Dinner and a Plan, Part 1
Sammel greeted his guests as they trickled into the antechamber adjoining the dining room. Under his instructions, the kitchen staff had expanded the planned meal into a mini-banquet, with a variety of dishes designed to give everyone a chance at a meal of their liking. Fresh salads, a hearty lentil soup, a delectable pork roast, and three or four seafood dishes were standing ready to be served to the diners, along with several of Tyndar's best wines. First, though, aperitifs were being served while Sammel waited for everyone to gather.
Sammel smiled as Melyda entered, having quickly washed and changed in another of Tyndar's many guest rooms. He sent her a questioning look with a raised eyebrow, and nodded once with satisfaction as she answered with a nod and a smile. Then he turned to the others.
"We have one more person joining us. Once he arrives, we can proceed in to dinner, and then start some serious planning." Just as he finished saying that, a retainer appeared in the doorway. "Captain Alvezo, m'lord," he announced, then quickly withdrew before he could be dwarfed by the powerful sea captain.
"What did I tell you? Perfect timing," Sammel said with a grin to the others. Then he strode forward, giving Alvezo a greeting hand-clasp. "Alvezo, it's wonderful to see you! Business has been good, I trust?"
Captain Alvezo laughed heartily. "Business has never been better, my friend! The greater the import taxes, the more people look for less expensive ways of getting fine goods." He winked broadly at the assembled company. "Will you introduce me to your friends--especially to these charming ladies?"
Sammel chuckled and began the round of introductions, though hoping that the shyer members of the group wouldn't be too put off by Alvezo's ebullience. "Chaer, of course, you already know. Channi is a member of his people, and the one who brought us the news of the pirates."
Alvezo nodded somberly to Channi and said, "I am sorry to hear that your village has been attacked. Never fear, we will help to free your people."
Channi ducked her head shyly. This big captain seemed so much like the pirates she had seen...and yet not. He certainly seemed sympathetic. And Chaer obviously trusted him. So she finally looked up and said, "Th-thank you."
"And this is Melyda," Sammel said. "I'm sure you've heard me mention her before."
"Indeed!" replied Alvezo, bowing low and kissing Melyda's hand gallantly. "But you did not do her justice! My dear, I have half a bolt of rose-colored silk that would make an exquisite gown for you, and at a very reasonable price."
Melyda chuckled, even as she blushed a bit at his words. She'd heard much about this roguish captain from Sammel before she'd left Tyndar...but Sammel hadn't done Alvezo justice, either. "I'd love to see it, Captain, though I doubt a gown would be ready before we leave. But I do want to thank you for your readiness to help us--it means much to us all."
"These are Wren Hazeroth and Fontaine Cowene," Sammel continued. "They were kind enough to volunteer their services while we were in Montfort."
"That's my name! Wren Hazeroth at your service" And he bowed at the waist in greeting.
Alvezo returned the bow, then, noticing that Fontaine looked a bit shy, contented himself with inclining his head toward her. "I am happy to meet you both!" he said with a smile.
Fontaine pushed her glasses back up her nose and murmured, "A pleasure."
Sammel finally took Sarra by the hand. "And this is Sarra Worthington, my definite-though-we-haven't-announced-it-yet fiancee." He grinned, though there had been a faint warning tone in his voice.
"Why Sammel, my friend, a man would think you did not trust me!" cried Alvezo with a mock-hurt expression. "I will not steal her from you. Nevertheless," he added, turning to Sarra, "if he does not treat you properly, just come to me and Jonan Alvezo will be at your service." He bowed to her, with a roguish smile.
Sarra squeezed Sammel's hand gently as she stood, chuckling inwardly as she caught Sammel's not-so-hidden tone. "Captain, it is a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance," she said, inclining her head slightly as she grins. "I have certainly heard your name mentioned before in the...business...circles."
Sammel cocked an eyebrow at Sarra, more than a bit surprised. 'Her connections must be more extensive than I realized,' he thought, making a mental note to ask her about it later. He gestured expansively and said, "Honored guests, you are more than welcome for dinner."
He ushered them into the secondary dining hall, which was a more welcoming size than the main one. Servitors stood ready to offer the diners their choice of the several courses, as well as fine wines. Sammel and Melyda, however, drank sparingly, wanting to keep all their wits about them for the discussion ahead. During the dinner, conversation was kept light and inconsequential. Sammel felt a mounting excitement, though, as dinner drew to an end. He was more than ready to lay out his ideas and start thrashing out some plans, especially with Alvezo.
