Isles of the Forsaken

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Authors: Carolyn Ives Gilman
guest. He had learned less than he had hoped. The old man’s mind was a paradox, he told himself angrily as he poured a glass of wine to wash down breakfast. But the paradox that truly bothered him was in himself. Deep down, his mother’s primitive reverence still persisted. It made him feel ashamed.
    He sat down at his desk to resume the delicate task that had been interrupted by the prisoner’s arrival—composing a letter to his commander, Admiral Talley. Joffrey had to strike just the right note: tell his superior enough about the curious situation in Tornabay to make him appreciate the skill it took to cope with it, but little enough that he didn’t feel compelled to arrive on the scene.
    The offer of promotion to Commodore of the Fourth Fleet, the new name for the Native Navy, had come as a surprise to Joffrey, because his background was not in field command. He had been in military intelligence. His job had been to spy on the officers of the Inning Navy for Admiral Talley, and report back on their opinions, their loyalties, and their competence. It had led Joffrey into the intricacies of Inning politics, a subject for which he now had a deep appreciation. It was not until he had arrived in Tornabay that he had understood why Talley wanted someone of his background in the post.
    During the war, the Northern Squadron, stationed in Tornabay, had grown lax and corrupt. Far from the fighting, it had become a haven for Inning officers who enjoyed the easy life as aristocracy of a provincial capital, and it had served as a trough of patronage for the worthless sons-in-law of wealthy Torna merchants. Joffrey had arrived to find the payroll packed with people who barely worked, and had no loyalty to anyone but Tiarch, the governor who had gotten them their jobs. In fact, the Northern Squadron had ceased to function as a navy, and more closely resembled a thuggish private security force owned by the merchants and the governor, with a few indolent Innings enjoying the kickbacks. It was a cozy little private party—Innings, Tiarch, and the merchants all in bed together, and Joffrey had been sent to break it up.
    Which he had no intention of doing.
    And therein lay his dilemma. His previous job had given him a vivid appreciation of how thin was the ice upon which the Talley family walked, with their crowd-pleasing penchant for reform. They were riding high now all right, but it would not take much to make the wind shift, and when it did Joffrey wanted to be in a position to trim his sails a new way. He could not afford to make enemies of the Tornabay cabal. Accommodate, adapt, accept the situation: that was how he had gotten ahead in the Native Navy. And at the moment that meant keeping the Admiral far away and in the dark.
    He was almost relieved when his adjutant looked in to announce another visitor. But when he heard the name, Provost Minicleer, he gave an inward groan and steeled himself for the encounter.
    When Minicleer strolled into the room, he looked perfectly at ease—as he should, since this pleasant office had been his until two weeks ago. He was one of the Inning officers who had resigned their commissions rather than serve on an equal footing with islanders; but unlike the others, he had not gone away. Instead, he had pulled strings to secure himself a civilian appointment in Tornabay, though what a provost did was a mystery to Joffrey. It apparently involved attending parties, gambling, and sleeping with a great many merchants’ daughters. No matter; Joffrey had to get along with the dissolute fellow, since there was nothing he could do about him.
    “Joffrey, how are you?” Minicleer drawled pleasantly, looking down from his six-and-a-half-foot height at the compact Commodore. He had wavy, honey-coloured hair and a long face with prominent teeth and fleshy, sensual lips. Joffrey could not imagine what women saw in him; perhaps it was that he radiated an air of privilege.
    “It is a pleasure to see you

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