The Kraken and The Dark Sea, Chapter 77-78

Fun and games in Eribelle. Arachnae savors a meal.

Chapter 77.


Bertie watched the young commander of the Diligent and frowned. The lieutenant with the bizarre cover wasn’t even a year out of the academy and luck and circumstances had pushed him into the captain’s seat after the captain and sailing officer had been injured in a battle with something. The duty was temporary, but apparently, the admiralty was happy with circumstances as they were until Diligent’s captain recovered from his injuries. Bertie had a lot of irregularities to wire home about. Unfortunately he had been stuck on board and couldn’t get to a telegraph office, that is if he could even find one here in Eribelle. Unfortunately there were things that he did not want being sent over the radio from the ship and anything that could be seen as undermining his captain certainly counted as something that would put him up in front of a Board.

The young lieutenant had Diligent’s main gun pointed over the side and was conducting a gun drill, something that he did incessantly, with the occasional bang as a blank round was fired. The lieutenant had acquired a training frame from someplace and had various members of the ship’s crew practice shooting, with much of the crew enthusiastically involved. Unfortunately, Lieutenant Chambers, Progress’s assistant gunnery officerhad taken up the challenge, set up a training frame and was also conducting gun drills. Since the lieutenant was drawing the gun crews from separate sections, that was playing hob with Ironforge’s schedules, but the captain had yet again overridden Ironforge and he was stuck with it. Frowning, the commander turned to pursue his next task.

When Garrald Chambers had realized that his sucessor as the Academy bladder ball team captain was on the ship behind him, he sent a message to Roger and suggested lunch. Roger had answered, “yes” and they had been meeting for the three days that both ships would be in port. This would be their last lunch and Tim Brownlow had come to Eribelle on an errand for Captain Bronzerock and joined them. Tim was smiling when he arrived and handed a picture to Roger. “Bill has a new job. Pack horse.”

Roger laughed as Gary looked at the picture of a horse and said, “What’s so funny?”

“Bill isn’t a horse normally,” Roger said. “He is Bill Wavechaser and I am not sure how Tim knows him. He was part of the Beinan’s team when we had them on Diligent for the Mark III and Mark IV RDR installations.”

“I just met the horse,” Tim said. “He showed up out of Jump in the Timbertown with a rather ratty Marshall, another horse and their bondeds, who want the boys to remain horses.”

“Who was the Marshall after?”
“Dúhael, and he nearly had him, but somebody tossed a pike into the glamor trap before the Marshall could collar Dúhael and get him out. So the Marshall pulled things for a bit, since Bill and Sudyral had escaped.”

“How did they manage to escape?”
“They had both tested high, could both transform, Bill used a lock pick, spilled some soap all over the floor and opened all the stable doors before transforming and then causing the alarm to go off, the farrier’s fire to kick over and all the farrier’s stuff to spill all over the place. The real horses ran, and Bill and Sudyral ran with them. Of course, Moonshine and Galaxa were outside waiting and they would not let them revert, so they were still horses, hauling the Marshall’s camp stuff, when they exited Jump at the Timbertown and I got that picture, since I knew that Bill had been taken from Diligent.”

“Moonshine is getting revenge for having to remain a cat all the way down to Desert Howl,” Roger said with a grin. “Some people are going to be glad that Bill is out. I’m not surprised that he escaped, but the horse seems to be over the top.”

“Did the Flight Instructor pull that, “I am so glad to see a college boy” thing on you, Roger?” Tim asked.

“Yes. He went to extra efforts to knock some things out of my head. I think that they paid off when I was shooting at the sub. You probably have the guildsman and his friend, next.”
“Yup, with shooting and driving after. Since I was tested as a mage, the transformation class is out and I probably won’t have time for the driving class as Captain Bronzerock will have to be back in Cleadsgate.”

Gary looked at the others and said, “I can understand you doing crazy stuff like that, Tim, but Roger?”
“I was ordered to by the captain and Admiral Tollings,” Roger said. “I was taking the adjuncts and some crew through the training.”

“Our captain would probably send some of us to the training if I requested it, but it would have to go through Commander Ironforge and he would squelch it.”

“I haven’t asked, but what is going on there? Captain Brownlow was my first officer, none of us had any issues with him whatsoever and he doesn’t ride on his subordinates. Yet there is something going on with the commander and the captain.”

