Mists of Kel Doran
Season 1 - Dragon-Touched
Episode 1 - The Weave of Fate
Chapter IX - Pillar of Flame
Original Artwork by Pascal Barriault - Pirate Attack
Chapter IX - Pillar of Flame
Approximate read time ~ 7 minutes
Cooper Quinn was no stranger to tough spots. He had built a name for himself in similar situations, but this seemed above his talents. A dozen Cyrean soldiers boarded the demolished deck of the Promenade, their crimson cloaks whipping behind them. A dozen more boarded the deck of the pirate ship, its defenders in a losing battle against the surprise invaders. As Cooper stumbled away from the soldiers, he glanced back to the cabin. His eyes followed the giant timber as it split the Promenade, silence in its wake.
With the trio of ships locked in their deadly embrace, Cooper searched for a way out. To his right, a mast, wrapped in broken rope and ripped sails…to his left, the churning waters of the sea. He looked to the smoldering deck and saw Taryn, succumbed to the smoke. He shook his head and mumbled, “damned fool. How’d you find yourself out here, anyway?” Lying next to Taryn was Cooper’s fellow pirate, Jorel. While a small trickle of blood dripped from his forehead, the bold pirate chuckled and said, “You, on the other hand…you’re just a damned fool.”
The sound of boots grew as the soldiers approached Cooper. “Time to meet yer end…damn pirate,” shouted the soldiers as they traversed the web of ropes, sails, and fallen defenders.
Cooper replied with his usual brash remarks. “Umm, no – no thank you, good sirs. Don’t think I’ll be doing that this fine morning.” He looked up into the menagerie of nets, cables, and lines left behind by the fallen masts. He knew it was his only way out, but he also knew they were well out of reach.
His fellow pirates provided a distraction to the advancing soldiers, but Cooper still had more than four bearing down on him – more than he could take on his best day. The large one in the lead was the most daunting of all. Standing a foot taller than the lean pirate, his flowing blonde hair was a stark contrast to his black, bearded face. Copper’s confidence faltered as his eyes met the large soldier. He stared at the giant and wondered, did I swindle this man out of coin at some point? Then said, “say, I don’t know your sister, do I?”
Quinn opened the flap of his jacket and reached in, feeling deep into the pocket. He fumbled deeper while his eyes stayed locked onto the tall soldier. Frustrated, he diverted his eyes and looked into the abyss…empty! Exasperation washed over his face as he exchanged hands, diving into the opposite pocket.
His fingers stumbled upon a lone, maroon vial. He studied the crystal, twirling it between his fingers while his mind raced. His eyes jumped from the soldiers to the tangled web of rope and sails, and back. Cooper sighed, then pulled the cork from the vial, took a quick breath, and inhaled the liquid. After the last drop, he exhaled, lighting up the Promenade’s deck as fire spewed from his mouth, engulfing everything before him. Cooper turned left, then right, ensnaring everything and everyone in the conflagration.
The fiery blast ignited the deck. Engulfed Cyrean soldiers leapt overboard, their cloaks a comet tail that followed them into the water. One after another, the soldiers fell, each followed by their own sizzling splash.
The giant blonde-haired soldier stood directly in the flames and inched toward Cooper in defiance. His hair burned away, followed by his clothes and his cloak. His face blistered and popped as boils rose, then exploded. He crept forward, agony in every step, as the mountain of a man turned into a flaming column. Fiery residue fell from the soldier’s armor as it melted away, fire erupting with each horrific step.
Cooper looked on with pleasure as little fireballs dispersed in every direction. Some jumped over the edge, some collapsed where they stood. A few pirates got caught in the crossfire, to which he added a polite “sorry” and a sincere wave goodbye as they joined the Cyrean ranks over the edge. He reveled in his chaos while the fiery hulk of a man inched toward him. Cooper’s eyes stopped long enough to realize the seven-foot column of fire was a few feet away…and still coming!
His grin faded and his hand wave turned to an undiscernible motion as the burning soldier closed in. Cooper searched for an escape, but all avenues were blocked. He pinned his back to the wall to buy a few precious seconds before he felt the intense heat of the fireball.
The soldier took a final step, then leaned with his arms outstretched. Gravity took hold as the fiery column began its long descent.
A breeze swept across the deck, encircling the soldier. The breeze turned into a gust as it captured the flames, bending them upward and around his body. His fall slowed…then stopped. The soldier’s body hung, suspended in mid-air, as Cooper let out a childish scream of anticipation. The flaming body then lifted while the winds swirled at a fevered pace.
