The Tale of Ander Collins--Chapter Twenty One

Fiction By LoriAnn // 10/27/2009

 

                             
Six large ships with black sails and red-painted hulls crouched in the harbor, leering at the small island port with malicious intent. However, their decks were mostly empty – which might have been a good thing…if it didn’t mean that all of their sailors were storming through the streets of Gresham.
Ander and Jagsod stood in the shadows of a surf-worn warehouse, while Thraluic and Ravin scouted ahead. Across the street, Dorlan and Shyllen held their breath, the soft gleam of their weapons the only hint that anyone lay in wait.
Ander flexed his grip on the borrowed sword that Uncle Ravin had leant him. He wiped a sweaty palm on his breeches, and glanced at Jagsod. The ogre youth seemed relaxed and confident, his large bulk surprisingly stealthy as they slipped through the streets.
Uncle Ravin had guessed at once that the harbor was being attacked by Sea Raiders – the only pirates daring enough to attack cities protected by the mainland navy. But the Royal Alkemen Navy was currently mid-way through a shift in postings, and the new ships weren’t due to drop anchor at Scyth for another week. The pirates, with their thumbs in every pie and ears in every government chamber, knew this.
And so, they attacked.
Darkly-tanned, wiry men ransacked the town; breaking windows and looting shops, swiping indiscriminately with their cutlasses at anyone who got in their way. They did not seek out victims, but if a hapless merchant or townsman got in their way…Ander swallowed back bile and tried to drown out the images of half-lit figures he had seen, lying so very still on the cobblestone streets.
Now, they waited in the dim recesses of the alley, anticipating the all-clear signal from Thraluic and Ravin.
A low whistle sounded from the next block. “Come on,” Jagsod grunted, his yellow eyes darting watchfully about. The two boys cautiously left the shelter of their gloom-dimmed nook and hurried down the street, blades held at the ready.
Thraluic motioned impatiently with his hand. “Make haste, lads,” he said in a low, intense voice. “We don’t have all night.”
Ander scurried faster. It was true—they didn’t have a whole lot of leeway. Ravin knew that most of his men were either currently out at sea; or else home with their families, outside the city. But he owned a large warehouse down by the docks, and at least five men were living there at the moment, working as guards and wharf-men while their fellow sailors where out of port.
“This is Celzara’s doing, I’m sure of it. She’s employed pirates before—and she knows we have the Vial.” he had said, turning from the parlor where they all stood gazing out the window. “I need to make sure my men are safe, I’ll be back soon.”
Aunt Maire had grabbed his elbow. “Oh, no you don’t,” she said forcefully. “Not without at least taking Dorlan along.”
Ravin shook his head. “It won’t take me but an hour to get down there, get my men out, and make it back here. More than one man is likely to be noticed.”
Dorlan had planted his feet and crossed his arms defiantly. “I’m coming with you, Dad,” he said.
“Me too,” added Thraluic, “And my young friends, if they desire. If we’re noticed, we’re noticed; but you’ll need the backup.”
Ravin met Ander’s eye. Ander couldn’t keep the glare of disappointment out of his gaze, and the older man had sighed. He looked away and said “Very well. I suppose you’ll need weapons?”
Ravin himself carried a graceful havolack blade, something like a cross between a thin rapier and a stronger saber. It was not ornately decorated, and had only a simple, wide crosspiece on the hilt; but even Ander’s uneducated eye could tell that it was a fine sword.
Dorlan, on the other hand, wore a beautiful, two-handed broadsword, with a gold hilt and a vine-like design of paler steel swirling down the blade itself. Ander couldn’t keep his eyes off the lovely thing, which seemed to gleam with a light of its own in the dark, fire-lit streets.
Dorlan caught him staring. “It’s Feielve work,” he said in a low voice, as they waited for a small pack of Raiders to leave a shop down the block. “Father brought it from the Denwold when he left. He says that it rightfully belongs to me, because it was made ages ago for the crown prince to wield. Family heirloom, you see.”
Ander nodded and slid his gaze down the lane, where the five Sea Raiders were exiting the shop that they had been plundering.
“They’re coming this way,” he said, worried. “I don’t think they can miss seeing us here.”
Ravin looked down at him reassuringly, and was about to say something, when a harsh cry rang out.
“Oy!” One of the Raiders shouted. “Here’s some proper fun, me boyos!”
Thraluic grunted. “They’re onto us,” he said warningly. “Ravin?”
Ander’s uncle looked out at the approaching men and nodded grimly. “We can handle them.”
Together, Ravin, Thraluic and Dorlan stepped out into the open street, their blades held at the ready. Ander glanced at Shyllen and Jagsod.
The ogre grinned bloodthirstily. “Ready to kick some Raider tail?” he asked, his yellow eyes glinting.
Ander swallowed his nerves and grinned back—if a little shakily. “Let’s do this.”
The Raider’s eyes widened a bit when they saw the six armed figures facing them down, but the shortest one, who seemed to be a leader; just cackled meanly.
“Get ‘em, lads!”
The Raiders charged, and met the comrades with shouts and flashing blades. Two men plunged right past Thraluic and Ravin and came at Ander from the left. Gripping his sword tightly—but not too tightly, he remembered Shyllen’s lesson—he swung hard at the first attacker. The heavy blade connected solidly with the Raiders, and the man gave him a look of evil delight over the crossed swords.
