The swashbuckling adventures of Captain Kate Fitzmaurice continues in this thrilling continuation of the epic tale of the Dragon Corsairs.
Captain Kate escapes the hangman's noose with the help of Prince Thomas, only to discover to her dismay that her dragon friend, Dalgren, has gone back to his homeland to face trial for desertion. Spymaster Henry Wallace plots to stop Prince Thomas from gaining the Freyan throne as the prince makes a daring move to prove his claim.
A dangerous mission to the dark world of the Bottom Dwellers leads Kate to the discovery of a dark plot that threatens the lives of her friends and places the fate of a nation in her hands.
About the Author
MARGARET WEIS is the internationally bestselling co-creator of Dragonlance and many other popular fantasy series. She was born in Missouri and worked as an editor for TSR. She lives in Wisconsin.
ROBERT KRAMMES is a native Ohioan living in Cincinnati. He has collaborated with Margaret Weis on the bestselling Dragon Brigade trilogy, the final volume of which was The Seventh Sigil.
Spymaster, set on the world of Aeronne, is the first in a new trilogy, Dragon Corsairs.
Read an Excerpt
His Highness Thomas Stanford, known fondly as "Prince Tom" to some in Freya and not so fondly as the "Pretender" to others, was to dine today with the admiral of the Rosian navy on board his flagship, Vent d'Argent, anchored in Maribeau's harbor.
Phillip Masterson, Duke of Upper and Lower Milton in Freya, accompanied his friend Prince Tom. King Renaud of Rosia had invited the prince to observe the workings of the Rosian Royal Navy as their ships and the famed Dragon Brigade were engaged in clearing the Aligoes of pirates, smugglers, and other miscreants.
King Renaud knew that the presence of a Freyan prince on board a Rosian ship would cause consternation among his officers, for Thomas could well be the future ruler of Rosia's most implacable foe. The king let it be known, however, that his officers had no choice in the matter. Thomas was engaged to be married to the king's sister, Princess Sophia. Renaud believed that once Thomas became king of Freya, he would usher in a new era of peace between the two warring nations.
"In other words," Thomas remarked caustically to Phillip as they were being ferried to the Vent d'Argent, "if I become king, Renaud expects me to become Rosia's vassal."
Thomas gestured at the assembled ships of the Rosian navy, floating at anchor on the mists of the Breath: the two massive seventy-fours, frigates, and brigs, watched over by three dragons of the Dragon Brigade circling overhead.
"Renaud invited me to view this show of force in order to impress me with Rosian might," Thomas continued. "He wants to frighten me into good behavior."
"I think you are making too much of this," Phillip said. "You forget that I used to live in the Aligoes. I believe Rosia is doing the world a favor. The pirates were growing increasingly bold and powerful. No ship was safe, and that includes Freyan merchant shipping."
"The Freyans dispatched strongly worded communiqués protesting the Rosian naval blockade of the Trame Channel," said Thomas.
"But all they have done is talk," said Phillip. "Freya is secretly happy to see the end of the pirate scourge in the Aligoes and extremely glad that they don't have to pay for it."
Thomas grinned at his friend. "This spoken by a former pirate. I suppose I should not mention over the soup course that His Grace, the Duke of Upper and Lower Milton, was one of the notorious Rose Hawks who once preyed upon Rosian ships in the Aligoes."
"I fear such a statement would land me in the soup, not dining on it," said Phillip, laughing.
The shore boat ferrying the two friends arrived at the Vent d'Argent just as the ship's bells struck two times, one of the clock in the afternoon. The prince was accorded the honors due to him: the twittering of pipes, marines standing at attention, sailors in their best uniforms. A flag lieutenant was on hand to greet them.
He made introductions to the captain and lieutenants, then ushered them into the admiral's elegantly appointed cabin.
Silver lamps hung from overhead. A beautiful rosewood table was set for twelve with white tablecloth, silver and gold place settings, and crystal stemware. Flowers filled the room, where sailors in white gloves handed around the dishes.
