Fairmount followed him so closely he could feel her breath brushing against the back of his neck. She only gave him some space once they'd reached the entry hall to the forecastle, where they found the others. Elena hadn’t been kidding when she said the murlocs were pressing them hard.
Jeredan and Jake had placed a table they’d most likely gotten from the mess hall against the door, and were doing their utmost to keep it there. The force of the blows sent them reeling backwards every time the door was hit. Water seeped into the forecastle slowly with each hit, which made Llorrin believe there was something worse than a murloc trying to bash its way in.
Wyll was standing a small distance behind the door, looking nervous. His face lost all colour when he laid eyes on Llorrin, and he received a glare in return. If it wasn’t for the murlocs, Llorrin would even up the score he had to settle with everyone who’d simply left him to rot in the hold right here and now. Ishrien was still recovering, it seemed, as she was resting against a wall and didn’t seem to be in any condition to fight, but at least she was alive. Allard, who’d been put next to her, seemed to be in a much worse condition. His chest was stained in blood. Llorrin doubted he was conscious.
“Captain! Good to see you’re still… Breathing! I couldn’t make much of what… Wyll was saying, but… It didn’t sound good,” Jake said, shooting him occasional glances in between his struggles to keep the enemy out.
“Well, it wasn’t thanks to him,” Llorrin said, his eyes narrowing on Wyll, who looked like he wouldn’t mind to just disappear.
“The naga is still out there, and he’s got some kind of big creature with him,” Jeredan said, placing his elbows against the table to push it back in place. “What the hell did you do down there?”
“We’ll talk about that later,” Llorrin said, trying to sound calmer than he actually was. It earned him a disapproving glance from Captain Fairmount, but luckily she kept her mouth shut.
“Can we fight our way out?” he asked.
“We’re in no shape for that,” Jeredan growled. “All of us are wounded, and there’s more murlocs on board than I’ve ever seen together in all my life.”
Llorrin gave Jeredan a closer look. He was only bleeding from a shallow cut across his thigh, so he doubted it were his own injuries he was concerned about.
“Have you tried to do something about the wounded?” Llorrin asked, somewhat surprised Jeredan hadn’t even taken the time to heal himself.
Jeredan’s face turned to ice. “Yes, I’ve done something about the bloody wounded. Not as much as Dagren could’ve, though. I’ve told you before, I’m not a healer,” he said in an icy voice that matched his face.
When he saw the shape they - especially Allard - were in, Llorrin felt a pang of regret for not forcing Dagren to come with them, but he didn’t understand Jeredan’s reaction. Jeredan had fought alongside others for years, how could he possibly mind having others rely on him so much, and why would he have bothered learning healing magic if he was so reluctant to use it in the first place? If the subject wasn’t so touchy, he might have asked him… At a later time, if they made it out of this alive.
“We have no choice, we have to think of something!” Llorrin said, aware they shouldn't expect any help from Captain Willow, unless the grizzled captain learned to walk on water.
“We could crawl out through one of the gun ports and swim to safety,” Wyll suggested.
“And I suppose you’re going to carry my armour? I’m not leaving it behind,” Jeredan said just as a vicious blow struck the door. He barely flinched even as blood spurted out of the cut on his leg.
“Do you want to drown? Or be torn to shreds by the murlocs as soon as we touch the water? Bad idea,” Llorrin said, shaking his head.
“Well, maybe we could reach the shore. It’s better than staying in here and dying,” Wyll said.
“I’m not giving up the ship,” Llorrin said firmly, taking a moment to consider his options. Then he had it.
“Elena, go and get me a pair of cannons, and make sure they’re loaded.”
“Cannons?!” Elena said, raising her eyebrows.
Llorrin smiled confidently, even though he didn’t feel as certain of himself as he tried to look. “Yes, cannons. This place is full of them. You should be able to move some of the smaller ones. Jeredan, Wyll, go with her.”
“What do you intend to do with them?”
“I don't know, what does on usually do with a cannon?” Jake japed, quickly regretting slacking off as he was forced to brace against another impact.
“Just trust me! That door isn’t going to hold very long, so hurry up. I’m counting on you, Elena,” Llorrin said.
“It’s Fairmount, ‘captain’ if you please,” she said, raising her chin a little, but she nevertheless obeyed. Jeredan frowned at him as he passed him by, like he couldn’t believe he was being pulled away from the door, and Wyll hurried out of the hall as quickly as he could, glancing at Llorrin briefly before he disappeared.
