Raiders From The Sea, Chapter 15.

The republic does some reconnaissance. What is steampunk without airships?

Chapter 15.

LA-12.

The big airship held steady at 11,000 feet, flying through the clouds. This had been their third attempt at an overflight of the hidden city. The trick was to get good aerial pictures of the city while hiding the fact that the airship even existed. The Republic’s airship base was far away from the location of the recent events and the navy wanted to keep their eyes in the sky as a hole card for as long as possible. To make hiding the 600 foot long airship possible, the airship crew needed good cloud cover at altitudes over 5000 feet and not below that altitude so the photo pod could be dropped and still get good pictures. During the first attempt the cloud cover had been too low and raining and the second, the sky had been clear, which would have made for good pictures, but the airship would have been clearly visible to anyone who happened to look up. It looked as if conditions were going to be excellent for a pass today and the captain turned to his helmsman and said, “course steady at 00, hold altitude at 11,000, speed 35, steady as she goes.”

“Steady as she goes, aye!”

The captain opened the voice tube and said, “This is the captain. Go for run.”

Aft in the pod room, Lieutenant Nathan Littlechild and his pilot, Lieutenant Mokem Oakenmaster seated themselves into the pod, the crew made sure their harnesses were tight and closed the hatch. Mokem hooked up the intercom and said, “Sound check!”

“You’re five by five, lieutenant, ready to drop.”

The captain’s voice came over the intercom, “You may drop when ready.”

With that, the pod started to drop out of the airship and Mokem used the stick to steady the pod as it fell away from the airship’s airstream. The cable supporting the pod reeled out until Nathan called out “Prepare to stop cable!”

The pod dropped below the cloud cover and Nathan called out, “Stop cable!”

The two got to work with Nathan reloading the three cameras with plates as the magazines ran dry while Mokem kept the pod steady and kept a weather eye out for the dragons that they had been warned about. As the pod sailed over the city toward the bay, Nathan used his hand camera to make sure that things that he saw got special attention. Once the pod had passed over the harbor, Mokem said to Nathan, “Good, Nathan?”

“Good Mokem, let’s get out of here.”

“Pilot to cable, clear to raise!”

“Raising!”

The pod disappeared into the cloud, climbing back to the airship. When the pod was locked in place, the pod room chief opened the voice tube to the control room and said, “Control room, pod retrieved and locked!”

“Pod room, Aye!”

The captain turned to the helm and said, “go to course 90, speed full, hold altitude, let’s go home.”

The airship had completed its mission and nobody other than an eleven year old slave boy had paid any attention to the long silver thing in the sky in the brief moment that the airship had been visible through the clouds. The boy went to his father’s office where his father was a clerk, pulled out the drawing that he had made of flying dragons, picked up his pencil and added a sleek shape, high in the sky.

Eryding, Home Estate Of The Ravathyra.

Rolin Zylvyre looked at the quote from the Hienorin factor for seasoned ship timbers and back to Camus. “Did they explain the price and delivery?”

“Not really.”

“The price is more than double what we paid the last time and the delivery for most of it is two years. Apparently they only have material on hand to build two of our ships at best.”

“The factor said that was all he had and that the price was to cover for finding timber. He said that they had been cut out of their ready timber and needed to find some new stands. There has been a lot of construction going on in Dwarvenhame, apparently and the dwarves have been buying a lot of hardwood. He also said that I needed to let him know if I wanted the stocks available in a five day and since he already had other bidders for it, that the contract would have to cover everything at that price, paid up front.”

“So we would be locked into a contract for timber that we would not see for two years at best at double what we paid, and the money paid up front.”

“That was about the size of it.”

“Did you look for other suppliers?”

“Those that didn’t turn me down flat, quoted the same price or higher and that was for green timber. No ready stocks.”

“Do you think that the Hienorin factor was lying?”

“No. Was he giving me the best deal he could, no. At this point the word has gone out about the losses of ships in Southern ocean. The timber people know that we need timber desperately and they know that our credit is probably in trouble. Admiral, I’ve told you that we needed to keep a ready reserve stock available so that we could build ships if needed very quickly and you have always said that the cost wouldn’t justify it. Admiral Shanelis always has five of his big ships and seven to ten frigates in the stocks at any given time. He has the admiralty do the same thing. That means that he can replace losses when they arise. I have stock for three new ships and that’s it. That didn’t matter when we weren’t losing ships to combat. Now that we are, it does.”

“Maybe we can persuade Admiral Shanelis to part with those ships.”

“Admiral Shanelis hates your guts, sir. Unless you have some means that I don’t know about, he’ll burn the ships rather than turn the timber over to you.”

“I will have to think about this. How are things going with the slaves that my nephew’s attorney wanted? How much is that indulgence costing me so far?”

“Nothing at all.”

“Why not?”

“The slaves have been sold to Teiran Yllanan for the estate. At least the slaves that I have been able to track down. I went looking for the biggest lots first and they were gone.”

“So young Teiran is buying them? He must have seen the list.”

“The letter we received was sealed by Lady Yllanan with the diplomatic seal that she now has. It was not opened until you opened it. If anybody had tried, the letter would have destroyed itself.”

“Was the seal genuine?”

“I had no way to check. In any case I would see if the princess can arrange a more direct means of communication than through a house full of royal fae.”

“Speaking of royal fae, where is young Aneirin?”

“The faery kingdom, presumably, going through his trials.”

“Convenient, that.”

The Admiral made a tent with his hands. “We cannot replace ships. If our ships go to sea, they will probably be sunk on sight. The council and Admiral Shanelis are opposed to us for the most part and will certainly hinder any attempts to revive the raiding, so we will not have any income from that. The trading ships are bringing in better goods than we were getting through raiding in any case and are more businesslike about it. Unlike the random plunder that we brought in, they can market to the demands of the people that they trade with. House Yllanan and House Travyre have both developed very good relations with trading families, if the trading families and the houses are not two sides of the same coin. Suppose the Shanelis start to take trading ships?”

“That is highly unlikely.”

“For Admiral Shanelis. For us, it is not and we have those four frigates that Ehlark was playing with. They are probably not in very good shape. Why don’t you get them careened and fixed up. I may have a use for them.”

Camus grinned. “I should have done that a long time ago. Sorry sir, it was just a low priority when Admiral Ehlark decided that they weren’t really big enough for profitable raiding.”

“You can’t be on top of everything, Camus and they were Ehlark’s ships and his responsibility. Why don’t you get started on that?”

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