Chapter 20 - The Coming Storm

"Would you look at that!" Malfus exclaimed as the Sea Wyvern and the Blue Nixie finally reached the port of Farshore.

"Looks like things are well in hand. The town looks almost put right," Saris commented, taking it in.

"I tell you what, I'm not sure the town has ever looked so good to me," Malfus admitted in high spirits. "In fact, I'd say a celebration is in order."

"Not that I have anything against it, but what's the occasion?" Saris asked curiously.

"In honor of not having gotten dead! I'd say that's plenty enough reason to celebrate. Follow me to the Last Coconut. Drinks on the house!" Malfus declared as he led the way.

Saris shook his head, but followed along, not being one to waste a free drink opportunity. He glanced over his shoulder to see Amella scowling after them. Before he could say anything she disappeared into her cabin, slamming the door, leaving no doubt as to her wishes to be left alone.

At the Last Coconut, the guys ran into Viselys and the others. The mood over everyone seemed jovial and high spirited. Along with the successful recovery of the Blue Nixie, Viselys and his party had retrieved a cache of well crafted weapons and a interesting new companion.

"I'd say we've all done right well in a month's time," Lefty smiled around at everyone. "By my reckoning, I'd say we've another month before the Crimson Fleet arrives, and that's plenty." It was obvious that Lefty's optimistic assessment could largely be attributed to his consumption of celebratory drink, but even the others felt a sense of accomplishment at what had been done thus far.

"My efforts to recruit militia members before I left certainly has shown success," Viselys intoned on a positive note. "Based on the population, probably all able-bodied men are already signed up and training. Some women, too. Those weapons we brought back will be in good hands. And I believe many of the militia members are in favor of Lavinia," Viselys continued, "Though, I'm not entirely sure if it's because they really want to make a stand for the town, or the chance at gaining some sense of justice against the Crimson Fleet."

"There's a lot of fear and resentment against them pirates," Malfus offered as he mixed up a few Phoenix Downs.

"You got that right. Some of the fairer locals are ready to ship out should Mathalay get the vote," Saris said as he took a drink from Malfus' line up. "Even the assurances of a proven swordsman couldn't sway them from their fear."

"You sure you don't need an extra shot in that drink to counter act the blow to your pride?" Malfus grinned.

"I don't see you busting your butt to do much. From what I see, you don't seem to care whether this whole place goes up in flames," Saris gestured dramatically to encompass the bar and everything in it.

"Then where would you go?" Malfus countered flippantly.

"Saris does have a point, Malfus. Lavinia's been very good to you and your establishment, bringing you many new patrons. Her confirmation would ensure more, or haven't you been paying attention?" Viselys pressed.

"Look," Malfus began before pausing. He glanced around then leaned forward and lowered his voice. "I'm very grateful for the increase of business. Don't think I haven't thought about that. But I've lived with these people for a long while, and I'm not about to go making waves among my friends. I'm a business man first and foremost. Whoever wins will have my complete support."

"So you don't care," Saris stated sardonically.

"I didn't say that now. I have my preferences, but I can't go forcing them on people. I've got a business to run. Besides," he said as he straightened. "This is the Last Coconut. Only good times and good company." His heartfelt declaration heralded the entrance of Lavinia. He gave her a smile and a wink as he fixed her up a drink.

"Sneaky son of a…" Saris grumbled, but didn't finish as Lavinia came up beside him.

"Good evening, gentlemen," Lavinia said as she accepted the drink Malfus made for her. "I wanted to thank you for all the hard work you have done on my behalf."

"It's been no trouble at all," Viselys said. "Whomever we have failed to win over will surely be on your side after tomorrow."

"I'm not so sure about that, but I appreciate your confidence. Mathalay is a good man, and well acquainted with the people of this town. I've managed to make a favorable impression upon many, but I do believe I still have quite a task ahead of me to win the majority. Tomorrow's debate will be my final chance to sway them," Lavinia said as she sipped at her drink.

"You will," Viselys assured.

"I appreciate the vote of confidence," Lavinia said as she sipped on the very fancy arrangement provided by Malfus.

"Shall I order you another?" Viselys asked indicating her drink. "No reason you shouldn't indulge with the rest of us. One night of celebratory drunkenness is surely excusable, don't you think?"

Lavinia paused to stare at Viselys. "Clearly you did not read my diary."

"What? Of course not," Viselys said in sudden denial. It was obvious from her disposition that he had spoken out of turn, but for the life of him he couldn't figure out what he could have said.

"Never mind," she said politely dismissive. "Again, I thank you all. Well, I must be off. I need to prepare my thoughts and get some rest." Lavinia set her drink back on the bar thanking Malfus and the others one last time. As she was departing Mathalay entered.

"Ah, Lady Vanderboren. I wouldn't have thought to find you in such a place," Mathalay greeted with a touch of reprimand.

"It is the mark of a fine establishment and the quality of its patrons when a lady may feel at ease to offer her patronage. This town is most fortunate to have such a place." She smiled giving Mathalay her full attention.

