It was sometime later that found Longspear and van Joss standing at the right hand railing, looking out at the mist-swathed cliffs about five hundred metres distant. According to Brax, it was the northern edge of the continent of Solis, something called the Cliffs of the Moon. Beyond the tops of the cliffs lay dense jungle, the home of the Anthin.
Apparently they would swing past the Cliffs of the Moon into something called the Straits of Dark Shadow, which led into the Inner Sea. It was just then a matter of a day or so before they reached their southern port on the Iberian Peninsula, a place called Grufshank.
“Think the Ursa will side with us?” Longspear asked in a quiet voice, her eyes distant as she regarded the jagged faces of the cliffs.
“Hope so,” Van Joss replied just as softly, the deck behind them a-swarm with thick-bodied Ursa going about their tasks of keeping the Snow Flower afloat. “Without them the battle will be more than difficult.” He glanced over at his teammate.
“It will be almost impossible!”
Brax was true to his word when he said a day or two beyond the Straits of Dark Shadow to Grufshank. It was the morning of the second day that they spotted the small port directly off the bow. With the wind smartly filling her sails, the Snow Flower quickly traversed the intervening distant to approach the bar that Grufshank sheltered in.
Unlike the constant turmoil of the Alanic, the Inner Sea was almost placid as a late spring sun shone down on them. Still, building the port in a sheltering bay was wise. The Inner Sea was still big enough, apparently, to generate large and vicious storms. Storms that often sank much larger vessels than the Snow Flower. Regardless of where they were, the Ursa had learned to respect the waters and to be cautious in their travel upon them.
Almost disappointed, van Joss was quick to observe that the Ursan port was built much like the Kanid ports he had visited before. Of course the people working it were bigger, much bigger than the Kanids. And the crowds much more diverse.
Besides the omnipresent Ursa, there were others that van Joss’s sharp eyes quickly picked out on the heavy stone piers. Broad and massive, some with an unmistakable pair of horns jutting from the front of their heads, one group of these others were involved in a variety of tasks, though mostly lifting and moving. They seemed to be specifically built for heavy labor, though he had seen a couple arguing in the Ursan language with an Ursan captain about a cargo manifest the captain clutched in a big hand. Those two seemed to be more like officials than laborers. ‘At least they are man-shaped, speaking of another Fisted Race,’ the slender human noted as he followed Longspear down the gangplank that had been extended from the Snow Flower’s foredeck.
Less visible and possessing far fewer numbers, there was a third group of people that were scattered amongst the heavy crowds surrounding Grufshank’s piers, swarming around the two dozen or so ships at anchor there. A good half a metre beneath the Ursan height and half as broad as the powerful second group, these were nevertheless muscular and swift. Some of the more powerful members were also engaged in brute labor, often working along side Ursa and the others.
They too were man-shaped; another Fisted Race. These, however, moved much more quickly than either the Ursa or the second group, almost darting forward. At the edges of the crowd van Joss was lucky enough to see two smaller ones, looking like young of some sort, abruptly break into a race, running at top speed along a narrow road that led into the town proper, a low collection of dusty brown buildings.
“Maker!” he quietly said in amazement as the two youths sprinted dustily away, quickly accelerating beyond any top speed van Joss had seen before, even with the Lupine shock troops. That despite having only two legs!
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Hand Over FistScience Fiction
Like a phoenix, they arose. From the ashes of a world burnt by massive nuclear holocaust and frozen by a millennia of nuclear winter. They are the Fisted Races and they struggle against the tattered remnant of Humanity for what little resources ar...