Saturday, December 16, 2017
   
Text Size
image
Welcome to the home of House Ancora! House Ancora (HA) is a fellowship of online gamers dedicated to promoting cooperation, role-playing, and merriment in company with one another across the varied landscapes of today’s online gaming environment. We firmly believe that friendship transcends any gaming environment and is independent of any specific style, genre, server, or realm.

Book Three Pt 2 - The Reckoning

Written by - Talonmane Page 36 Book 3

{flashback to 2-1/2 days ago - Munchadin's ships in dangerous battle 800 miles out from Port Westgale. Beridane has had a standing bounty on all Ancoran loyalists, and the payoff for the capture or sinking of the Wavehammer and the peg-legged Dwarf are amoung the highest. An hour ago they were found and attacked by canny mercenaries looking to collect, in sleek, quick boats numbering at least two-dozen. But not long after the fight commenced, a light, whispy fog rolled in over them, and things have been dicey since. While all were equally blind, the lighter boats had the advantage of speed and maneuverability, and were using their shot catapults to pepper the bigger ships, and even the cruiser was feeling the damage...}

"I know what I saw uncle, matching us five-hundred feet off Starboard!" Marlie stood on the rim, leaning far out to point in the direction of her sighting, her other hand grasping a line for balance. Mate Perry stood in greater safety within the Star main's high basket, peering though a small telescope in that same direction. Without taking the device from his eye he yelled, "I dunno Cap'n. It's so hard to see out there I can't say the lass is right."

On the other side of the ship, the crew were handling more of the enemy that were, at least, visible.

"Fiaahhhre!" At Bimglin's order the three super-heavy ballistae on the Port prow loosed their held tension, and with a noise that sounded like three great strings on a giant lute of the gods were plucked with harsh intent, their tree-sized, iron-capped bolts lanced out. One missed, flying into the unseeable distance behind a cloudy wall and causing little streams of the fog to spin about in the disturbance, but the other two blew through the forehull of a corvette - one just above and the other just under the waterline. The boat listed and turned immediately in the impact. The Oathfather, one of the 'Hammer's destroyer escorts changed course and passed in front of the cruiser, following the wounded boat into the mists and firing her two forward catapults. Three seconds later the rat-a-tat-tat sound of clusters of metal shot hitting wood could be heard. "Ye-ah!" yelled the young Ironbrow sailor standing next to Bim, pumping his arm in the air in victory. The quiet First Mate gave an approving nod...it sure sounded like the destroyer's fire found the target too. Bim bent to help the fore crew reload one of the guns, rolling one of the next bolts into position onto a loader track. Cranks were then used to draw the great bow and pull the bolt up off the deck and into the firing position on the body of the ballista. The sails above groaned and moved as the ship began an increasing turn to port.

Munchadin stood at the Starboard rail near the center of the ship, staring out into the distance toward where his niece suspected some foxes ran, shadowing their course. He held his right arm high and back, motioning silent orders for mate pilot Sorbhulim that turned the 'Hammer slowly away, making it look as though they weren't aware, and baiting the foxes to strike. Sailmaster Brogni saw what Munch was intending and had his crews ready the equipment for a sudden heel-over in the same direction. Another motion of the Captain's arm and Feburt, again at the belowdecks communication horns, informed the Portside gun crews to be ready. Bimglin saw that command too, and with an encouraging pat on the backs to the Port fore gun crew, he moved aft to ensure the weapons all along the cruiser's side were set to go into action.

In the distance throughout they could all hear the muted noises of other fights - their other ships undoubtedly in the same position they were, battling half-blind and slowly being whittled at and taking more wounds.

As Munchadin left the Starboard rail, heading across the ship and up onto the meso-deck, the Wavehammer kept her motion and slowly presented her aft-side to the enemy...who got brave...

"There!" came the cry of the young Dwarf woman as two, then three, then a total of five corvette's burst the line of mist just head of where she had called their position minutes before. They were agile-looking craft with low, sidespread sails of a strange geometry and harsh angles to construction that seemed of a wood foreign to the experience of any of the crew.

Munchadin climbed onto the massive timbers that made up the pieces of the two presently disassembled trebuchet that could be mounted to the cruiser's central deck for strategic bombardment. Once atop the fifteen-foot-high pile, he could see the enemy, and wasted no time spinning his right hand above his head in circles whilst yelling "Turn!...Turn! Bimglin, take fire control!"

Sailmaster Brogni had trained his crews beyond exhaustion for moments like this where they had to work with whatever wind was available to get the heavy ship to piroette like a dancer. They worked in unision with ballast crews belowdecks, who moved giant counterweights along rails that ran the width of the ship between its two hulls and that kept it balanced. Crafty use of these weights could help the ship in any maneuver. The ship turned harder to Port, though seemingly not quick enough...but then as the sound of metal screeching on metal ended in several immense dull thuds, Brogni smiled at what he knew were the counterweights reaching their positions and he ordered the sails put to their final necessary trim. And the cruiser spun.

An eerie quiet held sway broken only by the continuing distant sounds of the rest of the wide seabattle...quiet until the First Mate called the mark.

"READY...FIAAAHHRRE!!" Bimglin mustered all ther volume he could into his baritone call while Wavehammer's maneuver brought her Port hull perpendicular to most of the approaching five boats...one of which disintegrated in a hailstorm of wood and metal and another that fell over sidewards and nosed in hard with a watery spray. A third took heavy damage but kept coming, along with the remaining two that were just lightly wounded. "RELOAD!" Over a hundred sailors on this side of the ship worked to make ready again the 42 mangonel cannon, 13 heavy ballistae, 23 light ballistae, and 9 catapult above and belowdecks that had just fired the tremendous broadside.

But even as that was occurring, and as the sails and rigging around and below him were flapping and slamming into new positions, catching the wind in new ways to recover from the hard change of course that had spun the ship near to the opposite direction, Mate Perry in the high basket next to Marlie cried out, "Avast! at Star-aft! incoming!" Marlie jumped from her spot to move over toward the new sighting, and gasped. Out of the fog plowed another squadron of 5 corvettes in formation, partly wounded, and behind them and to the right and heading sixty degrees from them came the half-burning shape of the Oathfather, clearly in a losing position and running from pursuers. More of the strange mercenary boats followed soon after him and beginning to overtake the destoyer, at least another four.

The Wavehammer's Portside then took the brunt of the attack from the remaining three foxes, whose deck catapults shot a tar-like substance all over half the side of the ship. It could be barely felt, and hardly seemed an attack at all, especially as the crew noticed that the substance wasn't on fire. Few saw the attackers peel away after their strafe. The cannon crews belowdecks started to understand what had just happened. The stuff had covered most of their gun ports, and they couldn't get it off.

