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By Schism Rent Asunder: Section Forty One

       Last updated: Wednesday, June 18, 2008 01:34 EDT



Ferayd Harbor and
Main Shipping Channel,
Ferayd Sound,
Kingdom of Delfarahk

    Sir Vyk Lakyr swore violently as another broadside lit the night. At least his harbor batteries were finally beginning to shoot back, but that was remarkably little comfort under the circumstances.

    He stood in an open freight door on the second floor of one of the dockside warehouses, under the gaunt, looming arm of the gantry used to raise crates and casks to it. He'd chosen his lofty perch as an improvised command post when the bedlam, shouts, shots, and screams had made it painfully obvious his effort to accomplish his orders with a minimum of violence and bloodshed had come to nothing. He had no idea what had initially precipitated the violence, but even the fragmentary reports he'd already received made it abundantly clear that what had been supposed to be a quiet, orderly property seizure had turned instead into something with all the earmarks of a massacre.

    Not that it had all been one-sided, he thought grimly. None of the Charisian merchant ship's company's were large enough to hold off his troops and borrowed naval seamen more than briefly, but some of them, at least, had clearly cherished at least some suspicion about what was coming. Many of them had had weapons ready to hand, and they'd managed to fight back hard — hard enough to inflict more than enough casualties to infuriate his men. And the even more infuriated, consecrated voices of the inquisitors who'd attached themselves to his boarding parties without Father Styvyn's having happened to mention their intention to Sir Vyk had helped turn that completely natural anger and fear into outright bloodlust.

    Even as he watched, another of the Charisian galleons caught fire, joining the two already blazing at dockside. At least it didn't appear that the flames were going to communicate themselves to any of the warehouses, but they provided a suitably hellish illumination, and he could see at least one galleon which was still holding off every attempt to get aboard. It looked as if the crews of two or three other Charisians must have managed to get aboard her — probably by swimming when their own ships were taken — and even as he watched, another wolf fired from the ship's high bulwarks. There were even matchlocks firing down from her, and someone was throwing lit hand grenades down onto wharf, as well.

    That, he was grimly certain, was only going to make the attackers even more savage when they finally overpowered the defenders, although it was unlikely anything could have made them less savage after what had already happened.

    And the fact that I'm technically the one in command of this rat-fuck means I'm the one who's going to be blamed for it by the Charisians, he thought even more grimly.

    He didn't much care for that, for a lot of reasons, including the fact that no man wanted to be remembered as a bloody murderer, especially when he'd done his very best to avoid getting anyone killed. At the moment, however, he had other things to occupy his worry, and his teeth clenched as yet another broadside thundered out of the dark, sweeping the embrasures of one of his waterfront batteries with a storm of grapeshot.

    Obviously, at least one of the galleons anchored out there had been a disguised privateer. The good news was that the number of guns which could be concealed behind disguised gunports was limited. The bad news was that the guns in question — much heavier, from the sound of things, than he would have thought could have been successfully concealed –  were clearly some of those new, quick-firing Charisian pieces he'd heard about . . . and the gun crews behind them manifestly knew what they were doing with them.

    The galleon swept steadily, majestically, across the waterfront under topsails and jibs alone, firing savagely at the harbor batteries. Here and there, one of the slower-firing defending guns got off a shot in reply, but even though Lakyr couldn't make out many details through the smoke, darkness, and glare, it didn't look to him as if his gunners were scoring very many hits. And they obviously weren't coming even close to matching the Charisian's rate of fire.



    Screams from forward told Captain Fyshyr Kraken had just taken another hit. That was the fourth, and whatever her other qualities might have been, Fyshyr's ship had never been designed and built as a true warship. In some ways, her thinner scantlings actually worked in her favor, since they tended to produce fewer and smaller splinters than the heavier sides of a warship. On the other hand, they also offered negligible resistance to the round shot slamming into her, and he'd already had at least seven men killed and twice that many wounded.

    Which is less than we've cost the bastards! he thought with savage satisfaction.

    Kraken's broadside and bulwark-mounted wolves had caught the pair of Delfarahkan launches headed for her completely by surprise. The wolves alone probably would have been enough to slaughter the launch crews, but the twelve thirty-pounder carronades in her port  broadside, sweeping the water with double charges of grapeshot, had reduced the launches themselves to splintered driftwood. There'd been no survivors from either of them.

