“Hurry, go!” she cried.
“Come with us,” I offered, but she only shook her head.
“Just go,” she whispered.
“If anyone wants proof of this being a cursed ship, here it is!” I shouted.
Using the same pulley system that I’d rigged to get Fink into the air, I cut this rope and it yanked me up as high as the crow’s nest. With another slash of my knife, the long sails of the Shadow Tide collapsed to the deck, covering everyone in the sails’ fabric. The same rope that had held the sails in place also loosened the boom on which I stood, with Fink at the far end of it. I pushed off from the crow’s nest, forcing Fink and the boom to swing out directly over the sea.
I lowered myself on the rope, then used my weight to swing closer to Fink. He saw me coming toward him and tried to squirm away, but as he was lighter than me, he didn’t get far before I grabbed the rope holding him midair and sliced through it.
With a long cry for help, Fink fell into the water. After a few seconds, his head popped up and he began yelling my name.
A few of the crewmen who had been nearer the ends of the sails emerged and seemed to be following someone’s orders to rotate the boom back toward the ship. A knife cut through the sails and Captain Strick rose up through their center.
I gave her a sharp salute goodbye and let go of my rope.
I fell deeper into the water than I had expected and returned to the surface with aching lungs and my leg shooting with pain from the salty water. Fink wasn’t far away, and once he saw me, he said, “Remember that time you made us jump off a cliff? At least we were dangling over something solid!”
“Did you want to land on something solid just now?” I pointed behind him. “Swim!”
From what I could tell above us, the main deck was a hive of activity, with crewmen attempting to clear the sail that had fallen. Yet above all other voices, I heard Captain Strick ordering her men to get the lifeboat down to us. She would be even more furious when they told her the problem with her request: There was only one lifeboat on board this ship, and it was missing. I wondered how long it’d take them to figure out that Tobias was on it. Hopefully Amarinda was there too.
With any luck, they weren’t far away. The Eranbole Sea was colder than I had expected, and my injured leg was becoming stiff.
I began to swim toward the back of the ship, where the lifeboat should have been attached by rope. When I heard a loud splash behind us, I rotated in the water and saw Wilta come to the surface. “I changed my mind,” she said. “But please help me. I’m not a good swimmer.”
I held out a hand and when I could reach her, she put her arm around my shoulders while I assisted her in moving toward the lifeboat. Once or twice, in her efforts to stay afloat, she kicked into my injured leg. I clenched my teeth and forced myself to keep going.
Strick’s next order was shouted so loud, I heard every word. “Fire off a volley of cannonballs! They’ve got our lifeboat!”
“We don’t see it!” someone shouted back.
“Just fire!” she replied.
“What’s wrong with you?” I asked Fink, who had paused in the water to stare at Wilta. “Swim!”
The Shadow Tide continued sailing forward until most of the ship had passed us. Immediately behind it was the lifeboat, except Tobias was the only one in it and his eyes were red as though he’d been crying.
He extended one of the boat’s oars as far as it could reach. We swam as close as we dared without putting ourselves too near the moving ship. Tobias brought in Fink first, and then Wilta.
Once I reached the side of the boat, I asked, “Where is Amarinda?”
“She couldn’t find the secret escape from the captain’s quarters. But she heard someone coming into the room and said she would sneak out and find you instead. She wanted me to have the boat ready to go. I had to drop it into the water once I saw Fink lifted into the air.” His face fell and any hope within him seemed to dissolve. “I was sure you’d have Amarinda with you.”
“That was me who Amarinda heard,” Wilta said. “I was going in to replace the sword, but I never saw Amarinda.”
I took an extra minute to catch my breath, then I rolled inside the boat. My emotions were still raging inside me when I turned to Tobias. “I know you’re only thinking about Amarinda right now. I’m thinking about her too, but I want you to hear this. Don’t you ever again make plans behind my back. Or keep a secret where Fink’s life is concerned!”
Tobias responded with a sharp glare. “You’re correct, Jaron. All I’m thinking about right now, all I care about right now, is Amarinda! And I’m thinking about how, sooner or later, you’ll force us to abandon her. Whatever happens to her now is your fault!”
Tobias was only speaking through his anger and fear, but his words hit me hard. Regardless of the reasons why she wasn’t here with us, eventually, I would have to give the order to leave her behind.
Almost as soon as he finished, the ports opened, and in quick succession, cannonballs were fired at various angles. Because of our proximity to the hull, none of them came anywhere close to hitting us, but we did get considerably rougher waters that nearly toppled us once or twice.
Finally, everything settled, and only then did Tobias notice my leg. He was still so angry that he merely glared at it, then at me.