The “fun” thing about battle fury is when it ends. One moment I’m jumping around swinging my sword like man and then all of a sudden I was thinking to myself “why am I running onto this ship instead of hiding back on shore shooting with my crossbow?” It’s great. One of the sailors (are they still sailors on a river? I guess the boat did have a sail. What do you call people that work on a sail-less vessel? Seamen? But what if they’re not on the sea? Or men?) came at me with a hook (not like a hook for a hand a tool of some kind) but I managed to grab her by the horn-antlers and knock her off balance. Also I stabbed her through the stomach. I should have said something like “nice rack!” but a guy with a sword (I think they’re called cutlasses when you’re on a ship – which is not good since I’m a lass and I don’t like being cut) was coming at me and he looked pretty pissed.
I managed to parry his first stroke but then I was reminded that fencing isn’t really my thing. I’m more comfortable stabbing people in the back. Preferably while they’re asleep. Also it would be good if someone else was doing the stabbing while I was watching from a safe distance and drinking champagne with orange-flavored triple sec liqueur and cranberry juice. He backed me up with his swinging cutlass (if you know what I mean) whereupon I tripped over some kind of nautical thing that had ropes tied to it. Did he do that on purpose? That’s some pretty crafty fighting using the environment to his advantage like that. As he loomed over me I used my Stole and a few bars of The Farewell Aria of The Red King Bajazet to fill his face with jagged shards – pretty sure one of them went in his eye. I could have done without seeing that.
I poked him through the heart (you know with my sword) or at least somewhere close to the heart and he went down to the deck. I looked him dead in the eye and said “I hope you already got paid for this voyage because the rent in the Hells is paid in advance!” Now that’s a quip. I need to make sure that I work on something really good for when I finally kill Duke Eaglevane. What’s better than killing your most hated enemy? Sending them into the afterlife with your voice in their ears and the knowledge of your victory in their head, that’s what.
Another sailor came at me with her horns but I was able to sidestep and direct her over the side. You’d think an able seawoman (riverwoman?) would know better than to run at someone with their head down like a goat on the deck of a ship. An officer looking fellow started playing a fife which seems like a pretty silly thing to do in a fight but I assume that he was doing some kind of magic. I advanced on him but another horned woman came forward to lash at me with a whip. I’ve talked about the insanity of using a whip in combat before, they were a combat duo to beat a full house for sure – the fifist and the whip master.
Despite my scorn the horned whipper managed to entangle my sword and send it flying into the river which is annoying because that thing was expensive. I wonder how many valuable magic items are lying at the bottom of rivers after skirmishes like this. Seems like you could make a pretty good living going around and gathering them all up with water breathing magic. The fifist contributed concussive blast that knocked me back and over the side of the ship myself. The question is – is the fife itself magic or did he just use it to cast a spell of his own? Sadly we’ll never know.
If you ever have someone cast a water walking spell on you here’s something to keep in mind – if you fall (or dive) into the water that’s like slamming into solid ground. I was a little dazed tumbling over the side of the landing craft onto the hard, hard water but not so dazed that I wasn’t able to get out my crossbow and shoot the whip wielder in the face as she came over to look. I clambered back on board where the fifist and the few other people still around all jumped off and started swimming towards another ship. I’m generally not someone who gets hung up on fighting fair or honorable combat obviously, but there is something discomforting about shooting someone in the back of the head while they’re swimming away. I still did it but I don’t feel great about it.
I hurled a blazing lantern from my Greatcoat onto that ship as well (why didn’t I do that from the start?) and then walked out onto the water to take stock of the situation. The blazing fishing boats were drifting downstream towards the greater body of the Ulpine fleet but they weren’t doing much other than bottling up the river – the Ulpinese had smaller boats out in front pushing the fireships away with long poles or just extinguishing the fires. The landing party had left dozens of bodies in the river, looks like they got mauled coming out of the water, but they had numbers on their side and were in the process of flanking the defenders and overwhelming them. Grigori was in the mix fighting with a staff like a lunatic – must mean he’s out of magic. There are a lot of reasons to disdain magic, foremost among them is its limited nature. My crossbow never runs out of bolts.
“Ela isn’t that because of magic?”
Shut up you! As I dashed for the shore I saw a fucking shark tearing into one of the bodies in the river. A shark! In a river! Nobody told me there was such a thing as river sharks! And you know what else? It was right at that fucking moment that the spell failed and I belly-flopped into the water. You know, where the FUCKING sharks are!!! As you know I’m not a very strong swimmer and having a longcoat on certainly doesn’t help – and you know what else doesn’t help? Knowing that there’s a GODS DAMNED SHARK IN THE WATER!!!
Thankfully I was close to the bank anyway and I was able to clamber back into land quickly before any sharks murdered me. I wanted to lay there for a moment to catch my wind, people underestimate the cardiovascular demands of fighting for even a couple minutes, but things were looking dire. As they say no rest for the beautiful. I called upon my Stole and blasted the backs of the marines with a quick sea shanty the name of which I forget – it’s about salt and sea and womanizing shame but I suppose they all are. I would have liked to stay back and done some crossbowing but unfortunately I have to get pretty close for the Stole to do its thing so I waded into the melee with the Baron’s Cane. Just in time to turn the tide like a big damn hero.
The Ulpine marines tried to retreat to their boat only to find that their boat was gone and also was on fire. With no other choice they looked like they were steeling themselves for a last stand on the riverbank but I used my voice amplification once again and told them they should swim for it – we were granting them safe passage. Once they were in the water I start shooting at them, as did the dwarf after a moment and one of the villagers who had a hunting bow. One of the other surviving villagers, whose hand was mangled and bloody, ran over and asked in horror what we were doing.
“We’re killing those guys who came to murder you and your entire family. What did you think we were doing?”
Regrouping, a good half of the villagers had been killed, but the dwarfs and the two casters were still alive and kicking although much worse the wear. I saw the witch attending the wounded and healing them with her magic. I turned to Grigori.
“Since when can witches heal people?”
“That’s one of the main abilities of witches. The role of witches is smoothing out life’s little aches and pains and helping people with their day to day lives. They’re like wizards for the common people.”
“Since when? All I ever see witches do is turn people into pig-monsters and build weird huts in trees that look like screaming faces.”
“I think that you’re thinking of hags rather than witches.”
Before I could respond I was interrupted by a building behind me exploding – knocking me face-first into the dirt and showering the backs of my legs and ass with debris and splinters. Which for the record I don’t care for. When I managed to sit up, I saw the culprit – another ship had swung into position by the shore with a couple of ballista on the deck. I didn’t know they had ballista bolts that would make buildings blow apart like they were filled with smoke power but I guess I do now. I am confident beyond all reasonable doubt that the purpose of this fleet is to destroy the bridge to the north – they’ve probably been burning the boats of any village they come across along the way just as a matter of practicality. And just for fun too most likely, military people being what they are. But by standing up to them a little bit it probably pissed off the commodore or admiral or whoever’s in charge of a river force enough that he ordered the place smashed to the ground. It’s a real bastard of a choice – let the soldiers fuck you up and hope that they’ll have some mercy or fight back and know that then they’re going to really fuck you up.
I staggered to my feet and waved the others forward “Time to go gents.”
The dwarf with the crazy eyebrows frowned at me “What’s wrong with your skin?”
I looked down and saw my tattoos glowing brilliantly, shining through my clothes as they like to do “Are you shitting me?!”