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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 kingís 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 kingís 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 Donotoís shoulder to gain the manís 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 Iíve 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.

"Iím not certain. However, in Gulfport, we might have received justice for Phuto had their weapon master been permitted to question your crew. We donít 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 lookoutís 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 shipís master saw Fleet Captain Loogís nod and hollered, "Match the tiller. Maintain the drum without change." Only the shipís 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 shipís master shouted as the long ship neared their quarry. "Throw! Throw!"

"Iíve got him!"

"Secure the line!" the second shipís master yelled.

"Oars up!" the first shipís 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 wasnít 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 wasnít 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 throneís 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 Díoro said.

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

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

"Sire?" Shon said, brows raised.

"Donít question me," Díoro 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. Iíll 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. "Youíre traveling with me?" Donoto asked.

Moog and Sitaan nodded.

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

"Maybe Iím loyal," Moog said. "Maybe Iím counting on you to gain another ship. All I know is, you promised those who survived a share. Youíve always stood by your word. Thatís good enough for me."

Donoto glanced down at himself. Had it not been for the savings heíd hidden in his home in Shaga, heíd 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. Heíd given out his other shares to the families of those who hadnít returned with him. "Youíre right. I do intend to gain a new ship. Then Iíll earn back what Iíve lost while paying my debts. Regardless, I still appreciate having you stand by me."

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

"Iíll need a new second shipís master. I believe youíre ready for the task," Donoto said, glancing to the side at Sitaan.

"Thank you. I accept."

***

King Díoro 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 Aluriaís initial settling, there hadnít been any officials governing anything larger than a city. Consequently, Aluriaís city ports were well established when the Kog Empire rose to power in Hakun.

"Why send only one ship?" Díoro 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."

"Isnít 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. Theyíll need lots of practice under similarly poor conditions. I feel certain that you do not want me to repeat his mistakes."

Díoro 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 personís 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 theyíve cut each other down to size, it will be too late for them to mount a sufficient defense. Then youíll gain both their lands."

"I donít care about their lands so much as their trade. Iíll be satisfied if you sink all their trade ships. Then theyíll 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."

Díoro nodded sternly.