The Iron Captain
Dashing toward the village hall, Wallace and his twenty men had met up with what had been reduced to about forty of his original retinue. That was nonetheless a reassuring sight, seeing that the enemy had been routed to a mere thirty of their own. Wallace would let them run, holding the charge behind some buildings as he grouped the two forces together.
“Treyger!” A battle-hardened and battle-craving warrior stepped forward. “How’s my Justice?”
“Still afloat but overrun, Cap’n.”
“Overrun? Another trap?”
“Aye, after a fashion. Bloody pirates were on the boats all right. Snuffed out since, but now the dead have risen from the deep. Skeletons and all. Hundreds and hundreds, by my own eyes and two other pairs before we regrouped.”
“Damn.” Wallace spat, feeling the tear like a dagger in the heart. Cordon would hold the ship, that much was certain, but clearly the Captain needed to divide an already divided force. There was no telling how many more brigands were in that hall if not hiding in the trees. And then, all at once, the revelation hit him like a hammer. The boats. The same ones they flanked my ship with. That’s how they came in. The Iron Justice was a floating spyglass; on its way to Rockshore no sizeable vessels had been seen for leagues that might have indicated the pirates having at least been ferried to shore. So, either their ship was snug in a hidden cove or there was no ship at all. Just a bunch of rowboats. That meant that however many more pirates were left there couldn’t have been that many at all.
“Our enemy’s a tricky one all right.” Wallace spoke to everyone and no one. “In more ways than one. Poisoned bolts. Glyphs on doorways. Now wet bones out for murder. There’s no doubt where they came from. Expect more of the same at the hall.”
As he looked from face to face, all of them were as hardened as steel. “Treyger, take half and reinforce the Commander. You’ll have the land as your advantage. Pick the scum off my ship with every bullet you have left. The rest of you, on me. Move!”
Seventy there were, sixty they had become, now thirty went toward the Iron Justice and thirty went toward the village hall. The Captain went for the latter and his lieutenant for the former. The hall was only a block away. Wallace led his men from the front, their bodies pressed against the buildings’ walls and out of sight. He peeked past the corner, the hall in clear view. A double-door entrance that was surely barricaded from the other side. A building like that, though, was bound to have side entrances. And those are bound to be bound.
Some observations and commands later and the group was off again. They rounded the buildings or shuffled in between them, navigating alleyways where others took to the streets. Wherever they went, however many split up, they all converged on the other side, heading toward the hall. When they emerged, various privateers removed a grenade from their person. They ran onward, while some lobbed their grenades to screen the entire vicinity in harmless smoke from they were and where they were heading. Wallace hadn’t forgotten about the crossbows. If the enemy was training such weapons on the outside, they would have quite some difficulty in targeting through the smoke. Even more, it would be that much harder to see the wave rushing toward the pirates.
“Lyonel, the left! Szamid, right! Shift it!”
Thirty became three sets. Wallace took sixteen soldiers toward the front entrance while two of his lieutenants went for the flanks, seven for each. Splitting up would further reduce the chances of getting nailed by bolts, whilst the troops were not shy about holding up their shields. More importantly, Lyonel and Szamid were on objectives to scout the side entrances and validate their captain’s concerns, remaining in cover all the while.
Meanwhile, bodies slammed to a halt against the wall of the building on either side of its two-door entrance, staying away from the windows. Wallace wasted no time, hugging the wall right up against one of the doors. He motioned for a man to hand over an object. Clay was planted on the handles in a moment and then a wick was ignited. He jumped back to his original position beside the door, safe from harm, and while the flame counted down Wallace motioned for six riflemen to position themselves just in front of the entrance, fingers on the triggers and ready to squeeze. In seconds, one fire died out to be replaced by a new one as an explosion rang out, small but big enough to shatter the doors and potentially objects and individuals behind them. The explosion would occur in such a manner that debris would fly inward instead of outward. Whatever the overall result, Wallace waited, every muscle tense and ready to spring into motion once the entrance would be breached.
