The Duke's Admiral, Part 1 (Chapters 1-4)
|Mario_Greymist writes " The Duke's Admiral
What happens when good men do nothing? Some might say the Greyhawk Wars was the result of such: Evil expanded unchecked by the forces of Good until it was almost too late. In the Duchy of Urnst, unmarred by the recent horror that had swept most of the Flanaess, Duke Karll Lorinar-the Ranger Duke of Urnst-has seen the fruits of his own benign neglect and has vowed that past mistakes will be rectified…
The Duke's Admiral
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3rd of Coldeven, 588 CY
1st Bell, Dogwatch
Leukish, Duchy of Urnst
Three men sat around a highly decorative wooden table while a young woman, gowned in a layered blue dress that accentuated her high breasts and narrow waist, poured pale wine from a silver ewer at the sideboard. Two of the men had the wind-roughened, sun-bleached complexions of outdoorsmen more accustomed to the wilderness and out-of-doors than sitting in an enclosed, windowless room. The third, however, was slender and dandified, and sat at his ease, smiling and glancing often at the young, honey-blond woman who brought the tray of wine goblets and cuts of fruit and cheese to the table.
"I will wait outside, should you need me." She said, giving the third man a gentle caress before withdrawing from the room.
"You’re a fortunate man, Markael." Karll Lorinar, Duke of Urnst, Warden of the Abbor-Alz, said. The Ranger Duke lifted a goblet of wine and several wedges of apple from the tray and motioned for the others to help themselves.
"I am well aware of it, Your Grace." Markael Antivadran, Baron Leukish and sometime Master of Spies, replied with a self-satisfied smile framed by his trim mustache and neatly kept beard.
The small room lay within the private sanctum of the Dukes of Urnst, deep in the bowls of Castle Leukish. The castle had been built, as had the city, at the command of the Aeridian Duke of Urnst who had wanted a port on the Nyr Dyv that offered access to both the trade from the lake, as well as the precious stones and metals from the interior of the Duchy.
Unlike the towers there were no windows opening upon the shoreline vista or overlooking what the poet, Hluth Contegeux, called the White City. For men accustomed to the wilderness and fresh air, the inner chambers were akin to prison cells.
"Now that we’re alone, perhaps we could get to the crux of the matter." Lord Horatio Kaste asked in a manner brusquer than his normal blunt speech, "I got your message in Radigast City, and from what the messenger implied it was a serious matter."
"It was, and it is." Markael answered.
"The Ducal Navy is a shambles. The official reports bear no resemblance to the reports Markael provided me. Rampant corruption, mislaid supplies, embezzled payrolls; Markael even suspects certain captains engaged in unsanctioned piracy." Duke Karll growled savagely and downed a mouthful of wine to still his growing ire, "The Admiralty records show some ships have three or four Captains holding contiguous commands."
"Hadric." Horatio said acidly.
"Hadric, and the current admirals." Markael said, "The sales of commissions have been condoned in the past to bring in additional capital. Recently Admiral Carl Montdidier, Senior Admiral and Commandant of the Ducal Naval Academy…"
Horatio snorted, "A Ducal Naval Academy?"
"…has been re-selling commissions, and even commissions for ships that don’t even exist."
Markael added, "My informants have linked an increase in the illicit drug market—dreamdust, specifically—to certain Navy Captains. Others have informed me that there have been a number of suspected slaver ships in port of late, again dealing with certain Navy Captains."
"Do you have proof of this?" Horatio asked.
Markael shot a glance at Duke Karll, and then answered, "The Admirals have been…exceptionally careful about their practices, and they have a lot of political pull in the Honorable Chamber. I believe physical evidence exists, but have been unable to obtain it. Certain captains have been…less careful, but there again the evidence is still circumstantial."
"If I personally broke Admiral Montdidier on the hearsay of some dock-side whore, or a common sailor then I’d have half the Chamber in open rebellion, and the other half plotting it." Karll said.
"There is another option." Markael said.
"I won’t sanction assassination, Markael." The Duke growled, "I won’t say it again."
"What do you want me to do about it?" Horatio asked, taking one of the goblets and sipping at the white wine. He raised a pale, sun-streaked eyebrow in surprise at the smooth, fruity taste.
