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By Schism Rent Asunder: Section Forty

       Last updated: Monday, June 9, 2008 20:58 EDT



City of Ferayd,
Ferayd Sound,
Kingdom of Delfarahk

    "How may I help you, My Lord Bishop?" Sir Vyk Lakyr asked courteously as Bishop Ernyst Jynkyns was shown into his office near the Ferayd waterfront. Father Styvyn Graivyr, Bishop Ernyst's Intendant, followed on the bishop's heels, somber in the green cassock of an upper -priest bearing the sword and flame badge of the Order of Schueler.

    Lakyr felt more than a little uneasy over what might have brought Jynkyns to see him. He was neither the mayor of Ferayd, nor the governor of the district in which the port city lay, with either of whom the Bishop of Ferayd normally might be expected to have business. What he was was the senior officer of Ferayd's military garrison, which, given events elsewhere in the world of late, helped to explain his uneasiness.

    "I've already visited the Mayor, Sir Vyk," Jynkyns said. Lakyr's anxiety clicked up another a few notches, although he kept his expression merely politely attentive. "I'm sure you'll be hearing from him — and quite probably from the Governor, as well — shortly. Since, however, this matter directly concerns Mother Church, I thought it would be best if I came and discussed it with you in person, as well."

    "I see," Lakyr said. Then he paused and shook his head. "Actually, My Lord, I don't see. Not yet, at least."

    "That's honest, at any rate, Sir Vyk." Jynkyns smiled. It was a brief smile, and his face quickly sobered once again.

    "In point of fact, Sir Vyk," he said, "I'm here on the direct instructions of Chancellor Traynyr and Grand Inquisitor Clyntahn."

    Lakyr felt his facial muscles congeal, but he simply nodded.

    "The Office of Inquisition, and the Council of Vicars, have determined that the pernicious doctrines, misrepresentations, blasphemies, and lies being spread by the apostate heretics of Charis are even more poisonous and corrupting to all of God's people than was at first believed," Jynkyns said. Something in the bishop's tone sounded to Lakyr like a man who wasn't in complete agreement with what he was required to say, but the prelate went on unflinchingly.

    "Because of the corrosiveness of the blasphemous teachings of the so-called 'Church of Charis,' the Grand Inquisitor has determined that it is incumbent upon him to limit their spread by any means possible. And, since it has been well established that the merchant ships of the Kingdom of Charis carry its heretical teachings with them wherever they may go, as witness the copies of the apostate Staynair's falsehood-riddled 'letter' to His Holiness which have been so broadly distributed, Grand Inquisitor Clyntahn has resolved to close all ports of all God-fearing realms against their entry and the seduction of their lies. Accordingly, you are to take steps to close Ferayd to them in future . . . and to seize and intern any Charisian-flag vessels currently in the port. According to my own dispatches, the King is in agreement with the Chancellor and the Grand Inquisitor in this matter. Mother Church has made the semaphore available to him, and I believe you will be receiving confirmation of these instructions from him shortly."

    Lakyr felt as if someone had just punched him unexpectedly. For a moment, he could only stare at Jynkyns, unable to immediately comprehend what the bishop had said. Then his brain started working again, and he wondered why he'd felt surprised.

    Because this is going to effectively destroy Ferayd's economy, that's why, a stubborn voice said in the back of his brain. The city had grown wealthy and powerful because it was the major port of the Kingdom of Delfarahk . . . and because its relative proximity to Charis made it a natural transshipment point for cargoes from and to ports all over the west coast of  Howard, as well. It's like spanking a baby with an ax!

    "If those are my orders from King Zhames and from Mother Church, My Lord Bishop," he said, "I will, of course, carry them out to the best of my ability. However, I feel I should point out that there are at least twenty-five Charisian-flag vessels in the harbor at this very moment. For that matter, there are probably more than that; I haven't checked with the harbor master lately, but there have been more of them even than usual since . . . ah, since that business in Darcos Sound." He cleared his throat a bit nervously, then continued. "Not only that, but at least half of them are lying to anchor, waiting for dockside berths, not tied up alongside one of the wharves. That's going to make them rather difficult to seize if they realize what's happening and try to make sail."

    "You'll have the assistance of several galleys," Father Styvyn said rather abruptly. A flicker of annoyance flashed across Jynkyns' face and his lips pressed firmly together for perhaps a single heartbeat, but he didn't rebuke Graivyr for inserting himself into the conversation.

    Of course he didn't, Lakyr thought. Graivyr's not exactly noted for his humility and easy-going temperamentat the best of times. God only knows what he's likely to report to the Temple if he decides someone — even the Bishop — is obstructing the Grand Inquisitor's decrees. Which is a point I'd better bear in mind, as well.

    "That will undoubtedly help a great deal, Father," he said aloud. "It's still going to be tricky, though. We'll do the best we can, I assure you, but it's entirely possible that at least a few of them will evade us."

    "Then sink them if they try," Graivyr said coldly.

    "Sink them if there's no other way to stop them," Jynkyns corrected quietly. The look Graivyr gave him was not the sort Lakyr was accustomed to seeing a mere upper-priest give a bishop, but Jynkyns met it levelly.

    "Of course that's what I meant, My Lord," the Intendant said after a brief hesitation.