    Nor had Kraken been idle since. She was the only Charisian ship in the entire harbor which could truly be considered armed, and she could only be in one place at a time, but she'd intercepted –and slaughtered — boarding parties headed for two other anchored galleons, and her own boarding parties had retaken three more. Fyshyr had too few men to divert to still more boarding parties without depleting his gun crews or dangerously weakening Kraken's own ability to stand off boarding attempts. But in addition to the five ships her direct intervention had saved, three more had managed to join up with her. All of them had at least a few wolves — enough to discourage any more boat crews from trying to get alongside them, now that their crews knew what was happening, at any rate — and Fyshyr had taken his own ship in as close to the waterfront batteries as he dared, scourging their embrasures with grapeshot in an effort to suppress their fire while other Charisian ships tried to fight their way out of the chaos closer in.

    It didn't look as if very many of them were going to make it.

    A third galleon caught fire, and Fyshyr's teeth ached from the pressure of his jaw muscles. He had no idea who'd set the flames aboard any of those ships, but unlike the seamen of most other nations, who had a tendency to sink like stones in deep water, Charisian seamen, by and large, swam like fish.  Kraken had already recovered at least a dozen swimmers from the harbor water, and their gasped out, fragmentary accounts — plus the number of bodies Fyshyr himself had seen floating in the flame-mirrored harbor — made it horrifyingly clear what was going on aboard the beleaguered merchantmen. Even if they hadn't, he'd been close enough to see one of the galleons himself, silhouetted against the flames beyond her, as Delfarahkan boarders dragged struggling Charisians to the side of their ship. Blades had flashed in the fuming glare, and then the suddenly limp, no longer struggling bodies had splashed into the water like so much refuse.

    "That's it, Sir!" Kevyn Edwyrds shouted almost in his ear. Fyshyr looked at him, and Kraken's first officer grimaced. "No one else is getting out of that, Sir!" Edwyrds said, waving one arm at the chaos, violence, and flames roaring along the wharves. "It's time to go!"

    Fyshyr wanted to argue, to reject Edwyrds' evaluation, but he couldn't. There were too many Delfarahkan troops swarming over the galleons tied up at dockside. For that matter, most of the anchored Charisian merchantmen had already been taken by boated boarders, as well. Kraken and the eight ships following in her wake were the only escapees he could see, and the others weren't going to make it to sea without Kraken's continued protection.

    "You're right," he admitted. "Shape a course for Spider Crab Shoal; we'll take the main channel."




    Captain Mahkneel paced slowly, steadily back and forth along the aftercastle rail, hands clasped behind him as he wondered how things were working out in Ferayd. If everything had gone according to schedule — and as planned — then every Charisian ship in the harbor had been taken hours ago. Of course, things very seldom did do according to schedule — and as planned — did they?

    He grimaced at the thought, then glanced up at the steadily lightening sky to the east. It was only a distinct, featureless gray, for the clouds he'd observed the night before had thickened and spread, until only a thin band of clear, starry sky remained visible along the southern horizon. The wind had picked up, as well, raising whitecaps as it came rolling across Ferayd Sound, and swung a little further around to the north. Arrowhead's motion was markedly rougher than it had been, with a hard, bouncing pitch as she plowed into the wind, and the first drops of rain had pattered down across the galley's upper decks almost two hours ago. At least it wasn't still raining at this particular moment, but visibility wasn't going to be very good, even after the sun came up, and he grunted unhappily as he admitted that to himself.

    If any of the bastards did get away, we'll probably be seeing them sometime in the next few hours, he thought. Although exactly what we're supposed to do if there's more than one or two of them at a time eludes me.

    He snorted in unwilling, ironic amusement, then gave himself a shake. At least there ought to be time to get the men fed before anything exciting happened.



    "Any sign of anyone else, Kevyn?" Harys Fyshyr asked as he made his way back on deck, brushing biscuit crumbs from his tunic.

    "Only the one ship, Sir," Edwyrds replied. The first officer's face looked drawn and weary, as well it might after a night like the one just past, Fyshyr thought. There'd been little sleep for anyone, and despite the steadily freshening wind, the top speed of Kraken's little convoy was little more than eight or nine knots. Even to get that much speed had required them to carry more sail than most merchant skippers were willing to risk at night, when their lookouts were unlikely to see squall lines sweeping towards them in time to reduce sail for safety. Given the possibility that the galleys he'd seen leaving harbor the morning before might be lurking about to pounce on any fugitives, however, none of the other skippers had raised any protest when Fyshyr insisted on making all possible speed.

