The wicked heroine, p.66
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       The Wicked Heroine, p.66
 

           Jasmine Giacomo

  ~~~

  On the top deck, Salvor and Geret had been dueling, but with an intent to respect each other as full allies, when the ship shuddered for the first time. Geret was distracted enough that he stopped and looked up at the tall masts overhead, seeing them wiggle back and forth at their tops. Salvor, less easily distracted, immediately tagged Geret over his heart, and only then, grinning smugly, did he look around as well.

  “Did you feel that?” Geret asked.

  “My winning? Yes, yes I did,” Salvor said.

  “No, not that. The ship. It vibrated.”

  “Is my prince trying to get out of losing by blaming it on the ship?” Salvor asked, beginning to strip off his protective padding.

  “No,” Geret responded, turning to look at Salvor and finding his gaze drawn to the stitched cut on his cheek. “You won; I was distracted.”

  Salvor smiled and nodded his head in acceptance of the victory. A moment later the ship rolled, and they both staggered several feet across the flat, open deck before regaining their balance. Just as quickly, the deck righted itself and they staggered again.

  “Something’s wrong,” Geret said, shaking his head. “Do you think we hit something?”

  Salvor looked around quickly. There was no land in sight, and the eastern horizon was darkening. Recalling the time of the lunar cycle, he replied ominously, “I’d rather bet that something has hit us.”

  Geret’s eyes flicked to Salvor’s in alarm, then just as quickly scanned the port side of the vessel. He started toward the rail, but Salvor grabbed his arm.

  “Please tell me you’re not that foolish.”

  “Then let’s find Galanishav,” Geret said, changing his mind, and the two men jogged aft. Already they could see sailors scrambling to follow bellowed orders from the captain and first mate, within the wide steering shelter.

  The ship heeled sharply to port and stayed that way, and Salvor and Geret tumbled to the deck and skidded sideways, coming to a stop against a stack of crates secured with a cargo net against the ship’s rail.

  “Folly,” breathed Geret, wincing and rubbing his head. Salvor pulled himself up to his knees and held onto the cargo net with his hands. They heard a loud wooden cracking noise, but could not find its source.

  “Where is it? Is it attacking us?” Geret asked.

  “I don’t know,” Salvor replied quickly, looking around. Sailors had skidded to the rail on both sides of them, and were starting to pick themselves up and try to complete their duties, even though the deck was tilted nearly fifteen degrees. “Whatever is going on, I’m getting you to the longboats.”

  “What? I can’t just leave the ship! You actually think it’s safer out there in a longboat? And what about everyone else? Meena, Runcan? What about Sanych?” Geret demanded.

  He had the satisfaction of watching Salvor’s face tighten in regret, but the man said, “No, Geret, my duty is to you first and foremost.”

  The ship’s prow settled further into the water as if something were pulling it down. Geret gazed up at the beautiful reds and pinks that were just beginning to alight on the cotton-puff clouds overhead. Another stunning tropical sunset.

  Perhaps his last. His heartbeat thrummed to a determined tempo.

  There was no way his last act was going to be abandoning his friends.

  Geret stood and dashed past Salvor, heading up the tilted deck toward the main stairhouse a short distance away. Salvor swore loudly and lurched after him, roundly cursing him for three kinds of fool.

  From below the edge of the port rail, an odd organic sound, reminiscent of making a rude noise with one’s mouth, heralded the sudden appearance of two enormous, pale grey tentacles. Thicker than the Kazhak’s masts, and nearly as long, they shot skyward at a terrifying speed. Reaching their furthest height, the wedge-ended appendages arced across the ship’s bow and fell heavily across the deck. Geret skidded to a disbelieving halt, and Salvor tackled him to the deck.

 
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