"Celedonian." Markael answered the unspoken question.
"I want to make you an admiral, and have you clean up the Navy." Karll said.
Horatio paused with the goblet at his lips, then carefully placed it back on the table.
"Why me?" His dark eyes were hooded and calculating, watching Karll’s face closely.
. "You’re a well known sea captain with more than thirty years experience aboard ship. You’re of a cadet branch of House Kaste, and aside from building a respectable little merchant fleet, what is it now, three or four ships?"
"Four." Horatio answered in clipped tones.
"Aside from building a respectable little fleet, you have few prospects in the political arena, and won’t rise much higher than you already are."
"So too, there are your actions during the Greyhawk Wars." Markael said, "You’ve proven to have the degree of ruthlessness that will be needed if you are to succeed."
Horatio cast a measuring look over the two men: blood brothers of the Stalwart Pines, oft time companions in the wilds of Oerth. Two rangers jerked from the wilds and dropped into a jungle of political intrigue that all their vaunted training had little prepared them for. Horatio was a good judge of character, a necessary ability to captain a ship for any length of time, and he deemed Markael Antivadran to have adapted to the new wilderness of stone castles, dinner parties, and political assignations better than had the Duke of Urnst.
"I want full authority." Horatio said.
"You’ll have it. I’ll invest you as the new Admiral of the Fleet."
"There isn’t an Admiral of the Fleet."
"There is now." Karll answered with a firm tone, "that is, if you take the offer."
"I want military appropriations equivalent of the Army and Ducal Guard." Horatio said.
"Out of the question!" Markael said.
"That’s three times current expenditures for the Navy!" Karll said.
"By Cuthbert’s Cudgel, gentlemen!" Horatio barked, "I can’t work without tools, and your grand navy will surely sink without funding. If you want to set sail for disaster, you can do it without me!"
"Maybe we could swing half that." Markael said.
"All of it, or you can find someone else to fail for you. Perhaps you can rope a Teranor into the position. They’ve been salivating over the possibilities for years."
Karll’s face turned red, "I am your Duke, I could order you to take the post."
"You could order me to cluck like a chicken and fly to the moon for all the good it will do you." Horatio shot back, "I won’t waste my time or my name on building a navy destined to failure."
Karll and Markael were silent for long moments. Karll took another swallow of wine, and then began chuckling, a low, deep laugh that grew into a full belly roll.
"You have a deal, Admiral." Karll laughed grimly, "You have a deal. And gods help anyone who gets in your way."
4th of Coldeven, 588 CY
3rd Bell, Morning Watch
Leukish, Duchy of Urnst
Horatio Kaste and his aide, Victor Teranor, stood leeward of the clapboard teashop and whiskey house, The Brass Cup, while watching the ships riding at anchorage in the Ducal Naval yard a hundred feet away. A gentle breeze wafted the scents of steaming spiced tea, strong spirits, spilled beer and the sizzle of sausage and cheese being served to an early morning crowd gathered before The Brass Cup and ruffled the nearly placid water of the lake. The gentle rise and fall of the Lower Lukala River as it met the Nyr Dyv didn’t stress the cables snugged around the bollards and belied the need for the bumpers that a few of the ships had over the sides to keep their wooden hulls from rubbing up against the stone piers. The Nyr Dyv was quiet now, the spring storms having spun themselves out in a ferocious blow two nights before, but every seaman who plied the cerulean waters of the Lake of Unknown Depths knew that the bumpers and wrist thick cables about the bollards were necessary unless they wanted the fickle lake to batter their vessels to matchsticks.
Both men were of like build, though Horatio was a finger or two taller than his companion, long of limb, broad of shoulder with an erect and proud carriage. Both had the weathered flesh that came from windburn and sunburn, the work roughened hands scarred and bruised by wood and rope, and the careful stride of one accustomed to the heave and roll of a deck under way. Horatio had a puzzle-work of crow’s-feet about his eyes from many years squinting over sun-dazzled waves and a tightness about the mouth that many called grim.
Hard eyes scanned the ships noting un-waxed and unvarnished wood, rotting lines, lines of wear along the strakes from times when bumpers had not been used to ward the hull, gaps in rails, either broken or telling of missing ship’s gear, rusting iron where the winking gleam of brass should have appeared. Hard eyes also noting also civilian vessels moored in a supposedly secure military anchorage.
