Friday, May 29, 2015

133 - How Lucky Y'all Are

Kaylebuh crouched beside Cap’n Leweston, eyes round, staring over the rail at what was left of the barracoon.  The tinder dry buildings had evaporated in the flames except for the drinkin’ bar, the sex bar and the sleepin’ sitcheeashun, which had been better built, showed a still smoking beam or two. I served joh in that very sitcheeashun.

The armoury had vanished completely, save for a blasted hole in the ground, also smoking.  Them inky blacks were doing some kind o’ ritual over a line of graves dug in the sand, as were them candle-pale blondies.

Two bodies hung from the yard of the biggest rowin’ ship.  “S’ Bubbeh, n’ Eeruy,” the First Mate whispered.  Those two had been the closest to leaders for the settlement, with three ships apiece.

There was an odd scaffolding on the beach and a bunch o’ the blondies were dragging a Fehinnan over to it. “Sheeit,” someone in the boat whispered. “I’d heard these blondies boogered people when they beat ‘em. That’s Layyon.”

The man was naked, and they lashed his ankles to the bottom spars of the scaffolding, spreading his legs wide. One of the sailors began a prayer to the God-King as they bent him over the bar at the waist and lashed his wrists up over his head.
Kaylebuh swallowed hard, but then, instead of raping him they read off something from a fancy paper, and laid thirty-one lashes on him… with a wicked, lamb-hoofed whip, an’ cut him loose to fall on his face.

“Kaylebuh… you can find out what is going to happen to us?” Cap’n Leweston said huskily. “We… surrendered.”

“Aye kin do that.” Kaylebuh levered himself up onto the sail-spar holding their boat suspended between the main hull and one of the outer hulls, and an armed sailor waved a long knife at him, gesturing him to go back.  He waved and set his hands together… then mimicked their prayer gesture with one hand to a temple, bowing.

There was some talk and they went and fetched the gal.  She’d gotten the brown baby back for some reason, and called ‘What do you want, Kaylebuh?” Dandlin’ the lurvae on her hip like it her own.

“I’m not a slave no more am I?” He slapped a hand over his mouth.  He’d been intending to inquire for Cap’n Leweston.

“No.” She turned to the guard and he beckoned with the same wicked blade.  “Din’t Leweston tell y’all? We thought you’d choiced.”

“No’mum.” He scrambled to the deck.  “They wondering what’ll happen now…”

“They saw the flogging?”

“Thought they was goin’ta … um… don’t know how to say it polite.”

She looked him up and down as if he were made of nose-snot and dog-shit. “Our Imperator don’t like it.  Some still do.  T’Admiral made one o’ them…” she jerked her chin up at the hanging bodies. “… serve him… he pulled a weapon in parley, injured him with a bang that half deafened everyone.”

“Pro’lly trying tah scare the savages,” Kaylebuh said.  “But y’all ain’t savages.”

“No.  We fought your ‘hand-carron’ armed guys, took ‘em down when they ran out o’ balls, wi… wi…’” She waved her hands.  “Don’t know the Fehinnan fer it. Gave ‘em a dirt nap.”

Kaylebuh was silent.  He let his eye travel over the gloved and armoured troops, the ship that had caught the Dixabelle, the gliders spiraling away into the sky, as the anchor went into the sea with a splash, looked back over his shoulder at the boat where his former master sat. They say I free. What ever shall I do now?

“Missy, ah do apologize fer any offence I may hev’ given yeh,” The dog-shit look went away a little. “But y’all mind iffen I stay wi’ y’all?”

“You’d hev’ta ask tah stay here… s’military… but iffen you’re not gonna snoop an y’all need tah learn tah be free… ask Cap’n Filarias.  I’m gonna be lookin’ fer mah mammy, since y’all kilt mah pappy… n’ stayin’ w’ Dimae’s Hound tah translate.” She shifted the baby to her other hip. “I don’ like yah, yah hitten me, but you kin teach me better Fehinnan.”

