If giant seahorses weren’t enough, I’ve got more. I promise, it only gets weirder from here. Just finished Chapter 6 last night, probably about two more left. My guess for final length is somewhere around 65,000-70,000 words.
The crowdfunding campaign has also raised a lot of money for Whiteout’s publication over the course of NanoWriMo! Thanks everyone for your support this month. There’s still time to donate, and to those who already have, can’t wait to send you your copy next year.
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,
5. Double or Nothing
From first look at the eel pits, it was clear the crowd they drew was not as high class as the racing arena. The stands were centered around a wide circle beneath a dark, stone roof, and a haze of smoke and despair filled the air. Even as we were leaving the box, it was clear that we were only going to have one option, and my stomach tied itself in knots just thinking about the idea.
Lopsang remained silent for most of the journey to the arena, clutching his bottle clumsily, and muttering prayers to gods that couldn’t hear him. It seemed an odd thing to pray to gods in the presence of others, but I suppose he had nothing to lose.
As we entered the preparation room for the arena, my heart began to race. I turned to James. “I think I’m about to do something very stupid.”
His eyes had gone grey, resolute, and carried a heavy knowledge in them. “I know what you’re thinking. It’s ok, I’m on board.”
“Really?” I was surprised that James had caught on so quickly, but also pleased. It was clear that Poseidon had a weakness for wagers, and the only way out was going to be to make another. Problem was, Lopsang didn’t have anything he wanted, but we still did.
“Hey, Poseidon,” said James, casually.
I wasn’t sure what the hell he was doing, but naively trusted him.
“I’ve got a proposition for another wager.”
Poseidon, who had been focused on leading Lopsang to the registration table, turned around. He tried to hide his eagerness, but it was no good. “A wager you say?” His eyes betrayed the greed beneath.
“Nick and I join Lopsang in the pit, and if we win, he gets his powers back, and we leave unharmed.”
“What the hell are you talking about?!” I shouted.
Poseidon laughed deeply. “An idiotic wager, but deal.” Before I could protest any further, he reached out and shook James’s hand. “I’ll go and get the three of you registered then.” Poseidon walked away, still chuckling to himself about the idiocy of the bet.
I rounded on James, furious. “Just what in the hell were you thinking?!”
“I thought we were on the same page,” he said, surprised. “We stand a better chance the three of us than just him alone.”
“I was going to say we bet on the outcome of his fight! Not enter the arena ourselves you idiot.”
“Thanks for the support,” muttered Lopsang. He belched loudly, nearly fell over, but righted himself at the last minute.
“Great, he’s going to be useless.” Best case scenario he could serve as bait for whatever we were fighting.
Realization dawned on James’s face followed shortly after by anger. “Asshole,” he yelled.
“Asshole who wasn’t going to die until now,” I muttered. I had barely survived one encounter with a sea monster, and I had no desire to see what else the underbelly of Atlantis had in store. The sickening knot in my stomach tightened further as my fate was sealed.
No less than a minute later, Poseidon came back holding a paper slip with a number on it. “I’ve got you all in the next heat. Should be about twenty minutes or so.” His face bore an expression of childlike excitement. “You know, I really thought today was going to be boring, but thanks to you it’s been quite enjoyable.”
None of us spoke. Standing outside the darkened arena I felt as though I could smell death. It might have been an illusion, but it brought a queasy feeling to my throat all the same. Without any of our gear, I felt useless. All I could do was hope that he was dumb enough to throw us into the ring with a creature bearing some sort of glaring weakness. It had worked once before in the form of a werewolf who was deathly allergic to silver fillings, but I wasn’t counting on it happening twice.
“Anyone care for a trip to concessions on the way to your preparation chamber?” asked Poseidon.
“They sell liquor?” asked Lopsang, his words still slurring, but clearing slightly.
“But of course! This is a sporting match afterall.”
“Water for him.”
“Piss off Nick.”
I shot Lopsang a reproachful look that made him cower. Mortality really had softened him. “Water for him, couple shots of something strong for us.”
“I’m not exactly sure we should be drinking Nick.” James’s voice was quiet and scared.
I smiled at him reassuringly. “Trust me, with what we’re about to do, you’re going to want to get loosened up.” I’ve never fought well sober. There’s a fine line between unable to stand and stone cold sober that offers the most advantages.
Poseidon beamed. “Absolutely, coming right up.”
Twenty minutes later, we were sitting in a dingy cell, the god of the sea nowhere to be found, and nothing but a mild buzz to dull my anxiety. As with most arena’s, the walls were lined with a series of blood-soaked implements that had belonged to the combatants that had come before us. The cell we were held in made no allusions to the grandeur or spectacle of the arena. It looked like a place dead men were meant to wait.
“What do you think he’s going to have us fight?” James paced the length of the room in quick anxious strides.
