The Soothsayer

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Chapter 50: Under Cover of Night

Colin pulled his legs in closer as the stone walls of Crag’s hands vibrated violently. The pitch blackness intensified as he heard earth give way before them like water. Colin could only guess at the speed they were traveling under the soil.

A loud crack shook Crag’s fists as the living stone pushed forward through something more solid than dirt. Was that a boulder? Granite? How deep are we? There was no telling. As with the great sea monster from the maw that had swallowed him, Colin found himself feeling helpless. Still, the air was breathable and somehow still fresh. Like a leaf in a river, he had no control, and yet somehow, he was surviving. Perhaps believing in a Maker meant giving him the burden of what’s to come along with what has already happened. Colin wondered at this until his head hurt. The rhythmic wash of the earth around him and the knowledge that Crag would protect him was enough for Colin to release his grip on his legs. He laid down in the darkness and in the first time in over a day, he slept.

* * * * * * * *

Three small dinghies floated silently through the fog bank and rounded the shoals. Egan sat at the bow of the lead boat and nodded past his two guardsmen to Alexandra, sitting in the stern. She waved a small lantern and saw several yards back two more lanterns follow suit.

“Keep the signal going. The fog’s been a boon for keeping us hidden from their fleet, but we could just as easily become lost in it,” Egan whispered back to her.

“Are you sure we’re even moving in the right direction? It’s soup for all I can see,” she whispered back.

Egan nodded as he heard the waves crash against the rocky cliffs off their starboard side. “I’d recognize this shore anywhere. Now keep low, we should be rounding the point to the harbor soon.”

As soon as the words left his mouth, the skiff rounded the bluff, and they came face to face with the full force of Dagon’s fleet. All the ships’ bows pointed to the northeast and the Lion’s Maw.

Alexandra’s face went white. “So many . . .” she uttered.

“The Amorites have brought their entire navy to bear on us,” Egan whispered and realized how naïve he’d been to hope they could hold the docks. “Bring us closer to that one,” he directed the oarsmen and nodded at the nearest schooner. “Do it quietly.”

The dinghy pulled alongside the great ship and waited, as its two siblings came to bear and rested next to them. High above Egan could hear a few vitriolic voices mumbling on deck, several snores, and the opening of a hatch or two. Along the side of the schooner were several closed cannon hatches, almost within reach.

Too small to climb through, but they might make a decent foothold. Egan thought and signaled to Avery in the second boat. The old soldier nodded and leaned over his bow to hand Alexandra several yards of rope with a grappling hook attached.

Alexandra mouthed, “Are you serious?” to Egan as he measured the length of rope on his arm and raised it back to throw. They’ll hear it, but, maybe, if it lands perfectly . . . perhaps . . .

Lightning and thunder cracked overhead. The lull in the storm had ended. Egan saw his chance and let the hook fly. It caught perfectly onto the deck railing and was muffled again by a deep roll of a thunderclap. Rain poured down, and Egan strained to see if any faces appeared over the side to scream the alarm.

Nothing.

He nodded to Avery and Alexandra, and began to pull himself up the side of the ship. Halfway up the side he wriggled the cannon hatch open with surprising ease and used its small portico as a foothold to hoist himself up to the deck railings.

When Egan’s eyes became level with the deck, he saw it was nearly deserted except for a few sailors scurrying back to the stern of the ship. A stack of large crates and barrels near the railings blocked much of his view, but he heard no footsteps fall behind them. Only one watchman stood near the mast, his back to Egan, grumbling as he tried to shelter a spark in his pipe. Egan pulled himself over the rail and signaled to Avery to throw another line. Within several minutes the squad of men had pulled themselves up. They followed Egan’s lead and crept behind the stack of crates, readying their weapons.

Egan eyed their cover. There were too many of his men to fit behind all the crates. It won’t last, one bright lantern, one turn of his head, and we’re caught dead to rights.

Alexandra tied the other two skiffs to the first, then followed the men up the ropes.

“Still have your dagger?” Egan whispered in her ear as she pulled herself over the railing.

“Still have your courage, Chief?” she replied and smiled.

Egan nodded to Avery and the others and the group broke apart. Avery led several men to the stern of the ship, while Egan crept up on the man near the mast.

With another flash of lightning, Egan’s knife laid the man dead, and he beckoned Alexandra on. The crew at the stern barely had time to grab their weapons before Avery and his troop tore into them. With each flash of lightning, Egan stood behind a new man, cupping mouths before slicing his blade across their throats.

As Avery approached the captain of the ship, the man turned and spat, instantly drawing his blade.

“Biteless cur! I’ll sling your guts across the mast and— “

Egan’s sword silenced the man from behind and the captain toppled over, dead.

“Thanks,” Avery sighed as he leaned on one of the ship’s dinghies, lashed to the deck. Quickly scanning the perimeter of the deck for any more resistance, he finally nodded to Egan and motioned the men to the hatch leading down into the hold. The faint sound of snoring echoed up the stairs.

“This will be bloody, friends. Do your work, and do it quickly,” Egan whispered to them, then turned to Alexandra, “I know you can protect yourself, but don’t follow us down there.”

“Can’t you simply lock the latches?” Alex shook her head. “Keep them prisoner?”

“Locks strong enough to hold an entire crew at bay are in short supply, princess, and should even one of them sound an alarm by firing a lower cannon out, it would bring Dagon’s fleet on us before we’re ready. No, this bloody business must be done quickly and quietly.”

“Fine, I’ll come with you then, you’ll need an extra hand,” Alex started, but Egan’s look paused her. “You must not think much of me if you expect to stop me.”

“It’s not what I think of you, it’s what you’ll think of me when you see what I will do. There will be no honor in it.”

She kept his gaze for a moment before finally nodding.

Egan turned towards the open hatch and descended into the darkness with his men following. A torrent of rain, screams, blades tearing into flesh and bones filled his senses. Only Alexandra’s last look kept his hand steady.

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