Seams

by Kilmo

They said the beggars noticed it first, each tiny parliament on the docks deciding it was down to one thing. There’d been too much blood spilled beyond the harbour walls for it to stay off the streets. But it wasn’t bind weed and brambles the rain brought sprouting between the cobbles. Storms had a way of stirring things up, and the building’s grinding their way through the streets had answered the call.

‘Careful girl, if you get in the way…’

He yanked the red head out of the path of a speeding Jacobean pile and stared. Mozes Guts was having a hard time taking his eyes off the show as tiles rattled and eaves swayed across the stones like their timbers had never left the sea.  The kid grinned up at him like he was being stupid and he was tempted to slit her throat right there.

‘They won’t do anything. They’ll have forgotten about me already.’

‘Keep doing what I tell you, and I might believe you.’He looked at the rags disappearing under a tenement’s doorstep. There hadn’t been much left of his last

He looked at the rags disappearing under a tenement’s doorstep. There hadn’t been much left of his last ship mate, not after so many months at sea, but the house looked intent on eating him right down to the shadow anyway.‘What’s your name?’

‘What’s your name?’‘Dawn.’

‘Dawn.’Amongst the toppling braziers and fleeing backs, he hadn’t had time to ask. Mozes raised his eyes to heaven; he’d got the right one.

Amongst the toppling braziers and fleeing backs, he hadn’t had time to ask. Mozes raised his eyes to heaven; he’d got the right one.‘I don’t understand, why didn’t they try to take you too?’

‘I don’t understand, why didn’t they try to take you too?’‘Too full of salt and barnacles. They don’t like the flavour.’

‘Too full of salt and barnacles. They don’t like the flavour.’

Mozes looked around him, at the homes whirling past on foundations that had turned to water, and shivered.‘Look.’

‘Look.’

He followed Dawn’s finger and saw a hoary looking redbrick arch over its neighbour before dragging her into the night. ‘How long will it last?’

‘They won’t go on long past dawn, I think. I only saw the lightning hit a couple of times.’That was good news; he didn’t want his fingers snapped off. Last time had been bad enough and that had been centuries ago. At least with the crew in Davey Jones’ locker, the commission was his, plus whatever else he could secure from the venture. He shook the little brat by his side. All in

That was good news; he didn’t want his fingers snapped off. Last time had been bad enough and that had been centuries ago. At least with the crew in Davey Jones’ locker, the commission was his, plus whatever else he could secure from the venture. He shook the little brat by his side. All in all not a bad voyage; if he could stay alive. Mozes dodged a rumbling warehouse.‘What will you do when you have it?’

‘What will you do when you have it?’‘Stop asking questions.’

‘Stop asking questions.’Sometimes Mozes wondered how deep the salt had got into his bones. But, there was still a twinge of sympathy when he looked at her that made him feel uncomfortable. She deserved better than the price she was going to pay.

Sometimes Mozes wondered how deep the salt had got into his bones. But, there was still a twinge of sympathy when he looked at her that made him feel uncomfortable. She deserved better than the price she was going to pay.‘Can’t help it. I was an apprentice until they decided to give me to them. We’re supposed to.’

‘Can’t help it. I was an apprentice until they decided to give me to them. We’re supposed to.’

Mozes chuckled, ‘I’m going to take my ship and sail it off the world’s edge. You’re going to help.’ It was his turn to point, this time toward the surf winding between the tenements. ‘You sure this is the right way? The Docks are over there.’

‘Yes, I come here sometimes when they’re dancing. Everyone else is afraid. I don’t see why. They don’t want to harm you. When accidents happen it’s only because someone’s careless.’‘There.’

‘There.’

Mozes took a step back as silence spread through the streets with a sigh and the tiles stopped rattling leaving only the soft wash of rain to disturb the night. It looked like they’d found the town’s centre.

‘That it?’

The skull sat atop its metal spike grinned, like there was a crowd sat around it one the flagstones, and for a moment Mozes could still see the flesh on her bones. Lightning flickered on the horizon, and he rubbed a hand over his eyes. He wondered if she was lonely stuck there like that.‘Yes; they’re going to be furious if you take it.’

