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(Short story) Warglory: Red Surf

(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.

Red Surf

(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.

Part 1

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.

I'm reading.

I wish I could make clones of myself, but... yeah, no. Sorry, still working on that.

Part 2

The sea shelf rose from the depths as a great cliff beneith the waves, teaming with life, hung thickly with corals and kelp. Most fish were asleep, nestled in sea anomonies and rocky crevases to hide. Taog glanced hungrily at a great shark, which (wisely) fled at the sight of her. Local blue crabs could be seen foraging amoung the corals even now in the dark. Swooping past, Taog felt a tap on his shoulder; Tomlins was gesturing to open comms. Naoise gave him a thumbs up and felt his earpieces click. "All Troops, fight seating. Fight seating. Assault shape and wait one, temple is in the coral gullys ahead. Weapons out, wyrm-dvergr!" said the Captain over the squeeker. Troops 2-through-4 (including Naoise) sounded off and they broke into a fast swim. Naoise settled himself to guide with knees and feet, reliant on the connected pressure-rods and his own voice to guide Taog's swimming as he passed the darklight - power cable dragging - to Tomlins and readied his Spiker gun. Taog sped forth leading the troop after the Captain - Butcher 1 Actual's - saddle-rear guidlight.

Coral streamed past and fish scattered at their comming. The wyrms remained silent as they swam; sharks dove aside and the familiar clicking of finfolk was heard. "Let 'em hear it!" called the captain and the Wyrms then loosed a barrage of squeeks and ear-scraping sound, stunning nearby sea animals and spreading fear ahead of them. Tomlins swung his darklight to 2 o'clock and illuminated two fleeing finfolk, Naoise glanced and ignored them. It was well he did; shapes moved in the gully below. "Contact, 12 & down!" he said sharply, cocking the Spiker as Tomlins swept light below; a score of finfolk rose as the Captain's pod passed and more were right under Naoise's own. He sighted on the first one and opened fire.

Spikers are a unique weapon, so new that Naoise's one was only a week in his possession and had a date from 2 months past stamped on the receiver. Side-loaded from a big sickle magazine came 5mm thick darts some 5" long apiece, each with a small rifle cartridge for propellant. The spiker is an automatic but the recoil unmanageable and darts expensive compared with bullets; as such they are issued with a disengager plate to lock them in semi-auto and a service manual which (amoung other things) specifically says "do not file down the disengager plate". Naoise had not yet had time to disobey that directive but he still had a big edge on the foe beneith him; 20 shots, fast as he wanted, with about 30m range at this depth and powerful enough to pierce a breastplate.

"Turn over!" barked Naoise; he also jabbed a knee into Taog's side and depressed the opposite foot, causing a rope to turn a pulley and prod Taog in his flank. The old wyrm flipped casually upside down as Naoise raised his gun, sighted his first targets as the spin completed - a trio of finfolk working legs with great finned-feat to swim up at him with their spears ready - and squeezed off a volley. Sound transferred through his heavy helmet to his ears just fine, and it was a sound of screeching pain & cracking weapon reports. Other dvergr howled wordlessly or shouted curses that their throat mics picked up and squeekers vibrated into the water, Tomlins fired his dart pistol, emptying the barrels with four loud clacks before stowing it to reach for another. "Get at 'em, girl! Sokn down! Sokn down!" barked Naoise in order to the wyrm & Taog broke into a long, loud hunting squeek as she swept down and turned into a press of finfolk. Naoise saw what she was doing in time to regret his order; he drew a knife with a curse before the tussel began.

