Monday, June 13

The Pirate Attack

Now that we're close to the city, the Magus finally poked his head out. I'm so angry that I can't even look at him. He's the strongest person on this boat. Well, not physically, of course, but I would have expected him to at least have had the courage to fight of the pirates like he did those bandit slavers. But no. He cowered in his cabin while she...
Start at the beginning. It's the only way a story gets told. Let me start again. Last night, we were attacked by pirates. I was sitting on deck, huddled by the forward lamp for light, writing, when the first arrows thudded into the deck. Then came the arrows with the burning heads. I don't know if we were still in the canal or we were back on the river, but the water was wide, and it was filled with rowboats.
Each boat had three people in it, an oarsman and two archers. They circled the boat, blocked it off in both directions, and began firing without warning. The people sleeping on deck awoke in a panic. A siren started, and the crew scrambled to equip themselves. But they were horribly outnumbered. I counted at least eight boats. We needed the magicians.
I reached the lower-forward cabin that the Magi were sharing, and hammered on the door. I got no answer. I knocked harder. Finally, I heard a voice from inside. It was Magus Ceylon's.
"Please leave me be." The voice called, piteously.
"Magus, it's Lizzeth. May I come in?" I asked.
"You may not. Leave me be." He repeated.
"Magus, pirates are attacking the ship. We need your help." I pounded on the door again. It held fast.
"The crew is more than capable of handling it themselves. Cease disturbing my meditations."
"The crew's being overrun! We need you out there! Please, Magus!"
"I am very busy, and cannot be disturbed. Leave me be, Apprentice!"
"Is Mr. K there? The crew will all be killed!"
"Mr. K received a sending, and left the ship at Lockhill."
"I see." For all his power, the magus would do nothing to help the ship. Mr. K was gone as well. I never saw Magus Periel return to the boat at Lockhill. The crew would be without magical assistance. Would it have to come to us sinking for him to recognize the danger? All I had was my knife, but I wasn't about to let everyone down. I had to do this on my own, after all.
I raced back up to the deck as fast as I could. The ship was in chaos. I was lost in the smoke, screams, and scent of blood. I nearly threw up. But then I looked and I saw those who could fight back, doing so, and fighting hard. I saw Gloria already on deck and trying to help the wounded. The crew had set up a line of defense at the bow of the ship. Hilda was there with an axe in one hand and a flail in the other. She cut a good figure for a junior priestess. She was covering them while Gloria and Melody carried the wounded. Corrina had found a crossbow somewhere, and was using it how she could. Tina had a healer's kit and was using it to heal who she could. I had to do something.
All I had on me was a knife, and in my pocket, the pendant. It is, I am sure, magical, but I don't know what it does. It could do anything. And I didn't even have any idea how to use it. I thought about what Periel had told me, though. Magic as confidence. In the Barrow, I had done what I could because I had to. When the raiders attacked, did I fail because I had father and Gloria to protect me? I concentrated, and opened myself up tried to concentrate. The chaos around me hadn't subsided. It was so hard to think, to find a center. But it was time. I breathed in deeply, smelling the fire and blood. I tried to stay calm. If I lashed out wildly, I could hurt one of the girls. and suddenly, it was there.
It is difficult to explain how it happened, although now I have a clearer idea of how the magic works than I did in the ruins. It's intuitive, like a first language. If Wizards cast spells by learning runes and spells, maybe I already know them, or have forgotten them. It's like I'm remembering the face of someone who's name I can't remember. I just focused on the problem, and I remembered the solution. Pirates were hurting my friends, and innocent people. I had to protect them, to attack the pirates like I had the skeletons in the ruins. And I remembered the spell I didn't know.
I pull the fire from the air, and let it fill my hands. I strain against it, taking all I can, until a ruby sphere of flames rests in each hand. The words of the spell, words I can't fully hear, much less really understand, pass through me like waves, and I pull my arms back and release the flames. The spell rushes to a climax and I let it go, screaming. "Flame Bolt!"
Two streaks of fire cut through the night air. The pirates look up in terror. One is struck in the chest, and another in the back. The force of the blast sends both of them sprawling. Hilda and Corrina redoubled their efforts. The tide was turning.
There was a shout to withdraw from one of the boats. A few of them were laden down with supplies or possessions, but otherwise it seems as though they were being repelled. The two I had shot weren't moving, but the others were backing down. They were dressed in rags, and those without bows were carrying clubs. They had pushed forward on numbers. Now, they were tripping over each other to retreat. Tina looked up at me and screamed.
"Behind you Lizzeth!" I turned and saw one of the pirates behind me drawing a bow, trying to get one last good shot before he escaped. The bow was pointing at me. I reached out and pulled more magic from the air.
"Ray of Frost!" a tiny cone of freezing air spread from the tip of my outstretched finger. The pirate, not twenty feet from me, Raised his hands to protect himself. The bow went off with the twang of a breaking string, sending an arrow his into the inky darkness of the night sky. The man slipped and fell over the side. I never saw him again. Because that was when the arrow landed, and Tina screamed again, very quickly.
The arrow had hit her in the throat. She died almost instantly. I ran, Hilda ran, the others all ran to her, but Hilda didn't have anything left. She couldn't say the spell. I couldn't think of a spell, either. What good is being able to make magic, if it isn't there when you need it?

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