12th January 2478
The Truculent Mountains tower on either side of the road. The road itself is made of stone slabs, huge and ancient. In places the stones are covered with ice. A stagecoach, heading up the pass, has stopped on the road. The driver climbs down from his bench. He takes off a pair of mittens, tucks them under his arm and kneels down beside one of the horses. He lifts its lower leg and re-ties the laces of a cloth shoe that encloses the horse's hoof. The laces are stiff and covered with ice. He lowers the hoof to the paving stone again, stands up, puts his mittens on, and walks around the horses, examining the laces on their shoes as he goes. When he is satisfied, he climbs back up onto his bench, picks up the reins, and urges the horses forward.
Inside the carriage, Jack Pulruset has been watching the driver out the window, through a circle in the frost he has scraped away with his leather glove. "Maybe those shoes do keep the horse's hooves from slipping, and maybe they keep the hooves warm too, but he's been stopping to re-tie them every ten minutes, it seems to me."
His companions frown. Wicklow has been reading aloud to them from a book called Great Lives. "Well then, I'll have time to go back and read the rest of The Pscychology of Time Travel to you before we arrive."
Jack sits down in his seat again. The coach rocks gently as the wheels trundle over the edges of the flagstones. "I'll get out and walk if it comes to that."
Both books were gifts from Galoopius when they said goodbye to him that morning at the Powachella Mill Hotel. It has been almost a week since Stockandsteel arrived in the Kobold Village. After their decision to leave, they spent a day with him, describing the inhabitants of the village and relating to him in detail the story of their clash with The Professionals.
Wicklow continues reading aloud. Jack crosses his arms and leans against the coach wall. Although Stockandsteel listened to the entire story, he interrupted most frequently to ask questions during the earlier half of it, when GMI was investigating the group of adventurers staying at the Powachella Mill Hotel. He challanged their reasoning at every step, and suggested half a dozen ways in which they might have done better. In each case, they answered him, showing that they had considered the actions he suggested, and decided against them. At the time, Jack found the black-orc's questioning annoying. It appeared disrespectful. But he now recalls something Dreadmanifold had said about sapiens. They are relentless. Stockandsteel may have been discovering the same thing for himself, by his questions. When it came to the battle in the village, he let them talk unhindered. At the end, he thanked them.
The last few days they had spent saying goodbye. First, they sent Tak and his five companions home to Olympia through Wicklow's summoning bridge. This they did only after considering how they might take the little creatures with them to Tankum Island. But the kobolds deserved a rest. Retaining them was costing the company 10 gp per day, and it was not clear how the kobolds would be of use in the coming weeks. The problem with sending the kobolds back was that it would be four months before they could be summoned again, on account of Clarus's Summoning rules. When Wicklow said goodbye to one of the females, she jumped up and put her arms around his neck and her legs around his body, her tail sticking straight out behind her. He hugged her right back without any hesitation.
The kobolds of the village were respectful in their goodbyes to the sapiens, but quiet. Stockandsteel kneeled among them with a smile on his face, and his hand upon Lid's head. As the three men walked away down the path out of the valley, a clanging sound, traveling clearly across the snow from the village, made Jack stop and turn around. The clang came again. It was a hammer beating upon metal. After the sixth blow, it stopped for a few seconds, and then started again. Wicklow put his hand upon Jack's shoulder.
"Come on, we have a long way to go. They'll be fine."
They arrived at the Panorama Villa in time for a late lunch with Galoopius, after trecking down out of the mountains through the snow. The path taken by the kobolds was clear, and wound along defiles, and beneath ridges, with cunning that delighted Jack and Scythe. Galoopius himself was full of good cheer. He had lost more weight, and appeared younger than before. His wife looked younger too.
"Exercise and money can work wonders," Galoopius said.
Galoopius took them to the Powachella Mill Hotel in his coach, where he bought them a meal and discussed politics and food at length. His wife sat at the table with them, smiling and laughing, but saying little for herself. She took Galoopius up to their room to bed at around eleven-thirty at night, leaving our heroes alone. They made Theodore sit with them and share what was left of a bottle of port and half a cheese from Wakalin.
"I am sad to see you go," he said.
"We'll be back," Wicklow said.
And so, the next morning, they had said goodbye to Galoopius, accepted his books, and boarded the coach. By tonight, they hoped to reach Peeshan in Belgoria, which where they found the Divinicus Vase. Jack looks away from the window. "From what you tell me," he says to Wicklow, interrupting Wicklow's reading, "the sherrif in Peeshan knows his job, and will ask you plenty of questions, unlike just about everyone else in Belgoria."
"Yes," Scythe says, "But I would like to see him."
They spend the next hour discussing how they might avoid answering questions about the fate of the antiquities, assuming that they end up having supper with Redemshin the sherrif. They decide simply to tell him that they can't talk about the case.
Despite Jack's misgivings, the coach makes it over the mountain pass and down into Belgoria by nighfall, and they stop in a pleasant hotel for the night. Our heroes stay up late talking and stoking the fire in the common room. A day sitting in a coach has left them wide awake. The next morning they sleep in the coach as it takes them to Peeshan. There they have lunch with Redemshin, as they had hoped. He asks them questions, but accepts their refusal to discuss the case with good grace.
On the evening of the fourteenth of January, they arrive at the Pelamakshi Hotel in Dakka, and are welcomed by Talila, it's owner.
"The investigators!" she says, when they step into the entrance hall. "What news?"
"I'm afraid we can't talk about the case," Scythe says.
Talila puts her hands on her hips. "Oh really? We'll see about that."
"Yes, I can keep your accounts and pay your taxes. I wouldn't do it for anyone else. But this is an interesting business you run, and I may even be able to sell you insurance one of these days." Dalian Krass smiles as he puts down a handfull of papers with accounts written on them in black and red ink. Scythe, Wicklow, and Jack are sitting in his office. It is the morning of the fifteenth of January.
"We already buy insurance from you," Wicklow says, "For the boat."
"Yes, of course. But perhaps for yourselves. When you have loved ones to worry about."
"I see," Scythe says, "You will be encouraging us to marry and have children."
Dalian's nephew knocks on the door and walks in with a bottle of sherry.
"Ah, Reprobatim, thank you," Dalian says.
"This looks like a good one." He puts it on the table with a thud. "How about I get to try it too?"
Dalian winces. "No. I mean: Yes, but not now. This is private business, so I want you to go back to your desk."
"Just give me a glass and I'll take it with me. I don't want to sit and listen anyway."
Wicklow opens the bottle, pours a glass, and hands it to Reprobatim. "Thanks," the young man says, and leaves the room, leaving the door ajar behind him.
Dalian gets up and closes it. When he sits down again, he sighs. "You know, that boy infurates me. He's a clever fellow, and hard-working. But he infurates me."
"Heraklese is a bit like that sometimes," Wicklow says. "But he's turned out okay."
Dalian agrees to act as Global Mediation Incorporated's agent in Dakka. He signs a confidentiality agreement. He will read their mail and handle their affairs in their absence. They grant him power of attourney for them in Belgoria. Dalian will bill GMI for these services at 2 gp per hour.
"And now," Scythe says, taking out his bridge to Hocus on Loose Lips. "It's time to talk to Dreadmanifold and the gang on the boat."
"And I get to listen too?" Dalian says.
"As our lawyer, yes you do," Scythe says.
"That's excellent." Dalian pours himself another sherry, and watches with interest as Scythe sets up the bridge with a small horn to direct its sound.
We return now to the ninth of January. Martha stands beside Hocus on the shore of Tankum Island. A three-masted ship is pulling up to the beach. By its flags and sails, they know it to be a pirate vessel. The sun is high in the sky, and a chill wind blows off the sea. In front of them, Heraklese stands at the edge of the water, running his hands through his dark curly hair. A wave splashes upon his boots. He walk toone of Loose Lip's longboats, pulled upon on the sand. "Someone should be on the boat."
"No," Hocus says. "They're just here to trade. Don't worry."
Heraklese sits down on the side of the longboat. Along the beach are a dozen orcs. Bragash, the chief, joins them. "Do you know them?" Heraklese has to shout above the wind to be heard.
Bragash ignores him. The pirate ship pulls around farther down the beach, a hundred meters from Loose Lips. The watchers follow it along the shore until the ship drops anchor fore and aft. A man in a bright red leather jerkin and black trousers climbs down into a longboat, followed by ten sailors, who row him quickly ashore in front of the waiting orcs and sapiens. Clodine and Sasha are there by this point, surrounded by Clodine's constant guard of five fully-armed orcs wearing circular goggles made of tinted glass.
The man in the red jerkin jumps out of the boat into the waves ahead of his men and walks with long strides up the beach towards Clodine. "Which is the orc chief?" he says in Latin. His skin is dark and pock-marked from some childhood disease. His black beard is full and shiny. The moustache protrudes a full ten centimeters on either side of his nose, ending in waxed tips. At his hip is a long scimitar in a gold-plated scabbard. Upon his head is a four-cornered black hat with red lace trim.
Clodine smiles at the man, but says nothing. The rest of the sailors pull their boat up and array themselves behind their captain. The captain raises one eyebrow. "I have goods to sell. I come in peace. But I have no time to waste."
"I am the chief," Bragash says. "Who are you?"
"I am Kantank, captain of the Sea Wolf. I come in peace."
"That is well for you," Bragash says. "Be my guest. It is cold here. You may leave six of your men here, and bring the rest to my hall for warmth and food."
