Author Note: Hello guys. I am so sorry for being late. I know you guys have been waiting for the next chapter. Or not. I had to deal with a relative getting admitted at hospital and her eventual death yesterday. As an apology, Ch15 might be a bit early. That said, I am really worried about Ch15, the next chapte, how will it be received.It was a dark and difficult chapter to write….
As always, if you like/dislike the fic, please rate/review it so it gets more readers.
Edited by: Luciferia
Chapter 14: Surviving Exploding Fish-Barrels
“…The First Mother Riliadvael, was pleased. She gazed upon her creation, proud. She realized the lack of creatures to cherish it. Thus she impregnated herself by her own seed, since men had not been brought forth yet. She birthed herself, tearing her own belly to come out as Nurielnonne, the Second Mother. Hence, she gave birth to her children three times, and raised the first people. The Eldest, born with fire blazing down, the Sun-Elves. Fair were they as was their hair golden, drinking the sun. Next came the Moon Elves, the moons etching their light upon their skin of night. On the Second day, she brought forth her last creation, the Twilight Elves, born between the unholy union of light and dark. Thus the Elves came to be and…”
— Urnar’el Azkahan Vash, Sacred text of the Elves, verse 199:31
The ship departed from the dock in still waters. The sailors raised howls of joy. Did the ship start to sail? We couldn’t come out of the barrels till we crossed the waters of the Salrest Duchy. Naval soldiers of the duchy guarded the coasts to protect trade and any illegal immigration. However, they lost the power to do so out of the designated duchy territorial waters. I was a criminal in the eyes of the law now, so the Duchy Naval Guard would be on the lookout.
The Ship pitched and swayed violently now. Maybe it has crossed into the open sea? The refreshing salty sea air played through my nose…Not. Overwhelming stench of fish made me want to hurl. I was a bit seasick too probably. Yep, definitely seasick. I hurled a bit on my clothes.
Now the barrel smelled of fish and vomit.
The sailors would let us know when we crossed the territorial waters. The men were transporting the fish they caught to the Harrind Cape, west of here. Noises of feet pattering on the wooden deck rose up all around me. The Twin-sets of sails caught the wind and bellowed loud, once, twice—the ship lurched ever forward.
The fish smelled bad. Really bad. But still, the rolling and pitching of the trawler-like ship became a comfortable rhythm, with the roar of the sea as its accompaniment. I feel sleepy. What’s Faeve doing?
The men howled at each other regularly, correcting the course constantly. I could hear Vinter bark orders at the men. The barrel was …dark, cramp and narrow. But, it was comfortable. Yawwwn. When will we cross the territorial waters?
I fell asleep while I imagined the fish looking at me with dead eyes.
~ ~ ~
I suddenly woke up with a bad premonition. I am…lopsided? At first I thought the ship was going through a violent pitch, but the movement was too regular to be called that. I put my ears to the closest air-hole.
“…is he unconscious?” a gruff voice drifted in from somewhere.
“Yessir, sleepin’ like a babe”. Vinter’s voice answered him.
This height—people were carrying the barrel I was in, hoisted above their heads. I couldn’t risk moving as it will alert them that I am awake.
“Some bloody murderer that is, sleeping like that. Ha!” the gruff voice spoke up in mirth, “Thoo!” he spat.
“Used de Vilora oil on ‘im. Men haffin der limbs cut off sleep with dat, and ‘ee is jus’ a fish in a barrel, Gahah—” Vinter choked after a dull thwack.
“Did I give you permission to laugh, you son of a krumper?” the gruff voice tapped something on the deck. “Bring the barrel over to The Furrow. He can’t use magic”.
I immediately tried to gather AP, it gathered in my hand and…vanished. Shit. Sulpurian. This was probably the AP gathered in fish bodies. The AP channel has been cut off.
“Torr- Grunter, de reward?” Vinter spoke excitedly. His voice was high and carried over the roar of the sea.
There was another thwack. Vinter groaned as sounds of something heavy falling resounded through the deck.
The gruff voice was angry, “’tis Torr High Grunter for you, mongrel”. Then as if finding something funny, he chuckled, “Be glad we are not putting you and your crew in chains too”.
Vinter groaned from somewhere below, his voice rose up from the ground, “But daf is not vat we aghriid”.
Heavy boot steps could be heard amidst the sound of wind and sea. The pair of feet slowly grew closer, “Looks like you want to die”. said the voice. Probably at Vinter.
Such cliché. But I suppose this was bound to happen.
