M3 Gerraint: The Isle, part 2 of 3

“Oars, too.  Ten to a side, maybe.”

Gerraint grabbed Gwillim by the arm.  Something itched in the back of his mind.  “Sails full against the wind?”  He noticed that their sail looked full because they were with the wind.

“Yes,” Gwillim said, and then he paused as he thought about it.

“British?  Amorican?  Welsh?”  He asked the man up the mast.

“No,” the answer came back.  “Never seen the like.  Long boats, like old Roman ships, but shallow draft.  No rams.  No height fore or aft either.  No upper deck.”

“Norwegian?”  Gerraint asked.  The word Viking was not yet common, but Norwegian ships were not unknown.  Thus far, however, they had been confined to the North Sea and the people who colonized the East coast of Britain around the Humber River had been brought to submission under Loth and Arthur’s sister-in-law, Gwenhwyfach, and their sons, Gawain, Medrawt, and his cousins.

“Could be Norwegian,” Trevor said.  “I wouldn’t know.”

“Ready to come about.”  The crew looked impatient, but Gwillim and Gerraint were eye to eye in thought.

“Hold to your course,” Gerraint said at last.  Their ship was virtually round with a single main sail.  It had been built to crawl along the coast, not for speed, but the sail stayed taught.  The wind blew from their rear.  The sails of the oncoming ships ought to be useless.

“Their sails are full?”  Gwillim confirmed.

“Tight as a drum and coming on fast,” Trevor shouted down.

Gwillim nodded.  “Hold to course,” he commanded.

“Captain!”  The steersman wanted to protest.  The only normal recourse for a merchant ship in the face of pirates was to make for the nearest coast, to a safe haven if possible, but at least to drop anchor, run for their lives and leave the ship to be plundered.

“You heard the order,” Gwillim said, and they watched as the ships began to draw near.

“Put up your sword,” Gerraint told Uwaine.  Uwaine leaned on the railing, sword in hand.  He expected to be caught and boarded at any minute.

As the ships drew closer, they could see the oarsmen and make out faces that were both grim and bloodthirsty.  “Don’t look at them,” Gwillim ordered.  “Keep your eyes to your tasks.”

Gwillim himself looked away, but Gerraint and Uwaine could not help staring.

“Our death, no doubt,” Uwaine whispered.  Gerraint felt the same, but he gambled and his face was not going to show it.  Right before the lead Viking ship reached them, right when they began to hear the screams and shouts of men ready for the slaughter, it was over.  The ships vanished all at once, and several planks of some old merchant wreck floated by.  Uwaine looked up in wonder.

“Manannan.”  Gerraint named the god responsible for the illusion.  “It’s an old trick.”

“If I didn’t know you, it would have worked, too,” Gwillim said, as he came up beside them.  “But I’ve learned one thing.  The sea can play mighty tricks on the mind.”

Gerraint ignored the comment from his friend and pointed to the sky.  The clouds started coming up and darkening faster than possible.  “You better batten down the hatches or whatever you do,” he said.  “That’s no trick.”

Gwillim’s jaw dropped.  “Come about!”  He panicked.  “To shore.  Tie down the rails.”  He ran off, and Gerraint’s advice to Uwaine was to hold on.  They barely got the sail down before the storm hit them with hurricane force.  The sun immediately got blotted out and their vision cut to half the distance of the ship.  They got lifted on a monstrous wave and spun around so fast and so many times, no man could tell which direction was the shore and which was the deeper sea.  Gerraint and Uwaine tied themselves to the ship in the stern, on the port side.  Gwillim and his mate, Trevor, were tied to the starboard side.  The rest of the crew tied themselves to the bow, except for the two men who were too slow and had already gone overboard.

