Golden Eagle 33rd, 3127
Like old times. Bad memories. Two months, still no sign of the Alpha Team. No sign of Ingrid or Kenzie. Ascended protect them…wherever they are…
First Hunt 2nd, 3127
Up close the Kal-A-Nar Carrack was a MONSTER. Sixty meters long, twenty meter beam, displacing 500 tonnes, she sported three square rigged masts. For defense, she was armed to the teeth with fourteen ballista, and a crew of dozens. Daunting to say the least.
Facing off against the titan were three Black Armada war caravels. By comparison, they looked like flees harassing a bear. Only eighteen meters long, and five meter beam, even combined they were dwarfed by Carrack. But they were fast, and circling like sharks. Each with four ballista of their own, they had almost the firepower of the Kal warship.
Unfortunately, the rest of the team, minus the command staff, commandeered the slowest dinghy in the fleet. I made a few passes of the Carrack, looking for Novri or his merry band of murders, but saw no sign of the Winghunters on the deck. A few of the ship’s crew took pot shots, but I stayed out of range.
Banking back around the stern of the ship, I caught the flash as the hot shot fired from the port side ballista blew the team’s longboat to smithereens. There was nothing I could do. I sprinted for the wreckage, heart in my throat. To my relief, I could see the bobbing heads of the Rangers splashing toward the Carrack.
Fortunately, with their boat destroyed, the Kal turned their attention back to the circling Caravels. I have to give them credit. The Malakaran certainly knew their work, and were bold. Stone shot shattered against the hull, raking the deck. Solid iron shot slammed into the hull, bouncing off the reinforced timbers. For their part, the anchored Carrack had difficulty targeting the fast moving pirates. For the moment, the battle was a stalemate.
In the water, the Rangers, and surviving allied pirates swam, or in the case of Blackstone and the Explorer, paddled for the ship. The dwarves each bobbed with the swells, tied to empty barrels. Their pace was torturous.
Crossbowmen along the port bulwarks knelt, keeping aim on the Rangers in the water, waiting until they swam into Range. They were bobbing ducks. I knew they would never reach the ship alive without cover. Over the next 10 to 15 minutes, I fired on and dive-bombed the port side of the ship, trying to keep the Kal focused on me and not the team in the water. It worked well enough, but with the high swells and choppy ocean waves, the team made almost no progress. Worse, I see Kenzie and Ingrid far behind the others.
Abandoning my efforts to provide cover, I spring past the lead group and drop lines to Kenzie and Ingrid. I need to get them to the boat fast, before they are riddled with crossbow bolts…or worse. Ingrid grabs on, but Kenzie takes a few tries. A firepot smashed in the water around them, lighting the ropes on fire, but not enough to shake them loose. I take a bolt to my shoulder for my efforts. It hurt, but not enough to impair the wing. Once both women are tied fast, I spring back for the ship.
By this time, the others were in range and the aforementioned crossbowmen had opened fire, peppering the sea. As mentioned, the boat was huge, and the deck loomed over a story above the waterline. With few, if any handholds, and the hull slick with brackish algae, there was little, if anything, to use to climb. But that was their problem. I was rapidly approaching that massive, wooden wall. I had to time it just right. Too soon and Kenzie and Ingrid would miss the deck and be flung over the starboard side. Too late and…splat.
Waiting until the last moment, I dropped to the deck, picking up speed. Cleared the bulwark by a feather. Scared the scat out of two crossbowmen leaning over for a shot at the Rangers in the water. Then I climbed for all I was worth. Pulling both Kenzie and Ingrid out of the water took everything I had, plus I think I got a boost from Zavonis. The sea wind certainly buoyed me at that moment. I blasted into the air faster that I have ever flown in my life, and then felt the sharp, painful jerk of the line as Kenzie and Ingrid were yanked out of the water like trout on a line.
Whether by skill or luck, my plan worked. Both women cleared the bulwark and started swinging over the top deck. I banked hard fore, trying for an arc, rather than just launch them over the other side. Kenzie made the drop, hit the deck and slit hard into the far bulwark. But she made it. Ingrid hung on a bit longer, flinging further across the deck, but she stuck the landing. The weight shift nearly slammed me into the mast, but I managed to recover.