All this while, I had tried gathering AP to no avail. I couldn’t even take out weapons in the cramped space of the barrel. The Bastard sword won’t fit. I will die before I can draw it out. I didn’t even knew how many men were there.
“Take him away, soldiers! Keep your swords ready if he tries to break out”. The gruff voice continued, “Was he alone?”
“Yessier, all alone with nuthin on ’is back”. Vinter replied.
Where is Faeve? And was he planning to loot the goods kept with him?
I could think of only one reason why they wouldn’t declare Faeve.
The barrel started moving. I couldn’t see outside, I needed to shift my position for that. But…more than that, I needed to break free. Can’t risk being taken.
I opened the small leather bag from Icchvarrions’, and took out just the hilt of the Bastard sword. The handle pushed through the dead fish.
I absorbed the AP stored in the Magic Stones embedded in the hilt. That was a noble’s sword so the quality of the stones were high. AP swirled into my palm. I flexed the leather conduit glove I had got as a gift from Arin.
Sulpurian acted as a barrier. It cut off AP movement so AP couldn’t be absorbed beyond the place marked by it. However, it did nothing for the AP inside the barrier. But, Sulpurian still was deadly since it also numbed the Exhausted AP of created magic, meaning that it would block any magic going outside the barrier.
But I didn’t need the magic to cross outside.
I would die if I bust out the barrel using my black arm. Potentially, scores of swords and weapons will attack me. I would have low chance of avoiding since they were all ready for me.
Shit. I hate tight spots.
I blocked the breathing holes with my feet and activated my black arm. I needed to take them out all together. Or at least startle them. A big ball of fire would do nothing, swords will still hit me. And the ship will burn.
I sputtered as the wind spell I was doing increased the internal pressure. The pressure slowly started to crush me. I slowly choked as air held down my throat; my chest.
Ugh…ugh…a little more—
The wood creaked. Some fish spleens ruptured, the bitter fluid draining down on my mouth.
“Hey? Didja hear sumthin’?” someone below me said.
“What are you—?” BOOM!
The wooden barrel burst, unable to take the pressure. Fish exploded out everywhere. I was thrown back into the guardrail at the side of the ship, violently cracking my back. My neck jerked forward, something cracked in my chest.
Fish were still raining down from above. There were about ten men dressed in white shirts, their blades unsheathed. Fish had hit them like cannonballs, embedding themselves into the swords.
Some writhed on the deck, holding their eyes. Fish bodies had ground to a pulp in the explosion and hit them with their bitter juices. Bits of green scales littered the deck, dead fish stared back with unimpressed eyes.
I took out Thirst fully, the blade clinked softly. The men had gotten rid of the initial shock, and stared back with looks of fury.
Well…as much fury they could manage to pack in with fish sticking to their bodies. Fish guts and bladders stuck to their once majestic white uniforms, some fish heads jutting from their hair. A gruff voice sounded from far right.
“What the…bloody jarnik…Kill him!” his cutlass released a shrill cry as he jerked it from its scabard..
“Son of a milking cunnus!” someone shouted.
Sailors cuss even in parallel worlds, eh?
Thirst clinked softly as the Duchy Sea Guard advanced, swinging his cutlass like a madman. I sidestepped him, my sword cutting a line across his leg—but missed. The sword cut empty air as he jumped in a strange motion. He kept moving on his legs like some dance.
I jumped back to avoid the approaching blades of two more cutlasses, the blades missing me by mere centimeters. The man had lunged too far—my blade bit into his neck, slicing apart his throat. The man fell into the wood deck, spewing blood.
The other guard took this opportunity to swing his cutlass upward, the point aimed at my face. A harsh metallic sound rang out as I parried it with the cross guard. I punched him in the face, the black arm smashed it in, throwing the man backwards.
Shit. Still can’t use other magic!!.
My black arm could use fire magic a few times, but other types wearied it, decreasing its power.
The fishermen joined the fray. I could see a few of them armed with fishing harpoons and gutting knives.
Navy Guards surrounded me with cutlasses raised. The High Grunter hung back, brandishing his larger cutlass.
“Take him out, lads. This one ain’t worth me”. he drawled while he polished his blade.
The men swung again, the blades whipping around my torso.
Shit. I miss my shield.
I charged, .slamming my body into the guts of two guards. They splayed across the deck with force of my tackle. Their blades hadn’t left their hands—the sword guards kept it put. One man clawed at his throat while he thrashed on the deck. A wood splinter from the destroyed barrel jutted out from his throat, having gone clean through the other side.
