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Just a reminder, this is unedited, a rough draft, is the product of too much caffeine and CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WHITEOUT AND DOWNPOUR. You have been warned!
Links to previous chapters: Prologue,
11. Seafaring Steve’s
I have very few rules for black markets, as in general, the less regulations, the more enjoyable they tend to be. The first, is to not steal anything. Stealing results in a lifetime ban, and usually that lifetime doesn’t end up being very long. The second, never pass up the opportunity to watch a fight from a safe distance, because when you cram a bunch of trained killers, magicians, and drunks in close proximity, the scraps tend to be fantastic. The last, and of course the most important is to not fuck with assassins. There’s a reason they’re in the profession they are and it’s because they’re damned good at killing, and killing quickly.
“Why did you have to bring us into this, Ike?” We were weaving our way through a crowded bazar with over three levels of shopping stacked on top of one another, connected by Escher-esque staircases.
“If I hadn’t, I’d likely already be dead.” Ike checked the streets around us.
“Stop doing that. If the assassins are here, they’re going to be too hard for you or me to spot until it’s too late. All you’re doing is drawing attention to us.” Our best bet was that the assassins wouldn’t know what we looked like. It wouldn’t take them long to figure out, tracing the wide and conspicuous trail we had left in the company of a dead woman, but it would certainly buy us some time.
“What’s wrong with all these shops?” Many of the stands and stores we were passing displayed impressive racks of weaponry that looked well suited to our cause. One gun in particular, an automatic loading harpoon rifle that shot miniature tridents called to me. I regretted leaving old faithful at home, but it would have been ridiculous in a chupacabra fight anyway.
“We’re not going to just any shop.” Ike wound his way through the crowded streets as though they were empty, perfectly comfortable. Being in a crowd did afford safety, and was better than trying to hide in the open. “This place caters specifically to those that are hunting the monsters of the deep.”
“Better be worth the time we’re wasting trying to get there.”
“Don’t worry, it’s not far from the harbor, and if you’ve got the money, this will be a quick transaction.”
After what felt like far too long, Ike turned toward a storefront labeled Sea Faring Steve’s. The outside of the shop looked as though it had been built with driftwood. Old fishing nets and glass buoys hung around the entrance, making it look more like a kitschy antique shop than a place to buy weapons. Standing guard at the door was a hastily carved wooden statue of a captain smoking a long pipe. The eyes had been painted white with little red dots in the middle, giving him a very eerie stare.
“You sure this is the place?” I asked.
“He doesn’t like to waste his time. The only people that come here are people who know what they’re looking for. The rest turn away, thinking he just sells nick knacks.” Ike pushed open the door and waited for me to follow him inside.
“Let’s make this quick.” The shop’s interior could only be described as a shock to the system. Where the outside looked like it belonged at home in a sleepy coastal town, the inside resembled a psychopath’s dungeon. The walls were all lined in red-velvet, flanked by stone columns. Hanging from floor to ceiling were various instruments of death.
“Ike!” A wiry old man walked out from the back of the shop, dressed in an older seaman’s jacket and a faded captain’s hat. Clenched in his teeth was a wooden pipe that smoked steadily, occasionally dropping ash onto the man’s closely-trimmed beard. He very much resembled a skinnier version of the wooden carving that stood outside his door.
Ike ran up to greet him. “Good to see you Stevey, listen—”
“Let me guess,” said Steve tiredly, “You’re in a bit of a bind, and you need some of my goods to get out of it.”
“Not entirely, but close enough.”
“I’m headed into the Bermuda Triangle and need some protection against what hides in its depths.”
Steve turned to look at me. “Do you now? Are you sure that you’re ready to face such a foe?”
“I’ve already gotten my ass kicked by a kraken once in the past few days. I’m not keen on repeating the experience?”
“A kraken?” the man asked in awe. “But they haven’t been seen in—”
Ike cut him off. “Hundreds of years I know, and if I ever get back here, I’ll explain it all to you over a pint, but right now, we’re in a bit of a hurry.”
