“Mousden!” Festuscato shouted to the top of the mast where the last member of the motley crew spent most of his time. “What do you see?” The light seemed to be fading too fast and Festuscato started becoming concerned about the possible storm. He wondered if he should turn the ship toward the shore to seek shelter. Certainly, the sea began to turn rough. Fortunately, the Cornish Pixie’s eyes were very sharp in the dark.
“I see the usual collection of lazy layabouts on the deck,” Mousden shouted down.
The men looked up. “Hawk!” Gregor shouted and suddenly pointed.
“Hawk?” Hrugen looked up, but Mousden had already shrieked and flown to the deck faster than an eye could see. He crawled under a coil of rope to hide, being only a foot and a half tall, altogether.
Gregor laughed with the others, and after a moment, even Hrugen thought it was funny. Mousden, however, got mad.
“How would you like a hot foot,” Mousden threatened Gregor for the millionth time, but everyone knew the old, one eyed Saxon really cared for the little winged man. Even Mousden could see that much.
“Ahem!” Festuscato cleared his throat. “I meant, what can you see at sea?”
“Oh.” Mousden nodded. “Just some monsters spouting water and headed right for us.”
“Whales on the whale road.” Hrugen jumped to the railing and Bran caught him before the pitch tossed him. All the men, carefully strained in the growing darkness to catch a sight of the wonder.
“Ahem,” the captain said. “I meant the clouds. Is there a storm coming? Should we seek the shelter of the shore?”
“Oh, yes, Lord,” Mousden said, frankly, but without the least comprehension of what he was saying. He was just not very used to moving among men and did not fully understand human needs in the face of a hostile universe. For that matter, most of his life got spent in caves and such, and he still just started learning about things like bad storms. “There’s a big storm coming. A monster storm.” Festuscato had already turned toward the shore.
“When?” Festuscato asked.
It started to drizzle. “About now. Why?”
At that moment, a giant swell washed the front of the boat, nearly swamped the whole bow. Mirowen held to her place, like a magnet to iron, but she got soaked head to foot and reacted as any woman would. Festuscato had one moment to view her glorious water soaked figure and the sheer vulnerability of her in her state, and the heavens opened up.
“Hrugen! Gregor! Tear that sail. Bran! Seamus! Loose the horses. Mousden to Mirowen. We need your eyes in the dark. Mirowen! Call out direction.”
“To port.” She spoke right from the beginning. “There are rocks to starboard.”
The lightning began and rapidly came in sheets like the driving rain. It took only moments before Gregor and Hrugen cut the chords of the sail and the ropes began whipping in the wind. They still had enough tension in the canvas to give the ship some real impetus and direction, but not enough to cause the mast to snap. That would have been a real danger. As for direction, Gregor and Hrugen quickly joined their captain at the tiller.
“To Port. We’re drifting,” Mirowen said.
“I see the land. I see it,” Mousden shouted, excited, though how the men at the tiller imagined he could see anything was beyond them. He bobbed up and down about a foot above Mirowen’s head, barely able to stay aloft in the wind. He got hard blown toward the sea twice before a particularly close lightning strike made him quit his post and seek out his hiding ropes. Luckless had already come back on deck with his precious bag of tools. Seamus also came back up, his precious books in hand. He held the ropes across the deck from Luckless and hunkered down over his papers. Bran came last, rubbing his shoulder where a terrified horse kicked and grazed him. All the same, he joined the men at the tiller.
“More to port.” Mirowen shouted, her words somehow got through against the rain. The swells came, and the little ship began to bob up and down like a cork in water. They began to take on water, but there seemed no point in bailing. Everyone had to hang on for dear life as the sea took them for a ride.
For three hours Mirowen shouted, “To port!”
And Festuscato shouted back. “She’s hard over already.”
For three hours, Mousden shivered under the ropes, Seamus and Luckless protected their priceless cargos and four men kept the ship turned hard to port, though whether they went to port or were driven to starboard in spite of everything, none could say.
“There are rocks to starboard!”
The lightning flashed, and the rain and thunder crashed, near deafening.
The sail ripped altogether in the third hour. It flapped in the wind and the ropes flailed about and became dangerous for those amidships. That condition did not last long as the mast cracked in a snap as loud as the thunder. When it broke altogether, it fell into the sea right over Luckless’ head.
“Luckless!” Seamus shouted. The dwarf did not answer. Leaving his books to the wind and rain, Seamus crawled toward the spot.
“I’m okay,” came the call. “Mousden snatched me away in the nick.” Seamus crawled quickly back to his spot by the railing.
“More to port! We’re getting too close to the rocks.” And they did get too close, first to hear the horrifying sound of an underwater ridge scrape up against the bottom before a boulder, taller than the rest, crunched into the ship’s side and caved in a portion of the deck below. The ship jerked to a stop and Festuscato got thrown overboard. He barely missed the rock itself as he plunged headlong into the cold waters of the Baltic.