Book 10 - The Shattered Axe - Chapter 16, Part 1 and 2: Dangerous Side Quest

1 reply [Last post]
httyyd's picture
httyyd
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 10/12/2013

I blink and it has been a month and a half since I last posted.  For that I apologize for not working harder to get a chapter done sooner.  When one tries to do a little bit of everything, nothing hardly ever gets completed.  Once I got this chapter done, I was going to set me up a better schedule of my free time to get more things done while still relaxing and playing video games.

 

If you would like to keep up with the other things I do, come check me out on my:
Twitch: 
https://www.twitch.tv/drumsofberk14
and

YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBtiQqtBhwPKZu4-YI_5qEg

 

I have some stuff planned for both and also videos to edit and upload to my YouTube Channel.  Though my streaming may be choppy at times - due to my internet being finicky being great at times and horrible at others - I try my best to get it as smooth as possible.

 

But back to the chapter, I probably could have posted sooner, but the events that happen in these two parts I wanted to stay together to keep the cohesiveness side quest I had planned for the crew.

 

I hope you all are great and enjoying the season wherever you might be.

 

And, I hope you enjoy the two parts!

__________________

Rest in Peace NarixuZen.  2004-2017

Member/Group Leader of S.O.D.A.H.T

 

Click SoD Hack Watch or SoDAHT to report a hacking:

Also use this form to help better keep track of the hackers:  (click here for form)

 

Book 10 - The Shattered Axe

Chapter 17 - Back on Track

 

The Jarl Mollerson Mystery Series

All Chapter Links
 

 

Destiny in the Dark

Chapter 3 - Friends and Enemies

 

Proud Leader and fellow member of:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are links to the chapters of my fan-fic series.  The books go in chronological order.

 

The Clue of the Missing Socks.

Chapters 1 and 2                         Chapter 3                                       Chapter 4

Chapter 5                                      Chapter 6                                        Chapter 7

Chapters 8 and 9                        Chapter 10                                     Chapter 11

Chapters 12 and 13                     Chapters 14, 15, and 16             Chapter 17

Chapter 18                                    Chapter 19                                      Chapter 20

Chapter 21 and 22                      Chapter 23                                     Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26 - There is a hidden surprise.  Can you find it?

Chapter 27                                   Chapter 28, Part 1                         Chapter 28, Part 2

Chapter 29                                   Chapter 30                                       Chapter 31

Chapter 32                                   Chapter 33                                       Chapter 34

Chapter 35                                   Chapter 36                                       Chapter 37

Chapter 38                                   Chapter 39                                       Chapter 40

Chapter 41                                   Chapter 42                                       Chapter 43

Chapter 44                                   Chapter 45, Parts 1 and 2

 

The Mysterious Frozen Fire

Chapter 1         Chapter 2         Chapter 3         Chapter 4         Chapter 5         Chapter 6

Chapter 7         Chapter 8         Chapter 9         Chapter 10       Chapter 11       Chapter 12

Chapter 13       Chapter 14       Chapter 15        Chapter 16       Chapter 17       Chapter 18  

Chapter 19       Chapter 20      Chapter 21        Chapter 22, Part 1       Chapter 22, Part 2 

Chapter 22, Part 3

Epilogue/Preview for my Third Story!

 

Thoughts of Guilt

Chapters 1 and 2          Chapters 3 and 4          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7

Chapter 8          Chapter 9          Chapter 10          Chapter 11          Chapter 12, Part 1

Chapter 12, Part 2          Chapter 13         Chapter 14         Chapter 15         Chapter 16

Chapter 17 and 18         Chapter 19         Chapter 20         Chapter 21         Chapter 22

Chapter 23         Chapter 24         Chapter 25         Chapter 26         Chapter 27

Chapter 28         Chapter 29         Chapter 30         Chapter 31         Chapter 32

Chapter 33         Chapter 34         Chapter 35         Chapter 36 and 37

Chapter 38, Part 1         Chapter 39, Part 2         Chapter 40, Part 3         Chapter 41

Chapter 42, Parts 1 and 2         Chapter 43         Chapter 44

Chapter 45, Part 1         Chapter 45, Part 2

 

On the Edge of Mystery

Chapter 1          Chapter 2         Chapter 3        Chapters 4 & 5    Chapter 6, Parts 1 and 2   

Chapter 7          Chapter 8         Chapter 9            Chapter 10       Chapter 11        Chapter 12

Chapter 13        Chapter 14       Chapter 15          Chapter 16        Chapter 17       Chapter 18

Chapter 19        Chapter 20       Chapter 21          Chapter 22       Chapter 23      Chapter 24

Chapter 25        Chapter 26       Chapter 27         Chapter 28        Chapter 29 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 30       Chapter 31       Chapter 32 and 33                         Chapter 34 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 35 Part 1         Chapter 35 Part 2        Chapter 35 Part 3        Chapter 36

 

The Secret Symbol

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7     Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21   Chapter 22   Chapter 23   Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29 and 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39

Chapter 40 and 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43, 44, 45, and 46

 

The Legend of Shadow Mountain

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16   Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23    Chapter 24    Chapter 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29    Chapter 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39    Chapter 40

Chapter 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43    Chapter 44    Chapter 45 & 46

Chapter 47    Chapter 48    Chapter 49    Chapter 50    Chapter 51

 

Teaser "Trailer" for Book 8 - Conquest of the Truth

 

The Crimson Storm

Chapters 1 and 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5    Chapter 6

Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapters 10 and 11    Chapter 12

Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15    Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18

Chapter 19    Chapter 20    Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23

Chapter 24    Chapter 25 and 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29

Chapter 30    Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34

Chapter 35 and Epilogue

httyyd's picture
httyyd
Offline
Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 10/12/2013
Drums R Round. Pi R Squared.

I have two music mixes for the two parts.

The first is this:
A soundtrack for dark movies that don't exist - Melancholia

 

The Shattered Axe

 

Chapter 16, Part 2

Dangerous Side Quest

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         Though I find myself in chaos, I am determined not to leave empty handed.  Whoever has the Shellfire, must be an enemy of at least the Dragon Trappers.  With Stormheart moving her ship to intercept, these people were not expected by her, so the probability that these people may be closer to an ally with Dragon Riders than anything else goes up substantially.  However, on the other hand, this does not rule out that these people are Khaos, who at this point might be rivals of both Stormheart and the Dragon Trappers.  Plus, the shots coming from the Shellfire are hitting the perimeter of the Trapper Camp and are not hitting any of the dragon cages.  In fact, the distraction has allowed many of the dragons to escape including a rare look at what a Titan Woolly Howl is capable of.  Its sheer power and might was just enough for the Trappers to keep in check, the Shellfire gave the Titan the opportunity to escape into the dark of the night.

         So, with all that said, I will try to work with whoever these newcomers are.  I cannot tell what the symbol on their ship is nor had enough time to count how many ships they have.

         Regrouping with my crew, I tell them not to allow the Dragon Trappers to escape.

