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28 July 2015 @ 02:11 pm
_Triplets_ Sea battle  
 Yeah, the name's better. Thanks. And here's a rewrite on the first encounter. Opinions?

Chapter Five

Late Spring 1396

Fort Rock, Rocky Coast Province

Will rather uneasily realized that his magical talents had taken a large leap upward. He could feel the ocean—sky boundary in the evaporation for a mile around. Felt the hard discontinuities that were the little fishing boats the Whip-Poor-Will was slowly passing.

He sank his attention and found the bottom of the bay as well, the rocks they had to watch for at low tide, the abrupt drop off into the deep water. They cleared the last of the fishermen and added sail. He took his turn at the wheel, and could feel the ship in his hands like a live thing. Felt the rhythm of the ocean in his heart beat, as he lay in his bunk below, trying to sleep the first night.

They sailed out to the Citadel, a bleak, unpopulated volcanic cone poking up from the sea a thousand miles offshore, then turned to tack northeast into the steady twenty knot north northwest wind. Eyes alert for icebergs.

"Sail off the port quarter!" the lookout called.

"Out here?" Captain Comeski reached for a spyglass.

Will squinted, 'looking big' his mother called it, and spotted the ship clearing the island.

"Three masted heavy frigate. Cove Islands Man of War. A dozen thunder guns a side," the Captain muttered. "She won't be alone, either, whatever the hell she's doing up here." He shifted his inspection to the far side of the island.

"So, Lieutenant Michaelson, care to guess what an experienced Captain would do in this situation?"

"Assume they have bad intentions and run? Cove Islands . . . she'll be fast. Do we need to try up wind and possibly into the iceberg pack if the pursuers seem determined?"

"Very good, Lieutenant. Because that is a very fast ship and note that she's positioning so she could cut us off if we try to run southeast. And with her speed, likely to cut us off to the east as well. So we'll keep heading north northeast and see if those hot water sailors have enough respect for icebergs."

"Why is she up here, though? And why show herself?"

The captain snorted, put the glass to his eye again. "She must think that our course change was in response to spotting her. There's nothing valuable on the island, nothing very valuable on the seas, hereabouts. Ah." He nodded in satisfaction. "There's a pair of brigantines coming around the far side of the island. Yep, they were up here doing something they didn't want anyone to know about."

"Smuggler's drop out there?" Will tried to recall the speeds and handiness of the various Cove Island ships. It had seemed like such useless and boring information just two weeks ago.

"Too far to be useful. They don't have any sort of territorial claim to it, but if they asserted they did, perhaps they could act innocent while pirating ships in between here and the Islands." The Captain watched steadily. "Not the time to be wondering why. Right now we have a bit of a maneuvering war to wage. They can get a bit closer to the wind than we can, so we'll not bother cutting it too close. We'll run for the ice pack and hope they either get too cautious or too reckless."

They crowded on all sail, heading northeast, heeled over with the wind coming just a few points west of north. And Will acknowledged the truth of the stern chases he'd read about. The brigantines were barely faster than they were, and even the frigate was catching up very slowly. "It sounded much more fun on paper from the chaser's point of view," he muttered to Rick as he headed below, hopefully to sleep. The morning is going to be . . . interesting.

Rick snorted. "Hope they do catch us. I can handle problems at sword length."

"Unfortunately they'll probably just stand off and use their thunder guns on us. At least with the Moon close to full we can see the bergs." Until it sets, about two hours before dawn. It's dangerous enough when we can at least guess where the underwater parts are. It could get . . . interesting when we can't see them at all. Will carried that thought with him into his bunk. He was partly mage. He had practiced pulling power from moving objects. How far could he reach and pull the kinetic energy from a cannon ball? What about shields? Would one over the hull spread the force of the impact and prevent damage? What about at deck level? A shield anchored to the hull and extending upwards another ten feet should be . . . too damn big an area to cover. For the first time in quite awhile Will actually wished his brothers were on the same ship.

He slept eventually, rose and took the midnight watch. In the short moonlit night it was clear the three ships were closing in on them, but very slowly. He closed his eyes and reached out. He could feel the other ships, but they were too far away for him to do anything. He reached the other direction, feeling icebergs, lots of little ones and further north . . . he cursed under his breath.

