Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!
“Launch!” Liupold’s order echoed over the surface of the water.
Hrug willed the wind to life in the fire ship’s sails, and as it sailed past Einarr turned to watch Burkhart. The man stalked the deck of the ship, lighting the carefully placed torches. For just a moment, Einarr saw his face clearly. The man’s expression was one of pure hatred.
Keep your head. Don’t try anything stupid. Just ram the thing and abandon ship. Einarr could well imagine someone in Burkhart’s shoes doing something stupid in the name of vengeance and glory. The man had no family left, after all, and in times such as those men tend to wonder what they have to lose. Only, in this instance, there was a high probability of a fate worse than death.
Einarr could see Burkhart’s figure move to take the tiller just as his form became indistinct. The boat veered just slightly starboard even as it picked up inhuman speed.
The fire ship shot across the sea like a meteor through the sky, the fire spreading slowly to the bulwarks and the deck. Burkhart kept her steady, though, aimed directly for the center of the horror’s baleful red eye.
The fire ship hit the swell caused by one of the horror’s tentacles grabbing for the unfortunate ship and skipped off the surface of the water. Even still, Burkhart held her steady in spite of the bouncing and the heat.
Einarr found he could not draw his eyes away. He only barely knew the man, for all that they had fought together in Southwaite, and yet right now his charge was the only thing that mattered on the field.
Two more times the fire ship skipped across the water, but Burkhart was as good as he swore: always the prow remained aimed at the horror’s eye.
At the last possible instant, the black silhouette of a man’s shape dove from the back of the boat into the churned waters below. Burkhart had sworn he was an excellent swimmer: now he would have a chance to prove it.
The fire ship launched out of the water once more as the black kraken reached a tentacle for the capsized harpoon boat and the horror of the deep let out an ear-splitting, high-pitched chitter. The prow of the fire ship embedded itself in the horror’s eye.
Einarr plugged his ears. He had never known an ordinary squid to make noise, but this one apparently could when it was in pain and the sound set his teeth on edge.
Then the fire on the decks caught the cask of sea-fire that had been loaded on board and Einarr was doubly glad he had his ears covered. The sound was painful even then, and the shockwave from the fireball could be felt even as far back as the Arkona yet remained.
Liupold ordered the Arkona forward into firing range as the horror shrieked a second time. As the fireball cleared, the black kraken continued to burn.
The harpoon boats that had not yet caught hold of their target threw once more at the thrashing, burning beast, while the ones that had loosed their first volley of fire arrows.
They could not yet afford to stop, but as they sailed in close Einarr spotted several figures moving in the water. Good. At least some of them can swim. He turned his attention back to the black kraken, who seemed to be recovering somewhat. The remains of the ship still protruded from its eye, which leaked black blood into the water, but it seemed to have given up on getting it loose. Instead, it was sending far too many tentacles out after the harpoon boats, but almost without fail those were being caught up. Then the harpoon boats began to spray sea fire from small, hand-held flamethrowers.
Hrug activated the spell he had been laying on the island and the abomination stiffened.
Sea fire flared out in concert from the harpoon boats and from the Arkona herself. Soon it would all be over.
When the kraken floated on the surface, a charred, lifeless husk, one of the harpoon boats went around to collect any survivors there might still be in the water. To a man, the survivors felt ill once they were recovered from the water: Einarr commisserated, remembering the same feeling from when he had fought the creature in close combat last year, and recommended they find themselves a priest or a healer. The corruption in the blood, after all, was a powerful thing, and it had bled copiously in the water.
Burkhart, unfortunately, was not among the survivors. Einarr had lost track of the man once he dove free of the fire ship, but of the other survivors not one remembered seeing him swimming free. They did, eventually, find him, as the boats combed the water into the evening. He had died with a grin on his face, as well he should have.
“Thus ends the line of Eichel,” Liupold intoned as the body was laid out on the deck of the Arkona.
“He was it?”
The Order captain nodded.
“He died well.”
Other words were said, by those among the crew who knew him better. Rambert stood silent, staring at the body as though to better remember the details. Einarr did not disturb him.
Burkhart was not the only casualty, although he was the only one Einarr had known. The bodies of the dead were laid out across the deck, and those among the crew who wished were allowed to stand vigil over night. As dawn broke, though, the bodies were loaded once more into one of the landing boats and rowed to shore. There, they were laid out on the shore on wooden biers close to the tree line.
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