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D D A A R R G O O N N N Z I N N N E || Volume 7
D D AAAA RRR G GG O O N N N Z I N N N E || Number 4
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DargonZine Distributed: 10/12/1994
Volume 7, Number 4 Circulation: 1,083
Editorial Ornoth D.A. Liscomb
...I Shall Repay Max Khaytsus Yuli 25-27, 1014
CFV: rec.mag.dargon Ornoth D.A. Liscomb
DargonZine is the publication vehicle of the Dargon Project, a
collaborative group of aspiring fantasy writers on the Internet.
We welcome new readers and writers interested in joining the project.
Please address all correspondance to .
Back issues are available from ftp.etext.org in pub/Zines/DargonZine.
DargonZine 7-4, (C) Copyright October, 1994, the Dargon Project.
Editor Ornoth D.A. Liscomb . All rights reserved.
All rights are reassigned to the individual contributors. Stories may
not be reproduced or redistributed without the explicit permission of
the author(s) involved, except in the case of freely reproducing entire
issues for further distribution. Reproduction for profit is forbidden.
by Ornoth D.A. Liscomb
"Haven't I seen you somewhere before?" What better use for that
cheesy opening line?
It's been six years since I wrote my last editorial and shut FSFnet
(DargonZine's predecessor) down. In the fall of 1988 I turned the
leadership of the Dargon Project and the production of its magazine over
to one of our best writers, John White (aka Dafydd). John has done an
admirable job keeping the writers writing and reaching new readers. He's
put out several dozen issues totalling over 50,000 lines of text. He
deserves recognition and thanks for the effort he's put into making
DargonZine a success.
As he mentioned in his editorial in DargonZine 7-3, I have
reassumed editorial responsabilities. What's that mean? Well, because
all the Dargon Project authors collaborate on the actual job of proofing
and critiquing stories, you shouldn't expect to see major changes in the
content of the magazine. The job of the editor is primarily the
production side of things: compiling and distributing issues,
publicizing the zine, managing the infrastructure necessary for author
collaboration, and some direction setting.
There are many changes in the works on this production side. We've
developed DargonZine readers' and writers' FAQs to periodically post to
likely Usenet newsgroups. We are hoping to set up an automated
subscription bot, and exploring other interfaces beyond ASCII text.
We're also hoping to find a site to sponsor us and provide us a
permanent home and FTP site.
This issue is an example of another thing we'll be trying to get
away from: one-story issues. In the future, there'll be more, smaller
stories per issue, and more serialization. No more gargantuan
We're also working to have our newsgroup, rec.mag.fsfnet, revamped.
A vote is currently under way to permit us to rename the newsgroup to
rec.mag.dargon and make it an unmoderated newsgroup, so that it can be
used not only for distribution of issues, but for feedback and
discussion between the readers and the writing staff. The text of the
"Call for Votes" appears at the end of this issue; *PLEASE* take the
time to send an email message to , with a body text
I vote YES on rec.mag.dargon
Then, get everyone you know to do the same. Every ballot is crucial,
so please do whatever you can to get YES votes.
* IMPORTANT!!! IF MORE THAN 1/3 OF THE VOTES RECEIVED ARE 'NO' *
* VOTES, OR IF WE DON'T RECEIVE 100 MORE 'YES' VOTES THAN 'NO' *
* VOTES, WE WON'T BE ABLE TO MAKE THIS CHANGE!!! PLEASE VOTE!! *
In addition to the visible changes, we're also working on many
things behind the scenes. The biggest of these is a huge database of
Dargon's people, places, and things, that cross-references them with the
stories in which they appear. It's quite an undertaking, but it'll be a
priceless help for our writers, both old and new.
Bitnet readers may notice that issues are now being delivered to
them as email, rather than via SENDFILE or DISK DUMP. We apologize for
any inconvenience, but for technical reasons I am unable to continue to
support those file formats.
Thanks to those of you who sent feedback regarding "Love an
Adventure", which was printed in 7-2 and 7-3. It was the first sexually
explicit story we have ever printed, and your comments give us better
insight into our readership. Your continuing feedback is
Let me close with a familiar refrain to those of you who remember
the days of FSFnet. DargonZine is as much your creation as it is mine or
John's or the writers'. Your interest and participation are what
determines whether we are successful or not. And as we prepare to
celebrate the tenth anniversary of FSFnet's first issue with a
blockbuster two-issue reprint of the "Best of Dargon", we gratefully
acknowledge that you, the readers, have made FSFnet/DargonZine the
longest running electronic magazine on the Internet.
However, it is imperative that we continue to solicit new readers,
and there's a very serious need for new writers. Although we plan to
increase our visibility, it's important that you, the reader, do what
you can to help us spread the word to people who might be interested.
And VOTE YES for rec.mag.dargon!!!
With that said, this issue features another story by Max Khaytsus,
our most prolific writer in recent years. I had the pleasure of meeting
Max and nearly all of the current Dargon writers on a road trip I took
this spring, which was a wonderful experience. Max impressed me as
articulate, opinionated, and very detail-oriented, and we had great fun
terrorizing the staff and patrons of the Johnson Space Center. "...I
Shall Repay" takes place during the war between the kingdoms of Baranur
and Beinison, and recounts the shipboard exploits of his longstanding
protagonist, a certain Rien Keegan...
...I Shall Repay
by Max Khaytsus
Yuli 25-27, 1014
Skalen Deven Yasarin. That name alone was more than
enough to take any Beinison regiment any distance. He, just
like his blood relatives, was supposed to be dead, a symbol of
what will happen to those who would disagree with the imperial
line, commoner and noble alike. It was a different reason that
had brought the Imperial Beinison Army and Navy to the shores
of Baranur, but the reason did not matter to Deven. His
single-minded goal was the large cog in the Shandayma Harbor,
the _Golden_Sword,_ fighting the strong currents at the Laraka
delta. She majestically stood against the strong current,
holding out better than even the larger, sturdier galleons at
her side. She was the ship that carried a number of sages,
among them the venerable Lord Haurance Cinofrid, one of the
greatest scryers of his day.
"I've got you," Deven laughed, watching the ship from
shore. "Another day ... two. You won't float well with a hole
in your belly."
He looked down at the two dead sailors at his feet. There
was a sense of satisfaction that another two of his enemies
were dead by his own hand. Four decades ago he would have
proudly called them his countrymen, but that pride was long
since gone, forever replaced with anger and bitterness. No
amount of Beinison blood would ever restore his family to life
and he would keep that blood flowing as long as he could, to
force the Empire to remember his loss.
"Commander?" a man's voice followed hurried knocking on the cabin
door. "Commander, you're needed on deck."
Muriel Dainyn shifted in her hammock, letting the book she held
close on her finger. "I'll be right there!" 'It's the wind. It's always
the wind,' she thought, feeling the gentle rocking of the hammock. The
motion soothed her, bringing back memories of a little girl on board the
merchant vessel _Eastern_Star_ many years before. She swung out of the
hammock with practiced ease, again opening the book and tossing a coin
between the pages to keep her place, then proceeded up on deck.
"Ma'am," a sailor said, passing her in the long alleyway she needed
to navigate to get on deck. She greeted him, but did not stop, wanting
to resolve the problems above and return to her novel.
"Commander?" a new voice greeted her as she appeared on deck.
"Lord Cinofrid. A pleasure to see you on deck so early in the
The elderly man bowed, his grey eyes picking up the sparkle of the
sun. "The pleasure's all mine, Commander."
"Commander Dainyn?" a sailor called from the quarterdeck.
"Yes?" she looked up.
"Wind's shifting west, Commander. We need to turn. We can't fight
the current and the wind!"
"North or south?"
"You best handle this," the sage said, noticing the anxiety in the
"Thank you, my lord." She hurried up the companionway to the bridge
over the quarterdeck, taking the stairs two or three at a time. "Icath?"
she called the first mate.
