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This Rough Magic: Chapter Thirty Two

       Last updated: Thursday, October 23, 2003 01:13 EDT



    Manfred winced. "That's sore, you know."

    "Why are men so brave about battles and so scared of having their wounds tended?" asked Francesca, calmly cleaning the bullet graze on Manfred's side. "I thought armor was supposed to protect you from this sort of thing?"

    "Ow! It's less than perfect against firearms. Pretty fair against swords or magical efforts."

    "And what is effective against firearms?" she asked, sprinkling on Basilicum powder.

    "Getting out of the way. Or a nice thick earth rampart. Even stone can be shattered by big enough cannon. But earth absorbs it."

    "I'll get you to carry one, next time," she said, beginning to wrap a bandage around his ribs. "I would hate to have had to explain to your uncle what had happened to you, and if anyone's big enough and strong enough to carry around his own rampart, it's you."

    The last was not said in an entirely admiring tone of voice. Francesca had spent a number of hours under that weight of bone and muscle—and Manfred did not always remember to support himself on his elbows.

    She finished pinning the bandage with a cabochon-encrusted-broach. "It's all I have in the way of pins, other than hair pins—which would certainly stab you." She kissed him. "There. You'll do. Now, tell me, where do we go from here?"

    "Eneko Lopez says we go to Corfu. Some of the surviving Pirates talked. They say Emeric of Hungary has invaded the island and the citadel is under siege. They also say we have no chance of getting back to Venice, or even across to Italy. There are some fifteen galleys between us and the mouth of the Narenta. And more galliots. Onward is a risky proposition too. There is a fleet in the straits of Otranto."

    "So: They intend to keep Venice bottled up?"

    Manfred shook his head. "The Capitano thinks that's a ridiculous idea. The Venetian convoys would punch holes through any other sea force trying to block the Adriatic."

    Francesca was silent for a while. "I think I must go and talk to Eberhard. At sea, the Venetians have mastery of the Mediterranean. But Alexius controls the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. And if the Outremer convoy has already sailed for Trebizond, then he can prevent their return. If they hold Corfu—well, the straits of Otranto are only twenty-five leagues across. They can harry shipping even if they cannot stop it."

    "Well, maybe." Manfred shrugged. And winced, for he'd momentarily forgotten his wound. "I'm no naval expert. But bickering between Venice and the Byzantines is nothing new. Venice's trading privileges and possessions, like Corfu, Zante and Negroponte have driven a succession of Byzantine Emperors to try and redress matters. It doesn't happen. Imperial Greek naval power is no match for the Venetians. And the depth of the Byzantine Empire's money pouch is far shallower than Venice's. This time Alexius has gotten Hungary in to be his muscle. I suspect his muscle may end up eating him. But if it gets to that point the Empire will distract Emeric. We really don't want a powerful Hungarian Empire all the way through the Balkans and Greece. We also don't involve ourselves in petty fights between our allies."

    But Francesca had other news that she had not thought relevant until this moment. "I think it may be more complicated than that, not to mention nastier. According to Petro Dorma, Alexius IV has recently been entertaining a visitor, who possibly came from Odessa. An old friend of Erik's: Caesare Aldanto."

    Manfred grinned, showing his square teeth. "The pretty blond who set him up to be arrested—or more likely killed—in the brothel? You'd better not tell Erik that or he'll want to go chasing straight to Constantinople."

    "Aldanto already left there, a shade ahead of the Duke of Ferrara's best assassins, I gather." Francesca frowned and tapping an elegant finger against her lips, as she tried to recall everything else the Doge had told her. "Dorma hinted that the Council of Ten has put an unprecedented price on Aldanto's head, too. But, Manfred, the reason I must talk to Eberhard is that this co-operation between Jagiellon, Alexius, and Emeric puts a very different slant on the Holy Roman Empire's desire to remain uninvolved. Alexius may want Venetian possessions. Emeric may want Byzantium. But Jagiellon wants only one thing—a route into the underbelly of the Empire."

    Manfred grunted. "I guess we'll just have to stop him succeeding. Corfu is a large island, if I recall one of my more boring tutors. Surely there is more than one fortress?"

    Francesca smiled in spite of herself. "You didn't pay attention, so you rely on the fact that I did. Of course." She waggled a finger at him. "You'd better start learning to pay attention! Some day you'll be somewhere where I'm not, and you'll curse yourself for not having the information when and where you need it."

