A Haunted Past (short story)

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This is a creative work set in the world of Elanthia, attributed to its original author(s). It does not necessarily represent the official lore of GemStone IV.

Title: A Haunted Past

Author: Mirkk Timbertree-Bayvel

In 5104, after a prosperous time on Teras Isle, Mirkk set sail on an unnamed merchant vessel to return to Wehnimer's Landing. While underway, the vessel was attacked and razed by krolvin pirates, and Mirkk was forced into rowing as a slave on their ships. He does not speak of his time on the ships. He is, however, tormented by night terrors because of what he endured and what he had to do to survive.

Also see: At the Oars as part of Mirkk's Tale.


Crimson drops fell from his fingertips onto the salt-crusted deck, some mixing with the blood already there, and he couldn't tell if it was someone else's or his own. He watched several large drops splatter irregularly against the wood. He wondered for a moment if eventually the drops would stop or if they would begin to pool. His eyes followed the blood up from his hands and along his arms, across his shoulders and realized it covered his chest. Then the shouting began.

"What should we do with their bodies?" someone yelled.

"Av v'koort," a guttural voice barked. "In the water. With their burzgafk Ashrim cousins."

Mirkk raised his head, looking around. He watched the other rowers place their makeshift weapons - nets, clubs, and rusty sailor's knives - in a pile before the mast. When krolvin attacked another ship and felt their numbers were too few, they would force the slaves rowing below to fight, their number never enough to be a threat to the krolvin themselves, but enough to increase their odds of krolvin victory. Some chose death by the sword over fighting. Others plunged themselves into the depths of the sea at first opportunity. Others still - the ones that had any semblance of hope - would fight.

Mirkk moved over and tossed a rusted machete onto the pile. He must have moved too slowly, as one krolvin shouted at him in Krolgeh. Mirkk stared at him, shrugging. The krolvin - the one the rest of the slaves referred to as "Pig Eyes", less because of his beady eyes, and more so because of his smashed and upturned nose - snorted, "Faster. Clear out dead."

Mirkk saw Pig Eyes had a necklace of freshly sliced ears dangling around his neck - freshly cut pointed ears. It caused Mirkk to think of everything that just happened, had happened over the past two years, and would likely continue until his death. He quickly moved to the side railing and retched.

He could hear Pig Eyes bursting into raucous laughter behind him. Mirkk moved to wipe his mouth, but only managed to smear blood from his arm across his lips. He furrowed his brow, his heart racing as he spat, frantically trying to clear his mouth of the blood. He retched again.

Mirkk bolted upright in the night.

"What's wrong?" Her voice broke the through the darkness. He exhaled slowly.

"I'm sorry. I'm not keeping you up, am I? I just..." He paused, as if trying to collect his thoughts. "It was just a dream. I'm sorry."

"A nightmare?" She asked, concern in her voice.

"Yes," he confirmed tensely. He could sense her rising, sitting next to him.

"Would you like to talk about it? Was it the krolvin again?"

He heard the rain pattering through glass-paned balcony doors of their room in Firefly Villa, interrupted occasionally by the sound of distant thunder.

"It was all manner of things. I can't seem to…" his words tapered off as he glanced around into the night as if hoping to find some answer. "It was all very piecemeal. I remember Liabo waxing and waning rapidly. And town. There was an animal in decomposition right outside the -"

He felt her hand gently resting on the back of his head, her fingers softly running through his hair to comfort him. "An animal outside.." she carefully urged him to continue.

"Right outside the courtyard of the Library," he said faintly. "Then I was back on the ships rowing, and - " He paused. He couldn't possibly tell her the next part of the dream. She'd never look at him the same. She would see him as a monster - unforgiveable. She would hate him. After all, he hated himself.

"I'm so sorry. I know this was supposed to be our time together, away from all the distractions. I don't know -"

"Shhh," she whispered softly. "Come. Lie down." He laid beside her and she held him, cradling his head in her arms as she tried to lull him back to sleep.


It was becoming difficult to breathe. The burlap sack over his head made the already humid sea air seem heavier. Through the porous burlap sack over his head, he couldn't see anything, complicated further by the faintness of morning nautical twilight, but he could hear.

He heard the barking of orders in Krolgeh. He heard in broken common the inquiry, "Row or die?" He heard the voice of the captain of the merchant vessel openly defy the demand. He heard the gasp of the captain and the thud of something heavy landing on the deck. He heard the repeated question over and over again as the krolvin made their way down the line of survivors.

He knew if he defied, he would die. There would be no resistance. The jute rope seemed to tighten, cutting into his wrists as he attempted to test the knots. He knew the only hope for ever returning home would be to live, and in order to live, he would have to row.

The sack was suddenly yanked off his head and he squinted at the light of the sun breaking the horizon over the land to the east. As his eyes began to adjust, he heard the same question asked of him - "Row or die?"

