Mists of Kel Doran
Season 1 - Dragon-Touched
Episode 1 - The Weave of Fate
Chapter 8 - Blinding Light
Chapter VIII - Blinding Light
Approximate read time ~ 8 minutes
The drum of war sounded as boots barreled over the Abyssal Sea. The deck of the Promenade, engulfed in fire, was being boarded. Taryn peaked over the rail from his perch and surveyed the chaos. A few men still stood their ground with surprising success. The young man sunk behind the rail and grimaced, wondering why he could not muster the same courage. Sweat poured from his brow as he considered the madness. They were defending their families. Of course they’re going to fight harder than most men, he thought. Clouded visions of Wyvern’s Rest surfaced, along with vivid memories of brutality…children beaten, women raped, men tortured. His memories tormented, prying at the young man unable to stand up for himself, or his family.
Taryn wiped his brow and squeezed the splintered spear. His eyes widened as screams echoed from around the stairs. Much to Taryn’s dismay, the decision to fight was made for him. Two men dressed in black, with scarlet sashes, tore around the corner. They spotted the young man huddled against the rail, hands bloodied and spirit broken.
They leapt toward Taryn before he had time to think. Large men, wielding curved instruments of death, lunged toward the startled civilian. Taryn reacted on instinct. He spun around, pointed the end of his spear at the pirates, and closed his eyes.
The first raider saw the boy spin, but was unable to slow his momentum. The broken spear ran through the pirate’s stomach, its butt end lodged against the rail near Taryn’s petrified body. The spear stiffened, vaulting the helpless pirate into the path of his high seas companion. Their weight intertwined as the pair spilled over the edge, Taryn’s only weapon falling with them. The young man sat motionless and stared at the open end of the deck. He looked down at his bloodied hands, then again to the back of the ship, dumbfounded.
Taryn knelt over the edge, trying to comprehend the last two seconds. He was no more a fighter than the women and children in the water below. He was no match for a single pirate, let alone two. How could this have happened? he wondered. He was nervous and scared, but he was alive.
“Secure th’ hold!” came screams from the pirate ship. Many civilian defenders had fallen, and those still fighting were increasingly outnumbered. Swashbucklers raced for the cabin doors, throwing their shoulders into them to dislodge the barrier. Once more, Taryn slumped behind the rail, ashamed of his own cowardice. In this solitude, his thoughts returned to the why of it all. What were they after? What did they want? What was so valuable that they would terrorize a group of refugees?
Taryn then glimpsed the shadow of several ropes overhead. He followed them upward with his eyes, into the tangled web of sail and broken mast. Crazy thoughts stirred, ones he was reluctant to entertain. Taryn was not born from the sea, but father taught him about sailing and seamanship. He knew if he could find a way up there, he could make something happen. It became a test of will. In order to reach the sails, he needed to climb. In order to climb, he needed to stand. In order to stand, he needed to muster something he lacked…courage.
The muffled cries of women and children echoed from the room beneath Taryn, followed by the relentless ‘BANG’ as pirates rammed the door. Within moments, he heard the unmistakable ‘crack’ of a splintered, broken door. Frenzied echoes ensued as boots stomped across the hollow floorboard. Shadows crept between the cracks of the deck as fear shot through Taryn’s heart. He knelt down, pressed his face against the wood, and searched for a gap in the floorboard. Without warning, a blinding light erupted from the cabin, followed by an ear-splitting crack that ricocheted off every fiber of his body. Taryn shot upright, stumbled over himself, and crashed onto his back.
His ears rang and his eyes watered as his world spun upside down. He looked skyward, expecting a storm…but there was only clear sky. It struck again. A brilliant flash erupted through the cracks of the Promenade’s deck.
Taryn knelt again, keeping an eye on the clear, cloudless sky. He heard screams of terror; but it was not the screams of women and children, nor was it the screams of men fighting on the deck. His mind reeled, the screaming of pirates? A majestic purple bolt streaked across the sky, illuminating the dark cabin below. The muffled, howling screams of grown men soon followed, along with the smell of burned flesh and melted bone. Taryn had heard stories of the Parai, but never thought he would see one first-hand. Could a dragon-touched really be aboard this ship? Unnerved, he sat on the deck and hatched another idea.
Taryn waited for another bolt to distract the pirates below. With a hint of grace, he hopped over the rail of the forecastle and clung to the nearest rope. He wrapped his legs around the taut cable and pulled. Purple bolts flew across the deck as he crawled high above the Promenade. His dexterity eventually failed, however, and his legs slipped from the rope. His splintered fingers ached while his legs dangled several feet above the deck.
“Stand down, Parai,” shouted a grizzly voice. Taryn stopped squirming to see the pirates had formed a perimeter around the broken door, taking cover behind whatever crates, barrels, or bodies they could find. “We ‘ave no business with you,” the voice continued, followed by silence. Taryn heard seagulls and waves instead of swords and death, then realized he hung 20 feet above the Promenade. His bloody fingers screamed as he strained to grip the rope. Determined, he lurched and swung forward, hand over hand until he reached his destination.
Taryn straddled a narrow beam high above the pirate-infested ship and surveyed the damage. He loosened several sandbags for makeshift boulders, then caught the sight of another sail. Not the black sails of the pirate ship, but hulking crimson sails as they approached from the north. Those are Cyrean colors! As Taryn extended a sandbag over his target, he saw the deck of the pirate ship spring into action. They grabbed whatever bows and crossbows they could find and braced themselves for the enormous frigate.
