Deciding that enough time had passed for Tomos and his captors to reach their final destination, the boys had performed. Neatly inscribed on the map was Tomos' full journey. They now knew where they had to go. That was Vale, the capital of the New Empire, which was on the southern continent.
Sardi and Toron looked with disgust at the line of men, chained together and forced to keep moving by the whips of the slavers. Dee said to Tennen, outragee, “I thought that slavery was illegal?”
Tennen replied, with cynicism in his voice, “It is. But Sendar doesn't have much of an army. They ignore their own law, hoping that the New Empire will ignore her, if they ever invade. They're a hundred and fifty miles from the nearest coast and they think distance might save them.”
Dee shook his head, saying coldly, “They have a rich land and they could certainly afford a decent army. Hoping that a conqueror will bypass your country is stupidity.” Dee asked sharply, “How many slavers are there, Tor?”
“Twenty.” Tor told him, his eyes looking into Dee's eyes and there was complete agreement between them. Dee bent down and picking out twenty stones, he held them in both hands. He looked at Tennen, who realized what they had decided between them just by a look. Dee asked, “Do you have any objections, Tennen? You will be involved as much as we are.”
Tennen shook his head, telling them, “I'm in complete agreement. Do what you feel is right. If it affects Sendar, well maybe they'll get off their ass and prepare to fight back when the invasion comes. Having been in the New Empire, I know it will come. Whether next week, next month or ten years from now.”
'Stones thrown into the sky,
Let these slavers die.'
He threw the stones into the air which was also the concluding gesture. They didn't rise very far, before they simply disappeared, so fast were they moving. The slavers whether on horseback, or on foot, or on the two wagons accompanying, died when the small stones penetrated their vulnerable areas.
There was little blood, as the slavers died wherever they were, but most of their captives were experienced warriors and they knew death when they saw it. They were astonished. They had resigned themselves to ending up in the far north, working in the mines, dying after a few months of deadly labor.
As the four travelers came down the hill towards them, one of the men who had exceptional eyesight and as a Priest had some knowledge of Mages spread the word to his comrades. “The little ones coming toward us, are Journeymen Mages, the cat is probably their familiar and the man is a Master Bard.”
The news quickly spread among the slaves. They didn't know what would happen to them but obviously they were no longer slaves of the New Empire.
When the boys and Tennen reached the chained slaves, Dee said to Tennen, “You'd better see if any of them can speak our language, you can yell louder than we can.”
Using the voice that had been trained for more than thirty years, Tennen bellowed, “Can anyone understand me?” after a few seconds and blank stares, he said to the boys, he said with a grin, “It doesn't look like it.”
Dee said ruefully, “Well, we'll have to do something about that, but first we'll get rid of their chains.”
forward he grasped a chain holding two of the men together and spoke:
'Let these chains rust,
And turn to dust.'
And like many spells that mentioned dust he released the chains and brushed his hands together. The chains just disintegrated into iron dust. The men, many of them hadn't been unchained for days, began to rub their wrists where the chains had been.
Suddenly one of the wagons began to creak and tip. Dee and Tor looked at each other, realizing what must have happened. Dee snapped, “Quick Tor, stop it from falling, the horses could be hurt.”
'Hear my call,
Do not let this wagon fall.'
He pointed at the wagon and moved his hand upward. The wagon continued to creak but it was no longer tipping. The boys began giggling.
Tennen asked questioningly,, “What happened.”
Speaking with voice a little unsteady from laughter, Dee said, “I didn't limit the spell, to just the chains on the mens' arms and legs. There must have been a lot of chains in that wagon. Stable enough that they could pile stuff on top of it, if they didn't figure they would need the chains for a while. When the chains became dust, the wagon's load shifted and the wagon began to tip over.”
Tennen began to laugh his soft laugh, as he pictured what had happened. The former slaves just looked puzzled and Dee seeing that, sighed. He said, “We're going to have to learn how to communicate with them.” He grimaced at the very idea.
down on the ground so he wouldn't have as far to fall and called Dikon
to him. He pointed at one of the men and spoke the spell:
'Into their minds let us peek,
And let, Tennen Tor and I learn how they speak.'
And he brought his finger to his mouth and then collapsed backward.
The Priest asked with surprise, “Is he all right?”
He was shocked when Tor answered in his own language. “The type of spell he cast is normally a Master Class spell. With the help of Dikon, he was able to cast it anyway. It has consequences however, the backlash knocked him out. He'll be out for an hour or so and he'll have an awful headache when he wakes up. Aside from that, he'll be fine. He even chose a place where he could lie down comfortably.”
The Priest looked at Tor and could see his large brown eyes were dancing with laughter. He said dryly, “You don't seem terribly concerned about it.”