"Victor, " Captain Horatio Kaste said in a voice low enough that his companion would hear, but not loud enough to carry to other ears, "when I leave the castle I want two dozen Wraths ready and waiting. All liberties are cancelled, crewmen are to report to their ships; I want you, Captains Patri, Tandeel, and Zanderhae in full dress regalia waiting as well."
"Aye-aye, sir. Is that all?"
"All for now, Victor." Horatio said, "You’ve got a couple of hours, if I know the Honorable Chamber, but you had best be off."
"Aye-aye, sir!" Victor said and took off at a run.
Horatio took one last look at the dilapidated ships and grimaced in disgust. Turning on his heel he strode off towards the city gates.
4th of Coldeven, 588 CY
7th Bell, Morning Watch
Leukish, Duchy of Urnst
"…and so, My Lords, I am proposing a solution to the problem instigated by the traitor, Hadric, and prolonged by the political infighting between Houses Teranor and Kaste." Duke Karll Lorinar intoned. His brown, shoulder length hair was combed back from his high brow and he wore the electrum and platinum diadem of the Dukes of Urnst. His blue eyes flashed as he gazed about the chamber, noting that he had the attention of all the Lords and Ladies of Urnst.
The Honorable Chamber was unusually silent. Like the calm before the storm they all felt the tension in the air, but none knew what His Lordly Grace, Duke Karll Lorinar, had up his sleeve.
Despite the verbal slap against her House, Lady Morlyn Teranor watched the Duke with unveiled interest, the hint of a smile curving her lips. Lady Ladriella Kaste frowned, and tapped her folded fan against the palm of her other hand. Their two Houses had been warring politically for years for control of the Ducal Navy.
That House Teranor was concerned only for the political and economic leverage control of the Ducal Navy would bring; and that House Kaste, a House known for it’s naval traditions, was more concerned with the shameful decline of the Ducal Navy did not matter. Their political wrangling had halted any solution from being implemented and had hastened the navy’s deterioration.
Both Houses had petitioned the Duke for a final decision on the matter. Neither truly knew what his decision had been, and his enigmatic smile was betraying nothing.
A page entered the chamber from a side door carrying a stilt-legged tray laden with a smoking brazier, a knotted whip, and several scrolls, carefully sealed and beribboned. He set the tray beside the throne and backed away.
There was some whispering, but it was quickly stilled as Duke Karll rose from his throne, letting his ermine cape of silver and jet to fall from his shoulders.
In response the Orator of the Honorable Chamber crashed the foot of his ceremonial staff against the stones and intoned in his booming voice, "All Hail the Right-Wise Victor of Strandkeep, the Hero of Kettle Bay, the Thrice-Renowned Lord Horatio Kaste of House Kaste."
The doors of the Honorable Chamber swung silently open and Horatio Kaste moved forward with stiff dignity wearing the full dress regalia of his noble House and the awards and commendations garnered over thirty years spent in the service of the Duchy of Urnst.
There was a murmuring about the chamber as he strode forward, the dam of silence broken as Horatio, numbered one of the most able captains of the Urnst Merchant Marine and one of the most daring of House Kaste, entered the hall. Many there knew him, his fame after the running battle between his undermanned and damaged cog against two pirate vessels that had culminated in the battle of Kettle Bay had spread far and wide.
It was also rumored that he had served the Ducal throne in a capacity other than that of a simple ship’s captain. Seeing the steely glint in his gray eyes and the firm chin lifted as if daring anyone to challenge his will gave many of the assembled Lords pause to consider that the rumors could very well be true.
Horatio paused three strides from the steps leading up to the ducal throne, saluted as a mariner of the Duchy of Urnst, fist to breast, took one more step and knelt before his sovereign with bowed head, "Your Grace commands?"
"Rise, Horatio Kaste." The Duke intoned as he began invoking the traditional words of the investiture.
Horatio rose and stood at attention before the Duke.
