One Way or Another

There was only a modest breeze in the salty air, the Arrow of St. Karesh swaying gently in its moorings as Vennari stood alone on its deck, sullenly watching the night knit the sea to the sky until the two were seamless. There would be no moon tonight, nor stars to judge her deeds. Only a low ceiling of hateful smoke from the pitch fires to obscure the incoming globes of cursed-blood. She examined the murky decanter of thick peaty liquor; there were still several pours remaining. She upturned the decanter and gulped down every drop, tossing the empty vessel to the waves, who had no appreciation for thirst and would surely return this gift to the shore by morning, still empty and unappreciated.

“Let this be the last night,” she said in prayer to any of the minor gods who might be listening with an ear tuned to the key of mercy, adding, “one way or another.”

Vennari descended the Arrow’s gangplank, making her way purposefully down the length of the pier and toward the encampment south of the city’s walls, with each step her body growing more confident as the fire in her mind burned itself low and dim. The sounds of the war machines stirring to life—the groaning of taught ropes and strained steel—crept over the hills and into her marrow. It was the sound of death incarnate. But still, she preferred it to the silence.

It was time to say her nightly goodbyes.

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