Back on the Ship: Conchobar’s Fall
July 31, 2012 § 1 Comment
There were four crewmen on deck when the armies came. Ambrose, Grok, Mister Wrens (one of the Merchants) and the gnome. Black winds had scared everyone else into the hold. Plugg wouldn’t even answer the door at his cabin, when Conchobar tried to roust him out.
And then they were in the sky.
The Daemon hosts. Three great ogre-things standing on sunlight, crushing it, red and bulbous and old – with hundred foot beards dripping soul-crust and slime. They held screaming shards of the Pit for weapons, maul and spear and sword, grey and green and full of plagues. Between them was a shadow, a suggestion of ill intent smaller than a fly. The Quip.
Beneath them the dark winds began to coalesce into a bridge, into a dry riverbed, into a road. Hordes of gigantic humanoid bears, eagle taloned and ram horned, marched forward. Roaring. The least daemons surged between them, flocks of fishlike creatures the size of ponies, five eyed and wide jawed.
A great roar shook the malevolent quiet. A rumble that killed vermin from the fear, froze men’s hearts, and splintered trees. They fell to their feet, only the gnome and Ambrose struggled up under the sillhouette of wings. A dragon, legend sized and rippling blue, and children. Twenty of them, maybe more. Roaring with the strength of seas. They hovered off the coast, not quite above the island, closer than any on the Promise liked.
Finally, as the Light must be, came heaven-sent the Hosts. Beautiful and bold and shining, unbearable to glance upon. Tears filled pirate eyes, Daemons snarled, necks twitching not to bow their heads. Shield archons, in phalanx form, their legionary spears level with the light. Glowingly behind them, mighty as the dawn, the Star-prince, lesser lord of Morning, Ahl. For were his titles many in the sight of him.
Their voices beat into the crew, striking into mind and soul and tearing. Argument and scream, challenge and counter challenge. Then, from nowhere as the rest had came, a small figure stepped into the sky. From it answered four cloaks, billowing out. Empty, but mighty handed, with stars and cosmos held in the shadows of every fold. White sparked from their left, and black from the others. Quip fled.
The sky exploded. Mister Wrens screamed, stopping with a sickening gurgle as he keeled over. Grok struggled to stand with Ambrose, who was drunk enough his mind was fortified to the sights. Hers was not. She faced the wrath in the skies with broken tusk and bitter rage reminiscent of her ancestry.
As the battle surged back and forth, Conchobar’s face turned grim. It was the first time any of them had ever seen him without a smile. “Those little uns, the daemon ilk, getting chased further out by the young dracklings,” he observed, nodded towards the sight of three or so of the younger dragons hunting down a wing of the fish-things maybe three hundred feet away .
“Should get the Ca…Plugg, should get Plugg to the rouse the crew,” Ambrose mused, quietly.
“Might be late hours for that, Sirrah Cook, even if our honorable and esteemed Mr. Plugg could be roused from his urgent business cringing in a cupboard somewhere,” answered Conchobar, with a scoff and a laugh and exactly the right amount of dashing-full disdain for a coward. A dragon was coming, one of the small ones, maybe only half the size of the Promise itself. It was bleeding from half a dozen wounds, its eyes glazed over in agony.
For a moment the gnome was somber, taking off his hat and with a snap of his wrist and a flourish placing it on Grok’s head. The purple monstrosity looked out of place on her, utterly. The black and white feather stuck up at an angle that made the thing look jaunty even with the brim perfectly flat. He patted her hip with one tiny little hand, squeezing a bit less somberly than matched his face.
“See it gets somewhere good, lass. Like that little ratling missy. Got a swift paw and a sharp knife, and back home..back…. Well. Maybe find me family someday. Tell ‘em all they were right, I’m a damned fool. But damn me for a graceless goblin if it wasn’t fun.”
“I have so, always wanted to do this.” Then he was moving, leaping up the bulwark, onto the rail, and running; cutlass in hand.
“On the witching road I go,
Wind to sails
Mine high and low,
In grassy glades-
In salt and sea
Oh Death has played,
It took a few seconds for Ambrose and Grok to realize what they were seeing. Namely, a gnome charging a dragon. While singing. A spray of scalding salt exploded from the creature’s mouth, skittering across the deck as it crashed into the prow. They dived for cover.
Conchobar leaped, sword first, into the creatures roaring maw, the salt split open his face, which was still grinning. A sickening rip shivered through the air as his cutlass met heavy dragon meat, and bone. Both tumbled backwards into the ocean. Neither came back out.