Week 3, Chasing Ben Pease
We left our heroes on a cliff overlooking the sea, watching Ben Pease steam away in a German ironclad gunboat. However, we have recovered Sophie. Shortly after she and Nate come dripping up to the rest of us, Chris lands and removed the invisibility ring, then walks out from "behind" Pfusand. Nate and Sophie get their first really good look at the Naza, and Sophie thought she saw Chris appear out of thin air. Before she can ask questions, Hayes cries, "Back to Appia!" He and his crew begin running back to the city. The pantope crew, not understanding what is going on, are slower to respond. Pegleg explains, as he limps off, that we must secure the ships.
Wu, Lorelei, and Tom ride Pfusand back. Daewen stays with Sophie and Nate, and helps patch Nate's wounds.
Chris, again invisible and aloft, flits ahead. He passes Hayes' crew and lands on the "Rona" where he meets Cantrel. Cantrel stayed behind searching the warehouse but found little of interest. They two of them find nothing wrong at the "Rona" so they take a look at Pease's ship, the "Lorraine." There they find two dead sailors and fifty or more natives chained and tied up in the hold. Pease was a slaver, it seems. Chris also finds a lady's purse hanging from a lantern. He pockets this, to return to Sophie later. He also finds a loose pistol that he appropriates.
A boat arrives containing five of Hayes' men. About the same time, the rest of the pantope crew show up. Chris proposes that we release the slaves, but Hayes' men recommend we not be hasty about disposing of merchandise. This is unsettling. We ask after Hayes and are told he ran off to see the local magistrate.
Hayes returns soon thereafter and tells us we have lots of planning to do, then lots of actions to take. We gather for a council -- Hayes, his first mate Blake, Nate and Sophie, and Tom and Chris representing the pantope crew (or "castaways" as the others call us). The other pantope riders are all listening in by telepathy, of course.
Hayes first proposes that he give the "Rona" to Sophie as a return for her investment. "?" goes out over the telepathy net and Nate's face. Sophie explains that she invested in Hayes' trading company. Nate is very surprised and not pleased. (Respectable women of his class did not go into business.) Hayes goes on to explain that he did some fast talking to the magistrate and got title to Pease's "Lorraine." At the moment, he and Sophie both own both ships. He proposes we need to do the following things:
Hayes proposes that he take the "Lorraine" and return the slaves to Williamson Station, while Sophie takes the "Rona" and delivers cargoes and maybe finds a preacher in the Philippines. That sounds good, but Sophie wants the "Lorraine," the better ship. After a good deal of haggling, they settle on the "Lorraine" taking the slaves back home and delivering a cargo in Fiji while the Rona goes after Pease immediately, crewed by the pantope travelers, Sophie, Nate, Hayes, Mubato, and Hiro. Blake will take command of the "Lorraine."
We buy some weapons, ammo, and tools, then set sail. Nate knows some natural history and asks embarrassing questions about the Naza. We stick with our story that we just found her while exploring islands to the remote south. At one point, he once greeted her (as one would a dog) and she said "Hello" back. This we explain on an analogy with the mimicry of parrots. We train in the course of the voyage and Tom becomes a fair deckhand. Pfusand works on her telepathy and on stealth. This is difficult, since the boat tends to lean to the side she's on. Still, she manages to sneak up on Hayes one evening, giving him a considerable shock and receiving a smack with a belaying pin on the return reflex.
The first night out, Hiro confesses that one of Pease's crew got away: Diem Duk, an Anamite -- a people living in south China. He is the sometime- right-hand man to General Huay and makes a bad enemy. He might lead a vendetta against us. Huay is connected to the Black Flag, a band of Chinese mercenaries from Hunan, who pacified the Anamites. General Huay has an island fortress in south China called Tenth Dragon.
At this, the pantope crew become uneasy. We once met a master criminal in Hong Kong with an island fortress, and he turned out to be a worldbender. Might this be the same chap, 63 years earlier?
At different points in the voyage, Chris and Wu both read Sophie's mind while she's sleeping. Yes, indeed, she is suspicious of us. She's SURE she saw Chris appear out of thin air at one point. Wu corners her the next morning and asks what the problem is. She confesses her suspicions and Wu Suggests that they are unfounded. Since he uses some hypnotic techniques, he is remarkably persuasive.
Three weeks later, we arrive in Panapai, where we expect to find the German gunboat. Sho 'nuff, as Hayes sneaks the "Rona" around a headland, we see the ironclad docked by a palatial sea-side grass house. The pantope crew volunteers to go spy out the situation. We raise the ol' telepathy net and Wu, Cantrel, Chris, Tom, and Pfusand go ashore. Wu and Cantrel take a spy-glass and examine the gunboat from a place of hiding. Wu sees German sailors on the boat, and the grass palace. Hayes has told us the local king collects shrunken heads. Probing this palace with Deryni senses, Wu feels numerous mostly-bare bodies moving about, a big crowd, but nothing psychic. Sighting in on an officer on the gunboat, he tries a bit of telepathy. Wu can't go deeper than verbal thoughts and the man is thinking in German, which Wu doesn't know. But between the spyglass and the telepathy Wu can tell that the German officer is looking back at HIM with a spyglass, unable to see him but certain he saw something over there. Oops.
The other party works its way through the jungle and finds a village of more than 100 huts behind the seaside palace. It has a big fire pit. Pfusand notes a dory headed out from the ironclad to the palace. Someone in brown is struggling between two sailors. Chris lofts invisibly to investigate. It turns out to be a brown-skinned girl. The dory docks at a trapdoor that descends from a pier extending from the palace, and the girl is hauled up by the sailors, accompanied by a German officer in dress whites and by Pease.
Chris drifts in through a window, narrowly avoiding the engraved ceiling beams above and the spear-tips of the royal guard below. He sees the girl presented to an obscenely fat Polynesian king, who grins at her with filed teeth. Frantically, he calls for advice over the telepathy net. Should he kill Pease or rescue the girl, or both, or what? Cantrel suggests that, if he decides on a rescue, flying the girl up the chimney would be a good idea. "Yeah, but DO I rescue her?"
Tune in next week...
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.