Raiders From The Sea, Chapter 40

“My dad doesn’t like the Ravathyra very much because of what they did to mom and ever since, where the Zylvyres are concerned, playing nice just doesn’t enter into it.”

Chapter 40.

The Fortress, Cleadgate, Beltian Republic.

Paeris Zylvyre walked the path that he followed for his daily exercise. Since he was not a reader, he was left to take the walks that the Republic allowed even the worst prisoners in some attempt to mitigate the boredom. Paeris looked out across the harbor and the two ships that had been moored had not returned. That Shanelis captain had called the liner a monster. Compared to the two ships that had apparently been in the process of being completed, the liner had been a harmless rabbit. There were also some other ships missing, but that was not unusual. Paeris reached the end of his walk and his guard, who had the rather unlikely name of Ehvark Strombringer. The surprising thing was that he looked neither orc not dwarf. Paeris said to his guard, “How come I just have one guard on these things? Suppose I were to jump that wall over there?”

“Then you would have a sharp drop and end up on some rocks with a broken head, more than likely. Then Roland up there in the tower would shoot you again in the other leg and wouldn’t that be a pain. Miriam would be annoyed at us both.”

Paeris grimaced. His leg had still not fully healed and the fae doctor had said that she didn’t have the mana supplies to fully heal the leg. “And if I made it and escaped?”

“Then you become Miriam’s husband’s problem. The longest anybody has run from him is a week and that character was as sneaky as they come.”

“What happened to him?”

“He served his sentence, five years, and then went to work, up in the faery kingdoms, training young Marshalls. Some fae girl nabbed him while he was in prison, still.”

“If my family were to break me out?”

“Then the Marshalls would have a much bigger job and so would the lady, writing all those extradition writs. I imagine that the Regency Council will not be happy with that. So just accept the inevitable. You should talk with the admiral’s people. At least that would give you something to do?”

Paeris thought about that as he was returned to his cell. Not that he was going to talk with the spies. There were family secrets and his father had pounded it into him a century ago that speaking about those things to anyone was forbidden.

SFS Kestrel

Admiral Jonik Shanelis was frustrated. He had been looking for almost a moon and there was no sign of the false Shaneli’s or their prize. It was if they vanished. Garrik had taken his squadron back to Erridelle for replenishment as neither squadron had gone to sea with full supplies of water and food. Garrik was going to return in a five dayor so and then Jonik would have his turn. He had food and water for three five days at this point, but that would go quickly in a long chase. He looke out over the empty sea and then turned as his flag lieutenant came toward him from the ship’s portal. “Sir, a message from the Admiral.”

Joseph handed him the message. He unsealed it and said, “Rolin has either gone crazy, or is up to something. He just sortied his entire fleet.”

“What about our characters?”

“I think that they will show up.”

Jonik had just finished saying that when the lookout called out, “Sail Ho!”

“Ravathyra?”

“They look like ours, with a brig!”

Jonik turned to his flag lieutenant and said, tell the captain to send signal to squadron “Keep ships in sight, but do not close. Then tell the captain to set a parallel course. Send a message to the Admiral that we have spotted the false ships.”

“Aye aye, sir!”

RFS Wolverine

Great Captain Eamon Petris supposed that it wouldn’t have been asking too much to have been lucky and that the Shanelis squadron had not been in almost the right position to intercept them. But there they were. Fortunately that had been planned for. He turned to his lieutenant and said, “Signal the squadron to cast glamor and heave-to. We will let the Shanelis get away from us.”

“We could take them. We have strong mages and are on one end of their line.”

“They have the wind gage and more importantly, the mission is not to fight now if we can evade. Even if we defeat these ships and take some prizes, the Shanelis will know where we are. It’s not worth the risk. We disappear and let them get out of sight and then proceed.”

Shanelis House, Eribelle.

Richard looked at his wife and sighed a bit. “Rosaniya, why do I have to be here for this?”

“Imryll insisted and I want to be seen with you. So that is settled.”

“We’ve taken quite a parade through the portal.”

“That’s what you get for a big family. It’s a good thing that father had small carriages or we would be in sedan chairs. You like the admirals and I doubt that they will invite any boors to one of their parties. By the way, you and Aerendyl are not to conduct any business tonight, is that understood. You can leave the business where it is, this evening.”

Richard grinned. “Then why did you insist on so many flowers?”

“I like them and so do the girls. The fact that we have hothouses is irrelevant.”

“If you say so.”
“I do. You need to practice those words, sir. You are going to need them soon.”

