Release that Witch Chapter 445
Unlike the usual, the dock was packed with silent soldiers. They stood erect, with their sacks and long-barrelled guns on their backs, looking like a thick forest in a storm. Although the dock was crowded, everyone was moving in an organized manner. Watching the soldiers board the paddle steamer one by one, Cacusim was filled with an indescribable sense of power and strength.
He swallowed hard while thinking,
These are the soldiers trained by His Highness.
"How incredible!" The old man had traveled from Seawindshire to the Port of Clearwater as a youth. This distance was over half the Kingdom of Graycastle, and he had also led the commercial fleet to the Fjords and nearby islands. So, he had personally witnessed the arrogant demeanor of the armored knights, as well as the fierce demeanor of the barbarians who killed beasts bare-handed. To him, these soldiers were undeniable fighters that could exercise extreme power. However, he had not expected to feel that power once again, but while standing with the group of ordinary people he could feel it and it was stronger than ever.
"No doubt these are just ordinary people..." He thought. It had been about four months since Cacusim arrived at Border Town, and each day he understood the town a little better. He knew that the First Army consisted mostly of locals and that many of them were miners, hunters, furnace labors, and masons before they joined the army. Because of this, they had never received any professional combat training.
Nevertheless, in just a few months, these people had become as brave and disciplined as any knight. "What magic did his Highness use on them?"
"Are you... really going?" Cacusim heard Wade whisper from behind him. He could tell from his lowered voice, that he too was silenced by the presence of the army.
"Why did I apply for the captain position if I wasn't going?" Cacusim answered while taking a deep breath.
"But they are off to fight." Wade continued.
"They all offer their services to His Highness." The old man corrected. Without turning his head he added, "And so do I."
Following the momentary silence, Wade then implored, "Stay alive."
Cacusim waved in response.
Cacusim boarded the sixth paddle steamer as it arrived with the swirling snow. According to the tradition, a captain can name their own ship, and even though this boat belonged to His Highness, he was still allowed to decide its name.
Yet, he still had not made up his mind.
This was the second time he had assumed the position of captain since his retirement ten years ago. So, he wished to come up with a name dedicated to his memory.
"Captain, there you are!" As soon as Cacusim stepped into the cabin at the helm, the first mate came up to greet him. "We are now preheating the boiler, and I promise it will soon be ready to go"
The young man was called Pike and he was from the Southern Territory. He had a few years experience fishing on the sea. If he was a part of another fleet, he wouldn't even pass as a sailor but on this boat, everyone was a newbie.
"All are on board. You were the last one," Pike replied with a wink.
"If you don't know how to respect your captain, I'll be happy to teach you through a full day of deck cleaning."
"Yes, captain." The young man shouted, erecting himself immediately, "Of course I do!"
"That's better," Cacusim commented. While stroking his beard he gave Pike orders. "Tell the boiler house to stoke up the fire, but not to shut the damn steam valve. I don't want to rear-end the boat in front of us!"
"Yes, gotcha." Without finishing the sentence, Pike had slipped back into his previous playful manner. He quickly winked at the old man and dashed out of the cabin.
"That rascal," Cacusim mumbled while shaking his head smiling. He was more at ease after the interaction, as if he had slipped back to the good days of when he roamed the sea. The old man went back to the wheel, where he gently stroked its wooden handle. Slowly he began to remember the operating procedures for a paddle steamer.
The stone boat invented by His Highness was very different from the sailboat. It didn't have a mast or a cabin below deck, instead, it had two chambers. The first chamber is located at the helm and is called the wheelhouse. This room has two large windows from which the captain can see the route and navigate clearly. The second chamber is found in the middle and it contains the boiler that powers the boat.
Behind the wheelhouse, there was a bare deck and this space was often filled by miners during training. During this time of training, they would often travel west along the Redwater River to drop the miners off at the edge of the Misty Forest, where they could find coal. Coal lasted longer than wood and was the preferred fuel for Seawindshire. Now, there was a makeshift shed constructed from cloth, apparently set up in preparation for the boarded soldiers.
Although Cacusim was not familiar with the stone boat, he soon realized it was not hard to operate and even simpler than a sailboat in many ways. First of all, this boat didn't require wind and sails for direction and power. Overall it took less man power to run. Furthermore, It would not be hard to teach a villager how to run a stove, whereas it would take at least six months for them to master sailing. The stone boat could run by itself for a long time as long as the engine was on and the steam valve was shut.
Just then, the tranquility of Border Town's early morning was broken by a dull steam whistle from the front of the line.
The first boat was sailing off.
"Captain, the water in the boiler is ready!" reported Pike who scurried back to the wheel house.
"Ring the bell to tell Bigpad and Grizzly that it is time to shut the valve and speed up. It's time to move." Cacusim solemnly gave the instructions.
"Yes, sir. Advance!" Pike pulled on the long iron string attached to the wall, which would ring the bell in the boiler house and deliver the captain's command.
Cacusim held tight to the wheel at the helm and looked straight ahead. When Vader asked him why he wanted to fight, he actually did not tell him the truth. Saying it was to serve His Highness was only a small part of the reason.
The truth was he simply enjoyed being a "captain".
It didn't matter if it was a sailboat or a paddle steamer, Cacusim truly loved the feel of the wheel in his hands as he navigated the bow through the thrusting waves.
This is the life he really wants.
"Full sail... No, continue to shovel coal!" The old man turned to face starboard while hollering. "Hold on guys! We're setting out!"
"If you ferry me to Border Town the Eltkes will pay you well. How about five... no, ten gold royals?" The steward asked while blocking the troubled boatman's cabin door. The steward had placed his left foot in the crack of the door to prevent the boatman from closing it in his face and effectively shutting him out.
"Y... Your Excellency, I'm happy to be at your service, but I just can't." The boatman stammered, "L... Look, there isn't even a shed above my boat to protect you from the snow. It wouldn't be a problem to ferry you across the river, but to Border Town... that would take several days! "Just consider this freezing weather. Where would we sleep?" the boatman implored. "We would become frozen like popsicles in just one night on the boat, wouldn't we?"
"Are there any other boatmen nearby who can ferry me to Border Town?" the steward persisted.
"No, not a one." the boatman denied while waving his hand. "We only have small boats. Y... You should go to Stronghold to find a boat you can spend the night on."
If I could have entered Longsong Stronghold, why did I come here looking for a boatman that fished and ferried for a living? the steward thought to himself as the boatman shut the door.
The steward kicked at the snow. Ever since the four families started to attack Stronghold, all the city gates had been closed. He spent a long time taking this detour and now found that all of his efforts were in vain.
It will be getting dark soon. How am I going to complete my Lord's task?
The steward sullenly looked at the Redwater River, but he was soon stunned.
Good Heavens, what's that?
He rubbed his eyes in disbelief, making sure what he was seeing was not an illusion. A huge fleet was coming down the river and the boats were unlike any he had seen before. Through the dense misty snow, the vessels roared and whistled towards him at full speed. There was not any sail on the gray boats and yet they were still proceeding against the wind, their bows cutting the water and cleaving through the waves.
On the first boat, he could see a flag flapping in the wind with the embroidered emblem of a tower and a gun. The steward held his breath in realization, "This is the fleet of Prince Roland Wimbledon!"