"Can't you handle this?"
"No, ma'am. Whichever way we turn, we've got _Broken_Beak_ behind
us and she's close enough that we'll take her fore and jib in a turn."
The woman turned and looked at _Swift_Sparrow,_ the large galleon
aft of them, holding her own into the wind, too close for any fancy
"Damn Kaar! Using me for a wind break again! I've got it on my mind
to knock that jib right off his deck!"
"He's a captain, ma'am. One of Talens' favorites," the mate
"And my father's a duke ... not one of Untar's favorites. Let's see
how fast Kaar dumps in his pants." She looked around, noticing the
expectant sailors, all watching her. "Helm, hold her steady. Gennaker
and mainsail down!"
"We'll lose wind," Icath said.
"And Kaar better move his cow, or she'll have a broken beak for
Sailors released lines, causing the large sails to drop and the
_Golden_Sword_ to catch the current. The cog slowly drifted back, the
smaller sails still holding the wind and fighting the current.
"Turn back and look, Icath. I don't have the nerve."
The mate adjusted his cap, taking the opportunity to glance over
his shoulder. "They're watching us."
"You'd think I was a Baranurian or something!" the woman exclaimed.
"Kaar's an old sailor. He doesn't think you belong."
"Tell him I don't want to be here any more than he wants me here,"
"Vane shifted," Icath noted.
Muriel looked up at the streamer over the crow's nest. "Dropped
sails in time. I'd hate to think where we'd be otherwise."
"Pennant to stern!" someone on deck yelled.
Muriel and Icath turned to look back at a sailor on deck of the
_Sparrow,_ signalling them with a red flag. "Signal him to move back!"
"Commander," the helmsman said, "I can't hold her into the wind."
The rocking of the deck was long an indication of that.
"Prepare to put port lee on my order."
"_Sparrow_ needs to back off, or we'll be putting her jib though
our side," Icath noted.
"Aye, sir, but if she don't, she'll put her jib up our poop," the
Muriel watched a man signal the _Sparrow_ with a pennant, but no
answer came back. "Drop sea anchor," she ordered.
"Ma'am? That'll drag us."
"Risk, Icath. It's all about risk. Cavalry will take a phalanx if
it consists of cowards."
"She's falling back," the signalman announced.
"Mizzen up, lee to port!" Muriel ordered. Sailors heaved on ropes
in response and the helmsman spun the wheel to the right. "Sea anchor
The _Golden_Sword_ slowly settled into the new current.
"Doesn't make your day, does it?" Icath asked.
"Oh, it makes it, all right. Makes it all bad."
"Not your doing, Icath. Just watch our back."
"Yes, ma'am," he nodded and went to the helmsman as she took the
companionway down to middeck.
"Lord Cinofrid?" Muriel found the old sage looking off towards the
nearing land as the ship was repositioned in the water. "I'm sorry about
"It's quite all right, Commander. I'm just a passenger on your
"So am I, my lord. I'm here only for political reasons."
"Your fame on land precedes you," Cinofrid said, "but you shouldn't
be a commander when you're a captain."
"I don't want to be a captain, my lord. I want my sword and my
horse and my regiment. And an enemy to fight."
"But you're here now."
Muriel flung a strand of oakum overboard. "I'm here because my
father is a great captain, too old to go to war, and has dreams of me
carrying his burgee into battle. I'd have been better off going with
that fleet to Dargon. At least they get to land."
"It's all about land to you, isn't it?" the sage laughed.
"I was born on land. I sure intend to live on it!"
"Do you know what your name means, Muriel?"
She looked up at him, a little confused. This was the first time in
a month he called her by her given name. Before this it was always
'Commander', just like with the rest of her crew.
"It means 'sea-bright'. I'll bet that wasn't an accident on your
"Then why did he encourage me to be in the army?"
"I don't know that. I never met the duke," Cinofrid answered, "but
you have here a chance to be a legend on sea as well as land. This is an
opportunity no one before you has had."
"My lord, I may know the terms and maneuvers and command respect of
my men, but when I eat breakfast and the ship rocks, I sure wish I was
on solid ground."
The old wizard laughed. "So do I."
"I best get back to my tasks," Muriel said, secretly thinking about
the novel waiting in her quarters. There were few real duties to handle
while waiting for orders in the middle of the bay -- nothing Icath could
not handle himself, except perhaps for the occasional pig-headed move by
Captain Kaar or one of his officers.
"I should, too," Cinofrid said. "I do my best work rested, in
"I'll walk you down," Muriel offered, letting go of the gunwale.
They made only a few steps, when the man in the crow's nest yelled
out, "Man in the water!" Activity quickly picked up on deck, with
sailors rushing to rails, looking into the sea. Muriel instinctively
turned to the _Swift_Sparrow,_ expecting to see someone in the water,
but the lookout yelled again, "Man in water on steer-board!"
"Steer-board?" Muriel turned back to the side of the ship she was
just on. There was no trace of anyone in the water. She neared the
gunwale, looking into the water.
"Commander?" the mate appeared at her side. "What do we do?"
"Where is he, Icath? I can't see a thing!"
"Right there," he pointed to some debris in the water about quarter
"But that's just some planks ... a broken crate?" the woman
squinted to see better.
"You need to work on your sea-eyes," the sailor laughed. "That's a
"He looks dead," someone announced.
"No he's not," someone else yelled.
"Lookout?" Icath called up. "What's the word?"
"Alive, I think -- he's holding on!"
"Commander?" Icath turned to the woman again. "Should we get 'im
from the drink?"
"He's probably Baranurian."
"Get him, before Kaar sees him. He might be important."
"And if he's not?"
Muriel looked at the nearing debris and the man she could now make
out holding on to it. "If not, we'll see. We can always throw him back."
"Baear, Marbin, get that man out!" Icath ordered.
Two men scrambled for the davit extending over the bulwark from
midship. Some others moved a gangplank into position to aid their
"Arm a couple of men, just in case," Muriel told the mate.
Icath barked out more orders, taking charge of the rescue. The
debris was going to pass relatively close to the ship and no effort to
move it was needed, but it would not be close enough to make the rescue
"Commander," Lord Cinofrid approached the ship's captain, "if you
would, take notice of Captain Kaar and his crew."
She looked over her shoulder at the _Swift_Sparrow,_ no more than
one hundred feet off _Golden_Sword's_ port. The galleon's crew stood on
deck, watching the events unfold on her ship, Dasgant Kaar in the
forefront, arms folded, a scowl on his face.
"Someone go for a swim?" Kaar yelled, noticing Muriel looking at
"The cook went fishing!" she yelled back.
"I've tasted your cook's work, Captain Dainyn. Leave him for the
sharks!" The men around Kaar laughed.
Muriel turned away, looking at her men work.
"Won't you respond?" the sage asked.
"No. He's not worth it," she said, trying to show more interest in
the action on the other side of her ship. "Besides," she sighed, "I
don't know what to say."
"It's not what you say, but how you say it," Cinofrid advised.
"Don't let him intimidate you."
"Ma'am, _Broken_Beak's_ circling 'round," one of the sailors said,
indicating to the galleon having raised mainsail and started around the
"How much longer?" Muriel asked. "I don't want Kaar to see what
we're doing. Icath?! What's going on?"
"We almost got him," Icath called back. He had stepped over the
bulwark and was holding on to the backstay, to keep from falling. Below
and around him sailors cast lines in attempt to secure the debris.
"Hurry it along," Muriel said. "Kaar's getting too curious."
The mate glanced up at the galleon, making a wide circle, now half
way to the cog's bow. "Baear, just pull him in. Don't worry about the
Muriel looked at the sage, then at the _Swift_Sparrow._ The galleon
had indeed deserved that name, having gone most of the way to her ship's
bow in such a short time. She fought the easterly wind, making the turn
and that gave a few more moments for the sailors attempting the rescue.
All they needed was just a few moments longer.
