Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 4 of 6

Elder Stow determined that the spacecraft used old Agdaline energy sources.  That did not tell him much.  So many early ships and people new to space travel used the same strictly natural sources of energy.  “If they have managed to master gravitational forces, they might have faster than light craft,” he said.  “But if that is the case, they should be on the verge of discovering new and better energy sources.  We may assume a slower than light speed craft, at which point they may have cryogenic chambers,” he turned to Nanette and Tony.  “That is sleep chambers where the body functions are slowed to almost nothing while the ship travels the great distances between the stars.”

“It may be an actual Agdaline ship,” Lockhart said, hoping Elder Stow would contradict him., but Elder Stow agreed.

“The Agdaline fly in fleets of six or twelve.  The odds are hard to calculate where they lost five ships and only one survived.  Also, their normal destination would be Egypt at the place of the lion.  They would not come here unless they were followed by whatever destroyed the other five ships, and then they would hide.  Whatever landed here has made no effort to hide.  Besides, I spoke with Lincoln earlier.  He has assured me that the Agdaline stopped coming around the year one thousand.  There are no more Agdaline fleets out there.”

“And the Agdaline don’t eat people,” Katie said.

“So, the ship may have been hijacked,” Decker suggested.

“That would be some hijacking to overcome the andasmagora.”  Katie also turned to Nanette and Tony who were not with them back in the early days.  “Dragons,” she explained.

“Sounds like spiders to me,” Decker said, and he did not bother to spell out the idea that if an Agdaline ship or fleet landed on the spider planet, a million poisonous giant spiders might easily take the ship and overcome whatever dragons might be guarding the hallways.

“I was hoping it was not an actual Agdaline ship,” Lockhart said.

“Do you have any idea how many spiders that could carry?” Lincoln said and swallowed.

“Round, but the size of a big city block,” Katie explained to the others.

Lockhart, Decker, and Elder Stow all looked eye to eye, and Elder Stow said, “This way.”  He took them straight to the cabin where their guns and equipment were stored.  They got everything back, and Lockhart sent Tony and Lincoln to ready Ghost and the horses for a quick evacuation.  The others went up on deck.

Captain Esteban saw them, rearmed, but he said nothing.  His attention stayed on the fog that covered the bay.  The ship inched forward.  Only the lateen sail on the mizzenmast was deployed, and it sat limp in the dead calm.   They had oars, twelve to a side and three men to an oar.  In this way, they moved slowly toward the shore, a young officer on one side and the boatswain on the other taking soundings every minute.  They did not want to run aground on a sand bar, or worse, scrape against some rocks that might put a hole in their ship.

“No telling how close we are to the shore,” Captain Esteban said to Decker.  “Unless you can convince the Gott-Druk to scan the area ahead.  It would be for your safety that we do not wreck this ship.”  Both Decker and the captain looked through the mist to where Elder Stow and Sukki stood by the railing.  Elder Stow did appear to have something in his hands on which he concentrated.

“Father?” Sukki whispered.  Gott-Druk were not generally good at whispering, but Sukki made the effort to learn since she was made human.

“Hold on,” Elder Stow told her before he shouted the words, “Hold on!”

The whole ship shook as they heard a terrible scraping sound all along the port side.  It thundered horrendously through the hold where the horses screamed.  Regular cracking sounds came from below as great boards of seasoned oak split and spit out nails.  The captain did not have time to instruct the oarsmen to pull back as a different sort of scraping sound came from directly below.  Forward motion pushed the bow over the area before the ship jerked and shuddered to a stop, stuck fast on a sand bar amidship.

The crew sprang to action.  Men poured into the hold.  They worked the pumps and desperately tried to seal the wall where the water leaked in.  Men lowered the gate and set the horses free.  The gate made a ramp to the sand dune where the horses easily found their way to the shore.  Lincoln and Tony, having made their fairy weave clothes as waterproof as possible, slipped out with the horses.