His mouth was full of brown, broken teeth, and Ander was distracted for the barest, half-second by the man’s odorous breath. That was all the fellow needed to disengage his sword from Anders and swing a sweeping down-cut aimed at splitting Ander’s head in two.
Fortunately, fighting with Shyllen and learning to evade her vicious blows at his head and shoulders had trained Ander well. He ducked and sidestepped, forcing the Raider to follow through on the now-pointless move he had committed to. The sailor cursed, and brought his sword up with lightning quickness to whirl a slicing attack on Ander’s guard.
Caught off-balance by the man’s speed, Ander had to go on the defensive, parrying several blows that shuddered through his arms. He backed up, until his back was nearly touching the wall of a nearby building. Ander took his eyes off the Raider’s face for a brief second to check on his friends.
In that instant, he saw that Thraluic and Ravin were both fighting like mad dervishes, their blades flickering impossibly fast as they attacked the criminals. Jagsod and Dorlan were back-to-back, and the ogre had a look of pure excitement on his craggy face while he exchanged blows with the skinny pirate leader.
Then Ander shifted his mind back to his own fight. Just in time, too; for the Raider had just feinted to the left. If Ander hadn’t brought his full attention back at that moment, he might have followed through on the bait. Instead, he spotted the man’s clumsy attempt at fooling him, and instead brought his own weapon whirling in from the right.
With a sickening thud, the bright blade buried itself deep in the Raider’s side. Both Ander and his enemy looked down in disbelief as dark stains began to spread across the man’s side.
“I…I’m sorry,” Ander stammered inanely, his eyes fixed on the suddenly-still sword. His mind slowed to a crawl as he tried to process what had just happened.
The Raider’s hand loosened on his sword, and he slowly sank to the cold, wet ground. A gasp of pain wrenched itself from his lungs, and he shot Ander a look of such boiling-hot hatred that the boy stepped back, pressing his back against the wall for support. He had let go of his sword-hilt when the man began to fall, and now he looked at his hands in horror, as if they were something altogether alien.
“Ander!”
Thraluic’s voice ripped through the fog that had filled Ander’s brain, and he looked up in time to see Shyllen leap into the air with a flying kick to her attacker’s head. The man went down like a rock, and Shyllen landed not three feet from where Ander stood over the man he had wounded. She looked down in surprise.
“You beat him?”
Ander shook his head wordlessly, stepped over the still-glaring, gasping man; and rejoined his friends. All of the Sea Raiders lay either unconscious or wounded on the rough cobblestone street. Ander refused to look more closely, to see if any of them were actually dead.
“Get your sword, son,” Ravin said, pointing over Ander’s shoulder. Ander tensed, and refused to look back.
“I don’t need it.”
“You may need it yet, boy,” his uncle said firmly.
Jagsod held up a meaty hand. “Wait there, Ander,” he said, with unexpected calmness. He turned back and went to the man Ander had wounded, who had managed to prop himself against the wall.
Ander lowered his head, ashamed; and yet still glad that his friend had volunteered.
There was a sharp thud, and Jagsod reappeared, holding Ander’s sword in his green-skinned fist. “Here,” he said to Ander, and handed him the blade hilt first. “And if it makes you feel any better, I doubt he’ll die. You got him good, but as soon as his fellows wake up, they’ll find help.”
Ander looked at the ogre gratefully. Jagsod winked. “Oh, and I knocked him out too. So at least he’s not in pain at the moment.”
Ravin snorted. “Kindness is wasted on the Sea Raiders,” he said, spinning on his heel and stalking off down the street. “These men are the very worst of society’s rejects.”
“That doesn’t mean that they deserve death at our hands,” Thraluic said with a thinly-veiled rebuke in his tone.
Ravin merely grunted. “Be that as it may…” he continued, as the six of them turned down another, less well-kept street. Warehouses lined the lane, and a sudden wafting breeze brought a thick, pungent smell of fish and stagnant water. “We’re almost there. We have no time to play nursemaid to a bunch of Raiders.”
The group turned a corner, and saw yet another street, lined with tall, windowless warehouses. But this lane was open at the end, and Ander saw the vague shapes of ships and reefed sails, silhouetted against the dim starlight. He cast a quick glance at the sky and shook his head, half-unable to believe that it had been mere hours since he and Shyllen had sat on the cliff and talked. The same clock bell he had heard earlier sounded again, much closer now. Two o’clock.
Ravin pulled a small ring of keys from his waistcoat pocket, and strode quickly to the door of one of the buildings. Warehouse 17, the sign above the door wearily proclaimed in chipped paint and worn wood. Ravin slipped a key into the lock and turned it quickly.
“Hurry, now,” he said, motioning them inside and holding the door open.
Ander followed Dorlan into the dark space behind the door and stopped, afraid of tripping over unseen obstacles in the thick darkness.
Scritch. A light flared with the sound of a match striking. Dorlan lit a small lantern hanging on a hook beside the entrance and stood back while his father locked the door behind them.