"You're a competitive woman, Commander," Cinofrid laughed. "I see
why you like war."
"I don't like Kaar and the more I can make his belly ache, worrying
about what it is I caught, the better I'll feel."
A line on the davit broke, snapping from broadside and flying into
the mainmast, where it tangled on the mainstay. "Hold him up!" Icath
"Helm to steer-board!" Muriel called, ordering a turn into the
wind. The ship moved to the right slowly, blocking the _Sparrow's_ view
of the rescue.
"All right, just hoist it up," Icath called down. "Don't bother
with the raft."
Men heaved on the ropes strung overboard and brought up a plank on
which sat a wet sailor, holding on to a semi-conscious man. Two sailors
swung the davit in, locking the gooseneck that supported it in place.
"Move him to the carling," Muriel instructed, knowing that would
take her catch completely out of sight of the _Sparrow._ "Icath, wrap it
The ship's physician leaned over the rescued man and started
checking his condition. A group of sailors gathered around them, all
trying to get a good look at their catch, obscuring their captain's view
as well as their own.
Icath Taryl assisted the last two sailors on deck as the
_Swift_Sparrow_ made her way around the _Golden_Sword's_ bow, Dasgant
Kaar leaning on his ship's jib, looking at the crowd on deck and the
debris in the water. Icath saluted the large captain as the ships again
closed. "Good day to run circles around cogs, Captain."
"What'd you catch, Taryl? Your cook or a shark?"
"Shark caught the cook, sir. We didn't get much."
Muriel entered the cargo hold, where the rescued man was placed,
away from the prying eyes of the _Sparrow's_ curious crew and captain.
The man they rescued was alive and well, although rather beat up and
"A day or two rest and I expect he'll be as good as new," the
physician speculated. "He took some water, but he's in good shape."
"Thank you, doctor," she answered, studying her catch. He was a
tall man, maybe a little better than six foot, with blond hair and
bright blue eyes. His clothes were torn from what must have been a
struggle that forced him into the water and she suspected that he was
not a peasant. "I'll call you if there's anything else, doctor."
The physician nodded and left.
"Wait outside," Muriel instructed the two armed guards who followed
her down on Icath's orders. "No one comes in. If I need help, I'll call
"Yes, Commander," the men answered and left.
Muriel approached her prisoner. He lay, still dripping water, on a
platform built of crates with supplies. As she approached, he tried to
sit up, but she motioned for him not to. "What is your name?" she asked,
speaking in Benosian. There was little chance the man would understand,
but it was her native tongue and the one she felt most comfortable in.
There was no indication the man understood. That could only mean he was
not on her side in this war.
"Are you Baranurian?" she asked in the local tongue. It seemed like
he grasped some words, but not enough to make sense of them. That
surprised her somewhat, but she did not give up. "Do you speak
Galician?" she asked in the only other language she knew.
The man forced himself up on his elbows. "I am Galician," he
answered. He took a deep breath and lay back down, obviously too
exhausted to support himself. "Where am I?"
"You're aboard the _Golden_Sword_ of the Royal Beinison Navy. What
is your name?" Seeing the man was not Baranurian, Muriel relaxed a bit.
He was not as big a threat as she feared he might turn out to be, and
she was curious what he was doing out in the bay, so far from his
"My name is Rien Keegan," he answered. "I'm very grateful for your
"I'd have thrown you back if I thought you were Baranurian," she
Rien turned his head to look at her upon hearing that. "There are
sharks out there."
"There's a war out there."
"Does life mean so little to you that it can be disposed of so
"An enemy's life? Sure." Muriel sat down on a crate across from
Rien, studying him.
"Well, I guess we all feed on death in one way or another," Rien
answered, turning his head away from the woman.
Muriel glanced up at the beam that ran above him, that his eyes had
to be locked on. "What makes you say that? What do you do?"
"I'm somewhat of a scholar."
"A scholar?" She examined his form. There were two types of
scholars she met. The fat ones who sat on their rumps all day and
complained and the skinny ones, who sat on their rumps and complained
just as much. This Rien Keegan looked nothing like a scholar. He was
well muscled, well tanned and clearly weather-worn. "You don't look much
like a scholar."
"What does one look like?"
"What does one do?"
Rien looked at her, understanding the question. "Books are
perceptions of the past, by people who experienced and recorded it. Most
accounts are biased by what those recording them believed personally, or
what they were paid to believe or write. History isn't just a story from
the past, a few faded words on parchment or a legend passed from father
to son. What we do now, we do because someone else did so before us and
the way we can learn about ourselves is by studying ourselves. We are
all reflections of our past."
Muriel smiled, trying to hide the smile from her prisoner by
looking away. "You're a philosopher."
"I'm a scholar who doesn't look for answers in books. If we stop
exploring life today, who will write the books about modern life that
future generations will want to read?"
"What are you looking for in Baranur?"
Rien did not answer for some time. "Everyone's. The west coast of
Cherisk is where Fretheod fell. It's where the world was reborn."
"Is that so?"
Rien shifted on his crates. "Just tell me I'm crazy and leave it at
"All scholars are eccentric," Muriel answered. "I'm more interested
in why Baranur now. And why the river?"
"Perhaps I should ask you why Baranur now and why the river?"
"I have my orders."
"I have my research. I told you why Baranur. This is the west-most
part of Cherisk. As for the river ..."
"Yes?" Muriel asked after a prolonged pause.
"Let's just call it bad timing."
"You were attacked?"
"A man with a sword."
"A man with a sword. He did not tell me who he was fighting for."
Muriel stood up. "You look like someone who can defend himself."
"Not against an armed opponent," Rien sighed.
"Those are the fortunes of war."
"There are no fortunes in war."
Muriel frowned. "You best rest. I have other duties to attend to. I
will have food sent to you shortly." She walked to the door, pausing as
she heard a struggling gasp behind her.
"Who are you?"
She turned to see Rien sitting up on the crate. He was slouching
forward, holding on to his ribs. "I am Commander Muriel Dainyn, captain
of this vessel. My physician said you're merely bruised. You will be
fine in a few days. I will have him mix something for your pain." She
waited a moment longer, then turned and left the hold, giving the guards
outside instructions to feed the prisoner and wait.
She returned on deck and finding a remote spot along the bulwark,
leaned on the rail and watched the sea. This self-proclaimed scholar she
caught did not strike her like what he claimed he was. He was fit, tan,
strong. He could be a scholar, but she had a feeling. He just did not
seem the type.
"Commander?" the first mate's voice disturbed her contemplations.
"Right here, Icath."
He leaned on the bulwark by her, looking down to where the water
licked at the hull below. "How's our fish?"
"He claims to be Galician ... and a scholar."
Muriel shrugged. "He speaks Galician. Better than I. But I don't
know the first thing about scholars."
"He's pretty fit," Icath said. "Didn't strike me like a book
"Why was he in the drink?"
"Said someone attacked him." Muriel turned, placing her back
against the rail. "Anyone here speak Galician?"
"Can't say. Lord Cinofrid, perhaps. He'd tell you if our fish's a
"He has more important things to do than question my prisoners,"
the woman answered. "Let's not forget why he's here."
Icath nodded. "You're right. But I forget why we're here
"_Broken_Beak_ backed off. Kaar hasn't been on deck since the
"Watch him like he watches me, Icath. I don't trust that man one
"Nor I, Commander. If it were up to men like him, you'd have no
place in the service of the Emperor."
"Yes, I would. As a rug."
Icath turned to look at her. "Those are harsh words."
"I know Kaar."
"I'll watch, ma'am."
Muriel turned back to the water as the mate left, reviewing the
talk she had with her prisoner. Could he be a Galician scholar? 'Keegan'
-- was that a Galician name? She kicked at a loose bulwark board.
After the evening meal, Muriel told the guards to bring the
prisoner to her on deck, then stay at a distance and watch. She wanted
to give him a sense of security and a chance to tell her his story
again. She did not have to wait long. Moments later, the two guards
reappeared with the scholar and led him up to the fore of the ship.
