Filarias smiled as the Fehinnan scrambled to set a spinnaker. “I do believe we’ve got you,” he said softly, then bellowed, “Dikas! Limber the springalds! Rig-cutters!”
“Aye, Captain! We’re not even close to range yet!”
Each hull had a point ship-killer, gimbaled to be turnable against aerial assault or become part of a broadside. The rig-cutting bolts were razor sharp half-moons, driven by woven wire and spring steel. There were eight in total, three rigged for stern shots and two on either side, on the outer hulls. The rowers had recovered themselves enough to jeer back at the fleeing Fehinnan.
“Arm for boarding! We’re nowhere close but you snots arm up NOW!” The marine centurion’s bellow was carried away in the wild wind. Spray blasted up from the bow ram as it caught the edge of a rolling wave and the ship shuddered.
“They’re rolling out something, Captain,” Rikam called, peering through his own spyglass. “Tubes that are on wheels and need four men to put them in place.”
“Tubes? Made of what?”
“Can’t tell, wood? Leather?” He squinted. “They’re stuffing what look like stone balls into them.”
“If those are weapons we should brace for it if we can.”
“If they’re meant to bust open ships, shields won’t do much,” the scholar said dubiously.
“True, but one must try. Aras appreciates the attempt.”
“Really? Mikas does too. Even if you fail.”
“SET FOR SHIELDS!” Centurion Tirkas had anticipated fire of some kind from the fleeing ship. “Water-boy!” The marines sat down in their ranks, shields propped, and held their field cups to be splashed full by the boy with the water bucket and ladle. The boy was nimble as a monkey and steady on his feet even with the strange gliding roll of the the chasseur on her sea-legs, spilling very little as he poured.
“We’re running into the throats of those things and I’m going to guess they have, perhaps a springald’s range or more, but if I were that man I’d hold onto my fire as long as I could.”
“Three tenths and we’ll be in hailing distance, I estimate for them to be able to shout into the wind.” Filiras said. “Are you going to fight or are you going to talk? Diras… fetch my hailing trumpet… see if they’ll give us our people.”
“Cap’n… they don’t have carron but they got those giant-ass cross-bow rig-cutters,” Kayruthers said softly. “An’ if we don’ hit ‘em off their legs they’re runnin’ up our ass an’ rakin’ us w’ ‘em on the way by. Our sails ‘l be shreds and no way we’re getting ahead ‘w that.”
Leweston stood, far-lookers in his hands but lowered, thinking.
“We got only two shots, then arrows and hand-‘t-hand they got four times the so’jars. An' if we start cuttin’ throats o’ their own they might jes’ say ‘bless they hearts’ and ram us.”
“At that speed or even at a fraction of that she’ll cut through us pretty near like a hot knife through butter.”
Still silence from Leweston, biting his lips.
“’T Arkans don’ take slaves no more. Yer missays ‘d sure like tah see yah home safe, suh.” And all the sailors’ wives and sweethearts as well, went unsaid. The first mate's hands knotted behind his back as he stood. The deck of that crazy chase ship was lined with armoured warriors, and shields, metal helms gleaming, already close enough to be seen without help. They were silent now and that was almost more unnerving that the jeering and the gestures.
A shout from the Arkan ship and the warriors set one hand to their heads, a drifting song on the wind and then a unified roar from the ranks, then silence once more as they held their swords over their heads, glinting.
Finally Leweston shook himself. “I didn’t expect to ever get caught,” he said, softly enough that only Kayruthers could hear. “That thing’s like a dragon bearing down on us.” Then louder, “Strike the main’sl. See if Kaylebuh can find one of the chicks downbelow that speaks a civil tongue.” He handed the far-lookers to his first mate almost blindly and buried his face in his hands.
Chere readers! I was all set to do more of a fight, but the ship's Captains looked at me and said 'Excuse me, are you crazed? Let us talk." Leweston has too much to lose and no reason to fight to the death.
I'll remind everyone that Monday is a holiday here and what I may do... depending on the weekend... is paint the moment where Dimae's Hound gets up on her sea-legs. It's in the queue.