Author’s note: I’m no cartographer, but here’s a visualization of the map of The Strait. If you’re a better artist than me (which is probably every one of you) and want to take a stab at recreating this map in a higher quality fashion, I’m sure we can do something to make it worth your while. (Maybe name a pirate lord/island after you?)
Author’s note Two. I’ve added definitions to many of the nautical terms. If you’re unsure what a “Keel” is, hover your mouse over the word and read the definition. if you click the link, you’ll be taken to (in most cases) the wikipedia article about that part of a ship. I hope this helps. Please let me know if you find it worthwhile or annoying.
Arian Tilwin sat at his desk for the better part of two hours, while the ship sailed out of port and into the lee current. The strait was interrupted by five major islands. His own Rock Tail Islands were one, at the farthest north point in The Strait. The fast moving water was bordered on the west by the Algrind Kingdom, and on the east by the Mooredand Empire and the Shindow Collective. All three countries were vastly different. The arid Algrind Kingdom was a band of land between the Green Mountains and the Strait. Mostly desert, all the crops grown in Algrind came from the northern-most Provence. To the south was the source of the nation’s wealth, a series of mines. Workers in the mines toiled in slave-like conditions, digging out tons of iron and gold every month.
The Mooredand Empire across the strait evolved by continuous growth, constantly enveloping smaller kingdoms. The Mooredand was said to cover most of the continent, more land than a man could walk across in a year. South of them, the Shindow Collective was a loose configuration of nation-states, each independent, but sworn to defend any nation in the collective. Fierce warrior cultures, The Shindow were also the only nation in the world allowed to use magic. Shindow mages could sense the use of magic anywhere in the world. Anytime someone was born with the spark outside of their collective, Shindow mages were dispatched, and the infant was killed. Inside the collective, it is said that the mages had their own city, floating high above the land where they raised all mage-born children within the Collective. These mages were the sole reason the tiny Shindow Collective was able to withstand the decades of attack by the Empire to the north.
As he sat at his desk, Arian thought about the preparations he’d made for this trip. Two weeks ago, he slipped into the harbor, swimming with a one-hundred pound iron plate. He used the bladder of three goats to buoy the plate as he swam out to The Windlass’s bow. He drilled and bolted the iron plate with twenty-four bolts, as far under the waterline as he could reasonably dive and still have air to work. Painstakingly slow, it took just over half a minute to swim to the spot. That gave him between fifteen and thirty seconds to work, before starting the thirty second swim for air. Over and over he dove, until the plate was securely mounted, and all the bolts were tightened enough to hold water. The plate had a large U attached, and over a series of dives, connected a heavy chain to the plate with a shackle that weighed more than his son.
The iron alone in this scheme had cost him a month’s worth of treasure, plus the time and silence of the iron wright who made the various parts. The sail-maker thought Arian was insane when he described his plan, and refused to take the work for fear of having his reputation ruined. Arian, however, was a hard man to refuse. He eventually created the massive sail, but at four times the cost. On a sail four times larger than the largest on the Windlass, it was an expensive proposition.
He knew it would work. He’d planned this since the construction of his vessel years before. This was why he’d spent the exorbitant amount of treasure to have her keel, ribs, and spars all fashioned out of ironwood. Almost as hard as iron, and three times more buoyant than oak, Ironwood was the perfect material for ship-building, except for it’s scarcity. Arian bought so much during the construction of The Windlass that he drove the price up around the world.
A knock at the door shot Arian out of the thoughts of his family and the plan for the future. “Enter.” he called.
Maign opened the door and strode up to the captain’s desk. “We’re approaching the lee, sir.”
“Very well. Thank you,” replied Captain Tilwin. He stood, shrugged his coat on, and walked out behind Maign, placing his hat on top of his head after he passed through and locked his ready-room door.
When he turned around, Maign shouted “Captain on Deck! Look lively, buccaneers!” Every member of the crew stopped what they were doing for just a moment, turned toward the captain, and shouted “Ho, Sir!” in unison. Arian climbed the ladder to the poop deck, and took the giant ten-foot rudder wheel.