"Do you, Horatio Kaste, Peer of the Duchy of Urnst, Suel Lord and Descendant of Suel Lords, Scion of House Kaste and Captain in the Duchy’s Merchant Marine pledge your Life, Honor, and Liberty to the Honor and Safety of the Duchy of Urnst and the House of Lorinar; not withstanding the laying aside the Duties, Prerogatives and Perquisites of a Cadet of House Kaste and a Noble of the Duchy of Urnst?"
"Aye, your Grace, I do, though I be lashed by whip, burned by flame or pierced by steel."
Karll nodded and turned to the table-tray at his left and lifted the barbed and knotted lash. He lay the lash across Horatio’s left shoulder, then his right, "You have suffered the lash."
Laying aside the lash Duke Karll drew a poniard from its gilt scabbard and pinked Horatio’s left thumb as the nobleman held his hand forth, "you have suffered the steel."
Karll turned once again to the tray-table and gripped the wooden handle of a brand thrust into the brazier. He drew it forth from its bed of coals and blew on the end to remove the ash. The steel glowed a dull orange, and with one swift, sure movement Karll pressed the sigil to the flesh of Horatio’s hand. Horatio did not flinch at the heat of the brand, though his eyes tightened at the sick smell of scorched skin and beads of perspiration sprung out on his forehead.
"You have suffered the flame." Karll laid the brand back in the brazier.
With a grim smile and a certain level of satisfaction Karll lifted the sealed scrolls from the table, "Having taken your oaths, I, Karll Lorinar, Duke of Urnst, Warden of the Abbor-Alz do hereby invest you, Lord Horatio Kaste, as Admiral of the Fleet with all duties and privileges inherent thereunto…"
"No! I must protest!" Lady Morlyn Teranor shouted from her place in the Circle of Lords.
Surprise turned to shocked outrage as various lords and ladies realized what the Duke had done. The oath precluded the Honorable Chamber, which normally selected all senior military officers, generals and admirals. Such selection had the force of tradition, if not the force of law, and few Dukes had thought to brook tradition, merely submitting their choices to the Honorable Chamber for approval or disapproval.
Duke Karll not only flouted that tradition, he had turned the tradition on its ear by swearing Horatio Kaste not only to the nation, but also as a liegeman to the House of Lorinar. Howl as they might, the Honorable Chamber could do nothing now; the new Admiral was completely free of their influence.
A few shared secret smiles of jubilation. Lady Morlyn Teranor snarled in outrage as two supporters tried to hush her. Lady Ladriella Kaste sat primly and expressionless. Many would think her House the victor in the political war, but those who knew her well saw that she was very disturbed by the turn of events.
"…acting at all times in honor." Karll ended, and then added in a whisper, "now go fix my navy."
"As my Duke commands." Horatio replied with a salute.
Horatio stepped out of the front gate of the castle; almost skipping down the wide steps that lead up from the street level to the iron-bound double doors. As he descended he caught sight of the cluster of sailors in the Wrath’s colors lead by a bosun’s mate, Mr. Tangborn. Victor stood at ease with the three merchant captains that skippered Horatio’s three other ships: Nias Patri, Albureth Tandeel, and Zan Zanderhae.
Horatio stopped two steps above the gathering and tucked three scrolls into an inner pocket of his dress jacket, "Gentlemen, I hope you got plenty of sleep last night because we’ve all just joined the Navy. Captains, if you don’t want to join me, I’ll buy back your commissions at a premium, but I can’t let you take the ships. I’m going to need them."
The three captains looked somewhat flustered at the sudden pronouncement, but Horatio continued, "I apologize for the rush, but I need your decision now. Do any of you wish to leave my service?"
Nias Patri cocked his head, "I stood by you when we were running blades into the Shield Lands past Iuz’s patrols; I don’t think joining the Urnst Navy will be much worse than that."
"The pay is worse, but I figure we’ll make it up some way." Albureth said, she looked at Horatio, "You don’t plan on playing navy forever, do you?"
"That depends on the circumstances." Horatio said with a tight smile.
"We’re with you." Zan said firmly with his hands on his hips. Unlike the others, the Suloise captain knew full well the disaster that was the Ducal Navy, having once served as the First Mate on the Golden Crane: a galley since lost to the Greyhawk Wars.