“Sure,” said Steve absentmindedly as though he were still thinking of the kraken. “Krakens aren’t the only thing you’re going to face in the triangle.” He walked over to a wall that was filled with a series of high powered rifles, and below them, racks of shells that glowed. He picked up a bandolier and began placing shells in it. “How many of you are there?”
“Four,” I said.
“Three,” said Ike.
Steve cocked an eyebrow, but continued loading the shells. “Lover’s quarrel?”
“Sorry, Mr. Ventner, but I can’t come with you.”
“You’re going to die if you go out there on your own.”
“Maybe so, but I’m going to die if I go into The Triangle as well.”
“What makes you say that?”
“The old woman told me last night before performing the resurrection. She may have messed up that bit, but I’m inclined to believe her.”
“Alright.” I understood prophecy. I had gone against my fair share of them, but many people end up believing so deeply that it eventually comes true regardless. “Make it three then, Steve.”
“Three it is.” He handed me one heavy bandolier. The top six slots were filled with three green shotgun shells and three blue shotgun shells. Running alongside them were a series of low-caliber jet black bullets. “You sure these are going to be big enough?” Generally I went with the biggest ammunition available.
“Don’t judge them by their size. Krakens are smart you see. Their hide is adaptable to what they can see coming. These babys,” he held up one of the black bullets, “are small, but will pierce the hide, delivering a deadly neurotoxin. I’d stand back when you do it to. Might get a little messy.” He laughed to himself and tossed me another bandolier of the same composition.
“Now, in addition to Krakens, you’re going to run into some big armored bastards I like to call Hulkers. Their tough, mean, but not very bright. Look like something out of an old Godzilla movie, will bite right through the hull of your ship like it was butter.”
Steve tossed the final bandolier to me and went to pick up a massive silver rifle. “The trick with them is to hit them with tears of the gods, or more accurately a dose of fresh water from the mountains. Their bodies can’t handle it and they’ll either run away or die.” Steve pulled out a large leather gun bag and started loading rifles, spears and all manner of weapons into it.
“Now, because you’re in a hurry, I won’t go into too much detail. Jet black is for krakens, green is for close range, blue is for long range. They’ll work on anything you come across apart from the trident of Poseidon himself.” Steve laughed as if the idea of it was ridiculous. If only he knew.
“You might run into some giant squids, but really they’re not going to be a problem for you unless you’re in the water. So, my advice, don’t fall in. If you do fall in, hit them with this.” He held up a harpoon gun with a mean looking tip to the ammunition.
I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a trident, but one can’t be too picky when their life is on the line.
“The rest of this,” he said, tossing grenades, knives, nets, and just about all other manner of trap, “is the kitchen sink.” By the time he had finished, there were three neatly packed bags on the floor. Steve took the bandoliers from me and carefully laid them on top. Satisfied with his work, he walked back behind the counter to accept payment.
I handed him the CIA black card.
He whistled. “Must have some fine friends there, Mr. Ventner.” He ran the card and then grew serious. “Look, I’ve given you all I think will help you, but I’m going to throw in a warning for free. I’ve been inside The Triangle more times than I want to count, and each time I got a little closer to losing my life. My best advice? Stay away from it, go take these weapons, hide out on an island, and hope whoever’s got you doing this never finds you.”
The prospect was an intriguing one, but I knew it would never work. The CIA would track us down, no matter how far we ran, no matter how careful we were. “Thanks for the warning, but this is something I’ve got to do.”
“In that case, keep your bag by your side at all times, and don’t fall in the water.”
“I’ll try my best.” I grinned, taking the card and returning for the weapon bags. It felt nice to be armed again, even if it was against certain doom. I wanted to take more time to examine our purchase, but time was running short.
As I was gathering up the bags to leave, the front door of the shop opened, and an old woman in a tattered shawl hobbled in.
“Can I help you mam?” asked Steve.
The old woman mumbled something under her breath and watched as her hand dropped shaking to her side. “Look out!” I screamed just in time for Ike to drop to the floor as a knife wizzed by his ear, the old woman hissing as she threw it.
