A Tale of The Ceruputhon

Brendin was the first to see the island in the distance. Thank the Gods, he thought. "We're almost home, lads. I can see it."

Ha Belle stirred feebly, moaning. "What're you on about, Brendin?"

"Valkeer. I can see it. We're going to make it."

"It's no use," Ha Belle said. "We're not going fast enough. The Ceruputhon is going to catch up with us long before then. They might even be able to see us from the shore when it gets us."

Brendin ignored his speech. They would make it. They would. He trimmed the sail slightly to make the best of the wind, which was shifting slightly. Sure, nobody had ever escaped the Ceruputhon once it decided on its prey. But none of them had ever been as good a sailor as Brendin was.

He glanced back to where Francesco sat grimly at the tiller. Francesco knew they would make it. It would be close, but they would make it.

Besides, how could he just give up like Ha Belle had? He couldn't. Ha Belle's people may accept death's coming stoically. But his and Francesco's didn't. If you were going to go down at all, you had to go down fighting.

Then he saw the huge crest behind the boat. At first he thought it was a wave, but then he realized that no wave would rise that high. Then he saw the fins. The Ceruputhon. It was closer than he had thought.

We're not going fast enough! he thought. We'll have to lighten the load. "Ha Belle!" he roared. "Down to the hold with me."

The islander got up complacently and unhurriedly, following the near-frantic sailor down into the hold. The light of the day was cut off--they could hear the rustling of rats. The stench of fish hit them.

Brendin grabbed a sack of eels, part of their cargo. "Dump the eels," he said. "What need have we of cargo if we're dead? The Ceruputhon will have them as dessert." The thought of dessert brought on a picture of his wife, waiting for his return. She'll have baked lemon meringue pie for me, with fresh lemons from the market. He always told her it was too expensive, but she knew he loved it. He opened the side-hatch and started stuffing the sacks through them as fast as Ha Belle could hand them to him.

Then Ha Belle stopped handing him sacks. "What's wrong?" Brendin asked.

"All that's left now are the bodies of the others," Ha Belle replied.

The others. The savages had killed most of their number, since Ha Belle had neglected to mention that their tribe was feuding with his. Ha Belle himself had escaped unharmed. Ha Belle had suggested dumping them at sea earlier, but Brendin had refused. He knew it was done by most sailors, but he had never liked it. But now he looked at the bodies as nothing more than dead weight. They also were too bulky to fit through the side hatches. "Help me take them up the ladder," he said.

Ha Belle complied. Francesco turned to see what they were doing, and then turned back to the tiller. "It's gaining," was all he said.

Brendin didn't stop to look. He and Ha Belle dumped the bodies overboard as fast as they could. Waddy. Turan. Iandiorio. Cardinale. Hollett. Butch. Their names flashed before his eyes as each dropped into the water. As the last hit the water he felt liberated. He looked back at the Ceruputhon. The great worm seemed to be falling behind them at last. Or was it just his imagination? No, no, it really was. They were doing it! They were going to survive!

Then he noticed the wind was dying. The sails, which had been billowing tautly forward, were now becoming slack. "No," he whispered.

"My people have a legend about the Ceruputhon," Ha Belle said from behind him. "Long ago, when he was living in the Eastern Ocean, he freed a wind-sprite from captivity beneath the waves. In return, the wind-sprite agreed to serve him 1000 times. The Ceruputhon has used him over the years whenever his prey has seemed on the verge of eluding him."

Brendin turned to see Ha Belle grinning mirthlessly. "I hope that it will help you to know that your death is helping to buy the wind-sprite's freedom. Who knows, maybe this is the 1000th time. Maybe even now the sprite is anticipating the freedom to roam the sky once more. Is that not a worthy thought?"

Brendin stared at him for a moment. Then he grabbed Ha Belle's arms and heaved the surprised islander overboard. He contemplated the water himself for a moment, then turned away, toward the Ceruputhon. It was barely a hundred yards from the stern now. Once again his thoughts turned to lemon meringue pie.

Based on the words: Meringue Load Eel Rats

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The Den of Ubiquity/ Aaron V. Humphrey / alfvaen@gmail.com