A flash of fire burned at by back, as a cutlass slashed across my hips. They had closed in.
Veteran soldiers stared at me undaunted. Fuck. These guys…
I jumped back and pressed myself flat on the deck, their swords traced silver arcs in the air, where I was moments before.
I picked up the still-crawling man who had fallen with me when I had slammed into him. I held him up with two hands over my body. His eyes went white…his face inches from mine. He thrashed wildly, arms beating on the deck. His rum-soaked breath hit me full on the face.
Swords bit into his body as his compatriots stabbed at me.
“You krunter! How—!” they lost their words when they realized they’d stabbed their colleague by mistake.
“Gu…Gustarn!” the man cried out.
Three swords had penetrated the man’s body, going through him. Thick red blood dripped down to my body, soaking my clothes. The blades ripped his flesh, the points breaking through and poking me lightly in the ribs.
The man was dying tortuously slow. His eyes filled with blood as his breath caught. Thick blood mixed with saliva dripped into my face. I stared at him as he died languidly, time slowing down to a crawl, two men staring at each other…as one died and one lived, yet.
I woke up from my daze with a jolt, throwing the man’s body into his companions. The body slammed into them, making them tumble like bowling pins.
The cutlasses were embedded deep into Gustarn’s dead body, wrenching it out of their hands. Disarmed, they missed a beat in reaching for their knives. That was enough. Thirst flashed like a diving bird, chopping at the wrist of one. The man tumbled down, clutching at his wrist—the stump bleeding red into the wood.
The deck was ablaze with yellowish light from the Ker’dals mounted on the masts and hung on the cabin. Amber light played on the men’s skin, reflecting the sweat from battle and…death.
The world became…more vivid.
The smell of blood.
The lurid light reflected from metal.
The sea beating against the ship, throwing salt deep into the sky.
And…men seeking lives.
The other guards had taken out their knives with the practiced motions of veteran soldiers. Lives meant nothing to them. They knew their lives were on the line now. So was mine.
I roared, my voice boomed out into the deck…from that, towards the seas. The men stepped back a bit—why?
Something hot seared my left black hand. What was—I looked down, a dark point had sprouted from it. I twisted around, a fisherman had stabbed a fishing spear straight through my black arm.
“Die…demon-spawn!” the heavy tanned face of a fisherman contorted into an ugly shape.
The pain registered a moment later. Hot lances of pain shot through the pierced arm, as the world went white. I had not withstood this level of pain in a long time.
How did the black arm get pierced?
I fell back, the pain too much for me to bear. The faces of people merged together into a colourful blob—the arm throbbed. Deep red blood, almost blackish dripped down onto the deck. I howled as the fisherman screwed the spear further, the muscles getting twisted.
I pulled my arm, the sailor couldn’t keep the balance and stumbled forward, over me. The man trembled as my sword burst through his heart, the tip extending far beyond. I sent a burst of AP, the man jerked violently as his insides turned to pulp in the hydrostatic shock. The wave traveled up his body, turning his organs into mush.
The man exploded, blood and bile streaming out of his throat. One of his eyes burst forward, flopping on to the deck with a wet sound.
Suddenly, I flew forward —crack!! I crashed against the smaller rigging mast. My bones creaked loudly. My stomach—my hands came away wet, this time my blood wet the deck.
I crawled onto my knees and glanced up. The High Grunter had picked up a beam of heavy lumber and lugged me with it. I coughed, bile and blood splattered onto the deck—I doubled up in agony.
The hit earlier had cracked open the ribs which were already damaged from the barrel explosion. The sword went slack in my hands. Blood dripped down my temples and I tasted iron in my mouth.
The only thing keeping me together was the black arm. Lost too much blood…how long can I hold out…
“Had enough, son of a krumper? Little scal!” Vinter laughed from somewhere. The guards laughed too.
Tch. Can’t die here. I have gods to kill.
I took out the wakizashi-dagger. AP swirled around me, thick like smog. The Ker’dals flickered and dimmed for a moment.
Voices urged me.
Blood, and iron.
Down! Down with us!!
They clawed at me.
Do what was done to us…take…TAKE EVERYTHING!!
The voices won’t relent now that I had grown weak.
My body shivered as a chill crept up my spine and spread through my body. Each muscle throbbed, the blood trickling out of my body…increased.
“Careful…he is coming”. the High Grunter barked, readying his cutlass. “We can’t take him alive anymore”.