His eyes, however, darted about registering the eyes that watched, though he continued to smile easily. After a moment he nodded. "Yes, we do have a fine citizenry here in Farshore."

"I do regret that I must be going. It would have been nice to share a drink with you," Lavinia said with a smile.

"How regrettable indeed," Mathalay agreed as he inclined his head. "Good luck in tomorrow's debate, Lady Vanderboren," he offered formally.

"Thank you, Councilman Meravanchi," Lavinia acknowledged with equal formality. "Enjoy your evening. Until tomorrow, gentlemen," she said graciously as she looked around at the gathering before departing.

Mathalay stood with a slight crease in his brow while a very bewildered Viselys watching Lavinia go. As she passed through the door he noticed Diamondback leaning against the wall with her arms crossed scowling at him before she shoved herself upright and followed Lavinia out.

"Women," Saris slurred as he swayed next to Viselys.

"No doubt," Malfus agreed. "One minute they're smiling and you're on top of the world, next they're pissed and scraping you off their heels."

"What?" Saris turned in confusion to the barkeep. "Like you know anything, song boy!"

Malfus burst out laughing. "That the best you got?"

"Well, give me another drink, and I'll see if I can think of anything better," Saris said as he slammed down his empty glass.

The sound seemed to snap Mathalay to as he turned to beam at those enjoying the evening, and approached the bar. "It is good to see so many fine people in one place."

Saris arched a skeptical brow at that and turned to enjoy his drink.

"What'll it be?" Malfus asked politely.

"Oh, nothing for me. I just wanted to stop by and invite everyone to tomorrow's debate." Mathalay grinned.

"Wouldn't miss it," Malfus smiled. "Everyone's been talking of nothing else."

"Oh? And what do they say," Mathalay inquired casually.

"Oh, you know how people talk," Malfus shrugged as he began wiping down the bar. "Everyone seems eager to hear both sides."

"Yes, well, they will get that." Mathalay smiled as he looked around before turning back to Malfus. "So you think it's fairly even at the moment?" He probed.

"Hard to say. I haven't been taking a poll. I just serve the drinks. Are you sure you won't have anything? Odd thing to be in a bar and drink nothing," Malfus said with a smile.

"None tonight I'm afraid. I must get some rest. Looking forward to tomorrow's turnout," Mathalay said. As he left he paused every few paces to say something to someone, working the crowd.


The next day everyone gathered for the debate. It was obvious that some were already firmly in favor of their chosen candidate, but as preferences were largely based off of town talk in spite of the efforts of each candidate to meet with people, this would be the first time for many to actually hear Mathalay and Lavinia address the issues directly. The most pressing issue at stake, of course, was the impending arrival of the Crimson Fleet. How the candidates addressed this issue would decide the people, and ultimately the future of the town.

"I am sure this is all a great waste of time," Avner said as he took up a seat near the front next to Viselys and Saris. "It is a shame that Lavinia insists on this silly idea of hers. It's obvious that my uncle is the superior given a choice."

Viselys cut him a glance, but chose to remain silent. After all the time spent with Avner, Viselys had learned that there was no point in engaging in any kind of conversation with the arrogant nobleman. Saris also tried very hard to ignore Avner. Avner, however, was oblivious to the lack of response, or perhaps he preferred it.

"Really, the lady should know her limits. She'd make a far better wife than a mayor. Don't you think, Van Sky?"

"Actually, I think she has proven to be far more skilled in leadership and management then others I could name," Saris commented with a hint of sarcasm that was lost on Avner.

"Yes, well, it is a good thing we need not worry about that. My uncle will surely win the election. Hopefully the lady isn't too badly humiliated. Though, it may serve to remind her better of her place in society."

Viselys stood abruptly, turning on Avner, but before he could utter a word Diamondback, who had been sitting just behind the guys, stood up and knocked Avner in the back of the head with her elbow.

"What the—!" Avner yelled as he turned to look at her.

"Oopsie. It's so tightly packed, and I have to excuse myself for a moment," she curved her lips into a put on apologetic smile before moving down the row towards the isle. Viselys and Saris both took notice of the fact that she managed to avoid jostling anyone else as she moved.

"The women around here could stand to—" Avner began.

"I suggest you keep your comments to yourself, Meravanchi," Viselys said as he sat back down.

"Seems everyone could use a little reminder of their place in this world," Avner retorted. "You know, I don't think these are the best seats. Too many commoners." Avner stood then addressed Saris, "You may want to consider moving as well, Van Sky."

"I'll take that under advisement," Saris said dismissively.

Avner snorted then moved to sit at the other end of the row, using his position of self importance to displace some others from their seats. Just then Ornrik arrived.

"Oh, thanks. How did you manage to save a seat way up here?" Ornrik asked as he took Avner's vacated seat. Neither Viselys or Saris answered him as the mediator took the podium.