    "Only the one ship," Fyshyr repeated, and heard the harshness in his own voice. There'd been twenty-seven Charisian merchant ships, in addition to Kraken, in Ferayd. Of that total of twenty-eight, only ten, barely more than a third, had managed to win free . . . so far, at least.

    And I don't think any of the others would have made it without us, he thought bitterly. So what's happened other places?

    It was not a question whose answer he expected to like when he finally found out. Unless King Zhames of Delfarahk had run mad all on his own, this had to be the work of Clyntahn and the Group of Four. The accounts he'd already heard from the survivors Kraken had plucked from the harbor waters all emphasized their attackers' shouts about killing "heretics." And they'd also made it abundantly clear that the Delfarahkans hadn't differentiated between men, women, and children. He could scarcely imagine how the Kingdom of Charis was going to react when it learned of this, but he already knew that anything he could imagine was going to come far short of the reality.

    More to the point at this particular moment, the only reason anyone had managed to escape from Ferayd was the fact that no one in Delfarahk had realized Kraken had been fitted out as a privateer. Which meant the chances of anyone escaping from any of the other ports where similar scenes were undoubtedly being enacted had to be poor.

    And if I'd been the one planning this . . . .

    "They'll have a picket off the channel mouth," he said out loud.

    "Yes, Sir," Edwyrds agreed. "Either there, or further south, inside the channel itself."

    "Maybe both." Fyshyr leaned both hands on the bulwark, fingers drumming while he gazed back at the other galleons, visible in the steadily strengthening predawn grayness, following along astern.

    "It's what I'd do," Edwyrds said with a nod. "On the other hand, Sir, they didn't have very many galleys in port when this whole thing started. How many pickets can they have?"

    It was Fyshyr's turn to nod. Edwyrds' question was well taken; there hadn't been many galleys available at Ferayd. For that matter, the entire Delfarahkan Navy probably had less than thirty galleys all told. And unless the local authorities had been given more warning of what was expected of them than Fyshyr suspected was the case, there wouldn't have been time for the three or four galleys already at Ferayd to have been reinforced.

    For that matter, if they'd had more galleys available, they'd probably have used them for the boarding actions. They'd have been a lot more efficient than boat attacks, at any rate.

    "Well," he said, turning back to Edwyrds, "if they've been sitting out here, guarding the channel all this time, then they don't know what happened back at Ferayd. How it worked out, I mean. And they don't know about us any more than those other bastards did."

    "No, Sir, they don't," Edwyrds agreed slowly, his eyes narrowing.

    "Let's get the ports closed again," Fyshyr said briskly. "I think we can leave half the wolves mounted — they'll expect any galleon to have at least a few of those aboard, and they'd be surprised if they didn't see any sign of them. But for the rest of it . . . ."

    He let his voice trail off, and the smiles he and his first officer exchanged would have done credit to their ship's namesake.




    "Sail ho!"

    Hauwyrd Mahkneel looked up sharply at the lookout's announcement.

    "Five sail — no, at least seven sail — bearing nor'-nor'west!"

    "Seven?" The captain shook his head. "Seven?"

    "Something must have gone wrong, Sir." Mahkneel hadn't realized he'd spoken aloud until Lieutenant Gahrmyn responded to him. He turned and looked at the other man, and Gahrmyn shrugged. "I don't know what it might have been, Sir, but obviously something did. If I had to guess, I'd wager something tipped Sir Vyk's hand early and these are the ones who managed to make sail and avoid the boat parties."

    Mahkneel grunted. Gahrmyn's explanation was almost certainly the right one, but that didn't help him very much. Seven ships would be almost a quarter of the total number of Charisian galleons in Ferayd when Arrowhead departed for her part in this operation, and he had exactly one galley with which to stop them.

    And if any of them get away, someone's going to want my arse fried on a spit, and never mind the fact that I can only intercept one of them at a time!

    "Clear for action, Master Gahrmyn," he said crisply.

    "Aye, aye, Sir."

    Gahrmyn touched his shoulder in salute, turned away, and began shouting orders of his own. Bosun's whistles blew, the deep-voiced drums began to roll, and feet pattered wildly as Arrowhead's crew responded to the summons to battle.

    "Deck, there! I can see at least nine of 'em now!" the lookout shouted, and Mahkneel grimaced.

