Today I’m delighted to be sharing an excerpt from Craig R Hipkins’ newly released novel Clement: the Green Ship as part of a blog tour hosted by The Coffee Pot Book Club. Clement: the Green Ship is a young adult novel and the second book in the Clement series set in the 12th century and following the adventures of Clement, Count of la Haye.
For a few seconds, there was an awkward silence. Clement thought about berating his subordinate but decided he would let the matter drop. He needed to move things along. He reached into his cloak and pulled out the rolled scroll that he had brought with him. Kneeling on the bench he spread it out on the table, using the stone mugs to hold it flat. The three captains all stood up and hovered over it as if it might reveal the location of the Holy Grail. Clement used one of his confiscated daggers as a pointer.
“This is where we sit today, enjoying the fraternal bonds of friendship.”
He then ran the blade lightly over the map being careful not to slice it. He stopped at an elongated spot painted in light brown. He had delineated a fruit tree to emphasize the name written next to it.
“This is our destination.”
“Vinland?” Ceres asked, his eyes focused squarely on the point. “I have never heard of it.”
“Nor I,” Sir Roger said. “How far is this place we seek?”
Clement looked up from the map, his face serious.
“At least a thousand leagues…maybe more.”
There was dead silence broken only by Trousett clearing his throat.
Sir William’s eyes became big. “A thousand leagues? Are you mad? The king did not say anything about this.”
“No, he did not. He entrusted this information only to me and Trousett, and I now tell you as it is necessary for you to know. Gentlemen, this information is not to be revealed to anyone. I need your word as knights and men of honor that you will remain reticent as to the particulars of this voyage. People only need to know that we are on a trading mission to the wild lands of the Irish. Our true mission shall not be revealed.”
“And what is our mission?” Sir William asked. “Since you seem to be the only one the king trusts!”
Clement detected a jealous tone to Sir William’s voice, but ignored it.
“A fleet of ships led by a certain Sir Humphrey Rochford, left a port in Bretagne a fortnight ago. Intelligence reports say they are heading to Vinland via the Norse settlements to the west. Our mission is to find out what they are up to and why they are venturing to this far off land. Further instructions are contained in a sealed letter to be opened by me once we are a hundred leagues from the lands of the Irish. I suspect this letter contains further information regarding Sir Humphrey’s motives and King Henry’s plan to counter it. But this is only conjecture on my part.”
Sir William slammed his fist down on the table causing the stone mugs to jump.
“Riches! Gold and silver! King Louis is behind this and King Henry knows it!”
Clement gave him a fixed look of astonishment.
“Perhaps, Sir William, but as I said, I will find out further instructions from our king when we are well out at sea.”
“That is fine,” Sir William replied condescendingly. “And just how are we to communicate on a voyage so long and how are we going to stay together as a fleet, traveling such a distance out of sight of land. This is totally absurd and a fool’s errand.”
“If we are beyond hailing distance,” Clement explained, “I have created a simple means of communication via lantern signals.”
Once again, Clement reached into his cloak. This time he pulled out four thin books. The parchment was protected by treated leather. Each book was identical. The pages illuminated with a complex series of colors and diagrams representing the codes they would use to communicate with one another through a series of instructions. For instance, a green flame could be made by mixing copper with the fuel.
“Did you create these, Sir Clement?” Sir William asked with astonishment, picking one up and perusing its contents.
“Yes. I had been working on it for my mariners when the king called me to Chinon Castle. It is not complete, but it will be helpful.”
Sir Roger wagged his finger at Clement.
“What other surprises are you going to pull out of that cloak of yours, boy? The secret to finding eternal life perhaps?”
He laughed at his own joke. The attempt at humor caused even the rigid Sir William to crack a smile, but it was almost immediately replaced with a look of doubt.
“What is this ridiculousness?” he asked, pointing to an illustration on one of the back pages. On it, majestically painted in green, brown and white, was a monstrous looking creature entwining itself around a broken ship. He turned over the next page to see an image even more frightening. A monster with a massive bulbous head, its long sinewy arms entangled around the mast of a ship.
“This is foolishness!”
“Nay. Not foolishness, Sir William. Truth.” Clement said, folding his arms on the table.
“Total rubbish. What is this thing called? How do you know it exists?”
“It is called a kraken, me lord,” said a familiar voice behind Clement. “And I can assure ye that the lad here knows what he is talking about!”
“Gorm!” Clement screamed excitedly. He stood up and the two old friends embraced. One ancient and withered, the other young and lithe.
“Ye are taller, me lord! Just look at ye! Ye are almost my height!”
“Who is this?” Sir William demanded with arrogance, perceiving the low born status of Clement’s friend.
“Oh…Oh… forgive me, gentlemen. This is my old friend, Gorm. He sailed with me on the Green Ship to the land of fire!”
Ceres stood up and offered Gorm his hand. The old man grasped it.
