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Attack from the air!
“What are they?” cried Maria to me in English. “They look like Pterodactyls, They are harmless scavengers I was told.”
“Maybe where you come from, but here they are confirmed man eaters!” I told her aiming my rifle and firing with little effect.
The cannon on the ship went off and a ball caught a flying reptile in the chest and sent it flapping to the surf, a bloody mess. It was extraordinary skill or great luck, I didn't know. One of the flying pack seized the fallen Thipdar and started to eat it, flying away with its dinner. Another swooped in and seized one of the men, two fired their long pistols at the thing but only one went off, causing little or no damage to the flapping monster.
The thing flew away, the beaded man fighting as best he could with his cutlass, until the thing reached back with its long jaws and simply snapped off his head, causing it to fall to the beach. Just then, the largest of the Thipdars seized the captain of the crew, He tried to fire his blunderbuss at the creature's head but his weapon misfired. It started to flap its great wings and rise up above his men.
Maria stood up and fired her machine gun into the thing as it was coming closer. She rattled off every bullet she had, striking the thing in the chest. I had reloaded and fired at the thing's massive head and teeth filled jaws. The many bullets had an effect, the flying creature dropped the captain, who landed and rolled like a professional tumbler, as the monster was trying to make its escape. It didn't last long but fell dead into the sea, followed by its fellow thipdars who proceeded to devour the thing. The attack was over. Maria left our place of hiding and bounded down the hill to the captain of the Korsars, He was dusting himself off. His clothing was tore and he had several scratches.
“Thank you for saving me with your many shots gun,” he said in Pellucidarian, Maria didn't under stand but asked him how he was in her language.
I came down the hill and joined them. I could see the Korsars were coming up the sandy rise to check on their leader. They had lost one of their own and were not in a good mood.
He spoke with her and then turned to me. I could see he wore a small mustache and a single gold ring in his ear. I could hear Maria introducing me -- I recognized my name in her speech.
“I am Jason Innes,” I said to him, extending my hand in friendship. “You are Captain Rey of the La Victoria?” He looked at me long and hard, then broke into a smile and took my hand in a powerful hand shake.
“Innes?” he asked, “Are you related to one David Innes?” he asked.
“He is my father.” I told him.
“Then we have much in common,” he said as his men ran up and marveling at the handshake. “I am the son of Pedro de Silva, the Cid of the Korsar Brotherhood. As you know we are at war with your father and his empire.”
“Then its time we have a truce, I am not at war with you or your people,” I told him as the rest of his armed crew surrounded us.
“I agree,” he said, “I have long argued that we should end this war and trade. Your many shots gun would be most welcome in the Brotherhood.”
“It is called a machine gun,” I told him. “From what I saw, you need to improve your quality of gunpowder and weapons.”
“We have improved them both, but there is still room for more. We we able to smuggle some gun powder and pistols from your Empire and attempted to duplicate them, sadly with only moderate success.”
“Who made the amazing cannon shot that brought down a thipdar?” I asked. “It was the most fantastic thing I had ever seen.”
“That was Maja,” he said with a smile, “She is a phenomenal gunner, The best in the brotherhood of the Korsars. I am lucky to have her as part of my ship. She is good with a sword as well so I advise you to not offend her.”
Maria spoke to the captain, but I couldn't make out what she was saying, I only recognized one word -- Oro.”
“What are you saying?” I asked her in English.
“I was going over our request for passage to Sari,” she said. I could see the bearded first mate was shaking his head, so was the captain.
“If you came in under a white flag of truce I am sure my father would grant you safe passage,” I added. “I can confirm they would pay well for my return.”
“If I were Cid, I would agree,” the captain answered, “but I am not, such things must be decided by the high council and the Cid himself. Even as his son, I would face a hangman's noose to do such a thing on my own. I am sure you understand.”
“Then let us go to him and let me plea my case to him directly.”