The half-elf slipped through the door at the last moment, as silent as the sun sinking below the horizon. A slightly stressed look on his face suddenly disappeared as he sat down to table and began to eat. "Good to meet you," he mentally commented as he nod in the direction of the newcomer, "May the great god Raiden protect you as well." The 6' wu-jen/priest smiled as ate the food and quietly listened to the conversation around him, until it was time to follow the rest of the group into "the candy store" atmosphere of the library. "Impressive," he thought and smiled greatly as he glanced over the maps on the table and over the books on the shelf. There was no mistaking the fact that the half-elf wanted to be here, and was ready for some action.
When everyone was finished, Sammel ushered them into the library, where several comfortable chairs were drawn up around a large mahogany table. Maps and charts were laid out, ready for perusal. He gestured them all to take a seat, though he himself remained standing, since pacing often helped him to think.
"First of all," he said, bowing deferentially to Channi, "I think you should tell us again about what happened. And please include as much detail as you possibly can. Anything could be of importance."
Channi nodded shyly and began in a low voice and broken Common to speak of that time. She told how, about three months ago, in the quiet pre-dawn of a calm sea morning, a large group of pirates had sailed silently into the harbor of a small fishing village called Vestra. They had attacked the village, rounding up the villagers, but only killing those who resisted too much. One of the children had managed to run down to the wharf and ring the alarm bell, which alerted some nearby Delphines. They'd done their best--but, as Channi admitted ruefully, they weren't land fighters. The small group had to retreat to the sea, dragging their dead with them.
Through careful watching, the Delphines determined that there were four pirate ships in the fleet, each carrying about 70 men. Once the pirates had subdued the villagers and looted their homes, they'd set them to work to build two large compounds. The Vestrans were housed in them once they were finished, with the pirates taking over the homes.
The pirates were now using Vestra as a base for their operations. Three ships were out at any given time, roaming the seas and shipping lanes. One ship stayed in harbor, with its occupants keeping watch on--and enslaving--the Vestrans. Channi spoke feelingly of men kept fishing day and night, women forced to serve the pirates--in many ways. She also spoke of the failed Delphine expedition to the main port of Fallino, Fastina. "They name-call *us* monsters, yet do this to each other," she said with a sudden, fierce spark in her eyes.
Finally, she spoke of her decision to seek out Chaer, in the hope that he would know of people who could help. "Such a small-small hope, but better than doing *nothing,*" she said.
"How did you find him?" Melyda asked.
"Knew he go north, so I go north. Ask fish-dolphins-whales if they see him. Those of the sea know and remember. Finally hear he much seen in harbor here. Swim here, not find him, but find Sarra." She gave a small smile to Sarra.
Sammel nodded slowly, then looked around. "Does anyone have any other questions for Channi?"
The dark-haired girl sat quietly and wondered if being disguised as a seal would help - which led to the troubling question of how to keep her hide safe.
"Well, has anything changed in your people's situation since we arrived here in Tyndar? I'm really curious how just the few of us are going to do anything about so many pirates!" He gestured avidly with his hands to emphasize the last point.
The young Delphine shook her head. "Too far gone. Word doesn't travel this far of waters so-so south."
"We would do well to strike when only one ship is in the harbor," suggested Alvezo. "That will improve our odds." Turning to Channi, he asked, "Do they leave always the same ship in the harbor, or does it change?"
"They rotate every one-two weeks," she replied. "Give all chance at sailing and resting. Sometimes all four in harbor during bad weather, but not often."
Sammel nodded as he slid a pad of paper and an ink pen down to Raidenaru, hoping that his communication restriction didn't apply to writing. "If there are no further questions right now, I think we'd better move on to some plans."
Sarra nods slightly, her eyes skimming over the map spread out before her. "I think we all know where we are going. The question is how....and what do we do when we get there."
"How is easy enough--by ship," Sammel replied. "I talked to my father earlier this afternoon. Unfortunately, we ourselves are having some problems with pirates, so he can only spare me one ship and crew. It is, however, top-of-the- line, so it might be almost as good as yours, Alvezo." He grinned at his friend.
"As good as my ship? Never!" roared Alvezo, laughing.
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