    "Ah, that might be more easily said than done, I'm afraid, Father," Lakyr said delicately. Both clerics turned back to him, and he shrugged. "At the moment, none of the island batteries are manned. I have skeleton gun crews for the waterfront batteries, but not for the outer batteries. If they get out of the harbor proper, they'll have a free run through any of the main channels."

    "Then get them manned." Graivyr sounded as if he thought he were speaking to an idiot, and Lakyr felt his jaw muscles tighten.

    "It's not that simple, Father," he said, trying very hard to keep any emotion out of his voice. "I don't have the gunners for those batteries. We don't normally keep them manned during time of peace, you know."

    Which, he carefully did not say aloud, is because they're over a hundred frigging miles from the city, you . . . uninformed soul. 

    The large islands between Ferayd Sound and the Southern Ocean, and the extensive shoals around them, helped shelter the huge bay from the often fractious weather off the southern tip of Howard. The islands also offered handy places to put batteries to cover the shipping channels, but manning fortifications like those was expensive. . . . and Zhames II of Delfarahk had a well-deserved reputation for pinching marks until they squealed. Aside from what were little more than bare minimum caretaker detachments, the island batteries were never manned in peacetime.

    "It would take several days at a minimum — more probably the better part of two or three five-days, to be honest, even if you permitted me the use of Mother Church's semaphore — for me to request the necessary gun crews, get them here, and then get them transported all the way out to the islands," he continued in that same painfully neutral tone. "My impression was that you intend for me to close the port to Charis promptly. If that is, indeed, the case, there won't be sufficient time to get the gunners we need to man the channel forts."

    "I see." Graivyr looked as if he wanted to find fault with Lakyr's explanation and felt nothing but irritation when he couldn't.

    "You're correct about how quickly we need this done, Sir Vyk," Jynkyns said. "And," he glanced at Graivyr, "all God can ask of any man is that he do the best he can within the capabilities he has. I feel confident that you, as always, will do just that."

    "Thank you, Bishop." Lakyr gave him a slight but heartfelt bow.

    "In that case, we'll leave you to begin making your preparations," the bishop said. "Come, Styvyn."

    Graivyr looked briefly rebellious. Because, Lakyr realized, the intendant wanted to take personal command of the entire operation. Since he couldn't do that, the next best thing would have been to spend several hours telling Lakyr how he should go about doing it.

    And wouldn't that result in a fine mess, Lakyr thought sardonically from behind the careful shield of his eyes. Not that it isn't likely to wind up as exactly that, anyway. And just how do Clyntahn and the Chancellor expect Charis and King Cayleb to react to all this?

    He had no answer for his own question... yet.




    Edmynd Walkyr, master after God of the galleon Wave (when his wife wasn't on deck, at least), stood by the galleon's after rail and worried.

    That was where he always did his worrying, by and large. And he preferred to do it after sunset, as well, when none of his crew could see his expression and be infected by his worries. And, of course, when Lyzbet couldn't see him and offer to clout him on the ear as her own, thankfully unique antidote for anxiety.

    Not that she really would . . . in front of the crew, at least.

    I think.

    His lips twitched at the thought, but his amusement was brief, and he quickly returned to his worrying as he gazed across the dark harbor's waters at the dim lights of the Ferayd waterfront.

    I don't care what she says, he told himself firmly. Next voyage, Lyzbet's staying home. And so is Greyghor.

    He didn't expect that to be an easy decision to enforce. Like at least a third, and more probably half, of the total Charisian merchant fleet, Wave and her sister ship Wind were family-owned. Edmynd and his brother Zhorj were the master and first officer, respectively, of Wave, and Edmynd's brother-in-law, Lywys, and Edmynd's youngest brother, Mychail, held the same positions aboard Wind. Family members usually formed the nucleus of the crews aboard such vessels, and Edmynd's wife, Lyzbet, acted as Wave's purser. There were sound reasons for that arrangement, and under normal circumstances, when all a man had to worry about was wind, weather, shipwreck, and drowning, it didn't especially disturb Edmynd's sleep.

    But circumstances weren't normal. Not remotely normal.

    He leaned both hands on the rail, fingers drumming while he frowned. Ever since the Group of Four's unprovoked onslaught upon Charis, tensions had run incredibly high. Well, of course they had! When the Grand Inquisitor himself connived at the destruction of an entire kingdom, merchant ships from that kingdom could expect to find themselves in what might charitably be called "an uncomfortable position."

    Still, things hadn't seemed all that unsettled on the first voyage Edmynd had made after the battle of Darcos Sound. He'd left Lyzbet home for that one — not without a battle of wills which had left him longing for something as peaceful as a hurricane — but he'd experienced no problems, really. The Tellesberg-Ferayd circuit was Wave's usual run, and the factors and merchants with whom he normally dealt here in the Kingdom of Delfarahk had seemed relieved to see him again. Given the quantity of goods which had built up in Ferayd's warehouses, awaiting transshipment, not to mention all the merchants who'd been waiting for consignments from Charis which had been delayed by the war, that probably shouldn't have been as surprising — or as big a relief — as it had been.

    Unfortunately, it had also suggested (as Lyzbet had predictably pointed out) that there was no reason she shouldn't come along on the next voyage. Which she and their oldest son, Greyghor, had. And he wished to heaven that he'd left both of them home again.

