Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Four, Part Six

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Four, Part Six

~~~~~~~~~~

The storm wouldn’t let up, as the towering waves, gale force winds, and ice-rain continued to endlessly pummel their longboat, leaving Maestyg, Jonathan and Sammy no choice but to hold on to anything that could keep them from being washed overboard.  Sammy had wedged himself underneath one of the boat’s benches in the front, while Jonathan clung to the bench above his faithful friend as tightly as he could.  Maestyg had been clinging to the edge of the hull midship, which served him poorly as the hull was being tossed back and forth, and to and fro in the fray – finally switching to the middle bench as the only stable platform to grasp hold of.

The longboat pitched fore and aft, and rocked from side to side in the fury that the storm front had suddenly brought upon them.  All Jonathan could do was to hold on and try to ride the storm out, all the while, hoping the longboat would hold up to the pounding without succumbing to the onslaught.  It was then that Maestyg realized the ship’s broken spar and sails were acting like a boat anchor, having fallen partially into the sea over the starboard gunwale.  The water-laden sails and heavy timber of the half-mast were pulling the starboard side of the longboat down towards the waterline, while the waves and winds pounded the now exposed port side, setting up an imminent capsizing if not somehow immediately corrected.

Maestyg cried out to Jonathan over the howling winds to help him cut the mast and sails loose from the ship, because otherwise the longboat would certainly overturn in the rough seas.  He knew that cutting the ropes and lines that still connected the sails and half-mast to the boat was the only way to proceed, but doing it in these driving winds and tumultuous seas was another thing entirely.  Maestyg had Jonathan hold tightly with one hand to the lines he needed to cut, while he grasped firmly to the ship’s hull with his left hand, and attempted to cut through the line with the knife in his right hand.  It was slow going, but the only way to approach the task without getting washed overboard.

Once the final line was cut, Maestyg went to give the broken mast and sails a shove to clear its weight from the hull and allow it to cast off separately into the turbulent waters – preventing it from rolling the ship and flipping it over towards its starboard side.  As he gave the sail structure a final heave ho, Maestyg realized that the quickness with which the sea had pulled the waterlogged fabric into its depths, had also taken Jonathan by complete surprise and knocked him over in the process.  As Jonathan began to be dragged over the edge of the hull by the loose sails and rigging, Maestyg reached out at the last possible moment with his right arm to grasp Jonathan’s hand in his own, dropping his knife in the process to the bottom of the hull.  It was too close a call, as he narrowly saved Jonathan by pulling him back from nearly plunging overboard into the angry waters.

Saved from certain doom, Jonathan was relieved to be back within the perceived safety of the ship’s hull, realizing that its safety was only an illusion during this terrible storm.  They were all soaked to the bone from the frothing seas spilling over the hull, and from the relentless wind-driven, ice-rain that was giving them no-quarter.  At this point, all they could do was to lay as low in the hull as they possibly could, and hang onto the cross benches as tightly as possible, hoping that the initial aspect of the storm would soon pass, and bring calmer winds and seas behind it.  Only then, was Jonathan aware of the depth of his shivering and the numbness his body felt, knowing he couldn’t hold out much longer in these conditions.  Maestyg found and secured his knife back into its sheath, while Sammy remained securely wedged under a bench with his head down between his front paws, not wanting anything to do with the storm or chaos of what was happening around them.

As the longboat tossed and turned in the fury of the storm, it came around to port facing the waves perpendicularly, riding to the crest of the first approaching wave.  As it slid down the back side of the huge wave into the resulting trough, the tip of the longboat’s bow dug deeply into the next approaching wave, resulting in its complete submersion underwater.  Instead of surfacing again to ride up the next wave, the front of the bow remained immersed within it – causing the aft end of the ship to break completely off in a loud crack, that could be heard over the driving winds as the wave passed through it – throwing splintering boards and the aft end of the ship to the blustering winds and monstrous waves – along with anything else that wasn’t nailed down or otherwise secured…

Advertisements

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Four, Part Five

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Four, Part Five

~~~~~~~~~~

The idea of escaping from the Island Fortress of Tyull only to be captured by pirates in the doldrums of the Endless Eastern Sea, shocked Jonathan more than he was willing to admit.  How could this be happening to them?  Fortunately enough for the moment, Sammy was sleeping under the canvas cover across the front of the longboat, and the pleasant breeze and sea state rocked them gently into a placid lull that masked their present reality.  Of course, it was hard to tell which misery would be worse: dehydration and starvation, being eaten by a sea monster, going mad in endless desperation while caught in the swirling waters of flotsam and jetsam in a dead sea of doldrums, encountering ghost ships drifting aimlessly whose crews perished years or ages ago, or being taken captive by pirates looking to seize captives and cargo wherever they could be found at sea – living or dead.