“He is in Esmeralda, not far from here. It is his new palace and town. I can not say how they will vote but I will say I will do what I can in your behalf. That and your fantastic Maria, who speaks the ancient language so well. If you promise not to cause problems you will have the run of the ship, but I would like to see your many shots weapon -- I an enthralled by its wonderful power.”
“Maria, give him the machine gun,” I told her in English. She handed him the weapon but I noticed she didn't give him a fresh clip of ammunition.
Rey looked it over, I could see the other crewmen were interested in the piece, handling it with the respect of a religious object.
“Very impressive workmanship,” he said to me. “Now tell me of the tall thing with the odd prow –I have never seen such a thing. Is it some sort of craft?”
“It is the Iron Mole,” I told him. “It's a machine built to travel under the ground.”
“That is why it has an auger bit on its front,” he said. “I believe we could learn much from the people of the Empire. Let us retire to my ship, I have a flagon of wine we could share and talk more of your plans.”
At that point, Maria stepped forward and addressed him, in very respectful tones. At the end of her talk she presented him with the binoculars as a gift. He put them to his eyes and looked around. He was impressed with them.
“Come back to my ship, you are a guest, we have food. We were about to eat when we saw the gleam off of your Iron Mole.” at that the captain had us enter his boat and they rowed us back to the La Victoria. The decks were lined with curious faces. I saw one woman with long flowing blond hair, unlike many of the Korsars she was beautiful and young. She lacked the hard look of the others.
We went up the wooden ladder made into the hull and on to the deck as the crew hosted the boat out of the water and onto the deck. The people on the ship looked us over like some strange new beast they had never encountered before. The captain gave a talk in his odd Spanish, and Maria added a few words as well. This shocked them! At the end of the speech the crew were all smiles.
“Jason,” said the captain in Pellucidarian, “I would like to have you meet Maja, the gunner's mate of the La Victoria.” he led me to the blond girl who gave me a curious look.
“That was an amazing shot that brought down a thipdar,” I told her. She was beautiful, I noticed she had a pistol in her sash, this was a crude copy of a revolver, with five shot cylinder. She also had a sword.
“That was nothing -- I want to thank you for saving our captain,” she said looking me over.
The crew settled down as food was brought from below on wooden platters. It was burned meat with spicy sauce. There was also, slices of fruit and cooked onions. The sauce reminded me of the food I had in San Mateo. I noticed Maria was eating well. Next came large wooden mugs, with wine, that was tart and not unpleasant. The Korsars make good wine -- this wasn't there best.
“I have some good vintage in my cabin,” said the captain. “Come let us talk and bring Maria with you.” I could see he was quite taken with her. In his ornate cabin, were paintings, done in a crude style and maps. He withdrew a flagon and three glass goblets. He poured each one half full.
We took a glass and he said “Salud” and we drank. It was much better than the wine the crew had.
“Now, Jason of Sari,” started the captain, “What does the Korsar Brotherhood have that the Empire might wish to trade?”
“Metals, Iron Ore, Bronze, Fruits and vegetables,” I started. “Even Maps, there is much of the inner world we in the Empire have yet to explore. Your fine wine might be something we could trade. You may have encountered people we have not. What would you want from us?”
“Guns, powder, your advanced items like binoculars -- we can try to copy them but, as with your firearms, we have not been successful. There is much we can learn from one another. It is foolish to be at war with one another when an alliance would be so much better.”
“I agree,” I answered finishing the wine. I could hear something going on forward.
“That is the crew raising the anchor so we can set sail for Esmeralda,” he answered seeing the look on my face. “I have a feeling my father would like you. You think before you act.”
At that Rey began to tell me of his life as the son of the ruling Cid, and the challenges he faces from people at court who envied him to women who chased him because of his position. He found he had to prove himself over and over again to his father and his many subjects. I confided to him the same things dogged my life as well. It wasn't good enough to be as good as others, one had to strive to be better. Sometimes this lead to disaster. He then turned to Maria, and she spoke to him in her Spanish, and filled me in with English when she could. He was very impressed with her knowledge of the history of the Korsars. They had been chased out of the West Indies by King Carlos III whom they view as a sort of vampire king who set the Guardia Coasta fiends on them. They fled north and ended in a storm that sent their ships to the “White Sea” and into Pellucidar. They had no knowledge of how it happened or the many dangers they faced by savage white bears, and monsters of the north. They found a home on a group of islands and prospered, intermarrying with locals and using their advanced firearms and ships to dominate other tribes, and raid far and wide until they hit the Empire.