    It's that letter of the Archbishop's, he thought unhappily. I can't disagree with anything he said, but that's what it is.

    The last time he'd been here, that letter had been in transit. Now it had arrived, and the Church's reaction had been . . . unfavorable. The fact that, as far as Edmynd, could tell every mainland port had been flooded with thousands of printed copies of the same letter hadn't helped matters, either. Before, everyone had wanted to pretend it was still business as usual, that the attack on Charis really had been made by her purely secular enemies — and, of course, by the equally secular "Knights of the Temple Lands." Now that Archbishop Maikel's challenge had been so publically thrown down, that was impossible. Worse, what had really happened had been wildly distorted in the Church's accounts . . . with the predictable result that many people were prepared to assume it was Charis who had lied.

    Most of Ferayd's merchants were still eager to see Charisian galleons and Charisian goods, but they weren't that eager to see Charisians. Or, rather, they weren't eager to be seen seeing Charisians. No doubt much of that was because associating with someone who'd been designated as an enemy of the Church carried with it the active threat of official displeasure. But there was also an undertone, a virulent hostility which had nothing to do with officialdom, bubbling away beneath the surface.

    There was always an element, in any harbor city, which resented the wealth and strength of the seemingly omnipresent Charisian merchant marine. Local shipowners who resented the Charisians for taking "their" legitimate cargoes. Local seamen, who blamed Charis for their frequent bouts of unemployment. Local artisans who resented the flood of Charisian goods that undercut the prices they could charge. Even local shipbuilders, who resented the fact that everyone "knew" Charisian-built ships were the best in the world . . . and went ship-shopping accordingly. There was always someone, and now those someones had the added "justification" (not that they'd really needed any additional reasons, as far as Walkyr had ever been able to see) that obviously all Charisians were heretics out to destroy Mother Church.

    There'd been some ugly incidents in the waterfront taverns, and one party of Charisian seamen had been set upon in an alley and severely beaten. The city guard hadn't exactly worn itself to the bone trying to figure out who'd been responsible for the attacks, either. By now, by unspoken agreement, the masters of the Charisian ships crowding Ferayd's harbor and waiting their turns at wharfside were keeping their men aboard ship at night, rather than allowing them their customary runs ashore. Many of them — like Walkyr himself — had made quiet preparations against possible riots down here on the waterfront, as well, although he hoped it would never come to that. On the other hand, he wasn't at all certain it wouldn't . . . and it said a great deal about just how tense things were that the crews weren't even complaining about their captains' restrictions.

    No, he told himself firmly. When I get Lyzbet and Greyghor home again, they're damned well staying there. Lyzbet can throw all the tantrums — and pots — she wants, but I'm not going to see her hurt — or worse — if this situation gets any further out of hand.

    His mind flinched away from the thought of anything happening to her, and he drew a deep breath, then looked up at the moonless sky with a sense of decisiveness.

    Of course, he told himself, there's no great need for me to rush into telling her about my decision before we get back to Tellesberg, now is there?



    "All right," Sergeant Allayn Dekyn growled, "does anybody have any last-minute questions?"

    No one did, predictably. Which, Dekyn thought, equally predictably guaranteed that some damnfool idiot didn't understand something he damned well ought to have asked about. It was always that way; every sergeant knew that.

    Even without all of the extra things waiting to go wrong tonight.

    Dekyn grimaced and turned to look down the length of the poorly lit pier from his position in the ink-black lee of a stack of crates. Personally, he thought this entire operation was about as stupid as they came. Which was not a thought he intended to express aloud to anyone. Especially not anywhere some overzealous pain-in-the-arse could go running to the Inquisition.

    Allayn Dekyn was as loyal a son of Mother Church as anyone. That didn't mean he was deaf, dumb, or stupid, though. He was more than willing to agree the Charisians had gone much too far in openly defying the Council of Vicars' authority, and even the authority of the Grand Vicar, himself. Of course they had! But still . . . .

    The sergeant's grimace deepened. Whether they'd gone too far or not, he couldn't pretend he didn't understand a lot of what had driven them. For that matter, he sympathized with their complaints, and even with their explicit charges of corruption against the Church's hierarchy. But however much he might have sympathized with Charis, the Inquisition obviously did not, and he felt glumly certain that the reason for tonight's activities owed far more to the Inquisition's desire to teach the heretics a lesson than it did to anything else remotely rational. And its timing probably owed more to the Inquisition's impatience than it did to any sort of actual planning. The middle of a pitch-black night wasn't the best time Dekyn could have thought of to be putting armed men, many of whom had no experience at all down here on the waterfront, aboard totally unfamiliar ships on less than one day's notice.

    Well, that's probably not entirely fair, he told himself. If we're supposed to take over the ships out in the anchorage, too, we need the cover of darkness, I guess. And at least they assigned us arbalests instead of matchlocks, so we won't stand out in the dark like a flock of damned blink-lizards! But Langhorne knows there's a Shan-wei of a lot of things that can go wrong trying to do this all in the middle of the night! And I might not be a sailor, but it occurs even to me that doing this when the tide is going out isn't exactly brilliant, either.

    He shook his head, then gave his platoon one more glower — more out of habit, than for any other reason — and waited as patiently as possible for Captain Kairmyn's signal.



