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.
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.