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Excerpt From "Adversarius, Shadow of the Rose: Book One"
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Something connected solidly with the back of Kayta's head. Around her people fought, as pyrates from the attacking ship swarmed the deck of the Paridzule warship. For a few moments, Kayta had bright spots in her vision. When they cleared, she saw an ogre rushing her, blade at the ready. The ogre's red eyes burned with a fierceness she recognized from battle. Spittle formed on his bluish lips, his long, greasy black hair was pulled severely back from his hard features. Kayta had to crane her neck to get a good look at his face as he drew nearer. Pulse quickening, she unsheathed her sword and readied herself for his attack. Years of warrior training surfaced. Watching every muscle twitch, every shift of his weight, she tried to determine when and where the ogre would strike. He raised his weapon, preparing to bring it down upon her head with all the force he could muster, and survival instincts kicked in. Sidestepping his charge, she raised her sword to deflect the ogre's but lost her balance as the small, attacking ship rammed into the larger one, knocking everyone askew. As Kayta stumbled, the ogre smirked. He barely wobbled, shifting his weight easily to maintain his balance. Kayta raised her sword once more to deflect his attack, his breath rancid in her face as he grabbed her collar instead and pulled her close.
The ogre lifted Kayta from her feet, making her swear. Anger burned through her at being unable to maintain her balance, allowing this creature to get the upper hand. She leaned back as far as his grasp would allow, then thrust her head forward. Her forehead connected with his nose. The crunch of bone and cartilage gave her small satisfaction. Blood gushed as she saw spots again and blinked, trying to clear her blurred vision. The ogre bellowed with rage, spittle flying in her face as he slid his wicked looking blade into her, under her ribcage. Grasping at the hand holding her armor, she struggled for a moment until the pain registered in her mind. Her light mail armor did nothing to stop the blade, and the scrape of metal on metal rang out as the sword pushed through her body and burst from her back in a spray of blood. The searing pain addled her senses. Stunned, she almost forgot to breathe, the burning sensation enveloped her entire body. A haze seemed to form before her eyes as her weapon clattered to the wooden deck. The ogre dropped her, but her legs were too weak to hold her weight, the pain intensifying as she fell to her knees. The ogre sneered at her, lifting his foot to push her roughly off his weapon. Without the blade to hold her upright, she slumped forward; her face met the deck with a thud. Things slowed down then as she twisted her head and looked beyond him. Elves and humans on the opposing ship were loosing ignited arrows at anything that moved. Everyone fought around her but they were sorely outnumbered, and humans were no match for the ogres. The ship ran on a skeleton crew, and half of the warriors were reassigned to other ships to make room for countless “Nobles”, their families and their belongings as they traveled home from the bi-annual negotiations held during Suleiel's Festival.
Women ran screaming over the deck, their skirts catching fire as catapults on the main deck of the attacking ship launched flaming ballista and pitch pots. Smoke stung her eyes and burned in her lungs. Kayta blinked and rolled over, pressing her hand to her side. Blood oozed between her fingers, sticky and warm. She saw her sword on the deck and reached for it, her fingers curling weakly around the hilt. Placing the tip of the blade into the wood, she pushed hard to a standing position. Another jolt from the opposing ship sent her staggering towards the railing, arms pinwheeling. She connected with the hard wood of the rail, and a new pain flared up as her ribs cracked, forcing a cry from her lips. The ogre that had run her through turned; a flash of irritation crossed his features at seeing her on her feet. He rushed towards her and pushed her the rest of the way over.
Kayta hit the water hard, knocking the air from her lungs. The icy cold stung her exposed skin and brought her somewhat back to her senses. Struggling for air, she kicked for the surface, her armor trying to drag her down. As soon as her head was above water, she flailed about, gulping air into her burning lungs. The high waves crashed over her head, and she looked for something to hold onto.
High above her, the fighting continued. Swords clanged loudly, shouts and screams filled the air. Flaming debris suddenly rained down as the fire burned through the ropes holding the main mast in place. The thunderous crack of wood as the mast broke echoed in her ears. As the mast fell, flaming sails and all, she tried to swim away. Her arms and legs felt heavy in the water, and movement of her arms brought shooting pain from the wound in her side. Barely missed by the huge mast, she screamed as something struck her leg and dragged her back under water. Something wrapped around her body, and for a moment she thought she had been snagged in the sails. Fear and determination forced her to the surface once more, but her strength was ebbing. Each breath tore at her throat, and pain stabbed her side. Her arms ached from treading water and the throbbing in her head made her want to slip below the surface and sleep forever. One good leg kicked, the other hung useless and still as Kayta desperately fought to keep her head above water. She sent a silent prayer to Unai, god of the seas, hoping he would take pity on her. Squeezing her eyes shut against every twinge and spasm, she opened them and found a large piece of wood drifting towards her from the wreckage. Desperation propelled her towards it, and she forced herself to hold on. Blackness began to wash over her in soothing waves, gently floating her on a pain-free tide as she clung to the debris. The last thing she heard was her best friend screaming her name and it followed her down into the abyss.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
As the twin suns trailed across the blue dome of sky, Kayta drifted in and out of consciousness. Smoke drifted in lazy tendrils over the water and burning remains of the warship. The majority of the ship remained afloat, but Kayta could see it was sinking fast. Turning her head brought a flash of pain, but she looked around nonetheless seeing bodies floating in the water nearby. Only a handful seemed to be pyrates by the type of clothes they wore, tattered, ill-fitting and stained. The waves of the ocean lulled her; the cold water numbed her leg, which she decided must be broken as searing pain shot through her every time she tried to move it. Her head throbbed and a dull ache formed behind her eyes. Holding on to the wood that buoyed her, she drifted off into painless sleep once more.
Later, when Kayta woke, she felt as if mere moments had passed. However, rosy sunlight glinted off the waves, and nothing of the grand vessel remained except for bits and pieces. Most of the debris floating nearby moved away from her with the current. Kayta could feel a heaviness, like being smothered under too many layers of blankets. Her mind buzzed, and she floated in a dream-like state when a dark bulk appeared on the horizon. With each slow blink of her eyes, it drew closer until she thought she could see a blue dragon emblazoned on a white sail. She barely remembered the conversation she had with Trinara about Sorcha Lilanthroe being in these waters. The woman had been hunted due to her attacks of merchant ships and marauding. The ruthless pyrate captain seemed to be a constant thorn. Other ruling dignitaries had begged Kayta's father to do something about it. Deciding her damaged head was playing tricks on her, she closed her eyes and fell back into the painless, sweet relief of semi-consciousness.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~The suns were dipping below the edge of the horizon when Kayta jerked awake. Her body no longer rose and fell with the gentle waves. Limbs hung limp, the dragging weight of them bringing fresh spasms of pain. At first, she thought she had fallen into a dream, but a stiff sea breeze quickly cooled her fevered body. Her teeth began to chatter as she struggled to lift her head. She could hear voices, commands being barked out by a woman. Gradually, slowly, she was raised and then lowered onto the softly swaying deck of a ship. The creak and groan of wood and rope made her eyes flutter open. She found herself staring into the brilliant blue eyes of a woman who should have been familiar to her.