When we exited the jungle later in the morning we found the sailors scrambling over
the ruins like ants on a honey cake. Those of our men caught up in the gossip of
treasure watched with jealously. Sarge had prohibited them from hunting. They grumbled,
but discipline won through. Even so, I was certain Clantalion would demand a share
of any spoils as payment for protection provided from potential danger, even if that
potential danger was a pink carcass lying on the beach. So we waited, passing caustic
comments as we watched the sailors slip along the slick moss, or tumble from sagging
vines as they struggled to reach inaccessible terraces and dark, recessed apartments.
At the edge of the road I found a piece of worn stone useable as a seat. Hungry,
I rooted through my sack for two strips of salted meat and offered one to the child.
She sat in her usual position. I suppose, in her skewed mental state, she understood
I was her protector. It was flattering in a way, though I would have preferred words
of thanks in lieu of endless staring. As expected, my offer went unnoticed. I passed
the food off to Gyvens.
A faint, piercing shout caught my attention mid-bite. It had come from deep within
the city ruins.
Gyvens sighed. He had really wanted to hunt for treasure, wanted to find some shiny
bauble for his girl back home. I’d seen his girl back home. An oat bag would have
sufficed. “Must have found something,” he mumbled. “Lucky bastards.”
The shout became a series of calls, each one closer as the sailors responded with
concern. A final query echoed into silence, and then someone screamed. It was high
pitched and wild. The follow-up scream ended abruptly.
We didn’t need Sergeant Clantalion to get us on our feet, reaching for our weapons.
He was there anyway. “Form a line. Pikes in front. Swords to the rear. Quickly now.”
I still had my sword, so I placed myself on the right flank of the third line, nearest
the child. She worried me. She had reacted when the first screams sounded from deep
within the ruins, her head turning sharply in that direction.