“The commander was sure that he was going to be promoted when Captain Clarington had his car accident. That was a bit ridiculous as Captain Clarington was not happy with the way that the commander was handling things, especially when the refit was taking longer than it was supposed to. Then Captain Brownlow showed up, having been promoted from lieutenant commander and the commander was not happy.”

“Captain Brownlow was still a lieutenant commander because he liked to serve on the survey ships and he had other skills that were useful on a survey ship. That puts me in a spot as Captain Seafisher and Captain Brownlow were the ship’s cartographers and now the ship doesn’t have one. I’m keeping the notes and learning very quickly, as well as arranging to have the notes passed to Captain Seafisher at the Sanctum.”
“They are leaving you in the seat?” Chambers asked.

“For another couple of five days while the captain is onshore at the Sanctum. He will be back on ship for the rest of the voyage.”

“Since I probably won’t get a chance to be at sea any time soon, why don’t we poke Roger for his adventures, leaving strange subs out,” Tim said.”
“But we had fun with the sub and Jorge,” Roger said.

“Our adversary was involved? How?”
“Collecting old boats, putting radios with wire recorders attached and porting them to the microportals that Bill was putting in the water. That was probably why the sub went after us the first time. Jonny shot out one periscope, Brilbrun dropped a mailbag over the other periscope, messed up their RDR antenna and they backed off.”

“Then what happened?”

“We headed to the coast and worked our way down, meeting interesting people, taking soundings and trading for things. We passed by Dúhael’s not so secret base, but he didn’t send anything to bother us, so we just got pictures and passed them on. Then we visited the Virstina estate, where sharks were sent out to harass us, Petty Officer Wavechaser was forced overboard by the sharks, gutted some of them, the boat crews and the dragons killed more, the petty officer was rescued by the caged elven princess, the Justiciar showed, with Jorge and much fun and hilarity ensued with the freed elven princess traveling with us. She is looking for a tail and thinks that Petty Officer Wavechaser is a good one.”

Chambers took a last bite from his lunch and said, “Unlike you two, I have a boss that is detail oriented, so I have to go.”

The Lieutenant left and Tim asked Roger, “What is going on there?”
“You can look into it when you get back to Cleadsgate, but as Garry said, Diligent’s first officer was bumped up two ranks to post and given command of Progress. You remember some of the strange things we saw at Luggergate and last year and I could ask my dad what is going on with the Ironforges. One thing I do know. Commander Ironforge as captain would have been a disaster for Progress.”

“Are you certain?”
“Our first day here, Captain Brownlow sent Garry’s boss and most of the other department heads to the portal and ported them to Ishendell with a stack of unfilled requisitions because the commander had been more or less sitting on them while Progress’s refit was delayed. She still hadn’t finished when we left Cleadsgate. Then there was that convenient accident and the Ironforges have been having problems on the Plateau recently. I’ll wire my dad and tell him what I saw, but there is something funny going on.”

“What was Garry’s captain like as first officer?”
“He made the job look easy, even though it probably wasn’t. We all made a mistake and didn’t conduct some General Quarters drills, but there was a certain degree of justification for that and our first encounter with that sub hadn’t seemed to be that dangerous. The first time, the sub didn’t have orders to hit us and wasn’t really looking for a fight, so when Brilbrun blinded them, they retreated. That made us rather overconfident and when they did show up for real, we were caught with our pants down. I was lucky, since I was conducting a gunnery drill, but if the ship had been at stations, the sub would have been mauled before they used that whatever it was against us.”

“I’ve heard some stories about you and drills. Are you reverting?”

Roger grinned. “Not at all. I was handed command and we were sloppy about certain things. Now we are not and if the sub tries something again, it will be shot at and it will acquire some holes. That is the point of the job, isn’t it?”

“You also don’t like losing.”
“That hasn’t changed.”

Chapter 78.


Her latest meal gurgling inside, Arachnae relaxed in the network of silk that was her web in her current hide. She had decided to hunt early to throw the busybodies off and avoid a conflict with her daughter’s wedding. Her prey had been yet another member of the Horse Pistol Club, an associate of the Lions this time and he had been as boorish as the first two. Since she had no reason to make the feeding public, she had been careful to place the body where it would be some time before it was found, if at all. Waiting to revert, she reveled in the feeling she had after a meal.

