Characters of Cimmeria: Amalchus Halkias

Amalchus

Amalchus is the son of the founder of the Second Alliance, Amalganus Halkias, and the grandson of Amalgami the Betrayer as well. His father’s accomplishments gave Amalchus a position of power and respect in Jipangu. He used this clout to become a successful horse merchant; however, when his grandfather’s name became public, Amalchus was exiled from Jipangu. He has survived living off his business experience and the generosity of his older brother, Amalius. Continue reading

Jeutontic

Jeutontic

Jeutontic is a city of 120,000 people built on the very tip of Gaia’s Navel. The city is walled on all sides, but has one unbarricaded entry point from the canyon. Twenty inch high steps go all the way down to the bottom of the mile and a half deep gorge. The steps widen as they go down as well, being about five hundred feet across at the canyon floor and twenty feet across at the top. The steps are made from Lumite, a type of granite that has been magically altered to glow white. The steps can be seen in the canyon from as far as ten miles away at Gaia’s First Wrinkle. After that Gaia’s Navel turns and the steps go out of sight.

A great mystery envelops the origin of Gaia’s Navel. No river ever flowed through the ravine and no titanic battle ever took place to scar the landscape. Thus it is assumed that the spot is the actual belly button of Gaia, the Earth Mother. Many clerics have petitioned the gods about where the 125 mile long crevice comes from, but the Olympians remain silent on the issue.

Thousands of people have come to Jeutontic to “walk the navel.” The journey through the canyon takes about eight days by foot and there is a small reprovisioning post on the western end. No steps exist on the west side. Instead there is only a massive cliff face. The ledge is scalable, but the climb is extremely difficult, taking three days for the most experienced to complete. The cliff has been nicknamed Dragon Cliff because it kills more people than dragons.

There are many caves and connections to the Underdark in the walls of Gaia’s Navel. This territorial oddity has led to Jeutontic’s greatest problem, attacks from the Underdark, and the city’s greatest advantage, training and selling the flying animals that settle in the upper caves. Griffons, Hippogriffs, Wyverns, Pegasi, and even a few Nightmares, known collectively as aerials, have made their homes in Gaia’s Navel. The people of Jeutontic have been capturing and domesticating the beasts for hundreds of years. A few of the animals are trained to be exported, but most will not fly farther than two hundred miles from the city. They become sick and die if forced to, almost as if a geas/quest was cast upon them. This training regime was implemented to combat theft. Fewer aerial rustlers will take the beasts if they know they can’t be sold for profit abroad.

Despite the limitations of the aerials they are still used in the expansive import-export activities of the city. Outposts have been set up within the 200 mile radius that the city aerials can fly to. Aerials fly goods to the perimeter where they are transferred to land-based caravans. The aerials fly back to Jeutontic with commodities dropped off by earthbound merchants. Larger and heavier cargoes that are too big for a single aerial to carry are placed on aerial wagons. The aerial wagon is basically a large tarp draped between two or more animals. With this invention most of the goods that are traded with Jeutontic can be transported between the city and the outposts quickly.

Of course a few cargoes weigh too much to be carried even by the largest aerial wagon of six griffons. For these huge loads the people of Jeutontic have elephants. Elephants were originally imported from India as a status symbol for the upper class of Jeutontic. Eventually, one intelligent merchant, Sharlada, realized he could use the gigantic beasts to move his goods from his warehouses in the city to his shops. The practice eventually spread to other businessmen until elephants became the norm for transport of goods and people throughout the entire city. Sharlada opened his own elephant ranch in Jeutontic, so that the useful animals do not need to be imported from India. Sharlada’s descendants still own and administrate the ranch which proudly bears his name upon the entrance.

All these creatures being used for transportation and labor puts the people of Jeutontic in a mood for animals. Thus exotic pets of all kinds are popular with the people of Jeutontic. Pseudodragons, cockatrices, shocker lizards, and other slightly dangerous pets can all be found for sale in the marketplace. Jeutontic is the best place to go if a magician wants an exceptional familiar. The most prized exotic pet in Jeutontic is called the Kanroji. It is a magic type of fox that has nine different types of breath weapons, fire, cold, acid, sonic, electricity, force, sleep, positive energy, and negative energy. Kanroji are known to grow very large in the wild, but once placed in a mage’s servitude they will stay the same size until their master’s death.

