By Trey’s reckoning it was nearing night. The temperature had slowly been dropping for nearly an hour. There were no windows in the cell the group were being kept in but he could tell that the sun was still out from the light filtering through the gaps in the wood from above.
The mood in the cell was sombre at best. They hadn’t eaten or drank since sun up that morning, their weapons had been confiscated, and they were going to be eaten by a tribe of cannibals. The word unlucky just didn’t quite cut it for the situation.
Other than the thuds from rough skinned feet above and the unintelligible speech of the tribal people, the only other sound was the groan of the wood around them and the constant noise of the sand scraping against the outer walls as the structure pushed through the dry sea.
A new sound echoed into the prison, shattering the uneasy quiet. The three boys looked up, startled. There, stood in-between two of the door’s battered iron bars, was Pux.
“You look like you need a bit of help,” he laughed. He leant casually against the bar, his tiny hand rested lightly upon the pommel of his sword. The weapon was slimmer in design than the usual broad and long swords popular throughout Farava. The Yuxova blade was built to stab more than to slash. The hilt and pommel were polished ivory.
“Pux, thank the Sprites you’re here. Hurry up and get us out of here,” Trey said.
“Quiet!” warned the Yuxova. “Someone’s coming.”
Pux darted behind a bucket as a heavily built man stepped into view. The man had a menacing smile etched onto his ugly face and was licking his lips hungrily. He tapped his crudely made mace onto his hand as he approached the boys. He stopped, pulled out a bulky key, then inserted it into a hole in the cell’s door.
He gave an evil chuckle as he shoved them out of the prison. “What a good day indeed. We will eat well for the first time in weeks,” he said with a greedy smile. His accent was strong, his mouth not quite adapting to the Faravian language.
They were led along the corridors the same way that they had been brought in. As they emerged from the dark under level, the moon greeted them, its full sphere hanging watchfully in the heavens above. Its light cast the surroundings in a mystical silver glow. It gave the gathering of cannibals a spectral appearance. There must have been at least fifty of them.
“We’re almost back to the pit,” announced the skull wearing leader. He spoke in the boys’ own language so they could hear all of the dreaded words he was about to say. “I sent a message forward and an inferno is already ablaze ready for our arrival.” The tribal people all cheered.
“Chief!” called a man from the top of a mast, interrupting the speech. “There’s a Heptalli ship on the horizon. A big one.”
“Oh, this day just keeps getting better,” the leader said with a hungry grin. “Men, the good old Pit’ll have to wait. We’re going hunting!” The surrounding tribal members cheered again, clashing their weapons together as they bayed for blood.
“Full speed straight at them! Soak in the blood of our enemies,” the leader bellowed.
The ship in question came into view after cresting a large dune. It was smaller than the Flesh Eroder’s craft but seemed sturdier built. Its streamlined design looked far closer matched to a real sea faring vessel. It too appeared to have giant wheels to help it through the sand.
A sudden excited hustle began on deck. The boys were tied to the mast with thick rope. One man was left to guard them. He was a large man whose muscles were unnaturally large and his features looked as though they had been sharpened. He held a huge battle axe that looked like it had been stolen from a noble, its black steel etched in silver and gold, while its deadly sharp blades curved elegantly before coming to abruptly brutal points. It looked heavy to even his substantial muscles. The brute sneered at them angrily.
The deck shuddered as a monstrous cannon fired at the Heptalli ship. It boomed like thunder and the crew cheered as they watched the stone sphere hurtle towards its prey. An explosion of sand indicated a miss, but not by far.
“Prepare the Death Riders,” roared a nearby man.
Several thuds reverberated through the ship’s hull. After a second, five small sand vehicles sped into view past the edge of the ship. They were thin, metal constructions with the pilot sat in the middle of them. A large lance like spike reached forwards from the front of the crafts and a triangular blade stuck out at either side. The pilots were no less equipped. Each held a halberd in their hands and seemed to steer the crafts with their legs.
The Heptalli ship released its own fighter craft in defence. The odds seemed against them. They were made from wooden plates and seemed more bulky than their enemy’s counterparts, smaller but less aerodynamic. They did have an outer ring made from metal to aid in attack but their pilots had no visible weapons.
The two forces rapidly reached each other and showed no signs of slowing. At the last available second the Heptalli ships zipped to the side as the enemy ships powered forwards. The ensuing battle was like a deadly dance as the Heptalli wove around the stronger opponents, their speed and manoeuvrability surprising for their size. Offensive capability had obviously been disregarded for an edge in agility. Despite the blocky design, intricate inner mechanics must have been contained within. The plates moved like fishes’ scales, allowing the crafts to flow around the dunes with the grace of dolphins at play.
“There are women and children on that ship,” stated the eagle eyed Billy.
“We have to help them or they won’t stand a chance,” Trey said through clenched teeth.
“We can’t even help ourselves, let alone a whole ship full of people,” replied Billy angrily. He looked at their guard again who was staring hungrily at them. “We won’t even be able to get past this guy, so we can forget trying the rest of the tribe onboard.”
“Maybe if I glare at him and think angry thoughts my will power will kill him,” suggested Zak.
“Good luck with that,” answered Billy sarcastically. Zak glared at the guard with a strained expression on his face as he concentrated on thinking angry thoughts. The guard stood unmoving.
Billy scoffed. “I can’t believe you actually thought that might work you idio-”
The guard dropped to the floor. Blood pooled around his body despite there being no visible wound.
“Ha! See. I’m totally amazing and you thought it was a stupid idea,” laughed Zak. Billy seemed dumbstruck, totally lost for words.
“Now we just need the ropes cutting and we can help,” Trey said into the sudden silence. “Help me try and loosen them.”
“Let me think more angry thoughts at it and then I’ll be the greatest ever,” shouted Zak in a slightly insane voice.
“Or we could just get Pux to cut them once he gets his sword from that man’s spine,” replied Trey as he tried to edge away from Zak. He was not having much luck with it.
“We could do that but I prefer my idea,” pouted Zak.
“Ah, so you noticed me did you, lad?” said Pux as he walked over the guard’s body, wiping crimson blood off of his blade on the man’s shirt. He hopped down and ran over to the ropes which he tried to cut but failed. “It’ll take too long for me to cut it like this. I’ll be back in a minute,” he said as he scurried out of sight.
“How long do you think it’ll take for him to come back?”mused Billy. He looked over to Zak who was still thinking angry thoughts at the rope. He then looked at Trey, and saw nothing. Billy looked all around but couldn’t see any trace of him.
“You can get out anytime now,” said Trey who was sat on a crate near the edge of the ship.
“What? When? How?” Billy stammered. Zak was still staring angrily at the rope, oblivious to everything else around him.
“I used the giant axe that landed near me to cut the ropes,” Trey explained. The mention of the words ‘giant axe’ had snapped Zak out of his angry thoughts and caused him to jump up and charge towards the weapon.
“You won’t even be able to lift it let alone use it, you fool,” scoffed Billy as he collected the ropes for later use.
“Dinner is escaping!” roared a passing by tribal man whose full attention hadn’t been on the battle between the two ships. He dropped the wood he had been carrying and drew his sword with a snarl. Within five seconds about twenty warriors had assembled around the three boys and totally surrounded them.