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Book Three Pt 2 - The Reckoning

Written by - Talonmane Page 38 Book 3

{As the ships get farther from shore the battlesmoke on the water thins and eventually will be a non-factor (at least until the ships get closer to the battle on the opposite side of the harbour), though it is still twilight-dark, and a haze is still on the surface, limiting visibility into the deeper harbour to about a quarter-mile.}

"The feel is different, get used t' it! Nearly all o' ye've sailed single-hulls. Bring those memories t' the fore now. She'll come about faster, respond t' the wind better, but dunnae'll want t' almost feel like we're on a sloop, but we're still ridin' a heavy line ship. You there, Tarbin and Beckman, pull in that slack! Ordrim, we'll nae need ye there now, get down below an' help with patchin' up the Portside. You there, get up an..."

Bimglin approved of old Bragni's ways. How could he not, as the Sailmaster had been his own teacher for a decade...for longer than he'd known the Admiral. Not a Dwarf lived who knew more of sailing than the grey-haired, patch-eyed master. And after this tour, he swore he'd retire. That thought made Bim sigh more than the sight of Wavehammer's torn Port skin.

"Sir! I've gathered the boys as ye've ordered, and' we're ready t' bring it t' em!" Bimglin faced Sergeant Porgrim, head of their contingent of marines. He nodded in satisfaction as he looked over the group of twenty and the dozen veteran sailors with them. "To the Starboard rail, then, make ready to rope down." Bim walked with them across the ship. He knew Munchadin was angling to allow the courier to catch up to them and come alongside, and they'd be ready to head down and help repel the 'Skaner trash and counterboard them. Looking aft from Star, he could see that the fast boat's Captain had naturally been trying to catch up with her new guardian, but next to her, the frigate was nearly on top of them.

Marlie's call interrupted the scene, "Ahead! Look ahead!", the words rang from the top of the foremast. Out of the haze in the distance before them an unexpected shape plowed into view. Heading right for them, it caused the breath to catch in most sailor's throats, their eyes to go wide, and prayers to be spoken. Those who witnessed the creature days earlier helped calm those who hadn't, but all were in a state of questioning fear. It's head rising over thirty feet off the water, with a rooster-tail wake streaming out behind it as it closed faster than any ship, the air over it crackling as a personal thundercloud, and the water in a wide radius depressed slightly by powerful winds, the sea-storm elemental approached. It was vaguely similar to the upper body of a humanoid, with a wide torso, two long and thick arms and hands, and a triangular head capping the body with no discernible neck. It appeared made of water toward its lower half and thick clouds towards the upper, encompassed by tornado winds and tiny, periodic lightning arcs. Upon the head was a simple crown, with a belt at its waist and gauntlets on its wrists, all made of an aquamarine oricalcum. White eyes emitted two lighthouse-bright beams that scanned the waves before it and sometimes passed over the wood and canvas and crew of the 'Hammer.

"It's alright! Do no fear it, for he's an ally!" Kildef's powerful and confident voice relieved the crew's concern.

Next to him on the pilot's deck at the stern of the cruiser, Munchadin spoke from the wheel, "I imagine this is the mage's dog again?"

"He is no one's pet, but yes, he was sent by our old friend. His name is Aquanimbulos, and he is a lord amoungst his kind...that explains the crown." The Ranger peered with concentration toward the incoming wonderous creature. "Elementals are not animals, but I have been able to hear some before when they know our language. Thus it is with this one. He says he's been sent to speed our way to the battle with the harpy and..." Kildef paused, and looked astonished, awed, then angry but worried. Looking directly at the Admiral, he finished the sentence, "And her summoned demon!"

"And now we know from whence the sky-fire comes. I knew she had nae power like that herself. It had t' be somethin' she summoned. And with the power we've seen today, this is no motley imp..."

Kil shook his head in affirmation. "No, no motley imp. I knew we faced a creature of Chaos, but this is beyond my experience. Aquanimbulos hasn't been to the fight yet, he is just arriving and knows only what our friend has told him in magical communication across the distance. He fears - yes, you hear me right, even this elemental lord fears - that it is a demon of higher order, something that will expect a high payment before departing our world again. You could not be more right, Munchadin - Hrulga must be ended today, if she is capable of something like this. But what price will we pay?"

Written by - Talonmane

The crew of the light Ironskane frigate Overpride tossed two more grappling lines across to the courier. She could not flee. Despite the lines they tried to cut, there would be more. For this was a pirate ship, used to the trade of capture and boarding for the warchest of the Iron Crown. Sailors hungry at the thought of further plunder eagerly awaited the closing of the distance, some with long planks.