    He grinned sheepishly; she delivered a frown, then gave him what she knew. "There is only one real fortress. There are a number of small fortified towns, and villas, built to withstand attacks, but nothing that will stand up to modern siege weapons except the Citadel at Kérkira. The fortress there is on an islet, and the actual rock makes part of the ramparts. The Byzantines and then the Venetians have improved on what nature had already made fairly good."

    Manfred assumed that impassive ox-like expression that Francesca had learned indicated deep thought. "I think we need to hold a council of war," he said eventually. "I don't know enough of Venice's affairs, their military strength on Corfu, the ability of the Venetians to withstand a serious siege or what our best course of action is. I have to think for the Holy Roman Empire, not Venice or Eneko Lopez. I think I will go and call Eberhard, Eneko, Erik, Benito—if they've finished with his wound—and Falkenberg. It's a pity Von Gherens is on the other vessel."

    "I'd also ask the Capitano to join you, if he's gotten over having a divine gale push his ship. He was still gibbering, according to Falkenberg."

    "I'll ungibber him." Manfred cracked his knuckles. "He's been at sea in the service of the Venetian republic for forty-five years, man and boy, as he has repeatedly informed me. A man of his experience shouldn't let a little of what Father Lopez assures us is ecclesiastically sanctified magic worry him."

    Manfred looked regretfully at Francesca's lush form. "I know it seems a pity but maybe you'd better put some more clothes on." He looked appreciatively at the outfit. "I haven't seen that one before. Why were you wearing it when we were going to be attacked?"

    "Practicality, dear."

    He looked puzzled. "It doesn't look very practical... except for one thing, Francesca."

    "My legs are not enveloped in clinging petticoats. And we fight with what we have. I know full well when men's bollocks start thinking, their brains stop. If I put on breeches and took up a sword, even one of these attackers little brother's could kill me. But if the best of warriors is intent on undoing his breeches... well, I have two knives. There are certain other features about this outfit which are less obvious than knives too."

    She did not add that, if the fight was lost, dressed in this fashion she'd almost certainly be booty for the captain. Manfred would possibly not understand that sometimes the things one did to survive were not pleasant. And she had a great deal of practice in that vein.

    Manfred took a deep breath. "You'd probably get raped."

    "Ah, my dear, tell me something I don't know." Francesca gave a wry smile. "A nun's habit and a wimple wouldn't stop that, Manfred. Now, you go and get the others and I shall get changed."

    He looked admiringly at the diaphanous outfit, which was intended to hint at, rather than reveal, what was underneath. "I admit the need, because I want your input at the council. But it does seem a waste of time."

    "Dressing is never a waste of time, Manfred dear, because undressing someone again is part of the pleasure. I shall dress and contribute what I can to your councils. Then later you can help me undress and contribute something to me as well," she said, lowering her lashes.

    "And now I'm supposed to concentrate on military matters," grumbled Manfred



    Eneko Lopez looked gray with exhaustion. The Capitano looked as if his eyes were still about to start out of their sockets. He chose a position as far away from Eneko as possible. The others looked battered in various degrees, too, noted Eberhard—except for the Old Duke's grandson, Benito. Benito had a bandaged shoulder, but it didn't seem to have slowed him down much. He looked like one of those fused grenades he'd tossed so effectively. His eyes reminded Eberhard of a sparking and sputtering wick, as if he were alternating between wild excitement and exhaustion.

    Eberhard was an old man and a politician now, but he'd been a soldier once: this one loved danger. You had to watch that kind. They took chances. And they took others with them into their danger.

    Privately, Eberhard was pleased by the way Manfred had handled the battle. Manfred would serve the Holy Roman Empire well, with some more experience; very well indeed. Eberhard noted he was able to take advice. That was rare, especially when combined with an ability to act decisively and effectively, and even rarer when combined with the ability to lead. Advice seekers often wanted others to take decisions, not merely advise, or else they merely wanted their own opinions confirmed, and didn't listen when advice ran counter to it.

    This meeting, too, showed a maturity that he'd not expected. Merely calling them together like this proved that he was thinking past the successful escape.

    Of course, Eberhard wouldn't tell the young Prince that. But Manfred had come a long way from the spoiled brat he'd had the displeasure of meeting when he'd been in Mainz some years before.