    Had Sergeant Dekyn only known it, he was scarcely the only Delfarahkan who cherished reservations about the upcoming operation's timing and his own part in it. Captain Hauwyrd Mahkneel, of the galley Arrowhead, agreed with him completely about that much, at least.

    Mahkneel's ship had been detailed to cover the main shipping channel out of Ferayd Sound. It would have been nice if they'd been able to find another ship to support Arrowhead, especially if they wanted to do this on a moonless night while the tide was going out. The channel between Flying Fish Shoals and Spider Crab Shoal began almost a hundred miles from the waterfront itself, and it was over twelve miles wide. Expecting a single galley to guard that much water against the flight of any of the Charisian merchant ships in the harbor went beyond ridiculous to outright stupid, in his considered opinion.

    Not that anyone had been particularly interested in asking his opinion, of course.

    He stood atop the galley's aftercastle, looking up at the heavens. At least the timing meant that any fleeing galleons wouldn't reach his own position until after dawn, so he ought to have light to spot them. Assuming the weather cooperated. The stars were clear enough . . . for now, but he didn't much like the way that growing bank of clouds was blotting out the starscape to the north as the wind carried the overcast steadily southward.

    And that was another thing, he groused to himself. Not only had the people who'd planned this overlooked the interesting little fact that any fugitives were going to catch the ebb tide at both ends, but the wind wasn't likely to cooperate, either.  The sound was just past high water, which, given the thirteen-and-a-half-hour tidal cycle and the probable speed of any fleeing galleons under the current wind conditions, meant the tide would be ebbing again, setting strongly through the channels to the open sea, by the time any fugitives got this far south. That, along with the fact that the wind was almost straight out of the north-northwest, would favor any galleon making for the main channel or for the East Pass, between East Island and Breakheart Head, as well. And with wind and tide both in its favor, even something as fundamentally clumsy as a  galleon — and Charisian galleons, at least a third of which seemed to have the new sail plans, were far less clumsy than most — might well elude even a well handled galley.

    At which point none of Mahkneel's superiors would particularly care how well handled Arrowhead might have been. Or about the fact that Mahkneel had been required to give up over half his hundred and fifty Marines and a quarter of his three hundred oarsmen for the boarding parties Sir Vyk Lakyr had required. It was tempting to blame Lakyr for that, but Mahkneel knew the garrison commander hadn't had any more choice about his orders than Mahkneel himself did if he was going to scare up the necessary personnel and boats.

    And, when you come right down to it, it's past time someone did something about these damned heretics and their lies, Mahkneel thought grimly. This may not be the smartest possible way to go about it, but at least someone's finally doing something!

    "All hands will be ready to man their stations an hour before first light, Sir," a voice said, and Mahkneel turned away from the rail as Rahnyld Gahrmyn, Arrowhead's first officer, appeared beside him.

    "I notice you didn't say all stations will be fully manned and ready, like a good first lieutenant should, Master Gahrmyn," Mahkneel observed with a tart smile.

    "Well, no, Sir," Gahrmyn admitted. "First lieutenants are supposed to be truthful, after all. And given how thin we're stretched, I thought that probably would have been something of an exaggeration."

    "Oh, you did, did you?" Mahkneel chuckled sourly. "An 'exaggeration, hey?"

    Gahrmyn had been with him for almost two years now. The captain had cherished a few doubts about the lieutenant initially. After all, Mahkneel was a sailor of the old school, and he'd been more than a little leery of an officer who spent his off-duty time reading and even writing poetry. But over the months they'd served together, Gahrmyn had amply demonstrated that however peculiar his taste in off-duty recreation might be, he was as sound and reliable an officer as Mahkneel had ever known.

    "Well, 'exaggeration' sounds better than calling it an outright lie, doesn't it, Sir?"

    "Maybe." Mahkneel's smile faded. "Whatever you call it, though, it's a damned pain in the arse."

    "I don't believe anyone's likely to disagree with you about that, Sir. I'm not, anyway."

    "I wish they'd been able to find at least one other galley to help us cover the channel," Mahkneel complained for what was — by his own count — at least the twentieth time.

    "If they'd given us another few days, they probably could have," Gahrmyn pointed out.

    "I know. I know!" Mahkneel glowered back in the general direction of the city . . . and of the oncoming clouds. "I don't like the smell of the wind, either," he complained. "There's rain behind those clouds, Hauwyrd. You mark my words."

    Gahrmyn only nodded. Mahkneel's feel for weather changes was remarkable.

    "While I'd never want to appear to be criticizing our esteemed superiors, Sir," he said instead, after a moment, "I must say I'm not certain this is the wisest way to go about this."

    "Wallowing around all by ourselves in the dark like a drunk, blind whore at a formal ball?" Mahkneel cracked a hard laugh. "What could be unwise about that?"

    "I wasn't just referring to the timing, Sir," Gahrmyn said.

    "No?" Mahkneel turned back around to look at him in the faint backwash from the port running light. "What do you mean, then?"

    "It's just . . . ." Gahrmyn looked away from his captain, gazing out into the darkness. "It's just that I have to wonder if closing our ports is the best way to deal with the situation, Sir."