Richard thought about that as the two carriages pulled up to the old fort that had become a rather elegant and stately mansion. A smiling George opened the door and Richard handed his wife out the door. They walked together up the stairs, followed by their rather elegant daughters and rather uncomfortable sons, who looked rather strange in their elven tunics and trousers. The elf at the door said, welcome, Lord and Lady Qinvaris.”

Richard growled a bit and quietly said, “Since when have I been Lord Qinvaris.”

“Since we signed the marriage agreement, dear. Didn’t you notice? You’ve been doing the job for over twenty years. The only reason that people don’t say milord to you is that you won’t let them. I’m not going to let you hide your true self anymore.”

They approached the main hall and in amongst the elegantly dressed crowd an elven woman in a dress that must have come from the Republic rushed out and said, “Richard! I have a bit of a bone to pick with you!”

“Mother?”

“Yes.”
“How did you get here?”

“Tom runs the navy. Getting a boat is easy if a certain son had taken the trouble to send a letter or some sort of message home.”

Richard turned to his wife and said, “You knew!”
“Imryll put it in the invitation so that I would be sure to drag you here.”

Lythienne said, “Richard, this must be your wife. Rosaniya, I am Lythienne Harper, mother to this character and three others who have managed to do well as well. This is my husband Dan, who is here on business.”

Rosaniya curtseyed and said, “These are my two daughters, Nimue and Alinis and my two sons, Daniel and Taranth.”

“Richard, they seem to be wonderful children. Now, Rosaniya, Gwen mentioned a wedding and I think that I can help. I managed to get my other three louts hitched, though one of them arranged a little war to try to escape. My daughters were easier and a bit fun, considering that one of them managed to get dragged under.”

Rosaniya laughed and said, “One of your sons arranged a war?”
“He hasn’t admitted it, but he and Prince Brouzen have known each other since they were boys and it seemed strange that an incident would kick up just before the wedding. I fixed his wagon. Sekku still has the stand in. Of course I fixed Brouzen’s wagon too.”

“How?”

“He and my youngest daughter grew rather attached to each other and I played games setting up the wedding until his mother and I sprung it on him.”

‘Hopefully it didn’t take as long as it did with Richard.Do you know how long took to convince him to share blood with me.”

“Considering that it is Richard, a long time.”

“Almost five years. At the time, it seemed like an eternity, even for an elf. Somehow he couldn’t get it out of his head that he was a slave, even though, by that point he had saved the empire from a blight and another famine, as well as me and the house from the consequences of that.”

“Was he worth the chase?”
“He has never let me regret the decision. Let me introduce you to our children. Dan and Taranth are named after Richard’s and my father. My parents were killed in the Turmoils.”

“Considering that you had an entire house as a dowry, no family wanted to arrange a marriage?”

“The Turmoils were a curse on the family. Some families blamed my family for the Blight and the emperor’s death. Others did not want to risk that curse upon themselves or risk the curse splashing on them. So in the end I was left alone when the blight came and my farm manager bought a load of slaves that the Ravthrya had brought from the Republic to help with the extra work and there was Richard. I saw him six months later, when my farm manager had him dealing with blight and took me out to see.”

“You obviously liked what you saw.”
“How could I not. There was the man who beat the curse. I think I fell in love with him on the spot. Of course I had to overcome his prejudices.”

“Why was he still a slave when Rolin tried to buy him?” Dan asked. “I know that there are such things as marriage agreements that emancipate a spouse.”

“He would not sign it and since it didn’t seem to matter, I did not press.Then Camus sent an agent, who didn’t know who Richard was and when my farm manager wouldn’t sell, Camus did what he usually does and I cut him off.”
“Richard, from what I have heard, you could have destroyed Rolin.” Dan frowned. “Why didn’t you?”
“Dad, I could have. But if I had, without severe and significant provocation on Rolin’s part, the splash would have hurt the business and the famly greatly. If I start to play favorites with people’s food, things would get ugly real fast and the Empire probably couldn’t take the strain. I am in the position that I am because of the Turmoils and the fact that the chance of the Blight striking again made the house a hot steel bar that nobody wanted to pick up. Embarassing Rolin, I can do. Destroying him, I can’t unless Rolin gives me reason. Actually, Rosaniya embarrassed Rolin and didn’t tell me until Rolin and Camus were on their way to apologize.”

“You didn’t embarrass Rolin and Camus as much as Tony did, dad,” Numue said. “He was rather persuasive when he said that Camus shouldn’t play in the lower city.”

