Almost three years ago terror had come to Alexandria. It began in the Pile Tree groves on shore with the death of several wood cutters. A week and the city nobles began to act strange and people began to die. First they were drained of blood and then it was like animals feasted on the flesh. The nobles still held their parties but they were only during the night.
The people suspected it was the nobles but no one had seen them. Slowly the numbers of people killed increased until it was at least a dozen each night. I was thirteen and working in a kitchen filling the wood box. It was night and the cook and her helpers had gone to bed. The door was supposed to be kept locked but I only had so many hands.
I turned from setting the armload of wood down and saw the man. It least that was what I thought it was until it leaped and attacked me. I struggled as it twisted its head and started to bit my neck. I had fumbled my new dagger out and brought it up and around over the demon's shoulder.
I shoved it into the neck and up into the brain and the demon froze. As I pushed to get away the dagger came out and a fountain of black blood struck me in the face. First it went into my mouth and then up my nose and finally into my eyes. As it fell I choked and gagged and breathed in the blood in my nose.
My eyes felt like they were on fire as I struggled and finally I swallowed and caught my breath. I wiped my face and managed to get enough black blood out of my eyes to see. The demon lay still but the chest moved slightly and I could see the wound from my dagger closing. I stood and looked around before I grabbed a cleaver.
I knelt and grabbed the head and began to hack at the neck. I had heard that the only way to kill a demon was to cut off the head. When I did the body began to spasm and thrash around and I moved to set the severed head in the kitchen fireplace. Fire seemed to wrap around it and then flare straight up the chimney.
I looked at the body to see it collapsing into ash and started collecting the ash and adding it to the fire. Finally I began to clean up and then straighten up. I did not know that at the exact time I removed the head all the nobles had fallen and began to spasm and thrash. They died and lay still and when people searched they found their children butchered.
I glanced at merchant Edmonds and then down at the base of his building and the dock, "you have six cylinders that are leaking and they are all on the canal side. I would guess you have maybe three weeks before the others shift and you lose the dock. The building piling are all good with no sign of rot or weakness."
He nodded, "can you replace the cylinders?"
I looked at the other two lads with me, "it will take a half day with no traffic on the dock and cost a gold piece."
He frowned, "I will pay three silvers."
I snorted as I turned towards our boat, "the price is a gold piece. You can send a boat when you decide. If we have not heard from you in three days we will write you off our list."
He growled but I ignored it and got into the boat, "Vernosa canal Samuel."
He grinned as he let go of the dock and they pushed away. I picked up my oar and began to paddle without a single glance back. Mark chuckled, "he will try someone else."
I nodded, "and in a month we will be back to salvage his dock for four gold pieces."
I was the primary diver since I could hold my breath for over five minutes. I was as strong as ten men but never let anyone see that. I could see in total darkness and hear someone talking a block away. Like now I could hear my friends hearts beating. I had told no one about the demon I had killed. I was afraid someone would think I was tainted and they would kill me.
I accepted the three silvers from baron Miller at our next job. I gave the money to Mark as I stripped to shorts and looked at the large warehouse. I slipped off the dock and dove and began swimming, first I went along the outer edge and looked at the pilings. After I came up I tread water as I caught my breath.
I looked across the canal to see a slim man in the shadows wrapped in a thick cloak. I thought that was strange as I finally turned and dove. Row after row I checked the pilings and then I found the stone casket on the bottom. There had been a trapdoor in the warehouse floor above. I floated as I looked at it and finally reached out to see how heavy it was.
I turned and swam up and out and then climbed out of the water. I glanced across the canal again but the man was gone, "there is a stone casket on the bottom under the middle of the building."
They hissed and gestured to ward off evil and I grinned, "enough superstition."
I grabbed my shirt and climbed out of the boat and onto the dock, "it is your turn next time."
I walked into the warehouse and to the office to let the baron know the pilings were sound. I hesitated, "there is a stone casket on the bottom."
He looked at me quickly, "what?"
I gestured into the warehouse, "straight down under the trapdoor."
He blinked, "what trapdoor?"
I headed for the office door, "the one in the middle of your warehouse."
I had no idea that was going to open a lot of grief and get the man killed. Our next stop was way out on the edge of the city where new pilings were being driven into the sea bed. I got to rest while Samuel and Mark moved four large empty cylinders into place. Once they were secured I used the air bellows on the narrow barge and pumped them full of air.
The new wider dock rose up slowly and they began to move four more cylinders. We switched out once the outer ring of cylinders was in place and started on the inner until the whole dock was floating. The construction foreman paid us while his men began moving beams to start building the new house.
We pulled the narrow barge after us and all the way to the other side of the city. The large building we stopped at had a few dozen workers making many different sized barrels. We bought a dozen of the cylinders before we left and headed home. Home was an old boathouse with two lofts and more than enough room to park the boat and barge.
We tied up and Samuel slipped out to get dinner while we cleaned and straightened up. My sleep held dreams of men hunting me and a lot of blood. I woke to a morning cock crowing and slipped out of bed. I glanced across to the other loft but Samuel and Mark had not returned from their night out.
I washed and slipped on shorts before going to the kitchen by the door. I opened the door when I heard Samuel and Mark and shook my head, "you are drunk."
Samuel caught my shoulder, "the demon is back."
I straightened, "do not joke about that."
Mark staggered past, "baron Miller was drained of blood. They found him in his warehouse and cut out his heart and then took him to the priests to burn."
I looked at them as a chill ran through me, "go change. You two can row since I doubt you could hold your breath and swim."
We went to the labor market where everyone was whispering. We had three requests to check pilings and one to replace a cylinder. Before we got to the cylinder Samuel and Mark were sober but were in no condition to move a cylinder. I moved the old one and replaced it and let them pump the air in as I climbed up onto the dock.
I was close to the corner between buildings and stretched as I watched them grunt and groan and struggle. I grinned and started to open my mouth when I heard the foot slid on the dock between the buildings. I turned and then my hand was shoving the one reaching for me. I caught the arm and yanked and the man flew out and across the dock and into the canal.
His shirt had been bloody and his lower face caked with gore. I moved towards my friends, "stay back from him!"
The man came up and screamed as he tried to cover his eyes. Mark hissed and men ran out to see what was happening. One look and they were muttering and pulling knives. Someone brought out a long gaff and moved to the edge of the dock. Two men joined him as he reached out and stabbed the gaff into the man's shoulder.
He was still screaming and trying to cover his eyes and struggled as he was pulled closer. Someone appeared with a long spear and lunged to stab the man several times. He was pulled out and onto the dock as he continued to thrash. That was when the men began stabbing it with the knives.
Finally it lay still and I hissed as I slapped Samuel and turned, "make sure it did not bite me."
That brought several men to watch and witness. He slapped my shoulder, "not even a scratch."
I shuddered, "it just came out of the side dock and reached for me."
The men looked around the corner and then began to explore. They came back with white faces and one shook his head, "it was eating a kid."
I looked toward the corner, "there must be more."
I gestured to the men, "move off the dock so we can finish."
I had Samuel and Mark wait in the boat as I pumped the air into the cylinder. When I was done I dove down to pull out the hose and seal the cylinder. I climbed into the boat, "to the central market."
They nodded and started rowing as I checked the small barge with the old cylinder. Once we reached the market I let them go put up flyers and I began to walk around. That was when I saw the white haired teenage girl. Six men had backed her into a booth and were holding knives. I growled as I yanked two back, "what the hell are you doing!"
The other four glared at me as I shoved through and turned in front of the girl. One cleared his throat, "look at her. She is one of them."
.... There is more of this story ...