Back up top, Munchadin left the meso-deck and ran-hobbled to the stern of the Starboard hull. At the same time Bimglin, who also had not yet realized the state of the port side after the attack, was heading to the rear of the Port hull. More of the merc boats kept appearing out of the fog behind the Wavehammer. Brogni didn't wait for the Captain's orders, and was setting his sailors to get the cruiser moving faster away from the new threats.

"The fog is partly lifting uncle. I count at least 14 boats out there, some coming for us, some for the 'Father!..." yelled blond-braided Marlie. "...or are they?" She was puzzled. Whilst the corvettes were taking shots at the destroyer and long shots at her own ship, something just didn't seem normal to her. "It's almost as if they are fleeing themselves," she said just loud enough for Perry to hear."That's it! they're running from someth...!"

Marlie didn't get to finish her sentence as the fog suddenly, impossibly blew apart as though the breath of Tiertiala herself made it so. Like two curtains that were holding back the sky, the cloudy material parted, and a ship unexpected burst from the whispy remains...an Elven ship and triangular mainsail bearing the stylized 'A' and anchor form of the seal of Ancora. One figure, cloaked and hooded with arms outstretched as though they alone could have spread the mist apart stood high on the prow and seemed to emit a presence that instantly dominated the area. As the rest of the frigate cleared the dissipating fog, something they could not have dreamed was to be seen, for filling this ship's sail was the breath of a collosal creature of magic and wind, water and storm, nearly a third the size of the ship itself. Mate Perry dropped his telescope. Marlie came down off the higher perch and steadied herself in the basket, holding the rim with one hand and grasping Perry's arm tightly with the other. Her voice quivered, "What have they done? what have they brought with them?"

The figure on the prow of the incoming frigate then gestured with one forceful stretch of its arms. A far distant rolling thunder was bare heard, and a powerful gale then whipped over them all. The rest of the fog as far as the eye could see was blown into nothing, and the truth of what lay behind it revealed. On either side of the lead vessel came multiple ships, all recognizable, all flying colours most friendly, and behind them, more ships than could be counted by the two lookouts in the basket. The mercenary corvettes may have wounded the Oathfather badly, but it was now clear they ran into something they could not hope to match and were indeed trying to run for their lives from a fleet...what would become the reincarnation of the Westgalian fleet...gathered from around the world by one heroic crew whose mission would go down in history. Gossamer Wing had survived and had returned...and was not alone.

A short time later, amoungst the cheering and revelry as the remaining mercs were rounded up or ran off, Munchadin stood at the a rail and handed Bimglin a cigar. Taking a long puff on his own, he watched the mooring ropes go out that would link the cruiser with his long away frigate. The hooded mage - as Munch assumed was the case - was nowhere to be seen, nor was the mighty storm elemental which he assumed was commanded by said mage. There would be time enough to investigate that situation in the coming hours while the rest of the fleet would have a celebration honouring the crew of the 'Wing, he thought. On the other side of his ship, he knew his people were working hard trying to remove the strange tar and clear their port guns. Using that unknown substance was an unexpected tactic, and he was still thinking of ways to defeat it for their future encounters. Oddly enough, a smile that contained a warmth he hadn't felt in months crept over his lips. The status quo had just changed in more than one way, and the war would now be different. "Aye. Aye, now we've got ourselves a real fight lad. And now, we bring that fight home."

****

{back in the present}

Wavehammer streamed ahead toward the courier. Westgale's port - due to its use by the enemy as a tool - was in growing flames. Munch's fleet both in the harbour and out to sea continued battling for what they held most dear. At the helm, Munchadin felt that smile again.

Written by - Teran

Teran came to rest in a heap towards the center of a small but brightly lit room. He others around him including the one that had wounded him. He knew that they were begining to understand that his expressions of pain were merely an illusion, another disguise he wore.

"I have never seen anything survive such terrible wounds." one of the people murmured.

"He can't living, is he a golem?" hissed another.

"I have seen his kind before." a calm feminine voice murmured from behind her skull mask. "This wyrm will make a fitting sacrifice to our masters when they arrive."

There was a moment of silence in the room and then the female voice spoke again.

"I will tell the elders that I have fixed their problem here. Make sure that... thing... does not go anywhere." She marched out of the room leaving Teran alone with three observers.

Written by - Talonmane

{flashback to 60 minutes ago. The outer defenses of the Iron Fleet at Port Westgale have been breached by the combined flotilla of the Ancoran loyalists and their Doledran allies. They have split into two fleets: one that will penetrate the harbour and another that will stay farther out and picket the possible approaches that any Ironskane vessels could take to come to the Port's defense. The Wavehammer is, of course, leading the harbour fleet and has already passed the peninsula breaks that mark the entrance to the harbour and Munchadin has ordered a long course to the South which will bring them 'round the circumference of the area, eventually passing the shipyards and paralleling the pier. They are joined by the 'Hammer's squadron, the rest of their wing, and a wing of Doldedran skirmishers . The Admiral (a term now rightfully said - finally) has set a multi-pronged assault meant to take out every resource floating or standing at the port. His own group's task is to pass the pier and ensure every ship and every dock still there is destroyed. Additionally, they will be watching for any loyalists who need aid, for after several interrogations of captured enemy sailors during the last 30 minutes, they've found out that someone has been causing a commotion in the Port. Munch thought that perhaps Ithramir's Elves got word to local friendlies about the date and time of the sea raid (a raid the Elves had no idea was now a full assault).}

The Wavehammer cruised on following the South peninsula of the harbour, beginning her course that would flank the heaviest fighting. They had bourne the brunt of the outer assault and smashed their way in, and it was now time for the second line of attack vessels to drive ahead, secure the center of the harbour, and guard the Doledran bombers as they set up their long catapults and trebuchet for shore bombardment. The front line ships had split, with some heading the long ways 'round North and South, some remaining back with the rearguard, and some joining the fast boats in their charge for the inner third of the area to harass the shore with strafe and present obvious targets for the Usurper's shore defenses.

Kildef looked up from where he was helping mate Doni and 2 sailors lay out two long rope stacks in seperate circles next to the ship's Port-aft light ballista. One rope was attached to the length of a loaded bolt beneath a thin net. The other was readied upon a second bolt and net but lay off to one side, in place for reload. Kildef held one line, smelled it for the tenth time, and for an equal number of times recoiled from the pungent odor.

