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The Affinity IV (standard:adventure, 2692 words)
Author: Ian HobsonAdded: Nov 23 2008Views/Reads: 2381/1239Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
If you missed the earlier episodes of The Affinity, the story starts here:

The Affinity IV 

©2008 Ian Hobson 

8  Bolts and Arrows 

Even with the broken spar replaced and all sails set, it was clear that
we would not outrun the Tirukshian privateer.  The ship was at least 
one-fifth longer than the Kerree and seemed to cut through the waves 
like a knife, and before midmorning it was within hailing distance off 
our starboard beam.  I counted twenty-four crew members, on her decks 
and clinging to her shrouds, as her captain, a tall, swarthy man named 
Skrull, hailed us with a mixture of Tirukshian and Elgyptan, offering 
us, firstly, his most cordial salutations, and then our lives in 
exchange for our cargo.  Captain Maffrai, knowing that the latter would 
soon be forgotten if he was foolish enough to surrender, replied with a 
barrage of foul language and then, taking a crossbow from where he had 
placed it at his feet, he shot a feathered bolt at his adversary 
missing him by a hair's breadth. 

At this pre-arranged signal, more bolts and arrows were fired by eight
or so of the Kerree's crew, all of whom had been ordered to stay hidden 
until then.  And, despite the difficulties of shooting from ship to 
ship when both were crashing through the waves, three of Skrull's men 
were hit before arrows and bolts came flying our way, forcing us to 
take cover. 

The crews of both ships exchanged missiles until Captain Maffrai ordered
the necessary change of course, which cost us speed but meant that 
Skrull had to do the same or sail away from us.  This cat and mouse 
game continued for some time, with a constant exchange of bolts and 
arrows, which cost us two crew members, one killed and one wounded, to 
at least the same number of theirs.  Then, with the sun past its 
zenith, Skrull took advantage of a sudden drop in wind speed and 
steered towards our starboard flank. 

'Prepare to repel boarders!' Maffrai shouted the order and it was
repeated by Doran, his First Mate, as he ran the ship's length, 
checking that the crew were armed and ready.  As more arrows and 
crossbow bolts were exchanged, the two ships collided, broadside, and 
their timbers groaned in protest, while the first of many grappling 
hooks were hurled towards us. 

Miglio and I were beside the foremast, and as a grappling hook clattered
onto the deck and was immediately dragged back until it snagged on a 
grating, Miglio, his seasickness forgotten, sprang up and cut the rope 
with a knife that he had spent most of the day sharpening and honing.  
An arrow flew past his head as he ran back to where I was sheltering 
and, though I knew his efforts would make little difference to what was 
to come, I was pleased to see that he did not lack courage.  'Well 
done,' I shouted, as he slid the knife back into its sheath and put a 
hand to his sword hilt.  'But don't be too eager.  Just remember all 
that I've taught you.  Mark your man, and watch his eyes.'  I had given 
him Magalo's old soldier's tunic, made from soft leather reinforced 
with mail, while I had changed into a similar one, complete with steel 

'I will not let you down, master,' he said, and I believed him.  I had
trained him well and, just as I expected, he had shown an aptitude for 
swordplay that should ensure his survival. 

Most of the grappling hooks and ropes were now secured and, with the two
ships crudely lashed together, the first of the boarders leapt across 
from the privateer's deck but were immediately knocked off their feet 
by well-aimed crossbow bolts.  I stood then and drew my sword and, 
after kissing the blade, strode forward as more men dropped down amid 
the din of battle-cry and complaining ships timbers. 

The first to come my way was a small, but murderous-looking sailor,
carrying a cutlass in his right hand and a dagger in his left, but he 
seemed thin and underfed, and his look of menace wilted somewhat as he 
saw me coming to meet him.  He tried to dodge past me, looking for an 
easier target, but I stepped sideways and, with sword arm outstretched, 
spun around and struck him backhanded, slitting his throat with tip of 
my blade.  Knowing it was a killing blow, I left him to fall and choke 

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