Paulek

                                            By 

                                         Arthur 

 CHAPTER 11



Over the next five days and nights, the captured carronade and all their
shot and powder were loaded on the long line of wagons and sent on their
way, it would take ten days for it all to arrive at the Severn Pass, at the
time there seemed little hurry, the enemy had made no move to break through
the pass as most of the action was down on the seaward coastal flats while
the pass was well to the north and very difficult to attack.

Two days after the last wagon left the town, the sight of a fast riding
messenger alerted the day time watch on the Trireme, under Captain
Stanislaw's orders the newly promoted Margate was on duty while the others
were in their death sleep and so he was the first to receive the message.

Margate looked up at the afternoon sky, there was still at least two hours
until dark and there was no way for him to awaken the Captain, he would
have to start making preparations without him, Margate began to give
orders, all work on the captured ships stopped as he sent the men on other
more important works.

With the last rays of the sun disappearing below the horizon, the drinkers
began to stir, Margate stood impatiently waiting for the Captain to rise,
he didn't have much longer to wait, as usual the Captain was standing in
front of Margate before he even heard him.

"You look worried Mr. Margate, what's all the rush around here?"

"A message from the King Captain, the Severn pass has come under a surprise
attack, the defenders were pushed back before they could release the dead
falls and block the pass, they are still holding further along but are
under a lot of pressure, it's only the narrowness of the pass that enables
them to hold, the King has asked for all of his night Marshals and all
others of the night to help defend the pass until the carronade can get
there in ten days."

As Margate finished his report there came a whooshing sound from above and,
within seconds, a large birdlike creature descended onto the deck of the
Trireme as Paulek and the other junior officers arrived to stand behind the
Captain.

The creature quickly began to change into human form, much to Paulek's
dismay it turned out to be none other than Jorge, Paulek had no idea that
the older drinker could also change like Sergei although he had been told
that once he was old enough he also along with any drinker of the right age
could make the shift to other forms.

After he changed back to his human form, Jorge smiled and greeted the
Captain, he then began to tell the Captain what was needed, as soon as he
had finished his report, Jorge changed back into the dark birdlike form and
took to the night sky in a whoosh of flapping wings, Captain Stanislaw
turned to the waiting boys.

"Well young gentlemen, its time to earn our crust of bread, as you heard,
the King needs every drinker to get to the pass and help stop the advance,
Mr.Margate, you will be in command of the ships while we are away, see that
the continuing changes to the captured ships are kept up at pace, all
drinkers go and get your weapons and meet me on the wharf, those who can
shift will go ahead and form the first attack, those too young to change
will make as much haste as you can over land, there are caves about one
hour from the start of the pass, you should be able to make it that far
tonight, you will meet up with a lot of other drinkers from across the
Kings realm, get too it Gentlemen we have little time too loose, the King
has called us to action."

Stanislaw followed by Paulek, Milac and two other young drinkers that had
been hired by the Captain to take charge of two of the other small ships,
were soon on the wharf and making for the town centre, once there they saw
all of the drinkers from the immediate vicinity coming into the town at
speed, Paulek told Tito to go out to the farm and watch over Bevic.

It was noticed that a number of the new arrivals had little or no weapons,
many of them were no more than street ferals and yet they had answered the
call to fight for the King, Stanislaw smiled at the new arrivals, he then
gave orders for all of them to go to one of the warehouses on the new dock
and arm themselves with whatever they wanted, the looks on many of the
young faces were almost priceless as they took in the fact that they were
truly being armed with the best available and also accepted as part of the
regular Kings forces.

Paulek was put in charge of those that had gathered, the Captain and two
older ones from the surrounding country side, were going to shift and fly
to the pass, Paulek was shown where the caves were and would lead his small
band towards them, meeting up with the older shifters the next night along
with any others that made it too the caves.

Within an hour the assembled young ones were on the run, Paulek and Milac
were out in front and making fast time, they had a long way to go and a lot
of ground to cover before they would make it too the safety of the caves
before the sun rose, with their sharp hearing they heard the flap of mighty
wings from the darkness far above them as those who could shift took
flight.