It might have been half an hour.  It might have been half a day.  It felt impossible to tell how long it lasted.  Their only saving grace was the oak and hardwood construction of the vessel made it nearly impossible to sink, and the round design made it equally impossible to swamp or turn over.  They rode the waves like men on a roller coaster, lifted on mountains of water and sliding into impossibly deep valleys with mountains all around.  Surely, Uwaine would have gotten sick if he had not been so petrified.

Nothing they could do but stay tied, pray and ride out the storm.  They had no way to drive or direct the boat, and no one knew which way to go in any case.

“Rocks!”  One of the crew shouted back from the bow.  He saw the foam of the crashing waves and knew what to look for.

“Hold on!”  Gwillim and Gerraint shouted at the same time.  They slammed sideways into a boulder just beneath the surface.  The sea drew them back and they slammed again and again into the same spot.  They heard a terrible crushing sound which made several men scream.  The mast fell toward the bow, crushed a man and knocked another over the side.

Men screamed in earnest, now, and Gerraint was about to agree with them as a sharp pillar of stone rose right up in the center of the ship where the mast had been.  The waves began to crash down on them, and Gerraint felt sure they would all be drowned in a moment, but then the tearing of the ship ended.  The stern and bow became completely separated, and the stern was pushed by a giant wave to crash against a rocky shore while the bow got pushed to sea. Neither the bow, nor the crew tied to it were ever seen again.

“You all right?”

“Get free.”

“Inland.”

“Shelter of the rocks.”

“Hold on.”

Gerraint, Uwaine, Gwillim and Trevor all shouted at once.  Miraculously, none seemed terribly hurt and in a moment, they scrambled over the slippery rocks and held on to stone and each other for dear life.

“Incoming.”  Gerraint and the others yelled more than once as a giant wave came and tried to crush them against the stone or drag them back out to sea.  Gerraint lost his grip on the rocks once, and lost hold of Uwaine twice.  The second time he saved him by grabbing the Mate’s hand who grabbed Uwaine’s cloak.

There were taller rocks, deeper in, with coves in the rocks that offered some shelter against wind and wave, long ago carved out by just such storms on the relentless sea.  They huddled for a moment before Uwaine found a hole he could slither through.  It put the main part of the rocks between them and the sea, not that the waves were not crashing over the rocks, but at least they were no longer in danger of being carried back out into the deep.  Trevor, the mate wiggled right behind him, and Gerraint navigated the hole well enough.  Poor Gwillim got stuck around his middle, and he might have stayed there if a sudden burst of water had not pushed him through with a pop!  Gerraint and Uwaine, who each had one of Gwillim’s hands, fell on their backs, and Gwillim fell on top of them.  They got up quickly and put their backs to the rocks and shouted.

“Further in?”  Uwaine asked.  “Higher ground?”

“No,” Gwillim became adamant.  “Too risky.  Just hold to the shelter of the stone.”  Trevor shivered and stood wide eyed.  He was going nowhere.

The storm did not last much longer.  Those four had clearly escaped the storm’s wrath, so it seemed the storm decided to give up.  In a matter of minutes, almost as fast as the storm came up, it magically went away and left only a drizzle of rain against the night sky.

“Hours.”  The mate spoke at last.  They saw a three-quarter moon risen somewhere behind the clouds.

“Fire.”  Gwillim suggested the more practical matter, and they let go of their shelter and stepped inland in search of wood.  It seemed a difficult task, but the storm, for all of its violence, was quick enough to come and go.  It had not stayed around long enough to really soak the woods.  With the fire, Uwaine suggested they ought to reconnoiter, to see if they could find out where they were.  The other three stared at him, blankly, until Trevor began to snore.

Hunger came with the sunrise.  A cold wind swept along the beach in front of the edge of the forest in which they settled.  Gwillim immediately took charge, as a captain will.  He sent Trevor to search the shore and pools around the rocks for any fish which the water might have left behind while everyone else built up the fire.  Once they had food cooking, it was Gerraint who really pulled things together.