He looked up, trying to catch a glimpse of his captor. In that moment, he felt someone behind him stripping him of his valuables, including the rolaren-linked bracelet around his wrist. He glared over his shoulder. This must have amused his captors, as the krovlin before him reached back and punched him squarely in the stomach. Already on his knees, he slumped forward, his face landing on the sea-worn deck.

Strong hands pulled him back to a kneeling position as he wheezed. He must have found some favor with his captors, as he was afforded a second chance to answer the question - something the others hadn't been granted. "Row, or die?" the voice said with a little more malice.

"Row," escaped his lips without any further thought. The krolvin before him with beady eyes nodded approvingly as he fixed the bracelet - his bracelet, the one Velianna had given him - to his wrist. The krolvin moved to the next one in line, a sailor of the vessel. Mirkk felt the rummaging hands continue to search him, removing anything of value they could find. His heart raced.

Mirkk quickly sat upright, his heart thumping in his chest. The morning light was shining through the large open windows of the retreat to which Rohese had brought him for their six month anniversary. His eyes searched the room for her, but didn't find her. He noticed her open diary on the table. He slipped on his trousers, rose, walked over and read the delicate handwriting. With a concerned look, he curiously flipped the page back to the previous entry.

He furrowed his brow as he felt an ache in his heart.

No secrets.

His heart felt heavy as he thought, "How do I ask forgiveness from her when I can't forgive myself?"

"No. She is hurting. Now is not the time."

”Until It Sleeps” ~ Metallica


The violent storm caused the ship to pitch and roll. With each movement, Mirkk lurched to one side and then the other as the unmoving shackles dug into his wrists. Above, the sails had been trimmed hard, the helm lashed in hopes the Vosk Pritz, or Rising Sun, would keep itself righted until the worst of the tempest had blown over. But on the sea, only fools rely on hope alone. A strong breeze whipped across, enough to undo the let loose the reef lines that held the mainsail down. One tall wave heaving-to with a billowing sail catching the opposite direction was all the stress required for the Vosk Pritz to crack along the hull. At that point, it was every krolvin or slave for themselves.

The rush of water along the rowing deck spewed in from the port side, slipping through the cracks in the deck to the hold below. After much coaxing, some of the rowers had convinced skittish Hadley the cabin boy to retrieve the keys, unlocking the fetters from their ankles. They quickly pushed him aside as they made for the companionway. He scampered behind them.

Mirkk saw Irgon seated several rows ahead of him, unmoving. Mirkk rose to his feet, the water now up to his ankles. He realized he didn’t’ have much time. As he turned toward the centerline of the deck, he abruptly ran directly into Pig Eyes who himself was headed toward the companionway. They exchanged a tense look before Mirkk grasped the krolvin’s wrist firmly. Pig Eyes looked down and realized Mirkk had his hands on the linked rolaren bracelet. Pig Eyes pulled jerked his arm back, but years of rowing had strengthened Mirkk’s grip and it wouldn’t give way.

Pig Eyes launched forward with a grunt, pushing Mirkk hard against the bulkhead. He released his grasp on Pig Eyes’ arm and fell to the ground. Pig Eyes quickly turned and moved slowly through the knee deep water that was continuing to fill the ship toward the companionway. As the krolvin approached the companionway, he felt something cold against his throat. He reached and touched the steel chain wrapped around his neck and his beady eyes widened.

Mirkk grimaced as he pulled on his shackles, shoving his knee into the small of Pig Eyes’ back. He pulled until the grunts turned to gargles, and the gargles to gasps. He held on until he heard nothing but the water filling the deck. He loosed the chain around the krolvin’s neck, allowing the body to slump into the waist deep water. He removed the linked rolaren bracelet from the krolvin’s wrist, slipping it onto his own and fumbled around, searching for a keyring. After a bit of effort, he managed to procure the keyring and began probing the wet keys into his shackles. After the third one they slipped from his fingers into the water.

Mirkk dove down into the water, his hands desperately searching the wood below, finding nothing. He surfaced, took another deep breath, and ducked under the water again. The salt burned his eyes, but his fingers felt something metallic. He seized the keyring and surfaced again. Having lost track of the key order, he started over again and fate favored him, unlocking the shackles on the first try. Immediately, Mirkk moved toward the companionway. As he reached the ladder, he paused, turning back toward Irgon.

“Irgon. Irgon!” he called. Irgon did not move. Mirkk turned and, working against the rising water, made his way back to Irgon.

“Irgon!” he shouted over the rushing water that was now at Irgon’s chin. He shook Irgon, but Irgon only sat in silence, staring.

This is all he knows. He can no longer comprehend life outside of this ship.

The Vosk Pritz pitched steeply forward as water filled the chamber with darkness, sinking into the fathomless depths of the sea.