    "It's not going to be pleasant for Ferayd, I'll grant you that," Mahkneel replied. "It's going to be even less pleasant for those damned heretics, though!"

    The captain couldn't see Gahrmyn's expression as the lieutenant looked away from him, and perhaps that was as well. Gahrmyn paused for a few seconds, considering his next words carefully, then turned back towards Mahkneel.

    "I'm sure it is going to be painful for Charis, Sir. As you've said,, though, it's also going to be painful for Ferayd. And this isn't the only port where that's going to be true. I'm afraid that ordering the ports closed is going to be a lot easier than keeping them closed once the trade really starts drying up."

    "You may have a point," Mahkneel acknowledged. "But if that happens, it's going to be up to us and the rest of the Navy to see to it that anyone who might be tempted to cooperate with these godless apostates gets shown the error of his ways, too."

    "I just hope we'll have enough ships to do the job, Sir."

    "Mother Church is building enough that we ought to," Mahkneel half-grunted. Something about Gahrmyn's last comment bothered him. The lieutenant had an unfortunately valid point about the difficulties the Navy was likely to face keeping the bottle corked. There'd always be at least some men shortsighted enough to be more concerned with money in their pockets than where and how their souls would spend eternity, after all. And it was going to take a lot of galleys to enforce Vicar Zhaspahr's orders; anyone but an idiot had to see that coming! But Mahkneel had the oddest feeling that Gahrmyn's observation hadn't been what the lieutenant had started out to say.

    "I hope you're right, Sir," Gahrmyn continued, a bit more briskly. "And, with your permission, I'll just go and take one last turn around the ship before I turn in. Given how shorthanded we are, I don't see how it could hurt."

    "Neither do I, Rahnyld," Mahkneel agreed with a smile, and the lieutenant touched his left shoulder with his right fist in salute and disappeared back into the darkness.




    "Does it seem to you that there was a lot of boat traffic this morning, Kevyn?"

    Kevyn Edwyrds, first lieutenant of the Charisian galleon Kraken, turned in some surprise at the question from behind him. Captain Hairys Fyshyr had turned in over two hours ago, and, like most professional seamen, he understood the value of getting as much sleep as a man could whenever he could. Which was why Edwyrds hadn't expected him to reappear on deck in the middle of the night when Kraken lay snuggly at anchor in sheltered waters.

    "Excuse me?" the lieutenant said. Fyshyr cocked his head at him, and Edwyrds shrugged. "I didn't quite catch the question, Sir," he explained.

    "I asked whether or not it seemed to you that there'd been a lot of boat traffic this morning."

    "As a matter of fact," Edwyrds frowned, "now that you mention it, there actually seemed to be less boat traffic than usual, all day today. We only had three or four bumboats trying to come alongside this afternoon, instead of the usual couple of dozen."

    "I wasn't talking about regular boat traffic," Fyshyr said. "Although, now that you mention it, that's another interesting point. It's just that after I'd turned in, I got to thinking. Did you notice that every galley left the harbor almost before dawn this morning?"

    "Well, no, Sir," Edwyrds admitted slowly. "I can't say I did — not really. Of course, I didn't have the morning watch, either."

    "I didn't think too much about it, myself," Fyshyr said. "Not then. But like I said, I got to thinking after I turned in tonight, and  I've got this memory kicking around the back of my brain. I could swear I saw at least two or three navy launches rowing into the harbor shortly after the galleys they belonged to left the harbor."

    Edwyrds frowned again, more deeply. He hadn't really noticed that himself, but Captain Fyshyr wasn't the sort to imagine things. And the Delfarahkan Navy, like several navies, allowed its captains to paint their ships' boats to suit their fancies. Most of them — especially the ones who wanted to advertise their wealth — adopted highly individualistic paint schemes which made them readily identifiable. And which also meant that if Fyshyr thought he'd seen launches which belonged to specific galleys, he'd probably been right.

    "That doesn't make much sense, Sir," he said after a long, thoughtful moment.

    "No, it doesn't, does it?" Fyshyr managed to keep any exaggerated patience out of his voice. Actually, it wasn't very hard to do, despite Edwryds' tendency to restate the obvious, given how highly he valued his first officer. Edwyrds might not exactly be the sharpest arrow in the quiver, but he had copious common sense to make up for any lack of brilliance, and he was fearless, unflappable, and totally reliable in moments of crisis. Not to mention the minor fact that he'd held a commission in the Royal Charisian Navy for almost a decade, which made him particularly valuable for Kraken, given that the galleon was no longer the innocent cargo carrier she appeared to be.

    "I think," the captain went on after a moment, "that it might not be a bad idea to very quietly rouse the watch below."

    "Yes, Sir," Edwyrds agreed. Then he paused and cleared his throat. "Ah, Sir. Would you like me to go ahead and clear away the guns? Without opening the ports?"

    Fyshyr gazed at his first lieutenant speculatively.

    Either Kevyn's got more imagination than I gave him credit for, or else I really am on to something, he thought. God, how I'd like to find out Kevyn's just being more alarmist than usual!

    "I think that might be a very good idea, actually," he said. "But quietly, Kevyn — quietly."



    "I trust you've impressed your men with the necessity of showing these heretics sufficient firmness, Captain Kairmyn?"

