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|The Affinity IV (standard:adventure, 2692 words)|
|Author: Ian Hobson||Added: Nov 23 2008||Views/Reads: 2267/1163||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|If you missed the earlier episodes of The Affinity, the story starts here: http://www.nicestories.com/unreg/s/story.php?id=8387|
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 breastplate. '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 Click here to read the rest of this story (187 more lines)
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