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New {M}edShock

Kreed · 47 · 2304

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Offline Jabbathejack

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The air was filled with tension as the sailors and the surviving soldiers watched the elves flow into action. For the vast majority, this was the first time that they had ever seen an elf cast a spell in the face of battle and they watched in an uneasy silence.

The display was indeed beautiful, but at the same time, it was dangerous and deadly and Joe found that, even though he'd seen elves cast before and had even faced them with the Tanuki attack, it was still something very alien to him.

He told himself to relax; they were, after all, working on the same side, for the moment, at least.

As the other ship nearly steadily, her oars cutting into the water. Joe could see the crew running across the deck, readying weapons no doubt. Yet it was unlikely that they knew what they were sailing into. Poor bastards.

There was a hush over the crew as the fireball finally soared over the waves and slammed into the enemy ship, her sails catching immediately. As the magical fire landed, the human crew raised a shout of triumph. What had seemed like a bleak journey now had a chance of victory on the horizon. Joe, however, remained silent, watching the panic unfold.

Immediately, the enemy ship wavered on her course, her sailors scrambling to hold her steady and put out the fires before they engulfed her completely. Yet despite that, they were still in danger of striking them.

Shankland called out to the helmsman, ordering the wheel to be turned a few degrees and the two ships coasted past each other. They were now within range and arrows flittered through the air from both ships. Joe kept his head down, but he knew damn well that it was luck that dictated who was struck and who was not.


Offline Kreed

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Luck...or magic. Fulbeck seemed to forget that the elves used defensive magic just as readily. As the ship was brought around, Akuma was heard over the din, barking out orders in both languages to raise shields and ready arrows. The Nambuvian king's booming voice shook the surface of the deck a moment after, and six or seven elves sang out, raising their hands to the sky. Like a fountain with arching water, from each pair of hands a liquid sheen of magic cascaded out and bloomed over the heads of many. Each elf produced a different shade of blue or green, like polished stained glass.

"Get under the shield!" Hao Yan commanded to bystanders. Tawny scrambled right away to find herself under the safety of one of the various circles surrounding her. With Joe busy trying to keep cover in the chaos, he wasn't able to watch his step. When the volley of arrows from the Thrain ship came cascading down, Akuma stepped forward and pulled the man under the rim of the shields above them with a firm, sudden yank on the bicep. Where the man stood moments before, a small grouping of arrows buried their heads into the surface of the deck.


Offline Jabbathejack

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Joe stared at the arrow, its head buried deep into the wood not far from where he now stood. Breathless, he moved back beneath the shield, giving Akuma a nod of acknowledgement.

He could feel the crackle of energy around him, tingling against his skin, feeling as if the air itself was alive with magic. It was a strange feeling, one that he found to be deeply unsettling, reminding him of that awful night in Moruth years ago. How much control did these mages have?

The ship loomed close to them, much larger than their own ship was. Joe could see the sailors and soldiers running, hurrying to put out the flames before they spread to the rest of the ship. Already, the main sail was in tatters, flaming tendrils dropping down to the deck below.

Faintly, Joe could hear Shankland's voice, rising above the tummult, calling a course change. The ships moved closer still, the oars splintering between them.

The order came to board, grappeling hooks thrown over to bind the two ships together. His sword in his hands, Joe surged over the edge, the others along with him.


Offline Kreed

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There it was...the order to board. No more need for elaborate spells and communal magic; now, they fought steel-to-steel. Had they earth beneath them, Akuma would have surged forward at the front of the line, but now he delayed. Around him, men and elves alike moved in a smooth, surging current, jumping seamlessly from deck to deck like flying fish leaping from one whitecap to the next.

Akuma's legs rooted themselves to the deck and refused to move. Could they hope to bridge the gap, or would their own weight pull them into the swirling maw of the ocean? One wrong move and they would go overboard, clawing fruitlessly at the sides of the ship while they dropped like an anchor?

"Quicksilver." Beside him, Umi grunted, snapping him back to reality. Akuma glanced over, eyes narrowing and lips twitching into a quick scowl. He tore his eyes back to the front and center. He knew well what the king would say, as did the king for him; there was no need to speak further and drag out the painful shuffle around one another in a half-hearted attempt of comraderie. He needed to jump or get out of the way. Before he realized what he was doing, his feet made up their own mind. He turned and moved around the straggling few still jumping across and disappeared below deck. He could not let himself be seen failing to jump ship, but he took solace in the knowledge that - should any of Deorsa's men dare to cross - he would be waiting with a nasty grudge.