‘Yes; they’re going to be furious if you take it.’‘What have they done to it?’

‘What have they done to it?’Mozes’ stomach gave a lurch: if they’d damaged her he’d stay and show them why he’d earned the second part of his name.

Mozes’ stomach gave a lurch: if they’d damaged her he’d stay and show them why he’d earned the second part of his name.‘Nothing, it’s always been like that.’

‘Nothing, it’s always been like that.’‘Not when I last saw it.’ Bone gleamed where the skulls copper sleeve had peeled away, and you could see where corrosion had rotted holes through to its cheeks. Mozes kept his voice to a whisper, ‘I couldn’t help it you know that don’t you? I’d have stopped them if I could.’ He looked round at Dawn, ‘and the houses? Will they try and stop me?’

‘Not when I last saw it.’ Bone gleamed where the skulls copper sleeve had peeled away, and you could see where corrosion had rotted holes through to its cheeks. Mozes kept his voice to a whisper, ‘I couldn’t help it you know that don’t you? I’d have stopped them if I could.’ He looked round at Dawn, ‘and the houses? Will they try and stop me?’‘I don’t think they care. We’re all the same to them. I moved it once before, and nothing happened.’ She looked at her toes, ‘only a little.’

‘I don’t think they care. We’re all the same to them. I moved it once before, and nothing happened.’ She looked at her toes, ‘only a little.’Mozes kept his voice low anyway, he’d no desire to disappear into someone’s basement.

Mozes kept his voice low anyway, he’d no desire to disappear into someone’s basement.‘Why do they do it?’

‘Why do they do it?’‘It likes the lightning. The more it eats, the quieter they are. But if it doesn’t eat everything…’ Dawn’s eyes lit up, ‘You know I’ve seen it

‘It likes the lightning. The more it eats, the quieter they are. But if it doesn’t eat everything…’ Dawn’s eyes lit up, ‘You know I’ve seen it once, like it was on fire: like the flames had worked their way to the bone. They’re going to be so angry when you steal it.’‘I didn’t say I was going to steal it did I?’

‘I didn’t say I was going to steal it did I?’‘No, but I’m not stupid. You and the man back there were going to run away with it, weren’t you?’

‘No, but I’m not stupid. You and the man back there were going to run away with it, weren’t you?’‘I need it more than these people, now stand back.’

‘I need it more than these people, now stand back.’

Mozes put his hands on the skull and felt her teeth grin against his palms as he lifted it into the sack. She was heavier than he remembered, particularly with all that copper instead of skin. If you asked him she looked good like that, certainly better than when he’d found her all those years ago sunburnt and starving on the raft. Of course, that had been when she’d still been alive. For a moment the thought crosses his mind that lightning might do other things than burn. He wonders what she’s made of after all this time.‘What are you going to do with it?’

‘What are you going to do with it?’His eyes gleamed, ‘Take it with me; it knows the way, and I’m the last left alive.’

His eyes gleamed, ‘Take it with me; it knows the way, and I’m the last left alive.’‘You’re stupid; there’s no such thing as: ‘The Edge of the World,’ everyone knows its round.’

‘You’re stupid; there’s no such thing as: ‘The Edge of the World,’ everyone knows its round.’

‘Is that what you’ve been told? I heard a little different from someone who seen it with their own eyes.’

Their castaway had shown them, of course, although it had taken more than a few cups to get the information from her. But when she’d got her strength back she’d ranted and raved plenty. Mozes had never seen anything like the raft’s other occupant. The corpse she’d been feeding couldn’t have come from the landlocked seas he was used to, or the North’s icy waters. But it had been the map that was the clincher; every Cyrillic letter full of futures buried in its ink.It had taken him a week to sleep after that.

It had taken him a week to sleep after that.‘With this, I can find the place where it all starts.’

‘With this, I can find the place where it all starts.’ .

The sound of waves crashing against the shore grew louder for a moment, and Mozes paused.‘Why’s it gone quiet?’

‘Why’s it gone quiet?’

He hadn’t heard that note in Dawn’s voice yet. Mozes followed her eyes: the building’s round square were sat as solidly as if their foundations had never moved.