In the dim light of Bragash's hall, the pirate captain shifts his weight frequently. Sweat breaks out upon his brow. The four sailors are silent. At first they refuse the mulled wine offered to them by Sandalak. But Kantank speaks to them in Satian and they accept.
Hocus leans close to Heraklese. "That's Satian isn't it?"
"Do you understand Satian?"
Herakleses shakes his head.
"Didn't the Calipanti speak Satian?"
Herklese frowns. "No, they spoke their own language."
Speaking in Latin, Kantank lists the goods he has brought to sell. He has twenty barrels of salt pork, two thousand kilograms of iron ingots, six hundred liters of strawberry jam, five hundred liters of honey, and one thousand kilograms of cornflower. Bragash asks to see samples of each, and two of the sailors leave for the boat to bring them. After another hour of inspection and negotiation, Bragash agrees to buy some of the salt pork, all of the strawberry jam, and all of the honey. The iron is no use to him, because they have no forge capable of working it into tools. The cornflower has weevils. Bragash takes a few hundred kilograms at a reduced price.
Martha leans over to speak in Ugluk's ear. "Your father is wise not to take a lot of the flower with weavels in."
Ugluk looks at her for a few seconds. For a moment, Martha regrets getting his attention in this way, because she can see that he is confused by what she has said. He will answer with some cryptic statement, or a joke that she will be uncertain of. But then she realises that this is precisely why she spoke to him in the first place, and smiles at him.
"You are a vegeterian also?" he says.
"No. You have seen me eat meat."
Bragash addresses his oldest surviving son. "Ugluk!" and gives him an order in their own language, that of the Kratanak Orcs. Ugluck jumps up and wanders into the back of the hall. They hear a door of some sort opening, but they cannot see into the back. There are curtains there, and it is dark. A minute later, he returns with a heavy leather bag in one hand, and drops it into his father's lap. His father scowls at him for a moment, then picks up the bag himself. "Here is your gold," Bragash says to Kantank. "Unload your goods and bring them to the floor outside this hall. When we see that all is present, you may have it."
Kantank purses his lips for a moment while looking at the bag in Bragash's hand. "Very well."
An hour before sun-down, and the Sea Wolf hoists up her anchors. Many of the orcs and all of the sapiens are there to watch her go. Bonita wonders why they are all here, instead of taking naps or hunting. The ship unfurls its sails all at once. The winter sun shines upon the bleached canvass. The ship begins to move, turning away from the shore. It is a beautiful sight. Perhaps Bonita will get the chance to captain a ship that size one day. If she gets a permanent job with GMI, who knows?
A solitary figure appears on the rear rail of the ship, poised above the windows of the captain's cabin. The figure dives into the water head-first and disappears beneath the waves of the ship's wake. Kantank appears immediately afterwards with a longbow in his hands. He strings an arrow and fires it into the water. A head and torso appear above the waves, and swim a few strokes towards the shore. Kantank fires again. He handles the bow well, and the arrow flies fast and true, but the swimmer disappears beneath the waves again before the arrow meets the surface. Five seconds later, and the head appears, ten meters closer to shore. The swimmer takes a breath so eager that Bonita can hear it, and plunges beneath the waves again. Kantank fires. He shouts from the boat in Satian.
"What's he saying?" Heraklese says to Jessica. Jessica and Stanley both speak Satian.
"Come back here you wretched creature, I paid good money for you, I'll get you for this, and so on." Jessica says, "Isn't anyone going to do something for her? Doesn't Hocus have a spell or something?"
"Go now," Ugluk says to Jessica, "Go you in the water and catch her like a fish."
Heraklese puts a hand over his eyes and moves his head around to get a better look at the swimmer. "Ah," he says, "It is a woman. You're right."
Hocus says nothing. He's watching Kantank. The captain throws the bow down on the deck and turns to shout at his men. He waves his arms. The sailors begin to lower a boat over the side. But the pirate ship is now travelling at about a meter per second along the shore and away to the south-east. The swimmer, meanwhile, reaches the shallows and stands up. It is indeed a woman. Her hair is long, loose, and wet around her shoulders. Her cotton shirt and trousers cling to her arms and legs. Her lips are blue, and she is shivering all over. She staggers out of the water. Before she can collapse to the sand, Martha and Jessica step forward into the waves and help her up the beach.
Hocus watches the pirate ship. Kantank is standing at the rear rail, looking at them through a telescope. The sailors have pulled their longboat in, and the ship is moving away. "They're leaving." He turns to the woman and looks at her. She is stomping her feet on the sand. Jessica and Martha step away from her. She is shivering violently. Stanley takes off his cape and drapes it over her shoulders. She smiles at him and says something in Satian. He replies. Jessica starts asking her questions, also in Satian.
A crowd gathers around the woman at the top of the beach, shielding her from the wind. Ugluk and Quahiri stand among Loose Lip's eight crew members, staring at the woman. Clodine and Sacha stand a little farther back with Clodine's five guards, and a dozen other orcs. Bragash is standing on the beach where he said goodbye to the captain, watching the crowd from a distance.
Jessica turns to the orcs and sapiens gathered about, watching. "She was a slave on the pirate boat."
Heraklese nods. "Tell her I was a slave once," he says, and furrows his brow with a look of concern when the woman turns to face him. "And I was sorely used."
Bonita snorts through her nose, and covers her mouth with her hand. Heraklese frowns at her. "Oh yes, Ha! Ha! Let's all laugh about it." He steps up next to the swimmer and puts his arm around her. "Come on, let's get you inside." Jessica translates his declaration, and the woman nods.
Clodine speaks behind them. He has to shout to be heard above the wind and the babble of the orcs. "Take her to the hall. That's the place to get warmed up. I'm sure Bragash will agree. Anyway, she can be our guest there."
"Yes," Quahiri says, "The fire is hot. Come to my father's hall."
Heraklese looks down the beach at Bragash and then nods. "Okay." He leads the woman through the crowd towards the hall. The crowd follows. Bonita, Hocus, Stanley, and Ugluk remain on the beach, watching the pirate boat make its slow progress away from the island.
Hocus takes his eyes off the boat for a moment and smiles at Bonita. "That was tactless, what you said to Heraklese."
Her shoulders slump and she thrusts out her lower lip. "I know, I feel bad."
"You shouldn't," Stanley says, "Heraklese is one of those people whose suffering is comical. My father was like that. Whenever he was home, which was not often, him being a sailor, our house was full of laughter. Our suffering did not matter so much to us, because he allowed us to laugh at his own. It's Heraklese's gift to us all that we can laugh at his suffering, don't you think? So you should not feel bad when you accept the gift."
Bonita looks at him for a moment, and then at Heraklese walking away with the slave girl. "Oh."
Ugluk grunts and slaps Stanley on the back. Stanley lurches forward, his jaw snapping shut on his tounge. "Ah!" he says, touching it with his fingers.
"Good speech," Ugluk says, smiling.
"What was that for?" Stanley says, but Ugluk is already walking away.
An hour later, and the woman is warm and dry and refreshed in front of the hearth in Bragash's hall. Her name is Grellian Ptumash. She is Satian. Her skin is dark, and her hair also. Her body looks muscular and fit, but also soft. She smiles frequently, laughs loudly at odd times, drops her tea mug, shies away from the orcs one moment, and puts her hand on Ugluk's knee the next, when Ugluk talks to her in Latin she cannot understand.
"Your hair is good," he says, "But you must have it braided. That would be good. My sister will do it. Mooney, come!"
Ugluk's little sister Mooney kneels behind Grellian, smiling. Grellian flinches. Jessica says, "Don't worry. It's okay. She's a little girl."
Later, with her hair braided in orc-fasion, looped around her ears and tied, Grellian stands up to dance with the orcs. Martha gives this event her full attention. If Grellian was a slave girl on a pirate ship, she must be a good dancer. Grellian begins to step across the floor. She appears to be enjoying herself, and she seems to think her dancing is attractive. She does have some nice steps, but she has no sense of rhythm. While the orcs move with vigorous rhythm around her, her dancing seems to be nothing more than movement accompanied by music, while the orcs are movement driven by music.
Ugluk leans towards Martha. "She dances like a child."
Grellian accepts Hocus's offer of a hammock on Loose Lips. She says she is afraid to stay in the village with the orcs. With Bonita and Heraklese in the captain's room, that leaves seven people in the dormatory room. Living in such close quarters, the six long-standing crew obey strict rules of respect for one another's privacy. Each couple has the entire room to themselves for two hours a day, according to a regular schedule. Hesitation about being naked in front of your cremates is considered bad manners. Farting in the dormatory room, on the other hand, is also bad manners, as is making noises at night that might keep the other awake. Nobody touches anyone else except by invitation. To make sure that someone else knows you are behind them, you are permitted to touch them upon the upper back with the palm of your hand.
There are many other rules for living together in a ship, and from one ship to another these rules vary. Some sailors interpret the rules in different ways. Whenever a new crew member joins, there is always anxiety among the existing crew about how the new crew member will behave. A bad-mannered crew-mate can make life unhappy for everyone on board very quickly.
For these reasons, Hocus, Jessica, and Heraklese discuss the slave girl for five or ten minutes before they invite her to join them upon the boat. In the end, they decide it is unfair to ask her to stay with the orcs before she has misbehaved in any way, so they should give her a chance. They explain the rules to her.
"Are you saying I have to take my clothes off in front of all of you in the dormatory?"
Heraklese and Hocus look at one another, and then Hocus says, "Not exactly. We're saying that we will be taking our clothes off, and if you don't it will be like you are looking at us, but we're not looking at you, which will make us feel uncomfortable."