In the meantime, Maestyg had set about to order and organize their lives at sea into a schedule of routines to ward off the boredom of sailing towards an unknown destination.  It would have been easier had they known where they were heading to, but to simply sail towards an endless horizon seemed pointless and devoid of hope, for everyone knew there was nothing there.  They now slept in separate shifts under the tarp, trading off keeping watch a minimum of about four hours or until too sleepy to stay awake in the constant motion and repetition of the swells and rolling motion of the sea.

Their fishing net had been strung out behind them for three days now, without anything to show for their efforts – not a nibble, let alone a fish to eat.  Maestyg had initially studied the motion of the sun with Jonathan during the day and the stars at night, detailing their positions at dawn, noon, sunset and midnight, and explaining how to keep their boat pointed due east based on the motions of these heavenly bodies during the day and night.  At first it had seemed quite complicated, until he saw the pattern of celestial movements played out day after day, and it became second nature to him in just a couple of days.  Jonathan had never before studied the sky for meaning before as he did now, whereas earlier, he had loved to scan the skies for pleasure instead of understanding – but now, everything they were and would be depended of his understanding of the world around them.

The routine of life at sea had become a monotony of silence, alternating keeping watch and sleeping, as each day chipped away at his sense of being.  The gentle westerly breeze had held up now for five days without rain or having caught a fish to eat.  Their water reserves were severely rationed at this point, and half of their dried fish had already been eaten.  Jonathan was sick of eating dried fish at this point, and without enough water to re-hydrate it, the very actions of eating were self-defeating.  He felt weak from not being able to drink enough water, as if his mind was slowly shutting down and his body running out of steam.  It was easier to just sleep at this point, and not really care if he ever woke up again.

It seemed as if the end wasn’t far off now, devoid of the drama of sea monsters, ghost ships or pirates – just the gentle prodding of the waves urging him to go to sleep and not care about anything ever again – that is, until a storm appeared on the northern horizon.  Dark, menacing clouds formed a wall of weather that threatened the survival of their 25′ longboat at sea.  The wind shifted abruptly, and cold northerly winds blew in with a vengeance accompanying the storm.  Maestyg and Jonathan tried to maintain control of the sails amidst the gale force winds and towering white-capped waves that had suddenly arisen, which now threatened to sink their boat.  Maestyg attempted to lower the sails to keep them from being shredded and torn asunder, but the rope caught at the top of the mast, preventing it from releasing.  As he attempted to free the aft corner of the mainsail from the boom, a downdraft of wind struck the craft with such force that it sent them both tumbling to the bottom of the open hull, sheared their main spar in half, and covered the longboat in the rent fabric and timber of what had been their mast and sails…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Four, Part Four

