I must warn the reader that the chapter consists of a battle aboard a sailing vessel, so it is on the violent side. However, after some consideration and a conversation with a friend, I decided this would be the best chapter with which to present Rim - the title character - because it really does give the reader a good 'feel' for who and what he is (regardless of the fact that the chapter is out of context).
So, without further ado, here is the sixteenth chapter of the soon to be published Warrior's Fury. . .
As he drifted back into wakefulness, Rim looked up from where he sat amidst a pile of ropes in the shade of the foremast of the Giou-Zeeganzy. A large s’hydy alighted on the gunwales directly in Rim’s line of vision and cocked its head to one side as it eyed Rim for a moment before beginning to groom and clean its large red flight feathers.
Lazily shaking his head at the odd avian creature, Rim let his eyes wonder up toward the seascape. But, instead, he found a sheer cliff-face dominating his view.
Jerking back in surprise, he scrambled to his feet and looked to the other side of the ship. The shore of a small islet lay only a few dozen yards away.
“Tee’oukran!” Rim sprinted toward the back of the ship, his pulse beginning to pump harder through his veins.
When did we get into this narrow thoroughfare? Rim tried to look to the sides of the large boat to see how long they would be in the enclosed waterway. From what he could tell, it would be a while before they returned to more open waters.
Rim picked up his pace when he spotted Zeegan talking with Harin and Elsira up in the Navigator’s Box.
Rim got halfway up the flight of stairs leading to the navigator’s deck before Vionsayul appeared to block his way.
“May I help you with something, seyr Dayor?” the infuriatingly well-mannered Gandoran asked in his nearly monotone voice.
Letting his shoulders slump briefly in exasperation, Rim shot an irritated glare up at the trio pointedly ignoring him in the Navigator’s Box. He turned a venomous look on Vionsayul.
“Yes, Ganderan, you may,” Rim stressed the mispronunciation of the man's Race, but all he got in return was a slight narrowing of the Gandoran’s eyes. “You can tell me why your captain has willingly chosen to travel a narrow thoroughfare between two islands in one of the most dangerous archipelagos in the world.”
Vionsayul was about to reply when Ayom shouted something Rim couldn’t understand from high up in the Watcher's Tower.
The Gandoran clearly understood what the young Gree’uhk was yelling, because he leaned against the side railing to look in the direction the ship was headed. Rim followed his gaze. A large river-skimmer, rowed lazily by a group of men of several different Races, was moving toward them from a river to their right and would soon be alongside the Giou-Zeeganzy.
The moment he laid eyes on the small craft, its oars manned by mismatched, rough-looking characters, Rim felt something twist deep in the center of his chest, and a wash of energy tensed every muscle in his body.
A strange quietness suddenly enveloped the ship. Vionsayul cocked his head and looked back toward the rudder of the ship, almost in unison with Rim.
“The wheels have stopped.”
Rim’s eyes widened at Gray’s words, and something clicked in his head. Frantically, Rim checked the deck, searching for the Taygrit and Chorld they had taken on at Tonnon. They were nowhere to be seen.
“Tee’oukran hhaltos!” Rim spat vehemently under his breath, trembling with rushing adrenalin. Grabbing the railing on the other side of the stairs, he threw his body over it and landed on the main deck with a thud.
“Zeegan, they’re marauders!” he hollered at the top of his lungs before leaping for the double doors leading down into the ship. . .
Grayinsun had watched as a look of ‘battle rage’ had come over the warrior Nanhew’s face and he had begun to shake as if caught ill-clad in the middle of a blizzard.
When he yelled to Zeegan that the skimmer was full of marauders, everything suddenly made sense. Gray berated himself for not having figured it out the moment he had heard the paddle wheels stop in the back of the ship.
That Taygrit and Chorld were plants from a marauder vessel!
Gray turned back to the river-skimmer and found it nearly upon them, the passengers having dropped their disguises and brought up weapons when they heard Rim yell at Zeegan.
Twisting to the side just in time to avoid an arrow launched at his head, Gray purified a small amount of the fol’ty on his belt and launched the sphere of barely-visible, greenish air at the offending archer. The Chorld was hit full in the face by the small mass of purified kolth and was lifted off his feet to do a full backflip before landing in the water behind the river-skimmer.
Several of the group on the small boat stood, swinging hooked ropes over their heads. One of the marauders, a massive hulk of a Sagri, tossed his hook at Gray’s neck. The skimmer was within a few yards of the Giou-Zeeganzy now, and the hook would have easily enwrapped its mark had Gray not seen it coming.
Gray ducked and ran down the stairs, calling the crew to arms as he prepared another nayrl-purified sphere of fol’ty from his belt, fully intending to use it to bash a hole in the bottom of the assaulting river-skimmer.