"Very good, then." Horatio trotted down the last few steps and began striding down the wide boulevard towards the eastern side of the city, "We’re off to the Naval Academy: what used to be the Governor’s Mansion when Hadric was in power. I understand that Admiral Carl Montdidier has made it into his command headquarters."
4th of Coldeven, 588 CY
Leukish, Duchy of Urnst
According to Markael Antivadran, the mansion of the former Lord-Governor of Leukish, before the title and the last holder of that honor were removed by the sitting Duke of Urnst, had become the Urnst Naval Academy: the home and headquarters of Admiral Carl Montdidier.
Horatio glanced around at the manicured lawns and topiary creatures that dotted the grounds. If the grounds and mansion truly were a school of naval traditions, it was hardly in evidence.
"Halt!" A guard in the livery of the Ducal Navy stepped from a guardhouse set beside the gate and presented his pike. Horatio and his entourage stopped.
"This is the private property of his Lordly Might, Admiral Carl Montdidier." The guard said, "Return to the street, citizen."
"Mr. Tangborn." Horatio said in a clipped voice.
"Aye-aye, sir!" The bosun’s mate replied, "Carter, Hkluth, you two and me."
The burly bosun’s mate and two ratings stepped forward in an inverted ‘V’. The guard squawked when he realized he was being assaulted rather than obeyed, and dropped the point of his pike towards Tangborn in a belated thrust.
The petty officer caught the ferrule of the pike in one meaty hand, closing around the seasoned ash like grim death. The two ratings pounced on the guard before he could release the pike and grab the whistle that hung from his neck.
With swift movements they had the guard trussed with his own clothes and tucked back into the guardhouse with his underclothes as a gag.
"Very good, Mr. Tangborn." Horatio said, ignoring the sputtering laughs and quiet jibes of the ratings behind him.
Horatio marched on across the green, ignoring the meandering stone path that led past gurgling fountains and low stone benches scattered around the yard. Victor, half a step behind, could hear the Admiral muttering about misappropriated Navy gold as Horatio strode dourly across the way.
The terrazzo facing the doublewide doors of the mansion depicted a coiling barracuda and the forked spear of Osprem and Xerbo, Suel patrons of the sea, sailors and commerce. The imagery was mirrored on the hardwood doors in mahogany and oak. Two bronze knockers were centered in each door.
"Looks like being an admiral pays well." Albureth said in a low tone of amazement. Mutters from the ratings’ echoed Albureth’s assessment.
"Hrmph!" Horatio said; his jaw clenched in determination and outrage.
Victor stepped to one of the knockers, "Should I knock?"
Horatio shook his head once, "Lets just go right in. If they left the front door open, they deserve whatever wanders in."
They trooped in behind Horatio admiring the gilt expense that had gone into the construction and decoration of the mansion. Horatio’s face became more stonily silent with every step.
Two steps into the foyer of the mansion and a young man dressed nattily in the fashions currently in vogue in Leukish accosted them.
"Excuse me, can I help you?" The young man said, drawing himself up to his full height in the face of such a large gathering.
"Where is Admiral Montdidier?" Horatio asked in a firm voice that brooked no insolence while looking the young man up and down.
"The Admiral is indisposed at the moment." The man flushed, "Perhaps I can make an appointment for you, perhaps tomorrow when the Admiral is accepting visitors?"
"And who are you?"
"I am Ensign Duren Foest, the Admiral’s aide." The girlishly pretty young man answered.
"Aide for what?" someone whispered insinuatingly.
Foest flushed scarlet and the captains and ratings laughed, but a look from Horatio stifled the outburst.
"Victor, make a note. Standardized uniforms, including rank insignia."
"Aye-aye, sir." Victor said with a nod. His eyes unfocused for a moment as he made a mental note; like many of his House, Victor had an almost eidetic memory: a useful enough trick at any time, and particularly useful to a busy ship’s captain and mercantile hopeful.
"Very well, Ensign. Take me to the Admiral’s study, and then send someone to fetch Admiral Montdidier, whether he’s indisposed or not." Horatio said firmly.
Ensign Foest balked, "I think not! Look you, whomever you are, you don’t just burst in and demand to see the Admiral. He’s a busy man. Now, if you know what is good for you, you’ll leave right now and come back when you have an appointment."
