Episode 9 — Sailing on Distant Seas

NeVaga enquires a bit about Manager Karlson’s regular habits; he seems to hang out primarily in low-grade Muster social circles when he’s not “actively recruiting” unskilled labour or supervising crews. After a bit of discussion, Aquilegia and NeVaga agree that approaching him at this point would just tip the opposition.


Once the travel preparations are complete, Aquilegia’s ship Maya’s Light heads out towards the jumpgate. About a day into the trip, it’s shipboard night and Aquilegia is getting a late bite to eat when she runs into a frightened Etyri cowering from her! Astounded, she tries to calm the crouching, trembling, babbling Etyri, speaking to him in his language; behind her, a man wearing an eye patch appears, pointing a laser pistol. Aquilegia calls out in alarm and outrage, waking NeVaga, as a third stowaway reveals herself, dropping from a ventilation shaft. NeVaga sneaks up on the armed man and puts her kraxi knife to his throat, but the third stowaway, a young girl of sixteen, convinces her companion not to shoot anyone.

When things are finally sorted out, Aquilegia and NeVaga learn that the young woman is Dame Alicia Silvers (whose name Aquilegia recognizes as reputed to be the Emperor’s illegitimate daughter), her bodyguard Imperial Eye Agent Constultius Fortitude Zebulon "Snake" Plissken, and Harr’ha’ukee Thuuri, an Etyri Cha'arkut merchant who was embroiled in their escape. Dame Alicia is running away from her uncle and legal guardian John Hawkwood, who she believes is part of a conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor before he is crowned, have her recognized as Imperial Heir, then act as regent to rule the Known Worlds. She reasons that as long as she is free and her whereabouts unknown, the conspiracy cannot afford to kill the Emperor.

By the time the story is told and Aquilegia check whether an alert has been raised about the fugitives, Plissken and Thuuri’s mug shots are being broadcast through the system as kidnappers and slavers. Aquilegia asks NeVaga to arrange a distraction through her Cumulus Station contacts. NeVaga is quite willing, concerned that a search for the escapees could turn up her smuggled vial of unknown contents. She calls her uncle on Cumulus Station, tells him about the searches, and arranges to have some poor schlock the Scravers are dissatisfied be turned loose and become a distraction.

The Maya’s Light makes it to the jumpgate six days later without further interruptions, and lumps toward Criticorum. However, soon after they arrive into the Criticorum system they are stopped by an al-Malik cruiser that orders them to heave to and prepare to be boarded. NeVaga hides the stowaways carefully before al-Malik forces board. Despite Aquilegia’s protests, the ship is seized under claims of piracy and sedition, and they are taken planet-side to Criticorum.

There, Aquilegia is informed that her sister Lina has apparently made a name for herself here by helping a faction of independent fishermen, who refuse to join a guild or pay dues, fight off the attempts of the Fishermen’s Guild to annex them forcibly. If Aquilegia can get her sister to leave this fight, the ship will be returned and they will be allowed to continue their trip. Aquilegia agrees none too graciously; after recovering her crew and belongings – and speaking loudly while doing so in order to warn the stowaways – she is taken to the beautiful coastal city of Isfahan to try to locate Lina Masseri.

Aquilegia requests of the al-Malik that they supply her with a small fishing boat so they can venture out and make it easier for Lina to contact her. This takes a few days to arrange so in the mean time Aquilegia and NeVaga spend some time talking to fishermen. When people learn of another Masseri they react strongly with animosity or approval of the sister of the famous pirate/hero. Aquilegia and NeVaga question many in order to piece the picture. The Fishermen’s Guild previously had a policy to leave independents alone but about a year ago this change and no one knows why. The Guild has even hired Muster forces to help them in this struggle, and the al-Malik have refused to support the freemen. The whole conflict seems far more brutal and expensive than it should be.

One night Aquilegia receives a note to be in the alley behind the inn alone at midnight. She passes the note to NeVaga so that her bodyguard can keep covert tabs, then goes to the assigned place and time. While she is keeping watch, NeVaga hears a voice whisper: "Gund dashedi myr tant"; she whispers back, "Bont tavi kormig rivga Sukara." [See previous episode.] A young Ukar man steps forward, his hand extended, and she hands him the contraband vial. He leaves as silently as he arrived.

Aquilegia waits for a long time, but no one comes to meet her. Certain that this must be a distraction to search, bug, steal, or bomb their room or possessions, she returns to the inn but finds nothing amiss even after turning the room inside out.

Aquilegia and NeVaga barely had time to get any sleep when they are awakened again by a commotion in the early morning hours; the al-Malik authorities are demanding to see NeVaga. It transpires that an Ukar has turned up dead nearby and the authorities want to question NeVaga. She and Aquilegia are taken to see the body and NeVaga immediately recognizes the body of the young Ukar she handed the vial to the night before. Questioned about whether she knows him, she firmly denies ever seeing him before.

The al-Malik nod and are about to let them go, shrugging. It’s clear however that the dead man was stabbed multiple times, so Aquilegia volunteers NeVaga’s services to examine the body. The al-Malik authorities agree with some suspicion. NeVaga sees from his ritual scars that he was from Kordeth and belonged to Clan Morwec, well known as closely aligned with the al-Malik. Half of her own clan (Nolent) sympathizes with the Morwec while the rest are strongly opposed (including NeVaga’s own line).

She can also tell that he was stabbed by kraxi blades from at least three directions but never had a chance to defend himself. He has been thoroughly searched and robbed, and the vial is gone. It seems he must have been killed very shortly after she first encountered him. NeVaga cautiously informs the al-Malik and Aquilegia that the dead Ukar was from Kordeth and was killed by three people before being robbed, but omits the rest of the details.


When the boat promised by the al-Malik finally shows up, with an independent fisherman called Mustapha at the helm, the two visitors head out to sea. Several days of sailing, watching the horizon line, and questioning Mustapha and any other fishermen they encounter (all independents) reveals nothing new.

At long last late one night after Mustapha has started heading back to port because his boat’s holds are full, Aquilegia is awakened by the sound of another boat sailing close. She quietly shakes NeVaga awake, moments before a bright spotlight turns on them from the other vessel, another fishing boat slightly larger than theirs. Lina Masseri’s voice calls out so Aquilegia calls back. Questioned, she explained that the al-Malik demand that she discourage Lina from helping the “rebels” but Lina cheerfully refuses – this is not about a fishermen’s guild war, she says.

After quick introduction, Lina kills Mustapha in cold blood and announces that he was an agent of the al-Malik secret police. On the horizon, two al-Malik hovercraft appear, rapidly closing the distance. Lina urges Aquilegia and NeVaga to quickly move to her own boat; the vessel’s wooden paneling is rapidly jettisoned, revealing a sleek racing boat underneath, and they are off in a roar!

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