Llorrin quickly took Jeredan’s place at the door, pressing his right shoulder against the table. The creature Jeredan had referred to – whatever it was – hit the door with tremendous force. He was grateful he was able to catch most of the impact on the right side of his body, because surely the pain would’ve forced him through his knees if it’d struck the sore left side of his chest instead.
“You know, when I signed up to go with your crew back in Theramore, this wasn’t what I was expecting,” Jake huffed.
Even though he didn’t sound resentful, Jake’s words still cut deeper than he could possibly know. “I’m sorry,” Llorrin sighed.
“Oh, don’t beat yourself up over it. I was prepared to die for the cause and all that, I just didn’t expect it’d be this soon,” Jake said, sounding very matter-of-fact.
“You won’t die,” Llorrin said. He wasn’t sure if he believed it, but even so it felt good to at least pretend. Jake gave him a sideways glance and smirked, focusing his efforts on defending the door and saying no more, as if at peace with his fate. Even if he had meant to talk, they were soon out of breath anyway. The minutes felt like hours as they struggled against the elusive force on the other side of the door. When he finally heard the sound of Fairmount’s voice her haughty tone felt like a kiss to his ears.
“I must thank you for holding on for so long, it would have been a shame if we’d gone through all this trouble only to find the door broken down behind us,” she said, sounding quite happy with herself.
Llorrin peeked over his shoulder just in time to see Jeredan struggle his way up the stairs, carrying a cannon in each arm. They were six pounders from the looks of them, and he put both of them down on the floor like they weighed nothing at all. Wyll was carrying a gunpowder barrel and a sack that no doubt contained munition, and Fairmount had a torch and a lintstock, a spear-like object used to light the fuse on a cannon safely, in hand.
“Here we are. Your friend Jeredan wanted to take the 24-pounders instead, but these will have to do. I do hope you are aware, however, that this plan of yours borders on insanity? Assuming your plan is to shoot at the murlocs right after they finish breaking down the door, which I believe can't be too far from the truth.”
“Why, you read my mind, my lady,” Llorrin smiled, aware he might indeed appear rather insane, but by then he didn’t care. “I just thought that since we have the commander of Northwatch Hold among us, we wouldn’t have to worry about the safety of using cannons. I'm sure you're quite familiar with them. Assuming you didn’t just throw rocks at the orcs to defend yourselves, which I believe can't be too far from the truth, either,” Llorrin said.
Fairmount scoffed and nearly laughed at Llorrin's imitation of her speech, but Jeredan didn’t have much patience for their banter. “If you two are done-” he began, but Fairmount didn’t let him finish.
“I’m merely the former commander, though I doubt they’ve found someone adequate enough to replace me,” she corrected Llorrin. “You are, however, correct in your assumption that we did use cannons against the Horde, and that as such, I know my way around them. I was able to hit an orc scout right on the nose with a six-pounder from over two hundred feet away. Just you leave this to me.”
Fairmount set up both cannons, giving them a quick sign when she was done. Llorrin nodded at Jake and together they dragged the table back, away from the door, tossing it to one side of the hall. Then they quickly moved to stand next to the cannons. With him and Jake gone the door cracked and the hinges screamed when the mysterious creature bashed against it. Surely it wasn’t going to hold for much longer. Llorrin was just reaching for his dagger and one of his pistols when Jake offered him back his cutlass.
“Don’t worry about me, I’ve already borrowed Allard’s sword,” Jake said, patting the scabbard on his hip. “Besides, all this responsibility is becoming way too much to handle.”
There was no time to discuss it, so Llorrin took the blade, strangely grateful for the familiar feel of the weapon in his hand. He hadn’t done half bad wielding the longsword, but he’d never come this close to dying with any other weapon, either. After a moment of doubt, he chose to wield his knife rather than a pistol in his off hand.
“I doubt they’ll give us time to reload the cannons. We’ll have to hope the cannons take enough of them out so we can beat back the rest. Rush the doorway and kill them as they’re coming in, and we might have a shot at this,” Llorrin said, aware it was likely a fool’s errand. If there were really as many murlocs out there as Jeredan had said, there was no way they were going to survive, and that was without even taking the naga royal guard or the creature he had summoned into account. Llorrin wished he'd taken just a couple more people with him.
Damn it, what are Borax and Wheann doing? It was important to get us out to sea, but surely they could be doing something other than steering the ship now that we're out of the cave, he thought. An extra pair of hands or two could make all the difference in the fight to come, and, as strange as it felt, if he had to die Llorrin would prefer to do so alongside his companions, so he’d at least know what had become of them. He frowned as he considered that. Captain Adane wouldn’t know what had become of him, he'd only know that he’d failed. He remembered the painting, the one that had been modified, as if something had been erased from it. Whatever had been there had clearly too painful an for Adane cope with. Though he’d never gotten any real confirmation Adane thought of him as anything more than a soldier, the thought of putting him through coping with loss once again was unbearable. Irewyth, too, would never see him again, and he’d never find out if she even cared.