He ducked another hook and mounted the long bench running the length of the side rails, but found, to his thorough disappointment, that the marauders were far more skilled than he had given them credit for.
Obviously anticipating his action and skillfully calculating where he would show himself again, the Sagri managed to toss his hook and get the rope tightly wrapped around Gray’s neck.
Gray’s only saving grace was his Race’s natural speed and perceptiveness. Once he felt the rope on one side of his neck he quickly brought up his right arm to keep it from encircling only his vulnerable windpipe. With his left hand he caught the deadly hook that would have struck him in the face.
This happened in the space of only a few seconds, and Gray had just enough time to see a sadistic smile spread across the Sagri’s face before he yanked on the rope. Unable to fight the Sagri’s immense strength or move fast enough to cut the rope, Gray set his jaw and took in a deep breath as water rushed toward him. . .
Rim yanked open one of the double doors and barreled down the stairs into the back of the Giou-Zeeganzy. At the far end of the hall, the Chorld that had come aboard as a passenger was barricading the door to the bogchot, clearly containing an angry Khotloac, judging from the roars and pounding coming from inside the room.
The Chorld’s back was to Rim, and the Khotloac’s ruckus drowned out everything else in the hall, so the unfortunate saboteur did not know the warrior Nanhew was coming until he was nearly upon him.
Seven feet back, just as the Chorld began to turn at the faint sound of his approach, Rim turned sideways and lifted his elbow, drawing it back as far as he could. With the full force of the speed he was going – and his all-muscle, four hundred pounds – Rim slammed his elbow into the Chorld's throat. There was an audible 'snap' as the Chorld’s back rammed into the door.
Rim grabbed hold of the man's body by his tunic front and threw him toward the doorway to the left, just as his Taygrit accomplice leaped out from behind it, dagger in hand.
The Taygrit, apparently not one to be easily cowed, did not hesitate before bashing the Chorld’s body out of the way and leaping at Rim. Rim deftly sidestepped the jab and took hold of the Taygrit’s hand. Wrenching his arm around and bending his wrist to the breaking point, Rim drove the Taygrit to his knees and leaned forward to take hold of his jaw.
“No mercy for liars and traitors,” Rim whispered through clenched teeth into the Taygrit’s tall, pointed ear as he applied more pressure to his wrist.
In reply, the Taygrit growled, launching his arm-like left leg out and snatching the Chorld’s dagger from his belt. Before he could do whatever he had planned to do with the newly acquired weapon, Rim tightened his grip on the fur under the Taygrits jaw and yanked. At the same time, he brought up his right foot and drove it into the Taygrit’s backside. That, along with the continued applied pressure to his locked arm, and Rim’s pulling on the fur under his snout, flipped the Taygrit onto his back in mid air.
For a moment, time slowed as Rim felt the Taygrit’s incredibly durable wrist shatter. Quickly, he yanked back and around with all his strength, and the Taygrit’s neck snapped as he jerked violently through the air and slammed into the wall.
Not bothering to spare another glance at the two men whose lives he had just snuffed out, Rim pried out the heavy metal rod that was keeping the door to the bogchot securely locked and heaved it open.
The twelve-foot Khotloac inside brushed him aside and spared the corpses lying against the right wall only a passing glance. He dashed into the side room that the Taygrit had come out of as Rim retrieved the saboteurs’ daggers. The Khotloac gave a howl of frustration at the damage he found in the room.
“They’ve got friends boarding us as you sit there and whine, Khotloac!” Rim yelled, hefting the five-foot metal rod he had pulled from the door handles before dashing back down the corridor toward the sound of ensuing battle. . .
“Zeegan, have you any weapons up here?” Harin asked the small, furry man as he watched Grayinsun send a barely visible sphere of green-tinted air over the rail toward the river-skimmer full of apparent marauders.
In reply, as he shouted at his scrambling crew to get their weapons and ready the ship for battle, the Eekyde placed a paw-like hand against his belt and drew it away with a hard jerk.
From behind, Harin heard Elsira gasp in awe as the zeer stones on the side of Zeegan’s large belt drifted after his hand and molded together in a glowing mass of yellow-hazel energy. A quick flick of his hand spread the mass into a long, flat shape, and the energy flashed as Zeegan took hold of it. Reaching back, Zeegan held up the hilt of a long dagger, made completely of pure zeer, for Harin to take.
Well, that explains Gray’s pure fol’ty sash and Zeegan’s zeer-studded belt, Harin thought dazedly. They’re Nayrldosh of some kind.
“Here,” the Eekyde said, as he turned and looked down to where Grayinsun was ducking under a hook on a rope. It looked like he was about to shout something to the Gandoran, but he stopped with his mouth open when one of the ropes snaked around Gray’s neck and upper right arm.