The captain did have concern that they were closing with the big cruiser, so he told the rest of his crew to make sure to lash the courier to them, and told his fighters they'd better make quick work so the sails and rudder of the other ship would be theirs, and the two lighter vessels could then course away and outrun the heavy.

Ineviatably, the distance closed and they began their assault. The first Ironskane marauders dropped planks and leapt the gap onto the 'Call...

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen stood rigid at the entrance to the decks below. He did not bat an eye when Vylia demonstrated her archery skills. It was to be expected, she was an Elf after all. The elven warrior had but one interest in this whole sordid affair: protect Ariana Trueblood at all costs. When an enemy vessel painted in red and black approached he still did not stir. When grappling lines were flung onto the deck and soldiers began to draw their weapons in preparation for the coming assault Ardwen still remained at his post.

As the enemy ship closed in further, one of the soldiers under the command of the female captain stopped in front of Ardwen. “Get to the line,” he said, “don’t tell me those swords are just for show!” Ardwen said nothing; he simply made eye contact with the brash fighter. The man flinched from Ardwen’s gaze and ran to join his fellows in the line. When the human warrior Lienad said an incantation in Elven to his blade, Ardwen’s eyes twitched open slightly wider in surprise for an instant. But, it was not what Ardwen expected, and he quickly put the event from his mind.

Ardwen took in the sights of the deck. The enemy vessel was preparing for a boarding action; bolts and arrows were thudding into the wood of the deck, however they were mainly focusing on anyone trying to cut the boarding rigging. The pirates, or servants of the enemy, Ardwen did not care which they were, started leaping the gap from deck to deck. The elven swordsman could see that they still had reserves on their ship. Despite the fierce fights roaring across the surface of the ship, Ardwen made no move to respond.

Two of the enemy swordsmen broke through the front line, making a mad dash to try and work their way around the warriors defending themselves in a line. Ardwen saw one of them wave a slender blade toward the entrance, his companion's mouth opened, but Ardwen could not make out what they were saying over the din of combat. Ardwen placed his right hand on the sheath of his longer blade and pressed his thumb against the guard; the sword popped up from its seat, and Ardwen's other hand grasped the hilt.

The man on the right died first. He did not see the stroke that killed him. Intent on charging and overtaking the sole wounded guard he had lead in with an unbalanced thrust. Ardwen had dashed in, at an angle, the blade grazing past him by a fraction of an inch. This had put Ardwen behind the man, and the elf wasted no time in thrusting his blade straight behind, spearing the human in the chest. His partner had enough time to look and gape as a hand length of bloody steel thrust from his friend’s chest.

He watched as the elven warrior, who they thought wounded and easy prey, wretched his blade free with a single pull. He watched as his companion’s corpse fell to the deck, blood pooling beneath it in a sanguine puddle. He tried to get his own sword moving, wanted to have a chance at beating this monstrously fast warrior. But thought was a speed too slow for the pace his foe had set; by the time he had the presence of mind to will his arms to move the elf’s blade had already traced a red line diagonally across his chest. His vision swam, and then went black.

Ardwen removed his blade from the back of the second swordsman’s neck. With a snap of his wrist the beserker flung the excess blood from his blade. He did not bother to resheathe his sword, and he promptly returned to his post at the entrance to the lower sections of the ship.

Written by - Vylia

Vylia knew as soon as the first rope was cut that it was a hopeless effort. They merely tossed three more lines across for every one cut. She took two of the remaining arrows offered to her and fired them with barely any time to aim as the pirates started to jump the gap onto the smaller courier and two men went tumbling into the sea. Quickly she took the final two and copied her previous action, this time with less stellar results. The first man caught the arrow in his arm, while the second caught the arrow to his thigh. The first landed on the deck with a grimace of pain, but simply advanced on her with anger in his eyes while his companion splashed into the sea with a scream.

Vylia dropped the bow and pulled the two short swords from the deck in front of her that the pilot had left before running off to arm himself and join the defensive line. "These will have to do I suppose," she let out a sigh, "Do yourself a favor human, return to your vessel and you may live awhile longer. There has been enough blood spilt this day." The man just roared angrily at her as he charged, his weapon held at his side. As the blade swung wide at her Vylia did not even blink as she blocked it with the sword in her left hand and brought the right up to slice across his throat in one clean motion, turning the counterattack into a full spin that turned her to face the next pirate that had jumped to the deck and the dance of death began for the second time that day. Where she would normally have shown mercy and pleaded with those she fought to give up, even if their friends had shown no such intention, she had asked once and the situation warranted no further limiting of her abilities. She had seen Ardwen by the door to the lower decks and knew she didn't need to worry about protecting the way below.

