Crocodilian ~ Chapter 1
Tales of Havek: Volume One | Duration: 6 minutes
Synopsis: An aspiring cartographer with the ability to teleport and dreams of fame is sent on his first assignment by the guild down to the swamp town of Yonledoin order to verify the mayor’s claims that giant, man-eating crocodiles are terrorizing the townsfolk.
This steampunk-ish, fantasy, horror novella is set within the world of Havek where dragons and vampyrs are commonplace and people with magical abilities are known as either Blessed or Cursed.
Content warning: Graphic violence
Genre: Dark Fantasy/Horror/Comedy/Steampunk
Soon to be published on RoyalRoad, Wattpad, and Medium.
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 this day 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 which signaled for the scribe to stop speaking. Mayor Penh stared out of the open-aired 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, murky 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 guild and the resources he needed to establish a proper trade route, that potential would never manifest itself.
“Everyone knew it would happen. Yes. But that’s why we 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 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? He left, I think.”
“What do you mean he left?” the mayor asked, sitting up in his chair with a sharp squeak.
“I mean, 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 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 Penh dropped his accusatory finger and moved to lean against the window frame which only slightly protested his weight. 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. What the scribe didn’t know was that Mayor Penh had no recollection that he’d ever said that.
“I want the hunter to come back,” the mayor 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 the guild. Find me someone who can find that hunter in order to find that crocodile. 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 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 to the mayor, 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. The creature later returned on a night like any other under the cover of darkness. Except that night was far from the likes of any other, since someone was killed.
To be continued….
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Until next time! ~ WM