’s a road,” said Sylvia.

“We’ll see if we can hitch a ride on that cart,” Deirdre said.

They made their way down to the road. Deirdre hailed the cart, and the driver, a nasty-looking old man, stopped.

“Where are you going?” Deirdre asked.

“Eligos’ stronghold,” said the man. “You might know him as Duke Janson.”

“Can we ride with you?”


Wilhelm and Sylvia hefted Johann up into the cart and climbed in. Deirdre was the last in before the old man started the cart again.

The wagon was rickety, the horses were old, and the driver seemed to hate all his passengers. Deirdre closed her eyes to sleep, or something like that, but was snapped out of her reverie almost immediately by the driver. 

“Damn picking horse, won’t go any faster,” he said. “Won’t go any faster. Hauling too much of a picking load. Picking human. Making my picking horse go slower because of their picking plans at Eligos’ picking stronghold.”

“We can hear you, you know,” said Sylvia.

“Shut your picking mouth, little picking girl!”

Wilhelm was obviously confused. “He does realize he isn’t hauling anything you pick, right?”

This was true. They were squashed uncomfortably between sacks of potatoes, not berries or fruit.

“I know I’m not hauling picking pickable things, picking devil boy!”

“So are you swearing at us, or what?” Sylvia asked.

“I thought I told you to shut your picking mouth, picking girl!”

Sylvia looked a little insulted.

“You know the old man will just call you picking again,” Deirdre said. 

“Which may or may not mean the same thing as the you-know-what-word,” said Wilhelm. 

“Picking road,” the driver said as the wagon rumbled over a pothole. “It’s those picking workers. Spend too much time in the picking bar instead of fixing the picking road.”

A bird squawked off to the side of the road, startling Deirdre.

“Goddamn picking bird!”

This was going to be a long ride.

Johann – 2.21.7

Johann had paid a demon guide to take them to the graveyard from the docks. Apparently, due to Hell’s bizarre geography, they were going to have to somehow cross a mountain range to get to Duke Janson’s fortress, where Albert Janson’s body was interred in the vault. Johann spent a very angry night in an inn near the mountains, because the demon, Rustyn, wouldn’t let them attempt a crossing until the morning. They entered the Border Mountains early in the morning, with Rustyn in lead, then Johann, Deirdre, Sylvia, Alice, and finally Wilhelm.

The mountains were odd. No one had to wear warm clothing because the mountains actually got hotter as they went up, but they had to wear heavy-duty boots because the ground was made of sharp black rocks that were vaguely like obsidian but much denser and more opaque. They seemed to go on forever, but Rustyn insisted that they actually bled into a rainforest at some point, which was equally unpleasant to go through. Having walked even part of the way through the mountains, Johann doubted that such a thing was possible.

Fortunately, Rustyn knew the terrain quite well, because he’d evidently been there several times. He knew where the avalanche hazard areas were, so Johann followed him for the most part without question. Sylvia had made disapproving noises at several points, but that didn’t really mean much, because she disagreed with most things that didn’t have opium in them. Either way, Rustyn led his charges along the narrow mountain passes for most of the morning, never once stopping or even pausing for a moment. This was necessary, Rustyn claimed, to reach the fortress before the demon who lived in these mountains, Stolas, discovered that they were in his territory.

By noon, Johann was drawing on his last reserves of strength, because he had been clambering over hot, sharp rocks for the past five hours, and his limbs were beginning to feel like dead weights that had been tied to their bodies. 

“Can we stop?” Wilhelm whined.

“No,” Rustyn said. 


“Not yet.”

Johann wanted to throw back his head and groan, because he was also exhausted, not that he would ever admit it.

He was quiet for some time after that, staring angrily at Rustyn. The group crested a hill and were met with an amazing view of the surrounding area. Black tipped mountains surrounded them on all sides, as if to flaunt the full majesty and terrifying power of nature. The valleys were bluish in color and so far-off that they seemed wholly another world. Far in the distance, at the top of a mountain, a huge black observatory rose into the sky. That was probably Stolas’ tower, and possibly his place of command. 

“Please tell me we’re almost there,” Wilhelm said.

Rustyn glared at him. “Not even close.”

“Well, can we still stop now?” 

Rustyn turned around. “Look, do you want to get caught by Stolas in this hellscape? Because I certainly don’t. So get moving.”