“Kill her!” came screams from the Cyrean vessel. Cooper stopped quivering to peer between his fingers. He was sure he should have been engulfed in searing pain…but he was alive…and unharmed? Her? He thought.
As the soldiers aboard the Orcus took aim with their crossbows, the winds around the burning soldier’s body grew to a fiery tornado. His feet lifted off the deck as his arms and legs flailed about. His screams rang out when his sacrifice would prove in vain. His body angled back and lifted further off the deck, leaving fiery remnants along its path.
“Fire!” the soldiers cried as they fired a volley of bolts at the Promenade. Cooper sought cover behind his arms and hands; but no bolts hit him, nor did they hit the wall behind him. He peered through his outstretched fingers and saw the fiery body drift through the air toward the Cyrean vessel. The soldiers continued to fire their crossbows, but like a vacuum, the bolts sucked into the torrent of air, spun in the flaming vortex, and fell helplessly to the deck.
With a great lurch, the human fireball blasted toward the Cyrean ship and crashed into the crossbowmen. Chaos ensued aboard the frigate as the fiery boulder exploded into the deck, landing at the base of the main mast. The mighty frigate now resembled a torch on the black waters of the sea. The massive column, along with its sails, ignited while soldiers ran to combat the flames. With renewed vigor, the pirates rejoined the fight and clashed with the startled Cyrean soldiers.
Cooper sat motionless, leaning against the cabin wall as fires burned all around him. For the first time he could remember, he was speechless. He watched as soldiers and pirates fought through the smoke and flame. He let loose a chuckle, then hopped to his feet and dusted himself off, hoping no one else witnessed his lack of bravery.
“Little warm down there, Mr. Quinn?” questioned a soft, friendly voice from atop the cabin.
Cooper would have been startled by the sound of ANY voice amidst the chaos, but the polite, soft-spoken female voice made him jump out of his skin. He spun around, eyes wide. Standing on top of the destroyed cabin was an old woman, surrounded by a dozen small children, all hiding behind her flowing red dress.
The pirate’s eyes softened and his heart lifted to set his eyes upon an old friend. “Ms. Bellen?” he questioned. “But what…how?” The words struggled to find their way as he stared at her in disbelief. “You’re a…really?” he continued, still unable to put together a coherent sentence.
“Now Mr. Quinn,” she replied, “it’s not like you to stammer about.” She knelt down and motioned the children around her to seek shelter on the far side of the cabin. She then turned back toward Cooper. “Come now, Mr. Quinn. You’ll be safe over here.” She gave the pirate a beckoning motion with her hands and walked to the edge of the roof.
Despite the echoes of war, Cooper relished in the memories of his old schoolmaster and his youth on the streets of Wyvern’s Rest. Though the hard times in the fallen city appeared to take their toll on Ms. Bellan, he would recognize the warmth in her eyes anywhere. For the first time in years, the young pirate felt joy.
With a last glance toward the Orcus, Cooper scaled the fallen mast. He braced his foot against the giant timber and pulled himself up, climbing until he reached the upper deck. He heard the sound of wood snapping and cracking, and spun around to look for the source. Small fires were scattered across the deck of the Promenade, but he could see no immediate danger. With a final crack, the center mast of the Orcus snapped and broke away. The pillar of flame plummeted toward the crippled ship, toward the group of children huddled for safety.
Cooper looked to his friend and yelled “Ms. Be…..!!!!!” as the giant mast crashed down. The rest of the forecastle was destroyed as the mast broke through the deck.. The young man gasped while his old friend, and the children huddled around her, were crushed by the flaming timber on its way into the sea. There were no screams, no crying. Just a snap, a crash, a splash…..and silence. “Noooooo!!!!!” he yelled, but no one responded.
Cooper ran to the edge of the cabin, but the wood splintered and gave way. He balanced himself and peered over the edge, only to see a large chunk of the ship had broken off and fallen into the sea. Debris and wood littered the waters, along with the lifeless bodies of several children.
He sat down, his eyes red and swollen, and realized he was leaning. The damage had consumed the crippled vessel and it was taking on water. Cooper crawled to the highest point and pulled himself up. He peered over the ledge as the fight raged aboard the Orcus, oblivious their fates were tethered to the doomed ship. The somber pirate looked back to the Promenade, back to Taryn and Jorel, now mere inches from the flames.
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Mists of Kel Doran