“Now who is Tony and why do I think that I have heard about the man?”

“Tony Lion is a former slave who has a place in the lower city and is willing to do little things for people if you ask nicely. Midnight is sweet on Chrissie, his daughter.”

“I had wondered where Sal’s son wound up. He wouldn’t tell me and I figured that he had ended up in ditch someplace and Sal didn’t want talk about it. I’ll have to look Tony up and see how he is doing.”

“How do you know Tony’s dad, grandfather?” Alinis asked with a bit of a grin.

“I’m not going to say and for business reasons, it is sometimes politic to have a working relationship with certain people.”

“I see.”

“Dan has to cut deals with the mob,” Lythienne said. “Of course he and Sal have been friends for years. Since he is not running for office, who our friends are is not anybody else’s concern. Girls, I can introduce you to Tony if you like.”
“You don’t need to, grandmother. Nimue and I already made a point to introduce ourselves a bit discreetly. We wanted somebody handy in town to beat up Rolin’s idiots if we needed to. Chrissie is a nice girl as well. Since the appropriate girls do not want to be our friends, we just have to be friends with inappropriate girls.”

Lythienne laughed, turned to the boys and said, “You two have been very quiet through all this.”

“Grandmother, mother said that we should let our sisters be themselves and not be pushy. So we have. Also our sisters went to the faery kingdom and probably learned new ways to make us miserable and since you are here, we will have to be at home and not at the farm, where we have more resources. We will get our chance in the faery kingdom for testing in the fall after the harvest.”

“Other than getting into trouble, what do you boys do?” Dan asked.

“We have a garden with some other folks, breed some cows and stay away from the high elven poetry. Our sisters can go into that artsy stuff, but if we did, we would be laughed off the farm. We have a bit of a shop that we work in brass and copper with. Unfortunately we’re too much elf to work iron without risking getting burned. There are things that dad talks about that he did in the Republic, like shooting, that we would like to try, but even our Inquisitor might have a hissy fit if we were too blatant about it and we don’t know how to make a gun in any case. We do try to play around with magic a bit, but half the time it doesn’t work at all or, it blows up. We do know that the Blight has a magic component as well as a fungus. Whether somebody did it deliberately or when, we haven’t been able to figure out.”

Imryll walked up and said, “Now that the family reunion has happened, Dan, there are some people that you should meet.”

An elfin woman, an apparent half elf and fae woman joined the crowd and Imryll said, “Princess Lelayme, this is Secretary Harper, the Republic’s representative. Mr. Harper, this is Princess Lelayme, and Teiran and Lavidia Yllanan.”

Lythienne said, “Gwen has said good things about you all. Apparently you have taken over Gwen’s household.”

“Somewhat.” The Princess said, “At least Lavidia and Millicent have. I had a relationship with Esgalwathanar and I have backed off somewhat after his sister had long visit to her brother’s house. Lavidia has been driving dear Leilatha more than a bit crazy.”

Lythienne grinned. “Have you really, Lavidia? I imagine that that is mild entertainment for a royal fae.”
“It has been, somewhat. There have been serious aspects as well. I think that Imryll wants to introduce you two around, so we will talk later.”

Richard said, “Dad, where are you and mother staying?”

“Last night, here. I was going to look for a place in the captital.”

“Stay with us,” Rosaniya said. “We have a lot of room.”

“That would be wonderful,” Lythienne said. “We can have all sorts of chats about my wayward son.”

 

The Hidden City.

Jacob had almost been concerned that he had made a mistake letting the sub proceed without him when the ships of the Ravathyra fleet had arrived in the late evening of the second day. If Jacob and the others had not already been ashore, it would have been far more difficult to infiltrate, as Camus had set up sentries and clamped down on the city as the fleet was arriving, darkened and guided by lights ashore with the rising tide to help them into the harbor. The fishing boats were not allowed to go to sea and the harborfront had been closed off. Fortunately the Shanelis agent had his home and workshop on the harborfront and his windows overlooked the harbor. The ship’s crews and the hidden city’s harbor people worked frantically to get the ships’ water barrels restocked while three of the Great captians were having a conference, coincidently in the inn where Jacob and Maeralya were eating quietly. The owner of the inn had added a bit of a gimmick to the inn where the table in one corner, which the innkeeper vigorously told the Great Captains was the finest table, could be heard across the room in another corner, were, Jacob and Maeralya were sitting. Taser Zylvyre was with his nephew Gormar and Tiasus Petris. They seemed to be nervous. Camus Petris came in and and said, “Are you all clear about what you are to do?”
“Yes. We go to the Leomaris trading post, take everything we can, and burn the place out. That is if the Republican navy lets us. The survivors, if any, rendezvous with Triandal and return here and home. If the navy makes things hot, we bug out using the provided portals and hope that nobody at home finds out that we abandoned our ships and crews.”
“You were told that that would be necessary. The family needs you and your experience. This is important to the family and the enterprise. Just do your jobs and the family will absorb any social and political hits from what happens. I think that I don’t have to tell you not to talk about this to your crews. Or for that matter any part of the mission, do I?”