Johann was ready to kick him in the crotch, but he stayed silent, because he would rather walk the whole of the mountains again then admit that this demon might not have been the best choice.

They resumed traveling, but hadn’t been walking for more than twenty minutes when Sylvia suddenly stopped. “Hold on just a second. Where’s Wilhelm?” 

Johann swung around and was about to give Sylvia a piece of his mind for making excuses for Wilhelm’s whiny little ass, when he realized Wilhelm actually was gone. Johann scanned the area. Heat rose off the ground in waves and made everything shimmer. “I noticed he was lagging behind, but didn’t really think much of it.” 

Sylvia looked around. “Well, where the hell is he?”

As abruptly as he had disappeared, Wilhelm’s slim form appeared from behind a rock. He had an absent look about him, and was moving so slowly, Johann wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d collapsed right then and there. 

“Are you alright?” Johann asked. It was a rhetorical question, really. He could tell pretty well when someone was sick.

“No,” Wilhelm said. “My head hurts, and my nose is bleeding, and I’m more tired than I’ve ever been before. Can we stop?” 

Rustyn was about to open his mouth, probably to say no, but Johann shot him a venomous look.

He backed down immediately. “We have been going for a while. Probably be good to get a few hours of rest.” He waved his arm to follow him “C’mon, there’s a cave a few minutes from here we can rest in.”

Sylvia nodded in his direction. “I think the altitude is starting to get to wilhelm.”

They stumbled up the mountain a few paces, then came to Rustyn’s promised cave. Johann practically fell into the small cavern, pressing his tired, hot body against the cool sandy floor.

Deirdre leaned down to speak in Johann’s ear. “Rustyn has a map.”

Johann groaned and crawled over to where the others sat in a circle. Wilhelm, Rustyn, and Deirdre leaned over an extremely confusing and disorganized map of Hell. 

“Listen,” Deirdre said, “if we were to go this way,” she indicated a spot with her finger and traced a line, “We would all be dead in seconds. I’m telling you, the Pass of Eagle is the way to go.”

Rustyn shook his head, his puffy brown hair flopping back and forth. “No, there’s going to be a storm, and a big one at that. The entire Pass of Eagle will be blocked for days.”

“How can you possibly know that?” Johann asked.

Rustyn glared at him. He had the appearance of a rugged man in his thirties, with a goatee that made him look cartoonishly evil. “Do you want to stay around here when it’s raining ash and hellfire?”

“But how do you know-”

“Because Stolas’ weather predictions about his mountains are always on point, and I was issued a pamphlet a few days ago warning that there would be a storm. Is that good enough justification for you?”

Johann shrugged. “What about Emperor’s Pass, here, in the opposite direction? It won’t be blocked, will it?”

Rustyn shook his head. “Emperor’s Pass is a bad idea.”


“Why do you have to question every goddamn thing that comes out of my mouth?”

Johann shrugged. “I’m paying you, remember?”

“Well, shut up so that I can do my job.”

Deirdre pointed to the map. “Look, this leaves Wolf Icefall.”

Rustyn groaned.

Sylvia, who had been helping Wilhelm stop his nosebleed, dragged herself across the cavern on her stomach. “Alright, so, I only heard that last comment. What’s so bad about Wolf Icefall? Sounds alright to me.” Sylvia brushed some dust off the map. “Where are we?”

“At a rough guess we’re here,” said Rustyn, pointing to a spot on the map that wasn’t too far away from any of the three routes they’d been discussing. “Wolf Icefall is one of the most dangerous places around here.”

“Why is it called that if there’s no ice?” Sylvia asked.

“Molten rock acts the same way ice and snow does,” said Rustyn.

“Holy Hell,” Sylvia said.

“I know my way around Wolf Icefall.” Rustyn pointed to it on the map so that any of them who had forgotten where it was in the five seconds that they hadn’t been looking right at it would now be reminded. “It’s a bit hard to get to. You can either do what’s basically skiing on molten rock, or climb down a treacherous rock wall. Once you’re actually in the Icefall, there’s huge mounds of crystal and rock that you have to climb around. I think that if we make something a bit like mountain climbing shoes, with grips on the bottom, we should be able to make better time climbing over the rocks.”  

“And, how do you know all this?” Johann asked. He’d been led astray by guides who only knew the land hypothetically before. 

“I’ve done this route before, idiot,” said Rustyn.

Wilhelm, who had been laying down, stood up, stretched, and sat back down. “When are we doing all this?”

