"What you have to realize, son, is that almost all of the people who were there at the time are dead. And
everybody who's still alive is lying to you about something."
-General Jos Metadi to an unknown interviewer, some time after the end of the First Mage war.
I. Galcenian Dating 974 A.F.
Entiboran Regnal Year 38 Veratina
Errec Ransome-late of Ilarna, now copilot and navigator of Jos Metadi's Warhammer-ran up
the broad staircase of the Double Moon two steps at a time. In the public rooms behind him, the sounds
and smells of raucous celebration filled the air like thick smoke. Metadi's privateers had come back again
to Waycross, and the party had just begun.
They'd had a good run this time. Nobody had gotten blown up-except for Celeyn, and that was
his own damned fault-and the Mageships had dropped out of hyperspace right where Errec had told Jos
that they would: cargo ships, big and arrogant, full of the treasures of half a hundred worlds. The Mages
hadn't expected serious trouble at a neutral planet so close to their home territory, and they'd counted on
the warships escorting them to take care of any trouble that did occur.
They'd been wrong. The Ophelan system was a long way from the main privateering lanes. That
was why the cargo ships had chosen it for their fuel and repair stop before heading back across the gap
between the Mageworlds and the civilized galaxy. But Ophel wasn't so far away from civilization that Jos
Metadi couldn't persuade other privateer captains to follow him there. When the cargo ships and their
escorts made the translation from hyperspace, it wasn't just Warhammer that waited at the drop points
for them: it was a whole fleet.
Now that the voyage was over and the share-out done, most of the privateers seemed intent on
spending their cut of the proceedings as fast as possible, with the eager help of every bartender and
brothel keeper in Waycross.
Jos Metadi had already banked most of his portion-he hadn't made it out of the Gyfferan slums,
and into command of his own