Today I am pleased to host a guest piece from fellow Kirklees author Carol Warham. This is an extract from her forthcoming (as yet untitled) historical novel set in the Fair Isle (between Shetland and Orkney). In this passage, Spanish galleon El Gran Grifon, a survivor of the Armada, is in trouble in the North Sea …
Rodrigo clung onto the wooden rail as best he could. Every sinew stretched; every muscle tearing. The wild sea flung waves which lashed him, time after time, making it difficult to breathe. His feet constantly slipped as the deluge of salty, dark water swamped the decks. The lurching of the ship, as it was battered by wave after crashing wave, made it difficult to keep steady. He could smell and taste the terror of the men around him.
Another huge surge tore his grip away from the rail and he found himself being flung from one side of the deck to the other. Occasionally, when a moment’s lull allowed it, he hung over the side retching. His stomach was empty now but the bile kept coming. Terror filled him and he clung to a soaking coiled rope which he twisted around his arms. The rope burned into him as with each toss and pitch of the ship it tightened around his wrists.
Closing his eyes, he pictured his mother and father as he had last seen them, four years earlier. He could still feel the imprint of his mother’s thumb as she made the sign of the cross on his forehead, whispering her blessing, tears coursing down her cheeks. His father’s last words, called out, as he’d turned and walked away, rang in his mind. “Go with God my son, and I hope one day he will return you to us.” Now he would never see them again. What a fool he’d been to try and find adventure.
The sky was wild and black. The only light was the occasional flash of lightning as it zigzagged across the clouds, followed by a deep roll of thunder. It seemed as if the rain was made up of ice-cold daggers driving themselves into Rodrigo’s flesh, disregarding any clothing he wore. Where was God now? This storm was the devil’s work.
When he could focus he saw Sebastian, his friend, holding onto the rail close by. Occasionally he could hear him cursing, crying aloud they had been brought to this terrible place to die of cold or drown in angry seas.
Sebastian spat his words out in disgust. “Madre Mia! We will surely die in this God forsaken hole. You must look to save yourself, mi amigo.”
Rodrigo turned his head, to the side, as he fought the wind and rain. “My fingers and hands are so cold, I can’t feel them. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold on.”
He grimaced as he tried to grasp anything which would keep him from being flung into the sea. The captain had promised they were trying to get home, but now they were caught in this storm. It was obvious to all the ship was in her death throes, and it seemed, to Rodrigo, she wanted to take them all with her. The valiant but damaged vessel rocked and heaved, desperate to stay afloat but losing its battle. The dying El Gran Grifon creaked and screamed as it was pounded and battered by the mountainous waves, which crashed over it or slammed into its sides.
A terrible tearing and shredding noise, which could be heard above the maelstrom, caused Rodrigo to look up. Sebastian jerked his head around to see what was happening. Some of the other sailors were shouting and signalling. It took him a few seconds to realise what it was.
They had struck rocks but the mast had rested against the over hanging cliff. Rodrigo tried to see but the driving rain made it impossible to look up for long. A sudden scurry of sailors pushed him out of the way as they rushed towards the main mast. Within moments the first man had started to climb up it. Soon others were following and edging themselves along the rigging to make their way to the cliff edge, which towered above the dying ship.
As the first man reached the rocks, ropes tumbled down from the cliff top. Rodrigo screwed his eyes against the wind and rain to watch. There must be people on top of the cliff watching them. Praise be, they were throwing down ropes to help them climb up the rock face.
“Quickly, we must go,” Sebastian took hold of his arm and started to pull him towards the mast.
Rodrigo threw off his friend’s hand. Panic swept over him as his arms and legs trembled of their own accord. His legs refused to obey him. He could not move.
“Do you say your prayers, Rodrigo?”
“Now, pray to our Holy Mother to help us.
Sebastian let go of the rail long enough to shake Rodrigo’s shoulders. “It is our only chance, mi amigo. Say your prayers, El Grifon is sinking. She cannot last long. Come!”
Writing has been Carol’s love since childhood. She started by making small comics for her dolls, progressed to training as a journalist for a short while. Once the family had grown up Carol settled down to writing and published short stories, poems and holiday articles.
In recent years she has become a judge in the short story section for the HysteriaUK competition and also for the RNA’s romance novel of the year. For the last two years she has volunteered for the Huddersfield Literary Festival and is looking forward to the 2020 festival. She is also a member of the Promoting Yorkshire Authors group, while running a small local writing group.
In recent times she is working on two historical novels, and both are demanding a lot of research, which she is thoroughly enjoying although it does slow up the writing process.
Carol lives in Yorkshire, surrounded by some beautiful countryside, which is ideal for her other passion of walking, often with a dog called Sam.
Resolutions is Carol’s debut novel and is set in a location close to where she lives.