“Uwaine.” He pointed up the hill out of which the great rocks, near cliffs along the beach, had been carved.  Uwaine understood that he could get a good look at the lay of the land from there.  “I’ll head up the beach and around the rocks at that hedge.  Gwillim?”

“I think I’ll just see if there is anything salvageable from our half of the ship.”  He said.  Everyone said be careful, but then they started out because the smell of the fish cooking started driving them crazy with hunger.

Uwaine found the top of the hill cleared of trees.  From there, he easily saw that they were on an island, but in the dim light of dawn, he was just able to make out the glimmer of another land to the south.  Whether it was the mainland or another island, he could not say.

Gwillim found the ship caught handily on the rocks.  He did not find much inside to salvage, most having been gutted by the waves, but the lumber looked strong, and he already had in mind the idea of a raft, should it be needed.

Gerraint, by far, took the longest time.  Around the natural jetty of rocks, he found a seal colony.  He saw another jetty a hundred yards up the beach and most of the noise came from there, but on his side of the far rocks, he saw several females and their pups, and one little girl with long brown and greenish hair.  Even from that distance, Gerraint could see from her hair and her enormously round brownish-black eyes that she was not human.

“Hello,” he called.  Several of the females began to bark, and the girl looked startled, but she did not move. Gerraint walked up the beach.  He stopped when the girl appeared frightened and looked ready to run.  He had to think about this for a minute.  He heard a voice behind him.

M3 Festuscato: Shipwreck, part 2 of 3

“Mousden!” Festuscato shouted to the top of the mast where the last member of the motley crew spent most of his time. “What do you see?”  The light seemed to be fading too fast and Festuscato started becoming concerned about the possible storm.  He wondered if he should turn the ship toward the shore to seek shelter.  Certainly, the sea began to turn rough.  Fortunately, the Cornish Pixie’s eyes were very sharp in the dark.

“I see the usual collection of lazy layabouts on the deck,” Mousden shouted down.

The men looked up. “Hawk!”  Gregor shouted and suddenly pointed.

“Hawk?” Hrugen looked up, but Mousden had already shrieked and flown to the deck faster than an eye could see.  He crawled under a coil of rope to hide, being only a foot and a half tall, altogether.

Gregor laughed with the others, and after a moment, even Hrugen thought it was funny. Mousden, however, got mad.

“How would you like a hot foot,” Mousden threatened Gregor for the millionth time, but everyone knew the old, one eyed Saxon really cared for the little winged man. Even Mousden could see that much.

“Ahem!”  Festuscato cleared his throat.  “I meant, what can you see at sea?”

“Oh.” Mousden nodded.  “Just some monsters spouting water and headed right for us.”

“Whales on the whale road.”  Hrugen jumped to the railing and Bran caught him before the pitch tossed him.  All the men, carefully strained in the growing darkness to catch a sight of the wonder.

“Ahem,” the captain said.  “I meant the clouds.  Is there a storm coming?  Should we seek the shelter of the shore?”

“Oh, yes, Lord,” Mousden said, frankly, but without the least comprehension of what he was saying.  He was just not very used to moving among men and did not fully understand human needs in the face of a hostile universe.  For that matter, most of his life got spent in caves and such, and he still just started learning about things like bad storms.  “There’s a big storm coming.  A monster storm.”  Festuscato had already turned toward the shore.

“When?” Festuscato asked.

It started to drizzle.  “About now. Why?”

At that moment, a giant swell washed the front of the boat, nearly swamped the whole bow. Mirowen held to her place, like a magnet to iron, but she got soaked head to foot and reacted as any woman would. Festuscato had one moment to view her glorious water soaked figure and the sheer vulnerability of her in her state, and the heavens opened up.

“Hrugen! Gregor!  Tear that sail.  Bran! Seamus!  Loose the horses.  Mousden to Mirowen.  We need your eyes in the dark.  Mirowen! Call out direction.”

“To port.” She spoke right from the beginning. “There are rocks to starboard.”