"I know, lad, that stuff's stinkin up me stern decks somethin' fierce, but the finger-waggler thinks it's goin'ta help with somethin'...an' if that somethin's what I think it is, then I'd even put up with the stench of me mother-in-law's fishhead stew." Munch crinkled up his nose and gave a foul look at the thought of that.

Kildef laughed a moment and then stood and hefted the stock of the ballista, moving the gun around in its gimbal mount and testing its heft, range and ease of motion, and sighting along it as well. Normally it took two sailor's to do so steadily, but the son of a Northman father and Amazon mother could man it alone, and if necessary, reload it alone - and he intended to do so at the moment of its special purpose at this event.

He could still feel the hazy attachment to the mind that even now floated a mile away upon Gossamer Wing, at position between the bombers and the rearguard near the harbour entrance. A 'mage', Munchadin had thought, but the Ranger knew better. Only one sort of being gave off that telltale aura, and few he had known in life - mostly in his other, past and clouded life - glowed with a presence of that unforgettable magnitude and...

His thoughts were interrupted by a stern projection of mental warning as a flap of wings and scratch of sharp talons on wood brought his gaze to the railing. Yes, old friend, I know I should keep that off my mind. Yes, I know I was told any strong emotions felt toward this could reveal our plans to it. Well, then, I'm glad your here to correct me, as always. Kil stared back at the coin-sized yellow eyes of the old great owl. The rail upon which the bird perched put his eyes about even with the Ranger's own. How are your feathers? Yes, I know the salty and watery air is bothersome and itchy, and... As if to comically puncuate the next point, the owl suddenly sneezed. ...and gives you a terrible cold. Well, you'll just have to put up with it. It's should rain in a few days and that will help. You could have stayed North with father, you know. Yes, I know then you would have missed our...friend. Well, if you want to be here then quit your complaining.

Olawahoo had truly become the equivalent of a grumpy old man, with timeless wisdom and more quirks than an Ironfjord ore barge, as Munch might say it.

The Admiral stood on the rail-step several yards from Kildef with telescope in hand. He left the running of the cruiser to his capable First Officer - a field promotion for the worthy Bimglin, long overdue - and instead monitored the positions of the vessels in his group and peered far at the tactical positioning unfolding in the center of the harbour with over a quarter of their ships. He could see that the Usurper's docked vessels has started to come out to meet them, and they were running right into the Doledran skirmish boats - maneuverable clippers with excellent wind efficiency and guns that covered them well. The Doledrans had perfected their use as defenders ahead of the heavier siege ships, and a sailor could watch and marvel at their agility and teamwork that near always led to manipulating an enemy into a loss of wind just within the gunsights of the heavy cannon aboard the bombers.

The 'Hammer's squadron suddenly came into long range of two medium ships that flew the Iron flag, and Munch nodded in satisfaction at Bim's orders to let them be unless they closed. If possible, they would continue to penetrate without stopping all the way to the pier.

But then something tugged at the Dwarf's very soul. It felt as though a line had suddenly come taught at the base of his neck and nearly yanked him off the stern of his ship. Dizzied, he grasped at the rail and shook it off. He saw Kildef tense and swing the ballista to the NorthWest, pointing it high. The Ranger's owl had to regain its own balance, flapping its wide wings as it regained a solid foothold. Joining Kildef's gaze, he could see the sky over the harbour entrace turning smoke grey and then nearly black, highlighted by an eerie glow as if a full moon lay behind it. The morning sun became obscured by a haze, and all around it was as though dusk came early. Echoing across the bowl of the sky then came a twisted cackling laugh that Munchadin knew too well.

"By the gods," he said, "the finger-waggler was right. It's that she-monster. It's Hrulga!" His tactical thoughts raced, and his experience held sway over his worry. "Bimglin! Signal Commodore Kolajian on the Doled'Beru and then all ships. Tell 'im the wings are his and he's to continue the mission. The 'Hammer is headin' back there, to that thing. That's where we need to be, Bim. Make it happen."

The cruiser had not begun to curve out and away from the group when another wave of dread crashed over the crew, far greater than the last. Kildef appeared to know and to recover quicker than the others, and pulled himself back from the gun and into a meditative stance. The sky above the harbour entrace was flashing with unknowable magics, and a red light could be seen forming next to what at this range appeared to be the tiny dot that was the harpy hovering four-hundred feet above the water. Some members of the crew groaned and held their heads or their guts, some knelt, and others looked around frantically as though lost. "Doom!" cried one. "What end approaches?!" moaned another. But Munchadin was most proud of that half of them that stayewd at their posts and roade it out, and of his officers and mates who quickly came to the aid of those who were terrified.

Kildef seemed to eminate a barely perceptible green light himself as under his breath he chanted. He reached into a bag at his waist and removed a dried maple leaf. Palming it, he knelt suddenly and slapped his hand to the wooden deck while uttering loudly "I imbue thee Brialla, shield this fallen wood and repel the intrusion of Chaos from this good home!" The twin hulls and all wood on the catamaran came into focus in Munchadin's eyes more clearly than a moment before, and for a long second all seemed quiet and calm upon the ship, and only two clear, hooting calls from the great owl interrupted the moment. Then all sound returned, and the fear abated...mostly. It seemd to hang distantly now, and being aboard the ship felt...guarded...at least from something. Munchadin could not help but hold the rail gently with one hand and bask in the woarmth of that second or two. Looking around, he saw his people recovering and returning to their work.

He put his hand on the Ranger's shoulder and offered, "That was great lad. It's made a difference." Kil looked up, one eye red with burst blood vessels and sweat upon his brow, his breathing a bit gasping. He nodded to the Dwarf with a slight smile. "Now boyo, you be ready on that bolt in case..."

An large flash came from next to the harpy, and in the clouds near that point an eruption of light played as if lightning occurred deep in their hidden heights. A circular depression formed, glowed bright as eclipse's corona, and then shot forth a meteoric fireball trailing blaze and darkness, sparking and boiling with magic. Munch hobbled over to the rail further to Port and watched that hellish torpedo detonate upon one of the Doledrun schooners 2 miles to their North. The ship shattered at its midpoint, both fore and aft ends whipping up toward the sky as a cloud of steam and spray erupted. When the explosion cleared, the remains of the vessel was mostly sunk already.

Munch, as the rest of the crew, were not cowed by it - Kildef's spell ansured that. But they were all shocked, all in wide-eyed disbelief, despair, and anger. Few words were heard. Eighty-Four men...gone is a heartbeat! And entire ship...sa.. He could not even find the words. Next to him, once more at the gun, Kildef's shaking expression quaked with fury and a low growl came from his snarling jaw - an expression he had only known once before, when the Ranger's father came across a child possessed by a lesser demon in a town outside an ancient ruin whose name the Dwarf forgot.