Steel clashed, limbs were lost, blood flowed, and men died...

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya's body was fatigued from earlier, her hand shook as she held Alanthear high. Then she heard the sword's voice in her head once more. No worries mistress, I will help, but you will pay for it afterwards.

Do what you have to my friend, we have not come this far to loose. Kaya steeled herself and felt Alanthear's magic suddenly wash over her, refreshing her body. But that was not all, she felt Alanthear within her and all about her; Alanthear was the one in control now. All she had to do was make sure the sword did not leave her grip and the rest would be taken care of. And it did not come too soon. There were dozens of tow lines attached to the deck already and many sailors from the other ship began jumping over onto the "Call.

She saw Vylia and Ardwen out of the corner of her eye, but did not have the time to appreciate their prowess. She felt he body lurch forward, then slide gracefully into position as two of the enemy sailors charged at her. Alanthear took action. The sword began to glow and shimmer softly as Kaya began to dance. The sound of metal hitting metal filled the air; Kaya swung and Alanthear clanged against their swords. Her speed was abnormal, the two enemy sailors quickly lost their pace as Kaya stood then down. Finally, one dropped their guard and Alanthear dove in, piercing the man through his ribcage into his heart. This caused the other sailor to pause, giving Kaya and her sword another the chance to swing and slice open his neck, leaving him to gurgle upon the deck of the ship.

More sailors kept coming; ALanthear and Kaya kept fighting. Then they felt it. They felt the evil in the air. There is a demon somewhere close Alanthear, do you feel it?

Yes, Mistress, I feel it, but I don't know where the abomination is.

We will have to worry about it when it comes closer, I cannot fight in the water, and we have our hands full here, but keep your senses up my friend, keep watch. Kaya's thoughts were broken as she saw one enemy sailor make it past and start to head to the doors that lead below. Kaya jumped and followed the sailor, screaming at him. The sailor turned and saw her bearing down upon him and stopped to fight for his life. The fight did not last long as Alanthear fought through Kaya, disemboweling the young man before he knew what hit him. Kaya stayed her place and waited for the next fool to attempt to go down into the hold.

Written by - Agmund

”Listen carefully Tomas,” the old priest whispered. “Those two have been thru a lot, and are in great need of a friend,” the priest motioned over to the two elven children before looking the boy in the eyes again.

“And while I am aware, that you have work to do, I would consider it a great favor if you would watch over them for just a little while. Audun, will be along shortly to take them in tow, but until then be kind to them… and if you have any food to spare, share it with them,” with that the priest slung his saddlebag over one shoulder, and began to walk away.

“Father Agmund…” the boy said, causing the priest to turn around, “What is happening? I mean is everything going to be alright?” A gentle smile erupted from the priests face, “yes, I believe it will be, although difficult times lay ahead, we shall prevail.”

“I want to help somehow. I can fight, if someone would teach me,” the boy looked down to the ground, “I just want to help.” Father Agmund face grew serious, “Tomas, lad, you are helping. The horses that you tend carry the might of Lothiel-Gadith into battle. Everyone, young horse master, has some part to play, and yours is a gallant one,” he stooped down and clasped the boy by the shoulders, “have faith.”

“Besides,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “my nag believes your brush is heavens vestibule.” They both laughed aloud as the horse let out a whinny of agreement. “Now,” the priest said hastily, raising back up to his full height, “I am off to find Lord Ithramir.”

Written by - Ardwen

"What were the figures on our provisions again?" King Gongrane asked. The king was sitting in a wooden chair, fingering through a mound of paper on an unadorned wooden table. The room the king was in was Spartan and bare, but Gongrane did not care. The king had, over the course of the siege, established several command posts where officers could go and receive his orders. These impromptu command centers also allowed the king to move about frequently, keeping his exact position known to only the upper echelon in his forces.

Gongrane thought it a prudent decision. There had been reports of more and more people missing everyday. Most of these reports indicated they were young girls, but Gongrane had no doubt that if the enemy were capable of abducting citizens, they would salivate at the chance to get their hands on a king. "The foodstuffs?" Intoned the grey robed official in front of the king. The figure fidgeted before leafing through some papers in his hand.

"Yes, the foodstuffs." Gongrane repeated.

"Ah," The man said before pulling one of the sheets out and reading in a droning monotone, "the supplies in the northeastern granary are still sufficient. However, we've had reports of weevils infesting the stockroom in the northwest tower. My king, I would recommend a workforce to ensure that the stock is winnowed. After all, I'm sure we would hate for--"

But the man never got to finish his sentence. A voiced crept into the room, discorporate, as if carried into their minds itself by some vast alien power. It had but two words. Two words that reverberated through the very sanity of the people of Smarsh, "Oblivion comes."

