Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Las Vegas Nevada
Current Game: Dungeonseige series
Excerpt from Gryphonrider III
My writer's block has cleared up and yesterday I worte this section from midway through the third book in the series. Not done yet, but it's moving again
Less that an hour after they had sailed new orders came in. The web of Far Speakers sent to embassies throughout the Inland Sea had begun to bear fruit. Enemy warships and merchantmen were being spotted from Morroc to Haif, and their positions reported. Five of the navy's ships, along with Tigerfish had been released to hunt. Tigerfish was ordered to close on Djerb in Tunisa to catch a raider.
Tigerfish ghosted along five leagues from the coast. Her oars, using the light timers, were silent. Dhyanna looked toward the port, seeing the glimmer of torches through her glass. The enemy was still there as of the last report; nightfall. But this was a neutral port. A cutting out expedition would be considered attempted piracy and the guard would come out bent on killing. Dhyanna had no intent to start yet another war.
She considered her perverse memory. There was an incident like this in that history her mind remembered. “Morovan, get some rest.” She looked at the glass, mentally dividing the watches. Three hours to dawn. “Tomorrow will be a busy day”.
As the sun began to lighten the horizon, Dhyanna along with three of her company climbed down into the longboat. Three sailors also climbed down. They lifted the slim mast, stepping it with practiced ease. The small sail went up and the boat scudded toward the distant harbor. As they approached, the parley flag was hoisted.
The customs boat came out to meet and escort them. The boat pulled up to one of the docks, and the sail came down. Dhyanna climbed to the dock, bowing to the customs official. “I am Dhyanna Cha Shandera, Gryphonrider, Desu Te Kasiri, and Commodore of the First Naval Free Company of Takra, Commanding Tigerfish. I bear important news for the Emir.”
The guards escorted her and her companions to the palace. Dh
yanna walked proudly, ignoring the eyes that followed her. Subutai, who had refused to be left behind stalked to her right, where a shield man would be. Chartres marched on the other side, a counterpoint to the smaller man. They entered the residence, and Dhyanna signaled for the others to wait as she moved forward.
The Emir of Tunisa was a young man, perhaps two years younger than herself. His hair had been oiled, and formed into an elaborate coif. He bounced on his chair like a child's ball as the woman approached.
“Yes, yes! She is the kind my harem needs!” The boy shouted. “Harem master!”
Dhyanna paused, looking at the boy coolly. “My lord, I would suggest you... rethink that.” She said. “I am Dhyanna Cha Shandera, Gryphonrider, Desu Te Kasiri, and Commodore of the First Naval Free Company of Takra, Commanding Tigerfish, born of the land called the Enclave; not some woman to break to your harem.” She stopped, a hand resting idly on her sword. “I will not enter you harem my lord. I have more important things to do.”
“Silence woman!” A fat man came running from the side, dropping to his face. “Take her to my harem. Have them prepare her.”
Dhyanna's foot slipped backward. “Is that your final word?” She asked in a conversational tone.
The Emir merely signaled. Guards came from the walls, and Dhyanna nodded. The guards moved forward and Dhyanna drew even as Subutai did. They cut almost as one, and two guards died. Chartres drew his own two handed sword, and his cut ripped one man in half and halfway into a second.
Dhyanna spun, slicing into another man's neck, and the next instant she thrust, the sword stopping a hair from the Emir's neck. She held her post as the other two disposed of the remaining guards. The Emir's eyes were wide with shock.
“I will repeat myself as if for a child. I have more important things to do.” She said. “Will you hear what I say? Or will you go to war with Takra because you feel lust? Not that you will live to suffer those consequences.”
His head jerked like a doll, and she released one hand from her blade, pulling the scroll from her belt. “My lord a Dacian warship named the Bama has been sheltering in your harbor, attacking our ships, and selling their cargoes in your markets. Takra will not accept things as they are. We ask you to order that ship from your harbor.” She leaned back, now the hand with the scroll was closer than the point of her blade. He reached out, and took the scroll with a shaking hand.
The Emir ripped the scroll open, and read the missive. He crushed it in his hand, wishing it was her throat. “And if I do not?” He snarled.
