I’m going to finish the book two chapters at a time. Camus gets some surprises.
Admiralty House, Eribelle.
Aerendyl looked up as Daniel Harper walked into his office. “Admiral, I would like to give you a gift, but we will have to keep it a bit discreet.”
“My wife has told me about the proscriptions and the Inquisition. Frankly I see some of the same sort of things that we had in the blasted lands a long time ago, but we were sort of forced to change or slowly die.”
“I have wondered why things are done so differently.”
“The Republic was founded by a bunch of very smart men, not all of them what they call mortal by any means or a least human. Up until then, the blasted lands had been a dumping ground for the rest of civilization’s unwanted, for centuries. Orc and dwarves have a war, the losers end up in the blasted lands. Both orcs, and dwarves, who ended up pissed off at both sides. The two had a war at first and a very bright orc prince fell in love with an even brighter dwarf princess, staged a takeover of a key city, a wedding that settled everything and founded the Kingdom of Hammer. They took care of the oppressed peoples argument by saying that in the kingdom, nobody was going to oppress anybody and set up laws to make it stick. My son in law is a bigger stickler for the rule of law than Bob is and Bob is the chief prosecuter in the Republic.”
“From what I have heard, Bob is not your true son.”
“I have always considered him that. From the the day he was born, I have considered him the son of my heart even if I had not fathered him. He was the first accomplishment of the partnership that my wife and I have had for a very long time now and we have shared, the good and the bad and there hasn’t been day since she washed up on my beach that I haven’t loved her.
In any case, I would like to improve communications on your ships and with Tom’s. The incident with Swallow made it clear that faster communications would be a big help and I have a dozen radio sets of the same kind that Edwin uses for you.”
“I’ll take them. My Inquisitor gets seasick very easily. He also doesn’t like heat and salt air very much.”
“He seems to be a rather clever fellow, rather like my son’s Inquisitor and his prize garden.”
“Yes, he is. He is also rather beguiled by mermaid dancing and it just so happens that the girls give shows and we have admissions for sailors on leave and whatnot.”
Daniel grinned. “A very smart man indeed. I think I want to see how your mermaid dancing shows compare with ours. My daughter will want to know.”
“She was dragged under.”
“She doesn’t call it that, but a young man did make the mistake of showing up on our beach one day and Niphinae sort of brought him up and fed him steaks. In any case, she and Dewy have a mermaid dancing show in Chatsrey.
Now, about the radios, I have a base station for the admiralty and twelve units designed for ships. I will also set one up at Richard’s farm for his and my wife’s use. She’s a high elf, she is supposed to be mysterious and magical and not have a love affair with the phone. In any case, you should have communication. I have seafolk operators for your ships until you get a radio school going.”
“I would like to get the first sets installed on two of my son Garrik’s ships as soon as possible. He should be arriving on the next tide for water and resupply. He and my son Jonik went looking for Swallow and the ships that took her. My son’s ships left in a hurry and without being fully supplied.”
The Hidden City.
The general watched the four ships sail away. The landing on the other side of the large island that contained the hidden city had gone off without a hitch and according to the audacious Captain Pinch, the hills around the city did not have sentries and the Ravathrya did not have regular patrols. The transports were out of the range of the dragons and the seemingly escaping Ravathyra ships were going to be chased by a rather large distraction in any case. As the ships were heading to the harbor the smoke plumes from Devestation and Dreadnaught were going to follow them in.
Byddri looked out over the sea on his patrol. He had head about the strange ships and seen the end of Admiral Zylvyre and his squadron. But he had never seen the ship that had done it and carried crystals in case he did. He had tried to convince his flight commander to let him do a night patrol, but the flght commander said that with only four dragons and one with a strained wing, he could not allow the patrol. His young friend Shuli had shown him the picture of Byddri and his flight mates flying and there had been that strange shape in the sky with them. Shuli said that he had seen it in the sky one day and asked Byddri if it was a new kind of sky monster. Byddri had had to say that he had not seen the thing in the air and did not know what it was.
The dragon looked down and saw four ships sailing under very heavy sail as if they were being pursued by something and then he saw the heavy smoke plumes of the pursuers. There was a long spread out line of monster ships under heavy smoke. Byddri stayed high and took picture after picture until he was out of crystals and then turned for base. He flew back over the fleeing ships to the flight pad in front of the dragonguard barraks. Captain Ilphas was at his desk at the edge of the flight pad as Byddri landed, transformed and picked up his satchel to report. The captain snarled, “Well, what do you have to report?”
“Sir, four of our ships are approaching the harbor, being pursued by a large force of the enemy.”
“Twelve ships sir. Two very large and ten smaller ships. There may have been more but I only saw the twelve. I have pictures.”
Byddri handed the crystals over. “Very good, get some rest.”
Byddri went into the flight’s resting and sleeping shed and found his cot. His fightmates were already there, resting or in Gadrer’s case, healing his strained wing. As Byddri’s head hit his straw pillow, he resolved to talk to Shuli that afternoon.
Captain Ilphas Ralofir went to the crystal process office in the headquarters building and said, “Get these crystals scanned and on paper soonest. I want to see if there is anything real out there.”
