The Far Side of Tears, Part Four
In Part Four, the final book in this series, we see the crew of the L.M.S. Assault devise a cunning plan to break the Deathfist's blockade of Freeport's harbor.
The captain divided the crew between the Assault and the Devastator; I remained with him on the Assault. Before we cut the lines linking the two ships, the captain walked throughout the Devastator, taking note of any differences between it and the Assault. The orcs had made some minor modifications to the ship, primarily in the way the interior spaces were allocated. While unlikely that these changes resulted in the Devastator's speed, the captain intended to introduce them to the Assault. Why take a chance?
"Our plans have changed," the captain announced. "We're going back to Kaladim and gathering to us whatever Freeport vessels we find. Then, we'll return to Freeport and scatter the Deathfist navy." The captain looked over the assembled crew and said, "We're going to fly their flag; anyone who objects will be tossed overboard to join the orcs of the Devastator in Prexus' Hold." No one said a word, but several sidelong glances were exchanged. After all, flying another's flag was a pirate trick.
We turned about and both ships headed back toward Kaladim flying the colors of our enemy. The captain's purpose was clear: trick the Deathfist navy into believing they had taken the Assault. It was a bit trickier convincing the straggling Freeport ships we encountered along the way that we were still men of Freeport, but both the Assault and the Devastator were much more nimble than any other ship on the Tears. We circled closer and closer until the men of the other ship could see we weren't orcs or buccaneers. By the time we reached Kaladim, the captain had gathered a good-sized force.
With the Assault and the Devastator to either side of the Kaladim harbor to catch any ships attempting escape, the remnant of the Freeport fleet swept in and overtook the Deathfist ships at anchor. The stinking orcs were all put to the sword and flung overboard. We took aboard what provisions we needed and we rested for the first time in days. It felt almost like a holiday.
The captain recruited more sailors among the shore folk. Some were dwarves, short and swarthy. Others were slender elves that looked like a good gust of wind would carry them away. In all their eyes burned hatred for the Deathfist orcs and they gladly joined our ranks. Despite misgivings expressed about the government of Freeport, they were willing to help us, knowing that breaking the grip of the Deathfists on the harbor would reopen trade routes closed by the blockades.
Rested, provisioned and reinforced, the Assault and the Devastator led the way back through the Tears toward Freeport. This crossing would be slower as our navy now consisted mostly of older merchant ships. On the second day of the journey, the blockade around Freeport came into view. The harbor here was cut further inland, unlike the bay at Kaladim, and so here the blockade formed a semi-circle covering a wider area. We swiftly counted the Deathfist navy's flotilla -- we were evenly matched.
The Deathfist orcs often boasted that men were easier to kill in the hours between dusk and dawn. In some ways, this is true as our eyes are not as accustomed to the dark. However, this time our ships bore with us dwarves who lived in cities carved beneath mountains, and elves whose sight is keener than any orc's. The captain had had these folk spread amongst all the ships, that we would all benefit from their native abilities. The Assault carried a handful of the most beautiful elvish maidens I had ever seen; there was nothing wrong with the captain's eyesight whatsoever.
Unlike our attack at Kaladim, we approached in a wave from the south rather than positioning ourselves amongst the enemy's ships before the attack. The first ships we encountered were taken by surprise, obviously not expecting such a large, well-provisioned fleet of Freeport ships to attack. Also, they had recognized the Devastator and the Assault (both of which still flew the Deathfist colors) and had assumed we were reinforcing them. By the time the other ships further north turned toward us, we were leaving a trail of burning, sinking Deathfist ships in our wake.
Arrows flew between the ships as they neared and the air crackled with magical spells and counter-spells cast. A thunderbolt the like I had never seen before struck the Devastator's main mast, and its top splintered off in an explosion that set its sails aflame. Quickly, its crew contained the fires and cut the lines to the burning sails. The Assault swooped in to turn on the lead Deathfist ship, our hearts filled with rage. The water was filling with debris from the dozens of ships destroyed thus far. Maneuvering was difficult, but the Assault was still the most nimble ship on the water.
His eyes reflecting the burning sails of the Devastator, the captain set his course directly into the side of the orc's ship. Though it was their lead ship and its hull reinforced by metal plates, it was no match for a ship of our size, speed and rage. The Assault struck it amidships and pushed it aside like a toy, grinding over it until it it turned on its side and foundered. I looked across the harbor. What orc ships remained were scattering with the first rays of dawn. We had done it. The Assault had taken back Freeport's harbor.