“After we rest,” Johann said immediately. He wasn’t going another centimeter without at least twenty more minutes of inactivity.

“We have to pass the time,” Sylvia said. “Someone start singing.”

Can anyone here sing?” asked Johann.

“I can,” said Deirdre.

He hadn’t known that about her. “Are you comfortable singing for us?”

“I guess I can try. I only know medieval songs, though.”

“I can play the pipe,” Wilhelm said. “I know lots of tunes.”

“I’ll sing, then,” said Deirdre. “Do you know that old lullaby that was probably about Rome or something?”

“I think I do.”

“That’s what I’ll sing. Are you ready?”

Wilhelm took out a bone pipe. “I’m ready.”

He started up a slow, haunting tune that echoed off the walls of the cave and seemed to fill up the whole world. The music was beautiful enough, but Johann was shocked by Deirdre’s voice when she opened her mouth to sing.

My ship’s a-coming in after all the months

sailing the sea

No matter how far I go, there’s always the castle

waiting for me.

The Red City’s on the horizon, I see it

in the dying light.

The Red City’s there, 

they’re losing the fight.

Cursed be thee, Red City’s Bane,

Bred in a place where things have no name.

Lay down your head, Beloved, you’re safe under lock and key,

Fall asleep to the song of the sea

She was far, far better than anyone he’d ever heard before. Her voice was incredible, unearthly, even. Johann listened in a happy stupor from the music and the atmosphere and the good company as Deirdre sang the song twice more, and Wilhelm played along in the background, before they both slowly fell silent. Johann didn’t want to speak for a moment afterwards, wanting to preserve the magic of the moment, but at last he did.

“You’re incredible,” he said. “Both of you! Why are you trying to be a doctor, Wilhelm, when you should be a musician?”

Deirdre had flushed red, but there was a tentative smile on her face.

“Thank you,” Wilhelm said. “I suppose being a doctor is knowledge I want, and it’s harder than being a musician. Nothing can ever be difficult about being a musician, but being a doctor, now…”

This was an odd burst of arrogance from the usually normal and humble Wilhelm. Johann gave him a look that was meant to scrutinize him, but probably just looked like he had indigestion. 

“You should sing something else,” Sylvia said. “Or play another song.”

“I want to get moving again,” said Johann. His muscles were rested for the most part and he was ready to go.

Sylvia laid back with her backpack for a pillow. “You do that.”

“We should stay here, actually,” said Rustyn.

“I’m not going to,” Johann said.

Rustyn looked down at his grubby nails. “Then you can go out and scout.”

“Maybe I will.”

“Have fun,” said Wilhelm.

Johann glared at him, but did step out of the cave into the open. He immediately remembered how hot it was, and regretted being alive. However, he was going to keep moving, because going back in would include admitting he was wrong, and Johann would never admit that he was wrong. 

The first order of business was actually getting down into the Icefall, and Johann would apparently need skis to do that. Rustyn had said that there were two ways to get it, but Sylvia was the only one who could reliably climb a wall of sharp rocks down into the valley.

Rustyn wouldn’t be dumb enough to suggest skis and not have any, would he? Johann poked around the rocks, moving some of them and feeling under others, looking for skis. He found none.

“Well, skis would have been useful,” Johann said. He wished he had some.

Suddenly, a pair of planks with leather straps on them were lying on the ground in front of him, next to two wooden poles. What was this? Where had these skis come from? Johann wracked his brain for an answer, and soon came up with the fact that, since he had sold his soul, he might be allowed to have whatever he wanted in Hell.

“I wish I had Albert Janson’s body,” said Johann.

Predictably, that didn’t work.

Johann sighed and slung the skis over his shoulder. He had a pretty good idea of where Wolf Icefall was, judging from the look he’d had at the map, and thought that he could be there within an hour. Walking was monotonous, so Johann defaulted to going through his inventory of supplies back at the house. He would need to buy more purgatives soon.

As soon as he came to the edge of the Icefall, Johann unslung his skis and strapped them to his boots. He leaned down to feel the ground that he was going to be on, but found that it was almost too hot to bear as soon as he had his hand a foot away. Johann felt a twinge of annoyance as he brought his hand back up.

Either way, it was malleable enough that he would be able to ski down it, or so Rustyn said. Johann knew how to ski well, since he’d vacationed in the alps many times during his childhood. The slope was steep, and he would have to make wide turns to keep in control. Mercifully, there were no bumps, which would have been a problem not only because they were hard to ski, but also because they would probably be spitting molten rock. 

