“Thanks be to Aurel, bodies float.”
The old Bloodcrow narrowed his eyes at his apprentice. “Don’t speak ill of the dead, we make our way by them.” He chuffed and threw a ugly copper bauble back into the lapping waves. He stood and reached for the next corpse with a yew pole. Their little boat bobbed as he poked the body closer.
“Wasn’t speaking ill of em’. Just thanking the gold lord we can do our jobs without havin’ to swim.” The apprentice shot back, wrestling with a whalebone bracelet around a dead woman’s wrist. For all her boasting, the apprentice avoided looking too closely at the bloated veins and blue nails of the woman she was robbing.
Her master held no such compunction, hauling limbs into the boat with practiced apathy. The fabric of the youth’s tunic was ruined from a night in the water, but the gold buttons and hooks were not. He took out his knife and pointed it at the living girl sharing his boat.
“Wasn’t the empyreal Aurel who did this. Don’t speak ill of him either.” The Bloodcrow dipped his head for a moment before slicing open a tunic sleeve.
His apprentice crowed as the whalebone circle finally slipped from the corpse’s wrist. She pushed the woman back into the ocean with the toe of her waterlogged boot. Far off on the horizon she could track the movements of other little boats.
Normally grave robbers were a territorial lot, but there was no need for squabbling today. Miles of the ocean were filled with the freshly dead. They hadn’t pulled a man, woman, or child aboard who didn’t have gold at their ears or on their fingers. The wealth of the island civilization had not been exaggerated, for all that it now bobbed in the waves.
“I wasn’t speaking ill of Aurel!” The apprentice huffed before a snide smile slipped across her face. “We sail in sea of good fortune; I should thank Koli instead.” She laughed sweeping her gaze over the red evening horizon.
The Bloodcrow coughed and spit over the side with a low curse. “These people were stupid enough to.”
His words elicited a petulant glare but quieted her mean glee. “Old fanatic.” She grumbled and picked up the yew pole. The girl stood and began coaxing the next body through the water.
“Call me or him what you like, but fortune’s no one to trust.” The Bloodcrow held up a rough button, inspecting the gold. The precious metal gleamed dull in the sun’s dying light. “His brother’s a better bet.”
The apprentice said nothing, unable to argue. They picked through an ocean of the once very fortunate and now very dead. She glanced towards her master who busied himself pulling small pieces of gilt from ruined silk. She bent her head and whispered a small prayer to Aurel before resuming her work.