I lunged with my weapons poised. The guards immediately took defensive stances. There were still six left, excluding the High Grunter.
AP swirled around my black arm as the arm used its last vestiges of remaining power to heal me. I had used the arm’s power a lot in last few days.
The guards stared at me with eyes that didn’t blink. Their raised swords glinted in the light of the Ker’dals. Time seemed to stretch to an eternity as I raced towards them, our eyes tracking each other. One of the Guards stepped forward, facing my charge.
I swung my sword at his torso, he dodged like dancing, his blade approaching my flank. Clang!! The metal cried out as the wakizashi on my other hand parried the blade. He floated in air for a moment when I swept his legs out from under him. He fell with a loud thud, sprawling on the deck. The bastard sword’s pommel crumpled his temple when I bashed it in against his head. Wet brains and blood erupted from his skull—the sword hilt became slick.
This broke the stand-off. They came at me all at once, howling. It was as if the seas were riled themselves, hitting against the ship, sending out sprays into the deck.
My sword hit the first man square on the knee, taking his legs off. His blade cut empty air as the short cutlass couldn’t match up to the length of my bastard sword. The man slid forward, devoid of his legs. My blade vibrated wildly in my hands at the excessive resistance of the leg bones.
Air rushed into my ears with a deafening roar. I ran without losing momentum and reached the main mast, the guards at my heels. THUNK! I jerked up, startled—a knife had embedded itself into the thick wooden mast. A stinging after-sensation on my cheek informed me that the thrown knife had claimed blood.
I clambered up the rigging, the sword between my teeth.
Shit. Too big to hold with my teeth.
I held the wakizashi between my fingers while I climbed up the ropes.
Shit, I’ll make a sword harness if I live through this.
“Aaaagh!—I cried out at more swords bit into my legs. They stabbed their weapons at me like spearing fish. WTF? Open season on Rigel? You fucking bastards!
The pain was too much….I could feel blood trickle down my pant legs, and wet the mast. Huh? things are growing blur…Argh! Can’t lose consciousness!
I held on to a thick rope with one hand and lowered the other down towards my legs. With force, I dug the wakizashi into the wood—it bit in with a satisfying crunch. Keeping a foot on the impromptu foothold, I released the sword from my teeth, into my hand. My mouth came off tasting of steel and bloody guts.
Another knife thudded into the wood beside me, missing my face by inches. The men were howling and clambering after me, the ropes shook with the weight.
I heard the ropes shear as the bastard sword tore through them. The huge red sail stood still for a moment in the strong wind and then rushed downwards. The men climbing after me shouted as the sail draped down on them, taking them with it.
I relaxed my grip on the rope, sliding down some. Then I opened my mouth and took a big breath.
The men were crawling under the huge sail, tangled up in the cloth. Shapes rose and fell under the red drapes.
My lungs full, I spat out fire through the four front teeth I had Kraus made for me and replaced with my own. The Falahal metal channeled the AP furiously through my body and shot it out as fire in a thick torrent, straight towards the red sail.
The fire rushed over the thick cloth—and caught. Men screamed as they caught on fire, the air grew rife with smells of burning leather armour. Take that, you fukkin bastard cunts!
“Gallaheri Preserve us! The deck is afire!” someone screamed.
“Douse de fir krunnels! Douse eet!” Vinter shouted like a madman while running towards the deck railing.
Good. Now the assholes all will be busy for a while. But…do I have to jump into the sea?
The deck burned, with the men on it. The fire had caught the sail like a dry twig, smoke curling up into the starry night sky. I pulled myself up by the hanging rope, now free of the sails it held up. I yanked at the wakizashi.
I stared across the sea while I pulled at the dagger. The ship had dropped its anchors, moored at the middle of the sea. It ship must not have gone into deep seas if it could anchor.
The wind blew in a steady stream all around and across the softly undulating Nampar. The soft Ker’dals splashed lights into the sea, its waters reflecting the amber glow. The furled sails fluttered in the wind, making a soft boom every time the gust picked up.
The starry skies spread over us like an upturned bowl, the ring glowed at its edges like a smudge. And—yellow lights at a distance.
Shit. More fucking ships?
I looked down. The ship still burned, but the crew men had started dousing it with water. I searched, roving my eyes around—there!
Two dinghies were bound to the ship, bumping into it softly with the waves. The guards had come in boats, that means…the lights behind us—the mothership!
