Cloud arrives at the island.
Cloud was towed into the lagoon by the tug that had been stationed at the island. On the rail were twenty happy former slaves looking for a glimpse of home and laughing that the antics of the girls dancing out of the water. Cloud was towed to the new pier, which she was sharing with a steamship unloading supplies for the navy.
Illianaro stood next to Captain Gulien at the quarterdeck gunwale and looked in amazement at the changes. The few short fivedays that he had been gone had wrought an almost complete change of the island. The trading post and depot were still there with another large shed added. In addition to the trading post, there were metal buildings, more sheds, some large round towers made of steel and more buildings that Illianaro did not know the function of. There was a tall steel tower with some sort of mast on it. As he looked around, there was a roar and a boat with a pair of wings on it skipped across the lagoon and leapt into the air, rapidly climbing into the sky. Captain Gulien said, “Impressive, isn’t it?”
“Very. Why are they doing all this?”
“The Ravathyra have been raiding and pillaging the blasted lands and helpless people for a long time. Now that they are no longer helpless, they are making a statement that they are not going to allow themselves to be raided any more without the other side getting hurt, badly. Putting a station out here gives the Republic the ability to maintain eyeballs right where the Ravathyra live.”
“These changes all must have happened very quickly.”
“Forty years ago, a ship like this one was the most modern thing in the Republic. Some of them had steam engines, but they were auxiliaries or consumed too much coal. Then over the last forty years, people developed new ways to build steel hulls and better, much better steam engines and then engines that use exploding gases like the one on that airplane. That gives the navy almost the power that mages give the Ravathyra and more in some ways.”
“So they are willing to change how they do things very fast.”
“I think that I have said enough. You will learn for yourself anyway. I did.”
“How did you become involved in this?”
“I tried to pirate one of Edwin’s ships.”
“You were a pirate?”
“I was going after the trading vessels because at the time they were Ravathyra and my family’s bower must have been in a place they found inconvenient as Ehlark Zylvyre sent his boss mage and pet sharks to get at us. We thought that we were protected, but that turned out to be wrong. We had the bower in a lagoon like this one, but bigger and wonderful gardens. The mage blasted a channel and the sharks hit us and when they left when things were pretty much wrecked. At the time, all we knew was that other side had ships. So after a while, I and some buddies Swam out looking for other bowers and recruited. We found a man who had been wrecked and dragged under and he told us how things worked and how we could plunder ships and use the plunder to buy ships of our own and use those ships to go places and hit the people that had hit our bower and some others we found. We got to be pretty good at hitting ships and we didn’t care who they belonged to, at least if they were Imperial or near the Empire. We were trading with people in the blasted lands by that point and it was good business to not hit the ships that were coming out to the island to buy what we plundered. Then we hit Swallow.”
“Swallow was one of Edwin’s ships?”
“Still is. My son has her now. She’s a sweet little brig. But she has teeth and blew us out of the water. Then Radhron came and made us a deal. We allow passage of Edwin’s ships and he would hire us as crew and help our bowers. The kings of the three bowers that we had got together and made the deal. I started to crew Swallow as a mate and then captain for five years until Edwin offered me Cloud.”
Aegaea called from the water, “Dear, before you get too involved in things, get wet with me for a bit. I just met some interesting people. Captain Gulien, your wife is looking for you as soon as you get things secured.
Captain Gulien turned to Illianaro and said, “I think that you should get wet. I don’t know about your wife, but when my wife is like that, not doing what she wants is trouble. If the navy people show up, I’ll cover for you. At least until I need to be wet as well.”