Tor giggled, telling him with amusement, “It's an occupational hazard. The next time it will probably be me. With that type of spell, we usually take it in turns.” Sobering a little, he said, “Dee didn't put any limits on the spell he used on your chains, so the chains in the wagon also became dust. The load shifted. If you would have some of your people unhitch the horses and unload the wagon, I can release the spell that's holding it up. It was a quick spell so I couldn't attach it to the magic that's all around us. Until I can release it, it's a fairly substantial drain on my resources.”
The Priest nodded and turning he looked around until he located one of the men. He ordered, “Tell, take a dozen men and unhitch the wagon and unload it. The spell he's using is putting a drain on his powers and right now, he's about the only defense we have. The weapons that the slavers were carrying won't go very far.”
Tor began to move and he swayed a little, Tennen catching him, asking, “Can't you replace the spell with one that would be grounded.”
Tor shook his head, explaining, “No, I can't use a second spell to overlay the first and if I released the first it would take me about thirty seconds before I would have the strength to cast a second one. The wagon would have fallen by that time. If Dee was conscious, then I could release mine and he could replace the spell. That's why familiars are so important. They can store enormous reserves of energy. If I had cast the spell using Dikon's help, his energy would support the spell holding the wagon up and most of the power would come from him.”
Tor nodded at the men unhitching the wagon and beginning to unload it. He said, “With this spell, as they unload the wagon, it'll take less and less of my resources. When it's no longer in any danger of falling, the spell will terminate automatically.”
The slavers bodies had been stripped and thrown into the nearest ravine. tHe former slaves had set up a camp and two of them who were obviously cooks were producing supper. Tor's energy was still a little low and Dee was conscious again, still with a headache but it was starting to fade.
Devant Island captains almost never allowed themselves to captured alive. His first mate, the Priest, whose name was Carrow, acted as spokesman for his group. He said with disgust, “The food was decent, but the slaver's cooks managed to turn it into something you had to be truly hungry to eat. Unfortunately, since they fed us only once a day, we were always that hungry.”
Dee was taking a look around and he asked Tennen, “What type of forces would we meet out here? We're not very well armed.”
Tennen also looking around said wryly, “Usually companies of about one hundred riders. We wouldn't have much of a chance against such a group.”
“Well, I guess we'll have to do something about that.” said Dee. “Tor do you have the box or do I?”
“I think I put it in your pack.” answered Tor.
Dee looked in his pack and finding the bag in which some of the chests had been placed, he opened it and looking inside, he pulled out a box which was black rather than brown like the others.
the box down on the ground, he stepped back a couple of feet and said:
'Little box now rise,
Return to your normal size.'
And he lifted his hand into the air and suddenly the box was three feet wide and five feet long. Dee opened it to reveal that the box was full of hundreds of tiny chests. Tennen started to ask, with a gasp, “Are those..?”
Dee nodded a grin on his face, telling him, “Twice shrunken chests. Only a high Adept like Tomos can develop such a spell. Once developed it can be keyed to anyone he chooses. Carrow, what type of bows do your people prefer? Crossbows or regular bows.” Carrow was looking at the boy, who had a glint of laughter in his eyes.
“We usually like to have a combination of crossbows and short bows.” he said.
Dee looking down at chests, said, “Bows, bows, bows, ah here we are. Crossbows. Twenty-five in a box. Two boxes. Four boxes of bolts. Short bows, fifty per box. Six boxes of arrows.” Dee looked up at Carrow, “Swords. Short or long?”
Laughter was clearly evident, in his voice now and Carrow had caught his sense of the absurd, as he said, “On land we usually carry both.”
Dee mused, “Short swords, twenty-five per box. Four boxes. Long swords, twenty per box. Five boxes. One box of bowstrings. Two boxes of daggers. Two boxes of throwing knives.” By this time everybody except for the two cooks had gathered behind Carrow and Tennen. Dee and Tor were aware of the apparent absurdity of it and had big grins on their faces. “Spears, pikes or javelins?”
Carrow said, humor creeping into his voice, “Spears, they give a bit more range than swords but they can be moved faster than pikes. There probably aren't enough of us to deal with horses, or I would have suggested pikes.”
The boxes that Dee took out this time were much longer. He said, “Okay, Tor help me set these out and with so many we'll need Dikon's help.”
to set the boxes down, leaving plenty of space on either side of them.
When they were finished, they knelt down with their hands on Dikon standing
between them and said:
'Twice shrunken boxes now rise,
Return to your normal size.'
