Admiral Handleweave

An Introductory Chapter

Rumours of the existence of an island in the Almond Sea had floated about the naval circles of Arland ever since the first 'brown swan' was sighted in an area thought to be landless. Henry Bosset, one of the great sealords of Masthafen, encountered the first swan when he was on a Tokeweave run from Viniot in early 1356. The sailors on the 'Lemmingstone', Bosset's ship, were frightened of the apparition and thought it an obvious sign of death. Four sailors who had leapt into the sea in an effort to escape the 'brown death-bringer' drowned within a pole's length of the ship. It was all Bosset could do to contain the other crew members.

When the 'Lemmingstone' returned to Masthafen all manner of bizarre tales were heard concerning the Brown Swan. Bosset's First Mate, Cabert Blackhead, insisted on oath that the swan had eaten dinner with the captain in his private cabin and that the two of them had planned together the murder of the crew. Bosset strenuously denied this accusation and advised King Bernard to dispatch an expeditionary fleet to search for the swan's home. Before any action could be taken, however, another Tokeweaver in from Viniot reported that he actually killed a small cygnet over 600 miles from the nearest landfall and in the general area which Bosset had marked on the 'Lemmingstone' chart as being the point of his own encounter. The stir in Masthafen was tremendous and the thought of an Arlish landclaim swelled King Bernard's head to the point of bursting. He summoned Bosset and three other prominent captains to his palace and told them to make a thorough search of the area and to claim any land in the name of Arland.

In the spring of 1357, Captain Bosset, Captain Followay, and Captain Inksmith sailed into the West. By 1365 concern [!] was rising in Masthafen over the three gallant captains, for they had not returned. Nor had anything been heard of them. In 1366 they were given up for lost and the following year, the King died. There followed a temporary lapse in interest in the 'brown swan' and its unfound home. Arland plodded on in grand isolation under King Two-Bernard while Viniot increased her possessions across the waters. But interest was once again aroused in Masthafen when news came in 1368 of the discovery of young driftwood in the swan area by Serdio Forcus, a Viniot navigator. It was also reported that a large fleet was forming in Viniot's capital, Bracia, and that an all-out search was to be launched. Burnham Bosset (Henry's son) went to King Francis who now ruled Arland and asked him for the loan of the navy so that he could seek out the island or whatever, and claim it ahead of the Viniots. King Francis, being a keen fellow (he was posthumously known as Francis the Noteworthy) gave Bosset five small sloops: The 'Mather', the 'Stoolgable', the 'Frankhope', 'Dogtooth' and 'Greavis', and made Bosset a Half Admiral. The new 'Lemmingstone II', the 'Steadfast', and the 'Hastybede', three of of Bosset family's finest Tokeweavers, joined the five sloops to make up the exploration fleet.

It took five months before the fleet was ready to sail and by that time, Forcus's fleet was long gone. And so Bosset sailed confidently forward, his nine [sic] ships an awe-inspiring sight on the shimmering waters of the Almond Sea. Many uneventful days passed until one morning, quite suddenly, and in perfect weather, the 'Dogtooth' sank. Bosset, aboard the 'Hastybede', held a short service for his lost friends and led the fleet on. The following week 'Greavis' was hopelessly crippled in a storm and was left to limp back to Masthafen alone.

When he had reached the spot marked on the 'Lemmingstone' chart, Half Admiral Bosset gave the order to take on search formation. The tricky currents encountered made keeping in formation a difficult task, but Bosset was hopeful that the irregular current was sign of a landfall near by. After two days of searching, contact with the 'Mather', which had been holding down the port, outer position of the comb, was lost. The 'Hastybede' was promptly turned in 'Mather' direction in hopes of overtaking the slower sloop. For four days the search went on, then fog came down upon the fleet and the wind stopped. They seemed to be becalmed in some sort of bay, for the seas were uncommonly smooth, and little bits of driftwood floated around their ships like tiny canoes.

Admiral Bosset was wary about putting out the longboats lest the seas should rise again, but later on in the day he changed his mind and dispatched Robert Handleweave, the bosun, in the longboat with fourteen other men. As the sound of the splashing oars disappeared into the foggy distance, Bosset retired to dinner, as his 20-stone frame was crying for fill. He went to bed well satisfied and woke to find that the fog had cleared. Through squinting, he could just make out Handleweave and his men standing on a sandback. Beyond the sandbank, low on the horizon, was a misty hillside like a dark cloud.

Bosset later found out that Handleweave had come across the sandbank when the fog was at its thickest and that he had mistaken it for the mainland. They were waiting for the fog to clear before exploring inland.

