Tin Man: Pirates of the Nonestic

Chapter Thirty-six

Cain suspected the only permanent tunnels in the whole mountain were the ones that connected to the dock, probably designed to get Topsiders lost. Kaliko created a tunnel directly to the dock from the throne room. Everybody headed to the ship, and Cain hoped there was enough room for all the former collection objects.

Jenkins stormed down the gangplank. "Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!" he exclaimed while his wide eyes sought Betsy. "Captain, what did you do!"

"Uncle Hank!" Treasure shrieked.

"Can't take all the credit." Betsy grinned as she passed the squirming child to the stunned Quartermaster and introduced Kaliko and his two protection detail gnomes. Then she started the convincing of everyone rescued to board the ship and sit out of the way.

Cain and DG ended up at the stern, leaning against the railing. She pulled his arm around her shoulders and leaned into his side. "Has it occurred to you?" She stopped with a sigh; her gaze fixed on the former prisoners sitting in the center of the main deck.

"That we're probably the only ones on this boat with an inkling of what they're going through, but our story would confuse them worse than they already are?"

"So it has occurred to you." She wrapped her arm around his waist. They watched the crew scurrying through casting off duties. "My magic's different."

"But you're still my DG," Cain said. She nodded. "Then nothing else matters." He kissed the top of her dark head.

"Lord Platinum," she giggled, "Jeb is going to get you for that."

"Jeb has a lot to rib his old man about, Lady Platinum. Might as well go for everything that'll unnerve him."

"Don't call yourself old. Not with the pitching arm you've got."

The ship glided into the early dawn of the open ocean. The sails unfurled and they circled Rock Fort. He hugged DG tighter to shield her from the wind. The south side of Rock Fort's cliffs now towered above the hill northwest of the town. But it looked like the town had escaped anything landing on it.

"The King says the gnomes can change the slope of it." Betsy joined them at the railing. "Separating the two islands at this point might cause more damage."

"You relinquished the wheel?" Cain asked.

"I probably won't have another chance to do this once we land." Cain raised his eyebrows as Betsy touched his and DG's silver collars. "Ado Annie." The silver loosened and slid into her hands. She held them out to Cain with a smirk. "Care for the honors, Lord Wyatt?"

"Thank you kindly, Mrs. Granite." He released DG long enough to hurl the damn things into the sea.

"I don't know how long it'll be before I can drop you off."

DG made a face. "That's alright. We've got treaty details to settle before telling the Army to get back on the right side of the desert."

"Are you going back with them?"

DG tensed, so Cain tucked her back under his arm. "We hadn't planned that far yet," he said.

Betsy nodded. "That reminds me to strategize with Mal."

"How his father will react?" Cain guessed.

"Item number two on the agenda." She nodded and headed for her husband and Jenkins, who were trying to hold an earnest discussion and keep a toddler off the rigging.

"What do you want to do?" DG asked.

"That depends on why they crossed the desert."

"I meant more generally. Do you want to explore the islands or head back to the O.Z. or visit another kingdom on the mainland?"

And shoot a certain Prince who couldn't keep his hands to himself? "You'll need to deliver the treaty in person, sweetheart. That's the only way to ensure it gets honored." He felt her shoulders slump. "Beyond that, you need to be close to a midwife in about four or five cycles and ready to stay put. That gives us some time to decide where that will be."

She twisted her head to look at him. "You think it's going to be that easy?"

"Nope, but after what you just did, how can you be scared of your mother, my darling girl?" He smirked, and she twisted out of his hold.

Before he reacted, she captured him in a kiss. "You're right, I'm being silly." She moved back under his arm humming while he wondered if her body drives had started shifting already.

The You and What Navy? sailed into the harbor mouth. Most of the crew hung in the rigging for the sails and began to sing.

"Leave Her Johnny" by the Bilge Pumps
Download the Tin Man: Pirates of the Nonestic Soundtrack here

Oh, I thought I heard the old man say
Leave her Johnny, leave her
It's a long, hard pull to the next payday
And it's time for us to leave her

The two warships that had guarded the harbor mouth were missing, and only about half the piers had ships tied to them. Most crews were in a frenzy to cast off now that the two suns were breaking over the horizon.

Leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh, leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh the voyage is done and the winds don't blow
And it's time for us to leave her

Betsy looked through a small telescope as they moved closer to the docks. "Mal, you better be the first one off."

He traded Treasure for the telescope. "Commander Neptunite. He hasn't retired yet? And half the guns in formation behind him."

"What has he done with the other half is an important question to ask."

The skipper was bad, but the mate was worse
Leave her Johnny, leave her
He'd blow ya down with a spike and a curse
And it's time for us to leave her

Malachite slid the telescope closed. "I know the important questions. Unless you want to take over the Island Navy today." Betsy shook her head with a laugh. "You think I'm joking? I need someone in the position who I can trust and who can lead." He moved toward the gangplank opening in the railing.

Leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh, leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh the voyage is done and the winds don't blow
And it's time for us to leave her

Betsy looked at Treasure on her hip. "Is your Daddy serious?" Treasure put her fingers in her mouth and nodded. "No. Me Commandant?" Treasure nodded again and grinned behind her fingers. "Mal, this isn't funny. You even have Treasure believing that!"

Oh, it's rotten meat and weevily bread
Leave her Johnny, leave her
It's pump or drown, the old man said
And it's time for us to leave her

"Aren't you the one who says honesty isn't a matter of profession?" he yelled back with a laugh.

Leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh, leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh the voyage is done and the winds don't blow
And it's time for us to leave her

"Malachite Granite, you cannot give me a fleet of warships!" She kept a firm hold on Treasure as she strode after her husband. "That has to be against some ethics law!"