I looked down and saw the fire was almost doused. The Guards underneath the burning sail had perished, their half-burnt bodies jutted out from the burnt Vitakal cloth. Some groaned in agony, clawing on the deck in their last breaths. The fire and smoke had done them in.
“You son of a filthy demon-whore! How dare you!” the High Grunter was alive and fuming. Spittle flew from his mouth as he stared at his dying men, his cutlass shaking.
The man charged at me, running through the flames that now burnt low. The deck had scorched black, but the tough Xecchian wood hadn’t given way—yet.
Uh oh. I quickly yanked the wakizashi-dagger out, the effort sending jolts down my shoulders. Fucking shit. Why do weapons get stuck so often?
The man climbed up the ropes fast, practice evident in his movements. With a final effort, the dagger came loose, wood chips flying out. THARK! With a thick sound the cutlass bit at few centimeters below my feet. I planted my feet on the mast and pushed, launching myself in the air while I swung by the rope attached to the main mast.
I rushed past the High Grunter—his cutlass thrust through the air, chopping into my ankles. Stinging pain climbed up my feet as the secondary mast loomed before me, drawing closer.
Oh shit I am gonna splatter like a bug— Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit!
I slammed into the wood mast and then used my feet as a spring to mitigate the immense momentum, sending me bouncing away. Electricity jolted up my legs. I temporarily lost sensation in my legs due to the force with which I had hit the mast.
I flopped down the secondary sail like a bird with a broken wing, smashing onto the deck. My back creaked with the hit— my organs turning to mush—almost.
I rolled on my sides in pain. Thirst had clattered away from my blood slicked hands, somewhere onto the blood soaked deck. I threw up some blood. My clothes had become soaked with gore by now.
The world went white.
I roared as tearing sounds erupted from my right leg. Pain as hot as fire washed over me. Tears stung my eyes, blurring the world. My voice grew hoarse from the shouts. I keeled over, but my right leg didn’t move.
I looked up, and within blurry vision I saw the hulking man who had closed the lid on my barrel. A nasty grin was on his face as he dug the forked harpoon deeper into my thigh with. Blood trickled out in a slow stream as I beat my hands on the deck.
“Git you, ‘lil maggot”. he flashed his missing teeth at me. The harpoon had passed clean through my thighs, embedding itself on the wood deck beneath.
Sounds of footsteps echoed behind me. The High Grunter was closing in.
Metal scraped on wood.
I tightened my grip on the wakisazhi. Can’t faint right now…fuck, fuck, fuck!
Wood creaked as I struggled to free myself.
The sea roared its song around us.
With a sickening squelch, the fisherman had my wakizashi sprouting from his eye. It hit! The man gargled his own blood, spit dripping from his cracked lips.
Thump! His heavy body fell forward onto the deck.
Cold metal slid under my shoulder blades as the High Grunter embedded his cutlass in me. The sword missed my vitals by inches as I jerked back, hearing his footsteps. Fuck! fuck! fuck! dammit!
The blade ripped through the side of my ribs, slicing through the leather armour—and cutting flesh beneath. Flaps of meat and skin came loose and hung stuck to the leather . The agonizing pain seared through my veins. I gasped for air as blood rose up my throat .
I can’t fucking die here! I took the coiling pain and forced it into submission. Calm down!
It doesn’t hurt as much as the harpoon, I told myself.
I grabbed the cutlass with my gloved right hand.
The man’s eyes widened. Sweat trickled down his face.
I had noticed it. It was a sword embedded with magic stones. A low grade, but it was a magic sword indeed.
He quickly sent AP through his blade. The AP wave ripped towards me and—stopped as I charged my own AP towards it.
Blood dripped down and stung my eyes, my leg ached but I hung on.
A loud siren blared behind me…the mothership was near. Dangerously near!
The sword vibrated as two streams of AP charge fought against each other, rippling, pulsating, and devouring.
The blade rippled and bucked as the tension became too much, sparks scattered from it and it shattered. The magic stone exploded, pulverizing the blade from its hilt. The explosion detonated like a small bomb—no, like a shape charge, funneled by the superior AP channel due to the twin conduit of my glove and the blade itself, channeling towards the man.
The shock-wave sent both of us sprawling backwards, our bodies thrown apart like rag dolls.
The man was shredded by the metal shards of the blade, the channeled explosion burning off his skin and hair. The heatwave had hit me too, making my leather clothes smoke and hiss. My face felt raw, singed by the heat. In spite of the directional explosion, few metal shards embedded themselves into my body, ripping off small chunks or leather armour and flesh. The explosion had sent the harpoon loose from the deck. It now hung embedded in my leg. With a Herculean heave, I ripped the harpoon away. FUCK!