    "Of course I have, Father," Tohmys Kairmyn replied, and turned to look Father Styvyn in the eye. He would have preferred avoiding that particular necessity, but the Intendant was one of those inquisitors with near total confidence in his ability to read the truth in other men's eyes. Which made it most unwise to appear as if one were attempting to refuse him that opportunity.

    Father Styvyn Graivyr gazed into Kairmyn's eyes intensely, as if he'd just read the captain's mind.

    Which I certainly hope he hasn't, Kairmyn thought, given that Sir Vyk's instructions were almost exactly the reverse of his!

    "Good, Captain," Graivyr said after a moment. "Good."

    The Intendant turned away once more, gazing out from the dense black shadows of the warehouse. There was very little to see — yet — and the upper-priest inhaled audibly.

    "I realize," he said, almost as if he were speaking to himself, "that not everyone truly realizes the danger of the precipice upon which we all stand. Even some members of the episcopate don't seem to fully recognize what's happening."

    That, Kairmyn thought, is almost certainly a reference to Bishop Ernyst.

    The reflection didn't make him particularly happy.

    "I suppose it's hard to blame them," Graivyr continued. "All men want to believe in the goodness of other men, and no one wants to believe mere mortals could overset God's own plan for man's eternal well-being. But even the Archangels –" he touched his heart, then his lips "– discovered to their sorrow that sin can destroy any goodness, can corrupt even an archangel herself. These Charisians –" he shook his head slowly "– have set their hand to Shan-wei's own work. And, like their eternally-cursed mistress, they've begun by mouthing pious concerns that cloak their true purpose."

    Kairmyn watched the Intendant's back, listening to the deep-seated anger — the frustration — in the other man's voice.

    "Any man, even the Grand Vicar himself, is only mortal," Graivyr said. "That's what makes their accusations so damnably convincing to those of weaker faith. Yet whatever His Holiness's mortal frailties in his own person, when he speaks as Langhorne's Steward, he speaks with the infallibility of God Himself. There may be . . . imperfections among the vicarate. There may be isolated instances of genuine corruption among the priesthood. That's one of the things the Office of Inquisition was commissioned by the Archangel Schueler to root out and punish, after all, and the Inqusition's tasks will never be completely accomplished, however zealously we strive. But when sinful men challenge the primacy of God's own Church, however carefully they may couch their challenge in seeming reason, it's Shan-wei's work, not Langhorne's, to which they've set their hands. And," he wheeled once more, half-glaring through the darkness at Kairmyn, "they must be stopped. Shan-wei's poison must be cut out of the body of the Faithful as a surgeon cuts away a diseased limb, purged with fire and the sword."

    Kairmyn wished he had the courage to ask the Intendant whether or not the bishop had authorized his presence here this night. Or, for that matter, if Bishop Ernyst even knew where Graivyr was. But he dared not — any more than he'd dared to question Graivyr when the Intendant turned up with a dozen of his fellow Schuelerites to be assigned to the various troop detachments detailed to tonight's operation.

    And for all I know, he's completely right about what's happening in Charis, what it means for the rest of us. I'm only a soldier — what do I know about God's will? About the Grand Vicar's infallibility? What the Charisians say sounds reasonable, given what they say the "Knights of the Temple Lands" really meant to happen to them, and why. But how do I know they're the ones telling the truth when Mother Church herself insists their charges are all lies? Father Styvyn's right about at least one thing, after all — they don't call Shan-wei "Mother of Lies" for nothing!

    "Father," he said finally, "I'm a soldier, not a priest. I'll do my best to follow my orders, but if it's all the same to you, I'll leave decisions about doctrine and theology to those better suited and trained to make them."

    "That's exactly what you ought to do, Captain." Graivyr's voice was warmer, more approving, than anything Kairmyn had heard from him so far. Then the Intendant turned back to look out into the night, nodding his head.

    "Exactly what you ought to do," he repeated softly.




    "Will you please come to bed?" Lyzbet Walkyr demanded.

    "What?" Edymynd Walkyr turned back from the rail as his wife appeared behind him. She looked at him for a moment, then folded her arms and shook her head.

    "I said that it's time you came to bed," she told him severely.

    "Yes, I know. I'm just . . . getting a little fresh air."

    "Standing up here trying to gather the courage to tell me you plan on leaving me home next time, you mean."

    Edymynd winced slightly at the directness of her acerbic challenge, but then he shrugged.

    "That's part of it, I guess," he admitted. "I'm sorry. I know it's going to make you unhappy — which probably means I'll be lucky to get back to sea myself without getting my head split open with a cookpot! But, there it is. I'm not going to have something happen to you, Lyz. I'm sorry, but I just can't do that."

    He couldn't see her face very well on the darkened  poop deck, but he recognized the softening in her body language. He didn't speak all that often of the depth of his love for her, although he knew she knew how deep it truly was. She stood there for another moment, then crossed to his side and put her arms about him.

    "Don't you dare cheat that way," she said softly, laying her cheek against his chest. "And don't think you can turn me up all soft and obedient with a little sweet talk!"

    "Oh, believe me, I'd never think that," Edymynd told her, hugging her back.

    "Good." She stood back, holding him by his upper arms as she gazed up into his face in the dim backwash of the anchor lights. "I wouldn't want you thinking I'm going soft in my old age. But –" she leaned closer and kissed him "– if that's the way you're going to be about it, I suppose I'm going to have to put up with it. This time, anyway."

