The Return of Redhand, Chapter 9-10

Haciathra is Jorged in Bompei. Navy loses a game.

Chapter 9.

Bompei

Mahila looked at the ship from the Republic and frowned. The ship had returned just before the Great Lady had arrived. Mahila turned and said, “Great lady, I think that you should delay your hunt or hunt elsewhere.”

“Why?”

“The ship from the Republic has returned and the last time they were here, they hunted the spiders.”

“Hunted you.”

“Ten of our number were trapped in an eve.”

“How did they do that?”

“Some members of the crew were bait and all had strange weapons. I warned the ladies to not seek revenge, but they did anyway.”

“We will avoid the crew of the ship. The spider seeks prey, not petty human desires like revenge. Have you and the others been careful in the choice of your prey?”

“We have, mistress.”

Vince sat cross legged on a pillow as the Raja said, “You have returned captain. Is there a reason?”

“I wanted to see what you have for maps inland and give you a heads up that some people are going to doing things to the trade road.”

“The trade road has declined in the past few years, since Wongpo was struck. The traders are frightened of the dead zone with good reason.”

“We discovered Wongpo some time ago. The city is not as dangerous as it was. In any case, some people are motivated to improve the road and move some things in. Also, while it took some time, the mines at Wongpo are going to be restarted with modern mining techniques.”

“That will be a great change indeed.”

Aakhu watched the temple and the place where the portal was still hidden. The scanner that he had in his satchel beeped and he grinned. The lady was here. He clicked the button on the devise he had been given.

As the sun fell, all across the city, voices called out, “WELCOME HACIATHRA! THIS IS JORGE. SINCE YOU WERE FOOLISH ENOUGH TO KIDNAP MY SISTER, I THOUGHT THAT I WOULD TURN BOMPEI INTO A PLAYGROUND. YOU THINK THAT YOU ARE THE HUNTRESS, BUT TONIGHT, YOU ARE THE HUNTED. THE PORTAL YOU USED TO COME TO THE CITY WILL NO LONGER WORK FOR A DAY. NOR WILL THE OTHER PORTAL IN THE CITY. SOME SILVERIN FROM THE FAMILY WERE ALSO PORTED IN, SO GOOD LUCK USING GLAMOR. SINCE I DIDN’T WANT TO SPOIL THE FUN, THEY WON’T SHOOT YOU. THE OTHER LADIES WON’T BE SO LUCKY. SO LADIES, YOU BETTER WATCH YOUR STEP. SHALL WE LET THE GAME BEGIN!”

 Balloons with mana lights appeared all over the city, rising on their tethers to light the streets as if it was daylight. Wagons appeared with rockets that launched into the sky, only to hang there and provide more light. Landdragons and other strange beasts moved down the streets and alleys, frightening the townsfolk inside. Strange folk would point at the spiders and call out “SPIDER!” forcing the woman to run away. Some of the spiders were trapped and transformed, revealing what they were. The others returned to the temple to hide, not daring to show themselves. They were driven out again by the sudden appearance of a landdragon in the temple’s central court. As the sun rose, the spiders gathered to make sense of what had happened. The quiet alcove, with its well, was closed off, marching steps could be heard and only Mahila and Haciathra were able to escape down a filthy alley way used for night soil. Dirty and filthy, the pair emerged, only to hear marching feet approaching. Mahila said, “Hide, Great Lady. I will lead them away.”

Mahila made herself visible and ran. Haciathra hid and waited. The day went on and the hunt went back and forth. Finally in the twilight, hidden more by her soiled garments than glamor, she made her way to the portal. As she approached , a flash went off and a man appeared. “You made it. The portal awaits. I would stay away from Bompei from now on.”

“Who are you?”

“I think you know. Taking my sister was idiotic in the extreme. I would use the portal before the pursuit figures out where you are.”

Haciathra activated the portal and stepped through.  

The Community

Haciathra emerged from the portal and looked around. She hadn’t been noticed as of yet. Marching to the leader’s house she stomped in and bellowed, “Have a bath prepared at my compound and then provide a heretic.”

Abriel looked at her and said, “At once, mistress. I will arrange all.”

The lady proceeded to her compound and Abriel went to find Blackfire and Mórsairon. “Could you go out into the countryside and capture an enemy soldier?”

They looked at him and said, “What?”

“We do not have a caravan here at present and the lady has come, with a soiled dress. I assume that she has had a failed hunt and needs sustenance. If there is no alternative, I will send a guard, but that injures the Community and the belief in the new gods.”

Mórsairon looked at Blackfire, “Could we retrieve one?”

“That is difficult. We do not have the major’s positions and he will have people watching our activity. We would also, at best, have a day to accomplish the mission and the major probably already knows the circumstances.”