Finfolk went everywhere. Some with claws, all with fins, some with legs and some a tail; instinctive shape-shifters with power in Hamingja and stranger magics, form is no obstacle to their kind. These had spears of steel and hooks of iron, stolen or traded from their Ossagan goblin allies amoung these the Eastern islands, Naoise and Tomlins soon had worry aplenty as three of the wiley foes latched onto the saddle and Taog snapped up a fourth in her jaws; that one screamed and squeeled it's pain as streaming smoke-trails of blood billowed over the saddle. A young or female finfolk latched a claw onto Naoise's leg, fishspike appraised to stab it home; he just saw her out of the corner of his double-dome glass plate in the helmet and thrust his knife at her throat; he missed and got shoulder, her expression became one of pain and hate, he twisted and the strength left her grasping hand; she fell away. Naoise narrowly kept hold of his knife. He felt Taog twitch and heard her snick in displeasure; looking down a finfolk was trying to drive a spike under her belly scales. Taog tossed her head & cracked her jaws closed, tearing her victim in half as she turned violently in place, lurching her riders and shedding one of the clinging fishfolk. The one stabbing her belly swung out holding by one arm. He let go when two darts pierced his back, CLACK-CLACK, from Tomlin's fresh dart pistol. Naoise looked behind and saw they had more following... his face split in a toothy grin. Tomlins saw his expression. "Civvies... not fighters! Taog, turn! Sokn cul! Sok-" he never finished the order. Taog turned so hard she nearly shed him & Tomlins both, clacking her jaws hungrily as she saw prey in the open behind her. Nearby her podmates Halfclaw and Greenscale heard her and saw the opportunity as Tomlins cast his light over it; all three closed in with more speed than a pack of hungry wolves.

The fishfolk following (unwisely) with brandished spears had time to realise how exposed they were, panic, in some cases defecate and start to dive for the shelter of the corals. They weren't fast enough. Naoise managed to dart one with the Spiker, most of the riders held their fire and the wyrms swept in & snatched a finfolk each in their jaws. A spear glanced off halfclaw's chest barding and that was it; the wyrms swept in, savaged their victims and swept down after the rest with riders blasting darts wildly about in hopes of catching those who scattered. Two got under a great boulder of red coral and Taog grabbed the coral bed around it, clawed that boulder & heaved it aside with a water-warped growl; her head shot down as the duo tried again to flee, snapping one up by the legs to thrash the fin-man around; the other escaped Taog, but not Naoise's Spiker; three darts left him hanging dead in the water. Taog's thrashing ripped the legs from her screeching victim; they vanished with several loud crackings of bone and a gulp. She stood there a moment, head peering about as her riders got their bearings.

"What's our Fix?" asked Naoise, talking loud to make his squeeker do the same and thusly be heard. Shots, wyrm clicking and the mixed squeels & cricks of terrified finfolk made for a noisy battle din. Tomlins checked his aithinometer. "7-3 to Ace and 2-5 November, leftenant." he called back. Naoise didn't quite hear him and Tomlins repeated, then he got it. "*Fan-fan! Fan-fan!" (*Wait-wait!) called out Naoise to his wyrm; Taog waited patiently as he gave her a direction through work of the knees and footplates. She squeeled into a rumble of understanding, calm as a fox after feasting, and swept up from the coral bed to resume formation. "Easy-One form up! Easy-One form up!" called out Naoise and the other wyrms carrying his Troop soon found them again; no losses yet by some miracle. Easy Two, Easy Three and Butcher were all over the place still; Naoise thought he could see the Captain's wyrm, but it was hard to be sure. Water popped deafeningly and the wyrms all snapped jaws and clicked loudly in pain; someone had resorted to a torpex grenade. It was hard to tell where. The finfolk however had had enough of it and those not already dead or hiding were now scattering in full rout.

"Butcher Actual to all Easy, form on Butcher in *Dog Low and at speed! Report any casualties, over!" called out the Captain. (*A diamond formation, with lead element low and tail high in the water) A few shots rang out at stragglers amoung the finfolk, killing few. The Captain's dark light and those of his Troop leaders swept about, spying one another and searching for targets as the formation returned to order and proceeded at speed. Easy two had lost a trooper, reigns cut and stabbed to death in his wyrm's wake by the finfolk, but he was the only one. Fargath; he'd owed Luag money, and Luag owed Fargath a favour. Naoise cast it from his mind for now as his eyes swept shallows for targets, the wyrms swooping over the coral beds at great pace.

"Fah... Butcher Actual to All, slow for kelp forest! Tumble, can you clear this?" called the Captain from somewhere ahead. He had his squeeker wound up for command but the squadron artist didn't, so Naoise didn't hear his responce. "Too slow! Forget it then. Butcher Actual to All, proceed slow & 'ware surprises. At least we'll lose some tails." Troop leaders called back affirmations and the squadron, still in formation, dove in amoung the kelp.

