The Captain awoke in the air, thrown from his bunk by a sudden lurching of the ship. His ears were full of a crunching sound, groaning, a horrific tearing that could only be the hardwood of the hull coming apart, followed by rushing water. As soon as he could keep his feet, he dashed for the ladder.

The sunlight blinded him momentarily at the hatch. He clung to the ladder-top and yelled, "Report!"

"We hit something, port side below the waterline." Rinceley's voice was eerily calm. "The hull is cracked open."

He could see, now, barely. The men were lowering lifeboats. "Who ordered the 'abandon ship'?"

"I did." Again the first mate spoke without emotion. "Go look at the hole, man, she's doomed."

The Captain clambered unsteadily up on deck, made for the rail, leaned over: sure enough, a gash big enough for a man to step through was torn into the side of the ship, stretching down and out of sight below the waterline.

"Where is Harpagos?"

"Out of sight to the East. She caught better wind just before dawn; we haven't been so lucky."

The Captain willed Kyllaros' wound to heal, but of course it didn't, and never would. He had known she was destined for the bottom the moment he looked over the railing. "What was it?"

"What do you think?"

He'd seen a Bua, just once, when he was a young officer. An immense forked tail had burst out of the water and swatted a cutter to kindling after no greater offense than firing off a signal flare. Ships over deep water go as quietly as they can, or risk a similar fate. Everyone knows this.

"Who was making noise?"

Rinceley shrugged. "Masts creak. Ships come down hard in the water. Men yell while at work. Who knows? It only gave us a glancing blow."

The Captain watched the men wrestle with lines, settling the lifeboats into the water. Soon they were tossing down bags of food, provisions. It might be some time before Harpagos turned to investigate why her sister ship hadn't caught up.

"Go on."

Rinceley shook his head solemnly. "I had the wheel."

"We risked crossing deep water on my order. I am Master of this ship." He nodded towards the lifeboat. "Go."

Rinceley made no more argument, surrendered the wheel to the Captain, and went to take his place on the lifeboat.


  1. So well written. I feel inferior to your style and flair. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you so much for reading. Don't feel inferior! :-)

  2. Excellent David. It sounds like an excerpt from a book.

    1. Thank you for reading! I have a novel planned in this universe, actually. It's one of 4 that's been kicking around in my head for several years now. I've been waiting to actually write it until I was happy with my style (and discipline.)

  3. This was really well written. It flowed well, I followed the scene perfectly. Everything that wasn't "said" screamed out by the actions and words of the characters.


  4. You have an excellent universe here. Hopefully, we will hear from the captain again.

  5. Excellent job!

    Some minor concrit: The First Mate's response to the Captain ""Go look at the hole, man, she's doomed." -"man" doesn't seem to fit the situation. Ordinarily I wouldn't critique words between quotation marks because who am I to dictate what a character would say. However, I would expect a first mate, especially a calm one, would be more apt to address his captain formally, using Sir or Captain.

    Also, using "Everyone knows that." to explain something common knowledge to the world you've created can send the wrong message to the reader. "If everyone knows this, how is it I don't?" When you revisit this scene, try something like: "Silence saves; it's the first lesson the sea teaches sailors."

    I love the concept to the story and the world you created. I'm a sucker for tall ships and this certainly appealed to me. Excellent, excellent job!

    1. Thank you for reading, and thanks for the critique. As for the First Mate's language, I was hearing him with an accent, possibly Irish, and his lines seemed to flow that way. I did go back and forth on 'Everyone knows this.' My only defense is that it was a purely stylistic choice: it's the Captain's inner monologue, in his voice. Note that his dialogue is all short, succinct, direct.

  6. You did a great job infusing the sense of dread with the no-nonsense approach of the Captain and the First Mate. It feels doomed without being over-dramatic.

  7. Nicely done, David! I'm not a huge fan of that genre, but I really wanted to keep reading!