Raiders From The Sea, Chapter 4.

Here’s chapter 4. quiet times on the island and Imperial sea captain gets a big surprise and learns not to play tag with large steamships.

Chapter 4.
SS Melodic.
Gwen looked up as her son handed her a rather interesting tea. “It has been a five day and Cloud hasn’t arrived. Aren’t you worried? There could be pirates.”
“There could be, but the pirates know Cloud and her relationships with seafolk. Also, Cloud is not defenseless and the pirates have learned that the hard way. As for being worried, I would know if my wife were in trouble through our bond and I know where she is, more or less. Cloud should be here by morning.”
“I wonder how Deiran and Teiran are dealing with my husband?”
“That will be interesting. On the other hand, those two do have options.”
“My sister in law may poke her nose in.”
“Now I do not know them at all. They never came to the estate and father and I were exiled before I could meet them.”
Gwen pointed around to the rather established structures, hidden by the surrounding jungle, facing a lagoon that was surrounded by coral reefs. “This is a rather elaborate set up for this. Why did you not bring the ship into the lagoon?”
“We can, but we don’t want to make it obvious that the passage is there. In any case, Melodic is rather large and obvious. There are scouts out on the neighboring islands and if an Imperial ship were to come close, Melodic would get them to give chase and outrun them.”
“Outrun them?”
“Very much so. Even the strongest mage gets tired and Melodic’s engines do not.”
“What if the mage were to attack the ship?”
“Steel hull. Magic bounces off.”
“I was not affected by the iron. None of the people were.”
“The cabins and hallways are paneled with wood. A bit of a fire risk, but it makes it more comfortable for certain kinds of people.”
“That was courteous.”
“The ship was built like that. Her original owners wanted to assure certain customers that they would have both the comfort of a wooden ship and the speed of a liner. The shipping line could charge extra for that.”
“There are enough elves where we are going that that is an issue?”
“Yes, but elves aren’t the only ones who appreciate the comforts. Surprisingly the line that offers the fastest speed and no luxuries gets just as much elven and half elven traffic as the line that I bought Melodic from does. When you are in business, saving half a day can be important. There is almost no chance of burning yourself through the paint anyway.”
“What are you going to do with all the things that you took from the estate?”
“The silk will be sold through the company just like it normally would. The tools and looms, along with the ladies will be used to set up where we are going if the weavers want to do that.”
“They have a choice?”
“Yes. They may have been slaves on the estate, but they are free to make their own choices. But their skills and what they produce is valued and father and my step family are willing to finance the new business.”
“This has happened before. There have been rumors of estates and manufactories disappearing along the coast.”
“Yes, I have doing this before, mother. I have every reason to want to poke the empire in the eye and I don’t like people in bondage. Neither does father. Setting up for this was expensive and I have family to take care of. We help the slaves set up new businesses and sell off the things that the lords have accumulated and forgotten about. I’m not going to sugar coat it or launch into a long self justifying monolog about how horrible the Lords are. I am stealing from them. The difference is that rather than just taking the things that they don’t really care about except as status symbols, I take the things that they should have been paying attention to. The fact is that those places needed help and the Lords were letting them go while playing their status games in the capital.”
“I certainly paid attention to the business and the rest of the estate.”
“That is why you are on this voyage. You care and the people at the estate wanted you. You were fair and caring and when things were bad, you cut back like everybody else. You almost never sold a slave and never sold families unless they wanted to go. You were such a mother to everyone on the estate that even Pieron calls you mother.”
“Did somebody mention my name? Radhron, This place seems like it should have had more staff than your daughters and the others. Where are they?”
“On Cloud or another ship. The raid distorted things somewhat, because I felt that I had to push things up before the Inquisition started to poke around and one of the other factions used the heresy to get at the Lord. Esgalwathanar might have started to look into the Estate and how it operated if the Inquisition was getting nosey. So we left this place more or less empty for the time it took to pull the raid off, since there was no way to call back one of the other ships and Iron Crown is heading here anyway.”
