Tuesday, June 30, 2015

153 - Koru, Help Me

Minis sent a short prayer of gratitude to the Ten, as he raised the page on Pasen’s latest full report again.  Couriers and pigeons had brought snippets of news but this was the whole story.  He’d properly made a copy for Irefas, in his own hand.

“… during a scouting mission.  Something went seriously wrong and our Zak scouts and their Temple minder managed to burn most of the Fehinnan’s stock of ‘incense’ that made people crazy and suggestible.

Matthas Mahid reports that he killed three of the four Fehinnan advisors to the false Prophet and kidnapped the Prophet himself, with the assistance of the Kadussas and the Assemblywoman’s people. He and the Zak boy will be tracking the last Fehinnan, who fled when he woke.

The Zak woman will be escorting the Prophet down and they should be arriving on the heels of this report. We shall see if another dose of truth-drug jars the Prophet’s memory.  He appears to be suffering from head trauma and his initial drugging did not clarify whether he was vulnerable to Fehinnan operatives or whether he is a true believer in his cant.

The Tunnel is still closed, but the villages around the North Mouth are slowly returning to normal, and the Prophet’s followers have dispersed enough that the Kadussas are beginning to effect repairs. People have begun to put up memorial markers for those injured and killed in this contretemps, and my rejin is preparing to move to support the repairs and the re-opening of the Tunnel.


Megan turned her head to check on the wing next to them, somewhat below.  Her pilot was taking advantage of how light her passenger was and had found a rising wind a hair faster than the other pilot, who was carrying the Prophet bundled into a prisoner’s sling though ungagged so that he wouldn’t die if he vomited. Not everyone flew well.

They were over some ubiquitous and empty part of the Empire and there was nothing to see below but green forest.  She closed her eyes against the buffeting of the wind.  My Lixand. Lixand has manrauq. We worked so hard not to care, both him and I, and now the Temple has just snapped its fingers and decided that it could give him power through his Arkan half.

Part of me wants to weep. Part of me wants to whoop for joy.  It looks as though he has more power when he’s either in Arko or with that crazy Mahid.  He said he had it in Brahvniki… it started, as nearly as we can figure… when the Temple healed me.  Koru.

Flaming arsed fish-guts. I don’t know how to react. I spent so much of my life hating Arko and Arkans in general. Her hands tingled and for a moment she was sixteen again. Lixand’s sire was the first man I ever killed. But I will not hate my son. He is my precious treasure. And his brother. Ardas. I will not hate him. I adopted him. I can work with Arkans. I don’t want to vomit anymore if I speak the language.

Koru… Ivahn, you told me once that I was working towards forgiveness. Why else have I surrounded myself with tall naZak blonds?

I don’t even know what I’m really feeling. And my boy is off with that crazy man hunting a man who has all kinds of deadly weapons that we know nothing about. Koru keep him… them… safe. The Arkan Koru – Dimae – keep them safe. Mikas, he’s a trickster boy and one of your own.

She opened her eyes and watched the land below become a vague blur, then watched one, two, three silver droplets vanish down away, shred into nothing. She sniffed. I’m not crying. No. Really. I’m a tough woman. I’m not crying. I’m too old for this kind of confusion. Oh, all right. Crying for joy then. That must be it. Koru help me. Crying for joy. 

152 - Enough To Make A Cat Laugh

Captain Kupepah hissed softly between his teeth as the Arkan ship gained on them. “That’s insane!” He whispered. It was one thing to read reports on how fast this ship was but quite another to see it.

“Signal Aymberkromy,” he snapped.  “He’s not going to be 
able to turn neatly when that monster runs up on us.”

“Aye, Captain.” The First Lieutenant raised his speaking trumpet, a flagger snapped to attention, then began snapping her ‘Attention’ banner before taking up her signal flags.


“Sikas, get the outer hull rowers ready,” Captain Filarias said, almost a bead after they took up the chase. “If I were them I’d split directions after setting us up to run straight and long after them.”

“They don’t know how well we can turn. Or how high into the wind we can manage.” He looked up at the turning sails that were bellied tight in the steady breeze.  From the foc’sle came the shout ‘Thirty-knots!”  Even with the cracked spar the wind was strong enough to take her up to her best, so far which was twice the speed of that schooner and the barqantine would be slower still.

“No, they don’t. But I have to assume that they are going to split and then turn into the wind, to come down on us, let us charge between them while they pound us with their carrons.”

“We aren’t going to do that, are we, Captain?”

