The Winged Whale made decent time as it skimmed across the crystal waves of the Javan Sea. The ship’s newest captain, Idorsus Cragfin, was almost annoyed by the pace, but kept reminding himself that she was only being towed by five sets of arms–Durgrum and himself on one side, Genne and the twins on the other. All that considered, it was a wonder they were still going.
Of course, Idorsus had kept his crew in mind when deciding what ship to steal. The Winged Whale had been the only ship in the pirate fleet that might even be moved by five rowers. Idorsus counted their crawling pace as a victory.
Below decks smelled of damp and mildew. Idorsus had never imagined he would associate those smells with freedom, but now they were sweet in his nostrils. This smelly rowing bench was his way to safety. As he rowed, his eyes burned a hole in the hull. He knew that just through the thick wood were three fully crewed pirate ships, all bearing down on his escaping craft.
“Almost there boys!”
Idorsus could hear Kovin yelling down from the deck. The first mate struggled to make himself heard over the creaking of wood and pounding of waves.
“And girl,” Genne called back.
“Not the time, Genne,” one of the twins growled from behind her, his face twisted up as he pulled on his massive oar.
“We’re almost out of the harbor,” Kovin said. “On my call, make a sharp turn to starboard and get your asses to the deck to work the sails.”
The rowers called up their agreement and returned to their task. Once out of the harbor, they could hitch a ride on the southern-blowing winds. Their smaller ship could then put some distance between herself and the pirate vessels.
Idorsus pulled steadily; ready to heave for the turn.
Idorsus kept his rhythm.
Rough hands tightened around rough wood.
With roars of effort, Idorsus and Durgrum pulled hard on their oars, bringing the ship swinging starboard. The thick oar creaked and complained under the pressure, but held.
“On course!” Kovin yelled. “Come get the sails!”
Idorsus slid his oar from the sea and racked it before heading above. As he stepped onto the deck, he stepped into a different world than the one he had left. When he had descended below decks, the sun had been out and shining heavily. The wind had been only a soft, warm breeze.
Now, clouds darkened the sky, and cold wind lashed the deck. Idorsus shivered, half from cold and half with excitement. This new wind would send the Whale speeding towards freedom.
“Looks like a storm’s brewing,” Idorsus said. “Get these sails up and we’ll be gone before the raindrops can hit the deck.”
He was wrong about that, as it turned out. Rain started to fall the sails unfurled and were filled by the driving wind.
“I think this is too much,” Kovin said as Idorsus approached the wheel. “The ship won’t be able to handle it.”
“She’ll do just fine,” Idorsus said, bending over to lovingly pat the deck. “She’s flying right now.”
And she was. The Whale was hurtling southward, racing through the sea. The pirates and the harbor were fading quickly into the distance, obscured by sheets of rain that fell more heavily by the second.
The ship was creaking and straining in the gale, but that didn’t mean anything was wrong. The sails were full and the rain was giving the crew a much needed wash.
“We should bring the sails in!” Durgrum yelled from the prow. “The winds are too strong!”
“You too? Durgrum, the ship is fine.”
“Listen to him, Idorsus,” Kovin pleaded. “We’ve put enough distance between us and the pirates. We need to find shelter.”
Idorsus mulled it over. He was used to Kovin worrying, but Durgrum usually sided with him against the first mate. That the big sailor had also advised caution gave him pause.
“Alright,” Idorsus said, “bring the sails in. We can find shelter past those rocks.”
The rocks he pointed to were spikes that jutted sharply from the churning surf just off the forested coastline.
“Thank you,” Kovin said, and shouted for the sails to be furled.
But before any orders could be carried out, a gargantuan gust of wind swept across the deck. The sails filled and the mast strained. Then, with an ear-splitting crack, the mast splintered in two and was blown violently into the sea.
“Get to cover!” Idorsus yelled, suddenly scared. The Winged Whale was thrown off course by the separation of the mast, and was headed straight for the rocky monolith.
Durgrum, Genne, and the twins all found something to grab onto as the rocks loomed closer.
Kovin wrestled with the wheel, but could do nothing, and the ship slammed into the spike of rock.
Idorsus was thrown by the impact, hitting the stump of the mast. His head whipped back, and the storm faded to black.
This is Part 4.