Mirrored from Sythyry.
We were more than a little nervous and skittish as we approached Dossimar.
Now, we didn’t have to approach Dossimar at all. We could have slithered around the other side of the tree.
Neither did we actually fly through Dossimar’s territory. By ancient custom and a multiplicity of peripluses, the air that is not directly over Dossimar Mene is not part of Dossimar. So we stayed a careful four miles from anywhere that they formally claim.
And we had discussed the matter at great length for days, and decided that it was a good idea — or a bad but exciting idea — or a tolerable risk, since we were up by one evil high priest, several new enchantments, and all of us paying attention from the beginning.
But we were still annoyed at them from the time they tried to pirate upon us, and we wanted to see what had become of them in the intervening months. And perhaps to test out Strayway’s new weapons and defenses.
We were not disappointed.
We were also not obviously Strayway. Strayway looked, as of that morning, like a very ordinary three-masted skyboat named The Enigmatic Serpent of Doom. (The entire crew insisted on the last bit.) Some of us considered this provocation of the presumably-still-sky-pirates. Others argued that, if Dossimar was still assaulting innocent skyboats as they sail past, they deserve whatever doom we can pour upon them.
Dossimar Mene is somewhat less wrecked than when we left it, but only somewhat. The city itself has tall ramparts of soil and detritus in a ring about it, with three narrow valleys at the city’s three gates for people to get in and out. The countryside has two dozen small and square and very deep lakes, going down all the way to the world-wood. We could not, from the sky, see the signs of deeper disasters that broadsheets had told us: the widespread contempt that Dossimar earned for its crimes and its inability to commit them and its inability to even protect its citizens. The depopulated countryside: Vae had spared their lives, but nonetheless many of them left for safer countries. The poverty, the political discord, the furious rages inside the city, we could not see from above. They had appeared in broadsheets though.
I wouldn’t say that they hadn’t learned their lesson. I am quite certain that the pirates of Dossimar knew that piracy was a poor trade. But what choice did they have, either personally or as a city? Their reputations and economy were in ruins.
(That question has various answers, incidentally. They could have dispersed and joined various militaries or knightly orders, say. A few years working for Kvarse or Lenhirrik will do wonders for the reputation. If the city’s economy was beyond salvage, the city could have been abandoned altogether; there is plenty of World Tree. But these are the acts of the humble, who understand their situation and are willing to accept its realities (e.g., those who had already left Dossimar, this being perhaps half the city’s population). They are not the act of the arrogant and mighty. Or so I conjecture.)
So the lesson that they learned was: Take what you can, while there is still anything to take.
The battle-barge Duncan’s Glory teleported out of clouds into our path; the xebec-o-war Soothing Ointment slithered into a watchful position above us; The Terrible Bean took up a spot below us; and a blasting-ketch named Holy Reverie by its side.
Drogimargue: “Ahoy, the Emblematic Serpent from Doona, or whatever that is. For the tolls of transport, you owe us a large purse!”
Windigar: “Ahoy, Drogimargue. For the crime of piracy, you owe us your head!”
Drogimargue: “Hah, hah! After you have paid, you may come aboard and use our toilet.”
Phaniet rewrote the delicate currents of space outside of the Strayway. Vae made unnecessary adjustments to the vast and secret walls she had provided for us. I made sure that the less martial of us were in safe places inside, and fretted about my newly-repaired skyboat.
Windigar: “You make puns, when the situation calls for punishment. Surrender now, or worse shall befall to you than happened in the catastrophe that wrecked your city-state!”
Drogimargue: “Hah, you have no such capabilities! You are a small boat, and alone, and with only the minimal magics that any skyboat needs. You’ve not even got a working escape charm!” Vae did not want anyone outside to see our capabilities by magic sense, and reality did not see fit to quarrel with Vae when she was in that sort of mood.
Windigar: “That word you’re looking for is ‘Enigmatic’.”
Drogimargue: “Hah, you’re as enigmatic as a pile of fresh pig intestines. And you’re due to look like that too, unless you pay the toll. Oh, by the way, the toll just went up twelvefold. We don’t like threats.”
Windigar: “Actually, you should ask for enough to replace that damnable Duncan’s Glory, because we’re going to destroy it out of the sky in a moment. We don’t like threats either.”
