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Nanowrimo II

November 5, 2008

Pierce was right. Four ships had broken off from the main fleet and circled to harry the fleet. The sound of gunfire had already started between the ships above. Bran tensed slightly, anxious to join the battle. He could see other ships beginning to move on both side of the battle. Things would start happening quickly now. He unconsciously checked his weapons before loosening the grapple gun and siting the far side of an enemy ship. He waited just long enough for his ship to pass under, but didn’t wait for it to finish rising level before he fired the grapple.
Several other men launched grapples to hook the ship and preparing to board. Bran lead the way over the railing, whipping free the grapple with a practiced motion, slashing open the face of a guard moving to stop him. He snapped the grapple gun back onto his belt and drew both his cutlass and his revolver, sharply kicking the already injured guard in the chest to knock him away.
Bran’s ship pulled in level next to the enemy ship and several of his men fired tracer round shots across the deck, gauging the amount of drift the ship was causing before the other rifle-man picked targets and picked off a fair number of the enemy troops before ranks started to close into close combat range. The soldiers wore a semi-heavy armored coats that hung down past their waists. The occasional soldier wore a helmet of some sort, though most didn’t bother as shots to the head tended to be lethal regardless.
Bran pressed against the force, leading his men toward the bridge of the ship. He snapped off three shots with the revolver before the other force crashed into his. Bran let out a vicious cry of “For the Durands!” His men echoed the cry and blades started dancing against blades.
The first three men to approach Bran were dead with three swings, vicious slashes that sprayed blood across the fighting men. He side-stepped the next attack, spun the blade and stabbed backward into him, twisting hard once. His gun roared three more times as he yanked free the blade.
Meanwhile, a trio of old ships rushes at the main enemy force. Guy Douglass moved to the deck of the lead ship and moved to the edge, crouched low to avoid the incoming enemy fire. He set off a small device mounted on the deck, which sent flames spreading across the deck of his lead ship and then into the other two ships. He was one of the more grizzled veterans of the Durand army and had all but demanded he would lead the fire attack. He had a dark grin as he rose, flames roiling behind him. He was wearing very light-weight armor and carrying a large harpoon rifle with a coil of heavy wire on it. As he turned to fire his safety line back toward, a panicked shot from the main fleet caught him in the right shoulder and spun him to one knee. Guy gritted his teeth with a growl and shifted the rifle to his left hand, lifting it. Nearby, one of the enemy airships had managed to cut itself free from the main fleet and was pulling away from the fire. Guy fired the harpoon into the side of that ship, then slink the rifle over his shoulder and cinched the strap tight and locked the rope winding mechanism before pushing himself off to flaming ship.
The ships hit the front line hard, sending splinters of wood flying in every direction. Flames licked across the front boats toward Hunter’s fleet while men either ran forward to fight the fire, or tried to make their way across lines away from it. The fire was not spreading the way they needed it to if Hunter’s fleet was going to be crippled enough for the allied fleets to win. Michael Durand watched from deeper inside the fleet as the flames failed to take hold.
“Prepare the order to fall back. We’ll have to find another place to build a defensive line,” said Michael.
Standing at his shoulder was a slender, quiet man in light armor. He had a sharp eye and his coat marked him as a general. He shook his head slightly, “I would advise we hold just a little longer. Darnell Cunningham is a brilliant tactician. He said that he would make the winds blow into the fleet and spread the fires. Give him a little longer to pull it off.”
Michael frowned and moved backed to his seat, “If he wastes the lives of our men on some foolishness…”
The man standing next to him held up a hand, “I will personally moved to a secondary ship and make preparations to give chase should he fail in his piece of the plan.”
Michael watched the other man for a long moment. “Alright, but only go after him if he fails at his part.”
“My lord, he is a dangerous man. We would do well to not underestimate him…”
“We would also do well to not betray our own allies. My father and my brother were honorable men despite everything that has happened in this age. I intend to live up to their example. I expect my men to carry themselves the same, Quinn.”
Quinn bowed his head slightly, “Alright. I will join the battle from a separate ship and be prepared for whatever may come this battle.”
With that he turned and left, leaning close to one of the guards to order them to have the ship pulled closer to its sister ship so he could join the men of the secondary ship. Michael frowned deeply and watched him go. Quinn was a good man, but he was convinced that Darnell had to be stopped eventually if they were to succeed. Perhaps he was right, but today they were allies. And perhaps his sister would be enough to cement the alliance between their factions.