“I have killed to survive, but I have also killed for hate – for revenge,” Mirkk said to Rohese, hanging his head. “You must think I’m a monster.”

"Mirkk, if we were held accountable for every poor decision we make in times of distress, we would all be wracked with guilt and locked forever in a cycle of misery. This is the past, and there is nothing you can do to change it, only to learn from it. We must look forward now."

"But I feel like I will be bringing the demons of my past with us." There was despair in his voice.

"Only if you allow it," she softly offered. “Since the first day I met you, all I have seen is a man with such capacity for love and kindness. That is who you are. The monster you seem to think you are was left back on that ship, and that is where those demons need to rest as well."

Mirkk turned and gazed out the window, the warm sun of spring shining brightly down on the gardens outside.

"Mirkk, do you love me?"

"Of course I love you," he insisted, turning to face her again with concern on his face.

"Then that is all that matters," she said with an affirming nod.

"I hope it is that simple."

"It's as difficult or as simple as you wish to make it," she stated, studying his face for a moment.

"When it was my secret, it was contained. I had some form of control over it."

"But you didn't, it was tormenting you. I could see you were struggling," she knowingly reminded him. Her tone softened as she added, “And I am still here."

Frenetically, he responded, "I just did not want to lose you. You are my light. I could not bear to think of-" He closed his eyes, not wanting to finish the words, much less deal with the thoughts.

She took his hand in hers, bringing it to her lips with a soft kiss. "You need to learn to trust me and in our love. We swore we would have no secrets for this very reason."

"I am so sorry. So very sorry," he whispered with a tremble in his voice. She leaned forward, resting her forehead against his, closing her eyes.

"And I am sorry that you ever felt you couldn't share this with me," she whispered.

"You have to figure that after all of this, and having no one other than River, it became quite easy for me to hold things in," he whispered, closing his eyes.

"I know. But you have me and I will always be here for you. Always."

"Thank you. Thank you for being who you are. And for loving me." He squeezed her hand tightly in his, the catharsis overwhelming him and renewing him at the same time.

"Without you I am nothing. Your pain is my pain, your burdens mine. And together, we are strong."

Eyes tightly closed, his forehead still pressed against hers, he quietly repeated, "We are strong.”

“Work Song” ~ Hozier

Vast Grey Seas

Blackness. Inky liquid blackness.

The sound of the surf crept upon him first, its soft enchantment luring him out of his unconscious state. He felt the warmth of the sun upon his shoulders and back, and the firm, packed sand from the ebbing tide beneath him. And thirst. Mirkk slowly opened his eyes, a seagull within inches of his face observing him, as if assessing him as a possible meal option. He raised his head, startling the gull and sending it flying. It was then he saw the body a short distance away along the surf, its head facing away, the blue hair unmistakable.

He found himself moving faster than he thought possible, the adrenaline of his reflexes taking over. Before he knew it, he was straddling the body, a large rock held in both hands raised above his head and a wild look in his eyes, his breathing rapid.


He continued to watch the blue haired humanoid, and still no movement. Slowly, he lowered his hands and let the rock slip from his fingers. As his breathing began to calm, he looked around, taking in the geography of this place in which he found himself, the backshore strewn with some flotsam, the tree line, and the craggy and hilly hinterlands beyond. Mustering his strength, he stood, turning his back to the Krolvin.

Now standing on the deck of a ship, the soggy boards in the deck swollen and covered in a thin layer of salt water. Instinctively he moved to the starboard side rails of the run aground Vosk Pritz, looking out across the beach upon which he was just standing. Down the way, the blue haired body remained unmoving. He crossed to the port side, covering his eyes with his hand to gaze down the beach. At the far end of the shore, he saw her, her white skin and silver hair unmistakable to him. But how is she here?

Mirkk shot upright in bed and looked around the room, his eyes trying to adjust to the darkness. His hands searched across the sheets for what his eyes could not find, yet the search was fruitless. Then he remembered she wasn’t there.

With a heavy sigh, he stood, his feet softly landing upon the floor. He took a single step toward the opened window of his bedchamber – their bedchamber – at Nendelomea, but stopped abruptly. Inexplicably, he felt a need to cover himself, and grasped the sheet and tugged it from the bed, wrapping it around his waist and holding it with one hand against his hip. Now covered, he moved to the window and leaned against the sill, gazing out onto the green lawn that had turned into a vast, grey sea of grass under the moonlight. Then he saw her standing next to the tree, her pale features feeling distorted in the night. He moved to call out to her, her name almost escaping his lips, but before he could, she turned and walked behind the tree. He waited, anticipating her emergence upon the other side of the tree, but it never occurred.

He shook his head and rubbed his eyes before slowly turning and falling back onto the bed with a frustrated sigh.