Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 6 of 6

Most of the men, soldiers and sailors did not make it, but some did for two reasons.  Elder Stow, at the last minute, removed the wall setting and placed an invisible globe of force around the travelers, Captain Hawk and his immediate crew of officers, many Dutchmen, and some Spaniards.  He slowly expanded the bubble as he flew to the edge of the beach.  Once the travelers could wade out into the water, he let the bubble go.  They would have to swim a bit, and their weapons and rifles would need some care to be restored, but they would be safe.  Besides, they had help.  The other reason some made it to the ship.  Three hundred mermen came out of the bay.  They carried harpoons they could throw and trident-like pikes they could use to cut and stab from a distance.  The mermen, legs on, made a way through the spiders for men to get to the sea where the mermaids waited to carry them to the ship.  As frightening as the mermaids were for some of the sailors, the spiders were worse.

As Captain Hawk climbed aboard the ship, he realized the bay was full of his water sprites.  He understood then why the spiders had not overrun the Golden Hawk.  He saw that any spider that put so much as a foot in the water got grabbed and pulled under to drown.  The Mere people just made it so much worse for the spiders.

The mermen did not stay on land very long.  They quickly pulled back into the water, effectively abandoning the rest of the men to their fate.  By then, there were not many left alive.  The deck of the Golden Hawk was littered with men, soaking wet from the sea and from the sweat of fear.  It would be a long time before the nightmares went away.

The shoreline still teemed with spiders, but Inaros pointed to the edge of the woods where after a moment they heard musket fire and arrows began to bombard the spiders.  General Diego had arrived.  The Buccaneers were there to cut off escape to the north.  The natives pressed in from the south.  And now that the sea was certain death, it was only a matter of time before the spiders were finished.  They had nowhere to escape.  Half, or more of the men would die in the fight, but they would finish the job.  Captain Hawk knew his little ones would scour the whole island.  No spiders on the island would survive.

Inaros pointed up.  The old Agdaline transport had taken to the sky and was headed right toward them.

“Damn,” Decker noticed, and then everyone noticed.

Captain Hawk shouted.  “Mister Peevy!  Prepare the ship for flight.”

“Aye Captain,” came the response.

The captain spoke more quietly to Elder Stow.  “Can you project screens all around the ship?”  He explained for the others.  “Agdaline ships are big transports, not warships.  They only have… er, ray-guns to remove objects in space that might damage them or maybe to clear a landing site during planetfall.  Those systems, though, can be used as weapons, so we need protection.”

“Yes,” Elder Stow responded.  “But we will pick up a lot of water and anything that happens to be swimming in it.”

“Wait until we are high enough in the air.”

Elder Stow got out his scanner.  “I did not see any flight engines aboard.”

“Ready Captain,” Peevy shouted.

“Never mind about that.  Just get ready to set your screens,” Captain Hawk said before he returned the shout.  “Take her up.”

The ship rose right out of the water.  General Diego’s men who made it to the shore gawked, shouted, and pointed.  The Agdaline ship came overhead, and as expected, they fired their meteor deflectors.  Fortunately, Elder Stow got the screens up in time, so the makeshift weapon did not touch them.

“One moment,” Elder stow said, as he set his screen device down by the main mast.  He had his scanner out and his weapon.  Sukki said she was ready.  Captain Hawk talked to Lockhart and Katie.

“The thing is, there are probably a thousand or more spiders still aboard the ship in suspended animation or cryogenic sleep chambers, or whatever the current term of use may be.  They will have to be dealt with at some point, but I take back what I said about this day and age.  By brute force and with gunpowder, the human race might be able to fend off the spiders.  Of course, maybe not when the spiders are counted in the trillions.”  He shrugged.

“Let’s not let it get to that point, if you don’t mind.”  Lockhart said, as Katie interrupted.

“So you know.  I saw Captain Esteban and his officers taken by a dozen spiders.  It was while we were running.”

“I can confirm that,” Lockhart said.