The Tide Commander
Time was all it took. Against an enemy that outnumbered you a hundred to one and then some, quality could only last for so long. In this case, the quantity of the skeletons that surrounded and scaled the Iron Justice were finally plowing for a toehold. Gunwales and railings were climbed over, the Ironborn doing everything in their power to fell the foul creatures as quickly as they could, but for every skeleton destroyed two more took its place. Ribaults rang out, a volley of bullets smashing into bones. Ballistas and harpoons sent bolts as long as spears to skewer a line of bonemen while they were still walking the sea. The swivel guns let loose streams of small cannonballs to barrage the enemy’s clustering incursion. But it’s not enough. It just isn’t enough.
Cordon spat upon the deck as he fired his rifle from the rigging, twisting this way and that to bore holes into skinless skulls before moving onto more. “Damn it!” His troops were too busy holding off the horde to share his frustration, but such was the penance of leadership. The Commander had to give battle at the same time as gearing tactics to ensure that the battle swung in his side’s favor. Only seconds were passing by but in only seconds these skeleton bastards were pushing further and further with their flayed aggression. Not just up the frigate but onto the land and into the village itself. It was the last thing that Wallace and the rest needed, to be sandwiched between the pirates and these dead wet shits.
Cordon turned his head toward the bow just in time to see the giant of a man that was none other than Treyger lead about thirty Ironborn back toward the ship. A certain token from the Captain but not enough. With the skeletons now encroaching upon the village, Treyger caught wind and lined himself and his men up to take rifle shots. The torrent of bullets tore into the bones that stalked toward the buildings of Rockshore. Treyger will hold his own like the rest of us. But that means we’ll be doing more of the same here on the Justice.
Then, from up in the rigging, Cordon caught the first Ironborn fall upon the deck. Amid the handful of duels being waged, he had seen the sword drive through the man’s chest and the skeleton fall with him to start biting at his face. He won’t be the last. And you cunts aren’t the first.
“Janiath!” Cordon called across the ropes and masts and the war being waged beneath. “Time to send them swimming!”
For the first time in moments, Janiath’s finger was off the trigger. He wasted no moment to turn about in the crow’s nest and remove what looked like an anchor from its pin. Well, an anchor is certainly what it looked like, but the two arms of its crown were razor-edged blades that curved into sharp tips where the flukes would have been. It was a wicked thing, a device that had been put into play when the living and not the dead had tried to scale the Iron Justice. A thumbs-up from Janiath and Cordon gave the man the salute.
“Drop the scythe, boy!”
The scythe was dropped.
Hanging from a chain that was part of a system of pulleys and cranes, this was no mindless invention and its fall was one of purpose. The heavy scythe swung from the crow’s nest with whirlwind speed, but its motion was predetermined as though programmed. From the prow, planting not one graze across the Blue Lady figurehead, the bladed menace swung across the ship’s sides beneath the gunwales, starboard to aft to port to bow, starboard, aft, port, bow, repeating a third, fourth and fifth time while momentum was maintained. The weight of the swing from the center of the ship kept the vessel balanced, with the mechanisms beginning at the base of the central mast and leading to the crow’s nest.
As skeletons were shattered into thousands of pieces one after another, struck like dominoes or bowling pins, the frigate was suddenly bereft of climbers. That left the Ironborn on the upper deck the opportunity to deal with the ones who were now trapped with them. All at once, the warriors freed themselves from the sides and swept over their foe like a tidal wave in a storm. Bones shattered in mid-swing or never got the chance. And then the Ironborn were back upon the sides in a moment, hailing projectiles upon their aggressors as the scythe was reset.
A violent thud erupted from the deck as a pair of boots landed upon it. Cordon marched toward the aft and took over from a gunman. The swivel cannon locked and loaded, he chose his target, his finger twitching.
“Blast these cockless cunts back to the abyss!”
Amid a buffet of barrages from various guns, the cannon roared and so did Cordon.