Munchadin looked back toward the sky. "NO! I'll nae have this you devil! Bimglin, get this ship over there, and do it fast!" and he then addressed the whole ship, looking into every face he could. "Sons and daughter of Ancora! We're goin'ta end that black albatross today. I've had enough. I'm tired of her sticking that broken, poisoned beak in our path over the years."

As if on queue, another flash, and another fireball ripped from the heavens. This one fell wide of another Doledran skirmisher, but close enough to capsize the ship and leave waves treacherous for any crew who lived and tried to jump clear.

"I've had it up to the top braid in me beard with that one. Are you with me lads? For our brothers out there? For our slain King and the people he led and loved? Are ye with me fer Ancora?!" A crew raised on Munchadin's oaths and curses and speeches cheered loud enough for the harpy to hear it. "Well, good then!" The Admiral growled. "Today, we're goin'ta clear the seas of that witch forever!!"

As things calmed on the ship and they concentrated on their tasks and made their turn, the sails now filled with the wind that was completely in their favour whilst at this heading, and things were finally quiet enough again to hear the sounds of combat in the distance. Over those sounds came a faint plea for help from out Starboard and below...

"Munchadin!"

"Mun......din!"

"MUNCHADIN!"

Kildef furrowed his brow and tilted his head to listen. Nothing. Must have been nothing.

But Olawahoo heard better. Surprising the Ranger, the preybird leapt aloft. on silent wings he drifted out as low to the water as he dare go. Owls of his type have no place over seawater, he was not built for it and could not keep it up long. But this owl was intuitive and could feel a presence he knew. His unmatchable vision scanned the water, and bobbing in the waves, he finally spotted the man. He screeched loudly, and sent the image to Kildef.

The Barbarian reeled, dropped the butt of the cannon and ran off the pilot's deck. "Man Overboard!" he yelled while continuing aft following the Starboard railing. He turned back for just a moment to catch Munchadin's eye, "He's from shore, Admiral! we need him!" He didn't wait to see Munch's reaction and turned back toward his feathered friend. He could see Olly having a hard time hovering over the waves about 100 feet out, and the ship was still moving ahead. He heard the Sailmaster's orders and the sound of the canvas furling and and the splash and metal clanking that accompanied the two anchors that were loosed from their bays. In his mind he felt the bird relay just one notion: Archeantus!

Within 2 minutes the man was aboard and the sails filling again. The ship's healer and an assistant had arrived with blankets, and Marlie apprioached Ollawahoo carefully with a towel and tried to gingerly pat the moisture off the big bird. Kildef was astonished as he let her, and in fact opened his wings for the complete treatment. Looking down at the coughing man, their eyes met for the first time in...what had it been? an Aeon?

Written by - Archeantus

The next few minutes were a blur. He had exhausted his very will, seeping into his physical strength, he now fought to stay above the surface of the water. The sounds of war silenced, as the water engulfed his blind-folded head, and then exploded once more as he fought to keep afloat. Bereft of his mental powers, alone in the raging deep, he began to loose consciousness, his urgent calls shrinking into mere mumbles.

He came to a point where there was nothing left to do, he had expended everything, and so he did the one thing in desperation he had left. He prayed….and lost consciousness just at the moment he detected something familiar, the sound of flapping wings...

The next thing he knew, he was being hoisted up and over the wooden deck of the ‘Hammer by strong arms. He was incredibly cold, and shook violently, his teeth clattering. He was given a blanket, and he huddled there on the wet deck, coughing the water out of his spent lungs.

The old warlock took in gasps of air initially, but they slowed rapidly, as did his heart rate, his mental powers were returning, and he disciplined himself to overcome the cold that racked his body. He was instantly aware, many were watching him, but being blind, he could only guess where he was.

That doubt was shortly lived however, for he drew in a breath in sudden recognition as his mind found one it knew well.

“Kildef..?” He wheezed in genuine surprise. Detecting his thoughts (what had it been? an Aeon?), Archeantus returned with an old raspy voice, and a painful grin, “Possibly two old friend.”

Rising to his feet now, he strength rapidly growing not loosing a moment, he then gravely added, "I'm afraid pleasantries will have to wait, I've come here with all haste, bearing information you especially would like to know. Please, where is the one known as Munchadin?"

Written by - Ardwen

"Make way!" Gongrane could hear the shout echoing from outside of his hall. He had called another council and dispatched one of his finest diplomats to try and stall for time against the army that had gathered on his lands. "Make way!" The voice echoed off the stone walls of Gongrane's palace. The reverberations made the voice sound hollow and dull.

The king of Smarsh rubbed a hand over his face and placed his crown back on his head. He returned to his seat and composed himself, looking toward the large double-doors that marked the entrance to his chambers. The doors flew open without preamble and four armored knights entered the room. The knights wore the livery of his personal guard, but it was what they bore on their shoulders that caught the king's attention. The four warriors carried a cloth stretcher, and upon it was a prone figure.

Gongrane felt a growing knot forming in his stomach as he rose from his seat and rushed to the side of the stretcher. Gongrane was not a soft man, his small kingdom shared borders with the savage Orcs, and that meant a near constant struggle simply to carve out a living for the peoples of Smarsh. However, the sight of the diplomat Rish still churned his gut. Something had scorched the man, quickly and completely, leaving open blisters and welts that wept puss and clear liquid across his skin. The diplomat seemed to have trouble breathing as well, and he looked up at the king and mumbled over blackened and cracked lips.

The knights quickly informed their liege that the diplomat had been found badly burned along one of their patrol routes. There had been no attempts to hide the body, the enemy had meant for them to find him. Gongrane knelt down next to the man, trying to make out his words. The king leaned in close and implored him saying, "The future of our realms, and of our very peoples may depend on what you can tell us. We would ask for their sakes that you find the strength to make one last report, old friend."

For a brief instant the diplomat's milky eyes fixed on the king's face and he said in between gasps, "Terror . . . comes . . . the fires . . . of-" a spasm of coughs interrupted the man, and he spat black flecks upon his cheeks; Gongrane could only guess what innards he was hacking up. However, he managed one last word wheezed out of rattling lungs, "heaven." Rish spoke never again.

Gongrane slowly stood up; he looked at his four knights in turn. "See to it that Rish is given an honorable burial. He has given his life for our kingdom, and is to be awarded full honors as a loyal vassal and friend. You, my knights sworn by the land, you too have heard his dying words. War comes to Smarsh, we are to make ready with all haste and met this foe."

