Dark Tides

UP: Drachenfels & Europa

   The sun burned red as it slowly dipped beneath the ocean. A mist swirled across the cooling waters, and the fading light cast long shadows across the tranquil bay.

Suddenly, as if from nowhere, strange shapes came into view, like needles threading through the heavy sea fog. At first there were just two, but gradually more began looming out of the darkness that cloaked the quiet waters. But these were not needles, they were masts.

Grarg Dral’kor grinned as he saw the coastline of Skara Brae open before him. Raising a clenched fist, his ship slowed to a standstill, swaying silently in the calm waters. In perfect symmetry, the fleet of vessels, which surrounded him gently, came to a halt.

Unsheathing a large bronze cutlass, Grarg held the weapon aloft, as his ghastly men watched on in awe. Without a word, the entire crew moved to one side of the ship, and the helmsman slowly swung the vessel round until she was parallel with the nearby shoreline. In perfect union, the armada of pirate vessels mirrored these movements.

A low rumbling disturbed the still night air. Some of the more alert townsfolk of Skara Brae stopped and listened. The sound had gone. Dismissing it as distant thunder, all carried on about their business.

They could not be blamed, for none had heard the sound of a hundred cannons being wheeled into position before.

Grarg stood silent. His huge frame was silhouetted against the waxing moon, making his appearance even more grim and foreboding than usual. Grarg’s pirates were the most feared in the Realm, and all could carry out their duties with a precision only attainable after years of practise.

He turned his head slowly. On the port side was his General’s ship. The only other ranking officer in this navy of terror. Indeed, he was worthy of the title. General Varliin Gral’kor was one of the most fearsome fighters in the land, and his bloodthirsty reputation was the topic of many a minstrel’s tale.

For a fleeting moment the fog cleared, and wrapped in misty folds the town of Skara Brae emerged. Lights twinkled along the coastline, and the peaks and spires rose above the low hanging clouds. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the image faded.

This was all Grarg needed. Using only hand signals the cannons were aimed, and a ripple of similar movement echoed down the line of ships.

The cannon’s roared and spewed flaming balls of hot iron into the frail wooden buildings that lined the bay. As soon as the cannons had settled back in their frames the seamen began lighting slow matches, stirring powder and rolling fresh ammunition towards the gargantuan weapons. The smoke had not yet cleared from the first attack when the next volley of cannon fire lit up the night sky. Most of the buildings, which lay near the shore, had already been levelled, but the next barrage left none standing.

Relentlessly the cannon’s fired, and the terrified inhabitants of Skara Brae could do nothing but flee the hellish destruction. The stench of sulphur was thick in the air as a thousand fires lighted the horizon.

Grarg grinned wide as he watched the town crumble. The people frantically scurrying through burning streets amused him.

“Look at em. Like ants fleeing a nest we’ve just stamped on.” His men roared with laughter as they carried out their duties. Grarg held a lantern above his head and stared towards Varliin’s ship. Almost immediately a lantern appeared above the main deck in recognition of his signal. A score of small boats were lowered on groaning ropes to the frothing water below the mighty galleons. Men scrambled down rope netting and within minutes a line of the small rowboats wound slowly towards the splintering docks.

Grarg was not as inclined to joining raiding parties as he used to be. He was still a fearsome fighter, but these days preferred to watch the plunder from his ship, the Buzzard. Although he was undoubtedly a cruel and murderous man, his strength of mind was worthy of praise, and his battle tactics were of a standard expected of Britannia’s finest military commanders.

The pirates and cut-throats which made up the majority of Grarg’s men boiled out onto the shore, rampaging through the streets and slaying anyone who dared to stand in their way. Men gathered outside the houses that still stood to protect the women and children within, but were cut down fast by the mass of crazed villains. The raid had become a slaughter, and tales of this destruction would no doubt bring Grarg the fame he relished so dearly.

The attack went on relentlessly through the night, and only after much of the town’s southern shoreline lay wasted did the fighting finally die down. As quickly as they had arrived the ghastly fleet gathered its men and glided into the early morning haze, and as they disappeared from view the jeering and cursing of the ship’s crews faded slowly with them, until an eerie silence descended once again upon Skara Brae.

From the Town Cryer - The Journal of Ultima Online