Naoise had stowed his spiker now, after reloading to a fresh magazine. This was too close in for it. Instead he unfolded his punch spike, fixed the lock and steadied himself with his off hand on the dive cowl. Kelp swayed in the current, knotted at to the sea floor; it was quick-kelp, called Tapa, and the stuff grew a meter a day even left alone. With finfolk help it'd grow as you watched! In this murk it was hard to see a foe three yards away. The wyrms were more relaxed than their riders; for long before Njrr's people came to this world and tamed these mighty beasts they had used kelp to hide in and approach larger prey; wild ones still do. Lindwyrms are mighty beasts, capable of pod behaviour & pack hunting; they are not quite top of the deep sea food chain but in the shallows they suffer no rival and know no fear.

Part 3

Swimming for a time through the dark waving murk of the kelp forest, the squadron listened to the clicks and squeeks of variously terrified and angry finfolk growing more distant behind them. Though the sounds faded as they swam soon Naoise came to the same conclusion as his captain. He was ready for the order when it came. "Butcher Actual to All, *tar as, tar as." called out Cpt Hargand, squeeker warble hardly noticed by their familiar ears.

*Tar as; Emerge

Naoise repeated the order as did everyone else to their wyrms, the beasts swimming straight up and emerging into late night darkness. Water dribbled down Naoise's helmet visor, seabirds scawed to each other somewhat muffled through his dive helmet. Waves crashed a few hundred meters behind him against the coral bed, still water here disturbing as wyrms rose from the kelp. The hills of Mesung island loomed in the distance far ahead, barely seen even by his night-seeking dvergr eyes by the dull moonlight of late night darkness. He cast his eyes about as the squadron emerged; 16 wyrms, 3 riders apiece on most and few of them hurt, though Luag's absence was obvious by the empty saddle spot on his wyrm. Naoise shook his head, looked for the Captain; Hargand exchanged a nod with Tumbler then shifted in the saddle. He tapped his dive helmet twice, switched off his rebreather and removed his helmet, which was the cue for Leftenants (and Artist Tumbler) who did the same while troopers reloaded pistols, popped visors and drank marching beer for their strength. Hargand's signaller, Usof, had released the spring-tensioned radio antenna and was busy updating fleet. Taog tread water warily; like the other dragons she hated loitering on the surface, it was tiring and she couldn't see threats below her. They'd put up with it if they had to but never like it.

Captain Hargand took a swig from his canteen. He was an ugly bastard, half an ear and face showing the raking scar from a finfolk's claws with wrinkles aplenty besides. His beard was navy length, short for the helmet he fought in. He spoke calm and confidently; they were up top to prevent keen-eared listeners hearing. "We're being followed. I need Easy 2 on a rearguard trap; hurt 'em and run. Tumbler, got any tricks for the kelp forest today?"

Tumbler looked the same as the others, until his helmet was off. Wyrding tattoos curled across his face and bald skull-like head, eyes the deep dark of a djupr; most feared of the dvergr clans for their racial talent in the Great Arts. Tumbler himself was not as scary as his reputation, at least not personally; he was a notorious cheat at gambling and incurable joker. If you got past the fact he could kill without use of hand or steel and the Artist strangeness you'd soon realise he's a prick - but a funny one. "Aye sa, i've an idea or two. How long ye givin' meh?"

