Author’s note: The First Chapter of What Zombies Fear: Legion will go live on KirkAllmond.com tonight at 10:00pm EST.
Demitri burst into the captain’s ready room aboard La Chance de la Mer. “Captain Galain! The Windlass. She just sailed by, headed south.”
“Impossible, the ship would be torn apart by the sheer,” he said, referring to the force of the water where the current changed at the edge of the lee.
“I don’t know how,” replied Demitri. “But I saw it with my own eyes.” Captain Jean Galain stood, unfolding himself from the desk in his ready room. He ducked his head to the side to avoid the beams that supported the poop deck above, and hurriedly made for the decks. Once at the starboard rail, he extended his spyglass and saw it for himself. A huge canvas kite towing The Windlass southward in the northbound current, and making good time. At this rate, he could cut a month off the trip to Shindow, and six weeks off the trip to Algrind, the two southernmost cities in The Strait. The ability to sail south in the lee meant he didn’t have to make the round trip. It also meant he could attack Galain without warning from the current.
“I would never believe it. I wonder what he is up to,” Galain said to himself as The Windlass passed his island headed towards Anwin. “Demitri, send a pigeon to Captain Anwin. Let him know The Windlass is making way towards him. And run!” Demitri leap the starboard railing to the gangplank connecting Le Chance to the docks. In seconds he was gone, headed for the tower.
Galain studied the strong southerly wind. Using his decades of experience in on the strait, he could tell that the current breeze would last at least through the end of the week. Cupping his hands over his mouth, he shouted to his crew. “Stow the repair kits marins! Prepare to make way chiens paresseux!” The men stopped what they were doing and looked at their captain for a moment. Most of them started immediately putting away the tools they were using to repair a large hole in the deck.
Three of his men started to protest. “Captain, repairs are almost completed, with another half day she’ll be all…”
“Five lashes to that man for questioning an order. I’m the captain on this ship, Franks. I give the orders, you follow them.” With the first mate off the ship on a captain’s errand, the Navigator and Quartermaster were the ranking officers. They approached Franks before Captain Galain was even finished talking. “The lashes are suspended until we are underway. Snap to, Franks, and perhaps I’ll be inspired to leniency!”
The men all redoubled their efforts. In minutes, gear was stowed and sailcloth was hoisted into position on the brand new mast. “Franks! Rig that Topgallant, and be quick about it. I will sail with you still up there to save myself the trouble of lashing you!”
Franks mumbled under his breath and climbed to the very top of the main-mast, carrying the hundred pound sail on his shoulder. It was an exhausting climb, and then required delicate knot work at the top to properly rig. He was still tying the rigging when Demitri vaulted back onto the ship.
“Captain, the pigeon is away. We’re getting underway?”
“I want to make for the Algrind Coast, and make way south in the slower coastal eddy. I want to see The Windlass up close.”
Demitri stood at attention, looking at his captain, who was staring out to sea while the men frantically worked to get the ship underway. “Sir, we’ll catch her, in port or in the current. When we do, what are your orders?”
The captain looked at his first mate directly. “Stand off. Stay aft of her port guns, and out of range. Something’s got Tilwin riled to make him risk the passage, and I aim to figure out what it is before we close. The ship is yours, Demitri. When we are underway, summon me. Franks has five lashes coming.”
“Sir, the Captain shouldn’t have to administer punishment to the crew, that is my job. If one of the men failed you, I take responsibility. With all respect, sir, please allow me to shoulder the crew’s resentment,” Demitri said, standing proudly.
“I ordered the punishment, and I shall see it done. I appreciate your concern, and it is noted. I’ll be in my ready room. Contact me at first sight of the ship.” Captain Galain left the poop deck and returned to his quarters.
Demitri called the cadence that took them out of port. “Cast off that line! Unfurl the main, step to, lads, Captain wants us underway ten minutes ago. I’ll double Franks’ lashes for any man not moving double-time! Half rations tonight for letting me down while I was off the ship, and you can all thank Franks for that! Now’s the time to do work!”
Galain scrubbed his hands through his shaggy brown hair and tucked it behind his ears. “Tilwin, what are you up to,” he said to himself. He’d only caught a brief, blurry view of the ship as it retreated towards the horizon. Had it been any ship other than The Windlass, he probably wouldn’t have recognized it. Had it been most other ships in The Strait, he probably wouldn’t have been able to make out much of anything from that distance. Tilwin’s flagship was the largest ship ever built by almost a third. How could he drag such a massive ship down the lee without tearing it apart? And why?
The captain felt the ship leaving port, and then lurch up to tacking speed as they started the process of zig-zagging their way south-east across the Algrind coastal current. He looked briefly out the porthole by his chair, they were making good speed. The rhythmic rocking of the ship was comforting.
