Christmas on a Sunday

So I have gotten well behind on posts and posting due to the build up to Christmas. That and time consuming/wasting acts, but the build up to Christmas is a busy time for us all so things go by fast. Can’t believe it is next week. I need to write more Sojourners in Shadow posts to have ready, and I plan to start mixing in character bios for the series, like the ones I was posting last year for my book, the Silent Slayer. I plan to get a lot more going for Sojourners in Shadow and start putting the short stories out there, with help from my former publisher. Still, Christmas comes first.

But I have to say, as much as things have been busy, I’m really looking forward to this week. I still have things to do, but the worst is behind me and I know I’ll be finishing work and other things with time to spare. In the past, I’ve been preparing for Christmas up until the day itself sometimes. You don’t get time to appreciate what’s coming. Christmas can just show up and then you’re done, if you’re not careful.

So while this has been busy, having a week to head for the day itself really helps. I love the fact Christmas is on Sunday. It gives us the entire week to get there. Having it in the middle of the week can leave it feeling very rushed and sudden. If it happens at the start of the week, then it has this off-kilter feel, as you have a special kind of weekend right after the normal one. We may get that this year as we have bank holidays filling in for the holiday weekend, and yet Christmas being on Sunday just fits right. It feels like a perfect fit.

My mother and I were discussing it recently and it surprised us how many holidays have a fixed day. Easter and Mothering Sunday. Thanksgiving, for the Americans. There were some others I’m too tired to think of right now. But it left us wondering why Christmas can’t have a set date. I know, it’s the 25th and has been for centuries, and yet that’s a day the early Christians took up from a pagan festival. It’s isn’t a sacred day as such. Christmas could be the last Sunday of the year. I think most of us live by the named day of the week a lot more than we do by dates.

Maybe that’s just me. Maybe fixing a day over a date would be too much for too many. I can see the problems. But this year, I really appreciate that Christmas is happening when it is, to give us a week to ease into it, and maybe a week to ease back out.

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Infamous Pirate Captains of the Mediterranean

So to return to the world of Sojourners in Shadow, and to the Mediterranean specifically, I thought I’d post a little on some of the more notable pirate captains. Essentially, I’m doing this because at least two of them will be major characters with their own stories to be told, while others will be important to them, and to other characters later on. What happens in the Mediterranean, and to the pirates, and to those other places connected to both – such as the Northern Federation, the market towns of the European peninsulars, to the mutant forces and settlements, to aquatic communities and ranging trade – will only develop and matter more as time goes on.

I’ll keep these bios very brief as I’m not sure how much, or what, I want to reveal just yet.

The first I’ll mention is Tryst. She’s originally from the Caribbean, a survivor of the tiny islands left there, and has unnatural luck. This ability has enabled her to cross an ocean, start a life among pirates and even gain her own ship – the Slim Chance. She has several crew members loyal to her, almost all of them women. As a woman herself and knowing the nature of most pirate crews, and also because she isn’t much of a fighter, Tryst tries to keep her top personnel female so they have her back rather than challenge her. Running a pirate crew is well known to be difficult, with physical intimidation a major factor in keeping your underlings in check. Tryst has luck, charm and wits on her side, so she tends to draw in adventurous seamen. Still, while her luck is famed for helping her, it is also infamous for costing others. When things go wrong around Tryst, they tend to really hurt someone else, and she knows it. She has to take care who she hires, who she trusts, who she count on. If she wants to raise her standing among the pirate captains, she’ll have to take some risks soon.

A captain who loathes risk is Rodrigo. A seemingly simple human from Spain, this individual is known for his cunning and adaptability. His ship – the Grim Fandango – is a wooden vessel with sails and so forth, like all the rest, and yet it has several features that are far more advanced and useful than someone would suspect. Rodrigo has used his ship’s abilities to outmanoeuvre stronger enemies, just as he has used his ruthlessness and sharp mind to outwit opponents. Unlike Tryst, Rodrigo is a pirate to make a living, and he has worked hard to establish connections in the trade networks. Also not a fighter, he has three cloned super-soldiers who are loyal to him, along with other beings who stand out, even among pirates. Rodrigo isn’t considered one of the more powerful or famed captains, and yet, those who know him, know to take him and his determined crew very seriously.

