Exterminating Sea Rats
Editor(s): Speedphoenix, Joker
The enemy fleet remained flagless until they got close enough to be visible to the naked eye, after which they erected a black motif featuring the typical skull and bones and confirmed themselves to be a group of pirates. They no longer needed to misrepresent themselves upon getting in range; the black and white flag was incredibly effective as a means of intimidation, coming second only to the throaty war cries that the seafaring scoundrels had begun shouting at us from across the blue.
Many of the sailors aboard our ship had gotten rather nervous, and understandably so given the difference in headcount between the two forces.
Alright what do? Carlotta told me to freak ‘em out, which, honestly is a lot harder than the alternative… Sinking the aggressors would have been as easy as pie, but capturing their vessels without inflicting too much damage was a task that required significantly more thought. Maybe I should just blow one of the four up as an example and tell them to surrender… Nah, that’s a terrible idea. I’d basically be wasting a ship for no reason, especially if they choose not to surrender because they think I’m out of juice or something.
“Wait, so just making sure, when you said intact, did you mean the ships or the people on board?”
“The ships,” said Carlotta, without hesitation. “I’d prefer for you to capture whoever is in charge, alongside about a third of the crew. I don’t care what happens to the rest of them. Do as you’d like.”
The statement was so cold that I couldn’t help but squeeze out a wry smile despite not feeling any differently. I wasn’t a saint, and I had literally no intention of ever becoming one. Saving as many lives as possible was a fool’s dream, and one that I had no intention of pursuing. As far as I was concerned, if they wanted to attack us, then they would die. Period.
“Alrighty then, time for these salty sea dogs to feed the fishies.” I casually popped the usual water dragon spell, and in doing so, consigned the pirates to death.
Rather than transmuting magical energy into the water required, I leveraged the salt water all around us in the process of their synthesis. As such, their trunks grew so thick that their serpentine torsos far outclassed even the galleon’s mainmast. A grand total of eight of the inorganic creatures had coiled themselves around our ship, poised to move out at any moment. They stood so tall that they had to bend their necks downwards in order to cast their gazes upon the poor pirates they would soon swallow.
At this point, I’d become so proficient at casting the spell that I could write a book about it for dummies. It’d long become something I pulled out whenever. A part of me felt as if there was something to be said about my near obsession with it, but I readily dismissed the thought every time it cropped up or peeked around the corner. There was nothing wrong with me. Or it. In fact, that was precisely why I used it so often. It was both powerful and cost efficient on top of being something quick and easy to cast. A passing thought was quite literally all I needed to adjust it to suit my whims. It was the perfect cantrip, even without accounting for the extra value it had near water. I’m actually pretty proud of myself for coming up with such an awesome spell. And you know the most important part? It’s totally fucking badass.
“What the hell!?”
“We’re under attack!”
Some of the sailors aboard our ship, who were completely and utterly unaware that the spell was mine, began to scream in panic.
“W-what are those, commander?” Even the captain lost his nerve and began to stammer as he asked the lady in armour to hopefully deny his worst fears.
“Nothing to worry about,” responded Carlotta. “Masquerade created them.”
“That’s… absurd. It’s so absurd that it terrifies me.”
Cold sweat dripped down his brow as he kept his eyes fixed on the inanimate serpents.
“Glad you like them,” I said. “But it doesn’t seem like you’re totally convinced just yet, so I’ll have to have them show you what they’re really worth.”
All eight dragons darted across the ocean’s surface, splitting into four groups of two as they closed in on their victims. It took them less than a minute to close the distance, which was, unsurprisingly, less time than it took for the pirates to actually react. They continued to stare in mute, dumbfounded amazement right up until the moment that all hell broke loose.
“Consume them! Show no mercy!”
The two dragons around each ship began swabbing the decks as soon as I gave the order. They opened their jaws and heartily went about swallowing every pirate they could catch. Their insides were the same as usual in that they used sand to serve as high speed blenders and shredded every man they swallowed to bits in a matter of moments.
“What the fuck are these things!? Shit shit shit!”
“Man the cannons! Stop hesitating and start firing!”
While some panicked and scampered about, others realized that they needed to act. And fast. Despite starting off the scenario as the would-be aggressors, they had now been forced into a dire defensive position. Slowly but surely, they regained their ability to function. Counterattacks started to fly at my ophidians in both the forms of cannonballs and swords, but to no avail whatsoever. Neither type of attack did any damage and effectively went right through their liquid-based bodies.
Retaliation came in turn. My dragons turned on the cannons’ operators and swallowed them whole while also gulping any other weapon-bearing sea rats they happened to come across along the way.
“Oh wow, looks like they’ve actually got a pretty good number of mages on staff.” A few dozen sacrifices later, the pirates realized that physical strikes amounted to nothing and finally began experimenting with a more magical means of defense. Some thought to fight water with water and made walls against the ship. Others chucked fireballs in an attempt to evaporate the liquid that the constructs were made of. A third group even tried using wind magic to accelerate their ships in the opposite direction and thereby escape the dragons’ grasp.
