Hunting the Dread
by, 5-30-12 at 7:06 AM (204 Views)
Eleanor squinted through the pelting rain. Her thick auburn locks had turned black and frozen in the torrential weather, as the longship crested another storm darkened wave. The fine vessel groaned as it crashed down the back of the wave, sending up a great splash of sea water. The young witch wanted to be anywhere but here.
A stout dwarf crew moved around her with ease, bringing the sail in slightly, as they sung in deep bass tones.
To the seas, to the seas
We go hunt, we go hunt.
Kill the beasts, kill the beasts
See their blood, see their blood.
On and on went the brutal song of this fierce folk, and Eleanor felt unease rising in her. How was she supposed to intimidate them whilst she soaked on this dingy tub? She jumped at a bark of laughter from behind her.
'Ah girly, no need to fear. My men keep their fury for the serpents, not for your witchy finger waggling,' King Orin, the fifth of his name, wiggled sausage like fingers at her, chuckling further. The young witch kept her face as calm as he could, as another waved crashed over the side of the boat, blasting her black and red witches livery with its fierceness. If she'd known she would have to go hunting with this black bearded madman of a 'king', and his equally mad stumpy men, she would have worn something more suiting, or fled south. She called upon her gift to bring some warmth back to her chilled bones, as she forced a smile for the king. She put aside her own thoughts on Orin and spoke.
'Of course, your grace, do tell. What exactly will you be hunting?'
'You mean we'll be hunting? I have no passengers aboard the Sea Crow,' said the King, slapping the side railing.
On either side of them, two ships like this one sailed, each captained by a son of the king. The dwarves of the Western Seas were the best sailors in the known world. They would be the only ones mad enough to sail in weather like this, thought the young witch, and for sport of all things. Lighting flashed over the storm whipped waves, casting strange shadows and reflections in the choppy waters. The dwarves gave a collective wail as the thunder rolled over them, taking up their chant again.
'The monsters are rising my Thane, shall I step to the bow?' From the aft of the boat came the King's brother, Pegod Orin. Whilst most the dwarves looked like short bearded men, in their leather clothes and short cropped hair, Pegod stood out. His grey beard and hair were thick tangled dreadlocks, adorned with copper bangles and sea weed. He was bare chested despite the biting rain and sharp sea air, and, showed off large muscular arms and a barrel like chest. He wore only a tattered cotton kilt, threaded with more copper, spelling the dwarven tongue. Eleanor had never come across such runes before. From head to toe he was covered in teal and turquoise tattoos of jagged lighting bolts, striking down stylised monsters of the deep surrounded by more and more runes. In one fist he gripped an iron harpoon. King Orin clapped his brother on the back.
'Aye Pegod, go and bring the beasts, lets show the young witch what you can do,' Pegod glanced at Eleanor briefly, before heading to the Sea Crows prow. The dwarves sung on through the storm. The witch felt something strange as the tattooed dwarf past, and she watched him as he took his place by the figurehead and namesake of the ship hefting his harpoon, ready to throw.
Another flash of lighting and roll of thunder broke the heavens, followed by something deeper; something from the dark waters itself. The dwarfs gave another collective roar, and began to sing something new.
and thunder cry!
Call the beasts
unto the sky!
'Your grace, you never said what you're hunting?' Asked Eleanor, taking grip of her power, and bringing a few spells to mind. She felt uneasy, an emotion not common to the witches of the Coven. The boats on either side were drawing to the kings, all five sailing abreast in the storm wreathed waters. King Orin laughed again, taking up a small iron hatchet, and a throwing spear.
'What we'll be hunting,' He pointed with his spear, and the young witch froze. The sea before the high bow shot up, as a great green serpent broke the surface. It must have been twenty feet of slick scales and sharp fins. Gracefully its dived back below the surface of the churning sea, showing off rows of fine white fangs before it disappeared below the rolling waters. The crew whooped and hollered, as more of the great snakes broke the waves, dancing and diving around the five ships.