    The numbers weren't getting any better, but at least these were merchant ships, not war galleons. Arrowhead's broadside armament might be little more than a joke compared to what King Cayleb's galleons were reported to mount, but eight falcons, each throwing an eight-pound shot, ought to be sufficient to deal with any mere merchantman. And, if it wasn't, the forecastle's chase armament — one fifty-pound doomwhale and a flanking pair of thirty-pounder krakens, mounted to fire straight ahead — certainly would. The problem wasn't whether or not he could stop any galleon with which he managed to come to grips, but the fact that he didn't see any way a single galley could "come to grips" with nine of them before most of them at least, sailed right past him.

    Well, the Writ says Langhorne knows when a man's done the best he can. I'm just going to have to hope Mother Church and the King are equally understanding.

    "Do you want to use the chase guns or the falcons, Sir?" Lieutenant Gahrmyn asked.

    "A single shot from the doomwhale would turn one of these people inside out," Mahkneel said.

    "Yes, Sir. I know."

    "On the other hand . . . "

    Mahkneel rubbed his chin thoughtfully. What he'd just said to Gahrmyn was undoubtedly true. The chasers were far more gun than would be needed to stop any merchantman ever built . . . but they would certainly be more impressive than his falcons. And he could use the chase armament to plug away at them from astern if they decided to keep running, as well. Under these sea conditions, his gunners' accuracy wouldn't be anything to brag about. In fact, they'd be lucky to hit their target at all at any range much above sixty or seventy yards. But they might get lucky, and even if they didn't, merchant seamen faced with the prospect of fifty-pound shot pitching into their hulls might just decide against tempting fate.

    "Have the Gunner go ahead and load the chasers," he said after moment. "And tell him I'll want the warning shot fired from the doomwhale." Gahrmyn's eyebrows rose, and Mahkneel chuckled sourly. "I don't much like heretics, Rahnyld, but I'd just as soon not kill anyone I don't have to. And if you were a merchant seaman, how would you feel about having a doomwhale fired across your bow?"

    "Actually, Sir," the first lieutenant said with the first genuine smile Mahkneel had seen out of him since they'd received their orders, "I think that after I got done pissing myself, I'd probably strike my colors as quickly as humanly possible!"



    "What do you think he's going to do, Sir?" Kevyn Edwyrds asked quietly as the Delfarahkan galley came plowing through the strengthening whitecaps towards them.

    The low-slung galley was making heavier going of it than the galleons, but there was an undeniable rakish gracefulness to her, compared to the high-sided, round-bowed galleons. She was a coastal design, far smaller and with a much shallower draft than any Charisian galley. She couldn't have displaced much more than a third of Kraken's thousand tons, and she had much lower and sleeker castles fore and aft than a Charisian galley would have shown. That smaller size made her faster under oars in calm conditions, but it also left her at a greater disadvantage in a lively seaway. Bursts of spray exploded over her sharply raked bow, and green water swept back on either side to cream whitely over the angularity of her rowing frame. It must, Fyshyr thought, be . . . lively aboard her. Which wasn't going to do a thing for her gunnery.

    "From the looks of things, he's planning to put a shot across our bows from one of the chasers," the captain said out loud. "If he fires at anything over a hundred yards, we'd be safer if he were shooting at us, I think."

    "He might just get lucky, Sir."

    "He might. Still, I'm thinking he'll probably want to get closer than that before he fires the first shot. It's going to take him a good ten minutes to reload an old-style gun under these conditions, maybe longer. So, if he fires one shot — probably from the main chase, although he might use one of the flankers — and we don't stop, he'll want to be close enough to make sure he's got at least a decent chance of hitting us with the other two."

    "So how do you want to handle it, Sir?"

    Fyshyr kept his eyes on the oncoming galley while he considered Edwyrds' question. Kraken's carronades were loaded and ready, although her camouflaged gun ports were still closed. The question in his mind was whether or not that camouflage would hold up.

    Part of him was tempted to fire as soon as the galley entered his effective range. Which, he admitted to himself, wasn't going to be much above a hundred yards, maximum, under these conditions even for his gunners. But in order to fire, they'd have to open the ports and run out the guns, and that was going to take at least a few seconds. Long enough for an alert galley's gun crews to get off their own shots first. Of course, there was always the question of just how accurate and effective those shots might be, especially if they were rushed, wasn't there? Still . . . .