The four warriors bowed as one and bore Rish out of the room on the same stretcher he had been brought in on. King Gongrane grasped a nearby chair and lifted his crown with his other hand. It suddenly felt so very heavy.

Written by - Talonmane

{still 35 minutes from present time}

"Time is always in a rush around us, isn't it?" Kildef looked to the sea a moment and then at the palm of his own hand, still stained with the outline of a maple leaf, and then focused beyond at the Warlock once young and now, uncountable years past, the same man, but with layers of destiny having changed him irrevocably. "Ever the gods' work through us, both then and now." He strode forward to take Archeantus' hand in his, the other clasping him warmly at the shoulder. The Ranger hesistated in sadness for a moment as he beheld his old friends blindness, but forced himself to smile and continued, "Welcome aboard the Wavehammer.

"A Cap'n reserves that line fer himself, matie. Now who's this that bring me ship to a halt durin' matters of life and death? I've got pieces of men and wood bein' blown apart upon the surface of me sea and someone decides in the mid'l o' it to go fer a swim? Whate'er ye got to say, mister, let's out with it." Nothing took the stage on the ship from the alternating heavy footstep and peg-tap that marked the approach of the Admiral. He looked the newcomer up and down and stared as though his gaze could bore through the old cloth covering the Warlock's eyes.

As if to punctuate the moment, another meteoric blaze vaulted from the clouds and engulfed the aft end of one of the Doledrun assault ships. The sound of crashing wood and burning embers was dulled by its travel over the waves and was but a white noise - an odd subdued roar by the time it hit the ears of the catamaran's crew. Munchadin's focus left Archeantus long enough to see it happen, then fixed again firmly upon the visitor, hoping somewhere in this mysterious arrival would be a piece of hope and not more fuel for the growing fires of this day. The 'Hammer was at flank speed again, not able to rush fast enough toward the red-clouded scene.

Written by - Ariana

Speed was discarded in favor of stealth, and Mavigan silently crept forward following the long trail of gore. The passageway offered no concealment as it was long and straight and brightly lit, and Mavigan hoped her efforts at stealth would be sufficient to keep her hidden. The light confused her – she could see no physical means of illumination and they were deep underground. Had there been torches or braziers, she would have extinguished them without a thought, but magical illumination was not something she knew how to counteract, so she trudged forward slowly and quietly.

Eventually, the walls of the passageway began to open up into small chambers carved out of the stone. At each one, Mavigan would press herself against the wall and peer into the room, looking for sentries or soldiers. Thus far, each cell was unoccupied, and Mavigan silently cheered her good fortune.

Her fortune changed at the fifth cell she encountered. The trail she had been following led straight into this particular cell, and she repeated her procedure, back pressed into the stone wall, eyes peering into the cell. Teran lay in the center of the small room surrounded by a growing pool of his own black blood. Mavigan bit her tongue to hold in a gasp. He was in very bad shape, his body covered in long gashes, many of them deep enough to reveal the white gleam of bone.

Mavigan had never known anyone to survive such wounds, and she quietly observed him, waiting with bated breath to see if his chest still rose and fell with life. She felt a flood of relief when she saw him take a breath. It was a shallow, shuddering breath, but he was still alive.

Mavigan then turned her attention to the other people in the room. There were three men, dressed in some sort of robe that were similar to the outfits of those guards they had encountered before; yet, she could see no weapons. No swords were sheathed by their sides, no axes were strapped to their backs, and not one of them carried a staff. If Mavigan had met the three on a street in Westgale, she would have thought they were nothing but pansies, unable to give her a good fight, and would have passed by them without a second glance.

In this case, however, the lack of weapons made her nervous, for if they did not engage in martial combat, then they must have skill in the magical arts. It didn’t help that there were three of them to only one of her, and she knew that Teran would be of no help. Her one advantage was their distraction, all attention currently being focused on the injured and bleeding man on the floor. In fact, Mavigan thought idly, they were staring at him as if he were an enigma that needed to be studied, a bug under the lens of an alchemist.

She felt vaguely offended at this for some reason, but she quickly locked the sentiment away. Anything that kept their backs to her was something she could use to her advantage. She would only have time for one surprise attack, though, before they would be upon her. Mavigan knew she had to kill them fast, before they sounded the alarm, if she and Teran had any chance of escaping this pit.

Silently stepping into the room, she crept behind the man on the right. Murder was a matter of a few seconds as she placed a hand over his mouth and drew her dagger across his neck in one quick swipe. As the corpse slid to the floor, Mavigan threw her dagger with a deft twist of her hand at the man standing nearest to her. The dagger caught him in the throat and he went down noiselessly. The third man, farthest from her, had recovered from the initial surprise of the attack and was softly chanting as both of his hands began to glow.

Mavigan drew her second dagger and charged him. Her weight knocked him over and with a slight adjustment, Mavigan cushioned her fall by allowing all her weight to land squarely on his chest. His chanting ceased and as he lay there gasping like a fish out of water, Mavigan made quick work of him, by digging her dagger deep into his throat.

Once she was sure he was dead, she rose, pulling her dagger from him. It came loose with a wet sucking sound, and she wiped the blade as best she could across her blood-encrusted pants as she reached for the other weapon also lodged in a man’s throat and pulled that one free as well.

Both weapons were sheathed as she hurried to Teran’s side. The grievous wounds she had seen from the doorway appeared even more grisly close up. “You are the most jeopardy friendly person I have ever met,” she huffed over his still form. She paused only a moment before adding, “This is going to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.” Reaching down, she grabbed him under the arms.

He was heavy, but to stay here was to die, so she began dragging him out of the cell and down the passageway, retracing the blood trail that had led her here. She could do nothing about the trail, and she knew they would find them easily, but she hoped that she could run into Keeryn and the others if she backtracked. So she dragged him from cell to cell, wincing at every bump she caused him, and the seeming loudness of the sound his clothes made scraping against the stone floor. At each cell, she laid him back down and she peered out of the doorway, searching for guards or the beast she had heard earlier.

Written by - Kiradia Afirewen

Kiradia looked out over the barren landscape of the few miles that separated her army from the walls of Smarsh. Her army was arrayed behind, her General Alarin and Lieutenants, formed in a half circle around her, the halberdier line in front, Swordsmen behind, Archers behind them, with her Knights split in two groups on the flanks of her line. Mixed in with the Halberdier line were herds of Beastmen, who would be manning the battering rams and siege towers. The rest of the creatures and regiments in her army were being held back, with the trebuchets, the only useful group among them was the Minotaurs, but they would have to be held back until a breach was formed in the wall and the Swordsmen had gained a foothold.

