I jump over the last few steps and into the cargo-hold. There are crates and barrels, like on the other ship, as well as thirteen chests. I let my left limb feed on the dead soldier for as long as I think I can afford before throwing the body aside.
I approach the nearest chest and jam my sword into the hinge to force it open. Inside is a plate armor, a chain-mail, and thick cloth garments. I wouldn’t stand a chance if they wore those. But I get why they don’t, wearing plate on a ship is suicidal. It would have been easy for me to push a few overboard and they would have sunk like steel laced stones.
I ponder for a moment and use my other sense to inspect the crates. I find two containing weapons. A dozen bows with arrows in the first, a dozen swords in the second. Each contains many other miscellaneous items to repair and maintain the weapons, like sharpening stones. I punch gaping holes in both, as a way to mark them for the galley-slaves.
I then empty the Templar chest of most of its contents, leaving the left arm portion of the plate armor inside. It will be useful, but I can’t put it on yet. I notice runes engraved in the back of the breastplate. I try to link to them but my energy doesn’t connect, it simply glides over. Keyed to a user?
No time to waste on that. I search for a crate containing clothes and steal a set for myself, throwing them into the chest. I then close it and drag it along as I make my way to the barrels.
I extend a dozen streams of flow and start linking to the barrels, finding those who contain energy and those who don’t. I don’t force them yet, the Templars and Odo are likely to notice right away when I do. Patience. This is a game of Kaiz, there is a timing to make my move and this isn’t it.
I head upstairs and tell the half-dozen unchained slaves to follow me. It is taking too long to free themselves with only three swords to force their shackles. I point them to the crates containing the weapons. I pick up a second sword, fastening the scabbard to my bare waist.
“What’s your name kid?” I ask.
“Tsek.” He replies, slashing the air with a sword.
“Watch the other galley and yell when it gets within throwing range. Defend the stairs when they rush in, stay on the defensive until you hear battle on the other ship.” I tell him.
“Why is your flow…” Tsek starts, looking at the black-gold energy covering my left arm but finds himself unable to find the words.
“Because I’m E.Vil.” I chuckle. “Now grab the bows and help the others free the rest.”
“What will you be doing?” He asks suspiciously.
“I’ll be swimming back to the other galley to free the other slaves because I want to avoid fighting the Templars who are there and to capture Odo because he’ll be crossing over to this ship as soon as they link up.” I reply.
“… that doesn’t make sense.” Tsek notes, distraught.
“It makes perfect sense, you’ll see.” I giggle.
“Are you mad?” He asks, eyes wide. “We’re…”
“We’re not going to die for you to take advantage of the distraction and run.” A tall muscular man intervenes.
“You’ll fight because you broke your chains. They’ll beat you into submission and make examples if you surrender or lose.” I utter coldly. “You’ll fight because I will win, because you want to be free, because you want to slaughter those who put us in these shackles.”
The man and the kid remain mute. Intimidated or convinced, I couldn’t care less. I wave my hand impatiently towards the Templar’s chests to get them to take the chain-mails and leave.
Too bad that a chain-mail would be too heavy for me to take with as my, still-forming, plan hinges on mobility and deception. Can’t swim with fifteen kilograms of steel on my shoulders and I’m not even sure the chest will float with just the left arm plate inside.
Half the slaves rush back with the swords to help liberate their comrades of misfortune while the rest pick up and carry the rest of the equipment upstairs. I sit down on my chest and split my internal reserves of energy into twelve streams.
There are two dozen barrels of flow but I don’t want to overextend myself. I prepare by infiltrating half. I surround my enemies’ links to cut them and take over when the time is right, or if they try to pull the flow to themselves before all is in place.
I focus on my other sense and scrutinize the upper deck. Soldiers are preparing grappling hooks, others are still searching the sea’s surface with flow torches, but there is a group of three headed to the rowers’ deck. Ah, of course, the slaves stopped rowing.
