Winds of war : southern hospitality (interlude)


Samson of Stonewatch tried again. He seemed to be having difficulty believing what he was hearing - or perhaps he was just struggling with the thought of the report he would need to make to his superiors.

“I hear what you are saying, but can you explain it again? I just want to be sure we are all clear, yes?”

Behind the Highborn scout, just out of his line of sight, his companion rolled her eyes and leant on her heavy spear.

Efra folded his arms, and controlled the urge to grind his teeth. His daughter clung to his leg and gazed in wide-eyed wonderment at the lightly armoured Unconquered and the yeoman in the harness of polished steel.

"I don’t know how many times or how many ways I can explain it. The … the orc ambassador came back with his entourage and an escort of Imperial soldiers. He paused long enough to buy some fresh oranges from Madame Lupita, and then the three of them boarded a launch and rowed straight to their ship without looking back. Within the hour, they were unfurling sails and weighing anchor and … and then a little after that, they were gone. Just … gone.

“And no, to answer your question again, we saw no sign of anyone coming ashore. And yes, we did keep a vigilant watch on them. They were a massive force of ships and orcs threatening to burn our town to the ground … of
course we kept an eye on them!”

Samson grimaced. “But … why did nobody … follow them? At least to find out where they were going?”

Efra breathed a rude word under his breath.

“What can I say. This is the sea, which is entirely flat and open. It is almost completely unlike, say, a forest through which you might cleverly track an enemy army for days. It lacks … caves and hollow logs you can hide in if your quarry spots you and decides to give chase. Also, it is a navy. It will follow the coast. It is going south so … that is the direction they came from after all …”

He sucked his moustache thoughtfully.

“Also - and I am not an expert by any means - while most of their vessels were fat warships there were enough clearly trimmed for speed that I can see why nobody decided to follow them.”

He gestured then along the street to where Madame Lupita was roundly telling off a group of youths - no more than children - who were lazing around drinking lemonade instead of dismantling the barricade that still blocked half of the street.

“To be honest, I think we were all just a little relieved that the Grendel were not going to drag us all off in chains, or turning our town into a battlefield.”

The Highborn took a very deep breath and started to speak: “The ‘‘courageous’’ thing to do …”

His companion interrupted him.

“Whatever the courageous thing to do might have been Samson, the wise thing to do was to stay put and worry about protecting their families and their homes. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Emotions warred on the Unconquered’s face, but after a moment he nodded. Efra realised he was much younger than he had first assumed, barely into his twenties; probably he wore the full beard to try and appear older. The Freeborn relented then.

“I did hear tell that Camira i Riqueza and her fishing boat saw the Grendel heading south - I think she was poking around the waters of Osseni again despite all the warnings - and they looked as if they were in a hurry. Full sail supported by oars and such like. She said they definitely had the air of people late for an appointment. But then, she is a naga and says things like that all the time. Does that help at all?”

Samson sighed and shook his head. “Not … not massively so. I think the general was expecting a fight with the Grendel and instead … well.”

The young man looked so crestfallen that Efra took pity and patted him on the arm.

“Cheer up - there may not be Grendel, but I happen to have some particularly fine peach brandy … which I will be happy to sell your soldiers at a surprisingly bargain price!”

No Grendel in Feroz when the armies get there. They’ve gone south, it appears, with their navy and with the army that may or may not have been embarked on it.

So the Seventh Wave, the Tusks, and the Fire of the South spend a pleasant late Summer and early Autumn in sunny Feroz.

The weather is quite fine; and the Freeborn have promised to ensure a good time even in the absence of Grendel to fight. I understand.

Constanza i Kalamar i Guerra (Irina Goodwin) appears amused by these developments. I will admit this story is a little tongue-in-cheeck, but then I imagine these interludes as palate cleansers between the main events of Imperials and Barbarians murdering each other.