“Alright. Follow me,” Ravin ordered, pocketing the keys and taking the lantern from his son. “This is the part where we hope that no Raiders have gotten in yet.”
Ander sheathed his sword and ventured deeper into the bowels of the shipping warehouse, the smells of wood, straw, and foreign spices filling his nose. Jagsod sneezed.
They wound their way through tall stacks of wooden pallets and crates, following a path of hard-packed sawdust. Ander was reminded of Thraluic’s treasure cave, before Celzara’s devastating attack.
“Don’t take another step, or you’ll find an arrow in your gullet,” a firm voice warned from the shadows above their heads, loud in the absorbent silence.
Jagsod growled in surprise, and Ander nearly leaped from his skin. His hand immediately went to his sword hilt.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” the voice advised. “There’s four crossbows besides my own aiming at your hearts this very moment. You’d best keep your hand away from that pig-sticker, boy.”
Slowly, Ander lifted his hand away from the hilt, lifting his eyes to the high stacks above his head. He couldn’t see anything, but he didn’t doubt that the faceless man spoke truth.
“Hermann Tam?” Ravin’s tone was confident and commanding. “I appreciate your efforts, man, but it’s only me and my friends.”
A figure leaped down from somewhere above the range of their light, landing with a dull thump on the floor of the corridor in front of them. “Master Torr,” the man said, a relaxed grin spreading across his rugged face. “I’m that glad to see you, sir.”
Ander relaxed. It was no Sea Raider that threatened them, but one of Uncle Ravin’s men, defending his master’s investments. There was a rustling sound from the shadows above, and four more men dropped like spiders from the dark stacks. Each one held a now-unloaded crossbow, which they slung over their shoulders with looks of relief on their sea-weathered visages.
Ravin nodded at the men in greeting, and waved at the small party behind him. “Men, I’d like you to meet a few friends of mine. You know my son already, of course,” the workers grunted and gave Dorlan small, casual salutes. “This is an old friend of mine from the mainland, Thraluic; and his niece Shyllen.”
The dragons offered shallow bows, and the one man wearing a cap doffed it to Shyllen.
“This is their fellow traveler Jagsod,” continued Ravin. “And last—but certainly not least, my own nephew: Ander Collins.”
Expressions of surprise bloomed on the faces of two men, who – like Ravin and Maire – bore the fine features of Feielves. “Related to Robin and Percival, I assume?” The first man asked.
Ander straightened his shoulders. “My parents, sir.” A tiny flame of satisfaction glowed inside of him at the words.
“Hermann Tam at your service,” the fellow said, touching his forehead.
The other men also offered their names, and Ravin waited impatiently until they were finished.
“Alright men,” he said as soon as the last fellow had introduced himself. “In case you haven’t figured it out, we’ve got a full-scale raid going on out there, and we have reason to believe that these men have been hired by my sister to kill me and steal an artifact that rightfully belongs to my household.”
The men looked at each other in grim understanding. Apparently, all of them know of Ravin’s royal past.
 “We may or may not be safe in here – really, that’s irrelevant,” Uncle Ravin continued. “There are other men and women and children out there in danger, and we have a responsibility to defend them if we are able. Do any of you have blades? Your crossbows are wonderful, but not ideal for close combat.”
Hermann waved upward. “Got about six or seven swords up there. You know we keep them here, sir.”
Ravin shrugged. “It never hurts to ask.” He raised the lantern. “Very good. Go and fetch them, and meet me at the small side door. If we come out right on the docks, we stand a good chance of a surprise attack.”
His men obeyed instantly, clambering up the stepped sides of the crate stacks like monkeys. Ander watched them enviously, wishing he had the experience it took to be able to climb so nimbly and easily.
“Ander.” Ravin laid a hand on his shoulder. “You can stay here, if you need to.”
Ander flushed, knowing that his uncle was referring to his reaction in the melee. He pulled away from his uncle’s grasp and said gruffly, “I’ll be fine.”
Ravin looked thoughtful, but nodded and turned to go. “This way, Thraluic,” he said, leading them down a side-aisle. This one was stacked with towering piles of boxes, all labeled in exotic scripts and smelling of cinnamon and pepper.
Ander brushed his hand along the sides of the crates, wondering in awe where they had all come from. As though reading his thoughts, Shyllen came up beside him and read off the markers.
“Cumin, from south Ippur; white pepper from Eala, dried garlic from Pasaquad…” Ander could hardly believe that there were so many places in the world, let alone that these crates and their contents had originally come from them.
The sounds of shouting began to penetrate the soundless warehouse, and Ander shook away the thoughts of exotic lands and far-off peoples. He drew his sword again, and gripped it tightly. His other hand clenched into a fist, causing his mother’s ring to bite deeply into his palm.
They came to a door, similar to the one they had entered by, but much wider. Ander supposed that it was so workers could carry bulky loads through with ease.
“On the count of three,” Ravin warned, unlocking the door and twisting the handle. “One.”
The dock workers silently joined them, and Ander braced himself to leap forward.
“Two.”
His heart was beating fast, and he could feel Jagsod shifting excitedly beside him.
Three!”