“Then we must consider that you have sworn yourself to our enemies.” Dhyanna slid the blade into it's sheath. “But remember, my lord, that Lacedo was ill served by that same nation. We will allow you to consider my words... But if by the next dawn you have failed to drive him out, we will have to believe that you wish a war.” She bowed. “May we have leave to depart?” Her smile was closer to a great cat looking at a fat goat. He felt a chill. She bowed deeper at his nod, and walked away.
Captain Semme looked at the document sent from the Emir's residence, sighing. He was a man of middle years with black hair now graying, but still stout. His men had reported the great Dromon close enough to see outside the harbor. The Emir had been almost incoherent in his missive, and Semme understood it. The woman who commanded that ship had proven to be a thorn in his nation's side. Her own ship and crew had destroyed three Hawks and captured a Nao in Dacia's harbor before boldly sailing it out of the harbor.
He smiled. His own command was merely a Hawk, but when Dacia had reported the woman's experiment with plating the hull, he had understood immediately. From the money he had earned raiding Takran shipping he had paid for the same procedure in Morroc. His ship would be slightly faster, more maneuverable. He had also emplaced one of his ballista aft on a lifted platform where it could be fired directly astern and set the two stern springalds so they could also fire directly astern. To protect the helmsman the ballista was placed to ward off any hits from the Springalds. In a stern chase he could pound an enemy starting at half a mile, and he had plenty of fire oil.
“Prepare for sea. Load the engines.”
The crew leaped to their stations, the skeins on the catapult tightening, then the arm was winched down. Behind them the springalds were already set and the crews fed in darts.
The kelestues rolled the drums as the lines were hauled in, then the oars were run out. The drum rolled again, then settled into a slow beat. The ship set out.
“She's coming, Captain.” The lookout shouted. Dhyanna opened her glass, watching the Hawk come on. Men were on her bow, and she could see swords waving.
Then the ship heeled over as her port oars cut back instead of forward, spinning her on her axis. Then she hurtled forward down the coast.
“Impressive.” Dhyanna commented. “Battle stations.” The gong rang, and with now well oiled precision her crew ran to their stations. Hendricks pulled canvas off the gohnne, and his crew pulled open the box of ready rounds. There were only six darts and fire-darts on deck. Below at Hendrick's insistence were the special rounds. At a shout they could be on deck as could more regular rounds.
The mast came down, sails rolled up and tied down went below. Hendricks signaled ready. The oars ran out, and Tigerfish moved forward like a stalking cat.
“Predictable.” Semme commented. “She expects us to run, and thinks she can catch us thanks to her hull plating.” He grinned. “Keep us at medium beat, let her tire out her oarsmen.”
Morovan watched, counting with mentally as his lips moved. “He's at a medium beat, but we're not closing.” He reported.
“So he has a plated hull.” Dhyanna mused. “What other surprises do you have for us, Captain?” She asked as if he stood beside her. “Send Dannemora up please.” The elf came up, and they spoke for several minutes.
“Captain! Look!” The sailing master pointed at Tigerfish as the beat stopped. On the fore deck a woman stood, then there was a flash, and a Gryphon appeared.
Semme smiled. When this Dhyanna had been stationed off Dacia, this Gryphon and it's rider had been reported. “So predictable. Send up the archers.”
On the other ship, the rider leaped aboard her mount, and it leaped into the air. Now the beat picked up, fast beat. Semme smiled again, his teeth bared. “Come to me you witch.”
The gryphon flew upward, becoming a speck in the sky. It approached, half a mile, a quarter mile, closer...
The five men stood, the great elven bows in their hands. They drew and five arrows cut through the gryphon and the figure on it's back. Yet it did not fall. Semme stared in amazement as it closed even farther. Five more arrows shot out, and again nothing happened.
“An illusion!” He roared.
“Elven great bows.” Dannemora murmured. He looked at Dhyanna. “Very costly items. The bow is made for our warriors, and has magic as part of it's construction. For a common archer they are merely well made bows, but if made for the one who uses it, they are deadly accurate within their range; as if the arrow were guided to it's target. You were right, Captain. This man knows who hunts him.”
