The Map of the Known World by Steven Smith - HTML preview
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Steven Smith lives in Suffolk. This is his first novel.
The Map of the
All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be
reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic,
mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior
permission of the publisher.
First published in Great Britain in 2006
Copyright © Steven Smith 2006
All rights reserved
The right of Steven Smith to be identified as the author of this
work has been asserted by him in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British
All the characters in this book are fictitious, and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely
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Set in Palatino Linotype
- PROLOGUE -
The waves tossed Vortigern around like a rag doll. Seaweed
entangled his legs and salt water blurred his vision. Weighed
down by his sodden clothes, he waded the last few yards to the
beach. The waves kept pulling him back but with a huge effort
he broke free of their grip and collapsed onto the damp sand.
There he lay, fighting for breath as the foamy surf lapped
around his legs. The sound of the constant wash and drag of the
sea filled his ears.
When enough strength had returned to his body, Vortigern
stood up. He looked back out to sea, a burning ship drifted on
the dark water and the flames illuminated the waves with angry
red and yellow reflections. Vortigern had sailed on the
Endeavour for six months; now he watched its death throes.
Anchored close to it was another vessel. An Ironclad warship.
One hour earlier, the Ironclad had emerged from the mist like
a ghost. For the lightly armed Endeavour there had been no
escape, Vortigern knew the crew of his ship would be dead by
now. He remembered their faces as he prepared to jump
overboard; the faces of men who knew they were about to die.
He would have stayed and died with them but the captain had
insisted, ‘You are the strongest swimmer. You must take the
map to Lord Hereward. He will know what to do.’
So he alone had survived but the Redeemers would soon
discover that he had escaped. Vortigern looked around, taking
in his surroundings. He stood in a wide cove, towering cliffs
rose in front of him but he spied a steep path that offered an
escape from the beach. Digging into his last resources of will
and strength he made for the path. His footsteps left a trail
across the sand; an easy trail for the Redeemers to follow but he
had no time to do anything about it.
He scrambled over the bank of pebbles at the top of the beach,
the cold wind pushed his damp clothes against his skin and his
teeth chattered violently. Suddenly he became aware of sound
and movement from the far side of the beach. He saw a band of
men, the flickering of their flaming brands and lamps made
their bearded faces resemble those of demons. Scavengers.
Wrecks were common on the treacherous southern coastline
and there were rich pickings for those who scoured the beaches.
They carried pick-axes, hatchets, crowbars and ropes, and as
they reached the foot of the beach, one of the scavengers noticed
Vortigern and bellowed, ‘LOOK YONDER, A SURVIVOR!’
Vortigern knew they were Nulled. They were enemies and
they would tell the Redeemers that they had seen him.
With a new vigour born of fear, Vortigern ran.