    Edymynd was wise enough not to breathe any prayers of gratitude where she might hear them.

    "In that case," he said, instead, "let me make one more swing around the deck, and then I'll be happy to come below and turn in."

    "Good," she repeated, in an entirely different tone, and he grinned as he heard the challenge — and promise — in her voice.

    He gave her another quick kiss, patted her on her still remarkably firm and shapely posterior, and started forward.



    "All right, let's go!" Sergeant Dekyn whispered harshly, and his platoon started moving silently — or as close to silently as twenty-five cow-footed infantry troopers were ever likely to move — down the length of the dimly illuminated pier.

    He glanced over his shoulder at the under-priest who'd attached himself to the platoon. Dekyn didn't much care for the priest's fervent manner. And he cared even less for the feeling that the platoon had two sergeants now. Or for the fact that the second one was senior to Dekyn himself.

    Enough room for things to go straight to hell already without having the troops looking to someone else for orders at the same time, he thought grumpily. Why, oh why, can't officers and priests just stay the Shan-wei out of the way and let the sergeants get on with handling the details?

    He returned his attention to the task at hand as he and his men neared the first vessel on their list. They were just coming even with the lantern at the foot of the ship's gangway when there was a sudden shout from further up the pier.

    "You, there! Stand aside! We're coming aboard!"

    "Shan-wei!" Dekyn swore as he recognized the voice.

    He'd never thought a great deal of Sergeant Zohzef Stywyrt, who ran the company's second platoon. In his considered opinion, Stywyrt was stupid enough to make a perfectly serviceable officer, but they'd both been present when Captain Kairmyn gave them their orders. Which meant even Stywyrt should have gotten his men aboard the very first ship on his list before he started shouting challenges from pierside!

    "Okay, let's pick it up!" he barked at his own men as shouts from the Charisian galleon's harbor watch responded to Stywyrt. The Charisians didn't sound very happy — or cooperative — and Stywyrt shouted something louder and considerably more obscene.

    "Idiot!" Dekyn muttered under his breath. "What the fuck does he –?"

    The sergeant's question chopped off as the shouts were abruptly punctuated by the unmistakable "chunnnng" sound of an arbalest's steel bow and a throat-tearing scream.

    "Goddamn it!" Dekyn snarled.

    Less than a minute into what's supposed to be a quick, quiet job, and that stupid son-of-a-bitch's already letting his men shoot civilians!



    Greyghor Walkyr was fourteen Safeholdian years old. He'd spent almost a third of his life at sea on one of the family's two galleons, but this was the first voyage when he'd been allowed to actually begin discharging some of the duties of a real officer, rather than being stuck as a glorified cabin boy. It had been a heady experience, but even that hadn't been enough to blind him to the tension gripping his parents, especially since their arrival here in Ferayd. He didn't fully understand all the issues involved — in fact, he didn't fully understand any of the issues involved — in Charis' confrontation with the Church. He'd been too focused on his own suddenly expanding professional horizons to worry a great deal about that.

    Still, he'd felt the anxiety, and — like his mother (and, for that matter, every other member of the crew, as well) — he knew exactly where his father went to worry about things aboard Wave. He wasn't about to intrude upon his parents. His ears would have rung for five-days from the clout his mother would have fetched him if he'd dared to do anything of the kind! On the other hand, a junior officer, even one in the early stages of his training and career, had certain responsibilities. Which was why Greyghor had taken to making his own quiet rounds of the ship before turning in at night.

    He'd been careful not to get too close to his father and mother as he waited for them to go below so he could be about his self-assigned additional duties without the undoubtedly sarcastic comments they would have made if they'd realized what he was up to. But he was close enough to see his mother's head snap up as voices shouted somewhere further along the pier. Greyghor was still trying to figure out exactly which direction the shouting had come from when it was interrupted by the most horrible scream he'd ever heard in his life.

    He jerked to his feet from where he'd been seated on a coil of rope and started across the deck towards his mother just as she crossed to the pierside bulwark with three or four quick strides. She grasped the rail, looking down towards the pier.

    "Who are you?!" she shouted suddenly. "What d'you think you're doing?!"

    The shout from dockside was too indistinct for Greyghor to understand. Something about "Mother Church's name," he thought, even as he heard his father shouting something urgent at his mother from further forward.

    "Stand off!" his mother barked. She charged down the steep poop deck ladder to the main deck and towards the head of the gangplank. "Stand off, I tell you!"

    "We're coming aboard!"

    This time, Greyghor understood the shout from the pier, despite the Delfarahkan accent of the shouter.

    "The Shan-wei you are!" his mother shouted back, and snatched a belaying pin from the pinrail beside the entry port. "This is my husband's ship, and you bastards aren't –"

    The meaty, ripping "thud" the arbalest quarrel made as it tore through his mother's body in a spray of blood was the most horrible sound Greyghor Walkyr had ever heard.

    The impact threw her aside, without even crying out.

    "Mother!" Greyghor shrieked. He thundered across the deck towards her even while he heard fresh shouts — angry, conflicting shouts — coming from the pier.



