Crocodilian ~ Chapter 1
Tales of Havek: Volume One | Duration: 11 Minutes 5 Seconds
Author’s Note: This is a first draft, discovery-written with plot holes and inconsistencies. It’s still a fun read, but definitely not representative of a final product. If you do take the time to read the full story with comments and likes, there may be a hidden reward for you waiting at the end! ~ WM
Darkness has warred with Light for untold millennia on countless worlds spanning the Known Universe; a war that typically goes unseen. However, on the planet Havek, Darkness manifests itself in new and more powerful ways forcing the bearers of Light to respond in kind. There is no winning this war, but there is peace in balance, yet that balance is no more. It’s up to the individual souls who come in contact with these opposing forces to make their own choices, choices that will tip the scales in either direction, for better or for worse. The inhabitants of Havek will never know the outcome of their efforts, but their history will not be lost.
I: A Day (Un)Like Any Other
The crocodile attack had come out of nowhere, on a day like any other in the swamp town of Yonledo. Except on that particular day it was far from the likes of any other, since someone had been killed. Which, for Mayor Undrey Penh, was not great for business. There were already too many downsides to starting a new township in a swamp, now he had to worry about crocodiles eating people.
“Sir, Guild President Vistenna has sent a response stating that the resources you’ve requested cannot be delivered at this time. She states that the matter of transport is quite… problematic. And then there’s something about swamps and crocodiles being of nuisance and,” the scribe then mumbled, “that everyone knew this would happen.”
“What was that last bit?” Mayor Penh asked in a huff.
“That everyone knew this would happen,” the scribe mumbled again, shrinking as if preparing for a physical assault.
“What is your problem? I can’t hear you. Speak louder, please.”
“Everyone knew this would happen!” the scribe blurted.
The mayor squinted at the scribe, mouth pursed for a long while. “Everyone knew what would happen?”
The scribe scratched his head, then checked the letter again. “Uh, I think she meant that there would be a crocodile attack, sir. Unless she was referring to the transport of goods being problematic, which could be related to the swamp section of the letter but I can’t be certain. Ya know, the more I look at the words the less clear it becomes. I guess she could be referencing—”
The mayor sat back in his chair which gave a great protestation to his weight signaling the scribe to stop speaking. Mayor Penh stared out of the second-story window of his office and swatted at a bug harassing his ear. Yonledo was beautiful, if one liked dense mangrove trees, humidity and stagnant water. Which the mayor did not. To him, money was the most beautiful thing of all, and a town where there had been no town before gave rise to money where no money had been before. The potential for Yonledo to be that flowing source of beauty was limitless. But until he got verified by the Cartographers Guild and supplied with the resources he needed to establish a proper trade route, that potential would never manifest itself. There was another important element that he needed to accomplish but the task escaped him at the moment.
“Everyone knew it would happen. Yes. But that’s why I hired that blasted hunter to track down all the predators in this region before we even began building. He seems to have done most of his job, there are no talonrends, bears, dragons, harpies, vampyrs, you name it. That was forever ago. What, a year? Where is he? What is he doing? Why hasn’t he killed the crocodiles?!”
The scribe tapped his chin. “Other than crocodiles, none of those species are native to this region, sir. Wait, harpies? Those don’t exist do they?” The mayor’s stare was affixed with fiery coals for eyes that burned into the scribe. “Oh, the hunter, sir? He left, I think.”
“What do you mean he left?” the mayor asked, sitting up in his chair.
“I mean to say that I think he lives outside of Yonledo, sir. He moved out into the mangroves shortly after we arrived. He mentioned peace and quiet, if I recall your last conversation.”
“Wait, I talked to him? When?”
“Does it matter when, if you don’t remember?” the scribe said, without thinking.
The mayor stood immediately, his nose scrunched up, one stubby finger pointed at the scribe who instinctively pulled his arms closer to his midsection.
“You’re right,” the mayor said, unexpectedly. “Why would that matter if I don’t remember? Of course. Everyone knows that it wouldn’t matter. Just like everyone seems to know that crocodiles attack people living in swamps. It’s the way of the world, isn’t it?”
Mayor Undrey Penh dropped his accusatory finger and moved to lean against the window frame. The scribe relaxed. The mayor had an air about him, one that spoke volumes of his disdain for any and everything that didn’t advance his personal objectives or his image. He also commanded a voice that spoke volumes regarding those exact same things. He was very clear that he meant what he meant, and when he’d once told the scribe that the next time he talked back he’d wring his neck, the scribe never forgot and constantly anticipated his retribution. However, that was over ten years ago when the scribe had yet to be labeled an adult and still lived under Undrey’s roof.
“I either want the hunter to come back to finish the job, or for you to reach out to the Hunters Guild to hire a new one,” Mayor Penh said. “I need the hunter to come back. He must kill this crocodile before it strikes again. Do you hear me? I want this to stop. I need this to stop. You must make this stop!”
The scribe flinched. “Me? Why me? I simply manage the mail.” He cleared his throat. “Sir. I simply manage the mail, sir.”
“That’s what I mean,” he said, turning to the scribe. “You manage the mail. Send a letter to one of the guilds and fix this. You hear me? Find me someone who can find that hunter in order to find those crocodiles. Can you manage that?”
The scribe pointed jovially, smiling. “Sir, I can definitely manage that. That, sir, I can manage. Manage that I shall, sir.”
Mayor Penh’s jaw visibly tightened. His thick brow furrowed. The edges of his lips curled so far down his cheeks bulged out. “Are you mocking me?”