“No you do not.”

Camus left. The others finished their drinks and headed back to their ships. After they left, Jacob turned to Maeralya and said, quietly, “That was very interesting.”

“Do you need to return to Bluefin to report this?”

“Not immediately. I can take my time as it will take them two five days or more to get to the islands. I will have to report that three of the squadrons are diversions and that their Great captains are ordered to abandon them at the first opportunity. This can wait for the moment, but as soon as the squadrons leave and things return to normal, I will need to get this out.”

The next morning, the Ravathyra squadrons departed on the falling tide. The sentries were withdrawn and the fishing boats were allowed to fish again. Captain Pinch went with The Brownlows and went Swimming to find Bluefin, which was at her station on the bottom. He used the emergency trunk to board and Lieutenant Dantas was waiting. “Did you find something interesting, sir?”

“Very. I need to write a report and get it sent this evening when you surface the boat. The Ravathrya are reducing their operations and expending their fleet. I don’t know for what, but there is something going on. Three of the squadrons here are hitting the Leomaris’s again, or at least that is their supposed objective. The real objective seems to be targets and a distraction for something else.”

The Arsenal, Cleadgate, Beltian Republic.

Admiral Harper looked at the huge map on the wall. For most of the admiralty’s history, the map had centered on the sea that separated the Republic from the other two blasted land states that had been the Republic’s main adversaries. At least the adversaries that they could combat. Now the map had the ocean and the islands that separated the Empire from the Republic as well as the blasted lands states. The map had all the known positions of the Empire’s ships and the Republic’s ships. It was fairly obvious that were two main groups of ships heading toward the Republic. One group had gone to the hidden city and probably departed. They were being tracked by the duty sub at the hidden city after being handed over by the sub from Eryding. The other group had scattered and made clever use of glamor to attempt to hide. Enterprise and the gadget had made that more than a bit difficult. Right now, they were starting to collect again and the admiral had a rather large surprise for them coming. He thought about how he could massage that a bit when Peble came up and said, “I’m not sure how to handle this. Captain Pinch is giving Wilfred hives again.”

“What did he do this time?”
“Left Bluefin while Bluefin was transporting the guide team for the assault so that he could get into the hidden city before Camus locked things down for the approaching ships.”

“Abandoning your command is a serious offense.”
“I know. On the other hand Pinch is seafolk and is known by people in the city as well as the others. He wanted eyes in the the city when the Rathathyra ships came in so that he could see if he could figure out what they might be up to.”

“Did he?”

“He managed to sit at a table in an inn where three of the Great Captains could be heard talking to Camus Petris. Here is his report.”

The captain handed the admiral the report. The admiral looked at it and said, “He was willing to take the hit for temporarily abandoning his command to get potentially vital intelligence on the enemy’s intentions. He did leave one Swimmer on the boat and the boat completed the primary mission without difficulties. It is also apparent that Camus locked things down just after he managed to get into the city. Outside the conversation, it looks like he obtained quite a bit of additional intelligence on the four squadrons. What’s interesting is that the Great Captains of three of them are expected to abandon their ships when things get hot. It’s the fourth squadron that intrigues me. That is the one that we have to watch out for. I think that the rest is primarily a diversion.”

“I will run this to the planning boys. Are you still using the cruisers for these characters and first battle squadron for the others?”

“I think that is the way to go. Bob Billings is already out and rendezvousing with Enterprise to act as beaters.”

“What about Victory?”

“I think I will see if Admiral Shanelis and my dad come up with something clever to do with Victory.”

“What, sir?”

“I think that Admiral Zylvyre took Swallow for a reason and that he has more things that he hasn’t shown. On other hand, he’s never played with my dad. My dad doesn’t like the Ravathyra very much because of what they did to mom and ever since, where the Zylvyres are concerned, playing nice just doesn’t enter into it.”

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