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Four, Part Four

~~~~~~~~~~

“There are other perils we face, Jonathan,” continued Maestyg.  “The third aspect of sailing into the Endless Eastern Sea is the fact we have limited supplies, and without replenishing them, we will soon run out of food and fresh water.  Our dried fish will last only two weeks at the longest, but our water will run out much sooner – no longer than a week from now.  We have to hope a rain squall provides some runoff from our longboat’s cover, so we can capture it anyway we can find, like that bucket over there under the bench.  Without rainwater to collect, it won’t matter if there are sea monsters and doldrums in these waters, we won’t live long enough to ever have to face them.”

“I saw a fishing net in the front of the boat, Maestyg, can’t we fish for our supper?”

“Of course we can, Jonathan, we’ll spread the net out behind the longboat and haul it in every so often to see if we’ve caught anything.  Also, if a fish jumps into the boat on its own, make sure to grab it so it doesn’t flop back into the water.  We need to take advantage of every situation we can, because otherwise, it might be our last.”

“So, besides not having enough food and water, is there anything else we need to worry about, Maestyg?”

“There are three more concerns, Jonathan.  The first is, the fact that we can go mad out here on the sea if things don’t go well, drifting endlessly while awaiting our fates.  At least we have a steady breeze for the moment to take advantage of, but there’s no knowing how long it will last.  The second, is to ensure we maintain a course of due east, otherwise we may turn circles at sea, without going anywhere.  We’ll need a system to maintain watch, and I’ll show you how to navigate by the sun and stars.”

“What’s the third thing?”

“The third worry we face, besides everything else I’ve already mentioned, is the fact we’re heading towards an endless horizon, without any known destination.  No one has ever known of a land mass existing out here in the Endless Eastern Sea, and because of that, we’re on a one-way voyage to nowhere.  If there was something out there, some island or continent, wouldn’t you think there would have been contact and trade over the years?  Instead, there’s been nothing at all, so as far as we know, there’s nothing our here but an endless horizon.”

“Well, I think that’s a long enough list of problems we face, at least I now know what we’re up against.”

“Oh, I just thought of another possibility – pirates…”

“Pirates?  Out here?”

“Yes, of course, Jonathan.  Pirates are known to sail in all the seas surrounding Myllanthar, so this would be no different.  The advantage of a pirate ship, is that they have a crew of a hundred men or more to row around the clock if they lose the wind.  They’re known to raid anything at sea – even ghost ships trapped in the doldrums.  The crews of the ghost ships may have long ago perished, but their cargo remains intact, just waiting for pirates to claim it…”

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Four, Part Three

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Four, Part Three

~~~~~~~~~~

“What did these sea monsters look like, Maestyg,” asked Jonathan cautiously, not sure that he really wanted to know, but too curious to not ask the question.

“The tales say they were as big around and at least twice as long, as the largest known whale.  They look like an eel with a continuous dorsal fin running the length of their spine, but they have two sets of legs with giant clawed toes, and ferocious teeth – able to swallow this longboat whole if they wanted to.  They swim like a crocodile on the surface and underwater, but also have a way of looping themselves through the water with flexible vertical dips and valleys, like so many small islands moving across the water.  There’s no use trying to fight off a sea monster at sea, Jonathan, because it will do what it will, for it fears nothing.  If we come across one, that will be our end…”

Jonathan grew silent with the description of sea monsters in the Endless Eastern Sea, wondering how they could possibly survive this journey into the unknown.  As if that wasn’t enough information to depress him, he still asked another question of Maestyg saying, “That sounds bad enough, Maestyg, but what else do the old tales and legends say about these waters?  What else can we expect to face?”

“The second thing to know, Jonathan, is the fact that these waters are known to harbor vast tracts of dead areas where the wind doesn’t blow, called doldrums.  They’re even worse than the sea monsters to mariners, as one doesn’t know if an encounter with a sea monster will ever take place, but we know these doldrums exist.  Once a ship enters a dead area at sea, nothing can save it but time and shifting currents.  The problem with the currents in these parts, is they often flow in circular patterns, because there isn’t a wind to help move them in a continuous direction.  Normally, the sea flows like a river in predictable wide flows of water from say, west to east – but in doldrums, the sea has no where to go but to linger in place, and sometimes swirls around in great circles.  It’s been reported in years past, that these swirling waters have even caused whirlpools to form in open water, collecting within them all the flotsam and floating debris like driftwood, logs and ghost ships.”

“What’s a ghost ship?”

“A ghost ship, Jonathan, is a ship that has been caught in the doldrums for an extended period of time – sometimes for years they say.  The crew of these ships perished relatively soon after having been caught in one of these dead zones, yet the ship was perfectly fine to stay float almost forever in these calm seas.  Eventually, everything that floats is pulled into one of these dead areas of swirling waters, and then into an eddy or whirlpool, where they turn in endless circles without a crew to man them – literally ghost ships, because their crews’ ghosts remain aboard the vessels long after their sailors perished.  It’s a graveyard of sailing ships from which there is no escape.”

