He dashed over to where the girl had been standing just a moment ago and looked down the hole in the wooden deck, body pressed flat against the dry boards.
‘RAYNA!’ he called into the darkness below, and no answer came.
The Swordsman began looking around for another, hopefully safer, way down; but before he could find it, there came a sound from the hole in the deck. It began faintly, and one might have mistaken it for the wind; but after his time spent in the desert, he knew better. He didn’t have to wait for them to begin gnashing their teeth to recognize the sound for their hosts.
He pulled the revolver from the holster and aimed it into the darkness, angling it off to one side, and prayed that the barrel wasn’t pointed at Rayna, wherever she had found herself.
If he did not do this, it would mean the end of her anyway.
With a terrifying sound that struck like a lightning bolt, the revolver went off, gunpowder igniting and sparks flying; and for a moment, by the flash of the revolver’s muzzle, he could catch a still image from the space below:
There laid Rayna, sprawled out cold on the floor of the lower deck. The bullet had struck the ground a good foot away from her head, the hole it created a smoking black spot in the wood. Around the girl’s unconscious body, he saw glimpses of blackened, malnourished hands that seemed more like claws, the way the bone pressed against the skin in harsh angles. There was, too, a dull reflection of the muzzle flash that came in pairs all around her.
As the light went out, a hiss came rising out of the lower deck, along with the sounds of scuttling and scraping. The Swordsman wasted no time in chambering the next bullet, and then aiming it again right into the darkness and pulling the trigger.
Another crash, another series of hisses – this time they came with an aggressive edge to them. He could only rely on scare tactics for so long before the creatures decided to fight back.
‘The things I do,’ the Swordsman said with a sigh, and threw himself into the hole in the ground.