I Lose, You Win. Raiders Of The Sea, Chapter 1

I entered Chapter 1 of Raiders Of The Sea in the Baen contest. Since I was a bit of an idiot, didn’t look at the stories that had won previously, and Chapter 1 was always part of a longer story,Chapter 1 didn’t win. So you win because I am posting it here. Enjoy.

Raiders from the sea
“Grandma Gwen, how did the Empire come to be? Why is where we live called the Blasted Lands?”
“That is part of the same story. Here is where it begins:
Long long ago a people called the elves. They were strong and through trade and strength they dominated all the lands around. They had the first mages, who performed wonderful and terrible feats of magic. It is said that they created the humans to work the fields, the dwarves to mine the ground, the orcs as an army, the fae as spies and messengers and the seafolk to guard the seas. In any case those peoples grew in the empire and the empire flourished. From time to time the peoples grew restive, but the Justiciars, with the comiitment to fair justice for all maintained order and provided just and fair settlements. Elven artisans produced tool and devises that made things like slavery extinct and with the portals, allowed people to golong distances in the blink of an eye.”
“That sounds magical. But that isn’t now.”
“No.like all things, the empire became old and greedy. Where before the empire had asked and traded, it now demanded the things that it wanted. The peoples depended less on the empire for their needs and more on each other. Finally, there was the mage wars.”
“How did they happen?”
“A thousand years ago there was a mage lady. She was the most beautiful elf and had elves up to the princes themselves attempting to arrange marriage. She spurned then all for a human man with whom she shared blood and had his children.”
“Like Aunt Nyla and Uncle Jacob?”
“Exactly like that, because the man was as capable in the arts of machinery, iron and steel as the mage was in her magic. It is said that their children made the empire shake during the mage wars.”
“How did the mage wars start?”
“There was an elven mage who had been rejected and jealous of the love that the pair had. He did the forbidden, raised an army of monsters by twisting mortals, gathered his friends and attacked the lady in her castle, not to far from here, actually.”
“Can we go and see the castle?”
“There is nothing left to see.”
“Did the lady die?”
“No, because her husband had discovered what the mage was doing and made preparation of his own. The battle was terrible and the lady lost most of her people and two of her sons in the battle. The lands were also drained of mana in a large area and indeed of all life, such was the devastation of the attack. Only the castle was left, along with some land that had been protected with the castle. The lady and her husband were sure that this had been only the first attack so they counter attacked across the sea, doing much of the same kinds of devastation because the mage used his people, draining them of life and sending inanimates and the undead against the orc, dwarf and human army of the husband. The husband’s prevailed, but the husband was killed attempting to rescue some of the mage’s people that the mage was going to turn into monsters. When the lady heard, she told her daughters to evacuate the area around the castle, drained all the mana and life, including her own and sent a massive magic attack at the mage. The mage was drained of his magic, but was able to portal to the empire. The sons pursued, but empire refused to give up the dark mage and in the end, the sons retreated to the little was left here in the blasted lands and with their sisters, tried to heal what they could and rebuild. They had families and children and their lives and faded and died after their lives of hard work.”
“What happened to the dark mage?”
“The empire forced him out after they discovered what the dark mage had done. But it was too late and the various kingdoms no longer paid homage to the empre and the empire shrank into itself. It is said that the dark mage, or his descendants are still plotting a revenge on the empire and the lady’s descendents here in the blasted lands.”
“Who are the lady’s descendants?”
“You are, all of you. If not in blood then in sprit. But that is a story for another day.”

Chapter 1
The Yllanan Estate.
The lady Gwaerengwen looked across the estate in the raising fog of the morning. The day was starting in this late spring like all the other springs that she had seen come and go, with the scent of the mulberry blossoms combining with scent of burning fires and fresh bread baking in the various ovens for the coming breakfast. Soon the leaf harvesters would be out to gather leaves to feed the caterpillars that made the cocoons upon which the plantation depended. The lady turned from the porch supported by the massive ancient trees that surrounded the elegant walls of the house. The trees were tall oaks that had been planted as saplings when the house was started and had, in the two centuries following, been trained and grown to make them part of the house in elven tradition. The growth was an expression of the elven virtues of order and maintaining a course through the long elven lives. The lady’s maid came out and said, “Milady Gwen, it is time to dress for the day.”
The lady grinned a bit and replied, “What if I do not want to dress for the day, Calladia?”
“We wouldn’t want that, milady. Think of what the weavers and the household will think if you disturb them like that. You, parading around in your night dress all day. What if the Lord would hear of it?”
“I doubt that he would care very much. Certainly he doesn’t care enough to visit the main source of his power and income, or his wife, more than once a time or so.”
“I wouldn’t know. He might not punish you, but we low elvens and mortals are property and I imagine that he would be annoyed at the household and want to make some examples.”
“He does have that problem. I think that we will bear with it and be proper for all that it matters. It is not as if my husband would ever take me to court.”
