Ch. 12. The Prize Taken

The Marsh King’s Daughter completed her turn, and Peino saw the figures descending from the airship by ropes and the spriggan ship’s rigging.

“Boarders on the enemy! Adjust aim!” he shouted down towards Tahain preparing the ballistas amidships, and the cry was taken up by crewmen down the line.

“Prepare grapnels!” he added, many voices echoing that call as well.

A thin, dark-haired selkie came running up to the castle, coatless, his white shirt torn and bandages wrapping his shoulder and arm.  He held out the captain’s sword belt and a laminated vest.

“I took the liberty of bringing up your arms, sir,” said Lariud Moonwood, the helmsman, through gritted teeth.  “I can take the wheel.”

“Moonwood, who let you up from infirmary?” barked his captain, as the Daughter rolled with the force of the second broadside into the spriggan hull.

“‘Tis but a scratch, sir.  I’m perfectly fit.”

“Oh-ho,” Peino quipped, taking the weapons and relinquishing the helm, “we’ll see what your lady wife, Nyora, says about that.”

“Indeed, sir.”

“Bring us close, Mr. Moonwood.”  Peino slipped off his coat and threw it aside, pulled on the flexible laminate armored vest, and buckled it tight.  “Grapplers, ready when we’re in range,” he shouted as he pulled the shoulder belt over his body, adjusted the long, thin rapier and drew the dagger.

“Boarding party, with me,” he called, striding down amidships, grabbing a boarding axe from a rack on his way as well.  “Mark your targets.  We have allies aboard.”

Lariud Moonwood, the chief helm and navigational officer of Starhand’s crew, shouted orders of his own and turned the Daughter again after the broadside was fired, bringing the long, white ship close to the shorter, boxier galleon on which fire raged and the sounds of fighting rang out.  The Daughter’s archers were already taking shots into the spriggan force.  Grappling hooks flew.  They caught the rigging and rails, and the crew of the Daughter heaved on the lines, pulling the two ships together.  More crewmen threw the boarding ladders across the now narrow gap.

Peino jumped on even as the ladders were being secured and ran across, axe in one hand, dagger in the other.  The first thing he saw was a broad-backed spriggan, his bulky body wrapped in the bright blue and red sash of the Brethren, strangling a dwarf.  Peino plunged his dagger into the goblin’s neck, pulled it out with a spurt of blood, and shoved the dying man off his victim.  Another loomed before him and caught the boarding axe under his bone-plated cheek.

Peino’s crew rushed by him, following across the ladder while arrows zinged into the Brethren who turned towards them.

“Find me the captain,” Peino called out into the billowing smoke, “and bring me their wizard!”

Whatever the captain of this pirate ship had hoped to accomplish this day, he had failed.  His ship was taking water below and burning above.  He was overwhelmed by two foes, neither one of which could have been expected.  Peino was sure that, if he’d known what ship he was chasing, he never would have attacked a flagship of a sovereign state.  And the airship… well, who would have expected that?  But whatever technical sympathy he may have felt for so grievous and costly a miscalculation was buried under a cold rage, reinforced with dread.  He had to know how these lowly pirates could have summoned a beast from another world.

A quarter or so of the spriggan crew lay dead or bleeding on the deck, and a good number of newly made snakes could be seen slithering desperately for cover or else smeared, crushed by trampling feet.  A shame for them, for when the spell of the Bolts of Become Serpent faded, it would not restore them to life.  Already some of the Brethren were dropping their arms in surrender.  Peino’s dagger slashed across a burly throat.  His rapier was swiftly drawn and both weapons aimed at the sternum of another pirate who threw up his heavy hands.

“I yield!” yelped the pirate, helpfully calling around himself.  “Brothers, lay down! Let’s live another day. This ain’t worth it.”

The selkie, still on guard, grinned at the spriggan.  “Well said, sir.  On your knees, if you would be so kind.”

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