At first she looks at him with one hand on her hip and frowns. But then she shakes her head and smiles. "I'm sorry," she says, "I was remembering something I want to forget. So, nobody is shy on your boat. That's great. Thank you for explaining everything to me." She turns and walks away.
Heraklese and Hocus look at one another again. "I know how she feels," Heraklese says.
Hocus feels his lungs tighten and blood rush to his face. A little air escapes through his nose with a snort. He forces the sides of his mouth down. Jessica nods her head. "Right, of course you do."
Heraklese shakes his head. "Honestly," he says, and walks away after the woman.
A large orc throws the carcass of an island sheep onto the brown grass at the edge of the forest surrounding the village. From within the forest comes a deafening screech. Clodine steps up beside the crcass.
"Thank you Bootack," he says to the orc. "As you can tell, Basil is hungry."
It is the morning of the tenth of January. Bootack is one of the strongest orcs on the island. He takes pleasure in hunting at night for the sheep that live on the island, and killing them with his bare hands. This one's neck has been broken cleanly. He has skinned it and drained the blood out of it before delivering it to Clodine. If the blood is not drained out, it stains the feathers of the hippogriff.
Clodine puts his foot on the carcass and rocks it back and forth. "This one must weigh a hundred kilos."
Bootack smiles. "Big one." He holds out his hand. Clodine reaches into his pocket. He takes out a shiny gold piece and lays it upon the orc's dirty, blood-stained palm. The hand closes immediately. "Thank you Duke." The orc turns and walks away with a swagger.
Clodine shakes his head. Some of the guards in his escort laugh. Even among the orcs, killing sheep with your bare hands in the middle of the night is an odd hobby. Most of them prefer to dance, or hunt in groups, or play ambush games, or to spend time with their women in their cabins.
A young orc man walks up with a little girl on his shoulder. The young man is Rabid, Bragash's twelve-year-old son. The girl is Norlick, Bragash's three-year-old daughter. Running up behind them is Mooney with her club in one hand, and a small shield strapped to her back. When she catches up with them, Rabid is standing next to the carcass and looking into the forest. Clodine reaches up and tickles Norlick under the chin. She laughs and squirms.
Another screech, marginally louder than the first, and longer, echoes out of the trees and across the village. Rabid says, "My father sends a message."
"Oh yes?" Clodine is slightly taller than the orc. He looks down into the orc's slitted eyes and smiles. Upon Clodine's chin is a fine stubble of gray hair. The hair on his head is combed sideways. His cheeks are red with the winter cold. "Well, young man, what is your message from your father, the chief?"
"He says to feed your beast because he and the advisors cannot hear themselves speak."
"Oh does he now?" Clodine says, and laughs. "Well then, we had better do just that." He reaches up and takes Norlick off Rabid's shoulders. "You go and untie the beast, and bring him here for his breakfast. "
Rabid's eyes widen and he steps away from Clodine. His face is stoney, and he looks straight ahead. He snorts through his nose. Clodine watches him. Norlick puts her arms around his neck and puts her head on his shoulder. She reaches up and puts her fingers on his lips and then touches his teeth.
Mooney puts her club into a loop in her belt. This operation demands her full attention for several seconds, and then she looks up at Clodine. "He is scared of the flying horse. But I am not. I will get it and bring it here."
Clodine looks at Rabid. The young man does nothing, just stares straight ahead, clenching his teeth. The orc guards have gathered close around Clodine, and they are watching Rabid also.
"No," Clodine says, "Your brother may be afraid, but he is brave. He will do it."
Rabid looks at Clodine. Clodine nods. The young orc starts walking towards the forest. He enters the shadows beneath the trees. There is another screech. Rabid comes running out again. But he turns, faces the forest, and goes back in. The hippogriff screeches and Rabid comes out with a rope in his hand. A head like that of an eagle appears out of the shadows behind him, with the rope tied about its neck. The feathers on the head are white, orange, and red.
For a moment the hippogriff hesitates, looking to the left and right. Then it jumps forward and spreads its wings. Its brightly-colored feathers blaze in the sunshine. Norlick squeals with delight. This is not the first time she has seen the hippogriff, but the sheer size of the bird, and the majesty of its sixteen-meter wingspan, are breath-taking.
Feeling the rope tighten behind him, Rabid looks over his shoulder. The hippogriff crouches on its two stocky legs, jumps high into the air, and flaps its wings. The blast of wind from the wingbeat knocks Rabid to the ground. But he is still holding the rope, and when it tightens around the hippogriff's neck, the creature looks down directly at Rabid and screeches again. Mooney runs to her brother and helps him to his feet. The hippogriff beats its wings, but they brace themselves and stay upon their feet. Together they pull on the rope. The hippogriff screeches once more, but they hold fast.
The great bird settles onto its taloned feet. The young orcs pull it towards its breakfast. It walks forwards, its body rising and lurching with every step. Clodine stands in front of the sheep carcass and waits. When the hippogriff reaches him, it streatches its neck out and brings its beak close to his head. The beak is as long as Clodine's arm, and seems big enough to bite his head off with one snap. A snort of air comes out of its two nostrils at the base of the beak. Clodine pats the beak just beneath the hippogriff's eyes. The eyes close and open again as Clodine steps aside from the carcass. "Enjoy your breakfast, Basil."
The hippogriff takes a step forward, puts one talon on the carcass, grabs the meat with its beak, and tears off a lump. It raises its head into the air, opens its mouth, and the meat disappears down its throat.
It takes the hippogriff ten minutes to eat most of the meat off the sheep. The orcs watch and clap their hands upon their chests in encouragement whenever the creatures has to work particularly hard to tear off its next mouthfull.
Meanwhile, in Bragash's hall, Hocus and Heraklese are sit on the floor talking to Bragash.
"Dreadmanifold believes you are in danger here," Hocus says, "He wants to find you a new home, where you can raise your children in safety."
"We are safe enough here," Bragash says, "We have good houses. We have money to buy food." He raises a piece of pickled herring to his mouth with two talons and chews slowly.
Heraklese says, "There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of soldiers preparing to invade this island. They mean to take your gold, to capture your friend Clodine, and I think they mean to kill all of you as well."
Bragash swallows. "If they have the courage, they will come. But we will drive them away. They cannot defeat us on our own island. They will have nowhere to run at night."
Hocus stares at the glowing coals in the fire pit. Heraklese looks at him, and then down at his hands, shaking his head. Bragash puts another piece of pickled herring in his mouth. Quahiri emerges from the shadows at the back of the hall, and sits beside her father. She whispers in his ear, and he nods.
Hocus looks up. "Dreadmanifold can find you a place to live in the West, beyond the desert, where there are more orc tribes, in the Western Outlands. It is next to my home country. Dreadmanifold wants us to help you leave this island, cross the desert, and so come to your new home in the Western Outlands. You will have plenty of land."
Bragash folds his arms. "We are soldiers. That is our business. We fight and we are payed well. We do not turn the earth and plant seeds."
Hocus nods. "I understand."
"We have lost many of our sons and daughters since we followed Lord Dreadmanifold out of Kratanak. Most of those, like my father, who were soldiers in his army, are long dead, although a few survive. They tell me that we live well now. We are rich, and they are proud of what we have become. Why would we go back to the land of orcs? To be poor again? You speak of sapiens being a danger to us. But in the land of orcs, we would have orcs to fight instead of sapiens. Do you think that we should fear sapiens more than orcs?"
Hocus waits to see if Bragash has anything more to say. After a minute has passed, he answers. "I understand. I don't know what is best for you. But Dreadmanifold believes that you should leave this island, and that we should help you."
"If our Lord commands it, we shall leave. But the lord has not yet commanded it."
Bragash stands up. "If we are going to leave the island, I want to see maps of the road we shall take. That you can do for me. Bring me maps."
Hocus nods. "Our friends, who are coming to join us here, will bring maps with them from Dakka."
The sails of a frigate appear on the horizon in the afternoon of the twelfth of January. The orcs rise themselves from sleep to await it on the shore. As it draws near, Clodine, who has been watching it through a telescope, exclaims, "It's flying the colors of the Duke of Plantinak! My dear friend Richard Manchester is the Duke. He may be on board! What a delight!"
The frigate sails up, turns sharply, angles its sails to stop itself, and drops anchor, a maneuver it executes flawlessly, with sailors climbing in the rigging, whistles blowing, and commands ringing from the mates. The ship's sides shine with fresh paint. Its figure-head above the bow is a graceful mermaid gazing into the distance, her tail bright green, and her torso as white as snow.
A few minutes later, a longboat appears over the ship's rail and descends towards the water. Men in uniform climb expertly down into the boat, followed by another, who climbs just as expertly, with an ornate steel helmet on his head, and a shortsword at his belt. This man sits in the center of the boat while the others row him ashore. Clodine stands at the edge of the waves with Sacha. He waves at the boat, and the man seated in the middle waves back and calls out, "Hello there!"
"Rick! I hoped it was you!"
The sailors jump from the longboat just as it touches the beach, and pull it up in one fluid movement. Rick jumps out and strides up the sand. He takes off his helmet and holds it under one arm, revealing short-cropped brown hair with hints of gray. His face is bold and handsome. He and Clodine embrace, with Rick patting his friend on the back and closing his eyes. When they break apart, Rick looks into Clodine's eyes and says, "You look well. I am very glad to find you here."
Clodine turns to Bragash. "Bragash, you must remember The Duke of Plantinak."
Bragash nods at Rick and bares his teeth. "You are welcome here, Richard Manchester, as our friend and Clodine's."
