Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hills upon Zakynthos

February 2, 1651, afternoon
Weather: with brisk temperatures and a driving storm, with a strong breeze.

There is something about this party, whenever it starts out on a journey ...

The wind steadily increases throughout the morning, as the party finds the way up above the plains to be fairly easy going.  The mountains are clothed in gentle slopes, but the upper portions are like teeth rising out of the earth, with precipitous cliffs and rounded tops.  I understood the party to be on horseback, so it takes only a couple of hours to ascend to where you're a thousand feet above the sea ... but then the storm envelops you and you can hardly see down into the valley.

The party must seek shelter, and the only shelter consists of folds in the skirted heath that surrounds the base of the mountains.  These folds, however, are deep in places, twenty or thirty feet, so as you lead your horses into them, the wind is cut away and only the steady rain remains.

About three hundred feet above you, also in the defile and near where a cliff strikes up into the sky, the party - in their wet misery - can see something huge and shaggy.  It shudders from time to time, sending a burst of water off its body and into the air, like an enormous round dog.

Friday, February 22, 2013


February 1, 1651, morning
Weather:  with brisk temperatures and overcast conditions, with a gentle breeze.

Once again beating your way against the wind, it yet takes all day and another night before the ship can round Zakynthos towards Zante.  The Petrel pulls into the harbor at 10 a.m., and it is almost noon before the bustle of vessels allows a space for the ship to find its way to a public dock.

(I've been hurrying ... the island of Ithaca is actually Cephalonia.  I have to go back into the back two posts and fix that!).

Zante is very much like a high minded Italian city transported to an island that looks remarkably idyllic.  There are green palm trees, foliage - some of which has leaves that have turned red with the winter, but still retaining them - and a thick, salty atmosphere.  The people are lightly dressed, cosmopolitan, and the streets are washed clean in a way that no Italian city could be.  It causes Mareo to wonder to Maximillian, "Do the people shit here?"

Quite a number of women are passing who are dressed in Turkish yashmaks and arabic dress, and the city is full of Berbers, Maltans, Sicilians, Turks, Greeks and Cypriots, and even some Spaniards and Russians.

I'll put up a trade table for Zante in just a few minutes, right after I go back and fix a few details about the previous two posts.  I'll skip adding a map connecting the ship's last location with Zante.

Around the Isle of Cephalonia

January 31, 1641, before sunrise
Weather:  with brisk temperatures and a brief drizzle, with a gentle breeze

Thursday morning begins with a promising light air,  which improves into a light breeze, then a gentle one, drawing the ship forward.  At noon a crewman cries "LAND ho!" ... but the mountainous west side of Cephalonia can't been seen from the deck for another hour.

With the 30th, a steady rain beats on the sea and the wind is changeable and useless for sailing ... the storm passes, and steadily a fresh breeze grows from the SW, allowing some real progress.  All day the ship turns around the massive island, until through the night the wind blows across the ship's reach - though it is no better than a gentle reach.

The party can't help but notice that there's quite a lot of isolated stones standing out of the sea, scattered everywhere, and as the ship makes its way through the night, the light in the Captain's cabin never goes out.  A runner comes to meet the captain every fifteen minutes to take orders to the deck, as she carefully navigates, hoping the maps are accurate ...

Journey for the last two posts, or four days

One more post coming.

Calm Seas Near Cephalonia

Jan 28, 1651, Wednesday dusk
Weather:  with cool temperatures and overcast conditions, with calm weather.

On the 27th, it is discovered that the Captain has guessed wrong - the breeze is not blowing towards the SE, as she expected ... instead, it is blowing FROM the southeast.  These are the Khamsin winds, from Egypt.

Now, as the Petrel makes for Cephalonia, the ship finds itself making its way close-hauled to the wind.  Worse, the best breeze the sails can find is one that's gentle, and the day's going is very slow.