“I was afraid of that,” Abreil said. “The Lady will not want to wait. I will tell the guard commander.”

Hordal looked at the black ball and said, “It is me. Tell my wife that I loved her.”

Grant took the ball. “I am not married. I will make the sacrifice.”

After being bathed, Haciathra entered the villa and the doors were closed and locked. For a brief time, screams could be heard. Abriel looked at Blackfire and Mórsairon and said, “Thus we sacrifice to the new gods. I wish that doing that hadn’t been necessary. Grant was a good man and a good soldier and guard.”

Moonshine found Bill and said, “Do you know which guard it was?”

“Hordal got the ball and Grant took it. At least that is what I have been told.”

“I am tempted to shoot the witch.”

“That won’t do much good now. You could keep her awake for the three days that she needs to digest her meal.”

Moonshine kissed Bill. “That is a wonderful idea. We all liked Grant. I think that Irial was sweet on him and she will be rather broken up about him being eaten. Let me prepare.”

Haciathra finished her meal and prepared to rest, only to have her hide filled with light and sound. That was the way things went for the next two days as she was forced to deal with what a rather annoyed and mischievous faery princess could come up with and the additions that her Mechanitiar bonded could add, probably with Harald making suggestions. By the time she was able to revert and port back to the Divinity Devise she had had very little rest or sleep for the entire disastrous hunt.

Chapter 10.

Beltain Naval Academy

Geral joined with the other midshipmen for the bladder ball game against Ironton. He was looking forward to this game because it had looked to be an even match up and he loathed the Ironton team and wanted to see them pounded into the ground, something that Cadet Wavechaser was good at. At least he was, most of the time. This time, it was as if he had not practiced at all since the last game, as he made mistake after mistake. Strangely enough, when Tim was replaced by his brother, nothing changed very much. It was if the entire team had not practiced at all. The break came and Geral looked to find a snack.

Susan looked at the other girls and said, “I think that we will have to wait until the game is over. Tim and Jimmy are out there on the field and the dragons are flying around.”

“That’s fine,” Bekka said. “At least we can get into the Academy today. We can also boost the boys up after they lose.”

Susan laughed. “We should do that, since it was our fault. They were getting ready to rescue us and not practicing.”

 Tomas turned to Drannor and said, “The team doesn’t seem to be doing very well today.”

“I think that they had other things on their minds, at least our tossers did. They probably dragged some other players in as well, but of course they won’t admit that.”

“The girls are here, but they were a bit late arriving. So, no encouragement before the game.”

“They will probably be a surprise when the game is over, then.”

The game over, Swifty and the other Dragons showered, changed and left the locker room with the bladder ball team. When they exited, they were stopped by a row of girls, all dressed and smiling. Susan stepped forward and said, “We wanted to make sure that you all knew how we felt about what you did before things moved on and this wasn’t possible. We want to thank you all for what you did. We can’t make this public right now and get you all in trouble, but we wanted to know that we appreciated the risks that you took to get us out of that place, even though you were not involved directly.”

With that each of the girls kissed each of the boys on the cheek and then moved on. Susan grabbed Swifty and said, “We wanted to let the boys know that we appreciated what you all did before it became impossible.”

“I wasn’t involved.”

“You were, and you made a sacrifice by not going, even though you wanted to. Now let’s see if we can annoy Geral.”

“How?”

“Me, being with you, will annoy him more than you know. The fact that we are together will be a hard blow to take.”

“We’ve been together for some time now. It shouldn’t be that big a deal.”

“I know, but we were also not on the Plateau together and so we weren’t seen together where Geral and his friends would take note.”

“Ok, then.”

More or less despondent at the loss, Geral wandered slowly back to the gate and the after game parties While he was walking, he happened to see Cutflame with a girl. He didn’t recognize the beauty at Cutflame’s elbow at first until he realized that the elfin looking girl was Susan Gilders, who Geral had not seen for two years. She had grown from the stringy girl he had known to a true torchbearer. Since Susan had been one of the prospects that his mother would accept, being on Cutflame’s arm and being obviously very comfortable with him was just intolerable. As they walked toward Geral, Susan saw him and said, “Hello Geral. I haven’t seen you for some time.”

“Why are you with Cutflame?”

“Didn’t you know? He saved me from a fate worse than death. We’ve been dating ever since.”

“He’s a Dragonkin. How could you do that to your family?”

“We get along with the Cutflames just fine. Better than fine, actually. I’m sorry, Geral, but Swifty’s grandfather is expecting us.”

Susan pulled Swifty a bit and they moved on, leaving the fuming Geral. 

Cleadsgate.

