Sailors of The Whiskey Jack
Quick, silent, adorned in all black....and praying for his enemies?
The man in black continued to follow. The threat issued showed no signs of affect on him. If anything, the threats only tightened his resolve to catch his quarry. Jet had been hunting down this wizard relentlessly for the better part of a year. His hunt would be over soon.
A salvo of arcane blast exploded from his prey’s hand. Jet was faster, though, and was able to dodge not only the magic, but also the shrapnel from the trees that were hit by it. Now was the time to set his trap. Saying a quick pray, he called on the divine power granted to him, and is suddenly teleported behind the wizard’s field of view. He waits patiently for the magic to stop.
A momentary cease in the explosions let Jet knew this was the time. He surreptitiously makes his way to his prey.
“HA! How did you like that, Jackoff!? That’s what you get for pushing me to far! Now get up so I can blast your stupid face off! Or don’t. Either way I’m going to turn your corpse into my puppet when this is over! Now show yourself! Where are you!?”
“here.” Jet whispered into the wizard’s ear, at the same time driving his blade deftly into the wizard’s kidney. At the moment of the strike, Jet channeled some of the divine energy inside him into the strike. To Jet, it seemed as if a column of light pierced at the precise area his blade entered. He never knew if other saw the same thing. Indeed few were ever alive for him to ask about it.
The wizard let out a scream. It was one Jet had heard before; a mixture of pure fear, pure pain, pure anger, and pure sorrow; it was the scream of someone who knew they were going to die.
Jet recalled the first time he heard it…
Jet had a job and a reputation. His job was to track down and capture those who violated the law, and bring them in for sentencing. In return, he would be compensated. In short, he was a bounty hunter.
The reputation he had made for himself doing was a point of pride for him of both sides. The constables had high image of Jet, mostly for two reasons. One, when Jet took on a job, he completed it. Two, Jet never killed unless absolutely necessary. Sure, sometimes convicts brought in battered and bruise, or with a broken bone, or unconscious, but that was the price Criminals knew him as being more tenacious than a wolf hunting. Members of the less savory areas knew him as the “Black Dog”. Criminals knew that if Jet was looking for you, you were as good a caught. Indeed, many just gave themselves up when he showed up.
He was just on the outskirts of Vale, his hometown, returning from his latest job. He was tired, hungry, it was getting late, and his pocket was heavy with the money earned from his last catch. He didn’t notice that air hung preternaturally silent around him. There were no crickets chirping, no voices from the outlying farms. Even the crows weren’t cawing. It was only when he reached the town gate that he heard it; a single scream. A scream like none he had ever heard before, but will stay with him the rest of his life. A scream that changed the course of his life forever.
The scream came from a house not too far from the town square. Jet rushed through the door, and almost threw up at what he saw. Laying on the ground was a young girl, no older than twelve. Though Jet didn’t know her personally, he recognized her as the daughter of the town butcher. Hunched over her body were two figures. Each was taking their time to chew through sections of her torso. He had arrived too late to save her.
Without even thinking, Jet drew his sword, and with well practiced swings, put the horrid beasts down. Looking at the lifeless bodies, a chill went down his spine; it was her parents. Jet’s sword clattered on the ground as he dropped to his knees.
“what…” he muttered. “What the hell? WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!”
He sat there sobbing to himself, trying to collect his thoughts. Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the girl’s body twitch. He rushed over to her; maybe her vital organs had been missed, and she was still alive. As he looked her over, something was definitely amiss. Her organs were mostly missing. How could she moving like that? Her eyes flew open, but there were no pupils. Those soulless eyes looked directly at him. For the first time in a long time, Jet was scared.
She let out a shriek like none Jet had ever heard. It paralyzed him momentarily, and she lunged at him. Just in time, he dodged. He tried to think about what to do. He couldn’t just kill a little girl, but she was trying to kill him, and he couldn’t allow that either. He tried to get her into a hold, but whatever she was now was stronger, and he didn’t want any of his limbs to stay near her mouth. Trying to knock her out only stalled her for a couple seconds, and then she was right back up, coming after him. Running out of energy, he did the only thing he could.
The girl laid dead next to her parents. Jet was exhausted, sick, and confused. Nothing going through his head could come up with a good reason as to why any of this was happening. He pondered scenario after scenario of what could have happened for things to get like this. He decided he needed to check the other residences.
He barely made it out the front door.
He was surrounded by the rest of the villagers. The shriek from the girl, and the sound of their fight lured them all around him, and he was stupid enough to not even think about such a thing. He looked at the mob. He recognized almost all of the faces; friends, neighbors, friendly shop owners. All of them had the same look the little girl had. All of them were coming to kill him.
“I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough. I…I…” He let the statement fall silent.
Jet looked over to a nearby fence. On one of the posts sat a large raven. It seemed to be the only other normal thing in this town other than Jet. It stared straight at Jet. Time seemed to pause for that moment.