Two boats got lowered and crews went to check the outside of the ship.  The carrack was long and wide, so not a fast ship, though it was stable in heavy seas.  The forecastle was smaller than the aft castle and they weighted down the stern of the ship to keep the bow raised a bit, but it still plodded along slowly in normal weather. When the report came back, they learned that the ship was salvageable, but it would take a week or more of hard work before they could sail back to Santo Domingo for better repairs.  Captain Esteban invited the travelers to shuttle to shore along with his hundred soldiers who would make the camp.  Of course, they found Lincoln and Tony already there, and found they corralled the horses, at least the traveler’s horses.

“Two hours since sunrise and the fog still has not lifted,” the first mate groused as he set about shouting orders to the men on shore.

“It feels more like a cloud has come to ground,” Katie said, and the captain wondered what she might be implying.  He got his answer after another hour.

Even as the soldiers got cooking fires burning to burn a late breakfast, the fog literally lifted.  It did not burn away in the morning sun, but like a cloud, it rose into the sky, like returning to the heavens from whence it came.  In that sudden clarity of vision, they all saw and gasped at the angle at which the carrack had run aground.  It was much closer to the shore than Captain Esteban imagined and turned about forty-five degrees, so its starboard side pointed out to sea.

Men shouted at the same time.  A second ship appeared in the harbor, and the captain barely got to say, “The Dutchman,” before a broadside from that ship tore down the whole length of the carrack, effectively destroying any guns that might have returned fire.  A second broadside came almost immediately and caused whatever remained of that side of the ship to collapse. All three masts got taken down and the ship began to list toward the openings in its side.  Much more water poured in from the starboard side than leaked in around the cracked and loosened planks on the port side.  The ship would still probably not sink, being grounded on the sand bar, but that did not prevent whatever sailors could from jumping overboard and abandoning ship.  The two longboats would row out later and see if there were any survivors.

The Dutch-built ship anchored in safe water.  Evidently, the Dutch captain knew that harbor and where it was safe to sail near to shore.  Besides, his ship did not draw nearly the water of the carrack.  He could easily slide over a sandy bottom, get close enough to take on cargo and back off the sand to reach deep water.

“The Dutchman?” Katie asked.

The captain pointed at the newly arrived ship.  “The Golden Hawk.  Dunkirker design out of Hoorn.  First of the ocean-going flyboats—shallow draft ships.  Well-armed but originally designed to ply the shallow waters around Zeeland and the Flemish coast.”  Captain Esteban clicked his tongue.  “It won’t be long before every navy starts building such ships.  By comparison, our carrack, and especially the great galleons of Spain are slow lumbering beasts.  These Dunkirkers are faster and more maneuverable.  They can swing around, fire a broadside, and sail out of range before the carrack can return fire.  Even if the Carrack is prepared, the slim, low-decked, narrow design and speed make these ships hard to hit, even by the best artillerymen.”

“Frigate,” Decker named the type of ship.

“The Flying Dutchman?” Nanette asked.

Captain Esteban laughed.  “I suppose he is.  The Dutch have not yet come here to the islands.  They are too busy fighting against Spain, their rightful rulers.  Captain Hawk has papers from the English Queen Elizabeth who died a couple of years ago. He claims to be a legitimate privateer, not a pirate, but in truth, he came on behalf of the Dutch to interrupt the flow of gold and silver to the Spanish coffers.  In this way, the Dutch hoped to make the prosecution of the war against the Netherlands too difficult and expensive for Spain to continue.  He has had some success.”  Captain Esteban shrugged.  “But he is Dutch.  There is a big price on his head, and he has no safe port where he can rest.  The French, and even the English interlopers in the islands do not welcome him for fear of Spanish reprisals.”  He shrugged again.

“A Dutchman in a fast, powerful ship that is unable to make port,” Nanette mused.

“Yes,” Katie agreed.  “I imagine many Spanish sailors hate to see his sails on the horizon as those sails bring death and destruction.”

“I suppose so,” Captain Esteban said and looked at the travelers as they watched the Golden Hawk let down four longboats and began to fill them with Dutch soldiers.  The Golden Hawk raised a white flag of truce.  At least they would talk before the shooting started.  “Be prepared to move inland,” the captain told Lockhart and Decker.  Meanwhile, the captain needed to check on his men.  They now had four longboats from the carrack, and they were full of wounded men.

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