The Ironton crowd had a huge tent rented by Umevan Electric with catered food and drink. The table had several barrels with the Fallingwater brand on them with girls from Ironton’s cheerleading squad filling paper cups with wine.

Naertho found Congressmen Flyer and Wavechaser who had Susan and Swifty with them and said, “Welcome. This game was fun.”

“It was, even if navy was pounded,” Caldin said.

“Have you met my grandson and Susan?” Tomas said.

“I have, actually. We met at the Yellowleaf Festival last year. Apparently he enjoyed his voyage on Diligent.”

“I did, Mr. Umevan,” Swifty said.

“How is the Academy going?”

“Well. We didn’t win today.”

“I understand, and there were good reasons. Here’s one of them now.”

An elegant elf girl joined them and Naertho said, “Gentlemen, this is my granddaughter, Irial. She came down to thank some people and meet the family that she hasn’t already met.”

“Welcome to the Republic, milady” Tomas said. “Is this your first trip?”

“Not at all, congressman. Irial is fine, by the way. I came down with my father to open up the Fylson Toy museum exhibition. That was a short visit. I think that I want to stay longer this time. Grandfather wants me to do some hosting for the company and train some people on how to deal with certain kinds of people in the Empire.”

“What kind of people would that be?”

“High Elf comedy is a lot less fun if you are in the middle of one.  I started to do some of that work in the Lower City and I had an unpleasant encounter with some cultists. They took liberties after I was kidnapped and then tossed me away like used bathing cloth. They will discover that there are consequences.”

“What are your plans for them?”

“I’m not going to say. What happens will be appropriate. In any case, grandfather has asked me to stay here for a time. Congressman, I wish you well in your campaign. Grandfather, gentlemen, I am afraid, that as hostess, I must move on. It was nice to meet you all.”

Irial moved on and Tomas said to Naertho. “She is remarkable. She was one of the girls kidnapped, wasn’t she?”

“She was taken as a hostage to my and the family’s good behavior. That was foolish and some people were well aware of that.”

“She was molested, if the hints she was making were correct.”

“She hasn’t come out and said so, at least not to me. Her mother will probably restrain her somewhat and my wife hasn’t been told as yet. I expect that the guild will be involved, but that is the Empire and doing that to a family member of a Great House was idiocy.”

“What she was doing in the Empire sounds like an escort job,” the coach said. “Not the sort of thing that a member of a high family would be doing.”

“There are family issues there that I am not going to discuss and the family in the Empire hasn’t been in a position of wealth for a long time. Tomas, we will talk sometime soon.”

“I think that I need to collect my boys and get to the train,” the coach said. “Congressman, I think that you have a good chance of being the next President.”

Tomas was left with his grandson and Susan and circulated, shaking hands and talking to people with the pair until Swifty said, “Grandfather, I need to get back to the barracks. Susan, I will see you when I can.”
Swifty left and Tomas said, “He is a lucky young man.”
“It wasn’t all luck. I was the lucky one actually. I was being a foolish and spoiled girl and he rescued me from some very slimy characters, the Shieldbashers.”

“Very slimy. I agree that you were lucky that he was there and got you away from a life that you probably didn’t want. On the other hand, Swifty was lucky as well.  I don’t think that he knows just how remarkable he is. His biggest annoyance will be that he will not spend the time at sea that he is going to want.”

“What do you mean?”

“If I win the election next year, he won’t be just another midshipman, but the President’s grandson. That is even without his already demonstrated talents on the staff. He doesn’t know how rare officers of his caliber are.”

“So, no survey ships?”

  “I am afraid not. If he goes to sea after he graduates, it will be on flagships, probably through the squadrons. ”

“He’s going to hate that. He likes the adventure.”

“He can blame his mother and Bradal for that. His mother for putting me in this position and Bradal for making it necessary.”

 “You don’t really want to be President either.”

“Actually, no, I do not. But I know that if I don’t win the election, everything that I have worked for, everything that the people of Chatsrey and the rest of the country have expected me to do will be for nothing. So I am running regardless of my personal desires.”

“Your daughter is pushing you.”

‘She does that. Of course she ran right to Gertald and then cut my wife and I off.”

“I thought that you cut her off.”

“She wasn’t willing to listen and thought that we didn’t want to love her regardless of who she married. Then there was the matter with the Cotton Exchange and she made it absolutely clear that we were to stay clear of it.”

“Gertald told me what happened. He was framed and forced to give up the business.”

“He was, and I have worked to reform those laws since, with some success. Of course Onia wouldn’t talk to me about that and went her own way.”

“Sthisse is waving, so I think that we have to close this down now.”

“I think that you are right. I see that the college types have all left and it is just us old types left. There is Dan Harper with Bob and Kulgha to talk to.”

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