Raiders From The Sea, Chapter 36.

Rolin asks his Great Captains to be cowards.

Chapter 36.

Eryding, Home Estate Of The Ravathyra

Rolin looked at his son, nephews and cousins who were all seated in the room. All of them were his Great Captains and had had numerous raids on the Republican coast. They were the tools that he had for his hands and he was expecting that some, if not most, would be dead after the current raid was conducted. If that was so, that was the price he had to pay. He turned to the covered map table and said, “Men, I know that your and your crews have been waiting for me to send you to revenge Paeris and Ehlark. I have been reluctant to do that, because the events surrounding Ehlark’s death made it clear that sending you all out blind was sending you to your deaths for no reason. Fortunately I have managed to collect enough intelligence to put together a plan that should succeed. It will be hard and I am going to ask a very hard, but necessary thing of you.”

“What is it, uncle?” Daylor asked.

“I am asking you to be cowards.”

The call went around the room, “What!”

“This is very important to the family and if you are not willing to accept that you may be called a coward for the rest of your lives, then you can leave and I will have your second in command replace you.”

None of the twelve left.

“All right, Very well. First of all, there will be a portal with a one time use on your ships. When you think that all is lost, you are to use the portal and return. The portals will be keyed to you and you only. You must also use crystals and get as many pictures of the enemy in action as you can. But the main thing is that you must return. I will need you to help with rebuilding.”

“We will be abandoning our ships and crews,” Taser said.

“Exactly. A massive act of cowardice. But it must be done.”

“What is the assignment?”

Rolin took the cover off the map table.

“We are recovering Paeris. Unfortunately, to accomplish that, we are going to have to expend the fleet. The fleet has become a liability that the family cannot afford in any case.”

“How will we deal with those underwater ships?”

Rolin put the picture of the submarine on the table. “We overwhelm it with numbers. These ships probably do not have a lot of the weapons that they use ready at any time and if we sortie the fleet, any ships watching Eryding will probably withdraw to report and shadow us. Once the fleet has departed Eryding, the core fleet of forty ships will disperse and rendezvous here, well South of the trader’s island and when you are gathered together, conduct a raid on the bowers and coastal towns.”

“We will probably be found before we get to the coast,” Daylor said.

“I’m counting on it. You will be a diversion that has to be addressed. Camus will have a dedicated brief for the core fleet Great Captains. Remember that your job is not to die gloriously. I want you back, if possible.

Ok, the second element of three squadrons will sortie to the hidden city and then sortie south toward the Leomaris trading post. If the opportunity arises, raid it and burn it to the ground. But the important thing is that you will be covering the most important element. Triandal, you are in the fire on this one. I will have your specific mission brief after the others leave.

Forest Hills Reserve, Beltian Republic.

The major watched as the last element of his rapidly marching troops went past, lugging the pieces of their howitzers in pairs, shadowed by the accompanying rifle squads and ammunition mules. As the last gun squad passed he turned to march behind them when the general showed up in a scout car. “Major, how is it going?”

“So far, so good. The boys can get the pieces up the hill without too much trouble now. We’re three days and fifty miles in and still in good shape.”

“Where is your horse?”
“I’m not using one, sir. That horse is one more animal that has to come across the beach and I can keep up just fine. If we had a good road I would use a bicycle, but here in the woods, I can march.”

“We’ll take you in the scout car up to the front. I want to see how you boys get the guns up the cliff.”

“Yes sir. I think that you will like what you see.”

“I hope so. I want fire and an anvil and your men and the first battalion can give that to me. Why don’t we go and talk with major Steelhead.”

The major got into the little car and the general said, ‘I want you to use one of these in the future.”

“On base and under most conditions, I do sir. But this is the battalion’s first time in action, it’s going to be under rough terrain and having extra baggage isn’t something we can afford. Major Steelhead is marching with his troops as well. Where we’re going I don’t want to get in the habitof relying on a vehicle where the gas supply might run out.”

