The Mercenary Queen

Run Like Little Girls

Sati curls up in a little ball, rocking back and forth as she sucks on her thumb, her eyes screwed tightly shut. Bran on the other hand has found a corner by the stair case and conveniently tried to push himself into non-existence as Aislynn stands, moving back away from the demon, watching it closely. When Aislynn casts a questioning glance toward Aloranna and the others, she is surprised to find Salaius, Ed, and Aloranna standing resolute. In fact, Aloranna almost seems to be glaring at the monster, hands on her hips with a look of, Who the hell do you think you are?

“I’ve got a lot of bones to pick,” Aloranna snarls back. “Least of which is with you, Tamathraniel.”

“What gives you cause to pick a bone with me?” The demon growled back.

“You told us where to find the anchors that bind you here, but they weren’t there,” Aloranna shot back. “We tried to live up to our end of the bargain with you, but couldn’t. Now you want to get in a pissing match with me over it?” She actually grabbed hold of the metal railing of the ship and climbed up on top to get closer in order that she might glare harder at him, “You had to use Marrek as a chew toy before we could get the information out of him, didn’t you! I ought to ram my sword up your ass and give you a True Steel enema you jerk!”

“Ah, now lassie, I don’t think we ought to go shoving things like that up places we don’t mean to be shoving them, especially since we be trying to negotiate here,” Salaius tried to be pleasant in his tone, but there was just a hint of anger there too.

“Where am I supposed to get that information, huh?” Aloranna snapped, still glaring at the demon. “Especially since you killed the only moron with the information A HUNDRED AND FIFTY YEARS AGO!!!!”

Tamathraniel points at Ed, “He can do it.”

*

Bran picks himself up from the floor, dusts himself off and looks toward Aislynn, “What in the bloody hells would possess anyone to leave an explosive trap that big …” He notes that Aislynn’s eyes are fixed on something and turns to look up at the gigantic demon standing before him. His mouth falls open and he gapes, starting to unconsciously back up, “and holy shit! I …” He stumbles over some loose stones and manages to get his feet back under him as he continues backing up. A small, dwarf sized notch near the base of the stone staircase catches his attention and he starts in that direction. He motions toward the stairs with a quick jab of his thumb and a nonchalant swagger, “I’ll … I’ll just sit back here and try to not make too much of a mess of me shorts. Thanks.”

As Bran disappears from view, Aislynn stands there, hands on her hips, but close to her short sword. She catches the sight of Aloranna’s tirade at the Demon, which just happens to have conveniently kept the monster’s attention and smirks, “Hey, nice of you guys to join the fun.” She catches sight of the dapper and strikingly handsome elf standing next to Aloranna and raises an eyebrow, “Hey? Who’s the new guy?” She glances back toward the demon, “And what’s Big Ugly’s deal, anyway?” She turns her attention back to the new guy, “You got something to take care of this problem?”

*

Looking at the Demon, Ed says, “If you mean to take me for a moron, you’ve got another thing coming buddy! I know damn well how you nasty beasties like to do things and there’s no way you’re getting my help without a little something we mortal folk like to call ‘unbreakable assurances’.” With a slight grin, Ed assumes a relaxed posture and waits for the demons’ head to explode at having been spoken to in such a way.
The Demon glares at him as he moves closer to the ship, “Unbreakable assurances? Are you daring to entreat with me, mortal? This matter far transcends a simple deal.”

*

No one seems to have paid much attention to Sati, who, rocking back and for in a tight ball Sati mutters to herself “Why did mommy have to die? Why did I have to watch Orcs kill her? Please help me oh lord, help me protect those who needed it like mommy did years ago.”

As she mutters her prayers through her chattering teeth and wide eyed terror a feeling of calm slowly sweeps over her. Her fear ebbs away and transforms into a growing sense of anger toward the demonic monster that has come into her presence. Sati uncurls herself filled with righteous indignation and assurance that the Nine Guardians are with her. In her mind’s eye she is certain that the Templars stand at her side, their swords raised in readiness, ready to bring the righteous fury of the Guardian Towers and the great Celestial Tree against this cretin of a darksider. She knows, deep in her heart that the Powers of Light will prevail in this battle.

*

Also unnoticed is Haran. Haran has a pleading smile on his face as he slowly tries to back away from the foul demon bearing down on them. He can’t speak, his throat constricted as though by ever tightening hands. The best he can manage is a soft whimper as he takes one step back, then another. Something catches on his foot and he begins to fall backward. His wordless scream is however silenced by the bellow of the mighty warship’s cannons as his foot has caught upon the firing cord. His weight falling back pulls the cord and releases the hammer which falls with the speed of a striking viper and smacks the primer, which in turn ignites the spark which burns swiftly to the tightly packed and aged gunpowder within the cannon. The explosion is so violent it tears the cannon apart , but launches the 30 pound cannon ball with violent precision.

Haran rolls away, screeching as hot metal screams passed him. He doesn’t see if the other’s duck or get out of the way. He can’t. His terror is complete. Haran leaps to his feet and runs for all he’s worth, diving through one of the stairwells leading to the decks below. He doesn’t even hear Seahammer howling in fury and frustration, chasing after him. No, his mind is on one thing, and one thing alone – Make the bad monster go away. Make it go away now!

He reaches gunnery deck and starts forcing open gun ports. In his fear fueled frenzy he manages to shove out all the guns on the port side and racing back to the head and howling like a banshee he starts setting them off one by one.

BOOM!!! BOOM!!! BOOM!!! BOOM!!! BOOM!!! BOOM!!

