Solstice Day Gifts
by Lindsay Buroker
Copyright © 2014 Lindsay Buroker
Sicarius crouched on the hull of the submarine, the open hatch at his back. He and Amaranthe had already observed the port through the periscope, but he wanted a panoramic view before guiding the craft into the harbor. Ferncrest Isle was a Turgonian holding and trouble should be unlikely here, but he did not know if news of the dissolution of the empire and the creation of the republic had made it to this remote, equatorial outpost yet. Sicarius and Amaranthe had left the day after the inauguration and had stopped only once along the way. They had traveled at a leisurely pace, but still made good time to this island. For all he knew, one of the would-be emperors who had sought to replace Sespian on the throne had mercenaries stationed here, waiting for word to invade the mainland.
His mind lingered on the thought of his and Amaranthe’s “leisure” rather than the thought of mercenaries. It still made him smile on the inside. On the outside... Amaranthe informed him that his faint softening of his lips didn’t count. Apparently his conscious attempts to stretch his mouth into a smile lacked an authenticity or, as she said, contained all the joy of someone gritting his teeth as he rode a steam hammer down a cobblestone street.
“How’s it looking from up there?” Amaranthe called up from the navigation area at the front of the small submarine.
“A small military outpost sits atop an escarpment to the south, and a village stretches along the harbor, the homes made from mud and thatch.” A poor choice to withstand invading fleets or pirate attacks, Sicarius thought, though history proclaimed that the village, full of its simple residents, had been here long before Turgonia had taken charge. “Some of the newer buildings are from brick. A few fishing vessels are plying the waters beyond the reef, a mixture of ironclad Turgonian craft and native canoes and catamarans. None have cannons or other obvious weapons. There is nothing else sharing the shallow waters inside the lagoon with us. There are a handful of vessels in port, and if there is a dock master on the look out for new arrivals, he hasn’t come out to greet us yet.” Sicarius lifted his spyglass to his eye again. “I do not see any enforcers patrolling the streets.”