The answers would come, if he was fast enough. Galain put the plans for his new gun in the drawer of his desk and pulled out his charts. Running at top speed down the Algrind coast was no joke, the reefs along there were unpredictable, and although he’d made the journey up the coast hundreds of times, he rarely fought the current to go south. It was generally more accepted to cross the Lee, and come southward down the Moredand coast. At least until he got to the Shindow lands.
Galain lost himself in study of the charts, looking at his reef markings and familiarizing himself with the landmarks and sailing times based on current wind-speed. Making the southbound run would require him at the helm for the entire fourteen hours. Demitri was the best first mate Galain had ever had, but he was not practiced enough in command to take the ship through dangerous waters. The Algrind coast was dotted with rocky upshoots, coral reefs that would tear the bottom off his ship, and of course, Algrind soldiers who liked to take pot-shots at passing vessels for target practice. The captain wished his gun was finished. One day, he’d poke holes in their towers as he passed out of their range. Two summers ago, headed up the coast, they’d put four holes in the aft side of his ship. He’d had to dedicate sixteen men to pumping and bailing the bilge while he limped the ship back to his harbor to keep her on top of the water.
“Captain,” Demitri’s voice carried through the brass tube next to the helm down through the poop deck into the ready room below. “We’re into the coastal current. You asked me to let you know when we were underway.”
Galain reached over and grabbed the brass tube, twisting it towards his mouth. “Thank you, First Mate. Gather Franks, I’ll be up in a second.”
From his ready room, Galain heard Demitri yell, “Franks, ya scurvy fuckup. Captain’s comin, and you’ve got hell to pay. Do ya need to be lashed to the mast or are you man enough to take five free handed?”
Galain fastened his sword-belt around his waist and grabbed the whip hanging by the door. Franks was standing with his back against the mast, surrounded by the entire compliment of the crew. Everyone knew attendance was mandatory. “Do any of ye question my authority as captain of this vessel?”
There was no response from the crowd. “Do any of ye, as crew members, care to speak on behalf of Mister Franks here?” Again only silence in response. “And finally, be there a man here who deem the punishment ill fitting the crime?” With the exception of the spray, and a lone gull, even the ship seemed to stop creaking.
“So be it. Franks, you are sentenced to five lashes for the crime of insubordination. Unless there be a man upon decks who volunteers to take these lashes for you, the punishment shall be carried out. Do you have anything to say for yourself that may stay my hand?” It was rare for the captain to administer a punishment such as this, the duty usually falling to the first mate. In this case, however, with the first mate off ship, and the insubordination happening directly, Galain felt it warranted that he do the lashing.
“I do not, Sir,” said Franks. “I offer my apology for my insubordination, and state, for the record, that I do not desire for any member of the crew to follow my example.”
“Apology noted, well said, Mister Franks. Turn and take your lashes.” Franks turned, as ordered, and pressed his hands to the main mast, gripping the rope around them. Galain stepped forward, until he was the right distance, and flicked the whip out onto the deck until it was straight behind him. He brought his arm forward, then back, then forward one more time. The whip cracked as the lash on the end flayed Franks’ back open vertically from just below the armpit to just above the waist of his pants. Franks screamed, the agony of having his skin flayed open was intensified by the salt-spray in the air. He counted the lash, and reset the whip, flicking his wrist to straighten it out behind him.
The second lash was exactly parallel to the first, two inches to the right. The gash created in Frank’s back started below his shoulder blade and reached an inch above his belt. Again he counted and reset the whip. Three more lashes, three more perfectly parallel stripes on Franks’ back. Each lash was perfectly placed, Galain’s hand was well practiced from his tenure as a first mate. Not one cut near a joint. Each lash was placed so that Franks could continue to do his job, without tearing the wounds open regularly.
“Shanks, Demitri. Escort Mister Franks to sick bay. Clean him up, sew him closed get him back to work. Three days scullery duty while his back knits together.”
The crew groaned as they turned to get back to work. Franks was a terrible cook.
Suddenly, the ship lurched to one side as something massive surfaced just starboard. Galain had to yell, “All Hands!” and grab the railing before the giant Narume smashed into the side of the ship. The entire ship was tossed into the air. Galain had time to wonder how strong the last patches to the hull were, and then start to call for port-side guns before the trimasted ship crashed back into the ocean. Men were thrown about the deck. Galain lost one hand on the rail, as a giant wall of water washed over him, trying to sweep him off the deck and out to sea.
The first ships to cross The Strait were made from the corpses of Narume that washed up on the shore of Algrind. The first pirate lords ruled the sea in vessels made from the spine and ribs of these creatures. It is said that one washes ashore every hundred years. Galain himself had never seen one, but he wasn’t going to allow this one to get away. All thoughts of facing Tilwin were gone, replaced by an intense desire to bring this creature to port. Not only would it make him a fine flagship, the meat would feed his small town for a year, and the blubber would fill their oil tanks for several years to come.
The trick was to kill the creature, and once that was done, to tow it back to his island. By his estimation, the giant whale was nearly eight times the length of his ship.
Back to Chapter 6 On to Chapter 8
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.