Friday, December 29, 2006

The Isle of Dreams

This is an excerpt from a story I submitted for an anthology to be published by Elder Signs Press. The art is by the talented Steven Gilberts; the cover design by the ever-creative Deborah Jones.
The story concerns a British privateer vessel at sea over a year as it travels through the Pacific. As the story opens, the ship is being swept along by a powerful wind, and certain things the captain’s son has said made the officers want to take full advantage of the speed it affords them.

I never developed an interest for stories based in the Age of Sail, but since doing research for this piece, I’ve found the period to my taste. I’ve noticed some calls for these stories on Ralan’s, so perhaps I’ll pen another one if the mood strikes. I hope you like this little sample, I think it shows the mood I was going for and at least touches on the main characters.

The Isle of Dreams

“I don’t like these seas Sir. I’ve never heard a good word and many a bad one about them. There’ll be a cracked brain before we’re clear o’ this gust, mark me,” Samualson said to his superior in a conspiratorial tone.

Richard looked up to the sky, trying to think of words to comfort the younger officer and perhaps quiet his own misgivings about their voyage. He had heard the stories of ships gone missing or found adrift and filled with spoils without a crewman aboard. They were far from the normal haunts of the French navy, on a mission whose importance only the captain knew. Captain Rogers’ successes and generosity with French spoils were near legendary, so when he told his crew that they’d be gone to sea for two years or more, but they’d all return rich men, they kissed their lady loves goodbye and signed on. The captain neglected to tell them they would be sailing uncharted waters where rumors said Death itself kept hearth and home.

In the firmament above, the Moon was only a sliver, as if curious but barely able to muster the courage to peek in on poor benighted souls. Not a star pierced the sky’s black raiment, nor a cloud offered hope of sweet summer rain to refill the empty barrels now rolling about the deck. Two days ago the grog had taken on a poisonous taste and what was left of the water was under strict rationing.

“Squalls such as this have a way of dying as suddenly as they begin. These are good men, most of them anyway; I’m confident you’ll get them through until morning.”

Samualson’s thin fingers began drumming a staccato beat on his hat as he spoke, “I appreciate ye’r confidence Sir, but to be quite honest, ‘s not just the tales nor the wind that be botherin’ me really,” and the young officer’s voice became so low it barely carried on the wind to Richard’s ears, “it’s the boy.”