“Yas, Missy.” He bowed, nervously, looking at the Layyon lyin’ all bloody on the beach, ‘n the bodies swingin’ above.

“I’m not yer new owner, y’ijit!” She snapped.  “I’m gonna be teachin’ y’all fessas Arkan.”

“Yas, Missy.” This time Kaylebuh didn’t bow. “Ay’ll let Leweston know that what Cap’n Filarias said, goes and not tah worry he’s gonna get a spear-fishing pole up his… um… never mind.”

She twitched a smile. “Y’all don’ know how lucky y’all are.”

Thursday, May 28, 2015

132 - The Round of Witticism

“… the honourable Assembly wishes to place before this august body the proposal that we, as a people, re-think the constitutional provision for either sex assuming the Crystal Throne.” Ilian Kallen drew himself up and puffed out his chest.  “Since the manifest will of the people was so eloquently displayed with their rejection of a female Imperator to return Shefenkas – an Imperator by Conquest – as preferable because of his sex!”

The Assembly had gathered in the new part of the Temple, chairs brought for the more aged of the Members, while the younger ones took pride in the fact that they could sit, cross-legged as a priest, merely on barley-hull cushions.  Minis sat, on a cloth of gold pillow especially designed to echo the Crystal Throne, at the furthest end of the Hall.  Above him an Arc of painting depicted all Ten and curious Arkans, living here for the duration of their prayers for children, stood in the galleries all the way to the ceiling.

Just in case my firstborn is female, you want to muck up the succession? Set it back to the ‘old ways’ that the Ten obviously wanted changed?  And you want to do this in the very Temple that you saw do miracles? Are you insane? 

Minis had to catch his breath, hard.  Dearest Gods, why did you give me this man as my goad?  He’s brilliant at finding my sore spots… He stopped, drew a steadying breath.  I've just had an idea...a wonderful, horrid idea…he thought to himself.  Except that he’s not funny. He settled himself in to listen to the debate, to find what the Members thought.

By the time everyone had spoken their piece on it, and the Assembly voted – against disturbing the constitution – it was late enough that the sun had set behind the Rim and the Temple Hall was in shadow, the priests refraining from disturbing their debate, for something so minor as lighting lamps.

It was late enough that the choir in the front hall of the Temple had grown to its nightly strength, to sing the sun through the dark of the night.  Minis caught a glimpse of Ky and Fara, walking arm in arm, from Dimae’s statue toward Selinae, in the archway between the front and the back.  The front was, as it had always been, for pure celebration. The back was becoming the ‘Work’ of the Ten.

The Assembly were still mostly milling about, talking, some already left for their much delayed evening meal.  Minis sat on the cushion, feeling tired enough that he could just slide sideways and curl up in his spot under the Ten.  I’m in the Temple, why do I feel so tired?

“You the colour of a wax candle are,” Megan said, sinking down next to him on the bare marble.  “We’re ready to go, my son and I, and see if we can expose this Prophet of Four as a charlatan backed by Fehinna.”

“I’ll look after myself,” Minis said, and smiled at her and her boy, who stood next to Matthas, both had their arms crossed, looking away from each other.  “You’re sure those two will be able to work together?”

“Heads together, I shall knock, if they don’t,” she said cheerfully.  “I’m finding that, your Temple, I like.  Especially the God of fessas.

“Good.  Please keep sending reports as you go.”

“Dah.  Report I will, oh You Whose Bottom Projects the Sun!”
He stared for a moment then fell over, laughing.  “Oh, oh, no, please. Not someone else who has ‘interesting’ epithets for my station!”

“You who Shens Sunbeams?” Matthas rumbled from where he stood.  Lixand looked between the once Mahid and his mother and just put his hands over his face in embarrassment.

“No… no…! Please!” Minis found himself giggling almost maniacally. He hadn’t laughed like this since the baby’s funeral.

“You Who Farts Rainbows?” Gannara said coming up behind.


