Chapter 56: The Last Pawn Falls
Dagon pulled himself up. His skull rung. Blood sluiced from his shattered nose. He sat back on the deck and moaned as he clenched his broken nose in his fist. With a sharp jerk, he straightened the cartilage and screamed in pain before releasing his grip. A stream of blood now trickled across his face. “Damnable beast.” He stood and muttered as he found his bearings. His men were fighting around him, boarding another of his corsairs on the port side. His altar lay in ruins. Mariselle’s body was crumpled in the corner of the deck.
Dagon’s mind reached out to the minions he had ripped from death and set on the last vestiges of the king’s men. They had once again been beaten down and their souls were too far gone into the nether to retrieve. The dark one would know by now of the resistance and of Dagon’s failure to crush it. Their next meeting would not be cordial and Dagon knew he would be in chains for it. Those who went to the black throne in the Jagged Tooth rarely returned. The king had been subjugated, the kingdom was all but gone, how could this sortie flounder so badly?
The boy is still alive, the whispers in his mind told him. Some other will is at work.
Dagon raised his hand out, channeling his mind’s eye across the fleet and to the city high above, searching . . . the foolish old man was dead. He sensed his champion had already bested the king, had ravaged his body, and yet the people’s will was not broken. Then a vision unfolded in his mind and he saw the danger more clearly than ever before. The outsider was rising . . . the boy who could read the words . . . Dagon turned to his helmsman. “Stop the attack, Captain. Bring us round to the docks and have the fleet unload all remaining soldiers on the shore! We must reach the Ambassador’s Square.”
“Lord? We’ll expose our flank to their ship,” the captain said.
“I won’t repeat myself,” Dagon replied. The captain saluted and called to the others as he moved to the helm.
The great black galleon turned, wrenching Avery’s commandeered ship to her side. Dagon’s ship plodded forward in the crowded bay and pulled to the shore. The fleet followed in unison until every inch of the beach was covered by the invader’s feet. He disembarked and led the rabid masses to the stairway. Gilead would be his, even if he had to take it himself.
* * * * * * * *
Another of Avery’s men fell at his side. Dagon’s deckhands fought like savage animals, and with the Amorite fleet all around him, Avery wondered when their cannons would ring in the death blow. No men could leave the fighting and go below to fire the cannons on the Lion’s Maw as the princess had commanded. The fight was going on longer than he had hoped. At this point he was merely buying them time.
With a sudden crack, the black galleon wrenched forward and veered to the side. Avery heard an Amorite voice call from the shadows of their deck and felt his ship shudder as Dagon’s massive vessel shrugged their ship aside and veered towards the shore. The Amorites on deck immediately stopped their attack and jumped over the railings, as if a queen ant had commanded her workers to a new target. Avery’s men looked around in confusion.
“Sir, should we fire on them? Their stern is to us,” one soldier asked.
Avery held his hand up. “No. The beast has been distracted, and we haven’t the men to stave off another attack. Watch them but get the deck guns ready and pointed to the high terraces.”
Avery saw each ship in turn, landing itself onshore, and countless soldiers disembarking. “They’re reinforcing. They’re going to make a play for the square. They’re going to march right up the lion’s throat.” Avery mumbled. He turned to his men. “Bring all guns on deck and below to bear on the stairwell and the terraces above. When the horn sounds, empty every last round on them.”