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The Hoard


Erik Bradstreet

Chapter One

The sun showed through the sparse clouds on another beautiful summer’s day. A light breeze blew in from the waters of Scarlet Bay, which stretched out like a sheet of glass for several miles before opening into the Aeronith Sea. The bay was filled with the normal load of fisherman and merchant barges bringing in goods from other parts of the world. There were also an increasing number of warships dropping their anchors in the bay. Some of them showed the scars of war and were undertaking repairs for their return to the battles with the Orca hoard that had put fear into the hearts of the people in the lands of King Rydom Talons kingdom.

The attacks had begun early last winter with small raids on some of the southern most villages in the kingdom. They then advanced northward to the larger port towns of Rhilway and Tilmonds Bluff. The towns they hit were burned to the ground and the humans that weren’t killed were taken off in the giant Orca slave ships. The Orca onslaught seemed to come from the south across the Aeronith Sea but no ship that had gone in search of the Orca homeland had ever returned to tell of its whereabouts.

Both Michael and Erik lived outside the town of Scarlet Bay on farms and each dreamed of being part of the Kings armies and fighting against the Orca and Goblin hoards and they played imaginary war games every chance that they got. It had been difficult for the boys to find the right setting for the intense sea battles they had planned out but once they met Roland their problems were solved. Roland was first mate on one of the war galleys harbouring in the bay and would allow the boys access to the upper decks when Captain Thompson was on shore. So they each had worked three weeks in a butcher shop cleaning the slaughter pens out to earn the three silver marks they needed to buy a small row boat which would give them access to the warship that was anchored out in the bay.

After doing their daily chores the boys rushed down the main road to town to see if Captain Thompson had come to shore that day. On the way in they argued about who’s turn it would be to play commander of the fleet and who would get to play the first mate. The gates to the city were always open until sundown and the guards rarely paid much attention to the farmers and merchants that passed by. The city of Scarlet Bay was just barely large enough to be called a city but its importance to the kingdom was great. It lay at the base of the Wyvern Mountains on the central coast of the king's lands. Outside its walls lay endless fields of wheat that ended at the base of the mountains. Farming and trading were what the people of Scarlet Bay knew best and the attacks on the Kingdom had increased the demand for the abundant wheat in their fields.

The captain could usually be found in one of the waterside taverns that lay along the docks so the boys ran up and down the docks looking for him. They soon found him at one of his usual on shore retreats, The Peg Leg Tavern where he would spend hours drinking and telling stories of his bravery to the bright-eyed barmaids that worked there. Once found the boys went to their rowboat and began the journey to Captain Thompson’s ship. It took the boys nearly a full half-hour to row their small boat to the side of the large war ship, which showed signs of recent repair. Roland had told the tale of the vessels last voyage to the boys. Michael and Erik could sit and listen to the tales of their battles with the Orca fleet for hours on end. Both boys were tired as they climbed up the rope ladder onto the deck of the massive ship.

Roland had seen their small craft coming and met them at the top of the ladder. “You boys have about an hour before the captain returns. Try and stay out from under foot and stay above decks all right?”

“Anything for you Roland, you know we are always on our best behavior when on board don’t you?” Michael said through a smirk.

“You just mind that you do just that or I’ll throw you both in the drink.” And with that Roland strolled across the deck and began working on one of the ships ten Scorpion crossbows.

The boys roamed the decks for a while, trying to find the perfect location on which to hold the days grand battle scene. It was Michael’s turn to play captain so he chose a position at the helm to start with. He barked orders at Erik, telling him to ready the Scorpions while he turned the ship into position to fire. Yes, this would be one of their greatest battles ever.

So engrossed in his character, Michael had completely lost track of time. He had just given the order for the port side scorpions to loose their enormous arrow like bolts when Roland came running up onto the bridge. “The captain's comin' back lads, you had best get yourselves down below before he catches you on board again. It’ll be all our hides if he sees you two up here.”

Before Michael and Erik could even take three steps Captain Thompson had lumbered his robust frame up the rope ladder onto the deck. Sweat poured down his heavyset face and his chest heaved under a half open uniform. At the sight of the two boys his eyes narrowed and his mouth twisted with an angry scowl. “Yeoman Roland what are these children doing on the deck of my ship again. I thought I had made myself perfectly clear of the consequences if I were to find them on board again.” He then turned his attention to the cowering boys trying to hide themselves behind Roland’s thin, wiry frame. “And as for you two I told you both that if I caught you here again you would not be leaving down the ladder but over the side.”

Just as Michael and Erik were about to make a run for it and explosion rocked them off of their feet. Pieces of burning wood rained down on the deck as the boys pulled themselves onto the rail. Thick fog began to roll into the bay swallowing everything in its path. A fire burned brightly near where another of the fleet’s ships had sat only moments before. Michael could barely make out what looked like the dark shadows of giant floating serpents. It could only mean one thing, an Orca attack.

The giant Orca ships seemed to float through the misty darkness and spew down fire from their decks onto the human ships they past. Michael could make out at least six of their crafts each making it way to attack a human ship. Captain Thompson started barking orders for his men to hoist anchor and draw the sails. With that done the ship began to move out to head off the Orca attack. Michael was frozen with shock on the deck as he watched one of the Orca ships turn towards Captain Thompson’s vessel. As they grew closer to the enemy ship Michael could see the shadows of huge men on the deck working the sails and moving large catapults into place.

Captain Thompson moved his ship into position to fire his scorpion crossbows from on deck. The immense crossbows where locked into position with metal spikes driven into holes in the deck and their bows were drawn. Oil was then poured onto each enormous bolt and the thick bowstrings were drawn back. Just before the order to fire was given a torch was put to each of the bolts and the oil soaked bolts burst into flame. The other men on deck were readying themselves to board the Orca warship each drawing swords and loading small hand held crossbows.