“You Who Vomits…” Minis leaped up and planted his mouth on Gan’s to shut him up and he grabbed him firmly in a hug that went on for a while.  When at last they released each other and looked around, to find Megan grinning at them, Lixand looking bemused and Matthas stoney as usual with one corner of his lip curled up in the faintest smile.  “What was I saying?”

“Nothing!” Minis said.  “Fitlak, thank you, good luck to you.  And you’ll keep up the regular –“

“--correspondence!” She cut in.  “Dah!  Lixandi-mi, let’s get this great Arkan lump –“ she jerked a thumb up at Matthas.  “Moving.”

“I’m ready,” he said mildly. “Whenever you feel the need to finish the round of witticisms.”

“Now,” she said.  “Right now.”

“The wives are up and would like us to be their supports, husband.” Gan said.

“Until your safe return,” Minis said to the Zak and the Mahid, and wound his arm through Gan’s  “Let us go be with our families.”


Fund Raising!

I haven't reminded my readers of the 'donate' buttons located to the left.  For the price of a cup of fancy coffee per month you can help me make ends meet and give me more time to write.

For the moment all the books are up and free to read. I'm hoping to take down the first novel, which is up to the Sack of Arko, and rewrite it to present to a hard-copy publisher, next week!

I shall be doing the same for the Warbird series, starting with 'Kyrus Talain,' hopefully next month.

I will be continuing to press on to finish Riven By The Sun, this summer.  

Cheers to all!

131 - Who, or What, is a 'Fluffy'?

“Dowager Imperatrix…” the servant stood, in front of a house-donkey cart full of padded boxes and a sealed note on a salver which he held before him.  He cleared his throat.  “Since the Imperial Pharmacist is unable to receive these reports and items this one believes that the Dowager might safely take responsibility.”  He held out the salver to her.

She took the top note off the thick envelope also lying on the tray and noted that it was being passed on from her son and was addressed to her father and then to her if he were not there.

“… Grandfather, these are all captured from the first barracoon our forces have destroyed.  These ‘shot-arms’ or ‘shot-pistols’ are referred to in Fehinnan as hand carron.  Apparently they use a form of firework to fling lead shot or stone balls through people’s flesh like arrowheads.  I deliver them to you for your inventive ones to examine.  For any other information, inquire through the Under-secretary Matthas Bennen… he has the rest of the battle and after-battle reports filed.”

“Yes,” she said.  “These need to be handled carefully.  They need to be in the care and handling of the Office of Brilliant Innovation and Original and Novel Creation.  They should be in the care of the Fireworks Master out of the City.  I shall send my Innovators up there. You may use the Imperial laefetas for speed.”

The servant didn’t quite blanch. He was a Marble Palace Servant, after all. He bowed and very carefully turned the house-donkey around and slowly and smoothly drove down the middle of the hallway, clearly imagining the dangerous possibilities of his load.

The packet of reports was thick and Inensa broke the seal and pulled out the report on the new type of ship, reading as she walked to the Office of Creation.  Since the first meeting to discuss the illness and explore possibilities, they had needed more rooms for various experiments that grew out of their discussions. 

Ubifeksas had brought in a ten of his friends and colleagues and Minis had acquired a budget for their new research from Assembly.

…the new hull shape and sea-legs design works phenomenally… we achieved and maintained a speed of some thirty knots on a relatively calm sea.  We successfully took a fleeing schooner full of our people as a prize and continue on our ‘smoke cruise’.  The Admiral is pleased with us and we continue to take notes on minor tweeks and improvements that could be made easily and cheaply.  Radical new ideas are falling out of our ship-board scholar’s head every bead and we are keeping him busy writing them down.

We are currently using the outermost boats as a prison for ship crews, but they are only appropriate for the short sailing distance from capture back to coast. Captain Filarias is performing brilliantly with this wild-card.

The Srians and the Niah and our forces are working together astonishingly well, though the Haians are still horrified at our brutal treatment of our enemies.  We, of course, intend to firmly discourage this enslavement of our populace.