Rick gives Bragash a short bow. "Thank you, Chief Bragash. It is good to see you also. I trust that your people are in good health."
"Yes," Bragash says, "And yours?"
Rick smiles. "I believe they are, for the most part."
Rick and his sailors walk to Bragash's hall, and sit around the fire pit. Clodine introduces the crew of Loose Lips to his friend.
"Loose Lips?" Rick says, "It sounds like one of those names that people give their boats that means something. Perhaps a joke known only to them. Will you share the joke with us?"
Hocus says, "Loose lips sink ships."
"Ha!" Rick says, "And there it is. And have you sunk any ships with your dread vessel?"
"No," Hocus says. "But give us time."
"It's not the vessel that is to be dreaded," Martha says, "But Hocus the Destroyer who sails in it."
One of the sailors says to Heraklese, "Is it he? Hocus the Destroyer?"
Herklese leans close to the sailor. "None other."
"I read about him in a magazine. He destroyed the castle of the King of Diamantis."
"That he did. And so they call him The Destroyer."
The sailor nods.
"So, I'm here with some news," Richard Manchester says, "And with an offer for both you and Bragash."
"Tell us," Clodine says.
An orc steps up beside Rick and puts a plate in front of him with some bread and cheese. The sailor to Rick's left shifts out of the way. He, like the other sailors, is wary of the orcs. Before he can move back into his place, Ugluk appears and sits down, pushing both the sailor and Rick aside a little with his broad shoulders. He looks at Rick, who smiles at him without fear. "I am Ugluk, son of the chief." He holds out his hand to Rick, who, after a moment of hesitation, moves over a little, and clasps the orc's clawed hand in his own. "Richard Manchester, Duke of Plantinak."
Clodine, sitting on the other side of Rick from Ugluk, says, "Not only is Ugluk the strongest orc in the village, and the champion all-in wrestler, but also an artist of some skill with a paint brush. You may have noticed his painting above the hall on your way in."
"I did not," Rick says.
"I will be sure to point it out to you later, then. It shows the wyvern of pursuit with the tree of knowledge."
Ugluk nods. "The symbold of the Lord Dreadmanifold. I painted it."
"So," Clodine says, "Let us hear the news first."
Rick sits back and looks at the faces around the fire pit before he speaks. "You may have heard that Weiland is gathering a force of marines to send against you."
"This we know, and we are not afraid," Bragash says.
Rick looks at Bragash for a moment. "Very well. You are not afraid. And also you may have heard that the young Duke Horatio of Anabrasia is gathering an army to accompany the marines."
"This we know, and we welcome such an invasion. We have little to do here."
"I see. I am glad you have not been concerned. Nevertheless, my news is that the Weiland Parliment voted against paying for an invasion of this island by marines. I met Roger Fullworthy of the Weiland Marines in Plantinak, on his way back to Weiland. He told me personally that there was to be no invasion, and he believed that without the marines, Duke Horatio would be unable to persuade his allies to send an army here to Tankum Island."
"That is good news indeed," Clodine says.
"Good news for them," Ugluk says, "My father was going to push them all into the sea and spank them."
"I'm sure he would have," Rick says. "Bragash, your skill as a general, and the prowess of your troops is a legend in the Dukedoms of Weiland. I have no doubt that you would have been victorious. But Roger Fullworthy is a fine general, and his troops are sturdy. He has two thousand at his command, and he told me that after learning more about you, he would have come here with all two thousand of them if he had been ordered to invade. If you add to that another thousand poorly-disciplined troops under the command of Duke Horatio and his allies, I think that even your hundred orcs would have been hard-pressed. That is my opinion."
"Yes," Ugluk says, "Of course you are right, Lord Duck."
Bragash frowns at his son, and then at Rick, and then at his son again. He clenches his teeth, inhales, and appears to be on the verge of saying something, when his wife sits next to him with her arm around his shoulders and says, "Manchester, you have not eaten. Please eat. You bring us good news, and we are glad."
Bragash looks down at his claws. "We are glad that we do not have to fight with the honorable soldiers of Weiland. We have no wish to leave their families without their fathers. So this is good news. And listen to my wife: you must eat something. I hope you will stay tonight, and tomorrow we will hear your offer."
That night, Bragash hosts a feast followed by music and dancing in his hall. Rick's sailors sit together by the fire. They eat heartily, but drink very little. Their duke is in high spirits after the meal. At times Martha thinks his laugh is nervous, and he seems eager to please the orcs by trying all their food, and by laughing at Ugluk's jokes. But he shows good spirit when he gets up and dances.
Grellian Ptumash is there also. She sits with Stanley and Jessica. At one point, she takes Sacha by the hand and dances with him. He is the only person besides Stanley and Jessica who speaks Satian. It seems to Martha that Grellian is trying to excite Sacha with her dancing, which is comical for two reasons. First, Martha is certain that Sacha is Clodine's lover, and takes no interest in women, and second, Grellian's dancing, although enthusiastic, is clumsy and out of time. After a while, Sacha says something to Grellian and sits down, this time next to Clodine. Grellian dances for a while with the orcs, and then sits down with Stanley and Jessica.
Garibaldi and Sallina are among the orcs, deep in the shadows, visible only when they happen to come near the fire. They rub shoulders with the orcs, and raise their hands in the air to the beat of the drums. Their faces are flush with wine, and their bare torsoes are shiny with sweat. The more Martha gets to know them, the more mysterious they seem to her. They are in their mid-fourties. Their bodies are in perfect shape, and yet they take no longevity drugs. They are content always with one another's company, and yet never jealous of it. She has never seen them afraid or confused. At no point did they show any fear of the orcs, nor any hesitation in keeping company with them. Tonight they are dancing among the fierce creatures as if they were dancing with their own kin. They seem capable in everything they do. Certainly they are both far better sailors, navigators, and pilots than either Heraklese or Bonita. And yet they rarely volunteer to take more responsibility. Only in the battle with the pirates did Martha get to see that ability displayed clearly, when Garibaldi took the helm of the boat, and Sallina raced about the deck under fire, delivering arrows to Martha and Hocus. How many adventures had these two been through together? It was hard to tell. Their stories were always about the places they had visited, not the reasons they had visited. One day, perhaps, when they were at sea again, she would get them to tell her a story or two. Perhaps they would tell her the story of how they met and fell in love. No couple can resist telling that story.
The dancing and the drums go on until well into the night. Finally, Rick declares himself . He returns to his ship with his sailors, and the crew of Loose Lips do the same, with Grellian among them.
"I that woman off the boat," Jessica says. She and Stanley are standing in front of Bonita and Heraklese in the captain's cabin. Bonita and Heraklese are sitting on their bed with a sheet over their bodies.
Hereklese rubs his eyes. "Why?"
"She tried to seduce my husband."
Hereklese looks up and smiles. "Really?"
"It's not a laughing matter," Jessica says, "It's against the code."
"It is? Well, I'm sure it is, what do I know? But did she succeed?"
"Last night I caught her kissing him on the cheek at the party."
"Why didn't you say something?"
"I was too upset."
"And drunk," Stanley says.
"How dare you! That slut was all over you last night, and you didn't do anything to stop her. What was I supposed to do?"
"She was not 'all over me'. She kissed me on the cheek. What was I supposed to do? Slap her? I didn't kiss her back."
Heraklese holds his hands up. "Okay, okay. Look, get her in here and we'll see what she has to say for herself."
"I'll get her," Bonita says. She stands up, naked, and walks out the door. She returns a minute later with Grellian, who is fully clothed.
"Hello!" Grellian says, smiling. It is her one word of Latin. She says is well. She looks from Stanley to Jessica.
"Okay," Heraklese says, "How are we going to do this? Stanley, you translate my questions for me."
In the halting conversation that follows, Grellian apologises for kissing Stanley, and says that she did not mean to seduce him. "Old habits are hard to leave behind," she says. "I don't want to cause trouble. You have been very kind to me. Maybe I can leave on the frigate. That duke is very handsome. Is he married?" In the end, Jessica agrees to let Grellian stay on the boat until she can get a ride off the island with the frigate, or some other trustworthy boat. For her part, Grellian agrees to stay away from Stanley and Jessica. "Well, I'll spend time with Sacha. He speaks Satian, and he is a fine-looking man also. He's not married, is he?"
Heraklese stares at her. "No, he's not married." He laughs. "Yes, by all means spend more time with Sacha. I don't think you can cause any trouble there."
"Oh good," Grellian says, and claps her hands with enthusiasm. Jessica winces and imitates Grellian by saying, "Oh good!" in a high-pitched voice.
"Now, please don't be catty," Heraklese says.
Richard Manchester comes ashore again and has lunch in Bragash's hall. There are fewer people present this time: Hocus, Heraklese, Martha, Bonita, Bragash, Ugluk, Quahiri, Sandalak, Clodine and his guards, Rick and his sailors. Some other orcs wait in the shadows to bring them food and drink.
When they have finished eating, Bragash says, "Tell us your offer, Duke."
Rick hands his plate to an orc and says, "Certainly. As you know, Clodine has a million-dollar bounty on his head." He turns to Bragash, "That's one hundred kilograms in gold."
"It is a bounty to be proud of," Bragash says.
"But one that you take seriously," Rick says, and jestures to the five orcs standing immediately behind Clodine.
"Yes," Bragash says, "Sapien assassins killed the emporer of Kratanak, and so we believe they can kill Clodine even here. It would bring great shame upon my house if a guest of mine were to be killed by an assassin. And so we watch him always, so we are certain."
