A Silent Game of Spies

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He glanced around at everyone on the street. After all these years, he’d never thought he’d see this old Tower Town full of folks again. And it had blossomed overnight. Just a few months. After the Twenty Years War, everyone thought there would be no need for war, and thus no need for lookouts. People had deserted the town in just about a year, leaving a skeleton crew to run the tower. Which was as it should be.

But now, the town was full of youngsters, much as Beard himself had been back before the Twenty Years War. All of them excited for war, all wanting to see galleons, enemy soldiers, all wanting to send up the fire signal, send out the alarm. Truth be told, it was boring work, sitting there day after day. They were in for a rude awakening, Beard mused.

He’d raised an entire family here, and now they were starting to raise theirs. His wife was a tough lady and Beard was proud of her. That was Tower Town families for you, he mused. But even she shook her head the other night in wonderment. If the town was full to capacity, it must be serious. Tower Town folks were among the hardiest there were – military wives and fams grew accustomed to their fathers sleeping in the Towers every other month. It was what they signed up for. But his wife was the toughest woman he knew, and she was not looking forward to what lay ahead. For when all the Tower Towns were full to capacity before the war even started – and it was a war – well. That was fearsome.

And the Queen’s worst kept secret down in Ainsley-by-the-Sea… quite the laughing stock there for a bit. Still good for a chuckle now and again. No one but the Towers were speaking of it, for it was a military town, thus a military matter, naturally. But the Queen wanting to gut the old Ainsley estate? And a call for all the best shipwrights silently sent out? Worst kept secret in the Navy. But a brilliant idea nonetheless. All of the channel now housed warships, those being built, and those completed.

As well as a number of those that had suddenly sailed up from Storden. Now that was a treat. He had no idea why Storden should want to send some three hundred manned ships to Clemongard – they still puzzled over it in their cups – but they were grateful for it nonetheless. Those Stordish men were trained and paid for, a gift to Her Royal Majesty from King Harvick, chosen specially. The Tower Towns wondered privately what new King Irving thought of that but what was done was done.

Beard was now a Captain. He just got the promotion last month. Captain Masterson. The younger men, those new to Cliff Watch North, were calling him Captain Masterson, and Beard felt like looking over his shoulder for his father, though his father was dead these fifteen and some years now. Older men and men he knew were still going to call him Beard, for the beard he grew. Julie had huffed and said it was about time he came down from that tower.

But Beard was not happy about it. Cliff Watch North was the first seaside Tower Town to sound the alarm for Northern enemy ships. What if a rookie missed the attack and didn’t ring the alarm bell, didn’t light the fires? All the rest of the Cliff Watches would miss the alarm….

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