Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Tales of Zimdar - 2 - Rivits

After many days of rough passage, in the dark of the night, the Captain heard another sound over the winds. The sound was a crashing surf off to the starboard bow. He quickly turned the Drake starboard in hopes for shelter. The sound of surf grew louder and louder. The captain held the wheel hard over with all his strength and prayed. Abruptly the Drake slammed hard into something solid and popped rivets in a hail of shrapnel.

It wasn't a great landing, everyone was bruised and bloodied, but there were no fatalities. Within a short time the storm blew onward leaving them behind. There were just a few hours before dawn. Exhausted, bandaged and grateful to be alive everyone drifted off to sleep. What new peril would the morning would bring?

As dawn was breaking, so was the Drake. Amidst sounds of crashing surf could also be heard popping rivets, groaning metal plates, and straining bilge pumps. The shipwreck survivors slowly awakened from their exhaustion induced slumber. Slowly, as wits and strength returned, they made their way to the deck. They stood dumbstruck, gazing at what had stopped the projectile named RMS Drake.

Less than one hundred meters directly east was a pristine white sand beach that sloped upward and back into a dense tropical forest. Coconut palms, palmettos and ferns were abundant, as well as razor grass and other underbrush. The forest appeared very thick and deep, a quick breeze ruffled the tops of the trees as far as they could see. As they watched, a large flock of birds rose from the trees, screaming, diving and swooping, and disappeared inland.

The beach and forest stretched for miles to the north-northeast, until it disappeared on the horizon in haze and mist. From the Drake's perspective, the beach and forest also stretched for miles to the south-southwest, until it too vanished at the horizon. This was not a caricature desert isle with its single palm tree, this was a landmass that speculation predicted could be immense. Why it was not on any map was a mystery to Captain DeKaban.

Pop! Another rivet hurriedly leaving its berth brought the Captain's attention back to the Drake. It was past time to offload material and supplies that would allow survival. Water, food and shelter were immediate needs. In these climates, exposure to the elements was not an immediate risk, except for the sun. He prayed that was the last hurricane he would see for a long while.

The captain set his crew to gathering all the perishables that could be preserved and had them transferred into the two ships boats. Salvage of other material that would not be affected by water was delayed. The Drake was not going to sink, the storm had thrown her several hundred meters onto a coral reef. She was taking on water as the plates failed. The realization that survival may be a long-term activity had awakened in the captain's mind. He was determined to salvage every scrap of material that might prove useful.

As the captain turned to enter his cabin, footsteps sounded loud on the deck planking. Two crewman, breathless, wearing lop-sided and hopeful grins, came hustling up holding a waterlogged pigeon cote. The captain, in what seemed like the first time in years, smiled. There were five pigeons still alive.

Looking closer, all three that Fairvictory had given him in Capetown were looking back at him. Somewhat bedraggled and confused, the birds appeared healthy. Enlisting Lady Sarah's help, crewmen Burke and Duncan went off to warm, dry and feed the birds. The captain continued on below, now focusing on finding his navigation tools.

Sometime later, DeKaban used two of his precious carrier pigeons to send a message to Fairvictory. The second pigeon, was a cool gray blue with a confident eye. Everyone bade it good speed and fair travel as it mimicked a bullet toward the west.

Fairvictory, RMS Drake shipwrecked on uncharted island.
All Passengers and Crew in good health. Send help,Dekaban
14 46 30S 73 26 10E

For several hours the two ship's boats were kept busy salvaging the Drake. Dolphins, playing in the surf watched the small boats swim back and forth between ship and shore. They chittered at the boats every so often but soon tired of the game. They went back to feeding and surfing. The boats continued the salvage operation. Late in the afternoon, the boats brought all passengers and crew to the beach.

Snort stepped out onto a bright white sand beach, there was plant debris everywhere. Seaweed had been pushed high on the beach; undergrowth had been ripped loose and blown about by the storm. The scattered coconuts brought his attention to an immediate task. Survival would require food, shelter and fresh water.

With coconuts and fish to be harvested, food was plentiful, if not exactly gourmet. A remembered image of the swarming birds returned to Snort. There would be game available, but the birds also meant there was fresh water somewhere near. A scouting party should be sent out, soon. Snort turned to help Sarah out of the boat.

Sarah extended her hand to Reginald and stepped out of the ship's boat onto the sandy white beach. This place was beautiful and sent her imagination running back to her childhood. She remembered daydreams of far off islands full of adventure. She remembered them as much more comfortable however, and her pragmatic side pulled her out of reverie.