Looking at the man across from him, Izzie reflected how quickly things had changed. A few moons ago, he had been struggling on the Industry City beat and the man sitting across from him would have had him beaten to a pulp for even approaching him. Now here was Borug Shieldbasher in Vikz’s wanting to talk with him. Looking at the orc, Izzie said, “I’m surprised that you wanted to bring this to me, Mr. Shieldbasher.”
“Izzie, you can’t fool me. I know that you don’t like my boys since they had that incident with your dad.”

“The one that got him killed.”
“That happens and it was his fault.”
“I’m not going to argue about that. Mom would agree with you as far as that was concerned and charging into that place with a gun drawn was not the smartest thing he could have done. I don’t think that you want to talk about a small time hustler.”

“Just clearing the air about some things. What I did want to talk to you about was spiders.”
“You have attracted my attention. Why me?”
“You did a good job on the Stewards, getting the story and knowing what not to say. You also come from the same places I did and understand the people involved.”

“Harl was bad news and Little Charlie wasn’t much better.”

“The boys in Ironton were worse.”

“Tommy and his boys. They were family to some heavy people.”

“You see the problem I have right now. I had a deal and some people seem to be breaking it. I also think that a lady has some new appetites.”
“There are two monsters out there now.”
“Yes, and one of them may live on the mound.”
“That is not a good thing.”

“Do you know Vinnie Tudford?”

“Go and talk with him. He has a lot on this already. Tell him that I sent you and that it is ok to talk to you about this.”
“He seems like somebody you wouldn’t want to deal with.”

“You would think so. On the other hand, my boys were dragged into things and the business has turned rotten. You have good connections and can do things that I can’t.”

“This is a surprise, Mr. Shieldbasher.”
“In the beginning I needed the connections. Now the connections are poisoning the business and I can’t cut them myself. Not without doing things I really don’t want to do.”

“How about we discuss something else so my boss is happy paying for the lunch.”

“Luggergate and some people that messed up.”
“You are as smart as I thought, Mr. Dantas. I think that your boss will like what I have to say about Luggergate and the dead aren’t going to be doing any business.”

Swan Dancer was pushed into her mooring and a smiling Adiun Beinan was waiting when Terrel reached the bottom of the gangway. “I have good news and bad news.”

“That being?”
“Bill escaped Dúhael and the others. The bad news is that Moonshine is insisting that he play horse with her until her birthday.”

“Play horse with her?”

“Apparently he transformed into a horse as part of his escape and Moonshine took him to the Yllanan estate, slapped tack on him and then became a mare.”

Terrel laughed. “That’s one way to have fun. At least he’s out and even if they are looking for horses, he will probably not be easy to find.”

“How did this little job go?”
“We brought a lot of people home. The question is where to put them.”
“Tom Harper has some ideas and if you could, when you get home, talk to some construction people in Desert Howl.”
“Why there?”
“Because they are used to building in an isolated area and building for strange requirements.”

“The admiral is thinking Crowburg.”
“How did you guess?”

“That was home for a lot of the people down there and the place has been essentially forgotten since.”
“The Great Captain wants to talk to you about that.”

“He knows.”
“Greldug’s grandson told him when he turned his work in. Both the Great Captain and Tom are rather annoyed about this, as you can imagine.”

“I smell another big job heading my way, or maybe it’s a job I’m already doing. I’ll go down and talk to Paeris and some people I know. Does the admiral have maps of Crowburg?”
“Probably. You were closer to things than I was.”

“Ok, let me give you and your dad a report on what we found and I will be on my way. I was expecting to have to go after Bill, but he handled it.”

“He and Moonshine will be back after her birthday party.”

“It will be probably be a party that I will regret missing.”

Alinis looked at the thing in the hall and said, “What is this, grandmother?”
“A commission you had with Fylson.”

“That’s not finished. That’s something special for the library. This is something else.”

“Jorge brought it. It’s a birthday present.”

Alinis frowned. “Jorge has never given me a present before. On the other hand, Fire and I did play those games for him. I will look into this later.”

“I wasn’t told how it works, but there is a special surprise inside that I think that it is something that you and your father would like very much.” “Jorge is hiding somebody, for Bill, isn’t he?”
“You can discover that on your own.” 

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