The wind which had blown away the fog filled the sails of the five remaining ships, for there was still no sign of 'Mather', and brought them to anchor just off the richly forested hills of this new land. As soon as Bosset had breakfasted he called the captains of the 'Frankhope' and the 'Stoolgable' to his cabin to discuss the next move. Bosset decided that the two sloops be dispatched in opposite directions to follow their bit of coastline for two weeks. If by the end of the fortnight they had not met on the other side of the island, they were to return to the 'Hastybede'.

Half Admiral Bosset was thinking of a name for the bay as the 'Frankhope' and 'Stoolgable' weighed anchor and sailed off into the distance. He left lunch with the name Complin Bay written on his napkin in raspberry sauce.

[One can't give the Arlanders, who were stay-at-home Vikings, much credit for navigation, although they were apparently better than their rivals the Viniots. In any case, the slow course of discovery was dictated by the course of the Gerousle game as it was being played. I have long forgotten what a Tokeweave run was. --Grobius]

A Chapter from the Story of Almondsey

It was a cloudless morning in April on the River Lin. The year was 1404; the infant kingdom of Almondsey was experiencing her third spring.

  On the swift-flowing waters of the spring flood a small river boat bearing Admiral Handleweave sped toward Gerousle. Most Admiral Handleweave, explorer, historian, and mapmaker, sat in the bow of the raft -- for that is what it most resembled -- smoking his pipe of Linborse weed and putting the final touches on what looked to be a map of the River Lin. Mainmate Nuddy was nearby polishing Handleweave's golden spurs in preparation for their homecoming. The wind blew with a freshness the two had never before experienced. In fact, the spring of 1404 was to go down in history as 'The Spring of Delightful Breezes'.

  Ahead of the boat the river bent sharply to the right. Handleweave gazed intently at the opening vista and there was a smile on his face, for he knew that Gerousle was just around the corner. Sure enough, not three minutes had passed before the green mound of Linhead loomed up behind the luxuriant growth of Linborse on the right bank.

  In Handleweave's mind were memories of the great welcome he had received after his circumnavigation of the island three years before. The excitement and merriment of that day formed dancing pictures in his mind. Twenty-nine people had died during the orgies that followed in celebration of King One-Thomas's coronation which had, by chance, taken place the day before Handleweave's return, and of course in celebration of Handleweave's effort as well. Bertram Bagger, the twenty-six stone Lord Mayor, had sat dead in his pew in Gerousle Abbey for a full eight days before he was missed. Regardless, an enjoyable time had been had by all, not least of all by Robert Handleweave and the Beautiful Glessinda, his wife.

  On the grassy slopes of Linhead, sheep stood like stones and watched the boat as it rounded the point. Two lobstermen, anchored just off Hastybede Pier were first to spot the boat. It did not occur to the two dullards that the boat they were watching with such indifference was in fact the 'Golden Eyestring' and that Robert Handleweave was back, the first man ever to reach the source of the River Lin.

  "What is the goldglitter theer what I see in yonder boat bow, Avrot?" asked one of the lobster fishermen of his cohort.

  "Don't know, now. Can't yar espy the name on boat?" They stared and squinted but the boat appeared to be nameless. No Name! Every intelligent Gerouslian knew that the 'Golden Eyestring' had her sign painted on the mast, where it was very difficult to see from a distance of more than eight feet. Avrot puzzled a moment and then moved slowly toward his oar, with which he was going to raise the invasion alarm. But he was interrupted in his slowness by a shout from the wharf.

  "Golden Eyestring there! Handleweave is returned!" Avrot was so excited he fell into the river and sank to the bottom.

  Now people were running to the riverside to investigate the commotion. When they heard Handleweave was back they broke into wild genuflection and general exuberance. Mainmate Nuddy watched the scene with obvious satisfaction. The welcome was frantic; much more so than Handleweave had envisaged. Not even the clatter of the King's coach on the cobblestones of Hastybede Way could be heard above the rhythmic stomping of feet, traditional Almondese welcome, it seems. Terrified seabirds had already flown to higher places. The din was tremendous and must have been awe-inspiring to anyone who had never before witnessed a Gerouslian homecoming.

  With a wink and a wave Handleweave leapt onto the pier, caught his spur on a rope and sprawled to the ground. He was up in a flash, though, smiling widely with a face which seemed to fold back with every grin, and showing the people that all was well. He took advantage of the anxious silence caused by his fall to address the throng lining Bilewater Street and Ploverson Docks.

