Sweat clung to the Pureblood’s skin, each drop being replaced just as quickly as he wiped it away with the blue handkerchief. The little cart he pulled behind him, jumped and clattered over the dirt and rocks, the sound of glasses clinking echoed off the buildings as he passed. Walking by the Riverside, he looked over at the mix of Strains all milling around slowly in the heat, most draped across workbenches and printer’s tables. All were obviously affected by the sun and the stifling heat.
“Horrid weather. Do the seasons ever change in this hell of a town?” he asked the group.
A voice nearest the fence belonging to a rover, hardly audible, replied, “Yes, but summer lasts the longest. You best find a brew to keep ya going. They’re becoming scarcer the worse it gets.”
The pureblood pulled his cart up alongside the fence closest to a table, “Well, now that you’ve mentioned it, I happened to have plenty to go around!” He started placing bottles of various shapes, all filled with different colored liquids. Heads started to pop up from the workbenches, dried lips smacking.
The rover eyed him suspiciously, “Yeah, no one just gives out free brews. How much?”
“No cost, I’m just sharing what I have plenty of!” He clucked as he scooted the last of the bottles, about twenty in all, towards the middle. “Well, I would like to ask a favor…”
The constant sound and buzzing of the patrons of the Greenstone Tavern lent the still night air a sense of joviality, of life. The Diesel Jock downed the last of her drink and slammed the cup on the worn table she sat impatiently in front of. The still silence that followed brought into focus the words she spoke, thick with anger. “That missing sign on the gate outside of El D is a problem.”
Her road captain turned back to her, nodding. “I know. We’ll find a way to take care of it.”
The sounds of the conversations around them slowly grew to their normal cadence, yet were still tinged with wariness of the words of the DJs, mulling over their brews.
"I hear that the council had failed every day of this trade weekend. They were like a bunch of dogs who rolled over for the slavers when they showed any defiance. You know the only ones who actually did something? The sheriff and the judge. They're the ones who're really on our side."
"Really Seamus? You must really be deep in someone's pocket. Normal people don't talk like a flipping commercials the TVs talk about as much as you do, lately."
The crescent moon cast a pale light over the coast as two figures crouched on the shore. In front of them were a dozen or so wispy tendrils reaching out into the water. One of the figures, a grizzled Rover with tattered scarves arrayed around him, reached forward and adjusted one of the fishing lines. “Are you sure it’s safe to be out this late fishing,” spoke up the other figure, a younger rover with their scarves wrapped tightly around them as if to ward of a chill that was not present this evening, “Maybe we should head back to town they say the raiders have been everywhere these day.”
“Bah!,” spat the grizzled one, “Raiders are always everywhere that's why I’m telling you you need to get yourself a gun, shoot the pathetic bastards.” They patted their rifle for emphasis, and gave the young one a wink. The night was quiet with only crickets and the wind rifling through the grass to be heard. The grizzled Rover stuck up a pipe, took a deep hit and passed it to the younger one. “Here, a little heroj will take the edge off, help you focus on fishing.”
The younger one took the pipe and began to inhale but froze. “Do you hear that!” Eyes wide they peered into the dark off the coast. Drifting in on the breeze was whispers of sounds. Just faint enough to touch the ear, making them strain to hear more. What could be considered music was soon perceived, notes and singing just off the boundary of understanding. The younger one relaxed, inhaled deep from the pipe and passed it back.
The old one squinted as their ears picked up the strange distant notes and a sour feeling filled their ears. “Fucking throaters have the strangest sense of music,” they took another puff and passed the device back to the young one, “Well now you shouldn’t be worried they’ll attract all your raider friends, you can rest easy.” With that they fell back into a lull of silence, pierced only by the strange music across the water.
Slowly the noise grew in volume and more details could be picked out. Some fellow was playing a stringed instrument with all the skill of a shambler. Jerky erratic notes tore through the still evening air, biting the ear. Accompanying the spastic instrument were gurgling voices. They sounded nothing more than wet throaty wails. Agitated by the mad noises the Rovers struck up another pipe, fidgeting and nervous. A need to close out the music started to fill them and the young one tied a scarf around their ears in a desperate attempt to drown out the now clear sounds. What started as a moan accompanied the music, building in intensity to accompany the sound drawing ever closer. Clamping their palms to their ears the Rovers tried to block out the vile sounds, but the painful moaning rose to a sobbing scream. They crumpled into a ball and quivered in agony, until suddenly in stark contrast to how the music had crept up on them it ended.
However the screaming did not. After an eternity that slowly abated too, only then did they realize their throats were raw from wailing, they had been the ones screaming. Shaking the Rovers silently collected their fishing poles abandoning the venture. One though refused to yield as the line was caught on something below the surface. The grizzled Rover pulled on it till the string gave out. Falling to the ground the old Rover stayed there and sobbed. Bending down to help the elder up the young Rover began to gag. Their nostrils filled with putrid horror, the smell of thousands of fish rotting, of death. Something blocked the moonlight and cast a shadow upon them. Fighting against every impulse the the young Rover turned to look at what hunched over them. As the black claw shot out the young one did not have the voice left to scream.