But none were even the slightest bit successful. Compared to mine, their spells were incomplete and lacking magical energy. The dragons dodged the harmless fireballs for the purpose of style before diving straight through the walls and chasing down the escapees at a speed that far outpaced theirs. Moreover, they even split up their duties. One remained on a killing spree on deck, while the other split its head into a series of smaller heads à la hydra and invaded the ship’s interior through the holes normally meant for its cannons. Naturally, this second approach was only taken in order to minimize the amount of damage dealt in the ship-conquering process.
While it certainly looked as if I was going on a braindead, murderous rampage, that wasn’t actually the case by any stretch of imagination. I was actually taking care not to kill too many pirates as to comply with Carlotta’s request. I knew that she had specified the magical one third number not out of pity, but because she wanted hands to operate the ships and help us transport them back to base. Eliminating too many pirates would make such a task extremely difficult if not impossible. Makes sense. If Pirates of the Carribean has taught me anything, it’s that you need a good number of people to operate any of this era’s ships.
Another instruction I was paying close attention to was to capture the captain. I knew for a fact that, like me, Carlotta wanted him intact for the purposes of interrogation.
“Hmm… let’s see… captain, captain… captain…” I muttered my target’s title over and over as I scanned the four ships for someone that fit the profile. “I think I found him.”
I eventually settled on a man that seemed a lot more composed than any of his peers. He was loudly barking orders that mostly seemed to make sense given the situation that they’d gotten themselves trapped in. Well, it’s cuff time.
One of the water dragons attacking his ship stopped harassing everyone else on deck and made a beeline right for him. One unfortunate bite later, he was gone.
“Shit! They got the captain!”
Hey, what do ya know? Looks like I did guess right after all!
I made sure to slow the currents inside the water dragon that’d captured him so as to avoid murdering him midtransport. He tried to escape from the watery prison along the way, but to no avail. Being “underwater” made all his struggling futile. There was nothing he could do to stop himself from being regurgitated onto the deck of our ship soon after his capture.
“God dammit! I swear I’ll kill you all!”
After a few moments of tumbling about, he finally found himself in a situation in which the world was no longer spinning. So naturally, he reached for his blade. And just as naturally, I stepped on him to make sure he stayed subdued.
“Hey Carlotta! I got you the captain!”
“Excellent work. Men, tie him up.”
The paladins, who were hanging around nearby in full gear for the purposes of this exact moment, readily had him both restrained and gagged. He attempted to scream and struggle post-bondage, but found that he was able to amount to little besides rolling around. Alright, perfect. Now I won’t accidentally kill him by hitting him too hard if he resists.
“So we’ve got their boss and cleaned up a bunch of them. What now? Want me to keep thinning out the herd?”
“No, I think you’ve killed enough of them already,” she replied. “They should understand by now that they don’t have a chance against us, or rather, you. Can you have your summons momentarily relent?”
“Roger that, boss.”
Once my orders had been confirmed, I put an early end to my genocide run and had my dragons instead encircle the enemy ships. Their position gave the pirates no true solace, as they were clearly poised to attack if any further resistance was encountered. Still, they were relieved and began coming back out on deck and sending communications between the members of their fleet.
After a few back and forths, they lowered their black flags and replaced them with bleached banners indicating their surrender.
It took about twenty minutes for the sailors and pallies aboard our vessel to disarm and tie up all the remaining pirates. A bit of inspection led to the conclusion that I’d more or less done my job of keeping the enemy ships intact. Their cannons had been totally destroyed, and their railings, fixtures, and furnishings had all suffered some degree of damage, but the mast and other key features were still in the exact same condition in which I’d found them. Eh, good enough in my books.
“Well pirate, you’ve got two options. One, you answer all our questions and live. Two, you keep quiet and I butcher you,” I said. “Oh, and don’t even think about trying anything funny. I don’t particularly care whether you live or die.”
The declaration that his life was, at least in my books, completely worthless, led the man to give me a spiteful glare. It was clear that he knew, just as well as I did, that I wouldn’t hesitate to murder him in cold blood.
“What about my men?” he asked, after clicking his tongue. “Will you spare them if I talk?”
Even disregarding the water dragons I had hanging around, it was as obvious to the captain as anyone else that the pirates were at a disadvantage. While they certainly had outnumbered us at the start of the encounter, my killing spree had turned the tables and made it so there were more of us than there were them.
“You seem quite fond of your men, for a pirate,” said Carlotta. “While I cannot guarantee that they won’t be sentenced to hard labour, I will swear in God’s name that they will not be subjected to any more senseless slaughter.”
“…Fine. What do you want to know?” asked the pirate.
“A good many things,” said the knight. “But first and foremost… who hired you?”
With a single decisive question, Carlotta got straight to the heart of the problem at hand.