“He stays at medium beat, hoping we will tire our oarsmen as we close. If we stay at full he can allow us to close, but all he needs do to stay ahead is go to fast beat also. If we raise sail he can do the same, and is still faster.” She mused, glass snapping to full length again. They were just over a mile and a half distant. Did he know about the gohnne? They closed. At just over half a mile she signaled. The gohnne roared.
Semme watched the ship closing, his engines could hit at about half a mile, and he turned to signal when there was a flat report from the enemy. The hull lurched, and flames shot up on the deck, spreading in a pool. The helmsman screamed as it washed over him. The steering oar swung wide, and the ship slowed. Seamen ran up with buckets of sand and spread it over the flames and the unfortunate man. “What in all the hells was that?” He asked. Another helmsman took the oar, and the course steadied.
“No! Let it fall off! Make them come closer!”
The crew cheered as the fire shot up, the ship falling off course. “Hit them again Hendricks!” The man waved, then loaded another fire dart. The gohnne slammed again, the dart hitting the side of the ship, fire running down her hull. The oars faltered, and they began to close faster.
“Now!” The engines fired as one, three darts hurtling back. They hit near the bow, and fire raced back.
The gohnne crew screamed as a gallon or more of fire oil engulfed them. Dhyanna leaped toward the bow as her crew smothered the flames with sand, dragging the injued and dead back. One man began throwing the fire darts still on deck over the side. The last exploded mere feet from the ocean, and he fell back screaming as steam shot upward. The ship still forged forward, and on that other deck the crews were frantically preparing for another shot. Dhyanna grabbed one of her men. “Get me one of his hell rounds!” She shouted. “Clear the wounded! You two; Grab the aiming handles.” She kicked the brake loose, and with the help of the two men began turning the weapon on target. She locked the brake, running down the barrel as the crewman raced up with the clay ball and it's shaft. “Get another! Keep them coming!” Dhyanna pinned the spring flights down, breaking the string that held them before stuffing it down the barrel. “Clear!” She leaped, grabbing the lanyard.
The crew had reloaded and Semme started to order them to fire as the gohnne spoke again. The dart lofted, then came down just forward of the ballista. That was all that saved Semme when the fireball at it's heart exploded.
There was a flash, and the deck forward of the quarterdeck shattered. The crew of the ballista rained down in gobbets as they were slammed into the engine. Semme staggered to his feet staring in horror at the destruction. The crews of all three engines had been wiped away as if by a god's hand, and the engines sagged then fell into the hole. The beat faltered as a dozen oarsmen and the kelestues were killed by the shrapnel of shattered wood.
The Bama staggered, and the drumbeat died. She turned slightly as men writhing in agony shoved their oars the wrong way. Dhyanna loaded the next round, swiveling the gun minutely as she lowered it. “Clear!” The crew leaped back as she pulled the lanyard. The gohnne spoke, and the clay shattered against the hull amidships, the hull caving in as the fireball ate through it. Smoothly she loaded another.
“Captain!” A man staggered aft after the second shot ripped her hull apart. “She's breached, sir. Half the oarsmen on our starboard side are dead, and we're taking on water too fast.” The ship staggered again as another of those hellish rounds flew through the ten foot hole and exploded in the center of the ship, flame gouting from the hatches.
Semme looked around, then at the flagstaff on the stern. He walked over, pulling down the flag. “Get the crew up on deck. Prepare to surrender.”
Tigerfish closed, her gohnne still centered on the sinking ship. A boat dropped from her side, and began rowing across. It came up even with her stern, and a pair of hands caught the rail. The woman that came over the side was a bit shorter than himself, her ice white hair in tight braids. She paused, then saluted. “Permission to come aboard, Captain.”
Semme touched his forehead. “Permission granted, Captain.”
She walked over to face him. “Well fought, ser. If you had been a bit closer we would be surrendering to you instead. “Can your ship be repaired?”
He looked at the mate to his side, who shook his head. “No.”
“Then we will take your crew aboard.” She lifted her right hand, making some broad gestures, answered by a man on the fore deck. The ship began to move closer.
“What makes you think we won't attack and try to take her?” Semme asked.
“You would not have asked me if it were what you planned.” Dhyanna chided. “All reports say you have been merciful with those ships you took. The crews tended when injured, all of them placed ashore when you entered harbor. You asked for ransom of those who could pay it, but allowed those who could not free parole.
