I hate to admit it but it took me almost six months to edit The Dark Tides. I was hard because, I got a little out-of-hand as I was writing it and it reached almost 228,000 words. I had to get it down to a little more manageable size, and that called for extreme editing. I found some places where I repeated myself and, in other places, I found sections of my novel that really didn’t add to the overall story.
This is one of those parts as I give you a glimpse into part of the story that would’ve been in this deleted excerpt from The Dark Tides. I like to call it “Ambush at Merlin’s Pinnacle” so, here you go!
The Avenger glided through the air around Merlin’s Pinnacle. The crew was on their toes during this part of the passage, as the air currents around the peak could be quite treacherous. The Gil-Gamesh watched his crew move like a well-oiled machine during the flight. Even Hunter and Andrew were pitching in, to not only be helpful but to learn more about the operation of the airships of Avalon.
From the bridge, Bryan looked down at the fog covered Arkengarth Vale and reflected back on that epic battle, his torture and recovery afterwards in Alfheimer. It’s moments like this that the Gil-Gamesh couldn’t help but feel his age. Though 60 was considered middle-aged for someone from Avalon, in Bryan’s “Outlander-way” of thinking, it’s near retirement age for most people. And with everything that happened over the past month, he was beginning to wonder how much longer he could keep doing this.
His 20 years on Avalon had been nothing but non-stop since he arrived. It wasn’t like it was unfamiliar territory to him. Working on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier was no different — fast paced, focused attention-to-detail, non-stop action-packed work for days on end. But the question remained, when this is all over, could he finally take a break from the fast-paced life he led as the Gil-Gamesh? Only time would tell.
Suddenly Bryan noticed a shadow falling across the ship’s deck. He turned to look skyward to see what could be casting it. High in the sky behind them, flying right in the sun, another airship closed in on the Avenger. Because of its position, Bryan couldn’t see who it was or why Captain O’Brien hadn’t acknowledged its presence.
“Captain, what’s that ship following us?” the Gil-Gamesh asked.
“It’s the Intrepid milord. Our lookouts spotted her about an hour ago, just before you came on deck. She appears to be following us into Idlehorn.”
“Has Captain Oldman signaled his course and intentions per protocol?”
Edan thought for a moment before answering. “No milord, he hasn’t. I assumed with the beatings our ships have taken over the past few weeks, it might have slipped his mind.”
“Never assumed anything Edan,” Bryan said as he reaches into his cloak and pulled out his spyglass lens. “Video Visum!” he chanted as the lens zoomed in on the airship. The decks were empty, even in the rigging. This was very disturbing to the Gil-Gamesh, especially for running this close to Merlin’s Pinnacle.
“Have the crow’s nest attempt to signal them,” Bryan ordered. Captain O’Brien relayed the command and the sailor manning the crow’s nest pulled out a pair of flags and started to signal the airship through a series of motions and signals. No response ever came from the Intrepid.
Bryan contemplated his next move. “Shall we fly up alongside her Gil-Gamesh?” Edan inquired.
“No, we’d be too exposed to an attack as we maneuvered into position. He’s got the wind in his favor. I have a better idea.” Lord MoonDrake raised his fingers to his mouth and whistled. “Maverick!” he shouted. From below decks, a tiny dragon whizzed past all the sailors until he reached the Gil-Gamesh. Faerie Dragons were quite small, less than two feet in length, but they’re also the fastest creatures on Avalon. Their wings resembled dragonfly wings, beating as fast as a hummingbird.
Bryan held up his hand and the little dragon landed on it like a falconer would. He stroked it under the chin, causing the beast to purr like a kitten. Bryan spoke to Maverick in the ancient tongue of the dragons. The Faerie Dragon growled and took off toward the Intrepid. It didn’t take long for it to come back and land on Bryan’s shoulder. The little creature grunted and growled to the Gil-Gamesh, garbled to everyone else but Bryan understood it perfectly.
“No one is on deck save for a single Brood manning the helm,” Bryan relayed. “He’s got to be planning a kamikaze run on us. He’s probably waiting until we get closer to Idlehorn.”
“A ‘kamikaze’ milord?” Edan asked.
“In the outside world, there was a world war,” Bryan explained. “When the enemy realized they were losing the war, they decided to take out as many of our ships as they could by flying into them, sacrificing themselves to severely damage us. They were called Kamikazes. It means ‘divine wind’ hoping their sacrifice would earn them a place of honor in Heaven.”
