8.26 – Inferno

Hi, Everyone! Allene here. We’re going to try something special with book 8, assuming I don’t exhaust myself in the process. In an effort to get my rankings higher on TWF and RRL, I’m aiming to post two chapters/day for the next two weeks (so, 28 chapters in 2 weeks, or what will probably be most of the book), and then go straight into book 9 when it’s done. Wish me luck!

So far as Einarr was aware, they had only one piece of business left on Hohenwerth. It seemed a shame, to Einarr’s way of thinking, that such a fertile piece of land should be put to flame – but the alternative meant leaving a pocket of corruption to fester like an open wound. It was bad enough that the svartalfr fortress in Clan waters still existed: for something like that to spring up in Imperial territory would be a disaster.

After roasting the black kraken alive, the Arkona’s stores of sea fire were no more. They still had more mundane means of setting things alight, however, and these they applied. The landing crew that had taken the bodies of the fallen to shore moved inland had one other task, and after the bodies were prepared they loaded packs of torches on their backs and moved inland.

When offered, Einarr refused the chance to go along on this task as he promised he would, and instructed his companions to do the same. “It’s not that we don’t trust you,” he told Liupold. “It’s that I don’t trust your higher-ups.” Most especially Hrist, but he wasn’t going to say that. “I agreed to assist you for my own reasons, as you well know. I will not give some ambitious functionary the chance to claim it was raiders at fault for Hohenwerth.”

Liupold took this with better grace than Einarr had really expected, even considering that he had been warned. But Liupold had more than once acted with better sense than Einarr typically expected of the Coneheads, so perhaps there was something to Walter’s accusation after all. Perhaps, as the Mate said, Liupold was half “barbarian.”

Two hours past dawn, the first column of smoke rose above the center of the island. New columns appeared at regular intervals after, in various places around the island. Three hours after they fanned out, the men of the Order climbed back in their landing boat and rowed back towards the Arkona. Behind them, Einarr could see flames licking up towards the sky.

Before they came back aboard, they tethered themselves to the Arkona and were towed around to the south side of the island. There was one more fire to light, one area shielded by a mass of stone from the rest of the blaze: the docks and the castle at Southwaite. Arguably the most crucial area to burn, given what happened there.

There were no more flesh-puppets to deal with, now that the black kraken had been destroyed, but flesh-puppets were not all that had been created on the island – the jailer was proof enough of that. As the castle dock came into view against the steep shale coast of the island, Einarr could see movement against the fiery backdrop. There were still living creatures on the island. Some of whom had once been men. And all of whom could potentially be able to escape into the sea.

Rambert was calling cadence on the rowboat, and when they loosed themselves from the main ship they closed the distance to the docks swiftly. Some few of the kraken’s monstrosities were already approaching the steep steps that led to the dock. Einarr did not doubt that they would find their way down, whether or not they were still able to walk down stairs.

Movement from the smaller boat again caught his eye. Rambert (at least, he thought that’s who it was) had drawn back his bow. Flame flickered at the tip of the arrow he had nocked. Then the first flame arrow flew. It landed at the very edge of the docks, right in front of the stair.

“Good shot,” Einarr muttered under his breath as the fire licked at the wood.

Moments later, a volley of flaming arrows flew across the gap to land in the bridge or in the forerunners of the island abominations – and they were all, he could see even from this distance – abominations.

One of them, vaguely humanoid but with the snout of a dog and moving on squid-like tentacles, braved the kindling fire ahead and sort of slid down onto the dock.

More fire arrows flew, whether intended as a second volley for the dock or with the intention of stopping the creature, it was hard to say. Whatever the intention, several burning arrows found their mark on the abomination and it slumped to the ground.

So they’re not all as strong as the jailer, are they? That’s good to know.

The bridge was burning merrily, now, and the creatures that had fled to the shore milled about between the fire and the water. Einarr frowned and moved forward, toward where Liupold stood watching with a similar frown on his face.

“Captain, might I suggest a volley of our own? Sooner or later, those things will end up jumping to escape the flames…”

“You’re quite right.” He frowned. “Walter! Do we still have the emergency cask held back?”

Walter glared at his captain and spoke through gritted teeth. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Sir.”

“Walter. Would you rather ensure that nothing gets off this island, or preserve the most obvious of secrets from men who have acted as our allies? Load the cask.”

The Mate looked like he wanted to argue further, but then he looked towards the shore. Already some of the abominations were testing their courage and the edge of the cliff. “Yes, sir.”

While Walter disappeared belowdecks to do as his Captain commanded, Liupold ordered the ship brought in closer to shore.

The Arkona was far closer to shore than anyone really liked when Walter reappeared. “Ready, sir.”

“Very good. Fire on my mark.”

“Sir!”

Liupold stared towards the shore for a long moment. He appeared to be counting. “Ready… mark!”

A gush of sea fire spouted from a nozzle in the prow of the boat with a sound like rushing wind through a chimney. The abominations on shore shrieked in a voice like the kraken’s, although Einarr doubted most of them ever realized the water, too, was now ablaze. They were too busy trying to put out the flames that now burned them directly.


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