"I understand you're feeling better," Muriel said, looking him up
and down. She had not mistaken about his build. He was tall and well
muscled, not like any scholar she had ever met.
"Much better," he smiled, sitting down on a crate. She noticed him
wince as he changed positions.
"My physician informs me your shoulder and ribs are sore, but there
is little bruising."
"Lucky twist," Rien answered. "Very lucky, indeed."
"How did it happen?"
He let out a deep breath. "I was making my way into town, when a
man confronted me at the edge of the docks. He drew his sword and ..."
Rien looked up. "You're going to make me tell this story until you're
satisfied it does not change."
"I have to be careful in a war."
He nodded. "The man didn't say anything. Just drew his sword and
started swinging. I was able to thrust my pack before me and it took the
first hit, but he cut it, and his sword caught my sleeve. His second
blow was to my side. I suppose that having caught in my clothes, the
sword twisted and the flat of the blade pushed me over into the river. I
must have been stunned, because the next thing I knew, I was holding on
to driftwood, being battered against the side of your ship.
"I wish I could tell you who that man was. I wish I knew myself.
I've met my share of brigands and robbers, but this was the first man
who was unwilling to talk."
"You always try talking to those who draw steel on you?" Muriel
"I try. Sometimes it works."
Rien looked up. "This is hardly an interrogation."
"You'd rather I interrogated you?"
"No, please ..."
"Then amuse me by telling me a story."
"I ..." Rien paused, thinking. "I guess it was three or four years
ago. I was in Lederia, in the highlands, when my horse's path was
blocked by a fallen tree. I got out of my saddle to lead the animal
through the brush, when two men appeared from it, both holding swords. I
had the feeling they would take my money, but I did not expect they
would take me as well.
"They wanted my horse, I imagine, because they went through great
efforts to be gentle with it and ..."
"I thought I heard Galician speech," Haurance Cinofrid appeared
from the darkness. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I love the language. It
has words for things we build sentences to describe."
Muriel frowned. She had agreed with the sage that he would intrude
on their discussion and evaluate her prisoner, which he did right on
time, but she wanted to hear the rest of the scholar's story and the
sage's interruption quickly removed any chance of that happening this
Rien glanced at the old man, looking him up and down. He was a
grey-eyed, grey-haired man in his sixties, appearing somewhat brittle,
but rather agile for someone of his advanced years.
Muriel stood up. "Lord Haurance Cinofrid, Rien Keegan."
Cinofrid approached. "You're the man who was pulled from the water
Rien stood up as the sage approached and greeted the man in the
traditional Benosian greeting. The old man responded in kind, a little
"You've been to our lands?" he asked, letting go of Rien's arm.
"I am familiar with some customs, my lord."
"I wish I could say the same about Galicia, but your borders are
closed to most foreigners."
They all sat down again. "My Lord King is a man of old beliefs of
family and privacy."
"I understand your Lord King is an ancient man," Cinofrid noted.
"He is an old man, but far from ancient. His isolation gives birth
to many rumors."
"So I can imagine." The sage fell silent for a moment, casting a
glance at Muriel. "I'm not interrupting, am I?"
"Not at all, my lord. I was being entertained with scholarly
"You are a scholar, then?" Cinofrid asked.
"I am a scholar," Rien agreed.
Rien shrugged. "People?"
"A historian? A philosopher?"
"A little of both, I guess. I look at life and try to make sense of
Cinofrid laughed. "Puglewav, Shewu, Elepniwra ... Keegan?"
"I would be honored if some day my name is listed with the greatest
thinkers of Fretheod."
"Some would call them harlequins and soothsayers."
"What would you call them, my lord?" Rien asked.
"I'd call them men who had too much free time, whose purses grew
and energies dwindled, so they travelled the lands, giving people
advice. Puglewav was killed because he dared speak."
"But he said things that are to this day the basis of our
"But was he right?"
"He was to me. He said, 'an unexamined life is not worth living,'
so I study the lives that people lead."
"He also said that 'no man knowingly does evil'," the sage pointed
"You don't think he was right?"
"Certainly the men who took your money and your horse, and the one
who attacked you when you entered the city were were not 'good men',"
"Oh, you're not going to involve me in a political discussion,
because that's where this question always leads. If you want to
understand ethics, you have to understand Shewu."
"Surely you have an opinion," Cinofrid protested.
"I do," Rien said, "but let me assure you that it is not the same
as yours. And it is different from a Baranurian you may find in this
town. Even the two of you, I suspect, differ in opinions on the
divisions between good and bad."
"Good and bad are the lines that divide Gow from Amante," Muriel
"And the knights of Beinison align themselves with Gow, the
Protector?" Rien asked.
"Does that mean the knights of Baranur are aligned with Amante, the
Masked God?" Rien went on. "Surely they don't view themselves as
following the god of criminals, executioners and gladiators!" He paused
long enough to let his words sink in, but not long enough to let his
audience answer. "Good and bad are the lines that divide the twins,
Sanar, the Wise and Talam, the Green."
"But they're both gods of healing and nurture and growth," Muriel
"But one is a king."
Silence lasted for a long span of time, disturbed only by the sound
of the waves lapping against the sides of the ship. Muriel kept looking
at Rien, Cinofrid off into the murky darkness of the harbor. Somewhere
on deck boards creaked as sailors attended to their chores on the dark
deck of the _Golden_Sword._ A loose sail flapped in the light breeze
blowing in from the south.
"I don't understand."
Rien turned to look at Muriel. "Think about it. It has nothing to
do with what they do and everything with who they are." He stood up as
the two guards who had brought him here came back, alerted by the sudden
silence. "I see my keepers are here to take me back." He indicated to
the two men as they appeared from the shadows. "Good night, Captain.
Good night, Lord Cinofrid."
He walked over to the two soldiers and let them escort him into the
Muriel remained quiet well after their footsteps disappeared below
deck. She tried to make eye contact with the old sage, but failed,
twice. Then, looking into the dark water beyond the ship, spoke. "Is he
"He asks hard questions."
"Does that make him a Galician scholar?"
"My lord ..."
"He affected you," the sage interrupted.
"He made me think about his world."
Muriel shook her head. "He made me think about what makes us
"Then perhaps he is what he claims. Puglewav was killed for this
Muriel sighed. "He said he was not going to bring up politics."
"By saying he would not, he did," the sage stated. "And he knew
when to take leave. He did not let the discussion fall on the morality
of the war."
"But he did let it lie with us," the woman said. She stood up and
leaned on the bulwark. "What do I do with him?"
"Give him a day or two to recover, then return him to shore, or
arrange passage to Beinison on one of our returning ships, should he
"You don't think he's a threat?"
"No more than I am, Commander."
Muriel frowned. "You're Untar's eyes."
"The eyes are old and tired. They don't see as well as they used
to. The army struggles more as it reaches further inland. My range is
Muriel turned back to the sea, leaning on the ship as the little
girl she used to be had. The ocean had remained much as she remembered
it, except much of the childhood romance had turned to mystery of the
vast expanse, and the bulwark grew smaller and less comfortable. Life
had only managed to become more complex.
"You're up early, Commander," Icath called down to Muriel before
she was completely out on deck. She paused, squinting up into the bright
sunlight, holding on to the fidley for support. The first mate stood on
the quarterdeck, fists on his sides, a pipe in his mouth. He adjusted
his cap as the woman made her way to the upper-most deck.
"Thought you said you were going to take night watch."
Muriel pulled a cable hanging over the toerail back on board,
taking the opportunity to glance into the clear blue water.
"_Broken_Beak_ almost tore our jib off at daeg," Icath muttered.
"She must've gone up into the delta at night, then hurried back down in
the morning. Kaar's sitting on us like a vulture!"