"And I do feel safe here," Clodine says, "Thank you again, Bragash."
Hocus says, "Our sources tell us that the bounty was put upon his head by Duke Horatio. We are confident that we, or Clodine himself, can negotiate with Duke Horatio to cancel the bounty."
"The problem is my friends in Flavia," Clodine says, "Horatio has them in jail, and he has threatened to keep them there unless I surrender myself to him. But I don't think he fears me any more, after Weiland kicked me out. I think he wants my money."
"He wants your money, and the orcs' money," Hocus says, "If Weiland does not invade this island, then Duke Horatio won't either. So he knows he won't be getting any of the orcs' money. Clodine should be able to pay him to release the prisoners and drop the bounty. A few million dollars should do it."
"Which I think is a very sensible proposition," Clodine says. "I plan to fly to Anabrasius and meet secretly with friends of mine who retain their freedom, and have them propose such a deal to Horatio."
"And then what will you do?" Rick says.
Clodine shrugs. "Travel the world, I think. Sacha and I always wanted to travel. We have Basil and enough money to keep us going for a few years. So I'm rather attracted to the idea. I'd like to see Ursia, Endromis, Goss, maybe even Vezdakh."
Rick smiles. "And so you should, my friend."
Bragash puts his mug of beer down on the floor. "The assassins will find you wherever you go."
"But Horatio will cancel the bounty," Clodine says, "The assassins will not follow me."
"You cannot be sure of him. He will cheat you. He cannot let you live. He fears you will return and lead the people of Anabrasius in an uprising against him."
"No," Clodine says, "I would not do that. I have done my best for the people of Anabrasius. If I can get my friends released from jail, I will be free of responsibility."
Bragash picks up his beer and takes a drink. He swallows it slowly and shows no sign of saying anything further.
"My offer is this," Rick says, "As you know, Plantinak is on the northernmost point of the Dukedoms of Weiland. Our northern border is the Straights of Gastranoi, where the Satian Sea connects to the ocean. We watch the straits, and keep it clear of ocean-going pirates. Our southern border is the northern edge of the Kratanak Mountains. Recently we have had trouble with orcs raiding our mountain villages. The orcish Kratanak Empire within the mountains is breaking apart, and there is civil war and unrest. I know and respect your soldiers, and you, Bragash. My people live in fear of the orcs, who come down at night, and fight in the dark. I propose that you bring your people to live in my country, in the hills. You will be at peace most of the time. You will have only orc raiders to contend with. But I know you are soldiers. Groups of you can leave your homes for a few weeks at a time, and fight battles for me, and with me, against pirates, and against raiders from the Kubla Stepps. I will pay you well for such help. But the land for your homes you will have as your own, as a gift from me. Clodine, you can come too, and live with me under my protection."
The morning of the fourteenth of January is cold and gray. It rained overnight, and puddles of water lie upon the ground between the huts of the orc village. Grellian, Heraklese, and Bonita stand on the deck of Loose Lips. Grellian points at the village and says, "Sacha." Heraklese sees that Sacha and Clodine have emerged from Quahiri's hut. They are looking up at the sky and talking. Grellian waves at them, and they both wave back.
Grellian points to the row-boat tied to the deck, and then to the village.
"She wants to go ashore and be with Sacha," Bonita says.
"Well," Heraklese says, "Let's row her ashore, then, and we can have breakfast afterwards in peace, without Jessican stomping around and giving Grellian the evil eye."
Hereklese starts untying the row-boat, and Grellian hops along beside him saying something in Satian over and over again. She is wearing a pair of sailcloth trousers that Sallina lent her, and a sheepskin jerkin that Quahiri lent her. Her hair is tied up in a bun under a wool cap. Around her waist is a belt with a purse on it, the same belt she wore when she jumped off the pirate boat. The purse bounces up and down as she skips from one foot to another.
Bonita helps Heraklese lift the rowboat over the side of the ship. "Do you think Sacha will mind her coming and pestering him?"
"I'm sure he'll tell her to go away if she does. And anyway: she waits upon him hand and foot. I think he kind of likes that." The rowboat drops the last meter onto the water with a splash. "And he must think it's funny that she doesn't know he's homosexual."
Grellian is looking from Bonita to Heraklese as they speak. She has stopped hopping from foot to foot. So far as Heraklese and Bonita can tell, Grellian has learned only one or two words of Latin since she arrived, and understands nothing of what they say.
"Anyway," Heraklese says, and begins to climb down into the rowboat. "I'm sure she had a tough time on that pirate ship, and now she's not welcome here, so taking her ashore is the least we can do."
Bonita shrugs and climbs down herself, followed a moment later by Grellian, who giggles as she fumbles with the rigging.
Richard Manchester, Duke of Plantinak, spends most of the morning with Clodine and Sacha in Quahiri's hut. Grellian is in there with them. At one point, she comes out and walks up the steps into Bragash's hall. There she finds Bonita, Stanley, and Sandalak. They are warming themselves in front of the fire and talking about Sandalack's children.
"Will you please ask Sandalak for me," Grellian says to Stanley, "If I may have some honey for Clodine's tea."
Stanley translates for Sandalak. Sandalak gets up and walks to the back of the hall. Stanley looks up at Grellian. "How's it going in there?"
"Not so good," she says. "You know I wanted to ask Rick if I could go on his boat with him to Plantinak?"
Stanley nods and translates for Bonita.
"Well, I asked him if I could, and he said no, it's an all-male ship." She sticks her lower lip out and furrows her brow. "But I don't think that's really the reason. I think it's just that he doesn't like me."
"I didn't think he would take you. He's not going back to Plantinak, anyway. Didn't he tell you that? He's going south to Sax, or something, and then coming back here to talk to the orcs and Clodine again. So you might just as well go with him then instead of now."
Sandalak returns with a fresh pot of honey and gives it to Grellian. "Thank you," Grellian says. Sandalak bares her teeth and sits down. Grellian holds the honey pot to her chest. "Well, I feel better now. Perhaps when he gets back he will take me." She turns and walks away, stumbling over a loose boot on the floor as she makes her way around the heavy leather door-curtain.
After lunch in Bragash's hall, Rick repeats his offer to Bragash, so that all the orcs gathered in the hall can hear it. Bragash stands up and answers him. "We will consider your offer. You say you will return in one month. Let it be so. We will welcome you."
Some of Rick's sailors enter the hall. They unroll the skin of a huge bear, with the head still attached at one end. "This I give to you, Bragash. It is the skin of one of our Mountain Bears. If you come and live in the hills, I will give you license to hunt the Mountain Bears, and you find find them worthy of your hunts."
Ugluk kneels down next to the pelt and touches the fur. A friend of his, Bootak, kneels next to the head. He touches the bear's shiny white fangs and chuckles to himself. Clodine says from beside the fire, "I don't think even you could wrestle with one of those, Bootak."
"Hah!" Bragash says. It appears that he is laughing, but the sapiens aren't quite sure. "It is a fine gift. Thank you."
One of the sailors whisperes in Rick's ear. Rick turns to Bragash. "There is a ship with two masts and a blue sail approaching the island."
Ugluk stands up. "It is Vango." He walks out of the hall, followed by several other orcs, both adult and child.
But Vango must have seen the frigate moored off the beach. After approaching within a few kilometers, he steers away, and heads to the south with the wind. "He will come back," Ugluk says, as he stands on the beach watching the sail through Bonita's telescope. By this time, Rick and his sailors are readying their longboat on the beach. Rick hugs Clodine and Sacha, and says goodbye to Bragash. He shakes hands with Hocus, Heraklese, Bonita, and Martha. "I'm sure I will be seeing more of you. If you pass by my country, be my guests."
A break in the clouds appears as the frigate unfurls her sails. The Duke of Plantinak climbs aboard, the sailors raise up the longboat, and with whistles and commands, the frigate turns out to see. It's sails fill, and the bright mermaid on the prow looks out across the water ahead. Hocus hears Clodine sniffing beside him. The former duke has a tear in his eye. Sacha puts his arm over Clodine's shoulders and hands Clodine a hankerchief. Clodine blows his nose and gives it back. "It was wonderful to see him. For him to come all the way here, it gives me hope."
The two men return to Quahiri's hut, arm in arm. Grellian walks along behind them, staring at the ground, and trying not to step in the puddles. When they get to the hut, she jumps ahead and opens the door for them.
With the sun out, the orcs start to play in the puddles. Ugluk and Bootak strip down to their loincloths, despite the chill in the air, and wrestle in a big puddle just outside the village. Almost half the orcs in the village gather around to watch. Ugluk is the only orc in the village stronger than Bootak. But Bootak is a cunning wrestler. The spectators cheer, laugh, and strike their chests as the two orcs writhe in the thick brown mud, pulling at one another's arms, tusks, fingers, and necks. After about fifteen minutes, the two orcs stand up, slap one another on the back, and call it a draw. Two more men step up to wrestle, and then two women, until there are a dozen orcs of different sexes slipping and grunting with exertion in the mud, all covered from head to foot in it. Hocus and Martha are just thinking how much fun it would be to join it, when they hear a scream from Quahiri's hut.
They rush to the front door. Sacha is standing there. Even as they watch, he falls to his knees and wails. Clodine's guards are inside the hut. One of them pushes out past Sacha and runs to the chief, who is even now coming down the steps of his hall, stripped to the waist, as if ready to wrestle in the mud.
Hocus and Martha force their way past more orcs and into the hut. Sacha is kneeling beside Clodine, who lies upon the floor. His eyes are open but lifeless. A wide stain of dark red blood covers the stones in front of Quahiri's fireplace. Sacha takes Clodine's head in his hands, holds it to his chest, and kisses Clodine's forehead, saying, "No, it's okay, don't worry any more," over and over again.