The admiral had invited the other captains and commanders of the ships of the Rum Fleet, as it was called, to dine with them. Thomas and Phillip already knew many of them. They were currently living aboard the seventy-four-gun Belle Fleur, and they had visited other ships during their time in the Aligoes and met many of the other captains. Thomas liked all of them with the exception of Captain Favager, commander of a frigate.
Favager had the reputation among the fleet as a bully and a tyrant, faults that might have been overlooked if he had been a good officer and sailor. He was neither, however. He was the kind of man who built himself up by publicly tearing down others. He took pride in "speaking his mind," which meant being rude and offensive.
"Favager is fortunate that dueling is forbidden, or he would spend half his time on the field of honor," one captain had confided to Thomas.
Favager's fellow captains disliked him not only for his sneering remarks, but also because he had obtained his posting solely due to his wife's connections; she was sister to one of the Lords of the Divinebrises Gardiens, the Rosian equivalent of the Freyan Lords of the Admiralty.
Thus it was with extreme displeasure that Thomas found himself seated across from Favager, with Phillip opposite him. Captain Dag Thorgrimson, of the Dragon Brigade, was seated at Thomas's right. The captain grimaced as Captain Favager settled himself.
"Bad luck for us, Your Highness," said Captain Thorgrimson in a low voice. "Favey will be in rare form today. He fought a battle yesterday and actually won. Although from what my dragons tell me, it was a bad business."
Thomas was surprised to hear the man speak so forthrightly. He did not know Captain Thorgrimson well, but from what he had seen and heard of him, he liked him. A former mercenary from the nation of Guundar, Thorgrimson was now the commander of the Dragon Brigade. He had been recommended to his post by the Brigade's previous commander, Stephano de Guichen, and had received his promotion from King Renaud himself. He had been unanimously approved by the Dragon Brigade's Council of Arms.
Thorgrimson was well liked and highly respected both by his fellow officers and by the dragons who served under him. Thomas was interested to hear more, but their conversation was interrupted by the arrival of the soup. The captain on Thomas's left asked him a question about the Estaran navy. Thomas had served in the Estaran army, but he knew enough about the navy to reply. Then another captain wanted to know details about the battle of San Estavan in which Thomas had fought during the war with the Bottom Dwellers. Discussion of the battle carried them through the soup course.
The sailors served the fish course and the talk turned to the scourge of yellow jack, the virulent fever that was the curse of these islands. The disease was often fatal and could ravage a ship. Yellow jack ended when the meat course was being served. As Thorgrimson had predicted, Favager took the opportunity of a momentary lull in the conversation to brag about the battle he had fought.
"I fired a broadside that knocked down the pirates' mizzenmast —" Favager began.
"After the ship had struck her colors," Thorgrimson interjected. "You fired on a ship that had surrendered."
His voice was deep and resonant, and carried well. Everyone heard his accusation and a hush descended, save for the head of the table where their host, Admiral Charbonneau, was bitterly complaining about the difficulties of storing his best claret in the Aligoes heat.
"Pirates deserve no such consideration, sir," Favager stated. He was lean, tall, and rawboned with an underslung jaw. He drank heavily, but always appeared perfectly sober.
"The men you sent to the bottom were not pirates," said Thorgrimson. "They were privateers — men holding letters of marque from Freya."
"One and the same," Favager said with a sneer. He added with a shrug, "We make allowances for you, Thorgrimson. We would not expect a man of low birth such as yourself to understand the complexities of naval warfare."
Thomas was shocked by the insult and waited for Thorgrimson to challenge the man on the spot, dueling laws be damned. Several of the others looked shocked as well. There were a few mutterings, but everyone waited to see how Thorgrimson reacted.
Laying down his knife and fork, he wiped his lips with his napkin, then said calmly, "Even a man of low birth knows the meaning of honor, sir. Or more particularly, the lack of honor."
His fellow officers smiled, and several nodded. Phillip looked across at Thomas and mouthed the word "Touché!"
Favager flushed an ugly red. Throwing down his napkin, he started to rise from his chair. He was interrupted by Admiral Charbonneau. Notoriously obtuse, the admiral only now was aware of the conversation.