  "Close your mouths people!" he bellowed. "And hold your feet for these few words." He groped for the words to finish his speech. "I drink to your welcome, Gerousle, and I would be honoured were you to see it in yourselves to drink to the first voyage to the source of the River Lin!"

  A great roar concluded the Most Admiral's speech and was topped off by a flight of five-hundred hats. A bead of sweat dripped from the end of Handleweave's long red nose. He was uncomfortable in his soggy tunic and wished to be out of it and into his silk night dress and into his wife's bed. As he was looking about for a suitable exit through the human wall of revellers his eyes met those of King One-Thomas who had been watching the proceedings from the runner-board of his carriage.

  "This way, Robert," called the King as his footmen opened a channel through a group of revelling lobstermen who had broken into a large keg of Almond Water and were now pushing each other into the river.

  Thomas Gladwyn was a middle-aged man of considerable height and remarkable bearing for one who had been king a mere three years. His shoulders were extremely narrow and in comparison to his ample middle seemed no wider than his neck. He knew how to play king, though, and never forgot his position in front of the ignobles of the realm, of which there were countless several.

  King One-Thomas stepped into his carriage and was followed up by a very weary Admiral Handleweave. Inside the coach the King just stared at the admiral, a look of wonderment hanging from his face and resting gently on his lap. The cheers of the people lining Hastybede Way seemed like rain on a window pane. The world seemed very far away to Handleweave, and he found it difficult to speak, having fallen asleep. The King reached over and gathered up Handleweave's map cylinders, then he ordered the coach to drop Handleweave at his Admiralty rooms where Beautiful Glessinda would be waiting.

  And so ended the day; Handleweave dead to the world, and King One-Thomas proudly acquainting himself with the hitherto unexplored regions of his Kingdom now brought to life so vividly by Handleweave's maps and sketches. It was surely a day of satisfied curiosities, for Avrot, the lobsterman, had never before seen the bottom of the river. Just before he retired the King dispatched riders to Seahafen and Carrot to summon the Halfwhets, for as soon as possible he was planning to hold a Highwhet to discuss plans for the new territories.

* * * * * * * * * *

The morning broke bright and sunny warm and made it difficult for the hung-over populace to stay in bed. They were up clearing away the rubble of the night before and singing airs familiar to no-one who had never heard them before.

  Handleweave woke about noon and was handed a note calling him to the King's Palace. He was good at reading and told Beautiful Glessinda that he was wanted at the palace. He dressed quickly in his best tunic and rode over to where Mainmate Nuddy was staying. The two of them called for one of the lesser state carriages and settled back for the short trot to the Summer Palace.

  As they crossed the drawbridge, Nuddy spoke. "The maps, Most Admiral, where are they?"

  "King has maps, Nuddy. I imagine he wants to speak me about the Loteyns, for I still have the report on my person. He was not later called 'The Curious King' for nothing, mainmate."

  King One-Thomas was at the door to greet the two navals; in his hand he carried a map. There was a puzzled look on his face, just under the left eye. Behind the King stood Most Bishop Toddling, a giant of a man whose wrists were on a level with Handleweave's armpits.

[And that's as far as this novel ever got.... The oddity of the style was quite deliberate, I assure you. This chapter was written by Celius. --Grobius]

I need more information about Ffanshoe, Kajudder, and Nuorgk. These are Gerouslian cities from the old days. Ffanshoe, a mountain city, is fine in relation to the Estalians, becuase these mountain folk are all kin anyway. Nuorgk is similar, but very aggressive against their neighbors regardless of background -- the Nuorgs are very paranoid. Kajudder is a trading city and is out to screw everybody in the name of commerce -- the Kajuds are just nasty.

Handleweave actually was only able to take his ship up to the Great Gorge, got stuck around the area of Castle Pain, after which he had to use rowboats just to get up to Lake Sil. Only Graglin Castle of the hostile Estalians was there at that time, and he was never noticed, so he lucked out. Then from Lake Sil he continued up into that undiscovered territory that hasn't been web-paged yet. That's where all the weird animals are (or were) -- most notorious being the Giant Polar Ferrets, who lived their lives so fast that they sextupled in size within two weeks of birth, were fertile at the age of six weeks, had two rows of teeth, like sharks, and burned out at the age of six -- they actually had black fur rather than white, better to absorb arctic sun, and the prey were all color blind or stupid anyway. They made very nice one-person pets it you could tame them before they were a week old (anybody not you, they would bite).

Note: If you read the Estalia pages, you will see that a lot of this is nonsense -- Handleweave's exaggeration?

Info Center E-mail

Home Page