“Two-headed dragon,” called Lopsang who was sitting in a corner of the room tossing a dull axe from hand-to-hand. “Gods love things with two heads.” He spoke through half-closed eyes, as if each word was taking great effort.
“I’m going to go ahead and guess something water-based.” It seemed appropriate given the whole theme of the day so far. “I couldn’t see the full arena when we came in, but it’s not a stretch to think it’ll be another water-based tank.”
“More sea monsters then.” James bit at his thumbnail, thinking.
“Yes, and we’ll be at a disadvantage.”
“Other than the fact that their monsters?” asked Lopsang, helpfully.
“Yes, the other combatants likely have the ability to breathe underwater, being mermen and all. I’ve recently tried my luck with that and it didn’t go very well.” My head still ached dully and the thought of heading back beneath the surface was unpleasant to say the least.
I looked around at the various weapons on the walls. None of them seemed to stand out from the others. They were unique in shape, but all seemed to serve the same function. They were sharp pieces of metal that had been carved to please different aesthetic styles of warfare. The craftsmanship was not poor and I had no doubt they’d do the job, but there was nothing special in the bunch.
When all else failed me, I did what I always did and picked the silver one. In this case, it happened to be a large trident, which only seemed appropriate given the circumstances. The weapon was also remarkably clean, glinting in the dim light. I hefted it into a throwing position.
James looked at me as though I were being ridiculous.
“Silver’s a cure-all right?” It was my go-to in most situations, and even if the creature wasn’t weak to it, the metal still cut.
“I don’t think we’re going to be fighting a werewolf.” James rolled his eyes and looked at the weapons around us. He immediately gravitated towards a spear with a bronze tip that was dusty and looked as though it had been untouched. “The more distance between what me and whatever we’re fighting, the better.” He also picked up a set of dull brown daggers from beside it.
Meanwhile, Lopsang continued to heft the small hand-axe from hand to hand, enjoying its weight. “I like axes.” A dull cloud still hung over his eyes. “Great for striking.” He swung the axe through the air with incredible speed, surprising both of us. “Better for throwing.” He threw the axe across the room, embedding it in a wooden weapon rack causing several implements to clatter to the floor. “That’ll do,” he laughed and shuffled to his feet to retrieve it.
“Well,” I said with little to no confidence. “We’ve got a spear, a trident, and a drunken axe thrower.”
Lopsang lifted his middle finger and pulled the axe from the board.
“We are trying to help you here,” said James.
“He just wanted to watch.” Lopsang pointed an accusatory finger at me. “You on the other hand,” he wobbled the finger towards James, “you’re alright, don’t die again.” At this he laughed hysterically and returned to sitting in his corner.
“Drink some more water, Lopsang, you’re going to need it.” The odds were continually stacked against us. “Alright, James, you’re right. We stand the best chance keeping whatever it is at a distance. When we get in there, we spread out into a triangle.”
“A Bermuda triangle,” muttered Lopsang.
I ignored him. “We get on all sides of the creature, distract it and hopefully one of us can get a shot or two in. We alternate taking turns attacking while it’s distracted, and hopefully, it’s going to be enough.”
James looked at me, eyes dull and lifeless as the day he had died. He seemed on the verge of protesting, but at the last minute, threw his hands in the air. “Fuck it, I don’t have a better plan.”
Somewhere outside, there was the sound of a massive conch being blown followed by the stamping of feet.
“I’m guessing that means us.”
“What are the odds we can trick the god of death twice?” asked James.
“Such little confidence. It’s going to be fine.” I believed none of it, but clapped a hand on his shoulder. “But if it does come to that, we’re both going to be stuck there this time, so I’d say our odds are better.” Really I thought it made our odds much worse, but there was no point in belaboring the hopelessness of our situation.
Outside, the horn blew again, and the door to our holding cell opened.
Lopsang hopped to his feet nimbly, but nearly fell over once upright. “Let’s go get my powers back!” He yelled. “Go team!” Lopsang stumbled forward and out of the door where two armed merpeople were waiting.
“If it helps set him right, I’m game for anything.” As I stepped out of the door and saw the guards, my heart sank.
“Hello again.” Adamyr’s voice was cool and collected. “Didn’t think I’d be seeing you again.”
“Miss me?” I asked. “I’m not available to tutor at the moment, but if I survive this maybe I can give you some lessons.”
Adamyr’s jaw clenched, but then loosened. “I told you I was going to enjoy this. The eels are always a delight to watch.”
“Sure you don’t just want to fight me yourself?” I wasn’t sure I could take Adamyr in single combat, in fact it seemed an unlikely cause, but whatever Poseidon’s eels were, a death by traditional combat sounded more pleasant.
“You know, this is their fourth bout today. I don’t think they’ll be very hungry. This is going to go slow.”
“Likely not as slow as you though.” It was petty, but felt good.
Adamyr stiffened and pushed me forward. “Walk. You may be an imbecile, but at least you can die with some honor…”