Slaves of socorro, p.1
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       Slaves of Socorro, p.1

           John Flanagan
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Slaves of Socorro


  About the Book

  When the Heron brotherband become the Skandian duty ship to the Kingdom of Araluen, they’re excited at the challenges ahead. Hal, Stig, Thorn and the Herons eagerly set off for the trip – with an unexpected new crew member aboard.

  But an enemy from their past returns, throwing the Herons into a dangerous quest to free captured Araluans from the slave market in Socorro. Even with the help of an Araluan Ranger, the task may be too much.

  Return to the seafaring world of Hal and his intrepid ship’s crew in the fourth book of John Flanagan’s epic Brotherband series.

  CONTENTS

  Cover

  About the Book

  Title

  Heron

  Map

  A Few Sailing Terms Explained

  Part One: Hallasholm

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Part Two: Araluen

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Chapter 20

  Chapter 21

  Chapter 22

  Chapter 23

  Chapter 24

  Chapter 25

  Part Three: Socorro

  Chapter 26

  Chapter 27

  Chapter 28

  Chapter 29

  Chapter 30

  Chapter 31

  Chapter 32

  Chapter 33

  Chapter 34

  Chapter 35

  Chapter 36

  Chapter 37

  Chapter 38

  Chapter 39

  Chapter 40

  Chapter 41

  Chapter 42

  Chapter 43

  Chapter 44

  Chapter 45

  Chapter 46

  Chapter 47

  Chapter 48

  Chapter 49

  Chapter 50

  Chapter 51

  Chapter 52

  Chapter 53

  Chapter 54

  Chapter 55

  Chapter 56

  About the Author

  Books by John Flanagan

  Brotherband Book 5

  Go Back to Where It All Began

  Copyright Notice

  Loved the Book?

  For Leonie, again.

  Because this book involves sailing ships, I thought it might be useful to explain a few of the nautical terms that are to be found in the story.

  Be reassured that I haven’t gone overboard (to keep up the nautical allusion) with technical details in the book, and even if you’re not familiar with sailing, I’m sure you’ll understand what’s going on. But a certain amount of sailing terminology is necessary for the story to feel realistic.

  So, here we go, in no particular order.

  Bow: The front of the ship, also called the prow.

  Stern: The rear of the ship.

  Port and starboard: The left and right sides of the ship, as you’re facing the bow. In fact, I’m probably incorrect in using the term ‘port’. The early term for port was ‘larboard’, but I thought we’d all get confused if I used that.

  Starboard was a corruption of ‘steering board’ (or steering side). The steering oar was always placed on the right-hand side of the ship.

  Consequently, when a ship came into port it would moor with the left side against the jetty, to avoid damage to the steering oar. One theory says the word derived from the ship’s being in port – left side to the jetty. I suspect, however, that it might have come from the fact that the entry port, by which crew and passengers boarded, was also always on the left side.

  How do you remember which side is which? Easy. Port and left both have four letters.

  Forward: Towards the bow.

  Aft: Towards the stern.

  Fore and aft rig: A sail plan where the sail is in line with the hull of the ship.

  Hull: The body of the ship.

  Keel: The spine of the ship.

  Steering oar: The blade used to control the ship’s direction, mounted on the starboard side of the ship, at the stern.

  Tiller: The handle for the steering oar.

  Beam: The side of the ship. If the wind is abeam, it is coming from the side, at a right angle to the ship’s keel.

  Yardarm or yard: A spar (wooden pole) that is hoisted up the mast, carrying the sail.

  Masthead: The top of the mast.

  Bulwark: The part of the ship’s side above the deck.

  Gunwale: The upper part of the ship’s rail.

  Belaying pins: Wooden pins used to fasten rope.

  Oarlock or rowlock: The pegs that hold the oar in place.

  Telltale: A pennant that indicates the wind’s direction.

  Tacking: To tack is to change direction from one side to the other, passing through the eye of the wind.