Two hours into the run, Paulek saw more of the shifters far above them all
aiming for the north and towards the Severn pass, at times it seemed the
night sky was filled with dark shapes, if Paulek was to guess he thought
there had too be as many as three hundred shifters on the move, his own
small party was also increasing in numbers as others joined them on the
run, some were armed with good weapons, others had old and rusty pieces and
still others had nothing but the rough and worn clothes they had on their
backs but all were answering the King's call.

By the middle of the night, Paulek's hurrying boys had grown too many
hundreds; they all seemed to come out of the dark night and without a word,
joined the lengthening, fast moving column, silent dark farms were passed
in a flash as the young ones followed Paulek into the darkness, they all
knew they would have to be in a dark safe place before sun rise or they
were dead before they even got to fight.

As the first glimmer of the new day showed in the east, Paulek's rag tag
column came into sight of the five caves, standing in front were most of
the older shifters, as they came close, Sergei stepped forward and called
to the new arrivals, his eyes wide at the number of ferals amongst the
column.

"Those of you that need to feed go to the last cave, we have captives there
you can feed on, those who have no arms go to the third cave, everything
you need is in there, the rest of you spread out into the other caves and
get some rest, Paulek, Pavlik and Hawk, come with us to the second cave, we
have a lot to go over, ok everyone, get under cover, we have only a few
minutes before the sun rises."

Sergei turned and lead the way into the second cave along with the older
shifters, once inside he sent the younger boys to the back of the cave
where they would be in the darkest place, Paulek quickly looked around and
saw that all the shifters were in this one cave and, by the look of them
all, they had already seen some action, one or two were still mending
wounds as he settled down into a dark corner as his eyes grew heavy, it was
time to rest and sleep.

Paulek awoke at the first sign of darkness, around him the shifters were
already stirring from their death sleep, Paulek could make out the large
frame of Sergei standing near the mouth of the cave, with a quick shake on
the shoulders of Pavlik and Hawk, he made his way forward to where the
older man stood, Sergei turned and smiled at him as he came up and hugged
the older man.

Paulek felt another heavy hand on his shoulder and turned to see Jorge
behind him, he smiled at his old teacher and then stood back and waited
until everyone was up and ready for the night ahead, Sergei began his
orders for the night, unknown to all those present, this was the night that
would go down in the histories as the Massacre of Severn Pass, it was also
too become known by the enemy as the Terror of the Pass.

Sergei set about showing the way the coming battle would be held, the 150
shifters would attack from the air and behind the massed troops, Paulek,
Pavlik and hawk would lead the younger ones from the ground, Pavlik would
attack the front, Paulek from the left and Hawk from the right, all
together their forces numbered seven hundred and sixty men and boys, the
enemy camp held over ten thousand, the big advantage that Sergei's forces
held was not only their superior speed and strength but their ability to
see in the darkest of night.

The enemy had greater numbers, better weapons in the form of the new
matchlock muskets as well as entrenched positions but Sergei's men had one
even bigger advantage, fear, they had left a number of night guards dead at
their posts the night before so that the enemy would think they had been
attacked by wild beasts as well as bringing back those they wanted to feed
on so those total disappearances would also instil fear.

An hour after dark had fallen, Sergei called all the drinkers out into the
front of the caves, there he gave out his orders, dividing up the young
ones among those with a little more experience, Sergei made sure that
Paulek and his little group stayed together, the one time young slave boys
refusing to leave Paulek's side.

Each group took in an equal number of ferals, they also made sure the
ferals had all the help they needed to get weapons and some little
training, although what they lacked in weapons training they would make up
for with speed and strength and their natural feral tendencies of survival,
Sergei let it be known that any feral that fought this night would be given
a place of security once the battle was over, all and any past crimes of
the ferals would be laid to rest, they could start a new life.