    "We'll hold our course for now," he said. "If we can, I want to encourage him to waste at least one of the shots from those chasers of his."



    Mahkneel glowered at the untidy gaggle of galleons.

    They showed no sign of stopping, despite the fact that only a drooling idiot could have misunderstood his own intentions, but at least they hadn't done the one thing he'd been most afraid of. If they'd scattered, tried to evade Arrowhead independently, the galley could never have caught more than one or two of them at most, under these conditions. But they hadn't done that. Instead, they'd stayed huddled together like frightened sheep, which suited him just fine.

    "That one, I think," he said to Gahrmyn, pointing at the leading galleon. It was bigger than most of the others, and it had drawn a good quarter mile in front of its fellows. And while the others were crowding up to windward, staying as far from Arrowhead as they could, the leader had actually fallen off the wind a bit, which was going to bring him closer to Mahkneel's guns.

    "Aye, aye, Sir."

    The lieutenant saluted, then made his way forward to personally pass the word to the gunner, and Mahkneel nodded in satisfaction. That sort of thoroughness was typical of Gahrmyn.



    "That's right," Fyshyr half-crooned to himself, watching the Delfarahkan closing on Kraken. "Just a little closer . . . "




    "Very well, Master Gahrmyn!" Mahkneel shouted through his leather speaking trumpet.

    The first lieutenant straightened from where he'd been personally peering along the barrel of the massive, four-and-a-half-ton doomwhale in the open-backed forecastle. He didn't reply to Mahkneel's order, except to wave one hand in acknowledgment, then nod to the gun captain.

    The gun captain bent over the breach of his weapon for a moment, checking its sighting for himself, then stepped aside and pressed the red-hot iron in his right hand to the primed venthole. Smoke flashed upward from the priming, and then the massive gun spewed fire and smoke as it went leaping back along the deck on its wheeless timber mounting. The shock of recoil slammed the soles of Mahkneel's feet, transmitted through Arrowhead's deck planking as the breeching tackle snubbed the gun's movement, and the white fountain as the round shot plowed into the water well over a hundred yards beyond the galleon was visible despite the whitecaps.

    And now what are you going to do, my fine heretical friend? the captain thought sardonically.



    "Well, that was certainly unfriendly," Harys Fyshyr murmured. Then he raised his voice.

    "Now, Master Edwyrds," he shouted.



    Mahkneel was looking straight at the Charisian galleon. Even so, it took him two or three precious heartbeats to realize what he was seeing as the gunport lids, carefully painted to match the rest of the galleon's hull, opened abruptly. They rose as if they'd been snatched up by a single hand, and the short-snouted carronades thrust out of the sudden openings.

    He opened his mouth, but Gahrmyn had seen it as well. The first lieutenant needed no orders, and Arrowhead's flank chasers bellowed almost as one. In fact, they fired too soon, while the bow was rising, and both of them went high. One of them missed entirely, and even though the other smashed into the Charisian's hull, it hit too far up her side to be effective. It tore a round, splinter-fringed hole through the bulwark, but then it continued onward on an upward trajectory to plunge into the sea far beyond the galleon without inflicting any further damage.

    Arrowhead was less fortunate.



    Kraken's deck bucked as twelve tons of carronades recoiled in a single, brutal bellow. Smoke billowed, momentarily blinding, despite the brisk wind. Then it was snatched away, rolling downwind like a shredding bank of fog, and Fyshyr bared his teeth as he saw the galley once again.



    "Hard a port! Hard a port!" Mahkneel shouted, fighting to get Arrowhead round so her own broadside armament would bear while the forward gunners reloaded. Unfortunately, the galley had scarcely begun to answer the helm before the Charisian fired.

    Despite their relatively narrow target, despite the fact that both their target and the deck beneath them were moving, and despite the shot which had already hammered into their own ship, the Charisian gunners made no mistake. At least eight round shot, each of them as heavy as either of Arrowhead's flank chasers could have fired, crashed into the galley's bow.

    Men shrieked as the heavy shot plowed aft, killing and maiming anyone in their paths. One struck the starboard rowing frame, ripping lengthwise along it and cutting off sweeps like a scythe reaping wheat. Two more screamed down the oardeck itself, accompanied by lethal showers of splinters, and Arrowhead staggered as the intricately coordinated choreography of her rowers was brutally interrupted.

