Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Red As Any Blood--Part 10

Ryke cheerfully slurped down his stew in the mess.  Guiding the men in their labor was hungry work, after all, and he had been at that for most of the day.  He had a stomach to fill.

His meal was disturbed by the sudden sensation of something heavy sitting next to him.  "Piers," he said without even looking.

"Hello, Ryke," said the large man sitting next to him. Ryke grimaced to himself.  Piers was a fellow Prince's Man, but as anyone could tell you, even back when Lanval was still running things, that didn't keep you safe.  A man rose in the Prince's Men on his merits, with the chief of those merits being an ability to look out for himself, and to take care of any brother in the group that was looking to take care of him.

Well, for Ryke, Piers what that brother.  And for Piers, it was Ryke.  Ryke turned to him, seeing Piers glassy eyes staring at him.  Ryke stared back.  "Enjoying your meal?" said Piers at last.

"Well enough," answered Ryke. 

Piers nodded.  "Heard the news?"

"About Lanval?" said Ryke.  "A few weeks ago."

Piers chuckled.  "No, that's the old news.  This is the new news."  He glanced around conspiratorially.  "The Prince wants the ships in two months time."

"What?" Ryke blinked.  "But... even if they weren't getting burnt we couldn't do that..."

"You think the Prince cares?" said Piers with a snort.  "No, no, the way I hear it, things are going bad on the mainland.  And so the naval assault has moved from diversion to the last great hope to turn things around.  Soon."

"But... there's no way we can build them in that amount of time," snapped Ryke.

"Well, you better find one," said Piers.  "The Prince wants them, and if he doesn't get them..."  Piers made a strange wiggle with his hands that if it didn't mean anything that Ryke could understand, definitely hinted at something unpleasant.  Piers raised an eyebrow, and then stood up.  "Well... enjoy your meal then."  He turned and waddled off.

Ryke watched him go, grumbling to himself.  He was going to have to look into this of course--men passed false rumors to discomfit rivals quite frequently in the Prince's Men.  But it sounded horribly likely, and that meant that Ryke was either going to find a way to do the impossible, or find a way to make sure someone besides him swung if he didn't.

Fortunately from where he stood, Ryke was quite good at both.

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