For the next hour, all those assembled listened to Sergei as he set out the
plan of attack, the over riding plan was to leave no one alive or die
trying, they wanted to leave a message that the enemy would never forget,
they well knew there would be losses, even with their superior abilities,
the sheer numbers of the enemy would take some of them, this if nothing
else brought a sense of quiet among the drinkers.

Close too midnight the order was given to move out and get to their
positions, the signal for attack was to be the first screams from the rear
of the enemy camp as the shifters went into battle, it would be the signal
for the others to attack en-mass at the same time, the attack from four
directions was to try to confuse the enemy as too which side they should
send reinforcements, those that needed to feed as they fought were to be
given protection from those closest to them until they could continue.

Sergei had sent a message to the King's defenders not to leave their
encampment regardless of what they heard or saw, any soldier outside their
camp would be mistaken for an enemy and would be killed, the order was read
to the defending troops and many had a thoughtful look on their faces, some
even showed doubt as to what such a small force of men and mainly boys,
could do to a well entrenched enemy who outnumbered them by thousands.

There had always been rumours of strange men who were of the night but very
few had ever actually seen them so their understanding of what the small
number of men were was limited, to most of the defenders, the use of such
young boys could only mean the King had run out of men to reinforce them
and had sent every farm boy or street rat to fight in their defence, many
knew they would be looking at a field of blood in the morning and many
young boys cut down in their prime, too the hardened soldiers it was a
waste of effort and young lives.

An hour after midnight saw all the drinkers in place around the massive
camp, Paulek and his group of one hundred and fifty, stood in the darkness
and watched the camp and the perimeter guards, to their extra vision, the
camp was almost in daylight, around him, Paulek could see the young men and
boys ready for the battle ahead, all eyes were now showing red, their fangs
fully extended and their finger nails were now two inch sharp claws, all
weapons were in hand and the young testosterone filled the air, the smell
of living blood wafted up to them on the night breeze.

The camp was stretched along the length of the pass, at the head were the
crossed wooden stakes to keep the defenders from attacking them during the
night, these were patrolled by groups of six guards, the camp stretched
back into the darkness, the cooking fires, now fading as the wood was
burnt, seemed to fill the pass with red enbers looking much like stars, at
the centre stood five very large tents, these were obviously the officers
tents, they were well surrounded by all the others.

Paulek lifted his head as he heard the first far off screams of the night
guards, it was their signal to attack and it took little effort to make it
so, with a silent sweep of his long sword, he led his group down onto the
barricades of the camp, their silence and speed too fast for the guards to
react in time, the slaughter had begun, the guards were quickly dealt with,
some of Paulek's younger ferals needed to stop and feed; from the left and
in front, Paulek could plainly hear the action of Pavlik and Hawk, slowly
they worked forward but, as the screams grew louder and the death toll
rose, the enemy woke and tried to form a defence against the incoming
troops.

At first some of the hardened enemy troops could not believe their eyes as
they saw the mass of young boys coming at them, quite a few almost laughed
as they looked at the rag tag army of young kids with mismatched weapons
and bare feet, for most it was the last thing they saw or smiled about, the
Battle was now on in earnest as the enemy began to form up a defensive
line, they now started to make the odd kill but to achieve this cost them
many more men than they had to spare.

Paulek felt the sudden slamming pain in his arm as a soldier with one of
the new matchlocks fired almost at arms length from him, the fear on the
soldiers face as Paulek looked at him and snarled showing his fangs,
stopped him from trying to reload his weapon, the look of surprise on his
smoke blackened face was still there as his head hit the damp ground by his
feet, Paulek moved on at pace as his arm healed, to his left and right,
Milac and the one time slave boys were like wild dervishes as they struck
down any who faced them, the heavy smell of blood and carnage filled the
night air.

The clash of swords and pikes rang out in the dark night as did the screams
of the wounded and dying, soldiers who at first sight of their attackers
had thought they were easily going to rid themselves of the small boys and
young men, soon found themselves in a fight for their very lives if not
their souls as the red eyed and fanged youngsters came at them with blood
on their hands.