Comments

*dances madly in excitement*

*dances madly in excitement* Will you quit leaving us in cliffhangers!!! :0)

Honestly, I don't mind cliffhangers in books--there I can just turn the page to the next chapter and keep on reading. But really, when you only post every couple of weeks or so, it's maddening!!

Can you tell I'm really getting into this story? :0D

Oh, and I never thought I'd say this about an ogre--but I do like Jagsod. A lot. I think it's pretty sweet that you took a mostly unliked creature and made him a central and well-liked character.

Heather | Wed, 11/04/2009

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And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

*evil laugh*

 Now it's my turn to haunt YOUR dreams and bug YOU about posting the next section!  

Mary | Wed, 11/04/2009

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Brother: Your character should drive a motorcycle.
Me: He can't. He's in the wilderness.
Brother: Then make it a four-wheel-drive motorcycle!

When the hardcover edition of

When the hardcover edition of this comes out I command you to send me an autographed edition!!!!!!!! JK. You'd better post soon, because....because....because you just HAVE to!

Ariel | Wed, 11/04/2009

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"To produce a mighty book, you must choose a mighty theme. No great and enduring volume can ever be written on the flea, though many there be that have tried it." -- Herman Melville

<3

I saw this page, and I turned around to my family and said "I love my friends..." LOL

I will post chapter 21 ASAP--though I should warn you that it's a cliffhanger as well...:) I've gotten up to chapter...oh, 23 or 24-ish. But I'm doing NaNoWriMo this month, so I won't be working on Ander for a while.

LoriAnn | Thu, 11/05/2009

Why didn't I find this before?

It's amazing!

Julie | Fri, 11/06/2009

Formerly Kestrel

Belatedly

OK, sorry to have taken so long in reading this, but great chapter! *scurries off to read the next*

Kay J Fields | Tue, 11/17/2009

Visit my writing/book review blog at http://transcribingthesedreams.blogspot.com/