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Touch of the Sea Witch
Book Three of An Age of Heroes Saga
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ISBN-10: 1-55404-440-5
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Medieval
eBook Length: 206 Pages
Published: April 2007



From inside the flap

Former enemies form an expedition to steal wild mounts from another land across the ocean whose king has refused to trade any by using a back entrance through treacherous waters to his land. Despite the perils, including an encounter with a sea witch, the trade ship, river boat, and rower crews reach the foreign shore only to discover the king’s navy practicing in those waters. Seeing their way blocked, they turn back to abandon their quest only to discover more of the enemy behind them. Now battle is inevitable in Touch of the Sea Witch especially since the king’s navy was practicing to attack their countries and must prevent them from giving a warning. 

   



Touch of the Sea Witch (Excerpt)


Chapter 1

Fleet Captain Loog placed one arm over Captain Donoto’s shoulder to gain the man’s attention. As the men and women of the first crew rowed, Loog almost always had time to think or discuss matters with his officers. It was different to have another captain aboard, though not unheard of. Captains before Donoto had lost their ships. "One thing I’ve learned by our mistake is that we need to change our ways," Loog said.

"In what way and why?" Donoto asked. Any awkwardness he felt over sharing the command bench had mostly disappeared. It was almost as if the rhythmic beating of the oars in the water had dulled any pain he felt from his physical and mental wounds.

"I’m not certain. However, in Gulfport, we might have received justice for Phuto had their weapon master been permitted to question your crew. We don’t have anything like that in Mangara. If anyone is murdered there, no one does a thing about it."

"You want us to have weapon masters in Mangara?"

"I want us to have a system of justice in Mangara. If we must hire weapon masters to enforce our laws, then so be it."

"Limid! Limid!" shouted the woman on the lookout’s mast. She pointed to the giant beast. Everyone knew it would have to be large for it to be so far out in deep water.

The first ship’s master saw Fleet Captain Loog’s nod and hollered, "Match the tiller. Maintain the drum without change." Only the ship’s course would change. There would be no alteration in the sound or vibrations from their rowing to alarm their prey.

"Second crew to your positions. Ready the snags. Stand by to throw," the second ship’s master shouted as the long ship neared their quarry. "Throw! Throw!"

"I’ve got him!"

"Secure the line!" the second ship’s master yelled.

"Oars up!" the first ship’s master screamed, realizing that the boat was in for a slay-ride.

Most of the oars flew up. One oar snapped from the increased water pressure when it wasn’t lifted quickly enough. The oars, including the broken one, went into standing slots to await their next need. Unless the line broke or until the beast tired, the men and women could only hang on for dear life. With only one boat in tow, it would be awhile before the beast tired. In the wake of the Loog One, men and women in the other boats retrieved their missed throws.

***

Captain Shon approached the throne in as humble a manner as possible, despite the fact that his cousin was the king. After all, other cousins had found out too late that it wasn’t wise to cross the king. As with most royal possessions in the Kog Empire, the throne was white. Shon knew a gold image of the king adorned the center of the throne’s back. It was said that the king always saw everything in his kingdom. One thing was certain; one of his agents usually could be found near anything with his image upon it.

"I understand you have important news," King D’oro said.

"Sire, the rowers are finally fighting Aluria. They’ve attacked Gulfport with the intention of destroying it completely."

"Excellent. War master! I want my war master!"

"Sire?" Shon said, brows raised.

"Don’t question me," D’oro said with a glare.

"Never, Sire."

An old man in a white, gold-braided uniform entered. "Yes, Sire?"

"Find out what my spies have to say about the fighting between Mangara and Aluria. I want to know when the time is ripe for an attack on Aluria. Then send someone to view the results of this attack upon Gulfport. I want to know who won their first battle."

"Yes, Sire, at once. I’ll send Captain Myxoma."

"So, Captain Shon," the king said, returning his attention to his cousin, "how much did my royal treasury make during your voyage?"

***

Captain Donoto climbed out of the ship. He accepted one last embrace from Fleet Captain Loog as they stood upon the stone wharf, then turned to make his way home over land. Two men turned with him. "You’re traveling with me?" Donoto asked.

Moog and Sitaan nodded.

"You’re more loyal than I have a right to expect," Donoto said, picking up his one cask of rations.

"Maybe I’m loyal," Moog said. "Maybe I’m counting on you to gain another ship. All I know is, you promised those who survived a share. You’ve always stood by your word. That’s good enough for me."

Donoto glanced down at himself. Had it not been for the savings he’d hidden in his home in Shaga, he’d be as poor as he appeared. He was without his sword and spare clothing and carried only his short edge along with a single cask. That was generally the mark of a poor rower. He’d given out his other shares to the families of those who hadn’t returned with him. "You’re right. I do intend to gain a new ship. Then I’ll earn back what I’ve lost while paying my debts. Regardless, I still appreciate having you stand by me."

"Then we’ll all earn back what we lost," Sitaan said.

"I’ll need a new second ship’s master. I believe you’re ready for the task," Donoto said, glancing to the side at Sitaan.

"Thank you. I accept."

***

King D’oro listened briefly before nodding as his war master outlined a plan on a great sheet of paper displaying the world, though much remained to be repopulated since an earlier disaster. The war master pointed at several Alurian ports in sequence.

Aluria stood as one of the newer continents, partly inhabited for only a few centuries. Its settlers had not yet advanced beyond the river valleys, but that was only because they lacked some resources. The Alurians had come about from various cultures in a haphazard manner, without any official backing. Then again, at the time of Aluria’s initial settling, there hadn’t been any officials governing anything larger than a city. Consequently, Aluria’s city ports were well established when the Kog Empire rose to power in Hakun.

"Why send only one ship?" D’oro asked the war master.

"It will take only one to investigate the destruction and carry new orders to our ships nearest Aluria. In the meantime, your fleet can prepare in secret near the burning mountains."

"Isn’t the water dangerously shallow there?"

The war master nodded. "Your father sent in a fleet without any preparation only to have some of the ships bottom out before they could release their fists. They’ll need lots of practice under similarly poor conditions. I feel certain that you do not want me to repeat his mistakes."

D’oro knew precisely what the war master meant. Every military unit in his realm was based upon the fist. Five units formed a fist, just as did the fingers of a person’s hand. Each unit comprised five smaller units. Normally, Kog units attacked in pairs, so two fists pounded home their attacks. At one time, the reality of the design had more perfectly imitated the theory. After two devastating losses, theory had given way to more-practical consideration. The fist continued to represent the basic size of a unit, but there were now double fists and other combinations. Some units, particularly naval ones, counted both combatants and others.

"Do not make any grave mistakes," the king said. "I will not take any losses lightly."

"Sire, the fleet will be sent out to fight only if we are successful in baiting the rowers to fight the Alurians. Once they’ve cut each other down to size, it will be too late for them to mount a sufficient defense. Then you’ll gain both their lands."

"I don’t care about their lands so much as their trade. I’ll be satisfied if you sink all their trade ships. Then they’ll have to accept our goods and prices."

"Sink only their trade ships?" The war master paused, reflecting. "I might have a plan for just that purpose. We can put it into action while the fleet trains."

D’oro nodded sternly.