    "I suppose the crucial issue is how well this Venetian fortress at Kérkira will withstand the siege. Basically it is the only fleet-size anchorage around."

    The Capitano made a wry face. "It could withstand nearly any siege... if it were well enough supplied, and had enough men, Milord. But last time I was there the garrison commander was complaining bitterly about how few men he had."

    "Commanders always complain about that," said Falkenberg. "The Venetians couldn't have taken and certainly couldn't hold the island without enough men."

    But Francesca was already shaking her head. There was another one whose still waters ran deep, thought Eberhard. The old diplomat had a good idea that Manfred had learned as much at the white hands of Francesca as at the callused ones of Erik Hakkonsen. Probably more, in fact.

    "It wasn't taken," she said. "The Corfiotes invited the protection of the Venetian Empire, more than a hundred years ago, because they were having a lot of trouble with Illyrian raiders. The Venetians sorted that out with superior sea power very quickly and easily. They set up a feudal system of puppet local Greek aristocrats-the Libri d'Oro, as they're called. Things have gone a little less smoothly lately and—correct me if I am wrong, Capitano—the Captain-General has little more than a policing force, to make sure taxes are paid and Venice's rules obeyed."

    The Capitano nodded. "They're mostly mercenaries. Dregs, Signorina. I'd guess at less than a thousand on the whole island. The barracks are almost empty and several of the buildings hadn't been used for some time. There are a couple of other castles—Vidos in Corfu bay, for instance. But a lot of the places have just got a local Capi and a few men. All right for dealing with petty crime.

    "And the mercenaries!" he spat. "Pah. They're not worth much as soldiers, ones who would take a job like that. There's no fighting, so there is no opportunity for extra profits, bonuses or loot. But you won't get killed either. Lazy and stupid—and maybe cowards."

    "Locally recruited?" asked Erik.

    "Not so as I'd noticed, Milord," said the Capitano. "If I remember right, I heard tell that the present Byzantine Emperor's father sent agents across to Corfu and stirred things up. Told them that they're Greeks, not Venetians; that Byzantium regards them as its own, and that they would be rewarded with Venetian-held positions and estates if they got rid of Venice. It's true the Corfiotes begged the Venetians to annex Corfu and protect it but... as is the way of things, the best jobs went to appointees of the Senate sent out from Venice. The Venetians have taken over a lot of estates. The local Greek nobility has a bit of an attitude about Venetians. As if they didn't want us in the first place! The Corfiotes are quick enough to take our money, though."

    Francesca raised a perfect eyebrow. "And of course the Venetians are as innocent as lambs and do nothing to exacerbate the situation," she said dryly.

    The Capitano laughed coarsely. "Except treat the locals like shit. Sorry, Signorina, pardon my language. Too much time at sea and not enough talking with ladies."

    "I forgive you, Capitano." She looked at Manfred pointedly. "I'm used to occasional lapses."

    Eneko Lopez yawned. "Forgive me too, but I very, very weary. This discussion is all very well, but I must get to Corfu. If Chernobog seeks to prevent it... then there is a reason. Even if the Citadel stands or falls, I must get to the island."

    He regarded all of them broodingly. "That fleet was sent with one end in mind: to sink us rather than to allow any of us to reach there. That may have been because of myself and my brothers, or because of the large number of armed knights on this convoy, or because of—who we carry." He blinked, slowly. "However, I do know this much. Before we reached Venice a similar attempt was made to stop myself and my Brothers. I must conclude that this was no coincidence, and that Chernobog wishes to keep us, specifically, from reaching Corfu. I don't know why Chernobog is doing this, but there must be some far-reaching reason he has scryed. He does not play for small stakes. The Holy Roman Empire or even Christianity may be threatened. You can put Diego, Pierre, Francis and myself off on a beach on the north end of the island"

    Erik cleared his throat. "Aren't you forgetting something, Senor Lopez?"

    Eneko blinked at him. "Quite possibly, Erik. The magic we worked was draining. I am exhausted and not thinking at my best. What is it?"

    "They tracked you here. Chernobog tracked you previously too. He can sense your movements, and now you tell me that you wish to land on an island occupied by his allies." Erik was not normally inclined to irony, but Eberhard sensed the tone now. "You are a great mage, Senor. But an arrow or sword can kill you as well as it can kill me, especially if you are exhausted, as you are now. And unless you and your Brothers have learned something new about turning invisible, I think this is not the wisest of plans."