The wound throbbed with fire like pain as blood trailed down in slow torrents. A gaping wound stared back at me, the flesh an angry red. I would be fucking toast if it wasn’t for the Gift of Might numbing me. Fuck! it still hurts like a fucking bitch!
Shit. I can’t fight anymore, where is Faeve? Is she dead?
The explosion had ripped a hole in the deck, opening a small entrance to the hold. I crawled back to the spot, peering down.
Something compelled me to check…as if something called me.
Faeve was down there, unmoving. Her leather gear were scattered about.
I slipped myself through the small hole, wood splinters embedded themselves into my skin. Thump! I fell down with a heavy crash, setting barrels askew.
Faeve lay tied to a post, her clothes disarrayed around her. She had her eyes closed. Cloth was stuffed into her mouth. There were angry red marks across her hands where she was bound by rough rope.
Fucking bastards! Were they raping her?
I crawled back to where Faeve was, prodding her with my hand. She didn’t answer. She still has her underclothes on…what the…fuck actually happened?
The mothership’s siren blare was now beside the ship, the shouts from its deck a muffled cry.
I nudged Faeve again, shaking her shoulders.
She isn’t dead. I know it. I don’t know why.
I untied her and laid her down with shaking hands. Those bloody cunts! Then, I spotted the bucket of cold water. I upturned the entirety into her mouth. She coughed, choking up on the water…and woke up in the process.
Waterboarding, the answer to all your questions. Thank you, NSA.
She doubled over, coughing out the water from her throat.
“No time to choke, Sleeping Beauty. Enemies above, I can’t fight”. I managed to croak before I keeled over in pain.
Faeve looked at me, her eyes widening. She opened her mouth, as if to say something. Her small red lips parted—and closed. She stood up from her lying position and came near me, her hands above my heart.
She started singing.
Green dust motes swirled around us as she wove tunes in a strange language, her eyes glowing deep green. AP channeled from her body into mine…immeasurable, unbelievably potent amounts. I gasped, the pain from my body wasn’t even comparable to the searing pain that now flooded though my senses, my nerves.
Every synapse was on fire, every pore of skin sensitive. My breath fell in huge gasps, sweat flooded the wood underneath me. Heat rolled inside my body, as if molten lava bubbled under my skin. My body thrashed like a fish on land.
The Elven song continued, the whole ship now booming with the voice—at the same time eerie quiet, like that made any sense.
A heavy thump echoed behind us. Harsh laughter followed—the High Grunter hadn’t died yet. He stood there, ghastly. His face had…melted off. The skeleton underneath was showing in places, the lips had burned away to show the naked jaws and teeth. Charred skin dropped from his face as he took a step forward. He had an ordinary cutlass in his hands.
He wheezed a wet laugh, the cutlass swinging like a windmill. Another step.
Faeve stood up. The dust motes disappeared. The Elven song stopped.
The ship jerked violently, throwing us all sideways. A siren blared. The mothership had rammed into us. A heavy sound signaled the dropping of gangplanks. Guards were boarding.
“Faeve, go”, I coughed out the words. “Kill them”.
She looked at me, still not speaking.
“I will be fine. You did fix me up”. I said. Yes, I can feel AP coursing through my body, thriving in every muscle, every vein.
She went to the corner of the room where her weapons lay and jumped up, straight towards the whole. She caught the inside edge of the broken deck and pulled herself up.
That girl is fit.
“Faeve!” I called her again, “Di..did the fucking bastards rape you?” My voice was a hoarse cry. What…where is this anger coming from? Why?
Her voice drifted down,“No. They didn’t have time”
The High Grunter took another step forward, the cutlass now whipping the air as if punishing it.
“I, Talaviel’s Sword, will take your head”. he said with a heavy voice. “His power courses through me, you can’t defeat me like the others”. he jeered.
Our eyes stared at each other. He knows I was the one killing his bloody comrades.
He charged—the footsteps heavy on the wood. His sword drew arcs against the amber light of the dim Ker’dal.
My blade rose to meet his, the metal crying out. His blows were heavy, breaking my guard. Shit, the healing didn’t work enough. I could feel the pain still making my body throb, my muscles afire.
I kicked at him, he took it straight on his stomach and stumbled a few steps backwards. Not very effective, huh?