She tried to tell them about the great Spanish Empire and how they once dominated the outer world but how the colonies of Imperial Spain broke away and formed there own nations. We had finished our wine when, we heard music from stringed instruments and a hand organ on deck.
“It sounds like the crew is celebrating, they do that when someone dies bravely.” the captain informed us. “Maybe Maja is dancing.”
We left the cabin and on the main deck a group had formed a circle, fast music was being played and in the center Maja, the gunner with long blond hair, was dancing, sending her skirts flying and hair flowing, as the others cheered.
“They do not know what dancing is!” whispered Maria to me in English. She left my side and walked though the group to the center. Maja stopped, all were silent. Maria waved her arms and said something in Spanish. The music started again and she began to dance, he steps were just as lively and inventive with high kicks, and swirling movements. At first the crew were silent, then they started to cheer. Maja started to imitate her steps and a duel of one ups man ship took place. Even the captain was clapping and cheering. I joined in the clapping at these two young women captivated the crew as the ship moved along under the hot noonday son.
In the end Maria did an elaborate back flip that had the Korsars hooting. She ended it with a high kick and a twirl. I remembered that she was a dance instructor in her homeland. Maja tried to do the same maneuver and fell on her behind, to the laughter of the crew. Maria had won their contest and went to Maja and offered her a hand to get up, The Korsar gunner slapped her hand away and got up on her own. For a moment, it looked like their might be a fight but the captain stepped forward and go between them.
“You are both winners,” he said, “Maria can teach us a few things about dance! Let us have a cheer for our two master dancers. I can tell you that none greater can be found in the palace of the Cid.”
Maria extended her hand to Maja, but she didn't take it and stormed away as more music was played. I could see she made an enemy of the gunner with her dance. But, she did make many friends with the Korsars. I went to Maja and tried to comfort her, but she would have none of it and grimaced at me as she went below decks.
We were escorted below to a set of small cabins where we could sleep, in the near darkness, Maria selected to stay with me, and we rested on a pallet that smelled rather bad. There was a wooden bucket with a wooden lid -- that was our toilet.
“I think you have made an enemy of Maja,” I told her. “You better be on your guard.”
“I don't care what she thinks,” Maria said. “I wanted to make points with the crew and the captain. We will need all the good will we can gather when we face El Cid.”
I had to admit she was right, and we went to sleep as the ships bell was rang and an hourglass was turned, showing the only form of time regulation I had seen in Pellucidar outside of Abner Perry's attempt to make a clock -- an attempt that failed if I recalled.
We slept, the rich food and wine giving us a full stomach. I woke up to a rough hand shaking me awake. It was one of the crew.
“Esmeralda,” he said and left. That's all he needed to say. I work up Maria and we gather ourselves together and made out way up the ladders to the main deck. We could see land looking ahead, with a great harbor, One side of which were shipyards where wooden ships were being constructed. There were many trees on the island and I could see why it was selected as a Korsar town because of this resource. The town itself looked more like something in San Mateo than anything I had seen before. There were walls around it and at the entrance of the port two forts that fairly bristled with cannons.
The town was built on a hill, with, at the top, a large house, with long windows and gardens of fruit trees around it and even on its roof. I could see carvings on the thing of men, ships and animals. From the top of the pile was a tall mast, where a large red flag with a black skull floated. It was a colorful place, with the buildings, both tall and humble painted red, blue, yellow, green and white. Maria was silent as she watched the city approach.
“It is like going back in time,” she said to me in English. “I believe I am in the 16th Century.”
