Idorsus Cragfin watched with horror as the scarred pirate tossed the torch underhand and it flew, trailing smoke and dripping tar, across the deck the Merry Mollusk, where it landed amid the vessel’s powder barrels. Time stood still as the flame licked at the barrels, then his world exploded into a fiery maelstrom.
The force of the blast hurled him over the railing, and he landed hard on the rough wood of the dock. Burning timber dropped around him as he pushed himself to his knees and pulled the splinter from his bleeding forearms. He turned to see the damage.
The scarred pirate hadn’t survived, Cragfin decided. Of course, nothing else had either, but he liked to focus on the positive. That meant looking past the fact that his ship was a blazing pyre, the flames licking at the night sky. At least the scarred pirate was getting a funeral pyre. His family would probably be happy about that.
The Merry Mollusk wasn’t the only blazing ship in the harbor. Almost the entirety of the northern docks were aflame, and the fire was spreading was spreading.
“Captain!” Cragfin’s first mate, Kovin Drake, was running towards him, the fire reflecting off his bare sword.
Kovin was a slight, wiry man with hair short short and uneven. His face stuck in a permanent frown, but it was even deeper now. “The pirates are pushing south into the city!” he yelled. Cragfin could barely hear him over the ringing in his ears.
“Where are they exactly?” he asked. He thought he must be yelling.
Kovin gestured with his sword. “They’re pushing through the Iron Quarter.”
“And the crew?” Cragfin had given his crew the night off to entertain themselves along the waterfront. He had stayed behind to go over the ship’s ledgers, which were now ashes. He may have just lost a fortune, but at least he had less work to do.
“I pulled them out of the closest alehouses and tried to smack the drink from them,” Kovin said. “They aren’t in prime shape, but they should be able to fight.”
“Good.” Cragfin had made a good hire with Kovin. The man was extremely useful; it almost took his mind off the hundreds of thousands of dragons worth of deals that had just gone up in smoke. “Onward, my good sir.”
Kovin led him though the burning waterfront and into the Iron Quarter. The houses were built close together, but Cragfin kept his sense of direction in the warren of alleys by keeping the burning harbor at his back.
Before long, Cragfin began to hear the sounds of battle. He stepped ahead of Kovin and turned a corner into a melee, drawing a massive broadsword as he did.
The pirates were fighting a group of guards and sailors in the Steel Square, lantern-light flashing off their blades as they traded blows around the Crystal Fountain.
That was something to seize upon. The square was slick with blood and strewn with bodies, but the fountain itself was beautiful. Water ran from the maw of a marble dragon and trickled over shinestone. The shinestone, which had been created by some wealthy alchemist, cast light through the water and gave it a glassy sheen.
If he hadn’t needed to fight, Cragfin could have watched the fountain all night, but duty forced him to strike at the nearest pirate with a wide sweep of his broadsword. The pirate fell in a spray of blood, and Cragfin ran to his next foe.
The arrival of Cragfin and Kovin lent energy to the sailors, and Cragfin’s crew began to make short work of the pirates. Genne Porter spun through the fray, her daggers flashing, and Durgum Wurs waded after her, laying about with his massive hammer. The twins fought back to back, and even the Iron Guard redoubled their efforts. It wasn’t long before the final three pirates fled the square.
Cragfin sped after them, with Kovin close behind him. Cragfin’s hearing was mostly back, and he thought he heard the first mate call for the crew to follow. Either he was imagining it, or his sailors were still too drunk to follow orders, because when he reentered the alleys around the square, only Kovin was with him.
As he ran, Cragfin noticed that the pirates were fleeing east , which was odd. The pirates’ ships were to the north, where their attack had come from. If it hadn’t been for the constant light of the burning harbor to his left, he would have thought himself mistaken.
“Where the hell are they going?” Kovin asked as they ran.
“No idea!” The Iron Quarter was already on the northeastern side of the island. The only thing to the east were coastal bluffs and a few small inlets.
Cragfin burst from the Quater and onto the bluffs. The fleeing pirates were less than thirty yards ahead, easily within reach, but he came to a sudden stop.
Kovin almost crashed into his back, but managed to stop in time. “Why are we-” his jaw dropped. “Oh shit.”
Moving stealthily towards the cliffs was a black fleet, nearly invisible against the dark sea. The attack on the harbor had merely been a diversion. This new fleet was twice as large as the crown could muster on short notice.
“Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” Kovin was muttering.
Even Cragfin struggled to find a bright side.
This is Part 1.