On the Orca ship Michael watched in amazement as the large green skinned men hoisted rocks into the baskets on each catapult. When each basket was full of the barrel sized stones an Orca in a long woollen robe walked over to stand beside them. They then began to rock back and forth rhythmically and Michael could hear the sound of chanting. Raising their arms above the baskets the chanting increased in volume. Fire like molten lava sprung from their outstretched fingers, pouring itself down upon the rocks which then glowed bright red. With that complete each hooded figure backed away form the catapults.

Both ships seemed to fire at once. Captain Thompson ordered his scorpions to fire and the bolts flew from the deck and struck the enemy ship with such force that several rocks from the catapult baskets were knocked onto its decks. On impact each glowing rock exploded in a giant fireball, blowing holes in the deck of the ship. Orca sailors ran screaming from the blast, bodies engulfed in flames as they tried to get overboard into the cold waters below. One of the more ornately dressed Orca soldiers came up from the bow of the ship waving his arms franticly in an obvious effort to have his men fire their catapults. The men who remained at their posts pulled the ropes that sent a wave of glowing rock down onto Captain Thompson’s ship.

Most of the projectiles missed their mark and fell short into the water below. The few that did make it to the ship exploded on impact. Most of the damage was taken by the ships great mast, which creaked like a newly cut tree, before snapping off from its base and falling down onto the deck. The other end of the mast landed on the Orca ship creating a bridge between the two ships. Seeing this the Orca soldiers gave out loud cries and began crossing the beam. They seemed to pour from below the decks of their ship and raced to across to the human ship. Captain Thompson yelled for his men to be ready and the few men with bows began to rain down arrows onto the oncoming Orcas. Men with swords then began grouping around the mast to head off the enemies that were still racing over it. Many Orca soldiers fell prey to the arrows, falling off of the mast and into the water below, but there were too many of them and not enough arrows.

The Orcas carried large double-ended swords held in the centre much like a staff. The shortest Orca seamed to tower over the tallest human and their dark green skin which shined like well oiled leather. Their hair was as black as night and had eyes to match. It was very difficult for Michael to discern one Orca from another, had it not been for the different jewelry they each wore he did not think that he would be able to at all. Each soldier seemed to wear a distinct assortment of jewelry from ear and nose rings to necklaces; each one made of gold. Their bodies were heavily muscled with giant arms and legs like tree trunks. Their hair was grown long and pulled back into topknots, which fell well below their shoulders. On each side of their mouths there were what looked to Michael like fish gills that opened and closed with each breath. Their fingers and toes were webbed together with semi-transparent green skin and each ended with short pointed barb like claws.

The Orcas fought with such ferocity that the humans had to take them on two to one. Michael and Erik made their ways through the fighting to the ships helm and stood behind the rudder wheel staring down at the battle scene below. It was just as they had imagined it in their battle games they played all those times before. The deck was now soaked red with the blood of both Orca and humans. The Orca soldiers were deadly with their double bladed swords and they wielded them just like a quarterstaff. Their movements were so fluid as they spun to dodge and block the thrusting of the human swordsmen. With each turn the Orca also made a broad sweep with his swords other end in an attempt at slicing through its attackers mid section.

Suddenly a webbed clawed hand appeared over the helm's railing, followed by the dark head of an Orca soldier. Michael froze with fear as the giant Orca pulled itself over the rail and smiled to itself exposing a mouthful of short spiked teeth seeing the two frightened boys before it. To Michael’s surprise the Orca laid down its sword and pulled from its belt a long curved dagger. It ran the dagger over its tongue before advancing on its two seemingly helpless prey. Michael began preparing himself for his inevitable demise when without warning Erik charged at their attacker flailing his arms in an attempt at striking the onlooking Orca soldier. It grabbed Erik up by the hair with no more effort than if it were picking up a doll. Glaring into Michael’s eyes it then drove the long blade of its dagger into Erik’s chest. Michael was overcome with rage as his friend's lifeless body fell to the hard wooden deck at the feet of the half man. 

Looking down, he could see the lifeless body of another human who had fallen to the savage battle. Roland lay face up, a dagger lodged in his head. Before he knew what he was doing Michael had pulled the dagger from Roland’s head and was running full speed at the surprised Orca. The dark skinned warrior tried desperately to pull his blade free from Erik’s limp body but Michael was too fast in his advance. Michael threw his whole body behind the dagger, which hit the Orca in the neck as it tried to defend itself with one of its massive arms. Michael could only stare as it fell to its knees gasping for breath. Dark red blood flowed from the wound and the creature fell to the ground face down, still struggling to pull the dagger from its throat.

Michael then rushed to the side of his friend now lying face down in a pool of his own blood. He struggled to turn Erik over into his lap. His eyes filled with tears and his throat with a low groan when he saw his young friend’s face, eyes staring up at the blue sky. Michael reached down with his hand, covered with blood, and closed Erik’s eyes forever.

Shouts arose from behind Michael on the deck of the Orca ship. He turned around to see that the enemy ship had repositioned its five catapults and were preparing to fire all at the human ship. The Orca soldiers let loose and a wave of fire poured out from the Orca ship twenty feet into the air and down on the burning ship of Captain Thompson. The shock wave of the blast knocked Michael backwards into the ships outer rail, nearly knocking him unconscious. Michael fought the blackness that was slowly pulling itself over his eyes and got himself to his feet. The ships aft side lifted into air as the lower decks filled with water. As he turned to climb the rail to escape the sinking ship another wave of rock came from the Orca catapults. Michael had just reached the top of the rail as the wave hit with another deafening boom. His whole world turned black as the shockwave hit him and threw him into the icy cold waters of Scarlet Bay.

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