A savage chuckle erupted from the ratings joined by the captains as the pompous twit folded his arms and tried to stare down Horatio Kaste.
"Sonny, you may think your shit don’t stink because you’re the personal bum-boy of a ranking Admiral. But that don’t wash with me! I am Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Horatio Kaste, and I will, by the gods, be shown Admiral Montdidier’s study, and you will retrieve the Admiral from whatever pesthole he’s hiding in and you will both report to me, or by all that you hold dear you will wish that your mother had died a virgin!" Horatio blasted the young man with a voice that had battled with thunderstorms.
Ensign Foest nearly wilted where he stood, his eyes wide and staring.
"Y…yes, sir. It’s this way." The man pointed to his left, trembling violently.
"Lead on, Ensign." Horatio said, his voice returned to normal levels. Foest jumped as if pricked by hot poker and stepped out front.
"And Ensign, " Horatio said as he followed the young man down the lavishly decorated hallway, "this isn’t the Army, you answer ‘Aye-aye’, not ‘Yes’."
Horatio sat behind the oaken desk in Admiral Montdidier’s study. Horatio could not fault the Admiral’s taste; the hardwood had been carved with fanciful images of sea-monsters, ships, and holy symbols of various gods of the ocean, ships and sailors. Horatio could, and did, fault the Admiral for wasting gold on such a lavish desk when his ships lay rotting in the harbor.
Like the rest of the mansion the study was well appointed, with cherry wood and leather predominant, though where not cherry, other hardwoods were used. There was a small library of expensively bound books; a rack for dozens of nautical charts, out of date Horatio noted; a glass-doored cabinet for the Admiral’s liquor, and cut crystal classes as well. The desk held two gold-quill pens, and ink stone, and a large supply of Baklunish paper.
Behind an oil painting of Montdidier, fictionally in the midst of a raging sea battle, they had found an iron safe: as Markael had said they would. Without keys they could not unlock it, and Horatio had sent two of the ratings back to the Wrath for Physter Phynch. Whether Montdidier surrendered up the keys or not, Physter would be able to open the safe.
"…Do you, Captain Nias Patri, Peer of the Duchy of Urnst, Suel Lord and Descendant of Suel Lords, pledge your life, honor and liberty to the honor and safety of the Duchy of Urnst, to abide by the regulations of the Navy, obey all lawful orders, and to serve with distinction even to the giving up of your life?"
"Aye, Admiral, I do." Nias Patri answered.
"Captain Patri, here is your commission. Bear it in honor and uphold the traditions of the Navy."
"Thank you, sir." Nias took the freshly signed parchment and stepped back with his fellows.
"Thank you gentlemen. Now, if you’ll all take your places and remember your cues, I can hear Admiral Montdidier on his way." Horatio asked.
The three newly commissioned captains of the Navy of Urnst took seats around the room as ordered. Albureth shot an amused look at Nias as they sat side by side and slowly fanned their newly penned commissions so the ink would dry.
"How does it feel to be in the Navy, Nias?"
"About as good as attending my own funeral, but I think I’ll get over it."
They fell silent as the sounds of struggle reached their ears. The voice of Admiral Montdidier, raised in outrage, passed through even the heavy wooden doors of the study.
"I’ll have you chained to an oar of a garbage scow, you ape-brained peon!" Admiral Montdidier shouted as he was thrust through the door into his own study by the burly Tangborn and two ratings.
Tangborn released the Admiral and stepped back, a smile on his face. The two ratings stepped out of the study and closed the door behind them.
"Do you know who you are dealing with?" Montdidier demanded, jerking his tunic straight and smoothing his hair. He looked at the three captains "What are you doing in my study? What is going on here?"
"Admiral Montdidier, I requested your presence." Horatio said in a low tone, catching the flustered Montdidier’s attention, "I missed you at the investiture this morning."
"Horatio Kaste? I didn’t know you were in the city." Montdidier said in confusion, his eyes narrowed, "Just what do you think you’re playing at?"
"As of today, I am Admiral of the Fleet, charged with rebuilding the Ducal Navy."