'Sea Serpent, or Wave Snakes, my little lady. They usually hunt in schools deep under the waves, but thunder and lightning draw them to the surface, and they'll try to have a bite of us. Just like we need them to.' King Orin cackled before turning from Eleanor once again.
Twenty of the ships crew tended the sail, and a few oars to help the tiller, the remaining sixty went to the sides to haul in the catch. Eleanor watched as one of the sea snakes tried to leap over the ship itself, hoping to catch an unsuspecting dwarf as it did so. King Orin drove the iron tip of his spear into the sea serpents gaping mouth. With great strength he brought the beast thrashing down onto the deck. Pinning it with his spear, he brained it with his short hatchet, dark blood shooting everywhere, coating the King with it. He gave a wide toothy grin, as the last hues of colour left Eleanor's already pale face.
The deck was soon slick with the blood and gore of the serpents, and not even the torrential rain could wash it away quickly enough. As lightning flashed again, Eleanor saw similar scenes playing out over the four other longships. The thunder rumbled and the dwarves howled with it as they went about their bloody business. Spears, harpoons and tridents, caught in the writhing mass of snakes around the ships. They were hauled on board before being killed by a strong blow to their elongated skulls, their yellow slitted pupils showing fury to the last. Eleanor watched Pegod, stock still at the prow. He had not moved an inch since the slaughter had begun. The young witch tried to keep out of the way of the sea snakes and their mad killers, but had little to no luck on the tight confines of the ship. She wove a small charm around herself to keep any of the monsters touching her, both dwarf and serpent.
She had to quickly duck however, as King Orin, using his spear like a pitchfork, heaved one of the dead monster back into the waters, where it bobbed across the red tinged waves. The rest of the Sea Crows crew followed suit, taking up a new verse in the bloody mantra.
To the seas, to the seas,
Go the dead, go the dead.
Bring the wrath, bring the wrath,
Of the Dread, of the Dread.
Thunder rumbled again, but lightning had not flashed. Only a few of the still twitching serpents were left on the red stained deck. All the crew were silent now, as the wind howled through the rigging, and the rain beat down on bloody spear tips, and sodden dwarfs. The Sea Crow rose over another wave. Another fork of lightning ripped the sky asunder, the thunder sounding. It seemed dimmed and timid to the great rumble Eleanor had just heard. Pegod raised his spear slightly, the gleaming tip catching in the flash of lightning, as the waves trembled. The sea burst asunder, as if the very world itself was wounded.
It soared over the Sea Crow, and crashed back down below the waves, swallowing piles of serpent dead the Dwarfs had thrown back. It was easily two hundred feet long, twice the length of the Sea Crow, and nearly as wide as the King Orin's ship. It disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, another bolt of lightning scarring the skies, its deep roar mingling with the thunder.
'The Dread!' cried Orin, and the dwarfs cheered anew, instantly moving back into action. They sheathed weapons, and went to either the oars or sail, turning the longship about. The rest of the small fleet followed suit, forming up behind the Sea Crow.
'Come on lads, the bitch will be back any moment,' roared Orin over the storm, as he went to stand by his brother at the prow. He was right, thought Eleanor. She could make out the worm like shapes of the smaller serpents they had killed before, and the great dark shadow of the Dread rising up from the watery depths below.
Eleanor heard another rumble, but it was to quiet for the beast. It was Pegod, singing in a low rumbling tongue Eleanor had never heard before. The storm seemed to darken above him, and the young witched sensed something, something that couldn't be coming from the dwarf. King Orin stepped back from his brother, hefting his spear and hatchet again. The rain continued to pour, and the wave crashed all the louder.