Everywhere their were cries for mercy but none was shown, the young
attackers went about their assigned grisly task with all the venom of a
striking snake, none were spared as there appointed leaders, Paulek
included, called for the total annihilation of the enemy of their chosen
King.

When swords or spears were of no use, the youngsters took to their natural
weapons of claw and fang, even the heavy armour of the soldiers had no
defence against the power and strength of the young ones, hardened claws
ripped the armour from the soldiers bodies with little effort, fangs sank
into bare flesh and filled the boys mouths with fresh blood which only gave
them more strength and speed.

The first hour of battle had been a very slow progress but, as more and
more soldiers fell the opposition grew less, the enemy soldiers were now at
a stage of trying only to live through this unholy night of terror, nothing
they tried seemed to stem the young tide of death that attacked time and
time again, even the heavy smell of blood and gore that now soaked the very
ground they stood on could not deter the onslaught.

During one pause, Paulek happened to look up into the night sky, there he
saw the shifters using their own special ability to fly and kill, he saw
enemy soldiers carried high into the night sky and dropped while the
shifter dived back for another in an aerial display of viciousness that
even Paulek found hard to believe, he then went back into the action that
surged around him.

Milac and the one time slave boys took out all their long held frustrations
on the humans, they were like a small scythe of destruction as they worked
together in a whirlwind of blades, fangs and claws, Paulek had never seen
his little brother act in such a blood thirsty way, the normally quiet and
smiling Milac had become a wild animal as he carved his way through the
enemy ranks, Paulek then understood that his little brother had a lot of
pent up hate from the time he was held captive, it was his chance to rid
himself of his own demons.

For three hours the battle and carnage raged in the darkness lit only by
dying camp fires and the flames of burning tents, finally they were all
together at the centre of the camp, around the central large tents stood
the last of the soldiers along with the officers who had so far survived,
from over ten thousand men they now numbered no more than two hundred and
most of those carried bloody wounds, torn armour and broken weapons, the
officers were trying to rally them for a last ditch stand, they all now
knew that they were not going to walk away from this pass any time soon,
the only hope they had was to surrender and hope for mercy.

Every man that stood in the defensive circle by now well knew what they
were fighting and held little hope for seeing another sun rise, only the
terror of what lay ahead of them held them by the officers side as they
watched one of the older terrors of the night walk calmly towards their
last defensive line, his hands and body covered in the fresh blood of their
comrades.

Sergei looked over the last of the camp defenders, barely a single one of
them was uninjured except for the officers and even there, two or three
showed bloody wounds, when he was within easy talking range he asked for
the most senior officer to speak with him under a flag of truce, an older
man with a lot of fancy coloured braid on his chest, stepped forward as he
waited for Sergei to speak.

"May I ask your name and title, Sir?" Sergei asked.

"I am General Marshal Prince Santoris of Evegnei, who am I speaking with?"

"I am Captain Sergei of his Majesties Marshals and commander of these
forces, General, I ask you to lay down your arms and leave this pass, if
you do so we will allow you to leave in peace, if you wish to fight on I
can only offer you death."

"Not much of a choice, I know who you are but tell me, what are you?"

Sergei looked at the man that stood before him, there was a definite
arrogance about the man, he had seen his superior forces cut to ribbons and
yet still wanted to argue, the Generals attitude of superiority could
easily condemn the rest of his men to death, Sergei did not wish to take
them all but he would if he had too.

"We are members of the Kings Marshals and Navy as well as free men who came
because the King called for help."

"That's not what I meant and you know it, what sort of creatures are you,
we well know you are not normal people and there is only one thing left
that you could be."

"And that is?"

"Devils spawn called forth from the depths of hell by your satanic King, we
know all about his stand against the one true honest church, your men and
boys have the fangs of devils and seem to resist dying too easily, although
I must admit the three we captured have been most entertaining once their
fangs were drawn."