         “Aiyana, you come with me.  We have a rat to catch.”

         Returning to where I had collided with Theo, I search for his tracks.  While here, we have to fend off some Trappers but Fredrick and Aiyana’s Dramillion make short work of them.  I look for tracks because I do not see four Grim Gnashers flying away in any direction.  Since the south is the least occupied, the rat could scurry away unnoticed in the chaos and escape scott free.  As I guessed, I see a set of viking and two Grim Gnasher prints heading south.  Mounting my Thunderdrum, Apollo and Aiyana follow.

         Our pursuit to find Theo did not take long because he had only run about fifty yards from the camp.  He tries to mount a dragon, but Apollo lays down suppressing fire to prevent that.  Diving down, I point Fredrick to blast away both Gnashers, signaling Fredrick by using the corresponding leg to knock back the dragons, one to the left and right of Theo.  Aiyana has Apollo continue with the suppressing fire to continue chasing away the Gnashers while I fly within less than ten yards of Theo, jump off, and tackle him.

We scramble to our feet.  I get up slowly to bait Theo into rushing me.  I block an incoming left cross.  I want him to attack.  I do not parry, so he follows up by drawing a dagger and slicing my midsection…

It merely gets stuck in my Dragon Armor!

Theo freezes, trying to retrieve his dagger.

I retort, “Nice try…  Rat.”

Grabbing his shoulders, I sandwich a knee to his gut and direct Terror Mail a right cross to his chin.  With my Dragon Armor gloves, he staggers back, loses his balance, slips on the snow, and tumbles to the ground.  Taking the dagger still stuck in my armor, I now rush him, bringing the blade to his neck.

He tries to retaliate, but Aiyana orders, “I would not try that if I were you.  Ever seen the combination shot of a Damillion and a Thunderdrum?  Not a pretty sight.”

The Relaxes but I whisper to him, “Valkarik says, ‘Hello.’”

I wind up for a right cross and let him have it.  He is out could, even more so in the snow.  I do not want him to pull off any of his tricks.  Grabbing some rope, I tie his hands together and then his ankles to each other.

Putting Theo across the front of Fredrick’s saddle, I tie Theo to it so that he will not slide off, my dragon growls, “Easy.  He can’t hurt you like this.”

“He hurts me just by being in the same archipelago,” Aiyana jokes.  “Do you think those ships are friendly?”

“I don’t know.  Let’s find out.”

Mounting my dragon, I fully jump into the mindset of being in a battle and trying to find a way to fight a Shellfire.  Aiyana is the same way as she readies her stance in her saddle for a fight.  The moment we accelerate to attack speed, we nearly immediately back off.  Because…

While I am speechless, Aiyana declares, sitting back down in her saddle, “The Fifth Fleet!”

         Thinking back, I saw five ships, but it did not occur to me it would be Marth and The Fifth Fleet.  A lot of fleets may have five ships, but only one has this specific symbol.

         In the words of Valkarik, “The old one got scrapped by this point, and the new one is of a Crimson Goregutter's head and antlers prominent, front and center, atop a ring with four triangle points at each "edge" of the circle. the symbol itself is a dark blue to black. not so much as a terrifying symbol anymore to represent the flip in leadership”

However, I grant I did not bother paying attention to seeing what symbol was on the sail because I was concentrating on not getting blasted out of the sky by the Shellfire’s blazing, blue, boulders of fire barreling towards me.

         Now, I am even thinking like I am writing my accounts of me and my crew’s adventures.  Will I include this thought in my book?  Yes, I will.

         The rest of my crew I see are on The Fifth Fleet’s flagship which is commanded by Marth Shinfira.  I probably should say “supervised” by Marth, as that is their formal term for a commander, but she is the Fleet Commander and a Supervisor of her sect of The Fleet.  Their setup of leadership and naming conventions are still different than what I am used to.  And even still that Marth is Valkarik’s sister.  These two could not be more opposite in personality, order of operations, and leadership.  Do not hear what I am not writing.  Valkarik is one of the few I would trust to lead my crew any day of the week.  It is Valkarik’s free spirit that she does not want to lead, for now.  But knowing her past, it is because of the memories she did not pick up the mantle of Fleet Commander but gave it to Marth.  Not until The-A-Dore was closed on a very specific memory, will she decide what she wants to lead.

         And when you read this Valkarik, I hope the confidence I put behind my compliment of you is enough to distract and disorient you from the pun I intended.  Just do not injure me too badly.  At least allow for a recovery time of a week, instead of a month, enough that Annabeth can still recognize me when you are done.

         Flying over and landing on the ship, Marth greets us, “A pleasant surprise seeing you guys.  When we saw your Thunderdrum, I instantly ordered the Caretakers of the Shellfire to fire wide and to the outside of the encampment.  There is only one Dragon Rider I know who would ride such a dragon.”

         Marth smiles as she pets Fredrick as I dismount, Frederick purrs until she lifts her hand back up to offer her hand to shake mine.

         While doing so, I ask, “What is The Fifth Fleet doing up here?  I know you were looking for Theo, but I did not expect to find you here.”

         Seeing her brother tied up on Fredrick, I thought maybe she would have reacted passionately to seeing his rear end in the presence of The Fifth Fleet.  But she remains formal.

         She responds with her hands behind her back, with her stance at ease, “From Valkarik’s correspondents, she wanted us of these new Khaos factions.  I told her we had not seen them before, however, we have been quite narrow-minded in our activities due to searching for Theodor.  But what we could not do in the last several months you have done in a matter of minutes.”

         “You might want to thank Theo because he ran into me.”

         Marth motions to a few of her crew to take Theo away, “A deed like this, Jarl would deem a grand reward.  I don’t need to tell you what this capture means to The Fifth Fleet…  Let alone, my family.”

         Taking her up on her offer, I request her to look at a notebook, “Theo had a hold of this before we collided.  I picked it up before he could grab it when we realized what happened and who each other was.”

         Marth inspects and flips through the pages; her expression instantly changes.  She starts to pace without saying a word for a few moments.

         “This is exactly what I wanted Valkarik to find.  Strange Theo knew right where to look for it too.  Did not take him much for a reader of books, but he may have his own records stashed away someplace elsewhere.  He would be the one to have a contingency plan when his own foolish desires got his butt in a bind he could not talk his way out of.  This notebook is all about a previous Medic Supervisor of The Fifth Fleet back during the time of my father’s tenure.”

         As she pauses again, I ask another question to keep her thoughts going, “You had said you were already looking for Theo in this far northern area because of the presence of this book somewhere on an old abandoned fort or base of some kind.  You already knew what was in the book, so, why would you want to recover it?  Was it because of what Theo might do with the contents of the book?”

