The dark sails of the Lintha, Hregh reflected as he strode towards his master, filled the sea with a forest of jutting spikes, as though Szoreny had descended from his perch to join forces with Kimbery against this weak and pitiful island. The thought was an odd one, and he quickly put it from his mind. There were more important things on the horizon, now. Blood and fear and all the joys that came with both.
â€œMaster, we areâ€¦â€ He was cut off as Dukantha, gently and softly, raised one finger to his lips. The Infernal was sitting cross-legged on the deck, looking for all the world as though he was preparing for a picnic. In truth, Hregh approved. While his masterâ€™s calm was unnerving, it was also tinged with anticipation â€“ the proper attitude for a powerful master. And if a powerful master wished silence, Hregh would oblige â€“ this was how he had climbed through the ranks of his fellows to become the bosun of this beautiful, deadly ship.
Dukantha turned his attention back to the other creature, a demon of a sort that Hregh could not recognize. Hunched over, a host of small faces pushing their way out of its chest, the wizened creature was in the process of speaking. Its voice was gravelly, a womanâ€™s used to control. â€œâ€¦it, draining his Essence reserves just before the battle.â€ A second face spoke, then, with another womanâ€™s voice â€“ young and pure. Hreghâ€™s claws itched to hear her. â€œThat will help.â€
Dukantha rose abruptly, gesturing for the demon to cease its recital. â€œAnd they did not see you?â€
This time, as the faces pulled back into the rippling flesh, the demon bobbed its head. The voice that came out was all things and none. â€œNo. I am sure.â€
â€œBeautiful.â€ Dukantha turned to Hregh, raising one delicate eyebrow. â€œYes, Hregh?â€
â€œWe are here, my master.â€ Hregh gestured towards the shore of the island. â€œLess than half a mile away.â€ He paused, curiosity and caution warring as he judged Dukanthaâ€™s mood. â€œMessage from the enemy?â€
Dukantha smiled, and the blood ape relaxed fractionally. â€œIndeed. A cunning strategy, I fear.â€ His smile faded, and he cursed savagely. Hregh took a cautious step backwards, just in case. â€œDamn that Mnalif! She has sailed with us, tasted the blood of the human sheep! And now she chooses to side against us?â€ He shook his head heavily, and glanced towards the mast of the ship. Still pinned to it was the skin of the Lunar he had fought personally, as he tore through the Lintha fleet. The beast had died easily enough, however, and Dukantha turned steely eyes towards the shore. â€œWell, her gambit shall backfire soon enough. She wants me to reveal my power, does she? She actually believes for a moment that she can stand against it?â€
Hregh laughed suddenly, and then stopped as Dukanthaâ€™s gaze locked with his. â€œAnd this amuses you?â€
â€œWellâ€¦ yes, master. Of course it does. A mere Lunar, against a Conduit of the Yozi?â€ This time, Hreghâ€™s laugh was nervous, but it seemed to calm Dukantha, and he valiantly forged on. â€œFor her to think thatâ€™s possible is absurd! Of course I laugh!â€
Dukantha chuckled softly, and absently stroked Hreghâ€™s hairy scalp. Fingernails drew lines of faint pain, but the blood ape was used to that, and considered it a chance to prove his own strength. The Infernal nodded, stepping away from his minion, and gazing towards the shore. â€œGood Hregh. You are, of course, right. My anger at her gall simply distorts my view.â€ This time, his headshake was sad. â€œPoor Mnalif. You could have had so much. Everything. But instead, you side with the dirt and the muck. Very well, then. If that is your wish, so be it.â€
Turning abruptly, he strode towards the bow of the ship, Hregh trailing in his wake. â€œSend word to the fleet. They are to move into formation for a tight-range attack against the harbour. I want it crowded with ships once I give the signal, ready to strike at exceptional speed.â€ He paused, gauging distances. â€œThey are to hold position 650 yards from the harbour mouth, and prepare to ride a wave into the harbour.â€ He chuckled, faintly. â€œNganto has made a terrible error. She may have understood that my magic has been boosted by my Mother, but she fails to grasp just how far.â€ His gaze worked hungrily over the tightly-packed formations at the docks ahead, not bothering to reach for a speculum hanging at his waist. â€œI fear that my people will have little to do. But they can raze the town to its foundations. That should amuse them while I open the gate.â€
â€œYes, master.â€ Hregh did not understand, but he turned to make the arrangements, sending those demons who could fly to carry word around the hundreds of ships as quickly as possible. As he returned, Dukantha smiled to him.
â€œAnd you, Hregh. Take the other blood apes below decks. I will call for you when my sorcery is complete.â€ Hregh nodded, having a suspicion as to just what was entailed as Kimberyâ€™s Dawn sailed forwards. He began shouting and ordering, chasing his crew into the depths of the ship â€“ he knew that it was capable of withstanding terrible blows, blows that would reduce a blood ape to their component Essence particles. Belowâ€¦ below, they would be safe.
Standing alone on the bow, Dukantha watched the water sail past. 600 yards. The Lintha fleet took up their positions, ready for the gesture that would send them rampaging into the soon-to-be-defenseless town. Now 500, and he saw the Essence cannon gearing up to fire. The first shot went wide, but it was a ranging shot. Time to begin.
Green fire and gray sea sprang up around Dukantha as he chanted, Essence cascading hundreds of yards into the air, visible for miles. Every last mote arced upwards, and around, before pooling towards his hands. A second shot slammed home, and he could feel Kimberyâ€™s Dawn quivering in pain, but he continued his incantation, dark, blasphemous words spilling off him. Energy gathered in his palm, a green orb of destruction that promised doom to everything within 400 yards of his target point. He lined up â€“ not on the docks, just in case one of the foolish Exalts had the means to defend against him, but against the sea. The explosion would reduce the docks, cannon, and defenders to so much debris and meat, and vaporize enough ocean to pull his ships inwards at incredible speed. And the spell was far beyond that treacherous Lunarâ€™s ability to dispel.
He smiled, even as a third shot struck home, sending his ship rocking faintly. He did not feel it. He felt only the killing warm of the green orb held in his palm. He raised his palm, spoke the spell. â€œTotal Annihilation.â€
The orb raised from his hand and dove forwards.
And Mnalif Nganto leapt from the sea directly in front of him and caught it in her teeth.