Suddenly the air on the battle field seemed to grow cold as there came a
silence over the darkness, Sergei's eyes were not the only ones that turned
red nor was he the only one to have his fangs extend to their fullest
extent, what the Prince had just admitted was an act of the lowest form, he
had, without thought, condemned his captives to a slow death by starvation,
without their fangs the captives could not feed.

Sergei turned his back on the arrogant Prince, with a single word he sent
his men and boys into the attack with the explicit orders to not kill the
officers but to hold them until all of the ordinary soldiers were dealt
with.

The fight was short and sharp, the one hundred and thirty soldiers stood no
chance against the anger and blood lust of the drinkers, at the end of five
minutes there were only the small group of officers and a single drummer
boy who was no more than eleven or twelve years old, Sergei ordered that he
was not to be harmed.

The officers could only look on in disbelief at the sudden carnage around
them, they were not used to having to be so close to the blood and smell of
battle, they were all members of the aristocracy and held their posts only
by the favour of those above them, now they were surrounded by angry devils
with a huge blood lust.

Sergei stepped forward.

"Well Prince, you have thirty two officers and a drummer boy, the boy will
not be harmed, you will send him forward now, you will then tell my men
where you have the captives."

"And if I don't wish too?"

"It would be a very silly move Prince, now where are they?"

"In the big tent, they are probably dead by now, there's little you can
do." The Princes arrogance was still as strong as before the decimation of
his last troops.

Sergei walked off and entered the tent, the sight before him only made his
anger rise, the three young bloods were trussed up and tied to the centre
pole, their fangs had been pulled from their mouth and both hands had been
cut off to stop them from using their claws, they had bled badly but were
still not dead, there was only one way for their kind to die apart from the
sun.

With a deep sadness he had not felt in years, Sergei drew his sword and,
after speaking in a low voice to each young blood, quickly removed their
heads in an act of mercy, without hands or fangs the boys would never have
been able to feed and would have starved until they went totally mad with
hunger, this was the best way for them to go, Sergei left the tent with
fire in his eyes.

Sergei looked at the officers without compassion, he reached out and took
the small drummer boy by the shoulder and pulled him close to his side, the
young boy was shaking in fear as he had a right to be, Sergei gave one
order to his men.

"Sergeant Jorge, take these officers to the barricade and stake every one
of them, let them die slowly, when that is done find me the best horse they
have and bring it here."

Before the captured officers could react in any way, they were grasped by
very strong hands and carried bodily towards the sharp stakes that
surrounded their encampment, with little effort, each and every officer was
lifted high and forced down onto the sharp stakes, the stake entering from
their anus; the Prince was saved until last so he could watch all his
comrades being speared first, their screams could be heard echoing out into
the darkness, it would take them some time to die, as they struggled they
would be forced further down the stakes, the Prince was held and instead of
being forced quickly onto the stake he was only allowed to move slowly so
his pain would last longer, his screams were the loudest of all.

Sergei waited for a huge white stallion to be brought to him by one of the
feral boys; he lifted the young drummer up on the huge horse and told him.

"You are free, no one here will hurt you, go back to your own country and
tell them what happened here, from now on any we capture will be treated in
like fashion, now go boy and ride like the wind."

Sergei slapped the huge horse on the flank and watched as it and its small
cargo disappeared into the night, turning to Jorge he gave the order for
everyone to return to the caves, it was getting close to sun rise, they
would come back tomorrow and look around for any valuables that they could
collect, he had decided that most would go to the young ferals as they
needed the help more than others.

Back in the caves, Sergei asked for a report on their losses including the
three young bloodsin the tent, he could not understand how they had been
caught, by the look of their injuries it had to be very early on in the
battle, Jorge returned with the report on their losses, they had lost five
shifters, twenty six ferals and seven young bloods, while every loss hurt
Sergei he was still glad it had not been worse considering the army they
had gone up against.