         Marth smiles, “Valkarik says you are as smart as me when it comes to connecting the dots,” Marth then mumbles under her breath.  “But we both know she is smarter than either of us.”  Marth winks at me, “Anyway.  Yes, I did know what was in the notebook and yes, I did not want Theo to use it.  But what prompted me to contact my sister was because, in our quest to find Theo, we ran into some vikings who had business propositions to join Theo in about a certain ‘formula’ Theo said would be, ‘The order in this chaotic world.’  That phrase did not mean much until we started finding out more about this Khaos group.”

         Pressing forward on the content of the notebook, I want to know exactly what is in the book.  Guess I should have read some of it first, but I thought it was more polite to ask Marth if I could use it since she was the one who started searching for it first.  The other reason why I ask about the content is I can see Marth is thinking about something else but wants an excuse to not think about it.  Maybe the delay in telling me what it is by reading what is in the notebook will help her reason through her thoughts.

         Marth reads some of the excerpts from the notebook, one of which is the following:

 

Account of Severin Ottoson, Lead Medical Supervisor of the Fifth Fleet

         I did it.

         It was quicker than my estimates, but I found out how the diluted Slitherwing venom was procured; the amount of toxin was displaced by the salt water's solid contents, resulting in a less potent poison. This brings to mind the Grimoras-the parasites and their venom can be neutralized via salt applied to the leech or the area affected itself.

         However, procuring a Slitherwing is by no means easy, or efficient-we'll have to keep using the given materials or make compromises to get some. In the meantime, I have a hypothesis on how I can reverse the dilution itself for a more potent neutralizer: figure out a way to take out the water component while leaving the venom and salt, while adding the liquid form of dragon root into the mixture to see if it reacts well or horribly.

         If the two materials react well enough, I'll run some tests on dragons in our care to note how the altered venom affects them. It'll be naturally potent to vikings due to the Slitherwing venom and dragon root properties, so human testing is completely out of the equation.

I'm not that deranged.

 

         Marth’s expression when she concludes is ever so briefly anguish but quickly changes her tone when speaking with me again, “This is a great find,” Marth says delightedly.  “This is what I tasked Valkarik with finding, but it looks like Theo beat her to it.”

         She asks if The Fifth Fleet could keep hold of the notebook for now because they would like to make a copy.  I did not have a need for the notebook, I was just curious as to what might be in it.

Marth states, “The notebook will greatly help in figuring out why Stormheart and Theo are so interested in this island, knowing what Ottoson’s formula could be used for.”

         Marth was going to continue but several others of her crew start to carry aboard large crates of something:  One of the crew interrupts saying, “Commander.  You need to take a look at these crates.”

         My crew follows Marth over.  Upon first glance, the crates of Stormheart’s symbol, so nothing suspicious there.  When they are opened, there are vials inside, in special holders to protect the glass vials from breaking while being transported.  Marth had been orderly in her demeanor but now her expression reverts back to anguish and starts to mumble.  Her words are inaudible to me, but it clues me in that this is not good news.

         So, I question, “Have you seen the vials before?”

         She sighs in mounting frustration, putting a hand to her forehead, yet she remains collected and calm in voicing her thoughts, “Our worst fear is becoming more and more apparent.  Ever since Theo’s defeat at the end of The Dragon War, he in his disappearance has been hard at work digging up The Fifth Fleet’s past to try and destroy our new heading, opposite what we once were a part of.  He desperately wants The Fifth Fleet back, however, only in the image of himself.  And we all know what he thinks of himself.  But I am getting sidetracked.”

         “In our search for him, we have uncovered the alliances he is making in his quest,” she goes on.  At the mention of “alliances” they cannot be good, especially since I have seen this alliance’s work, the one Marth is referring to, firsthand.  “He has been in correspondence with a few unknown figures, obviously with Stormheart but even she saw through his lies and considers him a threat.  She probably was led here by Theo but seeing the Dragon Trappers cut ties with Theo and then the fight must have broken out.  Furthermore, Stormheart would consider this new group a threat, a group calling themselves the ‘Realm of Khaos.’”

         My crew and I all perk up at the drop of this name, although none of us are happy about it.  Because of Valkarik, Marth knows about the danger this group presents.

         “It is fortuitous you are here,” Marth cheers up a bit.  “Because we are heading towards a massive dragon auction.”

         Playing a hunch, I jump in and describe this auction while also explaining why my crew and I are here.

         Marth replies, “Seems like you know more about this group than we do.  We were on our way to the auction, but since we were in the area, we stopped at this island in hopes of procuring the notebook.  However, we had spotted Stormheart and the dragon cages on the shore, so we proceeded to attack.  Now that you and your friends are here, you could help us in our visit to this auction.”

         Looking at my crew, they all visibly agree to go, so I confirm, “This could be a critical opportunity to gather some intel on Khaos as well as others who might be there.”

         “Now, I will warn,” Marth explains.  “We are going into the heart of the beast.  Not only do you need to think of your friends but those in The Fifth Fleet.  You know who will be at this auction.  You and your crew will need to be ready for anything.  All and all, if you act like who I have planned just now, you will be fine.  I will pass the word along to the other Supervisors to treat you as if you are of equal command as me.  You will be Retainers.  I trust your judgement as you proved your worth of command in battles past.  Also, since you know more about the Realm of Khaos than we do, your knowledge will be invaluable.  But I cannot stress to you enough:  The Fifth Fleet has a very specific way of doing things.  You must respect our ways and how we will be at this auction.  I trust you, but you must also trust us.  Together we can all get through this safely and potentially capture the targets in attendance while saving many dragons at this auction.  Talk with Kamilla, she will get you caught up on our plan.  I have things to attend to as we are behind schedule.”

         Kamilla Vang is Valkarik’s older sister’s cousin, in short, they are related.  Kamilla Vang is The Fifth Fleet’s Strategist.  My crew meets the brunette down in the cargo hold where our dragons are taken to the storage along with several other dragons, I assume are the dragons used in the fleet.

         Since Marth is around thirty, so is Kamilla, but Kamilla’s is not as official or refined as Marth.  One could say that is the difference between a commander and an officer.  Nothing about Kamilla yells untidy, but that she does not care if she gets dirty.  From what I remember Valkarik talking about and what briefly I remember during The Dragon War, Kam is the kind of viking that will do what is necessary to get it done.  She will protect her family and her friends but is indifferent if the result is what she expected.

         Essentially, to give reference, Kamilla is Dawn but older.

         After pleasantries are exchanged with my crew and Kamilla, instantly goes to reassuring us, “We know you all will be worried about your dragons, but they are in safe hands with us.  They will be in the storage areas.  Some might ask why our ‘cages’ are not locked, so I will tell them that we have a secret remedy that will keep dragons docile without needing to restrain them in anyway.”

         Meen quips, “The remedy is called treating the dragon as you would yourself.”

         “That is the remedy I allude to, but these vikings don’t care about others.  So, in what they do, they are treating dragons how they expect to be treated.”  Marth continues.  “We have to authentic if we are going to pull this off.  So, that being said:  Don’t think like a Dragon Rider, think like a mercenary or a pirate come to join our band for glory and gold.”