Umi waited only a moment further as the demon descended and vanished behind the final wave of soldiers jumped ship. With an irritated sigh, the elf moved to join them, vaulting over the side of the ship with the help of his glaive. As he landed, he slammed the blade into the nearest enemy's foot, soaking up the blood like a sponge before dragging the man roughly forward. The sailor cried out in surprise and was yanked to the floor, soundly hitting his head on the deck before he was silenced by the blade of the glaive to the neck. All at once, his corpse shrivelled like a mummy and the glaive glowed red with lifeblood, breathing as though it were a log full of embers. Without Akuma alongside him, this was going to be a tedious and very gory affair.


Offline Jabbathejack

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They surged across the deck in a vicious wave, slicing out at the enemy ahead of them. Men cried out as they fought, but to Joe, it felt as if their sounds were lost in the general tummult.

The air was heavy with the smell of smoke, with tendrils of burning sail cloth raining down on the fighters below. The shouts and screams of both sides, combined with the clash of steel on steel; it was so loud, Joe's ears were ringing.

Joe didn't dwell on who he was killing. Despite his earlier worries and guilt, he found it was almost too easy to simply let his instincts take over.

He ducked, feeling the air where his head had been stir with the force of a blow that threatened to take his head off had it landed. Yet the swing had been so wild, the man had left himself wide open. Joe did not hesitate to take the opportunity, slamming his sword deep into the man's gut. His mouth opening wide in wordless shock, the man sank to his knees. Planting his foot onto the man's stomach, Joe gave a heave and tore his blade back out, letting the man's body slump to the deck.

With the elves fighting alongside them, the tide of the battle turned to their favour. With the officers dead, the enemy soldiers surrendered, their weapons dropping to the deck.

"Check the hold." Shankland growled. "Dig the bastards out."

His feet slipping in the blood, Joe followed him, through the door and down the steep wooden steps to the hold. Most of the crew had been on deck for the battle, but they found a few men scattered here and there and they were dispatched without trouble.

Rounding the corner, Joe found himself heading down yet another steep set of steps, ending up deep in the bowels of the ship. As Shankland flung open the sturdy oak door, Joe was hit with a stench so foul, he almost lost his breakfast right then and there.

The oarsmen sat at their benches, staring up at them with hollow, hopeless eyes. They were pitifully thin, shackled hand and foot to their oars. Where the two ships had clashed, the oars had splintered and one man sat slumped, bleeding heavily and Joe realised with a jolt that he was still chained to the oar that had impaled him.

"Sirs, I surrender." The guard raised his hands, dropping his sword. Joe could see the whip tucked into his belt and once more, he felt sick to his stomach. Without hesitation, he cut the man down.

Joe grabbed the keys from the guard's belt and began to unlock their chains, but the ship was taking on water at an alarming rate.

"Come on." He muttered urgently, talking more to himself than anyone else. As he worked on the last row, he had to reach beneath the water level to release them.


Offline Kreed

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The elf-king was unsure what Shankland meant, but he followed the wave of soldiers down into the hold. They were hit with a wall of horrific stench, a rich combination of many bodily functions rolled into one. The realization was quick to sink in deep; this is where they had kept their slaves.

Umi's eyes grew wide in surprise. The empire, of course, had slave labour from their prisoners of war - anyone that refused to surrender and join was made to work for their freedom - but it wasn't like this. These men had no chance to escape, were not fed properly, or given proper breaks. The sight of Joe cutting down the guard snapped him back to reality and he advanced forward.

"Fulbeck, that man surrendered. His death was senseless."

"Let's debate the life of a cruel man once his victims are free", Tawny responded. Her expression toward the King was chilly, but she didn't linger on the matter. Instead, she chose to focus on leading the skeletal remnants of the crew up the stairs and out of harm's way. Others lingered, biting their nails as Fulbeck worked on freeing the remaining prisoners. There appeared to be no other keys in the vincinity and there would be no time to look. They could simply wait and hope their comrade could work swiftly enough to save them all.

Umi's eyes swept the shrinking room for a solution before settling on the man run through with his oar. It was a nasty wound and the fact that the man had continued to cling to life was miraculous, but in vain. That was a wound no healer could mend... not without the man living a shortened and painful life of pain and disability. That was, if the starvation and exhaustion didn't kill him first. The elf cleared the floor and made his way to him, lowering himself to meet the man's eyes, milky and unfocused. His face was contorted into a grimace.

"An...elf." He whispered incredulously. He might have spoken through girtted teeth, had he many left.

"You cannot be saved," Umi whispered, "but I can end your suffering and use what remains of your lifeforce to free the others."

"Let me die...I'm already so cold... let me die."

"I am sorry." Umi stood and placed a gentle hand over the front of the man's skull. The prisoner smiled faintly and relaxed in the elf's hand. With a deep inhale and a stretching of his spine, the king increased his grip and - with a sudden movement - wrenched his head backwards. A deep red glow flowed briefly from the silent man before he slumped over. The glow lingered and pulsed up the length of Umi's arm, occasionally crackling and charging the air like electricity. He turned suddenly and swept his hand over the final row of prisoners, and their shackles suddenly fell open. Umi turned to the watching soldiers.