“CAW! CAW!” It seemed to be trying to tell Jet something. It took flight, and right over Jet’s head, one of it’s feathers dropped.
For whatever reason, Jet picked up the feather. He mind could suddenly focus of what needed to be done. He felt a surge of energy flow through him. He took a deep breath and steeled himself for what he was about to do. He drew his sword, which seemed to glow with a brilliance it never had before.
It felt like days had passed, but the bodies of an entire village laid out before him. Jet didn’t know how he did it, but he had survived.
Just as he was about to relax, he heard the sounds of a horse’s hooves. If it wasn’t for the events that had already transpired, he would have been shocked. The horse materialized out of a thin mist that rolled in from nowhere. It was a grey; a massive horse usually used by knights wearing full plate and carrying a full loadout for battle. This one, was bigger than any he had ever seen. If he had to guess, he would have said it was no less than nineteen hands.
Even more surprising was the rider. She was so small for such a large horse. She rode with no saddle, but held herself with more poise and dignity than any monarch. Her face was serene and peaceful. her hair was as white as the full moon, and clothes as black as a moonless night. She wore a long skirt that seemed to be made out of black feathers. On each shoulder sat a massive raven, both in silence, but constantly taking in every detail of the world around them. She gave Jet a smile that was full of both joy and sadness as she approached.
Softly, she greeted him, “Hello Jet, my most worthy crusader.”
“Who…wha…I don’t understand.” Jet managed to stammer out.
“What happened here was a terrible disturbance to my domain. You ended up caught in the middle of it all. When you needed help I was there to answer. My kind are only permitted to act on the world through our chosen. I rarely have need for non-cleric vessels. You are now in a very rare and elite group.”
“But I killed all of them! They were people I knew. How can you be praising me for doing such a terrible thing!”
“My dear Jet. You did not kill them. You freed them. While you were gone, a terrible wizard came. He thought he could subvert my domain by trying to find a way to live forever. The ritual he was attempting needed a very specific component, and unfortunately, your village fit the bill. The side effect of the ritual was that all the villagers were turned into the undead. So, you see, you weren’t responsible for any of their deaths. In fact, you did them a favor. Undead of all kind mess with my realm. Their souls couldn’t rest knowing their mortal bodies were not at rest. After your work here, I can tell they are now all at peace.”
Jet let the words settle in his mind. He was still not at ease though.
“It’s still not fair, though. Most of them were so young. They should have lived longer. Can’t you bring them back? You’re the goddess of death. That should be well within your power.”
She just gave him a small smile. It was the sort of smile intended to comfort someone, while at the same time giving them bad news. The sort of smile one has when they have to tell someone that a loved one has died. He could tell she was well practiced in giving this smile.
“They all lived the same amount, Jet. They lived a lifetime. That’s all I ever give to any of you. No more, No Less.”
She gently floated down to the ground as she dismounted from her horse. She walked over to him, and gave him a kiss on the forehead. For the first time since he got home, Jet felt that everything was right.
“Now get up, my paladin. There is work for you to do.”
Jet looked into the eyes of the man he just stabbed. He leaned down, and whispered in the wizard’s ear, “Jacen the wizard, you have caused trouble from my Lady, the Raven Queen. You have sought to usurp her domain by trying to become a master of death yourself. You have caused turmoil in her realm with your antics. As her chosen warrior, I am your psychopomp as you travel to the sunless fields. She is waiting for you. Be at ease knowing that I have spared you from a long, pain filled experience. Your mortal coil will be gone soon.”
“A…a paladin? Then you…you are supposed to be good man. You’re not…supposed to… kill…m…me. Wh…Why…are you…not..f…fallen…”
Those were the wizard’s last words. Jet just shook his head. He really wished that people would learn. He did work that needed to be done. He was good, and always gave people a chance. He really wished that people would learn that good didn’t equal nice. He had seen too much in his life to be nice. He just shook his head some more, and laid the body down.
He looked up, and saw the raven that wasn’t there a second ago. It took a moment to look at him, and then flew off. Jet caught the loan feather that fell from it’s wing. He pondered it for a moment before adding it to a lanyard with other raven feathers. He had five now. He made a promise to not stop until there was one feather for every person in his village. Then his self redemption would be done, and he would consider his duty to his goddess completed.
A nursery rhyme from his childhood popped into his head. He did not know why. He was surprised he even still remembered it. He sung it quietly to himself as he started cleaning up.
“Red like roses fills my dreams,
and leads me to the place you rest.”
Jet cleans the blood off of his blade.
“White is cold and always yearning,
Burdened by a royal test.”
Jet closes the eyelids of the dead man whose skin is already pale, and crosses the arms over the chest.
“Black the beast descends from shadows.”
Jet sheaths his sword, and draws his cloak around him. Both are as black as a raven’s eye.
“Yellow beauty burns gold.”
Jet set off towards the rising sun. It was a new day. There was more work to be done.