The Weeds: A Gamma Girls Story
Day six-hundred eighty-five, at least by my reckoning. The days bleed together in this seabound purgatory; the jaundiced skies above give no indication of the passage of time. No sun, no moon, just eternal, cloudless yellow. A man’s belly should serve as a rough timepiece, but we’ve felt neither hunger nor thirst since the night we ran aground on the shores of this nightmare land, and what rations we came with have since gone to rot. The longer we’re mired in these infernal weeds, the more inclined I am to believe that we didn’t survive that storm. Perhaps this place is the Fiddler’s Green of legend—the mariner’s paradise that awaits all who give their life to the sea. If so, the Creator has himself a queer sense of humour.
Every sailor’s heard tell of the perils of the Sargasso Sea. The great tangle of seaweed in the eye of the gyre; strong enough to take a man’s weight and so thick as to snag a ship’s hull and hold it fast. The tales have proved true. So far as I’ve seen, nothing escapes the sargassum. Not even time itself. Over the centuries, many a crew has found itself castaway on the shores of this living island, and here they remain to this very day. French corsairs, Portuguese conquistadores, even a troop of Roman legionaries—sailors from near every sea-faring nation in history have found themselves washed up upon this timeless isle of the damned. Though our cultures be separated by leagues and centuries, we’ve settled into a sort of civilisation of survivors. Entertainment is the currency of our land, and many a night has been spent trading tales to fight back the boredom. Ancient tales of faraway lands; epic yarns of grand adventure; even some local lore, like the legend of the Great Beast that swims beneath the green. We do what we can to keep busy, but I’ve seen more men than I care to remember succumb to the dreadful monotony of this place. Some chose to die by the blade. Others the bullet. And then there are those who simply walked to the edge of the weeds and stepped off, sinking away into oblivion. Some days, I’ve come close myself; staring down into the cool, inviting waters at the rim of this desolate world. So far, I’ve always managed to draw back. There’s still hope, I tell myself. Hope that we’ll one day find a way off of this horrid land. A way home.
It was in a hopeful frame of mind such as this that I first caught sight of her from my perch at the stern of my ship. At first I refused to believe my eyes. Surely this was some trick of the light; a heat mirage reflected off the misty emanations of the weeds. As she came closer I saw that my eyes spoke truth. A woman, dressed in strange and scandalous garments unlike any I’d seen before. She rushed down the driftwood path that connects the camps waving a broadaxe overhead that was easily as tall as herself, and behind her followed a horde of the barbaric Norsemen from the encampment far upshore, chasing after her in earnest. She must have been tired from the long pursuit, and slowed as she neared my ship. I felt a great pity for this strange woman. Had I been a younger, more capable man, I might have rushed headlong into the fray to protect the young lady and her honour. Alas, I am not. Nor could I order my men to rush to her defence—the despair of this place having sapped whatever commanding presence I once held over them. I could but watch as the terrible warriors drew nearer to the poor, defenseless woman.
Then came an unexpected sound. A sound that has no place in a dismal land such as this.
She began to laugh.
“Bring it on, ya weird-beardy b——s!” the woman shouted. “Anti-Tank Sally’s ‘bout give you Viking f—s a history lesson!” The profane vulgarities that poured forth from her delicate mouth are unfit for even a seasoned sailor such as myself to transcribe. Suffice it to say, the woman was fearless. Though they lacked a shared tongue, her verbal assault had the desired affect upon her assailants. The Norsemen halted their pursuit, confused by the tiny woman who’d stolen their weapon and led them far from home, only to turn and laugh in their faces. She braced herself and twirled the axe around in a glittering blur as the Norsemen crept carefully forward, surrounding her. “Who’s first?” she asked. Taunting them. Smiling.
She didn’t wait for an answer. Moving almost too fast for my eyes to follow she spun and extended her arms, ramming the butt end of the axe blade into a barbarian’s shoulder. The force of the blow sent him reeling, and he knocked over the man standing next to him as well. The savage to her left thrust with his staff. By all rights, it should have been a solid blow, but the woman dropped and swung again, slicing the staff neatly in two. Leaping back to her feet, she kicked the rest of the weapon from the man’s hand and finished him off with an axe handle to the temple. It was an incredible sight to behold. One after another, the barbarians fell—wounded, but alive—and all the while, she laughed. Engaged in working away at a pair of the savages defending themselves with wooden shields, the woman failed to notice a swordsman approaching from the rear. “Behind you, Miss!” I cried out, fearing it was too late.