With the numerous pets, aerials, elephants, and people running around Jeutontic, waste disposal becomes a serious problem. The citizens of Jeutontic have come up with a rather ingenious solution, fertilizer. The city’s daily tons of excrement are exported to other parts of the Xorian Kingdom or used in the fields of Jeutontic to grow food to feed the inhabitants of the city to make more fertilizer. A wonderful circle of life.

Jeutontic is the biggest trading stop between Cimmeria and Persia. All commodities that travel by land have to pass through the city or risk the wild plains where bandits and monsters live. Xoria has levied a five percent tax on all goods that pass through Jeutontic except wheat and hay. Some smugglers try to sneak valuable goods through the gates by concealing them in hay, but all wagons are checked by the guards of the city. The city watchmen always seem to know when a merchant tries to smuggle something in. Magic is suspected, but no one dares confirm this theory.

Jeutontic is one of the most critical cities for the Xorian Kingdom and the one most at risk. It is the kingdom’s main source of income because of the numerous caravans that pass through it, but it is also the first city Persia would attack if the Great King decided to invade. In the unlikely event that a united Cimmeria successfully invaded the interior of Xoria, Jeutontic has been designated as a fallback point. Finally, Jeutontic is the logical expansion point for the creatures of the Underdark due to the tunnels of Gaia’s Navel. The city suffers near constant attacks from Drow, Svirfneblin, Duergar, Dromites, Mindflayers, and the other denizens of the deep. Jeutontic’s citizens have developed effective defenses against all these enemies.

For defense against the massive armies of Persia, Jeutontic relies on Xorian battle mages. Persian wizards are obviously not from Cimmeria where magic thrives and are thus inferior to those from Xoria. The Jeutontic division of the Xorian army has also perfected an aerial cavalry unit to be deployed in the case of an attack from Persia. This same cavalry battalion would be used against the city-states of Cimmeria if they invaded, harassing interlopers from up to two hundred miles away from the city walls.

The frequent attacks originating from beneath the city are stopped by liberally causing cave-ins. When the underdwellers bring tunneling animals the Xorian army has prepared a special type of freezing water to pour into the caverns beneath the city. The liquid is far colder than any natural water and it releases a noxious, unbreathable gas. The freezing water has killed many of those who live below the city.

Should an invading army ever breach the city walls there is an inner keep for the army to fall back to. The keep does not have enough space or resources to support the large population of Jeutontic. The civilians of the city are taught this from a young age and that if a conquering force should enter the city proper they are to arm themselves and fight with all their strength. Thus the potential risk of an armed civilian population revolting is turned into a militia that still serves the crown. The keep itself is defended with large ballistae, stone-throwers, and a contingent of battle mages.

Jeutontic, led by Duke Prusu, joined with the Alliance in the First Alliance War against Xoria. Upon losing, Prusu was captured and executed. The city was placed under the rule of the vampiric Rage, Havoc. Havoc vampirized many people within the city and their used their might to subjugate the mortals of Jeutontic. The vampires undertook many raids into the Underdark, destroying many of the previously aggresive communities that lived beneath Jeutontic. Slaves were taken on these raids and even forty years later it is not uncommon for a Xorian family to have an Underdark slave.

After King Jevaninada II came to power his first act was to end the vampiric occupation of Jeutontic. He and Blendegad singlehandedly eliminated most of the vampires from the city. The city’s jubilant cries soon turned to sounds of anguish as the old vampires were replaced with new Dragovinians. Many citizens tried to move to Persia, but Blendegad devoured all who fled the city. The people of Jeutontic bowed their heads and offered their necks to the new vampires while simultaneously plotting rebellion. The rebels’ efforts haven’t produced any tangible results yet and the introduction of Dragovinian beasts to ceaselessly watch the streets and alleys of the city hasn’t helped matters.

-GoCorral

Dradelden

Dradelden

Dradelden was a colony established by the Amazons of Pontus around 800 BC and later became the last remnant of their country when the Persians successfully invaded. Since the Attic War the Amazons have been led by their strongest warrior until her death, at which point a tournament is held. The winner is declared the new ruler of the Amazons. This tradition held true even after the Amazons joined the Xorian Empire when King Jevaninada I married Queen Anajakaze. After the death of the married pair, Jevaninada II respected the tradition, but with the condition that the queen who succeeded his mother be made a Dragovinian. The new queen, Ashabodai, ruled for several years until she was slain at the battle of Phoenix. In the next tournament the council of the Amazons forbade Dragovinian Amazons from competing. The winner and new Amazon queen, Jittehalong, still nominally holds power in Dradelden, but she is forced to take orders from Jevaninada’s subordinates.