“Byddri seeing things again?”
“Byddri has never actually said that he has seen the things he was talking about, just that he wanted to look into them.”
“He’s still a bit of a dreamer.”
“He does his job. I need to report this to the Great captain.”
Captain Ralofir went to Great Captain Lathlaeril Dorralei’s office and knocked. “Captain Ralofir, sir. Byddri says that he seen four of our ships being pursued by the enemy.”
“Come in captain! Byddri takes pictures. Did he get some?”
The captain went inside the office and the great captain was looking through the telescope that he had mounted on his window.
He turned to the captain and said, “Tell Byddri that he is forgiven for all the crazy stuff he talks about. He was right. There are four of ours out there and something right behind them. I counted ten smoke plumes.”
“So we have the enemy right at our doorstep. On the other hand, this seems to be a lot for four ships.”
“Four ships that managed to escape. Not for twenty that departed here just a few days ago. In any case we must prepare. Tell the fort to be on alert.”
“What good will that do?”
“I don’t know, but it is better than nothing at all. At least this is a pursuit force and not an invasion force.”
“Not an invasion force, yet. That will come in time.”
“We will have to deal with that. At least the people there should be occupied for a bit.”
The captain walked down to the fort to talk to Chief Lieutenant Mirthal Ravathry. He found the chief looking over the walls as projectors crews struggled with their ungainly devises. “You’ve heard.”
“Yes sir. The smoke is fairly obvious. Tell Byddri, good work. You know, something about those ships doesn’t seem quite right.”
The ships were close now and the captain looked at the closest. He turned to the Chief and said “Can you get projectors to bear on them?”
“The lead ship is Fierce. They aren’t ours. At least not anymore. This is a ruse. Get fire on those ships or there will be trouble.”
The chief called out and the large projector rumbled around and turned to the ship that was now almost in the harbor and moving faster than it should have. The projector fired and the mast blew off, which seemingly had no effect on Fierce whatsoever. Fierce continued onto the quay as there was suddenly a huge rushing sound and a column of three splashes heading right to the fort with a huge explosion shattering masonry, projectors and their crews and throwing pieces into the air. There was another column with two hits that took their toll on the fort that was never intended to take that kind of battering. The chief and the captain looked in shock at the damage. Across the harbor, the four false ships plowed into the quay and the bows opened to reveal huge soldiers with things that spat death and destruction. At the same time destruction rained down on the castle and the dragon flight pad as well as the guardposts and barracks.
Camus Petris looked up at the first sound of a projector, followed shortly by the sound of explosions. He raced to the window and the fort had been hit by some sort of huge explosions and the arriving ships were disgorging men armed with strange weapons. There was an explosion, closer and the castle gate had been smashed and the main barracks had been hit as well. He went to his desk, grabbed some crystals, took some quick pictures and then turned for the portal. An elf came running up and said, “Sir, take these. A dragon took them before this all started. We’re done for, but you can tell the admiral what happened.”
Camus took the pictures and with them in hand went through the portal. When he emerged, he went straight to Rolins’ office. “We just lost the Hidden City.”
“They used Fierce and the other ships that they captured as cover for invasion barges. Then they made it appear as if the ships were being pursued. They knew exactly what to hit and how to hurt the defenses in as short of time as possible. I was there less than fifteen hundredths after things started and it was essentially over except for the mopping up.”
“Glynnii said that security was bad in the Hidden City. I didn’t know how bad.Well, that’s the last time we underestimate the other side. The hidden city was expendible anyway as long as the fleet’s mission is secure.”
“The mission should be secure, but it is going to be expensive. The Great Captains really don’t like the idea of leaving their ships and crews in the lurch.”
“I should have told them that their betrayal will probably save lives. Betrayed crews are more likely to surrender and live.”
“Some of them lived to fight another day. A bunch of our former boys must have joined the other side, because, there they were, swinging weapons and charging with the rest of them.”
“No. Things like projectors but nastier and able to shoot a lot of shots very quickly. Those guys were backed up by orcs that must have had mothers that really loved them when they were kids, because they were huge, and dwarves that love bombs and explosives, because they were tossing them all over the place.”
“Were the dwarves big too?”
“Alongside the other guys, no. Against our guys, yes. I have some pictures.”
The Arsenal, Cleadgate, Beltian Republic.
When Admiral Harper entered the map rooms there were cheers filling the room. Captain Duggings came up with a huge grin on his face. “We have the Hidden City.”
“Twenty killed and thirty seriously wounded.”
“That’s very light for an operation like this.”
“The shock value worked. The other side had never seen troops armed with machine guns and grenades. The new submachine guns did well as well. The whole thing was over in twenty five hundredths or so.”
“Light. Most of them were in the fort. Less than a hundred all told.”
“Light as well. Two or three hundred killed, most of them in the fort after the battleships ripped it to pieces. The fight went out of them when they had no place to run and knew that they were defenseless.”
“Any bad news?”
“Camus Petris was in town, but used the portal and left.”
“In any case, radio the general and tell him, very good work.”