Smoke poured into the sky from the skyline of Port Fortune. Tarek Karp stood on the bow of his ship and looked through the spy glass to see the fires spread throughout the city. He handed the spyglass down to Sufjan then jumped down to the deck.
“The harbor seems clear of any fighting for right now, but the city is a mess. It seems you're information was outdated, Captain.”
“Could be they just moved faster than we expected.”
“Aye, they're definitely moving quickly,” Tarek said. “Any chance this is going to deter you from your mission?”
“No, I'm honor sworn to return the Prince to his father. I've never given the King reason to doubt my loyalty before and this skirmish isn't going to be the thing that does it in.”
“It's a bit more than a skirmish. There's a good portion of the town on fire. I don't know if you've noticed all the smoke in the air above the city.”
“Then my mission is even more urgent than before.”
“Unless he was already evacuated.”
“We would have seen a ship bound for Fort Kosin. There are protocols to be followed.”
“You soldiers and your protocol, being predictable is how you get killed.”
“It's not often we evacuate members of the royal family so I'm sure there aren't any out there who know how it is carried out.”
“Get your men armed and armored, Captain. We're going to have to carry this out quickly. I don't want to leave my ship long. You're paying me well, but not well enough to lose my ship.”
“We'll be back as quickly as we can.”
“I can guarantee that, I'll be going with you.”
“And leaving your ship all alone?”
“I have plenty of men capable of guarding it from the neer do wells that hang out on the docks. I'm going with you to make sure we find the Prince and I get my payday when all is said and done.”
“I'll have my men ready to move out as soon as we dock.”
The Captain went below deck and Tarek turned back to the city and watched as the destruction drew nearer and he could start to make out the fires more easily, or perhaps they were just growing larger. Everything about the bad feeling he had when he accepted the job made sense now. This would be the last time he overruled his gut feeling because of an outrageous payout. Whenever there was a lot of money to be made there were high risks. Taking his ship to a city that the Yeskorman were coming down from the North to take was not smart.
Yeskorman, he never thought of them as the boogie man that so many other people did. Now he was smack in the middle of them and soon would be seeing them up close and personal for the first time.
“Captain, you've got us into a fine mess this time,” Sufjan said as he came up behind Tarek.
“We've been in tight spots before, Sufjan. This time you'll all be in pretty good shape, depending on how quickly those Yeskormen move through the city. Might just have to keep the riff raff off the boat until I get back with the Prince.”
“What should we do about refugees, sir.”
“That's an interesting question.,” Tarek said as he rubbed his chin and the stubble along it. “I don't want to say no, but we've got to be able to move fast once we've got the Prince on board. Try to keep it non-violent though, but keep yourselves the boat safe first and foremost.”
“Wouldn't expect you to run out into the middle of a battle ground.”
“Well at least I know the city, and I made a promise to Aleksa.”
“Nobody makes you do stupider things than Aleksa,” Sufjan said. “Got you taking jobs carrying a load of soldiers to Fortune and now you're going to go run out with them.”
“It's not just her there's a lot of money in it for everybody as well, plus it's good to have the royal family owing us a favor. Make the inspections a little more lenient.”
“As long as we get the ship back in one piece to keep making runs that will work well. Aren't you going to get some armor on?”
“I'm not a soldier, I don't use armor, I move fast and avoid getting hit not wearing enough armor that they can beat the shit out of me,” Tarek said. “This city is looking worse the closer we get. I can't believe I got talked into this.”
“There's always time to turn around.”
“Not with those soldiers down there. They're better than we are at fighting so we'll just have to play this one out. Beside, Matawan has too much good business for us to get locked out of the country for pissing off the royals. Just keep that fish gutter of yours out and that should intimidate anybody trying to get on board.”
“Aye, aye, Captain.”
The harbor was more crowded than usual as ships fled the city packed with people who watched the burning city as they pulled away from it. Chisek kept the ship moving forward toward the destination through all the obstacles. The ship slowed as they came near the dock and Captain Kazak led his soldiers onto the deck of the ship. Seven soldiers in chain mail with shields and swords at the ready. They cut an impressive figure.
“I thought you were coming with us, Captain,” Tarek said.
“I am, I just don't need the kind of armor you do. I prefer my rapier to a slashing weapon like you have.”
“Then you can stay behind us for now. I like to have a big solid wall in front and no offense, but you don't know how to work with us either.”
“Always happy to be in the back and watching others do the work.”
“Good, we're on the move.”
Kazak led the way down the gangplank as soon as it hit the dock and they pushed their way through the people milling around on the dock looking for a way out of the city. At the end of the dock a group of armed men were holding back an even bigger crowd than what had made their way past already. Tarek grabbed the dockmaster who stood behind the line looking worried.
“Hector, it's been a while since I've seen you on the docks, you look worried today.”
“Tarek, you have quite a gift for understatement. We've got a full scale retreat going on right now.”
“So I can see. Do you think you're men can hold the dock so my boat is safe?”
“Depends on how long you're in the city, but it's going to be tough, and we might need something in return. A lot of us working here would like to get out of the city as well. I know you're ship is better than the other things we've got here for us to use.”
“Ready to flee your dock already?”
“It's been like this since last night. There's only so long we can put up with this. The city has some great guards, but they weren't ready for a full scale assault. You know Fortune, though. Lots of mercenaries laying around that we can hire and throw into the fight and give us some breathing room. It looks like you've got a good group of mercenaries with you.”
“Not mercenaries, Matawan soldiers. They're here to get some important people out of the city. So hopefully this dock will be secure when we come back and we can get you on the Terraphin when we leave.”
“That sounds good to me, I'll do my best to keep people off the dock, but it's going to be tough.”
“That's all I can ask for.”
The armed men at the end of the dock open a small gap for the soldiers to pass through and quickly close behind Tarek to stop anybody from slipping past them. The crowd is slow to give because of it's size, but people are more than happy to get out of the way of heavily armed soldiers. Two blocks gets them out of the press of people and into the city proper. Buildings are abandoned or boarded up with people watching from upper story windows with arrows nocked ready to fight off anybody who tried to break in. Kazak led his men into a fast trot which created quite a din as they moved through the city. They covered four blocks with just stragglers fleeing their buildings before they got the the Matawan ambassador building.
“Captain Kazak Morgan reporting,” Kazak said as he walked up to the guards at the gate.
“I need your orders, soldier,” one of the guards said.
Kazak reached into a satchel slung along his hip and pulled out a rolled up up paper that he handed to the guard. He gave it a quick perusal before handing it back.
“I've got bad news for you, Captain. They've taken Prince Starn as well as all the other ambassadors to the Capitol building. More security and bigger walls. They felt everybody would be safer there. We've only got a small contingent of soldiers left here to protect the building.”
“They just left you guys here to protect a house?” Tarek said. “They do know that the city is falling, right?”
“This is sovereign Matawan land, Tarek. It's not something we take lightly. But he does make a good point. There is no need to get you all killed. I believe my orders should speak for my authority so round up all your soldiers and come with me. We're going to get the Prince and then get out of here. No need to have you all die for a political point.”
“Yes, sir,” the soldier said. “I can't say it's an order I'd want to argue with.”
Two soldiers climb up the wall on either side of the gate and make their way along to send their fellow soldiers to the gate.
“How long ago did they move to the Capitol?”
“Early this morning, probably eight hours ago. That's when the Yeskormen broke through the city walls. We can hold off a riot fairly well here, but for a full scale assault we just don't have the man power or wall strength.”