"You’re what?" Montdidier asked incredulously, "There’s no such thing. I’m the senior Admiral, Kaste. You House mariners think you can break the rules any which way you want, well by the gods you’ve gone too far this time. I’ll have you in the brig for this! I’ll have you…"
"Here is my commission, Admiral." Horatio said evenly, breaking Montdidier’s tirade, and holding out a beribboned scroll.
Montdidier snatched the scroll and unrolled it. His face blanched and drained of color as he read.
"This…this is unreasonable. I should have been given this command." Montdidier stuttered.
"There are those that believe that you are unworthy of the trust inherent in such a position." Horatio said, "Indeed, there are those that believe you are unworthy of the trust inherent in your current position."
Montdidier drew himself up indignantly, "Who dares disparage my name? Dare they make their charges public? I challenge them to try and slander me in the Honorable Chamber."
Montdidier slapped the beribboned scroll down on his desktop.
"I will appeal this decision. We shall see how long this little farce of your lasts, Kaste." Montdidier spat.
"I thought that would be your reaction, Admiral." Horatio smiled, "And quite frankly I welcome the insubordination. Captains, will two of you join me: Captain Albureth, Captain Nias?"
"Assuredly, Admiral." Albureth said with a nod, and took a chair beside Horatio behind the wide desk.
"Aye, sir." Nias replied and took a seat opposite Albureth.
"Admiral Montdidier, you have two choices: you may resign your commission and publicly retire from the Navy, or you can stand trial, now, in courts martial." Horatio said flatly, "Choose."
"I will not retire, Kaste." Montdidier’s eyes flashed, "and I won’t bow to trumped up charges before a kangaroo court, Kaste." Montdidier spat, "I demand a trial of peers."
"The Honorable Chamber does not govern courts martial, Admiral Montdidier. As I am your superior, and not your peer, and these officers are duly commissioned in the Ducal Navy, this tribunal shall find guilt or innocence. There will be no appeal to the Honorable Chamber." Horatio said with quiet, deadly assurance.
Montdidier was silent as the import of Horatio’s words hit home.
"You’re trying to force me out."
"Yes, Admiral." Horatio said, "You can go quietly, or you can go fighting, but you will go. The Navy is no longer your place."
They could see Montdidier’s decision to brazen it out flash through his eyes.
"I’ll be damned if I give way before a half-breed byblow." Montdidier snapped, eyes blazing and chest out in defiance, "Your allegations are fantasies, fabrications. Do your worst!"
"Very well, Admiral." Horatio intoned, "Captain Albureth, if you’ll give ask the blessing?"
"Aye, sir." Albureth said, then bowed her head and touched the holy symbol of Osprem that she pulled from her jacket, "Holy Osprem, guide this tribunal, give it wisdom and discernment, place your blessing upon the innocent, and your retribution upon the guilty."
"I, Admiral of the Navy, Lord Horatio Kaste, do hereby convene this tribunal to review the acts and deeds of those brought before it. I promise mercy for the innocent, and retribution for the guilty, so do I swear."
"So do I swear." The two captains beside him intoned.
"Admiral Montdidier, you have been charged with incompetence, corruption and unbecoming an officer in the Ducal Navy." Horatio said, "This tribunal has been convened to find the truth of these matters. How do you plead?"
"How do I plead? Seriously, Kaste, you are delusional." Montdidier said, "The charges are empty, fabrications."
"May the prosecution speak?" Zan inquired as he rose from his chair next to the door. He unrolled another scroll.
Montdidier fumed and crossed his arms over his chest. He watched Captain Zanderhae as he began reading from the scroll.
"Eighth of Patchwall, Common Year 587: three hundred gold paid for two pounds dreamdust. Eleventh of Ready’reat, Common Year 587: received twelve hundred gold and thirteen ivory statuettes from Ship’s Captain Kastrel Teranor. Twenty-sixth of Ready’reat, Common Year 587: two dozen female slaves sold to slavers trading with the Pomarj…"
Horatio Kaste’s visage became stony as his eyes bore into Admiral Montdidier.
"Tenth of Sunsebb, Common Year 587: two hundred gold for the commission of Captain Tierbreck Sandini…" Zan continued reading at a pedantic pace, each syllable another stone dropping into a bucket, the assured tramp of doom.