“Why would you want to go? Bally has been sent and the lords and ladies ignore the mortals, half elves and the rest who see everything that goes on there. He sends letters about what goes on. All the constant power chasing and the backbiting, philandering and petty slights, with mortals used for amusement and pawns in meaningless fights where the lords and ladies having the arguments do not risk themselves as they live in the cloud castles.”
“We should keep this discussion discreet. We want to avoid the prying eyes of the inquisition. Perhaps I should see what Bally is saying.”
“I will bring you the letters, milady. He is a good man and skilled. That is why he was sent to the court to make the cloth we weave into garments.”
“The family depends on the artisans that support it. My husband has forgotten that.”
“Esgalwathanar is also in thrall to the princess and much caught up in the current power struggle for the regency.”
“That is another problem with immortality. If something serious happens to the ruler, simple death will not end the problem. None of the contenders for the regency want to simply kill the emperor and potentially lose the power they have and thus the games go on.”
The maid finished dressing the lady in the fine silk layers that were the day dress of an elven lady. She was good enough that the usual cloud of attendants required to dress an elven lady in the appropriate garments were not necessary. Of course the lady and the generations of maids that had served her had their little secrets where the garments were concerned.
Once the lady was dressed, she emerged into her parlor where her breakfast was waiting, along with her head of household, Tomas. “Good morning, Tomas.”
“Good morning milady. I have the morning plan for the work.”
“Is there anything that I should be too concerned with?”
“Not particularly. The work on the cold room is continuing and it should be finished before the summer heat hits. We have an iron door that should be arriving from the traders soon.”
“I wonder where such wonderful ironwork comes from? Have the traders said.”
“They will not say, milady. It does not seem to be dwarven work. It cannot, of course, be elven work as elves cannot work iron. Yet there is a certain elven style to the work. In any case, we should have a stout door for the cold room when it arrives.”
“So, things are going well.”
“Other than the usual arguing, yes.”
“Hilly and Del again?”
Tomas grinned. “But of course, milady. Who else would it be?”
“Are they enjoying themselves? Is there any chance of fire this time?”
“I doubt it, at least no chance of explosions. Of course you know that the traders will be bringing new things for our two wizards to play with when they come.”
“As long as the court and the council doesn’t discover the heresy, we should be fine.”
“I doubt that our local Inquisitor would look past Marla’s pies and risk not having Marla’s pie the next time he comes.”
“True enough. Sometimes the smallest weaknesses are the strongest motivators and Illitia is not concerned that a pair of half elven wizards would delve deep into heresy here in the hinterlands.”
“I doubt that those two understand what the heresy is and why they probably shouldn’t be looking into certain things as far as the court is concerned. I will keep an eye on them.”
Tomas left and Calladia took the breakfast tray. As Calladia was leaving, Galassiel entered the parlor. “Mother, the traders are here!”
“Galassiel, why are you dressed like that?”
She was dressed in the practical light skirt, blouse and apron of one of the kitchen servants. Her daughter replied. “We are breeding the moths today. I didn’t want to get my clothes messy and this is far more comfortable.”
“And why are you involved in that task?”
“These are my moths. I’ve been working at a stronger silk and I think that I have it with these moths.”
“You could give your instructions to the moth tenders. You don’t need to do the work yourself.”
“Dan and Moke like that I help and learn. If I do it myself, I know how the breeding works and we get better silk faster.”
“Faster is not an Elven trait. We have time for things. What will your father think?”
“Father is never here. What he doesn’t know about won’t hurt him. In any case, the traders are here and I need to dress for them.”
At least her daughter had that much sense of propriety. She left again, leaving the lady to her musing. Tomas returned and said, “I suppose that your daughter has already told you that the traders are here.”
“Yes, dressed rather inappropriately for an Elven princess.”
“She’s been down in the breeding rooms this morning.”
“Where she is not supposed to be.”
“She’s fifty, too old for tutors and your husband has not arranged a marriage.”
“Actually, he has made quite a few arrangements and then dropped them. Or the men or the fathers did when they found out what they were getting into potentially. My husband thinks of his daughter as a political pawn more than anything else, because he barely knows her. Of course he is also upset that I did not produce a son to him, but that is his own fault, as he stayed away during my breeding time.”
“Does he know about your little fling and what happened?”
“I doubt it. As far as flings go, there is enough proof around here that my husband indulges himself rather frequently. The half elven population here on the plantation that has my husband’s looks is getting to be a bit obvious. To say nothing of the low elven ladies who he buys houses and provides staffs for at the boundaries. Yet, with his wife, it was the “one child rule” that the princess was pushing at the time, so one child it was. At least by me. Of course the child was an ‘inferior’ daughter and that meant that he would have to make arrangements with somebody else if he wanted an heir.”
“I wonder what happened to your son and his father. They left with the traders and we never heard of them again.”
“I miss the man. Edwin was everything that my husband is not, including being your predecessor.”
“You exchanging blood with him was a great asset to the estate and the family. It was a great tragedy that you had to send him away.”