"Is he dead?" Hocus says to one of the orcs.
"Yes," she says.
"A knife here." She points to the back of her neck.
Hocus pushes his way outside. There he finds Bonita and Heraklese. "Clodine is dead. He's been assassinated."
"Where's Grellian?" Bonita says.
One of the orc guards points to the toilet sheds outside the village. "She went to the toilets. First Sacha went, then she went."
"Oh no," Bonita says, and puts her head in her hands.
Bragash's voice rings out from nearby. "Find the woman who dances like a child!"
The orcs rush about looking for Grellian, but she is gone. Ugluk, still covered from head to foot with mud and wearing only a loincloth, finds Grellian's footprints leading off to the east. "I will chase her." He pulls his trousers over his legs, and covers his hugely muscular torso with a leather jacket. "She is running." Next to him, Bootak is getting dressed also, and a tall orc woman named Yamlid. "I will come," she says. She buttons her sheepskin jerkin over her large, mud-caked breasts. Moments later, before Bragash has a chance to give his son permission to go, Ugluk starts running. Bootak and Yamlid run after him, and in moments, they have disappeared into the forest.
Bragash orders Quahiri to take another group and try to follow Grellian's tracks more carefully. A third group he orders to go to the top of the hill and look around for ships near the shore. The sapiens want to go too, but Bragash tells them they may not. "It will be dark soon, and you cannot see in the dark. You may be able to run with the orcs, but I have not seen you run hard. I do not want you to become tired, stop to rest, and become lost in the forest at night, when you cannot see."
The sapiens decide not to argue with him, even though they believe themselves perfectly capable of keeping up. Instead, they wait around in the village. They console Sacha, and arrange Clodine's body. None of them have much to say to one another. They are stunned by what has occured. Bragash appears to be the same. The retires to his hall and sits beside his fire. Heraklese goes to him and apologises for the failure of Loose Lips's crew to recognise Grellian for an assassin. He grunts, but says nothing more.
At sundown, Ugluk returns with his two companions and walks up the steps into the hall. "We almost caught her. We did not follow her tracks. We ran to the beach on the other side of the island. When we reached the sand, she was in the water, swimming. In the water was the pirate boat, with Captain Kantank. She swam fast, and she climbed up the side of the ship like a monkey. The pirates opened windows and pushed oars out into the water. They moved the ship by rowing. We could not catch it by swimming."
The next morning it is raining, but the orcs light a funeral pyre on the beach. They place Clodine's body upon it and sing a hymn in the language of their anscestors. The hym is alternately slow and fast, but always loud. They punctuate their singing with stomps on the earth, blows to their chests, and shouts. As they sing, Clodine's body burns. The crew of Loose Lips turn their faces away, with the exception of Heraklese, for whom the funeral pyre is familiar from home.
When the fire is cooling, but before it gets soaked by the rain, Sacha walks among the embers and collects Clodine's ashes in a clay pot. A blue sail appears out of the cloud and rain on the sea. It is Vango. He lands and comes ashore. By this time Bragash is back in his hall. He will not come out to meet Vango. Quahiri tells Vango that today is a day of mourning, and he should come back the next day.
"Give the chief my condolences," Vango says, looking at the remains of the pyre, and Sacha with his spoon and clay pot. "I will return tomorrow." He gets back in his longboat and returns to the Kamazi.
"What does Kamazi mean?" Heraklese says.
"It means Blue Sail," Jessica says.
Heraklese nods. "I'd like you to teach me to speak Satian."
In the early afternoon of the fifteenth of January, Hocus, Martha, Heraklese, and Bonita gather in the captain's cabin. Hocus sets up two space bridges. One is to Dakka, with Wicklow, Scythe, Jack, and Dalian Krass on the other end. The other is to some unknown location on another world, with Dreadmanifold on the other end.
"What a pity," Dreadmanifold says, when he hears about Clodine's death. "Bragash will be ashamed."
Bonita says, "I can hardly believe how many lies she told. We did not see any of them until it was too late. She told Stanley that she had asked Rick if she could come with him and he said No. But it turns out that she never did ask Rick. Sacha said Rick even offered to take her with him, and he would drop her off at a port of her choosing. If we had asked Rick to take her ourselves, we would have seen her deception, and her game would have been up. But we didn't."
Wicklow says, "She had to make sure that she stayed on the island after Rick left, but she also had to make sure that none of you suspected that she really wanted to be near Clodine."
"Yes," Martha says, "She pretended not to notice that Sacha was homosexual. She pretended to be clumsy. She danced like a child. She made trouble between Stanley and Jessica so she would be unwelcome on the boat and have a good reason to spend time with Sacha."
Hocus puts his hands on the captain's table and squeezes the wood. "I knew there was something wrong with the way Kantank was firing arrows at her. Even though she was diving under the water, he should have been able to hit her. But he didn't."
"I bet she spoke Latin, too," Heraklese says.
"I bet she did," Hocus says, and shakes his head. "This is the first real slap in the face we've had since we started."
"Clodine's safety was not your responsibility," Dredmanifold says, "His death simplifies things for Bragash, so it is not a set-back in your work with my Exiles."
"Because Clodine is dead," Martha says, "Richard Manchester may withdraw his offer to host the orcs."
"That may be. But I doubt it. As Duke, I'm sure he is interested primarily in the orcs, not in Clodine. His offer is interesting, I will admit. I would like to meet him. When he returns, I would like some of you to go with him. Take some of the orcs with you also. Quahiri and a few others, perhaps. Now, I have to go. It was a pleasure to meet you Dalian. Perhaps we will meet in person soon."
"That would be a pleasure," Dalian says. But in his office, he jestures to Wicklow, asking, "Does he mean he's coming here, to my office?"
Wicklow shrugs. "I don't know."
With Dreadmanifold out of the conference, the Global Mediation Incorporated employees and board members fall to talking of business. They are hoping for payment from Dreadmanifold in the next couple of days. The group in Dakka agrees to buy maps of the desert and the Western Outlands, and of Plantinak and the Kratanak Mountains. Dakka is a fine place to buy maps. After that, Wicklow, Scythe, and Jack will try to get to Tankum Island.
Wicklow and Scythe take Jack to the Bank of Belgorash. They draw $20,000 in the form of two hundred gold pieces (that's two kilograms of gold in all), and give it to Jack Pulruset in payment for his service in the Kobold Village. For the next two days, Wicklow and Scythe go shopping for camping equipment, climbing gear, and other adventuring supplies. They go about the two magic shops in the city and buy a list of things Hocus needs: cegotun stones for Hot Stones, diamond glass stones for Luminous Stones, and bridge rings. They buy six thunder-eggs. They buy maps of the Western Outlands and Plantinak. They pack up all this stuff in some chests, say goodbye to Dalian Krass, and board a stagecoach for Diamantis. Wicklow and Scythe each carry four hundred gold pieces in cash, to deposit in Loose Lips strong box. They know that they owe the sailors pay for January, and are likely to need more cash before they get near a bank again.
With Wicklow and Scythe goes Jack Pulruset. He has not yet negotiated payment from GMI for further services, but neither has GMI negotiated payment for further services from Dreadmanifold. Jack is keen to visit Tankum island, and meeet the orcs. Wicklow and Scythe are glad to have him along, and assure him that he will be well paid, just as they expect to be.
They arrive in Diamantis on the eighteenth January. They give the four horses they left in Diamantis months before to The Crown. Which is to say: they give them to Diamantis, under Toylandic Miastadon, the regent. They stay in his modest quarters in Diamantis city. The castle is being restored slowly after its devestation at the hands of Hocus the Destroyer. They ask Toylandic if they can get passage on a frigate to Tankum Island, and he grants it to them on the next outbound frigate, Intrepid, under Captain Crimbowdikan. They leave on the twenty-third of January. Their captain is an eccentric but fearless fellow who handles his ship with casual competence across the Satian see, to a port to Rapmouth on the East coast, then back to point off the West coast for some kind of secret meeting with another boat, and then across to the Diablo Islands, along narrow channels, to Tankum Island. The captain has them rowed ashore with their four chests of equipment, and leaves immediately.
And so it is that the owners of GMI, and their various accomplices, are brought together in one place, in the middle of winter, on an island held by orcs. They are content.
Sacha, Duke Clodine's berieved partner, is sleeping on Loose Lips. He is devestated and grieving. To add to his confusion and anger, a friend of Clodines arrives on a pirate boat on the first of February, bringing a verbal message from Duke Horatio (Clodine's nephew), offering to drop the bounty on Clodine's head, and release Clodine's friends from prison, if Clodine will pay a fine of two million dollars. Sacha tells him the news, and the friend, also grieving, departs on the pirate ship an hour later.
Clodine's friend did, however, confirm that Weiland's planned invasion of Tankum Island has indeed been called off, and Duke Horatio's accompanying invasion has lost momentum and dissipated also. This news cheers Bragash, although he does not admit it openly, and the rest of the orcs also. The mood in the village is more cheerful, after a gloomy stretch following Clodine's death. They continue to feed Basil the hippogriff, but noone has yet had the courage to try and ride him. They are waiting for Sacha to offer to take them up. Basil himself appears to be depressed also, missing his master. He sits with his wings over his head under his shelter, sleeping most of the time.