The sails were taken in and large oars extended, to propel the vessel into the harbor. We watch as the captain was busy, giving a million orders, pointing and waving in both Pellucidarian and Spanish. Many of the words I could not understand but I took them to be foul insults so favored by sailing men.
The big galleon was slowly rowed to an empty dock and when close enough, ropes were tossed out and men on the dock pulled the ship in and tied her off, bags of hay kept the ship from hitting the stone dock and damaging the wooden hull of the ship.
As the ship was secured and a gangplank extended a man in a fancy uniform, all leather, with feathers and gold chins, stomped on board. He was the harbor master, I learned. He and the Captain spoke for some time in the special language.
“He's telling about how we were captured,” informed Maria. “They say we request an audience with the Cid. And there was something about a peace treaty.”
“If I have my say,” came a voice from behind me, “I will have you both hung from the walls of the fort!”
I turned and saw Maja, and evil look on her face. Clearly forget and forgive wasn't part of the Korsar code.
“Maja, we are strangers here,” I pleaded with her. “I have no wish to offend you. You are not my enemy.”
“Well, maybe I will be glad if they let you live, Jason Innes,” she said, then walked away, her sword swinging at her side.
I looked over at the fort and saw a hangman's gibbet on the walls where bones bleached within and iron cage. I wondered who the fellow was, hanging as a skeleton. What crimes, real or imagined merited this sentence? We were watching on the deck as the captain approached us.
“I am here to personally escort you to the palace,” he said. “I will do all in my power to make sure you have a hearing and will speak for a treaty between the Empire and the Brotherhood.”
“We can expect no more,” I added. Maria said something to him in Spanish and he nodded, and indicated we were to follow. An armed member of the crew followed us, if he was protection for us or the Captain was not known. We were walked though the town, passed markets and open air booths, and everywhere, the people looked us over as if we were strange creatures, with two heads or six eyes. I saw most of the people smiled at Captain Rey and he was warmly greeted. He was popular with the people in a way that reminded me of the reception granted to my father in Sari. The streets were narrow, this clearly was not a place for automobiles, There were many steps to navigate as we made our way up towards the palace.
For the most part the people, were rough looking but well fed and seemed to reflect a prosperous society among the Korsars. Maria was fascinated by every element, sometimes asking questions of the Captain about this and that.
“Have you noticed, there are no churches here?” she said to me in English.
“I didn't notice,” I told her as we made our way. Outside of a single example in Sari, built by Abner Perry, none existed there as well. I had no idea why she placed such important on them.
At last we reached the massive, ornate doors of the palace, two guards with elaborate uniforms, wearing breastplates, armed with long spears with an ax head and point, guarded the portal. They were a no nonsense twosome, as befitted their job.
“Who seeks entry to the Cid's Palace?” demanded one of the men.
“Captain Rey of the ship La Victoria,” he answered. “I have guests from the Empire to see the Cid. Jason Innes the son of David Innes and Maria.”
“Two Prisoners?” asked the guard.
“Two guests,” corrected the Captain. “At least for now.”
The last part sent a shiver down my back. I was glad Maria couldn't understand what he said.
We were ushered into the palace, the walls were filled with the skins of animals and bizarre murals showing ships and sea monsters. The floors were fine marble, and there were twisted columns. As we drew deeper into the palace, I saw nearly naked slave girls, working, bring in platters of food and flagons of wine. The slave girls wore gold collars. I could see Maria looking at them and wondering if there was such a collar destined for her.
The hall ended with two black ebony doors that were opened by two guards, beyond it was a vast thrown room, with massive pillars striped with red and yellow. Tables were spread for a feast. I could see breads, fruits and meats. At the head of a table, on a high backed chair set with jewels was a large man with a red beard. He wore a circle of gold set with a ruby at the forehead. His clothing was bright green and red. He had a ring on each finger and I instantly knew this was the Cid, ruler of the Korsars and a formidable fellow if ever there was one.
Rey bowed before him. I could notice a family resemblance.
“Father, I have found two emissaries from the Empire.”
“Spies from David Innes?” he said as a platter of food was placed before him. He took a joint of mean and took out a massive bite.