  If the wind is from the north and you want to sail north-east, you would perform one tack so that you were heading north-east, and you could continue to sail on that tack for as long as you needed to.

  However, if the wind is from the north and you want to sail due north, you would have to do so in a series of short tacks, going back and forth on a zig-zag course, crossing through the wind each time, and slowly making ground to the north. This is a process known as beating into the wind.

  Wearing: When a ship tacks, it turns into the wind to change direction. When it wears, it turns away from the wind, travelling in a much larger arc, with the wind in the sail, driving the ship around throughout the manoeuvre. This was a safer way of changing direction for wolfships.

  Reach or reaching: When the wind is from the side of the ship, the ship is sailing on a reach, or reaching.

  Running: When the wind is from the stern, the ship is running. So would you if the wind was strong enough.

  Reef: To gather in part of the sail and bundle it against the yardarm to reduce the sail area. This is done in high winds to protect the sail and mast.

  Trim: To adjust the sail to the most efficient angle.

  Halyard: A rope used to haul the yard up the mast (haul-yard, get it?).

  Stay: A heavy rope that supports the mast. The backstay and forestay are heavy ropes running from the top of the mast to the stern and bow (it’s pretty obvious which is which).

  Sheets and shrouds: A lot of people think these are sails, which is a logical assumption. But in fact, they’re ropes. Shrouds are thick ropes that run from the top of the mast to the side of the ship, supporting the mast. Sheets are the ropes used to control or trim the sail – to haul it in and out according to the wind strength and direction. In an emergency, the order might be given to ‘let fly the sheets!’. The sheets would be released, letting the sail loose and bringing the ship to a halt. (If you were to let fly the sheets, you’d probably fall out of bed.)

  Way: The motion of the ship. If a ship is under way, it is moving. If it is making leeway, the wind is blowing it downwind so it loses ground.

  Back water: To row a reverse stroke.

  So, now you know all you need to know about sailing terms, welcome aboard the world of Brotherband!

  John Flanagan

  ‘I think we should reset the mast about a metre further aft,’ Hal said.

  He peered down into the stripped-out hull of the wolfship, rubbing his chin. Wolftail’s innards were bare to the world. Her oars, mast, yard, sails, shrouds, stays, halyards, rowing benches, floorboards and ballast stones had been removed, leaving
just the bare hull. She rested on her keel, high and dry on the grass beside Anders’s shipyard, supported by timber props that kept her level.

  A plank gantry ran along either side of the denuded hull, at the height of her gunwales. Hal knelt on the starboard side gantry, accompanied by Anders, the shipwright, and Bjarni Bentfinger, Wolftail’s skirl and owner. Hal and Anders wore thoughtful, reflective expressions. Bjarni’s was more anxious. No ship’s captain likes to see the bones of his craft laid bare for the world to view. Bjarni was beginning to wonder whether this had been such a good idea. It wasn’t too late, he thought. He could always pay Anders for his work so far and ask him to return Wolftail to her former state.

  Then he thought of the extra speed and manoeuvrability the new sail plan would give his ship. He shrugged and looked anxiously at Hal. The young skirl was so . . . young, he thought. And here Bjarni was, entrusting his precious Wolftail to Hal’s hands for a major refit. Of course, Anders was a highly experienced shipbuilder. He ought to know what he was doing. And Bjarni had seen proof of the effectiveness of the fore and aft sail plan that Hal had designed for his own ship, the Heron.

  Bjarni took a deep breath, closed his eyes and bit back the request that was trembling on his lips. Between them, these two knew what was best, he thought.

  ‘The mast goes where the mast support is,’ Anders said doubtfully. ‘How do you plan to move that?’

  The mast support was a squared piece of timber, a metre long, that stood vertically at right angles to the keel. It was used to hold the mast firmly in place, and was an integral, immovable part of the keel itself. When the original shipbuilders had shaped a tree to form the keel for Wolftail, they had trimmed off all the projecting branches, save one. They left that one in place, shortening it and trimming it so that it formed a square section that projected up at right angles to support the mast. Its innate strength came from the fact that it hadn’t been fastened in place. It had grown there.