“Shall we beat to quarters?” Edan asked.
Bryan thought for a minute then decided against it. “No, if he sees any real change on deck, he may dive at us sooner than expected. He would cut us in half before we could change course or fire any shot off at him. This calls for something with a little more subtlety.”
The Gil-Gamesh got an idea and walked over to the rail. “Hunter, Andrew … Get your Lancers and get up here!” he ordered. The two young men stopped what they’re doing and headed below decks. Within minutes, they returned to the bridge with their Lancers in hand.
“Alright, time for a battle test of your new weapon,” Bryan began. “Behind us is the Intrepid, but its crew is missing and it’s being piloted by a single Brood. From the position they’re in, if we do anything to show aggression, she’ll dive right at us and we won’t be able to respond.”
“You think they’re going to ram us?” Hunter asked.
“More than likely, which is where you and your Lancers come in,” the Gil-Gamesh explained. “I need you to shoot some explosive dragonfire rounds into that ship, preferably up forward where the ammunition is stored. That should be able to blow it right out of the sky.”
“Just out of curiosity sir, why don’t you cast a spell to do the same thing? I mean, your spells seem to be more powerful than these spell shots could ever be.”
“That’s true Andrew, they are, but to cast a spell to travel that distance and be effective, it takes some time in conjuring. If he sees me performing any kind of enchantment, he would more than likely dive right at us. That’s why you built these Lancers, remember … Stealth with precision. To him, it’ll probably look like you’re looking at them through a spyglass. Now, get to it!”
Hunter and Andrew loaded the spell shots into their Lancers. They took position on the aft end of the bridge. “You want to aim about ten feet back from the bow ornament Andy, about halfway down the hull,” Hunter told him.
“Got it …” Andy retorted.
“Remember to adjust your second shot if and when he starts to react,” Bryan reminded them. The two men just nodded their head.
“On three …” Hunter said as he counted down, “One, two, three …” The two men fired simultaneously as the Lancers exploded with a loud “whoosh”, almost like a musket firing, as the dragonfire spat out, launching fireballs that grew incrementally as they travelled through the air. Almost immediately, the two men fired a second volley at the airship. The first two fireballs impacted right on target on the bow, causing a massive explosion as the Intrepid started to dive. Then the second fireballs hit, causing the ammunition to detonate, and the airship was reduced to burning embers.
Bryan steps up and patted his son and son-in-law on the shoulders. “Well done gentlemen, well done. I hate losing another ship but we can’t let them take any advantage over us.”
“The Lancers are more powerful than we ever hoped,” Hunter added. “Great job Andy.”
“Thanks … I just hope it will help in the coming battle,” Andrew said with due humility.
“Well, we may be losing battles like this, but in the end, we’re going to win the war. Morgana won’t know what hit her,” Bryan replied. “In the meantime, I suggest you start planning a training regime to teach our forces how to use them. You won’t have a lot of time to get them up to speed on the Lancers.”
“Don’t worry father. I’m putting together the best shooters from the Knights of the Round Table. These men are already quite skilled with the GunStars, so teaching them how to use the Lancers should be child’s play.”
“You might want to include Captain McLoughlin in your training,” the Gil-Gamesh added. “The Shield Maidens paired with those knights will have to be ready to adjust their tactics.”
“How much time will we have?” Andrew asked.
“Less than a week, a few days at most … I don’t expect Morgana to attack before the new moon, but I need her too. So, I’ll just have to give her a little nudge.”
“Is that a smart thing to do Dad?” Hunter inquired. “We should take all the time we need to get ready for this fight.”
“The problem is that if I give Morgana more time, it brings us closer and closer to the new moon, when the Dark Tides will be at its peak. That’s one advantage I don’t want her to have.”
Before he departed the bridge, Captain O’Brien stopped the Gil-Gamesh. “My apologies Gil-Gamesh, it won’t happen again.”
“Edan, I don’t expect you to be perfect. People make mistakes,” Bryan explained. “Just learn from those mistakes and don’t make the same one again. You get one chance from me, but do it again and you’ll be sacked so fast, I might not land the ship before kicking you overboard.”
Bryan walked right by Edan as he got a lump in his throat from the very ominous threat by the Gil-Gamesh. Hunter tried to reassure the young Captain about his father’s overzealous attack.
“Don’t worry Edan. Jupiter Antilles once told me my father threatened him on more than one occasion to toss him overboard. I’d say you were in good company.”
“I hope so Hunter. It’s just … I’d hate to be the first.”