And they lifted their hands in the air and everyone except Carrow and Tennen, who were expecting it, gasped, as the chests were suddenly full sized. Then Dee and Tor went from box to box and threw up the lids. That also was part of the spell. Only those keyed to it, could open the boxes. The only other way to get into them was to break in.
Dee took a short sword from one of the boxes and handed it to Carrow, who as a Priest of Salnow, was a warrior first, then a member of the clergy. He drew the blade halfway out of its sheath and examined it with expert eyes, breath whistling though his teeth in admiration at the quality of the blade.
“I've seen swords that equaled this in quality, but never ones that bettered it and you just picked one out at random. Are they all of this quality?” Carrow asked in amazement.
“All!” said Dee, nodding, “Tomos started as a warrior and his magical abilities didn't begin to show until he was in his middle thirties. By that time, he had been a soldier for twenty years. Weapons have always been far more important to Tomos, than ordinary Mages. These weapons are Dwarven made. They owed Tomos a huge favor and he was able to get these for no more than an ordinary weapon of the same type would cost. As you say the quality can be equaled, but I have no doubt that there is no better COLLECTION of weapons anywhere.”
“How many can you outfit, because I see there's still many boxes left in the chest?” asked Tennen.
Dee explained, “Two thousand. There is no armor, but we do have helmets and shields. Small shields or large. Don't worry about Tomos wanting them back, they were intended for just such a situation as this.” He raised his voice, “Everybody take the weapons of your choice. Don't worry about the good weapons being gone before you get to them, all of them are of exactly the same quality and are Dwarven made.”
Tell, thinking he was being funny, asked, “What, no siege engines?”
Tor punched him in what was still a very firm stomach even after several days of sparse food. Dee just asked calmly, “Which do you want? Catapults, or arbalests? We've got half a dozen of each. In another chest of course.”
Shaken, Tell just said numbly, “Of course. I think I'll go pick out my weapons now before I find out what else you might be carrying.”
Dee grinned at his back.
It was after supper and it had been an excellent meal, proving Carrow's statement that the food was good, it was simply the cooking that had been so bad. Dee was sitting with his arms resting on his knees, thinking while Tor had gotten involved in a game of Numbers with Tell.
Dee finally said, “Tennen, you said you had been in the New Empire. What time of year was it?”
“Just before the new year, ten years ago, in Vale. Why?” asked Tennen.
“What was Vale like?” Dee inquired, without answering Tennen's question.
“It just seemed like a normal city, except for the fact that it was a very unwelcoming place.” Tennen said, curiosity roused.
Dee shook his head, saying thoughtully, “It shouldn't have been normal, not at that time of year. There should have been thousands of small boys. So many, that you almost wouldn't have been able to move, without falling over one.”
He looked at Carrow, who had a chill look in his eyes, asking him, “You've heard nothing about it?”
Carrow shook his head, saying, “No. They've been able to keep it completely secret. Tennen was probably very lucky, he got in and got out before they realized what he was, though he didn't know there was anything out of the ordinary in what he was seeing.” Dee said seriously, to Tennen, “The reason you should have seen so many small boys, is that all boys between seven and ten must approach the Orb at least once during that period. During the month before and the month after the new year, they receive free accommodations, so that's when most families make their way to Vale so their son can be presented to the Orb. Since you saw no such children, it means a child has been accepted and the news is passed that children need no longer come to the capital.
“We should really make sure before we frighten the rest of your people, Carrow. Tor,” Dee said and when his brother looked at him, “I need your Eye and your help.”
Tor looked at Tell and said sternly, “You're not allowed to cheat until I get back.”
Dee asked, “How good is he?”
Tor said, “Very good. He carries loaded dice up his sleeve and with slight of hand he can switch any number of dice, from one to all five.” Tell just smirked and the men around him laughed well aware of the man's penchant for cheating, in meaningless games like this.
“How many games are you ahead of him?” asked Dee.
“Five. Since he was cheating, I saw no reason why I shouldn't as well.” Tor said, sweetly, raising his voice and getting another laugh as Tell's smirk faded just a little bit.
Dee grinned, saying, “I thought I felt a little of my magic going in your direction.”
Tor sat beside Dee and linked arms and the two boys took out the Eyes of Dwen. Dee had no idea whether this would work or not, but he thought it was worth a try. After a few minutes of concentration, the jewels began to glow and a faint figure appeared. It became more and more solid, until the same figure that had appeared in the Temple was visible in front of them.
Carrow gave a deep bow. She nodded in acknowledgment, saying, “Greetings, Priest of Salnow and my little Mages.” She looked around and picked up the story from a dozen different minds. She laughed out loud. “Your elder selves said that you were writing a new page. From the looks of things, you've started on a new book. I almost feel some trepidation in asking you what you want.”