  Hal shrugged. ‘It’s not a problem.’ He climbed down into the hull and knelt beside the keel, indicating the existing support. ‘We leave this in place, so that the strength is retained, and we shape a metre-long piece to match it, and attach it behind the existing support.’

  Anders chewed his lip. ‘Yes. I suppose that’d work.’

  ‘But why set the mast further astern?’ Bjarni asked.

  ‘The new fore and aft yards will reach right to the bow,’ Hal explained, ‘and that will put more downward pressure on the bow when you’re under sail. This way, we’ll compensate for that pressure.’ He indicated with his hand, describing an angle behind the mast support. ‘We could even slope the edge of the new piece back a little towards the stern. That’d let us rake the mast back and give us even better purchase.’

  ‘Hmmm,’ said Anders.

  The worried look was back on Bjarni’s face. He hadn’t understood the technical details Hal had spouted so confidently. But he understood ‘hmmm’. ‘Hmmm’ meant Anders wasn’t convinced.

  ‘Never mind raking it back,’ Bjarni said quickly. ‘I want my mast to stand square. Masts are supposed to stand square. That’s what masts do. They stand . . . square. Always have.’

  After all, he thought, a raked mast would be a little too exotic.

  Hal grinned at him. He’d overseen the conversion of four square-rigged wolfships to the Heron sail plan in the past months. He was used to the older skirls’ conservative views.

  ‘Whatever you say,’ he replied agreeably. He stood and clambered up the sloping inside of the hull towards the gantry. Anders reached down a hand to help him.

  ‘Now, have you made up your mind about the fin keel?’ Hal asked. He knew what the answer was going to be, even before Bjarni’s head began to shake from side to side.

  ‘I don’t want you cutting any holes in the bottom of my ship,’ he said. ‘She might sink.’

  Hal smiled reassuringly at him. ‘I did the same to the Heron,’ he pointed out. ‘And she hasn’t sunk so far.’

  Bjarni continued his head-shaking. ‘That’s as may be,’ he said. ‘But I don’t see any good coming from cutting a hole in the bottom of a ship. It goes against nature.’ He noticed Hal’s tolerant smile and frowned. He didn’t enjoy being patronised by a boy, even if he suspected that the boy might be right.

  ‘I don’t care that you did it in your ship,’ he said. ‘It might just be luck that she hasn’t sunk . . .’ He paused, and added in a meaningful tone, ‘So far.’

  Hal shrugged. He hadn’t expected Bjarni to agree to a fin keel. None of the wolfship skirls had done so thus far.

  ‘Suit yourself,’ he said. He turned to Anders. ‘So, can you get your men started on an extension for the mast support? I can send you over a design sketch if you’d like.’

  Anders nodded slowly. Anders did most things slowly. He was a deliberate man who didn’t leap to decisions without pondering them. That was one of the things that made him an excellent shipbuilder.

  ‘No need for a sketch,’ he said. ‘I can work out how to manage it.’

  Hal nodded. Anders was right, of course. The design work involved would be a simple matter for an experienced craftsman. He had really only offered out of politeness.

  ‘Well then . . .’ he began. But he was interrupted by a booming voice.

  ‘Hullo the ship!’ They all turned to see Erak, the Oberjarl of Skandia, on the path that led from the town. Anders’s shipyard was set outside Hallasholm, so the constant noise of hammering and sawing – and the attendant curses as fingers were mashed by incautiously wielded mallets – wouldn’t disturb the townfolk.

  ‘What’s he doing here?’ Bjarni said idly.

  Anders sniffed, and wiped his nose with the back of his hand.

  ‘He’s on his morning constitutional,’ he said. Noticing Bjarni’s puzzled glance, he added, ‘His walk. He walks along here most days. Says the exercise keeps him slim.’ A ghost of a smile touched the corners of his mouth as he said the last few words.

  Hal raised an eyebrow. ‘How can it keep him something he’s never been?’

