(Short story) Warglory: Red Surf
This is a short story in my (adapted) old myth setting.
I write this stuff when the writing bug bites. Go ahead and post your thoughts in reply; if folks are reading i'll keep posting it.
(Yep, i've been pinching art again. I'd love to have someone draw any of this material; it'd be a lot better than stealing art all the time.)
*Note, i've edited some parts of the early text as well. Part 1 is the reworked original, part 2 is all new.
Leftenant Naoise waited anxiously atop Taog's saddle, her barding scraping the dragondeck of the tending ship as they and the rest of 5th Squadron endured the last minutes of pre-dive stillness. Outside, the battleships Tanice and Gargonnel along with their destroyers, carriers and other escorts would be in formation; eyes and radar probing the darkness for the Ossagan 2nd Fleet. Somewhere outside a plane's engine hummed quietly from a distance, returning from patrol. It would have news from the recce patrols, transmitted from the surface by a radio akin to that in Taog's saddle swag. Naoise had friends amoung those troops, wyrm and dvergr both. They knew their trade. But then, so did the finfolk.
A commotion started near the bow stairwell, glancing that way Naoise saw the ship's 3rd leftenant moving quickly (if still nervously) amoung the wyrms and their riders to reach the Captain of Wyrms Hargand - "commander" while aboard ship in deferment to the ship's Captain - the young lad understandably nervous about these beasts of myth & legend. It was a frightening scene to the youngling, though Naoise saw the other side of it; Taog's nest mate a short ways off was grumbling from indigestion, another closer by was sleeping with jaws open & tongue flopped out on the deck (looking quite dead, apart from the steady breathing), the Captain's own wyrm Neefling belched loudly as the 3rd leftenant came shakily to attention near him. Naoise couldn't hear a word of the exchange between Captain (commander) Hargand and the junior ship's officer, but it was cause enough for reknewed fussing and checking of weapons, reigns, barding & beasts that had all been ready (and in many cases sleeping) for hours. Naoise's second, Lance Corporal Luag and his two lance jacks in their common tri-saddle beside him put away their game of knuckles; a good thing for Luag who had been busy losing again. He cursed and saw Naoise looking, giving him a thumbs up anyway. It was nearly time. Naoise elbowed his one and only saddlemate - lance jack & signaller Tomlins - getting a grunt & radio check by way of responce. There'd be a third if not for the radio, but he was commisioned now; a Troop leader must always be in touch with the squadron OIC, so he'd have to make do without.
Message relayed, the 3rd leftenant scurried back whence he came as Cpt. Hargand raised his fist and the dive light went red. Lance officers and NCOs relayed the order; "Stand to! Stand to! Start yer burns & check your suits, stand to!". Barding rattled and wyrms snicked as the steeds and riders roused. "Sound check. Easy One," said Naoise, hearing a "Easy One-Two clear" "Easy Two-one clear" "Three-One clear" and so forth as his troop sounded off their throat mics. Naoise took out his canteen of marching beer, taking a swig with the rest of his troop for their health and tradition's sake. Then they made ready; Naoise tightened his gauntlets and checked the locking punch spike, folding it out & testing the lock then stowing it again. He checked his pistol brace, wiped his knife; all light and quick for fighting in the sea with exception of his bombs, his Spiker subgun, the heavy speargun in the saddle holster and the last - his officer's glaive - which he looped and tied in it's sheathe. All divers donned and sealed dvergr dive helmets then started their rebreathers, the chemical fire of soda lime enriched by potassium for an 8 hour dive, freshened with compressed oxygen, the chemical reaction warming already. Naoise thought of the deadly mix should water enter his scrubber, then shook his head, putting such things to the back of his mind. Taog's claws scraped the deck, as did many others in a screeching chorus of scratching metal, throat clicks and rumbling growls. Storm shutters clunked, rattled and lowered at portside as the dive light turned yellow.
Cpt Hargand spoke on company channel. "Butcher 1 Actual to all Troops, we are ready to dive; lets bag us an elder & make a mess. Good hunting!" wrym riders throughout the hold raised their fists, their dive helmets and the calls & scratchings of their steeds drowning out any shouts they made. The storm shutters lay open, the light went green, and by Troop the dragons clambered forward, clawed the opening and leaped, diving smoothly into the sea.
