The spriggan ship was left behind quickly enough, and the Marsh King’s Daughter raced towards the westering sun as easy as a dream. At the evening bell, Peino Starhand handed the bridge over to the mate of the watch.
In the captain’s cabin, just below the castle deck where the groaning of the rudder cables reverberated loudly, Peino and First Mate Tahain o’th’Farwind sat facing each other over the chart table, filling out their logs for the day. The galley sent up the captain’s afternoon coffee and the mate’s tea, along with some savory crab crackers, and the tall selkie and the lanky, red-haired faerie, wrote in comfortable silence as had become their habit after long years of sailing and working together. Their small clay pipes filled the cabin with a scent tinged with herbs and brine, and the sounds of the ship and the rushing ocean made, for them, relaxing music. The drastic rising and falling of the Daughter over the waves seemed hardly felt but for the occasional pause of their pens over their books and a hint of care in the setting down of their porcelain cups after taking a sip of their respective restoratives.
Tahain stood to light the lantern as the changing angle of the sun cast the cabin in shadow. A knock came at the door.
“Enter,” said Peino, and a lad stuck in his head.
“Mistress Watersinger’s compliments, sir,” the boy began hurriedly, “she begs you to come at once. The ship is–”
A sudden, crashing lurch threw the boy back out of the cabin and both Tahain and Peino to the floor with a clatter of cups and pens and pipes.
“What did we hit?” cried Peino, scrambling to his feet.
“Felt like a whale,” said Tahain.
Another lurch and a harsh, grinding noise that shuddered through the length of the ship, with the explosive whip-crack snap of lines above, brought the mariners’ eyes to each other with dread.
“Are we aground? Impossible,” Peino said, his eyes widening. “Kraken!”
What other monster of the deeps would attack a ship moving fast or have the strength to yank the Daughter out of her flight? But how had it gotten past the wizard’s wards?
Stepping out of his cabin, Peino pulled up the fallen boy and shoved him back against the cabin wall. The main deck was a seeming chaos of crew running in response to loosed sails and wavering masts. He saw the bo’sun in the midst of it all, shouting order after order. The wizard, Nyora Watersinger, appeared before him, her face stricken.
“Captain, we’re under attack,” she cried breathlessly. “I detected the aura shift, but it hit too fast. I could not tell what it was nor whence it came. I–” The caster fell back a step, casting a shocked look towards the rail.
Peino’s dark eyes blazed at the wizard, then at the rail, and up to the shaken masts and tangled rigging, his brain running rapidly through all the points before him. He saw sailors running up the shrouds despite the shaking of the vessel. He saw teams rapidly pulling in the disordered sails. He saw other teams gathering at the rails with boat hooks and fenders, on both sides.
He pushed past Nyora Watersinger and went to the rail, with her and Tahain close on his heels. Had that spriggan ship summoned a kraken to catch them? Still, it should have been held off by Nyora’s spells. He looked down at the mass of tentacles that were raking and pulling at his ship as crewmen stabbed viciously at them with the long implements. He beheld the greenish, gelatinous, almost translucent thing, studded all through with glowing reddish orbs, and his heart nearly stopped.
“Lyr’s Blood, what is that?” exclaimed Tahain beside him.
“It’s no kraken,” said Nyora Watersinger helplessly.
Peino barely heard them, for he knew exactly what it was. An abomination. An impossibility. Frozen by the sight of a nightmare from another world, Peino was transported back to a place of darkness and terror, and a deep black river infested with these colorless, devouring beasts. It rolled in the waves and opened more of its many maws, disgorging tentacle-like tendrils that snaked up the Daughter’s sides, its countless red eyes sparkling like cursed gems, and Peino remembered the ghostly shapes in the lightless waters. He remembered the blows that opened the dam lock. He heard again the screaming of alien beings echoing through infinite caverns.
A scream much closer to him broke his stunned memory. A sailor writhed on the deck, clutching his face, covered in blood. A loathsome tentacle waved above him, searching. Nyora Watersinger cast a bolt of aura, electrifying it with a blinding flash, and the horror withdrew.
“Don’t let it touch you!” Peino shouted to his crew. “Tahain, Nyora, issue arms. Burn it, freeze it, whatever, just get it off my ship.”
With quick nods, the two officers took off to make it happen, and Peino turned his attention to warning and organizing the crew engaged in battling a creature of which they had no experience. Bows and quivers of arrows of lightning and ice were brought up from the armory. The archers among the crew ascended the rigging to get clean shots down at the beast. Without warning, the air around them was torn by a thundering barrage of spears that exploded in blue fire where they managed to hit.
“Piss and corruption, who dares?” demanded Peino, turning to see those square spriggan sails coming up fast upon them. He grabbed a random sailor by the arm. “Six men, aft ballistas, now! Come!”