Gongrane looked up sharply from one of the papers he was eyeing. The attendant had turned pale, and he had dropped the paper on grain stocks. All at once, the door to Gongrane's room flung open and a man stumbled in. Gongrane recognized the man as a petty officer, he did not know his name, but his uniform marked him out. The man's face was covered in soot and ash, and his eyes were two white orbs that seemed impossibly wide and white. "My king--" the man coughed, but Gongrane could see he was out of breath and having a hard enough time standing.

Gongrane dashed from his seat to the man's side, helping to ease him to the floor. He could feel the cinder and grime rubbing off on his hands, but the king cared not. "Forget the titles," he said hastily, "tell me, what happened?"

The soldier looked up with those wild eyes; he coughed up bits of black, "Sorcery! The enemy is in Smarsh! They are coming!" Gongrane rested the warrior gently on the floor. He was still breathing, softly. The effort had taken much out of him, and Gongrane could only pray he would pull through. For now though, he had the lives of all his subjects to worry about.

"You," Gongrane said, rising to his feet and looking at the attendant, "send word to everyone you can find. Decry it in the streets, herald it to the city itself. Enact the evacuation plans, people are to make for the western mountain passes. The officers are drilled and know what to do. We feared this day would come, but I will not have my people reduced to slaughter and slavery."

The man nodded, turned to go, stopped and said simply, "My lord?"

The question hung in the air, and an uncomfortable silence stretched before Gongrane answered, "No. My place is here, giving my people guidance and time. They will not rest until the leader is dead; they know what a powerful symbol a king can be to a people. I do not know who or what these madmen are, but I feel they are after more than conquest and plunder. Now go, remember the passes to the west! You'll pass through Orc lands, but our people have fought them before. Make for Harathad-Dor, perhaps the Elves will find it in their hearts to grant refuge."

The man hung at the door. Gongrane could see his face contorted in sorrow, and a tear streaked down his cheeks. "Go," the King of Smarsh roared, "My last order goes with you!" The man jumped slightly, and darted down the hallway; he was quickly out of sight and the old king was soon alone. "Do not let me die in vain." Gongrane whispered.

Written by - Turin Wallace

"Turin, care for her please, make her whole again... I'm going to find out what's happening up above."

He could hear Vylia stepping away and onto the deck above. The ship had veered sharply and was at an angle now. While the decks above were brimming with activity, the room where Ariana now rested was still and only disturbed by muffled sounds. The only illumination was the single candle that burned inside a lantern, which hung from a beam.

Soon, Dorve excused herself as well and headed topside, where no doubt her skills were going to be needed. A healer's duty is never done, and they never lead boring lives.

Standing above the physically and mentally broken woman before him, Turin allowed himself a private tear. Beridane was a monster, he knew that, but to see the Abbess in this state shook him to his core. He was a Crusader from a now long ago past, his abilities were not those of a healer, but that of a defender of the faith, a protector of the weak, the vengeful sword that struck at those who preyed upon the innocent. However, he did know of one spell that may mend far more than what the others had done, but the price paid would be high. Did it matter now? It was his duty to exhaust all possibilities, it was what all those who donned the triskellion-encrusted armor were expected to do, and he had no choice.

Standing, he placed both his hands out over the shattered form below him. Breathing slowly and steadily, he simply said,

"For the All-Father and St. Lorne. From my own strength, may yours return, Ariana."

A small, faint glow began to flow around him and over her as he began to recite the words of Adelmo, the Patriarch. The longer he recited, the brighter the glow became, until finally it was complete. Pallid and gaunt, Turin had completed the ritual of Sacrifice, the greatest skill in healing a Crusader could perform. At the cost of self was another healed. Falling to the floor, he could not move, and he began feeling the darkness wash over him. As his thoughts faded, he only hoped it did her some good, and that his compatriots could stem any boarding action that would occur.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya took stock of the situation. She and Alanthear could see the number of men crossing over onto their ship was plentiful. Ardwen, Vylia and others were taking care of what they could but some of the ship's hands were getting overwhelmed. Alanthear pulled Kaya to them. It was then Kaya noticed something odd; everything seemed to be slowing down all around Kaya. Then she realized everything was not slowing down, but speeding up and Alanthear was growing in brightness. Hold on Mistress! Alanthear whispered. Kaya tightened her grip and let Alanthear do his work.