"Yes, Mr. Michaelson?" The Captain asked.

"Sorry, sir, didn't realize you were on deck."

"So you were cursing to yourself? To what purpose?"

"Sir . . . Do you believe in magic?"

The Captain eyed him in the bright moonlight. "I grew up in Ash, if that means anything to you."

"Oh. Yes, sir." Will felt nearly limp with relief. "My mother is Trump Ideadaut, my father Lord Hell, the God of Just Deserts."

"Really?" The Captain sounded delighted. "And what can you do that is relevant to this situation?"

"I can see icebergs very far away, and a bit underwater, and well, there's a whole flotilla of small bergs starting three miles ahead andgetting denser all the way to one of those really big sheet icebergs about twenty-five miles dead ahead."

"Damn." Captain Comeski studied the nearly full moon. "The Moon will be setting in two hours, and then we'll have another two hours before dawn to try and maneuver without them being sure enough to intercept us. He turned the wheel and quiet orders were passed to trim the sails as they angled a bit more to the east. "Can you tell how large it is? East to west?"

Will closed his eyes and felt it. "The face towards us is about forty miles across, we're aimed about a third of the way in from the western corner."

"We'll have to tack to the west to clear it, and I don't want to do that. But once the moon is down. . . Could we fool them long enough to turn southeast? We'll be damnably close to the Man of War, but well ahead of the two brigantines. Pity we don't have another hour of darkness, I could hope she wouldn't see the bergs until they were in the pack. As it is, they ought to get a nasty surprise at dawn." He hummed softly for a minute. "Do you know, there's often a bit of fog about those things I wonder if we could use that. He eyed the berg they were passing. Ten feet of jagged ice showing. Ninety percent of it underwater, reaching out and down, and plenty of deadly jagged bits sticking out. The captain turned the wheel another point east and handed down soft orders. "Let's just see what they do. You just make yourself comfortable and keep your eye on them. Not meaning to disparage you, boy, but I'd trade you in a second for Nil or Dydit."

"Actually all those fancy effects are appallingly short range." Will told him. "At anything over a hundred feet, even Nil's rather harmless." Will thought about that for a moment. "Although if he was after me, I'd prefer about hundred miles of distance, and I'd run like hell to increase that." Will sat down cross-legged where he'd be out of the way, and felt for the other ships.

And felt mages on board the Cove Island ships. Feeling for the Whip.

So. A mage battle. It would be a bit different than his mock battles with the Sisters From Hell, about half of whom actually were his sisters, and not inclined to be too careful about hurting those nasty little brothers of theirs . . .

He'd always been able to throw off their tracking and keep them from finding him. You just induce a tiny bend in the power flow through the air, or in this case the water. He'd have to wait until moonset, so they couldn't see as well, and would believe their mage senses over their uncertain vision. He reached out toward the Man of War. There was a mage there too. How to make them think he was closer and still between them to the north . . . How to do it without them suspecting him. And how to conceal the Whip-Poor-Will once they'd turned . . . Could he use one of the smaller bergs that were calving off the edges of the sheet? Could he conceal it long enough to warp the mages' perception to it and then drop both warp and concealment? Hmm. Two warps, conceal the Whip and the iceberg . . .

"The two Brigantines are turning a bit east, sir. They have mages aboard. I think I can diddle them, though, once the moon is down."

"Good. Let's get them in amongst the little bergs. And try to aim them right at the big berg. When the Moon sets, they'll have to slow, and we'll see if we can sneak away. Lad, why don't you get something to eat. I suspect you'll be earning your keep in the early hours."

"Yes, sir." He trotted below and ate. The cooks grumbled about their fires being so low, but they had hot porridge, and hot coffee. Will loaded up on the porridge and returned to the deck. He felt for the other ships gently, trying to not call attention to himself. He relaxed, took the wheel for a bit while the Captain napped. But Captain Comeski was back on the quarterdeck when the Moon sank and they turned. The crew moved silently, commands whispered, adjusting canvas as they turned onto a broad reach to the south east. Almost straight for the Man of War.