         Explod comments, “Shouldn’t be too hard for some of you guys to act like what the old Fifth Fleet was.”

         Rather blunt, coming from Explod, but he knows who he is talking to for Kamilla responds, “As much as Marth tries to put forth a different look for The Fifth Fleet, we’re still the same old vikings who go after dragons.  It is just our objectives are slightly altered.  After convincing the rest of the fleet through what you guys did during The Dragon War, there is more gold to be had in stopping the Hunters and Trappers of dragons and turning the cutthroats in for the bounties.  Some question this new course of action is degrading our standing on our ‘tradition,’ but this new course of action pays, and no one can complain.  Marth is no Theo, and that is a good thing.”

         “I heard that,” Marth abruptly says.  “I’ll take that as a compliment.”

         “Didn’t think you were there.”

         “I came down to check all dragons and make sure they were all secure with the new arrivals,” Marth explained.

         “Anyway,” Kamilla gets back to the topic at hand.  “Your assignment, Jarl, Hyrith, Explod, Aiyana, and Meen is to shadow Marth and protect her.  This will give the rest of us the opportunity to scout defenses from afar and prep the Shellfire for its grand entrance.  Gather any intel you need for your objectives, but above all else, keep your mouths shut.  We know some here may recognize you, so the lower the profile the better.  My group will make the first move, the Shellfire ‘breaking lose’ will be the signal.  After that, you group will be responsible for capturing every major target you can find.  My group will rescue all the dragons we possibly can.  Any regular crew of any faction is not a target.  As much as we will need to stop them eventually, we are but a small band of vikings going into the wolf’s den.  If we are to come out alive along with our dragons and the ones here, we have to let some escape.  As much as it pains me to do so, Marth is right in saying, ‘We need to win the battle, not the war.’”

         The rest of the minor details simply pertain if something goes wrong.  Kamilla used the word “minor” because she does not plan on anything going wrong as long as everyone does their part in the plan.  For a change, me and my crew could be the bigger liability to the plan.  Not because of our lack of skill because we have plenty of that, but our experience.  Sure, my crew and I have been through a lot and gain a good amount of experience myself, but The Fifth Fleet has a lifetime of doing this where I only have about five years.

         Once Kamilla review the plan with us again, a few minutes later I find myself with my crew on a forward observation deck.  The crisp night air blowing at us from this cruising vessel, we all just wait.  Looking at my crew, I see something is on their minds, and I know what it is

         “Alright,” I declare.  “Out with it.”

         Aiyana being the bold one speaks first, directly questioning, “Why are we letting The Fifth Fleet take our dragons and use them as bait?  You did not let Stormheart take our dragons, yet she had the exact same plan as Marth.  What gives?”

         “Stormheart didn’t have a Shellfire,” I half quip.  “But that is no answer.”  I take in a deep sigh, “I was asking myself that question when Marth and Kamilla both went over the plan.  The obvious answer would be that I trust Marth and The Fifth Fleet a hundred-fold more than I do Stormheart.  The answer lies deeper than that.  The answer to the question I am just now realizing after all my years of solving mysteries:  How far am I willing to go to solve a mystery?  If that solution involves me rescuing dragons, stopping those apposed to the viking and dragon bond, or just the freedom of vikings in general, what do I do when someone stands in my way?  My answer has always been, ‘There has to be another way than eliminating them like they would me.  I’ll figure out that way just like I figure out mysteries.’  But wrestling with the consequences of The Dragon War has stuck with me.  I have said I don’t blame myself for the choices of someone else, but if what I did previously put them in that no-win scenario, had I been more aggressive in stopping Einar sooner, would some of Izar’s people still be here?”

         Aiyana changes and comes to my defense, but with a catch, “As you said, you can’t blame yourself because of the choices of someone else.  But if there is another way to not put your crew in danger, why haven’t you chosen that way?”

         I directly look at her, “If evil backs you into a corner with no way to escape but through them, will you, do it?  Skygge nearly gave his life in forcing me into that corner.  But in trying to find another way around the evil, it nearly cost Annabeth’s life.  I didn’t see that before until it hit close to home.  Talking with Garth about it in letters, he assures me that the Izarians would have given their lives for any shot at making sure others could live.  Garth told me I was in a no-win scenario.  If it wasn’t the Izarians, it could have been one of my crew.  But had we not been willing to fight for Izar, all of Izar would have been lost.  Garth then had some wise words.”

         I pull out one of Garth’s pages I keep with me:

 

         If we keep living in the past trying to fix it, we’ll never have a future.  We make the choice we believe is right in the present.  If it is the wrong choice, we will have to live with the consequences.  If we let the consequences drag us down, then those we fought had a moral victory.  If we learn from our mistakes to create a better future, then those who gave their lives for our opportunities to be better will do so every single time.  I would give my life if it meant you had a better shot at victory.  You would do everything in your power to save everyone, but in trying to do that you end up losing more, is that a direction worth taking?  Einar wanted you to try and save everyone.  He told me himself.  When you were stretched in every direction, you nearly lost to Einar.  He was going to kill you and everyone else but was too distracted in his quest and delayed.  Everyone was captured including the island.  But you in letting others make their own choice, gave your allies, your friends, your family, and future generations the best shot at living.  Sometimes the best course of action is sacrifice.  To best serve those who came before you, honor that choice by being willing to do the same.

 

         “This was probably deeper of an answer you were expecting,” I back-up to respond to their expressions.  “You are right, Aiyana.  Marth’s plan is exactly the same as Stormheart’s.  I am not only putting our dragons at risk but also each of you.  Of all people, Skygge taught me something I should have learned a long time ago:  Evil won’t stop to let me find another way.  I must be willing to defend when evil wants to destroy.  If my actions can help protect our future, then I will do whatever it takes.”

         “So,” I stand up to walk over and face my crew.  “If risking my life meant that evil could be stopped, I would do it.  It is something I have said to you all for years.  But the foes we have still out there won’t play by the same honor, I must be willing to stand up for what is right, no matter the cost.  But I will do it in a way that gives everyone the best shot.  I won’t stoop to Stormheart’s level.  There is a better way.  The Fifth Fleet gives us the best opportunity to protect each other and do what it takes to stop these Dragon Trappers and the like.”

         There came a moment of silence.  Each one here has an expression of realization which is voiced through Aiyana, “You are right, and we are behind you too.”

         “Well, right now, you are standing in front of me, so…”

         Aiyana rolls her eyes and sighs.

         “You’ve got to admit though,” Explod jabs.  “Having a dragon that breathes blue exploding balls of fire can tip the scales in to going with The Fifth Fleet over Stormheart.”

         We all chuckle, I add, “To be frank, I did consider it in the decision making.”

         After getting up to speed with Marth’s plan from Kamilla, we check on our dragons.  They are in the stables of the cargo hold.  They are still apprehensive because these look like there were once cages.  The line between cage and stable is very vine, but the Caretakers of the stables assure us they will not let anything happen to them.  In the case of an emergency, the doors are never locked, and they can easily open from both sides.

