The line of curraghs was about a mile distant, spreading across the entrance to the inlet, still well out range of the bows. Less than ten minutes sail away. Mapen fired off an arrow, behind the ship where it was unlikely to be noticed by those in the curraghs. It went about two hundred metres before exploding; he nodded to himself.
Itthobaal surveyed the approaching line; he raised his voice so all could hear.
“Steersman; count along the line from the right hand side and aim directly for the third boat. We’ll sink those buggers then deal with the rest.” Cheers and shouts from the crew.
Sikarbaal nodded and adjusted the steering oar slightly. Mapen was now standing in the bow, a burning taper in a tub at his feet to light the fire arrows with, Hanno and Luliya standing slightly behind him.
“They’ll concentrate their fire on the two outside boats, hoping to kill or disable the crew. That way, when we snag the line we only have to worry about being boarded from one side.”
Ben Asher nodded; all the crew were outwardly calm now, patiently waiting for battle, confident in their preparations and each other, knowing what the plan was.
“There is a saying in my time Eliezer; a battle plan doesn’t survive initial contact with the enemy.”
“We have a saying which expresses a similar thought. The key I have found is teamwork. Whatever happens, work together, each man guarding the others back. There is a tendency for men to act singly in battle, heroic no doubt but generally fatal. I want no dead heroes, I want live winners.”
Mochus, standing close by and handling a long spear, understood his words and smiled at them.
“You remember that, Mister Danny. We’ve got used to having you on board, you make sure you’re a live winner.”
“I’ll do my very best to make sure we celebrate this victory together Mochus; even if I do have more hair and teeth than you.”
Mochus convulsed with laughter and shouted out a translation of their conversation, the others responded with more cheers and waving of weapons. The line of curraghs drew ever closer.
On the right hand headland, people, mainly women and children, some old men, shouted and jeered; some capered about making gestures, some threw ineffectual rocks, but most just screamed what must be insults and abuse, cheering on the home team. The crew ignored them and concentrated on the task in hand.
Mapen conferring with Hanno and Luliya; Hanno firing off an arrow; the aim off but the range good. All three commence firing, concentrating on the first two curraghs in the line. Two fire arrows explode over the curraghs, causing visible confusion and fear, then Mapen scoring a direct hit on the second along the line, the burning arrow burying itself in the hide covering before exploding. Both men in the curragh hurled into the water and neither seen to come to the surface. Cheers from the ship, howls of rage from the curraghs. Slingshots from the curraghs, Hanno struck on the shoulder; Abibal coming forward and picking up his dropped bow, taking his place whilst Hanno flexes his arm for a few moments and steps back taking up the long spear that Abibal has put down. Teamwork; no individual heroics, just a united purpose and a cold determination to win. A fire arrow into the first curragh, now about fifty metres away; the two occupants waste no time but dive over the side. Abibal and Hanno rapidly send two arrows apiece into the general area where the two have disappeared then switch their aim to the curraghs on the other side of the ship. Javelins in the air now, a scream of pain from someone on the ship; Ben Asher gripping the axe tightly, watching out for missiles, calculating angles. With a splintering crash, the ship destroys the curragh, Abibal and Hanno firing into the two occupants just before the impact. Javelins and slingshots coming from the left side now but Mapen keeping up a steady stream of fire arrows which has an unsettling effect on their opponents; the ship’s way checked momentarily as the line between the curraghs is pulled taught. Unnoticed the wind has strengthened slightly, speeding up the ship and the whole line of some twenty remaining curraghs is jerked forward, making the aiming of javelins and slingshots difficult. Curraghs being dragged alongside the ship, the crew jabbing at the occupants with the long spears. Several men trying to clamber up the side of the ship. Two on deck; Eliezer stepping forward and despatching one with a thrust of his sword, Itthobaal stabbing the other and throwing him back over the side. Men down on the ship; more men trying to board from the curraghs; Ben Asher taking in that if the line attached to the curraghs were cut the fight would be ended quickly as the curraghs are left behind, rushing forward, clearing a path with his axe. The three archers were now engaged in repelling boarders using whatever came to hand, a bloody, vicious, mindless scuffle. Ben Asher, leaning over the right side of the bow, can’t reach the line with the axe; climbing over the side, one hand bloody where unnoticed he grasps the sharp rope; swings the axe, the line parts and he pivots himself back on board; blood and bodies on the deck; a final few javelins and a scattering of sling-shot; cheering; howls of rage and pain; Sikarbaal leaning on the oar and the ship turning more to the South West.