Chapter 17 of my novel.

Southern Ocean

As the four pirate ships bore down upon the helpless craft Guiles began to curse fluently in a language unfamiliar to his companions. If the truth be known, be was just venting his opinion of the T-rex that stepped on his weapon and communicator. He was begining what was to become a frequent activity, wishing that be had access to the Museum's weapons and technology.

There was a puff of smoke from the side of the closest pirate ship as they fired their first warning shot. The cannonball whistled as it crossed the space between them only to fall thirty yards short of the traveler's boat.

"They'll have our range soon enough." said the Reever to no one in particular.

"If anybody's got any ideas, now'd be a good time to speak up!" said Blackfur

"Maybe my range is greater than theirs," said Tinhill "I think that I could set their sails afire before they can hit us."

"Did you hear something?" asked Eli.

"If only that lizard hadn't stomped my gun, I could have zapped them out of the water before they could get close enough to sink us."

"I wonder if Lutay's magic is strong enough to keep us safe?" said Blackfur. "Do you think he's put a spell on this boat to keep from getting holes blown in it?"

"Lutay isn't here, you overmuscled moron," said Tinhill. "Why should he watch over us like some overprotective fairey godmother!"

"What is that noise?" Ely asked.

There was another puff of smoke from the side Of the Pirate ship as they fired again. The thud and whistle of the cannonball fallowed the shot quickly. There was another gout of water as the second cannonball fell only twelve yards short of the small ship.

"Give me that bow of yours, Thornby." said the Reever while rummaging around in his backpack. "I can pick off a some of them while they reload that cannon."

"At this distance?" Guiles asked unbelivingly. "You can't be serious!"

"I am," said the Reever. "Keep back, if anybody jogs my arm we'll all be sorry." As he spoke he pulled a small box from his pack. He took out three small round pellets of a dull greenish-grey color and attached them to arrows. He then drew back and fired at the pirate ship. At the same time the Pirates fired their cannon, their shot passing over the travelers small ship to splash a collumn of water into the sky.

No one noticed.

The arrow had done it's work by then and the results were rather distracting. The pellet had exploded on impact, blasting a large hole in the ship where the cannon had been.

"That ought to buy us some time." said the Reever. "They'll have to come about to bring another gun emplacement to bear on us. Too bad that the hole is up on deck. I'll have to put another one closer to the waterline."

"What's that noise?" Ely asked again.

Pieces of planking and dead pirates are floating around the ship as it starts to heel over, tacking into the wind to bring another cannon around to fire. A plume of smoke gas rising from the hole in the pirate's bow. The other three ships began to edge out in an attempt to encircle the small ship. None had been in position to use their cannon except the leader. The Reever notched another arrow and drew it back.

"Lets give then something else to worry about for a while." he said as he aimed.

"I said, What is that noise..?" Ely began, but he was interrupted. There was an enormous explosion. The pirate ship disappeared while fragments of the ship and it's crew rained down upon the sea. The small boat rocked and almost everyone was knocked off their feet.

"Nice shot." said Guiles reverently, as if he were in shock. "I take back everything I said about not being able to hit them that far away."

"It wasn't me," confessed the Reever, pointing to the arrow still held to the bow in his hands. The Reever was the only one who hadn't fallen down when the shock wave had tossed them about. "I think it was them," he said indicating a dark speck that seemed to be getting larger and louder each second. As it neared it grew into a shape that was unmistakeably a mechanical vehicle of some kind.

"A sky boat!" said Tinhill.

"That must have been what I heard. No one ever listens." said Ely in an I-told-you-so voice. As the flying machine approached, the roar of it's passage sounded like a mighty waterfall. The wind was stirring the water underneath the machine, as if it had harnessed the very storms themselves to push it along. Tiny fingers of flame leapt from stubby winglets on each side of the machine as it circled the pirate ships. Pirates were struck down by invisible hands that tore great gapping holes in their bodies.

"Whoever they are I hope that they're on our side!" said Blackfur.

"Shebeja," said the Reever quietly. "A warrior people from another star. So, they are awake at long last. Ages ago they were trapped here, far from their true home. They chose to hibernate untill rescue arrives. I have seen kingdoms rise and fall, and wars come and go while they slept waiting for their people to find them. It must have been that very machine that we heard yesterday when we passed Oktishnear. The Elders of my people will want to know about this."

"Perhaps it was the arrival of the new star travelers that woke them up." Pearl said.

"Yes. but whose side are they on?"

"Their own, dimwit!" growled Tinhill.

"Yes, but are they gonna turn on us when they don't have any more pirates to kill?" All eyes turned to the Reever expecting an answer.

"No." said Guiles, taking everyone by surprise. "I mean, these are the same people that built Nanor Fort City aren't they? Tail and thin with high narrow skulls? Extra joints in their arms and legs? Extra thumb on each hand? Dark skinned, prefer tropical temperatures, see more infrared and less ultraviolet than we do?"

"Yes, that's a good description of them." said the Reever. "Very good, I didn't know about their sight. You sound like you know them pretty Well. How...?"

"Our mutual friend has a very good library." Guiles said drolly.

"Several, I would imagine." said the Reever with a smile.

"Yes, but what does that have to do with whether or not they'll attack us later?"

"Well, they built and lived in Nanor, so they must've been familiar with pirate raids. After all, there've always been Pirates in these waters, even in ancient times." said Guiles.

"That's right," said Tinhill."Pirates are an ancient menace in all of the histories that I've ever read."

"So they must have fought pirates before." said Ely. "I guess we can tell who usually won."

The Reever nodded in agrement as Guiles continued to speak. "If they wanted to, they could've sunk us with far less effort than they're using against those pirates." Guiles pointed toward the slaughter continuing while they spoke. Another pirate ship had been sunk and the Shebeja were pursuing a third which smoked from from small fires scattered allong it's length. The pirate ship was leaning to starboard as it's crew tried vainly to escape the metallic deamon that was flying circles around them. It's machine guns and rocket launchers spat and chopped at the helpless wooden ship wallowing slowly in the water. Two of the ships' masts had been shattered by fire from the Shebeja Heliship. While the party watched the belly of the third pirate ship splintered under the rain of invisible death poured from the avenging alien's flying machine. Then there came a series of explosions and the third pirate ship was no more. Almost lazily, the Shebeia Commander turned his ship and floated to circle the last remaining pirate ship. Only minutes before the pirates had been the Lords of the Sea, now they were raising all sail to try to flee the new master of the ocean's skys. The Shebeja circled, firing small missiles into the water all around the frightened pirate vessel.

"He's letting them get away!" said Blackfur.

"No he's not, you hammer slinging lack-wit! He's driving them off!" said Tinhill. "Obviously he wants the survivors to carry the message to other pirates. They can no longer terrorize the coast of Ethellor and Kinruth Kingdoms without risk of sudden death at the hands of these Shebeja people."

"I don't think that they are restricted to this coast alone," said the Reever. "those ships are very powerful. I'm sure they could range over the whole world if they chose to. I believe all the pirate clans are due for a rude surprise sometime soon."

"Why didn't they use those flying ships against the pirates in ancient times?" asked Pearl. "Then there wouldn't be any pirates today."

"Good question." said Guiles. "Why don't you ask them, whenever you get the chance?"

Copyright 1996 by Dan L. Hollifield

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