Wicklow and Scythe deposit their cash in the strong box, and pay the sailors another $10,000 each for the tenth of January through to the tenth of February. They store their chests in the boat, and decide that they should regard Loose Lips as their mobile base of operations in the Satian Sea region. They will make sure the boat has all manner of supplies. They have made a good start with winter camping and climbing equipment.
On the third of February, after a couple of days settling in and sleeping twelve people on the boat, Scythe, Jack, and Wicklow decide they would prefer to sleep on shore to mix more freely with the orcs, and so get to know them as their comrades have come to know them. They discuss the matter with Bragash, and propose that Hocus build two cabins on the east side of the village. Bragash approves.
The next day, with most of the orcs watching him, Hocus makes a cabin for himself and Martha. He and Martha have marked out an area five meters square with string, and placed rocks within it. Others stand by with more string to help direct the construction. One of the accessories Wicklow and Scythe brought for Hocus from Dakka is a slender wooden wand one meter long with a bridge ring at the end of it. Hocus places a space bridge in the ring, and conjured wood starts to emerge from its mithril surface.
Martha has her notebook out, with a pencil in hand. "What is the name of this spell?" she asks, even though she already knows the answer.
"Its one of a class of spells that usually get called Conjured Structure," Hocus says. "This one produces the conjured wood slowly, but it lets me color the wood, and the stuff should last for a thousand hours."
"How long is that?" Quahiri says. Her Latin has improved through frequent conversations with the sapiens.
"Over a month."
"What are the rocks for?" Sacha says.
Hocus is leaning over, depositing brown conjured wood around one of the rocks. "They will hold down the floor. Conjured matter floats."
Sacha nods. "Ah."
Norlik, Bragash's three-year old daughter, steps into the square and walks up to one of the rocks. Martha picks the little girl up and takes her out of the way. Hocus changes the color of the wood to transparent, purple, red, and a dozen other colors. The onlookers are impressed. After a while, however, many of them leave to continue their day's entertainment elsewhere. After half an hour, the floor is complete. It is ten centimeters thick in most places, and with the help of his comrades and their pieces of string, he has managed to get it almost level and fairly flat. He settles upon a shade of brown that he thinks will be inconspicuous at the edge of the village, and begins on the walls.
Three hours later, the cabin is complete. It has four walls and a sloped roof. The entrance is a low arch in the east wall facing the sea, covered by a sheepskin curtain borrowed from Bragash. In each wall are one or two windows made out of transparent wood, and there is a skylight in the roof through which he and Martha can look at the stars.
"When we camped by the kobold village," Hocus says, "We used to lie in our shelter, which was transparent all over, and look at the stars at night."
"That sounds like fun," Martha says, "Lying down with a bunch of strong men and looking at the stars. We can try it tonight."
The two of them sleep that night in their new cabin, after receiving Bragash and many others as guests. Many of them bring gifts, like a stool, plates, cups, a bottle of wine, blankets, and food. These are house-warming gifts, and the orcs give them gladly, and consume them gladly also.
On the fifth of February, Hocus makes an even larger cabin for anyone else from the boat who might like to stay on shore. This one is seven meters square at the base. The orcs are just as impressed. In the afternoon, Scythe, Jack, Wicklow, and Sacha move their effects from the boat to the cabin, and receive visitors until late at night. This leaves the four sailors, and Heraklese and Bonita on the boat.
With the cabins complete, Scythe, Wicklow, and Jack spend their days with the orcs. They spar with sticks, and take part many of the orcs exercises and games, with the exception of wrestling, which remains intimidating with its rough and dirty abandon. The weather is cold, but not freezing. Most of the trees on the island are bare of leaves, and the sky is often over-cast. But vigorous activity keeps them warm, and they can always retire to Bragash's hall or to their cabins. The conjured wood cabins are particularly warm. Their walls and floors have no cracks, and keep the cold out better even than a house made of stone. Hocus provides each with several magical hot stones. The stones are the size of a chicken's egg and glow almost red hot. When placed on a rock on the floor, three stones will warm an entire cabin with dry heat. When placed in a bowl of water, they will fill the cabin with steam.
The steam delights orc visitors, and gives the adventurers the idea of making a steam room. On the seventh of February, Hocus and the adventurers make a circular, domed cabin next to Bragash's hall. Inside they place two hot stones in a bowl of water. The room fills with steam. As soon as the steam room is ready, naked orcs fill it to bursting. The orcs are excited and delighted by their experience. The sapiens enjoy the steam room also, but they often feel awkward sitting beside the orcs, who show no shyness at all when it comes to caressing their husbands or wives.
One evening, Heraklese is so squashed between two orc women on the benches that he feels he really must leave. But one of them says, "Where are you going, Herak?" That is what they call Heraklese, and they are fond of him, because he can make them laugh, and he has learned to speak their language in a halting fashion, which in itself both delights and amuses them. "You should stay." She is combing her long black hair and leaning against a wall. Her skin is white and clear, as is the ivory of her graceful tusks. The muscles on her arms and legs are firm and strong.Hereklese swallows and says, "Um." He has his trousers in his hands, and a towel over his shoulder.
"Come and sit next to me," she says, and bares her teeth.
"I really have to go, actually." He puts one leg into his trousers, and then another, but for some reason, he can't get them on properly, and he staggers and falls against the wall. She laughs. She looks down at Heraklese's mid-section and raises her eyebrows. He pulls his trousers on all the way.
"But you don't want to go, do you?" she says.
"Well, you know," Heraklese says, putting on his shirt and jacket. "We sapiens don't always get to do what we want to do." He ducks out through the leather curtain door into the cold evening air.
"Right," he says, "Back to the boat."
With the excitement of the steam room, the news that the island will not be invaded by Weiland, and a slow recovery from the shock of Clodine's assassination, the village of orcs is in good humor.
Our heroes discuss with Bragash the Duke of Plantinak's proposal to move the orcs to the foothills of the Kratanak Mountains in the south of his Dukedom. Bragash prefers this idea to that of moving to the Western Outlands, which would take his people thousands of miles from the land of their parents and grandparents. In the Dukedom of Plantinak, they would be upon the northern borders of the Kratanak Outlands, and there would be hope of returning one day to their own land, if their rebellion, twenty years ago, were ever forgiven. Bragash agrees that some of his people, perhaps his eldest daughter among them, should go with the adventurers to Plantinak and find out what sort of place Richard Manchester has set aside for them.
At three in the morning on the ninth of Februrary, the sleepers in the conjured cabins are awoken by the sound of many male voices shouting in the village. By the light of luminous stones, Hocus, Martha, Scythe, Wicklow, and Jack pull their boots and armor shirts over their trousers and under-shirts. They grab their swords, bows, quivers, and thunder-eggs. The shouting continues. Only when they are properly equipped to the adventurers rush outside to see what is going on.
It is a clear night. The gibbous moon is high in the sky. It being three in the morning, the orcs are asleep, for they sleep every night from two until ten in the morning. The sapiens have left behind their luminous stones. Their eyes adjust to the moonlight.
A hundred or so sapien men stand in a croud outside Bragash's hall. It is these men that are shouting among themselves. Among the cabins of the village, more sapien men are hiding and scurrying. The sapiens attack orcs who emerge from their cabins. The village is filling with the sound of ringing swords and shouts of anger and alarm. Wicklow sees two men hiding next to a nearby cabin. The men have their faces painted black. Wicklow strings and arrow, but at the sight of him doing so, the men take shelter behind the cabin.
"I think they are pirates," Wicklow says.
They hear a loud crash and splintering of wood from the far side of Bragash's hall.
"That sounded like the back door being broken into," Martha says.
"They must be trying to break in the back and take Bragash's money," Hocus says.
"That's where we should be," Wicklow says, "Let's go."
They jog towards the totem pole at the center of the village square. "I will throw a poison cloud." Hocus says. He tosses a bridge ring high in the air. It lands among the pirates outside the hall. He forces a cylindrical lump through another ring he holds in his hand, and cloud of thick smoke bursts out of the first ring. Pirates stumble over one another to get away from the cloud, and others, who breath the smoke, begin to yell and scream in fear.
"Confusion cloud," Hocus says, "Makes you hallucinate. Should be bad for morale."
Wicklow starts running along the south side fo the square towards the hall, intent upon reaching the rear. The others are right behind him. A group of twenty pirates breaks away from the crowd and run to intercept them them. Jack throws a thunder-egg into the crowd. It detonates with a deafening crack and a flash of blue light. Ten of the pirates running towards them stop and crouch in alarm. The remainder keep running. Hocus casts Enveloping Sponge, which immobilizes two of them even as they are running. The remainder stop and back away.
"I'm casting a Circle spell. It will take twenty seconds. I can do it while we walk, but keep me protected."
They continue in a tight group along the south side of the square. Three orcs run naked out of the steam room. They are set upon by pirates, who jump out of the shadows, but the orcs run for their cabins and escape. Among the cabins skirmishes are taking place between orcs and pirates. The orcs do not want to leave their children alone in the cabins, and so are unwilling to come forth and gather in the square. By the looks of it, there are a hundred pirates in the north side of the village, and another hundred in the south side.
As they come along side Bragash's hall, they hear Ugluk's voice to their right. He is fighting in among the pirates. "Ugluk is in there!" Martha says. They stop. They are unwilling to leave Ugluk to fight alone. Pirates close upon them from behind and attack. By this time, Hocus has his two circular space bridges in his hands, each thirty centimeters across. He steps forward to fight. Beside him are Jack and Martha. The pirates are armed with scimitars. They are quick and determined, but they wear no armor. Nevertheless, there are two pirates for each adventurer, and more approaching.