         Through our encouragement and seeing the other dragons in good moods, our dragons brightened up a bit.  Rather surprising they allowed The Fifth Fleet crew to walk them into a dragon cage.  But they know them all from their time during The Dragon War.  Now by brain randomly goes on a tangent about what loyalty will make a dragon or viking do that they normally would not.

         We join Marth on her command deck and wait for the time we reach the island the auction is being held on.  In the meantime, Marth mentions my crew should keep our helmets on to protect our identities and talk as little as possible.  She suggests we put on new armor because the Dragon Armor we wear is becoming an iconic look for those who are allied with Berk and The Dragon Riders.  While my crew starts to think about the suggestion, Marth invites us to go visit Vilhelm Vang, who is Kamilla’s younger – and by Valkarik’s description: more vain – brother.  Taking her up on the offer, we go to find a disguised armor to wear.

         This visit was extremely straight forward.  Vilhelm was not much for conversation.  Once he asked us what we wanted and we told what Marth said, he began to work.  First, he checked any existing armor that would fit us and then filled in the gaps here in there when a piece did not fit.  One by one, we got a complete outfit of Gronckle Iron armor.

         The basic leather suit we wear underneath our Dragon Armor is what Vilhelm worked from.  Smaller, thinner pieces of our Dragon Armor was kept, however.  He expertly created a network around both armors to create the feel of protection but the needed freedom of movement we would need to accomplish the mission.  He would keep the rest of our armor we did not use hidden.  Of the gear we are still wearing is our hidden blade gauntlets with our grappling hooks and bowcasters.  Also, our belts with our assortment of bombs.  Vilhelm in his network of armor hid all the dragon scales on the gauntlets and belts.  To still have access to our tools while looking like completely different armor is quite impressive.

         Finally, he took us to a vault in his armory where he keeps all the armor from other factions and vikings they conqueror.  Like what was described of him: He is vain.  He made a few crack remarks about, “Oh, sorry, we no longer do that around here.  Under ‘new management.’”

         We each select various helmets to wear, ones that have an assortment of different coverings over our faces to hide our identities while in the light of a torch or something else.  While they may not have originally been forged with Gronckle Iron, Vilhelm reinforced them with it.  The complete disguise is all black to aid in our stealth as well as stand apart from the rest of The Fifth Fleet crew to visually represent that my crew is not part of The Fleet.  One of us could potentially exploit this to gain the favor of our targets.

         Lastly, we each pick a different type of dagger or short sword to use either from over our back or on our side.

         When we were all done with our armors, Vilhelm stopped talking and went about the work he was doing before we came.

         Seeing my crew and myself in this armor, these are drastic measures to keep us safe which are a bit disconcerting and begs the question…

         What are we getting ourselves into?

         We have been in The Dragon War against Einar Verodfellar, yet this feels very different.  This is another kind of worry, not for who I will face but what I will have to do to keep my friends, dragons, and me safe.  I do not get nervous often, but I am now.

 

 

Epic Musix Mix for Part 2:
TRAITOR | 1 HOUR of Epic Dark Dramatic Fierce Orchestral Strings Music

 

Chapter 16, Part 2

Dangerous Side Quest

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         The weather has turned to a misty rain that wants to be snow, yet the temperature is warm enough it will not turn.  Not having a visor on my helmet causing me to have to slightly squint my eyes to see, the very reason I wanted a visor.  Although, it is nice to not have to look through the droplets on the visor.  I have worn my Dragon Armor helmet enough to get used to the droplets when I need to, but I can switch out the visor part of my helmet for one that does not have a visor.  I would have just made two helmets, one with and one without the visor, but I am currently waiting on Fredrick to shed more scales to match the rest of the armor.  Had just enough to make another visor attachment for my helmet.

         About an hour later, we see several ships surrounding a small, flat island.  This place is actually a collection of sea stacks being melded together from the beating ocean and tide of this island.  Also, depending on the tide, this island could be submerged underwater.  The island is barely above the level of the sea, so being submerged at different tide is highly probable.

         I would imagine the ocean wakes still crash over some sides of the island.  Not the greatest water to anchor in, though I think that is the point.  No one at this auction wants to be here any longer than they should.  Get what you want and go.

         Marth orders her crew to maneuver The Fleet to an open spot on the north side of the island.  Quickly looking at the activity as we go, people are on ships inspecting the “stock” while others are conversing with other factions.  Seeing the island now close up, there are puddles and standing water everywhere.  I would sometimes rather deal with snow than water.  That is coming from a guy who rides a Tidal Class dragon.  Above ocean, rain and water can make things messy and slippery.  Dealing with snow, I have more control over dealing with it and using it to my advantage.  I guess I feel this way since I have lived in a snowy environment my entire life.  It feels more natural to me.

         My friends watch with me, so I then remind, “Be careful what you do and speak.  As you can see there is no cover from anywhere on the island.  No elevation to work with and no boulders.  You must be decisive in your decision making, while being as shrewd as the snake, to maintain your disguise.  Aiyana, you might be more at home than the rest of us are.”

         “Yes,” Aiyana nods.  “Most of my life has been dealing with vikings like this and also living with them.  Beside the time I spent around Einar and helping him, a time a want to forget, after running away from home to get away from all the baggage, drama, and tragic memories, the company I kept were pirates and bounty hunters.  One of the reasons why I have the look I do with my gold jewelry, but I guess I also wish I was back in my home country with the Greeks.”

         I continue, “If you go to look at the dragons, you will be walking into The Lion’s Den, each lion daring you to try something.  We all care for the dragons here, but no one here can see that you do.  Our safety depends on it as well as the dragons here.  I will be doing what Marth said in trying to be quiet in my movement and speech.  If we are to be the muscle on this mission, then let our actions speak for us.  If you don’t react to their trap to have an excuse to punch you in the face, then they’ll get board and move on.  Hopefully.  You know why we are here.”

         Aiyana answers, “Dragons first, but Kam will take care of them.  Griselda is second, and then everyone else we can get our hands on.”

         “We don’t make our move until the Shellfire makes his,” I go over again.

         Hyrith nudges me, “Yes, dad.”

         Explod adds, “And then we ‘protect’ our targets and get them to safety, knocking them out to capture them.  We know.”

         Maybe my nervousness is showing through.

         Marth had been observing with us and now interjects to comfort, “No one here will dare try anything now unless you give them a reason to.  Stick close to me for this first part of the plan for all their attention will be on me.  As we go, scout each factions’ setups and soldier counts so our Caretakers know who to point the Shellfire at first.”

         By the time we anchor and set up for boarding parties, there are already groups forming to board or at least watch us from a distance.  There is murmuring from the crowds wondering what is submerged in the water between all five ships of The Fleet.  This will build intrigue for the factions to play nice with us, until the reveal.