Dradelden is famous for the horses that are bred here. After the death of Achilles his horses, Balius and Xanthus, were captured by Paris. Upon Paris’s death they were left unattended in his palace stable until an Amazon, Anathilea, who had escaped the battle with the Achaeans, snuck in and liberated them for herself. The horses would have rebelled against her had they not know she was related to Penthesilea, the one woman Achilles’ loved. All the fine horses in the Dradelden stables are descended from those first two studs.

The excellent stables of Dradelden improved their stock of horses through selective breeding until a godly zenith was reached with no room for improvement. At that point new blood had to be called in. A group of Amazons were sent to the Whitewood Forest to capture some of the unicorns that are known to dwell there. Enough were brought back to breed with all the best horses of the Dradelden stables. Now the city has some of the smartest, fastest, and strongest horses known to humankind. Another oddity of interbreeding the unicorns with horses was unaligned unicorns. The common unicorn is white and values goodness and a few magical beast experts speak of black unicorns that value evil. The professional horse breeders at the Dradelden stables have managed to breed unicorns of any alignment and color.

Despite its vassalage to Xoria, Dradelden has kept a strong and unique warrior tradition. Every girl child that survives to the age of six is taken from her parents to a female agoge. All these girls are taught mathematics, poetry, and gymnastics from a young age. Once they are deemed ready by their teachers the girls learn how to use swords, spears, axes, bows, and any other weapon imaginable in combination with a shield. Most of the graduates of the weapon academy choose to use the weapon of Penthesilea, a two-handed battleaxe. Under the original terms of vassalage to Xoria the soldiers trained at Dradelden were not required to serve in Xoria’s main army, but could choose to defend only Dradelden. This remains technically true, but the Amazons must also obey their queen, who has ordered them to continue serving in Xoria’s main army. Many suspect that Queen Jittehalong has been threatened by King Jevaninada II.

As one would guess, because the women of the city are becoming soldiers and leaders the men take the backseat in society traditionally filled by women. Growing food, serving the upper class, caring for the horses, and the variety of other menial tasks required to keep a city going are all performed by men. The only semi-high class job that men are allowed to do in the city is slave trading. This is upsetting to outsiders used to a patriarchal society and confrontations between Queen Jittehalong and Xorian dignitaries have grown in frequency since she took office.

There are many farms around Dradelden that the city relies upon for food. They grow the grains and root vegetables that keep Dradelden’s citizens’ bellies full. Lately more and more of the food has been sent away from the city to feed the soldiers in Eastern Cimmeria. This has put a strain on the city, which only twenty years ago had a famine due to an arsonist burning half the town’s crops.

In the Second Alliance War the Amazons were initially led by Queen Ashabodai in the battles around Phoenix and subsequent siege. During the Battle of Phoenix, Ashabodai was killed by Logan the warlock during the Battle of Phoenix. After the battle two tournaments were held to decide who the next queen should be, one in Dradelden and one in the warcamp outside Phoenix. A human won the Dradelden tournament and a Dragovinian won the Phoenix tournament. The two champions faced off to determine who would rule the Amazons and the Dradelden champion won. Jittehalong was crowned Queen of the Amazons. While she remains loyal to the Xorians, she is clearly irritated that she must take commands from male Dragovinians. Every offer to turn her into a Dragovinian is refused.

-GoCorral

Mister Ed Signature

Woo! I have kept this blog going for a full year now.

Updates have obviously slowed down since I started the blog and as expected, I’m always posting fewer updates than I’d like to do. That was true even when I was on the one every weekday schedule as I occasionally fell behind.

There’s been a lot of variety of posts over the past year. Some stuff on science, some on games, some on everyday life stuff, and some movie reviews.

I also originally had posts on political charged events. While I’m still reading stuff along those lines, I haven’t been writing as much about it.

There’s a few reasons for that. Political stuff tends to offend people and I don’t want to do that. My viewpoint isn’t particularly original. Political stuff in general tends to stress me out. Other stuff like that.

There’s also clearly two groups of people reading the blog that I can tell from the stats page on WordPress. Those who like the social and science posts which are basically about what’s going on in my life. The second group likes the posts on games.

