“Curse you, you red-sailed boar sow an’ all your offspring!” Captain Kupepah snarled as the chase ship behind snapped out another sail and leaped forward from her lag, throwing off the ranging shots. “And Aymberkromy’s an ass. He’s so far off the wind he’ll only have time to get off two, mebee three rounds before she’s past him. We’ll have her between us then but there’s no way Aymberkromy’ll catch up until we take down some of those blasted red sails.”
The initial lucky hit had raised his hopes that they might smash a hole in that uncanny hull quick-like, but it hadn’t played out. The chase ship had been reefing and setting sails, her sailors hanging all over her rigging like thorny sycamore pods, or mango fruit. That meant that every time the Sathrise crews got off a salvo the Arkan ship’s speed changed. As near as he could tell it never dropped below sixteen knots… and topped out at around thirty.
He glanced at the pursuing ship, who’d turned a point or two to make Aymberkromy’s run even less likely to succeed. Then at his own sails, broad reach, bellied out hard. “They’ll be in reach of their ship-catapults, Suh,” the First Lieutenant lowered his own glass. “In…” he tapped the chronometer “… twelve minutes, give or take, Suh.”
Kupepah smiled. He could be furious at Aymberkromy for panicking and turning like a hog in a wallow. “We’re going to hold the line for ten more minutes, First,” he said softly. “Hold hard. Get ready to turn. We’re going to fall out of the wind and rake as she blunders by us. Kudos to crew three, they’ve been getting closest and got one hit.”
“Tell them to load grape and chain. We’ll take out some of those ranks.” The chain shot tended to spin when fired and he narrowed his eyes as he imagined it cutting through the ranks of marines ranged on the Arkan ship. Their shields would do them little good against a hail of spinning chain shot from carron at close range.
Kaylebuh crouched by the cabin door, outside because he couldn’t bear to not see what was going on. He glanced up at the girl still up on the mast and shuddered again. Every BOOM! made him flinch. Inside would be safer once the splinters started flying.
He peered out at the ship they were chasing and turned to look at the second bearing down on them, foam blowing away from the figurehead; a hound-dog fishtail cross, w’ tits. He felt the Arkan ship surge under him and the converging lines suddenly went weird. That ship ‘ud not be able to do more’n cross the aft of this and fire once or twice.
“God-King, I’m sorry I tried to be free,” he muttered. “Save me. Help me. These people are mad. They’re running inta the teeth of carron an’ ain’t even duckin’.”
The outer hulls were loaded with rowers and even replacement oars, for no reason he could see. They’d been runnin’ on sail almost exclusive. “They’re nuts. They’re crazier than coonhound with a hide full o’ ticks. Squirrelyer than a rabid weasel in the hen house.”
No one could understand him, even if they weren’t running around busy, settin’ sail, reefin’ sail, measuring distances at each catapult station. The First Mate were bellowin’ fit to break a lung, every order from t’ Cap. Calm bitch-son he were. Standin’ like a figurehead his ownself.
Kaylebuh wrapped his arms around his chest and pressed himself back between the cabin wall and the strapped barrel right there, as if he could shove himself into the grain of the wood. “God-King, I’s sorry I tried to be free. Spare me, an’ I’ll be a good hinny-boy, forevermore.”