“Simply a little information,” explained Dee. “and, since it happened a long time ago, you should have no objection to answering the question. Carrow and I know that the Orb has been reactivated, we would like to know how long ago it occurred.”
She looked at him closely and saw that he was being truthful, “Very well, since you already know that fact, it occurred eighteen years ago and the boy chosen was ten at the time. Now is there anything else.”
“Yes, does the Guardian stone still exist and are you allowed to give me any clue to where it is.” Dee asked.
Dwen thought for a little while and then nodded to herself, saying, “Yes. It still exists. It's somewhere on the main island but that's all I may tell you. Anything more, Dee.” She laughed when she read the answer in his mind, telling him with amusement, “I didn't know that such audaciousness existed, but very well I will do it, but don't be surprised if the next of my Priests or Priestesses that you meet turns you over their knee and gives you a good spanking.”
“It would be a small price to pay, Goddess.” Dee answered with complete seriousness.
She said with a smile on her face, “Yes, I know. That's why I will do it. I know that if the situation required it, you and your brother would also consider the loss of your lives a small price to pay.” Dwen began laughing as she faded from sight.
“What exactly did you ask the Goddess to do, if I may ask?” Tennen inquired.
Dee giggled, telling him, “I asked Dwen to deliver a message to the Priest, closest to the Devant Islanders capital, to tell their Council, that the Orb has been reactivated. She was here, the message needed to be delivered. However, I don't think I'll do that again unless it's absolutely necessary. I don't know if she was serious about the spanking, so make sure nobody gets upset if it does happens.”
Dee looked at Carrow. He said, “This caravan looked like something that was routine. When you were landed were there any other of your galleys, at the port.”
Carrow looked at the little boy, saying thoughtfully. “There were five other Devant Island galleys and half a dozen small coaster vessels. Why.”
Dee took out the map and unfolded it. Carrow whistled at the detail it showed. Dee pointed to a small symbol on the map, SAYING, “This is the symbol for mining. It's outside Sendar, in Carn where slavery is legal. That's probably where they were taking you. It's about eighty miles from here. Five to eight days on foot. Sendar has no mounted archers. They prefer to use long bows. Their archers will mainly be around the capital. Despite the fact that we're on foot, we're the best armed force in this part of Sendar.”
He explained, “The force used to guard the mine will be fairly small, perhaps about the same amount of people that we have here. The slaves will have separate guards, but they're no threat so we can discount their presence. If you agree to help I intend to free those slaves. I wasn't kidding when I said we had siege engines. It's very likely that if we need to demonstrate that fact, they'll simply give up the slaves without any combat. If you come be aware that that I'm quite willing to use them, even if I have to kill some slaves to demonstrate that fact.”
Dee paused for a moment. His voice had been calm, but with deadly seriousness, “You all knew when you started this journey that it was a one way trip, unless you were able to escape. I intend to free those slaves. I consider slavery worse than death, if I have to kill one hundred to free one I will do it. In the end if I only end up freeing half a dozen slaves I'll consider it a success, though I would prefer to keep them alive.”
There was only about half a dozen men seated around this fire, but they were the leaders and Carrow knew what he would find, but he checked anyway and they all nodded their agreement.
He said to Dee, “We are at your service, Commander.”
Dee took his promotion calmly. He called out, “Oh, Tell. How many golds did you find in the wagon you unloaded and did you think to check the other wagon? Ordinarily I would feel since you found it it should be yours. However I'm afraid I need it more than you and the others do.”
Tell looked at Tor, asking in exasperation. “Does your brother know everything?”
Tor, who was kneeling, ready to throw the dice, said seriously, “He's changed much more than me, since we started this journey. He feels much older and much more confident now, than he did when we started.”
When the money from the slave wagons had been collected from the ex-slaves, all of whom had gotten a fairly equal share, there was just under two thousand gold.
The journey to the mine took six days and they showed up in front of the light fortifications early after sunrise on the seventh day. They were flying the red flag of truce. The Captain and his lieutenant came out to meet them.
He started to speak to Tennen and Carrow who he assumed were the leaders. They just pointed at the two boys. He looked at them with annoyance. His lieutenant whispered something in his ear and he looked thoughtful. He spoke to the boys much more cordially than he had planned. “Vanden says that you have the black of an Adept Mage circle sigil around your Master's personal sigil and the sigil is the blue of Journeymen. I have trouble with colors since I received a blow on the head a couple of years ago.”
Dee's basic compassion came to the fore. He said, “We may be able to help you. We can try a spell. Usually the Gods reserve major healing to their priests, that is,” and he grinned at Carrow, “If they're not a warrior God, so we don't know if such a spell will work, but sometimes they will allow ordinary Mages to heal more than just cuts, scrapes and bruises. There's no way to tell without trying. No obligation is expected.”