>From the depths of the cave came the sounds of his small rag tag army
settling down for their sleep, tomorrow night would be another night for
them to finish off what they had started, the pass was safe and the King's
work had been done.

For the first two hours of the next night, Sergei's men worked in scouring
the battle field and camp for booty, most was given to the many ferals who
had come with little but what they wore, the field around them was now
filled with the decaying bodies of the dead army, animals had had a feast
during the daylight hours, ravens and other carrion birds had also filled
their bellies with the sudden bounty, the stench of blood and death filled
the pass as Sergei's men turned their backs and began their return to their
home towns and cities.

Sergei stopped off at the King's defenders and told them the threat was
over, they could return to their posts further up the valley and hold their
ground for the King, it would be weeks before the full story leaked out to
the rest of the land about the carnage they were too see.

The horses and wagons of the enemy would have been to slow to carry all the
plunder they had taken and so every drinker took a heavy load and they
began the long but fast return to their towns, Sergei had given the offer
to all the ferals to join the King's service in one form or another, after
the battle they had fought alongside other of their kind, every feral
agreed, many would go to the Marshals to be trained in arms, others were
willing to go with Paulek and his friends to take part in the burgeoning
navy, with all their plunder, the ferals now had a chance to change their
lives from the hard misery they had been living up until now, their
selfless act of going to fight for the King when needed had paid off
handsomely for them.

Even though they were weighed down by the mass of plunder, the rag tag army
made good time and were within sight of their homes as the first rays of
dawn showed over the land, it left just a short hard sprint for them all
too make it to safety before the full force of sunlight disabled them, all
made it even though a few of the slower ones received small burns as they
dived for cover.

The next night Pavlik and Hawk returned to their own house and office to
take care of any business that had happened while they were away, Paulek
sent his young ex slaves to watch over Bevic again, this allowed for Tito
to return to his side, Captain Stanislaw called for the thirty nine ferals
to come down to the docks so he could introduce them to his small navy,
with all the newly captured ships he now had more ships than crews to sail
them.

One glance told Stanislaw that the work on changing the small ships into
the new type of sail rigging had been going ahead at a good pace, the town
was now growing rapidly as new carpenters, metal workers and sail makers
began to fill the town, many worked on the ships but others were needed to
build new houses for the influx of tradesmen, as usual, along with the
tradesmen came the other dregs of society, harlots and pickpockets, thieves
and would be slavers, the town was growing and along with the good came the
bad, Pavlik and Hawk were going to be kept busy.

Over the next few weeks, things settled back into their normal ways, the
ships were being converted quickly, it was only the lack of crews that was
now a priority, for non drinkers as crew, Captain Stanislaw found them
difficult to find, the answer came from Pavlik one night when he was
sitting on the wharf talking to Paulek.

They had been discussing the high numbers of criminals that were starting
to appear in the town now it was known as the centre of the King's new
navy, it was when Pavlik said.

"I wish there was a way to get rid of them but at the same time get some
honest work out of them, Hawk is tired of sending them to the prison only
to have them freed after their sentence is done and return later."

"Why not make them join our navy, we're finding it hard to get crews, if
they're on a ship they can only go over the side if they want to escape, we
have enough small ships now that we can use the trireme as a prison hulk,
if they don't want to stay on the hulk they can join us until the war is
over, that way, you get rid of them and we get crews, we have the men that
can soon get them into shape one way or another, even if we have to hang a
few as an example."

"That sounds like a good idea, I'll tell hawk and see what we can come up
with, the only problem I see is how will they think when they find out
about us, if you are all in your sleep, there is very little to stop them
from attacking you and taking over the ship during the day."

"Hmm, yes I'll have to talk it over with the Captain, there must be a way
to safe guard us and still get the extra crews."

For the next two nights, Paulek, Milac and captain Stanislaw talked over
the idea, the Captain finally came up with the answer.