Johann grabbed his poles and shuffled forward. He looked down into the slope, and, after a moment’s inspection, let his skis dive into the Icefall.

He didn’t make a sound as he slid through the rock. He stuck his poles in the ground every time he turned, which pierced the film over the molten rock and made magma bubble up where he’d been. Avoiding the “wedge” shape that would be deadly on this steep of a slope, Johann skidded smoothly down the mountain, at last coming to the bottom of the dreaded entrance to the Icefall. 

He unstrapped the skis from his feet and slid them under a rock. It would really be a nice place if there was any vegetation. Johann took a moment to try to imagine the valley as it would have looked if it was on Earth, and has all the greenery that entailed. 

Johann caught himself in a daze of imagination, which he shook off. Too much time devoted to only imagination was dangerous, he thought. Everything in moderation.

Johann could not forget where this hole was, because if he did, he would be stranded at the bottom of an Icefall all alone. So, he took off one of his socks and tied it around the rock. He pulled on it once or twice to make sure the knot was tight, then walked through the narrow entrance to Wolf Icefall and ran his hand along the smooth wall. It was so different from the rest of this godforsaken place.

Suddenly, he had a funny feeling that something was in the process of going horribly wrong, and that he would pay for his unseen stupidity. Johann smiled at the bizarre urge, and kept walking.

Johann remembered the last time he’d ignored a feeling like this, and how it had led to the wagon crash. Maybe he should start listening to his feelings more. Reluctantly, he turned around and saw that the sock he’d tied around the rock was gone. 

Oh no. Johann ran back and skidded to a halt right in front of the rock. He suddenly realized that the ground under the rock where he’d hid his skis was molten and bubbling, which meant that the skis had been eaten and burned.

“Goddamn it!” Johann threw his hands up in the air. “Someone come help me!”

Unfortunately, his friends were all cozy in a sandy little cave kilometers away.  He screamed until his voice was hoarse all the same, until all the hiking caught up with him, and Johann’s eyelids began to droop. Before long, he had dragged himself to a spot somewhat out of the way, underneath a rocky overhang, and fallen into a deep sleep.


Fun fact: Rustyn is lifted from the same story from when I was eleven that I talked about in my last post. He was supposed to be the stock ‘cool guy rebel who doesn’t listen to anyone, plays by his own rules, and is the absolute best at everything’ character. The only problem is, in the original story, he was eleven years old and still acting in the same way you might expect a Mary Sue straight white cis male wish-fulfillment character from a bad action movie might.

This is a prime example of why reading my old writing is such an experience. Anyway, thank you for reading!

Richard – 2.20.8

Content warnings: Death, near drowning, thalassophobia

Richard was apparently a source of curiosity in his sun-proof suit. Every person on Nantucket Island was eager to see him, and were apparently disappointed now that he only went out at dusk. At least, that was what Alice told him as they walked down Main Street to the pharmacy on the evening of December first. 

“I saw a kid today who wanted to know when you would be back out in that ‘funny black suit.’ I told him he was being rude and that you would be back out when you were back out.”

Richard smiled. The shops on Main Street were already decorating for Christmas, and he could hear some people singing in the streets, “Angels we have heard on high…”

“Richard?” Alice asked.

“Sorry,” he said. “Wow, look at that doll in the window, Alice. I should buy that for Caro for Christmas.” It was the third time he’d been out of the house in months, because of his concussion, and though his head still hurt, Richard was glad he’d finally taken the initiative to go out a few days ago. He very much liked Christmas, and it made him feel good to see everyone preparing to celebrate it.

The doll in question was an expensive china doll imported from England. Richard opened the door to go into the store it was in.

Johann yanked him back. Richard shouted, especially because the shock made him stumble and drop his cane.

“Johann!” Richard said. 

“Sorry,” said Johann. “I have to say something important.”

“Great. What is it?”

“Mrs Fuller won’t die.”

“You mean, she hasn’t died yet?”

“Why are you so nonchalant? This is your profession.”

“Just because I deal in the dead does not mean I wish death upon the living,” said Richard, reaching down to pick up his cane. “Look around, Johann. Isn’t the atmosphere amazing? It’s Advent for real now!”

Johann shrugged. “I don’t care. We’re going to sail to Hell and steal the body of Albert Janson.”

