This book should be available now so this is the last snippet.
Alexander Inheritance – Snippet 35
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Dag was showing Alexander how to make a paper airplane, or rather a papyrus airplane. He had just tossed the airplane when the guard came in and it flew right past the startled man.
“Roxane wants you,” the guard said.
That phrase was familiar to Dag and he picked up Alexander — decked out in a black powder poultice — and headed for the queen’s sitting room. Dag now had a pouch at his waist with a grenade in it and a Zippo lighter loaded with lamp oil in his pocket.
When he got to the sitting room, Roxane held out the phone. “It talked English,” she said in Greek.
Dag walked across the sitting room and exchanged the toddler king for the phone and saw bars. He called up the phone function and found a recent call from the ship. He called back and got Captain Floden asking for a situation report. The conversation ended with, “We’ll be there in about three hours, Dag. Be ready.”
By that time, everyone was watching and apparently getting a bit impatient.
“The Queen of the Sea is coming to get us,” Dag said, looking around the room. There were half a dozen Silver Shields in the room, including Evgenij, who had apparently arrived just ahead of Dag.
“What about the fuel ship, the Reliance, you called it?” Kleitos asked, coming into the room.
“What about the Reliance?” Dag asked the phone.
“The Reliance is now in our hands,” Doug Warren explained. “Captain Scott has been given command and the remaining crew have agreed to the sale of the Reliance to the government of the ship people for a fee in ship’s dollars. It’s a pretty damn large fee, but not unreasonable, Ms. Kinney says. Dag, those steam guns are murder, absolute murder. You know how they talk about stuff being awash with blood? Well, the Reliance really was.”
Dag wished Doug were speaking Greek. It might persuade the locals to be reasonable. He looked over at Kleitos. Or…maybe not. If one thing more than any other had impressed him about the Macedonian mercenary, it was that he didn’t scare easily. That was actually something Dag liked about the man.
“They took it back from your pirates,” he told Kleitos.
“Not my pirates,” Kleitos said. “What happened to Metello?”
“What happened to Metello?” Dag asked the phone.
“That was kind of a mess, Dag,” Doug said. “The Rhodians wanted all this stuff in recompense for the Reliance being involved in attacking them. First they wanted the Reliance, then they wanted all sorts of promises about the Reliance and the Queen, then they wanted all the Macedonian troops as slaves, and on and on. Anyway, when Wiley heard about the slave part, he started screaming that he would not see free men made slaves. ‘It was hard enough to stand idly by while the horrible inequity was practiced.’ As though the captain would have done it anyway. And then…well, never mind. The captain finally had enough. He had Metello tried for piracy on the high seas and hung right in front of the Rhodies. And the passengers.”
“What did Wiley say to that?”
“Funny thing. He backed the captain right down the line. He’s still making speeches about it.”
Dag turned back to Kleitos. “My captain had him hung.”
“Your device said more than that.”
“Apparently, he did it right in front of the Rhodians. I’m not clear on the details, but they were making claims against the Reliance or something, and the captain decided to make a point.”
Dag was watching Kleitos as he spoke, and Kleitos was looking more grim at each word.
“The rest of the soldiers?” Kleitos asked.
Dag remembered Doug’s comment about awash with blood and started to feel a bit grim himself. But he passed on the question. “What about the rest of the pirates? I know they loaded up a bunch when they got here. You can’t have killed them all.”
“No. Mostly they decided that the soldiers were just following orders and not responsible. But there were a couple, the ones directly involved in killing Julio, that they hung. Most of the soldiers are on the Queen, disarmed and locked in, eight to a stateroom. The captain wants to put them off here, but not as slaves.”
Dag considered quickly. “What about the rest?”
“Dead,” Doug said. “Either in the fight or soon after. Like I said, those steam cannon are murder.”