The 28th is worse.  The SE breeze that lasts through the morning dies utterly, so that the ship ceases virtually all forward movement.  The sea is like glass, the sky is overcast and oppressive and the temperature cool in the afternoon.  The captain has every available crewmember scrubbing down the entire ship, repairing sails, making a better job of the repair below decks from more than a week ago and generally keeping busy.  She's in a better mood than she was when the ship was outside Rijeka, but she's got four men in the shrouds keeping an eye on the horizon.  She even climbs to the topsail and has a look about herself.  Not until the sun goes down does she cease her vigilance.

Next post coming, but thought you guys might like to see some life from the campaign.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Ionian Gulf

Jan 26, 1651, Monday afternoon
Weather:  with pleasant temperatures and a quickly passing storm, with a fresh breeze

Although the amount of rain has markedly increased as the party has headed south, the overall temperature has steadily improved.  A week before, on the day after the dinner, the Petrel met with a gale, that drove the ship brutally for half the day ... but examination of the ship showed an utter lack of damage of any kind.  The Captain determined there was no need to go into any port, and since there has been nothing of its kind.  The party has not seen so much as a flake of snow since (the gale was in the form of another Bura, or blizzard) ... though there has been a lot of drizzle and rain.  The decks are free of ice, cool temperatures have warmed the wood each day and now, this Monday afternoon, the sky is cloudy and blue and the weather is positively marvelous.

But there has been nothing on the horizon, and for much of the journey the ship has been tacking into deeper water, so that even land isn't visible for much of the time.  An map of the voyage is below:

Sorry about the map being such a mess.  It's in the middle of being redesigned, and right now this is the best one I have.

You can see that you've come out of the Adriatic and into the Ionian Gulf.  The Captain understands that once you've gotten past the Ionian Islands, the ship will catch prevailing winds that blow south by south east, as opposed to southwest.

The town of Zante is beyond Ithaca (the island in the extreme bottom left corner).  The Captain means to make for there and rest the crew for two days.  In the meantime, this is as much time as I have to work out the calculations for the above ... but journeys do tend to be long and boring, so I guess I'm presenting the actual feel for the events correctly.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Captain's Dinner

Jan 19, 1651, Monday evening
Weather:  with cool temperatures and a brief drizzle, with a light breeze

The ship catches a steady breeze, albeit not an especially strong one, and makes good time from Sunday afternoon until the present.  And although it has been drizzling rain all day, the weather is remarkably cool ... the party simply cannot resist the urge to take a walk around deck.  It is the warmest weather the party has experienced in months, and it is a relief.

As I said, the Captain has invited the party members - sans men-at-arms - to dine with her.  That would be Sofia, Enrico, Ahmet, Andrej, Lukas and Maximillian.  Could you please indicate who agrees to attend.

The meal is roast beef, boiled cabbage, cheese, bread loaf and Italian pesto, ladeled from a bowl in the middle of the table.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Madam's Cabin

Same time, same weather.

Andrej, who seems to be the only one willing, is taken into the Captain's cabin.  She seems in a much worse condition than the crew - which she is handling by holding onto a fury that Andrej can clearly see she has under control.

The body has been moved onto a table, and draped with an expensive woollen blanket.  There is a slight metallic odor in the air that is unpleasant.  The ship's creaking is lessened here, but there is a distinct sway to the ship that gives a sense of the speed at which it's moving along.

The Captain's cabin is austere; Madam seems to take some pleasure in preening herself, as her clothes are of high quality leather and trimmed with silks, dyed rich colors and sporting a number of small pieces of jewelry, upon her hat, her scabbard, her ears and her throat.  But the cabin itself is that of a monk.  The bed is hard, little more than a two inch mattress of compressed feathers on a wooden palette.  The table in the room would be more suited to a peasant's hut.  There are no pictures, no signs of any luxurious possessions, not even anything better than an earthenware chamberpot placed obviously next to her bedstead.  A large square featureless desk without drawers is covered with maps and instruments, but they are the most noteworthy thing in the room.