“Gray!” Zeegan screamed as the lithe Gandoran was yanked over the side of the rails. Dashing out of the Navigator’s Box, the Eekyde leaped over the railing without any sign of hesitation.
“Well,” Harin said to himself, getting a better hold on the long dagger and wrapping his hand-less right arm around Elsira's elbow. “It appears that, for the moment, we are on our own.” He led Elsira to the staircase opposite the side that the marauders were attempting to board.
He glanced at his daughter’s face. There was alarm in her rich emerald eyes, but she was focused and in control of whatever fear she may have been feeling. Her slim arm was tensed beneath the crook of his elbow, and she was searching in all directions, preparing to react instantly to any sign of danger. Nothing close to panic could describe her reactions at that moment.
Good girl, Harin thought to himself, wondering briefly if he had anything to do with whatever reserve of courage she was tapping into.
They had gotten to the bottom of the stairs when a very familiar trio leaped over the railing on the other side of the ship.
Harin stopped in his tracks when he spotted the red-headed Nanhew they had met in Tonnon. Harin pulled his daughter behind him and lifted the long dagger into a ready position. He would have preferred to shove Elsira faster toward the other end of the ship where they could get down into the hold, but a group of the marauders were currently locked in battle with a portion of the Giou-Zeeganzy’s crew, effectively blocking their path.
The crimson-haired man caught sight of them and gave a wicked smile when he recognized their faces. Resting the blade of his plain sword on his shoulder, the Nanhew slowly approached them, his Sagri and Chorld companions close behind.
“Well, well, well,” the brigand said, running a hand through his curly hair as he stopped a few yards away from Harin. “If it isn’t our little beauty and her hhalto father.” His sneer widened back into the wicked smile. “Where’s your warrior now, old man? . . .”
The moment he hit the water, Grayinsun began struggling to free himself of the rope binding his wrist to his neck. A splash came from above, and he looked up just in time to see the other end of the rope, tied to a large Guardian’s blade, sink rapidly through the crystal-clear water.
Gray’s eyes widened as he watched the massive broadsword streak past him into the dark depths of the water. Instantly he began to kick himself toward the surface with all his might, using his free arm to help, but the heavy sword on the end of the rope caused the hook in his hand to press in on his palm and tear into his sleeve, effectively hampering him from struggling free of the noose.
Only a second passed before Gray stopped his panicked struggle for the surface and grimaced at his own stupidity. Shaking his head, he kept kicking as hard as he could to continue upward, but used his free arm to take hold of the rope and try to pull the broadsword up.
His chest was beginning to ache. If I don't get air in the next few seconds, I won't be able to get out of this.
Gray squeezed his eyes shut at the pain building throughout his body as he tried to heave on the rope and fight the ache in his legs that threatened to stop their swift pumping. His arm was on fire, and his chest may as well have been the pit of a roiling volcano, for all the pressure he was able to get off the rope around his neck.
He could feel his body begin to convulse with the need for air. Well, this looks to be it, Grayinsun.
Suddenly a pair of small, paw-like hands covered in hazel-yellow fur joined in pulling up the sword and Gray looked over to find Zeegan beside him as the rope became slack enough to set him free.
Abandoning the blade to the depths of the river, Gray took hold of Zeegan’s coat collar and pumped his legs, the renewed strength of hope propelling them upward.
They broke the surface and instantly took in huge gasps of air.
“Next time you decide to go for a little swim while we’re in the middle of a da’ging battle, don’t expect any help from me!” Zeegan screamed at the top of his lungs as they swam to catch up with the Giou-Zeeganzy.
Gray smiled at the remark. Zeegan was a terrible swimmer and hated the water. Taking hold of a fistful of the back of Zeegan’s coat, Gray summoned the rest of the fol’ty from his belt and used it to propel himself and the loud Eekyde out of the water.
They landed on the highest aft deck of the Giou-Zeeganzy.
Releasing Zeegan so that he could proceed down to the main deck and get below to check on his wife, Grayinsun surveyed the situation. A group of the marauders from the river-skimmer were holding their own against the Deons already on the main deck, but the rest were baricading the doors leading below deck to prevent the rest of the crew from assisting in repelling them. For a moment, Gray wondered why the crew hadn’t come up through the aft doors, but he quickly realized that the saboteurs must have locked the aft end of the ship before damaging the wheels. He noted that the marauders were mostly made up of Nanhews, Sagri, and Chorld. Had the Khotloacs been on deck when they had attacked, they would have been instantly repelled.
Gray looked out over the water in search of what must have been close by. Sure enough, about half a mile distant, and closing in fast, an agile ship was making swift headway toward the Giou-Zeeganzy. . .
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