"All the crew of the Trireme knows about us, after all they worked for the
Trader, lets make them junior officers or senior position within the crews,
they will be responsible for the ship when we are sleeping, also we can
reinforce our cabins so no one can break in during the day, we all have our
boys to watch over us, if we also increase their share of plunder, they
will be more inclined to work with us, they already know the consequences
if they try to mutiny."

The plan seemed the only one that would work and so, for the next week the
Captain set about promoting the best members of the original crew from the
Trireme, in no time at all the newly added ships of the King's Navy were
filled with their junior officers, it now remained only for Hawk to start
to press the criminals into the King's service.

The Trireme had been stripped of all its carronade and everything else that
would be useful on the new fleet, it now lay at anchor out in the middle of
the bay, it had been anchored with four thick chains leading down to the
sea bed, even in the harshest weather it would not move, as the last of any
valuables was removed from the Trireme and four man cages installed, Hawk
set in motion the means to send criminals to live on it, it was hoped that
with one or two weeks of living in the cramped and dirty conditions of the
Trireme, they would have plenty of volunteers for the Navy.

It was not long before law and order returned to the growing port town, for
those in the prison hulk, it took many of them less than a week to make the
decision to join the new navy, within four weeks the Captain had full
crews, all he needed now was the new tall ship that was being made for him,
his small ship fleet now numbered more than thirty, all were refitted and
ready for war, the Captain had now only too wait for the new one to be
finished and then sailed down to the port.

Under the Kings orders, every man who could work with wood or metal was
transferred to where the tall ship was under construction, he wanted it
finished ahead of schedule, this was finally accomplished one month later,
when going to collect the new ship, Captain Stanislaw took both Paulek and
Milac with him, the first sight of the mighty ship took their breath away.

The new ship was longer, wider and taller than the old Trireme, it showed
three decks of larger carronades and the three tall masts disappeared high
into the night, each mast had four sets of spars, on the top spar of each
pair, they saw the white rolled canvas of the new sails, everywhere they
looked were masses of ropes and, at the stern a very large wheel with
spokes to hold on to, the fresh smell of cut wood and paint as well as the
moon reflecting of the varnished rails set the ship apart, this great ship
not only looked fast it looked very dangerous, the Captain slapped both
Paulek and Milac on their thin shoulders.

"Now that, boys, is a ship, let's get aboard and see how they have set it
out for us."

The tall ship was a marvel of new technology for the time, great wooden
blocks made it easier to raise and lower the sails instead of the old way
of just pulling on the ropes directly connected to the single mast of the
bireme, it was also more pointed at the bow so that it would cut through
the water faster, Captain Stanislaw thought they should get all of ten or
twelve knots out of her, far faster than any bireme or trireme on the
coast, there would be little that would escape this new beast of the sea.

Word was sent for a number of the crew from the original Trireme to come to
the ship yard, it was time to take her out for the sail to home port, it
took a week of hard work to ready the new ship for sea but, once it was
underway, it flew through the water under full sail at a speed of twelve
knots, just as the captain had said she would, even the lowliest of the
crew members revelled in the pace and comfort of the new ship, the three
decks of large carronade were only a part of the total decks, it also had
not only a large poop deck at the stern but a wide fighting forecastle at
the bow.

Instead of the normal two weeks to make it to the port from the ship yard,
it took only four days, to the towns people of the port, the sight of the
mighty tall ship bursting through the heads and into the harbour was a
magnificent sight, this was a true ship of war, the small ships of the
fleet set a bright red banner at the top of their single mast to welcome
the new command ship into port just as dusk settled over the land.

During the weeks of waiting, Margate and three other long time members of
the crew, took the new ferals under their wing and began to train them in
ship handling, by the time the new ship arrived, every small ship had a
normal human day officer and one or two of the newly trained ferals as a
night officer, there remained only one last task before the new King's
fleet could put too sea, the final selection of crew for the new ship, this
took more than four weeks of selection and training before they were fully
manned and ready for a fight.