“The princesses were on the warpath about blood purity and Esgalwathanar was toadying up to them and looking around for evidence that he could use to condemn me after my sister was exiled. An illegitimate son by a mortal would have been a perfect excuse to break our marriage and exile me as well.”
“I think that he thought that if he could get rid of you, he could arrange a marriage with one of the princesses. They are a bit younger than you are and without a sane father, they, and their mothers can use their bodies for power games.”
“Why do we not see how the traders are doing and greet them before my daughter does? Is there a reason why she is dressing up?”
“Other than the proprieties? There has been a young half elven man with the traders the last few times and I think that she wants to catch his eye somewhat.”
The lady laughed as the two left for the reception room. The lady sat in her chair and Tomas stood beside her as the trader’s captain entered. The lady smiled as the man bowed and said, “Welcome, Captain Gulien! What wonderful things do you bring us today?”
“Good morning milady. We have the door that Tomas has ordered and many other fine things as well as the usual necessities. We will set up as usual next to the pier. I hope that you will join us there.”
“My daughter certainly will. I will have to be somewhat discreet. Tomas will be there, certainly.”
“I look forward to you visiting when we are set up.”
The traders left the hall and Gwaerengwen turned to Tomas and said, “Did the captain seem nervous to you?”
“Perhaps a bit. We don’t know where they come from and here, some of the things traded could lead to consequences if they were caught by your husband, say. I don’t think that your husband knows just how much of the “heresy” comes through his own estate.”
“You are careful, Tomas. You always have been.”
“Edwin started that when the traders came because he didn’t trust them then. He started the back doors and the rest so that if the Inquisition went looking, none of the things could be tracked here.”
“Let us get the business of the day done so that we may look at the new things and make some deals.”

The city in the clouds.
Balladrial looked at the elven woman in front of him, wrapped in filmy silks that barely covered her. “You look marvelous, milady.”
The lady looked at the mirrors that almost surrounded her and said, “Yes I do. You have performed your magic as always.”
“There is no glamor in my art, milady. I only see the best and draw it out.”
“You do that so well.”
A man entered, wearing the tunic of a high inquisitor. “Eithriel, we should speak together.”
“Well then, speak, Delion.”
“Not here.”
“Why not? I am sure that there is nothing that we have to discuss that cannot be discussed here.”
“I may have a lead on the heresy.”
“What heresy?”
“The toys.”
“Are you still chasing those? They are harmless. They are just pieces of glass, silver and tin. Enchanting, I will grant, but hardly something that we high elves should concern ourselves with.”
“There is also the book.”
“A book? You don’t mean that little thing with the jokes in it?”
“That book uses things in dangerous ways and may get the young thinking in dangerous directions. Those alchemical powders that make noise, for instance.”
“A little noise doesn’t hurt anything. Very well, why don’t we meet for tea and you can lay out what you found.”
“Next tenday, perhaps.”
“I think that I want to meet earlier than that.”
“That is very unlike an elf. A true elf would have been willing to wait moons or years. Very well, I will indulge you and make the arrangements for the morrow. I am occupied today.”
“I will be at your convenience.” The inquisitor stalked out again.
The lady turned to the dressmaker, “Dear Balladrial, I think that we will not have the week to prepare for the dance like I had planned. A Justiciar’s time is not always their own and some people do not have a sense of timing or propriety.”
The half elf grinned “I suppose that chasing heresy and iniquity requires determination and assertiveness.”
“As well as looking at children’s toys and molesting poor bookmakers. I suppose that Delion could not get his latest bad poetry published again and found a book that he objected to. Will you be able to create your magic without me?”
“Certainly, milady. There are some little tricks that I use. I will do my best to resolve this little dilemma.”
“Since we are about done here for the day, I will change to something more suitable for the rest of the day and leave the gown with you.”
“Very well milady. My seamstresses will handle the disrobing.”
“You may stay, if you like.”
“I have been inspired by your beauty enough. If it is obvious that you are sharing certain things with me, my other clients may get jealous and some of them do not come up to your beauty.”
Balladrial waved to his mob of aides and seamstresses and left to wait for the gown, the seamstresses and hands who brought out the large boxes of fabric and the master dressmaker’s tools after the lady left on her errands. When they emerged, he led them to the transport portal and exited at the portal that was near his workshop. His wife was waiting at the entrance to the rather large, but simple building in the low city underneath the grand elven castles and towers on the mountainsides surrounding the plateau of the lower city. She looked at Balladrial and said, “She didn’t keep you for horizontal dancing?”
“Not this time. An inquisitor came and requested the lady’s attention.”
“Which one?”
“Lord High Delion.”
“Was he still chasing toys?”
“Yes. It is a good thing that the toys are brought in through routes that do not lead back to the estate.”
“I wonder why the lady allows that trade to go on?”
“I’m not sure, other than she likes to poke the lord a bit and this is a way to do that. I need to send a letter to my sister. Delion may be poking in directions that we may not want him to be looking. I would rather the Lord not start looking at home.”