The shock of the statement almost made Richard drop his cane again. “You’re doing what?”

We are going to sail to Hell and steal the only other moderately fresh body I know of.” Johann pulled the sleeves on his ill-fitting coat down. “Are you coming or not?”

“I’ll come. Alice?”

Alice shrugged. “Whatever.”

Johann pointed down the street. “Monty is at some dock with a boat.”

“I don’t want some high kid driving my boat.”

“He isn’t high, and he’s older than you will ever be. He was born in the 1600s, for God’s sake.”

Alice shrugged. “He acts like a kid, so he is one.”

Johann shook his head. “Say whatever you want, but Monty’s still going to ferry Richard over the river tonight. You, me, Sylvia, and Deirdre are going on another boat that Duke Janson’s been using to go back and forth from Hell every day. He’s leaving in-” Johann checked his watch, “twenty minutes. We’re going to stow away in the hold. You and Monty will meet us in the graveyard and use your small skip to transport the body back afterwards, got it?”

“Yea, whatever,” said Alice.

“When are we doing this?” Richard asked.

Johann gave him a confused look. “Now?”

“Don’t you think you had better, I don’t know, plan a little more?”

“No time,” said Johann. “Go join Monty. Now, Richard!”

Even though he still thought it was an atrocious idea, Richard went.

Monty and Richard stood on a lonely dock, holding a line that seemed to lead off into the fog. It seemed that as soon as they’d managed to find the boat, the weather had immediately turned against them. Clouds and fog covered Nantucket, and the fact that the sun had just gone down didn’t help visibility.

But this was the only boat they were allowed to use, and this was apparently how they would get to Hell. The fisherman they’d bribed to let them use their boat had come and gone, and now they were standing on this dock, holding a rope that seemed to lead nowhere.

Monty hauled in the boat, and they found that it was even worse than Richard, at least, had expected. The fisherman had been sketchy enough, but his boat was just too much. The bottom half was covered in barnacles, and all the planks were covered in slimy green gunk. The ropes looked rotted away, the sails were patched, and there was water sloshing around inside it. 

Richard turned green at the sight of it, and white at the thought of his father’s ghost. “I’m not getting into that thing.”

“Why?” Monty asked, climbing in and sitting on the side, near the mast. “It won’t bite.”

“It’s not the biting I’m worried about,” Richard said nervously, putting his hand on the side and putting both his cane and one foot in the bottom of the boat. He put his other foot in, and let go of the side, propping himself into the same position that Monty was in. “I’m just nervous, and my father-”

“Your father drowned,” said Monty in a very matter-of-fact voice.

Richard stared at him. “How could you possibly know that?”

“Oh, I just do. And, don’t worry, I’ve been sailing out of Nantucket since I was about six, and I worked on a whaleship for years and years. The only problem is that it takes two people to sail this thing, so you have to help me.”

Richard wasn’t sure he could help sail this boat, but Monty launched right into his sailing instructions. He grabbed the rod at the back of the boat. “This is called the tiller. It’s used for steering, and it’s connected to the rudder, which is underwater.” He touched a rope hanging off the sail. “This is called the mainsheet. It controls the sails, which is very important. When I say sheet in, pull on it. When I say sheet out, feed it through this pulley here, and be sure to stop when I say so. When we tack, put the tiller toward the sail and duck the boom, this pole holding up the sail here. Then we’ll switch jobs. I have no idea what the wind is like out there, so just do what I tell you and we should be fine.” 

Apparently, that was all he was willing to say before the voyage, because he grabbed the mainsheet and pulled it in. “Keep us straight.”

Richard was still reeling from being on the boat in the first place, but he grabbed the tiller and held it straight, and, fortunately, they moved forward. 

Monty looked out over the water. “Tiller to the right.”

Richard pushed it left.

“Toward the right, not left,” Monty snapped.

Oops. Richard jammed the tiller right.

“Less right!” 

Richard straightened the tiller out, and felt a gust of wind hit his face.

Monty let the sail out a little, and grabbed the tiller away from Richard, moving them to the right just a tad.

“Tack,” Monty said.

“What?” Richard asked.

“Tiller towards the sail hard.”

Richard shoved tiller as hard as he could. Unfortunately, he didn’t know to duck the boom and it hit him in the head. 

“Dammit!” Richard took a hand off the tiller and rubbed his head.