“No, Sikas, we aren’t.  By the way, let our new carron crew try and fire in synchronization with the springalds.”

“It's enough to make the cat laugh,” Sikas grinned.  “I’ll tell them.”

"Oh, and Sikas... let the bosun know.  We'll be going after the schooner first, whichever way she breaks."

"Aye, Ser."

“Have the replacement oars ready to go.  I have a feeling we’re about to break a few.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Friday, June 26, 2015

151 - Ilesias the Lion Painter

The Imperial stable was dark at this time of night, with only the one flameless lantern at the end of the corridor, even the glow stones from Brahvniki hooded dark. Inensa walked along, the brick pressing hard against the soft soles of her slippers, sleepy horse noses emerging over doorways all the way down as curious horses caught her scent.

Viper’s stall was at the other end from the light and was the dimmest.  Since she wasn’t anywhere near foaling yet there was no one standing foal watch. Inensa stood for a long moment, letting her eyes adjust to how dark it was in the loose box before opening the latch and sliding the door open enough for her to step in.

Viper was already awake and Inensa smiled at the horse attempting to lie to her. “Equus, cease assail,” she whispered and the mare snorted at her softly, her posture easing into true relaxation instead of pretending to be asleep.

Inensa stood for a moment, then flipped up the folding bench built into every loose box and sat down on it, hands in her lap. And said nothing to the lump of sulky teenager in the corner opposite, behind the horse.

She said nothing for a long time.

“Go away,” Ili said, at last. “Pseudo mama, this isn’t about you... or my brother… or anybody but me.”

“It is about us inasmuch as we are concerned about your health and well being, pseudo son,” she said.

“You’re just worried about what people will think,” he growled. “I’m the one being embarrassed and humiliated and I still stink of mammoka shit and life sucks dead fang-lions! Life is just horrible.  That Haian girl won’t talk to me except to report on Jia’s and Sophi’s eggs! Dyers are making up horrid comedy songs about me getting pooped on and we have to do three more whole days of carrying stone to fix that building.  Everything is horrible and Nuninibas is saying ‘I told you so,’ often enough that I had a fight with him and told him to shut up so he’s not talking to me and Didi just laughs when I try to tell her how bad I feel.  She says it’ll all go away. She says just get through this. She says laugh at the people trying to shame me and I just can’t.”

“That, unfortunately, is the nature of being a public figure where the populace is close to their leader and vote on his behavior.”

There was just an inarticulate growl from Ili’s corner and Viper shifted over nervously. “You’re disturbing one of your favourite horses hiding here,” Inensa said.  “Your body servant told me that you’ve been sleeping here instead of in your own bed.”

“Viper doesn’t mind. She’s used to the smell of mammoka on me. She likes Fluffy, even though Fluffy doesn’t have much hair left.  She looks really weird, shorn, except for the top of her head and over her shoulders. That was the only part of her not stinky after we bathed her.”

“She is all right then?” Inensa knew very well that the mammoka was all right but wished for Ili to repeat it.

“Yes, she’s fine. But she still blames me for feeling bad and I’m all over black and blue because she pinches me when I go see her.”

“Do you blame her?”

“No!  It wasn’t her fault at all!”

“You don’t smell that bad, pseudo son.  Another lime bath and a massage with scented oil and you’ll be acceptable in polite company once more.  Your brother is worried about you and would have looked for you himself but will not risk leaving the Temple these last moons.”

“I know, I know,” Ili snapped, unreasonably. “The babies, the babies. That baby Ky still has is going to be the Spark of the Sun’s Ray and I’ll be back to just Coronet Regal again.”

“Just Coronet Regal?” She let her sentence fall into the straw, before taking up her words. “Do you want to be Spark? Are you a threat to the unborn babe?”

“No! Never! I’d RATHER be Coronet Regal again. That way it won’t be so rough if… when I mess up again.”


“Pseudo mama, I’m never going to live this down!  I’m going to be Iliesias Mammoka Chili Poop for the rest of my LIFE!”

Inensa had to smile to herself.  “I realize it feels that way. But that’s not true.  You were Ilesias the Lion Painter once.”

“I just painted the moustache on the one lion…” Ili’s answer was a little more thoughtful, a little less distraught and a little less despairing.

“I think you need to think on how to make it up to Fluffy and Tirchaer and let everyone else just get over it,” Inensa pointed out, quietly.  “They’re the ones whose opinion is hurting you the most.”