Drogimargue: “Yoi, and I’ll bet you’re about to say you’ve got a nendrai with you too. Everyone’s saying that nowadays. Must be a proper import-export business in nendrai on the main trunk that just started! Funny thing, though. Usually those nendrai are just words. They don’t come out to defend the ship when we put a harpoon through the hull.”
The four pirate boats prepared their weapons ostentatiously. We prepared ours more quietly.
Windigar: “In fact, we do have one, and a wizard and an evil high priest too. Surrender now, and we’ll take you to the Sky Pilot’s Guild for justice, but we’ll promise that your heirs get to inherit your current possessions.”
Drogimargue: “Big words from someone without a weapon or a spell on board! Vipery, be a good boy and take off their starboard sail, would you?”
Vipery, presuming he was the gunner of the Holy Reverie, tossed grey-green flames at Strayway. We did not permit that to succeed.
Drogimargue: “A snee-devil in brocade! Vipery, you have widely missed; you have struck Duncan’s Glory, and besinged my charming coiffure, and set little fires blazing all over the decks!”
Vipery: “Not sure what happened there, Droggy. I was pointing right at ‘em, sure as peas is peas. It was a spell, a twisting-spell, I tell you that!”
Oonanau: [calling out from Soothing Ointment] “No such spell have they! Payment for the wounds and the damages will come out of your share, idiot Vipery! But fear not — we shall take the whole skyboat as compensation, and even your diminished share shall be substantial.”
At which point, a rather annoyed Yerenthax ran Drogimargue through with her long-range sabre. An equally annoyed Phaniet tossed a steel point with a burning treetrunk behind it at Duncan’s Glory. An equally annoyed Sythyry, in the Garden of Statues, put several good spells on the missile between one instant and another: Gnarn and Flokin to make the fire-blast far more dangerous, Magnify the Magnificent Munitions to make it larger, Prolongation of the Conflagration cast with the Glory of Hren Tzen to make it burn for a while, Magic Resistance of Iron to help it get through Duncan’s Glory’s own protections, and a spontaneous Durudor variant of Mighty Archer so that it wouldn’t miss and waste all the other magic. Nangbang, without benefit of time stoppage, added one mighty and fairly sacred spell to emphasize the destructive aspect of fire.
It didn’t miss.
I paused a moment to admire the contrast between Holy Reverie’s little blast and my high-effort attack. The former — and do recall, it was intended as a skyboat-injurer — had left a dozen little smoulders on Duncan’s Glory, and hurt Drogimargue to the point where he complained. The latter — and do recall, I had worked hard to make it mightier — left the entire skyboat ablaze, and killed everyone on board.
Not for long of course, though I did see a few Heal the Awful Wound and healing spells flicker up some seconds later. I gather that some pirates were revived, then died in the continuing fires, and then got revived again.
Drogimargue: “My skyboat! My Duncan’s Glory!”
Windigar: “Actually, Vipery’s right. The nendrai’s pretty skillful, really. Anyhow, surrender or die, die or surrender, right about now would be a very good time.”
Oonanau: “Aieee! A nendrai! A nendrai is come!” She sounded a touch frantic, though under the circumstances a certain degree of phobia may be forgiven.
Vae: “The nendrai is just doing defenses, for she is a meek and polite nendrai. The wizard and the evil high priest are the ones killing you!”
Soothing Ointment, The Terrible Bean, and Holy Reverie turned and fled. Duncan’s Glory tried to turn and flee as well.
Me: “Remember this! You did not know that we were so dangerous, but we are … more dangerous than you have seen yet! We shall return, in a different guise, and you shall not recognize us. And next time we shall not let you escape! So we do recommend that you abandon your lives of crime, that you surrender yourselves to the Sky Pilots’ Guild for their justice — for it shall be more merciful than ours!”
(Which is to say, we really aren’t set up for taking prisoners on Strayway, especially a pile of sky pirates. We would make shift to handle them if we got them, of course.)
Duncan’s Glory did not much seem to like our advice. It had been burning as it dived — the crew had not managed to put it out. Drogimargue commanded a quick turn, and the sky-barge went to pieces, blazing as they fell from the sky. I don’t know exactly who survived and who did not. I certainly saw some prime shapes casting levitation spells — too high up; the spells would surely expire before they came to the ground. Unless the casters had more cley (probably) or get picked up by another pirate ship (unlikely, unless the others came back to get them).
Phaniet: “Well, if you ever want to go be a sky pirate yourself, Sythyry, you’ve got all the equipment.”
But I think we’ll count this as a victory in the rematch.