These two are the major characters I mentioned. I have written a short story about each of them so far, not that either has seen the light of day. Yet. I aim to use both to reveal the world of piracy, from different angles, before moving out into wider territory.

To continue on to other captains that will gain mentions or encounters, I should start with Asafa. He is also known as the Black Lion and is one of the strongest captains around. He is also notable because he is from the Northern Federation, as is his entire crew. He began life in a prison on Africa’s coast, until he led a riot, which evolved into a break out as he and others captured a supply ship. From that point on, he has roamed the Mediterranean, unable to go home, forced to find a way for him and his men to survive. He does return to Africa now and then, but only to attack a coastal prison and gain new recruits. This isn’t such a bad thing for the Northern Federation because it means fewer prisoners to deal with and Asafa’s attacks are mostly aimed at Europe. Some would even accuse both parties of co-operation. Either way, Asafa has a much better ship now and a large crew, and he leads them formidably from the front.

A lesser rival and yet an equally aggressive one is Andre. In many respects, this shaven-headed human is just a thug from Europe. Born into the pirate life, growing up on one of the havens, he is well known for being a tough fighter and cruel enemy. Not someone you want to be on the wrong side of. He also isn’t much for restraining his crew. If you want to ride the sea, raid settlements and have your fill of plunder, rape and violence, Andre is the captain for you.

Torsten is the one who is strict on his crew. He was born into a life as well, but as a mercenary – recruited as a boy and remaining one as an adult. He sees himself as soldier really, and expects discipline and organisation from those who follow him. For some time he was a mercenary captain, but he was later hired to take his fighters to sea. He became a privateer – market towns would compete, even fight, and so would hire people like him to attack each other. To other pirates, Torsten was doing their job but with a permission slip. To him, he was being a soldier for hire. Now with greying hair, he has long moved past the pretence. While he does get hired for work occasionally, Torsten is a pirate captain in name as well as action, raiding as he wishes, yet maintaining his own code of conduct always.

Non-human captains are rare, even now, and Thrasher stands out for this reason and more. She is a super-soldier from the mutant forces in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. She has even fought at Eden. She left that horror some time ago and has forced her way to the higher ranks of pirate captains through sheer force of will, and also force of physique. Her name isn’t the one she once went by but has been earned because she uses a whip of four chains to beat her crew. She also prides herself on being one of the few female captains around, and she doesn’t like competition.

A final mention has to go to Djinn. While many pirate captains are nasty pieces of work, while many have fearsome reputations, even the more violent ones have their limits and try to live the pirate way. Djinn is someone that scares other captains. He is someone pirate crews will flee from. His ship is much bigger than any other, his crew a mix of psychopaths and tormented slaves. Worse still, he is a powerful magic-user with an array of magical rings and gems at his disposal. Few can stand up to him, and none would want to end up in his clutches.

I should add that Djinn has a history behind him that adds weight to the terror he can cause. A history that has left scars across the Mediterranean. I touched on it before, and it gets a stronger mention in Tryst’s story, and it will get more as time goes on, yet I don’t want to say anything here. But once, the Mediterranean was facing a horrifying enemy, and only just managed to win out. Djinn was part of that terror and the only remnant left. He wasn’t the main threat. He followed another. But now he is his own man, free to pursue his own twisted desires. Djinn is a threat all of his own, and yet his presence is a reminder to many of what once haunted them.

So that’s an overview of several notable figures. If everything goes according to plan, all of them will matter over time. Everyone will get an important moment. A lot has to happen in the Mediterranean. Just as so many other parts of the world have been earmarked for turbulent times and climatic changes. In that time, I hope to tell how many lives are lived, until they are ended.