“Why would he?”
“If Delion starts talking to him, the Lord may want to use that as an excuse to do what he has always wanted and exile the Lady.”
Balladrial went to his desk, pulled a piece of stationary and quickly in an invisible ink, wrote a summary of the events at Lady Eithriel’s castle. He then wrote a lengthy letter to his sister about the gown and other costumes that he was preparing for the coming dance, as well as a list of the silk patterns and colors that he was using. He then put his sketches of the designs for the gowns and costumes and folded the entire packet into a heavy sheet of paper, tied the packet and sealed it. Then he rang a special bell on his desk. Shortly thereafter, a winged figure appeared in the doorway. “So what mischief can a Puck do for the fine Balladrial this fine evening?”
“Why would I be conducting mischief?”
“When are you not?”
“We wouldn’t want the inquisition to look too closely at certain things, Robin, would we?”
“Are they sniffing around again?”
“Delion was looking into the source of the book. He wanted to talk with the Jusiticiar about it tomorrow.”
“I presume you want some discreet ears on the conversation.”
“I wasn’t going to ask, but it may be of interest. In any case, I need a letter delivered to my sister.”
“I admit to a weakness for the pies at your sister’s home. An easy task well performed. As for the other, I will have a discussion with some rather silly girls about a certain stuffed shirt and making some mischief. In any case, I smell the pies already.”
With that, the figure disappeared again. Balladrial grinned at the empty space. The fae loved poking the powerful when they could get away with it. Like so many others in the empire they were constrained, but the high lords did not pay attention to how those constraints could be bent. Robin was going after Marla’s pies again, and just incidentally dropping the discreet letter off. A fae could indulge in the petty theft of a mortal or half elven, but would not think of robbing a high elf. Listen in on a conversation and telling it to other fae, who would tell the half elf would not be breaking the rules, just exchanging gossip. Balladrial hoped that things were not getting troublesome for the Lady. The High elves of the Lady’s quality were rare and high elves that cared about their communities even rarer these days.
The Yllanan Estate.
Calladia had not yet gone to bed when Robin appeared in her room. “Fine lady, your brother asked that I deliver this missive to you.”
Calladia took the rather large packet. “So Robin, you flew right over to deliver this?”
“Of course not. I heard a rumor that the mulberry pies were especially fine this eve and came to pillage a bit.”
“I think that the pantry can handle that. Why don’t we talk to Marla, find some pie and perhaps some cream.”
Robin’s grin grew. “I see that we were thinking in the same direction.”
“As we head to Marla and the pantry, why don’t you tell me what my brother is up to?”
“I can do that.”
As the pair went down the stairs, with Calladia holding a candle, Robin told the woman about her brother and the things he was making for the Justiciar and his other customers. When they reached the kitchen, Marla was presiding over setting the loaves for the next morning and saw both of them walk in. She frowned and said, “Calladia, are you aiding this pest, now?”
Robin laughed. “I do not need the lady’s aid to rob your fine pantry. She was just looking for some late night pie, as was I.”
Marla grinned a bit. “We might have some of that for a friendly fae.”
“I was very cooperative, wasn’t I, Calladia?”
“Very much so.”
With that, the cook went into the pantry and pulled out the pie and a pitcher of thick cream from the cold box. “We wouldn’t want this to go to the undeserving random fae that might be wandering by. Tell us, what has been happening in the capital.”
“In exchange for things that Calladia’s brother will want to know about the goings on here?”
“I think that is a fair exchange. There are some visitors that will need to be kept rather discreet.”
“The ship at the pier, perhaps. That is understandable, as Calladia’s brother had an encounter with a rather stuffy high elf today.”
Robin proceeded to tell the ladies about the meeting between the Inquisitor and the Justiciar. The ladies filled the fae in on the events at the estate and the various goings on of the Lady, her daughter and the rest. With the pie and the cream finished, Robin disappeared again and Calladia turned to Marla and said, “As long as we have your pies, we have a friend.”
“There is more to what he is doing than my pies. After all, he doesn’t take what we don’t give him. It is time for bed.”
“So it is.”
SS Melodic.
The captain stood on the bridge wing looking as the boats were launched using the derrick in the moonlit darkness. The men on the boats brought them along side and the waiting men filled the boats. The two motor launches started to tow their charges out in the darkness. The chief came out onto the bridge and said, “Captain, I think that you should get some sleep. It’s going to be a big day tomorrow.”
“What if it all goes wrong?”
“We have done what we could. We’ve been putting this together for a long time now. We need you up and thinking tomorrow, so you need to sleep.”
The captain took the chief’s advice and went to his cabin. Tomorrow was the big day.
The Yllanan Estate.
The lady woke to strange popping noises outside. She rushed to the porch to see a nightmare. The court had strange men in strange clothes who had seemingly taken over. Other men were starting to herd the mortals to boats. In the bay was the largest ship that she had ever seen, as large as an elven castle, seemingly without sails as it slowed and dropped the huge anchor, missing the seafolk bower by a wide margin. Small boats were launched off the ship and headed toward the pier. Calladia came in and cried, “Milady Gwen, we must go!”
