Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest
The sea lord emerged from the waters and stepped onto the sandy shore. Kelp and barnacles covered the giant. Starfish tangled in his beard, and dozens of urchins had taken root on his back. Behind him, his army trudged. He bellowed his war cry. He raised his trident to the skies and laughed heartily. “Come then, ye cowardly gods! Send down your champion that I might best him before your very eyes!”
The seas boiled with his rage.
A woman in a dark suit that he’d failed to notice cleared her throat.
He lowered his gaze to her. “Can I help you with something?”
She removed a notebook from her jacket pocket. “Sea Lord Soonamis, I presume.”
Soonamis nodded. “I am. And you are?”
“Agent Campbell, National Questing Bureau.” She handed him a card. He took it, delicately, between two immense fingers. She’d had the foresight to laminate it to keep his eternally wet hands from smearing it. “As I understand it, you’re here to conquer the surface world. Is that correct?”
Soonamis nodded. “You understand correctly. When the moon aligns, when the stars are right, the seas spit up their dead, and I rise to lead them in conquest.”
“Right. Moon. Stars. Conquest.” Campbell scribbled something in her notebook. “And a champion arises to challenge you to a one-on-one fight on the beach, besting you in single combat and driving you back to your watery realm.”
“Yes, that’s how it usually goes,” said Soonamis. “But not this time. This time I shall crush the champion and sweep across the world.” He glanced around the empty beach. It was a bit early, and not unexpected that there wouldn’t be many people here. Just a pair of joggers and Agent Campbell. “Are you that champion?”
“Me? No. Sorry.” She tucked her notebook away. “I’m afraid there’s been a scheduling conflict.”
The sea lord scratched his soggy beard. “What?”
“There’s this cursed hat that needs to be destroyed and priorities had to be shuffled.”
“A hat? I would think me and my army of the drowned would rate higher than a hat.”
“It’s a very nasty hat.”
He couldn’t tell if she was being sarcastic or not. She had that kind of voice.
“Now see here, I’ve spent the last two hundred years walking the seabed gathering all these poor wretches for my legion, and now, there’s no champion to fight?”
“Sometimes, these things just don’t work out,” she said. “Could you possibly come back next week?”
Soonamis snarled. “I don’t see why I have to be the one to reschedule.”
“It’s an inconvenience,” she said. “We acknowledge that.”
The sea lord leaned down and whispered. “I know you’re just doing your job, but I’m quite peeved here. Do you have any idea how dull these guys are?” He jerked his trident at the army of dead behind him. A soldier with sallow skin and rusted armor. A privateer captain who had once terrorized the seas. A man in tattered cabana wear and one flip flop. A hundred others gathering on the beach. Endless others lurking just below the choppy waters. All wore the same dazed expressions on their waterlogged faces. “It’s just that this is really the only outing they get, and, believe me, you do not want to hear the dead bitch.”
The privateer captain groaned. Brackish water dripped from his lips.
“Oh, don’t be like that, Steve,” said the sea lord. “I was talking about the other ones. Not you guys. You guys are cool.”
The cabana wearing tourist gurgled.
The sea lord nodded. “Yes, of course. I’ll ask. Is it possible to skip the champion bit? Just get on with the conquest?”
Agent Campbell shrugged. “How would that look?”
Soonamis nodded. “Bad form, I suppose.”
“Well, I can’t just ignore thousands of years of tradition, can I? Without rules, we’re little more than savages. You can see what I have to work with here,” Soonamis said to Campbell.
“Let me see what I can do.” She walked away and made a call.
The wretched warrior in rusted armor hissed. His eye popped out, and he let it hang there.
“We all know what you think, Tim,” said Soonamis, “and when you’re lord of the drowned dead, we’ll do that.”
Tim turned and trudged back toward the ocean.
“Seriously, screw that guy,” said Soonamis. “Am I right, Steve?”
“You know it,” said Soonamis
Campbell returned. “I can get the wait down to four days. Best I can do.”
Soonamis shrugged. “Well, if it’s the best you can do, it’s the best you can do. I’m not happy about it, and I’m going to file a complaint. Don’t think I won’t.”
“Yes, sir. We understand.”
The sea lord returned to the depths while Campbell stood silently on the beach, perhaps enjoying the sunrise. Perhaps not. It was impossible to tell.
She had that kind of face.