The man looked at the boy with his less than perfect vision and his sight was still good enough to see the compassion in those black eyes. He said calmy, “I will accept your offer. As you say no obligation.”
he said pointing at the ground,“Sit please. Dikon, Tor help me.”
The boys each knelt on one side of the seated man and Dikon ended up
on the man's lap. The two boys put one hand on Dikon and the other on
the man's forehead. Only Dee knew the spell he intended to use in this
case, when trying a healing spell a certain amount of power was needed,
but they didn't need the maximum power they could produce. Either the
Gods would allow the healing to occur with what they intended to use
or they wouldn't. It was as simple as that. Dee said:
'I call on the Gods who know,
To let this man recover from the long ago blow.”
And Dee passed his hand over his forehead. The captain's eyes began to sting and teared up. When the stinging was gone and he had blinked away the tears, his sight had improved a great deal. Not as good as it had been before he got the blow on his head, but he could see better than he had ever again expected.
The boys got to their feet and he realized that he was still holding the cat on his lap and as he stood up he said with a smile on his face and in his voice, “Here, I think he's yours.”
Dee smiled as he took Dikon, saying, “Actually he isn't. He's our Master's, though until we recover Tomos, he will help us.” Gently fondling the cat's head.
“Why exactly did you fly the truce flag?” the captain asked.
Dee told him, “We're here to free the slaves, but I thought we might be able to negotiate rather than fight about it.”
The captain said, stiffly, “We are employed by Carn.”
“Are you? How long has it been since you were paid?” Dee asked.
The lieutenant snapped, with disgust, “Six months.”
Dee nodded, saying, “Your Guild Charter says that if you aren't paid for more than sixty days. Unless you voluntarily agree to wait for payment in writing, any contract that you sign is severed. It's a clause that has been upheld over a dozen times in the last five hundred years. You no longer work for Carn. You are here because you are trapped here. You don't have the money to make it to a place where you can find employment. You can't just leave, the only way that you would be able to survive is banditry. That would get you outlawed, so you remain here where you can survive, without dishonoring yourselves. Carn has a nasty habit of dealing with mercenaries this way.”
Dee smiled, saying, “I have almost two thousand golds. Not a great deal for one hundred men, but it's enough to get you to where you can get gainful employment. All you have to do is leave as you have every right to do once you have enough money and let us free the slaves without having to battle for them.”
Dee could see the lieutenant was convinced, but the captain still had his doubts. Obviously, he was an honorable man. He sighed, then said, “You're a hard man to convince, captain, maybe this will do it. We rescued the men around you from slavers. New Empire slavers. They don't take script, captain, they only accept gold. The commander of the slave guards has had enough to pay you fully for months and simply hasn't done so. Whether he's trying to rob you or has instructions from his superiors I have no idea.”
Tell looked down at Tor, who had come to stand beside him. He asked, with interest, “How come, you don't seem to have this type of knowledge?”
Tor grinned, telling him with amusement, “Dee is fascinated by almost everything and Tomos had many books to read. With the help of a memorization spell, Dee only had to read the books once. He likes to be out of doors, but he always took a book with him. I just preferred to be out of doors, without a book, thank you.”
The captain said to Dee, “I'll ask the commander. Even with my bad eyesight, he's always been easy to read. If you're telling the truth the mine is all yours, to do with as you want.”
The captain of the mercenaries as promised turned over the mining facility once he had questioned the slave guard commander, finding out that indeed he could have paid them fully anytime he chose. Carrow looked at the prisoners, who still remained in chains. Unlike his own people, they didn't know which of these prisoners could be trusted, a total of about five hundred men. Dee asked the mercenary captain, “Wendt, what are these prisoners here for?”
Wendt told him, “Some are political prisoners, others are scum, the worst of the worst ended up here. There's no way of knowing which are which, they keep no records.”
Dee said thoughtfully, “I don't really care what they're here for, as long as we can trust them and there's no saying we could trust political prisoners any more than any of the others. I could cast a spell, but with so many people it's not always reliable.” He looked at Carrow. “I think that the honor oath of Salnow, with some of the strictures added should do nicely don't you.”
Carrow grinned, impressed by Dee's knowledge. “Which ones do you want to apply.” he asked.
loyalty is already included, I think the strictures against murder,
theft and cruelty will do.” Dee told him. He walked to the front of
the barracks roof, which extended out directly from the wall, giving
a good platform from which someone could be heard. He said the spell:
'Let all here today,
Hear what I have to say.'