Without a second to spare, the woman dispatched the shield-carriers, turned, and ducked beneath her attacker’s blade. Recovering, she drove a fist into the man’s kidney, and followed it with a fierce uppercut that knocked him cold. Unbelievable; such power from such a tiny woman. “Whoo,” I heard her exclaim, “felt the wind on that one!” She turned toward me, and her gleeful smile stirred emotions in my soul that had long lain dormant. “Thanks a bunch, Cap’n Crunch!” she shouted, waving. Grinning—perhaps for the first time in months—I returned the wave, and she returned to her battle.
Fists and iron flew, and bearded men dropped to the ground by the score. It was an incredible sight to behold. This strange, warrior woman, fighting like the devil himself. Unrelenting. Untiring. It seemed as though this battle would never cease, when without warning the surface of the weeds began to roll and undulate, as if rocked by a sudden wave—though no currents dare approach the sargassum. The Norsemen scattered, dragging their injured and unconscious with them back to their camp, and the woman fought to keep her footing as the ground behind her began to swell, and I realised the truth. The terrible truth of this place. The stories we’d traded around the driftwood bonfire were real. The Great Beast had risen from its home beneath the green! As I watched in horror, its colossal grey bulk tore up through the surface, dripping wet and draped in seaweed. Some manner of massive dorsal fin rose up from its back, gleaming in the dull, yellow light, and from the top of the fin protruded a terrible, glassy eye perched upon a spindly stalk. I was fixated, unable to look away. Was this how my imprisonment in this place was to end—devoured by some hideous, primordial monstrosity? While I watched, unblinking, the creature’s eye suddenly retracted and folded back, like a door on a hinge, and from within the beast’s fin emerged two more women! The first was tall and muscular, with a tanned, brown complexion. Her companion was younger and shorter, with brilliant blue hair upon her head! Blue! There was no question; I’d clearly gone mad. My mind had finally been broken by the isolation and hopelessness of this horrible land. Convinced I was delirious, I nearly turned away from the impossible scene before me, until the blue-haired woman spoke.
“Check it, Sal!” she shouted down to the warrior woman. “We found a G– d— U-Boat!”
“And I got to beat up, like, a buttload of Nazis!” her companion added, raising her fists in triumph.
“Good job, girls!” the warrior woman said. “Mine were Vikings. Check it out! Spoils of war!” She raised the giant broadaxe overhead with a single arm and not an ounce of strain.
“Peachy keen,” her comrade replied. “Now get the h— in the boat, girlie; we’re shipping out!”
Her axe slung over one shoulder, the woman darted across the uneven ground, leapt from an errant slab of driftwood, and grabbed hold of a ladder that ran down the side of the beast—or rather the “U-boat,” though it was unlike any vessel I’d encountered in all my years at sea. What manner of boat travels beneath the waves? She made short work of scaling the ladder and disappeared inside the metal fin. I admit, I was sad to see her go. For a brief moment, she’d made me forget the misery of this place.
And then she was back; her head and shoulders rising up above the rim of her vessel’s fin. “Ahoy, Cap’n!” she called to me. “That tub still seaworthy?”
“I believe so, lass,” I replied. “She’s a sturdy old thing, though I fear she’ll never see the open seas again.”
The woman just chuckled, and threw a salute and a wink in my direction. “Fair Winds and Following Seas, Cap’n! Best tell your boys to hold on tight.” She disappeared from sight, and the glassy eye rose upright once more as she closed the hatch behind her. The weeds rippled again as the U-boat began to move; the fin swiveling to face my direction. With a great rumbling, the boat began to advance, rushing headlong toward us on a collision course. Realising almost too late what her parting words had meant, I called down to my crew. “Brace for impact, men!”
The U-boat’s dorsal fin ran up against our hull, sending a violent shudder through the dry wooden ship. The air was rent by the terrible sound of a thousand clinging vines stretching to the limit and snapping under the relentless power of the mysterious vessel. Slowly, we made our way toward the edge of the weeds. Ahead, the endless, open water. I looked back just in time to see the U-boat slip beneath the surface and the last of the dread sargasso pass by our hull. In an instant, color burst back into the world and I shielded my eyes against the brilliant azure sky. Our sails, slack these many months, billowed now and unfurled against a powerful wind. I rushed to the wheel, barking orders to my men once more. The kindness of that warrior woman had brought us back to the world of the living. She’d set us free. Adjusting our heading, I steered us toward home.
I can’t stop picturing Jen’s “I totally thought that peasant was a demon” grin through the viking battle 😀
I enjoyed the first half with its desolate, hopeless atmosphere more than the second one, but I guess stories with a bad ending don’t really fit into the Demon Hunters universe.