         No one welcomes us to the island.  It is quite literally a free for all to do what we want.  On first glance, everyone is ready to start a war with you.  Some look like they want a reason to start something.

         When we leave with Marth there are representatives from other factions passing us to greet with Marth’s First Officer.

         The first few factions we go to did not have much.  No dragons, yet a variety of supplies.  They are probably looking to buy or trade for better supplies or for a few dragons.  Among the organized factions here, there are also mercenaries, pirates, and scavengers wanting to get what everyone else wants but these are looking for something more than just a business proposition.

         Those selling dragons are a faction of the Dragon Hunters, some trader guild, and a couple others of random vikings banding together for a fast pot of gold.  There are factions I do not recognize with their symbol on their flagship mast or on their armor.  Then of course there is Realm of Khaos and Griselda’s Dragon Trappers, the only Warlord in attendance.  From chattered from The Fifth Fleet, other Warlords were supposed to be here.  Yet, Griselda is the one that is seen more than the others, so maybe she just likes being on the front lines.

         When we arrive at the Realm of Khaos ships, they are extremely quiet, but their stares are like daggers.  Their ego precedes themselves.  They act as if they are better than everyone else, even each other.

         Marth announces why she is here, and we are led down into the cargo hold to view the dragons.  While waiting for the first cage to open, Marth glances at me as I walk by to stand to the side of the cage.  I point my eyes to the left of the entrance.  There are several crates of Sagefruit.  Good bait to catch dragons.  This way they will not put up a fight and in some of these factions’ words, “You find ways to not damage the ‘goods.’  They are more valuable alive.”

         Marth’s inspection is rather uneventful, except for the Sagefruit clue.  They have a lot of Gronckles and Nadders, but they tout these dragons are the best around.  Everyone here at the auction said something similar, but the look of the dragons seems like they are well cared for.  No scratches, marks, or injuries.  It comes across as the Realm of Khaos respects dragons, however, I believe it to be a front to their real intentions.  Because of pervious experiences around the Khaos Vikings, they are up to something.  It is rather painfully obvious they are planning something.

         Each Khaos Viking has their full set of armor on, their weapon strapped to their side, and…  I just realized something.  These Khaos Vikings are not wearing their masked helmets.  Very strange.  Usually, they always have them on.  Maybe they think they do not need to protect their identity among “friends” or should I say thieves.  Three ships full of vikings ready for a battle.  The only thing they do not have are anti-dragon armaments.

         Finally, we come to Griselda’s fleet.  I count three scout ships, three command ships, and three cargo ships.  Every ship has armaments to match the size of the ship.  They may not be looking for a fight with only typical crew members that look the part of sailors.  On the other hand, I anticipate their armory is the best of all the factions here.  Just from looks, Griselda’s fleet can match the might of the Fifth Fleet.

         Griselda happily greets us, extending her hand out to Marth, “Velcome to my fleet.  It tis an honor to mee the Chief Supervisor of The Fifth Fleet.  I have heard a great deal about you, Marth, Shinfira.  I actually met your father once.  He vas a true visionary for vhat dragon trading could be.”  She pauses, “I am deeply sorry for your loss.  A man gone before his time.”

         I guess Griselda also has some honor to compete with Marth.  But as I said, this could only be among fellow thieves.  Keep in mind Griselda led the raiding attack on Draython Cove, killing multiple vikings which nearly took Vixxen’s life.  A grave reminder of what might happen here.

         “Your greeting is much appreciated compared to the others,” Marth replies.  “Some wouldn’t even acknowledge my questions about their stock let alone my existence.”

         “Uh-guh,” Griselda reacts to the reminder.  “Some here are too busy trying to one up the other.  It is disgusting,” agreeing, she goes on.  “And fail to realize the pursuit of building alliances.  If we don’t stand together, how will we survive when someone tries to come in and wipe us out?”

         The look on Griselda’s face answers her own question:  She is the one who will wipe out all those who threaten her path.  A show of common ground masked by the assumed threat by her expression.  She will make friends, but only if they serve her.

         I will not let this night be another Draython Cove…  Annabeth would kill me if there were anything left after Vixxen is done with me.  That is, if we all get out of this in one piece.

         It is strange to see a foe when they are not actively trying to kill you.  How Vixxen and also Viggo put it one time, “What one considers evil, another considers righteous.”  What is Griselda’s goal?  Why does she want to capture dragons?  Some are purely in this wretched business for gold, but Griselda has drive.  So does both the Defenders of Khaos and the Realm of Khaos.  What do they see on the horizon that we as Dragon Riders do not?  To go to such lengths to destroy peoples, what is it these vikings here fear so much?

         Something Vixxen once told me, “You always try to find a reason behind everything.  You may one day find that someone does something for no reason.  What are you willing to give up to make there be a reason?”

         A bit dark, even Vixxen admitted as much, but she has a point.  This is something I have slowly had to come to grips with.  If I want to stand in evil’s way, evil will make me have to choose between finding that reason to resolve the conflict or defend those I love.  This was a choice Vixxen made that nearly cost her life.  I also remind, I did not constrain myself to two paths.  I found a third.

         Vixxen constantly shows her gratitude when we have these talks, but further reminds, “If evil corners you in order to protect those you love, you will have to defend yourself.  This may end in you destroying evil, but had you not made that choice, you and others may then be destroyed.”

         Me struggling with this choice allowed Skygge to get away.  If Skygge were to hurt anyone – or worse – I would be responsible for it since I could have prevented it from happening.  Plenty would say it would not be my fault for other factors would be at play, but still I could have done something.

         My thoughts drift to the choices I made during The Dragon War.  Had I done things differently, would some of the vikings of Izar still be living, even if they willingly chose to give up their life so that I and my crew had a shot at stopping Einar?

         Suddenly, Hyrith nudges me.  I spaced out for a few minutes while I followed Marth into the cargo hold in one of Griselda’s ships.  The fake pleasantries bored me.  Now back in the here and now, Hyrith nudged me to point something out.  In a side room there are crates with vials in them…

         Each crate having a Stormheart symbol on them!

         Thinking to myself, “Could it be they are trying to make a weapon to rival the Khaos Vikings?  Or rather, could it be they, by extension Stormheart, are trying to replicate the formula The Fifth Fleet once used?  Since the crates are next to the dragons they are selling, I lean towards the latter.”

         Returning to The Fifth Fleet, Marth, Kamilla, and my crew meet in the Commanders’ Quarters to report on our scouting.  While the reports are made, we bide our time until Marth decides on which dragons she wants to “buy.”  The leaders of these dragons are the targets Marth wants my crew to capture.  When the Shellfire gets lose, my crew will “rescue” the faction leaders and bring our targets to a safe location apart from their faction.  Once out of sight, we will use a Knockout Dart to incapacitate them and bring them back to The Fifth Fleet with the chaos from the Shellfire.