With Reginald at her side, she strode inland, until she was almost at the jungle edge. Looking around she found a few coconut palms that had been blown over in the storm. These would serve nicely as seating around a fire-pit. She began to gather material for a fire.

The next few weeks settled into routine, limited exploration and survival. Snort and some of the 213th Worcestershire soldiers explored the area. A little brook, that ran quick and clear, was found about a half-mile from their initial landing point. Construction of shelter close to the brook was immediately begun. Soon there were several buildings that offered a modicum of comfort.

As the days passed, Lady Sarah came to the realization that rescue may never arrive. She needed something to hold onto her courage. A remembrance from her childhood of a little white prick-eared terrier, with boundless energy and courage came to her unbidden. Her father had given her that dog, and told her that its name was Scimitar. She had not been able to pronounce that name, it tangled on her tongue and lips. Her father had smiled at the attempt.

During the evening meal, Sarah asked DeKaban if he had thought of a name for this newly discovered land. He had not. She described the memory and the link to her father and home that the little dog's name conjured.

Capt. DeKaban was delighted with the story and hastily organized a ceremony. Shortly after dinner, with everyone in full military dress, Capt. DeKaban proclaimed "This new land is claimed for Queen and Country and shall in future be known as - Zimdar". A toast was raised and downed at the christening.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

A Lady Named Sally

She was a sweet curvy little machine painted racing blue. Her interior featured red leather bucket seats without frills. She wasn't made for high top end speed. She was lithe, agile and pounced from corner to corner.

A quick little tap on the brakes would set her turn angle. Then she could be driven by counter-lock steering and the accelerator pedal. She was a '58 Porsche 356A Coupe named Sally. She was parked and locked safely at the side of the street.

He went inside a favorite haunt for a quick beer. Then some drunk sumbitch plowed a half ton pickup into her side, killing her.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A China Doll

An exquisite rag doll with a china face was a gift for Beth's sixth birthday. Its facial features were hand painted, and its eyes were masterfully done. No matter which angle she looked at the doll, its eyes locked onto Beth's. Years of happy playtime passed until Beth grew into a young adult. She stored the doll away in a dark chest, forgetting about it.

Beth, now thirty four, opened the chest looking for something old, borrowed, or blue. As she picked up the doll to search underneath, china eyes locked onto hers. Beth shivered as there seemed to be palpable malice emanating from the doll. Hairline cracks appeared on the doll's eyes, followed by exploding china shards.

Beth was cast into darkness as two precisely placed shards claimed her vision.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Day At Waterloo

The day had started spectacularly. The regiment marched in nice straight lines. Shoulder to shoulder strode young men eager for a fight. Shakos, uniforms, cross-belts and muskets gleamed in the sun. Sounds of battle grew closer; lips suddenly became very dry, throats closed.

The order came to deploy into line. Drums and bugles marked the cadence. A slow advance with arms at the ready. An officer screamed "Volley Fire!" Then the repeat of "FIRE!" Reach into the pouch, bite off the oiled paper and prime the pan. Pour the rest of the powder and ball down the musket barrel and ram it home. Take aim and fire again. Can't see because of all this blasted gun-smoke.

Men screaming, crashing cannon, smell of cordite, urine and blood assaults all senses. What lunacy is this, standing here like a cow for slaughter? "Keep firing!" Mates to the right and left both scream at the same time falling dead. He is sprayed with ichor, blood and gore. Napoleon is a pompous imbecile that doesn't care if his men live or die! "Keep firing! Close ranks! Make those shots count!"

Never again, if I get out of here, never again! After an interminable age it is over. The silence is overwhelming, his ears ring loudly in the cacophonies' pause. With trembling fingers he sweeps the Shako from his head and lets it fall. He absently notes the Shako has a bullet hole and is missing a piece of chin scale. There is a burning, stinging sensation along his left rib, but it is lost in the flood of dissipating adrenaline.

"Form Up! Form UP!" He grabs his Shako, musket and takes his place in line. Merde!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tales of Zimdar - 1 - Discovery

Her Royal Majesties steamship Drake leaves Weymouth, England in the summer of 1847, sailing south towards the Cape of Good Hope. It is starting the journey to India and is loaded with trade goods, building materials, and mail for the garrison posts. The latter is to be delivered throughout the East Indies trading company expansion.