And Dee put his hand to his ear to complete the spell. He began to speak in an ordinary voice, but everybody could hear him. “There is no way to tell which of you can be trusted and which can't. They didn't care what you were here for, this was the place where you were going to die, so they have no records, not that records would help us, it still wouldn't tell us who to trust.”
Dee pointed at the first mate, “Carrow is a Priest of Salnow and he can administer the honor oath. Any of you may take it and that includes the slave guards. Be warned: This is one of the most dangerous oaths that you can swear. If you swear falsely, you will die painfully and Salnow will punish you in the next world.” Dee stepped to the side to let Carrow take his place.”
Carrow bellowed, his years as first mate giving him the voice that allowed everyone to hear him without the boost that Dee needed. “As a Priest of Salnow I will administer the oath. Once I have gone through it I will begin pointing to you and you will indicate whether you accept or reject the oath. You will then be released, to free you or to move you to those prisoners who will be staying.”
He wxplained grimly, “You have been warned by Dee, swear falsely and you die painfully, break your oath in the future and the same thing will happen. I am sure many of you doubt me, so I don't think it will take very long before you will know what that death will be like.”
Carrow bellowed the oath, “I accept the following strictures laid on me by Salnow. I will be loyal to my commander, Sardi and his officers and sergeants and corporals and my comrades. I will not kill except in battle or self-defense or unless ordered to do so by my commander. I will never steal from my comrades, or even from civilians, unless given permission by my commander to loot. I will not be cruel, unless requested to be so by my commander. I swear to Salnow that I will obey these strictures from this time forward.”
Carrow was correct in his assessment, he had only reached the third man when the first death occurred. As soon as the man nodded his head, he began to scream and it went on and on, just getting worse, as his body began to alter in odd ways. Then he simply disappeared, but his screams lingered for almost a minute after he was gone.
Dee was pale, but he said calmly, “You were warned, continue please Carrow.” It took another two deaths before the prisoners were convinced that they couldn't fool Salnow and it began to go faster. They ended up with about two hundred, out of the four hundred prisoners and one hundred slave guards. Only one of the slave guards said yes and was accepted, none of the others were even willing to take any chances.
They had eight hundred men when they began their march south, taking five of the ten thousand golds that the slave commander had held, the rest had gone to the mercenaries. All in all it was perhaps the best armed force ever to march on the world of Gendea. Only Dwarves could produce a better armed force and they had never gathered in companies of more than one or two hundred soldiers.
Their experience complemented the weaponry. The Devant Islanders were considered perhaps the best warriors alive. They started to learn almost as soon as they came out of the womb and all children, male and female, rich or poor learned. In all other countries including the New Empire, only the children of the rich learned how to use weapons from an early age. The two hundred slaves who weren't from Devant were for the most part experienced enough with weapons that they wouldn't shame themselves in a battle.
had been no female prisoners at the mine, because the sexes operated
their ships separately, having all male or all female crews. That was
to safeguard the family, it meant that husbands and wives never served
together in one ship and therefore there was a greater chance at least
one of them would survive. No ship crewed with woman had been captured,
at least by the galley that had captured the other crews.
“I've been told that as the mayor of this city you have six galleys for sale?” said Dee, to the bearded middle-aged man.
“Unfortunately, it's true.” the man said, sourly. He waved out the front door of his shop. “There they are. They was brought in by New Empire slavers. The ship escorting them left and they headed north, but not before they stripped them and then forced me to swap supplies for them. They're Devant Islander ships. Nobody's stupid enough to buy them, so they'll just rot there.”
Dee threw a pouch on the counter, telling him, “Two thousand golds for them and before you start trying to take what you just said back, you know that nobody else will buy them. If the Islanders found anyone with them, they'd chop them into little pieces before they went overboard.”
“If you know that, why are you willing to buy her, aside from the obvious fact of where did a little boy get this type of money?” he asked, pouring the gold coins out on the counter. There were twenty coins worth one hundred golds each.
Dee explained, matter-of-factly, “I have her original crews that's why. As for where I got the money that's none of your business.” throwing the cloak back over his shoulder, it revealing his Mage sigil. The man peered at the sigil and just nodded, not repeating the question. When a Mage told you to mind your own business you did exactly that, or something unpleasant might happen to you.
Dee threw a second much larger pouch on the counter. He said, “I was informed that it would cost about a thousand golds each to resupply them. I imagine most of the stuff is still floating around your little city. Since some of that stuff was personal property the crews would like to get as much of it back as possible.”
calmly, “Six thousand golds. The lower the price, the more commission
you make. However, we want ships that are ready to go. If you short
us in any way, I'll arrange for you to join the slavers. They may be
enjoying the next world, but I highly doubt it, they have too many sins
to make amends for. I imagine that'll take them a long long time.”