“Such an honorable man would not have even considered betraying a truce.” She sighed. “Now captain, I ask for your parole.”
“And my ransom.” He murmured.
She smiled gently. “Captain, I will offer you the same parole I gave those who tried to take my ship before I knew the war had begun. All you must do is swear that when you return home you will not fight against Takra in this war.”
He considered as Tigerfish came alongside the undamaged side. From below men began to bring up the wounded, passing them across to the other ship. Others came up with what they could carry of their own goods. Each was disarmed as they came aboard, and now turned to helping their shipmates. “For this I think I will agree. I give my parole.” He crossed his arms, kneeling.
“Then we had best get to work getting your crew to safety.”
An hour later Dhyanna and Semme were the last to leap from her deck as the crew cut the grapples free. Bama drifted away, and part of Semme felt his heart lurch as she rolled deeper. Then as if merely rolling over in her sleep the ship pulled the sea over her and sank. Dhyanna stood side by side with him as the last of her slid to the bottom.
“Gooli, I want a report. What were the captain's losses?”
“Seventy dead, two mortally and three seriously wounded, ten others wounded. We recovered twenty-five.”
“And our own?”
Three dead, one mortally wounded, three others wounded.”
“Mortally wounded?” Dhyanna's mind ran over the crew on the fore deck as the fire had hit. Saman, Colloso, Tamran and... “Who of the gun crew is still alive?”
“Hendricks. But he is badly burned.”
Dhyanna felt a hand grasp her heart. “Captain, if you will, take your ease on the quarterdeck. Your men will be put below, but allowed to move free if they will give their parole as you have done. I must see to this man.”
“Captain, two of mine are there as well. May I accompany you?”
The deck over her head felt as if she had been thrust into a monster's gut. Ahead of her she smelled burnt flesh, heard the cries of pain from many throats. There was a curtain between her and the orlop, and she paused. She didn't want to do this. She wanted to be on deck, breathing clean air. To hear Hendricks wax philosophical on world events in another world. Not watching him die.
The curtain moved, and she saw Dannemora holding a cup. “Drink, Hendricks; this will ease the pain.” He looked up at her approach, and he gave the merest shake of his head. “Lay back and rest.” I will come and see you shortly.” The elf stood, and moved to his friend. He lay a hand on her shoulder, giving it a gentle squeeze before going on.
Dhyanna walked over, looking down. Hendricks' face was bandaged tightly, only one eye and his mouth was not covered. His chest was also heavily bandaged. When he breathed she could tell he was close to death. She took the stool, holding his hand through it's bandages. She leaned forward, head on his hand.
“Dhyanna.” She wasn't sure she had heard anything for a moment. She lifted her head, looking up into the open eye.
“You don't need to worry any more.” He whispered.
“Worry? Why would I worry about you.” She joked.
“Liar.” He gave the ghost of a laugh. “Ever since we tested the gohnne. Ever since you saw what it could do you have been distant to me. You feared what would come from my mind, from my world to shatter your own. I have seen you think that an accident might keep me from doing it again.” He gave another gasping laugh. “You didn't have to worry... nuclear physics was never something that interested me.”
“I am sorry I caused you to come here. Perhaps in your world's medicine is good enough to heal you.”
“It's not that good.” Hendricks replied softly. “Dhyanna, I wouldn't change it for both our worlds.” His hand squeezed gently. “I had so much fun here. Seeing you and those of your nation. In my papers, I even wrote a monograph.” He chuckled. “But the mails run badly from here to the university. It may never arrive.”
She smiled back at him, the smile dying when she saw his eye start to lose focus. “Hendricks.”
“Lots of fun... Lots. Of. Fun...” He took a deep breath, held it, then silently his chest dropped, his hand going limp.
She closed the staring eye, tears falling on his hand as she held it for a long time.
The sun was setting as she climbed the ladder. She saw a figure sanding at the rail as they sailed north. She came over, standing silently beside him, both thinking of their own dead.
“What now, Captain?” Semme asked.
“We return to Takra to drop you off for repatriation. But first, you and I sit down to dinner. I want to hear your side of our battle.”