The pair came up behind one of the enemy boarders'; Alanthear came down upon the man's shoulder, shattering his collarbone, cleaving through skin and bone, sending him straight down on the deck. The deckhand backed up but not soon enough, for the other enemy had closed in and opened up his stomach, entrails hanging out now. The young deckhand collapsed on the deck at Kaya's feet. She let out a battlecry and lunged at the man holding the bloody sword. Alanthear parried the man's onslaught easily; almost seeming to toy with the man. Then, taking advantage of Kaya's litheness, the pair tucked and rolled ending up behind the man. Alanthear lunged upward before the man could turn around and severed the man's spine in one stroke. Before the man they had just killed hit the deck, Kaya, Alanthear still in hand, was standing again, rushing into the fray to help whoever she could.

Written by - Agmund

Thorgrum and Morthand stared in mute shock. A large crevice began just to their left and continued as far as the eye could see to the west, and the opposite was edge barely visible to the south. Like an axe wound upon a wasteland of chilly barren earth, the crevice cut so deeply as to fade into darkness far below. But the blade was not sharp, and jagged stone spires swept up from end to end, each with its own demise, and its own twisted form.

Strung between them were countless ropes, planks, and bridges, all with there own hideous design. Some of stone, some of wood, some of iron, and some strung together with pieces of all three. Skulls, bones, rusted weapons, armor, and shields, hung grotesquely at random intervals. Adding to the chaos of causeways was the lift systems of ropes and pulleys, and worse was the crude metal pipes that jutted out: each billowing its own plume of smoke.

Most of the crevice where the orcs had not managed to build, or adorn with terror in some fashion, was covered in a thick, slimy, black moss. Yet, in a few places, ancient stone could be seen, stone that perhaps would be white if it were not for all the grim and filth of the inhabitants. It was in those spots that the two seemed to stare, from one to the next, trying to make sense of it all.

Indeed, they could see that there was evidence of a past here, and that it was far more ancient than the orcs were. Though it was almost completely concealed, vast monolithic pillars lined massive entrances, and spires carved into the shape of swords and spears swept into the sky as if to strike the very heavens.

“How in Tinorb’s name are we are ever going to get in there,” Throgrum muttered under his breath, “let alone get out. There has to be a thousand different entries, and no knowing how many sentries guarding them.” The dwarf pulled back from the edge and leaned against the rock wall behind him.

“There is no need to go inside,” Morthand whispered over his shoulder, “all we need to do is find a good vantage point, wait for nightfall, get to it, and then count for a few days, to try and get a rough estimate of their numbers. Remember my friend, we are only here to spy, not to fight.” He looked back to the dwarf, who seemed to be somewhat annoyed, “do you think you can manage that?”

“Aye I can manage it lad,” Throrgrum said dourly. “Question is will the orcs let us, and will we be able ta’ slip away with,” he was suddenly cut off by Morthand. “There,” he whispered, pointing to what he figured was the largest of the entrances. It was on the southern side of the canyons widest point, with a large stone bridge going directly to an entrance of equal grandeur on the northern side. The original bridge may have been something of beauty to the eye, but it was now defaced beyond recognition.

Sharp iron spikes had been pounded into the stone guardrails along the span of the bridge, each with a skull of one race or another thrust upon it. Some still had hair attached; others wore the helm they had entered their last battle with, and many bore the evidence of deaths blow. The once graceful arches of stone that bore the bottom of the bridge, now lay in a quagmire of insanity. Shacks of wood and metal had been built into the web of the arches, and like a goblin honeycomb, it teemed with life. So much in fact that a second bridge of iron had been riveted in beneath it.

The Entrances on both sides of the canyon, also had signs of past glories, but they too had been defaced. Each was square in design, matching the width of the bridge in dimensions, for the bridge itself was flat. Only the support arches had any curve, and they bore out directly from the crevice walls themselves, almost appearing as though they had been pulled out and shaped from the stone.

The capping stone of each entrance was wide, by around 6 feet, forming a ledge above that was adorned with all sorts of nasty trophies. The two could not make out the northern side from their vantage point, but they could clearly see the southern side was the main exit. It began an upward grade right inside it, and from their position at the top of the canyon they could make out a small steady stream of foul creatures emerging from the ground beyond it.

The canyons rock wall jutted out for some fifteen above the exit, and with the width of the stone beneath it, and the trophies, created a good hiding spot. “Although getting there wont be easy, it appears to offer good position. Since it’s the exit side, I would guess that the Northern side is most heavily populated, so we can see what numbers are coming and going, and maybe over hear where. What do you think Throrgrum?” Morthand said.