“All hands, batten the hatches. Lock those lines down lads, we’re heading into the current, and we’re going in hard south.”
Maign looked at the captain. “There be not enough wind to head south, sir. We’re going to have to make the loop.” Maign was referring to the standard sailing course. The lee current was too strong to sail south in, it would sweep a ship out of the strait in hours. Rather than fight the currents, for generations, sailors headed south in The Strait sailed up north of Rock Tail, where the water spread and the current lessened, and then came down the coast of Mooredand. It was a commonly held belief that no ship could withstand the pressure of putting enough sail on the masts to fight the current.
Arian, ignoring his first mate, called out “Raise the sails. Put every inch of cloth on the yard lads, put your own shirts on the rigging if you think it’ll catch wind!”
“Sir, We’ll be torn apart! Even the mighty Windlass can’t handle it,” protested Maign.
“Noted, and dismissed, Maign. Go find me more sail and somewhere to hang it.” Even though the ship was picking up speed, if they hit the current at this pace, they would be spun around and flipped, keel over decks. In addition to the current running north through the strait, the prevailing wind ran south. This created massive waves, sometimes thirty feet high where the currents met the massive, slow moving eddies formed by the islands in The Strait.
“Run out the sweeps! Put your backs into it, lads, we need more speed if we’re going to survive the day,” he yelled. Immediately, he heard the portholes below opening. “Row like you’ve never rowed! All our lives depend on the strength of your backs!”
He felt the ship lurch forward. ‘It’s not enough,‘ he thought to himself. “Row harder boys or we’ll all meet our doom at the bottom of the world!” Arian ran, sliding down the banister of the wide stairs that led down to the main deck. He lept one sailor bent at a rigging wench, and caught a trailing rope on the boom. As the sailor down on the deck wound the wench, the boom swung free, slinging Arian out over the water, and up onto the forecastle. The captain dove for the storage box beside the harpoon, and pulled out a massive spear with canvas wrapped around the shaft. At the bowspirit, he hooked the line from the harpoon to the chain that ran down into the water and connected to his iron plate.
He cranked on the harpoon, ratcheting it back with all his might. Just seconds before the bow of the ship entered the lee current, he launched the harpoon up into the sky in front of the ship. As he fired, he shouted “Brace yourselves, lads! All hands to rails!”
When the harpoon hit the length of the rope tying it to the keel-chain it sprung open into a huge kite, four times the size of the mainsail. The kite caught the southern wind, lifted the bow of the ship up completely out of the ocean, and dragged the ship forward safely into the lee current. “It worked! It fucking worked!” he said to himself gleefully. After several minutes, he let go of the harpoon launcher. The ship had settled on plane and the decks leveled out. They were being towed down the lee current by his kite. The hull was taking a beating, but she was holding. His ship was the fastest and toughest in the fleet, and now he was the only captain to ever successfully sail south in the lee.
Back to Chapter 3 On to Chapter 5
About the Author
Kirk Allmond started writing the first bestselling What Zombies Fear novel in 2010 as an online story as part of his website The Zombie Preparedness Initiative. When the idea to write a novel struck him, he took his own “Zombie Apocalypse” plan and turned it into a story. That story has now spawned six novels and two short stories, and is showing no sign of letting up.
When he’s not writing or talking about zombies, the Michigan born writer holds firmly to the southern roots of his family. He grew up in Chicago IL, and Roswell, GA. Kirk has an amazing little boy who was born in 2007, who is the basis for the character Max in his novels. His time growing up in the south with his grandparents taught him the value and skills to live off the land. He is an avid outdoorsman, loves hunting, fishing and backpacking. When he’s not honing his survival skills, Allmond is often found sitting at a role-playing game table, either as the GM of his own Zombie Apocalypse role playing game or as a participant in games run by one of the members of Grown as Gamers, the premier podcast for all things geek and pop culture.