Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Kerch Strait

Thursday night, May 20th, 1651
The Kerch Strait, 850 yards due east of the city of Cherzeti, Crimea
With overcast skies and pleasant temperatures, with a moderate breeze prevailing from the south, along with a thunderstorm marked by heavy rain.

Moon: waxing gibbous, 4 days before the full moon.

As the wind begins to rise out at sea, blowing north and rough, the sea begins to rise and the Captain comes on deck for the first time to give orders for the ship to sail full on for the Strait.  Within an hour land is sighted, by which time the sea is choppy and filled with white caps.  The sky darkens, both with the oncoming night and the black clouds of the first thunderstorm the party has seen this year . . . and the Petrel begins to fly across the sea under full sail.

By the time the Strait is reached, it is full night, and every soul on board, from party to peasant to child, is hard pressed to move water up from the hold to where it can be tossed overboard.  The ship is tight, fast and under control, but the rain is profound in volume.  At one point, as Maximillian is on deck, having been seized by the collar and forced to join a gang to hold the sail to keep it from tearing, the Spaniard next to hi, Milogros, shouts that if he had his hands free to take off his hat, he could catch it full of rain in a minute . . . and Maximillian, soaked to the bone, believes it.

All about, lightning flashes on every horizon, and seeems to threaten the masts as it flashes and forks overhead.

It seems impossible that there could be a patrol ship out on a night like this.  Most of the navy of the Ottomans, particularly in the Black Sea - so Dumont, the Walloon, tells Lukas - are galleys, and galleys do not fare well in poor weather.  "You must hand it to the Captain!" shouts Dumont, as he waits for Maurice the cook to sew up a wound he's gotten from being tossed across the deck, "She knows damn well how to avoid company!"

In the dead of night, without even seeing the lights of Cherzeti on the shore, the Petrel's Wing steals its way into the sea of Azov.  As the night wears on, the rain slackens, and the cloudy skies break towards the east. The dim glow of approaching dawn can be seen, across a calming sea, with the last great fortress of the Ottomans left behind.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Captain's Agenda

Wednesday afternoon, May 19th, 1651
With clear skies and warm temperatures, a moderate breeze and a crosswind.

Moon: waxing gibbous, 5 days before the full moon

On the fourth day of your journey, the Captain lets it be known that she would like to speak to the party. She has not been seen by any of the party since Amisos, but has been in her cabin day and night.  Only Frelg and Anders have entered the cabin, and in both cases the Master-at-Arms Jesper and the second mate Henri have stood watch at the door.

Who would attend the summons?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

An Interrupted Night

Sunday night, May 16th, 1651
With overcast skies and pleasant temperatures, but with a strong west wind and a light rain falling

Moon: one day after the first quarter

The Petrel leaves Amisos late in the day, following the loading and arranging of cargo.  The party becomes aware that the ship is carrying ten tons of lumber in it's hold, cut in various pieces, suggesting that it is intended for creating some kind of structure.  The serfs and slaves are put in the forward cargo hold, and the party's goods and provisions, along with animals, stored in the center cargo deck.  Here's the image reproduced of the upper and lower cargo decks on the ship:

I haven't made it clear before, so I'd like to list off the crew at this time.  Forgive me if I get a name or two wrong, or miss someone ... I've been working from memory for two years and now I'm somewhat disconnected.  Anders has been made the Bos'n, and Jacobo the First Mate.  The Second Mate is a Frenchman named Henri, and the Master-at-Arms is a Dutchman by the name of Jesper.  The cook's name is Maurice.  The pilot's name is Frelg.

Apart from these, there are nine sailors:  two Danes named Gerdt and Helvig; a Walloon by the name of Dumont; three Frenchmen named Georges, Dominic and Sevrin; an Irishman named McCann; and two Spaniards by the names of Milagros and Teodor.  IF it should happen that the party remembers another name, that I haven't included, I should swap it out for one of the above ... otherwise, I'm content to go forward with these sailors as described (with an apology for not having done so ages ago - pure laziness).

The Petrel will not strike out north, across the Black Sea, but east with the wind following her.  The delta of the Yesilirmak River shows on the shore, 20 miles east of Amisos, just as the sun is setting, thick with wand-like trees that grow from under the waterline into a low, rich canopy.  The ship hugs quite close to the coast, so that the swamp is only a mile and a bit away as the Petrel skids past it, alive with the screams of monkeys and bird calls.  The party settles in for the five-day voyage as the sun goes down.

They awake again to find the ship isn't moving.  Every sailor aboard sounds as though they're awake, and the ship is lit up with some twenty lanterns, as though it were in port.  Curious, roused from their bunks by the noise, the party climbs onto the deck to find Anders giving orders to clear the deck away and lay out netting. Attempts to query what's going on provides no answers except sharp, dismissive orders to back down and stay out of the way.  The Captain is nowhere to be seen.

The party can see two longboats approaching the Petrel from the shore with lanterns on their prows, and as they get closer the party can first see that there are fifteen figures on the boats, and that two other boats, without lights or persons, are being towed along behind.  Eventually all these boats reach the ship, and the party can see that the towed boats are loaded with pieces of heavy metal.  The crew aboard the Petrel begin to throw down grapples to snag up heavy, half-empty sacks from the ships, braces, brackets and angles, and to use nets to pull up iron balls the size of grapefruits.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Loading in Amisos

Saturday evening, May 15th, 1651
With clear skies and warm temperatures, with a moderate breeze and prevailing wind

Moon:  first quarter

To catch up, then.

Bert wishes the party fairwell, offering Hichem a felt cap, a fez of course, which the small man explains he made while everyone else partied, and Hichem thereafter is never seen without it.  Bert wanders off his merry way.