Throrgrum grinned, “if’n we make it there we will be close enough to spit on their heads. If’n we don’t then likely we will get to kill a few before we die. Either way it sounds like my kinda entertainment, so ya count me in.”

Written by - Vylia

This fight had turned out better than the last. Though she was outnumbered most of the time, it was never more than two or three at once, and their complete lack of skill made them easy kills. Vylia winced inwardly every time she killed a man though, regardless of how evil he may have been. The number of men started to taper off rather quickly however, probably due to it being such a small ship, though the archers stayed on the other ship, firing at targets of opportunity. She was frequently forced to dodge the arrows while avoiding swords swinging in her direction as well.

Then Vylia noticed the bolts and arrows had stopped, and at first she thought they had run out of ammunition, until she realized all of the borders were dead at her feet, or the other elves defending the courier. She let out a deep breath of relief which caught in her throat as she saw four more men crossing the boarding ropes. Three of them were in leather tunics and the fourth had a highly stylized hat and metal breastplate, he was obviously the man in charge. He had a grin on his face as he crossed over to the Call and hopped lightly onto the deck. "I hope these men are better than the rest of your crew, or you are all going to die a humiliating death. Let's be done with this," Vylia didn't even wait for a response before she charged the group, "Everyone else stay out of the way!"

One of the men leaped in front of the captain as the other two split up to try and come at her from the sides, but Vylia paid no heed to them, focused on killing the man in her way first. She unleashed a flurry of sword strikes that the man only barely managed to parry, and his friends could not aid him without the possibility of killing him should Vylia move, but he wasn't able to keep it up for long before the short sword in her right hand slid into his gut, slicing through his leather armor before getting stuck. Vylia pulled on it for a moment before she saw the malicious grin on the man's face and ducked to her knees just in time to avoid a sword strike into the back of her neck, which instead plunged into the first man's throat. She quickly threw her elbow straight back from her kneeling position, catching the man in the groin hard, and causing him to stumble back in pain, his longsword still in his friend's throat. Vylia quickly stood up and grabbed the longer blade with her right hand as she stabbed straight down the throat of the gasping man with the short sword in her left before leaping backwards out of the way of the remaining henchman's swing, violently pulling the longsword from the throat of the first man which caused the body to fall forward onto her attacker, forcing him to regain his balance and stop the attack. The enemy captain however had no such obstruction, and took the opportunity to press the attack while she was still in the air. Vylia barely managed to block, but the extra force pushed her to the ground jarred the short sword from her grasp, it fell clattering to the deck behind him as he continued his attack.

The man came at her next with an overhand swing meant to split her skull in half and she brought the longsword up to block as she kicked out with her legs. He stopped the swing midstroke and sidestepped out of the way before attempting to stab straight at her gut. Vylia rolled to the side out of the way and stopped on her stomach, her hands and sword beneath her. She pushed up before shoving on the deck with her feet and came up into a quick handstand that moved her legs out of the way of the swing from the remaining leather-clad henchman that had finally gotten untangled from his friend's corpse, and flipped up onto her feet before twisting her upper body to take a swing at the man as her lower body turned to line up with the rest of her. She now found herself facing two men with three swords to her one. "Come now girl, just surrender the ship and the rest of the crew can live, I'll even ensure my men won't touch you." Vylia just shot the man a wry grin, "They couldn't touch me before anyway, and all of your men are dead, you have nobody to take this ship over with. However, I won't give you the option of surrender." With that she charged the henchman with an obvious overhand swing which he moved to block as she took a short hop barely a foot off the ground and swung her right leg into the side of his knee, forcing him down as she changed the direction of the swing, grabbing the sword with her other hand and pushing it around to the side and then under his sword to come across his throat with such force that the sword continued through his forearm and spun about to clash with one of the captain's swords in a shower of sparks. While surprised her was no fool and too the opportunity to stab forward with his other sword. Vylia just continued the push, using his solidly set blocking sword to continue her body spinning sideways out of the way of the stab by the tiniest fraction of an inch as she brought her right knee up into the side of his gut before sliding around behind him to run for her dropped blade. A cheer went up from the crew as Vylia picked up the fallen short sword and turned to face the captain, her right knee stinging from the hard impact with the steel breastplate.

