Edmynd Walkyr, master after God of the galleon Wave (when his wife wasn't on deck, at least), stood by the galleon's after rail and worried.


            That was where he always did his worrying, by and large. And he preferred to do it after sunset, as well, when none of his crew could see his expression and be infected by his worries. And, of course, when Lyzbet couldn't see him and offer to clout him on the ear as her own, thankfully unique antidote for anxiety.


            Not that she really would . . . in front of the crew, at least.


            I think.


            His lips twitched at the thought, but his amusement was brief, and he quickly returned to his worrying as he gazed across the dark harbor's waters at the dim lights of the Ferayd waterfront.


            I don't care what she says, he told himself firmly. Next voyage, Lyzbet's staying home. And so is Greyghor.


            He didn't expect that to be an easy decision to enforce. Like at least a third, and more probably half, of the total Charisian merchant fleet, Wave and her sister ship Wind were family-owned. Edmynd and his brother Zhorj were the master and first officer, respectively, of Wave, and Edmynd's brother-in-law, Lywys, and Edmynd's youngest brother, Mychail, held the same positions aboard Wind. Family members usually formed the nucleus of the crews aboard such vessels, and Edmynd's wife, Lyzbet, acted as Wave's purser. There were sound reasons for that arrangement, and under normal circumstances, when all a man had to worry about was wind, weather, shipwreck, and drowning, it didn't especially disturb Edmynd's sleep.


            But circumstances weren't normal. Not remotely normal.


            He leaned both hands on the rail, fingers drumming while he frowned. Ever since the Group of Four's unprovoked onslaught upon Charis, tensions had run incredibly high. Well, of course they had! When the Grand Inquisitor himself connived at the destruction of an entire kingdom, merchant ships from that kingdom could expect to find themselves in what might charitably be called "an uncomfortable position."


            Still, things hadn't seemed all that unsettled on the first voyage Edmynd had made after the battle of Darcos Sound. He'd left Lyzbet home for that one — not without a battle of wills which had left him longing for something as peaceful as a hurricane — but he'd experienced no problems, really. The Tellesberg-Ferayd circuit was Wave's usual run, and the factors and merchants with whom he normally dealt here in the Kingdom of Delfarahk had seemed relieved to see him again. Given the quantity of goods which had built up in Ferayd's warehouses, awaiting transshipment, not to mention all the merchants who'd been waiting for consignments from Charis which had been delayed by the war, that probably shouldn't have been as surprising — or as big a relief — as it had been.


            Unfortunately, it had also suggested (as Lyzbet had predictably pointed out) that there was no reason she shouldn't come along on the next voyage. Which she and their oldest son, Greyghor, had. And he wished to heaven that he'd left both of them home again.


            It's that letter of the Archbishop's, he thought unhappily. I can't disagree with anything he said, but that's what it is.


            The last time he'd been here, that letter had been in transit. Now it had arrived, and the Church's reaction had been . . . unfavorable. The fact that, as far as Edmynd, could tell every mainland port had been flooded with thousands of printed copies of the same letter hadn't helped matters, either. Before, everyone had wanted to pretend it was still business as usual, that the attack on Charis really had been made by her purely secular enemies — and, of course, by the equally secular "Knights of the Temple Lands." Now that Archbishop Maikel's challenge had been so publically thrown down, that was impossible. Worse, what had really happened had been wildly distorted in the Church's accounts . . . with the predictable result that many people were prepared to assume it was Charis who had lied.


            Most of Ferayd's merchants were still eager to see Charisian galleons and Charisian goods, but they weren't that eager to see Charisians. Or, rather, they weren't eager to be seen seeing Charisians. No doubt much of that was because associating with someone who'd been designated as an enemy of the Church carried with it the active threat of official displeasure. But there was also an undertone, a virulent hostility which had nothing to do with officialdom, bubbling away beneath the surface.