    "I've seen that on the northern frontier," rumbled Falkenberg. "Mages can fight great magics, but when all is said and done they need ordinary men and ordinary steel to guard them against purely physical threats. I've seen a pagan mage that could blast men to ash chopped down, unresisting, because knights with cold iron and the holy cross attacked while he dueled magically."

    Eneko blinked again. "Still, I must go," he said tiredly. "Danger or no danger. Forgive me. I cannot even think now. But I see my duty clear."

    Eberhard patted him on the shoulder. "Go and rest, Eneko Lopez. You are no use to us or your duty, when you're exhausted. Leave it us ordinary soldiers to get you into the citadel. You'll be protected there, and on Corfu. Will that do?"

    Eneko stood up. "I believe it will. But we will pray for guidance."

    "When you wake up," said Erik, with rough kindness. "Go and sleep now."

    The cleric nodded and stumbled out, leaning a hand against the wall.

    When he'd gone, Erik shook his head. "You may have just offered to do the impossible, Ritter Eberhard. Or volunteered us to do the impossible. We only have two hundred Knights. Even with the ship crews and the squires, we muster perhaps twice that. Breaking the siege is more than we can achieve. Emeric must have at least... say ten thousand men there, and his siege cannon will prevent any access by water—even if we fought our way through his fleet."

    "We lost two Knights and five damn-fool glory-hungry squires, in that last effort. Some injuries too. Gunpowder should never have been invented," grumbled Falkenberg.

    Eberhard smiled dryly. "While the Prince was being bandaged and you and Erik were seeing to the men, I saw to questioning one of the pirates. It helped that Knights of the Holy Trinity have something of an unholy reputation, and that he'd just seen some very terrifying magic. We didn't even have to resort to torture. The man was a mere sailor, but he had a very good notion of just how many ships were employed in the attack on Corfu. Most of them, most of the troops and most of the cannon, are still behind us: To wit, that fleet of carracks we avoided. So right now there are, at a guess, no more than three or four thousand troops investing the Citadel at Kérkira. Actually, there will be fewer than that, as many are out ravaging Corfu's countryside. If we can re-enforce the Citadel, then it can hold until Venice and the Empire will send more forces to break the siege."

    Manfred grunted. "We'd need to send word to get them here. Maybe send one of these vessels running for Bari, and send messengers overland to Venice?"

    Eberhard was dubious. "The sailor seemed to think more vessels were on their way from Constantinople."

    "Even so, it seems a fair idea," said Erik. "Split up. Squeeze all the knights onto one vessel. Land as much force as possible on the western coast of Corfu. Storm the besiegers and hope that someone has the brains to let us into the citadel before Emeric's troops can regroup."

    "Er," said Benito, tentatively. "Why don't we just sail up to the Citadel?"

    Manfred made a face. "Siege cannon would smash the ships to kindling... Wait a bit. There are no siege cannon!"

    "According to our pirate informant, anyway," said Eberhard.

    "We'd hear and see the cannon duel from a good league off if it is happening. It'd be a risky enterprise, nonetheless. We'd have to sail into the strait between Corfu and the mainland at night. There are bound to be patrols."

    "It might succeed for sheer audacity."

    Benito had been looking thoughtful throughout all of this. "It is not as risky, Milord, as all that. The moon is down from about three in the morning. We can come in under oars from the south. If we need to, we can turn and run with the wind. And it has to be the last thing they'd expect us to do."

    "Aren't you forgetting something?" asked Erik. "Somehow, something is tracking Eneko Lopez."

    Benito shrugged. "It still has to marshal its ground, or in this case water forces. Look at the trap we have just escaped. It's as likely to follow us at sea as to intercept us coming into Corfu."

    Erik still wasn't convinced. "The other problem is that even if there are no siege cannon, the Venetians are as likely to sink us with their own cannon. In the dark they'll be watching for sneak attacks."

    "We could unfurl the pennants," Benito countered. "They're unlikely to fire on the Lion of St Mark."

    "Not in the dark," Erik pointed out.

    Manfred brought his hand down. "Gentlemen. Francesca. We've got at least a day's sailing, before we have to decide. I suggest we eat and rest. I will think about the various ideas and reach a decision. But now I need to concentrate on the various contributions possible."

    Eberhard wondered why Francesca smothered a smile.



