Beneath Crimson Waves
Word Count: 1100 (Not Including Title)
Bjorn clashed his hand-axe against a heavy wooden shield in sync with the rhythmic booming of fresh thunder. Lightning cracked across ashen skies and an unearthly wind hurled the crystal blue waters of the Sea of Claws every-which-way. Crown of Avarice’s oarsmen sang their songs of war and rowed across the heaving waves with an unnatural strength. Onboard the Crown of Avarice, a hundred warriors of chaos donned their horned helms and metallic shields. Wicked swords were drawn, as were great halberds and other weapons meant for slaughter and battle.
“They lie in wait for us.” Kolli called from where he leaned over the Crown of Avarice’s yawning daemonic maw. “How many do you think there are?”
Bjorn pushed aside a shield and joined his younger brother toward the front of the ship. He glared out over the erratic waves of the Sea of Claws, and noticed several other long ships plying the seas nearby. Each of them bore tattered crimson sails, emblazoned with the heraldry of the Blood God and clan Alle’.
All around them, the sea was threatening to come alive and swallow them all without much thought. Perhaps it was nothing more than an ill turn of weather to an untrained eye, but to Bjorn, he knew it could be nothing other than elf magic attempting to drag them down into the depths.
“They’re elves,” Bjorn shrugged. “Whatever numbers they do have, I assure you that it won’t be enough. When is that ever not the case, brother?”
Kolli glanced over his shoulder toward his elder brother. “I can think of a few times they turned us aside.” He inclined his head toward the silver armada rapidly approaching from the horizon. “None of them would be hear if they did not think they could kill us. You aren’t worried about that?”
Bjorn shook his head and cackled. “You aren’t thinking like a north man, Kolli. Expel your doubts with an unquenchable bloodlust! If all else fails, there will always be bloodshed in the Lord of Skull’s name.”
Kolli nodded and clapped his brother’s shoulder guard. “If blood is to be shed on this evening, then I would have it done by my brother’s side. I’m tired of looking at those pretty elves. Let’s go kill them!”
Bjorn removed the curved war horn from his belt and blew one long and sonorous note across the waves.
Bjorn bellowed over the choir of guttural chanting. “Right, you worthless mongrels! Full-sail ahead! Ram the bastards!”
A hundred voices thundered their approval over the wrath of the storm.
A burst of lightning sprayed from a gap in the clouds, so thick and bright it seemed more like Khorne hurling his spear than ominous weather. Bruised and ethereal, the lightning forked down toward the sea until one of the long ships blossomed in purplish flames. Such was the force behind the attack that the ship disintegrated and a hundred north men vanished beneath the erratic tides. All that remained of the vessel was a burning sail, which soon toppled into the sea.
“Don’t be afraid!” Bjorn called as the Crown Avarice gained momentum. “Once their Mage is in range, we’ll hurl our spears and claim for her skull for the thrown of our lord! Choke the sea until it runs red with blood brothers!”
“Hyah!” A spear hurtled across the waves, hurled from an Alle’ tribesmen. Bjorn watched the spear fly across the waters and impale one of the Sea Guard on a rapidly approaching trireme.
“Hah!” Kolli howled gleefully. “Good aim!”
“What are they doing?” Bjorn grumbled and nodded toward the silver armada shrinking into the distance. “Are they running?”
Kolli hurled another spear across the sea. “You must have scared them, brother! Run while you can—“
A tremor of force slammed into the Crown of Avarice from below. All at once, the jovial atmosphere onboard the ship vanished in a moment of silence as the ship bucked violently. Kolli shut his mouth and wrapped his hand around the daemon’s head on the front of the ship. Bjorn fell onto his knees and wrapped an arm around his brother. Several warriors of chaos screamed to their deaths, thrown overboard into the waters.
As quickly as it came, the tremor ceased and the vessel resumed course. Bjorn sagged back onto the deck and let out a loud breath he did not realize he was holding. Kolli searched the horizon for any sign of trickery.
Kolli suppressed a shiver. “Brother, what in the name of the gods was that?”
Bjorn’s axe came to rest on his shoulder. He fought to regain his feet and leaned over the railing of the ship to hurl. As he vomited, a long dark shadow beneath the waves began to surface. He scurried backward as an elongated head of emerald and dark blue scales, bronze eyes with sharp slits, and a ferocious maw of rotting teeth emerged from the sea.
In that moment, so many spears were hurled toward the creature assailing them that Bjorn could not count them all. Some of them found purchase in the soft skin around the neck, others beneath the jaw. The Hydra seemed to ignore these flea-bites and snatched several north men into its gaping maw in one strike. Bjorn looked on in horror as the Hydra loomed over him and crushed her meal with several chomping motions—armor and all.
“Give me that!” Bjorn snatched a javelin from out of another Northman’s grip. “Where are you aiming, you fools!” With practiced fluidity, he loosed the throwing spear so far over his head that he surely thought he had missed his target completely.
The Hydra head loomed closer in search of her next meal, almost oblivious to her prey’s resistance until a spear became lodged in her eye. The sea serpent unleashed a furious cry and vanished back below the waves. The crew cheered in great relief, knowing that they had escaped another brush with death.
Bjorn almost did not realize that the men from another long ship were screaming. He craned his head in time to find another, unscathed Hydra head capsize The Bloody Dawn
completely. Then another appeared and stole away an entire dozen of Dark Pyre’s
Kolli said, his voice bleak. “Surely they won’t eat all of us, will they? They have to get full at some point.”
Bjorn snatched another spear from a barrel. “I won’t be testing that theory today. Don’t just stand there, this is going to take all day. Pray to the Dark Gods that they shall see their champions through.”