Crocodilian ~ Chapter 7
Tales of Havek: Volume One | Duration: 4 Minutes 30 Seconds
VII: (Un)Intended Consequences
The sun had all but vanished by the time Unkel Bo reached the outer limits of Yonledo. He hadn’t yet stopped to rest. Despite his age, his body was well-conditioned to the physicality of surviving outdoors in harsh environs. He’d endured far more strenuous jaunts in recent weeks simply searching for food. This was nothing but a prolonged breathing exercise and he treated it as such. Calming his heart rate, his breaths shallowed and acclimated to a more calm state, despite the curse inside him pulsing in his veins. It was a constant struggle to not let the curse overtake him and force him to change into something he couldn’t quite control.
Unkel admired the solar stones embedded in the town’s rooftops, glistening above the bay like lime stars in a secondary sky that had fallen closer to Havek’s surface. He’d only seen the original town before the first of the floods when the buildings had lined the beach like Ember cottages. The new iteration was quite impressive, suspended from giant wooden columns out over the bay itself. He wanted to feel an emotion much like awe, and yet Unkel Bo was gripped with only one sensation; a cavern-like emptiness deep in his soul. He couldn’t quite pin down its origins. The region reeked of a faint odor resembling decay. It had been there the whole time, but after relaxing, he was more open to nature’s serene touch, susceptible to that otherworldly link which called to him ever since gaining the curse. The mangroves were nearly nonexistent along the coastal perimeter of the town and he pondered that for a moment. A town had to be constructed out of something, and the mangroves had been an abundant supply ripe for that very purpose.
Unkel sat upon a fallen tree half submerged in the murky waters. He watched for a short time, contemplating what he was actually doing here. The scrawny scribe named Tyvno–his exact relation to the mayor still unclear to Unkel–had claimed that the children were attacking Yonledo, and the scribe had presented the marks to prove it. One of the children had bitten Tyvno, changing him much like their mother had changed Unkel. He had figured the curse was plaguing him for taking her life, but maybe it was something more. Something bigger.
A series of howls erupted from just outside of town, the direction along the coast that the cartographer had been instructed to follow. He didn’t have a good visual, so Unkel got up and traversed the knee-high waters, the bottoms of his rolled-up pants still getting wet. He recognized those calls. The native swamp primates were in a stirred frenzy. Then out of nowhere, a blinding flash erupted and caused him to raise an arm to stave off the light. He saw the largest of his children highlighted in the subsequent flashes, then a man–presumably the cartographer–being lifted from the swamp up to a boardwalk, all the while the primates shrieked in terror through the canopy above. The big crocodile retreated and disappeared in the direction of the bay. So it was true. He’d need to figure out how to call them off, to relinquish their hostility toward these townsfolk.
Unkel Bo resolved to discuss this directly with that despicable mayor. He followed the bobbing lamp as it illuminated the two men walking down the swaying boardwalks. It took him longer to navigate the swamp’s natural maze and he eventually lost the guiding lamp. He reached an area that wasn’t submerged–the beach–and it felt good to have the sand beneath his toes. A footbridge that connected to the main boardwalk drooped down and was staked into the beach. Taking the footbridge, he was forced to grab the ropes to either side of him to maintain his balance as it tipped one way with each step. It also forced him to focus on his feet during his ascent, keeping him ignorant of the atrocities that awaited him at the summit. The horrible truth couldn’t be kept from him forever, though, and as he looked up to gauge the remaining distance, he saw what he desperately didn’t want to see.
Unkel rushed up the rest of the footbridge. He didn’t want the truth manifesting before him but he couldn’t not look. He had to be sure or else his soul would not rest. He stepped onto the boardwalk and although he found sturdy ground, he fell to his knees and crawled forward to the closest head. Hot tears were already streaming down his face as he mumbled his denials over and over again.
They were supposed to be under his protection, his guardianship. And he’d failed them. He’d lost them yet again. Even in this new life, he couldn’t escape the past that still haunted him. It was happening anew. It was as if the Almighty was punishing him for his transgressions. He needn’t be sent to Burg, for he was living a tortured existence within it every day, the perpetual horror and pain inescapable and all-consuming.
Unkel took a deep breath and yelled, releasing all of the pain he’d accumulated over the course of his miserable life. He felt the curse pulse through him once more and take hold, the thumping of his rapid heartbeat deafening him. He couldn’t stop it. Not this time. And to be honest, he didn’t care either way.