"They are free. Help them upstairs."

There was no hesitation and the men urgently moved the assist. Umi waded through the surge of prisoners and troops to close the gap between Joe and himself. "The man that sacrificed himself... your people are buried at sea, yes? How do I leave him with dignity?"


Offline Jabbathejack

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Joe's hands shook a little as he worked on the chains. He did not allow himself time to react to what either Tawny or the elf king had said, neither did he dwell on what they were doing; there was work to be done and he was in a position to get it done.

He looked up at the strange feeling of magic returned, his eyes widening at the red light that seemed to come from the unfortunate man. What was going on? Then the shackles that he was holding flew out of his hands, the prisoners all released.

As the elf king approached, Joe could only stare at him with his mouth wide open.
"I..." At first, Joe was not sure what the king was actually asking him. He stared at him for a moment, then he blinked, seeing the man's dead body slumped over the oar.

The king was right, they could not leave him here, not like this. Silently, Joe nodded and crossed over to him and he stooped, hefting the man's body up onto his shoulder. By now, the water was up past his thighs and he waded to the door, climbing the steps.

The man had been so thin, the dead weight of his body felt like barely that of a man.
The deck of the sinking ship was pandemonium, with Shankland directing his men to herd over the freed prisoners, keeping them separate from those captured from the enemy ranks who were disarmed and sent straight to the brig.

Joe carried the body of the dead prisoner back to their own ship, leaving the bodies of their fallen enemies where they lay. Even if they had tried to recover those bodies, there was simply not the time, for the galley went down in mere minutes. As they drifted away, the deck was already below the surface of the water, with just the tattered remnants of her mast and sails jutting up.

Gently, Joe lay the body down, beside the few of their own crew that had died during the battle and then he turned away, feeling a wave of bitterness washing through him. He clenched his fist, slowly releasing it as he exhaled. But he could not afford to simply stand by and let everyone else do the work; keeping his head down, he headed over to where Mara was stood, checking over the wounded.

"What do you need done?" He muttered hoarsely. Mara turned sharply, staring at him for a moment in surprise, then she nodded.

"Fulbeck, get me some clean fresh water. If we can't heal them immediately, then we need to get their wounds clean."

Joe obeyed immediately, working tirelessly at Mara's direction.


Offline Kreed

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While in the days prior the rain had seemed to be a burden, now it had presented itself as a gift in disguise. The rain barrels were full up with water no older than two or three days. The wounded would have plenty of fresh water not only for their injuries but also to parch their throats in a way that wine would not. As the crew returned aboard and the wounded were assessed, a very tall, thin elf approached Mara's side and gave a light bow. She was pale, with high, sharp cheekbones and black almond eyes. Her feathered robes held a faint sheen and thrummed with a quiet magical energy, and the bone beads on her obi clicked together as she moved.

"The Sun-Prince has requested I assist you in healing the fallen", she said. "I am Crowstep. I await your orders."

Not far from where Crowstep and Mara stood, several Thrain men loosely huddled around the body of a fallen elf -- it was, for them, the first time they were given the dilemma sending off one other than their own. How would they be respectful to their new allies by giving the soldier a proper burial?

"I don't think they send em off on the water like we do, Bill... I heard they tend to burn their dead."

"Burn them?" Bill spoke with a quiet shock which registered on the faces of the others present. "Ungodly! How could they?"

"Somethin' bout mixing the ashes and using it to grow a tree or...I think that was it. I don't quite recall the details per se. I was only half listening to be honest with you."

"Well here's what I figure", spoke a third man, after some deliberation, "The Empire's a bunch of tribes smushed together anyway, hey, so how do we know they all do the same thing in the first place? They can't all burn their dead -- in that bloody rainforest? No way. Too wet. So how's about--"

"Ah... I knew there would be at least one..." Umi sighed as he stepped closer, looking over the body of his countryman. He glanced between the men, who gave the king wide berth and questioning stares as he moved past them. He knelt before the elf and his hand found a small pocket sewn into the inside of his leather jerkin. Umi's hands came away with light streaks of drying blood and a small, smooth stone. He turned it over in his hand and noted the carving -- a fish like creature with a monkey's face -- before putting the stone back into place. He rose to his feet and faced the men.

"Our soldiers carry a stone with a marker of their tribe. We then know who and how to honour in death." There was a pause, as he scanned the faces of the men. "I will handle it. Thank you."

It seemed to be the dismissal they were looking for, and - relieved - they moved on to care for their own.


Offline Jabbathejack

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Joe set down the pail of water, looking up as the elf approached Mara. Crowstep. By the look of her, she was aptly named. Bizarrely, Joe found himself wondering which came first, her name or her style of dress. But there was no time to dwell on idle thoughts.