Muriel calmly turned and looked at the large galleon, holding wind
not far away. There were two sailors on deck watching the
_Golden_Sword._ "How close did she come?"
"Quite close. Close enough, I could smell their breakfast."
"What were they having?"
"Maggots on rye," Icath spat. "And salt water."
The woman laughed. "You stayed up to tell me that?"
"Stayed up to watch the raffenrakers."
"Take a break, Icath. I've got plenty of dizzy sailors as it is,"
"Too tired to sleep," he answered, taking a deep puff of smoke.
"I've got a book in my cabin -- _Lives_of_Lords_and_Princes_ --
guaranteed to put you to sleep, if you can put it down ..."
"That the one you been reading?" Icath asked.
Icath shook the ash from his pipe. "I don't like to read."
"Either way, get off the deck. You've been up for a full day now."
He nodded. "Watch the topsail. It's been tearing loose all night.
I've had the bowman set it twice this morning." He paused, looking
about. "Galician been very quiet. Probably still asleep. Cinofrid came
up to sniff the wind. Cook said he wants to make port for new supplies.
All right, all right. I'm going." He shook the pipe out again and
proceeded below deck.
Muriel watched him go, then glanced up at the topsail. She could
see a corner binding flapping in the wind. "Bowman, what's with my
sails?" she called down.
"Need a fresh line, ma'am! I'll need to restring the lines next
time we put into port!"
She nodded to him. Five days since they left port and everyone
wanted back already. The nod turned into a shaking of the head. "In a
few days, Bar."
He went about his business and she turned to look at the
_Swift_Sparrow._ The galleon had neared a bit since she looked at it
last and standing on deck, before the castle, was Kaar himself.
"Promises to be a good day, Captain," he called to her, in spite of
the dark clouds gathering in the west. He made a few steps forward,
coming up to the bulwark of his ship.
"Good for swallowing the anchor," Muriel agreed.
"Now, Captain, is that any way to talk to a fellow soldier?"
She sighed and turned her back to him, not having anything more to
"Who was that fish you caught yesterday?" Kaar continued his
questioning. "I understand he was out for a long swim."
Muriel calmly proceeded to the lower deck, letting the echos of the
unanswered questions remain on the wind. She went below deck, to the
cargo section where the Galician scholar was being held. The two guards
at the door stiffened up as she approached.
"'Morning, ma'am," one said.
"How's my guest?" she asked.
"He's up, ma'am."
"Open the door."
The guard fumbled with the key and let her in, waiting for further
instructions in the corridor.
Muriel entered the hold, not bothering to close the door behind
her. Rien Keegan lay across a row of crates he had apparently arranged
himself. His arm lay across his face, shielding his eyes from the
non-existent light. There was a blanket lying on the floor, at the base
of the crates. Muriel paused, looking at his motionless form. "You're in
damn good shape for a book lover, Keegan."
His arm slipped, the back of his hand slapping against the wooden
deck. He quickly pulled it back up, making a fist. "Ah ..."
"Don't hurt yourself. My physician isn't good with splinters."
Rien brought his hand to his eyes. "I hope someone here is."
"Let's go on deck," Muriel said. "Have you sniff some wind."
She turned and walked out, pausing by the guards. "Bring us a
breakfast on deck. Nothing fancy."
She turned, watching Rien get up and follow her out. When she saw
him pause to take a deep breath before standing up and try to disguise a
slight limp, she felt a guilty pull at her heart. "You'd be better off
sleeping in a hammock," she said when he caught up. "There are a few in
"I didn't want to be presumptuous."
"If you're worried about imposing ..."
"I already am, I know," he interrupted. "But you haven't offered me
"Where are you going to go? You're about as deep in the war as you
"It'd be worse on the front line."
They came up on deck and Rien paused, giving Muriel a chance to
pick the direction. "Why maybe?"
"Up there they only deal with the moment," Muriel explained. "Here
I have to live with what they left me. I'd rather be at the front."
"At the front or home?"
Muriel headed for the fore of the ship and Rien followed. "At home,
but if I have to be in a war, I'd rather fight it, than watch the
wounded and the prisoners and the bureaucrats."
"I think I qualify as all three," Rien smirked.
Muriel laughed, stopping at the very edge of the foredeck. "You do,
Rien proceeded to the bulwark and took a look over the side.
"It's clean today," Muriel said. "That's very rare. Most days the
river carries a lot of mud into the bay, making the water brown, but
today Moire is at rest."
Rien shook his head. "Looks like it's going to storm."
"We'll put further out when it does," Muriel said. "It's a good
idea to keep distance from shore in storms."
"How far out?" Rien asked.
"Depends. A league or two. Whatever my helmsman feels comfortable
with. If we catch a high wave crest, we can come down on a pretty low
trough and that can crack the strake. Or worse yet, we can scrape bottom
or rip the hull on rocks."
"I feel safe already."
A sailor appeared with a tray of food. "Where would you like this,
She indicated to a barrel tied down on deck.
"It is safer than other occupations."
"Even in a war?"
"Pull up a crate," Muriel indicated to the meal.
Rien studied her for a moment. "You always treat your prisoners
"If you're Galician, you're not my prisoner."
"And I'm welcome to a hammock and breakfast?"
"Yes," she smiled.
Rien sat down and she pulled up another crate across from him. At
this point she decided to trust him a little more. Even if he did not
look it, he seemed like a scholar and was rather defensive about his
work. He was always polite and not once indicated desire to run or cause
trouble. If his mouth was the most trouble he could be, she found him
not to be a threat.
"That ship," Rien pointed to the _Broken_Beak,_ off port, "is
"That's _Swift_Sparrow,_" Muriel said, starting on her breakfast.
"Her captain doesn't know how to keep his distance."
Rien studied the ship for a while, as they ate. "Looks like she ran
into something," he commented on the newer looking wood of the jib and
the fore of the ship.
"We call her '_Broken_Beak_'," Muriel said. "A year or so ago, Kaar
caught a good wind and ran her up the Royal Docks at Tasantil. Brought
down a whole pier."
"And the Emperor didn't get mad?"
"That was Untar the First, just a few months before he died. People
say he laughed so hard, he wet himself."
Rien smiled. "Sounds like it could make a good myth in a generation
"It probably will," Muriel agreed. "I already heard rumors that he
was falling ill back then. I suspect they're not true, though. He was a
tough old man."
"And his son?"
"His son wants to be tough. He wants to be the legend his father
"Is that the reason for the war?"
Muriel stopped eating and looked critically at Rien. "Last night
you said you don't involve yourself in political discussions because
"I'm sorry. I was trying to lure a personal opinion out of you."
She shook her head. "I follow my Emperor. If he orders we take
Baranur, I travel on land. If he orders we war with Bichu, I will walk
over water. If his wish is to challenge Veran the Bold, I will follow
him through the fires of hell."
Almost as if in response, a sudden gust of wind rocked the ship.
Muriel instantly got to her feet. "Bowman, take down that sail!"
"Yes, ma'am!" a heavy set bearded man yelled back.
She sat back down, putting her head in her hands. "I don't know
where we're going to get a new topsail ..." She brushed her hair back.
"Sometimes I hate this job."
"You can't replace your sail?" Rien asked cautiously.
"We can't replace a thing," Muriel said bitterly. "Our lines are
overextended." She was going to say more, but did not. Baranur's leaders
did not realize how thin the Beinison lines had become and she was not
going to enlighten the Galician scholar about how much the invading
force had to sacrifice to push the way it had from Sharks' Cove to Port
Sevlyn. They lost three thousand men taking the city. They must have
lost a quarter that getting to Port Sevlyn in five days. "The supply
ships are all in the south. Warships have to resupply the troops here.
And we don't have enough for ourselves, much less the front lines."
"Sounds like you're already following Untar through the fires of
"What I do, I do for my Lord."
Rien sat back on his crate, finished with his meal. "Your lord must
be a very unique man."