The captain grinned. "Speed or a safe distance. Pick one. We'll be good, so long as they maintain their speed and heading, but if they've any sense at all they'll slow down in the dark. Sailing by starlight's going to be risky in the bergs. I don't want to run downwind, but we may need to if they slow drastically. So keep an eye on them Lieutenant. I'd hate to ram them. So gauche."

Will smoothed out the turbulence of the rudder and pushed gently on the strange mages' perception. Reached the other way and found nothing. Did they have just a single Mage on each ship? Had they caught the one on the Man of War sleeping at a crucial point? Whatever the cause, Will was able to concentrate on the mages on the brigantines and keep them fooled, gently and carefully, as they turned away and approached the Man of War. Will fought to maintain his warping as the distance opened, bend their reception so the density point of the hull came from a different direction, and drove that bend until it merged with a small iceberg. To make them think the iceberg was also moving on that course.

He opened his eyes once to see a thin fog blowing past. That would help as well. They passed a hundred feet behind the Man of War, and sailed on, unseen and undetected. He whispered twice about unseen icebergs in their path. The captain turned them gradually to the east southeast.

And suddenly the mage on the Man of War joined. Stronger than the others, deeper, somehow. Older, more advanced. The new mage saw the small iceberg for what it was and reached beyond it. Will dropped everything but an attempt to fog over the density point of the Whip-Poor-Will.

"They just caught on Captain. They'll be after us pretty quickly."

"If they can see us through the fog." The captain said. "All those little bergs are cooling the air and helping out, even with the wind. If you can keep us from hitting one, I'll cut even further east and stay close to that pack of bergs. Then we can either hide in the pack or load on the sails if we can get enough of a lead to stay ahead of them all the way to Karista."

Will blinked and looked around. The fog had thickened, but he could see the nearest iceberg a half mile away.

"Interesting." The captain watched him. "While you were doing whatever that was, the fog right around the ship was getting pretty thick."

Will nodded. "I guess I was cooling the air even further." He felt out past his slight subterfuge and felt the other ships. "The brigantines are fifteen miles northwest of us." He grinned wickedly. "One of them turned early, and is heading south southeast. He'll be clear of most of the little bergs in an hour. But the other one went straight on, in case we were still heading northeast. He's close enough to the big berg that the winds are chancy. He's in irons at the moment, just as they started to turn, now they're awfully close to a small berg, and trying to maneuver. The Man of War is five miles north and heading south east. I think I'm hiding us from the mage they have on board. They're being careful of the bergs."

"Let's see if we can open the distance a bit before dawn."

They crowded on all sails and Will sweated to see the shapes of the small bergs underwater..

"No ice for ten miles. Then it's off to port." William looked further. "Looks like a another bunch of small bergs dead ahead about thirty miles."

"Catch a nap, Mr. Michaelson. We'll be needing you alert in a short while."

He dosed, then got itchy and rose. "Coming up on a good sized one, sir, may I recommend passing it wide to starboard?"

Lieutenant Gerner shook his head and turned the wheel. "I hope you know we've all been scared spitless under full sail and nothing but starlight to see by."

Captain Comeski joined them. Eyed the iceberg, and the faint gleam of starlight off smaller ones ahead.

"Good, time for some maneuvering."

They cut to the east for an hour, sliding among scattered bergs. The sun rose, giving them an unfortunately clear view of the Man of War ten miles north and a bit west of them, raising more sail. Will checked, and reported both brigantines heading southeast, one almost due west, the other west northwest. "Roughly fifteen miles behind us."

The captain grinned. "They can't catch us. That frigate is a problem though. We'll have to run for Karista. But let's see what we can do to put some space between us and the other two. Here's where it gets interesting boys. Lieutenant Michaelson? Take the wheel. We'll run with as much sail as we can crowd on and trust you to keep us safe in all the ice."

And run they did. The Man of War closed slowly; her captain was being cautious among the icebergs.

"Run up the colors, Mister Franks. Let's see if they've got the nerve to admit to having masters."

