Back and forth, side to side, front to back, and side to side again. Gentle music softly graced her ears as Evalyn lay stretched out on her swaying hammock, the only soothing sensation present in several days. She welcomed it cautiously, keeping her eye on the one that coaxed the sweet melodies from his lute.
He’s got to be some sort of demon-spawn. . . Evalyn thought, peering at the bard from the corner of her half-closed eyes. Red skin, curling dark horns, long barbed tail. . . Definitely demon-spawn. The irony or perhaps hypocrisy, as usual, did not even occur to her as she judged the Tiefling purely by his appearance. She had only seen one other of his kind, in her own Shadowstriders, but Gallus had less pronounced features. And he was a thief!
She kept vigilance on the dwarf, as well, but he stayed on his hammock or out on the main deck. He never approached her or her group after introductions, and they returned the courtesy in kind. The bard, on the other hand, liked to try to loosen their tongues, tell their tales; Evalyn didn’t like the prying. It only made her more uneasy.
A shout on the deck cut through the lute’s tune, nothing unusual. A few more shouts and pounding feet on wooden boards stopped the Tiefling’s nimble fingers. Evalyn stretched and leapt up in one fluid motion. . . or attempted to. Fabric snagged her foot, and she tumbled to the floor from her lofty third hammock up. She managed a saving roll and sprung up easily enough to make it look like everything was in control. She didn’t look around to see if the others had seen and instead launched herself out of the passengers’ quarters, out to the topside. Clambering behind her informed her that the others were following closely.
“Ship! Aft port!” the lookout cried out to those new to the scene. Evalyn ran to the side and looked back. A sailor huff-grunted, and she turned his way.
“Other port, lass. . . This is starboard.”
She rolled her eyes at his strained smile and ran to the other side. Defying logic, a ship was rapidly catching up to them. That has to be magic induced speed, Evalyn thought and stared contemplatively at their unfurled sails. Too risky.
The sails seemed to catch more air suddenly, filling up and accelerating them forward. Evalyn jumped, startled, and looked around nervously. The druid had a look of concentration and waved his arms and hands around purposefully, muttering. She sighed in relief and looked back again at the pursuing ship. They still gained! She looked back at their main sail, at its limit and still not enough. Another glance and the ship already approached their broadside. There was no question of intent as men with swords drawn and ropes grasped lined up along the side of the main deck. Hatches on the side lifted up and big metal tubes rolled forward. A woman wearing magnificent garb and an even more magnificent hat with a magnificent feather shouted orders to the men. Magnificently.
Nothing ever goes smoothly, does it?
Their own men lined up grimly, the captain shouting his own orders. Not nearly as magnificent. She sighed, drew her short sword, and stirred the wind around her. She noticed Unforn staring at her uncertainly and chose to ignore it. I’ll worry about that later. It was bound to happen.
One of their sailors threw a couple of planks side by side extending to the enemy ship. A few men ran across. Evalyn jumped up soon after and noticed a line of men on the enemy ship across the deck holding up strange metal pipes. What the- Small explosions came from the pipes and a few of theirs fell to the deck, clutching gaping wounds. She heard a faint zip and felt her protective winds alter the trajectory of a small projectile.
I don’t like that, she thought. Not one bit. She rushed ahead, slaying a man with a saber who stood in her way. She heard clinking behind her and turned, alarmed. Jack stepped onto the planks.
“What are you doing?!” she yelled.
“Crossing to the fight?” he said, puzzled.
She shrugged, rolled her eyes, and shook her head. He better not fall into the water; he’ll sink to the bottom for sure.
Unforn and Turchak jumped into the fray, and even the druid joined the fight, throwing spells at the men with the strange metal tubes. One of these men turned, saw Jack about to get onto the boat, and fired. The shot landed, and Jack was put off balance. Shit! That idiot! Evalyn saw this and took off in an instant, dodging several blows as she made her way back over. Jack made the classic futile gesture of waving his arms in an attempt to recenter himself over the planks. He fell.
Evalyn managed to grab his arm and cried out as her own tried to pop off her shoulder. Realization seemed to finally sink into Jack’s face. “Dumbass,” she grunted with effort. Together, they somehow dragged him up, back into the relative safety of the battle.
Many of their attackers were down and victory appeared to be close at hand. The enemy sorceress had not stayed out of the fight, Evalyn saw. Their ship was ablaze. Bigger explosions rang out from below and giant gashes splintered into their hull. Guess we’re staying on this ship. . .
When the last pirate fell, they turned to the sorceress, her death in their eyes. She didn’t look frightened at all but backed up to the aft of the ship. They approached cautiously, like one would a cornered animal. She jumped over the edge and disappeared into the depths.
Inexplicably, Trev jumped in after her, transforming into a shark mid dive. Evalyn and Jack exchanged surprised and confused looks before running into the lower decks to root out any additional hostiles.
There were a dozen or so in one of the lower decks near bigger pipes on wheels. Cannons? Evalyn guessed based on rumors she had heard in some forgotten city.
A few were quickly dispatched, and the rest surrendered. The ship was theirs. After securing their captives, they went back up to the main deck, looking for signs of the shark elf.
Several minutes passed, and if Evalyn had cared about the druid she would have been worried. As it was, she turned to Jack and their captain, who was overseeing the hurried transfer of any salvageable goods left on the sinking wreckage of his old ship. Just before she suggest they give up the druid for dead, a bloody hunk of bone and muscle flopped up onto the deck and transformed back into an elf, albeit one who was missing some skin in various locations, torn by what looked to be many razor teeth.
Evalyn’s stomach lurched, but she kept everything down. “What the hell happened to you?!” she exclaimed instead.
“Piranhas,” Trev wheezed.
“Piranhas. . .” she said, not quite processing the scene before her.
“Little fish? Swarm? Love blood?” he said, groaning as he attempted to sit up. Unforn ran over to help him with his wounds.
“I know what they are, smart ass. What were they doing here?
“Trying to kill me, obviously.”
“Thought you were good with animals,” she smirked.
“They were under her command.”
“Wow, Evalyn,” Jack laughed. He hadn’t moved either, and they watched Unforn help bandage Trev as Trev scrunched his face in pained concentration. Leafy green light shimmered around him, and most of the bite wounds closed and disappeared.
“What?” she asked, unabashed.
“Nothing, nothing,” Jack responded, laughing and shaking his head.
Evalyn caught sight of the Tiefling and dwarf. They were inspecting the metal pipes, the dwarf very enthusiastic. “Do any of you know what those are?” she asked.
“I think they are called guns. They’re a relatively new invention from some country or another,” Unforn answered. “I don’t think I would want an explosion in my hands, controlled or not.”
As Evalyn decided she agreed and turned to find quarters in the new ship, mist lazily rolled over the deck and soon swallowed them whole. A chill ran down her back and dread into her heart.
The island was near.