“A pleasure to meet you,” Ceres said.
“Aye, me lord, the pleasure is mine,”
“Sit, Gorm, and have some ale with us!” Clement invited.
The old man sat next to Clement and eagerly tipped one of the stone mugs to his lips, without bothering to inquire as to its owner.
“We will miss you on this voyage, Gorm,” Clement said dejectedly.
“Miss me? Nay, me lord. Ye won’t miss me as I am going with thee!”
Clement appeared surprised. His mouth was partly opened, shocked by Gorm’s bold statement.
“But…but you are too old, Gorm. You would never survive the voyage.”
The old man chuckled, scratching his white whiskers and taking another draught of ale.
“Too old, ye say. Nay, me lord. From what I hear, ye are going to need all the experience ye can muster.” He winked at Clement. “I wouldn’t miss this voyage for anything in the world!”
Clement became excited, throwing his arm around Gorm’s hunched shoulders and beaming with delight. Sir William was watching the scene with disgust.
“Then go with us you shall, my old friend. But this time, you will not sleep in the hold with the rest of the crew. We shall create a berth for you in the forecastle with Baldwin and Pierre! It shall be like old times! You will be my principal rudder man. Of course, you will delegate this task to the younger sailors.”
“I thank thee, me lord, but if I go, I shall do me as much work as the next man. Me age is only a number, me lord. In fact, I cannot rightly say exactly how old I am. Three score? Maybe four?”
The two friends burst out laughing at the same time and Adam, not really comprehending the humor, joined them anyway. It was short lived as Sir William had seen enough.
“Are we going to proceed with this or not?” he interrupted.
Clement was still smiling, his youthful exuberance irritating William de Bayeux.
“I am sorry gentlemen, of course, but you see it has been nearly a year since I have seen Gorm, and we are good friends.”
“That is nice to hear, but back to this map of yours, Sir Clement,” Sir William replied snidely. “How do you know it is authentic? I have never heard of these lands beyond the area you have marked Greenland. What is this place, for instance? The darkened region you have labeled Markland.”
Clement became serious again.
“I have been studying the Norse scrolls and have in my possession other scrolls of ancient origin that talk about a large continent many miles to the west of Greenland. It is said to be a land of abundance. Great mountains and primeval virgin forests untouched by man. It is near here we shall find the place known as Vinland, which is said to contain a great bay with a snake like protruding arm of land that curves like the letter C.”
“How do you know for sure?” Sir Roger asked, interrupting Sir William, who was about to ask the same question.
“Because gentlemen…there are too many references to it. Believe me when I say this. It is there and we shall find it!”
Sir William was dubiously shaking his head and seemed ready to start plucking the grey hairs from his beard.
“I have been told the sea continues on until it drops off the edge of the world. Ships have reported this phenomenon. How do you know we will reach this land you call Markland before we fall into the abyss!”
Clement was smirking.
“The earth is not flat, Sir William. It is round. If we sail due west at the same latitude, we will eventually reach the spot in which we started.”
“Your confidence in this regard is much stronger than mine, young man. How do you know this for fact?”
“It is simple science and logic,” Clement said. “Look up at the stars on a clear night. They are round, as is the moon and the sun. When there is an eclipse, this proves it!”
“Yes, Sir William, an eclipse is when the moon passes across the solar disk of the sun. It is not God’s wrath as some would have it, but simple Science! When you look at the horizon on the shore and see a sail, you only see the top of it at first and as it nears the shore, you see more and more of it until all of it comes into view. This is caused by the curvature of the earth. Now do you see it?”
Sir William leaned forward with piercing eyes.
“What I see is a vile case of heresy if you are not careful, Sir Clement,”
The boy smiled with a look of condescending intellectual superiority, but Sir William deserved it. He sat there festering in his ignorance and Clement could not help but feel a certain loathing for him.
Normandy. The year 1161. King Henry ll sends the 14-year-old Clement, Count of la Haye on a secret mission. The young count and his friends travel in the wake of the mysterious mariner known as Sir Humphrey Rochford. Their destination? The legendary land of Vinland, known only from the Norse sagas. The journey is full of adventure and intrigue. Clement battles with a tyrannical Irish king and then finds his vessel attacked by a massive monster from the deep. The Green Ship sails to the sparse and barren land of Greenland where more trouble awaits.
Craig R. Hipkins
Craig R. Hipkins grew up in Hubbardston Massachusetts. He is the author of medieval and gothic fiction. His novel, Adalbert is the sequel to Astrolabe written by his late twin brother Jay S. Hipkins (1968-2018)
He is an avid long-distance runner and enjoys astronomy in his spare time.
Book Title: Clement: The Green Ship
Series: Clement, Book 2
Author: Craig R. Hipkins
Publication Date: June 02, 2021
Publisher: Hipkins Twins
Page Length: 313
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Young Adult 12+