“Healer Borunaen, would that happen to be the notice that Haiu Menshir is set up to receive refugees?” General Pasen lowered the eyeglass from where he’d been looking at the ships of the line and turned to the elderly Haian woman who sank down on the chair offered her by the young midshipman who was her aide, an open packet in her hand. “I hoped that it was in the last package.”
She nodded. “I’m still not used to working with Arkans, General,” she said. “It is astonishing to me, still, that the world did not end when you people invaded us.”
“We did our best to make amends, once our cancerous head was removed,” Pasen answered mildly. “Anything I should take note of that would make things easier?”
“No, no, by the time we have need, the floating land should be built. We do, however, insist that the deck be treated as Haian territory and that no weapons be allowed.” Once they’d realized how many people were being taken, Admiral Inisen had authorized that the new hulls for the Third Wave diverted to anchor off Haiu Menshir and a floating deck be built across to accommodate the anticipated freed slaves and healers.
“Of course.” He nodded at the distant shore. “We will have close to ten thousand sick, injured and traumatized people to go back past the Rock and I’m very glad we could come up with a plan to help Haiu Menshir handle the emergency.” The islands would not have been able to accommodate that massive influx.
They'd found seven barracoons strung along the Dust coast, not four as reported, and the Fourth Wave now stood as a line in the Lannic to block any Fehinnan slaver who might attempt to grab their human cargo and slip away. This barracoon, that the Fehinnans called Ifry, was the largest and Irefas and the Lioness’s Snakes had reported that there were as many as fifteen hundred people from all nations in the known world being held as slaves, waiting for transport. There had been a delay and slaves had been arriving long past the point when this slave camp should have been emptied. Conditions were horrific according to the spies, but they weren't being dragged away half way around the world.
The slave ships weren’t arriving, possibly because the Fehinnans had had to rebuild their base on the Yaller Islands for some odd reason. Termites, perhaps. Pasen didn’t want to imagine the squalor that must exist inside the walls of the pen. There were too many of their own people held in shackles or in the enclosures that had to be freed before they could burn the rest of it to the ground.
“Those terrible people!” Borunaen shook her head, shading her eyes with the paper to look toward the land squinting into the rising sun. “I never thought in my life I’d be out in a different sea, preparing to succor Arkans. Spirit of Life provides.” She peered sideways at Pasen. “So, General, why aren’t you on land preparing to fight?”
“Only if necessary,” he said, and raised his glass to his eye again. “This is Admiral Inisen’s charge.”
“You're here because you hate slavers, don’t you?”
“It has been my joy to see that blight removed from Arko in my lifetime – ah!” He swung the glass upwards toward a flight of moyawal into the air. “Things didn’t go precisely as planned. There are some people doubling on singles…”
“My apprentices are all set up to receive casualties,” she said, and rose slowly. “I will speak with you and the Admiral after this particular pest-hole is disinfected.”
“An admirable way to consider it,” Pasen said and turned to wave to his marines. “Stand by to receive wounded!” he bellowed, his order echoed and passed on with trumpets all down the line. All along the line the Niah wind-boards leaped out, followed by slower ship’s boats sprung out from the side of each Qutie, to assist wingers who wouldn’t make it from shore to the ships’ decks, to bring the most severely injured to Haian hands on the quinqueremes.
It went from peace on the low swell of the Lannic, with the cry of seabirds, to screaming chaos. The Snakes in the Grass had managed to get in, the night before, with the help of the Niah and freed all the those shackled slaves, cages were opened and made to look solidly locked but would open at a push, Fehinnan guards had their throats cut in the night, and then the Lions and Tigers of Sria had attacked.
Niah who had landed at the guard tower, and taken it, had held it against retreating Fehinnans and then launched from the tower top, as the morning wind came up, taking the children and babies with them.
The quinquereme deck was suddenly covered with people. Arkans, Srians, Haians, Yeolis, Lakans, Enchians, Ungilians. All the races, some people injured and screaming, babies wailing, warriors injured, trying to be stoic, some managing, some weeping. The smell of the sea breeze was suddenly overwhelmed by the stench of people long unwashed.
“Centurion, do the Srians need ground support?”
The marines were armed and they were chafing to go, but the General knew what his answer would be. “No, Ser!” I haven't wanted to fight, personally, for years. I'm too old and intelligent to waste it swinging a sword. But I want to as badly as those boys... and girls, he amended in his thoughts.
A trumpet call rang from the stern tower. With a snap the oars rattled out of the sides and the flagship surged forward drawing the line into an attack point. “Tell them they shall have plenty of gore yet.”
Try to bring slavery back to us? He thought, looking at the black plumes of smoke rising from the land in front of the line. Summoner run before us and gather them all up in your capacious claws.