Over the seven days to Amisos, Ahmet overhears Hichem saying to Mist that Sevim should not worry about meeting the Captain of the ship, that although she is hard-willed and unforgiving, she is fair and Hichem thinks incapable of jealousy.  I'd like to forstall any long conversation Ahmet may wish to have with Sevim regarding this, but if the subject does come up, Sevim will claim she never asked anything about it, no matter what evidence may be brought before her.

The Captain seems in less than a positive mood when met Friday night, when she gives assent to the Petrel being loaded in preparation for leaving Amisos the morning of 16th.  She trusts that Andrej will have no trouble with departing on a Sunday.  Madam meets Sevim and the two are somewhat cold, but polite, and the Captain gives orders to prepare the Mates' quarters to make them serviceable for the two women.  The Captain will not discuss the need for this - the need simply exists, and it will be followed through with, whatever anyone might say about it, including Sevim.

To answer Andrej's questions, the Captain explains it will require five days to sail to Cherzeti, where there is considerable shipping and where it is possible to navigate through the strait there may take half a day, and from thence it will be four days to Azov, where she put Detweiller and his men off.  Azov is in a swamp, and she does not know where precisely he meant to go, except that he has selected one of his met to remain in Azov and look for the return of the ship.  This man would then, presumably, be in communication with Detweiller.  The Captain does not discuss how she has been in the interim, but rather passes over the question.  She is particularly unhappy with the Black Sea, as the wind that hit the ship on its way back from Cherzeti struck from a clear blue sky without warning, and threw the ship right over on its beam.  She had never experienced anything like that before, and does not wish for it to happen again.

Are there any other considerations to be made before weighing anchor?  The ship will be loaded throughout the Saturday, which is clear and beautiful all day, and warm.  Take note of the temperature as it appears on the scale in the sidebar, and consider the weather that has been.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Amisos Again

The party will arrive in Amisos on Friday, May the 14th.  Here I'm spoiling a terribly perfect Jules Verne coincidence, with the party arriving in the city on the same day that the ship was meant to leave, so that I could produce an exciting scene with the party arriving on the dock and seeing the ship just beginning to slip out of the harbour, as someone on the quay says, "Aye, the Petrel, that's her there, last boat with supplies and crew left the dock a quarter of the hour ago.  With a good sailboat, there's still time to catch her."  So the party runs about, begging for a boat, paying through the nose for one, to break out into the harbor as some official is crying, "Wait, wait, you haven't paid your embarkation fees!"  Making signals to get the attention of the Petrel, waving flags, offering more money if the pilot can go faster, etc., etc.

Whereas I'd rather just have the party find that the Captain is sleeping one off at the aforementioned Ataturk. Some things have changed.  There was a storm off Kafe and the former Bos'n had been washed overboard; a search could not find him.  Anders has been named the new Bos'n.  Frelg, the woman half-orc, remains the pilot and Jacobo the first mate.

I'll impose further details, such as the weather and so on with the next post.  In the meantime, here is the link for the market in Amisos.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Thursday morning, May 6, 1651
With clear skies and pleasant temperatures, and a gentle prevailing breeze

Moon: waning crescent, 3 days before the new moon

It is a spectacular, beautiful day.  You tarry your way along between the trees, over little brooks with trickling water that sparkles in the sun, without the slightest hint of even the spring in the air.  It is, in fact, the first truly, undeniable day of the summer that you have yet spent.  There is the scent of flowers on the slopes, of pine, and everywhere small flies, bright in the daylight, flit back and forth.  You shake off the terrors of yesterday, climbing and descending along the path, until at last you break through the trees and onto the slope above the village, about half a mile away.

There's no sign of the vardo.  There's no sign at all of people in the town, for that matter, though things look perfectly well and untouched.  There are goats and sheep cropping grass both in and out yards, there's laundry put out to dry, there's thin smoke emerging from some of the houses on the far side of the village, particularly from the big longhouse that can be seen, the chief house that stands diametrically opposite to where the vardo should be.

I don't think we've given a name to the village.  Let's call it Yadine, pronounced as three syllables.

Bert's Speech

Towards midnight, the party has been forced to build a fire to keep the wounded members from risking illness (their teeth are chattering).  The stars are out, the waning moon has not yet risen ... and though the party is tired, what with the combat today, the treasure and their adrenaline, they can't sleep.  Even Lukas is awake, though he's too tired to get on his feet just now.

Bert has been napping, spontaneously turning invisible and visible as he does, but now he's awake and listening to the party talking.  He rises and stands up on Maximillian's pack to address the others, rising to his full 18 inch height.  "Now listen," he says, "You know you shouldn't go back to that lair.  Even if you can take those minotaurs, don't forget that father and son that were killed at the entrance.  These minotaurs know how to set traps!  When they find you've killed the two top, and their bull too, what do you think they'll do? Flee?  No!  They'll expect you back.  And they'll have arranged something unexpected for you!

"Now, the four of you impress me," says Bert.  "The way you rushed in - you showed no fear of those beasts.  I was terrified myself, I don't mind saying so.  I'm all for a day of adventure, but anything five times taller than me scares me.  You, I know you're not frightened.  I know you're not talking big.  But you're not ready for whatever they'll plan while you're gone.  Already, I'll wager, they've begun setting a welcome for you.  If you were going to go down that stair, the time was then, not days hence.

"Put the plan aside," he begs.  "Andrej, you have business elsewhere.  Ahmet, Andrej needs you alive. Maximillian, ask yourself, do you really belong underground?"  Bert shakes his head.  "There's only one of you with nothing to lose going back, that I see, and that's Lukas - and he's not tough enough for this work."

Bert shakes his head.  "Move on, my friends.  Move on."  He hesitates, then adds, "I felt I had to say it, is all."