“What is going on?”
“I don’t know! Some kind of heretic raid. Strange mortals and I don’t know what with strange weapons.”
“Where are the guards. They should not have been defeated so easily.”
“Dead, perhaps.”
Tomas came in and said, “Milady we must go. Perhaps we can make it to the portal.”
“Calladia, dress me. I think that we must greet our guests in proper style.”
Tomas looked rather aghast. “Milady are you mad?”
“Not at all. Whoever these people are, this is not some simple raid. That ship out there says that somebody wants us fairly badly. These are not just pirates or seafolk raiders. We don’t know where these people came from, but they knew us. In any case, if we don’t talk with them, the empire will never know what this threat represents.”
“Very well. Calladia, dress the lady, but have her wear close riding garments underneath and I will have some of our half elven mages in attendance. At least we can get some use out of Esgalwathanar’s by blows and hangers on.”
“I suppose that it is time that those boys and girls did something useful. Let me get dressed. Where is my daughter?”
“I don’t know. Off someplace and not here, I hope.”
Tomas left and Calladia and the lady dressed the lady as Tomas had recommended and then the pair went to the receiving room. Calladia went to get breakfast and as she returned a rather weather beaten man followed her into the room. He looked at the assembled half elven and turned to the lady. The lady looked a bit more closely, gasped and said, “Radhron?”
“Hello mother.”
“Why are you here?”
“Other than to raid and pillage this place, you mean? I thought that I would offer you and the rest of the family here a way out of your trap.”
“By making everything disappear. That should annoy stepfather greatly.”
“He will come after you.”
“I suspect that he will. In fact, I am counting on it. In any case, you, my sister and the rest are going with me. Why don’t you come along?”
Gwen wondered why the various by blows were just standing there, smiling. She looked at them and said rather angrily, “Why aren’t you defending this place?”
Pieran answered, “Why should we? Father just used our mothers as toys and then when we came along, sent his embarrassments here, so that we would be away. We all are skilled and capable, and because father sees us as nothing, we are nothing. When the traders offered us a way out, we all decided to go, with a couple of exceptions who are running to the portal and father as we speak.”
The lady turned to her son, “You let them betray you?”
Radhron laughed. “Yes. After this embarrassment, stepfather is going to need allies that he can trust, including some rather illegitimate children who told him that his wealth had been stolen. Why don’t we get you to your cabin so that the men can start on this place? We have a rather tight time budget and I want the library before we burn the place.”
The lady followed her son to a boat in a state of shock as they were joined by other members of the estate, being herded by the traders, the half elven and the strange men. Radhron handed his mother to a man and said, “Chief, get my mother aboard, will you? I need to stay here and make sure that no more problems kick up.”
Calladia caught up with them and said, “Lady, I have the clothes and everything ready to go, so don’t you fret. Just think of this as a voyage.”
“You knew about this?”
“No, but I trust your son and his father. I doubt that Edwin would allow his son to be the kind of man that would commit horrors, unlike your husband. I’m tired of living under the constant threat of one horror or another.”
Calladia pushed as the chief pulled and the pair of them managed to get the lady aboard the boat and the boat pushed off the beach and moved somehow without sails or oars to the huge ship where a gangway was hung over the side and waiting seamen helped the various ladies and others aboard and pushed them up the steps so that the next load could board. At the top of the gangway was another man with a board with a list and a couple of boys, who escorted the lady to their cabin. The lady went across the cabin to the other door and looked out at the estate as the pillage went on like clockwork. Calladia joined her and suddenly Robin appeared. “It looks as if I will have to travel farther for my pies.”
Gwen looked at the fae and laughed. “I suspect that you will, that is if you can find Marla and the pies.”
“I have my ways.”
“So you know where we are going?”
“I am not going to say, since I don’t want to spoil the surprises coming. I must be going. There is an elven lord about to get an embarrassment and I don’t want to miss it.”
He disappeared again.
Yllanan House, The city in the clouds.
The two half elves made it to the portal and Transferred to the central portal since the city did not have them listed. It took a twentieth of dealing with some rather skeptical high guards, a sergeant and finally a Justiciar who was willing to escort them to their father’s castle. The major domo was even more skeptical and since Esgalwathanar was entertaining, forced the three to wait for several more twentieths. Finally Esgalwathanar came into the small receiving room and rather angrily said, “Who are you and why are you here, wasting my time?”
“I’m Deiran and this is Teiran, father. We are here because the Estate is being raided.”
“By who? Which faction would be so bold?”
“We don’t know anything about any factions. These people had strange weapons and a huge ship.”
“Pelron hasn’t reported anything.”
“We didn’t see Pelron before we came here to tell you what happened.”
“How many raiders? Were they mortal or elven?”
“About fifty or so. Mortal, apparently. It was hard to tell. They didn’t seem to use magic.”