  Erak was an immense bear of a man. ‘Slim’ was not a word that sprang readily to mind when describing him. The Oberjarl was striding across the grass towards them now, flanked by Svengal, his constant companion and former first mate.

  ‘What’s that he’s got?’ Bjarni asked. Erak was wielding a long, polished wood staff in his right hand, using it to mark his strides. The staff was about a metre and a half tall, shod with a silver ferrule at the bottom and adorned with a small silver knob at the top. At every third or fourth pace, he would twirl it between his powerful fingers, setting the sunlight flashing off the silver fittings.

  ‘It’s his new walking staff,’ Anders explained. ‘There was a delegation in from Gallica two weeks ago and they presented it to him.’

  ‘But what does it do?’ Hal asked. In his eyes, everything should have a practical use.

  Anders shrugged. ‘He says it makes him look sophisticated,’ he replied.

  Hal’s eyebrows went up in surprise. Like ‘slim’, ‘sophisticated’ was not a word that sprang readily to mind when thinking about the Oberjarl.

  Erak and Svengal paused at the foot of the ladder leading to the gantry.

  ‘All right if we come up?’ Erak called.

  Anders made a welcoming gesture with his right hand. ‘Be our guest,’ he said.

  They felt the timbers of the gantry vibrate gently as the two men climbed to join them. Erak was huge and Svengal was built on the lines of the normal Skandian wolfship crewman – he wasn’t as big as Erak, but he was tall and heavy-set.

  Perhaps, thought Hal, it had been wise of Erak to ask permission before mounting the ladder.

  The two men approached down the gantry, peering with professional interest into the bared hull below them.

  ‘Getting one of Hal’s new-fangled sail plans, are you, Bjarni?’ Erak boomed. ‘Old ways not good enough for you any more?’

  ‘We’ve done four oth
er ships before this one,’ Anders said. ‘Been no complaints so far.’

  Erak studied the shipwright for a moment, then switched his gaze to the young man beside him. Secretly, he was proud of Hal, proud of his ingenuity and original thinking. On top of that, Hal had shown leadership and determination in pursuing the pirate Zavac halfway across the known world. Erak admired those qualities, although he considered himself to be too set in his own ways to adapt to the sort of change that Hal represented. Deep down, he knew that the sail plan the young man had designed was superior to the old square rig of traditional wolfships. He had seen it demonstrated on more than one occasion. But he loved his Wolfwind as she was and he couldn’t bring himself to change her.

  ‘Time for a change, chief,’ Bjarni said, as if reading that last thought.

  Erak thought it was time to change the subject. ‘They’ve really ripped the guts out of her, haven’t they?’ he commented cheerfully.

  Bjarni looked as if he might argue the toss, but then he subsided. In fact, they had ripped the guts out of her. It was strange, he thought, how when craftsmen set about making improvements to anything – be it a ship, a house or an ox cart – their first step almost always involved practically destroying it.

  Erak paced along the gantry, his walking staff clacking noisily on the timber walkway.

  ‘There’s a plank or two could use replacing,’ he said, peering keenly to where several of the planks were showing wear between the joins.

  ‘We’ve noted those,’ Anders replied. Still, he was impressed that Erak had spotted the problem from a distance.

  Clack, clack, clack, went Erak’s staff as he paced further. Hal caught Svengal’s eye and winked.

  ‘Decided it’s time for a walking cane, have you, Oberjarl?’ the young man asked, his face a mask of innocence. Svengal turned away to hide a grin as Erak turned slowly to face Hal.

  ‘It’s a staff of office, young man,’ he said haughtily. ‘They’re all the rage in Gallica among the gentry.’

  ‘The gentry, you say?’ Hal asked. He knew the Oberjarl had a soft spot for him and he knew how far to push things. Or at least, he considered ruefully, he thought he knew. Sometimes he overstepped the mark – and then a hasty retreat was advisable. ‘Well, I can see why you’d have one – you being as gentrified as you are.’

 

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