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|Rana and her companions reach the Maros while the Prince sounds the retreat.||
Near the Palace
Prince Annael parried another blow, his greatsword a whirling blur. His opponent, at least seven feet tall and wearing intricately carved articulated plate armour, continued to press the attack. Annael glanced along the line, noted it was buckling again in places. Annael parried again and disengaged, his place in the line taken by his companion Trallis.
Working his way back through the troops he grabbed a cup of water and drank quickly. Leaping atop a short set of steps next to a building he surveyed the battle. It was desperate. The City Watch, that citizen militia responsible for keeping the peace and manning the gates during peaceful times, had already been decimated by their unlife opponents. Now the finest warriors available were finding themselves unable to hold their ground.
"Fall back! Fall back!" he cried. "Towards the palace!"
Better a retreat than a rout.
Near The Maros
Gently the rowboat eased forward. The Guardsmen rowed silently, the locks padded, the sound of battle loud enough to mask what little sound they made. They rowed directly across the river, allowing the current to take them down to where the Maros was moored. The smoke was dense and reduced their vision to a matter of feet. One of the Guardsmen occupied the prow, his hand outstretched lest they bump into the Maros unexpectedly.
As the sound of battle grew louder the Maros loomed out of the smoke. Everyone knew she was big; it wasn't until they were next to it that it was made abundantly clear just how big. The sides of the Barge rose up out of sight with all the smoke. Put simply there was no way to climb up to her decks.
Rana signaled to the Guardsmen to allow the rowboat to continue to drift with the current. The rowboat passed between the hull and the oars such was the height of the rowing deck. They continued to drift along silently. Perhaps forty feet along her massive length fortune turned her fickle face towards them. A piece of Herr Klump's artistry appeared -- a shot from the largest culverine had penetrated the Maros' hull less than a foot above the waterline. The hole was large enough for someone to step through as long as they were hunched over.
The Guardsmen positioned the rowboat adjacent to the hole in the hull. Rana looked inside. There were lightly armoured bodies scattered amongst the ballast. The Imperials had certainly taken a toll amongst the rowers, and Rana could see that the Maros was taking water through several holes. The thing would eventually sink, just not in time. The timber of the Barge was aged, rotted even, yet Rana could sense that it was held together by some mystical power rather than any innate structural integrity. It seemed clear that her ritual was designed to counter or disrupt that power.
As quietly as they could each of them made their way into the hold of the Maros.
Note: For explanations regarding the world in which this story is set, it's peoples and language please take a look at The Encyclopaedia of Everything located in my library.
|Chapter 4: An Unexpected Displeasure||Chapter 2: Death Hides a Tale|
|Chapter 15: The Return from the Shadowplane||Chapter 18: A Dread Encounter|
|Chapter 43: Rhiannon Alone||Chapter 42: Quietly, Quietly...|