Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont

Deadhouse Landing by Ian C. Esslemont

Author:Ian C. Esslemont
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates


Chapter 11

A ghostly predawn light revealed the waters south of Cawn empty of any approaching vessels and Tattersail found herself cursing the Napans for their tardiness, just as she’d fumed at Mock for his belated arrival yesterday.

Where were the blue-skinned bastards? Why weren’t they here? Now she wondered whether she’d properly understood the arrangements. Perhaps they, or Tarel, had got the wrong night. But the equinox – who could misunderstand that? She went to find Mock.

Since they’d been anchored for a few hours close to shore in a sheltered cove just outside the Bight of Cawn, the admiral had regained his sea-legs. She found him walking the Insufferable’s deck, trading stories and greetings among the crew, reminiscing about one of the last engagements he’d participated in. It might have just been her mood, but it seemed to her that the freebooters were only half paying attention – the way one might endure a grandparent’s favourite story or lecture.

When she motioned for his attention the men and women quickly melted away. The admiral stroked his long moustache, eyeing her, looking pleased with himself.

‘Where are they?’ she hissed, trying to keep her voice low. ‘We can’t delay much longer if we wish to arrive with the dawn.’

Mock shrugged expansively, quite unconcerned. He raised his voice, speaking to all within earshot. ‘If the Napans renege because they have no stomach for a fight then that’s all the better, hey boys? More loot for us!’

Cheers answered this, but to Tattersail they did not sound as enthusiastic as they might have. Keeping her voice low, she answered, ‘I don’t like it. We should withdraw.’

Mock almost laughed. ‘Withdraw? We’re in position. Cawn is ours!’

She refused to give up her misgivings. ‘But why—’

He came close, and in the way that so infuriated her motioned for her silence by pressing a finger to her lips. When he invited her to accompany him to their cabin, she bit down on her outrage and followed, fuming silently.

Within, she drew breath to damn him for treating her like a child, but before she could speak he turned on her, saying, ‘Do not unnerve the crew before battle, please.’

She blinked, quite taken aback. ‘Well…’

‘It could cost us lives – perhaps even the victory.’

‘Well, yes, but I’m worried—’

‘We’re all anxious, my love.’

‘Let me finish, damn you!’

Mock pulled away, his brows rising, then he stroked his moustache, nodding. ‘Very well. My apologies.’

Still angry, Tattersail struggled to order her thoughts. ‘The Napans aren’t here. Why? What is Tarel planning? What is his strategy here?’

The admiral’s nodding gathered strength and conviction as he took her shoulders, smiling. ‘Ah, my Tattersail. Cunning lass. Doing your job. But do not worry. You think this is deliberate?’ He pinched her chin between his thumb and fingers. ‘There are a thousand reasons to explain why they have been delayed – or withdrawn. Poor sea conditions. Strong headwinds.’ He pulled away to pace the cabin. ‘Perhaps Tarel was embarrassed by the small number of vessels he could muster; perhaps he didn’t wish to reveal that to me; perhaps—’

‘Perhaps he is burning Malaz City even as we speak.



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