Jonathan was paralyzed by the thought of one day ending up among the flotsam and jetsam, and ghastly ghost ships haunting the doldrums of swirling waters in the middle of the Endless Eastern Sea.  What of his life, and of Sammy’s?  Why here, and why now?  This wasn’t the adventure he planned with Sammy – how did it all go wrong?  He then recalled Dijia saying to never give up hope, but how could he sustain any semblance of hope amidst such odds?  How could they survive in a forbidding sea and watery desert of sea monsters, doldrums, and swirling cesspools of refuse that refused to sink beneath the waves?  Ghost ships with long lost crews still manning their stations, each ready to hoist their sails at the direction of their captains – waiting, endlessly waiting, in their long lost and abandoned dreams…

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Four, Part Two

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Four, Part Two

~~~~~~~~~~

“Tell me, Maestyg,” began Jonathan.  “Why is it that no one sails into the Endless Eastern Sea – are they afraid?” asked Jonathan, wanting to know exactly why these waters had such a forbidding reputation.

Maestyg lowered the vibrational frequency of his body’s atoms in order to make himself visible to Jonathan and Sammy again, knowing it would be a calming influence for what was a perilous journey.  “There are many reasons for people to fear this sea, Jonathan, mostly because of what they think they fear.  No living person in the Land of Myllanthar has ever sailed into the Endless Eastern Sea and returned to tell the tale, and those who had in ages past ventured into these waters inadvertently because of being blown off course during terrible storms, never regained their sanity again.  No one really knows what it was they are afraid of, or why.”

“But there must be a reason for their fears, Maestyg, otherwise they wouldn’t be so afraid.”

“Oh, they have reasons, many reasons, to be afraid – but it’s never from firsthand experience.  They only think they fear these waters, because of the old tales and legends, not because they really know what this sea holds.”

“Well then, what do the legends say, Maestyg?  If we’re to sail into uncharted and dangerous waters, at least we should know what we’re up against – shouldn’t we?” questioned Jonathan without the confidence to really know if he wanted to hear the truth or not about this sea – as sometimes not knowing is the better course of action.  “If we’re going to sail east, I think we just need to be prepared.  Don’t you think so, too?”

Right now Jonathan wanted to be anywhere except on this single-masted longboat venturing into forbidding seas.  Sammy took the opportunity to sleep under the canvas covering across the front of the boat, while Jonathan queried Maestyg for more information about what they were doing, and where they were going.  At least it was easier now to converse with Maestyg now that he was visible, and Jonathan took the opportunity to study his adventure companion, now that he could be seen.

Jonathan figured that Maestyg must be about 30 years old, with a short beard and a shaggy mop of flowing brown hair.  He wore a loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt over his trousers, with a wide leather belt and tall boots – looking like an adventurer from yesteryear.  He had a long knife and sheath affixed to his belt’s right side on his hip, and a snug fitting, wide leather strap running across his right shoulder down to his left side containing an attached long knife and sheath pointing down towards his left hip, along with various small leather pouches and a small attached leather bag at his hip, from which a sword and sheath dangled freely below it.  A narrower leather band secured the wide strap around his waist from Maestyg’s front to his back.  For the first time since their surprise encounter on the Island Fortress of Tyull’s rocky beach, Jonathan understood that Maestyg was not someone to be trifled with.

Maestyg explained, “I agree, Jonathan, we should know where we’re heading towards, but the problem is we don’t really know.  No one knows for sure.  All we have are the old tales and legends, but at least I can tell you what they say.  First of all, no one’s sailed across these seas and returned with their sanity intact to explain coherently what they’d discovered.  The few survivors of these seas were physical and mental wrecks, unable to address their wide-eyed fears with any understanding.  People take from this that it’s not only suicidal to venture into these waters, but that something out here is so terrible that if it isn’t a sea monster to eat them, then it’s a fear so great that it causes madness.  The truth is, no one really knows.  In years past, however, there have been dead sea monsters that washed up on the eastern shores of Myllanthar, so perhaps there’s something true about dangerous and monstrous things living in these dark waters…”

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel) – Book Three, Chapter Four, Part One – Trepidation

Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)

(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)

Book Three, Chapter Four, Part One – Trepidation