Hargand took another swig. Hargand's wyrm, Neefling, growled unhappily. Hargand gave him a distracted knee to the ribs. Neefling snicked in disapproval, he stopped growling. "Three minutes, tops. We want to be gone. Will it be worth that time?"
Tumbler chuckled. "Over in three minutes? I'll be happy, but a lady wouldn't." Hargand stared levely while troopers variously rolled eyes and laughed. "Aye aye, i'll thin the ranks, it won't kill a lot but they'll think twice before followin' on."
Hargand nodded firmly, decision made. "Make it happen." He screwed the cap back onto his canteen, twisted in the saddle to glance at his squadron signaller. "Fink, you done?" Fink nodded. "Aye sa; a flyboy had news for us. Ossagan fast boats are inbound from the north west, four of 'em, maybe 10 mikes before they could be at our target." this gets a pause as Hargand thinks. Naoise felt his gut twist a bit. "Are they from second fleet or Mesung island?" asked Hargand. Fink shook his head as he spoke, "Looks to be the island, sa.. which's still outside our AO, 'Harg." Hargand didn't bite at the familiarity from his enlisted-rank signaller; those two had worked together for years. Fink was a good dive signaller. "Aye, aye. Doesn't change our objective but lets be quick, last thing we need's a couple platoons of goblin dive troops in our AO. LADS! Easy2 you're still rear and Tumbler make with the workings, forget quiet lets make a straight line for the target and get out of this damn kelp. We're near the town now; keep it loose and mobile with eyes on and bombs at the ready. Lets go!"

Naoise felt eyes on him, saw Lt. Gardan from Easy-3 giving him a look. Naoise ignored him. Gardan was highborn from a richer family than most with all the right friends; a shoe-in for Captain if he didn't stuff up this tour, and a total prat in Naoise's eyes. Naoise figured he knew the type. He ignored the glare, donning helmet and restarting his CCUBA. Squeeker clicked on. Sig Tomlins tapped his shoulder - ready to dive - and Naoise gave Taog the double press with his foot peddle prods. Nary a splash was heard as the squadron dived. Soundlessly Taog sucked in a lungfull and sank with them into the kelp forest's tendrilled darkness.

Voices echoed in Naoise's head, pain and suffering and cholic anger. A skittering feeling tingled his skin beneith the dive suit as he, his troop and most of the squadron waited near the edge of the kelp forest amoung old dead corals and rocks. He could make out Halfclaw 20 yards left but no others, though he knew they were close. Far behind screeches and clicks of angry finfolk could be heard; Easy-2 had laid in wait then pounced and hurt the pursuers, scattering them anew. Now the finfolk had rallied again and come after them with a vengence; they were drawing close.

Kelp curled unnaturally, shapes and shadows flickered weirdly all around. It was half seen strangeness. Tumble had been busy; his spell was unfurling. Naoise could only guess at what the old trickster was up to but it likely involved fooling of the fresh-vanquished ghosts from those bodies he & his had rent and scattered about the coral beds in battle minutes ago. Naoise was educated; he knew enough to guess that much, though the finer workings of Seidr (the Lying Art) eluded him. Taog turned her head as Easy-2 approached; she heard them long before they reported in. "Watch," challenged LT Gardan of Easy-2 from somewhere right and behind of Naoise. "Maker!" responded Easy-2's leftenant Foxwert. "Butcher Actual to all, lets go! *Maith pace, maith!" called Hargand. Tumble's merry presence could not be seen, but he'd follow sure enough; Naoise clicked Taog and she rose from hiding, pushing off the sand and pebbles. The squadron were moving once more.

*Maith pace; at good speed

Surging through the thinning kelp it slapped and coiled around dragons and riders with a supernatural will. Even now the spell was taking hold; it was time to be away. They burst forth from the kelp as the hateful darkness of the place began to coalesce and emerged into the trough of a coastal shallows-gully; clutter lay thick on the sand beneith the waves and an old sea wreck rested just ahead, the surface's gentle commotion a scarce 10 meters from the seabed here. Naoise and others cast their darklights forward, searching the sea night gloom; piled rock and gardened coral formed into mounds ahead with doors of naught but weed and rotted wood. Patches of kelp twisted in the gentle current, fish swam about in the dark; a great turtle two meters from beak to tail made haste to get away as the squadron tightened up and rushed in.

