Alais' thoughts turn to the wand his master left him, before his disappearance last year. Unfortunately, its effects would almost certainly extend to both Melkin and the young priest who has restrained him. For the latter's sake, he instead speaks a commanding phrase as he levels a finger at the man he assumes to be Fang. Two streaks of colored light flash across the square.
The tattooed man, hitherto unscathed, staggers as they strike him, but manages a grin as he recovers himself. "So much for that Bralian hospitality...." [6 points on The Tattooed Man]
The startled giff pause in their inexorable advance to look around for the source of the spell. The captain grunts and nods, recognizing Alais.
Brother Pham sits in quiet shock for a moment at the brazenness of this "Fang's" bravado. There must have been something very specific they were after here -- there's got to be an easier way to make money than robbing Bral.
But the time for contemplation is over! First -- those two brave souls guarding the gangplank look like they could use some help. In an attempt to prevent the raiders from leaving, they've left themselves open to attack from behind. Pham lowers his head, speaking a soft prayer for the assistance
of those defenders.
Knowing he isn't prepared for a real fight (who wears armor to buy soup?) Pham decides that a direct attack isn't warranted. There is also another problem that needs attending to -- Hextor's Will won't hold Melkin forever. So, let's get that collar off! Pham pulls out a small knife and tries to cut
the thing off!
The material is tough, and the collar is tight enough that Pham must be careful to avoid cutting the mage; it's going to take a couple minutes.
Ibn Fadil stares at Pham; he does not recall seeing the fellow before, and now he's used magic -- gods' magic, if he knows anything about these things. But the other events compete for ibn Fadil's attention just now. The wizardling Alais Zheremin is going to be in trouble if the pirates break past the giff; and there are the other two transients. He recognizes Emmett as someone who's been on the Rock for some time, and is reputed to be a pretty solid fellow. Val he also knows, if only by sight. For the moment, ibn Fadil assumes they are against the pirates, and not for them, though he won't guess about why they've decided to board the ship.
So there is the ship, the four pirates -- and perhaps the brawl and more pirates there. Ibn Fadil finds himself slipping along the front of the buildings toward the dock, even though he knows better than to get involved in this. He is, to his own surprise, angry about this brazen attack on Bral. It seems that in five years a man can get attached even to a murky, cacophonous rock like this place.
Moving quickly, but as inconspicuously as he knows how, ibn Fadil reaches the jumbled array of the docks' footings and stacks of barrels and crates. With one eye on the developing situation out in the plaza, he stays under cover as much as possible as he selects a vantage point from which he can easily reach the pirates' ship if he should choose to do so, or else remain unnoticed and see all that goes on.
Meanwhile, Emmett looks over the ship and shakes his head disapprovingly at her condition. "She may have been a fair enough lass once, but they haven't been kind to her since they stole her," he says. The thought continues in his head, _They did steal her, and they don't really know how to keep her up, or care to learn. Unless...._
He turns back to see what's going on, gives up, and asks, keeping his eye on the gangplank to make sure the curiously absent crew doesn't charge him, "Valarin, what's happening back there, have they made it out?"
"Someone moved Melkin out of the way, but he's got company," Val informs Emmett over his shoulder. "All four of them are outside and moving this way." He strains his senses to hear the tattooed man before the Giff move to intercept, but can catch only the occasional word. "Looks like they aren't impressed by the Giff, Emmett," Val adds gravely.
"Damn. OK, either this is a desperate raid by a crew who's ship is on her last legs, or it's a carefully timed operation that has some special surprise waiting inside the ship to help them pull this off. That he's casually facing down Giff make me think the latter." Emmett then says what is no doubt the last thing Val wants to hear: "Let's go check it out. There can't be more than one or two of them."
"Let's go check it out?!" Val repeats incredulously. He turns to see that Emmett is, in fact, quite serious. "You *are* crazy!" The thought occurs to Val briefly that there just might be a reason this man has only one eye, one hand, and one leg.... But then, there is an odd sense of confidence that steals over them, assuring them that their endeavor is bound to meet with success.
