Artheroan lapped over the two banks of the half-mile inlet from the divergent Sea that then dipped underground in a small swamp. It was a cluster of mud and clay buildings with flat tops with a pier on either side of the inlet. Each pier had a cluster of ships, mostly for fishing, rocking gently in the evening breeze. From Mikael’s slightly raised view at the oak, it had looked like the square-sailed ship was heading straight for the inlet. As he and Maury came to the edge of town he broke off right towards the direction of the pie while Maury took a left toward her family’s home.
“I’ll come meet you when I find out what’s going on,” Mikael yelled back as he quickened his pace. He hurried past townsfolk as they lit their lanterns and headed inside. The clang of the town bell at the lighthouse on the small island past the piers caused everyone to pause and turn. Mikael weaved his way through the half-dozen streets that put him on the edge of the inlet. The water lapped along the sandy shore in the twilight. The ship was now to the lighthouse and hooking around the island just a few hundred yards ahead of Mikael.
The lighthouse let out a second ring.
“Mikael!” a voice behind him caused him to turn. It Bera-thuin, the town magistrate. He was dressed in a loose white tunic wrapped with a bronze-colored belt. What was left of his hair wisped in the breeze. He jogged to catch up to Mikael.
“Magistrate,” Mikael nodded, without breaking stride. “Any idea who this is?”
Bera shook his head. “We haven’t had a ship port here in several weeks. I’ve already notified Iva to have his workers head for the pier in case the ship needs repairs. But that second bell means another ship.”
“They’re foreigners. Velhurland?”
“More than likely. It’s very to be making port. Hard to make out anything with the going down.”
They reached the wooden pier as the foreign ship hoisted its sails and dropped anchor just a hundred yards from the shore. On board, there were dozens of men along the sides, and dozens of spearheads and metal helmets were donned and glistened in the twilight. Mikael’s heart dropped. Bera’s step faltered.
“By the gods. Pirates.”
Mikael whipped around.” P-p-pirates?”
Bera’s eyes flitted back and forth. “We only have minutes. Get the townsfolk to the Ceremonial cave. Anyone you can find!”
Mikael stood, frozen as he watched the longboats drop from the sides and at least a hundred pirates descend into them. The oars were run out.
Bera grabbed Mikael’s arm. “They’ll be upon us in minutes! Go!”
Mikael felt the cold sweat drip down his nose and despite his best efforts to move, his legs did little more than quiver. Bera gave him a shove back toward the town and although he stumbled, he was finally moving. He reached the first home and began pounding on the door. IT swung open to reveal a red-faced woman with a towel wrapped over her shoulder and a screaming baby in her arms.
She began but Mikael cut her off. “Run for the Ceremonial Cave. Pirates coming!” He jabbed a hand toward the pier and bolted for the next door twenty yards away. No one answered. He tried the door and found it open.
“Is anyone here? Hello?”
There were two doorways and a staircase leading to the roof. Mikael dashed across the main room for the first doorway. Empty bedroom. Same for the second room. He sprinted up the stairs, already out of breath. There was nothing on the roof other than some lounging furniture and a few rugs for sunbathing. Mikael turned back toward the pier. The pirates were storming up it now. A flurry of shouts went up from them as they headed straight for town.
Now that it was anchored, Mikael could see that the ship was lower in the water than it had been before. He bounded down the stairs and out of the house. A pedestrian was rushing by and they crashed into the dirt. Mikael grabbed the person and realized it was Bera, his white tunic now the color of the desert. Blood was running from his nose.
“Get out of here! Iva and his men are making for the cave and clearing the north sector. Head for the Cave.”
A shout from behind caused them both to turn. There were half a dozen pirates closing in on the duo, spears, and axes raised.
Mikael’s stomach rolled. Bera shoved him again and Mikael started running. He took a left into the heart of Arthuroan, now darkened by shadows. There was a scream somewhere behind him, but all Mikael focused on was getting to Maury. It was a straight shot ahead of the town well which was ahead to his left. Someone bolted out from a side street and as they neared the well a spear from behind them struck their back. They tumbled over the lip of the well and fell with an echoing scream that sent shudders down Mikael’s spine. The assailant come into view twenty yards ahead of Mikael. Mikael stumbled to the left as the pirate drew a thick dagger and charged him.
Mikael rounded the left side of the well, putting a barrier between them for a moment. He crashed through the nearest door and out a back door, putting him on the outskirts of the town, running parallel to the Fields. He could hear the clatter of pots and the pirate stumbled through the house behind him, no doubt leaving a wake of destruction.
As hard as he tried, Mikael’s lungs were burning, and his legs were losing feeling. He slowed on the slight incline up the road. His only hope was to lose the pirate in the town, so he cut right back among the houses. As he exited the narrow street, he took a sharp turn left. The huffing of the pirate told him he was still close.
Suddenly a hot pain shot through Mikael’s left shoulder and his body gave out. He slammed to the ground without getting his arms out to cushion the fall and the entirety of his back and shoulder exploded into searing heat. He let out a screech in anguish that was cut short but his lack of breath. Tears rolled down his face as his whole body wracked. He felt like he couldn’t move. The Pirate was vaguely in the vicinity, that much his mind found out, but his entire life side was both numb and yet on fire. Mikael tried to cry but couldn’t, he tried to roll to his right side but couldn’t. All he could do was lay face down in the dirt as he lost consciousness.