YYH Chapter 17

Chea K’rst frowned thoughtfully at the half-filled mug in front of her as silence descended, again, in the bar in the wake of another burst of gunfire in the distance.  That makes eight, total.  That’s way too many for the kind of scuffles that normally take place in a port like this.  The massive woman’s thoughtful expression turned momentarily mournful, then hardened as she pushed the mug away.

“We’re done drinking for the evening.  Everyone settle up and get ready to head back to the ship.”

Five faces turned expressions of shock, mixed with varying degrees of intoxication, towards the Pelican’s cargo mistress as her tone made it clear that the simple statement carried the weight of an order.

“Not the first time there’s been some roughhousing going on while we’re docked in Jiungli, Chea.”  Santos paused and tried to collect himself as even he seemed surprised by the amount of slurring in his speech.  “No need to get spooked because there’s some more going on tonight.”  Several nods of agreement accompanied the black-haired crewman’s brief speech, though none of the others made any move to pick up their own drinks again before Chea had a chance to respond.

“First time we’ve ever carried a ‘cargo’ that had this much chance for trouble coming to look for us.  And the first time I can remember hearing some ‘roughhousing’ in Jiungli lasting past the second shot.”  The large woman sighed at the hangdog expressions from around the table.  “Finish what you’ve already got, then get paid up.”

Chea managed, barely, not to roll her eyes at the speed with which the others snatched their partially finished drinks up; even as she turned away from her own still-half-full mug to follow her own advice.  When the last of her crewmen finished settling their tabs without any further gunshots or other sounds of violence drifting in through the open door or windows, Chea had begun to wonder if she was simply ‘spooked’ as Santos suggested.

“DOWN!”

The shout and flicker of movement from beside the heavily-muscled woman was almost immediately drowned out by the deafening roar of a blunderbuss being fired in an enclosed space.  Chea landed with a floor-rattling thud where she dove behind the bar for cover as the light flickered wildly as a pair of hanging oil-lamps were exploded by the much too high shot from the doorway.

A quick glance over the counter showed Chea a group of armed men jostling each other in their haste to all enter the bar at once, and she could faintly make out the sound of someone shouting orders involving ‘the foreigners’ over the ringing in her ears.  Chea found herself wishing that it had been raining or unseasonably cold in Jiungli that day.  If it had been she’d have her coat with her, along with the oversized handcannons concealed within it.

Chea ducked again as several shots rang out in rapid succession from both her fellow crewmates and their unknown attackers.  The panicked exchange was mostly ineffectual, though some screaming from both sides indicated not completely so.  Two of the men attacking the bar now sported bleeding arm-wounds, and a brief glimpse of Sam as he ducked back behind an overturned table left Chea with the impression that her friend had probably lost most of his left ear.  The crushing press to get inside was also momentarily reversed, as men suddenly sought to get back OUT of the doorway to where they could take cover behind the building’s walls.

Chea clenched her fists in frustration as she had to hope that one of the attackers would have to come within arms’ reach before she could do anything to help her crewmates, then froze as her fists brushed against some of the glass bottles beneath the bar.  A wicked grin immediately spread across the large woman’s face as she dropped completely back below the level of the counter to take stock of what she had available.

It didn’t take long for Chea to sort out the few higher quality, and thus more flammable, liquors stored beneath the bar, and she found herself pausing again to consider how to complete the next necessary step.  A contemplation that was cut short by the sound of tearing fabric directly behind her.

Whirling from her kneeling position, and managing to knock her head solidly on the bar in the process, Chea’s gaze was met by a steady stare from the bartender as he finished tearing a rag into neat strips of cloth.  Strips he quickly shoved into the large woman’s hands.

“Try not to burn bar.  I will charge them for the bottles though.”  The bartender’s voice was nearly drowned out by another exchange of fire between the Pelican crew and their attackers, but the older man didn’t so much as flinch.

Chea offered her best reassuring smile in response, an expression that seemed to cause the bartender quite a bit more worry than the ongoing gun battle in his building, before snagging a box of matches from under the counter to finish her preparation to join the fray.

 

<<<>>>

 

“It’s just Jiungli, kid.  Nothing to worry about.”  The woman chained to the floor tried to keep her tone soothing as she spoke to her slightly-too high-strung jailer for the evening, and winced as her effort sounded purely condescending even to her own ears.