~~~~~~~~~~

“The fear of the unknown is often far worse than fear of the known, for what is known can be confronted, while unknown fears can haunt us relentlessly at will without shape or form like ghosts.  An unseen foe is nearly impossible to duel with, so the challenge is to directly face these unseen foes that haunt us – and finally make them visible where they can be defeated once and for all…” – Mark D. Jones

~~~~~~~~~~

As their single masted longboat steered a course of due east towards the rising sun, the guards’ eight boats pursuing them suddenly gave up the chase, knowing that the escapees were charting a course to their own demise.  No one sailed into the Endless Eastern Sea by choice – no one.  There were tales, of course, of the few who had inadvertently entered its watery desolation during terrible storms, aimlessly drifting through its doldrums, mirages and unfathomable terrors – saved only by a rare easterly breeze, in order to eventually tell their stories.  Lost and alone in an unending sea, and mocked by the illusions of an uninterrupted horizon where sea monsters roamed at will, these terrified souls remained paralyzed by fear to their dying days from what they had been through.

Others had sailed east into unknown and dangerous waters before, only to never return again, verifying to everyone that to travel east was to seek one’s own demise.  Every sailor who crewed boats and plied the waters of the Sea of Tollvar east of the Land of Myllanthar, knew the risk of being blown by sudden storms into the Endless Eastern Sea, and did everything they could to prevent such a catastrophe from befalling their own boats.  Yet, it was into this watery grave that Maestyg, Jonathan and Sammy now sailed, as their only option to avoid capture, imprisonment and certain death at the hands of the guards and jailers of the Island Fortress of Tyull.  Jonathan shivered at the thought of how close they had come to certain peril, and how ironic it was that the Endless Eastern Sea with all its known dangers was their only avenue of escape.

There was nothing but silence in the boat now, as the three companions sailed into the rising sun, with only the lapping of waves against the hull and the occasional rustling of sails bringing them calming audible relief.  After what seemed to be an entire morning of silence and utter disbelief concerning their current circumstances, Maestyg finally began organizing them for the situation they now faced.  After eating some smoked fish and drinking some water from their flasks, he made plans to ensure their survival on the open sea.  This was not the time to fear sea monsters, but to do everything within their power to ensure they survived their endeavor no matter how dire their situation was.  They were not the only ones who had ever been lost at sea before – just the only ones who had purposely sailed into the Endless Eastern Sea, and were now determined to survive the ordeal.

Maestyg secured the sails in place with lines to maintain their easterly course, in order to ensure they wouldn’t inadvertently travel in circles through inattention, as long as the wind remained as it was.  He made sure Jonathan and himself used extra clothing from Jonathan’s backpack to shield themselves from the relentless sun – including Sammy.  Surviving for days and weeks at sea wouldn’t be possible, if the sun’s intense rays blistered their heads and exposed skin without relief.  Maestyg also used the extra sail fabric they found in the longboat, to create a covering over the front of the boat from bow to midship.  He initiated sleeping shifts for them under the fabric covering, so that one of them would always be able to remain alert and keep watch.  There was no way of knowing what might happen at any time of the day or night during this venture, so one of them would always need to keep a vigil and maintain an easterly course.

The covering over the front end of the longboat’s hull would also serve to help them collect rainwater during squalls and storms, catching the runoff in whatever they had to capture it in midship at the end of the tarp.  They had enough dried fish and water flasks to last them at least a week – maybe two if severely rationed – but beyond that, there was no hope of future sustenance with the provisions they had on hand.  If they were to survive at sea longer than two weeks they would have to fend for themselves, for it was the only way to prolong their survival until some other option presented itself to them.  Of course, the odds weren’t in their favor, as a severe storm might sink their relatively small longboat in treacherous seas.  Gale force winds could rip their two sails to shreds and render them helplessly adrift.  The fearsome sea monsters that frequented these waters could attack them in the dark of night, ensuring their sudden demise in this foreboding and endless watery desert.  The outcome for them wasn’t promising, and all Jonathan could think of was how he wished he and Sammy were back home now with his family on the Spencer Family Farm…