The lightning began and rapidly came in sheets like the driving rain.  It took only moments before Gregor and Hrugen cut the chords of the sail and the ropes began whipping in the wind.  They still had enough tension in the canvas to give the ship some real impetus and direction, but not enough to cause the mast to snap. That would have been a real danger. As for direction, Gregor and Hrugen quickly joined their captain at the tiller.

“To Port. We’re drifting,” Mirowen said.

“I see the land. I see it,” Mousden shouted, excited, though how the men at the tiller imagined he could see anything was beyond them. He bobbed up and down about a foot above Mirowen’s head, barely able to stay aloft in the wind.  He got hard blown toward the sea twice before a particularly close lightning strike made him quit his post and seek out his hiding ropes.  Luckless had already come back on deck with his precious bag of tools.  Seamus also came back up, his precious books in hand. He held the ropes across the deck from Luckless and hunkered down over his papers.  Bran came last, rubbing his shoulder where a terrified horse kicked and grazed him.  All the same, he joined the men at the tiller.

“More to port.” Mirowen shouted, her words somehow got through against the rain.  The swells came, and the little ship began to bob up and down like a cork in water. They began to take on water, but there seemed no point in bailing.  Everyone had to hang on for dear life as the sea took them for a ride.

For three hours Mirowen shouted, “To port!”

And Festuscato shouted back.  “She’s hard over already.”

For three hours, Mousden shivered under the ropes, Seamus and Luckless protected their priceless cargos and four men kept the ship turned hard to port, though whether they went to port or were driven to starboard in spite of everything, none could say.

“There are rocks to starboard!”

The lightning flashed, and the rain and thunder crashed, near deafening.

The sail ripped altogether in the third hour.  It flapped in the wind and the ropes flailed about and became dangerous for those amidships. That condition did not last long as the mast cracked in a snap as loud as the thunder.  When it broke altogether, it fell into the sea right over Luckless’ head.

“Luckless!” Seamus shouted.  The dwarf did not answer.  Leaving his books to the wind and rain, Seamus crawled toward the spot.

“I’m okay,” came the call.  “Mousden snatched me away in the nick.”  Seamus crawled quickly back to his spot by the railing.

“More to port! We’re getting too close to the rocks.” And they did get too close, first to hear the horrifying sound of an underwater ridge scrape up against the bottom before a boulder, taller than the rest, crunched into the ship’s side and caved in a portion of the deck below.  The ship jerked to a stop and Festuscato got thrown overboard.  He barely missed the rock itself as he plunged headlong into the cold waters of the Baltic.

Avalon 6.11 Shipwreck, part 2 of 6

After a minute, the ship settled down. It appeared as if the ship survived the time transition.  Alexis, Sukki, and Millie immediately went to check the water and food stores.  Sukki said out loud that they should have eaten a big meal before the time gate in case the food became inedible.  Fortunately, they found the food and water still in good condition, miraculously untainted by sixty years of rot.

“I guess the aura of protection covered the ship and everything in it,” Millie said.

“Good for the horses,” Alexis said, and explained to Sukki.  “At least they won’t starve between here and landfall, however many days that may be from here.”

“Oh, good,” Sukki said.  “I was afraid you were thinking we might have to eat one of the horses.”  Millie looked horrified by the suggestion, but Alexis looked away and shrugged very slightly.  That thought did cross her mind.

They moved faster aboard ship than they would have moved walking on land, though not as fast as they might have ridden on horses.  The advantage being that they did not have to stop in the night.  They slowed a bit more when the favorable wind shifted to the northwest.  They had to tack to stay on course.  Decker and Lincoln figured out where they were, more or less, in the Mediterranean. They also pulled the spare mast out of the hold and set it in the bow, cutting a lateen sail to help.  That took two days to set up, but everyone said it was worth it.  Boston kept her elf eyes on the horizon in search for land.

