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The Age of Ironfire
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On Sale Jan 6, 2004

A Delacorte Book
Bantam Dell
A Division of Random House, Inc.
ISBN 0-385-33601-2
$ 24.95


On Sale in the UK
Nov 2003

under the title

The Sword and the Scimitar
Hutchinson
A Division of
Random House UK
ISBN: 0091799414
£18.99


On Sale in Germany May 2003
under the title
Asha: Sohn von Malta
Schneekluth
ISBN: 3795118263
EUR 22,90

 

          

 

 

 

 

ďT

he galleys would come at dawn, their keels scraping gently to a halt on soft banks. Armed with knives and long sabers, their crews would slip ashore and with chilling cries roust the villagers from their beds.  Huts were quickly looted and torched, while screaming men, women, and children were herded outside. The old and infirm were quickly dispatched, while the others were marched up planks and into the ravenous holds, to disappear forever into the limitless slave markets of the Middle Sea.  An hour later, all that remained of a once-thriving village was a memory entwined in a wisp of smoke...Ē

From The Histories of the Middle Sea,
by the Ottoman Historian Darius

~

 

"Slaves are chained six to a bench. These are four foot wide and covered with a sacking stuffed with wool, over which are laid sheepskins that reach down to the deck. The officer in charge of the galley slaves stays aft with the captain from whom he receives his orders. There are also two under-officers, one amid-ships and one at the prow. Both of these are armed with whips with which they flog the naked bodies of the slaves. When the captain gives the order to row, the officer gives the signal with a silver whistle which hangs on a cord round his neck; the signal is repeated by under-officers, and very soon all fifty oars strike the water as one.

"Picture to yourself six men chained to that bench naked as they were born, one foot on the stretcher, the other lifted and placed against the bench in front of him, supporting in their hands a vastly heavy oar and stretching their bodies backwards while their arms are extended to push the loom of the oar clear of the backs of those in front of them.  Sometimes the galley slaves row ten, twelve, even twenty hours at a stretch, without the slightest rest or break. On these occasions the officer will go round and put pieces of bread soaked in wine into the mouths of the wretched rowers, to prevent them from fainting. Then the captain will call upon the officers to redouble their blows, and if one of the slaves falls exhausted over his oar (which is quite a common occurrence) he is flogged until he appears to be dead and is thrown overboard without ceremony..."

--from the account of Jean Marseilles de Bergerac, a galley slave

 

~

ďOn the morning the slavers came, the children were looking for treasure.

Swept up in their purpose, they didnít see the mast of the corsair galley, all but obscured by the high rocks surrounding the cove where the ship had anchored in the night.

They didnít see the dead sentry hanging upside down on the watchtower. It was Bartholomeo, an older boy who lived on their own street, his throat cut deep as he slept, cut from ear to ear. His blood had already baked dry on the platform from which he was to have sounded the alarm, a platform from which his killers had stolen several planks of wood. The children didnít see Bartholomeo because they were hiding from him, keeping to the deep gullies or crouching behind the low stone walls that separated fields so dry and barren that even the crows didnít bother to scavenge there any more. As long as they stayed behind those walls they knew Bartholomeo couldnít glimpse them and spoil their plans. He would do that, and just for spite: Bartholomeo was plain mean.

They couldnít see or hear the stream of galley slaves snaking along the ravine a hundred paces to the east, men laboring in silence as they hauled water beneath the watchful eyes of their guards.

And they couldnít smell the galley, because the wind was at their backs, a majjistral blowing from the northwest. With the right winds the smell of a galley preceded the sight, the stench an unmistakable herald of danger. Had they smelled it, they would have known the scent of doom. There would have been time to fear, time to flee..."

From Ironfire, Chapter One

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~

War at sea was dominated by the galley, as it had been since Roman days.  Galleys varied a little in size, but all were long and narrow and capable of a turn of speed which was beyond the power of the larger square-rigged merchant vessels of the day. Some 150 feet overall with beam of 18-20 feet... They carried one or two triangular lateen sails, but in battle or when trying to overhaul a prize, they were propelled by oarsmen, who sat in banks on either side of the ship, three rowers to a bench, heaving at oars 35 feet long and almost as massive as modern telephone poles. A normal crew numbered about 200 excluding any soldiers who might be aboard.  Usually the rowers were prisoners of war.  These slaves were shackled by one leg to make sure they didnít rise in revolt against their taskmasters and take over the ship.  They were driven to work by the shipís boatswain armed with a whip, who walked up and down the gangway between banks of sweating, half-naked oarsmen, as they strained at their huge oars by rising from their benches with their free foot against the bench in front of them, and then throwing their whole weight backward until they collapsed on own bench, only to begin again.  It was a notoriously hard life even in an age when hardship was the lot of most menÖ.Nauseating condition of the ships in which they heaved & sweated their hearts out.  A galley could be smelt a mile away.  Men were never allowed to wash.  Stinking of sweat, expected to urinate and defecate as best they could in the well of the ship while shackled to their benches....The scuppers of a galley were permanently awash with human excrement.  In battle, a wounded man fell into this filth to die, and the blood and guts of others added to the vileness.

From Suleiman the Magnificent, by Anthony Bridge

Return to the Age of Ironfire