He sprang forward like a tiger, his punch a blur as it hit me across my chin. I had no time to react.
I was thrown backwards, sprawling against the beam Faeve was tied to. My head cracked against the wood, reaching new heights of pain. My neck jerked violently forward. Wounds reopened, blood gushing down my torso and legs. My muscles ripped open across the fault lines of earlier wounds, making me stumble.
“Aaaargh”, a hoarse shout ripped through my throat.
I ca…can’t lose.
He stabbed his sword at me, the point dipping into my arm.
I can’t…die like this.
I held the sword embedded into my upper arms. Then I let fire rip through the blade, making it red hot. He released his hands, scalded. My flesh smoked and cauterized, the meat steaming.
Tear him apart!
The voices started again.
You can’t protect! Kill!
They clawed at my head. Their frenzy a volcanic howl.
You who has lost, defeat others!
Icy coldness spread though my body.
Kill, Kill, Kill!
Crush him! Pulverize his heart!
Chop his limbs!
My body shook, and my breath fell deeper. I…I can’t hold on anymore! no!
Kill him! like you killed us!, They roared again.
The voices in my head cried their songs, their war-cries drowning the beating of my own heart. But, I could sense it—the gradual winding up of my heart, as blood rushed through my veins, making a roar against my ears.
Blood seeped from my open wounds. My clothes were already soaked with blood and water. Mine and my enemies.
Our blades clashed again and again, sparks scattering from the rapid exchange. Clang! Clang! The metal rang and vibrated in my hands.
Cries echoed above deck as thuds of something heavy falling reverberated through the small hull. The cutlass in front of me cut air rapidly, the movement eliciting a shrill sound. Wounds were accumulating on my body, the bastard sword was at a disadvantage below deck due the cramped space.
Thwak! My weapon hit a barrel, rupturing it. Pungent rum-like liquor flowed out, covering the floor. The cutlass bit at my shoulders, painting a red line across it.
Dammit! I will die too if I set fire to the rum!!
I jumped behind the barrel and crouched, the cutlass cut air above my head.
“Don’t hidey hidey, demon krumper”. An ugly tone crept into the man’s voice, “You got to pay”.
I rolled the rapidly emptying barrel towards him and ran far back towards the small stairs leading up to the deck. There was a loud crash behind me as the man split the barrel, and rushed at me.
I ran up the stairs, blood dripping down my legs. Red haze muddled my vision, my mind—Kill! Kill!
Ugh! I can’t think straight!
A dull ache crept up my head, making it throb with painn.
This fucking bloodlust from the Gift of Might and those…souls…ugh!
The ship shuddered as the Guard’s mothership slammed into its side again. Shouts were coming from the deck and—the smell of spilt blood.
Another flash of hot pain on my back announced that the man had caught up to me, his blade dug a deep score on my back—huh? The armour….
He had cut through the straps, my leather armour fell down with a dull sound, the metal fastenings clinked softly. I whirled around, swinging Thirst—a dull sound echoed from it, as it had struck wood due its large length.
That’s why they use the short Cutlass on ships.
A burst of light assaulted my eyes as I stumbled onto the deck, the man’s heavy footsteps just behind me.
The mothership had moored right beside us, its gangplank reached Kurrick’s Tooth’s deck. And beyond it… a land of death.
Bodies lay on the gangplank and their own ship as Feave whirled through them, her daggers moved like coiling snakes. Men fell like autumn leaves, red smiles adorning their throats. Thwak! Thwak! Her crossbow shuddered with each released quarrel, the bolts sinking into their marks without fail.
If there ever was a goddess of death, then this woman was her high priestess. The two ships swayed in the wind, the song of death played across their decks. The sea roared, sending its salt spray high up between the ships, drenching the deck. Her almost-naked form danced in its midst, blood at her wake.
I whirled around—the man stared at me, his eyes glowing.
“Victory to Great God Talaviel!”, he screamed like a fanatic and rushed me, murder in his eyes.
The world stopped revolving. The sounds stilled. The sea itself stood witness as out blades clashed, the metal crying in dear agony.
I drew back and sent a savage lunge towards him, and the blade went straight towards his head—and missed. The deck awash with blood had made me slip, the bastard sword missed its mark and continued forward, in a suicidal arc.
The man laughed, as his cutlass reached behind me and bit onto my shoulder blades. Thirst chopped into the main mast with forward momentum, embedding itself deep. Before I could move, a savage kick sent me sprawling on my face.