“You have made it my business, dear child,” echoed a calm, female voice from the cabin. Taryn froze. For some reason, he assumed all Parai were men. He thought of where that prejudice originated, but blamed it all on ignorance. “And you boys will have to go through me now,” she continued, as tranquil as her first statement.
All at once, the pirates aboard the Promenade discovered the massive Cyrean vessel. “Shit...a necklace isn't worth this,” one of them spoke as he bolted from behind the crates. He made it to his feet as another bolt of lightning shot from within the cabin. The raider flew several feet before crashing against the opposite end of the ship, collapsing in a smoldered heap. His charred flesh sent a gentle billow of smoke skyward. Another pirate shouted to his high seas companions, urging them to action. “That’s it…Board ‘em up, men!”
The other pirates stalled. “I said lock ‘em up! Fuck ‘em! Send ‘em to the Seven Hells!” His words resonated with anger as he imposed his will upon his crew.
Most heeded the call and pushed crates toward the door, but a younger, dark haired man stated, “ya know…you can't be serious, Jorel.” He stepped in front of his fellow pirates, trying to formulate a real plan. “What if he's in there? You gonna just send it to the bottom with him?” the young man continued as he pointed to the cabin.
Jorel scowled at the brash young pirate. “Out of the way, Coop!” he yelled. He looked around at his comrades, but it was apparent no one wanted to follow his irrational request. As the frigate bore down upon them, the other pirates heeded the young man’s sanity. Enraged, Jorel drew his cutlass and headed directly toward Cooper.
Cooper Quinn preferred to talk his way out of a fight; and as an angry pirate bore down on him, he saw no other choice. He backed up and waved his hands to slow the man’s gate. “Now, li-listen Jorel,” he fumbled. “There’s no need to take things to this level.”
Jorel’s pace quickened while he pushed through his men. “You’re not talkin’ your way out of this one, Quinn!” Cooper continued to back away until his butt rested against the back wall. He looked to his shipmates to buy a few more seconds; but most were running back to their ship. Others had conceded to the Cyrean vessel and hurdled the deck, a distant splash confirming their departure from the fight.
This crucial time of uncertainty made most men fall away, but Coop had learned to take advantage of such situations. This, however, was a scenario his mouth could not resolve. The sound of Jorel’s boots created a haunting rhythm as he raised his sword to strike. Cooper raised his hands in defense, knowing it would do little to change the outcome.
“Heartshorne!” the young pirate shouted. The words fell from Cooper’s mouth almost by accident, though little that came out of his mouth was ever accidental. With a loud ‘crack’, the pirate’s sword fell into place, wedged into the wall just over Cooper’s matted, black hair.
Both men paused for a moment; unsure if Jorel had missed. After an eternity, the pirate leader broke the silence with a gleeful question, “Heartshorne?”
Cooper struggled to right himself. He combed his long hair out of his eyes and straightened his coat, though his masculinity was forever lost. “Y-Yes,” he stuttered. “You know, Heartshorne.”
“What about her,” Jorel questioned; regripping his cutlass in case Cooper’s answer was not to his liking.
“We made a killing, you and I!” Quinn exclaimed as he regained a little composure. “The Lord of Cambridge gave us over 700 marks for his daughter!” he continued, the pace of his words quickened.
Jorel thought for a moment, then stated in a thick, brutish accent, “You said we only got 400 marks for Anya.”
Cooper’s eyes widened. “Yes, 4…400. What was I thinking?” He questioned, awaiting Jorel’s reaction.
The pirate captain held another inquisitive look. Puzzled by Coop’s words, he gave a yank on his cutlass. It did not budge. He regrouped and gave another heave, dislodging his weapon from the wall. He looked to Cooper, back to the deck, then leaned in and whispered, “ya know she’s not ‘ere, right?”
Cooper stared, dumbfounded at the pirate’s comprehension. “No,” he stated while his eyes rolled in disbelief. “But there’s a Parai on the other side of this wall, in case you hadn’t forgotten,” he continued. “How much do you think we’d get for her?”
Seconds went by before Jorel understood. A smile came over his face to reveal a handsome pair of teeth, one on the top and one on the bottom. Quinn noticed and turned away, slightly appalled.
Jorel transferred the cutlass to his other hand and stared into the darkness of the cabin. He moved forward to claim his prize when a jarring crash sent him flying into the side of the Promenade. Debris flew over the side as the Cyrean vessel plowed into the ships. Planks split and ropes snapped as pirates spilled into the dark waters of the Abyssal Sea. The massive warship severed the pirate’s grasp and released the Promenade…momentarily. The civilian ship had already suffered significant damage and the crash further destroyed the framework of the crippled vessel.
The Promenade’s remaining masts snapped when the Orcus struck. One beam crashed across all three ships while the other split the shattered deck of the Promenade. The massive timber crashed through the cabin door and crushed the forecastle, and anyone that stood in the middle of the room. Screams of women and children rang out, then went silent. Entrance to the cabin became impossible, as did any escape.
Taryn spilled onto the deck as the sails collapsed around him. He fell into something between a tumble and a flop, landing against Cooper. Both men made eye contact, then stared at one another as they got to their feet. Screams of war sounded as Cyrean soldiers poured onto the Promenade’s broken deck, weapons drawn. Cooper grabbed Taryn’s arm and shoved him out of the way. He then reached down, grabbed Jorel’s cutlass, and prepared for the worst.
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Mists of Kel Doran