Naoise was sweeping the blackness with his Darklight and pistol in hand when felt more than heard a sea dart rush past his shoulder. He cursed and hunkered down behind the dive cowl; wet snaps echoed in the water, dvergr cursed and wyrms cawed in long, loud hunting calls. Someone shouted "CONTACT!", dvergr dart pistols clacked in responce though at what exactly Naoise had no idea, with no target yet he peered about and kept low. Taog swept down for a close pass on the wreck, cawing angrily as a few spikes bit her scaley hide. Naoise's darklight swept a rock pile on his right with the wreck to his left; three clacks and some bubble trails, but no shooter. "Taog! Sokn Right, rocks!" he barked; Taog hadn't seen them but she clicked understanding and changed her turn, sweeping around to the spot he'd lighted - where still he had no target, just suspicion of them as Taog rushed through it with a clack of empty jaws.

"Easy 1, targets on blinker!" announced Naoise on squeeker, leaning around in the saddle to point it back and flicking the Darklight a few times to draw his Troop's attentions while Taog took him & Tomlins around again in a wide circle; casting eyes about he saw Greenscale sweeping down behind a Finfolk shallows-house; they'd been looking his way and seen the light, they were closest. "Easy 1 - 3, Pass the Beer on my Blinker!" called Naoise. Halfclaw and Saelum (Easy 1 - 2 and 1 - 4 respectively) were just entering sight; Saelum's master, Lance Jack Toby blinked his Darklight at the top deck of the wrecked ship lying behind Taog. Tomlins reacted quickly, turning in the saddle; Naoise heard him shoot three times but couldn't spare the eyes to look that way; his were on Greenscale's pass, nevermind a passing spears as they dug into sand left and right of his swimming wyrm.

Greenscale emerged in a rush of crackling throat and swishing tail. Pass the Beer was a favourite maneuver and Easy 1-3 performed it expertly, Lance Jack Fenrick's lads with torpex grenades in hand released pins and dropped the things as their steed rushed over the rock pile Naoise was blinking his Darklight at; there was a panicked finfolk screech and then two very loud pressure-bangs; WHU-WHUMP! Bits of dead finfolk rippled out of Seidr-wrought concealment. Naoise grinned toothily, then grunted in realisation that one of those could have been an Elder. Nothing for it now, he thought, such is combat. "Good pass Easy 1-3! Easy-1, charge the wreck's deck! *'Sok it!" ordered Naoise, hearing "Aye-aye!" from his Troop in three directions.

Naoise dipped his voice a notch and legworked Taog for orders. "Sokn **toin scean! Sokn toin scean!" she growled a puff of bubbles out and swept round, greenscale already swooping in on a low approach to the wreck. Naoise swept Darklight up at it's top deck and saw what Toby on Saelum's back was blinking at; behind dregs of kelp and growth-clumped deck railings huddled finfolk in humanoid shape with long, huntsmen's spearguns in hand; Ossagan make by his guess. They were reloading, he could see at least ten facing this way without trying too hard.

*Sokn = Assault maneuver; bullrush in and bite 'em
**Toin scean = behind & up

"Easy 1 Fan! Fan! Easy 1-3 and Easy 1-4, Pass the Beer then Easy 1 Sokn! Acknowledge!" directed Naoise, ordering his Troop & wyrm to a halt as he changed plans. He could hear Easy 2 fighting nearby, while troop Easy 3 had sweept past into the shallow-town. Butcher remained behind in a fight near the kelp forest with something loud... something familiar. Saelum, Halfclaw and Greenscale's riders acknowledged clearly. Naoise drew his Spiker and passed the darklight to Tomlins again, "Keep the light on 'em" he said as he lined it up and the Pass commenced. Then he heard Butcher very loud indeed; it sounded like Hargand. "CONTACT, KELP FOREST! LINDWYRMS!"

Naoise missed his shot as the new worry played with his mind. Finfolk too used Lindwyrms, having in fact done so long before dvergr learned to tame these mighty beasts. The hope had been to not meet any such foes tonight... but Njord's favour was not so strongly with them this time. With a curse Naoise fired a spiker volley at the reloading finfolk on the shipwreck as Taog swam, clipping two before they popped up and returned fire, then spiking another after. The Finfolk's foot-long spears missing riders but not wyrm, one punched into Taog's side. She screamed her pain and the sound rattled Naoise & Tomlins both; Tom's grip on the darklight dipped and Naoise's aim wavered. Powerful cartridges in those spearguns to beat dragon hide; Naoise cursed and adjusted.