As he reaches for the final three cannons Seahammer tackles him to the deck. Haran fights back, struggling to get free but the Pirate King manages to keep him pinned long enough to get a bailing pin and smack him on the back of the head. Haran crumples to the floor and Salaius sags on top of him with a weary gasp.

“Damn, I’m gettin’ too ol’ fer this shite!” He mutters.

*

The cannon balls ricochet off the walls of the grotto. Aloranna manages to dodge, but pin wheeling she falls off the railing and into the water below. She shrieks as she bursts from the icy brine that envelops her. The Demon is too busy dodging left and right trying not to get hit by the speeding balls of iron. He pauses long enough to glare at the ship and the cannons belching their fire at him.

“Damn you, you little trog! When I get my hands on you …”

His words are cut short when one of the cannon balls bouncing off the walls connects solidly with his head. Teeth and blood go spraying everywhere as Tamathraniel slumps to the ground. After a moment, he shakes his head, lifts his gaze up to Ed and in a rather slurred tone says, “Okay, I make deal with you. Get me the hell out of here and we’ll talk.” Then he collapses unconscious to the ground.

*
Aislynn, seeing Aloranna fall from the railing and plunge into the water hurries to the edge of the quay. She pulls out a 50’ coil of rope from her backpack and tosses it into the water. Aloranna, seeing the rope grabs hold and tries to climb up the wall as Aislynn pulls on the rope. Climbing over the rock edge, she rolls onto her back and coughs water for a moment. A crooked grin spreads across her face as she looks up at Aislynn’s worried and irritated expression.

“Would you mind filling me in on what the HELL is going on?” Aislynn says.

Aloranna chuckles and pushes herself up into a sitting position. She tugs at her clothes, trying to get them to stop clinging to her damp skin and looks at the knocked out demon. She chuckles again and shakes her head, It’s a long story." She casts a speculative glance up at the ship and shakes her head, “We really gotta keep Haran away from those cannons. At least until we’re sure they’re all empty.”

She notices Aislynn’s look and realizing the other won’t be dissuaded from getting the answer to her question Aloranna sighs, “About two hundred years ago, Salaius was the terror of the inner seas. He was the Pirate King and I got hired by three kings to bring them his head. I hunted him down, found his hide out here and basically caught him completely off guard. I had him dead to rights and after a few minutes of discussion found out that he was just trying to keep the pirates from going completely nuts. He had gone the route to work on his inventions and get the resources he needed from the Kings who had said they would help him and then turned him away once he gave them secrets they had wanted. He had found it to be a justifiable response to their treachery.” She motioned toward the cavern. "The pirates, on the other hand, were wanting to be the ravagers of the waves and keep the seas in terror. Salaius was losing his grip on them and they had started to look to a Blood Mage by the name of Marrek over their ‘king’. Marrek had set up the defenses of the hide out, but he had done a few things that he hadn’t told anyone. Instead, he kept them secret in order to give him a hole card against Salaius. He was going to kill Salaius, which would have instigated a split among the Pirates, and Salaius couldn’t do anything about it, so I offered to help him.

“In the end, the split happened anyway,” She sighs, considering the vast underground harbor. “Marrek’s treachery made a big dent in the Pirate population that day. Marrek was killed by his own treachery when Tamathraniel there killed him. Marrek apparently forgot to put his own name in the protection circle. A little note that Tamathraniel didn’t bother to inform him about either. The charm the wizard had given to Salaius was discovered to be the key, so the survivors found a suitable dwarf who had died in the melee, chopped off his head so I could get paid, and we put the talisman around it’s neck and sat him on the throne. The pirates dispersed, a few going on to continue pirating, but most of them going off to find more honest trade. A few stayed on with me and Salaius joined my crew.” She glances at Aislynn with a crooked grin, “He’s been worth his weight in gold, and then some.” She gives a nod with her head toward the Hall of the King and grimaces, “We left the treasure trove here because it was safe and we figured no one was going to find it. We’ve got a couple of hordes like that to help fund the Company.” She returned her gaze to Aislynn, measuring her in silence. “The Company has never been about gathering wealth, but giving a home to those who need it. We fight for each other and protect one another. The fact that we get money for doing what we enjoy doing is just icing on the cake and keeps us fed.” She leans back on her hands and considers the harbor, “I suppose now its time to start thinking of things a bit more pragmatically though. We left these down here because we had no one skilled enough to pilot them. Salaius can do it, but we don’t have any sailors to manage them. In their dry docks, they were less likely to rot and sink, but I’m pretty sure they’re going to need some serious work to get them seaworthy again.” She glances back toward the Hall of the King and frowns, “and from the evidence at hand, I would have to say our cache of black powder just went up in flames. Ten Gold says it was Bill,” She grimaces. “I just hope it blew him up with it.” She shakes her head.

Chuckling at the thought of Bill ‘going up in smoke’ Aislynn says, “50 gold says you are right and that it would have been worth paying admission to see it.”

Aloranna chuckles and tosses a small pouch to Aislynn, “You win.”

Aislynn offers her hand to Aloranna and helps her up to her feet. Aloranna glances over at the demon and frowns, “Well, this isn’t going to be pretty when he wakes up. I’d just kill him, but it wouldn’t do any good. He’d come back and be even more pissed off than before.” She puts her hands on her hips and scowls at the cavern walls, “If only we could have found those damn anchor points.”

Smiling at her victory, Aislynn comments, “What anchor points?”

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Mudwyrm

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