    Manfred had had them bring four of the knight-proctors and the captain over from the Dolphin, Swordfish and San Raphael to the San Nicolò. The captain's cabin was rather crowded; Manfred wondered if he ought to ask them to breathe in shifts.

    "Right. First, the bad news. We are being followed: galliots under sail have been spotted from the masthead. That was why we changed course in the dark last night. A different sail was spotted this morning. They are spread out and looking for us. Secondly, more bad news. Corfu, our next port of call, is under siege, by the Byzantines and Emeric of Hungary. I have it from Eneko Lopez that making sure Corfu does not fall into the hands of these foes of Venice, is vital to the future of the church. Eberhard of Brunswick says it is also vital to the future of the Holy Roman Empire. Obviously, it's also vital to the Republic of Venice, as state with which we are on friendly terms if not formally allied."

    Manfred looked at his audience, which wasn't difficult, since half of it was looming over him and the table, and the other half was crushed in against him. "So. We need to reinforce the garrison at Corfu. We also need to get a message back to Venice and the Emperor Charles Fredrik about what is happening here. We have four vessels, two hundred knights, and fair number of sailors. We need to achieve both of these objectives. We need to split into three parties: one ship to run on, one to attempt to dodge back—and two ships to attempt to relieve the Citadel at Corfu, or at least to add men to its garrison. We'll make landfall on one of the Diapondia islands. I will be taking the knights and what sailors and food can be spared to Corfu. Capitano Selvi, Bortaliscono, and Da Castres—of your vessels, one must come with us. It may be sunk, and I can't promise anything, not even safety. One of you must run for the open water of the Mediterranean and sail on to Rome."

    His expression was grim. "You'll face interception, interference, and you won't be any safer than we are. If you get through, messengers can be dispatched from there to Venice and Mainz. Eneko Lopez will provide letters to the Grand Metropolitan of Rome. I will provide letters under the seal of the Empire for our embassy there. The other ship will attempt to return by sea to Venice. I'll do a note for Petro Dorma, but the Captain can give the story best in his own words."

    He cleared his throat. "All of these ventures are fraught with risk. There are vessels pursuing us. There are supposed to be Byzantine vessels on a blockade ahead."

    "Prince Manfred, how do you intend to relieve the siege?" asked Captain Da Castres. "Surely the vessels with the knights on can off-load you at some small fishing harbor or something. Then we can sail as a convoy. That will be a great deal safer."

    Manfred smiled wryly. Captain Da Castres had an exaggerated notion of safety, if he thought four ships were going to be any safer than two. "The key to defending Corfu's citadel is actually getting the Knights, and as many sailors as possible, into the citadel. We—on horseback—could possibly take the besiegers by surprise. Hope that someone inside opens the gates and that the causeway bridge is intact. Ourselves and our squires, all mounted, could undertake that. If fortune favored us, if we took the enemy by complete surprise, if the cannon from the Citadel didn't simply fire on us... we could get maybe half of knights into the Citadel. With no extra supplies and none of the crews of the ships. We could add maybe a hundred and fifty men to the defense."

    He shrugged. "Not a great help, but some. However, we know the besiegers have several thousand men—but no cannon." Manfred pointed. "Benito Valdosta there... You all know the boy, you all know his bloodline."

    Benito looked furiously at Manfred. Manfred knew why. For Benito, his bloodline—at least that on his father's side—was not something you boasted of. Manfred was using that reputation.

    Damn right I am. Manfred would use anything he could get his hands on right now.

    Manfred gave him a quelling look, and went right on. "He came up with the plan that got us out of the pirates' grip. Now he's come up with another idea, the only way I can see that will deliver an extra five hundred men to the citadel, as well as whatever supplies can be loaded into the vessels. When he put the idea forward, I thought he was mad. I've pondered on it all night. Talked to Capitano Douro here. We can indeed sail to the citadel itself, by night. But once they're in, the ships won't be leaving."

    "And assuming you succeed in the madness of sailing by night, through the fleet of the enemy, the guns in the citadel will sink you," said the oldest of the Captains, Selvi. "It has to be the most hare-brained idea I have ever heard. Ah, Prince Manfred."

    Manfred now knew which skipper to send onward. That one. He shared a look with Benito, who gave him a slight nod.

    "Milord Valdosta. Do you think it will work?" asked Da Castres, ignoring the older man.