    "Whystlyr, you goddamned idiot!" Allayn Dekyn bellowed. "I told you no shooting, damn it!"

    "But the heretic bitch was going to –" the trooper began to protest.

    "I don't give a fuck what she was going to do! We're not out here to kill goddamned women who're only  –"



    Greyghor reached his mother. Life aboard a square-rigged sailing ship was seldom easy, and never truly safe. Greyghor had seen men killed in accidents and in falls from aloft, seen at least one man lost overboard and drowned. And, as he looked at his mother, lying in the spreading pool of blood with the terrible wound in her chest, he knew death when he saw it once more.

    He didn't call her again. Didn't shout for his father. He didn't even think. He only leapt to the rail where his father had ordered the swivel-mounted wolf loaded after the galleon Diamond's crewmen had been beaten in on of Ferayd's alleys.

    The light guns Charisians called "wolves" came in several bores and weights of shot. The one mounted on the swivel on Wave's bulwark had an inch-and-a-half bore and threw a round shot that weighed just under half a pound. At the moment, however, it had been loaded with an entire bag of musket balls, instead, and Greyghor Walkyr's eyes blazed as he yanked it around, trained it on the men starting up the gangway, and snatched up the slowmatch whose glow had been hidden from dockside by the bulwark.

    He touched that glowing match to the wolf's priming, and a lightning-bolt muzzle flash shredded the night.



    Allayn Dekyn never really registered the muzzle flash. There was no time before the charge of musket balls, like buckshot from an enormous shotgun, streaked straight down the gangway and ripped him, the trooper who'd fired the fatal shot, and three more of his platoon into bloody rags.

    The inquisitor who'd attached himself to the sergeant's platoon bellowed in shock as Dekyn's blood splashed over him in a hot, salty wave. For an instant, he couldn't move, could hardly even breathe. But then the poisonous power of his own panic touched his hatred for the "heretics" of Charis, and he whipped his head around to glare at the platoon's surviving twenty men.

    "What are you waiting for!?" he shrieked in a voice sharp-edged with terror-born fury. "Kill the heretics! Holy Langhorne and no quarter!"



    "Damn it!" Tohmys Kairmyn swore savagely as the flash of Wave's wolf lit the entire waterfront like the rakurai of Langhorne. "What the hell –?"

    He chopped himself off abruptly, remembering the upper-priest standing at his side, but the question continued furiously through his brain. So much for Sir Vyk's orders to do this quietly!

    "It had to be the heretics," Father Styvyn grated. Kairmyn looked at him, and the Intendant shrugged angrily. "That was no arbalest, Captain! I may not be a soldier, but even I know that much. And that means it came from the accursed heretics. Of course their very first response is to resort to the cowardly murder of men serving God's will! What else should you expect from Shan-wei's murderous get?"

    Kairmyn couldn't fault the Schuelerite's analysis of who'd fired that shot, although he might have quibbled with the last couple of sentences. Which, unfortunately, did nothing to stop what was about to happen out there in the darkness.



    All along the harbor's piers, Delfarahkan soldiers and sailors who'd been quietly approaching their assigned objectives heard and saw the wolf's discharge. So did the harbor watches aboard the Charisian ships they'd come to seize, and the Delfarahkans heard shouts from aboard those vessels, heard ships' bells clanging the alarm, heard bare feet beginning to run across deck planking as the the rest of the galleons' crewmen responded to the duty watch's shouts.

    For a moment, the boarding parties hesitated. But only for a moment. Then the orders of their own sergeants, the passionate shouts of the inquisitors who'd attached themselves to the boarders, sent them charging forward, rushing the gangways in an effort to get aboard before more resistance could be organized.

    Startled merchant seamen, still running towards the rails of their own ships while they tried to figure out what was happening, found themselves face-to-face with armed soldiers, charging up the gangways to their ships. Quite a few of those seamen turned and ran, but Charisian sailors weren't noted for their timidity. Storm, shipwreck, and pirates tended to weed out the weaklings ruthlessly, and like Lyzbet Walkyr, defiance and a fierce defense were their natural response to any threat to their ships.

    Men snatched up belaying pins and marlinespikes. Others, whose captains, like Edymynd Walkyr, had felt the tension building, grabbed the cutlasses which had been quietly broken out, instead, and and here and there along the waterfront, other loaded wolves flashed and thundered.



    "Langhorne!" Kevyn Edwyrds exclaimed.

    He and Harys Fyshyr found themselves side by side at Kraken's after rail, staring towards the dockside. Kraken hadn't been able to find room alongside one of the piers when she arrived, and she was anchored a good fifteen hundred yards out into the harbor. Which was close enough to see and hear even light artillery being fired in the middle of the night.

    "Those bastards!" Fyshyr snapped an instant later. "They're trying to seize our ships!"

    "You're right about that, Sir. And look there!"

    Fyshyr followed Edwyrds's pointing finger, and his lips drew back in a snarl as he saw the pair of launches pulling towards Kraken. The rowers had clearly been surprised by the sudden tumult from the port. Even as he watched, their stroke redoubled, but they obviously hadn't expected the alarm to be raised this soon, and they were still at least ten minutes away from Kraken.

    And ten minutes will be more than long enough, he thought viciously.

    "All hands!" he bellowed. "All hands, repel boarders!"

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