Chronicles of Draezoln

Tales of the world of Draezoln

Monthly Archives: March 2016

Chapter 11-1

Chapter 11: Tower of Mages

“There are times when secrets must be kept, it is true… but much more often, I find them dangerous. So often they are tools used to seek power over others, ones that are difficult to fight as they are unknown. And so I am always wary of those who would hide their purposes from others, for I fear in their heart they dream themselves kings.” — Garkhen

One of the freed slaves was a mage skilled in wind magic, so they made good time. On the second day they saw sails behind them, but they didn’t draw much closer over the next week. But about eight days out from the pirate base, Zakhin’Dakh dove back down towards the deck in the middle of one of his frequent “I’m bored with sitting around” flights.

More things that way! He screeched to Almonihah, pointing ahead of the ship.

“Ships?” Almonihah asked in Common, for the sake of everyone else around.

The big griffon nodded. Yeah!

“How many ships?”

Two!

“Zakhin’Dakh says there’s two ships ahead ‘f us,” Almonihah translated.

This was hardly taken as welcome news, but there was nothing for it. If they turned one way or the other, the ships behind them might catch up, and those ones they knew were pirates. These ones… well, they could hope.

It wasn’t long before the lookouts could see the sails, and then everyone aboard the ship. It was a long, tense time, however, until anyone could tell whose ships they were.

“They’re flying Midport’s flag!” One of the lookouts called out, to be greeted with weary cheers.

The tension was not entirely gone as they neared the pair of ships, for pirates were known to fly false flags, but the closer they came, the more it seemed they were who they proclaimed they were. Soon enough a mage on the prow of the first of the pair of ships called out, his voice magically carried on the wind, “Who are you to sail with no flag?”

“Escaped prisoners, fleeing pirates,” the captain replied to the air, assuming the spell would carry his voice back. “If you’re hunting some, there’s at least a pair following us.”

There was a moment of silence before the voice returned. “Stand by to be inspected. If you’re who you say you are, you’re welcome to our protection… and we’ll want to ask you some questions. If not, you’ll find it was not wise to lie.” 

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Ooo, look at the ominous chapter title…

Chapter 10-10

An arrow thunked into the wood of the tower next to Almonihah, and he turned to look at where it had come from. It seemed one of the other towers was manned by someone who had guessed at his distraction, though fortunately he hadn’t had the aim to match. Almonihah’s return shot didn’t strike home, either, but it got a lot closer… but he knew he couldn’t count on being lucky for too much longer.

He turned and fired a single arrow high into the air, then whirled and fired some more shots at the guards still up on the walls. He wanted to give his friends the best chance he could.

Zakhin’Dakh perked up as he saw the glowing arrow flying upward, then took to the air. Garkhen held on as the big griffon sped towards the wall, homing in on one of the other towers. Too late the archer heard the flapping of great wings before huge talons tore into him. Arrows rose up to meet him, but Garkhen was chanting a spell-prayer of warding, deflecting them away from Zakhin’Dakh as he wheeled and dove towards the archers firing at him. They scattered, but not all could avoid his talons.

With the two half-dragons and griffon drawing so much attention, the other raiders had been able to reach their goal. The spreading group of pirates within the fort found itself met by silent shapes in the darkness, while others reached the slave pens. Soon Almonihah could hear the shouts of freed slaves, now armed against their captors, spilling out into the tight streets of the fort.

Zakhin’Dakh continued assaulting anyone who fired an arrow in his direction, or towards others he knew were his friends, while Almonihah kept up his withering barrage of fire at any pirates he could identify. But the pirate fort was large, and he thought he saw a lot more torches over too far for him to shoot. They didn’t have much time.

The pirates nearby were mostly dead or in hiding by now, so the raiders started separating out the freed slaves. “Any who can sail, with us to the ships!”

Zakhin’Dakh continued harrying any pirates who tried to stop them as the former slaves and their saviors split into two groups—one headed back over the wall, the other down to the docks, where one large ship lay near-ready to sail. Any pirates that had once guarded it had fallen in the battle or fled, and so the freed sailors were able to board unopposed, covered by griffon and half-dragons.

There was a moment’s reprieve, while they rushed to ready the ship to cast off while the raiders faded back into the woods with the other freed slaves who would not sail today. Then Almonihah saw a large mass of lights coming towards them from the rest of the fort, and took off towards the boat. Zakhin’Dakh saw and followed.

They landed on deck just as the sailors cast off, still working to get all of the sails out, but with enough already catching a gentle breeze to start the ship moving. A shout sounded behind them as the pirate counter-attack drew close enough for some to see what was happening, and Garkhen hurriedly dismounted and ran to the aft of the ship, chanting another spell-prayer to ward off the few arrows that reached them as they got underway.