The huge sea snake broke the surface again, but the dwarfs were ready. Pegod chant came to a close with a violent phrase. He threw his harpoon, just as the monsters mouth opened wide to swallow the dead serpents. Eleanor saw four other harpoons fly, one from each of the Sea Crows sister ships. Pegod's flew the fastest and truest, catching the great sea serpent just behind its row of foot long fangs. Three other skewered the beast, two in its gaping maw with Pegods, one just above its right eye that narrowed in pain. Its elegant leap collapsed as it bucked with agony, thrashing this way and that. Eleanor saw two lines attached to each harpoon. One was a thick stout rope, the other, a thick metal chain. Both ran back to the ships they were cast from.
The great sea serpent made to dive again, but the crew took up the thick rope line, breaking into the next verse of their chant.
By the gods heave,
By the gods ho.
Bring the Dread down,
Bring the Dread low.
The Sea Crow groaned in the tossing waves, as the monster tried to sink back to its watery realm. The dwarves had a stout grip on the taunt rope, and, inch by muscle bulging inch, they pulled the beast up to the surface. Pegod was chanting again, his words finishing in violent barks, as the heavens roared above him. The dwarfs weren't giving up, but neither was the beast. The longship groaned again, as the prow sank a little more below the waves.
'Pull you bastards pull, or the bitch will have us in her belly!' bellowed King Orin, taking his place down the line, pulling with his subjects. Eleanor looked on, not sure what to do. What madness had she step into, what watery hell had she come upon? The sea tossed, the heavens rumbled, and the dwarves sang there fierce and stalwart tune, as the Dread was dragged back from the depths. The great sea beast must of known it could not escape, for the ropes went slack as it changed tack.
'Don't let go boys. Shes going to give us a slap!' King Orin cried over the storm, laughing madly. His crew joined him, as white knuckled fist kept a tight grip on the rope. Pegod continued to chant, his words booming and violent. The sky lit up with lightning again. As the thunder subsided, the Dread attacked.
It came at the longship on the Sea Crows port side. The waters swelled before it as the sea monster came up, its thick scaled head, just breaking the waters surface. Eleanor saw spears thrown, but they either bounced off or were ignored by the charging beast. Its head hit the prow with a resounding crack. They saw the ship twist and splinter, before capsizing, and casting its crew into the waves. With a cruel twist, the serpent raised its tail as it past. It down onto the longships upturned keel, splitting it as easily as a man chopping kindling. The dwarves groaned, as their sister ship sank below the waves. Some small shapes could be just made out thrashing in the waters, but far to few to be the ships entire crew. Orin grimly took up the chant again, as the long rope grew taunt.
They wouldn't survive, the beast would have them all in the water, where it, or its smaller cousins, would rip them apart, thought Eleanor. She didn't want to die, not amongst these stunted madmen. She pulled a knife from her belt. She kept it for rituals, but it would serve just as well cutting rope. She shook sodden wet locks out of her face, as she approached the taunt and groaning cord.
'No!' Came a shout that stopped Eleanor in her tracks. It was Pegod, but his voice was louder, and echoed like the thunder. She saw a bright crackling light in his eyes. Sparks of leaping energy flowed over his beard and dreads.
Before she could think or do anything, the sea snake was coming at them. It's great jaw was wide open, as if to swallow the ship and its crew whole. She saw the harpoons buried in its gaping maw, saw the lines both rope and chain tying it to them, and she knew what was going to happen. Pegod chants fell silent, and the world turned white with noise and light.
In the last moment, Eleanor saw something that scared her more then the Dread. Somehow, Pegod had called lightning, and the image was burnt onto her eyes. She saw Pegod standing proud, his eyes alight with a crackling energy. The chain running to the Dreads mouth was wrapped round one of his thick tattooed arms. The other was raised to the thick storm clouds above. A bolt of lightning, a bolt of pure energy, raced down to the dwarfs outstretch hand. It ran through him, lighting up his insides, and making his skeleton stand out. Instead of melting them eat right off of him, it raced though him, down the metal chain, and right to the sea beasts gaping mouth. In the corner of the image she could see two other slightly lesser bolts of lightning racing down the other chains from the Sea Crows sister ships. She saw this as a perfect unmoving scene, before the world was lost to her.
