For Glory, For Empire
Wave of Fear
Dawn was about to break off the western coast of Areiystis where the Maglioshi caravel Darabon’s Fortune was approaching an island labeled as “Manush” on their charts. Captain Niran Shinavira hoped fresh water and some wild pig meat would lift the spirits of the Maglioshi colonists and crew. They were still almost a week from their destination.
Niran was about to order sail to be taken in to arrest their momentum toward the thickly vegetated island when “Captain, sighting!” came a call from the rigging above. His head shot up, spotted the arm pointing westward, and followed it down to the horizon, where a single dark speck peeked over the undulating horizon.
His spyglass was in his hand in an automatic motion. It was a single top mast, sails cut in the Flenoush style. With the sun behind them, and an island to soon hide behind, hopefully those Flen devils would miss sighting The Fortune and sail on past.
Ts’ao Hai was half awake in his hammock in the predawn. He was half thinking on what that shrewish Cho Baiyan had said before he left almost two weeks ago. A coordinated cacophony of feet, rope, and tools told him that the ship was coming about, likely to head east to the island that he had once named “Baiyan” after his new bride.
Hai was awake now. Thinking on that lagoon, and the fish and fresh water. It would be a perfect place to resupply before heading south. He had heard that the Zalamiri and Maglioshi were starting to colonize further south along the coast. If so, there must be good lands there.
Hai emerged up the ladder to the main deck, to directly stare at the leather-clad back side of Ts’ao Liu Fan. He swatted it with a “make way, Child.” Beautiful and smart like her mother, Baiyan, and charismatic and willow-thin like her father, she was in command of Chun Ye, the fastest ship on the Cyclos Ocean, even though every last sailor of this three ship flotilla was loyal to Ts’ao Hai first.
She ignored her father’s mood and stepped aside; she suppressed her bile for later. She reported in a practiced, subordinate tone. “Yanko thought he spotted a ship near Mother’s island, but it was almost directly into the dawn, and none of the other spotter’s have seen anything yet.”
“The island ‘Baiyan’ was only named for her. She does not own it,” Hai corrected his daughter.
Stepping in closer, where the other crew could not hear, Liu Fan whispered, “You gave it to her, for her 200th name day, after you arrived two weeks late, drunk, with the two Regal women stinking up your cabin.”
It was Hai’s turn to be embarrassed. “I do not think she will begrudge us a little fresh water and some fish.”
“I do not think so, Zhuzhang Hai,” she responded without a note of irony. “Perhaps even some fruit, and turtles for soup.”
“Definitely three of them, Captain,” came from the rigging, “All, multi-hulled, one massive and two no bigger than us. The Ts’ao. I would bet my share on it.”
Captain Shinavira, shuddered, and then ordered his ship directly away from the island, trying to use it as cover from the hunters.
The two-hulled ships Liu Zhi, commanded by Liu Fan’s pig-headed cousin, Cho Chiun, and Zhu Di, commanded by her irascible uncle Cho Fong Tai, were sent north around the island to confirm the earlier sighting, while the Chun Ye sailed south (and toward the lagoon).
Liu Fan had the ship trimmed and slicing through the afternoon surf. Hai and his spyglass was left to ponder some time on a beach with some rum, mangos, and away from that damnable woman, always accusing him of being unfaithful. It’s not like he sought out… beautiful women… maybe Azkaderran… mostly naked… on the beach.
The call went up from the mast. The Liu Zhi and Zhu Di both were signaling that they had sighted their suspected merchantman target. Liu Fan commanded the crew into action, and Hai could the Chun Ye accelerating with the wind, circling Baiyan Island, looking to join the chase.
His head snapped back to the where he thought he saw those womanly forms, but instead there was a fresh wreck in the way. Meseidiaren design and make, “The Constant” on its bow.
Again, the call went up, this time the merchantman was in sight, running south along the coast, across the bow, away from the other two ships. The Chun Ye tacked and paralleled the Maglioshi ship, taking in sheets to match speed with the lumbering merchantman. The Liu Zhi and Zhu Di took up stations forcing the slow merchant ship forward, south.
Ts’ao Hai smiled at the thought of an innocent chase to while away the time. Maybe it would lead them to something even better, like one of those rich new colonies. And if it doesn’t work out, perhaps chasing nymphs on his wife’s island will be even more fun than it sounds.