A grin of pleasure tugged at the man's lips, as he just nodded.
Dee rejoined Tor outside the man's shop, where he was waiting, holding Dikon in his arms. The cat's ears pricked up as if listening to something. He batted at Tor's chest, telling them, *Down. Come now.*
He led them to an alleyway, where a small man was sitting on a barrel and talking to three cats, sitting on their haunches and looking at him. He snarled, “I won't do it. At thirty I'm a little old to run away from home, but I won't take any more of her abuse.”
Suddenly two of the cats, who were half grown kittens were on their feet and staring at the two boys and Dikon approaching them. Abruptly they headed for the boys at full speed, launching themselves into the air to be caught by Dee and Tor.
The boys heard a crooning in their minds and then they felt a snap and suddenly the kittens were talking to them. *Hello, Dee. My name is Pel and I am your familiar. My brother's name is Tis.*
Dee held her up to look into her eyes, eyes as blue as the sky. With wonder in his mind, he asked, “Why can I understand you so much better than Dikon.”
Pel paused before answering and Dee could feel her communicating with someone else. She told him, *Dikon says, that's because I'm YOUR familiar. He is not, so his communication will never be as good with you as mine is.*
“Now that we have familiars of our own, does that mean we won't be able to call on the power he has stored.” Tor asked out loud. Tis told him, as Pel told Dee, *As long as Tomos is a prisoner, as his students Dikon's power will always be available to you. It will take us a while to gain enough power to be of much use, but once we do, it will be in addition to his power not instead of it.*
When Dee and Tor left the small man, whose name they never learned, they left him with fifty golds for each kitten for a total of one hundred golds and the knowledge that his cat was a producer of familiars. That if he went to the far west where the big cities were, he could sell them for up to two or three hundred golds each.
They had convinced him that he didn't have to run away from home, because in a sense the cat was bonded to him as much as familiars bonded to Mages. If his wife wanted to see any part of the money they could make, she had better stop abusing him.
There were fifteen men and the two boys in the Captain's cabin of Carrow's ship. Dee opened the map and both Carrow and Tennen stared at it with astonishment. It was now showing the Devant Islands and just the portion of the mainland that the little port city they were in, was presently visible.
Dee said, deepening his voice as much as he could, “What use is a map if it doesn't show you what you want to see.” then he giggled. “Tomos has been around for a long time and he's been collecting maps almost as long. Finally, he got tired of always having to look at a dozen maps to find the one he wanted, so with a spell he combined them all. Like most of his other spells, he keyed this one to Tor and I. We can see anywhere in the known world and it's directly connected to one of the maps in the western cities. As that map is updated so is this one and vice versa.”
Getting serious, Dee put his closed fist down on the map just to the east of the port city they were in. He said seriously, “Somewhere in this area, there's a New Empire war galley, as you know. Using magic, we could avoid it, but that leaves it there, to snap up other ships that don't know anything about it. From what's been said, it has one hundred oars with two slaves on each oar and a crew of about two hundred to do the fighting.”
He explained, “If you could close with her, she wouldn't have a chance. But she won't do that. She'll stand off, until she has the chance to use her ram on one of your ships. It won't even slow her down and she can pick you off one at a time. She's bigger but with one hundred oars, she's still faster than you are, over a short distance. Your galleys are all merchantmen. The only reason you have such large crews is to fight off pirates and the normal New Empire raiders. It's nice that the oars give you the ability to move without the wind, but you would gladly dispense with the oars if you could be assured that a merchant ship with sails only would be safe.”
Dee told them, “They're not designed to stand off a full sized warship, since they're pretty fragile, so you have been instructed by your Council to surrender rather than fight. While you live there's always hope.” Dee waved his hand in the air, indicating the fact that they were free and back on their own ships. “as your presence here indicates.”
Dee said with a smile, “Tor did a map spell last night, that's why he's not his usual perky self this morning. With Dikon's help, he was able to put enough power in it to locate any Mage of Master Class or less, on the portion of the map, that is showing. There are half a dozen Journeymen on the Islands, but no other Mages. An Adept would not have shown up, but if there was an Adept Class Mage on board this galley, he could do an awful lot of damage to the Islands themselves. That's where it would be, somewhere close to your Islands, not picking off a few paltry merchantmen.”
Hr told them, coldly, “Since there is no Mage on board I intend to take it intact, I'll carefully arrange not to kill the slaves, we'll need them to row the galley and also they are innocent of any crime against the Devant Islands. The problem is that they will mostly be New Empire criminals since aside from quick raids which nobody could blame on them, the New Empire hasn't been officially at war for over a hundred years. We'll either have to imprison them, or make them swear the honor oath.”