While the work had been going on with the fleet, the enemy had finally got
a full report about the massacre at Severn Pass, they also had a new
weapon, in later years it was to be called, propaganda, an effective tool
in the right hands, the battle of the coastal plains continued its back and
forth fighting, both sides unable to get a final victory as more and more
men and equipment were poured into the region, it was now time for the new
fleet to take the fight to the enemy.

A special group of drinkers had been formed, they were to be put ashore
where needed, and attack land convoys of supplies, the ships would take any
and every enemy ship they could find, as they were well set with night
crews, they had a distinct advantage, the enemy ships had to sail at night
as though they were almost blind, with the King's navy they had their
drinkers as watch officers and crew during the dark hours, as the months
passed, the toll of enemy shipping grew at an alarming rate, the special
troops of the night also cut into the land convoys in a huge way, six
months later the enemy was in full retreat from the plains, it was now the
turn of the King's men to harry them right to the gates of the capital,
there would be no mercy for any man bearing arms.

The closer they came to the enemy Capital the more the slaughter grew,
there was little or no quarter given until, as the last days of autumn
turned to winter, the mighty Capital fell, Duke Sardis had to surrender
totally to the superior forces, his lands now belonged to another, his
people were no more than second class subjects in their own land, his last
card was now set too be played, he would see the King's lands turned into a
place of riots and death, and so, the long built rumours began.

Playing on the hidden fears of religious people and their fear of demons
and devils, the specially trained agents went to work, as the victors of
the war were being paraded and cheered the rumours began to be spread, the
King had used devils spawn to fight the battles, they had been directed by
Satan from hell, these were no normal men but demons in disguise, every
trick they could think of was used in the taverns and back alleys of the
King's lands.

At first it seemed only a mistake, an odd feral or drinker would be found
beheaded or burnt to death by the sun where he had been chained to a post
or rock, it took less than a year for the truth to come forward and then
the hunts began, from the pulpits of all the churches rang the loud calls
for the destruction of the devil blood drinkers, everyone had been told on
good authority that they were planning to take over the kingdom once they
were all trained and blooded in warfare, the normal good Christian folk
would not stand a chance against such devils incarnate, they had to take
the first action, even though the King tried to stop the rumours, it was no
good, religion had now taken over the lands and they used this power to
gain favour, the people were too scared to go against the church, after all
they were the voice of god and therefore must be right, the hunt for the
foul creatures was on.

Had it not been for Bevic and Tito, Paulek and the others would have been
caught in the harbour, with little time to spare; they sent the word out in
the dead of night for all the drinkers to make their way to the tall ship,
by the middle of the night the ship was full, only those non drinkers who
could be totally trusted were allowed to stay on board, the rest were set
ashore.

As the tall ship crept out of port in the darkest hours, followed by seven
of the smaller ones, and on board they held all of the drinkers that had
been in port along with Bevic and Tito as well as Margate and sixty other
older sailors who had been in the employ of the old Trader for years and
had decided to stay with their Captain.

When the ships broke out into the open sea, they turned to the West and set
full sail into the unknown, behind them were many drinkers caught without
escape, some ran for the hills and mountains to end up living lonely lives
for years until they were only remembered in myths and stories, many
hundreds were caught during the daylight hours and chained out in the sun
to die a horrible death, others were decapitated, older drinkers or young
boys, all were put too death, most had their fangs pulled before they were
killed, these items became a favourite adornment for the lower classes, it
would be more than one hundred years before Paulek would see his homeland
again, his only good memory of that terrible night was Bevic's decision to
be turned so he could spend the rest of their long lives together.

Tito grew old watching over his charges, when he reached an age he could no
long care for Paulek, he sent a message out and within two weeks another
young Roma boy appeared on the doorstep of the mansion on the large estate
in the land called `The New World' Paulek did find out that of the nearly
eight hundred drinkers who had gone to war for the King, less than one
hundred and twenty survived the religious pogrom after the war, to this end
there was never a church that would be safe from the revenge that was to
come their way over the centuries.


END:


Artcart65@vodafone.co.nz

 

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