Raven Willoughby – Origins ~ A Fantasy by Dellani Oakes – Part 14

Holding his breath, Mr. Smith lowered the first dagger into the melted silver, dipping to the hilt. Once it was fully coated, he set it on the rack to cool. Marveling at the appearance, he exhaled slowly.

“A superior coating,” Raven said, after examining it.

Silver repeated the process with all six knives. The daggers weren’t the least bit damaged by the heat. Giving them a quick and loving wipe, Silver handed them back to Raven. Payment was made for a job well done.

“I may come across a few other items that need the same treatment, so please keep the rest for me,” Raven said, dropping another coin into the smith’s palm.

“My pleasure, sir.” He tugged his forelock.

“And you, lad.” Raven addressed the apprentice. “Don’t spend it all on spirits and doxies.” He gave Jimmy a handful of coppers.

“Thank you, sir!” the boy bowed. “If you’re in need of ought, and Master Silver hasn’t need of me, I be at your service.”

The smith looked on proudly as the boy used his best manners.

“My thanks to you both.” With a swirl of his coat, Raven left.

His next stop was a bank, where he left most of his money. Carrying a heavy purse was foolish and leaving it in his room, more so. With enough coins to do his business, he headed to the docks, whistling.

The town was large enough to attract many travelers, but few had the look and bearing of Raven Willoughby. Raised by poor relations, after the death of his parents, he was of noble birth. His maiden aunt was a gentile lady, though of meager means. She ran a small school for the wealthy. Raven was educated at the side of the sons of dukes and earls. He carried himself like a warrior he’d been, but with an aloof air. His shipping business was prosperous, or it had been. He was on his way to find out if his partners had betrayed and robbed him. Though his primary office was in Maine, there was a smaller one here. Remembering Sam’s directions he followed his nose to the sea. Asking specifics from a cart man, he found his office, tucked away near the dock. It looked shabby and run down, but it was open. A lone clerk sat at a high desk. He didn’t look up when Raven entered. Raven cleared his throat, loudly.

Slowly, the other man raised his head. Wispy, mouse-brown hair stuck out in all directions. Watery, pale blue eyes took in Raven. Pale skin, dotted with freckles, showed evidence of a man who avoided the sun. Though narrow shouldered and slender, he looked able enough.

Raven approached. “Your name, sir.”

The man straightened up. “Depends, sir.”

“On what?”

“On who wishes to know—sir.” His accent was coarse, common, his voice nasal.

“The man whose name is on that door, and whose picture is on the wall.” Raven pointed to the sign that said Willoughby Shipping, a portrait of himself above it. “Are you like this with everyone? If so, you’ll soon be out of a job.”

After staring several, long moments, the clerk swallowed loudly. “Mr. Willoughby, sir.” He scrambled from his stool. “Beg pardon, sir. We were told you were dead.”

“I was unfortunately detained. The ship I booked passage on, met with an unfortunate accident. Only I survived.”

“Most sorry, sir. May I get you some tea? Or coffee? A friend of mine brings it in from Jamaica.”

“Nothing, thank you. I need to book passage to our Maine office.”

The clerk looked uncomfortable.

“And you’ve yet to introduce yourself.”

He gulped. “Beg pardon. Uriah Haynes.”

“Well, Master Haynes, what’s the issue with passage?”

“We have no ships, sir.”

“In port?”

“Operational.”

“At all? We had a fleet of seven!”

“All met with dire accidents, sir. The last that came to port, brought death with it.” He stared, wide eyed, taking a step forward. “The undead that walk at night—they came on that ship. They were all dead when it was found at sea. It was hauled in, we buried ’em—and they came back! Rising from their graves!”

“Do they speak? What do they do?”

“No speaking. They shamble, like. And if they grab ya, it’s over. It’s said, they eat a man’s heart! And a woman—!” He blushed. “Other—things. And they rip the guts right out.”

“How many have died?”

“Six or seven the last fortnight.”

“Do they come back?”

“We burn them, sir.”

“Has anyone killed them?”

“We’ve tried. Swords and muskets have no effect. It don’t end well for the soldier.”

©2021 Dellani Oakes

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