I dropped for the bags, but before I could even pull a weapon out, there was a deafening BOOM. I looked up to see Steve holding a massive blunderbuss, and to watch the woman fly across the room from the force of the shot. My brain didn’t have enough time to process what was happening.
“Should’ve told me it was the assassin clan,” said Steve, “I would have packed quicker.” He tipped out the blunderbuss, and began reloading it. “Come on then, we don’t have all day, I’ll let you out back.”
We hurried through the shop, past rows upon rows of sharp implements, explosives, and firearms. Steve only stopped for a second to hand each of us a pair of automatic rifles.
“You know I’m a pacifist, Steve,” tried Ike.
“Picked a hell of a time for it. You’re welcome to leave that here, but you’re going to die without it.”
“You’ve just spilled blood in a Black Market,” I pointed out. “Doesn’t that mean you should be on the run too?” A part of me hoped that he would come with us. My experience with sea monsters was limited, and while being properly armed would go a long way, having an expert would be nice.
“Ha! She tried to spill blood in my shop. She knew the risk by throwing that knife. The bylaws will see my free of any guilt. Still going to be a hell of a mess to clean up.”
The bylaws of black markets never ceased to astound me, but he was probably right. We reached a back door hidden away behind racks of jars filled with various bits of fleshly-looking material.
“How far is it to the harbor?”
“Not more than three blocks.”
“Let’s hope we can get them before more of them find us.”
“They’ll be here looking for their friend soon. I’ll stall them for as long as I can, but I can’t get in their way. I’m sorry about it, because I like you, but I also like living.”
“Man after my own heart.” I clapped him on the shoulder. “Thanks for the weapons.”
He smiled broadly. “If you make it out of there, come see me again sometime.” With that, he opened the door on a dim alleyway and looked out. The few windows that looked in on it were shuttered and no one else was around. “Run straight down this alleyway, stick to the back roads and you should be no more than five minutes away.”
“Let’s just hope my apprentice has found us a boat by then.” I had no idea where Lopsang’s ‘project’ was, but I trusted him to be quick about it. James, had never been very good at haggling and currently didn’t have any money. Here’s hoping that a promise or two can at least lead him in the direction of a ship.
“Thanks again Stevey,” said Ike. “After you, Mr. Ventner.”
“So, kind of you, Ike.” I tossed him one of the gun bags. “You’re going to carry that. Now let’s move quiet and quick.” Together, we set off at a run into the alleyway, rifles at the ready.
The back streets leading to the harbor were almost deserted. At one point there was a beggar who I was convinced would turn on us, but at the sight of our rifles, he crumpled into a corner with his hands over his head. I threw out a half-hearted ‘sorry’, but continued on without looking back. There was no time to waste.
“I’m really uncomfortable holding this.” Ike had the rifle out in front of him like it was a very dangerous child and might bite him at any moment.
“Well, you should have thought about that before you pissed off a group of assassins.” The series of events were definitely not Ike’s fault, but the fact that he had dragged us into pissed me off. Sure, we had left him with Amy, but anyone should have the good sense not to stick around while someone else is reading from a Book of the Dead. It’s just common sense.
We reached the end of a back street, which ended abruptly at a balustrade overlooking the harbor. Lopsang had been right, it wasn’t hard to miss. A giant lake of water spread out from the edge of the city, eventually running right up to the cavern’s walls. On one side was a waterfall that was impossibly wide, crashing down, creating small waves in the water.
“How exactly do people get boats out of here?”
“There’s a system of locks behind the falls.”
As we looked over the port, sure enough, a ship with billowing black sails seemed to float down behind the waterfall.
“They’re all done in glass. Really eerie.”
“Well, hopefully we’ll have the chance to see them soon enough.” I scanned the docks looking for James, and almost immediately found him, arguing loudly with a group of sailors. “Well, either we’re about to have two fights on our hands, or James has found a boat he really wants. Either way, there’s no time to waste.”
We were about to start making our way down when the first arrow struck the stone next to me…