Rien eyed the dagger lying on the tray on the barrel. "May I?"
"What for?" Muriel asked.
She nodded, cautious that he not trick her. He reached out and
picked it up, carefully cleaned the edge and then scratched the tip over
the back of his hand. A moment passed and Rien again ran the blade over
"Not coming out?"
"I can't get myself to press it harder." He moved the dagger again
and it slipped from his grasp. Rien quickly reached for it and returned
it to the tray. "Sorry." A drop of blood ran down his fingers.
Muriel shook her head. "I'm sorry I ever doubted you're a scholar,"
Rien covered his hand, applying pressure to the cut. "I think I got
"Good thing you kept your fingers," Muriel answered. She paused,
looking at the chain and medallion now hanging outside Rien's tunic. The
pattern looked vaguely familiar.
"Sorry about the mess."
"Not like the first time there's been blood on this deck. Let's go
wash it out."
Rien stood up, the medallion swinging as he righted himself. Muriel
caught it and took a closer look.
"This crest. Is it Benosian?"
Rien nodded. "Someone I used to chase gave it to me."
He nodded again. "I told you, I travel."
"Well, come on."
"Ship to fore!" the lookout in the crow's nest yelled.
Muriel turned to see the _Swift_Sparrow_ slowly turn in the water
ahead of them, pointing her jib off their port. Her new course would
take her only twenty or thirty feet off their port side.
"Helm to port!" Muriel yelled. "Keep our bow to them!"
The _Golden_Sword_ groaned under the shifting weight, but managed
to keep her jib pointed at the large galleon, forcing the other ship to
pull further away as she adjusted course.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" Muriel yelled at Kaar,
standing at the bow of his ship. "We're supposed to be on the same
Kaar's smug expression betrayed his intention to get a look at
A hatch burst open and Icath Taryl, the first mate, jumped out on
deck. He froze seeing the galleon pass within grappling range and
instinctively reached for a sword that was not there. "Kaar, you pull
this stunt again and you're going to have burning tar on your deck!"
The galleon's captain let out a laugh. "I don't think your meager
crew could handle the assault of my men. Swim with the small fish, Icath
-- your own captain's more your size. You girls have a lot of growing to
The tray the morning meal had been served on went flying over the
water, impacting the hull of the _Swift_Sparrow_ with a loud clank.
"I should add," Kaar yelled as the distance between the ships grew,
"your captain, Icath, even throws like a woman ..."
Muriel Dainyn adjusted her hair, watching two sailors stretch two
torn sails on deck. The strong morning wind made their task harder, but
they managed to pin the two stretches of cloth under a pair of crates.
"Figure we can make a whole sail out of this, ma'am," one of the
men guessed. "Be pretty heavy, though."
"It'll have to do," Muriel said. "At least we didn't lose any of
the big sails."
"Lost some rigging," the sailor complained.
Muriel walked around the stretched out sails, wondering where she
would find their replacements. The rigging was easy. There was probably
a league and a half of strong rope in the hold. They could re-rig the
ship if they wanted, but sails were hard to find in the middle of a war.
She looked up at the mast from which the wind of the previous night's
storm tore the rigging, pulling down and tearing a folded sail. It was
really no one's fault. Just bad luck.
She turned to face the first mate.
"We took a little water, but no more than in the belly of a good
drunk. No hull damage and the deck is fine. We got off easy for a storm
"Where am I going to get sails, Icath? Yesterday it was one. Today
I need two."
"We can try for a trade," he tilted his head towards the other
ships in the bay.
"For what, Icath? Rope?"
"We can ask Talens for sails in exchange for rigging. Say we'll
give 'im enough rope to hang everyone left in Sharks' Cove."
Laughter sounded from the men on deck. "We'll even do the work, if
he gives us a few days at a tavern," someone yelled out.
Icath glanced up to the quarter deck, where the yell came from.
"Aren't you supposed to be rigging?"
"Gallows are just as easy, sir!"
Muriel looked at her first mate and laughed. "You're losing."
"I don't mind a little bantering with the men," he answered. "And
something tells me they enjoy it, too. You should join in."
Muriel shook her head. "I should find us some sails."
"Why don't you ask Lord Cinofrid?" Icath suggested. "He might know
the right people."
"I suppose you're right," Muriel said. "He's really been making
more use of us than we of him. I think I will call on him." She cast one
last glance at the men patching the torn sails and went below deck.
Haurance Cinofrid's cabin was a small hold to the aft of the ship.
It held food and water on long voyages, but here, not far from shore and
a town ready to offer produce, it was a comfortably large room for the
sage to do his work in relative quiet and safety. She paused at the door
and knocked lightly. She knew the sage to be at work this hour of the
morning, but he had never turned anyone away.
No answer came to the knock, but the unlocked door cracked open and
Muriel entered the hold. The sage sat at the table that was brought in
for him, a large wood bowl of water before him. Two candles burned on
the table, casting gloomy shadows on the elderly man. He was deep in
Muriel paused for a moment, wondering if she would disturb his
work, but then closed the door behind her and approached the sage. There
was a faint image in the bowl. A forest and a damaged city wall. For a
moment she thought she could see people moving along the wall, but the
"Sit, Commander. I'll be with you in a moment."
She looked at the sage, sitting in his chair, unmoving, eyes
tightly closed. He sensed her?
The image in the bowl cleared up. From above green trees a hill
could be seen. An army stood on that hill. A small force. The enemy's
force. The standard that flew before the troops was of the Kingdom of
Baranur and next to it flew two others. Muriel could not identify them.
The image once again flickered, pulling away from the hill, across the
forest, letting the picture blur as everything passed by at a rapid
pace. The candles blew out.
Haurance Cinofrid opened his eyes.
"Gateway?" Muriel asked.
He shook his head. "Closer. Much closer ..."
"Where did they come from?"
"Up north, perhaps. Our scouts missed them, but they're few in
number. They're not a threat. They're caught between our forces in Port
Sevlyn and the army at Gateway. I will inform the local commander to
send a messenger to Port Sevlyn ..."
"I wish I could be there ..." Muriel sighed. "It's so hard knowing
what's happening out there and not being able to take part."
"There are plenty of battles here, Commander," the sage said.
"Resistance in the town, a citizen army building in the south, Captain
Kaar ..." He smiled sadly. "I sense there is more, but I can't see it.
Something watching me ... another sage, perhaps. The enemy can see
"You'll be perfectly safe on the _Golden_Sword,_" Muriel assured
the old sage. "The sailors are skilled and our few troops are well
Cinofrid nodded. "I don't fear for my well being on your vessel,
"I am glad," Muriel answered. It was time to talk business. "I hope
I didn't interrupt ..." she said, knowing well enough that she did
intrude on the sage's work.
A kind smile spread on the sage's face. "Your interruptions are
always a pleasure. What can I do for you, Commander?"
"When you're out there, looking around," Muriel indicated to the
bowl, "you wouldn't have happened to spot a sail or two I can have?"
Cinofrid laughed. "A sail?"
"Last night's storm damaged ours," the captain explained. "We have
"Is it serious?" the sage asked, his expression now somber.
"Not really. It's just the topsail and the skysail," Muriel
explain. "They're small sails, but they do help."
"I haven't paid much attention to sails, I'm afraid," Lord Cinofrid
answered. "I know there are none in the forest."
"Well, I was hoping you'd know ..."
He shook his head. "War and sails are your aptitudes."
"Well, I guess you help me once and I expect you to help me with
everything," Muriel started to rise.
"Do you mean lord Keegan?"
"The one man in this city who can't hold a knife."
"He visited with me last night," the sage said. "I was meaning to
tell you. During the storm I couldn't get my work done and he couldn't
sleep. I ran across him and his guards in the corridor and we struck up
a conversation. He's a most interesting man."
"I'm surprised my men let him out of the hold without checking with
me first," Muriel frowned.
"With a loop of bandages on his hand, in addition to his costumery
groaning, he did not seem like a threat to me."