“I… guess.” The straw rustled as he sat up and Viper turned around and nuzzled his head. “Stop, you big silly,” he said absently.  “How do I make it up to Fluffy?”

“I don’t know.  I do not understand what pleases a mammoka.  You said once that she was vain. Perhaps new trappings to hide her shavedness?  Would a new friend or another mammoka please her? Will the King of Laka even consider selling you another one?”

“If… if I could write to King Astalaz and ask… hey! Tirchaer would like that too.  It’ll cost most of my household budget to do it, but I could ask Minis if he’d lend me some chains…If the King will even sell one.  Do you think he’d sell a boy?” He flung an arm up around Viper's neck.

“So you could breed them? Probably not. But you might ask.”

The mare next door farted and eliminated and Inensa pinched her nostrils with one gloved hand. “Perhaps we could continue this discussion in your quarters?”

“Maybe tomorrow, pseudo mama. I should probably take that bath and then go sleep.  I still have brick to carry and I'm really tired and I have a couple of papers to write.”

“I shall be pleased to have you take your meals with me, privately tomorrow should you wish,” she said.  “I will listen to your complaint.”

He laughed, a little derisively at himself. “You’ll listen and not just tell me I’m a whiny idiot who doesn’t know how good he has it?”

“I’ll listen,” she repeated. “And refrain from commenting.”

“Just like Tanifas.  All right.  Thank you, pseudo mama.”

“You’re welcome, pseudo son.”

Monday, June 22, 2015

150 -Mêlée Stations!

“Did they take the bait?” The First Lieutenant shrugged his coat back on, after their little playlet for the in-the-air scout.  They’d pretended to ‘flee’ the barracoon, hustling each other onto Sathrise and the Blue Heeler. The First Mate had been naked and had ‘fallen’ and been dragged into the Sathrise just before they sailed.

“Might could be,” Captain Kupepah said quietly as the enemy scout wheeled away.  They could barely see the Arkan ship on the horizon, but they’d been standing watch on watch since the storm ended.  “Y’all did Miz Maibree’s Theatricals for Kiddies proud.They cain’t know thet the ‘coon’s already been emptied out.  Perfect tah set up our trap here.”

Aymberkromy’s Heeler was already out to sea, the barqentine rig slower than Kupepah’s schooner. “There’s that flicker code o’ theirs.” The edges of the flashes were just visible and the sea had settled as if the storm had knocked the stuffing out of it. “Let us proceed, First.”

“Aye, Captain!”

They had to run… and look like they were running with holds full because that was what that chase ship was all about.  That was why they’d put on that little farce.  Give the aerial scout an idea that they had slaves aboard.

“Come on, you boar-sow. Come on.” Kupepah murmured as if the other ship, the Arkan captain, could be lured by his will and his voice.  The Sathrise danced, the wind right behind. The carron crews sat by their pieces, quietly dicing and waiting for when their alert should come and they had plenty of carron balls and gun-seed for ranging shots.

The Arkans couldn’t know that it was all a trap, a play, an empty barracoon to launch a surprise.  Captain Buonson had everything from these two newest and smallest slave corrals and was settled in for a long siege.

“Y’all might be fast as a charging pig but I’m betting that you can’t turn worth a damn.”


“Speed, Sikas?”

“Twenty six knots, and holdin, Captain.”


Filarias lowered his spyglass and stared over the eyeburning bright sea.  The storm had left them with that one repaired spar and the wind wasn’t quite strong enough to bring her best speed out.

“It is a picture perfect run,” he said.  “Don’t you think, Sikas?”

“Almost too perfect.” A runner came dashing from the moyawa deck, paper in hand for the First Mate. He scanned it quickly.  “Captain scout says people dragged on board.  No sign of any occupation at the barracoon any longer. Going to make contact w’ main fleet, ser.”

“Muunas put speed under her wings.  Mikas guard her moyawa. She told us that this was one of the emptied holdings.”

“It do seem too…”

“Facile?” The captain said and raised the glass.  “Barquentine rig out first, schooner after, it makes perfect sense.  I smell a trap.”

“Two ships, ser.” The captain stared out at the distant dots on the horizon, thinking.

“Assume each one with sixteen carrons then.  I believe that these could be our trap ships.” He turned and felt the pressure of the wind. “Full lift sails!” He called to the bosun.  “Take us up as fast as we can go, ser!”

“Aye, Captain!”

“Full alert! Everyone to their mêlée station!”

“Aye, Captain!”
Just to let people know, I have a few days work set up so I will be taking a short break and resuming the story on Friday.

See you then!