She will begin, her tone tight and impatient.  "I understand you have the power to restore this crewmember."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Punishment Aboard Deck

Jan 18, 1651, Sunday morning
Weather:  with frosty temperatures and cloudy conditions, with a fresh breeze

Notwithstanding that it is Sunday morning, Axel Praest, a Dane by birth, is brought aboard the top deck in order to be punished.  He's quite aware now of what's about to happen.  He's contrite; he apologizes to the Captain, who shows no sign of sympathy for him.  He's hauled over and willingly consents to Andrej's last rites, should they be needed.

Added a little ship to the map
 for flavour
The wind is excellent and the ship skims over the sea as fast as the party's seen her fly.  It dips just a bit between troughs and though there's a minimum crew in the rigging the ship's answering to the helm without a qualm.  In just six hours it's travelled about 25 knots, to where for the first time the sea seems to have a bit more color than slate gray.  Steadily, you're making your way beyond the temperate grip of winter.

Maximillian is placed front and centre as Praest is strung to a wooden frame that's been set in place against the bulwark.  The crewmember who uses the whip is the same large fellow who rousted Maximillian out of his bed last night and struck his hand on the post.  His hand is swollen, bruised, black and purple and orange in parts - he seems unconcerned about it.  His name is Deven, and he's a big Norwegian.  Jacobo, it may be remembered, was the other fellow.

Deven readies the whip, a cat with four, knotted tails ...

Monday, February 11, 2013

Day of the Storm off Dugi Otok

Jan 17, 1651, Saturday night
Weather:  with chilly temperatures and a steady drizzle, with a strong breeze

The captain's mood in improved somewhat as the wind improves from the early afternoon through Friday evening, with a gentle wind that blows the ship down along the coast of Cres Isle and into the open Adriatic.  This wind dies during the evening, until the ship is merely edging outwards upon the current ... but with the morning comes the worst.

A terrifying blizzard strikes the ship an hour before dawn, bringing with it frosty temperatures that immediately freezes all the guidelines and the deck, making even walking a dangerous activity.  There's little time to string the necessary safety measures, and the party is rallied - at sword point if necessary - to help in battening and managing the ship.  Ahmet's chicken cages are tossed about - but manage not to break - and the whole ship is put into a wild flight as the captain fights to keep her ship from flying into the Adriatic.  Steadily, almost miraculously, she drives her crew to maintain the desired course.

At one point, Ahmet finds himself commissioned to hammer the knots in ropes to break them apart.  Burnt by the screaming winds, soaked to the skin, he endures as one of boatswain vilifies him for not swinging hard or fast enough ... whereupon Madam appears, shouts an order at the boatswain that he fails to understand, and she strikes him so hard that it lays him on the deck.  Ahmet cannot understand what either of them are saying, but the officer leaps to his feet, appears contrite, and flies at once towards the bow.

Step by step, throughout the day, the storm diminishes, while the ship makes good time; the coastline reappears (its been there all along, but couldn't be seen) and the crew describes it as Dugi Otok.  They've come through fine, wasted no knots and the ship has come through with little damage.

By evening, though the rain continues, at the point marked by the yellow star, the wind has died again, as it shifts to the northwest ... whereupon a strong breeze sends you quickly along.  Dugi Otok falls out of sight and the sea steadies into clear - if unpleasantly wet - sailing.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

First Day out of Fiume

Jan 16, 1651, Friday morning
Weather:  with chilly temperatures and a brief drizzle, with calm weather.

Allow me to break the tone of the post by explaining that as these new rules for sea travel (linking it to weather and all) are new to me, I'd like to move forward slowly, get a feeling for it and walk the party through it as well.

So, as the party does board the ship on the 15th, they're somewhat disquieted by a vicious storm that is blowing off the continent, known to the locals as the 'Bura' ... this is a hard wind which, on this particular occasion, by chance, blows only for a short 9 hours before letting up.  Madam suspects some higher force may have taken the step of breaking the brief storm, but as early afternoon comes on it allows the Petrel's Wing to set sail.  The Bura set down about three inches of snow, and Madam's 30 crew are less than pleased as they shovel off decks and clear ropes for hauling the ship onto the water.