"Welcome everyone to Farshore's first ever Mayoral debate," Professor Hevrik Aldwattle greeted as he looked out upon the crowd, which consisted of almost the entire town. "Many of you have had the opportunity to meet and speak with the candidates, but for those that have not, allow me to introduce Lavinia Vanderboren and Mathalay Meravanchi." Hevrik paused as Lavinia and Mathalay joined him, each taking up position to either side of the main podium at a smaller podium set up for each candidate. "As this is our first ever debate of this kind I'd like to ask everyone for their patience and encourage all to be respectful."

Several members of the crowd nodded their agreement, but it was interesting to note that though Hevrik had addressed the gathering at large, he seemed to give pointed looks here and there as if expecting argument. After a few warm up questions and very polite responses the debate finally turned to the issue that was foremost on everyone's mind: The impending arrival of the Crimson Fleet and the future of the town.

"We are a non-military settlement. We are simply not equipped to take on an entire armada of barbaric pirates. One of their ships, a scout ship no less, nearly cost us the town already," Mathalay was saying. "I have no doubt as to the courage of the citizens of Farshore, but we risk unnecessary loss of life when we could simply resettle the town to the mainland. We are still a small enough town that such a move would not be such a great burden, and we are a strong enough group to build and grow in a safer, resource rich environment. I have been a member of the council for as many years as we have been here. I assure you that with my experience we can avoid this needless war and build a stronger, better town."

"Thank you, Councilman Meravanchi," Hevrik said respectfully before turning with equal respect to Lavinia. "Lady Vanderboren, same question."

"This town is worth fighting for. Farshore is more than a camp to be moved. We came here to make something permanent. It has been built from the ground up by many of the hands that tend it still, hands that have already taken up arms in its defense. With the help of those that have come here with me, Farshore can continue to stand on its own. Here. We are better armed, better trained, and better prepared for what is to come."

"So you would have us, still green with training, go up against those experienced in bloodshed and destruction?" Mathalay countered scornfully.

"I do not see inexperienced men and women. Already we have been tested, and succeeded. Before the scout ship this town had to be cut from the jungle. Already battles have been fought for the resources here. Farshore has earned its place. Up rooting the town is not the answer. There is no guarantee that we will be any better off if we move," Lavinia responded logically.

"But already we have allies. Instead of calling on them to sacrifice their lives I submit that we ask for their hospitality. Surely there is room enough on the mainland for us all. With their aid we could be well underway to improving our lot, rather than hold on to this doomed cause." Mathalay's heated voice stirred a murmur among the crowd, but a sharp look from Hevrik kept it from growing.

Lavinia took that moment to make her final point in a firm voice that rang with authority. "By abandoning Farshore we will surely be providing the Crimson Fleet with the foothold they seek, and once they have done that, nowhere upon these islands will be safe."

The debate did not last much beyond that, and if asked not many could remember for the idea of the Crimson Fleet seemed to push all other thoughts away. The day of the election came, and by the evening all the votes had been cast and counted. Lavinia and Mathalay each waited with their strongest supporters as Hevrik came out with the results.

"The majority have cast their vote for Lady Vanderboren by a margin of 56," Hevrik announced.

Cheers rung out from Saris and the others with Lavinia, while she smiled proudly. At the same time Avner cried foul and demanded a recount for his uncle.

"No," Mathalay said firmly, silencing his nephew. "The people have spoken. Lady Vanderboren is the one they wish to follow, and so to will I. As Council Chair she will have my support. As Mayor she is now responsible for the town, and all that befalls it. Time will tell the ultimate cost of such choices as she makes for us all." Mathalay bowed respectfully to Lavinia, but no one missed the meaning in his words.

"Thank you, Councilman Meravanchi. I will always keep the well being of the town foremost in my thoughts. Your support in the days to come will be most valuable," Lavina graciously nodded in respect of Mathalay's concession.

Avner continued to grumble, but no one paid him any mind. A celebration was held at the Last Coconut, but Lavinia opted not to stay long.

"Enjoy the evening, gentlemen, and again, thank you for all that you have done," Lavinia said. "Tomorrow we will need to push hard to prepare the town. I know that many were waiting for the outcome of the election. Though I completely understand, it has put us slightly behind where I had hoped to be. If we are to stand against the Crimson Fleet we cannot afford to let another day go by without stressing our fortifications."

"Don't worry. We will be ready," Viselys reassured.

"That's right," Saris chimed in enthusiastically. "You've got us, and well, let's just face it, with me around we can't lose. We'll show those pirates a thing or two."

"I'm counting on it," Lavinia said with a smile as she bid them all goodnight.

"You just can't help yourself, can you?" Viselys turned to Saris.

"What?" Saris shrugged as he put his glass on the bar. "Another drink, Malfus!"

After a few more rounds everyone began to clear out and find their way to their beds. And as Lavinia had said, the next day began a complete devotion to preparations of the coming storm.

Continue to Chapter 21

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