“And you all could not defeat them?”
“Their weapons were deadly and they seemed to have some sort of way of suppressing most magic. They finished the guards very quickly. All the rest were herded up.”
“Let me go and talk with somebody and have some horses prepared. You two will come back with me. If this is some sort of trickery, you will be punished, severely and so will your mothers.”
Esgalwathanar left the room and shortly afterward the major domo returned and said, “The Master requires your presence in the courtyard.”
The three followed the major domo to the courtyard where the elven lord and twenty high guard were preparing horses. The lord turned to the Justiciar and said, “Justiciar, may I have your services?”
“Very much so. This may be an interesting case. The Justiciars have not had to deal with a pirate raid or foreign invasion in two centuries. I would not have stayed with the two young men if this had not intrigued me.”
“Then let’s get to the portal and ride!”
The Yllanan Estate.
Captain Radhron looked at his watch, turned to Pieron and the chief and said, “I expected that stepfather would be slow off the mark, but this is ridiculous. I hope that Pelron doesn’t get here first and mess things up. Chief, you leave me the last boat and the squad. You take the rest and get aboard. If Pelron does show up, get his attention and have him attack the ship, rather than the estate.”
Pieron frowned. “Why do you want Pelron to attack the ship?”
“There are reasons, as you will see. Pelron is under restraints and we have ways to deal with that. If he comes here, that will get messed up and I owe him and his family. Chief, tell the first lieutenant to be ready.”
The chief turned to Pieron and said, “Let’s get going. The captain knows what he is doing. Unlike your father, who is about to find out that he’s made a big mess of things.”
The two took the men that had been doing the final setup and clean up, boarded the boat and headed for the ship. The trader’s vessel pulled its moorings, left the pier and a boat dragged it out into the harbor until the sails were set. The boat’s crew boarded and the boat was hauled aboard as the ship tacked its way out of the bay. The captain stood next to the waiting boat, looked at his watch again and shook his head.
The riders emerged from the portal and the enhanced horses headed down the road toward the estate. Suddenly the road ahead was covered in strange wire with pointed barbs and more triangular pointed barbs in the road. The riders were forced to dismount and clear the obstacles. As they were finishing, a projection appeared. “Hello, stepfather. Since you have come this far, I think that you should enjoy the show. I think that this is good bye.”
The man pushed a lever on a wooden box, picked up the box and the projection disappeared. The party mounted again and charged toward the estate. As they passed the gate, the houses nearest the gate went up in flames, followed by everything else in sequence, burning or exploding and then burning as the fires spread across the main house and the mulberry plantation. The Elven lord stared as the source of his wealth and power burned around him. There was a roar overhead as a dragon flew over and headed toward the monster ship that was still there in the bay.
SS Melodic.
The lady looked up as the call from above went out, “Dragon Ahoy! Two points North!”
Her heart went into her throat as she watched Pelron start to charge the ship. A crew took the covers off some sort of strange devices and attached canvas belts filled with large brass cylinders. Across the water, the lady could see the captain and the last squad heading to the ship as the chief seemed to waiting with a boat. Pelron roared and started to stoop on the ship. Suddenly the two devices made a loud pom pom pom noise and Pelron fell to the water. Both the boats raced to the fallen dragon and the chief pulled the body that had released its Change aboard and the boat raced to the gangway. Pelron was brought quickly up the gangway where there was an obvious healer and mage waiting. Her son followed the rest up the gangway as the boats and then the gangway were brought aboard and the anchor started to be pulled up. The chain rose as the ship started to pick up speed, heading out of the bay and away. There was a scream and a charge like lightning hit the side of the ship, but the ship was unharmed. The anchor was stowed and the crew started to cover the hatches with canvas and batten them in the growing darkness as the ship sped on its way, leaving fire and chaos behind it.
The Yllanan Estate.
The exhausted and defeated Esgalwathanar looked at the ship as it vanished into the gloom. He heard a clapping noise and looked around, but didn’t see anybody. A voice called out, “This was very well done, very well done indeed. This will have to go into the 1ore as a great mischief. Justiciar, we will have to talk about this amazing thing when you are able to separate yourself. I think that you should take the lord here back to his home in the city. I hope that he has savings or another source of revenue.”
The Justiciar looked around a bit for the invisible fae. “I think that you are right, Goodman. You can find me later and we can discuss these intriguing events.”
“Do you have a cook that makes a good pie?”
“That I do, Goodman. Until we meet again then. Milord there is nothing that we can do here. Let us get you to your home and these others to their rest. I will bring some investigators to go over this place.”
The lord looked at the Justiciar. “I am ruined.”
“I know that things look bleak now. But things may look a bit different in the morning and you have your fine sons here to help you rebuild and time to do that.”
The Justiciar managed to get the various people back to the portal and the elven lord to his home and in the care of his servants. He turned to the two Half Elves and said, “So what will you do now?”
They grinned. “Start over. We’ll build a shack at the estate, there were probably some trees that escaped and some worms around. There are weavers here in the city and we know some of them.”