“We are not spies!” I said.
“Who gave you permission to speak?” barked the Cid.
Then Maria said something in Spanish -- she spoke for some time to a silent company. The Cid asked her something in the same language and she gave a long answer. She wasn't shouted down as I was. Then Rey added something in Spanish as well. A fat man at the table asked some questions, and she answered. What ever she was saying it looked like she was making an impression as she had with her dancing skills on the ship.
At that point Rey drew out the binoculars and advanced, giving them to his father. The man looked them over and was impressed. He looked though them as well, observing Maria. They impressed him and he handed them to the others at the table to examine. They liked the workmanship, I could see that. The men were talking amongst themselves.
After a time the Cid took a drink and pounded his goblet in the table. This stopped all conversation.
“Jason Innes,” he said looking at me. He spoke in Pellucidarian. “Will your father receive us and pay for returning you to him? Pay in gold?”
“Yes, as I told the captain,” I answered respectfully, “ We can offer much more, a treaty of peace and trade. The Empire has much to offer the Brotherhood and you have much we can use in the Empire. We should be allies and friends as the two most advance peoples in the Inner World.”
“Hear, hear,” said the red bearded ruler. “I have long said as much. I had considered holding you for random and risk another war with the Empire but I believe that a treaty would be more beneficial to both our peoples.”
Maria spoke some more and the group at the table were nodding their heads in agreement.
“I will send my only son, Rey, in the La Victoria to return you to Sari,” said the ruler. “He will sail under a white flag of truce? Will that be respected by the Empire and your father?”
“Yes, it will,” I told him.
“If all goes well, I will follow in the La Gaviota de Oro, my flagship, to confer with David Innes personally for a pact of friendship between our two lands.”
“It is long over due,” I said.
“Until you sail, you are my guests in the palace,” the Cid remarked. “I will have the Majordomo escort you to your rooms.”
“Your majesty,” I said not really knowing his title. “You might wish to bring your best ship builder along to confer with our Abner Perry. I believe he may have a project we can under take, building a large ship to transport an item -- a large item.” This seemed to interest the leader.
At that point Rey started to speak in Spanish and presented him with the Machine Gun, he had in a bag.
The bearded leader took it and opened the breach like an expert. I was glad It was unloaded least he try it out on me!
“Where are the bullets?” the Cid asked me. Maria said something and out of her bag produced a clip, handing it to the leader. It was passed from one to the other and when he got it, he shoved the clip in where it belonged.
“I have seen such things before,” the Cid said to me. “There is a group of savage people in the north, at the White Sea, who have such things and many other wonders. We encountered them in battle when I was a boy. We call them the people of the twisted cross. We even captured two of their weapons, but we had not the skills to make copies.”
“Who were these people?” I asked thinking they might be others from the outer world.
“They sail the seas in iron ships that travel under the sea -- they have flying bats that can travel far. We sent emissaries to them but none returned. They are a cruel, and barbaric people.”
Coming from a Korsar that was something. He got up and walked to the window of the room, where a small garden was graced with statues. He cocked the weapon and fired a burst that decapitated a marble work of art. This brought a smile to his face.
“Be seated son of David Innes, and Maria, dine with the Cid and his brotherhood council. A rare honor not granted to many.”
We took a seat at the end of the table, Maria sat next to the Captain. I saw her looking a him in a very interested way. I could see she was quite taken with the Korsar. The meat was spicy and reminded me of the foods I had tasted in San Mateo. I ate and watched and listened. They sang and drank and mostly spoke in their fast language with Maria adding a comment or two that caused laughter among them. When the food and drink was gone we were escorted by a servant to a set of rooms, Maria elected to stay with me. I was tired but she went out again. I saw her speaking with Captain Rey in the hallway before I went to sleep, the strong wine made sleep easy.
A NOVEL IN 9 CHAPTERS
|CH. 1||CH. 2||CH. 3||CH. 4||CH. 5||CH. 6||CH. 7||CH. 8||CH. 9|
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