“We have to switch jobs now,” said Monty. They traded, Richard with the mainsheet and Monty with the tiller. 

“Sheet in,” Monty said.

Richard yanked the rope, and actually managed to bring it into the right position. He smiled and allowed himself a little triumph.


Richard ducked, but the boom still hit him in the back of the head. Now he had the tiller again, and sported a double headache. He kept the boat straight with one hand, and rubbed the back of his head with the other. 

“Rock!” Monty shouted. “Tiller towards the sail!”

Richard shoved the tiller to the left, but was so absorbed in rubbing his head that he did not see the boom coming right for him. It hit him in the stomach, and he was thrown to the bottom of the boat with an oof.

“Dammit, Richard,” Monty said. “Don’t move forward!”

Richard didn’t, but he did put his hands in the front of the boat in an attempt to push himself up, putting all his weight on his palms.

“Oh, for fu-” Monty was cut off by the sound of the boat crashing into the water and flipping over.

Richard was flung into the ice-cold sea, and plunged downward like a dead weight toward the dark ocean bottom. He began to panic, because he didn’t really know how to swim. Fortunately, his survival instincts kicked in, and his hooved feet weren’t totally useless in the water. He awkwardly propelled himself upward, and grabbed on to the boat as soon as he reached the surface. 

“Are you alright?” Monty asked.

“Fine, apart from being  in the water,” said Richard.

“Alright, well, we have to turn the boat back over. Swim under it and push the side up.”

“Erm, Monty…”

“You can’t swim. That’s just fine. I can do it myself. Monty took a deep breath and swam down to what would have been the top of the boat. He managed to get it on its side, and then had to come up for air. Then he dove back down and somehow got the boat upright again, before swimming to the back and pulling himself into their swamped sailboat.

Richard copied him and managed to get himself into the ship again, but not after feeling something like sandpaper on his leg.

“Erm… Monty? Are there sharks in the water? By any chance?” Richard had failed at not letting his nervousness slip into his speech.

Monty looked up sharply from where he was bailing the boat. “What? Sharks? I dunno. Why?”

“Because I just felt… something… in the water.”

Monty popped his head over the side. Richard copied him and went a shade paler. He could clearly see a dark grey form that was at least three feet in length. Then a dorsal fin cut through the water, and he was sure that the ‘something’ was indeed a shark.

Monty swung himself around the boat and counted aloud that there were eight total. Their mouths hung open as they swam, which might not have really been malicious, but scared Richard as bad as anything.

“Bail,” was apparently all Monty could say.

They threw water out of the boat twice as fast. It was now urgent that they got out of there, because the sharks hopefully wouldn’t follow them away from the site of their crash. At least, that was what Richard hoped, and he dared not think what would happen if that was wrong.

At last, the boat was empty of any water, and the two of them were sitting in their correct places again.

“Sheet in!” Monty said.

Richard pulled the sail in, and the boat shot forward, pitching him back. Monty put a hand on Richard’s shoulder to keep him from falling again. Why did his face feel so hot? Richard shook his head to dispel the feeling.

“Tack,” said Monty.

This time, both remembered to duck the boom, but Richard forgot to hand off the mainsheet.

“Hey! We have to switch jobs!”

Quickly, Richard handed the rope to Monty. There were no more mishaps for more than an hour, as they coasted through the calm water, sharks left far behind. There was something calming about sailing, without tacking and with the wind at their back. Then the calmness faded, and was replaced by a sudden feeling of fear and uncertainty. There was a splash to the left, and an ominous shadow passed under the boat. Richard looked around, but saw nothing. He peered into the fog and thought he saw something off to the right. Richard looked even closer, narrowing his eyes and leaning forward.

He sat there in that position for several tense moments, holding his breath and looking for any sign of what could have made those splashing noises.


Richard nearly jumped out of his skin. It was a demon from the deep, come to eat them! It was a siren, ready to lure them to their death! It was a sea serpent, jaws poised to bite their boat clean in half! He realized what it really was and jumped into action.

Fortunately, tacking had become easier by now, and they were able to avert the rock that had been right in front of them.

“That was too close,” Monty said. “I love you to death, Richard, but you have to focus.”

“I- You love me?” Why didn’t Richard mind this declaration, and why was his face hot? 

Monty looked like a boy caught with his hand caught in the cookie jar. “I- Uh- just focus on the tiller.”

Richard went back to keeping the tiller straight, trying to dispel the warm feeling inside him. 