Do I need to focus more to please one of those groups and enlarge it? I don’t think so. My original plan was to have lots of content so that whichever group was reading would have something for them at least once a week. I’ve fallen off the once a week plan and gone towards a once a month plan, but the basic principle is the same.

Over the past year I’ve also been transitioning away from the blanket anonymity I had when I started the blog. My name and picture are present along with what town I live in.

That also means I’ve been transitioning away from the Mister Ed identity, a reference that few people get anymore. I’ve been consolidating a few of my other online identities into one as well.

The new identity is pretty simple. What’s the name of the blog? GoCorral. What should my identity be on the blog? GoCorral. A few other people have already been calling me that online, so I’ll just keep with the trend.

So that’s why I am abandoning the Mister Ed signature from now on in favor of the new signature…

-GoCorral

Public Persona

EEEEEEE! Gretchen Rubin emailed me! *faints*
EEEEEEE! Gretchen Rubin emailed me! *faints*

Previously I wrote about my reluctance to go public with my real name.

I ended up emailing Gretchen Rubin, the author of The Happiness Project. Reading that book was what gave me the idea to start this blog.

And I got a reply! Hurray!

The emails are in the picture above and I’ll repeat them in the text here. First, the email I initially sent to Gretchen.

“Dear Gretchen,

My wife got me The Happiness Project last year and I’ve enjoyed reading it slowly and applying your advice to my own life. One of your happiness projects was starting a blog. I liked the idea so much that I’ve started my own. The blog is called GoCorral and you can find it at gocorral.wordpress.com if you’re interested. Now that I’ve gotten into a rhythm of sorts with the blog I wanted to ask for a little help from you.

So far I’ve been running my blog and associated sites anonymously. I was worried about unwanted attention in my personal life if my blog ever took off to epic proportions like yours has. By maintaining anonymity I’ve kept the option open of disappearing in the future, but I fear I’m also alienating my audience by doing so. All the serious bloggers I’ve heard of use their real names. I get the feeling that personal identification naturally improves a blog because so much of the content is about the author’s personal life, thoughts, and experiences.

I wanted to get your opinion on using your real name and your family’s names in your writing.  I’m interested in the positives and the negatives. Do you ever feel uncomfortable using your real name instead of a pseudonym? How do your children and your husband feel about it? Have there ever been any real problems associated with having a public persona that you’ve encountered or heard of? What are some of the good things about going public with your name?

I’d appreciate anything you can tell me!

-Mister Ed”
And the reply I got back:
“Terrific!
I use my name online, but don’t use my family members’ names (though I do use those in my books).
I didn’t really ponder this, because I wanted my work to be associated with my name. Everything I write is with the expectation that it’s public.
I’ve never experienced a negative with it, nor has my family.
Good luck!”
And then my thank you note:
“Gretchen,

Wow! Thanks for your reply! I think I will go public with my name then. I appreciate your help.
-Isaac Shaker (Mister Ed)”
And now I am public on my blog!
For most of the people reading the blog this will mean almost nothing. My family and friends already know I’m writing this and access my blog through Facebook or Google+.
For everyone else? Still almost nothing. I’m still the same person and I’ll still write the same stuff. I’ll even keep writing Mister Ed at the end of each post.
The About Me section of the site is pretty much the only thing that’ll change.
That’s pretty much it. I’m no longer worried about any negative consequences. I’ve looked for them and they just don’t seem to be there. Steven King’s Misery really is as fictional as it seems.
-Mister Ed

Privacy vs. Public Life

Who is this man?!?
Who is this man?!?

When I started GoCorral I intended to reveal almost no information about myself.

My plan was that if the site took off and people were trying to hunt me down in person for autographs or something I’d have the option of retreating into anonymity.

I’ve slowly revealed more and more about myself.

My initial posts talked about “the town I went to college” and now its just Davis, California.

I still haven’t identified myself or anybody within my life by name, but I’m sure a dedicated detective could put the pieces together and figure out who I am.

I’ve started posting videos of myself on my Twitch and Youtube channels. Realistically, I don’t think I care much about privacy at this point.

I don’t know many professional bloggers that maintain anonymity either. Notable blogs like the Happiness Project, Perez Hilton, and 538 all use the author’s real names (Perez Hilton is a pseudonym, but the author has revealed his real name as well).

Even the smaller blogs that I read like Squidi and Twenty Sided have the authors’ real names attached to the work.