“Sadly, there is still Don Fernando Delrio, the mastermind behind the idea of colonizing the Southern United States.  He is the one that mostly needs to be stopped, before the Atlanta Braves become the Bravos de Atlanta.”  Captain Hawk interrupted himself as he saw they were coming up alongside the Agdaline ship.  He anticipated what Elder Stow was working on and shouted.  “Mister Peevy!  Prepare a broadside.”

“Aye Captain.”

Elder Stow raised his weapon and fired, striking the Agdaline ship in three places.  The first shot took a moment to penetrate the Agdaline screens, but the second and third shots were swift.  Sukki, eyes on the scanner, confirmed the three shots struck home.  Elder Stow took the scanner to double check while Sukki explained to Lockhart and Katie.  Decker, Nanette, and Lincoln all walked up to listen.

“The first shot took out the Agdaline screens.  The second killed the weapons system.  The third damaged the engines in a way that would not explode.”

Elder Stow mumbled.  “I figured an atomic-level explosion was not a good idea.”  He looked up from his scanner and spoke more clearly.  “Hopefully, they will come down in the sea and all drown.”

Captain Hawk did not hear.  He was busy shouting, “Fire!”

The broadside from the Golden Hawk, in an equal and opposite reaction, pushed the ship away from the Agdaline transport and into a cloud that was both cold and wet.  The ship rocked a bit, and the deck became slippery to stand on, but at least no one fell overboard.  The little ones keeping the ship up in the air complained but things settled down quick enough.

They came out of the cloud in time to see the Agdaline ship head off to the north.  She had a dozen big dents in the side with a couple of loosened plates in the outer hull, and she had at least five holes in the ship, ruining the ship for spaceflight. Her engines were smoking, badly.  She would not stay aloft for very long.  In fact, she managed to fly all the way to the Delaware River where she sank, somewhat deliberately in the soft mud by the river.  She would awaken, and the spiders would make a mess in the future, but that is a different story.

Aboard the Golden Hawk, the captain shook his head.  “We can do up and down and sail some if we get a good tail wind, but it is very draining on the little ones keeping her up.  No way we can follow the ship and see where it lands.  That will have to be a future headache.”  He shouted again.  “Mister Peevy!  Get the boards and raise the Jolly Roger.”

The boards held the words, Flying Dutchman.  They effectively covered the ship name, Golden Hawk.  The flag had the expected skull and crossbones, but it was offset to make room for an hourglass.  “What do you think?” the captain asked.  “I’m about a hundred years ahead of time with the flag, but someone has to start it.”  He smiled for everyone, and Inaros said Argh

The ship set down in the bay virtually in the same spot where it began, but now pointed out to sea.  They unloaded the surviving Spanish.  General Diego would take them back to Santo Domingo.  The Buccaneers, mostly French and some English, knew Captain Hawk and his crew, and they waved like they were all great friends.  They were not all great friends.  The native survivors did not appear to know what to think.  These Europeans were full of surprises.  But mostly, these spiders were creatures of nightmares.  Who knew what tales they might tell?

Once the deck was cleared, the ship set sail for Guantanamo Bay.  They would sail two days to get there, as long as the weather held.  The travelers would be able to rest there for a couple of days while Captain Hawk sailed back to Hispaniola.  Then they would travel half a day inland across Cuba to reach the time gate.  In all, about a five-day journey to the next time gate. That was not so bad, if the horses did not complain after all that rest and pampering.



The travelers arrive in the frozen north and Lady Elizabeth of Gray Havens brings her recruits into a strange world. Monday. Men in Black. Happy reading.


Avalon 9.4 Broadside, part 5 of 6

“You can see for yourself.”  Captain Esteban pointed behind him where the travelers waited.  “I have not damaged them.  I have treated them well.  They even have all their equipment.  I figured we will need their help to drive out whatever landed here in the west.  Do you think?”

“Spiders,” Captain Hawk said, confirming Lincoln’s word.

“As I feared,” Captain Esteban responded.

“We will begin by moving the travelers and their horses to the Golden Hawk.  Then we will discuss what we can do about the spiders.”