The weather is fair with a slight breeze coming in off the Atlantic. Crisp and cool, it raises gooseflesh on the arms of Lady Sarah Swithington, late of Darby Dale, fiancée of Sgt. Major Reginald Fitzsimmons. Lady Swithington gently rubs her arms and smiles in anticipation of the voyage to come and the experiences of exotic ports of call.

Meanwhile, in the middle Atlantic, weather conditions have been remarkably placid for much too long...

The RMS Drake lazily sambas her way southward calling in ports Brest, Bordeaux, Oporto, Lisbon, Cadir and Gibraltar. Sarah and Sgt. Major Fitzsimmons visit each port, sightseeing, sampling local cuisine and storing memories. Sarah cannot imagine a more perfect trip.

The Drake is resupplied and provisioned while in Gibraltar. Capt. Roger DeKabanbouy also has her inspected and is satisfied with the report. Although, nagging in the back of his mind, why did the boiler suddenly cease operation between Lisbon and Cadir? Leaving Gibraltar and turning south toward the coast of Africa, the Drake makes good speed and the boiler rhythmically chugs a happy little melody.

Out in the Atlantic a clear sky and merciless sun begins to heat the water. Wind directions in Antarctica change and begin blowing northward. And cool breezes have been following the Drake southward since Weymouth.

Down along the coast of Africa the Drake makes port at Robat, Mogadore, and Bofadar. Selling most of their trade goods, the Captain and crew are happy. It is their intent to buy more on the "Coasts" that are quickly approaching. The lure of cheap Ivory, Gold and Silver has them smiling in anticipation. This will be a very profitable trip.

After a small toast in the Captain's cabin celebrating crossing the Tropic of Cancer, Sarah and Fitzsimmons retired to their cabins. The small dram of brandy had merely whetted the Sergeant Major's appetite, not quenched a thirst. The men of the Highlanders had nicknamed him Snort because of the prodigious amount of whiskey he could drink. One of his mates, Mark Winguthban, had said "If he is not on duty, he is drinking, watch your whiskey boys, he just snorts it down." That had been a good laugh and had cost Fitzsimmons a few more drinks. The name "Snort" had been with him since that day. Now where was that bottle?

Sarah entered her cabin and began to make preparations for her evening's repose. She absent-mindedly noticed that the swell was somewhat larger and the wind seemed to be picking up. One of her lamps was guttering somewhat. She needed to trim the wick. One last thing, though, she had better go check on Reginald. She had noticed the wistful look on his face as the Captain had put the stopper back in the decanter.

The voyage continued down the coast of Africa with stops at Port Lokko and Free Town. The Drake stopped at Monrovia on the Grain Coast and resupplied some of the foodstuffs. Turning east, she then began her voyage on down the Coasts, stopping at every port imaginable. The Drake's crew and Captain traded diligently picking up Ivory, Gold and Silver. As she neared the Mouths of the Quorra, preparing to turn south again, the boiler went out. No warning, nothing, one second it was perking along normally, the next it was ominously quiet. It did relight, after some effort, but its rhythm had changed.

The water vapor suspended over the area that had been heating for weeks met with the northerly flowing winds from Antarctica and the southern bound winds that had chased the Drake all the way from England. Rotation around the hot spot started almost immediately.

The party for crossing the Equator allowed the crew to blow off some steam. Snort lived up to his name and enjoyed himself tremendously. Even though he could drink prodigious amounts, he was never out of control. That would simply be bad form. But once the Drake left Nazareth it was back to work. The boiler was running rougher now although it had not failed again. Capt. DeKabanbouy makes inquiries at every port but spare parts were not to be found. He decided to press straight on to Cape Town in hopes that spare parts or at least an adequate smithy can be found.

The Drake's boiler died twice between Mayumba and Cape Frio. The crew had tried everything including a complete cleaning of all the firebox components while docked at Cape Frio. That helped somewhat, it was still off rhythm, but it did not die again during the remaining voyage to Cape Town.

The growing storm had been gathering strength and had grown into a full-fledged hurricane. It had wandered around the area like a drunken tripod dog, not quite deciding to travel east or west. But finally the winds from the north grabbed hold and started pushing the storm southeast.

At Cape Town the inquiries for spare parts went for naught. There were several smithies but the Captain thought his crew was more qualified than the smiths. He set them cleaning, lubricating and polishing one more time. The Drake replenished its fresh water supply and added some fruit to the stores. Snort and Sarah spent a delightful evening with an old friend of the Captain.