"Fabrications!" Montdidier shouted angrily, "Out and out lies, all of them."
A knock came at the door and Victor looked in, "Sir, the wizard Physter is here."
"Have him wait, Victor."
"If I may, Admiral," Zan said, "the wizard may be able to provide proof of these charges, beyond what evidence already exists."
"Send him in." Horatio nodded.
"Hello Captain, or should I now say Admiral?" Physter Phynch asked as he strode through the door. Physter did not fit the typical mold of the studious wizard, graying with age and hunched from many hours pouring over fading manuscripts. He was a tall man with flashing blue eyes, platinum blond hair and the pale of complexion of a pureblood Suel. He wore hose, rather than robes, and a tunic in the fashion of Leukish courtiers. It was belted about with a wide leather belt that held pouches and pockets; loops securing slender bone or wooden wands, and from which depended numerous charms and amulets of arcane design: the tools and components of his trade.
"Admiral will do, Physter." Horatio said, "Thank you for coming. There is a wall-mounted safe behind that picture there. Will you open it please."
"Certainly, Admiral." Physter replied. He glanced at the picture with a connoisseur’s eye, "rather a horrid piece, if I do say so myself."
With an arrogant flourish of his wrist the painting floated free of its hooks and settled on the floor.
Montdidier suddenly seemed ready to faint, his face was pale and his breathing had sped up. His eyes darted nervously to Horatio and back to the safe.
"There are protective glyphs, but I should have it open in a few moments" Physter said. He pointed both hands at the wall safe and began chanting in a language that seemed familiar to all in the room, and yet was incomprehensible. A shimmering of azure grew around the safe, and within the hazy blue light crimson symbols burned with malevolent energy. The crimson light flashed and winked out and of a sudden the wall safe sprang open.
"Well placed glyphs, but not good enough." Physter said archly, buffing the fingernails of his right hand on his tunic. With a flick of his left hand the contents of the safe wafted across the room to come to rest before Horatio on the broad desktop.
"No…" Montdidier moaned, his voice just above a whisper.
Horatio glanced across several of the pages, opened one of the logbooks and read some of the entries.
"How did you know?" Montdidier said, his voice rising, "You knew. You knew before you came here. Who told you? Who sold me out?"
"Montdidier, I don’t know what was more foolish, betraying your country and your service, or keeping records of such treachery." Horatio flicked a fingernail off the logbook.
"Who sold me out?" Montdidier shouted.
Physter glanced at the man and stepped around the desk away from him, "not much of a sporting fellow, is he?"
"Your actions have been noted for some time by those who needed to know. Admiral Montdidier, if this were the Honorable Chamber you would probably get away with your actions; few Lords are willing to impugn the honor of a peer, for such would shine a spotlight upon their own failings. Before today you were the senior admiral, and your word was as law to the Navy." Horatio’s voice was smooth but inexorable as the tide rolling towards crescendo with the unstoppable power of nature.
"But as of today, I am the Admiral of the Navy, and I find your actions reprehensible and ill-suited to an officer of this Navy." Horatio’s voice boomed with the power of a thunderstorm, "Captain’s how do you find?"
Albureth said, "Guilty."
"Guilty" Nias nodded.
"Admiral Montdidier, this tribunal finds you guilty."
Montdidier drew himself up, refusing to look at the three officers even as Horatio pronounced his sentence.
"As Admiral of the Navy and senior officer of this courts martial I sentence you to be stripped of titles and honor; your name struck from the roles of the Navy. Your House will return any ill-gotten gains and Naval property. The Honorable Chamber will make dispensation as to further the fines and punishments for your House. As for you, Carl Montdidier, tomorrow you will hang."
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|Re: The Duke's Admiral (Score: 1)|
by MTG (firstname.lastname@example.org) on Sun, July 20, 2003
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|Congratulations on rendering this narrative with skill. For further comments, see the Peer Review folder in the Greyhawk Writer's Workshop forum.|
|Re: The Duke's Admiral (Score: 1)|
by Argon on Tue, July 22, 2003
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|Well done a very good story keep up the good work. Although your shit don't stink wasn't to my liking. The rest of it was well written I need to have a PC of mine read this because she thinks that the nobles expect to much of her. |