Another worry I have is that if I revel my own personal information, inevitably some information about my family and friends will leak out too.

While I might be comfortable with a public persona, I shouldn’t be making that decision for them as well.

This is all conditional on the blog or video channels taking off though. There’s no reason to be concerned about privacy if no one is listening!

My current plan is to contact a few established bloggers and see how they juggle the invasive personal commitment that a blog requires with their private lives.

I can make a decision after that.

Until then I will remain The Talking Horse.

-Mister Ed

Picnic Day 2014

Today I went to UC Davis’ one hundredth Picnic Day celebration. I’ll just be doing a few pictures or today’s post.

Picnic Day is basically a county fair that takes place on a college campus.

First there was a couple of speeches and then a parade!

There were about seven Deloreans in the Picnic Day Parade. This is just one of them going down the street.
There were about seven DeLoreans in the Picnic Day Parade. This is just one of them going down the street.
A Wells Fargo carriage pulled by a four horses. The lady in the purple hat was the best speaker for the opening of Picnic Day.
A Wells Fargo stagecoach pulled by four horses. The lady in the purple hat was the best speaker for the opening of Picnic Day.
A horde of old fashioned bicycles participated in the Picnic Day Parade.
A horde of old fashioned bicycles participated in the Picnic Day Parade.
A cowboy on a horse during the Picnic Day Parade.
A cowboy on a horse during the Picnic Day Parade.

After the Parade my wife and I went to see the Disc Dogs competition. The dogs have to catch a bunch of frisbees in one minute and bring them back to their master. The dogs get more points for more frisbees and if the frisbees are thrown further.

A dog running after a frisbee at Picnic Day. The frisbee is near the top of the frame.
A dog running after a frisbee at Picnic Day. The frisbee is near the top of the frame.
One of the dogs catching a frisbee in midair at Picnic Day.
One of the dogs catching a frisbee in midair at Picnic Day.

After lunch we went to see a cool local rock band, Crow Canyon! The three members, Riley, Nathan, and Drew, are in high school. You can check out their music at http://www.crowcanyonband.com/. They have free music samples!

My favorite local band, Crow Canyon, playing at Picnic Day.
My favorite local band, Crow Canyon, playing at Picnic Day.
One of the singers, Riley, in my favorite local band, Crow Canyon.
One of the singers, Riley, in my favorite local band, Crow Canyon.

We went to a small petting zoo set up by the stables. We got to pet some young cows, sheep, and goats.

Some young cows at the Picnic Day petting zoo.
Some young cows at the Picnic Day petting zoo.
A goat at the Picnic Day petting zoo.
A goat at the Picnic Day petting zoo.

And I also got some new pictures for the blog in general of horses and CORRALS.

That’s it for now!

-Mister Ed

Mount and Blade

I play a lot of video games but I am often far behind the latest release. I didn’t finish playing Pokemon Gold until Pokemon Heart Gold came out. I’m still working on Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed too. I’ll probably never experience Mass Effect or Dragon Age: Origins.

Mount and Blade is one of the few games I started playing when it first came out. The game was created by a Turkish couple and once it became popular they created a video game studio around it called TaleWorlds. TaleWorlds has just announced that Mount and Blade will be coming out on the Nvidia Shield. I’ve never heard of the Shield, but the people at TaleWorlds are excited to branch out beyond the PC.

In Mount and Blade you take on the role of a warrior in a medieval world with a variety of warring factions. The game is entirely sandbox based. There is no plot to follow. You have to make up your own plot.

The first time I played the game I started a civil war in one of the five kingdoms and ended up on the victorious side. The second time I formed my own kingdom and conquered the world for myself.

The gameplay is what you’d expect for a third person shooter in medieval times. You get swords, armor, bows, and other equipment to do battle with. RPG elements are mixed in as well. Your character levels up and has a few skills that influence the setup of battles as well as your combat capabilities in each battle. The more battles you win the more gear and money you get, money of course being spent on more gear.

The name of the game is Mount and Blade, so there is a fair bit of horse-riding in the game. Cavalry are vastly superior to other units in open field combat. Mount and Blade is also one of the few games to make horse combat interesting. Mounted combat meshes seamlessly with foot combat. Your character rides his horse around, hitting people as he rides by. If you aren’t careful eventually your horse will be taken out. You can try to find another horse that has lost its rider or you can continue on foot.