‘They’ve noticed: time to leave.’ Dawn made as if to follow, ‘Not you, you stay.’Mozes knew he’d feel bad about it later. He always did when the cost ran this high. But, if they wanted the boat to leave Port there’d be a toll to pay one way or another. He reached for his

Mozes knew he’d feel bad about it later. He always did when the cost ran this high. But, if they wanted the boat to leave Port there’d be a toll to pay one way or another. He reached for his cutlass, and stopped. The skull felt like it was trying to chew its way through the sack he’d dropped it in. Mozes bent an ear to the hessian; he was a reasonable man. If there were another way he’d take it. Besides, the blow that should have severed the little beggar’s arm has met nothing but air.‘You’re not leaving me here.’

‘You’re not leaving me here.’He’d expected Dawn to try running but she’s still stood in front of him. Mozes

He’d expected Dawn to try running but she’s still stood in front of him. Mozes blinked, and straightened up, the joints popping in his back as he did so; none of them were young any more, and now they were all dead. The skull’s bouncing around like it’s trying to hammer holes in him, and Mozes’ tempted to tell her to shut up, but it’s pointless, she never listened before.‘Kid, you don’t know what you’re asking.’ Lights flicker in the nearest windows, and there’s the sound of people waking up. ‘Trust me, it’ll be quicker this way.’

‘Kid, you don’t know what you’re asking.’ Lights flicker in the nearest windows, and there’s the sound of people waking up. ‘Trust me, it’ll be quicker this way.’Shouts have begun to come from the streets nearby, and they’re getting closer, but there’s something about the way the girl’s standing.

Shouts have begun to come from the streets nearby, and they’re getting closer, but there’s something about the way the girl’s standing.‘You never asked what my ‘pprenticeship was, or why they wanted to use me as a gift.’

‘You never asked what my ‘pprenticeship was, or why they wanted to use me as a gift.’

Dawn pulled something from behind her back that gleamed in the faint light, and Mozes’ hand goes straight to the sack. He should have seen it coming of course. It wasn’t like the townsfolk were going to sacrifice one of their innocents was it?

‘Give it back.’

He can see the skull smile between the girl’s fingers.

‘So you can leave me here for them? No.’

Mozes’ backing away as figures appear between the building’s eaves. He’d no illusions about what the ports residents would do if they saw the stake was empty.

‘Your funeral. Is that the way to the harbor?’

‘Yes.’

‘Then run.’

He didn’t bother looking back to see if she’d followed. She wouldn’t be able to stop herself now she’d got a sniff of him. When he reaches the alley he ducks behind a corner until the sound of running feet tells him he’d been right, curiosity must flow in both of them, father and daughter, as alike as peas in a pod.

‘Get off me.’

Mozes ignores the sound of joints popping as he drags the little bitch up the wall with his blade an inch from her eye where she can see it. Any closer and he doubted he’d be able to stop himself digging deep so he could find out how much of his blood really was in her. The Countess had never told him how many others she’d had not even when she’d left. He brought his face close so Dawn can see his eyes.

‘Give her back to me…now.’

There’s a nudge somewhere down where Mozes’ guts nestle fat, and sweet, and easy to spill. Mozes doesn’t have to look to know what it is, it isn’t like it’s the first time.

‘You little cunt.’

‘Thief.’

Torches lit the alley’s mouth for a second but Dawn’s pupils never changed; they were too sharp for that just like the knife.

‘Fine, my sweet. Take it away,’ he looked down, ‘and we’ll call it evens.’ Mozes waited before he beamed, ‘Good, now which way’s the boat?’

‘A couple of streets; then there’ll be that wide bit before the water.’

‘Let’s go.’

 

 

When they step from the buildings there’s men round gangplank just like he’d thought. Mozes grips Dawn’s smock tight.‘We’ll both end up

‘We’ll both end up pecked clean above the high water mark if you don’t play your part.’‘Just keep the blade in view.’

‘Just keep the blade in view.’

‘No problem.’He makes sure it draws a little blood so she knows he’s not joking and marches her into view.

He makes sure it draws a little blood so she knows he’s not joking and marches her into view.‘Tell the Sherriff I’ve got the kid.’

