Monday, November 25, 2013

Scout's Duty - Chapter 22

< Chapter 21                                                                                                   Chapter 23 >
Somehow, the space pirate Amaral Caudill has learned of Princess Callan and Prince Rupor!

It took all the control I could muster to keep from reacting until the computerized translation ended.  How had Caudill found out about Callan and Rupor?  Martin wouldn't have told him and, impetuous and thoughtless as she could be, I didn't think Megan would have, either.  At least, not voluntarily.

I played for time.  "What do you need?  I'm authorized to negotiate on the behalf of their Highnesses."

Caudill gave me an appraising look.  "I suspect you really could negotiate for...what's the one with the princess?"

"Mordan."

"But the other one?"

"Tarteg."

"Them, not so much."

"I'm sure the kingdoms will work together to take care of you and your men," I said.

"I doubt that.  You remember Orrons, of course.  The man in the big suit of armor?"

"What of him?"

"You saw how easily Orrons waved that tree trunk.  The armor makes that possible."

"I had assumed as much."

"Using the armor for brute strength is easy.  It's handling fragile things -- people, for instance -- without breaking them that takes real skill.  Orrons is beyond skilled.  He's a master.  No, he's a true artist."  Caudill held his palms a foot apart.  "Imagine a pretty musician's head between armored hands.  Slowly -- so slowly the human eye can't discern the movement -- the hands press together.  Inexorable pressure builds, causing exquisite pain.  How much pressure can a human skull take before it cracks?  For a former pirate, Captain Bane succumbs to persuasion rather easily.

"You, of course, know Tarteg and Mordan have warred for centuries.  Now I know as well.  I'm not really negotiating with anyone.  I'm selling to the highest bidder."

The smile Caudill flashed was as cold as his eyes.  "With me backing one kingdom, the next war between Tarteg and Mordan will also be the last war!”


Will Rupor wish a war of retribution against the country of his former betrothed?  If he does, can Mordan, still recovering from the trog attack and the kidnapping of Princess Callan, hope to match the Tartegian bid?  Find out more in Chapter 23, coming Wednesday!