How I entered a short story competition
While preparing for querying my novel, I took some time out to create a short story for a local competition. With the opportunity to write something outside of The Cryp'lar Series, I spent the next few days crafting what I believe to be a simple, yet compelling narrative that I otherwise wouldn't have. Everard is set in 1588 near the English Channel, aboard the titular ship. The protagonist, Henry, is a privateer captain that must navigate a storm at sea to get back home.
Although Everard didn't make the cut for the competition's long list (only 30 of 77 entries were chosen), I have decided to instead include the full story as part of this post. Half the fun of these competitions seems to be creating a new story each time, and I have other ideas I want to explore in the future. I hope you enjoy my entry for my first short story competition.
Henry pulled the ship wheel another two degrees starboard. Waves splashed against the port side of the privateer’s Cutter, spraying a briny mist on deck. While not the largest vessel, the ‘Everard’ required a steady hand and a quick wit to navigate the open waters—not that the privateer had either.
A former merchant trader, Henry received the ship and commission only a few months back, yet he doubted he would ever get used to being called “Captain.” After spending so long hunting Spanish commerce ships at sea, all the man wanted was to get himself and his crew back on dry land. The only thing standing in the way of the ‘Everard’ making port were the summer storms, no longer on the horizon.
Its white sails became taut against the wind. The ship sighed as it rolled over the growing waves—wooden boards creaking along the hull. Henry barked orders at his crew, endeavouring to maintain their speed, and found them running like clockwork. These truly were the Queen’s men. Not even the black clouds stretching above the ‘Everard’ gave them pause in their duties. Their Captain, however, was not a man of the crown.
Henry swallowed heavily as the darkening skies brought with them a great tide of black water. He tightened his grip on the wheel, lest he be thrown overboard by the waves and cast into the depths. Dark mists splashed his face as the ‘Everard’ ran headlong into the high tide, breaking against the bowsprit and joining the sweat on his brow. It was soon followed by another, and another, until all the crew had lost their footing on the slippery deck and started coughing up their lungs.
A terrible ripping sound filled the air as one of the foresails split before them, though both the others were still intact. While making ship repairs during a storm was a fool’s errand, the surviving sails ensured the ‘Everard’ could still make headway with the wind. Henry focused instead on navigating the broiling seas that surrounded them. Staring out at the darkened sea, his thoughts guided his hands on the ship wheel. First, six degrees port, then nine starboard, then three to straighten up. The ship bucked against the hellish waves but the crew again stood firm. Boards creaked and stretched to their breaking point, splintering at their feet. Another sail became torn by the wind and still the ship pressed onwards.
An hour passed, with the storm battering the ‘Everard’ and draining Henry of his resolve. The man drenched and shivering at the helm, all the while dreaming of home. Then, the waters settled, and the great black filter of the world shifted to a clear blue. With their renewed strength, the crew cheered and welcomed the golden sun with songs and praise. A familiar shanty lifted the Captain’s spirits while he brought the ship about North of the English Channel. His smile faded when he spotted an entire fleet of Spanish ships lying there.
Henry never imagined he would see the Armada, but it was even more monstrous in person. As the ‘Everard’ stared down the full might of the Spaniards, its Captain wished to sail back into the storm. Yet, his fears were comforted by the bristling warships of the Royal Navy off the Southern coast holding back a tide of their own; igniting the sea with a cannonade that deafened the roar of their crews. It was decided the ‘Everard’ would take one final voyage into the storm of ships, in an effort to protect the home its Captain longed to return to.
Henry pulled the ship wheel another two degrees starboard.
At a little over six-hundred words, Everard missed out on being flash fiction but is too short for your average short story (how about that). I would love to hear your thoughts on the story in the comments. It was a lot of fun to write something fresh and to a theme, but I must turn my ship wheel to the horizon of querying, and other naval puns.