The pirate captain grinned, "No more fancy footwork from you with that knee, hmm?" He advanced on Vylia slowly, laughing, carefully even though it was obvious her knee was hurting. Vylia favored her left leg as the two of them circled the deck, looking for some kind of opening. "Damn I wish I had brought my own blades up here," Vylia mumble under her breath as the weight of the two swords continued getting heavier from the constant fighting. She was waiting for him to come to her since she knew she wouldn't be able to make a reasonable charge, her knee hurt more with every step. He finally did charge, coming at her a little faster than she expected, was she almost caught off balance since she was just stepping and had all her weight on her right leg. Vylia stumbled slightly as he came at her with an overhead swing which she blocked, pushing up with the longsword just as he brought his second sword around from below. Vylia blocked the lower attack, knocking it to the side so that it narrowly missed her leg. However this left her wide open on the sides as the captain's swords came in again quickly, trying to take off her head. Vylia forced herself to fall backwards, throwing up her left leg to catch the man in the groin as she fell to the deck. "Forgot to armor your most vulnerable spot... Captain," she said with a sneer as she threw the short sword straight for his head. The sword speared him straight through his right eye as he looked up to respond and he fell back from the force of the throw. Vylia let out a sigh of relief as she fell into unconciousness, her body exhausted.

Written by - Talonmane

The long bolt punched through Jenara's right shoulder and buried itself to the feathers. She was rocked back from the wheel and off her feet, and let out what she thought was a rather undignified cry. The wheel then spun freely, the 'Call banking suddenly Starboard to the will of those few 'Skaners left to sail the frigate. The last few minutes had been a battle of sailing ability, one in which the small courier was handicapped as she tried to intercept as much wind as possible and keep it from the frigate's sails. Only the Captains orders and hand at the helm made at least a stalemate possible...and they'd continued on course to pass the Wavehammer. But not now. With the enemy winning the pull and the 'Call's tiller loose, they pointed North...up the coast and away from the cruiser that was their only relative salvation.

Her crew were engaged with boarders, and she felt nothing but dizzy.

Aboard the Overpride, the one remaining gunner who brought the Captain down finishes loading his next bolt. He is still flush with that little victory despite the many deaths of his comrades. Snearing, he swivels the heavy crossbow around and aims for the woman responsible for so much Ironskane bloodshed. If he is to fall today, at least he'll die knowing he took out the Elf Captain and the wretch who slew his. He considers it no matter that she has fallen to the deck.

Written by - Rikshanthas

The captain's cry sobered Leinad somewhat. He'd never had trouble killing when necessary, but this bloodthirsty anger was new to him, and he had a feeling it wasn't quite his own. He withdrew Astalder from the skull of an unfortunate raider just as the deck beneath him suddenly heaved to one side. As he fought to keep his footing, aided in no small part by Astalder digging itself into the deck and acting as a support, Leinad caught sight of another 'Skaner aiming a crossbow at a fallen elf not too far from him. "Now that's just dirty," he muttered, loosing his last dagger from its sheath. The gunner was nearly fifty feet away, too far to guarantee a kill shot. He'd have to settle for distraction.

Leinad's arm was steady as ever, and it seemed luck favoured him. The thrown projectile struck the gunner's hand, pinning it quite painfully to the side of the crossbow just as he fired. The bolt went wide, embedding itself in the 'Call's hardwood deck rather than elven flesh. The gunner snarled in equal parts anger and pain, turning to see who had ruined his kill.

Written by - Talonmane

The gunner made no attempt to suffer quietly. He cried out and grunted, breathing heavily and quickly as he pried the knife from the wood and flesh. He knew the battle was turned, and always one to live first and avenge second, he sucked on his wound a moment then spit the blood and disgust in his attacker's direction, taking only long enough to point at him and curse him, sealing in his mind an oath of extermination. The gunner ran, tearing a piece of his own clothing and wrapping it about his wounded palm, then he dove off the far side of the ship and began the swim toward land. Not far off, he knew he would make it and get word to the hierarchy. The Overpride and all hands were good as lost. But he'd live, and one day would find the Fair Seas Call again...

Jenara tried to stand, but the waves of nausea hit her once more. As she fall back down, the two feet of bolt jutting out from just inside her right shoulderblade snapped against the deck, and she involuntarily cried out. I can't pass out dammit...not in the middle of this...those bastards won't have my 'Call. Not today, not ev... And the light faded. In her last concious awareness it seemed the boat had now taken a hard turn back to Port? It was probably just her condition that made her think it. ...that's impossi...

Everyone on the Ironskane frigate and the privateer courier - both vessels still tied together by many grappling lines and a few hooked boarding planks - felt the sudden and steady turn back to West. It seemed, even to those who knew not sailing, to be against the sails, or the wind, or anything normal. The wooden structure of the frigate groaned and her mast strained to the forces at work, and the courier was just along for the ride. In a moment, the form of the great cruiser was again seen in the distance to their fore, and defying explanation, they picked up speed.