An oversight, I only had a vague idea of the plan I needed to follow to shape the events in my favor, to begin with. The danger of improvising is that you can’t think of everything. How do I solve this? Simple. My flow is in place and I know which barrels contain energy, I don’t actually need to be here.
I get up and pick up my chest. I rush upstairs, arriving a few seconds before the soldiers coming down to check on the forty galley-slaves do.
“Shoot them!” I whisper urgently, pointing at the stairs.
Those holding bows nock their arrows while the others hug the sides to give them a clear shot. The three soldiers’ feet emerge from above, the rest of them obstructed by the upper deck’s floor.
The smart thing would be to wait, but the overeager criminals shoot as soon as they see something to aim at. A dozen arrows fly, hitting foot, calf, and wood. They fall down the stairs, yelping in surprise and pain.
“Dammit.” I groan.
I target soldiers with one of my prepared lightning constructs, only seven left, and barely wait for the air to be charged to activate it. Crack. The bright bolt flashes and impacts them.
It doesn’t kill or incapacitate them, far from it, but it does stun them long enough for the slaves to rush in and finish them off before they can yell or make enough noise to reach the upper deck. The galley-slaves cheer at their victory, bloody swords held high.
“Grab your oars!” I bark. “We need both galleys to link up for this to work.”
“We’re not yours to order around!” The muscular man snaps.
I walk up to him, wanting to headbutt his nose to teach him some manners and gratitude but the closer I approach, the taller he gets. That’s just plain unfair. He looks down at me, lips curled in defiance.
“I don’t have time for this, and neither do you.” I declare in an icy tone.
He opens his mouth to answer. I proceed to shut it with a mean left punch to the gut. My knee comes up just as he doubles over, hitting the side of his face. He falls to the side, gasping for air and holding his right cheekbone.
Lucky him, I was aiming at his nose. I glare at the slaves, watching me with wide eyes. I bring my heel down, stomping the wooden deck. They flinch and hurry back to their benches to grab their oars and start rowing.
I focus on what’s happening outside. No one else is headed this way, the soldiers are busy with other tasks like searching for me and preparing to grapple the other galley. Besides, the three we just killed did fulfill their mission, the galley-slaves are back to their posts.
The bridge is out of my detection radius so I move towards the stern. The captain and helmsman are in front of the steering wheel, focused on their job rather than trying to figure out what happened here. They’ll get curious soon, but not soon enough.
The other galley enters my range, it’s rowing backward. Both ships are maneuvering to position themselves side by side. The captain talks into his hand and his voice comes out of the sound construct.
“Bring the oars in!” He orders.
The slaves do and the galleys’ momentum makes them drift close enough for the soldiers to throw their grappling hooks. The hulls are brought together, port-side to starboard.
I grin. As predicted, Odo is the first one to hop over the guardrail to this ship with an escort of ten bodyguards wearing hard leather armor, Grace isn’t far behind. Fear makes you easy to read, Count, you would obviously wouldn’t stay on a damaged ship.
I wait for a few moments, just to ensure that the Templars aren’t transferring over yet. I find Vikiana, on the other ship’s bridge. She is scrutinizing the sea, with enhanced eyesight to pierce the darkness no doubt. No matter, I will be hidden by the hull.
The galley-slaves are ready to defend the stairs, seventeen of them are armed with swords, a dozen with bows, the rest have no weapons other than the oars they broke to use as clubs.
I turn my attention to the barrels in the cargo-hold. Time to switch it up. I overpower the dozen links all at once, consuming half my energy to break the Templars’ and Nobles’ connections. I then swiftly seize the flow and make use of it to take control of the last twelve barrels before they can react.
Odo freezes on the upper deck, half-way up to the bridge. I take ownership of the rest of the flow. He suddenly flips around and runs back to the other galley, Vikiana and her Templars do the opposite, rushing to board over to this one. Grace remains on this one’s bridge, but she is of no import.
I giggle. Odo is afraid of me. I pull the flow to myself. There is enough to fill my reserves five times over. I anchor the surplus over my limb to store it and thicken the glow concealing my symbiont. I make the seven lightning constructs I prepared hover above the galley-slaves’ heads, injecting a bit more energy to fuel that.