Nanette and Suki left off tending the Spanish wounded.  The Spanish were grateful for the help.  Tony had Ghost and the horses and found a dozen human looking men come to help him transfer the horses to the frigate.  They looked human enough, but Tony suspected they were not, given the way the horses readily responded to them.

“Sukki,” Captain Hawk called her and hugged her.  Lincoln had to ask.

“Peter van Dyke?”

“Captain Hawk,” Katie called him.

“It is all in the profile,” Captain Hawk said, and he lifted his eyes and showed the side of his face.  With his aquiline nose, he did look a bit like a bird of prey.

Captain Esteban let his hostages go without trouble.  He had no choice.  His crew had been damaged.  His ship shredded.  His company of soldiers remained intact, but they would all be needed if they indeed faced spiders from the stars.  Besides that, he would need the guns of the Dutchman and his soldiers, and the Dutchman’s ship if retreat became the only option.  If giving up his hostages ensured cooperation, he would do that.

“But look,” Captain Esteban said.  “Neither you nor the Masters want an invasion of alien spiders at this time.  You see my good faith in bringing the Travelers from Avalon to you unharmed.  Perhaps we can make a temporary truce until these spiders are taken care of.  You know, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

“The enemy of my enemy is still my enemy,” Captain Hawk countered.  “I do not trust you, but I will use you and your men in this circumstance as I am sure you will use me and my men.”

Captain Esteban grinned before he nodded.  “I was told you are no fool.”

“But maybe I am.  Eh Inaros?” Captain Hawk grinned at his mate.  “General Diego has crossed through the mountains with three thousand men.  They are not all soldiers from Spain, but they all know how to fire a matchlock and can use spears and knives.  LeBlanc has brought around three thousand Buccaneers down from the north.  He has some English pirates with him as well.”

“I was not aware there were that many Buccaneers,” Captain Esteban interrupted with a pull on his beard.

Captain Hawk nodded.  “Then in the south, the Taino and Carib have made a temporary truce, like us, and they have come up with some three thousand more.  My spies tell me the circle is about closed.  The spiders have nowhere to go except this direction, or back to their ship.  Let us hope they retreat to their ship.”

“You are mad,” Captain Esteban said.

It did not take long for Ghost and the horses to be loaded on the Golden Hawk.  Captain Hawk gathered two hundred soldiers and sailors, leaving plenty of men to guard the ship.  He had a company of fifty well-disciplined Dutch regulars.  The rest were from the Netherlands, Holland, England, and some from Brittany, or they were little ones, at least a few, disguised as men.  Captain Esteban gathered two hundred and fifty soldiers and sailors still able to fight.  He left the wounded on the shore and smiled to think he had the numbers to pull a double-cross until a hundred more natives and pirates appeared in the woods.  Captain Esteban frowned at the turning of the odds.  The travelers guessed that these were all native little ones come to lend the Kairos a hand.  Katie guessed in their natural appearance they might look something between gnomes, elves, and dwarfs with a couple of ogre-trolls and maybe a few flyers, if not exactly fairies in the mix.

“Off to see the wizard,” Captain Hawk announced, and the men began to move in among the trees as quietly as they could.  “The wizardess,” Captain Hawk corrected himself.  “The chief spider is a female.”

Lockhart stood close and his old police instincts flared.  “Are you afraid Captain Esteban might make a deal of some sort with the spiders?”

Captain Hawk shook his head.  “He might have with some other species, but spiders do not deal.  They might let someone live a while if they are useful, but they will eventually be eaten.  Spiders don’t bargain.”

“But you said the female was especially intelligent.”

Captain Hawk nodded.  “They may have come here in an old Agdaline transport as Elder Stow has suggested. There may be ten thousand spiders aboard the ship, but most are likely still in suspension.  There is one female in charge and perhaps not a single fully adult male.  When the female’s eggs hatch, the females tend to eat the males.  You have to understand.  On their world everything has been eaten.  They might eventually die out and leave a barren world if people would stop landing explorer craft.”

