I heard that some people are looking for chapters within the meat of a work in progress without very much context. So here is my Chapter 15. This takes place during a naval battle aboard the infamous Business End as it takes on the Flagship of the United Kingdom of Talba the HMS Integrity. We follow the perspective of Felix Kelvan, the Aide-de-Camp of Captain Vitalle. The chapter is fairly short because it jumps back and forth between POVs on either ship. Enjoy!
“Over the portside!”
“Shit!” Felix’s fingers slid against each other, as red as the End’s sails. “Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit!” The sailors and the officers on deck didn’t have time to brace for the Integrity’s broadside, it swung around too quickly. He wiped his hands on a rigging rope which had been cut loose and lay next to him. Vitalle had told him to not move an inch from his side, and he had not.
“Captain, orders?” First Mate Tolliva’s voice rang through the accumulating gunpower
smoke. Captain Vitalle didn’t reply, but instead let out a sharp grunt as Felix tried to stop the bleeding. Footlong splinters jutted from Vitalle’s left thigh, two on the outer side and one on his inner thigh. His blood ran dark and voluminous. Felix’s hands shook, covered in it, while he wrapped a bandage tightly above the wound. He tied the knot, but his hands slipped when he pulled it tightly. He needed to wrap the bandage around his palms and then pull. Felix then rolled Vitalle over to carry him. Vitalle grabbed his arm and pushed it away.
“Orders! Captain?” Tolliva shouted again.
Felix looked over his shoulder, seeing that smoke shrouded the deck of the End. “Fire another broadside port!” He shouted back at his First Mate, though he could not seem him.
“Port broadside!” Tolliva echoed, and officers above and below deck repeated the command. A few moments passed while the cannons reloaded, then an ear whipping series of punches erupted from Felix’s left. The ship listed. The always steady Vitalle began to tremble. He turned over his glossy eyes at Felix. Felix’s navy officer’s coat was saturated in his blood and his ears rang from the broadside. Vitalle gripped Felix’s sleeve in one hand and unclipped his cutlass with the other. Every officer on board every ship in Polmir’s fleets was issued an officer’s sabre, lighter, longer, a more elegant weapon than a sailor’s cutlass. Vitalle’s hung on display in his cabin, but the it was not sword that Vitalle handed him. Vitalle’s trembling bloody hands put into Felix’s a cutlass, chipped from use but sharp. Vitalle pulled Felix close and leaned into his ear.
“Captain…” a raspy voice whispered into Felix’s ear. Felix wasn’t sure if he meant it as a title or as a command. It didn’t matter either way. Felix rose and the smell of brimstone filled the air as the smoke began to dissipate. He ran to the bow and looked for the Integrity’s outline in the smoke. He saw the railing and the deck within about a dozen meters. He knew his next order, though he had ever only heard stories of it. He took a deep breath and roared his command:
“Over the portside!” Felix heard the sailors leave their stations and gather on deck. A low hum began as crewmen flexed their blue Arte in preparation for their boarding action. Visibility returned to the deck and Felix saw two rows of crewmen line up on deck, one comprised of blues and the other red. The blue officers and sailors knelt. The reds sprinted at them. The kneeling crewmen’s eyes flashed blue as the reds ran past. The running sailors leaped over the railing. The blues, with a great heave and a bright blue flare, blasted them over the side into the smoke. The blues breathed for a moment, then readied themselves for the next group of reds. They too went over the side. Shouting and firing and clanging of steel became audible through the fading smoke. Felix watched in equal parts awe and trepidation. He gripped his new cutlass. Unbuttoning his jacket, Felix joined the next group of reds. He backed up to the starboard rail, then sprinted full-tilt at his corresponding blue. He cleared the railing with his leap and felt a punch send him skyward. A shout escaped his mouth as he saw the sea frothing beneath him, then suddenly a wooden deck sprang into view.