    Benito nodded more vigorously. "I can't see a better way, captain. There are some things in our favor. I have thought about it long and hard, believe me. We know from the interrogation of our prisoners that only eight or so vessels remain at anchor out of cannon-shot in the bay. The northern entry is guarded by Narenta galliots. The south is blockaded by some of these eight vessels. The rest of their fleet is out in the straits of Otranto. More ships are probably due from Constantinople, and if we're going to do anything, we need to do it before they get here."

    He pointed at the sky. The low cabin deck, rather. "For a second thing, the moon is down from early morning. We can approach under muffled oars. Capitano Douro here has found a Corfiote serving among the oarsmen. This man swears he can navigate safely to Kérkira under those conditions. The enemy will have less confidence in unfamiliar waters, in the dark. Finally, the guns of the Citadel will not fire on the Lion of St Mark. Eneko Lopez and his companions say they can work a holy magic which blazons the banners as brightly as if in broad daylight. We'll never get a better chance to get more men and supplies into the Citadel with the fewest losses."

    Manfred patted Benito's shoulder, proprietarily. "There you have it, Capitano Selvi. Besides, we'll have our trumpeters on the foredeck, sounding the battle-hymn of the Knights of the Holy Trinity. There are few soldiers anywhere who would not recognize that. Finally. This is not a matter for discussion."

    He hardened his tone, straightened his back, and tried to sound as much like his uncle as possible. "This is what I have decided. This is what will be done. All of the vessels will take the parts I assign to them. All I have called you together for is to finalize details. To decide which vessel will have the honor of joining in our attempt to assist the Citadel."

    "I am captain of my ship," said Selvi stiffly, "and responsible to the Republic of Venice for her safety."

    Von Gherens stood up and put his hand on his sword. "Captain, I am a soldier of Christ. I am sworn by a holy oath to serve the church. Senor Lopez is a direct emissary of the Grand Metropolitan. I've been in combat with him. I have never met a man who serves Christ as well and with as much integrity as Eneko Lopez. He has said that the church needs our aid. If I have to chop your head off and sail your boat myself to get there, I'll do it."

    Benito looked at Von Gherens, and Manfred watched sudden realization dawning in his eyes. Well, not surprising; he hadn't lived with Von Gherens the way Manfred had. Benito had never really understood the bluff, hearty knight. There was a core of deep piety under that hard-drinking exterior. If Von Gherens truly believed in the rightness of his deeds, it would take a cannon-ball to stop him. That could be a problem, when his ideas were wrong—but when they were right, there was nothing short of an armored elephant that it would be better to have on your side.

    The captain also plainly realized he'd misjudged. "It's a ship, not a b-boat," he stuttered. "I—of course, I'll do my best to assist. But—"

    "I'll volunteer to take my ship to Corfu," said the plump Da Castres. He smiled, revealing skewed teeth, yellowed like a mule's. "I'm more afraid of that knight than I am of either the Senate or the enemy. Besides, my wife says I'm too fat. A siege will be just the thing. And if it lasts long enough, maybe absence will make her heart grow fonder."

    "I'll explain that to her when I get back to Venice," said the lean, dapper Bortaliscono. "Are there any other little services you'd like me to render? While I'm there, you know."

    Da Castres shook a fist at him, grinning.

    Bortaliscono bowed mockingly to his fellow Captain, and turned to Manfred. "I'll need those letters before this evening, Prince Manfred. As soon as it is dark we'll sheer off westward. The further south we go, the more I'll have to beat back. I'll want to head for the Italian coastline, and creep up it."

    Manfred nodded. "We'll need to bring the ships together, and transfer the knights, horses and food. I think we should be prepare to split up this evening. Selvi, it looks like you're going on to Rome."

    "It's the course I should have chosen anyway, Prince Manfred," said the Captain sourly... but not too loudly.

    Manfred ignored him. "It will still be dangerous. But it could also be the crucial route. A message from there to Flanders could beat the Atlantic convoy. They'll have to return post-haste. I suspect the Outremer convoy will be out of contention, stuck in the Black Sea."

    "And the enemy will know that," Da Castres pointed out. "They can count. If there are only two of our ships in the harbor—and you can be sure they have spies everywhere—then they'll know that the other two are running back for help."

    He smiled nastily as Selvi looked a little green.

    Manfred went below to write the letters.

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