The half circle of Smarsh’s walls rose high into the sky and would not be easy fortifications to crack. Along the entire wall were archers ready to rain down arrows and pitch on her troops. Undoubtedly, there would be many soldiers at ground level waiting for any crack in the wall. However, Kiradia was sure that to the defenders of Smarsh, her army must look like a black tide of terror, unstoppable and immortal.

Kiradia turned to Alarin, “General, how much of our army will we lose to this siege, even if we breach the wall today?”

“Far too much Mistress, even if we take Smarsh, we will not be able to push past it with the forces we will have left.” Alarin’s eyes were clouded with a red film, as the magical sword he carried raised the blood lust his mind felt towards the coming battle.

“We must break their spirits, and destroy multiple positions at the wall. For now, to minimize casualties, we should hold the army back and bombard them with our catapults,” Alarin finished.

“Very well then, make it so, my General,” Kiradia said.

“Yes, Mistress,” and Alarin raised his hand, a flag raised up behind him, signaling the trebuchets to begin firing. As Kiradia watched, a thousand fires lighted the night sky, tar soaked rocks hurling at the walls of Smarsh. The explosions set the walls to shaking and great amount s of dirt shot into the air.

“Magnificent….”

Written by - Talonmane

{present time aboard the Fair Seas Call. The Captain and her crew are making haste to sail but its going slower than usual. Part of the reason they came to Port Westgale was to get certain 'gray market' parts that seemed to be available only here these days - another sign of the sorts of commerce that lay in the future of the Port while under Iron rule. The pilot's wheel and its connection to the stearage had been in pieces on the aft deck in preperation for receiving some of those replacement parts, and was now being hastily reassembled.

Much of the area around their dock is periodically blocked from sight by the smoke of battle formed from fires both in the harbour and on shore. The sky has heavily darkened, and they've seen powerful magics causing red glow in the distance and the sounds of breaking wood and explosions even beyond that expected in normal battles sometimes reached their ears }

Captain Jenara Peracus looked over the rail and down the line of her ship, her Elven eyes focusing into the distance where Ankhara's arm pointed. Between the passing clouds of battle-smoke dancing on the water a ship could be seen less than a mile out. In another moment she identified it as a massive galleon, probably five times the weight of the 'Call. It came forward on a belligerent course, her bow pointing right 'tween the eyes of the siren upon her sloop's prow. The course didn't waver. "Crew, looks like we've earned someone's attention! Get your land-lubbin tails movin' 'cause we're casting off right now.

She didn't take her eyes off the incoming vessel, which was growing larger by the moment. Could it be? Friendly colors? Then why does she charge us?

"Don't take too long to consider it, Captain. Hunting birds have particular instincts, and I know one who sees no friendly intent coming from that ship."

The skipper took the measure of the other woman and again that of the coming galleon. Something's wrong, she felt it in her gut. Bounding away from the rail, she muttered "I knew I shouldn't have chosen that name. Since when is the sea these days ever fair?"

At her word the lines were cleared from their moorings and the anchor brought in. The courier's two jibs came up over her long bowsprit, followed by the main and aft sails ahead and behind from her single raked mast. They filled slowly...too slowly with the South winds that were their only hope along with their skill. But perhaps the gods too had a hand on her, Jenara would later reminisce, for she started to crawl ahead, and none too soon.

The silver-haired Elf jumped up the stairs to the pilot's deck and was distracted for a moment by the pieces of the wheel mount that were still laying about. "Well, you got the important parts, I guess. We can take care of the rest af..." She turned to face the bow and her breath caught in her throat at the sight of it. The Galleon was indeed of Ancora, and it's charging, menacing form dwarfed them. Whatever hope she had held for this ship to be some kind of escort who would turn away and join them at the last moment was gone. The size of it filled her forward view, and she decided then something unnatural was at work here. Sailors usually had pretty strong survival instincts when it came to shoring themselves, but these were plowing ahead, and after smashing through the Call they'd bury themselves right into the pier. "Someone wants our passengers very dead. We'll just have to make sure we all live through this, 'cause the price of their tickets just went up, and I mean to collect it!"

Grabbing the wheel and being careful not to yank it from its loose position on the mount, she called the order and pulled it herself half to Starboard. Looking at the sails, she begged them to fill. As if by her sheer will the boat picked up...a bit faster...and bit more, bearing rightward as she left the dock. It won't be enough! By the shells and stars it won't be enough!!

Written by - Vylia

Vylia almost fell over onto Ariana as the ship suddenly veered to it's starboard side. She barely manages to catch herself, and the catatonic woman at the last moment. "Something isn't right," she pauses while she tries to listen to the voices filtering in from the weatherdeck, "There's a lot of noise coming from up there, and none of it sounds calm." She bites her bottom lip a moment as she stares at the door, then back to Ariana, her facial features shifting from frustration to worry and back again. Finally, she makes her decision, "Turin, care for her please, make her whole again... I'm going to find out what's happening up above." She hops to her feet and takes two long strides toward the door before stopping to turn and speak again, "If I'm not back shortly then something really is wrong, we may have a fight on our hands." Then she leaves the room, heading topside.

What she saw when she got there made her gasp, the galleon was enormous, far larger than any of the ships she had seen in the harbor earlier. And worse yet, it was closing on them very quickly. "There has to be something I can do," Vylia looked around for the person in charge when she saw the captain at the wheel of the Call shouting orders, she rushed up the stairs and came to a stop beside her. "Captain, I need a bow, some arrows, a few rags, and a lantern... right now! We can't outmaneuver them in this harbor, they're too large, they wouldn't have to turn far to ram right into us. It's a long shot, but with the wind on our side I may be able to hit one of their sails, or the rigging, and slow them down a bit."

Written by - Ardwen

Gongrane squeezed his eyes shut. He flicked the lips open a hair second later, the brief fluttering of his eyes was the only sign he gave of the stress and weariness that now piled upon him. The siege engines of the opposing army had begun pounding the walls not long ago. Gongrane knew what the enemy was up to, but his own siege engines were insufficient to counter such a barrage. Already the King of Smarsh had spent precious time and manpower organizing bucket and burn patrols to ensure the pitch and tar coated trebuchet shot did not ignite large swaths of the town.

The enemy had numerical superiority, but Gongrane knew sieges rarely came down to direct numbers. While storming a city was certainly possible, it took a dedicated, well-supplied force. “Well,” Gongrane thought sourly, “that or a traitor amongst the defenders.”

