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.”
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…