He tucked and rolled onto the deck of the Integrity. The fighting was fierce and disorganized, but that was what the Torans were best at. He stood and a bayonet came charging at him. The man behind it had no tattoo on his face, only a grimace. Felix juked, and the marine coiled his arm for another strike. Felix ducked under that one, and a flash of red swiped the marine’s feet out from under him. Felix kicked away his musket and plunged his cutlass between his ribs. Another man swiped a cutlass at Felix, which he parried and returned. The man was fast, returning to guards after his swings. Men loved to create systems and names for combat, imagining brutality as elegance. Felix lunged, and as the man leapt back a spike of red light burst from his chest. A Toran officer stood behind him, sword in one hand and a red dagger emanating from the other. He laughed as he shoved his cutlass through the man’s throat. His laughing was cut short by the report of a gun. The officer’s eyes went wide and blood spurted from his stomach. Felix spotted the sailor who did it, standing with a pistol but sword not yet drawn. In a bloody fury, Felix charged him, tackling him before the sailor could draw his sword. Felix wrestled him to get his cutlass in line to ram into into the sailor’s throat, but the sailor pushed his arm away. Felix dropped it, unsheathed the dirk on his boot, and stuck it right above the sailor’s collarbone.
When Felix stood, the fighting had died down on the deck. A few pleas for life sprung up as the End’s crewmen walked the deck in search for survivors. Their pleas were cut off by screams. A few gunshots rang from the Captain’s cabin of the Integrity. Some of her crew had holed up in it as some sort of last stand. Felix remembered the commission that Vitalle read. It didn’t order that the End murder the Integrity’s whole crew. Mercy seldom came on the Toran seas– but if not for Vitalle’s, Felix would have been shot months ago. He walked to the cabin, intending to negotiate.
“Vitalle’s bitch!” Tolliva shouted from the deck in such a rage that his voice lowered
from its normal pompous pitch. Felix looked over the railing at the End, spying Tolliva standing over Vitalle. Vitalle lay staring at the sky. An officer walked up to him, saying something Felix couldn’t hear. Tolliva pointed a finger at the officer, clenching his other fist. The officer looked around, then slowly bowed his head and lifted a fist to his chest. Robin Tolliva stomped past the saluted officer disappearing into the captain’s cabin. He exited a moment later with Vitalle’s officer’s sabre.
Felix continued on towards the captain’s cabin. He shouldered through a group of crewmen, swords drawn at the cabin door in stalemate. He knocked on the door.
“This is Captain Kelvan of the Business End, who commands this ship?” Shuffling could be heard through the door.
“Our captain is unconscious!” The shout came from the opposite side. Felix cleared his throat.
“Who is it am I speaking to then?”
“Lord Frye of Vaalgard.” The man replied.
“Lord Frye, the Business End would like to extend its mercy to the survivors of this engagement. You may come aboard the End and we shall return you to Polmir where you will be judged fairly and justly.”
“How can I be sure we will not be cut down like the rest of the crew?”
Felix looked around at his crewmates. They still gripped their cutlasses. “You can never be sure of that. But what choice have you?”
Silence. Mumbling could be heard through the door. “The Integrity is yours, Captain Kelvan. We are coming out unarm–” At that, a torrent of lead shot tore through the cabin of the Integrity. Felix felt the chest piercing cannonfire and heard wood splintering behind the door. He ran to the deck and shouted to the Business End.
“Cease your fire!” Felix waved his arms, “Do not fire!”
The officers on the deck echoed his order. They then talked amongst themselves, looking aimless and confused. Felix sprinted back to the cabin, where the door had been blown off its hinges. He dropped his cutlass, entered the room, and gazed upon a group of ragtag sailors scattered around the cabin. They rose when the broadside had ended. The first man he saw lying in the cabin was a scarred, sizeable sailor with a scar running down a whitened eye. The next two look tattered, but stood as if there was no trouble, one stood like a marine the other tall, with a bandana wrapped under his nose. From behind the captain’s bureau rose a younger one with familiar brown hair and a fine looking coat– Felix figured he’d make a pretty ransom if he survived the trial. There was one gasping in the corner of the cabin. His leg was shattered and it jutted out at an obtuse, rather sickening angle halfway down his thigh. Blood pooled under the white velvet and gold lined rug. An officer of Felix’s stood over the man and with a red flash and a flick of the wrist, the gasping ended. The End’s job was done and it’s glory earned.
Captain Kelvan stepped to Lord Frye. He held his hands out in front of him and glanced at the sword on Lord Frye’s hip.