The Siege of Hidros

Flynn Geary


The command carried effortlessly across the narrow ocean pass. Sheer cliffs to one side, the ocean made almost inaccessible by countless crags and jutting rocks on the other, it made the perfect trap. Captain Edwin Side-Eye held his spyglass to his good eye, the other staring aimlessly off the starboard bow. Volleys of flaming arrows soared into the air from behind both crags and cliffs. All converged on the hulking mass on the horizon.

Large enough to put the richest of kings to shame, the metal ship’s dark towers made the oncoming flames seem little more than fireflies. As the arrows bounced harmlessly off the ship’s armoured prow, they seemed pointless. And then, the buoying oilskins caught light, waves lapping with fire.

And as fire turned to smoke, dozens of ships slipped from their hiding places, a pack of sharks smelling blood in the water. Most were nothing noteworthy, run-down trade ships taken in raids and used to approach targets without sounding the alarm. However, scattered within the mismatched fleet were larger, sturdier crafts with clear white hulls and a bird of prey emblazoned on their sails.

These were Edwin’s fleet: the Ivory Hawks, pirates renowned for their ruthless efficiency. While most tarred their ships black to better blend into the dark, the Hawk’s white hulls heralded an inevitable doom for all sailors, from the Southern deserts to the lands of feuding emperors in the far East.

In his twenty-year reign as the Ivory Hawk’s leader, Edwin had led his men into raids and naval battles across all the settled world, leaving a bloody nose in every port town. Now, there was only one untouched target that dared to roam his seas.

It was time to change that.

Edwin grimaced; some of the smaller ships had already broken formation, swarming towards the fading smoke. Without the manpower to crew all the seized trade vessels, Edwin had resorted to hiring small time thugs and aspiring pirates to fill out his ranks. He had not expected them to be as experienced or professional as his own men, but was the slightest amount of restraint and discipline too much to ask?

The fools were either smashed to splinters on impact or were pulled down whole in the wake.

Edwin took a sharp breath. Did the people inside even notice what was happening? His mark edged closer.

The great Ship-City of Hidros.

Despite all his planning and research, Edwin should have known that pillaging Hidros would be no easy task. He knew that the Hidrossi were originally desert folk from the far South, that they traded fresh fish and crops with port towns across the world, that they had dozens of water mage cadres onboard keeping all that metal afloat.


The booming command came from Edwin’s second in command, Scjouraan.

Despite the grisly scene, Edwin couldn’t help but smile. The remaining trade vessels spread out around Hidros, pelting its hull with arrows and spears.

Meanwhile, the Hawkships maintained their distance; Edwin nodded in approval. As a second haphazard volley of arrows and spears were prepared, the Hawkship at the fleet’s head fired a projectile from its catapult. It burst apart against Hidros, thick black oil sticking to the front of the armoured hull and prow. Even if the affected vicinity was small, when compared to the scale of the ship, it was enough.

A dozen more projectiles splashed against the ship, then burst into flame as the vanguard shot more flaming arrows.

Edwin smirked, triumphant as the fire spread. While metal didn’t burn like wood, it spread heat faster, as his smith father had once told him. While Hidros wouldn’t burn, the people eventually would. When there was nothing but a Ship-City of well-cooked corpses left in their way, Hidros would be his to pillage.

Then, four vanguard ships disintegrated as jets of water burst through their hulls. Before Edwin could process what was happening, two more ships further back suffered the same fate, then another even further back, then two more.

Edwin felt the dread flow through him. The jets were heading in a straight line, directly towards his fleet.

Before Scjouraan could make the command, the Hawkships were already moving out of the way. Edwin watched the jets approach, groaned as the forerunning Hawkship was hit. It was only their portside, but the blow was fatal nonetheless. Through his spyglass, Edwin could see the doomed ship’s crew diving and swimming towards the nearest Hawkships.

From then, the water jets ceased.

‘Fuckin’ magic,’ Edwin cursed.

Twelve vessels, in less than three minutes. Edwin cursed again as he saw three vanguard ships banking round, retreating toward the narrow passages in the crags where they had emerged, where Hidros couldn’t follow.

‘Cowards,’ Edwin snarled. But he would deal with the deserters later. He looked to his cannoneers. ‘Sound the attack!’

As terrifying as the Hidrossi’s display of power had been, it showed their weakness. No matter how strong their mages were, or how many they had, an attack of that scale reeked of desperation. People could do impressive things with magic; Edwin had seen people in the Eastern archipelagos summon massive roots from the earth to decimate enemy lines or even serve as sturdy barricades. But to move so much water with such force must have taken at least a dozen mages. Such an ordeal would have left them exhausted, vulnerable.

If the Hidrossi thought that the booming instructions had been coming from the lead Hawkship, they were sorely mistaken. Scjouraan continued to rally the fleet and prevent widespread panic.

And then it all seemed to happen in slow motion. For a moment, time seemed to move at a snail’s pace as the pirate ships began to surround Hidros once again. The taste of victory growing in Edwin’s heart as he watched the ship’s hull continue to blaze from the first volley that was fired what felt like hours ago.

And then the world went dark. Then a rumble, deafening.

It came from the sky.

Edwin looked up, and everything he knew about the laws of the world changed. An island-sized rock plummeted through the air, roaring over his fleet. Its sheer size made even Hidros seem like a child’s toy in comparison. With impossible speed, the falling island and its shadow fled the sky, and Edwin covered his eyes as sunlight drenched his battlefield once more.

Several moments trickled by. Neither the pirates nor the Hidrossi made any move. Edwin could hear some of his crew praying, others muttering of devils, or Outer Gods.

Edwin was debating how to snap his crew out of their terror, when his balance suddenly became loose. Judging from the cries coming from his crew, he was not the only one affected. He staggered to portside, looked overboard. Something was off, but what? What was different? Then he realised.

There were no waves. Somehow, the entire ocean had gone as undisturbed as a lake in twilight. Edwin felt something long forgotten well up inside him: fear.

And with it rising came shadows and shapes up from that still water.

‘Fish,’ he whispered.

Countless bodies.

Edwin gagged; as the dead fish hit his ship’s hull, they began crumbling away to nothing, their stench reaching up to choke him. Then, something else caught Edwin’s eye. The ships that had fled the battle were now sailing back, at full speed. As Edwin put the spyglass to his good eye, there was a loud splash. By the time he focussed on their position, only one vessel remained.

With unnatural haste, the wooden ship was rotting. Now he could hear the groaning wood, the crew’s screams as it darkened, twisted, and splintered beneath their feet. And when at least a dozen men dove into the still water, none of them resurfaced.

Edwin’s lust for victory had too rotted.

He lowered the spyglass, grip tightening. He turned to his crew.

‘Retreat! Fall back to the mainland!’

Author: Flynn is a 4th year Creative Writing student with a penchant for fantasy, mystery, and the supernatural. Growing up, Flynn loved reading stories with worlds that he could get lost in for hours, and he hopes that one day he will write stories that others can also get lost in.

Artist: Irene Liao is a visual art student from Taiwan who aims to present figurative human art through her watercolour pieces.

Editors: Bea Warren and Rory Hawkins