Mount and Blade is also one of the few games I’ve seen that fits single combat with RTS style combat. The only character whose actions you control directly is your own, but your character can bring potentially hundreds of others to the battle with him. These soldiers are given orders through hotkeys or a menu during battle. The orders can include positions to take on the battlefield, which weapons to use, whether to mount horses or stay on foot, and how tactical formations such as a wedge or turtle shape.

The soldiers that you command in battle have a morale that is heavily influenced by what food you give them. The greater variety of food they have to eat, the better and longer they fight. I spent a fair amount of game time buying more and more food for my soldiers to eat because they kept eating everything up after each battle.

Your soldiers level up after a battle just like you do. They get better gear and stronger combat capabilities with each new level. A fully leveled army is necessary for one of the greatest challenges in the game, sieges.

Sieges are the final objective in Mount and Blade. Unless you actively avoid it, your character will eventually end up in a siege. Assaulting a castle has two basic methods, just like in real medieval wars. You can wait for the combatants to starve or you can attack them with siege engines and try to take over the castle by force. Using force is almost always the better option in Mount and Blade.

Siege engines are used to breach the walls of the castle in someway first. This can be a battering ram that breaks down the castle gate, ladders that scale the walls, or a siege tower that goes over the wall allowing access. Once inside the castle walls you have to eliminate the enemy presence before your troops run out. Then you break into the inner keep and take on the guard there to secure the castle as your prize.

Your character can also defend from sieges. The same rules apply. My favorite tactic was shooting arrows at the soldiers pushing the siege towers up to my walls to try and slow the advance of the behemoth siege engine.

Mount and Blade also has an intense mod community. There are hundreds of mods that add small new things to the game or completely change it. Different mods can change the game to new historical periods, or fantasy periods. You can play a jedi on a speeder instead of a knight on a horse if you want. Some mods introduce boats. Others let you play as if you’re a King’s Guard in Westeros if you like Game of Thrones. I tried out a few. One of my favorites advanced the timeline of the basic game to Renaissance era, allowing rudimentary firearms to be used in combat.

I played the original game out as much as I felt like playing. A sequel came out awhile back, but my impression of it was, “We added some good ideas that were already present in mods and added a multiplayer mode that Mister Ed won’t be using.” A new sequel is scheduled to come out soon though! I’ve been thinking of taking a look. Maybe I’ll see you in the multiplayer mode there if I decide to try it.

You can find Mount and Blade at TaleWorlds website or on Steam.

-Mister Ed

The True Colors: Chapter Two

Chapter Two: Swift Troubles

“Back from the dead?” exclaimed Hornblower, “Dammit Bush! What is this nonsense you’re spouting? Explain yourself!”

Bush drummed his left hand on the table while with his right he took a sip from a beer stein that Hornblower had previously missed. “There’s little time to explain right now. I have a strong suspicion that I was followed here. I’ll only be able to explain once we get back to the others.”

“The others? What others?”

Bush leaned forward out of the booth and swept his eyes across the room before answering. “You never know who may be watching… or listening.”

Hornblower struggled not to shout. He elected to use a harsh whisper instead, “Bush! If you don’t tell me where you’ve been for the last ten years or what is going on right now then I shall count this as a strange dream and go back home in my carriage to sleep it off!” By the end of the short squall Hornblower unleashed he was on his feet instead of sitting in the booth.

Bush’s eyes flicked to Hornblower’s, to the bar, and then back to Hornblower. “We’ve been friends a long time haven’t we?”

“Not for the last ten years we haven’t. And I thin-”

“Shush! We’ve been friends a long time. I’m asking you to trust me right now. I promise I’ll explain everything soon, but right now we need to get to a safe place. Now how did you say you got here?”

“In a carriage. I left it at the middle of the port with the driver.”

“Let’s go there. Everything will be made clear soon.”

Bush hefted himself up out of the booth and made his way to the door. Hornblower sighed and pulled his coat tighter around him as they headed out into the cold night air. He thought to himself, At least it smells better outside of this place.

They walked in silence with Bush leading the way. Hornblower attempted to collect some of the dignity and poise appropriate for a man of his position as they walked. The same questions flew through his mind. Where had Bush gone? How did he survive the explosion? Where had he been all these years? And what the Devil was that poppycock about Napoleon coming back from the dead? If it was true, which it wasn’t, was it the Second Coming or something altogether different? Hornblower decided it was best not to think of such things now. He’d wanted his old friend back for so long and he feared that any excessive questioning on his part might drive the new cagey Bush away.