There will be a number of prisoners of war coming into the city… to the new Fehinnan ambassador’s care, since we no longer keep slaves.  They nearly got away with one hundred seventy-three of our people, mixed Arkan, Lakan, Srian, and Haian girls and children.

Personally I’d have castrated and hanged the Captain of that ship, as a salutary lesson, but he surrendered and so we shall treat them politely...

She folded the note and tucked it into her private folder as she stepped into the Creative Offices.  I am very pleased with the way that Irefas is dealing with this.  I believe I know who this operative is, but I cannot be sure.  Still, an excellent eye and a good hand, reporting clearly, though the personal feelings should perhaps not be so strongly portrayed.

On an enormous chalk board, two young innovators drew and erased lines, waved their gloves at each other.  “Two hulls if you want speed!” Ilo was saying. -- “But you have to have some way of steering this… you can’t make a ship fly!” Amitzanas Murmiras waved his drawing stick so vigorously that the chalk flew off the end three foot long tool and broke on the floor behind them.

“If I might interrupt?” Inensa set the first action reports from the Dust coast on her desk and had their immediate attention.  Had Ubifeksas been rubbing his chalky gloves through his hair?  It looked like a faintly blue bird’s nest standing up all around his head. Murmiras had a kaf stain on his left glove and sleeve.  “Your chase ship idea worked.”  That drew everyone’s attention, from whatever odd thing they were doing, heads turning from all over the room. “Dimae’s Hound just saved a hundred seventy-three of our own,” she said to sudden whistles and banging on the desks, just as if someone had scored at faib, or won a race.  “Calmly, Sers,” she said. “Calmly, please.  Sofonisba, please set aside that contraption and sit here with me to read this.”

“Yes, Senior.”


“Will this really make you feel better?” Tirchaer asked, nervously clutching at Viper’s reins and her mane.  “I don’t see how my riding your horses would help you feel better.”

“Look.” Ili turned and slung one leg over so he sat on Killer’s bare back, legs half crossed.  “You want to heal animals on the mainland and there are lots and lots and lots of horses, cows, oliphants and mamoka.  Everything from scarf-snakes and wing-cats to flying pigs.  You can’t be nervous of your patients.”

“Yes, I understand that,” she said, and tried to straighten up.  “But that doesn’t explain how it will help you feel better.”

Ili sniffed.  “Trust me.  If you can ride with me, it’ll help me feel better.  I mean you can feel how she’s standing, with foal, right?”


“Then you’ve learned something valuable.  Hey… you should meet Fluffy!  Torii Itzan keeps her.  That’ll really make me feel better!”

“Who or what is a Fluffy?” Tirchaer gasped as Viper followed Killer out of the riding ring and across the roof to go down the ramp.

“You’ll see.  Hey! Hey all of you!” He called to Gian’s class in the dog yard below.  “Grab your horses, we’re going to go visit Mil Torii Itzan!”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

130 - Add a Brig...

Sailors had unfolded a spindly light table and chairs for the two captains… and Alfalaria was confused to see a third chair being placed.  “Serina, yeh kin get a bite tah eat and a cup o’ kaf while translating,” a sailor whispered as he escorted her to a spot just behind the Captain.

The Haian salve she’d hastily rubbed over her raw hands before gloving was soothing and smelled good enough to cover up her own smell that a quick wash wasn’t going to get rid of. She firmly dismissed her embarrassment, clasped her hands behind her back.

“Captain!” Captain Leweston hailed him first.  “You have an amazing ship.” Just as if they were meeting on friendly terms.

She translated softly and Captain Filarias smiled slightly as the Fehinnan tried to gain the upper hand by speaking first.  “Welcome aboard,” he said lightly.  “Please let the honourable captain have a seat.” His first officer pulled his chair for him and a sailor held the chair for Alfalaria.  Leweston sat himself down.

“Captain, I really must protest this high-handed and cavalier treatment!” Leweston took up one of the kaf cups just poured, sipped and raised his eyebrows.  “You have excellent Joh!”