After the shrieking hiss of nothing, Eleanor heard the deep roar of the sea, and the patter of the rain on the deck and her face. She could taste blood in her mouth that wasn't hers, as she laid on the blood soaked deck. Her vision came back to her slowly, as the ringing in her ears subsided. The Sea Crow was rolling in the waves, her sisters ships close besides her. King Orin was helping one of the crew to their feet, as the longship groaned beneath them. The storm was slowly subsiding finally, though Eleanor was to cold already to notice it.
'Someone give me a bloody hand,' Came a groan from the prow. Eleanor shakily got up, her dress ruined by the blood and the storm. Heavy feet slapped the deck, as half a score of quicker dwarves ran to help the brother of King Orin. Pegod was steaming from head to toe. The chain was quickly secured to the mast, and two dwarfs strained to pry his hand from the still glowing chain, that hissed and spat in the rain and waves. The thick links were burnt black into Pegod's palm. Eleanor was sure this wasn't the first time it had happened.
The three ships still chained to the beast were drawing together, the fourth was rowing off to look for survivors from their sisters wreck. Orin came over to sit by a slumped Pegod. Little sparks of lightning were jumping from him now and again, and he stank of burnt hair. Eleanor stumbled over to the prow, leaning on the Sea Crows namesake and figurehead.
The great sea serpent, was floating in the waters. The two other ships were sinking further lines and hooks into its still twitching corpse, so they could bring it back to their hold of Keran Deep more securely. Its great maw was still open, and Eleanor could see that all the flesh, from its tongue to the gums, had been burnt away to nothing by the fierce lightning. She could even make out Pegod's harpoon still buried in the once terrible monster.
The dwarf had performed magic, of that she had no doubt. Eleanor had never read of anything of the sort. Dwarfs were the most nonmagical beings known to any witch anywhere. Not only that, but it had been the most impressive form of magic she had ever seen outside a witches coven. The great monsters eyes had melted out of their sockets. The stink of burnt oil and fish was heavy about it, as it was secured to the three ships.
The fourth of the sister ships followed a short way back. It had save a dozen of the Hags crew, the rest had been lost to the dark waves. Orin's son had been amongst the survivors, and though there was sorrow in the dwarf crews, there was equal jubilation. The oil, meat, hide, and bone from the Dread, would benefit the hold greatly for many months to come.
Eleanor look at the clearing skies, and the calming waters, still shaken by what had happened. She didn't hear Pegod approach, and jumped as he spoke.
'It weren't magic witch,' He sounded haggard and exhausted, but Eleanor saw the will and determination in his eyes as he spoke.
'We dwarves arenít magical. We never have been, nor will we be. It was a blessing from the gods I called down, nothing like that finger waggling you witches and wizards do.' He coughed heavily, and Eleanor put a hand on his tattooed shoulder. He flinched away, but she spoke anyway.
'Master Pegod, I saw you chanting. I saw your use of talismans. I sensed the gift in you, it must be magic,' He grabbed the front of her ruined dress before she could even think to protect herself, hearing the soft pop of the charm she had placed earlier breaking as easily as a soap bubble. His grizzle features were an inch from hers. The stink of the sea and burnt beard nearly made her wretch.
'Listen girl, it weren't magic. You go back and tell those witches and bastard lords of yours that if they think they can threaten us, then they will have to contend with our gods, and you've seen what they can do. You know what we can do. You say one word of magic, I'll know, and I'll kill you.' his last words were a rumbling growl so like thunder, Eleanor was half certain he would call more lightning down on her then and there. He merely let her go, stomping down the deck to the aft of the Sea Crow. Shaken even further, Eleanor sat down by the figurehead, as the dwarfs sang the end of their bitter tune.
From the seas, from the seas,
We depart, we depart.
With the Dreads, with the Dreads,
Bloody heart, bloody heart.