Before Quinn could even finish settling onto his ship, a strange roaring sound rose up off of the cliffs below. The men who weren’t in the midst of battles moved to the edges of their ships to look down. Carefully laid camouflage fell away amidst clouds of steam as an enormous device rose up. The roar rose to a howl as pieces of metal began cranking and turning, enormous turbines beginning to strain and spin. The machine sprawled along the base of the cliff, covered in strange spires, giant turbines and smoke-stacks. Energy began crackling along the spires and suddenly the wind above the cliffs between the ships went dead still. On the ship where Bran was fighting he paused a moment as it happened and took a stab to the back for his distraction. Fortunately, it glanced off the armor of his coat. He spun and took off the man’s arm with and snatched up his blade with his off hand.
“Press harder, men! Things are about to turn our way,” he shouted and leapt forward with renewed vigor. He and his men were gaining ground steadily at this point. The sheer force of his presence helped drive his men forward, and his viciousness was beginning to wear on the enemy. The soft jingle of his coat was the last sound many of them heard as he worked his short cutlass and the longer blade he had taken from one of the men he had killed. He didn’t slow to finish anyone who was wounded enough to stop fighting, but very few who stood in his way were likely to survive their wounds anyway. The deck was becoming dangerously slippery with blood and gore, sending more then one hapless soldier over the edge.
It was just minutes after the silence had settled when the arcing energy suddenly streaked upwards between the battling fleets, a blue crackling streak of energy. The burst of energy almost completely destroyed the machine it had come from. As it passed the wind returned with a howl. The wind blew hard into Hunter’s fleet. The flames caught and leapt from the original ships into the rest of the fleet. The Hunter’s men had managed to cut free the original flaming ships, but they hadn’t moved far enough away to escape the now leaping flames.
A cheer rose from Durand’s fleet and they began to charge forward to pen the ships into the flames. Guy Douglass pulled himself onto the enemy ship he had managed to attach to earlier, a heavy knife in each hand that he had used to pull himself up the side of the ship. Flames roared through the fleet behind him and blood soaked his shoulder and armor. Guy roared with laughter and the men on the ship cowered.
“He’s a demon,” said one guard.
Guy stepped forward, “Surrender your ship now and I’ll let you all live.”
The men looked at one another across the ship, then slowly lowered their weapons. Guy moved for the bridge, sheathing the two knives. “Prepare to signal Durand’s fleet with the surrender. Keep your weapons ready in case anyone tries to attack us still.”
The ship scrambled with activity, turning to face Hunter’s fleet and starting a light signal message back to the ships in Durand’s fleet to keep the from being attacked further.