No, he had a duty to them all, and most of all he had a duty to himself, and the parents he had never known. His fingers clenched his cutlass tighter, his knuckles turning white. The lock broke as the door burst open, and murlocs rushed in immediately. The beasts seemed oblivious they were charging right into a killzone. Fairmount calmly lighted the fuse on the closest cannon. The sound as it fired was like the sweetest music, the shot tearing through the thickly packed murlocs like they weren’t even there, the force splattering their wretched bodies against the walls.
Fairmount waited for the corridor to fill up again as the murlocs, undeterred, continued their attack. She waited until the very last moment to light the fuse on the second cannon, killing even more of the creatures this time, it seemed. He heard the naga’s low voice gurgling commands in some foreign tongue, and his anger flared. His heart was beating with anticipation. They had the enemy at a disadvantage, they had surprised them and inflicted terrible losses. This was no time to wait. This was the time to strike.
“At them! For Kul Tiras!” Llorrin shouted, thrusting his cutlass forward. He charged, through the smoking remains, out of the forecastle and onto the main deck. He'd barely gotten outside when he had to duck, an ice shard hitting the forecastle and exploding above his head. He kept running, his eyes drawn towards the source of the spell. The naga was there, at the far end of the foredeck. He was bleeding, but alive. At his side the biggest water elemental Llorrin had ever seen stood. The murlocs on board the ship had been thinned out, but yet more were pulling themselves on board. They were of no concern to him. To end this, he had to kill the naga.
He spun out of the way of a murloc who rushed at him and buried his knife in the back of the creatures' head, cutting another with his cutlass as he spun. By chance his eyes fell right on the longsword he’d left on the deck. It was still right where he’d dropped it. He sprinted as the murlocs closed in from both sides, determined to reach his sword before the murlocs could stop him. Murlocs were naturally slower when they were out of the water, and he outran them easily. A murloc saw through his intentions and rushed to pick up his sword instead of coming after him, but Llorrin threw his knife into the side of the creatures’ head as it was turning away from him and reached the blade first. He was still going at full speed when he scooped down and grabbed the sword, holding both his swords out as he slid to a stop across the wet deck, with murlocs falling down on either side of him. He barely had the time to catch his breath when a shadow fell over him.
The giant water elemental appeared before him like a spirit of vengeance, blocking his way to the naga. It seemed even bigger now. Llorrin had to raise his head towards the sky just to look at the creature’s ‘face’. The creature’s arm grew longer as it swiped at him, the watery arm shaping into a blade as it came for his neck. He ducked and cut at the arm quickly with his cutlass as it passed. The touch of the ice orb froze part of the arm, which sent shards of ice falling down and shattering on the deck. There was no way to get past the creature, no way to get to the naga. Llorrin readied himself as the water elemental drew back its arms, sharp edges like those of a spear wall sprouting up out of each one. Another shadow passed over the deck before the creature could strike however, and it served to distract the elemental, which seemed to look up. Llorrin didn’t wait to see what manner of creature had cast the shadow was but twisted his cutlass around, raised it to his shoulder and threw it at the water elemental. He feared his sword would go right through the water elemental but then the blade got stuck halfway through as the ice orb started freezing the creature. The water elemental flailed left and right as the ice orb froze more and more of its body, swinging its arms so close to Llorrin face he had to drop himself onto his back to avoid them.
Then he saw where the shadow had come from. His heart skipped a beat as he mistook the creature for a dragon, but once he got a proper look at it he clearly recognized the creature as a gryphon: a proud warbeast with the forequarters of a mighty eagle and the hindquarters of a giant lion. The Kul Tiras fleet had been supported by several gryphon riders, but they were nevertheless a rare sight. Most of all, they were a welcome sight to any Alliance soldier on the battlefield. Perched atop the creature’s back was the dwarf who had called himself Kurdran III. The runes on his bronze armour glowed brightly and were clear to see even at this distance.
The gryphon turned with incredible speed and swooped dangerously close to the deck, with such force that Llorrin could feel the wind against his face as it passed. Kurdran launched a storm hammer into the water elemental, which in the meantime had become almost completely frozen. Llorrin, realizing what was going to happen, crossed his arms in front of his face mere moments before the hammer hit and shattered the elemental. He thought the ice shards were going to cut him to shreds as they flew outwards, but he felt nothing, and when he looked around him he saw only murlocs felled by the shards. They were truly numerous, for more were still climbing aboard despite these grave losses. Most of all though, Llorrin saw that the way to the naga was now open. The creature had managed to shield itself somehow, but it wasn’t going to be able to shield itself from this.