         That is another thing.  Not until my crew has had to deal with the Khaos Vikings did I ever use “chaos” so much as a descriptor.

         Marth’s targets are as follows: Meen is assigned the leader of the Dragon Hunters, Aiyana with a group of mercenary pirates, Hyrith gets a sect of Dragon Trappers that went rogue to be on their own, Explod is appointed to haul in the Realm of Khaos’ representative, and I get to bring in Griselda the Grievous of the Warlords.

         Marth has done her research on my crew and I by pairing us with a target that matches a skill or previous experience.  Meen with her past experience with Elsa and The Secret of the Leviathan, Aiyana who was once a pirate herself, Hyrith’s Dragon trappers are from the far west near where Hyrith’s birthplace on of The Golden Isles are, Explod and his skills in dealing with explosives, and then me and my desire to bring Griselda in because of what nearly happened to Vixxen.

         Also, Griselda is our link to the Warlords, the critical targets Hiccup and The Dragon Riders have been after since learning about them in the battle against Drago Bludvist.  Hiccup and I have not seen eye to eye on things recently, so if my crew can bring in Griselda, it would go a long way in smoothing things over between us.  If we could use the things, we have in common for the benefit of each other, maybe we can work through the other things we do not agree on.

         Marth asks Kamilla about her findings, “Each faction has a dedicated ship house the dragons.  If our squads focus on these ships, we can allow the vikings to escape on their other ships.  If it is between living or dying for a dragon, several of them will leave or turn to fight the Shellfire to attempt at catching it themselves.  This infighting between who should have the Shellfire will be invaluable cover and hide our actions to save the dragons and take our targets.  If we as The Fifth Fleet also fire at the Shellfire but intentionally miss like we did when we found Jarl and his crew, we can further blend in.  One other thing, the Warlord and Khaos leader look to have their own detachment of personal bodyguards.  It is going to be difficult to separate them from Jarl’s crew’s targets, so it is imperative that they alone ‘rescue’ their targets.  How long will your darts remain in effect, Jarl?”

         “At least a half hour.  Depending on the person’s reaction to it, could be shorter or longer.”

         “That should be enough,” Marth approves.  “From talking with the ones who are selling, they are eager to find out what The Fifth Fleet has.  Some of the buyers and traders are interested in what each other has, but I intentionally hinted at the price of my prize being extremely steep yet would be worth it.  So, with all the hysteria around our Shellfire to be revealed, they will no doubt want me to go first in presenting my stock.  Unless any of you have any reservations, we will commence with the plan.”

         I then state, “The only reservation I have…”

         Aiyana closes her eyes and says under her breath, “Don’t say it…  Don’t say it…”

         I say it, “Is a table for two at my supper table.  And if I don’t get back in two days, Annabeth will kill me.  You never stand up your wife when you have reservations.”

         Marth chuckles.

         Tough crowd.

         “You and your crew each will go with two of my crew to inform your targets I will be announcing what mystery I have to offer to them.  When the fun begins, my crew members will start to direct the target’s viking crews to open fire on the Shellfire, while you ‘protect’ their leaders.  If the crews try to stop you, tell them, ‘The Fifth Fleet has the most armored ship and is anchored away from the Shellfire in case something went wrong.  Their Medical Supervisor can check them out for any injuries.’  I trust your judgement in however you want to get your targets back to The Fleet.”  Marth then changes to a more serious tone.  “You will be on your own in brining in your targets.  Hopefully, you can knock them out quickly, however, you will not have immediate support.  I know I said that as long as we stay together, you will be safe, but to make this work by being the most discrete about it, you must be alone versus your target.  But I will send some support as soon as I can.”

         I acknowledge, “We will manage.”

         “In fact,” Meen speaks up.  “Let’s see who can knockout their target the fastest and gets their target back to the medical ship first.”

         Hyrith wants in, “You’re on.”

         Marth assigns each of my crew two escorts and orders them all to be off to be with their targets.  She then walks over to me to have some words.

         “This may not be the time and place to say this,” Marth is all of a sudden apprehensive.  “How is Valkarik?”

         Not the question I was preparing to answer but, “She’s good.  Ali and Micha keep her busy.  Why do you ask?”

         “With Theo now captured, I want her to return to The Fifth Fleet.”

         “That can be arranged,” I reply with no hesitation.

         “I don’t think you understand.  I want val to come back permanently.”

         Now, I hesitate, “Oh.”

         “She is the rightful heir to be commander, Chief Supervisor of The Fifth Fleet and the pick our father would have made when the time eventually came.  Val may not see it in herself, but she has all the qualities of our father with the unorthodox order of operations – which he also had in his younger years when he talked to me about Val.  Although he never said it – at least to me – but I am certain he would have given Val the position, not me.  When she was Chief Supervisor ever so briefly, she did appoint me to be Chief, but others in The Fleet don’t recognize the change.  There is dissention in The Fleet because of this.  These vikings saw what she did in The Dragon War as a rite of passage to be worthy of the position.  Though, Val needed to track Theo down herself, some don’t fully recognize me as commander.  I might have the look, appeal, and the tradition of The Fifth Fleet, yet my position was handed to me.”

         Questioning the logic because I think of Vilhelm, I counter, “But because the viking who appointed you is the commnader they recognize, would you not be of the same level similar to how you appointed my crew as Retrainers who are of equal command as the commander and my crew has had no problems whatsoever?”

         Marth smiled and answered, “Welcome to The Fifth Fleet!”

         I add, “This might be a general reason Valkarik doesn’t want to come back.  But…” sighing, I think of the realistic reason.  “She is big on family.  So, you and Kamilla are her family plus the history of The Fifth Fleet…  I’ll talk with her.”

         “Thank you, Jarl,” Marth appreciated.  “Now, let’s get right to it.”

         She assigns the escorts to go with me, saying she will wait ten minutes then address the factions.

         Walking along with the escorts they do not say anything.  As I said before, they are the professionals, yet to the point of doing the job and nothing else.  I know we have a cover to keep, but if a cover does not allow for banter, I may pass on that role.  If yak butter is offered for the roll, I may reconsider.

         Guess I can banter with myself.

         A few minutes later, we board Griselda’s flagship.  The escorts tell Griselda and her crew the Chief Supervisor of The Fifth Fleet will begin any moment.  They also mention to Griselda that I will personally protect her if they win a successful bid on any of The Fifth Fleet’s stock.  The escorts will help the crew make the needed preparations after a bid has won.  I am left alone on the command observation deck with Griselda.

         Standing to her right, she addresses me while we wait, “Your Chief Supervisor zis quite gracious to offer personal protection for the zelect group leaders she has interest in buying their dragons.”

         Griselda stops for a response by me, but I remain silent.

         “You are probably only here to keep me company, hmm?  I’m sure you will.  But let’s not kid ourselvez.  We are both here for two zeparate things.”

