William wouldn’t be able to hold on for long with the tiny bit of air he had. His robes slowed him down in the water- though probably not as badly as heavy armor might have. He used much of his remaining ki to create a buoyancy effect around himself, and felt himself rocketing toward the surface and the tiny bit of light there.
He shot out of the water, gasping and sputtering. Unfortunately, no matter how strong he got, he still needed to breathe. Without more than a moment to react to being pulled underwater, it was hard to deal with.
He jumped onto the surface of the water. He wanted to increase his mobility to avoid any further attacks by the kraken… and he wouldn’t be trusting in the barriers to keep him safe. A moment of carelessness had almost cost him his life, and he shouldn’t have been careless against a new opponent.
As he took stock of the situation, William saw the kraken pulling its tentacles away from the ships, sinking deeper into the ocean. A few more unfortunate gevai went with it. William kept watch on it, but the wounds covering its various parts were a good reason for it to withdraw. Besides, it had no reason to fight to the death for a bit more food- especially not when it had already obtained plenty.
The next period of time was spent rescuing all the sailors whose ships had been destroyed by the kraken. All told, five of the smaller ships were destroyed and two dozen sailors were missing- though their fate was not in doubt.
All of the sailors could swim- it was mandatory training. Not requiring that would mean not valuing their lives. Though they didn’t have the smallest turning radius, the ships were quite capable of circling back to pick up the lost men, with some swimming on their parts to help out.
William wondered if the incident could have been avoided. The formations for dissuading such attacks weren’t perfect, but they were the best they had. Did they have too many ships close together? That could have made them more obvious, and a better target.
On the other hand, without that many ships they would have caused less damage to the kraken. It was entirely possible there still would have been an attack on just a handful of ships, and then all of those on board would have died- instead of just one ships’ worth.
The dwarves had brought just as many ships together in their largest attack, and had been safe- but two journeys with larger fleets wasn’t exactly a complete dataset. William thought they needed better underwater detection methods, and weapons for that as well.
An interesting side effect of the attack was that his men were even more in awe of him than some of them already had been. Most hadn’t actually seen him in action… but here, he was pulled away by the kraken then returned to the surface at the same time it retreated. William knew he had contributed to that, but he definitely wasn’t solely responsible. He wasn’t really that capable in underwater combat… but he wondered if he should practice.
William hoped the rest of the trip back would be uneventful. They had to go to three-quarters rations for safety, but three-quarters rations for a couple weeks wasn’t going to be the end of the world. William was sure everyone on the slightly more crowded ships could appreciate not being kraken food.
On the way back, William discussed various plans with Lorelei. “I can’t believe you almost let yourself get killed by a kraken.”
“Hey,” William responded, “Almost killed is not killed. Besides, they’re not easy to deal with. Chris can tell you.”
“We’ll have to talk about possible tactics for dealing with them in the future. For now… I’ve started putting together the first group of dwarves. They should be reaching the Western Cruonian Isles a week or so behind you. Then we just have to wait for the dwarves to send their ship.”
William sighed, “I really hope that one makes the whole journey in one piece. This might be our only chance to start… non-hostile relations with the dwarves.”
“Well, for the most part the journeys are successful. Even if they sustain some damage on the way, as long as they successfully arrive…”
“Then there’s the fragment among the elves…” William paused to think, “There isn’t really a safe route to get there, and it’s certainly not a good time to go… but I don’t want to wait too long. He could continue to grow stronger… and if he dies we have no idea if and where he might be reincarnate next.”
“In a way, we might be fortunate that elves live long lives,” Lorelei responded, “but no matter how important that is, it will have to wait. I doubt you want to risk two wars at the same time.”
“I do not. What should I deal with first once I get back?”
“Well… a few of the lords are highly resistant to the changes, but not so stupid to show up in person. They still like to retain absolute control over their own areas.”
“I’ll start a draft of an ultimatum… including the most extreme but fair fines I can think of. What do you think about giving them a year to start compliance, five years for full compliance?”
“I think they have already had far too much time… but if you’re trying to solve this problem without just killing them, it seems reasonable.”
“Ideally I’d like to move away from the power of arbitrary execution. It’s quite useful, but not the sort of legal powers I want others to have. Say, do you think Theo could create a truthreader of some sort?”
“… If he does, everyone will hate you.”
“It’s probably a bit too early for something like that anyway. First we need to get a better functioning criminal justice system.”
“Too bad it’s so easy to erase fingerprints with magic.” Lorelei paused for a few moments, “I wonder if there’s a way to detect lingering traces of magic. It hasn’t been possible before now, but there are a lot of recent advances that open up new possibilities.”
“Well, it probably would require a large amount of calculations… so functioning computers would probably help. However, we’re just getting the first generation used to… magic as technology. Plus, there are a lot of foundational things that still need to be worked on.”
Lorelei sighed, “Just thinking about what we could have accomplished if we didn’t spend so much time killing each other and sometimes actively destroying advancements… well, I’m glad you’re the king now.”
“Me too… but I wonder when I can retire.”