“This compound serves as a depot for the trading vessels, doesn’t it?”
“Some of them. I don’t know where Leomaris has the depot for his ships and Novus has his in the Faery kingdom.”
“We in the empire never knew where the trading ships came from.”
“That has been a tradition of the folk where we are going. The less the empire knew about what was happening, the less likely that they would want to cut the trade off or invade. There is enough of that already.”
“Using the ship might trip off just what you were concerned about.”
Radhron grinned. “That isn’t the concern that it once was. The empire may find that it needs the trade and an invasion would find that portals couldn’t be set up and that pushing the Imperial fleet to where they need to go will only get it sunk.”
“The Imperial fleet is heavily loaded with magic and powerful.”
“It also hasn’t fought a battle in the last century and some of the ships are that old. You will see what is going on after the next stage of our voyage.”
Mira called out from the water, “Folks, I have lunch! Somebody come down and get it and take me to the kitchen so that I can fix it.”
Radhron turned to Pieron and said, “I think that we have our orders. That is unless we want something other than coconuts.”
“There will be coconut in the lunch, but I see your point. Let’s go.”
The pair went to collect the mermaid and the rather large net with big spiny lobsters in it and some seashells. Radhron said, “Oof, Mira you aren’t five anymore. Peiron you take my daughter while I take the net.”
Radhron handed the smiling Mira to Peiron and lifted the net. The trio set off to the kitchen. When Peiron set Mira in the stool and turned to go, Mira said, “where are you going, sir. I need somebody to cut vegetables. Father, you must have something important to do.”
“I could cut vegetables.”
“That is handled. If you don’t have anything else to do, go for a Swim and start foraging for supper. I am sure that mother showed you how.”
Radhron laughed and returned to his mother. His mother looked at him and said, “Mira is chasing Peiron. Will your wife have any issues with that?”
“I doubt it. The family needs new blood anyway since it was devastated by mass shark attacks just before father and I were wrecked on their beach.”
“So your new family wrecked you.”
“They haven’t admitted it. The storm was hardly the only one, the mage responsible for the sharks had come from the empire on a trading ship and wrecking the ships would be a natural reaction. Father convinced my father in law that owning the trading ships would be a better solution and they went looking for ships that were suitable.”
“So the trading ships had been owned by imperials. I wondered why some ships never returned.”
“They weren’t so much trading, as robbing and committing piracy. The ships came from the Ravathyra family, who had apparently been doing such things for centuries, raiding coastal towns and seafolk bowers and trading the things and slaves in the empire. For a long time the nations did not have any way to respond as the ships were wrapped with glamors and in the last few years, there was nobody in the empire to send a protest to and the empire was too strong to declare war on.”
“Where did the sharks come from? I doubt that they were somebody’s pets.”
Radhron frowned. “They were slaves, Changed by the mage. Another thing the proscriptions ignore. They allow elves to Change people into other things, but not to make the tools to make their lives better. After all the people were just slaves and didn’t matter.”
“I never considered your father as just a slave. Not in the twenty years that we worked and loved together. We were as tied to the proprieties that are the empire. In the end, we overcame them and did what we both wanted.”
“Then you sent us away.”
“Edwin and I agreed that that was best, for you. I was married and couldn’t sign a marriage agreement and you were always going to have the potential of being taken as a slave if you were not someplace where you were not. If you were put in chains, or taken away, I would have been heartbroken. Instead, my son is a truly good man with a happy family, far away from the intrigues of the empire. At least until you poked your nose into them.”
“I was sort of forced to. In order to protect my family both outside and inside the empire. It was obvious that the empire was not going to leave things alone and the regency was going to come to an end as soon as one faction or another arranged for the emperor to have an accident. The emperor was a blithering idiot since the first accident and the only way to a resolution was going to be bloody and make for greedy and bloody minded people. You were at risk, other family members were at risk and the nations outside the empire were at risk. There was an opportunity to change that and so I did.”