“Major, you just resolved any doubts I had about you. I need people for this that have their heads screwed on tight. You aren’t doing this to “prove yourself to your men. You’re doing because you know that you will need to when the real show goes on.”

“General, don’t say that too loud. If the boys thought that I should have one of these GP’s up on the hill, they would cart it along, along with gas. I can get a GP after we take the town. I’m sure that there will be some undeserving officer, a general or something that won’t really need it and my boys will steal it for me.”

The general laughed. “So they are those kinds of troops?”

“Sir, these characters were brought up by the Ravathyra and my sergeants and quartmasters like being well equipped and the boys eat a lot. So yes, they are those kinds of troops.”

They reached the cliff where the troops had rigged ropes and pullies and were hauling the guns up the cliffs. The first batteries were already emplaced and covered in brush to hide them. When the officer’s reached the top of the cliff Major Steelhead saw them, saluted the general and said, “Cador, I saw the GP and thought that you had gone soft. General Ironaxe explains it.”

“Major, are you implying that I am soft?”

“Me? No Sir! I quite understand that when you reach a certain place in life, things sort of need help. I know that stars are very heavy and need to be hauled around.”

“How are things going, Morgan?”
“No real problems here. We managed to get up here and keep things covered. I hope that the Ravathyra don’t get wise and start putting sentries behind their city.”

“We’re not going to give them a reason to get wise until the hammer goes down.”

Empire House, The Port of Chatsrey, Beltian Republic.

Robin knocked on the door. There was growl that sounded like a very large cat and running feet coming to the door. Calladia’s voice said, “Now Tigger, you can’t growl at the visitors. I know that you don’t like the mailman very much, but the paperboy likes you and the milkman gives you cream, so get on now. The cat, or whatever it was, padded off and Calladia opened the door. “Robin! You have come a long way. What did you come for?”

“I came to see you. I think that it is time to see if we were serious and I have missed you more than a bit.”
“You say the nicest things. Unfortunately Marla found somebody to cook with and lives close to him now.”
“How did that happen?”
“The lady and her sister took us to a place they like and the cook, a goblin named Vikz came out and Marla and the character started to talk about seasoning. She started to work at the restaurant and bake pies for the restaurant and other places. She and Vikz are dating as well.”

“So we have to go to a restaurant and make it a date to get our pie? I have a taxi waiting and it is about lunch, so that sounds like a wonderful idea.”

“Let me tell Tomas that I am going.”

A yellow tiger striped cat came out the door and rubbed around Robin’s legs while Calladia retreated back into the house and returned. As they pulled away in the taxi, Robin said, “There was something strange about that cat.”
“Stranger than any other cat?”

“Perhaps not. Does she really not like the mailman, whoever he is?”

“She thinks that he is stealing when he comes and takes the mail. They have people here who deliver your letters to people. The system is fairly efficient but a lot of people complain about how slow it is. I wish that there were mail to the empire so that I could send things to Balladrial. The lady has a portal and I send some things, but the portal has its limits and we have to wait for a charge, sometimes for days. Also the lady has important things to send. So how are Peri and Flix doing?”

“Peri found a rather interesting young lady and Flix is working for his mother, who has taken over her father in law’s home to do battle with her father in law’s sister.”
“So Lavidia is battling the family viper. It was a good thing that Leilatha never came out to the Estate.”
“I am surprised that she hadn’t.”
“As long as the Lady was there, she couldn’t, and the Lord was careful to hide certain things. He never trusted Leilatha after the incident.”

“You were not there during the incident.”

“My grandfather was, and the story was passed down, about the faery girl who stole the Lord’s heart and jealousy and bitterness caused the sister to destroy that girl and her love. We all knew, even when we didn’t tell the lady.”

“So you know about fae and how bonds work. We need to see just what we have. What kind of place is this?”

“We are here and it is a goblin restaurant. We can go in the front with the snobs or the back with Marla and Vikz along with the rest of the kitchen staff.”
“Since it is lunch, the back, by all means. You certainly know my preferences by now.”

The taxi dropped then off, Robin paid the fare and they went toward a rather fancy building with a stuffy looking goblin who smiled as they approached. “Welcome Calladia! Who is this?”

