An earsplitting crack jarred him back into the world. Rashied dragged himself up on the railing to see what was going on. His body screamed at him for the effort and the world pitched dangerously beneath him. He rubbed at his eyes, straining to focus on what little he could make out through the darkness.
The figurehead – once a beautiful woman – was now a ruin of splinters and wood shards. That was surprising, but with the power of the storm it was hardly remarkable. Still, Rashied couldn’t shake the feeling that something more was wrong. The way the damage looked from above, it didn’t seem like the result of lightening or waves.
There was another crack, and the Fortune shuddered. Wood shards exploded upward along the starboard hull. Rashied gaped as the ship groaned. It was hitting something. He’d seen the like once, before he’d met Arturas. Drink and stupidity had sent that small ship hurtling into one of the port walls, smashing it near to bits before someone thought to prevent a trip to the bottom of the bay.
But there was no wall here. There might be rocks hidden beneath the waves, but he was sure there weren’t any high enough to cause the damage he was seeing.
Another collision. The ship pitched dangerously. Only the rope around his waist kept Rashied from tumbling out into the sky. Sailors scurried around the damage like ants, but there was nothing to be done.
His breath caught and he leaned further, catching sight of Chetana climbing the rigging. “Get down you idiot!” He yelled back, but if his friend heard there was no sign of it. The wind, always his ally, had turned on him. It threw his words back into his face.
The ship collided with the invisible wall again. Rashied grabbed at the railing instinctively as it tilted and shifted. The Fortune was sinking. He scanned the ropes desperately, a prayer of a single word – please – repeating through his mind as he looked for Chetana. Rain pelted him, obscuring his vision, but finally he saw the tanned hands clinging to a single line.
The hold wouldn’t last. And Chetana, feet pumping air in search of something to wrap around, was too far down for Rashied to get to him in time. His friend was going to be swallowed up by the dark and churning waters. If it didn’t kill him instantly, the huge waves pounding the Fortune to bits would.
“Please!” He shouted into the storm.
Everything stopped. The noise, the waves, everything. Even the droplets of rain hung in the air.
Rashied’s head whipped around like a kite in a storm, certain he’d found madness. It was funny, in a sad sort of way. Of all the things he imagined life holding in surprise for him, insanity was never one of them. Though Chetana would no doubt argue that he was always crazy, Rashied always had a foot firmly planted on reality. Or he thought he did. He knew his luck would see him through most things, but he also knew it might see him dead in a ditch behind some brothel one day. He’d never thought himself untouchable and he knew there were consequences to every win delivered to him. Life was about balance. His good fortune was certain to end one day. He never lost sight of that. He just didn’t waste time worrying about it.
But it seemed insanity caught him all the same, because the world did not simply hold its breath while one boy went to fetch his friend. No matter how lucky that boy might be.
Still, he would not waste any chance to save Chetana. He didn’t spend a minute trying to undo the knot. It was pulled tight over his belly. Instead he sliced clean through the fibers with the sharp dagger he kept strapped to his left leg. Once free, he crawled over to the ladder that would bring him down to the rigging, pleased to find that the dizziness was fading.
He forgot about the snap of his right ankle until the moment he tried to use the foot to hold the first rung of the ladder. A gasp burst out of him. He nearly passed out. Cursing, he shifted and maneuvered until his weight was on his left leg, knowing there was no hope of reaching Chetana with just the one. There were too many small jumps, too much balancing that he would need to do. Assuming gravity was still operating as it always had, he was certain to join his friend in death. It didn’t matter. He had to try.