Hurrying down the corridor as quietly as possible, Glory paused at the bottom of the stairs and looked up. Though the light was dying, compared to the darkness below deck she might as well have been looking straight at the sun. She couldn’t see anything. There was some kind of rhythmic shadow passing over the door almost like a fan however. Still, she couldn’t wait long before her companions would follow.
As she neared the top of the stairs, something bowled her over. It knocked her across the deck where she collided with the railing, opening the tarnkappe and weighing her down at the same time. The priests, quite a few more than two, were on her in a second, grabbing her by the arms and restraining her. They quickly tossed her cloak aside and wrapped her in the fishing net, laughing harshly as they did so. Had Chester betrayed her? Maybe he had cut a deal to free Chelsea. She could almost forgive him if that were the case… almost.
Father Dag stood, or rather loomed over her as he lounged on massive swollen tentacles where his legs should have been. Beside him stood the other priests of Kingsport. The elder man was completely despondent as he looked, not at Glory but towards the stairs. His companion‘s face was a study in impassivity, but his eyes glinted in triumph as he also watched for his erstwhile peer.
“Little idiot, we might not be able to sense you, but we can easily see into the minds and hearts of everyone else below. You should have heeded Lara’s warning.” The High Priest turned to his lackeys. “The traitor and the other prisoners should be up soon. Bring them.”
Glory glowered at the loathsome priest, “Who’s the traitor? The one who would protect an innocent child or the one who regularly profits from the misery of his own people?” she spat.
“You dare judge me?” the high priest snapped, his breath reeking of rotten fish as he leaned closer. If not for Phoenix, she might have thrown up on the man. “I am the High Priest, chosen by Father Dagon and Mother Hydra to lead my people on land. I ensure the safety of my kind by killing all interlopers who dare come to our home and threaten our waters.”
“You’re a megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur,” she sneered back at him. “I grew up with a psychotic sister. I know your sort. If you really cared about your people, you‘d stop the killings and find a way to live peacefully with the rest of humanity or remove yourselves to a safer location. You’re racist and specieist, and I can‘t imagine how taking the crew of a Coast Guard ship is anything but foolhardy. You fat idiot! The military keeps track of all its ships. They probably have some kind of a tracking device on board. Bad enough you‘ve made your people live like animals for decades in that wreck of a town, but you‘ve pretty much ensured their deaths if they stay here after this.”
“The Coast Guard? Dag! You didn’t?” the elder priest of Kingsport gasped in horror, putting a hand on the High Priest‘s shoulder.
The corpulent priest shrugged the other man off. “I am the eldest priest of Innsmouth. I make the decisions that preserve our way of life. We needed more sacrifices.”
“You are eldest only because I left,” said the other man in outrage, “and this girl is right. It‘s time things change. I will not be going to back to Kingsport. It‘s time I came home. We‘ll commune with Father Dagon and Mother Hydra and see who they will have as High Priest.”
A shout from the stairs told them that the other prisoners had finally arrived. Glory hoped they’d fair better than she had. Unfortunately the distraction was all Dag needed to turn on his brother. For a fat man, he moved with deceptive speed, rolling about like a huge seal and lashing out at the frailer man. Glory struggled with the net, but it was tight around her, effectively pinning her arms to her sides.
“You always were a fool, Llugh. Always thinking you knew better, always underestimating me. So your favored student is a traitor. I say the anchovy doesn’t swim far from the school. You must be a traitor too.” Dag might have been fast, but Llugh was spry for an old man. He twisted from the High Priest’s grasp and tried to run to the side of the boat, perhaps to jump over the side and commune with his gods up close and personal. “Grab him, and you will be eldest in Kingsport!” The High Priest ordered Llugh‘s colleague.
The man never hesitated. He snatched up a piece of rusted metal that may once have actually been a tool of some sort and swung it at his elder’s head. Chester just had time to shout, “No!“ before the makeshift weapon hit the man and knocked him into the railing. Father Llugh went down like a puppet who’s strings had been cut, but his momentum carried him over the side even as Dag cried out for the other man to catch him. All that was left was a swatch of bright blood on the deck where he had been.
Panting with exertion or excitement, the High Priest shrugged. “No matter. He couldn’t have survived a blow like that. Good job Miguel. Kingsport is yours.” The other man’s shark-toothed grin faded slightly however as Dag continued. “We’ll discuss bringing your congregation home to Innsmouth as soon as the ceremony is done.”
Chester kneeled on the deck, prostrate between two of his fellow priests. He glared down at his clenched fists with a single-minded fury that did not bode well if he managed to regain his feet. Lara crouched over Chelsea protectively, shadowed by one of the priestesses, while Captain Hodgeson grimaced between the mutli-limbed and multi-armed twins, blood staining the shoulder of her already filthy uniform. Petty Officer Locke didn’t seem to be conscious, guarded by a single priest who surveyed the body of his prisoner with smug satisfaction, as if he should be proud of incapacitating an injured man. Ann crouched against the railing, eyes firmly shut and arms around herself as if to shut out the world. One of the priestesses stood grimly over her, glancing anxiously from her prisoner to Father Dag.
to Book 5, part 3, page 26