The wind is poor, gentle at first, then reduced to nothing more than a light breeze in the evening, then gentle again throughout the night.  With the morning, the weather is dead calm, so that the Petrel does not even have water pouring over the rudder.  The ship drifts very slowly between the isles of Cres and Krk, and Madam is beside herself with fury.   The progress has been no more than 27 knots.  She has nothing good to say about clerics and their accursed meddling with the weather and the good winds, she has less good to say about the month of January and she's positively incensed by the discovery that on her first day out her favorite cheese has been nibbled at by rats.  She has the whole crew out in the morning hunting every corner of the ship in the blasted cold trying to kill every rat aboard, while she broods on the quarterdeck glaring back at the passage through which the party has just come.

There's little for the party to do, I know ... and though this may be a bit slow in the running progress, like I say I just want to get a handle on ship movement and travel.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Cumanese Culture

I've considered a number of different styles of rulership for Cumana, which Andrej would know fairly well - thinking how would half-orcs go about things, and how would an ongoing Cuman (and Pecheneg) culture manifest?  I've stumbled across something which I like ... and which identify the culture as something unique.

To begin with, the ruling 'class' would be a series of clan heads, which the half-orcs call "hetmen" - a Slavic term, unfortunately, but adopted from the Germanic and therefore, I think, acceptable for the Donbass.  There are approximately three hundred hetmen, each mastering between a few hundred to a few thousand clanspeople.  These rarely meet, gathering together only when it is time to 'elect' a king - who is chosen upon merit, and not necessarily upon ascestral background.  Occasionally, five or six hetmen will join to press a local issue; more might join to wage limited war, with or without the king's permission, against groups such as the Turks, the cossacks or the Russians.  Many hetmen are paid tribute by forces outside of Cumana in order to retain their 'loyalty' to a particular foreign desire.

Although Cumana is decentralized, the vast centre of Mutrakan, consisting of both permanent and impermanent structures (a 'tent city') consists of the twenty largest tribes, more than 80,000 people  ... and when aroused will tend to carry all else in its sway.  Thus, the outer ring of hetmen are cautious not to arouse the central power.

The status of many of the people - particularly the youngest of the population - is that of indentured slave.  It is common for families to sell their children into slavery in order to obtain wealth with which to build a flock.  These children then live the first twenty to thirty years of their life as forced labor, soldiers or artisans, without choice, until such time as they have been deemed worthy of freedom - which is granted by the hetman of the tribe.  Until such time, they are 'owned' by the hetman.  However, during this period of ownership, the young are taught useful skills, and the brightest are given to intellectual tasks, to learn to be priests, or perhaps thieves and assassins if their owners are so inclined.  Andrej, obviously, spent his years in bondage learning to be a cleric, in a tribe whose hetman had adopted Christianity.

Most Cumans are animistic in religion - neither Christian nor Muslim, viewing their time on earth as a sort of slavery before being freed by death to become ultimately free upon the 'Great Steppe,' which they call the afterlife.  "All alive are slaves," is a common Cumanese saying.

Upon obtaining freedom, boys and girls are paired together and made into families - largely against their will - and are encouraged to bring forth children to sell to the hetman of their tribe.  Andrej was not expected to do this - his hetman - Roggto - allowed him to pursue his wish of travelling to Europe.  But should Andrej return to his home tribe, he would be asked to marry and bring forth children.  Couples who do not give birth to children by their 40th year are typically cast out from the tribes, where they wander and most commonly die.  This sort sees themselves has having failed their people, and believe themselves to be condemned to 'Jorghatha' ... the gray sea, where one is trapped beneath pools of thick, salt water for the rest of eternity.

I trust, Andrej, this does not seriously alter your conception of home - I hadn't needed to create a culture for Cumana before, but I quite like the ideal described above.