The materials to make linked pairs of phones were not considered particularly expensive, but nor were they cheap. However, as William had more and more of them made the materials started to become more scarce, increasing the price. There wasn’t much to be done about that, if William didn’t want to have to take over and control the production of the materials- or at least get into the mining and refining businesses. He didn’t want to, for various reasons, so there were only so many phones available. However, because of the current issues, all of the major port cities had one that linked up with the central hub- though it was really just a series of rooms with someone on duty listening just in case it was necessary.
William was woken up in the middle of the night by a voice coming through his phone. “Hmm? Who is it? What’s going on?” William shook his head to help wake himself up.
“It’s Lorelei.” William immediately recognized her voice once he was somewhat awake, but he appreciated the statement anyway. “There have been… attacks on other ports.”
William sighed, “How bad is it? How many attacks?”
“It could have been worse. There were three attacks by dwarven ships, and two of those ships were sunk. The enhanced cannon ammo was extremely effective… though in the third case it failed to result in a fatal blow to the ship before it turned to retreat.”
“… Any chance it wasn’t the dwarves?” William held his head in one hand, “I was really looking forward to not having a war with them.”
“No luck there. Some dwarven survivors swam to shore. They won’t be able to raise up any debris until the morning but…”
“It doesn’t really matter about the ships if they were crewed by dwarves.” William took a deep breath, “All this after I gave a perfectly sane and rational chance for us to talk. I don’t think the crew I captured would have failed to return… and these ships couldn’t have been sent before the information arrived. What about the dwarves that swam to shore?”
“Those were your orders.”
“I know. That doesn’t mean I like to hear it… but there’s no point in making declarations if you don’t follow through on them.” William paced around the room as he talked, “This is going to make talks of peace much harder, and they’ll probably say we are the villains for blowing up ships attacking our ports. We’re still going to do it though. Well, it’s not like they can afford to do much more of that.”
“Right. You mentioned they only had a dozen ships?” Lorelei confirmed.
“Slightly more than a dozen. Or they did. With two fewer, it won’t be much more than a dozen, and that third ship might have sunk later. I doubt they’ll send single ships anywhere after something like that. Even two would be risky. They can’t really afford to lose anything. Maybe groups of three or four or… I don’t know. Maybe they’ll come to talk.”
“You think they might?” Lorelei sounded doubtful.
“You know people. Dwarves… dwarves are people.”
“They’ll do something else, something that will result in many deaths. Theirs or ours,” Lorelei stated confidently.
“That’s what I’m betting on.”
“What do you want the news to say?”
“I’m still a big fan of the best form of propaganda being the truth. Destroying ships bombarding ports in lands we have inhabited for a least a great gross of years isn’t exactly something to be ashamed of.” William breathed out heavily, “On the other hand, I’d prefer to keep the hatred of dwarves restrained. I can declare whether we will go to war or not… but I’d prefer the public to support me if we somehow avoid war, or if I’m somewhat merciful after winning a war.”
“Oh? No chance of losing?”
“Nobody plans to lose. While I’m not completely confident in our ability to control the seas, the dwarves will have a difficult time if they wish to actually take over any land here… I didn’t get the idea that their population was large enough to support sufficient numbers of ground troops, and they definitely didn’t have many ready at the forward outpost. They numbered a few gross all told.”
“I’ll see if I can come up with something to distribute… though of course it’s hard to exactly predict people’s reactions.”
“If we could everything would be much easier.” William paused, “Is there anything else?”
“Not for now. I’ll let you get back to sleep. Sleep well.”
“You too. You can work on things in the morning.”
The boat bobbed up and down in the ocean, rising and falling with the waves. William’s boat was alone in the harbor, and his fishing pole with its lone string was also alone. People were afraid to fish because of the threat of dwarves… though people still needed something to do. Most of the small fishing boats weren’t out because their owners were working on repairing buildings and construction. Tigershark Point had been the first port to fall under attack, and while the damage hadn’t been too significant it took some time to clean up. Beyond that, the defenses were being expanded.
William gazed out across the waves, hoping for a dwarven ship to appear flying a flag of truce. Or even another one with another crew he could deal with and send back. He wondered if any of the dwarves he knew had died in the most recent attacks. He hoped not, but he knew that even if it wasn’t them, the ships had probably been filled with more decent souls, sent to die on the orders of commanders who might have been taking orders from people completely removed from the battle and its consequences.
He almost wished the dwarves had never returned at all. While their actions weren’t what he wanted, it was good that they still existed. He just wished they were willing to reconcile with the gevai. Now they were messing up his country by disrupting trade… and the fishing industry. He was glad that food production and transportation had been growing rapidly in the past few years… otherwise the port cities might have been in for even harder times.
William looked at the fishing pole. He would have better luck catching something if he had bait on it, but he didn’t really care about that. He just wanted a few moments of relaxation before going back to teaching dwarven, or training himself, or discussing tactics for a probably upcoming war. After some time, William supposed he should probably come back with at least something. He supposed a shark would be impressive enough.