Still, some old rules should continue to be observed. Hornblower wouldn’t have Bush leading him to the carriage. He walked a slightly quicker pace and easily passed the Captain on his wooden leg. “It’s this way,” Hornblower said. Bush grunted and followed.

They soon reached the carriage. In the dim light, Hornblower could see the driver on the seat with his hands folded in his lap holding the reins. Hornblower waved at him, but got no response in turn. Annoyed, Hornblower opened the door to the carriage himself. He turned back to Bush and asked, “Where are we going?”

“I need to check something first. Did you bring my letter with you?”

“Yes, I did.”

“Where is it?”

“Right here on the seat where I left it.” Hornblower glanced to the seat, but saw the letter had fallen onto the floor.

“On the seat?” asked Bush. He looked at the letter on the cabin floor, then at the driver, who continued to stare straight ahead with his hands in his lap.

Over the constant sound of the sea, Hornblower heard a creak behind him of a roof tile moving slightly in the wind. Bush turned to look at the sound and then instantly lunged at Hornblower, tackling him to the ground. A gunshot blasted into the side of the carriage sending a spray of wood chips onto the ground around the two sailors.

Hornblower picked himself up onto his elbows and drew the pistol from inside his coat. Bush shouted, “Take cover! They’re on the roofs!” Hornblower rolled under the carriage just as another bullet hit the cobblestones where he was before.

Bush joined Hornblower under the carriage. As he crawled under, Hornblower saw the body of the driver fallen on the ground. He must’ve been killed by their attackers earlier and placed back on the driver’s seat as bait for Hornblower and Bush. The two horses stamped their hooves, but stayed where they were.

Between two deep breaths to keep himself calm Hornblower asked, “How many did you see?”

“Four I think.”

The gears in Hornblower’s mind turned. They attackers wouldn’t be able to get them under the carriage with pistols or rifles. If they came down he could shoot one of them easily, so they probably wouldn’t take that risk. It was also unlikely that they would keep waiting til one of them came out. If they waited til morning other people would come out and he and Bush could make their escape. If he were in the attackers’ position that left one other option.

Hornblower asked, “Do you know these people?”

“I know who they work for.”

“Are they the types to set fire to the carriage?”

“Yes.”

“Did you bring a pistol with you?”

“I brought two,” Bush replied.

“You watch the left and the rear side and I’ll watch the right and through the horses’ legs. If you see them lighting a fire, then fire back at them.”

“Aye-aye.”

Hornblower and Bush waited. Soon, Hornblower saw two boots approaching from the right side of the carriage close to the horses. In the darkness he propped himself up on his elbows. He laid the pistol barrel in the palm of his left hand and aimed three feet above one of the pairs of boots, hoping that the blind shot would hit. Hornblower heard the sound of flint on steel and fired. A split second later he heard Bush fire as well. The horses spooked with the gunfire so close to them. They ran, taking the carriage away with them. Hornblower heard a pistol fire from one of the pairs of boots while person in the other pair fell to the ground bleeding.

Hornblower jumped to his feet. The horses pulled the carriage past the body of the man Hornblower shot and the other man approaching from that direction. Hornblower whipped around and saw a second man fall to Bush’s pistols. All that remained was the one man who had wasted his shot when the horses spooked. The man fumbled for something in his coat and Hornblower rushed him.

Without a weapon of his own, Hornblower simply tackled the man to the ground. He doubted he could overpower him, but perhaps he could buy time for Bush to get up from the ground. Hornblower and the man fell. Another gunshot resonated through the dockyard. The man went limp. Hornblower felt a pistol shaped lump in the man’s coat and then the warm wet feeling of blood pouring out of the man’s chest. He had shot himself with an extra pistol when Hornblower tackled him to the ground.

Hornblower rolled off the man and stared at the clouds over the harbor as he recovered his breath. He saw the wind blowing the clouds away for a bit of starlight to shine through. Bush appeared in his vision next to the star. “We’ve got to get to your estate. They’ll have figured out who you are and will try to use Lady Barbara and your son against you. We don’t have time to wait for the constables to sort this out. We must leave quickly.”

Hornblower picked himself up, “For God’s sake, Bush! What is going on?”

“I promise I’ll explain on the way, Admiral, but we must hurry. Your family’s lives are at stake.”

“Fine. Now where’s that blasted carriage gotten to?”