"Those are Island hulls, Captain." Lieutenant Higgs protested. "I've never heard of them selling them . . . What's that? Organtes? What the hell are Auralians doing up here?"

"Organtes are the south-west division. All well below the equator." The Captain studied them carefully. "Damned odd them being up here."

"Are they lying, thinking we'll escape and the Islanders can escape the blame?"

Will let the voices fade as he felt the two bergs ahead. The deep water was to port, the starboard berg had a jagged extension and was feeling a bit unstable. They slipped in between tidily and kept up their sails. Behind them the Man of War opted for safety and veered to port to pass both bergs. Will reached out far ahead and studied the distribution of ice. They were just about clear of this bunch, but the big shelf must be shedding ice at an enormous rate, there was another flotilla of bergs a dozen miles ahead to port. Fog. He needed fog. He reached out and pulled heat from the air as far forward as he could.

Were the mages using their talent to see icebergs? They hadn't shown any willingness to take chances. If they couldn't see the bergs . . . there was a small berg ahead of the Man of War, if he could conceal it with a low fog . . . but he couldn't steer it, it would depend on luck. He snickered. Pity his father wasn't around, these fellows deserved an iceberg. He opened his eyes to thick fog all around. He felt the last bergs of the bunch as they passed them, then steered straight on, reaching out to the north and cooling the air to the limit of his abilities. The Man of War slipped into the fog bank.

Will could hear the lookout calling out their position, and in the eerie echoing fog could hear the Organtes lookout doing the same. They're close. Very close, and raising sail. And I think their mage can at least see the tops of the bergs. It's going to be a race to the next bergs.

The Man of War angled slightly toward them. Inexorably closing the gap. They were a half mile shy of the bergs when Will heard the explosion of the thunder gun, and threw a shield across the stern, protecting the rudder. A chunk of metal at high speed skimmed their starboard side. A near miss was as good as a huge miss. An angled shield, or better, a wedge, would deflect without absorbing much momentum, and knocking him flat. He put the wheel over a few points to clear the underwater extent of the berg, throwing an illusion of them going straight. Clear of the berg he then steered her back the other way, dropped the illusion. Did ships veer about trying to make aiming difficult? He rather doubted it, but the second roar was followed by a sickening crunch of splintering timber, from well behind them. Where the shot went, Will had no idea, but the Mar of War had hit the berg. He stopped pulling heat locally, and reached only out to port to continue to slow the Man of War. Lieutenant Higgs took the wheel as they cleared the fog bank. They continued down wind even after the brigantines turned to render assistance to their fellow.

:: Who are you?:: One of the strange mages reached out for him.

He reached deep, for the glow he'd subdued for longer than he could remember, and brought it out for the mage to see. :: I am the God of Justice, the mate of the Sea Hag. Be gone from these waters. ::

matapampamuphoff on July 28th, 2015 07:12 pm (UTC)
And yes, I will get back to _External Directorate_ RSN.
Bretbretw on July 28th, 2015 10:39 pm (UTC)
That works for me.

I didn't draw it out or anything, but nothing struck me as being outta whack like it did before.
matapampamuphoff on July 28th, 2015 10:44 pm (UTC)
Good. Because I just learned how very little I knew about sailing. And I am probably still abysmally ignorant, but at least I have a thin veneer of the basics.
hollybambolo on July 28th, 2015 10:44 pm (UTC)
Will's exchange with the Captain where he reveals his parentage, did you think about having him actually say the curse, rather than saying he cursed? If he swears American, like Xen, wouldn't that add some tension? (Does he? Is there any other time Will curses? I don't remember.)

Is _Triplets_ the final title? If it's not, can I suggest something more along the lines of _The Justice, the Gambler, and the Stranger_? A bit more descriptive.

I found the which ship was where portions fairly easy to picture. I have no idea what sort of audience I am for this sort of thing: I've read both Forrester and O'Brien so I've some experience in figuring out ship positions from descriptions, but I'm no sailor.
matapampamuphoff on July 29th, 2015 01:36 am (UTC)
I hate to admit to brutal practicality on the matter of titles. If they're going to be big enough to read in a thumbnail on Amazon, the titles need to be short.