Wicklow and Scythe look towards the back of the hall. There are thirty more pirates in a group at the rear corner, weapons drawn and ready to repell the adventurers. "One thunder-egg each," Scythe says. Seconds later there are two more deafening cracks. A dozen or so pirates are caught in the sudden blasts of heat, and lie screaming on the ground. Some are stone dead. The remainder run back and away, leaving the rear corner of the hall undefended.
It is Jack's first battle, and he is determined to hold his ground, which he does. The light is dim, and the reality of combat is chaotic and clumsy. But his opponents seem to be just as frightened as he is, and they are not wearing armor. Martha has cut down a pirate, but another steps up to take his place. The pirates fighting Hocus are alternately confused and oblivious to his circle spell, but he holds them at bay.
"Forward!" Wicklow shouts. They rush towards the rear of the hall, into the space left by the retreating pirates. The pirates following behind them press their attack upon Hocus, Martha, and Jack.
Wicklow and Scythe look along the back wall of the hall. Light pours out of the shattered back doorl. This door is the only one made of wood in the village. All other doors are leather curtains. It was a strong door, designed to keep Bragash, his children, and the tribe's money safe from attack. An entire tree-trunk lies on the ground after being used as a battering ram. There are two dozen pirates standing outside the door. From inside the hall they hear the sound of swords ringing, and one pirate shouting orders.
Martha throws a thunder-egg at the pirates outside the door. They scatter, but fifteen of them are wounded or killed. The remainder flee to the other corner, where fifty more pirates are standing in a group. In the doorway two pirates appear carrying Norlik and Moony, Bragash's two youngest children. Moony is struggling fiercely. A second pirate helps to keep her held firmly. At another order from within the hall, these pirates rush down the steps, followed by a dozen more pirates in a tight group, surrounding the two orc children and their bearers. Martha thinks she recognises one of the pirates from Vango's crew, but he disappears into the night. Then a pirate she does recognise steps out of the back of the hall. It is Kantank, captain of the Sea Wolf, the boat that brought Grellian.
The adventurers press forward. In the hall, they can hear Bragash shouting, and Sandalak screaming in anger. There are pirates standing in the doorway holding the inside. Hocus casts a flash in front of the pirates who are carrying away the orc children. The flash stops them for a moment. Martha charges into the pirates and cuts her way towards the pirate holding Norlik. This pirate begins to run, but Hocus casts another flash and the pirates stop once more in surprise.
Wicklow and Scythe rush forward and engage Kantank. They imagine that Kantank must himself be worn out from fighting with Bragash. Nevertheless, Kantank fights with calm skill. He is wearing leather armor, and his scimitar is hard and sharp.
In between casting spells, Hocus is fighting alongside Jack to keep the pirates behind them at bay. These are the same pirates who followed them from the front of the hall. The two of them are outnumbered and Jack is getting tired. Hocus shouts to Wicklow and Scythe that he needs help. Scythe falls back to fight with Jack, leaving Wicklow to keep Kantank fixed in place. Jack kills a pirate, and scares off another. Scythe kills a third , and Hocus wounds a fourth. The remainder back away. Hocus casts a Grand Flash in front of the fleeing pirates. Each time they begin to try to escape with the orc children, a flash appears in front of them, and this appears to make them hesitant to move. It gives Martha more time.
Hocus, Scythe, and Jack charge into the pack. Kantank breaks away from Wicklow, and Wicklow charges into the pack as well. The pirates are trying to move from right to left in front of them. The adventurers are trying to move into the pack to get to Norlik and Mooney. The pirates holding Norlik and Mooney are confused. They await orders from Kantank. Among them pirates are several leaders who stand in the way of the adventurers, but the adventurers do not linger to fight them. They press onwards in towards the center pack, so that they are surrounded by pirates on all sides.
Martha cuts down a pirate in her way, comes up to the pirate carrying Norlik, and cuts him deep in the thigh. He collapses and Martha stands over Norlik, slashing at the pirates as they run past, for they are running now, running away from the back of the hall. She does not know why they are running, but that is what they are doing. Wicklow attacks one of the pirates carrying Moony. The pirate lets go, but another still holds the orc girl. She kicks and pushes. When Scythe approaches the other pirate releases her also and she is free.
At this moment, our heroes hear a roaring behind them. Ugluk charges around the corner of the hall, covered in blood from head to foot, and limping. But he is wearing chain armor, and he runs straight at the pirates with his sword held above him, roaring all the way. The pirates scramble and part before him as best they can, but he still runs over one or two, and slashes at several others on his way to his sisters. Once he reaches them, he stands beside Moony and the pirates run around him. Bragash and the orcs in the hall rush out the back door as the pirates retreat.
Over the next sixty seconds, fifty orcs gather around their chief. Ugluk checks that his sisters are unharmed, calls out to his friends and runs off with a dozen of orcs in pursuit of the pirates. This he does without asking his father's permission, but his father does nothing to stop him.
All the uninjured pirates appear to have fled. None of the orcs have been killed, although many have been injured, and some are incapacitated by wounds. A few minutes later, Bragash sends three parties of ten orcs to pursue the pirates and harrass them. One group he sends under Quahiri. Hocus, Wicklow, Scythe, Martha, and Jack run off with this group, hoping they can keep up. In the moonlight, under the bare branches of the trees, they manage to do so for the first few hundred meters. Quahiri calls a halt. There in the forest are Ugluk's group of friends, crouched on the forest floor. At their center is Ugluk, unmoving.
Hocus takes out a luminous stone. Ugluk's armor is pierced in many places. Wicklow kneels and takes his pulse. Ugluk's heart is beating once every three seconds. His blood has clotted in his wounds and he has stopped bleeding. His breathing is slow and shallow. His face is pale. "I think he is in some sort of shock."
"I will make him a stretcher," Hocus says, "Out of conjured wood. You can go on."
Martha remains with Hocus. Two of Ugluk's friends remain also, but the rest charge off into the night. Quahiris group does the same, and Wicklow, Jack, and Scythe go with them. Twenty minutes later, and half-way across the island, they see the pirates running in a group across the open grass of the hills. They watch as Ugluk's friends charge at the pirates from the side, pushing right into their center. As the pirates rush forward, so do the orcs. Our heroes cannot see the battle in detail, but they hear the orcs shouting, and the pirates crying out in dismay. They charge forward themselves, and catch up with the rearmost of the pirates. The orcs smack the pirates down with the flats of their swords, or punch them and kick them until they are unable to move. None of the orcs show any sign of anger, or of taking vengeance upon the pirates for what they did. Martha later describes the orcs as runing, shouting, and fighting with a fierce enthusiasm that had nothing to do with the character and motives of their enemies, but only to do with the act of fighting itself.
Our heroes smack down pirates in the same way, turning their blades and using the pommels of their swords. What the point of this is, they cannot guess, but after the first few minutes, they hardly care. They chase the pirates all the way across the island to the beach on the far side, where the pirates jump into the water and swim for their boats.
All this time, Heraklese, Bonita, and the four sailors have been on Loose Lips with the sailes ready and the anchor drawn up, wondering what is going on, and worrying about the entire village and their friends.
When the sun comes up, the orcs have seventy-five pirate prisoners sitting in the village square, shivering. Ugluk lies in his cabin, tended by his friends. He is still unconscious, but even his own mother shows no sign of concern for him. He will recover in a week, they say.
The orcs attend to their own wounded before they attend to the pirates. Three of the pirates die of their wounds before sunrise, and another six die by mid-morning. Our heroes, tired as they are, take pity on their enemies of the night before, and go among them cleaning wounds, and handing out what blankets they have. Some pirates try to escape, but although the orcs are not tending the prisoners, they are guarding them, and the pirates that try to escape are shot by crossbows. One dies from a bolt in the neck. Six others, wounded to begin with, cannot move once they have been shot.
In the late afternoon, Bragash calls the adventurers into his hall. He praises them in Latin and in his own language for their deeds the night before. The orcs in the hall applaud by banging their chests. Bragash presents Wicklow, Scythe, Jack, and Martha each with an adamantine sword from his armory. To Hocus he gives a set of adamantine ring mail and an adamantine dagger.
Our heroes thank Bragash, eat some food, and ask him what he intends to do with the prisoners.
"I do not know," he says. "They are weak, and even if they were strong, we have no need of them."
Heraklese brings in a sailor called Stick. He is from the Kamazi, Vango's boat. Bragash knows him by sight. He was one of the sailors who helped build the village.
"Stick here has a story to tell about Vango," Heraklese says.
Stick speaks slowly, in Weilandic, to Heraklese. He claims that Captain Kantank persuaded all the pirates to attack the orc village, based upon knowledge of its construction from pirates who had built it, and upon what he learned form Grellian. Vango was against it. When the pirates agreed to attack the island, Vango refused to take part, so Kantank had Vango thrown into the sea, and Vango's crew chose a new captain. Stick says he went along with the attack only because he did not want to be thrown into the sea also. He skulked around at the edges of the battle, but an orc came out and cut him down. He has a severe wound in his left arm. He says he believes that Vango survived, because Vango is a good swimmer. He knows where Vango was thrown into the sea, and believes that they could go and find him on one of the several nearby islands. Perhaps Bragash would permit the adventurers to go and look for his captain in their boat? He will go with them, and they can kill him the moment they see any kind of trap.
Bragash nods and thinks. "This would be good, to find Vango and bring him here. If this man's story is true, then Vango is our friend. If you find him, he will serve us. We have prisoners, and he will need a crew for a boat. He will need a boat also. How that will be, I do not know. But to find him, that would be good."