The first barrage left a hundred dead. Gabrio readied himself, with his pistols ready to be drawn. Wiles had come up to the cockpit to watch his back.
They were under siege against the creatures of this island. Gabrio had forgotten to keep up with the date with how busy he was attending to patients. He could only guess they were already in the eight-cycle of year.
Clouds made from the fumes of gunpowder covered the whole area. Two-hundred basilisk cannons showing their thunder at the primitive enemy.
The enemy has tough scales and armor, but they are paper when it comes to cannon fire. Though he did see the eight-foot-tall giants resist some of the cannon fire before dying.
The soldiers entrenched in the shores had retreated from the shoreline. The beach made of corals burnt by the cannon fire became stacked with the bodies of the dead killed by the Reconnoiter Company.
The enemy came from underwater tunnels like ants. They swarmed the beachhead with their numbers. The Company, however, was not unfamiliar with this kind of tactic. The United Aon was a place of warfare, and they had the brigs and frigates guarding the flanks of the Fleet. They were good at waging war in both land and water.
The continuous barrage that came from the Reconnoiter Company had stopped the creatures from advancing. The Lady used her abilities of the blood to create a five-sided barrier. The barrier protected the hulls from the monsters trying to come from underwater.
But even the barrier of the Lady could not prevent a few from climbing the side of the hull. Riflemen would shoot from the rail. Spearmen would pierce the bellies of the beasts.
A giant monster as tall as two men vaulted the rail. Only to be met with precise shots from the soldiers guarding the deck. The first shot shattered the armor, and the second barrage blasted the innards of the beast.
Not that it was all perfect, and Gabrio had to patch up soldiers. The heavily wounded taken below the deck, and the rest who could fight, fought on.
Outside of the cockpit where he worked, he would hear the shouting from the men. A few hours passed, the artillery continued their barrage against the impossible horde. Salvage teams could retrieve the cannonballs, but the powder used would be hard to reproduce. Not when they are miles away from the mainland.
Early morning broke, and the smell of gunpowder poisoned the air. Powder boys carried magazines of gunpowder across the deck. The cockpit's pit of sand to absorbed blood had turned red.
"Sir," Wiles said, showing his bloodied forehead. "A boy, he's injured!"
Gabrio ran after Wiles, following him to the boy laid near the mast. He didn't know the boy, how could he? There were hundreds of people inside the Galleon. Still, he checked for a pulse, wrapped gauze around the boy's wound. The boy didn't live long enough. The soldier that watched from the sight let out a bloodcurdling cry as he stabs his bayonet on the monster that was breathing on the side.
Gabrio's eyes became cold as ice. He returned to the cockpit without a word. Inside the cockpit, he stayed silent like a statue. The battle raged on, and the roars of soldiers continued.
A mist enveloped the shoreline as the heated blood that came from the beasts evaporated. When the morning came, there was a blood-colored mist that obstructed the view of the beach.
South of the Fleet was an advancing raiding party that tried to hit the port side of the Fleet. They had little success when the brigs and frigates took them on.
The enemy was not stupid enough to continue dying. They didn't come, and the cannons put aside. It was an overwhelming victory, and yet the Fleet knew the battle was not over.
When the silenced returned to the Fleet, they saw the fumes clear out. On the beaches, lies the dead enemies mangled and strewn all over the place.
Gabrio could see their blood spilling on the coast. How many had they killed? How many of them had been torn apart by the explosion? Even the people onboard held silence, and it finally came to them that they had defeated so many.
The silence vanished as the terrain cleared. The square-rigged masts of the ships groaned as the wind from the shoreline of that beach came. The acrid stench of gunpowder and wet blood invaded everyone's nostrils.
The Seamen and soldiers sat on the deck with hands on their heads. Gabrio reached out for his flask and drank on it. After a time, he went out again, looking for any wounded. From topside to the lower decks, he had helped out with a stoic face.
It was when Millie called out that he had a meal. The salted beef and bread. Sweetened water and fruit were enough to get his energy back. He roamed the Galleon once more, checking up the patients, and finally went to the Inquisitor.
The Inquisitor had a rifle laid on his table. He was listening to the report of a Constable who reported the number of casualties they had. Gabrio spoke his piece after that Constable.
After his report, he went back to his cabin. He could hear the moans of the people inside the clinic, now filled with the wounded. He couldn't sleep with the stench and had to take out his face mask. He wore it around his mouth and went to his bed. His head filled with the thoughts of the enemies.
He could hear cannons from a distance. Those were the ships that were keeping the boarding party of the enemies from approaching the Fleet. The enemy's numbers were numerous, and he doubted that they had killed them all. His thoughts went to the people who went deeper inside the coral land. To Zyra, who was exploring the coral island with Caldor Ando, doing whatever it is they are doing.