“This is Robin, Ugziot. I think that he is sweet on me. Or he is chasing Marla’s pies.”
“That is a worthy chase. Have you come all the way from the faery kingdom for them?”
“Further. Robin knew me in the Empire.”

“Welcome to the Republic faer sir. I think that you will find it a remarkable place.”
“I have already, sir goblin. This place is a surprise.”

“You can’t say that until you try the cooking here. Calladia, you know the way all too well. Sir Robin, you should know that the fee for the back table is good company and better stories.”

Robin said as Calladia led them back through a hidden door and a narrow hallway, “I was a bit surprised at the staff here. Are they all goblins?”
“By no means. I doubt that Vikz could find enough to handle all the jobs and the jobs turn over as people do other things.”

They emerged into the large kitchen with various workers preparing meal under the supervision of a rather stern faced goblin as Robin spotted Marla preparing several pies for baking. The ovens did not seem to be fueled by wood as there were no stacks of wood or coal for that matter, anywhere. The goblin’s face got a lot less stern as Calladia entered and smiled as Robin followed her. “Lady Calladia, you brought your man to our little circle at last. Where were you hiding him?”

“He came down from the empire to find me Vikz, if you can believe that.”

“That is a far journey indeed. So what tales can you tell us for our amusment, for that is the fee in my kitchen. Out front, you pay in coin, but here, it is good company, good food and good stories. Sit sir and tell us why you chased the fair lady so far.”

Robin sat with Calladia at the small table in a corner of the kitchen and told Calladia and Marla the stories of the goings on at the house, the Estate and the lower city. Calladia said, “So Jessamine found somebody right off the bat, next door. That is so wonderful. Was that part of Lavidia’s battle?”
“Not deliberately. The boy spotted Jessamine and arranged to run into her while Jessamine was shopping. Leilatha had had plans to tie the boy up for the Ravathyra and the boy ruined them. Leilatha blamed Lavidia, but the boy was chasing Jessamine before Lavidia really knew who he was and Jessamine wasted no time reciprocating.”

Vikz Grinned as he passed with a tray of something heading to the oven. “So the enemy is the Ravathyra. At least if they are beaten at home they will no longer pester us here.”

“Rolin Zylvyre did something truly stupid. He tried to buy Richard Harper from his wife.”

“Richard is married? His mother is a frequent customer with her husband and speaks about Richard being a slave and in the empire frequently. I thought that Barrister Ironaxe was bringing him back.”

“That was what set Rolin off. He delegated the slave purchase to his man Camus, who delegated to an agent who really didn’t understand who Richard really was. Richard is the defacto husband of Rosaniya Qinvrais. He also runs the farms that feed the capital and supply people like Rolin Zylvyre. Rosaniya’s man turned down Camus’s man flat, for the obvious reason that attempting to sell your boss can get you in trouble and when Camus sent his bullyboys out, Rosaniya quietly said that Rolin and his entire family were cut off until he apologized. Of course Richard was one of several of such arrangements, all of which were people that Rolin needed at least a semblance of cooperation with. Rolin apologized almost immediately.”

“Richard didn’t destroy the Ravathyra?”

“Richard doesn’t do things that way. He is running a business, not fighting a war and by and large knows that if he were to flex his muscle like that, it could lead to trouble. Rolin backed down, admitted that he was an idiot and made a mistake and that was the end of it, as far as Richard was concerned. Now if Rolin’s people had actually gone after Richard’s daughters, then Rolin would have been crushed.”

Lunch was more tale telling and good company all around and when it was over, Robin waved for another taxi and he and Calladia went to the Marshall’s headquarters. Calladia asked, “Why are we going here?”
“I brought you here because this is where we discover if something is real or not. I have been sensing this for a long time, but in all the fae noise at the estate, it was hard to tell. We can test your potential here in the grove at the station.”

