Krozair of Kregen

Free Krozair of Kregen by Alan Burt Akers

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Authors: Alan Burt Akers
Tags: Fiction, Science-Fiction, Fantasy
not the only way, of course; but it would be the easiest. And I wished this fight to be over so that I might resume my tasks in the Eye of the World.
    A brief inquiry among the men as the two swifters hauled up to us established the second galley as
Pearl.
She was smaller, a two-banked six-four hundred-and-twenty swifter. She was not a dekares of the
Golden Chavonth
type. I eyed both of them as they backed up. Fazhan had those men of ours who had not found weapons at the upper tank looms. A little byplay had ensued there, for a group of ex-slaves without weapons had protested vigorously at taking their places on the rowing benches. I strode up, mighty fierce, not happy but knowing what I did was right.
    “Give us weapons’“ bellowed the men. “We will fight!”
    “You will row,” I said. “That will be your fighting.”
    I did not say that by not already snatching up weapons they proved themselves less able than their comrades who had. But I glowered at them, and spoke more about the glory of Zair, and shook the Genodder, and finished with, “And two last things! Once we strike the damned Grodnims you will have weapons in plenty. And if you do not row I shall beat you most severely.”
    They were convinced.
    My friends, even, say that sometimes I have a nasty way with me. This is so. And even if I deplore my manner, it does get things done in moments of crisis. As I went back to the station I had taken on the quarterdeck, Vax gave me a dark look, sullen and defiant.
    “You are a right devil, Dak.”
    “Yes,” I said, and went off bellowing to a party of men to sort themselves out, with the bowmen in rear, a great pack of famblys, asking to be slaughtered.
    Rukker looked back. The gap narrowed.
    I yelled at him: “Get your fool hands down! They’ll be shooting any moment.”
    As I spoke, the first shafts rose from the two Green swifters.
    “Get the ship moving, Fazhan!” I swung about and roared at the two men who had taken the helm positions. “Bring her around to starboard! Put some weight into it!”
    Green Magodont’s
wings rose and fell. We could put out only a few oars; but these gave us sufficient way to take us out into midstream. I judged the distances. Arrows struck down about us. The helmsmen looked at me, hard-muscled men, hanging on to their handles, waiting my orders.
    “Hard over! Larboard!” I bellowed at Fazhan. “Every effort, Fazhan! Make ’em pull! Speed! Speed!”
    The oars beat raggedly and then settled and the swifter’s hard rostrum swirled to larboard and cut through the blue water. We surged ahead, aiming for the starboard quarter of the larboard vessel,
Pearl.
Our stern swung to starboard. We formed a diagonal between the swifters. Arrows crisscrossed now. I saw Nath leap up and swing his cloth about his head, let fly. I had the shrewd suspicion his stone would strike. The swifters neared. Any minute they would strike.
    “Ram! Ram! Ram!”
    The bull roar bashed up and men tensed for the shock of impact.
    We struck.
    The bronze ram gouged into
Pearl.
Both vessels shuddered and rocked with the impact. Men were yelling. I bawled out to Rukker; but there was no need. With his knot of Katakis about him, a compact force of devils, he leaped onto the swifter’s deck. Instantly a babble of brilliant fighting ensued. Our stern swerved on, still going.
    “Rowed of all!” I screamed at Fazhan. Our oars dropped.
    The stern hit.
    Somehow I was first across, scrambling over gilding and scrollwork, hurling myself onto the deck of
Vengeance Mortil.
Like a pack of screeching werstings my men followed. The blades flamed and flashed in the light of the twin suns, and then we were at our devil’s tinker work, hammering and bashing, thrusting and slicing.
    Vax followed and Duhrra leaped at my side. We swept a space for ourselves and then flung forward; for to stand gaping was to invite feathering.
    “Below!” I yelled and men darted off to drop into the stinking gloom of the rowing banks and

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