A rover village ship that once traded between Cushulain and Ascondea along the Rappian River is at the center of Shipwreck. Its brightly painted masts jut up conspicuously from the hull at odd angles in a stark juxtaposition to the dead fields surrounding the ship. Whatever brought the ship out into the plains that now surround it did not do so gently. The ship’s hull, garishly painted with multi-colored, whirling designs similar to the tattoos worn by many rovers, is split in two from starboard to larboard. The head of the ship lies on its starboard side, while the stern came to rest on its larboard side. The red-painted foremast juts up from the lolling bow and points due east, while the yellow mizzenmast points to the west. The main mast is being used as the center beam of a common house being constructed by the villagers.

After the Night of Fire, the masts were like beacons to those scanning the near featureless horizon for shelter from the cold. The first to find it was a rover named Whan Cho. After being ostracized from his village ship by his girlfriend’s overprotective father who was the ship’s captain, he had become a common laborer. He had been harvesting in the fields of Cushulain when the world nearly ended. He stumbled upon the ship through the ash, hoping to find other survivors – maybe even someone he knew. But the broken ship contained only dead rovers, strangers all. In the following weeks, others came, mostly humans. Their natural wariness of rovers was overcome by sheer exhaustion. Seeing a rover in a rover ship, they assumed it was his and were grateful for the shelter it provided. Whan saw no need to correct their mistake and graciously accepted all comers.

The Night of Fire directed Whan down a path he could not have predicted. Once happy to work during the day, drink through his pay and start again – he now had a greater goal. He found he was adept at settling disputes among the survivors during the Long Winter. He created a fair plan to dole out the ship’s goods, and the people followed it. In a way, he had risen to the pinnacle of rover society. He was a ship’s captain, and he was good at it. He never gave up hope that the thaw would come. When it did, the people of the ship – his people – asked him what they should do. Whan told them to build.

They first dug a moat in a wide circle around the ship. They used some shovels crafted from oars and barrel staves to dig into the muddy ground. Whan directed them to toss the dirt onto the inner bank to create a low earthen wall that they topped with whatever flotsam from the ship was not useful for anything else. Whan told them the wall and moat would help them defend themselves. From what, they did not know.

The survivors fell back upon the type of society that had gotten them through the Long Winter. Each person’s talents were identified. The best hunters were given the metal-tipped spears made by the best craftsmen in the little group. The best cooks prepared the game for everyone to eat. Those with farming experience planted what few seeds the survivors had and traveled with the hunters to harvest more from any plants that, protected beneath the earth as seeds, emerged into the light as the snow melted away. Everyone in Shipwreck had a place in the small society. The sense of purpose helped keep the despair away. They had come to rely on each other, which helped shape them into a solid community.

The warming weather brought other travelers now and then. They were greeted with distrust at first, but allowed to trade and given shelter if they posed no threat. Whan spoke with each one personally and weeded out those with no useful skills and those who he thought might threaten his authority. The others he encouraged to stay, especially the strong but unambitious.

The people of shipwreck have expanded outside the shelter of the broken ship hulls. Tents and crude sod structures surround the ship. The frame of a long, common house is being built and will be covered with hides to provide shelter for all should the winter come again.

Desolation Greymalkin Designs