Back on the ship where Bran was fighting the battle still raged. Hunter’s men had fallen back and were holding the bridge. Bran circled to the back, away from the fighting concentrated near the doors onto the bridge itself. He dropped the extra sword and sheathed his cutlass, then made a run at the wall, kicking off of it to get the extra height to catch the top of the bridge area. He pulled himself up and hurried to the three signal lamps on the center of the roof. Bran pulled a trio of short sticks of dynamite and quickly unwound the fuses from around the sticks. He shifted them into his off hand and drew the revolver again, flipping it open to rain casings out of the gun, then tucked three rounds into it from a pouch on his belt. One shot each to the glass housings on the large signal lamps, each at an angle to shatter the glass to the greatest extent possible. He took a step back and holstered the gun, pulling out a small brass lighter and flicked it to life, running the fuses about midway down on each stick of dynamite through the flame before tossing one each into the light housings.
Bran dashed toward the edge where he could still hear fighting, drawing his cutlass again as he ran. He stepped off the edge of the building and let himself fall more or less straight down. The repulsing force of the ship slowed his decent slightly, shoving his coat and other weapons up. He used the slowed fall to kick one of the remaining enemy soldiers in the head and slash another, giving himself room to land right near the entryway into the cabin. He caught another man’s hand as the man swung a sword at him and used his momentum to toss him into another set of soldiers as a set of very close together explosions ripped through the ceiling of the bridge, showering everyone inside with glass and splinters of wood, along with more then a little fire from the lamp oil.
“2nd, fall back and make a line. 1st, hold here until we have a solid place to fall back,” said Bran, voice raising enough to be sure he was heard over the battle.
Hunter’s troops fought harder, cornered now between the mess inside and Bran’s men outside. As men pulled back following Bran’s orders, they were forced to give some ground to Hunter’s men. Bran continued holding the front line with his men, even as they slowly gave ground.
“2nd, rifles. 1st, fall behind the line,” snapped Bran. As the men shifted to follow his orders Hunter’s men quickly found themselves facing a line of rifles and Bran, standing in front of them, sword still heald ready. Both his sword and him personally were covered in blood. Several tears in his coat showed the slight glitter of the metal weave inside the coat.
“Surrender your weapons. The battle has turned against you, your ship is crippled and some of your men can still be saved if you start treating their wounds now,” said Bran.
A large man in a blue officer’s coat stepped out of the wreckage of the bridge. He carried a sword and wore a revolver on his hip. He stepped past his men, motioning them to hold their ground and approached Bran.
“I challenge you to single combat for my ship. Defeat me and my men will surrender to you. If I defeat you, your men return to your ship and leave us to retreat,” said the large man.
Bran gauged his opponent for a moment, then looked back to his men. “Fall back to the edge of the ship. If I fall, return to the lines and get your orders from the rest of the fleet.”
Bran’s men looked uneasy and murmured a little amongst themselves, but slowly moved to follow his orders. Across the deck, the large challenger motioned his men to step back further as well.
“I’m Bran”
“I know who you are. Pirate turned soldier. The bells of death, I’ve heard you called,” said the man. He pulled loose his pistol and tossed it back toward his men and then dropped into a ready stance.
“Care to share who you are,” asked Bran.
“Just an old Captain who wants to give his men the best chance he can,” said the man.
Bran nodded in understanding and unbuckled his belt, tossing it back to his men. “Well, then I suppose we can skip the rest of the pleasantries.”
To this, the Captain just nodded, then stepped forward with a slight feint before slashing hard for Bran’s head. Bran ducked low and in toward the man, slashing upward, trying to move the fight in close to press the advantage of his smaller, faster weapon. The Captain was quick, though, and managed to dance back, shifting to parry aside Bran’s slash and following through with a nasty lunge.
This time, Bran was a little slow and as he sidestepped, the blade caught under his coat and left a long gash across Bran’s ribs. Bran made a soft noise of pain and snapped his cutlass in to bash aside the blade, stepping in again and lashing his empty fist at the Captain’s throat.
The Captain seemed caught off guard and took the blow to his throat, staggering back hard, gasping for air. Bran followed through, bringing his cutlass around with the flat edge of the blade to smash the Captain’s forearm, making him drop the blade. He spun the blade back up to the Captain’s throat.
“You’re good, but you’re still defeated. Have your men pile their weapons. I’ll leave a token guard, but I trust you to keep your men from making any stupid decisions,” said Bran.
The Captain met Bran’s gaze, holding it a long moment before letting out a slow breath. “Fine. But I’ll have you’re word that my men won’t be harmed,” said the Captain.
Bran nodded and sheathed his sword, then stepped over to pick up the Captain’s sword. “You have my word. Ask for me after the battle, I’d like to find reason to give this back to you,” said Bran, holding up the sword.
The old Captain frowned, “I don’t see that happening.”
Bran flashed a grin as he turned back toward his ship, “Talk with me after the battle. We’ll see. 3rd unit, half of you remain with this ship. We’ll send signal that this has surrendered. Try and find some sheets or something below deck so you can fly a white flag. Everyone else, back to our ship. The fighting isn’t done yet.”
The Captain watched Bran leaving and couldn’t help but smile a little. He turned to his own men, “Pile up your weapons, men. We fought well today, but we were up against one of the best. Seamen Fisher, after you give up your sword head below decks and bring up several sheets. The rest of you, look to the wounded and the dead.” The Captain himself crossed back into the bridge to make certain the fire was contained from before, but kept an eye on his men to make sure nobody did anything foolish

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