Naoise braced himself as his Troop's turn came, hunkered down as his steed lept and weathered the familiar impact into water; his saddle's dive cowl deflected the impact itself but the pull of the water still took considerable getting used to. Naoise held on, and by the pat on his back moments later knew signaller Tomlins had done the same behind him. Taog shuddered and clicked happily in the water-manner of her kind, talking to the other 3 dragons of her Troop, keeping distance and listening to the echoes along the sea floor far below. It was deep here, but the sea shelf was close, and shortly it would become far too shallow for the ship they had jumped from. The finfolk temple and accompanying shallow-town lay ahead.
Naoise clicked his throat mic to squeeker and spoke, his throat mic relaying to the sonic "squeeker" box which played it out in all directions warbly but clear enough to understand. "Easy 1 to Easy Two-one, all quiet on my mark. Keep 'em together Luag." Luag replied right away, the underwater sound distortion minimized by the squeeker's emitting method and so familiar to Naoise he scarcely noticed. "Easy 2-1 to Easy 1, roger that chief. 4 dove too hard again, 3 & 4 are both in line with us now. We're sounding good." Naoise couldn't suppress a grimace; wyrm Malmoi was still tender on the back right leg from a training injury a couple months back. He'd wanted her off the dive, but the squadron sergeant had overruled him. "Easy 1 to Easy 2-1, roger that, out." Naoise shushed Taog by squeeker, as did the other riders to their dragons. She quietted like the others and the Troop chatter was gone. The same was happened throughout the squadron shortly after the last Troop dived; as a silent pod they swam.
Dvergr see a world of greys and dull colours. Their art is a thing of shape and texture, of form and sound and function - but little colour. However, by night they see far, far better than man, goblin or indeed many others for they perceive another light, unseen by most others, and can uses torches of this nature that seem black to most but bright to dvergr and other night creatures. Dvergr had a further trick; the darklight. Seeing as they did dvergr science now knew they perceived a light that most day-seekers cannot; in the past few years, in secret, work and proceeded apace on making torches that emitted only this light. Though normally a man would see naught but arm's length in the murk of night here, beneith the waves, and even a dvergr only 10 yards at most, Naoise held in his hand a powerful torch sufficient to shine 100m or more clearly... and finfolk would see not even a flicker. So ran the theory. Naoise flicked his on as others did around him, revealing as he searched the forms of his troop's wyrms in a loose pod around him. The nearest - Halfclaw - he saw clearly at 50m to his left and down.
Halfclaw was nearly full grown at 9m length, sinous but for the bumps of dvergr & saddlegear clinging to her shoulders and upper back. Naoise glanced over his shoulder down the twin ridges of dragon scale running along Taog's back and tail, ground down where he sat to accomodate the saddle but let grow the rest of the way down her length; old scars from bites, cuts, bullets and shrapnel dug into Taog's sides, legs and soft underbelly. Even the barding of her head & chest was dented despite the armourer's best efforts with the steam hammer. She was no hatchling, and he was not her first rider; unlike with mere horse cavalry he was unlikely to be her last master. She would probably outlive him... though not by much if a bomb or some leviathon's jaws ever caught her. Naoise checked his wyrdstone compass; the lodestone pointed north as always, while the tiny bones pointed on their own axis to points marked by the Tyrnim, the squadron's mystic Artist, toward a runestone left by the scouts at the finfolk temple and back to Tyrnim's spell circle aboard ship. He and his troop were on course. A last one pointed to his Captain, Hargand, whose 4 dragon Troop had now caught up and his old steed taken his traditional place at the head of the pod. A loose formation, the "ragged mob", was favoured in battle these days; not the grand sweeping lines of parade. All the better to fight with.
An hour's swimming in silence took the squadron well away from the fleet. They were fast, very fast, as only sea creatures can be. Shining torches over their hands they could hand-talk and remain silent on the squeeker, but for the first hour, there was little to say.