I need a rest. My bones ache and the gash in my side that Ugnan force-healed itches like billio.
We trudge back towards the bay where the ship is moored looking forward to a few days recuperation. But what's this? There's a small, sleek ship next to The Brine and smoke tendrils are drifting in the wind above Sarissa's ship! Looks like The Wind Sprinter – always knew that Captain Cutter was a devious bastard. I look at Ugnan skeptically and suggest we jog over as fast as we can.
"Come on old man, you're looking trim. Think you can run to the bay?"
Ugnan sighs and mutters, "I'll give it a go. This body is still well padded for the winter."
We descend a little-used path, on the lookout for assailants. As we near the secluded bay we spot three rough-looking sailors loading barrels of fresh water into a rowing boat. With little time for niceties, Ugnan casts some enchantment on me that enhances my sunny demeanour and I stride onto the sand to explain that we're taking the boat in as succinct a manner as I can muster.
"Fuck-off or die."
Ably backed up by a hidden Sylke, Cherry and Sharna, for a fleeting moment I think the three may have the balls to stand up to us, but they consider the odds and run off down the beach.
I look out to sea as we drag the rowing boat into the small swell and everyone hops aboard. Must be close to a mile off-shore – so much for a rest.
Cherry and Sylke keep their heads down in the boat while the rest of us pull our hoods up in a vague attempt at deception. Thirty minutes later and we close on The Wind Sprinter.
"When you've got a difficult job to do, it's better to start it than to live with the fear of it", my old man used to say, so with no second thought I start scrambling up the rat-lines to the deck, closely followed by the whole crew.
An alarmed pirate looking over the railing screams, "We're being boarded. All hands!", and a bloody skirmish kicks-off. There must be six of the bastards on deck.
Cherry and Sharna take some nasty bloody wounds from the long-knives carried by the pirates. I don't see Sylke, but later discover she somehow jumped to the crows-nest, where she calmly rains down destruction on the pirates from relative safety. I call a retreat to the stern where we might be able to defend ourselves a little better.
As I take a pulsing wound to my thigh, my vision swim for a few seconds with the pain. Then, amid the sprays of blood from my wound and from the swinging blade of my axe, I lose my shit completely.
"The boulder's about to roll down hill boys. Who wants to get squashed!"
My peripheral vision darkens and I bellow like a fatally wounded bull as my axe does its bloody work.
The crew are making headway with some fancy spell-craft: Stunning a group of pirates; flashes of bright light and a relentless stream of crackling shock-bolts from the crows-nest keep the bastards on their toes. Sharna is gamely throwing pirates around, but is taking some serious wounds. I catch sight of Cherry sniping from inside a covered row-boat on the deck.
And my axe continues to do it's beautiful work: Pirates are cleaved from neck to spine; pirates lose arms; pirates fall to the deck with fatal sucking chest wounds, pissing their breeches. I'm surrounded by foes on all sides. This is the life, Boulder. This is the life.
I vaguely hear a voice like mine bellowing, "Who's next eh? Who's fucking next?"
Then the smirking face of Captain Cutter appears in front of me. Cock-sure bastard has a white shirt on of all things, and a couple of Kynack.
Sylke hits him with a shock bolt and he looks ready to faint. I roar with laughter as my axe takes his right arm off just below the shoulder, bites deep into his chest, and the glorious blood sprays into my face.
"Right, who's next?"
I stagger towards the back of the ship, blood from three wounds mingling with the fresh gore from my bloody work. Where did the bastards go?
Then it all goes dark as I slide into cool, blissful unconsciousness against a bulwark…