The wicked heroine, p.67
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       The Wicked Heroine, p.67

           Jasmine Giacomo
 

  ~~~

  In the silence following the ship’s tipping, the few dozen people in the long corridor with Sanych began climbing back to their feet. Some moaned and held injured limbs.

  Sanych had just regained her footing, holding her right arm awkwardly in her left, when the ship lurched sideways, and everyone yelped or screamed as they were thrown heavily back down to the lower edge of the corridor. Sanych lay dazed, staring at the ceiling, while someone crawled across her lower legs in an effort to get out of the corridor. Further down the corridor, toward the bow, an enormous cracking sound burst in, and people began to panic.

  Sanych clutched her right arm to her chest and staggered to her feet again. Her small stature was not in her favor as she tried to press through to Meena; she kept getting buffeted out of the way of other scrambling passengers. Meena, being taller, stronger and more stubborn, soon reached her and pulled her to the edge of the corridor.

  “Let me see it,” she commanded. She let her fingers play gently along Sanych’s arm, feeling the spiral break. “You’ll feel fine in a minute. Come with me. We need to get up on deck,” she said, taking Sanych’s other hand and tugging her along through the thinning crowd.

  As they reached the main stairwell, they saw it was packed with people trying to go both directions, and no one could get by. Everyone was shouting and some were crying in fear. Some others began to clamber over the outside of the banister to travel up or down as they needed.

  Meena’s eyes scanned the scene, taking in the wraparound balconies on each deck. “Amateurs,” she muttered under her breath. “Sanych, wait right here against the wall.”

  “I will,” Sanych said, clutching her upper arms with her hands. She pressed her back against the tapestry behind her and stayed out of everyone’s way, watching Meena.

  The Shanallar ran at the closest low corner of the room and leaped into the air, planting one foot halfway up the front wall and quickly thrusting off with it. Her other foot landed higher on the side wall, and she lunged off that leg and reached up with her hands. They grasped the overhanging floorboards of the fire deck, and she pulled herself up to, then over, the railing.

  Sanych darted her gaze to the overfilled staircase. No one seemed to have noticed Meena’s ascent to the fire deck’s balcony.

  Meena pulled a small dagger from her belt and began slicing at a large tapestry. It fell from its moorings and vanished from Sanych’s view.

  Armed sailors began flooding the fire deck from auxiliary stairwells. They did not stop to use the packed main staircase, but hurried on past, about their defense duties. Sanych wondered if the numerous cannons on board would be powerful enough to injure whatever was out there, and found herself fervently hoping so.

  The ship shuddered heavily, as if something had crashed atop the bow. Voices rose in panic. A few unlucky people fell off the stairwell from various heights and thudded to the berth deck below. No one helped them. Sanych clung to the tapestry behind her and prayed to Wisdom that Meena would be quick.

  A minute later, a thick slice of tapestry tumbled onto her head, and she looked up to see Meena holding the other end of a hastily-constructed tapestry rope. Sanych grabbed on tightly, entwining her arms into the thick woolen creation, and tried not to focus on how old it was or how much it had been worth, up until about three minutes ago. The fact that her right arm was completely healed was a nice distraction, and she took a few moments to be grateful.

  Then Meena was grasping her elbow and helping her over the rail. “Wait here; I’ll climb up one more level.”

  As sailors continued to speed past her, carrying cannonballs or powder kegs, Sanych looked down at the berth deck. Its full floor, as opposed to the upper decks’ balconies, had made it easy for Meena to leap up. She wondered how–

  The tapestry rope fell again, brushing her shoulder. Sanych squinted and craned her neck to look up at Meena, who merely waved at her impatiently. Sanych gripped the slice of tapestry and held on tightly.

  When she was halfway up to the upper deck’s balcony, just beneath the colored glass dome that arched over the staircase, the ship lurched so heavily toward the port bow that Meena swore and nearly toppled over the railing. Sanych dropped a couple of feet in midair and spun into the center of the open space as Meena twisted, struggling to hold both her balance and the rope.

  “Meena!” Sanych screamed, swinging dizzily two stories above the berth deck.

  “Hold on!” Meena called, gritting her teeth as her elbow dislocated against the railing bars. “Just hold on!”

 

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