The rest of the crew was still paddling in the water. Some of the pirates were trying to scale the port hull with knives, while the Rangers paddled to the anchor chain. On deck, the pirates swarmed Ingride and Kenzie, who were now alone. I came across for a pass to clear the girls, before banking around the far side and covering the Rangers in the water. Out to sea, the Black Armada ships were closing. With the Ingrid and Kenzie tying up two ballista crews, the outgoing fire dropped, allowing the pirates to close.
And then a new vessel, smaller even than the pirate carracks appeared. I could not tell from the distance friend or foe. But, I had an ill boding. Where was Andak-Gol Ivar ki Novri and his team?! Why had they not appeared. Something wasn’t right.
On the aft castle, the ship’s captain shouted for the crew to get underweigh. One crew put their backs into the anchor winch, while others unfurled the sails. If they didn’t hurry, the Rangers in the water would be left behind. It broke my heart, but I left Kenzie and Ingrid, circling back around for the dwarf and the builder. They were the slowest. I threw them lines, and they both managed to grab on. This time, I just aimed for the anchor, where Aronzo was already scrambling up…
Where in the Abyss did he come from?!
With three Rangers on the chain, Nest clawing up the side, and Kenzie and Ingrid on deck, things seemed to be going our way at last…until I saw the first pirate ship burst into flames. I never saw the shot, just flames rippling over the deck like a living thing. Then Aronzo because Grendel, and the anchor crashed back into the sea, taking the, now, ogre with it. Newt made the deck and engaged the Kal crew. Ingrid lay down a torrent of bolts, ripping through the crew, but Kenzie was hard pressed.
I swept around, clearing space for Newt to break free as Aronzo, as Grendel, launched the brinchie and dwarf onto the deck…right into a group of Kal. Winging back around, I ripped through their ranks, cutting down two, and nearly knocking another off the boat. Kenzie started grappling one of the Kal crew, dangerously close to going overboard and our boatswain, the pirate in charge of the sunken longboat reached the deck. He immediately started to turn one of the ballista.
A second pirate ship exploded off to starboard and the third was tacking in our direction. The Kal Captain ordered the ballista turned in and fired away at the Rangers on the deck, paying no heed to their own crew. The Explorer tried to disable one of the ballista but his waterlogged arclance sputtered. Newt sprinted for the lower decks, while the rest of the Rangers battled to clear the top deck. I was swinging around for another pass when a flurry of bolts slammed into me. I hit the deck hard, nearly blacking out.
Above me, Kal were leaping over railings, swords drawn. Then the entire ship lurched to the side as the last pirate ship, ablaze, rammed us amidships. From the flames floated a familiar figure. My heart sank. Novri’s Flamedancer…
Now I know what happened to the pirates. Of the Winghunter himself, no sign. But she was enough.
Rough hands grabbed me. I saw more Kal tackle Ingrid and Kenzie, struggling to subdue them. Amidships, the Carrack exploded as the Flamedancer brought down a veritable firestorm. Two blasted near the center mast cracked the 200 foot vessel in half. A third blew off part of the bow, obliterating the Blackstone and the Explorer. From that direction, a Horde Champion reared its head, and began to bathe the ship in flames. Only Newt remained. The rest of Alpha Team were missing, captures, or dead…
And the ship was sinking around us. I tried to cut my way free to Kenzie who was nearest, but the ship pitched wildly and I was dashed against the aft castle, which was suddenly below me. I must have hit my head, because by the time I regained consciousness, I was no longer in the sea. I woke in an iron cage. Someone was kind enough to line the floor with straw.
My worst fears were suddenly realized. The Winghunters had captured me…I knew what would happen next. Oddly, all I could think about were the Rangers, in particular Kenzie and Ingrid. Had they survived?
But, it was not the Winghunters… The man who crawled into the small after compartment where my cage hunt was a Malakaran. Smuggler, by the stench. He cooed over my pretty plumage. Though I was certainly pleased to be spared the horror of the Kal, I doubted that this man had much better planned. He ignored my demands to know who had captured me, or where I was. Something seemed off about all of this. How was I found and “rescued” so quickly after the battle?
First Hunt 3rd, 3127
I’m not sure how long I was in the dank cell, though it did not seem like more than a day, when the ship started lurching violently. Then, a hole burst through the hull near me. Water began to pour in. Wonderful. The smugglers were under attack!
I worked feverishly at the bars, but to no avail. Stripped of gear, tired, wounded, and weak from exposure, there was little hope I could break free on my own. Ultimately, I was freed, but not how I would have preferred.
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