“He’s protesting his treatment and he’s feeling slap-gloved. He thinks the kaf is good.” Alfalaria was suddenly light headed and did her best to bite into a pastry daintily instead of wolfing it down as fast as she could chew.  She hadn’t had anything since oat-gruel the night before and had lost it during the sea chase. It was sweetened biscuit and she nodded her thanks at the reddish-blond sailor boy who was helping her.

“Tell him that it’s pleasant to talk instead of needing funerals, healers and hangings,” Filarias said. “Word for word, Serina.”

“Yes, Ser.” She swallowed hard and turned to Leweston who looked down his round nose at her. “T’ Cap say, “Good to talk ‘stead o’ needin’ getting’ ready to be planted, needin’ healers and stringin’s.””

Leweston didn’t answer, looking down at the line of boats going between the Arkan warship and his Dixabelle, ferrying away his profits with every oar-stroke.  “So… since y’alls people are finishin’ their ocean cruise, y’ll be sendin’ us on our way then?”

“Captain Filarias… I don’t understand the fancy words he’s using but he’s asking if you’re going to let him and his ship and crew go after we’ve got everyone rescued…” she hesitated.  “I think that’s what he asked.”

“I see.  Have a sip of kaf yourself, my dear.  Then tell him “This is what is going to happen.  You are going to surrender your sword to me, personally. We will put our own people onboard that stinking schooner and she will be going back to the dry-docks in Marsae, for ‘refurbishment’ and a good scrape down.”

She managed to convey that to Leweston, who listened, stony-faced. “Y’all are insultin’ me, having my words put on your ball-washin’, taint lickin’ tongue!” he snarled at her.  “Yer taking my life away from me!”

“He says we are stealing his life.” She didn’t translate the insult to her and Filarias raised an eyebrow.

“I see. Borienas, refill the young serina’s cup, hmm?” He signaled to his first officer who stepped over to Leweston and held out both gloves, a sword-length apart. Leweston snapped to his feet and the sailors around him tensed, but he drew a deep breath and forced himself to unsnap his sheathed sword. He looked away, over Filarias’s shoulder as he thrust it towards the first officer.

“Excellent, Leweston.” Filarias said.  “You and your crew will, of course, be the responsibility of the Fehinnan ambassador and will not be allowed free run of the city, until your passage home is arranged. At your own expense.”

Leweston paled, then flushed as he gritted his teeth.  “Slave-bait, the lot o’ you,” he snarled. “Only good for sellin’ tah them that want exotics in their beds, burn red ‘n die in the fields. Go blind from sun!”

Alfalaria held her tongue though Filarias turned to her.  She shook her head.  “He’s being very rude.”

“Tell him he’s lucky I didn’t put him in an open boat with two weeks provisions or less and tell him to not set foot on our lands again.”  His gloved hand slapped the table.  “Tell him that if he’s rude, that is exactly what I’ll do.”

“Cap’n Leweston, he say if you’re rude he’ll put you in an open boat with two weeks provisions, and ordered not to come back. He say, you lucky he ain’t done it yet.” She brushed crumbs off her gloves and picked up another biscuit, bit into it.

Leweston coughed and turned bright red from the collar up. “Of… course.” He said through clenched teeth.

“All your slaves are free in Alliance territory,” Filarias said.  “They will be allowed to stay, should they wish.”

“Y’all are pretty high-nosed fer people as what had slaves not ten year ago!” Leweston snarled.

“He’s impressed that we’ve gotten over being slavers so quickly, he says.  In the last ten years.” She washed her biscuit down with more kaf and felt much better than she had all day.

Filarias nodded and took the sword from his first officer.  “They’ll be riding in the out-most boats with access cut off.” He turned to a scholar near him.  “Min… we did not add anything like a brig.  That’s an oversight we’ll have to fix.  Good day, Captain Leweston.”

“Yes, Captain!” A sailor pointedly took hold of Leweston’s chair, to encourage him to rise, or get dumped on the deck.   

“Add a brig…” the scholar said, scribbling in his fluttering notebook.