He charged, bringing his sword behind him and going for a downward slash in an attempt to surprise the naga. His longsword came down on the creature’s head in an arc, but wounded though he was the naga still managed to raise his trident in time to catch the blade. Llorrin pressed down hard even though he felt he lacked the energy to do so. He was spent, but as far as he could read an uncommon creature like a naga he could tell the beast was suffering just as hard as he was. His muscles were afire, his wrists felt like they were going to snap, his legs like they were being sawed out from under him. He had no other choice though. He had to push on. He had to do this. If he managed to push down his sword even but one inch lower and he’d be able to adjust the angle of his sword and slide it across the naga’s weapon, straight into his eye socket…
The naga inexplicably let go of his trident with one hand, granting him that inch, and more… But before Llorrin could draw in closer the creature’s free hand slammed into his wounded chest. He opened his mouth in terror but his lungs didn't have enough oxygen in them to even allow him to scream. With a final effort he pushed his right arm through, driving his sword across the naga’s neck. The fresh cut sent the creature staggering backwards, granting Llorrin just enough time to catch his fall. As he sat on one knee, panting and pressing his hand against the burning, throbbing wound on his chest, he felt he simply couldn’t push himself up, no matter how much he wanted to deliver the final blow. The tip of his longsword rested against the deck but when he attempted to use it to push himself up, the pain spread from the wound across his entire body like burning lava, becoming unbearable. The naga, too, was leaning on his trident, unable to fight on. Llorrin felt the familiar disturbance in the flow of magic however, which he was now certain was more than simple intuition, and he feared the myrmidon was about to cast another spell. The battle raged on behind Llorrin, but neither one of them had any energy left to fight. He felt like he might have fainted from the pain then and there is a voice hadn't attracted his attention.
“For Admiral Proudmoore, for Kul Tiras!” someone shouted behind him.
Llorrin didn’t dare take his eyes off the naga to see where the shouting was originating from, but he heard the war cries of countless men behind him. Gunshots filled the air. Had reinforcements arrived, or had he simply become delirious? This wasn’t according to the plan. Then again, what has been? Llorrin thought, almost smiling at the bitter irony of it all. From the reaction of the naga as it looked about the deck, Llorrin could tell things weren’t going well for the fiend's minions. He screamed in his mind. His enemy was distracted, left wide open, and he still couldn’t reach him.
Then all of a sudden light filled the deck, going into his body and cooling the burning sensation in his muscles, giving him fresh energy. He didn’t wait or hesitate. He rose to his feet and, screaming out his frustration, slashed diagonally upwards, feeling a fresh rush of adrenaline as his sword cut across the naga’s chest and warm blood splashed against his face. The trident slipped from the beast’s hand, hitting the deck, and the creature finally slumped backwards, disappearing over the railing and falling down into the sea. Finally Llorrin turned around.
The final murlocs were being cleared off the deck. Those that weren’t killed dove overboard of their own accord, fleeing from the battle. Llorrin saw the dark green uniforms of Kul Tiras everywhere he looked. He recognized several of the men, and Captain Willow was at the head of them. When he peeked down across the railing he saw the sloops the dwarves had left on the shores drifting alongisde the ship. Several ladders had been dropped down from the ship to allow them access. Kurdran’s gryphon circled the ship slowly, screeching triumphantly. Blood dripped from the creature’s talons. Someone had apparently had the clarity of mind to realize the murlocs were focusing on the ship, and had convinced Willow to take the sloops to come reinforce them. Llorrin had no idea who it could have been, but then he saw Dagren, who was no doubt who he had to thank for healing him earlier as well.
“Captain,” the paladin said, grinning wryly. Llorrin nodded curtly, not knowing what to say. His attention was quickly pulled towards Captain Willow. The veteran officer had barely any blood on him, but he was walking to the middle of the deck as if he owned the ship, and everyone was looking at him, and not Llorrin. After the constant noise of the battle the silence felt deafening. Llorrin had whistles in his ears. Captain Willow looked about himself with narrowed eyes, as if he was looking for something to disapprove of. From his face one wouldn’t have been able to tell they’d just won a victory. After a few more moments of uncomfortable silence, Willow turned towards his men.
“Men,” he said, “the ship is ours.”
Everyone raised their weapons in response and cheered. Everyone except for Llorrin.