“Tel’Quessir,” Captain Yvoleth began as he paced the Castle Deck, rounding the catapult turret, while the First Mate, whose name was Solahlyn Aelorothi, lurked by the hatchway with his arms folded, “I have just received orders from the Admiralty. Strange ships have been sighted in the rings of Glyth. They may be Scorpions.”
Shaundar let out a low whistle. Well, that would complicate things. Glyth was known to be a colony of illithids – squid-faced aliens who ate only brains – who kept humanoids of all sorts as “cattle” on the burnt out surface of the planet. They were also known to patrol local space to add to their collection, despite the efforts of the Navy to curtail this. Furthermore, the rings of Glyth were made up almost entirely of several small rocks and ice blocks, dangerous to navigate and often difficult to see.
“As the closest Navy ship, we have been ordered to investigate,” the Captain continued. “If there are enemy ships present, we have been authorized to engage them.”
The blood started pounding through Shaundar’s veins. Was this going to be it at last?
“So I’m sorry, leave is cancelled for now. We need to see what’s there before they have a chance to move or hide. We’re three days to Glyth from our present orbit. Etriel Sylria, plot us a course.”
Sylria, Second Helmsman but Primary Navigator, saluted. “Av, quessir. I’ll head to the Chart Room now, sir, with your permission.” The Captain nodded and she climbed down the hatch.
“Many of you have never seen combat before,” the Captain went on, fixing each of them with his kind but dark hazel eyes, which came to rest on Shaundar and Yathar. “If this turns out to be the opening gambit of the War in Realmspace, keep calm, do the jobs you have been trained to do, and trust your crewmates, and all will be well.” He smiled at them encouragingly.
“Av, quessir!” they chorused. Eyes glittered and the smiles were jovial. They were ready to fight.
“Mr. Yathar, you are also certified as a battlepoet, are you not?” the Captain inquired.
“Av, quessir,” Yathar affirmed.
He grinned. “I’m sure you know a few rousing battle ballads in addition to all those bawdy tunes you sing at the tavern. Let’s hear one; that should put us all in the proper frame of mind.”
Yathar beamed. “I’ll fetch my lute, sir!” Yvoleth nodded and Yathar went to do so.
“Mr. Sunfall,” the Captain said.
“Sir!” Shaundar replied, immediately at attention again.
The Captain smiled knowingly. “I’m sure reverie will not come easily to you with a hot head to match your hot blood, but do your best. We’ll be running full jamming shifts until we reach the rings of Glyth.”
“Av, quessir,” Shaundar nodded.
The Captain returned his nod sharply. “All right then. All hands to stations.”
The boatswain piped the order and the crew fell in as commanded. Continue reading