Robin led Calladia into the building and past the desk and working people to the hall in the back. Waiting there was a fae woman who said, “Calladia, I will be your tester today. You don’t have to worry, you will not be injured in the test. Nor will you be expected to do anything dangerous like eat faery food unless I have determined that it is safe. I have conducted many of these tests and haven’t lost anybody yet.”

“This doesn’t seem very fae.”
The woman laughed.

“In the faery kingdoms they indulge themselves and hide things in mystery and mischief. But this is a Marshall’s station in the Republic and we like to be a bit more professional about such things. I am Miriam, by the way. Now why don’t we start?”

The woman led Calladia to a room and said, “Take off your clothes.”

“Why?”

“First of all, I want to give you a medical exam. Before I joined with my husband and became fae, I was a doctor here in the Republic and I like to give exams before and after these tests. Second, clothes can become a nuisance in parts of the test if your potential tests high. There will be no one other than us in any case until the test is over.”

Calladia took her dress and other clothes off as the woman wanted. The woman poked and prodded a bit and wrote some things down. When she was done, she said, “Excellent. You are in good health for thirty.”

“You won’t tell Robin how old I am, will you?”

“That will not matter, one way or another. If you test for a high enough potential, he and you will bond and you will be as fae as he is. If not, you will always be friends. I suspect that you will bond. Do you have any fae relatives?”

“That is hard to say. Before we were sold to the lady, there was an aunt who was more than a bit strange, but I have not seen her for a very long time.”

“Now that we are ready, shall we begin?”

The lady drew Calladia out into a wooded grove surrounded by a garden that kept most of the surrounding city outside. When they reached a circular space in the grove, Calladia’s skin began to tingle. She felt a warmth in the grove and started to feel better and lighter. Everything around her seemed to glow and new colors appeared. She could sense all the things around you. Suddenly Calladia felt as if she could go anywhere she wanted and was tempted to try to go to the house and back, but there didn’t seem to be the energy right now to do that. She also felt that the land beneath the city had been scourged a long time ago, but was recovering slowly. Then everything seemed to return to normal and Miriam smiled and handed her a round white pea, something that Calladia hadn’t seen in a long time since she had eaten them at her aunt’s place. She took it and the pea was as spicy and tasty as she remembered. She turned to Miriam and said, “Did you make these?”

“No. These are testing food. Have you had them before?”

“My aunt had a bowl out once at her cottage and I ate some. For some reason, mother was very angry at aunt about that. There were never any more and I have been hoping to figure out how to make them like this ever since.”

“Your mother was probably worried that they were faery food and poison, which they very well could have been. Is your mother still alive?”
“Yes, but she stayed in the empire on my family’s farm with my father and brothers. They have families and I did not, since nobody felt right.”
“You must tell the rest of your family to get tested, if that has not been done already. Needless to say, you tested well. Let’s take another exam and see how well. You can come back here for training. Unfortunately, being fae here in the blasted lands is not like the fae in the faery kingdoms. On the other hand, learning to use your abilities is not so overwhelming. The Marshalls drop young fae here so that they learn to operate outside their abilities and use them more frugally. That is one reason that there is a Marshall’s station here.”

The exam went quickly and Miriam said, “Robin will be very happy. The test went well and you seem to be responding to your potential already. You look ten years younger already. So, why don’t you get dressed again and we go out and tell Robin some good news.”

Robin and another fae were waiting as they emerged and Miriam handed one of the peas to Robin. “She did very well. I think that you will be happy together.”

Robin grinned. “I think that we will be as well. Calladia, this my old boss, Tomali Swiftfire. Tomali, you never told me that you had a lady. Where did you find her?”

“Would you believe Chatsrey General Hospital after I was battered up during a case? She patched me up and stuck with me for some reason.”

Miriam laughed. “This lug kept coming back needing to be patched up and I decided that if I didn’t go with him to the grove like he wanted me to, he might get seriously hurt. So I did and here we are.”
Robin chortled. “I’m glad that he found a keeper at last. You must know the city well. Where is a good place to take a lady?”

Miriam smiled. “I know some places and we can use a taxi, so why don’t we find out.”

 

 

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