An Excerpt from Rosie Scott’s Stemming the Tide
“Nooo!” Hassan’s hoarse scream was that of a broken man. Silver bolts flew through the sky as he attacked Cale with an urgent need for vengeance. Most of the ammo bounced off the wyvern-kin’s scales, but others hit their targets in soft joints and the flesh of wings.
Hassan’s sudden rage fueled my own. I swam to the hull of the barque and clambered up its ornate woodwork with my only working arm, far faster than I had any right to be. Bodies were strewn over the wide quarterdeck between splashes of crimson. Koby and the others removed grappling hooks from the taffrail to free our ship from the clutches of the pirate schooner. Cale’s crew was dead, but the crazed captain remained alive, and his reinforcements overwhelmed us. Ajax’s mercenary cog was heavily damaged from cannon fire, its hull dented and splintered. Rather than continue to destroy the vessel, the pirates re-evaluated their plan and were positioning one of their galleons beside the cog to board and take it. On the far side of the scene, at least a dozen more ships loomed in the north, ready to squelch us from existence with sheer numbers alone.
Escaping this battle was nigh impossible, but right now I did not fear death. I turned when I reached the middle of the quarterdeck and crouched in a trembling power stance with my eyes on Cale as he wavered in the sky with one mangled wing, still fighting off Jaecar’s angry persistent assaults.
I didn’t fear death. Not yet. With the demise of a good friend repeating itself in my head, I refused to fear death until I brought its cold touch upon someone who deserved it more. I lost any fragment of sanity I’d managed to hold onto; my mind floated above my body, giving it permission to go berserk with rage.
I charged forward, ravenous for blood. Cold rains sliced down my scales. Winds howled by my ears. Movement and sound sought to distract me, but my homicidal gaze lingered on target. In a fluid motion, I vaulted up onto the taffrail, using the momentum of my charge and the strength of my haunches to launch off the ship at Cale.
The wyvern-kin turned his attention away from Jaecar as I sprung toward him with only one good arm. I spread my jaw; my shimmering razor-sharp fangs reflected back to me from Cale’s reptilian silver eyes. We crashed in mid-air, my webbed hand gripping his throat. Caught off balance, Cale ducked forward and plunged to the seas, his elongated neck unable to support the weight of my muscular body.
Against a backdrop of blurred skies and wooden vessels, I focused only on the wyvern-kin’s shiny silver head. It was narrower than mine. As we tumbled toward the ocean together, I tilted my head and snapped forward, clamping my jaws on either side of his scaled snout.
Two overgrown lizards crashed once more into the seas, this time in a deadly gnashing embrace. The smooth whipping echoes of a tense underwater struggle accompanied our mutual mauling. As his wings desperately tried to make movement in water, Cale kicked his feet at my torso, his talons dislodging silver-blue scales and exposing strings of torn bleeding muscle. Intending to crush his skull, I clamped down with full force on his snout. The wyvern-kin’s skeleton was evidently stronger than that of a man’s. A muted crack kissed my ears after the slight shifting of his lower mandible as it broke, but it did not crumble. I twisted my bite, tearing fangs through scales and underlying tissues.
Cale jerked back from me, kicking off my torso with his feet. Trailing blood, he folded his wings to his sides and darted for the surface. I gave chase, but my ruined arm inhibited my pace. Cale burst through the water and into the air, sweeping out his wings and flapping them to take off rapidly; a spattering of water and blood flew off him from his brisk motion, sprinkling over the seas.
Lightning seized the skies with a lavender-blue glow; veins of electricity split into branches, seeking to conquer every inch of the heavens. Once more, the ocean was luminous with the storm’s residual light. Great movement drew my gaze to the depths. My heart plummeted to boil in the acid of my gut as I realized my eyes did not deceive me.
Underneath the shadows of battling ship keels, dark glimmering tentacles of tremendous proportions reached out of the ocean’s void, racing toward the surface water as if summoned by our petty spat. The water tickled my scales with a tremor as the seas shook like the beast was so legendary its movement persuaded the tectonic plates of the earth to shift. A chill ran down my spine as I became acutely aware that the sea creature we faced was the same one responsible for the annihilation of navies and the trading stranglehold south of Nahara. Rumors claimed it left few survivors. Rumors claimed this beast had migrated from the waters south of the beastlands, a place dominated by creatures designed by the gods themselves, monstrosities so large and deadly they destroyed well-equipped armies and brought a country to ruin.
Here the rumor was before me, each tentacle gigantic enough to curl around a dwarven galleon like it was merely a toy. As it rose from the depths, I should have rushed to the surface to flee and save my ship and crew. I should have fled or moved or acted at all. Instead, I did nothing. For the rumor itself was before me, and I could do nothing but stare in absolute awe.
For our battle had awakened the beast.
Copyright Rosie Scott