Kinora swiped the hammer through it and focused, and the black fog screamed and burned with golden light as it died. The Essence she’d stolen from it revived her for a second, and while the rest of them hovered uncertainly she managed to spare a few seconds to look around and adjust the sails. At least there was something she could look forward to; the ordeal would be over soon. Either she’d make it to shore, or she, the Seahome, and the bodies of her family would go to the bottom of the ocean together. Though, with the black ship so close behind that her ship was nearly in the dark mist that trailed it, perhaps she wouldn’t even be that lucky. The shore was close now, though.. maybe close enough. Gauging it, for a moment she spotted a figure standing atop a rock. Fancying that maybe the wind and water would carry her words, she shouted, “Go home, traveler! The storm is coming, and it’s not one you’ll want to be caught in!”
The next few minutes passed in a mad haze of exhaustion and dread. At some point, another group of the walking dead got aboard the Seahome; she remembered taking them off-guard by throwing her new hammer at them as if it was a feather. It had returned to her hand instantly, while the creature she’d smashed was knocked overboard with two of its fellows. Of the rest of that onslaught, all she remembered was the deep bass sound the hammer made on the way to smash another of them and then frantically pulling her ship away from some rocks. No time to stop and try to remember anything now. Not what she was doing, not what she was about to abandon to be smashed to bits by the breakers. Just keep watching for the next attack until the ship hit the beach.
So tired. Doing anything after three days without sleep was beyond awful, more like a dream than anything real. Dreams, what would she dream of with her family killed by.. whatever those were.. where was she? She came back to herself with a start as she saw motion in the water below and looked around. She was halfway to the beach, and.. and a boat filled with leering, rotting figures was only a few feet away. Well, she’d smashed the rest, one more batch wasn’t really a threat. She wondered why the Unconquered Sun had given her a hammer that had to weigh half as much as that little boat if he expected her to swing it while this tired. She reached for the handle.. and started in surprise as the boat and its occupants vanished in a plume of water and splinters flying into the air. What the hell had done that? She twisted around again, and.. the figure on the beach. He was still there, jumping up and down shouting something, she couldn’t tell what over the breakers, and brandishing a golden bow in his hands? Another gift from Sol? Whatever, sand grinding under the hull!
One superhuman leap and some wading through the breakers found her staggering up to the beach. She arrived in time to watch the traveler, the young man from nowhere, fire a shot from that bow; she turned and another boat vanished as it someone had dropped a boulder into it. She summoned energy from she knew not where and trotted over to him. “That won’t work, you know.” “Let me bid you welcome to this fair shore my lady and what?” “They’re already dead, they don’t need to breathe, they’ll just walk to shore. I had half a dozen of them clinging to the bottom of the Seahome, they’re not easy to stop,” He turned and looked into the breakers, and a moment later there they were shambling grimly onwards. The jubilation in his tone fled. “Then let them learn to fear the Judgment of Midnight!” With this bombastic declaration, he began to fire arrows into the waves. Watching, she doubted that sticking some wood into them could really stop them, but her hope revived a bit as they were smashed down by supernatural force.
It was a good thing they were so slow getting through the breakers, she thought, since it meant she could just lean on her hammer for a minute and watch the show as boats exploded and nightmarish crew fell. Looking over the horrors as they shambled through the breakers before being caught by arrows, she finally had time to contemplate what their ship sailing under the flag of the Skullstone Archipelago meant to her. It would be easy to seek revenge for the destruction of her previous life with her foe an entire nation.. no, all of their cursed kind. She’d chase them back to the shadowland they came from and all the way into the Underworld, slam all the shadowlands shut behind them once and for all, lure the Deathlords.. well, who knows how.. so he was Anathema too, judging by the mark now blazing on his forehead.. well, fine, Exalted, that was what they used to call them, since she was one too.. a shower of golden sparks caught her attention. As she watched, the young man fired another arrow at the last of the boats, and.. nothing happened to it. A figure stood on the boat while another of the dead rowed.. a figure brandishing a sword that glowed black, from which another rain of golden sparks fell. Apparently the archer was not going to carry the day singlehandedly after all. Well, fine and dandy, taking this prick apart would be a good start to her revenge. He kept firing, though.. “You should stop wasting your arrows.” “No, for I hope to tire him out and weaken his defenses!” “Whatever.”
A few seconds and three more effortlessly blocked arrows later, the master of the black ship leapt from the boat and walked across the beach towards her, grinning madly. On his forehead a caste-mark proclaimed him an Exalt as well, but.. bleeding? Why was it bleeding? What strange horror had come out of Skullstone now? He.. it? laughed madly as he walked up. “You will make a fine servant for my master when I am done with you!” “Oh, whatever. You can argue with my friend, he seems to like saying that.. sort of.. thing?” She realized that she stood alone, the young man gone as if he had never been. “He has fled. The Night Caste are ever unreliable. I will hunt him down later.” Her heart sank for a moment, but she had been told only a short eternity at sea before that she was a hero of the Unconquered Sun and she would not give in now. “Be that as it may, I am..” Kinora? No, she needed something for her new life, her second breath. The mist hovering near the black ship caught her eye, and she continued ”..the Weeping Hammer of the Obsidian Mist, and you will be the first step on my road to vengeance!” As she swung the Sun’s hammer at the strange Exalt, she decided that the traveler had definitely had something right with the impressive declarations.
Her new courage faltered, though, as he simply flicked his thin sword into the path of her hammer and it stopped as if it had met a wall of, she couldn’t imagine, something from the First Age that could stop her hammer. A furious exchange of blows followed; his skill was less than hers, she could feel it, but it did her no good – every time she swung a blow that she knew would strike him dead, his blade moved unnaturally, glowing black all the while, and stopped the blow cold. She found herself needing to dodge blows swung with utterly unnatural speed and, to her surprise, doing so effortlessly.. but now she could feel the Essence within her depleting, and the air around her starting to burn gold. On the other hand, as he impossibly stopped yet another blow his forehead broke into another torrent of blood and a black.. something.. hovered around him. He stepped back and grinned, then taunted her, quipping “ggKKkk”.
That seemed an odd taunt. She noticed that an arrowhead was now sticking out from between his ribs and decided that it probably had something to do with his unusual choice of words. A shout echoed, loud enough to carry over the waves: “Thus is Sol’s judgment rendered!” The dark Exalt tried to bring his sword up to stop her hammer, but apparently didn’t have the strength left to even lift it; the blow reduced his head to paste. She took a breath, looked around, and found the traveler.. Judgment, was he calling himself that? standing in the boat the Exalt had abandoned. Behind him, the black ship out of Skullstone began to sink, which with the holes in its side made a lot of sense. Apparently the only thing that had been keeping it afloat had been the will of its captain.. good, it was only fair that they lose it when she’d lost her Seahome. She walked over to the boat. “Well, ‘Judgment’, I don’t know what to think of you, but it’s been good meeting you. Do you have a campsite or something? Warm and dry would fetch a hell of a price right now.”