    More iron swept aft at upper deck level, punching completely through the forecastle, exploding out its open back like demons and carving their own paths of carnage through the deckhands and the Marines waiting for orders to board the fat, helpless galleon after its surrender. One shot crashed directly into the timber bed carriage of the starboard chase flanker, dismounting the weapon and killing almost its entire crew, and yet another slammed into the capstan and sprayed a fan of splinters and bits of iron across the deck.

    "Get her around!" Mahkneel bellowed at his helmsman, and the helm went hard over. Despite the wild, flailing confusion of her starboard oars, Arrowhead retained enough momentum to respond, and the galley swept around, fighting to bring her port falcons to bear.

    That was when Hauwyrd Mahkneel discovered that the preposterous reports about how quickly Charisian artillery could fire weren't preposterous, after all.



    "Yes!" Harys Fyshyr shouted as his second broadside crashed into the Delfarahkan. His gun crews knew how urgent speed was, but they were taking time to aim, as well, firing on the downroll so that every shot hammered into their target's hull, and another storm of iron smashed into the galley.

    Arrowhead was more heavily built than Kraken, but not nearly so heavily as a Charisian galley, and her turn had exposed her side instead of her narrow beam, giving Kraken's gunners a longer, bigger target. The heavy round shot smashed into her timbers, shattering and splintering, killing and maiming, and he could hear the screams of wounded and dying men as the galley's momentum carried her still closer.

    The Delfarahkan managed to get the rest of the way around, and her broadside of light falcons barked. At least three of the eight-pound shot slammed into Kraken, and someone cried out in pain. But the galleon's smoke-streaming carronades had already recoiled, their crews were already reloading, and the galley had scarcely fired before Kraken's broadside bellowed for a third time.



    Mahkneel staggered, clinging to the rail for balance, as the Charisian's fire crashed into his ship again and again while she wallowed. Arrowhead's rowers were in hopeless disarray, she'd lost all forward way, dead and wounded lay heaped about the decks as she fell helplessly off to leeward, Lieutenant Gahrmyn was down — dead or wounded, Mahkneel didn't know which — and, as he watched, the "merchantman" which had already so mangled his command, altered course. She turned downwind, angling to cross his broken, bleeding ship's stern at a range of mere yards, and he knew there was nothing at all he could do to stop her.

    He watched the Charisian's guns running back out yet again, saw them flash fresh fire, felt the impact of their iron on his ship as if in his own flesh, and knew it was over.

    "Strike the colors!" he heard someone else shouting with his own voice. "Strike the colors!"



    Fyshyr watched the green and orange Delfarahkan colors come down like a wounded wyvern, and his lips drew back in a snarl. Behind his eyes, he saw again those bodies being thrown over the side of their own ship like so much harbor garbage. Heard again the survivors' reports of murder and massacre, of dead women and slaughtered children, and the screaming encouragement to slaughter the "heretics" in God's name.

    His guns thundered yet again, and fierce exultation blazed in his heart as their iron shot smashed into the galley's splintering hull. They'd chosen to start the slaughter, he thought savagely. Now they could deal with the consequences.

    "They've struck, Sir!" Edwyrds cried in his ear, and Fyshyr nodded.

    "I know," he said flatly, as yet another broadside thundered into the mangled, bleeding carcass of his enemy.

    "Damn it, Sir — they've struck!"            Edwyrds shouted.

    "So what?" Fyshyr wheeled on his first officer, then shot out one arm, pointing back the way they'd come. "Did they give us any warning, like an 'officer and a gentleman' is supposed to do? Did the people we're not even at war with stop when they were murdering our people? Our women and children? Burning our ships? Killing our friends?"

    Edwyrds looked at him for a moment, then shook his head and leaned closer.

    "No, Sir, they didn't. But these people were clear out here when it happened. And even if they hadn't been, we're not them. Do you really want us to turn into exactly what Clyntahn's already accused us of being?"

    Fyshyr's eyes went wide in astonishment as bluff, unimaginative Kevyn Edwyrds threw that question into his teeth. For a long, breathless moment, while the guns roared yet again, they stood there, eyes locked . . . and it was the captain's gaze which fell.

    "No, Kevyn," he said, and his voice would have been all but inaudible even without the thunder of battle raging around them. "No. I won't be that."

    He drew a deep breath, looked once more at the broken, bleeding galley, and then raised his voice.

    "Cease fire!" Harys Fyshyr shouted. "Cease fire!"

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