Part the One Hundred Seventy Sixth: Heaving To!
When Hope heard the boom, she wasn’t sure if she’d finally fallen asleep or not.
“Damnation!” she heard Abigail call.
“Bu- wha’?” Hope asked.
“The two of ye, up and about, now!”
“Are we under attack?” Charity asked.
“Worse; that’s thunder, and she sounds close.”
Hope twirled herself from the hammock, grabbed what was at hand for her modesty and headed out on the main deck.
The skies were dark, not quite the dead of night but in no way resembling any time the sun would be in the sky. The suggested shapes of the clouds half hiding in the shadows threatened more with what they kept from their observers than what they revealed between streaks of lightning flaring every so often.
Abigail was halfway up the steps to the quarterdeck, scanning the horizon. When a lightning flicker would dance across the skies, she tapped the rail with a steady rhythm, stopping when the peel of thunder broke over the ship.
Hope had beside her Charity and Osei, the later paying close attention to Abigail as she parsed the brewing storm. She could only make out outlines of other members of the crew in the dark gray half-light that held sway when the lightning didn’t fork through.
As she watched, the wind picked up, a few brief gusts preceding a sustained blow like a flourish announcing a dignitary. As the winds sustained themselves, she could just make out Abigail’s hair flowing behind her like a candle flame about to be blown out.
Abigail got to three beats on the rail before the last roll of thunder, then called below, “Prepare to reef! Heaving-to!”
“Ready the reefing lines!” Osei relayed commands afore, calling above the wind to those men whose faces Hope could not make out.
“What can we do to help?” Hope asked him.
“We?” asked Charity.
“Be ready to grab on to the line he’s gathering,” Osei replied to Hope, pointing out Garland in the gloom. “When the time comes, grab hold with him and the rest to lower the gaff.”
Hope cast a brief look over her shoulder to watch Abigail head for the tiller, latching herself to it with a line.
“How bad is this going to get?” Hope asked Osei.
“You were not with us when we nearly capsized off Dominique, were you?”
“I would say this is not as bad as that, but for you that would be little comfort,” he noted as he scanned the skies.
At that moment, the boom creaked as the winds pulled taut the mainsail.
The Gale started to yaw with sudden jolts as the stern and bow thunked in opposite directions. Hope felt the force flow through her legs, wanting to knock her down like a ninepin.
“Not as bad as Dominique?” Hope asked.
“No,” replied Osei. “That one was definitely much worse.”
As she righted herself, she heard a snap forward. The crew cried out as they flailed about in the gloom.
She got a much better look at the source of the snap as one of the four pounders rolled on its carriage away from the gunwale, loose on the deck.
Rolling right at her…
All content Copyright © 2009 James Ryan