I emerged into a confusing riot. There was no clear line between us and the pirates anymore. Special attacks flashed all around me and the deck shuddered under powerful impacts. Some of the freed slaves knew how to fight this time and they were putting their captured weapons to good use. Every pirate that fell was another sword or axe on our side. We were slowly pushing them back even as we paid a high cost.

There were a few powerhouses who tore through the lesser fighters around them. We had some powerhouses of our own, Berta chief among them, but the pirate captain was the most terrifying. His falchion blurred as it cut through the air and removed limbs with uncanny ease. He had to be stopped.

The chaotic melee put too many bodies between me and the most dangerous pirates to get them with my stunning wand. There was no point in getting closer for a clear shot either, I wouldn’t stand a chance if I let them get into melee range. All I could do was begin charging an Arcane Cannon and watch for an opening. My mana reserves were beginning to run low but I lavishly spent what I had left on a decisive shot. When the Captain unleashed a wave of energy from his sword cutting down eight people at once I had my chance, but some damned archer hiding in the crow’s nest chose that time to snipe at me! The arrow struck me in the shoulder. It was the single most painful thing that had ever happened to me. Flashes of light exploded across my vision and stars danced in and out of focus as my nervous system tried to cope. Some primal part of me recognised the need to act and my eyes locked onto the weasel fitting another arrow to his bowstring.

It was lucky I made an Arcane Cannon instead of a Mana Bolt, the bolt would have exploded when I lost concentration. The dense cannonball just fell to the deck where I was easily able to regain control of it and then launch it upward. My eyes led the attack unerringly to and through its target. The crowsnest exploded in a shower of splinters and the sniper went spinning in two different directions.

When I looked back down the battle had shifted. The powerhouses were clashing directly in the center of the deck. Berta’s scavenged shields were looking worse for wear and she was backpedaling in front of the captain’s furious onslaught. Her heel caught on a corpse and she fell over, leaving a clear line of sight when everyone scrambled to be out of her way.

“Gotcha” I declared, pointing at the Captain. The moment the stunning wand was in my hand I fired a thin bolt of lightning straight at the captain. There was a moment of sublime triumph as the bolt reached for the captain’s face, then, like a dog who spotted a squirrel, the attack bolted down towards a bone amulet on his chest. It lanced into the spiky necklace which glowed momentarily, and that was it. Another attempt yielded the same results except the wand had finally reached the end of its life. The gemstone at its end shattered along with my hopes. I only had enough mana for one or two more attacks and the force wand just wasn’t powerful enough.

The attacks didn’t affect him but the Captain noticed the small lightning strikes all the same and he turned to fix me with his crazy eyes. I couldn’t tell you what it was, but there was something in those eyes that absolutley screamed murder. There was no doubt that I was the next one his falchion was going to render into lifeless chunks. Without any real hope that it would work, I pulled my last wand out of my inventory. I’d never even tested it before. It wasn’t supposed to be a weapon even. Maybe that’s why the Captain’s defensive enchantment didn’t activate, I don’t know, but what I learned that day is that beards are a fire hazard.

A stream of sparks leapt from my wand and even as the captain shielded his eyes a hundred sparks found purchase in his wild beard. The bloody patches only smouldered but the rest lit up like kindling and his hair was quick to follow. His face was fully engulfed in flames when an axe ended his suffering. Berta regained her feet, gave me a look full of surprised respect, and waded back into the fight. As quickly as the fire flared up, it was just as quick to die out as the hair was consumed. I was completely drained and made my way back to the hold where Liam was tallying the butcher's bill. There were more wounded than hands to treat them and I could do more good here than I could getting in the melee fighters way.

The fight didn’t last much longer and the last handful of pirates threw down their weapons. There wasn’t time to argue for mercy and I wasn’t in the mood. In the end. Eighty bloody slaves screamed into the empty night and every pirate was unceremoniously dumped overboard, after they were relieved of their possessions. The work wasn’t over though. Out of the original group I freed from the penal colony, only thirteen remained. There was no telling what the other seventy-odd galley-slaves would do now. I thought I’d be relieved to hand over the responsibility of leadership but I found myself afraid that I’d lose control again and get pulled even deeper into conflict. It was so much nicer when all I had to worry about was finding a few clams on a peaceful island.


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