The sorcerer's only excuse was that he'd been sleeping when they'd appeared out of the rolling fog at full sail, slid alongside starboard with pitch-dipped arrows trained, and signaled for Mellesdane to surrender. He awoke to the clamor of shouting and the thunder of heavy boots against the deck overhead.

A steward came to fetch him, young and terrified. "You must come now, My Lord. We are taken by Raiegan pirates."

"Not to worry, friend." He took the time to dress in his best finery as the steward trembled in the doorway. "All will be well."

Once he was dressed, they made their way to the ladder and up into the sun. The Captain and crew of Mellesdane had been lined up on the weather deck, guarded by sword-wielding pirates whose Captain stood on the forecastle.

"Good morning," the sorcerer said, pleasantly.

"And who are you?" The pirate Captain snarled.

Mellesdane's Captain called out, in a valiant attempt to cover what he imagined must be the obvious. "A nobleman from the Southern Coast, and my passenger. He has done nothing to—" a Raiegan gave him a blow to the stomach for his trouble.

"A nobleman, are you? Would there be those willing to pay a ransom for your safe return to shore, then? From the looks of you, I'd wager aye."

"Perhaps, if you knew who to ask, which of course you don't. In any event you'd never live to spend it."

"Do not invoke my wrath."

The sorcerer smiled. "We're far out over a deep sea, Captain. There are worse things hereabouts than you and your men for one to fear; yet I do not fear them. What do you glean from that?"

"That you're a fool in need of a—" The pirate Captain froze in place, eyes fixed and widening.

The deep ocean contains very old horrors, things of immense bulk and appetite. Such a creature — easily as big as either ship — was approaching from astern, driving ahead of its massive head a great white churning bow-wave.

"You have suffered a misfortune, Captain. You have raided the wrong ship. It is an easy mistake to correct: leave your spoils where they are and go."

Some of the pirates turned to follow their Captain's gaze, spied the approaching creature, and a murmur of panic rose from within their ranks. They began inching towards the planks that joined their deck to Mellesdane's. When the creature let sound a terrifying noise, that motion exploded into a frenzied scramble.

The pirate Captain was not far behind. Soon their planks were withdrawn and their sails set and they were pulling away. They picked up speed as the monster approached, barely staying ahead of it as they headed for the horizon.

"Was it real?" Mellesdane's Captain asked, at the sorcerer's elbow.


"The beast! I have seen you conjure illusions to delight an audience and I have seen you call down sparrows to carry a message, My Lord. Which!?"

The sorcerer grinned.

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