“Keep your father alive, if you can. If he were to have a sudden accident or suicide, the political balance will be shifted. At least we can declare his ex wife a heretic.”
“There was a lot of heresy there, wasn’t there?”
“You boys wouldn’t know more than that?”
“We aren’t going to say. It all went up in flames anyway.”
Not being an inquisitor, the Justiciar did not press. He returned to his home to write the report for the chief Justiciar and the regency council.
The lower city.
Balladrial was working in his workshop in the bright morning when Robin suddenly appeared. “It may be a while before I deliver a letter to your sister.”
“How so?”
“You sister and her mistress went on a long sea voyage yesterday.”
Balladrial grinned. “This is the first that I have heard about the Mistress going on a sea voyage. I doubt that the lord would be pleased.”
“He wasn’t, especially as the Lady’s son burned the estate down after clearing the place out of everybody and everything. I hope that you have a good stock of fabric and a potential alternate for a while.”
“I do, but that may still cause me some difficulties as going outside the family for supply may create issues. The lord will not like it.”
“The lord has seen disaster in the face. I doubt that he is going to be complaining about anything very much. His two sons will probably be handling business matters all too soon.”
“Which ones?”
“Deiran and Teiran. They seemed to be capable and ready to get to work as soon as they could.”
“What about the others?”
“Off with their half brother to make their mark on the world, the lot of them.”
Balladrial grin became larger. “I have some capital that can go toward the rebuilding. Perhaps I should talk to the young men about a partnership. What about the other matter?”
Robin handed over some pieces of paper. “It looks as if Delion was starting to sniff around the estate looking for the traders. He was trying to convince the Justiciar to issue a license that would allow the inquisition to investigate the estate. I think that he was looking for an overseas contact.”
“Then it is a good thing that things shut down at the Estate. How did Radhron pull it off, finally?”
“He found a huge ship someplace, took everything even remotely portable and everybody with the exception of the two boys and loaded it all aboard. The boys ran off to tell papa, who couldn’t be bothered to talk to them for several twentieths. Radhron actually had to wait for them to show up.”
“How many people did he lose?”
“Ten, I think. The family lost five guards. Radhron managed to put the rest asleep until they were on the ship.”
“So Radhron lost fewer than he figured that he would. How did things go?”
“It will go into fae lore as a great mischief. There would be fae ladies looking to attach themselves to him, if he didn’t already have a seafolk wife. The explosions and fires burning everything down as the lord watched it all, was a masterpiece of true artistry.”
“It will cause turmoil and confusion here in the capital.”
“I know. Great, isn’t it? The high lords will not know which way to jump, the inquisitors will be even more vigilant, looking for heresy, the heresy that will be happening right under their noses. The plantations and estates will be looking more toward their overseas trade and the lords will be afraid that the same thing will happen to them and feel that they must spend more time on their estates watching over them in case the inquisition comes sniffing around.”
“What about the place where Radhron found that ship?”
“I won’t say very much about that place.”
“Not even for Milidia’s cookies?”
“Now that is unfair! Your wife is a true artisan when she makes cookies.”
“She has a batch in the oven right now and it’s lunch time, so why don’t we go to the dining hall and have some lunch and cookies.”
“Bribing me will not work. I think that you will be hearing more about that place from your sister all too soon.”
“So do I. Frankly, the idea of being in the middle of the kinds of heresy that we have been getting glimpses of is more than a little scary. I’m not sure what I would do if I found something that I had to have and the inquisition took it away.”
“I suspect that the inquisition is going to be having difficulties all too soon. If that ship is any indication, the prohibitions and the inquisition are going to be under severe strain all too soon as certain people start to realize just how much trouble they have made for themselves.”
“Still, the habits of old stay with people and we have some very old people indeed.”
The pair joined the rest of the family and workers for lunch where Balladrial’s three children plied Robin with cookies in exchange for stories. Balladrial laughed and said, “I think that you have corrupted my children, Robin.”
“ME! What about them! They are the ones plying me with these excellent cookies.”
SS Melodic.
The lady awoke as the entire ship was shaking. She grabbed a robe and headed to the bridge where a rather bulky man was talking with her son. “Captain, I donna know how much longer I can give you twenty three knots. She’s shaking up already.”
“We didn’t exactly buy this ship new and I suspected that the line had a reason that they wanted to part with her. I haven’t checked, but I’m almost sure that the starboard shaft is sprung. It’s shaken the bearings loose a bit and that allows the shaft to vibrate.”
“Can’t you fix it?”
“By taking the starboard engine out, aye, I can get at the bearings and tighten them again. Long term, we’re going to have to have the shaft out and turned true again. That means a good month in the dock. I should have checked for that, but you were concerned about your mother and the clowns sniffing around, I didn’t have the time to do a thorough going over and we’ve never run the ship above twenty knots before.”
“Will it hold for another six twentieths or so?”
“I can give you that, probably. I’ll go down and nursemaid the shaft. I think that your fine mother wants to talk with you.”