“My lord?” A voice wretched Gongrane’s attention back to the present. Before him kneeled a lightly armored man with a long bow on the ground at his side.

Gongrane recalled the man’s name, Chonatas, before responding, “Have the men seeks shelter in the towers, tell them to stay below the crenellations, those will not protect them against a direct hit. Our siege works are few, but direct those we do have at taking out the enemy’s engines and crew.”

Chonatas barked out an affirmation before seeking permission to rise and depart. Gongrane waved his hand and gave him his blessing to go. On the way out of the tactical chambers the archer suddenly stopped and said hesitantly, “Your grace . . . there are reports of things in this army, things not human or ork. What should we do if-“

Gongrane interrupted him, “Man, ork, beast, or something in between does not matter. The gods have not seen fit to make creatures that do not need sustenance of some sort. We hold them back, commander, make them wait, test their patience and supplies. When winter, or gods will it, disease breaks out amongst their ranks they’ll be unable to press the attack. Do you understand?”

The man snapped a bow and said, “Of course my king! We will hold them back!” Chonatas said no more and walked swiftly out of the room.

Gongrane walked out onto a small balcony that overlooked a vast stretch of wall. He had moved the strategy center of his command to his palace, many rooms had been converted into ad hoc command centers. Gongrane had wanted a balcony, had wanted a way to get a broad look at the city in one sweep. What he saw now coincided with what he heard: deep booms like close thunder, sharp cracks as rock hit rock, and the night sky bleeding trails of orange as another volley of siege engine fire streaked through it. “I pray to the gods that we can Chonatas, I pray that we can.” Gongrane whispered to the night air.

Written by - Talonmane

{present time aboard the Fair Seas Call and seconds before it appears that a galleon flying the friendly flag and colours of an Ancora loyalist is going to run our heroes down as they are leaving the dock.}

Captain Peracus, without taking her widening eyes off the incoming galleon, simply said "Weapons locker!" as she pointed to a mate who was on his knees and picking up pieces of the wheel cover near Vylia's feet. He reached over to what appeared to be an 8 foot long ornate deck couch that butted up against the starboard rail. His fingers quickly found a hidden catch, and with a click, the seat popped open a bit. He pulled it up, and inside the deep locker were a variety of weapons including bows, crossbows, hand weapons, ammunition, a few pieces of leather armour, spare ropes and several grappling hooks and other supply items. Of note were also some torches and various small bags. The mate left it to Vylia to choose her weapon, as he immediately grabbed up a torch and one of the bags. From within it he took a cannister of powder and carefully shook a tiny amount of its contents over the business end of the torch. It crackled a bit and flared to bright life. Lastly, he grabbed up a handful of arrows that were already rolled with cloth for use with fire...a not uncommon sailor weapon but one that was used with utmost caution.

He voicelessly offered his aid to Vylia by holding out the ammo and standing ready with the torch.

Everyone watching the charging galleon bearing down upon their ship's bow (now to her port bow due to their continuing turn) suddenly saw her turn just a few degrees, enough that she would still ram the 'Call but probably slip to her Port side while doing so. Sailors on that vessel could now be seen leaning over their own Port railings, and some began firing from crossbows. Jenara counted at least 5 who spun rope and hook, clearly waiting for the moment they would ram and pass so they could attach lines to the smaller ship and either keep her remains from getting away or to tear her apart.

Arrows and bolts now fell around them, piercing sail and embedding in wood, though mostly missing and falling to the water. She watched almost helplessly as two large ballistae on the galleon fired. Both shots were intended for the base of the courier's mast: one hit the deck just next to it, inserting its head a foot into the board, and the second flew wide and under the sails but grazed one of her crewmembers at his right shoulder before continuing out over the water. The elf was knocked off his feet and nearly over the side, and she couldn't tell from her position the extent of the wound...but thought it bad.

The 'Call had doubled in speed over the last few moments. Her turn at least now gave them the best possible take on the wind. The other ship was now coming at them from Port forward, and it still had the initiative and was easily able to adjust course to stay on them. Preparing for the worst, she called out in her loudest voice, "Prepare to abandon ship! Get the passengers from below and prepare to jump over the Starboard side!" She was furious at even having to say it, and it broke every promise she'd made herself when she bought the boat and every promise she'd made the crew.

So she broke another promise too. As Men say: what the heck? And she prayed.

Then the oddest thing of the day occurred. In the midst of all this, as Vylia raised her weapon and aimed and the pilot's mate lit the tip of the arrow from the torch, all the other noises of the moment were joined by others unexpected.

"Wait!...listen...what is that?" From far off to aft came the sound of crashing wood. Then again, and closer. Another few seconds and it happened again. "If I had to guess, that sounds like the light docks are getting smashed!" cried her mate from high on their mast's tiny crow's nest. They couldn't see those farther docks through the smoke but it sounded like he was right. Port Westgale served the large and small, and the courier had been moored this time amoung the line six thin, light docks. A large ship could go right through those without batting an eye. Since the sound of breaking was so steady, she could think of nothing else it could be.

And with the continuing beat she then heard another; a sound altogether different. This time she could not believe her Elven ears, and it appeared that neither could the others near her. Only Ankhara still down at the Port rail on the main deck seemed to understand what it meant, and a knowing smile broke over that one's otherwise serious face.

It was the singing of many voices, and as with the sounds of smashing wood it was growing loud. A time like this and some mad, scurvy fools are out there singing?!

Written by - Vylia

Vylia sees the men along the railing of the incoming vessel clear as day, but she has another target for now. As soon as the pilot lights the arrow her ears pick out the sound of singing in the distance. Someone is enjoying themselves out here, I hope they aren't friends of that ship or we're going to have more problems. Shaking herself out of her private thoughts Vylia takes aim at the main sail again, pulling the bowstring nearly to it's limit before tilting the bow skyward for extra distance. "Pandarrion hear my call, let my aim be true, let the enemies of The Hands feel your wrath for the deeds they have committed against your priestess and her people." She releases the arrow only a moment before a crossbow bolt from the other ship clips her left shoulder, causing her to cry in pain, but she refuses to hide, instead focusing on the arrow in flight. She follows the arrow towards it's target, practically willing it to hit.

Written by - Archeantus

"Time is always in a rush around us, isn't it?"

“Only when we are together old friend.” Archeantus returned as he felt Kildef’s weathered hands rest on his shoulder reassuringly.

It was then he heard the voice of the one he sought, a daringly stern Dwarven voice.