All of the men, plus Sukki and Katie took turns on the tiller.  The rudder amounted to no more than a big oar pushed out the back of the ship.  It did not turn the ship very fast, and took some real strength to move it, being heavy in the water; but keeping the ship straight on seemed easy enough.

Lockhart found shovels and buckets, and got Wallace to help him keep the ship relatively clean of horse manure. Katie, Boston, and Alexis took the unused portion of the spare sail to make curtains.  They made places in the bow, port and starboard, where the men and women could relieve themselves with some privacy.  Lockhart asked why they built the bathrooms in the front of the boat rather than the rear, which he thought would make more sense—to leave all that stink behind them.

“Because the wind is blowing more or less forward faster than we are moving,” Katie explained.  “We want anything smelly as far forward as possible.”

Lockhart nodded, even if he did not quite understand.

On the third day, Lincoln began to play music from the database, to relieve the boredom.  He stayed with classical music so as not to disturb the group from 1905, but he did sneak in a couple hours of Christmas music over supper; hymns as well as Santa music.  That actually made everyone feel remarkably better.

On the fourth day, the sky began to cloud over.  Several people saw the red sky that morning, but no one said anything.  Boston stayed in front most of the time, and she was the first to spot their visitors, and shout.

“Dolphins.”

People rushed to the starboard side, to watched as the dolphins breached the water and dove back into the deep. It temporarily stayed their worry about the oncoming storm.

Boston got a surprise when one of the dolphins came up to the front of the ship and grabbed on while Boston looked down into the sea.  It wasn’t a dolphin at all, but a girl, and a rather pretty one at that.

“Hi, I’m Boston,” Boston said.

“Hi, I’m Galatea,” the girl said. “We met once, I think.  Ages ago.”  She did not look too certain.

“Are you a mermaid?”

“I’m a nereid.  My father Nereus sent me to check on you, though I am not sure what I am supposed to be checking.”

“Maybe he wants to make sure we stay safe in the oncoming storm,” Boston suggested.

“Yes,” Galatea said.  “That could be it.  Bye.”  She vanished.

“Wait,” Boston shouted, but it was too late.  It began to drizzle.  After an hour, the dolphins left.  Another hour, and the sky turned dark as night, the storm broke, and Lockhart, at the tiller, shouted, thinking Boston might be the only one to hear him.

“Boston.  Make sure everyone gets tied down, then get with Sukki, Elder Stow, Alexis and Lincoln down with the horses.  Be careful, but try to keep them as calm as you can.”

“Right, Boss,” Boston said, directing her voice to Lockhart’s ears.  As an elf, Boston could make herself heard.

Decker came up and tied himself next to Lockhart on the tiller.  Katie stayed with them, and kept her amulet available.  Her prototype amulet could only point to the next time gate, but she imagined she might keep them pointed in the right direction.

The sky turned dark as night, and the waves rose up and seemed to want to swamp the ship.  They furiously crashed over the sides, and Evan and Wallace helped Millie make a dash for down below.  Being tied to the ship would have kept them from being washed overboard, but they could drown in the waves all the same.

Shortly, the ship began to spin as the waves pushed the speck of wood in every direction.  The planking creaked and moaned, sounding like it might be ripped apart at any moment.  With Millie, Evan, and Wallace there to help with the horses, once they got tied, Boston thought to return to the bow to see what she might see through the gloom.

Boston took a second to tie herself to the railing, then she gripped the railing with both hands, and gripped her boots with her toes.  She did not stand long before she shouted.

“Island ahead.  Big rocks sticking up.  Turn to the right.”  She made herself heard at the back of the ship.

Decker and Lockhart did not question the command.  They pushed the rudder as hard over as they could.  Something cracked loud enough to hear over the storm.  The rudder broke off in the water.  Decker fell to the deck, face first.  Katie grabbed Lockhart to keep him from falling overboard and dangling from the stern on his rope line.  Then they heard the crunching sound amidships.