I looked up–the man stood with his raised blade aimed at me. My sword was still vibrating, stuck to the main mast, away from me.
“All for the glory of Talaviel”! he screamed, the sea reached a crescendo in its roaring song of waves.
My hand curled up on the rope beside me and pulled hard. The man had stepped on some coiled rigging rope reaching down from the mainmast. The taut rope wound around his leg, making him stumble forward. I sprang back up while taking another rope that lay by my side.
I could feel the man’s breathing on my nape as I crossed him in a flash, the rope that once held the sails coiled around his neck. I pulled at the rope, savagely.
The pulley attached to the rope ate up its length, taking the man with it. He flailed as he clutched at his throat, trying to loosen the rope. The violent jerking had sent his cutlass clattering on the deck. The man struggled wildly, his eyes growing whiter with every passing moment. I kept looking at him while he hung a feet or two above the deck, his legs flailing to reach it.
He started going blue in the face.
Veins in his face bulged, the whites of his eyes started to redden as blood clouded it.
More! More! The voices in my head clamoured again.
His nails scratched the wooden main mast wildly, taking off small splinters.
Bleed! Bleed for me! My brains felt like it would split apart.
His tongue lolled out, as he took his last breath. His struggle winded down. The movements became slower each passing second.
A little more! Don’t let him go! I roared as the voices overtook me, my mind settled into the rythm of slaughter.
Thud! His body dropped on to the deck as I slackened the rope. With the makeshift noose still around his neck, he stood against the main mast, gruesome in his death.
BOOM! Waves of heat rolled onto my back as an explosion rocked the ship behind me. The seawater churned. I turned towards it.
The mothership was on fire. A huge gaping hole stared back at me from its back, the inside of the hull partly visible. Smell of gunpowder hung in air, coiling around the ships. With huge plops, some black balls rolled into the sea from its exposed hull—Canon balls. The gunpowder room exploded?
I turned to face the dead man. Rage, rage hotter than molten steel claimed me. My head—this splitting headache! I curled up my fists, strengthened by a year of hunting and consuming Cores.
Crush it! Crush it! The voices had become one with my mind. Yes! Yes! Crush!
I pummeled onto the body of the man, each punch cracking a bit of his defenseless body.
His rib cage made a snapping noise and caved in. Blood seeped from where the ribs broke through the skin, jutting out like sharp spikes.
Dominate! tear…tear apart!
I kept punching him, his form growing slowly soft and squishy. His bones broke into my hand, making it even more bloody. His heart exploded with a squelch under my fists.
Yes, yes! YES!
Someone said something behind me. I didn’t pay any heed.
More! More! a savage laughter bubbled up my throat. More! MORE!
Something pulled at my arm. I whirled around.
“He is already dead”. Faeve stood dripping blood all over the deck. She was soaked in blood, the little clothes she had on her gave off the stank of death. Her naked skin was blotched with gore.
I turned back and continued punching the dead High Grunter. Faeve pulled back my arm forcefully now. In one fluid motion, I slammed my open palm into her, sending her flying backwards into the secondary mast. She hit the wooden mast flying, with a huge crack.
“Do not tell me what to do, Elf!” I was surprised how distorted my voice was to my own ears.
Faeve picked herself up, clutching her stomach. She looked at me with eyes of deep green, visible clearly despite the lurid yellow glow of the burning ships.
“ERIDAN! COME TO YOUR SENSES!” she shouted, swirling green dust motes surrounded her body. “He is dead!” she wailed as if praying to something.
The sea stilled its raging. The world, vivid with its colour and plethora of sounds, went quiet. Blood rushed my veins like a howling tornado through my ears.
Really what was I; I lost again, didn’t I? What…what was I doing?
The ship burned with a cheerful crackle, the sparks shooting up into the sky. Somewhere, shouting started.
I walked towards Faeve with slow steps. The adrenaline rush from the excitement and…the gift had receded, leaving me with a sore body, shredded to ribbons. My footsteps echoed the sizzle of the burning ship.
Faeve shivered, looking towards me. Her hands clenched on the hilt of her daggers. I crouched down in front of her, putting my eyes at the same level. I stared into her eyes, both still and turbulent at the same time. Her porcelain skin dripped crimson.
“I told you, my name is Rigel”. I said in a quiet voice, our faces mere inches apart. She shivered when my breath fell on her like a sigh. “Remember it”.
The world went black. The adrenalin rush having gone, the excessive blood loss and stress claimed my body. I tumbled forward, into the darkness.
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