         She wants me to say something, however I know that is exactly the opposite of what I should do.  Hearing her step over to me…  If she…  She lays a hand on my left shoulder, so I swiftly step back, grab her hand, and twist her arm back over like Astrid does to Hiccup.  I draw the dagger from my back scabbard and thrust the blade near her throat.

         I parry her words, “Don’t threaten me, Warlord!  I don’t much care what The Fifth Fleet commander says.  In some eyes, she shouldn’t even be leading.  The only interest I have in protecting you from the other factions is you survive until you get your goods.  Otherwise, don’t play coy with me.  I have my own objectives, just be glad you align with them, for now.”

         Sheathing the dagger, I offer Griselda my hand to help her up.  She seems infuriated and impressed all at the same time because of my actions.

         “And what are your objectives?”

          Wondering if I should answer, I reply anyway, “To not allow Khaos to rein supreme…  Azor Zadok says hello.”

         Griselda lets out a muffled but please chuckle.  I am both fearful she fired it out and wary if I made a new ally.  A minute went by, and I am still standing.  Both results are equally terrifying.  With the latter, how am I supposed to tell Vixxen, “Oh, yeah, I befriended the viking who tried to kill you.  What’s new with you?”

         It is somewhat a shame go ruin if I did befriend her because I will soon be capturing her.  I could exploit this newfound “ally” to get at the other Warlords.  But then I can hear Vixxen’s voice warning me, “You play with fire too much, you might get burned.”

         Finally, Marth’s voice booms to begin her part, “Greetings.  I am Marth Shinfira, Commander and Chief Supervisor of The Fifth Fleet.  With the pleasantries out of the way, I will finally quench your eager anticipation.  May I present to you the…  Rare…  Powerful…  And awe inspiring…  Shellfire!”

         On Marth’s cue, the Caretakers let the Shellfire leap up on the front part of the island to show it had its jaw locked shut.  But that did not stop the dragon let out a screeching, blood curdling…

         RRRROOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAARRRRRR!!!

         Many around us instantly grab for their ears, but knowing the leaders, it would take more than a roar to impress them.  So, I too stand my ground, not going for my ears.  It was not too loud, but it was not quiet either.

         “At the proper price,” Marth exclaims.  “This one-of-a-kind beast can be yours!  Do I hear any starting bids?”

         The bidding commenced.

         While my outer self-remained at a relaxed position, my inner thoughts are racing waiting for the Shellfire to make its move.

         It did not take long for the Shellfire to press on its Caretakers to try and get free.  Letting out another roar, it rammed the command ship to its left, shoving the ship in the water several yards.  The Caretakers attempt to regain control of the Shellfire, but that makes it mad.  It rears its head and slams its jaw on the island, which breaks it jaw locks.  Then the Shellfire primes for a shot and then fires!

         But not just in any direction…  In our direction!

         I tackle Griselda off the command deck to the main deck and narrowly miss the glowing, fiery blue boulder of death.  Wood splintering sounds are plentiful as well as the ship breaking itself apart by the continued shot trajectory of the boulder.  The blue ball sails over the ship but decapitates the mast.  Griselda and I scramble to safety as the mast beam hurtles in our direction.

         However, with the front of the ship breaking apart, the ship is extremely unstable.  If this was not bad enough…  Another shot from the Shellfire comes barreling towards our way.

         I scream, “INCOMING!!”

         Griselda and I run and retreat to the commander’s quarters in the nick of time.  This blue ball blasts through the center of the ship as if it were a knife through yakbutter.  The blast’s initial impact sends Griselda tumbling forward, busting through the door, and flies towards the back of the room.  I get slammed against the front part of the desk.  The ship continues the rock drastically back and forth, not allowing anyone to retrieve the footing.  Because of this furniture is tossed around and is increasingly unsettled.  Near Griselda a bookcase is finally tipped over far enough it falls on the Warlord, knocking her out cold.

         “Well, that was convenient,” I tell myself out loud.  “Now, I just need to finish the job.”

         I hear a distinctly close creak behind me.  Though the ship had settled down its rocking, I hear the sounds of wood cracking, shouts of various crew members trying to combat the ship from sinking or other ships barking out orders to fire at the Shellfire, and the sounds of fire being exchanged from viking and Shellfire.  Splitting through all of this, the feeling of being watched and eavesdropped on is ever present.  A cold shiver runs down my spine as I whirl around and see a shadowy figure standing in the doorway, I am not sure if they heard me, but they do not look like they are going to help me.

         We stare at each, waiting for someone to make a move.  I still have to use the dart on Griselda, so I sprint around the desk.  Although I am able to reach down to my bowcaster to fire, I suddenly get kicked in the head.  My helmet goes flying, but the covering over my head and face stays.  The figure must have vaulted the desk to knock me down.  I act dazed to see what they will prioritize.

         They instantly go for Griselda.

         I then jump to stop them, pushing them to the left.  I must deal with them first before completing my objective of knocking out Griselda.  My foe is probably thinking the same thing, though they may go a step further.

         Pushing them, I intend to pin them to the wall, but they use my momentum against me.  They wrap their arm around my neck, swing their body to the floor, which lifts me off my feet, and then they use their feet to fling me into the wall.  I will not go down that easily.

         Grabbing a stool nearby, I hurl it at the assassin.  Their footing faulters, not expecting the projectile, as they trip over the bookshelf on top of Griselda.  The figure collects themselves just as I grab the chair, for the desk, to smack it across their back.  They slump to the floor yet sweep their leg to knock me down.  They jump on me and throw a right cross.  I grab their fist with my left and push back against their force while I throw my own right cross.  When they fall limp for a moment, I shove them off me, we both spring up and ready our stance to continue the fight.

         Since neither of us immediately make a move, I casually walk to the front of the desk to have more room to fight.  They follow.  I am to the left of the entrance, the figure is to the right, waiting but twitchy in their patience.

         The assassin makes the next move sending a left cross, I block then to set up my next attack I parry with a right upper cut.  They dodge back, but since I am arched down to the left, I lift my right leg up to kick them in the chest as they dodge, using their momentum against them this time.  This causes them to go flying, slamming their back against a bookcase opposite the wall they did to me.  I whip out two bolas to throw at them, yet they fling a few books to intercept the bolas.  Though foiled and nullified, the bolas created the distraction I needed to shoot my grappling hook onto the bookshelf.

         As I did, the figure declared in a question, “Grappling hook?”

         Before they could say anything else, I yank the bookcase down.  Again, they dodge by somersaulting forward.  They try to tackle me, but I evade and trip them.  They tumble head over heels.  While struggle to stand, I rush them while they are still dazed.  I grab their right arm and force them back, pinning them against the wall.  They try to use their left to reach for my right.  For some reason they are not interested in attacking but trying to grab my arm.

         Though they do not grab it, they are satisfied with something for they say, “You have a grappling hook.”

         “So, what’s it to you?” I shove them against the wall to demand something.

         “Wait,” they interrupt by using their free hand to take off their cloth cap and mask.  “It’s me, Astrid.”