The scribe’s smile vanished. He swallowed so hard his larynx could be seen bobbing from afar. When he spoke, his voice betrayed him with a crack. “N-no, sir. I didn’t mean—”
The mayor smacked the surface of his desk with an open palm. “Yes. Yes, you are. If you mock me one more time, Almighty help me, I will wring your neck! Now go get me that hunter!”
The scribe bowed, barely stifling his nervous shakes, and scurried out of the second-story office that overlooked Yonledo Bay. Mayor Penh watched him almost trip down the uneven wooden stairs leading to the main boardwalk which kept the entire town above water level, and, more importantly, out of the filth. It was a masterful feat of engineering, only no one other than the current residents had ever seen it. The Cartographers Guild refused to send someone to officially chronicle the establishment of Yonledo as a legitimate township on the grounds that the mayor wasn’t actually a mayor and that the town wasn’t supposed to exist.
Mayor Penh shook his head in disbelief thinking about the Guild President’s response. “Everyone knew this would happen,” he said in a mocking voice. He swatted at another bug buzzing at his ear—likely the same bug—then turned away from the window to figure out what he’d need to tell the hunter once they found him to convince him to help.
What he hadn’t seen was the bulbous eyes of a crocodile raised just above the water’s surface down in the bay. It’d been watching the mayor for some time, waiting, contemplating. A translucent coating slid over the eyes as they sank into the murky depths, disappearing with barely a ripple.
“Tyvno, is everything alright?” the mayor’s bodyguard asked as the scribe hurried past along the boardwalk.
“Yes, yes. Quite,” Tyvno replied. “I’m just a little jittery today is all. Haven’t eaten much. I’m off to write a letter for Mayor Penh. Sorry, Richta, I can’t talk right now.”
Richta nodded to him. “Be safe. The croc—”
“Yes, I know. Crocodiles in the swamp, I got it.”
Richta watched the slender man saunter down the long section of the boardwalk toward the township’s entrance. He shook his head with disapproval. “Well, if you need me, you know where to find me,” he yelled.
The scribe gave a flat wave but did not look back as he disappeared down the swaying footbridge that connected the raised boardwalk with the lower beach area. Richta stopped to adjust his eye patch due to a burning sensation beneath it, a sensation he hadn’t felt in a long time, not since he’d earned it all those years ago. It faded somewhat, but he felt like someone was watching him.
Richta turned around and immediately noticed a woman across town, standing on the other end of the U-shaped boardwalk. She stared at him, only her face visible beneath her green and black robes. Despite welcoming the three dozen families that had moved to Yonledo in the past year, he’d never spoken to this woman before and didn’t know her name. He referred to her only as the nameless woman, but that didn’t mean he did not know of her. He hurried up the stairs to speak to the mayor and tried to forget that he ever saw her.
Tyvno plopped down on the sandy beach, his bare feet resting in the lapping waves. Next to him was a lengthy prop root of a tropical fig, twisting through the wet-packed sand as if reaching for the salty water of the bay. They all looked the same to Tyvno. He reached out and snapped the end of the root off, using it to doodle in the sand as he thought about his interaction with the mayor.
He hated Mayor Undrey Penh, yet he was too much of a coward to say so to the man’s blustering face. Tyvno had fled Blokravn long ago in order to put as much distance between them as he could. Yet, there he was doing the man’s bidding in a swamp at the edge of the world. For what? He knew a catalyst had changed his mind at some point but the exact memory evaded him. It was as if someone had gone into his mind and scrambled it all up. He grew angrier at the fact that he couldn’t remember why he was there in the first place. Was he going mad? Was he sick? He had no one to ask, his whole family had died in Blokravn in the attack. All of them. Well, not everyone. But the ones he cared about at least. Now he was stuck with the one he hated.
The root stem cracked in half against a rock beneath the sand. He tossed the piece that was in his hand out into the water next to a log that was floating up to shore. Tyvno pondered the letter that would ultimately reach his correspondent at the guild. William was his name. The man seemed nice and diplomatic, but it was hard to read the tone of the letters. He was certain that the guild despised them for what they were doing, yet maintained as much diplomacy as they could muster just in case Yonledo, against all odds, gained legitimacy in the future.
Tyvno noticed the odd pattern of the waves at his feet. He wasn’t certain at first why that particular detail had cropped up in his mind. The world generally ran by a set of established rules, and humans—being the pattern-seekers they are—learn those rules very early on. Subconsciously, he’d seen the tide moving in one direction and the log moving in the other. That was it. The log was going against the current of the water and therefore against the rules of nature, and he was picking up on it. That wasn’t all, it seemed to be coming right toward him. Come to think of it, it didn’t really look like a log at all. It looked like—
The crocodile burst forward in a rush that flung walls of water to either side of it, the tail propelling it at great speed. Tyvno had no time to react, except to yelp in an embarrassing squeal he hoped no one heard, well, maybe a few so that they would come save him if they had.
Teeth bit down into his calf as he tried to stand and run. He collapsed onto the sand and his fingers dug deep but found no claim. The crocodile jerked him back so that he swung halfway around and he faced the beast head on. It let go of his leg and opened its mouth, the one eye on that side of its head angled down to stare at him. This time he screamed a full-throated scream, and he was sure people heard, their raised voices reaching him from up in their suspended cabins over the bay. But mere voices would do nothing for him now.
When the crocodile lunged, Tyvno placed his own arm between him and the incoming teeth. They latched on and tugged. The pain caused him to squeeze his eyes shut. He was suddenly moving, water all around, everywhere. He couldn’t breathe. He fought to reach the surface. There was no surface. Just as he hadn’t been sure why he’d moved to Yonledo, he wasn’t sure why he was being dragged under the water. It all became a blur. Then, he remembered nothing.
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