Admiral Inisen hissed softly through his teeth and Tetzu nudged him to be quiet. Both of them had their glasses in their hands and in the seagrass being smashed down on them by heavy rain, it was near impossible to see the barracoon below. Hayel, he couldn’t even see Eshen Maekun on Tetzu’s other side.
The three of them crawled backward down the back of the dune, and into the lee of the cliff beyond where his aide and one of Tetzu’s Snakes waited. “I’m too old for this kind of thing,” he growled. “This land-based foolery has my old knees a’quiver and this is what the young men of the rejins are for!”
“You’re not doing too badly for a retired old sea-horse,” Tetzu said solemnly, then broke into a smile. “The weather means we really should attack from the land and that is our strength. The Niah—“ he nodded at Eshen “—are out of it for scouting…”
“No.” Eshen interrupted him. “We cannot fly but we can swim… a dozen of my people can hold their breaths like dolphins. We should check for nasty underwater surprises while this storm intensifies.”
Inisen and Tetzu stared at him for a moment. “Of course. You wouldn’t have any trained dolphins hidden away in your bag of tricks now, would you, Eshen?” Inisen was joking but blinked when Eshen sighed unhappily.
“There’s so few of them. They show up so seldom.”
“Not really trained… smarter than your average niku… the smiling ones. But no. I’ll set my people on scouting out under water.” He walked out in the rain, back to the camp set up by the Srians.
Inisen looked at Tetzu who shrugged. “I didn’t know about them either,” he said. “The Niah are so used to keeping secrets they forget what they haven’t told us all, sometimes.”
“Naturally. So, this is your dance, my friend. I step back because this is not my kind of fight.”
“I need the solas you brought to be back-up for my lions.”
“Yes.” His aide held a rain shade over the tiny lapdesk on the ground, even though the map on it was already wrinkled and the ink running from the gusts of water starting to blow in, sideways. “You might be able to use this weather to sneak some of your Snakes in to free our people.”
Tetzu nodded. “I’m afraid they’re just goin to start cutting people’s throats and hiding the bodies.”
Inisen grimaced. “They won’t want to give up their profits easily,” he said. “You have to think like a slaver. They think they own those people.”
“This sea-storm is going to blow for at least another day.” He turned to his own Snake. “Get as many people out as you can. If you can get the gate open from inside that will be our signal. If it doesn’t happen, we’ll attack at mid-day, by the Admiral’s bead clock.”
“Understood, Lion of Sriah.” The Snake turned and was gone so fast that Inisen blinked.
“I hope Filarias has the sense to ride out this storm far enough out. Their schooners won’t be going anywhere in this muck.”
“I NEVER got sick!” Kaylebuh insisted, clinging to his swaying hammock as Dimae’s Hound heaved and wallowed up another enormous wave. His eyes were bloodshot and he clamped his teeth together against heaving. He well knew there was nothing in his stomach left to throw up.
On a calm sea, the Hound had proved that she could almost fly, and now in this wild sea was proving how stable she was. She howled and squealed as the waves tried to twist her three hulls apart but of all the struts only one had cracks in it and the sailors had managed to splint and lash it to give it some support.
How they managed to cling as the outer hull rose up, up, right out of the water at the top of the wave before smashing over and the main hull crashed through the crest, dragging the other outrigger after, Alfalaria had no idea, but cling they did. Like limpets.
She was on her feet still, while the freedman swung in his hammock and moaned. “This will blow out, soon.”
From outside a torn fragment of a shout. Someone bellowing something but his words were whirled away by the wind, a trumpet sounded ‘man overboard’. Alfalaria wanted to rush up to see what was happening but as a seaman’s daughter knew better than to get in anyone’s way. She sat down on her new sea chest that was lashed down, clinging to the straps so she didn’t get buffeted around. My martial Goddess save that man. Don’t let him be washed away, whoever he is.