The KoraKora found canoes of their own. They caught up to us in the night. Who knows how long they have been in pursuit of us this way, but now neither the river nor the opposite banks provide us with any form of advantage or protection.
We first spotted them through the rain in the morning. Unlike our guides, one of the men in each of their canoes carried a paddle. Combining their efforts with the pole, they were making up the distance far too quickly for comfort.
Their bailers took time to try and shoot us, but their bowstrings were hopelessly wet and their blow darts too light to navigate the rain. After a brief period of such attempts, the chase resumed its intensity.
We began to paddle with our hands. The KoraKora were drawing close enough that Nonda began to strike them with his long pole, and then they all grew distracted. Shocked looks spread across every face I could see. Nonda shoved the pole back into the water and began to push harder than I had seen him.
“Bromnom!” He shouted at me. Our bailer pointed at a handful of dark points jutting from the water like blackened fingertips. Each made a quick “S” in the water before disappearing. “Bromnom!”
The call was echoing down the line of KoraKora of whose boats we could only see a few. Nonda and the bailer began frantically searching the water for more black points. He would later explain that they were trying to discern which direction the fish were coming from. If from the north, we had to get out of the water immediately, but if from the south we had time.
Time was important, he said, because we needed to land on the opposite shore of the KoraKora. Otherwise we were doomed.
The KoraKora began shouting directions. Their front boat was watching us, calling out whatever moves we made. Calling upon the horde behind them to follow. But time was growing thin. The boats behind us grew more panicked and the fear in Nonda’s face was tinged with confidence. His grimace turned into a ferocious grin, and at the last minute he began to steer us back to the east.
The KoraKora immediately behind us broke directly for the eastern shore. They called for their brethren to join them, but the boats behind had already committed to the west, thinking we were most likely to pull that way. There were only a handful of canoes filled with KoraKora landing a hundred feet behind us.
Nonda shouted for us to paddle. He screamed against the strain on his pole, and hurtled us onto the shore as the water began to thrash.
Each of our boats made it. Our guides jumped out immediately and hauled the boats into the foliage before they could be claimed by the Bromnom. Instantly I had my sword in hand and shouted for them to follow me. There were only a couple dozen KoraKora at most. It was time to thin the herd.
Balthandar and Dionus came up beside me as we dashed through the trees. Screams came from the river ahead. Not everyone had made it to shore in time.
And then they were before us. Their eyes widened comically. They never expected us to turn and fight. Gods I love that look.
We plunged into them. Every fighting man and woman from our party was upon them before they could draw their weapons. It was a slaughter. We spent a few minutes drilling holes in their canoes and kicked what supplies they had into the mouths of the Bromnom, then made quickly north to our own canoes.
Inifra remained asleep under the watch of her canoe’s passengers. We immediately distributed our supplies to be carried by the smaller of our members, and then the rest of us picked up our canoes and began moving north.
This was a chance to gain some distance. At the very least we would be maintaining it should the KoraKora think to move on foot as well. They had lost their vanguard and, I would find out later, we had gained a morale-boosting victory. The Nantese with us believed the KoraKora to be invincible. Unstoppable. We disproved that handily.
The Bromnom kept their frenzy up for some time, possibly a few hours, before the waters began to calm and they moved on downstream. We resumed the water immediately, this time with a handful of paddles fashioned from thick fronds in the undergrowth.
We have learned our lesson on speed and survived the KoraKora’s first advance. The chase is on, but we will not be caught off guard again. If only Inifra would awake, we would have an undeniable advantage against them.