The half-goblin pilot of the Overpride had no control. Frantically he'd spun the helm either way, and to no avail. The ship just kept heading West. He stomped the deck and whimpered, looking about in an awful nervousness, glancing up at the sails and sharing looks of confoundment with those few sailors left alive on their boat. Superstitious was far too mild a term for one who was at once a sailor and of Goblin blood, and it was all too much to bear. A quivering cry escaping his cracked lips, legs shaking, he turned to run for the stern rail....

He made it one step, then froze in a shock most involuntary. Quaking, his throat rasp dry, he tried to call forth a scream, but could only wimper and shake his head, his features tight and mouth wide in a look of unabiding terror. Just beyond the aft rail rose a collossal form, a nightmare or a glory (depending on whose side you were on) born of sea and sky. Its penetrating gaze of light fell upon the half-man/half-goblin and a growl made of gale wind and crashing surf eminated toward the pitiable little thing.

The pilot finally called up the dry scream from the last of the air in his lungs, and, as his greenish-brown hair turned white in the span of 3 seconds, he fell backward, throwing up at the same time. His head hit the metal wheel-mount on the way down.

Aquanimbulos couldn't tell if the biope (the term the elementals used for all non-elemental, non-energy biological creatures) was dead or simply unconcious. He felt satisfaction and pity, but kept to the course at hand and pushed the two vessels ever onward toward the Wavehammer.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen remained by his post. He watched the display of swordsmanship by Kaya, but inwardly he cringed in disgust as he realized her sword was the one doing the real fighting. "A quality blade was one thing," thought Ardwen, "but reliance upon it to even fight is unworthy." Still, Kaya did her part in thinning the numbers of the advancing boarding party. However, Ardwen's attention was briefly turned by the arrival of several new combatants, one wearing what looked to be an ornate metal breastplate.

Ardwen took note of this immediately, watching for small signs in the man's movement as he hauled himself onto the Calls's deck. It was rather obvious that he was a cut above the rest of the rabble that he had sent onto the deck, but Ardwen quickly determined he was nothing extraordinary. Furthermore, Vylia seemed to have already picked him out, and Ardwen was still unwilling to leave the doorway to the decks below. As Ardwen observed the fight unfolding between Vylia and the iron-clad human and his partners, an enemy boarder managed to break through the lines.

To be more accurate, he had managed to get lucky and dash through. The soldier that was fighting him had been distracted by one of his friends, and for some reason the man had taken the chance to run by. The Elven warrior watched the man glance madly about, and he watched as his eyes alight on his form. "Don't," Ardwen breathed to the air, "go some other way human." The human, of course, could not know that the wounds on Ardwen did not bother him, could not know that the seemingly injured Elf had seen more warfare than he had years of life.

No, all he saw was the blood and the lax stance, all he saw was prey. He ran forward, and in response Ardwen removed one of his hands from his blade, keeping his left hand on the grip. As the soldier reached him Ardwen made no move to react, even as the man's sword came in for his side. As his foe's blade raced in Ardwen twisted his left arm inward and to the left, pivoting it at the elbow. This brought his sword in line with his enemy's, and a resounding parry rang from the blow.

The human seemed put off-foot by the sudden movement, but Ardwen just stared at him coldly. The human grunted as he tried to overcome the parry and force his way through. Ardwen let out a sigh and said, "You're not gripping a hoe. The strength of a sword strike comes from more than just the arms, it's the form. Hips, stomach--" Ardwen decided suddenly to demonstrate. With his right hand he grabbed the top of his sword's grip, shifted his stance, and rotated the blade. The man's weapon went wide, and with another rotation Ardwen's sword sliced into his forearm, severing it. The human's knees hit the ground and he let out a strangled scream, but Ardwen's blade cut it short.

Flinging the blood off once again Ardwen shook his head head and finished his speech, "The rotary force of the stroke, that's where the power rests." The victorious Elf had just enough time to glance up and see Vylia hurl a sword through the eye socket of the richly clad human captain. Vylia hit the deck, hopefuly just unconcious. Secretly Ardwen envied her for finding a worthy opponent. Briefly Ardwen considered moving forward to help her, but before he could make a choice the deck lurched violently.

Ardwen had not bothered to assume a stance for his last battle, and so he was caught off balance against the sudden shifting. Pitched forward, his knees hit the ground as he tried to steady himself. The Elf briefly supported himself with the spread fingers of his right hand as he kept his blade out of his own path in his left. The tugging shifting quickly passed, and Ardwen was able to stand again. Yet the Elf appeared to hold himself more rigidly, and while his face remained calm his eyes looked about the deck again, almost as if he was checking to see if anyone had noticed his undignified stumble.

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