"What did you talk about?"
"His travels, Baranur, Galicia. He holds many interesting opinions.
To a philosophical aspirant such as myself, he's a fountain of ideas.
He's lucky it was you and not Captain Kaar that picked him up."
"Commander," Icath Taryl approached his captain, talking quietly so
the other men on deck would not pay attention. "Last time _Broken_Beak_
passed by, they tossed this on board." He held out a rock, with a piece
of string and a rolled-up sheet of parchment.
"They're throwing rocks at us now? Where'd they get a rock?"
"Read the note."
Muriel took the scroll from the first mate and unrolled it. Black
ink, somewhat runny from the heavy humidity, cursively covered two short
lines. "Captain Dainyn, we must meet. Dasgant Kaar."
"If I didn't value the parchment, I'd tell you to throw it to the
"You won't meet with him?"
"What for? He hasn't done anything but insult me and endanger my
ship for the last month." She glanced at the _Swift_Sparrow,_ holding
sail not far away. "Give me that." She took the rock from Icath.
"What are you going to do?"
Muriel walked to the stern of her ship and studied the galleon. A
few moments passed and the galleon neared. Kaar and two other men
appeared on deck. Kaar seemed anxious.
"Throw like a girl, do I?" Muriel yelled when the gap between the
ships narrowed significantly and flung the rock at the men on the other
ship. The missile impacted solidly with one of the men with Kaar and
flailing his arms in surprise, he tumbled backwards.
Brushing the dirt off her hands, Muriel turned her back on the
speechless crew of the _Swift_Sparrow_ and retreated to mid-deck. "You
know, that felt good," she confided in Icath. "I wish I had another
rock. Who did I hit?"
"I think that was their physician," the first mate answered. "You
know Kaar will be mad as all hell over this."
"He started it."
Icath chuckled. "There was one dry rock in all of Shandayma and you
just threw it away."
"I wish I had another," Muriel muttered again.
"Ma'am, sir?" a sailor walked up to them. "A man on the _Sparrow_
just plunged in the water. He's swimming this way."
"Was it the one I hit?"
"I don't think so, Commander."
"I'll check on him," the first mate nodded.
Muriel watched the two men leave, then sat down on a crate anchored
down on deck, watching other sailors gather at the steer-board of the
vessel as the swimmer was pulled on board. Through all this Icath stood
behind the men, arms folded, a furrowed brow, the corners of his mouth
giving his normally stern expression a tinge of evil. 'He's as mad as I
am,' she laughed to herself.
The _Swift_Sparrow_ held sail at a respectable distance, having
backed off after Muriel flung the rock. There were plenty of men on deck
watching the rescue. A half dozen or so held spears and a few more stood
by the sails. It was obvious they were worried about the man coming on
When the swimmer finally appeared, Icath stepped forward. He said
something and the man answered. "You talk to me!" Icath yelled. The man
Icath folded his arms, studying the man for a long time, then
turned and looked at his captain.
Muriel nodded for the man to be brought to her. He was dressed like
an officer and arrogantly pushed his way between the sailors gathered on
deck, following Icath. A full but neat beard hid his expression as he
made the short distance across deck.
"He refuses to talk to anyone but you, Commander," Icath reported.
Muriel set her jaw. "You will talk to my first officer."
"I was sent to talk to you." His voice was deep, sea-worn.
"Who are you?" Icath demanded.
"Answer him," Muriel said after seeing the answer was not going to
"Lasiel Browin, pilot of the _Swift_Sparrow._"
Without warning, Icath spun, delivering a roundhouse punch to the
man's jaw, sending him down on deck. "Keep your distance, fish kisser,
or I'm going to break your neck!"
Muriel cast a stern look at her first mate, but said nothing. A
pair of sailors helped the man up.
"What did you want?"
He wiped the blood from his lip, turning his back to Icath.
"Captain Kaar sent me to ask that you come talk to him about urgent
"I have nothing to talk to Kaar about."
"I am to stay here until you are done, to ensure your safe return."
"What does he want to talk to me about?" Muriel demanded.
"I can't say," Lasiel answered.
"Try." Icath's hand clamped on the back of the helmsman's neck.
"Say it, or you're not walking off this ship alive."
"I don't know. I am here to tell you that it's urgent ... very
urgent, in fact."
Muriel glanced at Icath. "What do you think?"
He let the helmsman go. "Kaar must be pretty sore at you by now.
And so's half his crew."
"Captain Dainyn's safety is guaranteed," Lasiel assured.
"I'll talk to him," Muriel said. "Go signal him."
The mob of sailors on deck accompanied the man to complete the task
and Muriel turned to Icath. "I want you to grapple that ship and not let
go until I'm back. And I want a spear detail on deck. Everyone who's got
a sword wears it. Keep Lord Cinofrid and the Galician below."
"Yes, ma'am," Icath said and rushed away.
Muriel watched Lasiel signal the _Swift_Sparrow_ to approach and
the two ships again neared.
"Hold her steady," Muriel yelled to her own helmsman. "Let them do
all the work."
A pair of grappling irons came over the gunwale, then a pair more
flew in the other direction, securing the ships to one another. It took
a long time to narrow the gap between the vessels. When the commotion
settled down, Muriel approached Kaar, who stood on his ship, a mere
hand's reach away.
"What did you want?"
"Come on board."
"We can talk this way."
"I want you to talk with someone else. I don't want him on deck."
Muriel glanced back at Icath and her men holding the pilot of the
"No tricks," Kaar promised. "Please."
He extended his hand and she accepted it, first stepping across the
gunwale of her ship, then the gap between the vessels and finally over
the bulwark of the _Swift_Sparrow._ Kaar did not release her until she
was safely across.
"I wanted you to talk with my first mate," Kaar said as they left
the _Golden_Sword_ behind them. "Or rather, he wanted to talk to you and
I felt it was important that he does."
"He could have come on deck, or swam over himself," Muriel said.
"This charade you're creating is pointless."
"You will understand," Kaar said. He escorted Muriel below deck to
a large well lit and decorated stateroom where two other men waited. One
Muriel immediately recognized as the man she hit with the rock. The
other she did not know.
As Kaar and Muriel entered, the two men stood up and greeted their
"My first mate, Aldyn Kile Nephlan," Kaar introduced the tall
muscular man Muriel did not know, "and my physician, Lord Reuus
"I am sorry, my lord," Muriel sighed as the physician faced her.
"Think nothing of it, my lady."
"Please, sit down," Kaar indicated to the chairs around a table
that took up most of the room.
Muriel chose her chair and the other men settled around her. Kaar
sat at her side, his first mate directly across from her and the
physician next to the first mate, opposite his captain.
"That man you fished out two days ago," Kaar said, "could you tell
us who he is?"
"That's all you brought me here for?"
"We suspect you may not realize who he is," Aldyn said.
"He is a Galician scholar," Muriel answered. "I didn't believe him,
but he had a long talk with Lord Cinofrid and if the Sage believes him,
that's good enough for me."
"Your scholar," Aldyn frowned, "is a Baranurian soldier." He paused
to let Muriel express her disbelief.
"Don't frown, Captain," Kaar advised. "Hear him out."
"Your scholar," Aldyn continued distastefully, "and I have somewhat
of a history. About ten days ago I was in the city, with some of the
men. We had two days in port and wanted to relax. We went to a tavern
and spent the day there and headed back in the evening. Just short of
the docks, we were assaulted by two men and a woman. The men with me
were killed. A man and the woman probably died. The survivor was the man
you fished out."
"I don't think so," Muriel shook her head. "He hasn't been in town
that long and he knows nothing of fighting."
"He knows plenty of fighting, I assure you," Aldyn said. "The men I
was with could swear to that, too, if they could. Perhaps a face to face
confrontation would prove it to you? I've been careful to avoid showing
my face on deck."