The rocks punched a big hole in the side of the ship.  None of the people got washed out, but Boston’s horse, Honey, and Lockhart’s horse, Dog, ended up in the sea where they began to swim for their lives.  The ship started to sink.

Up front, Boston got distracted when Galatea, on two feet rather than in her mermaid’s tail, appeared beside her and asked a question.

“Is this a bad storm?”

Boston bit her tongue rather than say, “Well, it isn’t a good one.”  What she said was, “Do you think your dad could help us get to safety?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” she said.  “The Phoenician sea god, Yam, is making sure no Greek ships get to Lilybae.”

“Maybe he could help us reach a shore that isn’t Lilybae?” Boston asked, with all the desperation she felt.  She did not know what was going on down below where the hold was flooding, but she imagined terrible things.  Fortunately, two things happened at once.

A young man appeared and said, “I can help with that.  Yam is a moron.  He never even looked to see who was on this ship.  Triton,” he introduced himself.

“Galatea,” she reciprocated and shook Triton’s hand, as if her nephew did not know her.

Before Boston could offer her name, the rain stopped, suddenly.  Even Triton and Galatea appeared surprised.  They noticed it still rained all around, but the rain no longer reached the ship. Elder Stow switched on his screens. They surrounded the ship like a big globe, picking up plenty of water, and possibly some fish down below, but trapping some air above like a bubble that would keep things afloat, and keep the people and horses from drowning.  Of course, the ship continued to sink until it rested on the bottom of the screens, but the people brought the horses up to the deck which got covered with about an inch of water.  They also carried up the weapons, and as much of the equipment and saddles they could carry. Those who knew a little, prayed that the ship would remain upright.

“The thing is,” Elder Stow told Lincoln and the others as they went up-top.  “I don’t know what to do from here.  My personal flotation device is not strong enough to move this whole ship with all the water we are carrying to a shoreline, even a nearby shore.”

“I can help with that,” Triton repeated himself.  The rain began to pound against the screen.  A stroke of lightning hit the screen and lit up the sky.  It did not penetrate, and the globe of force holding the ship, the air, the water below, and the travelers began to rise in the storm, up to several dozen yards above the sea.  The fury of the storm paused when the ship began to fly to the nearest shore.

“Father is talking to Yam,” Galatea said, and grinned a very blonde grin.

“Yam is an idiot,” Triton said, and avoided saying the same about his Aunt Galatea.  “His lady, Athirat, is hot, though.  I don’t know why all the hot women end up with idiots.  Aunt Galatea has had her share over the years.”

Galatea stood, looking the part of the innocent, dumb blonde.

“Athirat?  Asherah?” Evan asked, not knowing their visitor, and thinking they moved through the air because of some miraculous gadget of Elder Stow.

“She who walks on the water,” Triton nodded.  “And Yam needs someone to walk on him.”

“Asherah is what the Canaanites call her,” Katie said, as she, Lockhart, and Decker walked up from the stern.  “Mother of the gods, though really her mother, Tiamut, filled that role, and Astarte to some extent.  Mother of all the living, which is the same title given to Eve, as in Adam and Eve, and to Hebat, and others.”

“That’s the one,” Triton said with a nod, and roared.  People held their ears, as the ship landed on a shoreline.  Triton disappeared.  Galatea still grinned before she spoke.

“Triton is so loud.  I don’t know if he can say hello without shouting.” she shrugged, and also vanished.

It took a moment for Elder Stow to turn off his screens, but when he did, the ship thumped to the ground.  The deck drained of its inch of water.  As the water rushed over the gunwale, it also drained rapidly through the hole in the hold, and the water picked up by the screens raced back into the sea.  The sky only drizzled at that point, but people got too busy to notice.  They, and the horses, had to rush to solid ground as the ship moaned and slowly tilted on its side.  It would not stay upright resting only on the keel.