He could tell that they were in a quest for something greater. Something that had even made Zyra come to them and risk her life.
Morning came, and the Ark who had been greedy when it comes to taking materials had started towing monsters to the Ark. He was invited to the Ark to watch an autopsy about the monsters.
The autopsy handled by a young upstart named Ristina. She was a woman of scientist that acted as a Doctor and Surgeon for the Ark. She started by removing the skin of the creature. She began from the anus of the beast and then cut up the belly.
After that, she started picking up the scales. She took a dagger that was on her table and stabbed on it. The material didn't get nicked by the blade. She continued her showy autopsy and removed the organs of the creature. Palish and black, the one thing that he noted was how they had gills and lungs that seemed to be the organ that allowed them to breathe on land and water.
The 'Brutes' - the giant beasts, were about eight-foot tall and had bulky arms that the size of logs. Miss Ristina opened the body with a surgical saw and spilled the innards of the beast. The womb of the monstrosity filled with eggs. About fifty ball-sized eggs were inside the womb.
Miss Ristina walked to the front with arms raised. "This warmongering race are bipedal fishes can roam both land and sea," she presented an eyeball to the crowd. "Please note
I was only able to cut through the issues because of how suited my tools are for dissecting such a creature. These creatures can multiply, and through my colleague, we deduced that there could be millions under this coral colony. To fight them is beyond our power. And through our friends from the elven-kin that we can warn our people of this threat."
A man walked in front, "And what is your purpose in saying this?"
She smiled, "I want everyone to know that the Admiral, after seeing such sight, he had decided that the Fleet must continue forward. We must not be distracted by the enemies we faced."
"Nonetheless, what I am saying is that the enemy is many. Their scales are tough and that we must conserve our ammunition for the sake of the thousand islands. Greater challenges await us, and yet we'll waste our ammunition here?"
"Or do you want to waste men here? We still have a long way to go, my good people. Do we fight or not?"
"This is cowardice!" One of the Captain's said.
"It is not cowardice," she smiled again. "The Admiral is saying that we might find greater foes. But we must focus on the mission. That is why we are here."
"So the purpose of this live dissection is to realize that we are fighting creatures that are made of war and are numerous?" Gabrio said.
She turned to his direction. Her eyes widened for a moment, before she turned away for a second, and replied with a tiny smile. "Yes, that is the purpose of this."
"I don't understand then," Gabrio said, wiping his hand. "All you showed us are the internal organs of the enemy that we had defeated with our weapons."
"Indeed, but this is not our place. I had said it already that we must not waste our time here."
"I see no reason why you had dissected this and said it like that."
"Because why not?" she said. "It makes you wonder who the enemies are, right?"
Gabrio nodded and said no words. She stared for a moment before turning her eyes back to the crowd. She continued her dissection and left them pondering.
Outside, in the dock of the Ark, located in the stern of the ship, Gabrio watched the warships, engaged the enemies still trying to reach the Fleet by the side. He reached out for his flak, drank, and turned his attention to the riflemen working in two pairs.
Gabrio could still feel the protection of the Lady. Longships and war canoes roamed the stilled water muddled with the dead. From the position of the sun and his shadow, Gabrio deduced that it was noon.
Usually, he would be with someone, but he wanted Wiles and Millie to watch the clinic. He had pleaded for the Inquisitor for helpers and had attached Robert to the clinic. It was great to have more helpers knowing that the situation in the dread line was as expected. Yes, they had expected resistance from monsters. The tales of the Dread Line weren't as exaggerated. The elevens were proof of higher powers and beasts living in the world.
To argue that no monsters were living in dreaded seas would be idiotic. They didn't prepare arms and personnel for a calm journey.
He was about to take a sip when he heard someone approach.
Turning around, he saw the red-headed physician sauntering towards him. She pointed her eyes at the flask he was holding.
"Drinking on the job, Mister Gabrio?"
"Miss Ristina," Gabrio said. "It has been...what? A year since we last met in Accad."
"I didn't think you'd be in here," she said.
"And here we are. I had hoped to meet you again."
"You want to punch me?"
"Partly, you never wrote back. I want to shoot you."
Gabrio grinned, "Not changed that much, eh?"
"It's been a year, don't be dramatic. Still, it's nice to see someone familiar. Even though I work in the Ark, still nice."
"Got the role, huh?"
"Hard not to when I am superior."
She smacked on his shoulder, "Hey, you shouldn't say that," she put a hand on her stomach. "But then again, at least you are always honest. Though you have to stop asking questions when I am speaking, it bothers me."
"Did the Admiral say that? Why you did that show?"
"He did," she nodded, taking the flask from Gabrio, taking a sip. "We need to keep on moving forward, Gab, this is not the place we are looking for."