“Okay,” Katie interrupted, catching up with the conversation.  “But why would they land here on an underpopulated island in the Caribbean?”

“To secure their foothold.  There is plenty to eat here, and not just humans.  Meanwhile, the female lays several hundred eggs at one time.  They hatch in six months, and by a year old, the babies are eating everything in sight.  It only takes three to five years before the females are mature enough to begin laying their own eggs.  By the time they invade Cuba, ten thousand might be a million, and by the time they invade Mexico, or maybe Florida or Venezuela, a million might be a billion, and they will increase exponentially.  Once they cross over to Africa, that will be the end of life on Earth other than spider life.”

“How long do you figure that will take?” Lockhart asked.

“A hundred years before Africa, maybe two hundred at most, but I don’t see the human race coming up with anything other than brute force to stop them, and frankly, if we can’t stop them here at the start, there may be no stopping them.”

“Hold up,” Katie whispered.  She was paying attention to where they were going.

They had not gone far, but they reached an open field, and the hundred natives and pirates that joined them at the last minute became agitated.  Most climbed the trees at the edge of the woods and the word spread among the men to get ready.  The Spanish and Dutch soldiers pushed to the front on either side of the natives.  They each formed two lines facing the field and waited.  The travelers, guns ready, crowded in the middle ground with the ship captains and their officers.  The natives in the trees pulled out bows and grasped their arrows in anticipation.  The sailors gathered behind the soldiers, matchlocks ready, though many held only pikes and swords of some sort.  They waited, but not for long.

Spiders came racing across the field, each one looking the size of a man.  The Spanish military captain panicked and yelled too soon.  “Fuego!”  Some of the shot fell short, but most hit something.  As long as the soldiers fired at ground level, it would have been impossible not to hit something, the way the spiders were massed together.

A few seconds later, the Dutch fired.  Spiders went down, but it hardly made a difference.  There were too many of them.  Most of the Spanish and Dutch soldiers got their matchlocks loaded for a second shot, but it was not a second volley.  The spiders came on as fast as a cavalry charge.  Lockhart admired the courage of the soldiers as many of the sailors already abandoned the fight and were racing back to the beach.  The soldiers put down their matchlocks and grabbed whatever pikes, swords, or knives they had or could find.

By far, the travelers took the biggest toll in the center.  The little ones overhead could fire a half-dozen arrows in the time it took a soldier to load and fire his matchlock once.  Decker and Katie had their military rifles set to automatic and fired hundreds of rounds in a short time.  The rest had handguns, including Nanette, who had Boston’s old Beretta. The handguns brought down plenty, but the spiders seemed endless.

Everything stopped when the spiders crashed into an invisible wall and could go no further.  Elder Stow held on through the crash, then he picked up his screen device, floated up about six feet in the air, and shouted to the travelers.  “It is a wall.  They will find a way around the edge.  I recommend retreat.”

Sukki floated up next to Elder Stow and she let her power pour from her hands.  The front row of spiders burned, but Sukki knew her strength would give out before the spiders stopped coming.

Men began to run back to the beach, and as predicted, the spiders soon found their way around the wall.  The spiders had to rush toward the center to get at the men, and some men got taken.  Elder Stow had to turn off the wall, race a couple hundred yards into the woods, and turn the wall on again.  This again stopped the spiders completely, if only temporarily.  He did this several times between the field and the beach, and most of the men made it to the shore.

What they found was hundreds of spiders crawling all over the shore.  The wounded Spaniards that Captain Esteban left there were all dead.  Some were partially eaten, but several canisters of Mustard gas had been opened.  It was suicide for the Spanish to do that, but the spiders shriveled under the gas.  Everyone avoided that end of the shoreline.

The spiders ignored the oncoming men at first.  They appeared to be scurrying about, looking for a way to cross the water and get to the Golden Hawk.  Captain Hawk had a thought.  “To the ship,” he yelled, but few heard him as the men had to fight their way to the water.

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.