Greenscale and Saelum were luckier as they made their pass; Saelum wore a shot to the chest barding that tried and failed to bite through, each gave a deafening hunting screech as they rose and sped over the deck, their riders releasing a cluster of torpex grenades each before their steeds took them down the reverse sides with haste. Finfolk screamed and then bombs burst their fury through the water, the slow-blast sound stunning Taog out of her pain. She jinked down and looked to the kelp forest, wanting to hide. Naoise reigned her in and turned her back. "Socair! Socair, Taog! Socair! Sokn, Sokn!!" he said forcefully, trying to control the pained and angry sea-wyrm. She settled herself, quiverring, entering a fast swim straight at the wreck from which her pain had come as a spear. The others heard the order to Sokn and as one troop rushed at it from all four directions, low and fast under no weapons fire, then swept up over the brim and got in amoungst it.

Finfolk were scattered over the deck, some already in pieces. The bombs had swept their ranks with pressure and shrapnel both, killing a few and stunning all, and now the dvergr let loose with gun and wyrm. Taog got her jaws around one of the side rail shooters and smashed through several more, mouth full of screaming prey, dark blood trailing from her wound. Tomlins had latched his darklight to the saddle and now fired with two pistols, quickly emptying them in the fashion the moment demanded. Dvergr darts hummed in the water, a few tough-minded finfolk managed to fire back or bail out over the sides. Naoise fired so fast he emptied his Spiker in seconds, releasing it to flop about on it's tether he drew pistols and kept shooting. Taog's jaws gnawed her agonized prey, fishfolk spikes struck but failed upon her hide, her claws gutted two of them before the wreck was clear of enemies; dead finfolk sank to the deck and hung over the sides. All four wyrms were eating soft finfolk belly-flesh. The dvergr had lost one trooper, Yonlin from Halfclaw's saddle, while Ferren of Saelun's riders clung on with a hooked spike in his guts - he could make it if he was lucky and they found Tumble before long. Tomlins leaned over in the saddle, checking Taog's spear wound with a tug of the spearshaft; she snapped and squeeled in pain, glaring at him. Tomlins heaved and with another, louder squeek Taog shuddered and the spear tore free. "Socair, socair! It's out girl, socair!" said Tomlins, patting the wyrm with one fist, hard so she'd feel it through her scaley hide. "Boss, it's Ossagan wrought. A deep wound. We should use putty and tie the seal in." said Tomlins, resettling himself on the saddle. He hefted and looked at the spear then cast the deadly thing away disgustedly. Naoise glanced back, bit back a curse. He knew she was hurting; wyrm's blood dribbled from the wound even now.

"Socair, Taog." he murmured, then spoke louder for all to hear. "Good action Easy 1, resume hunting. Keep in sight..." began Naoise; he paused as Saelum's master, Toby, swept his darklight back toward the kelp forest. A wyrm of Butcher's troop rushed across the glow of his lamplight trailing blood and bleeding chunks of tethered meat that were formerly two of it's three riders; the third was not in sight. Their likely killer, a finfolk lindwyrm of strong size, riderless and wild, rushed after it in close pursuit. Naoise swallowed. This was a fight that could end them quickly even if Taog prevailed.

"Easy 1... ready spears." says Naoise. The others look at him from their wyrms; he can feel their stares. It's a command akin to fix bayonets and just as grim for them. He clears his throat, "Ready Spears!" he repeats with stronger voice. Each wyrm's lead rider untied his demi-lance, a stout spear of sturdy tip, grasping it underarm in a strong couched grip. Tomlins freed and drew the heavy speargun from the saddle holster, as other riders did the same in the 2nd & 3rd positions of their wyrms; the guns used heavy guncotton charges to drive blade-stabalized 13" bomblances; such made for powerful weapons of short range, single shot and muzzle loaded. "Tighten formation, Cross Wedge! Sokn wyrm!" he barked, the Troop forming up in a stretched X formation with Naoise's wyrm Taog leading as they swam forward, toward Butcher's fight. The wyrms cawed hunting calls, the riders gave their cry. "Sokn wyrm!" "SOKN WYRM!"

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