A head popped up in the lagoon. “Captain, an Imperial ship is nosing around.”
“No, navy. A frigate.”
“Does the lieutenant know?”
“Yes. Melodic has already raised anchor. He is waiting for you to board.”
“We will stay here for the time. The lieutenant knows what to do. Let the Lieutenant know.”
“Aye aye.”
The head disappeared again and Radhron turned to his mother. “We will have to be a bit discreet for a while.”
“Why didn’t you return to the ship?”
“We have about one hundred here on the island right now, most of which are from the estate, enjoying themselves. There probably isn’t time to evacuate everybody and this was planned for. The Lieutenant will try to make that poor frigate’s captain crap in his pants. Since the captain is probably Ravathyra, since the Shanelis don’t come out this far, I’m looking forward to it.”
SFS Swift.
Illianaro Shanelis looked over his command. He had been a frigate commander, chasing pirates for over a century. Everything looked good from the quarterdeck as the fast ship sliced through the seas. Unlike the Ravathyra’s, the Shanelis family’s ships used sail without oars and did not have slave crews. The crew of the Swift, mortal, elf and seafolk were all family retainers, volunteers and thoroughly professional at sea. At home they were a rough crowd, but the captain could live with that.
A cry came for the maintop, “Ship ahoy! Four points starboard.”
The Shanelis’s oracle had sent them here, saying that the voyage would be profitable. Illianaro’s brother in the capital had sent the family a message about the raid on the Yllanan estate and Illianaro’s father had sent a jump message to the portal on the ship with the instruction to intercept the trader ship Cloud that had been seen at the estate and may have participated in the raid. The other ship was a complete mystery. Illianaro called up, “Is it the Cloud!?”
Illianaro’s first officer had been looking through the large telescope mounted on a stand behind the wheel. “Captain take a look at this. I’ve never seen the like. No sails or oars at all.”
Illianaro went to the glass and the Lieutenant was right. Whatever it was had no sail and was moving by some strange magic under a light cloud of smoke. It was also moving very fast and heading in their direction. The captain called out, “Clear for action! Make the projectors ready! Come about to North by Northwest!”
That would put the ship on a broad reach rather than its current close hauled tack. Illianaro shouted another command. “Do not reduce sail for action!”
The Lieutenant looked at him. “You’re not reducing sail?”
“This isn’t a typical action where we are exchanging broadsides. Whatever that thing is, it is faster than we are. Have come crystals ready and when they get pictures I want the crystals jumped immediately.”
“You don’t think that we will survive?”
“That depend on if the projectors are effective, what they do over there and what they shoot at us.”
“Do you want Merith to put a shield up?”
“Not yet. A shield will kill the wind to the sails and we will be dead in the water. I want to be able to sail the ship for as long as I can.”
The captain looked at the approaching monstrosity. The thing was hull up and moving straight against the wind. The bow wave was a splash on what was looking like a huge knife heading right to the ship. The captain turned to the quartermaster, “When I say “Now, turn the rudder hard to port. Mr. Parris, tell the projector crews to fire as they bear.”
“Aye aye, sir.”
The midshipman ran to the main deck and the projector crews. Illianaro hoped that this would not be his last voyage.
The other ship was close now, the bow looming up over the quarter deck as Illianaro turned to the quartermaster and called out, “NOW!”
The ship turned slowly, all too slowly starboard as the black wall got closer. Seemingly by inches the stern came around and the black wall passed alongside showing rivets and portholes. Some glass bottles hit the deck and broke, spilling golden wine on the deck. The projectors whirred up and then fizzled with a sparking sound. As the stern of the other ship passed, there was a thrashing sound as if there were some giant whales at the stern of the other ship and then the two ships parted and the giant moved along on its way. The danger had passed. Illianaro watched as the giant sailed on its course. There was a bit of a stench around the quarterdeck as the sheer terror of what had happened sunk in, the smell of sweat and urine, mixed with shock and fear.

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