“Captain Munchadin,” He began, all the while sensing his great displeasing curiosity at the warlock’s presence “Who I am does not matter, what matters is I come on behalf of the progenitor of the city and it’s ideals, I perceive, you hold as dearly as your hold to this ship and what it represents. There beyond the smoke of war, near the shore a small elven vessel has just set out to escape the worst of what lies ahead of her. She bears passengers, one in particular that wove the banner you fly over your sails, many many years ago. By the Gods, you and your crew been called to save her.”

He spoke quickly, decisively, his head pointed directly toward the stout Dwarf, his sightless gaze boring right back, unflinchingly.

Without another word, he lifted the golden medallion from beneath his tattered grey shirt, revealing the triskellion. It faintly shone as if in reply to the distant explosion from afar.

The warlock’s head turned slightly toward Kildef, as if finally replying to his friend’s earlier comment about the Gods, but now it was directed toward them both, and to those who stood nearby, risking a slight preoccupation in the mysterious castaway amid their escalating duties.

“You will see the work of the Gods here today. Great and terrible things. But one hope lies out there, for Ancora, and for this world, and we must keep it alive. Now quickly, I implore you, set a course toward the docks with all haste.”

Written by - Talonmane Part II of Page 36 Chapter 3

{still 30 minutes from present time aboard the Wavehammer}

What's this? Munchadin hobbled forward two steps. The triskellion, he knew - everyone knew - but such a medallion, with those certain metal hues and a wearing of time that a Dwarf even removed from metalwork for so many years could recognize the make and age. It was nothing less than an exact copy of only one other that he had seen held by the royal family and worn only at certain occasions by the Kings of Ancora...and he knew that one was presently safe due to the quick thinking of General Alaric, having been taken from the dead body of Pallanon and now likely locked away deep in the Citadel.

"But...laddie, that would mean -" Munchadin's words caught in his throat. He turned to Kildef, aware of the stories told by the Ranger and his father. "Do you have one o' those too?"

Kil looked out over the water and to the sky, shaking his head. "I had. It was buried with my mother, on Aerynth, as was father's. It was toward the final days, and there was nothing in the deeds we did following that burial that would allow us to wear that in good concience. 'Twas better that she watched over them, and they, her." He turned back toward Archeantus, one fist clasped white-knuckle tight. But as he said thes next words, a great outpouring on hope and compassion tore away the more tragic memories. "So the Abbess lives?" At that notion, Olawahoo raised upon his pinions and flapped several times and let out a long keening cry atypical of his breed. It startled Marlie, but as the bird settled down again she continued drying his feathers. Kildef went on, "It makes sense, and I will admit to praying it was so. With you and I and -" Suddenly thinking of the person aboard the Gossamer Wing, the Ranger walked to his owl companion and solemnly met the great yellow gaze. He held back Marlie's towel from any further treatment and implored "You must get to our friend on the frigate and relay this news. Yes, it will matter beyond words."

Munchadin's thoughts were locked into a debate over one of the most critical decisions of his life. Ships were sinking, Men and Dwarves dying by the score. They had to get to the 'Wing and the others who even now contended with the sea witch. With the cruiser there, they stood a chance of ending that abomination. But now, by the gods themselves, if Ariana Trueblood lives, at this time of our nation's need, what greater sign could there be, what mission for us more important? His face was contorted with the pain of the choice that others may have witnessed for a second or two. Resolute in his duty and that of his sailors - each one who would lay his or her life down for their country and what it stands for...and there is no greater symbol of that than...

"Kildef, tell yer messenger to pass on t' the crew of the 'Wing that they'll 'ave to hold out 'til we make the round trip to shore and back. They'll have to use their imaginations, think of anythin' that'll distract Hrulga. Tell them that they're to hold that entrace t' the harbour," The Admiral paused almost imperceptably, "at all costs. Bimglin! prepare to take us about and make fer the pier at all possible speed."

Whilst the mighty vessel began its new turn, the sails above moving through their realignments, Kildef took Ollawahoo upon his arm and headed up to the stern rail. Munch and Arch were about to follow, when the Admiral turned to the blind man, and stated "Thank ye fer riskin' yer life t' bring us this astonishing revelation. Now, I dunnae necessarily want t' know how ye got out here, but to find us in the midst o' the fight, ye must have a special sight beyond yer covered eyes. We'll have need o' that gift to pull this off. The smoke down on the deck is everywhere, and I'll need ye to lead me to our destination. This harbour I know like the bottom o' me tankard, but I'll need ye to get us t' the right place with no time t' lose."

They conversed for a moment longer, and then split up - Arch to the prow of the ship and Munch back to the pilot's deck, where Kildef said a few final words to the owl and then launched him skyward.

Munchadin mounted the level, layed down his cane, clapped his hands together and rubbed them in anticipation. He motioned mate Feburt off the wheel, "I'll be playin' the tune for our couple at this party, lad. But stay close and relay me orders."

With one foot he tapped the switch at the base of the wheel that raised the floor just behind the pilot's station up a foot, to the height a Dwarf needed. Such accomodations were built into the ship everywhere they could think of it. He firmly gripped the holds on either side, and things felt a bit righter with the otherwise fateful day. He called to the crew to prepare them. "Ahoy! me lads and lass, harken to me words an' know our course! We dunnae lightly leave our brothers at the head o' the harbour t' the beast. Nay! A callin' we have, a duty beyond that pulls on ev'ry oath taken." He paused to let that sink in. "The Wavehammer was built fer this day, I say! Everythin' this crew has accomplished has trained us fer what happens next. Ye know, as we were runnin' to meet the monster; as our sailors were dyin' at its terrible grasp, I prayed to the gods, prayed to Providence to save them and us. Well, now we must save Providence.

He stopped again to look over the faces of the crew within his sight. "We may pay a sharp price before this is over. But I know ye're with me, and as always, there is no finer pride - bottomless, it is - than what I have fer this crew...no mightier awe - wonderous, it be - than what I have fer this ship we've built."

His first officer called up from amidships, "As we make the turn 'cross the pier the wind will be wi' us, sir, fer that final leg. Shall we make the most o' it?" The crew cheered and whooped, with many a hearty 'huzzah!' in the Grayshire tradition heard in the din.

"Yes," Munch turned, looking all about their great vessel. "I think ye're right. The lad and lass haven't had that bonnie dance in too long a time, and if there e'er was to be an occasion, this is it. Sound it!"

Bimglin was pleased to give the order, "Sailmaster and Pilot, bring us the rest of the way about! Set again toward the shipyards then we'll cut across the pier. All hands! Clear the Port hull! Get word above and below to clear the Port hull! All top gunners below t' man ballast! Prepare for Port Ascension!"

Restore Default Settings