Thus bolstered, Emmett gives an authoritative wave to the three approaching Giff, somehow trying to convey that he and Valarin are on their side and taking care of the situation, and almost hurls himself up the gangplank to get to a more defensible position on deck, cutlass out and ready to defend Val if anyone attacks while the taller man is still on the plank. From there, they should be able to quickly scout the ship for the other pirates and whatever surprise is waiting.
Val edges up the gangplank behind Emmett after a moment's hesitation. He still holds his dagger ready noticing Emmett's drawn cutlass, but hesitates to draw his own sword just yet. Val keeps an eye on the tattooed man and his lackeys, in case they do make it past the Giff.
At a quick glance, nothing appears amiss. The deck is clean and neat, although the ship's age is again evident, and there are signs of recently repaired damage here and there. Not battle damage, however; just ordinary wear and tear resulting in a mended section of rail here, some new planking there. There are a couple of medium-weight catapults on the forecastle and one astern. Emmett can see immediately that they are not ready for use.
Val catches a slight hint of movement from one of the aft stairwells; almost simultaneously, lightning arcs from cloud to cloud as the storm finally begins to break. It is a silent show; thunder cannot cross the slender void between Haven and Bral.
As Val joins Emmett on the deck, the smaller man whispers "They can't expect to fight their way out in this."
"If they're desperate enough..." Val trails off ominously. He moves to Emmett's side as quietly as possible, trying to divide his attention between the movement at the stairs and the tattooed man's progress with the Giff on the dock as the two spread out a bit for a quick sweep of the main deck; there is no one in sight. The doors to the cargo hold are and closed and fastened, preventing a casual glance within. The two of them quickly fall into a pattern, each covering the other against possible attack as they begin their search. The forward cabins are completely empty, and the hatches leading below appear to have been nailed shut, so at least they can't be attacked from behind. They make their way aft with care.
Having seen the movement earlier, Val is not taken by surprise. "Down!" The crossbow bolt grazes his arm as he throws himself to the deck. [a mere 2 points] There is the sound of a slamming door, footsteps, and an indistinct shout from belowdecks, but no further attacks come.
He and Emmett are a bit distracted, therefore, when the tense confrontation on the dock resolves itself as the two giff charge with drawn swords. The four raiders might almost have been expecting it, so smoothly do they avoid Bral's defenders to go sprinting for the dock where the _Fair Enough Lass_ is tied up.
"Don't let them board!" the captain barks to the three on the dock; there is nowhere for the raiders to go. Scattered cheering rises from the spectators lingering around the now-empty square.
What happens next defies explanation. Somehow, the three giff get tangled up in one another -- in their eagerness to close battle with these daring pirates one of them has tripped, and the other two stumble over him and try desperately to avoid impaling one another on their swords....
Emmett regains his feet; the shot at Val was clearly the act of a lone desperate defender, and his companion doesn't seem much hurt. He squints at the end of the dock, trying to figure out what's taking them so long, sees the mess and the other two giff approaching at what strikes the marine as less than all possible speed. The thought hits him like the lightning above: The giff are in on it.
... and then the raiders are thundering down the dock and onto their sad old ship.
There is the unmistakable snap of another crossbow, but this time the sound comes from Bral -- from the uppermost balcony of the Three Trees building, to be specific, and the heavy bolt sinks into the _Fair Enough Lass_'s mainmast, out of reach from the deck. There is a rope attached to it. On the balcony a cloaked figure makes the other end fast to the railing. It could be a woman, lightly built man, or elf; not even ibn Fadil can tell for certain.
The tattooed man's expression is unmistakably relieved. He turns to Emmett and Val and says, in a faintly surprised but almost friendly tone, "You really shouldn't be here." He glances over to where the hammership is now nearly in range, and _her_ crew aren't playing around -- they're readying the forward ballistae.
As if to second the warning, the deck shudders slightly beneath their feet. Not an impact -- something else.
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© 2001 Rebecca J. Stevenson