Sardi looked around at the adults and asked, “Any disagreement?” He got a shake of the head from all the men and Carrow said, “You've proven that you know what you're doing. We still regard you as our commander and if we can capture the galley, that's an enormous boost to our navy. We're with you all the way.”
Dee looked down at the bowl of water that sat on the deck of the ship Rush. Despite the slapping of the waves against the hull, the water in the bowl was absolutely still. It showed the ship they were on and a ten mile circle. The galley they were looking for was just coming into the bowl's range. Dee looked up and said to Carrow, who was acting as Captain of the ship. “Warn the ships that she's within five miles of us, coming from the east. Have them move to our west, so that we'll be the closest vessel to them.”
Dee looked down in satisfaction at the bowl. They had been searching for the galley for three days. On two other occasions, she had appeared but she was going away from them. Unlike the merchant galleys, the war galley didn't have any sails, so she had a low profile, which made her hard to see. By the time lookouts saw her, she was usually close enough to catch her prey in a stern chase.
Dee released the seeing spell. It was no longer needed, the galley unless she turned away sharply was heading directly for them and soon should sight their ship's mast. The lookout called down, “She's in sight, coming in on just the right heading.”
Dee, Tor, Tennen and Carrow stood at the stern of the galley and the sailors were at their oars just in case they had to make some quick adjustments. But with satisfaction, they saw it heading directly toward them, at full speed. Obviously, they intended to ram and then go after the others.
Suddenly about three hundred yards away from the Rush, the galley began abruptly to slow and then come to a dead stop. Dee said with delight, “Come into my parlor, said the spider to the fly.”
The galley had run into a web placed on the surface of the water by a spell, that grabbed the bottom of the ship and stopped it dead in its tracks. While the stop had been abrupt, it had been soft enough, so that only a few of the oars snapped and only a few of the slaves were injured.
been assigned the first spell and he stood facing the galley, his hands
together and said:
'May arbalests made of metal and of wood,
Come to pieces when it will do the most good.'
And he jerked his hands apart, his intent very clear.
The New Empire sailors manned the three heavy arbalests and wound the cords back, two sailors on each cord and one to fire it. They were under tremendous pressure. When they were fired, the pieces of the arbalests just exploded apart, killing or wounding those working the pieces and any New Empire sailor or soldier within ten feet. The screams of the dying and injured could be heard from the Rush.
the next spell:
'Let enemy bows,
Shoot arrows that will not close.'
And he brought his raised arm down with the intent that all arrows and bolts would go into the sea.
said a second spell:
'Let all here on the New Empire ship today,
As long as I hold my arm up you will hear what I have to say.'
And Dee put his hand to his ear to complete the spell. He raised his arm and then he began to speak quietly but all on the war galley could hear him. “We simply want the galley, all soldiers and sailors will be placed in boats and allowed to head for land. You are helpless. You can't move and you may fire a few crossbows bolts or arrows. If you do you will find out that they will land in the sea. You have until the other galleys gather round you to make up your mind. If you haven't decided by then, we'll kill you and you won't be able to do anything about it.”
He lowered his arm and they observed a few crossbows aimed in their direction and fired, the bolts going directly into the sea. Tennen asked with interest, “Why are you letting them surrender, you've never shown any reluctance at killing before?”
Dee grinned, telling him, “Nor do I have any now. I want them to reach land and then the news will get back to the New Empire, that we have one of their war galleys. They will use magic to inform all of the galleys that are out. Once that happens, the captains are going to be suspicious of any other galleys that shows up. If it happens at night or in a dense fog, they could actually attack each other before they realize that they're killing friends. It's unlikely that it will happen, but even a very small chance of it happening, is worth letting a few of them escape.”
chuckled quietly, while Carrow burst into laughter, his eyes on the
galley. He reported, “Two bodies just went overboard. Probably the
captain and the commander of the soldiers, because the red flag of truce
is going up.”
Dee and Tor and Tennen stood on the quarterdeck of the New Empire war galley and watched the soldiers and sailors pull away in the ship's boats. Behind them, they heard Carrow addressing the slaves, in his usual bellow.
“You are no longer slaves, but that doesn't mean you are free. When we reach the Devant Islands, you can swear the honor oath to Salnow or go into prison. Until that happens we don't know who we can trust, so you will remain chained. Once you've sworn the honor oath we don't care what you've done in the past, we only care what you will do in the future. First you will be given a meal and then we will start off. We will not use whips, unless you are showing obvious attempts to delay us, but until we reach the islands, you will row.”