"You're mad," Muriel said. "He doesn't even speak Baranurian!"
"He speaks Baranurian," Aldyn said, "and if I'm right, his
Beinisonian is rather good, too."
"I don't think so," Muriel turned to Kaar.
"All the proof we have is two dead sailors and my first mate's
story. I doubt he killed those men himself. When our men returned to the
site of battle to pick up the bodies, it was a rather grisly scene. I
have no reason to question the story."
"All right," Muriel agreed, "if I let you on board and give you a
chance to talk to this Baranurian warrior, will your anxiety be
"It would," Kaar agreed. "And I won't bother you again."
"Kaar, you're not going to bother me again either way."
"Let's get it over with," Muriel got up. "If I know Icath, he's
boiling tar to throw at you by now."
The three men got up and followed her back on deck.
"I'll go over alone," Aldyn said to Kaar. "I'm sure there'll be no
risk. There are plenty of sailors on the _Sword._"
"Be careful nonetheless," Kaar instructed. "We'll cut the cables so
it doesn't arouse the Baranurian's suspicions ... if that's all right
with you, Captain Dainyn?"
"Perfectly all right," she responded, stopping at the bulwark of
Kaar's ship. "What kind of an idiot docks steer-board?" she paused,
looking at Icath, across the gap between the ships.
"We did, ma'am."
She shook her head and started her climb. "We're having a guest
join us, Icath. Don't hit him."
The first mate offered his captain help getting across while other
sailors aided the man following her.
"Icath Taryl," Muriel introduced her first mate, "Aldyn Kile
Nephlan, first mate of the _Swift_Sparrow._"
"Cut the lines," Kaar barked an order from the deck of his galleon.
"Release their grapples," Muriel ordered her men.
"What's this about?" Icath asked. He nervously took out his pipe
and started stuffing it with tobacco.
"Your fish is Baranurian," Aldyn said. "I'm here to prove it."
Icath skeptically folded his arms.
"They'll leave us alone after this," Muriel told him. "That alone
is worth it."
"And you just took his word for that, I'll bet," Icath muttered.
Muriel's expression darkened, but she did not respond. "Let the
pilot go," she yelled to her sailors. "Helmsman, pull us away, fore to
The _Golden_Sword_ slowly turned in the bay's current, facing the
delta of the Laraka and the tall winding spire above the keep in the
middle of the river.
"What's Cinofrid doing on deck?"
"He was curious," Icath explained, "and getting him to go below is
like asking the wind to turn."
"Sage," Muriel called the elderly man over. Both he and the
_Sparrow's_ pilot made their way over to her.
"My lady," the sage bowed. "It's a pleasure this morning."
"It's a pleasure every morning, my lord. I was wondering if you
still believe that the man we caught is a Galician scholar."
"Having discussed the arts of philosophy with him, I have to say
he's very learned -- and opinionated -- and seeing he only speaks
Galician, I can't imagine him to be anything but. I stand by my initial
"This gentleman here," Muriel indicated to the first officer of the
_Swift_Sparrow,_ "believes he's not."
"And never having seen this man, what do you base your claim on?"
the sage inquired.
"But I have seen this man before. I met him in battle ten days
"Then he will recognize you if he sees you?"
"That's what I hope to show."
"Do you just want him brought on deck?" Muriel asked.
"It would probably be easiest," Aldyn agreed.
"Marbin, bring the Galician up here," Muriel ordered one of the
"Right away, Commander."
Lord Cinofrid sat down on a crate. "This will be an interesting
display whether you're right or not."
"I'm right," Aldyn eyed the sage. "I know I'm right."
Icath sat down by the sage. "Do you care to wager, my lord?"
"I suspect we'll be wagering on the same side," the sage leaned
over in mock whisper and both men laughed.
"Why don't you start talking to him and I'll walk over then," Aldyn
suggested. "I don't want to give him the advantage."
"Go," Muriel nodded and he departed, leaving her with Icath and
Cinofrid and Lasiel, the galleon's pilot.
"Listen," Icath said to the man standing by Muriel, "I'm sorry for
punching you. That was out of line."
"It's all right. We're all a little heated now," Lasiel said. "We
all follow orders."
"You hit him?" the sage asked.
"Right on the jaw," Icath agreed.
The sage shook his head.
"It's fine, my lord," Lasiel said. "It was a heated moment and I
was pretty pigheaded myself. I'll get over it. The teeth are fine."
"They're coming," Icath warned.
"Commander?" two sailors stopped by the group, Rien between them.
Everyone turned to the scholar. "Good morning, Keegan," Muriel said
in Galician. "Take a seat."
"Commander," he greeted her cautiously, then did the same with
Icath and Cinofrid. When Icath stood up, he sat on the crate as
instructed by the woman captain.
"Rien Keegan, Lasiel Browin" Muriel made the introduction. "Lasiel
is with the Advocate General," she went on. "We have to ferry him down
coast and when I mentioned your adventure on the docks to him, he wanted
to know about that man you fought."
"He fought me," Rein corrected.
"Any description would help," Muriel said.
"He wore a helmet," Rien said thoughtfully, "but he had a light
brown beard ..."
"Would you be able to recognize him?" a voice sounded behind Rien.
Rien stood up and turned, his eyes narrowing at the site of the
_Swift_Sparrow's_ first mate. The expression on his face betrayed a
glimmer of angry recognition.
"... Because I recognize you!" the man yelled in Beinisonian and
grabbed Rien's tunic, pulling him close. "And once again, it's just you
Rien's arms instinctively came up to break the other man's hold on
him, but Aldyn gave him a shove.
"I don't know you," Rien struggled to sit up on the deck.
Icath and Lasiel helped Rien up, but did not release him.
"I don't think anyone here believes that," Aldyn said. He again
took Rien's tunic in his fist and pulled the supposed Galician forward,
against the grip of the men holding him. Rien grimaced as the chain of
his medallion tightened around his neck. "You ambushed and killed my
men," Aldyn went on. "In cold blood, with no mercy. You will answer for
these crimes." He gave Rien a rough shove, tearing his tunic and the
chain around his neck, letting the medal fall. "You will pay."
The medal fell to the deck, spinning about for a moment, echoing
"You!" Cinofrid suddenly stood up. He almost tripped on the folds
of his robe, stepping away from the crate. "You're the one!"
A small flame danced on the deck, around the now still medal and a
circle of mist rose around it.
A cloaked figure shifted in the settling darkness,
letting the wind wrap the black cloak around the body, with
just the very bottom of the hem playing with the wind. Waves
in the bay steadily licked at the pier, producing occasional
groaning sounds from the wood.
The man chuckled. It was done. It was done at a terrible
cost, but it was done. It was both for justice and victory.
"Deven?" another figure came on the pier. The man was
tall, dressed in light armor and wearing a sword. His long
blond hair blew in the wind, offering no resistance to the
The cloaked figure turned. "You saved the ship."
"Our deal was for the sage."
"It was for all of them. You liked the woman."
"I learned the enemy had heart and soul ... even the sage."
"You don't know the enemy." The cloaked man turned back
to the waves.
"It's time to go, Deven. We did all we could. Adrea's
dead. You had your revenge and I had mine."
The cloaked man turned again. "Death no longer satisfies
me. There is nothing I can take from them to make them feel as
empty as I do. There is nothing that they have that's as
valuable as what they took from me."
The armored man reached out, holding a medallion on a
chain out for the other. "It's over for now."
The cloaked figure moved near, accepting the offering
with a pale hand. "This symbol will yet burn in the hearts and
minds of those who defied it, of those who had not the courage
to stand up for what was right. The empire will bow to the
A distant flash of lightning cut across the now dark sky
somewhere off in the distance and a rumble of rolling thunder
suppressed the sound of the surf.
REPOST: FIRST CALL FOR VOTES (of 2)
unmoderated group rec.mag.dargon
rec.mag.dargon DargonZine fantasy fiction emag issues and discussion.
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