Joe went straight to work. He kept himself well out of the way of both Mara and the elf, leaving the worst of the wounded to the magical types, whilst he cleaned the wounds of the others and tried to make them as comfortable as possible.

"Take a break, Fulbeck."

Mara almost made him jump, laying a blood stained hand on his shoulder. He shook his head.

"I'm fine." He muttered, rinsing out a bloody rag.
"Fulbeck." Mara's voice hardened, despite her obvious fatigue. "I need you at your best. Get some rest."

Joe sighed, setting down the rag. He made his way up the stairs to the crew quarters but his bunk had been taken. Of course it had, taken by someone who needed it, along with every other spare bunk in the room. Without complaint, Joe turned and headed out.

He eventually found a space, out on the deck, tucked into a little cubby hole by the entrance to Mara's cabin. Sitting with his knees to his chest, he leaned his head on his knees and exhaled slowly.


Offline Kreed

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"Trouble?"

As easily as Akuma had disappeared in the middle of the fight, they had emerged once more. The demon found himself standing in front of the human soldier who - for most of the trip - seemed to have avoided him.

Akuma supposed he couldn't blame Joe, though, given their last few encounters. Fulbeck was probably still convinced he was going to be turned in for retaliation for their argument over racism right before departing.

"I heard what you found."


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Joe raised his head as Akuma spoke, blinking up at him with tired eyes. He did not reply immediately, but let his head fall back against the wall behind him as if he did not even have the energy to hold his head up properly.

"Ain't no trouble." He grunted, his voice hoarse with fatigue. "It's done."

He grimaced; he didn't want to talk, didn't want to do anything but sleep, but every time he closed his eyes he just saw the same view of all those men chained down in the dark depths of the galley. Alongside that image was the memory of the stench that had come with it, of shit and blood and death.

"It's done." He repeated quietly, although in his mind it was everything but done.


Offline Kreed

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For a man who said it was no trouble, Joe seemed to be very, very troubled by what he had seen. He wouldn't have fooled anyone, least of all Akuma, who had come to read him practically by rote.

The demon titled his head just slightly, lips pursing and a soft, short contemplative hum stirring in his throat. He did not move from his place in front of the human and folded his arms loosely over his chest, hip titled just slightly to hold his weight to one side. Eyes scanned over the blond man's face, soft but critical. Akuma was quiet for some time before he spoke again. He was debating whether to mock the man or to leave him alone. He settled instead on a third option.

"That is a heavy burden to bear for a man who is already weighed down by a very big secret."


Offline Jabbathejack

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Burden. Joe looked up, grimacing. Burden was the right word, that was for sure. It felt like a crushing weight on his shoulders, dragging him down. Now that he had finally allowed himself a chance to sit down and make an attempt at rest, the thoughts had begun to twist around in his mind.

So much torment, horror and suffering. Joe felt sick to even think that someone had stood by and allowed such acts to happen, let alone carried them out directly. For so long, he had fought for his king and country, giving his all for a land that had taken him in and sheltered him, claiming him when his birth family had abandoned him. Joe's grimace deepened; his feelings right now felt like a betrayal, after everything Thrain had done for him.

He looked up once more, aware that the demon was probably expecting an answer of some kind, yet there he was sat staring stupidly.

"Not the best of company right now."


Offline Kreed

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Not the best of company? It took a great deal of willpower for Akuma to bite his tongue. It was not within his regular practice to seek out Fulbeck, for example, if he desired insightful and titillating conversation. Instead, the demon smashed the temptation to be sarcastic and attempted to hastily remould it into something resembling a more constructive comment. There was no reason both of them had to be unyielding, frigid arseholes.

"It...did occur to me by your expression that you were not best equipped for conversation, yes." The struggle to speak with a modicum of decorum was cleaer as day on his face...at least, as far as Elvish expression tended to go. That is to say, for a human, it was still cryptic at the most melodramatic of times.

"Still, I must acknowledge that you have a limited number of confidants that are privy to your particular dilemma. Despite our differences...I feel obligated to offer you an ear." A beat. He cleared his throat and gave Joe a once over. The man had made it very clear he was not in a place for dialogue. Just as well, for Akuma wasn't certain he wanted to engage anyhow. This presented an easy out. He turned to leave, drawing himself up and giving the human a final glance.

"When you are ready."


Offline Jabbathejack

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Joe snorted faintly.
"Not like there's much difference. "
He frowned at the demon's choice of words. Obligated. That didn't really suggest that he actually wanted to listen.

Joe shook his head.
"I just... need to sleep."

He paused, frowning. From time to time, the demon had produced strange smelling potions and salves for a wide range of ailments. Every time, Joe had politely declined.

"Kuma..." He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Got anything that might help?"