The Flight of The Draykes
I’ll give it to those Balakashes. They were persistent.
They were in the same situation as we were in and yet no matter how much of a gap we opened, come daylight and the ticks of their marks on the horizon would again be seen, albeit vaguely.
Our sailors rowed and rowed as the Captain of the ship - a black-haired, ruddy-faced gentleman with the foulest mouth I have ever had the misfortune of hearing - kept furrowing his brows with an expression that got more and more twisted as time passed.
2 days later, and we were a day away from our target island, aptly named the Asylum Holm, though where the river was, Bal only knew.
But our supplies had finished half-a-day ago and our rowers were now hungry and tired and the wind was leeward to the direction we were heading in, making the rowing all the tougher.
As the piper’s sweat flowed and his beating of the drums played incessantly, the atmosphere on the ship was also changing imperceptibly.
For the worse, that is.
The quartermaster was wringing his hands all the time, and the boatswain had a look on his face that could curdle milk, while the two men in charge of either side of the deck of rowers had nervous looks on their faces.
As more time passed, the atmosphere had darkened to a level where you could taste it on your tongue. A dark and heavy, dour feeling it was.
Sniffing, the Captain, Sir Saylor, licked the tip of his finger before raising it and then snorting as he said, “A storm comes.”
He wasn’t quiet about it and everyone knew, but strangely; the refugees were the calmest of us all.
I suppose being the household of the Sea Drayke’s Viscount meant they knew their way around the ship, but I didn’t understand why they were just huddled together and not helping.
Then the wind changed and Sir Saylor bellowed, “Unfurl the storm sails!” and the deck crew jumped to the lashings and with a rushing sound, the windward wind filled our sails and our rowers drew in the oars with a sigh of relief.
The Captain, with a grim expression, held on to the steering oars and he shouted out, “Lash yourselves to the railings and anything you can see, we’re in for a rough one!”
So we did.
I made sure Faust was safe first before staying beside him and securing myself.
And then the storm was upon us and the ship shuddered as we crested tall waves before crashing down with a thunderous sound.
At one point, the captain must have called for the oars to come out as pained shouts kept sounding out and the beat of the drum that the piper was beating escalated to a crescendo that could be heard even above the thunder.
Then everything went quiet and praying to Falka; I hoped it was over.
After a long time, someone came to the hold to tell us it was safe to come to the deck.
Heaving a sigh of relief, I checked on Faust to make sure that the rough tumbling had not caused any damage, and heaving another sigh of relief, I waited till Ares came down to take my place before I went to the deck.
To be greeted by a sight of devastation.
The deck planks were splintered, and the sails were torn in many places.
The oarsmen lay exhausted over their oars, quite a few of them with broken bones and bleeding hands.
The Captain, Sir Saylor, had a manic gleam in his eyes as he stared rigidly ahead.
Following his gaze, I realized what he was looking at.
In the far-off distance lay a speck that was gradually getting larger, and the poop that landed in front of my foot alerted me to the presence of a bird circling high in the air.
“Land,” The Captain spat out.
We had reached Asylum Holm faster than we had thought. Either that or the storm had been very long.
Glancing at the weary oarsmen, I thought it was a combination of the two.
Looking back at where we had come from, I saw that the ticks on the horizon were no longer there and instead serene seas greeted me.
Seeing where I was looking, the Captain shot a look at me before he said in a gruff voice, “They’ll be back. Or they might already be in front of us. You can’t tell, especially with the sea being so capricious.”
Silently, I nodded and watched as other people staggered to their feet and about.
Staying on deck and enjoying the air, I looked up at the sky and then froze as I saw a resplendent rainbow.
Awed, many others also stood on the deck and pointed at the rainbow.
A smile breaking out on my face, I thought, “The rainbow comes only after the rains.”
Looking down as though I could see past the planking and straight to Faust, I whispered, “Our rainbow will also come.”
A few hours later and the land in front of us had expanded into what was definitely an island, though some of us were still uncertain whether it was Asylum Holm, while the Captain was decidedly unconcerned as he steered us inward.
Finally, selecting a spot to beach, he expertly turned the ship until it faced outward and then the rowers with the last bit of their energy rowed us stern first onto the beach where we ran aground with a dull scrape with the last of the momentum.
Jumping over the sides, the sailors, all together heaved the lightened warship onto the beach before they busily walked around examining it for damage and crying out their findings.
Meanwhile, I stayed on the ship with Faust and the heavily wounded while Ares kept me company.
The Knights were discussing who to send to procure supplies, as Asylum Holm, despite its proximity to the coastline, was a deserted island filled with dangers and lunatics who had made it home.
Finally, 3 of our knights, 5 of our soldiers, and all of Viscount Drayke’s men were sent out, leaving us with 6 knights, including the unfamiliar gold rank knight, and 15 men. This was not counting the refugees, the sailors, and the marines.
Settling down as comfortably as we could, the sailors went happily to fish and forage in the nearby areas without going too far and the refugees also relaxed a bit while the marines stayed on guard vigilantly.
Barely an hour had passed when a sailor who was at the edge of the trees yelled out piercingly before he stopped mid-yell.
Tensely, the people ashore looked in the direction from which it had come from before while the knights, soldiers, and marines formed a tight line around the ship and the gathered sailors who were running back to safety.
We didn’t have to wait long before men and women began streaming out from the tree line and forming into a line formation that stared at us unblinkingly.
Swallowing hard, I fought back the urge to join our shieldwall beside the ship and instead grabbed Ares and, jerking my head, told him to go below deck to where Faust lay in the hold.
Trusting that he would tell the rest of the conscious wounded soldiers what was happening, I stood at the entrance to the hold from the deck, where I could survey what was going on and at the same time defend from, should the fighting reach the ship.
Then the enemy began crashing their weapons against their shields and with the screech of armor upon armor, they charged...to battle.