It’s a lot easier to control constructs without line of sight than I would think it would be because of my other sense. I stick my second sword into the chest and approach an oar hatch on starboard, the side on the opposite of the other galley. I take hold of the edge and tear planks off until it’s wide enough for the chest.
I then throw it out through the opening. It lands in a splash and then floats back up. I nod in satisfaction and turn to the slaves. A few are watching me, a handful starring at the black-gold lightning construct spheres, the rest are focused on the stairs.
“I’m severing my connection to those constructs, you only have to target and activate them. Use them as a last resort but don’t lose your spirit if you lose the choke-point, retreat to the cargo-hold.” I tell them. “I’m going to wage chaos upon them, you need to hold until I attack from behind.”
I don’t give myself enough time to let my newly born fear of drowning and jump out through the widened hatch. I keep one hand on the sword at my waist so that it doesn’t fall off. I notice that I’m laughing just before hitting the water and hurriedly close my mouth.
I swim to the floating chest and take hold of it with my right hand. My left limb is strong enough to keep me afloat and searing through the water with my other arm makes the patched up bones vibrate, an extremely painful sensation.
I assemble lion’s step constructs and activate them to quickly make my way around this galley to the other one, hugging the hull to avoid being seen. I’m making quite a bit of noise but far from enough to be distinguishable over Odo, Grace, and the captain all shouting orders to the soldiers.
The battle in the rowers’ deck’s staircase begins, arrows are loosened and soldiers fall. I want to chuckle, but that would let seawater in my mouth. I end up doing so anyway, but inside my cheeks.
There is a panel of golden energy underwater, blocking the hole I made in the ship’s bow, I detect five soldiers in my cell, they’re ankle-deep in water. I assemble a lighting construct with two portions of flow and send it inside the cargo-hold, behind them.
As soon as the air around them is charged, I activate the construct. The five convulse, writhe, and drop. The panel construct that is blocking water from entering the hull bursts, accompanied by a small current of electricity that courses through me. I shake my head, chasing the tickle away.
I destroyed it despite not targeting it? Huh, interesting. That construct wasn’t made by these soldiers, I’m almost certain of that since they wouldn’t have the reserves necessary to create or maintain it.
Which means, it didn’t shatter because they were controlling it and lost consciousness but because my construct somehow made it lose coherence. It was made of compressed air, I assume, a variation of the air-blade construct. A weakness I can exploit.
I refocus on my objective. I open the chest and angle it to let water in. It starts sinking so I close it and take a deep breath. I assemble more lion’s steps and plunge underwater, kicking seawater and activating them.
I find the current of seawater flooding the galley and make use of it. It throws me into the cargo-hold, chest still in hand but a lot heavier. I open it and take the equipment out, rushing up towards the rowers’ deck. I do check the barrels for flow but find them all empty, no matter
There are four soldiers guarding the slaves. Vikiana is on the other ship but she hasn’t reacted to the construct breaking, and I’m quite certain that it was hers. She likely cut her connection to it so that the soldiers, that I just took out, could link to it.
Lucky, I hadn’t planned to break it because I didn’t want to dive and this puts me on a timer. I absolutely need to win the battle for this ship before it is reinforced now that it’s sinking.
I stop in the middle of the staircase, out of sight from the soldiers and galley-slaves. I put the drenched clothes on before getting started on setting the pieces of plate armor I stole on my left arm.
I first strap the vambrace over my forearm, then the revebrace to my upper arm. Next is… the couter since it attaches to both and protects the elbow. Last two pieces are larger and fit over my shoulder and hand, the pauldron and gauntlet.
See, Mother, my fondness for all things Templar was useful after all. I remember with fondness how she humored my constant interruptions to ask for details when she told me of their legend.