"Eh? What's that you are saying, Captain Favager?" Charbonneau called out. "Talking about that pirate you sank? Damned good work. I read your report. The fiends put up a vicious fight. Give us the details, Captain."
The officer to Thomas's left choked on his beef and several more were forced to hide their laughter in their napkins.
Captain Favager couldn't very well describe a fight that had not taken place — except, it seemed, in his report to the admiral. He cast a hate-filled look at Dag, then resumed his seat.
"The bitch was a damned pirate," he said. "I sank her ship and captured her and now the notorious 'Captain Kate,' as the rabble call her, is going to hang."
Captain Kate. Thomas heard her name and he could feel the blood drain from his face. He must be as white as the tablecloth and he could see by Phillip's alarmed expression that others would soon notice and start to wonder.
Thomas should say something to explain his dramatic change of countenance, but he seemed paralyzed. He couldn't think, move, or even breathe.
Phillip gestured to a sailor.
"I will have more of that gravy," he said.
The sailor hurried over to ladle the gravy from its tureen, and that's when the mishap occurred.
Phillip was raising a glass of wine to his lips just as the sailor was bending to ladle out the gravy. The two of them collided.
The sailor upset the tureen and dumped steaming hot beef gravy down the front of Phillip's jacket, causing Phillip to jump to his feet in shock and pain. As he did so, he jerked his arm and flung claret directly into Thomas's face.
Confusion reigned as the other officers pushed back their chairs to try to avoid the gravy spill, which was spreading. Thomas gasped and blinked. The wine stung his eyes as he fumbled blindly for something to wipe them with.
Thorgrimson thrust a napkin into Thomas's hand and he mopped his face. A lieutenant hustled the unfortunate sailor away.
"Entirely my fault," Phillip was saying. "I hope the sailor will not be punished. I barged into him, poor devil. My apologies, Admiral, gentlemen."
The flag lieutenant hurried over. "If you gentlemen would care to retire to clean up, I can take you to my cabin and provide you with towels and fresh water."
He led the way. Thomas and Phillip both bowed their excuses and left.
"Quick thinking!" Thomas said in a low voice as they followed the lieutenant.
"Now at least you have some color in your face," Phillip said. He added more somberly, "What are we going to do about Kate? Can they be serious about hanging her? This is terrible!"
"We must find out where they are holding her," Thomas said.
Phillip nodded and accosted the flag lieutenant.
"I am fond of a good hanging, sir," Phillip said. "When and where is this female pirate to be strung up? That is a spectacle I would not want to miss."
"They are holding her in Fort Saint-Jean, Your Grace," the flag lieutenant replied. "You can see the fortress from here if you look off the port bow. I understand she is to be executed at dawn. The Admiralty wants her dispatched swiftly and quietly, for they fear she has influential friends who might try to save her. She was part of a gang of Freyan thugs who called themselves the 'Rose Hawks.'"
"I've heard stories of these Rose Hawks," Phillip said. "They say they were all extremely handsome men of rare courage —"
The flag lieutenant was staring at him. Thomas hastily intervened. "Thank you for the offer of a cabin, Lieutenant, but I believe we will return to our ship. Phillip has done damage enough for one day. Please make our excuses to the admiral and extend our thanks for his hospitality."
The flag lieutenant politely tried to convince them to stay. Thomas was insistent, however, and the lieutenant sent one midshipman to fetch their hats and another to summon their boat.
The Breath was calm today. The ship floated on a cool autumn breeze and the orange mists. The Rosian fleet relied on the magical crystals known as the Tears of God and magic to keep afloat. The helmsman controlled the flow of the magic to the lift tanks from the magical constructs on the brass helm. The large seventy-four, so called because of her seventy-four cannons, was propelled by six airscrews that were also controlled from the helm. The airscrews were barely moving, and the ship's forward motion had nearly slowed to a crawl, so as not to disturb the dinner guests.
While Thomas and Phillip waited for their boat, they strolled over to the port bow to take a look at the fort.
