The ceramic mug made a dull sound as it hit the bartop. Urisu grimaced at the bitter taste of the swill the bartender insisted on calling ale. On any good night, Urisu would never drink such a vile substance, but it was not a good night. Being as drunk as possible was a much better option. This vile ale was cheap, plentiful, and would do the job in sufficient amounts. 

A glance around showed an establishment as sophisticated as the swill he was drinking. Most of the tables and chairs were made of old ship side planks, warped by years of exposure to the sea. The clientele looked as worn and weathered as the tables. Most were old sea dogs, men and women with a dozen sea voyages or more under their belt. 

Urisu drained the mug in a second gulp, “Bartender, can I have another.”

The portly human came over to where the blue individual sat. The bartender studied Urisu’s horns and blue skin with disdain but held out his meaty palm to take the diablus’ coin. Then he picked up Urisu’s mug and moved down the bar to where 3 large barrels with taps in them sat on a wood frame behind the bar. He muttered as he walked, “twice damn demon spawn.”

Urisu ignored the usual bigotry. He saw it every day with the more populous races such as neo-humans and elves. Being descended from multiple sapient races was just a burden that had to often be borne for those who traveled, and had such obvious differences. The bartender slammed the mug down in front of Urisu, sloshing some across the bar. Urisu locked gazed at him and smiled. “Thank you for the refill,” commented Urisu with a smirk.

The smirk stayed upon his face until the bartender had stomped off, then it vanished into a wince as another wave of pain stabbed through Urisu’s head. The pain had been getting worse throughout the night, as had the whispers. He figured if he could get drunk enough maybe both would be muted into incoherence.

The ship…you know the mark…

The voice was getting louder and the pain more severe. It was a race to see which got him first. Either the drink would put him under, or the torment would drive him mad tonight. He thought he really should have stayed with other members of the company. They might have kept him from doing something foolish, but he also didn’t want them knowing of the burden he carried. 

The second mug went down fast, and he ordered a third. The voice had become a cacophony echoing in his head. The ship. Make the mark. Go to the ship. Make the mark, or you will return to the sea. Each time the whispers sounded in his head, repeating its ominous message, a stab of pain came with it. As the whispers increased in frequency so did the pain, in intensity as well. 

The last drop of the third mug was consumed when a wave of pain so intense it overwhelmed his concentration. Urisu screamed in agony and dropped the mug. The shattering of the mug and his scream mixed with the shouts of alarm from the other customers in the bar. Urisu wilted off the bar stool as the pain robbed him of consciousness. 


His next thoughts were the sensation of the pattering of water striking stone. Cold riverlets ran down his face. For a moment, there was peace. A light drizzle filled the night, and he lay on cold stone. The cold of the cobbles seeped into his body bringing a much welcome numbness. Urisu was exhausted. Two days with no sleep, frequent agony, and constant fear was robbing him of any willpower he had left. 

The very thought of returning to the sea, being pulled there by whatever had a lien against his very soul, was the stuff of endless nightmares and nights awakening in cold sweats. For the moment, he had no energy to move. The comfort of exhaustion mixed with the cold of the night and stone kept him lying where he likely was thrown by the bartender or some other scum of that dive where he had sought to drink away his dilemma. 

Urisu rolled from his back and up onto his hands and knees. The headache was intense still, but subdued compared to the stabs of agony that had afflicted him earlier in the evening. A strong wave of nausea started in his abdomen and soon he was retching up all the contents of his stomach. Fish stew and weak ale mixed with the falling rain to befoul the cobble stones. 

There he stayed for endless moments, dry heaves made the headache’s dull throb worse. He had to get away from the sea. The company had said just a few days. They knew he hated being on the shore, even if they were not privy to why. Maybe if he could get to the company they would listen and get him away from this seaside hellhole. With distance, the influence should fade. 

He surged to his feet with effort. Wavering from side to side with each step. Urisu wandered away from the bar and toward the inn where the company was staying for the night. Each step sent a stab of pain into his head, but the whispers had stopped. There was no cause to the cessation he could determine, but he only had to deal with the burden of exhaustion and dull pain. It was bliss compared to how bad he feared it would have gotten. 

His steps were laborious and slow. The streets he passed through were eerily quiet. He heard no drunken brawls or the solicitations of ladies of the night to passers by. The town might have been empty and deserted for all Urisu could tell. 

Just a little bit more and he should be back with his friends and colleagues. If they would listen, he would be gone from this cesspit before dawn. He was almost desperate enough to tell them the full truth, and that would be a first for him. His past was his greatest secret, and with it his fear of the sea. 

The darkness filled the streets, making him unsure of his path. He’d left the inn earlier tonight with a determined stride to find some place and drink away his sorrows and fear far away from his colleagues. How long Urisu had wandered with a full mind, left him with no sense of how long it took to get back to the inn many hours later. Weariness and pain made his time sense even more flawed. He knew the way back to the inn, just not how long it should take to get there.

His weary steps seem to move him through a mental fog. What few noises there were in the deserted streets were muted, and Urisu’s eyes were downcast. Each step was just one more slow moment just rhyming his motions and his fatigue in a timeliness moment that seemed to endure. 

