“You’re welcome. ” Even with her body numb to the bone and her ears ringing, Aria felt oddly content to walk alongside a friend. Her first among the Tides, after Flea.
Perry left Roar and took the trail to the harbor faster than he had in his life, sprinting until he reached the dock. There, Wylan and Gren called to each other as they tied off a fishing skiff, their clothes flapping in the wind. The vessel struck the dock in the choppy water, shaking the planks beneath Perry’s feet. His heart seized when he saw only two skiffs. Most of his fishermen were still at sea.
“How close are the others?” Perry yelled.
Wylan shot him a dark look. “You’re the Seer, aren’t you?”
Perry ran along the shore to the rock jetty that reached out like a great arm, protecting the harbor. He leaped onto the tumbled granite, then lunged from one huge boulder to the next. Geysers of seawater shot up through the gaps, soaking his legs. At the top of the jetty, he stopped and scanned the open ocean. Huge waves rolled and pitched, capped with white spray. A terrifying sight, but he also saw what he’d hoped to. Five skiffs approached the harbor, bobbing like corks in the brutal waters.
“Perry, stop!” Reef worked his way over the boulders. Gren and Wylan followed, both with lengths of rope across their shoulders.
“They’re coming in!” Perry shouted. Who was left out there? The spray blurred everything. Even with his vision, he couldn’t see the fishermen until the first boat drew close, moving past the jetty. Perry glimpsed the terrified looks on the men whose lives he’d sworn to protect. They weren’t safe yet, but the seas weren’t as rough inside the harbor as out in the open water. When the second and third boats reached the harbor, he came closer to breathing again. Closer to knowing he hadn’t lost anyone.
And then the fourth skiff came in, leaving only one more at sea. Perry waited, cursing when he saw it clearly. Willow and her grandfather sat, white-faced, gripping the mast. Between them, ears pinned back, crouched Flea.
Perry leaped down the ocean side of the jetty, drawing closer to the breaking waves just as flashes burst across the horizon, freezing the moment in glaring light. The storm had broken. Funnels dropped at sea, scoring brilliant blue lines down the cloud-darkened sky. They were miles away, but he tensed on instinct and slipped, grazing his shin.
“Perry, get back here!” Reef yelled. Waves pummeled the rocks around them, a violent assault that came from every direction.
“Not yet!” Perry barely heard himself over the thundering surf.
Willow’s skiff had broken off its course. It streamed right toward the jetty. She yelled something, cupping her hands around her mouth.
Gren appeared, balancing beside Perry. “They’ve lost the rudder. They can’t steer. ”
Perry knew exactly what was going to happen, and the others did too.
“Abandon ship!” Wylan yelled nearby. “Get out!”
Old Will had already pulled Willow to her feet. He took her face in his hands, issuing a frantic message Perry couldn’t hear. Then he embraced her hastily and helped her jump off the bow into the waves. Flea leaped in right after her, and then Old Will jumped last, his expression surprisingly calm.
Seconds passed in an instant. The swell caught the skiff, pushing it into a current. The boat came fishtailing, turning backward at the last moment, so the stern smashed against the rocks just ten paces away from Perry. It folded, splintering, sending pieces flying. His arms came up, shielding himself, debris and ocean spray pelting his forearms.
He blinked hard, clearing his eyes, and spotted Willow moving right toward the mix of broken wood and white water.
“Get a line out now!” Reef shouted.
Close by, Wylan threw a rope in the perfect cast of a born fisherman. Without the rope, Willow would smash against the rocks over and again, churning in the froth. With it, they had a chance of pulling her in safely.
“Willow, grab the line!” Perry yelled.
He watched her search for her grandfather, her movements jerky and frantic, and then saw her terror as she spotted Old Will farther out. A wave washed over her, and Perry’s heart stopped. Willow surfaced, coughing up water and gaspi
ng for air. She swam frantically for the rope and finally grasped it.
Perry drew as low on the rocks as he dared, strength gathering in his legs as he prepared to grab her.
When the surf surged, Wylan and Gren pulled the rope. Willow came slicing toward Perry like an arrow. She knocked him back as he caught her, her forehead cracking against his chin. Pain burst across his ribs as he fell against the rocks. He held her for an instant before Reef swept her from his arms.
“Get out of there, Peregrine!” he yelled, carrying Willow higher on the jetty.
Perry didn’t answer this time. He couldn’t leave until they had Old Will.
Wylan threw another line. It dropped near Old Will, but the fisherman struggled, swimming in place with his head tipped up, barely above the water.