A palpable sense of relief swept the motley crew as they drew far enough from the shore that no more arrows struck Garkhen’s ward. The man at the tiller looked back over the odd lot on deck and called out to the half-dragons, “Thanks for the rescue! Never thought I’d get out of that hole, much less back to my ship. Anything I can do for you or your friends back there, I will, and I’m sure the rest of this lot agrees!”

A ragged cheer rose as Almonihah turned and walked towards him. “Get us t’ Midport, fast ‘s you can, ‘nd that’ll be all we need.”

“Hear that, lads? All he wants is what we already wanted. Now get to it! Let’s not be around when that lot back there gets it in their heads to sail after us.”

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Whew! It took a long time to finish this chapter. But there’s more Almonihah art! And our heroes are at last back on their way! I’m sure nothing else can go wrong… 

Chapter 10-9

The hum of bowstrings warned the sentries too late, and those on this side of the wall fell before they could so much as shout. But their fall was not unnoticed, and soon cries of alarm sounded from within the stockade.

Almonihah swiftly flew forward, outpacing the warriors now charging from the jungle as he swooped up to one of the towers now emptied of its sentry. Once in place he quickly took stock of the situation—mostly just sentries on other sections of the wall were moving, but there seemed to be a few people quickly darting between buildings. They might be their allies, freeing slaves… or enemies, waking reinforcements.

He couldn’t tell from here, even with his draconic eyesight. And so he turned his bow on the other sentries, arrows blazing in the night as they streaked towards their targets. Without the element of surprise it was much more difficult for him to kill at this distance, but his arrows did keep them on the defensive, scrambling for cover instead of firing on his allies charging across the cleared ground to the walls.

Garkhen, meanwhile, was seated on Zakhin’Dakh’s back, strapped into the saddle as he waited anxiously for the signal. The big griffon, was tense, nervously scratching at the ground as he thought of his friend in danger without him.

The first of the warriors reached the wall, slinging ropes with rough grapnels up to hook onto the top of the stockade, and then lightly climbing up. More followed as the first ones reached the top of the wall, and soon Almonihah had to be wary of where he shot his arrows on the wall, as well.

A loud shout came from within the compound, and several torches blazed to life as a group of men poured out of one of the buildings. Peering at them, the half-bronze dragon could see that they did not have the look of desperate, recently-freed slaves, and that they were well-armed, and so he turned his bow on them. After a couple arrows struck home the group scattered somewhat, spreading out to avoid making it so easy to hit one of them. 

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I know, another short post. Sorry! But look

Why is Almonihah fighting a half-silver dragon? Why is his form so terrible? And when is this happening? Well… I’ll just say it’s a hint of the things to come in the next Draezoln book! Now I just need to finish this one… 

Chapter 10-8

The preparations took days. There were agents to contact, plans to review, revise, or reject, provisions to gather, weapons and skills to sharpen, and a host of other tasks to improve their chances of success. The three friends were hardly left out of this work—their parts would be just as vital to the attack as any others’. And when they were not training or discussing plans, the village always need another pair of strong arms (or a huge griffon) for the more ordinary tasks of life so that others could prepare for the battle ahead.

The basics of the plan were simple—their agents in the pirate base would stash some weapons near the slave pens, then watch for a day when most of the pirates were gone on a raid but at least one seaworthy ship was still in port. Then they would signal the others. That night they would attack from without, while those inside would open the slave pens and distribute what weapons they had brought among the slaves, who would then fight from within.

They did not think they could destroy the pirate base entirely, which surprised Almonihah and Garkhen. Rather, they hoped that the chaos would be sufficient for the half-dragons and Zakhin’Dakh to get to a ship with a number of former slaves and depart before all of the pirates awakened and armed themselves.

Waiting for the right day took longer even than the preparations, leaving much time to debate the finer points of the plan and argue back and forth over small details. But finally the signal came. The rest of the day was spent gathering all they had prepared and stealthily moving through the jungle towards the pirate base (Zakhin’Dakh stayed some distance away, in a clearing he could take off from).

Once night was fully fallen, Almonihah and a couple dozen elven archers, keen-eyed even in the dim light of a crescent moon, came to the edge of the jungle around the pirates’ stockade. No watch-fires burned, for the pirate sentries had learned they only made targets easier to see while ruining their own night vision. But still they could be made out, a handful of dark shapes slowly moving about, only partly obscured behind their fortifications.

The archers quietly nocked arrows. Two or three aimed at each sentry. Then they drew back their bowstrings…  

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I apologize for missing a week last week and then having a short post today. My weekends have been full of activities with friends and family, as have many of my weekday evenings.