A regular sound began to impose upon his awareness, waking him up from his unusual stupor and numb wandering. It was the sound of waves. And beneath his trend was no longer the sound of boots on cobble stones but the sound of wood. 

He panicked. Urisu was standing on a dock with the sea lapping underneath, and all around were merchant ships tied up with the bulk of their hulls hidden in the dark night. A quick rotation of his body and two fast steps took him back toward the land, but he found himself paralyized even as he tried to flee. 

There he stood, frozen like a statue. Every muscle in his body strained with tension, but like an insect in amber he could not take a single step, nor even twitch a muscle. Sweat began to bed down his back in pure fear.

With no control over his body, Urisu felt himself turn back around and began to walk down the dock past several docked ships. Each step was awkward and stilted, but another will controlled the movement of his muscles. 

No thought or attempt at struggling stopped his slow progress down the dock. Soon he stood before a particular ship. In appearance it looked little different from the other merchant ships at the dock. But Urisu knew this was the ship. The ship the whispers had been trying to force him toward all evening. 

His right hand rose without his volition. It touched the hull of the ship then a nimbus of pale green light began to dance over his hand. Light touches were what his right hand with its glowing nimbus performed. Quick with only fingertips tracing out a complex symbol. Then his hand fell back to his side, and he could move again.

Urisu stepped back gasping for breath, trying to fight down his panic. There before him on the ship’s hull was a complex sigil over a meter wide, glowing in the same pale green that had aurored his hand. Right before his eyes it began to fade until it could not be seen to the eye, but Urisu had no doubts that whatever the purpose of the sigil it was still there. 

His footsteps pounded on the dock as he ran back toward land and well away from the ships. No whispers in his head or loss of control remained. He was completely in control of  his facilities. 

He fled into the night, taking as straight a path as he could discern back to the inn where his companions were residing for the night. His bunk in their rented loft swallowed him into slumber, but only after shaking in shock before fatigue overcame him. 

The midmorning sunlight stabbed Urisu in the eyes, bringing him out of an exhausted sleep. He cracked his eyelids and glanced around the loft. The two other beds were empty and he could hear sounds coming from the floor below. From the sunlight pouring in, it must be late morning. He struggled upright and shivered. A mental shove pushed away the memories of the night before as he struggled to find his baggage for a change of clothes. He’d fallen into bed fully clothed. The shirt was stained with sweat and vomit, and the pants were covered in mud. 

After changing clothes and rinsing his face and head in the wash basin, Urisu made his way down stairs toward the common room. He trudged down the stairs. On the bottom floor he saw his companions several tables away over near the fireplace, even though no fire was lit on this sultry morning. 

He slid into a chair beside Theria, the company’s elven wizard. As he pulled his chair up, Loren, a human warrior of the Northern traditions, asked, “Where were you all last night? We were waiting for you to join us. “

Muralan, a ur-human shaman, interrupted, “Now don’t try to castigate him. You know, Urisu, he likely found some comely maid with an intense curiosity of what a diablus keeps in his pants!” Theria looked at the two men with disdain and went back to her large breakfast of melon and grapes. 

Urisu muttered, “Yeah, something like that. I just found something I needed to deal with last night.” The rest of his companions looked at him with expectations, then shrugged when no further explanation was offered. He forestalled any further conversation by pouring himself a goblet of winter wine and breaking apart a loaf of bread, which he then covered in honey and better before devouring it ravenously. 

The rest of the morning passed slowly, with each member of the company coming and going from the inn on various errands. Urisu sat in the common room and played cards, trying to refrain from any thoughts about the night before. His faux serenity was shattered when Loren came into the inn and slid in beside him at the card table. Loren asked, “You came from a seafaring family, right?” 

Urisu studied his cards, only reluctantly answering when Loren poked him in the side, “I did.” The other two customers continued to play cards only slightly frowning at Loren interrupting their game. “Why do you ask?”

Loren stole the goblet of wine that had been sitting near Urisu’s hand. He took a sip and said casually,” Oh, I heard a funny story down at the docks. Seems two merchant ships were leaving with the early morning tied accompanied by a war galley. The War galley reported that some type of strange fog bank rolled in as the merchant ships were making it past the outer anchorage. One of the merchant ships sailed into the fog and never came out.” Loren finished the wine and sat the empty goblet back down.

The blood drained from Urisu’s face. “What do you mean never came out?” 

Loren looked a bit annoyed at his old friend, “You know vanished. Poof. The harbor master is surmising some type of magical piracy. The whole place is in an uproar.” 

Pushing his chair back, Urisu stumbled to his feet. He leaned on the table for support for a few moments before departing from the table, leaving the pot and his stacks on the table without a backward glance.

Loren called out, “Hey, Urisu? You okay? You want me to finish your game for you?”

The blue, horned figure never looked back as his companion called his name, here stumbled up stairs and out of sight. What no one saw as he departed the common room is the slow stream of tears rolling down his face. 

Image and character design by Raina Kuptz