"The last we heard of Kate, she was in Freya working for Sir Henry Wallace," Phillip said. "What the devil do you suppose caused her to return to the Aligoes? Everyone in the islands knew the Rosians were coming to wage war on the pirates. Perhaps Wallace sent her here on some mission."
"Your spymaster friend Wallace is up to his eyeballs in trouble these days," Thomas said. "He's forced to deal with Freya's failing economy, rioting in the streets, and now the mysterious death of this dragon, Lady Odila. The Haever Gazette talks of nothing else. I doubt if he has time for a secret mission."
"Kate must have understood the danger she would face if she returned to the Aligoes," said Phillip. "The Rosians hate her and small wonder. They read the stories about her in the Gazette wherein the fictional Captain Kate always outwits the Rosian navy. Maybe she thought she could do so in real life."
They stood at the rail, somberly studying the fort where Kate was being held prisoner.
Fort Saint-Jean was a solid, no-nonsense structure, constructed to serve, not to adorn. Standing atop Point La Fierté du Roi, the fort consisted of three squat stone towers connected by walls and bristling with cannons. The fort was one of three guarding the entrance to the harbor and the Rosian city of Maribeau.
Phillip gave a low whistle. "That's rather formidable, isn't it? How do you propose to get inside?"
"Getting inside won't be a problem," said Thomas. "Getting out will."CHAPTER 2
"You can drop us off at the wharf," Thomas told the coxswain, who was ferrying them to Maribeau in the ship's pinnace. "Inform Captain Stanzi that we will be spending several days on shore. I have pressing matters of state to which I must attend, so I am not certain when we will be able to return to the ship."
The coxswain promised he would relay the message, dropped them off at the wharf, then sailed back to his ship.
"Stanzi will find it odd that you didn't mention these pressing matters of state earlier," Phillip remarked.
"He'll think that we are too embarrassed by your appalling gaffe at dinner to return to the ship and I'm using that as an excuse," said Thomas.
He could see Fort Saint-Jean more clearly now, perched on the cliff, practically on top of them. Phillip followed his gaze and shook his head. "It looks worse close-up."
"How many soldiers man it?" Thomas asked.
"Four thousand during the Bottom Dweller war," said Phillip. "Now probably about a thousand. Steep odds, even for us."
"With luck, it won't matter. We will be in and out before they know it," Thomas said. He looked at his watch. "Three of the clock. We need to go to our lodgings and change clothes. I look as though I have been on an all-night debauch and you smell like pot roast."
Phillip fell into step beside him. "After that, where are we bound?"
"To the cathedral. I want to be there in time for Vespers at four, so we must hurry."
"The cathedral?" Phillip repeated, startled. "I know we need all the help we can get, but I am not certain God would side with us in any attempt to free Kate. I hate to say that Favager is right about anything, but he does have a point. Kate is far more pirate than she is privateer. I take it you have formed a plan?"
"We are going to the cathedral to secure disguises," said Thomas. "After that, we will need to hire griffins, have them ready and waiting to fly us off Maribeau. I was thinking we could take Kate to Wellinsport and put her on a merchant ship bound for Freya. The Rosians are not stopping merchant ships."
"They are not stopping them now," said Phillip. "They will once they find out Kate has escaped."
"Damn! You are right," said Thomas, discouraged.
They continued to discuss the matter as they entered their lodgings and hurriedly put on more somber attire, suitable to attending holy services.
"We will need cloaks," said Thomas, picking up his as they started to leave.
"It is hot as blazes! We will look ridiculous," Phillip protested.
"If anyone asks, we can always say it might rain," said Thomas.
Phillip sighed and picked up his cloak. They turned their steps toward the cathedral, which was located in the middle of Maribeau. Designed to be the center of attention, the single spire was visible from every part of the city. Phillip was intimately familiar with Maribeau, for he had visited the city on numerous occasions during his time as a Rose Hawk, and he led the way.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Privateer"
Copyright © 2018 Margaret Weis and Robert Krammes.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
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