            There was always an element, in any harbor city, which resented the wealth and strength of the seemingly omnipresent Charisian merchant marine. Local shipowners who resented the Charisians for taking "their" legitimate cargoes. Local seamen, who blamed Charis for their frequent bouts of unemployment. Local artisans who resented the flood of Charisian goods that undercut the prices they could charge. Even local shipbuilders, who resented the fact that everyone "knew" Charisian-built ships were the best in the world . . . and went ship-shopping accordingly. There was always someone, and now those someones had the added "justification" (not that they'd really needed any additional reasons, as far as Walkyr had ever been able to see) that obviously all Charisians were heretics out to destroy Mother Church.


            There'd been some ugly incidents in the waterfront taverns, and one party of Charisian seamen had been set upon in an alley and severely beaten. The city guard hadn't exactly worn itself to the bone trying to figure out who'd been responsible for the attacks, either. By now, by unspoken agreement, the masters of the Charisian ships crowding Ferayd's harbor and waiting their turns at wharfside were keeping their men aboard ship at night, rather than allowing them their customary runs ashore. Many of them — like Walkyr himself — had made quiet preparations against possible riots down here on the waterfront, as well, although he hoped it would never come to that. On the other hand, he wasn't at all certain it wouldn't . . . and it said a great deal about just how tense things were that the crews weren't even complaining about their captains' restrictions.


            No, he told himself firmly. When I get Lyzbet and Greyghor home again, they're damned well staying there. Lyzbet can throw all the tantrums — and pots — she wants, but I'm not going to see her hurt — or worse — if this situation gets any further out of hand.


            His mind flinched away from the thought of anything happening to her, and he drew a deep breath, then looked up at the moonless sky with a sense of decisiveness.


            Of course, he told himself, there's no great need for me to rush into telling her about my decision before we get back to Tellesberg, now is there?


* * * * * * * * * *


            "All right," Sergeant Allayn Dekyn growled, "does anybody have any last-minute questions?"


            No one did, predictably. Which, Dekyn thought, equally predictably guaranteed that some damnfool idiot didn't understand something he damned well ought to have asked about. It was always that way; every sergeant knew that.


            Even without all of the extra things waiting to go wrong tonight.


            Dekyn grimaced and turned to look down the length of the poorly lit pier from his position in the ink-black lee of a stack of crates. Personally, he thought this entire operation was about as stupid as they came. Which was not a thought he intended to express aloud to anyone. Especially not anywhere some overzealous pain-in-the-arse could go running to the Inquisition.


            Allayn Dekyn was as loyal a son of Mother Church as anyone. That didn't mean he was deaf, dumb, or stupid, though. He was more than willing to agree the Charisians had gone much too far in openly defying the Council of Vicars' authority, and even the authority of the Grand Vicar, himself. Of course they had! But still . . . .


            The sergeant's grimace deepened. Whether they'd gone too far or not, he couldn't pretend he didn't understand a lot of what had driven them. For that matter, he sympathized with their complaints, and even with their explicit charges of corruption against the Church's hierarchy. But however much he might have sympathized with Charis, the Inquisition obviously did not, and he felt glumly certain that the reason for tonight's activities owed far more to the Inquisition's desire to teach the heretics a lesson than it did to anything else remotely rational. And its timing probably owed more to the Inquisition's impatience than it did to any sort of actual planning. The middle of a pitch-black night wasn't the best time Dekyn could have thought of to be putting armed men, many of whom had no experience at all down here on the waterfront, aboard totally unfamiliar ships on less than one day's notice.


            Well, that's probably not entirely fair, he told himself. If we're supposed to take over the ships out in the anchorage, too, we need the cover of darkness, I guess. And at least they assigned us arbalests instead of matchlocks, so we won't stand out in the dark like a flock of damned blink-lizards! But Langhorne knows there's a Shan-wei of a lot of things that can go wrong trying to do this all in the middle of the night! And I might not be a sailor, but it occurs even to me that doing this when the tide is going out isn't exactly brilliant, either.


            He shook his head, then gave his platoon one more glower — more out of habit, than for any other reason — and waited as patiently as possible for Captain Kairmyn's signal.