M3 Gerraint: The Mainland, part 1 of 3

It took five days to tear apart the hulk of the ship.  Everyone worked on that vital, primary task, except Trevor who greatly expanded Urien’s shelter and kept the cooking fire going.  There were precious few nails in the tool bag.  They were used for repairs at sea, but now they were needed to build and there were not enough.  Every board as well as every nail that could be salvaged became important to their survival.  Thus it took a long, slow five days, and always one eye stayed turned to the sky.  Another storm would have been a disaster, and in fact it did rain on the second and third days.  Fortunately, it only made a misty, annoying drizzle, and while it did not threaten their work, it did affect their mood.

On the fifth night, the skeleton of the ship finally broke apart and got carried out to sea on the tide.  Good riddance was about all anyone could say, but it appeared as if they had enough materials for their project.  Gwillim and Gerraint took the first turn lugging the lumber across the face of the island.  Uwaine insisted on partnering with Urien.  He said he wanted to keep an eye on the Raven, even if Urien’s survival depended on the raft.  They never left the lumber and nails unguarded, however, for fear of Arawn.  Madmen were known for perpetuating the hell in which they found themselves.  Any chance of escape might have been seen by Arawn as a threat to his penitent state.

It took four days, working in teams, to get everything over to the shore that faced the mainland, and then a fifth day got spent arguing about the design.  Gerraint won out in the end when Trevor switched his vote.  That made it three to one to one, because, of course, Urien and Gwillim were at opposite ends on everything.

The design itself was that of a simple outrigger canoe such as one might find in the south pacific, though only Gerraint knew that.  Certainly, canoes were known, though none in Gerraint’s world would dream of taking one to sea.  What was not known was the extension off one side of the canoe and the long pole attached in parallel with the canoe, all of which could be lashed with rope and needed none of their precious nails, both increased the surface tension of the craft against the water, which made it far more stable in swells than a plain flat-bottom raft, and it allowed them to make a larger craft for seafaring than any other design.  The wood already had some natural warp which they were able to use for the sides of the canoe, however uneven in the final look, and this also took advantage of what they had.  It did not require them to cut and shape any of the lumber.  Gerraint imagined it might help protect them from the frigid water, though that last seemed unlikely since they had no good pitch to fill the gaps.  They used the natural heather they found in the woods, but they did not expect much help from that.

This work actually took another four days, to get the craft as good as they could get it.  More importantly, it took four days before they were all willing to try sailing the contraption.  They needed courage to even try.

“I believe it is going to work,” Gwillim said.  He had become convinced of the design on the third day.

“It should get us across this straight, do you think?”  Trevor said.

“I would settle for getting us near enough to swim,” Urien said, grumpily.  He seemed always to be in a foul mood.

“Not a good idea,” Gerraint said.  “You would not live long enough to swim, even from close.”

“What?  Drown?”  Urien sounded offended as if they should not doubt that he knew perfectly well how to swim.

“Freeze,” Gerraint said, and Gwillim spoke at the same time.

“Freeze to death.”

Gerraint thought to explain, but Trevor spoke up.  “It is nearly October now, we’ve been at this building.”

“Is October,” Gwillim interrupted, referring to his own internal calendar.

“It doesn’t take long after summer in these northern climes for the water temperature to return to its’ natural, half frozen state.  I would be surprised if you lasted a whole minute.”

“If the sharks did not get you first,” Uwaine added in such a soft voice the others had to strain to hear him.

After that, everyone looked alternately at the sea, each other, and their supper without another word.  It got late, and Uwaine became the first to lie down.

Rain came in the morning.  It poured, a hard driving rain with a strong wind that blew straight at them from the mainland.  There would be no attempt that morning, and though the rain slackened by mid-afternoon, by then it felt too late to try the crossing.  The next morning the same conditions prevailed, and again, by mid-afternoon, the hard rain died down.  Everyone and everything got soaked and cold by then.  The men started lashing out rather than talking, and Trevor could barely keep the fire going.  On that evening, however, the rain stopped altogether, and then they felt some hope for the following day.

It got late when they went to bed in a little better cheer.  Still later, Uwaine awoke to the sound of knocking.  He got up.  Gerraint woke with Uwaine’s movement.  They rushed to the canoe and heard an insane giggle in the dark. Gwillim had fallen asleep on his watch.  Arawn had damaged their work.  Luckily, nothing irreparable, but it would take all that next day to fix things.

Gwillim could not have been more apologetic.  Everyone was inclined to forgive him, except Urien.  “I’ve been a soldier all my life,” Gwillim said.  “I never even went to sea until three years ago.  I never fell asleep on watch.”