"Look alive, lads!" came the bellow from the rear deck. "We have incoming!"
William and the other Andoly on the deck turned their heads not back, but to the prow of the ship. Ahead, the other ships in the fleet were cutting through the choppy seas on the high winds. But then sounds of metal ringing and shouts began drifting back.
"Fishmen have attacked the lead ships, more on the way!"
William straightened his leather armor and grabbed his sword and shield. The short blade he’d brought as a spare weapon felt strange to him. But, he had heeded the older sailors. No man in his unit wore heavy armor now, but some had adopted long weapons like polearms or even harpoons since stabbing wouldn’t catch in the lines.
And, with only the sound of splashing as their introduction, fishmen clambered over the sides of the ship. Their armor glittered like opalescent shells and their weapons seemed to be fashioned from living coral. Their gills flared out, creating crests around their necks. But their stench waved over the deck, souring in William's nose and making his stomach churn.
He bit back the bile rising in his throat and stepped to meet the attackers. He swatted aside a thrust from a spear and slashed across, cutting through the scales on its upper arm. The creature's grip went slack and William drove his blade up and under the bottom edge of the creature's breastplate. He pulled the blade free and turned as another fishman moved to strike at his back with a wavy-bladed sword.
That's when Detrious' massive mace took the creature on the side, filling the air with cracks and pops as it flew into and overt the railing. William stepped beside the big troll and they set about grim work. William cut the leg out from inert one as Detrious swung high, turning the thing laterally before it every touched the deck. Detrious smashed the neck of another as William trapped its axe with his shield and sword.
William noted the Jenar sailors around the deck fighting as well. They favoured one of two styles: fighting with a pair of short weapons like William's sword, or weapons with long reach like polearms, halberds or even harpoons. The other thing he noticed is that they fought together, in coordinated pairs or groups.
More of the creatures hauled their way up the sides of the ship. William turned his body so the swing of a large coral axe sliced only leather and kicked the fishman in what he took to be its inner. He assumed he was right when it gurgled in obvious pain. That's when William ducked and Detrious unleashed a full-armed swing directly overhead and into the face of the creature, cruising the bony ridges of its face back into its head.
William turned, looking for the next threat. Some remaining attackers were leaping over the side and into the water. Their shop had held, by and large. Men nursed wounds, but the warning had been enough. That wasn't the case on other ships. Some ships had rigging collapsing and one was ablaze. The ship dashed forward into the fleet. Jenar sailors threw lines to pull men aboard while William and his men stood sentinel against more attacks.
"Sir?" A quiet voice cut through the fog. William blinked. Anton was leaned forward. "Are you alright, sir?"
William shook his head. Why had he... As the carriage moved, he brushed aside one of the curtains. The coach was rolling past the fish market. "The smell," William said, "reminded me of something."