“We’ve been here before.  That was NOT what any of the other trips sounded like.”  Del nervously clenched and unclenched his fingers around the cut-down blunderbuss Chea had forced into his hand a few hours ago.  “Now be quiet, I think I heard something up on the deck.”

“Your crew the kind to come back early if someone starts trouble in town?”  Jannis’ tone was quiet, and mostly without the condescension, this time around as she strained to confirm if there was indeed someone else on the ship and not simply a young man jumping at shadows.

“Not unless the person starting trouble is one of them.  Or starting trouble wi-…”  Del was interrupted by the unmistakable sound of one of the upper hatches slamming open.  “Wait here.”

“Sure you don’t want me to back you up?”  Jannis rattled a few of her chains to accompany her mocking retort, but the young man ignored her as he crept up the stairs to peer out into the hallway leading to the hold.

The door to the hold wasn’t even halfway open when the entire ship was suddenly filled with the sounds of shouting men and gunfire.  Jannis winced and tried to make herself even smaller under the chains as she saw Del fall back down the stairs in his attempt to avoid a volley of shots that reduced the thin wooden door to splinters.  A moment later she flinched in genuine pain when the boy fired off the ridiculous blunderbuss he was carrying from only a few feet away.  She opened her eyes a moment after that when something cold and metallic bounced off of her to land on the deck practically beneath her.

Jannis quickly turned her shocked gaze from the keyring that her jailer had apparently just thrown at her to see the young man mouthing the word ‘go’ in her direction before reversing his grip on the now-unloaded weapon he held to charge and meet a pair of men entering the cargo hold.  Though he might have actually been shouting the words, Jannis realized a moment later, as she couldn’t currently hear anything over the ringing in her ears.

Is he… Is he trying to save me?  The red-haired woman shook her head in a combination of shock and pity as she began rapidly shrugging off the easiest to remove of her bindings.  Where the hell did a crew like this on a boat like this find a kid like that?  With the ability to unlock the few chains that were genuinely restrictive, Jannis was free and on her feet in less than a minute.  Taking stock of her situation again, the woman was again shocked to see that her would-be savior was still on his feet, though definitely a bit worse for wear as he tried to battle two experienced knife fighters with a makeshift club.

The first knife fighter never saw the blow that ended his life.  One moment he was preparing to finally finish the idiotic kid, the next a heavy chain manacle spun into the back of his skull with bone-breaking force.  The second knife-wielder saw the chain flying towards his head and stepped nimbly out of the way.  Directly into a coil of chain that had been thrown on the floor for him to trip over.  A powerful overhand blow from Del’s blunderbuss turned club finished him.

Jannis shrugged uncomfortably at the surprised stare Del turned towards her now that the immediate threat was dealt with.  “You didn’t just leave me, so I wasn’t just gonna leave you.  Don’t read any more into it than that, kid.”  The redhead made a point of retrieving the weapons from the downed men as she gave her gruff explanation.  “Just don’t try to put me back in the chains and I’ll call us even for now.”

“Don’t try to attack our ship again and I think even the captain would agree to those terms.”

Jannis stifled a chuckle at the young man’s confident response.  “Then I’ll be getting out of here then.  Sounds like the rest of these boys are busy at the other end of the ship.”

Del paled as he processed that statement and realized immediately the other area of the ship that attackers would most want to seize.  “Frederich…”

Jannis had to admit, the young man could definitely move quickly when the mood struck him.  He was across the room and up the stairs fast enough that he was ahead of her at least, when both froze as the sounds from across the ship suddenly changed.  Frustrated shouting and the distant sound of hammering was suddenly drowned out by the horrific grating sound of metal grinding angrily against metal, and the shouts were suddenly terrified screams.

The redhead barely had time to react before she found herself being practically carried back into the hold by the young man who’d been leading the charge towards the engine room a moment ago.  Her angry shout died before reaching her lips however, as she caught a brief glimpse of what Del was running from.  The triple legs made it look more like the thing was somehow rolling sideways instead of walking, and the many limbs protruding from its torso were a barely visible blur, and the whole thing was the bright crimson of something recently soaked in a LOT of blood.

Good gods, what kind of idiot would unleash a Clockwerk berzerker INSIDE a ship?

 


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