Mark Fairvictory was an excellent host and conversationalist. He enjoyed entertaining his old friend and the other travelers from home. The meal was superb, with excellent cigars and brandy afterwards. The dinner conversation embraced many subjects including news from England, local hunting conditions and sporting events. Fairvictory was extremely keen on his teams chances in the upcoming Cricket tournament and regretted that DeKabanbouy would not be around to watch.

The next day dawned crisp and clear, but there were ominous clouds off in the northwest and the swell was rising. The captain ordered the Drake to cast off, he was going to run in front of the storm. The Drake should be okay once it got around the Cape of Good Hope and sheltered on the eastern side of Africa. The Drake dropped south out of Cape Town, the boiler chugging right along. It stayed out south of the Cape, the Captain wanted to make sure there was deep water under the keel. And finally the Drake started its turn to the east.

The storm was a monster and its winds were gaining velocity, it was now bound directly for the Cape of Good Hope pushing high seas in front of it.

The captain realized he had dreadfully underestimated the storm, the seas were tremendous, with waves crashing over the bow. He ordered all his crew to be tied to lifelines and anything else lashed into place. Sarah and Snort were told to stay in their cabins and to hang on. It was going to be a rough ride. Finally he called for all the power the little boiler could produce. The Drake was pounding along, and the captain was worried.

The seas were immense, the Drake was barely capable of maintaining steerage, and the storm was pushing against it violently. Late in the day, the boiler simply gave up. The rough pounding had exacerbated the nagging internal problems and it simply couldn't cope anymore. The Drake, now without power, could only be pushed along in front of the storm. All the captain could do was to keep the Drake from capsizing by using the rudder to keep the bow into the waves.

The storm blew for several days, the Drake was totally lost at sea and the little ship was showing signs of the incessant pounding. It was tossed around as easily as dandelion seeds in a breeze. The storm winds were so fierce and shrill that one couldn't hold a coherent thought. Sarah was violently seasick and Snort was not much better although putting on a brave face. All were privately making their peace with the Lord in one way or another. Minutes passed like hours and days seemed like years. The storm raged on.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

An old home newly refurbished

For some time, I have been using a Web-Hosting provider instead of Blogspot. When I received the renewal invoice yesterday, major heartburn commenced. So welcome back Blogspot! The relief is palpable that this site had not been removed.

It is passed time to do all the programming required to build my own site. So after some fumbling around, this has arrived at a look and feel that is not too dissimilar to my own.

I am looking forward to growing this site with what I hope is cool content. However, fair warning, blogging like any other hobby will be when the muse screams in my ear.

Primary foci will be Graphics, Music, War-gaming and Writing. Stay tuned.

A Simple Drink

Cletus sat at his usual table slamming whiskey shots. His complexion was flushed red across his cheeks and bulbous nose, framing deep set rheumy pig eyes. His normal surly demeanor was getting more foul by the minute; he was spoiling for a fight. The tables nearest him were empty of patrons, they had seen this way too many times.

A horse and rider slowly emerged from a billowing dust cloud at the end of town. They were absolutely covered in thick layers of dust. The horse, rider, apparel and tack were all the same dingy tannish shade of brown. The cowboy dismounted in front of the saloon.

Clouds of dust kept coming off the man as he continued to ineffectually swat himself. Making sure that his horse could reach the water trough, Frank gratefully stepped into the saloon.

"Hey barkeep! I'll take a whiskey!" said Frank as he moved slowly and stiffly toward the bar. Frank plunked a dust-covered coin on the bar and eagerly started to lift the drink to his overly parched lips. WHAM! Something crashed into his shoulder, spilling the highly prized drink. Frank shook his head in disgust to the accompaniment of many more motes. Frank's eyes angrily focused on the ugly face of Cletus; intense mutual hatred blossomed immediately.

"Hell we don't serve your kind in here you filthy crap for brains rag bag." glared Cletus.

Frank turned to face Cletus, noticing the low-slung tied down holster.
"Your mother must have been some sow, pig eyes!" spat Frank.

Cletus made a fast move toward his gun. He was not prepared for the bullet that found its mark square between his eyes. Watching Cletus fall, Frank smoothly holstered his weapon, the only thing he owned that wasn't covered in dust.

"I'll have that drink now barkeep."