I tighten the straps fixing the armor plates over my left arm before flexing it to make sure they don’t hinder its movements. Perfect, it isn’t slowing me down any, although the pauldron is rubbing against my neck when I move. I fold my collar, wedging it between steel and skin.
Sword in hand, I finish climbing the stairs. The galley-slaves notice me first, alerting the five soldiers. I loosen my control over my symbiont, telling it that there is danger afoot. I would be easier to stay on defense but I can’t give them enough time to sound the alarm.
I rush my opponents, assembling lion strikes. Incoming slash, high right to low left. I lean under it and slide to the right, avoiding the blade and delivering a mean hip-level horizontal lion strike. My sword cuts through the woman’s thighs without even slowing down.
She drops, bleeding profusely from the two deep wounds. Clink. My left arm blocks a blow coming from the soldier on the same side. I push past him towards the other three, chaos and promiscuity will favor me when fighting outnumbered.
From the position of my right arm, I deliver a backhanded upward diagonal slash to my next target who is throwing a lion strike stab. Its path is so clear that I don’t even feel in danger as I slip by. My attacker receives the point of my sword in his throat.
I leave the blade there and to get past him without slowing down. Clink. My limb redirects a counter-attack towards at my neck from his comrade. I throw myself at the last enemy in the file. The impact throws her to the ground before she can bring her weapon down.
A kick to her wrist disarms her. I activate a lion strike to unsheathe my second sword, extending its duration mid-arc to finish her off in one brutal, disgraceful, swipe to her forehead that splits her cranium wide open.
I find myself facing no one, my two last opponents behind my back. I rise back to my full height but don’t turn to face them. The bait is so obvious that they hesitate.
They approach carefully, two in front, one behind as there only so much space in the alleyway between the slave benches. I chuckle and prepare my lion strike, bringing my blade over my left shoulder.
The two soldiers yell to rouse their spirits and deliver downward attacks that mirror each other, one from the left, one from the right. They’re both aiming at my mid-section to make it harder for me to dodge.
I crouch down and jump back. The goal is to both pass under the swords’ current position and through the dangerous area before they are lowered enough to hit. I feel a sharp edge slice the top of my right shoulder, it doesn’t cut deep as I am moving away from it.
I land between them, forcing them aside as we are clustered in too small a space. I spin on myself while extending my blade, deeply cutting the one on my right under the ribs. The other one flips to a backhanded grip and tries to stab me.
My symbiont slaps the sword aside and that gives me the time I need to jam the point of my weapon into his heart. All dead. That went well, apart from that small cut to my right shoulder. Too close to my neck for comfort.
The galley-slaves are staring at me, baffled and disbelieving. I give them a small bow and then wipe my blade on the clothes of the woman who bled out. I sheathe it and recover my primary sword, that I left in a soldier’s throat.
“Thanks for taking such good care of it.” I tell the dead man. I turn to the galley-slaves. “Well, what are you waiting for, a damn back-rub?” I ask.
The words wake the criminals. They start talking at once, producing a cacophony of questions, expressions of amazement, and worried comments instead of the rush for freedom I expected. Ah, they were walked in front of those who were hung for trying to escape.
“Quiet.” I order. “Whatever happens tonight, Odo will not survive.” I declare.
“How can you be so sure? I heard he…”
“Because the first thing I’m doing is tearing his tongue out of his vicious little skull.” I utter with a bloodthirsty grin.
The galley-slaves don’t discuss their options for long. The manner in which I dispatched of their guards leaves little room for doubt, and neither does my tone. I focus on exterior events.
Odo is on the bridge with his ten bodyguards, he is nervously touching his sword’s handle while watching the battle in the other ship’s staircase. It’s a mess down there, the soldiers rushed in like a mob and the Templars are struggling to get to the front-lines.
I can detect at least three different people barking orders, Vikiana, Grace, and the captain. Fools, they haven’t noticed that I’m not there anymore and that this ship is already dipping. I went where the Templars were to avoid fighting them and where Odo wasn’t to kill him.
“I told them my plan made complete sense.” A maniacal laugh escapes my lips.