Dag turned back to Kleitos and the rest. “A lot of your fellows were killed in the fighting. The rest will be returned after my companions and I have been freed. And, of course, the young king and the queen can come with us.” Dag wasn’t sure, then or ever, why he had said it. Something in Roxane’s expression, or maybe just something he wanted to be there. But the idea of sailing off on the Queen of the Sea, leaving her and little Alexander to the not-so-tender mercies of these hard men was more than he could face.
Right up to Dag’s mentioning Roxane and Alexander, Kleitos had been half nodding. But as soon as the suggestion about Roxane left Dag’s lips, his face changed.
“I have my orders,” Kleitos said. “Attalus doesn’t want Alexander to leave the island till he gets back.”
“I’m not leaving my son,” Roxane said instantly. Then she added to Kleitos, “But you have no authority to prevent me from leaving.”
Dag was looking around the room. The Silver Shields seemed of two minds about what to do. Then he saw Evgenij’s expression and somehow he knew. Evgenij was in on it with Kleitos. At any moment, he would give the order. Dag was sure. So sure that he turned away, put the phone in his pocket, and pulled the grenade out of its pouch. With his other hand, Dag reached into his pants pocket and pulled out the Zippo lighter.
“I have the money I was paid and Attalus’ orders. That’s all the authority I need,” Kleitos said. Then, apparently seeing Dag’s movement, “What are you doing?”
With a flick of his thumb, Dag opened the lighter and struck the flint. He turned back to Kleitos and lit the fuse. “Making a point.” Dag watched the fuse as it burned, then tossed the grenade. “Catch.”
As soon as the grenade was out of his hand, he turned, spread his arms wide, and pulled Roxane and Alexander to the floor behind the couch.
There was a pause and Dag though he hadn’t let the fuse burn down enough, that it was all going to end in disaster…then boom.
A boom and screaming. Dag stood up and looked around. Kleitos had been holding the grenade when it went off. He was dead and his right arm, the one that held the grenade, was gone to the elbow and shredded beyond that. Not that it mattered. The shrapnel, small bits of iron that were in the casing with the powder, had filled him with more holes than Dag could count. But the shock wave had probably killed him. There wasn’t that much bleeding.
Not from Kleitos, anyway. One of the Silver Shields had apparently stepped over to see what the grenade was. He was still bleeding and screaming. The rest of them were staring at the mess in a sort of shocked horror.
Then Evgenij looked over at Dag. “Stop!” Dag shouted. “That was what we could make in a few days while under guard. What do you think will come off the ship if you do us harm?”
Evgenij stopped and stared. By now the outer edge of the room was crowded with Silver Shields.
A voice from behind the Silver Shields came in “You want us to blow our way in, Mr. Jakobsen?”
“Hold what you got, Keith,” Dag shouted. Then to Evgenij, “Choose now, Commander, whose side are you on.”
Evgenij looked at Dag, then the mess on the floor. Then, oddly enough, he looked at Roxane and he wasn’t looking at her like his prisoner or his charge. He was looking to her for orders. Dag could see it in the old man’s expression. This was so far beyond his experience that a horse might as well have sung Pavarotti right there in the sitting room. Roxane might not be brave, but everyone knew that she was almost as smart as she was beautiful. Smart was clearly what was needed right now.
Roxane saw it too, and Dag wasn’t altogether pleased by the little smile that lit her face. It wasn’t a very nice smile. It was calculating. “The Silver Shields,” Roxane said, “are the royal bodyguards. They will remain loyal to me and my son.” A short pause. “Won’t you, Evgenij?”
“Yes, Your Highness.”
“Very well,” Dag said. “Now for the important question, Roxane. Are you and little Alexander staying here or coming with us?”
For just a moment, the queen mother of King Alexander IV, co-ruler of the Macedonian Empire, stood like a deer in headlights. Then that little smile came back. It was still small, and still calculating, but there was a little less frost in it. The hint of warmth that might be there, hidden under the habit of fear and caution. “We will go with the ship people. That is the wisest course.”
“Evgenij, have your people let mine through.” Dag gave the order now, confident that it would be obeyed. “I’m going to let the ship know what’s going on.”