Monty gasped and leaned far forward, so that his tricorn hat almost fell right off his head. Richard ignored him, thinking this was just another of Monty’s quirks. Seeing that he was being ignored, Monty punched Richard’s shoulder hard enough to almost knock him into the water. 

“Ow!” Richard rubbed his arm. “What’ve you spotted?”

Monty leaned forward onto the prow, apparently having forgotten that that was what turned them over before. “Look at this, Richard!”

Richard let go of the tiller and crept forward, peering out into the fog. There was a dark mass coming toward them, which Richard realized was land.

“Hey, I think you found our land,” Richard said, pulling himself back into his spot by the tiller. 

Monty grinned. “There’s probably a dock somewhere around here where we can tie off the boat.”

They looked around and tried to find a dock where they could leave their boat, and soon spotted a few nailed together planks sticking out into the sea. They were lopsided and covered in green slime, but this was better than trying to find the shore and possibly ripping holes in the bottom of their ship. 

Monty sheeted in, and they cruised slowly towards the dock.

“Tiller towards the sail hard, like we’re tacking,” he said.

Richard shoved the tiller right and they swung around, pulling smoothly up to the dock. Monty jumped out, grabbed a rope off the bow and tied the ship off, checking and double checking that his square knot was tight enough.

“Hey,” he said, helping Richard off the boat. “That was pretty good, you know? Let’s just hope we can do it again with somebody else in the boat.” Monty laughed hysterically for a moment, before saying, “alright, but seriously, now. How are we going to get the body back here?”

Richard looked up from where he was tightening his boots. “Leave that to me. I have some ideas.”

Monty nodded and took a few steps into the fog. “Any idea what this could be like?”

Richard wrapped a spare piece of fabric around a stick and dumped oil from a small canteen on it. He lit the makeshift torch and shone the light out into the fog. “Not really, no.”

They began to walk forward, Richard leading. The island had a strange rainforest climate, and they had to fight their way through ridiculous amounts of plant life to get anywhere. Mosquitoes buzzed all around and they had to keep moving to avoid getting eaten alive. The sound of croaking frogs and rustling leaves reached Richard’s ears, creating the feeling that even the rocks were alive here in this jungle.

Then, just as soon as the forest had begun, they were through. The two of them were on a rocky ledge overlooking one of Duke Janson’s fortresses, the place Albert had been buried. There were no windows in any of the towers save the arrow slits, and even those didn’t have glass. Ballista peeked out of the front, and there were stacks of rocks for ammunition. Guards patrolled the ramparts, holding torches and with wickedly curved swords at their belts. They wore typical helmets, curved into a point at the top, with chainmail armor and tunics bearing their coat of arms. The only strange thing was that the dramatic lighting made their faces look almost… white.

“How thin are you?” Richard asked, eyeing the towers.

“I can’t fit through those arrow holes, if that’s what you’re asking,” Monty said.

Richard chewed his bottom lip and flicked his eyes all around the fort. “We have to get in through the second curtain.”

“I suppose our best bet would be to just climb over the back wall.”

“I can’t climb.”

“Oh, right. Well, we could go under it. Through a sewage grate.”

Richard shrugged, and the two crept forward. They reached the back wall and pressed themselves against it. 

“There’s a grate right over there,” Richard said. “Open it and see how deep it goes.”

Monty hauled the grate open and revealed the sewer, which stank to high heaven but was deep enough to go under the wall and big enough to walk through.

“Well?” Monty asked.

Richard smiled. “Hold your nose.”


The tiller is the only thing that’s straight here (:

Fun fact: the sailing scene is actually lifted from an old story I wrote when I was eleven or twelve about a group of children going to defeat an evil wizard (right after I read the Shannara Chronicles). It was one of the better scenes in the story, which was kind of a confusing mess (as are most stories written by eleven year olds who haven’t read anything but fantasy from the 80’s in over a year).

Johann is angry in this chapter that Mrs Fuller won’t die, and historically, she didn’t, she hung on for several more weeks, long enough to name her killer and eventually put her in prison for ten years. Captain Nathaniel Fitzgerald, who was mentioned in an earlier chapter, was the one to stay with her as she slipped in and out of consciousness during the time leading up to her death, and he was the one to insist upon investigating her death. Unfortunately, this is their last impact upon the story, which means I’ll have to find something else to share fun facts about!

As always, thank you for reading!