‘Tell the Sherriff I’ve got the kid.’’Why should we do that? You let her loose.’

‘Why should we do that? You let her loose.’Mozes laughed, ‘You’re wrong, an easy mistake to make. The faults yours, you shouldn’t use men as guards.’

Mozes laughed, ‘You’re wrong, an easy mistake to make. The faults yours, you shouldn’t use men as guards.’‘What are you? A Pirate?’

‘What are you? A Pirate?’‘Privateer, I sail with a letter of

‘Privateer, I sail with a letter of mark.’

‘It’s a bit late for returning property.’

The men behind the speaker had drawn their knives.

‘The child’s a Firestarter; we caught her in the act,’ say’s the first.

‘You never told me that girl.’

Mozes makes sure there’s horror in his voice as Dawn shrugs.

‘You never asked, why do you think there were such a lot of us? We were going to put an end to it when we escaped.’

But, the townsman isn’t finished.

‘We tried one year with no offerings, no gift. It cost us a hundred that never woke up. It can’t swallow enough on its own.’

‘She hasn’t told you then?’

‘What?’

‘Who she is.’

‘Who cares? She’s from the East; we keep the healthier ones.’

‘She’s Bathory’s bastard. She’s the daughter of the woman who wants to kill her.’

‘She’s an arsonist, a little fire bug. That’s all that matters.’

Mozes hands rummage beneath his rags for his blade. It might not be much use against so many, but he’d feel at least some of their blood on his hands before he died. Dawn slipping beneath his hands is a relief. At least he won’t be responsible this time. He’d done his best to repair the damage he’d done a thousand times over. Maybe the child would survive, maybe even do some good in the world.

The men set off after her like dogs, and for once, Mozes’ happy he’s nearly as many decades as fingers. Not one of the pursuit looks in his direction as a splash tells him Dawn has hit water and he hobbles towards the ship. By the time the boat’s moving away his grin is so broad it nearly split his face in two.

He waits for more shouts, but the wind that’s risen has begun to feel like it’s trying to pull the skin from his bones. If there are any, he can’t hear them. When Dawn clambers over the side he hides his smile fast, he’s not ready no yet.

‘You haven’t damaged yourself have you? No marks or broken bones? You can tell me, girl.’

Dawn gives him an odd look, and Mozes clams up. He’s an old man, too soon and he’d take the risk of her running. He wasn’t going to catch her if she swam, was he? He looks up at the rigging

‘You can feel it can’t you? Give me it.’

Mozes’ laugh rises with the wind shrieking through the rigging as she passes the rod’s occupant over. Every chord in the boat’s beginning to sing as the storm rises between the waves.

‘Feel what?’

‘The World’s Edge.’

Copper and bone tremble beneath his hands and teeth begin to chitter and chomp. He gives up, let her have what she wants.

Mozes rockets his elbow into Dawn’s face and grabs her before she damages herself.

‘I warned you, you should have run when you had the chance.’

Old teeth grind in the sack like pebbles in a storm.

‘Stop that, I know you’re fed up. I’ll be as quick as I can.’

Dawn should be grateful Mozes had learnt his skills when fighting painted the sails red. He makes a passable sawbones when he needs to. The rest’s easy, splinters are all he has to worry about. The Countess does the rest: the offcut thumps into the gunnels.

‘There,’ the figure on the deck stands up, ‘you happier?’

Countess Elizabeth Bathory, curtsies, and her teeth bounce faster than the lightning crackling in the sky.

‘I know, but there’ll be plenty of time for more fixing up later. I brought enough needle and thread for an army.’

The storms crawling over the timbers, and Mozes realizes his cheek’s beginning to peel. He hadn’t thought it would start so early. He whickers, snorting the words through the bone pushing its way through his face.

‘Hang on my heart. There’ll be no pulling you from the waves again if I lose you out here. You take a tumble this time, and we’re lost.’

A hole’s opening in the sea in front of them and Mozes feels like he’s young again riding the ships deck as it gallops between the crests thrashing through the storm. He can see his sisters and brothers curling through the foam and the abyss opening in front of them is deep, he spins the wheel and plants his feet wide.

‘Avvvaaarrrrsst thaaarrrr.’

END

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