The man left and the captain turned to his mother. “So mother, what brings you to the bridge in your nightgown?”
“The matter you were just discussing. Who was that man?”
“The ship’s engineer, Strom Ironshield.”
“He didn’t seem to be dwarvish. An engineer must be some heretical thing.”
“I will let him tell his story. It has its good and bad. Did you find out what you wanted?”
“I wanted to know if there was any danger. Apparently not.”
“Then I would like you to return to Calladia and have her and you dress for a bit of a ceremony.”
“A ceremony for what?”
“We are giving ten good men to the sea this morning and the guards from the house are adding theirs as well. I wish that we had not lost the men, on either side, but that is the way things go in these things. They were all good men and doing their jobs as best they could.”
“Very well. When is the ceremony?”
“In two twentieths. Have some breakfast and dress. I have things to attend to, mother. We can speak in the afternoon.”
With that dismissal the lady returned to her cabin. The shaking continued and the lady almost thought that she could hear exotic cursing in about four different languages all through the ship. As she entered the cabin, Calladia said, “I think that we should have breakfast and get you dressed for the ceremony this morning.”
“You knew about that?”
“One of the boys told me. The captain wants you there.”
“I know. I discussed that with him, as well as the shaking.”
“Is it being resolved?”
“There is a man working on it. He seemed competent.”
“In any case, we must get you ready.”
Breakfast came and Calladia was her usual self. A boy came to collect them and took them to the main deck where the captain, resplendent in a white uniform and hat, spoke about the men and their sacrifice and then about the guards and how he was sad about the way it had ended for them. The druid from the estate gave a eulogy for the guards and the bodies were consigned to the sea, one by one as men with strange weapons fired a salute and the ship’s officers saluted the fallen comrades. When the ceremony was over, the captain said, “Come mother, why don’t we have some luncheon and then I will show you the ship, with some parts excluded.”
“Why would you exclude some parts of the ship?”
“Because they are dirty, oily and full of curses right now. Our engineer will be hard to deal with until we reach our intermediate destination. Why don’t we start with me introducing my two sons here, Neres and Aenon.”
“Those are seafolk names.”
“Yes they are, but that can wait a bit.”
“Where is your lady?”
“She will be joining us soon. She was below during the events of yesterday, and on the other ship with my sister.”
“I wondered where Galassiel had gone to. I was going to ask you where she was.”
“There is a young man that she is chasing. She wants him to catch her. I don’t think that she understands that she will be going for a long swim.”
Gwen laughed, “The boy is not only a half elf, but seafolk as well. That will enrage Esgalwathanar. He was looking for an arrangement for an appropriate heir and a political pawn.”
“Yes, I know. He took his time about it. The young man noticed my half sister several voyages ago and wants her to meet his parents. I think that you will like them.”
“Are they relatives?”
“I don’t think that I will say right now as my wife would be rather annoyed at me if we spoil certain things.”
“I can’t wait to meet her.”
“I think that you will like her. I may be in trouble, though.”
“Where is Edwin? I’m surprised that he is not involved in your little act of piracy”
“Busy and he is involved. So is my stepmother, but that is a story that will have to wait until we arrive at our final destination.”
As the conversation continued, they arrived at a dining room with long tables and food setup at one end. The lady and the captain took plates and filled them up. Gwen turned to her son and said with a smile, “This is a pirate ship. No staff to serve.”
“We are short of staff on this voyage because we needed the bunks for the land teams. When the ship returns to its regular run, all will be as you might expect. Indeed the ship is known for the service.”
“Not for the vibration?”
“The former owners did not tell us about that and the ship was never run at full speed for very long on its old routes. We were not running it at full speed either and didn’t have time to run the tests that Strom wanted. We could see things crashing down on you and the rest.”
“It felt that way all too often.”
“Robin can tell you. The inquisition was talking to my stepfather. They were looking for things coming in from overseas and the silk was an obvious thing of value that would sell overseas.”
Yllanan House, The city in the clouds.
Esgalwathanar looked at his Major Domo. “How bad is it?”
“Not as bad as it could have been. We have an interest in several makers of gowns and other clothing and some other manufactures.”
“What kind of manufactures?”
“Light metal and glass working, toys and whatnot. We also have the lease on a bookmaker’s shop.”
Esgalwathanar bowed his head. That Inquisitor making approaches made sense now. Somehow somebody in the household had set up the heresy that the inquisitor had been looking for. The problem was that he needed the heresy now. This was going to take some careful dance steps and manipulation of his connections. Fortunately he had a new asset that he hadn’t considered before. He should have paid attention to his half elven and other illegitimate children a long time ago. In any case, the lord knew one thing. Somebody was going to pay for the insult that they done to him. At least he was going to make it look as if he was making somebody pay for the insult. There were opportunities here and they should not be wasted. He wasn’t sure what his stepson and sons were up to, yet, but they had shaken things up and caused quite a bit of turmoil, turmoil that he could use to his advantage.

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