Oh, what will us poor pirates do
Leave her Johnny, leave her
When the money's gone, no work to do
And it's time for us to leave her

"Not for keeps, Captain. And it was your idea."

Betsy's voice carried over the entire deck. "MY IDEA?" Cain didn't hear Malachite's response, but Betsy's shout was clear. "Robert Kidd was a colossal failure and was hung!"

Leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh, leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh the voyage is done and the winds don't blow
And it's time for us to leave her

Kaliko joined DG and Cain as they reached the main deck. "She is a good leader. Is it really so bad to take charge of the Navy?"

"I don't think they discussed it," Cain said. "We Topsiders like discussing things before deciding."

The crew ignored the marital bickering and pulled the ropes through the metal cleats on the pier.

Oh, it's one more pull boys, and that will do
Leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh we're the boys to kick her through
And it's time for us to leave her

Five armed riflemen dressed in the blue and white uniform of the Island Navy marched down the pier. The man Cain assumed was Commander Neptunite watched from the cobblestone street edging the harbor. The officer in charge shouted up at the ship. "The harbor of Kingsport is closed due to unforeseen calamity. Stop docking and head back out to sea."

The crew of the You and What Navy? continued to work.
Leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh, leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh the voyage is done and the winds don't blow
And it's time for us to leave her

"Ignore this warning and the entire crew will be arrested!"

So I thought I heard the old man say
Leave her Johnny, leave her
It's one more pull and then belay
And it's time for us to leave her

A volley of shots went into the air. Betsy passed Treasure to her father and leaned over the railing. "Belay that! There are innocent women and children aboard this ship!"

"Innocent is hardly the adjective to describe you, Captain Betsy Bobbins," the rifleman in charge sneered.

"Who said I was talking about me?"

"Turn this ship around now!"

"Stow it. I'm acting on different orders."

Another rifleman snickered, but recovered when his superior glowered at him. "On whose authority?" he snarled at Betsy as the gangplank slammed down in front of them.

"On mine." Malachite strode down the gangplank carrying Treasure. "Is my word not good enough, Ensign?"

"Malachite Granite?" The ensign's eyes bulged as he saluted, and didn't quite manage it as smoothly as he was trained.

"The one and only. 'Course, if the Steward's son can't give out orders, I suppose we can go straight to the King."

Betsy smirked at the group on deck. "That's our cue. Sprite, with us, I don't trust these navy chappies to deliver messages. Jenkins, keep everybody else on board until I tell you what's what." He nodded and crossed his arms.

Kaliko and his gnome guards descended before Cain and DG. The riflemen's training held their feet in place but didn't hide their shocked expressions. Malachite shook his head. "Ensign, go tell Commander Neptunite we're coming ashore and we'd rather not be shot."

The crew finished the last chorus as they walked down the pier with the Ensign running ahead of them.
Leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh, leave her Johnny, leave her
Oh the voyage is done and the winds don't blow
And it's time for us to leave her

Commander Neptunite was a lean, leathery man and looked to have ten more annuals on Jenkins' age. "By the gods," he muttered, "Malachite Granite?"

"Why does no one believe it's really me?" Malachite shook the Commander's hand. "It is me, Commander Neptunite, alive and well. What's the situation?"

"Perhaps you should tell me." He gazed at Kaliko before the rest of the group, ending with Betsy. "We have standing orders to arrest you, Betsy Bobbins."

"That's Captain. I earned my title same as you."

"Disregard any standing orders Thomas Slate left," Malachite said. "He's currently under guard for suspicion of treason." Commander Neptunite blinked hard to maintain his military composure. "There has been a dynasty change at Rock Fort, so I'd like to present King Kaliko the Painite. Your Majesty, Commander Neptunite is in charge of the Island Navy forces stationed on Kingsport." Commander Neptunite bowed, and kept his questions behind his lips. "I hope we aren't going to have any misunderstandings, Commander. It was his Majesty becoming King that saved us all."

"Permission to speak freely, sir?"

"As long as it isn't something stupid."

Neptunite swallowed. "I can't say what the people will do, sir, but it might go down easier if the mountain didn't look like it will crush the town at any moment."

Malachite looked at the new cliff hanging in the air. "Yes, we need to do something about that. Speaking of the people, how'd you stop panic in the streets?"

"Put everyone under a curfew and started patrols to prevent looting. We were directing the ships to leave while the harbor was still clear." Neptunite glanced balefully at Rock Fort's mass. "Are you sure it won't move any more?"

"It will never move again, Commander Neptunite, as long as I have say over it." Kaliko stepped forward. "The gnomes can reshape the stone so it presents no danger of rock slides. That can be completed before the suns set."

"Splendid! Maybe you should put in a gate and a road. Depending on how you feel about visitors." Malachite bounced Treasure on his hip until she giggled. "We better leave the measures my father put in place alone until we get the cliff fixed, but we have a ship full of very confused refugees needing situating."

"Begging your pardon, sir, but there have been no orders from the Big House." Commander Neptunite rubbed his face. "I suppose for now, we can house refugees in the common areas of the fort. Where are the refugees from?"

"They were prisoners of the former Nome King, Roquat. King Kaliko released them." Malachite frowned up at the white manor house perched on the southern hillside. "This isn't like Father."

"He revels in a good crisis situation." Betsy rubbed Malachite's back. Commander Neptunite's military fašade cracked. "That should be the next stop."

The young man nodded his blond head. "Right after we start caring for the refugees. We need their information: names, country of origin, when they were imprisoned, and they'll need men of tact and understanding to explain how long they were under the spell."

"Better break out the chaplains," Betsy suggested. Neptunite glared at her, but she ignored it to give Sprite the message for Jenkins.

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