Part the Two Hundred Ninety Fifth: A Perilous Approach
Hope didn’t know whether or not to cry out.
It was a simple choice based on expected effects upon the battle. Doing so might give the Black Swallow some small warning that they were going to come under fire, and allow them to prepare accordingly. To do so would also have drawn attention to herself from the Casa del Sol, who might become suspicious and take pre-emptive action against her and the launch.
By the time she realized that at the distance she was from both vessels, she was far enough away from the two that whether she did or not wouldn’t matter, the issue was decisively decided when the Casa started to fire her port guns.
Each six pounder fired alone, anywhere from two to five seconds between each rapport. The first few splashed yards away, half the distance between the two ships, but the last round came close enough to hear the whiz of the shot before she splashed a plume of water that kissed the Swallow’s sail.
She could just make out the sound of Osei’s voice as he gave the crew orders to correct course. She watched how the sloop’s sail was trimmed, and tried to set the lug rig in concert just on sight.
A few moments under the new trim, Hope noticed that the line that had been pulling the launch was starting to slacken. She kept a close eye on the line, trying to determine when being tethered was going to become a liability should the Swallow start to pull her from her intended course.
She looked at what she had at hand in the stern and was relieved to find among her gear a cutlass. Whoever had put that there for her, she hoped to thank later.
Before she could ponder who provided her with the cutlass, the Casa again rolled out its pieces and fired. The rounds roared forth a little faster, a second trimmed between each firing, and came dangerously close to resembling a full broadside.
Worse, the six pounders did much better at finding their mark, as Hope watched a round clear the gaff of the Swallow by a mere two yards. The sound of the shell was like an angry roar as it flew by, and its splash in the water only 80 yards off was like a wave coming ashore.
Following two rounds that were not as close, the fourth barely cleared the line towing the launch. The shot smacking the sea left a plume of water that threatened to drench the launch and the powder aboard her, making the plan for naught had the Casa’s aim been better.
Quickly, Hope grabbed the cutlass and scrambled forward, over the charge and past the small sail. She raised her hand and hacked at the rope, twice severing strands to free herself from the Swallow.
The third try, with desperation, she gave her all as she chopped down on the line. The line was finally severed, but her footing was uneven and she pitched forward.
Desperate, she grabbed the edge of the launch. She stayed out of the water, but the cutlass slipped under the surface and disappeared into the water, briefly glimpsed as it sank.
“Well,” she sighed, “I hope I don’t have to deal with boarding parties…”
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