Pass The Pen
Chapter Twenty - Six: The Raging Storm: Fury
by M. Michelle

 

Archie Kennedy's face blanched paler than the fog itself as those words
struck terror like a spear straight into the very center of his soul.
"S-Soleil Royal...?" he whispered. He clutched the taffrail until his
fingers turned white. "God save us from a fate such as hers! How could
she be back, that ship was burned years ago!" He clung to his perch and
wailed, deep gutteral groans.

Pellew shot a glare over. "Do contain yourself, Mr Kennedy!" he shouted
and returned to his spyglass. "She gone," he murmured and shook his head
slowly, his jaw clenched. "Damn, how could she escape? What a rotten
time for this -- Mr Stanson!" he called down. "Get those men to work!
Prepare to fire on my mark! Mr Bowles, set the main'sl! after her, I do
not want to lose her. I shall pursue her to the very gates of hell if I
must!"

"Aye aye sir!"

The waves crashed up against the hull, timbers creaked, the masts moaned.
Again, the waves crashed up, a violent blow against the Indefatigable as
the sky began to thicken blacker, darker, looming around them, a boiling,
raging sea of death. The salty spray hissed; Pellew cursed and crossed
the quarterdeck again. He ignored the wind as gusts suddenly grew
louder, stronger, beating against him, against the ship. Suddenly a gust
swept down on him. He spun; his body was slammed, thrown violently away
into the mast. Finally he noticed the boiling sky like a couldron of
black, a spiraling storm building...and terror burned through him. He
shrank back. Dark claws lashed out, a crack of lightning shot out and
above it, the wind screamed, wailed, howling with laughter.

Evil. Satan himself...fire was now lacing the clouds, the violent sea
had suddenly become blacker than the deepest night.

"**God preserve us**!!!" Kennedy shrieked, curled like an infant around
himself, hiding from the face of this black wrath.

His scream was deafened by another blinding crack of lightning shooting
straight down, in a split second-crack, splitting the topmast of the
mainsail. The timbers fells into the waters, flaming shards raining
down, as with a groan, suddenly the topmast fell toward the deck. Men
screamed and jumped, framed only as dark figures before fire. "Secure
the sails!!" Pellew shouted, drowned out by another hideous crack of
lightning. Something cracked into the hull, rocks.

"It's a trap!!!" Bowles cried. "It's leadin' us into the shoal!"

A spire of rock shot through the indy's hull and threw Pellew's body
back again as the earth and sea together split wide open.

*

Shelley was up first, ahead of Hornblower, to the taffrail, fighting to
keep his balance as the ship swayed dangerously the roiling sea. Despite
the bullets lacing the planks from their French pirate pursuants, he
risked a glance out. "The Indy's in trouble!" Hornblower cried from
beside him.

"What's happening?" Bracegirdle called, jumping out of hiding to join
them, if less coordinated.

Shelley narrowed his eyes, trying to see what he had caught a glimpse of
through the fog. Rain pelted down on them, soaking through them; the
assassin jumped up onto the rail, a rope clenched tight in his fist. His
body was thrown about with the ship, but he held on. He was certain he'd
seen her...that ship... "I'm not sure!" he shouted. Suddenly, French
pirates scurried up behind them, rains of pistolballs exploded into
timber. He jabbed another finger in the opposite direction to Hornblower
and Bracegirdle. "Get back into hiding you idiots!"

Hornblower jumped and rolled, shoving Bracegirdle out of the way of a
spray of bullets as the ship swayed. They both slid down the rain-slick
deck planks toward the aft barrels of supplies rolling about. Morton
Shelley leaped straight toward the French pirates as the ship rocked to a
dangerous angle. He was thrown from his leap off balance; the ship
tilted once again. Thunder boomed and cracked above, more shot of
furious Frogs cursing in French plunked into the wood.

What had he been thinking?! This was utter madness!!

Shelley rolled up off his side and scrambled against the groaning ship's
tipping and rolling away toward a gaping hole in the La Morte Noire's
deck timbers. Thunder cracked, lightning shrieked from the sky; he
jumped again. This time his body slammed against something hard, he spun
and dived through the hole in the planks. He crashed into one of the
schooner's cargo holds. **Blast it, where are Mr Hornblower and Mr
Bracegirdle!** Mr Hornblower had taken a fancy to leaving at the worst
possible moment! The man cursed quietly.

Shelley curled his smaller frame into a hole between crates and barrels
of supplies, breathing hard, daring not to make a sound in the black
confines of the hold. French pirates shouted to each other above. He
glanced up through the hole and watched one of them, someone he had
forgotten since his time aboard this ship, jab his finger in multiple
directions. The men split up and left the hole. The assassin could just
barely breathe a sigh of relief. He glanced down, at the deck, and froze
in the tight corner.

He heard something. Sharp, a rustle, fabric. Boots plunked against
boards slowly, uneven steps. The hold creaked under the weight of
someone. Another man was here. Here, in this hold.

Morton Shelley crouched back behind the stores and narrowed his eyes in
the darkness. He flexed his right wrist and pulled a small, silver tool
from it's hiding place strapped to his wrist under the black sleeve with
the same hand. He clenched his fist around the instrument and peered
through the crates. He could see nothing. No...wait. A shadow. He
ducked back behind the crate to avoid being seen and slipped his left
hand down into his boot, very slowly pulling a dagger from its ankle
sheath. He waited, tense. No French man should find him and kill him,
not until he took as many of them as he could with him.

The footsteps crept closer. The deck planks creaked and moaned as the
ship pitched and rolled. Shelley could hear the man's breathing now,
panting, laborious. Very familiar...

The assassin shuddered and slipped through the stacks of stores. It was
still darker, colder than it should rightly feel. Black as death. He
could not see his opponent.

Neither man made any more sound. Shelley's pulse quickened; he tensed as
he thought he felt something dark, cold, brush bare inches from his
shoulder. There was more than dark Frenchmen here aboard this ship, it
would seem. Somekind of devilry was at work in control of this storm.
Shelley risked a glance upward at the roiling black storm, the steel gray
clouds growing darker, more rain starting to pelt the deck.
Very slowly, the assassin climbed atop a stack of crates. He dreaded
seeking the face of his pursuant, but some part of him drew him up the
stores to the top. A sense he'd never known in all his life speared him.
Mortal terror. Steeling himself, Morton Shelley leaned over the edge of
the crate...

*

"Cast away! Take up oars! Get her out of these rocks!"

"Stay the mainsail!"

More water crashed up onto the timbers, washed over the deck. More
lightning cracked, the Indefatigable pitched against the rocks at a
dangerous angle. She creaked and groaned as her planks were being forced
to split at the seams, the wood starting to swell within her hull.
Pellew gripped a flapping rope, severed from the mast by one of the ghost
ship's shots. He pulled himself up and raced toward the quarterdeck once
more. His feet slipped against the wet wood, sliding back as she pitched
again.

Waves crashed, wind screeched in the rigging, the storm drew as black as
night. A cold, foul wind of evil. Silently he cursed and prayed
together. "Blast it all, where is Mr Kennedy!" he shouted. His voice
was drowned, more waves smashed up against The Indefatigable's hull.
Pellew anchored himself to the mainmast, straining not to be thrown into
the roiling sea. More cannon shots fired, splitting open the storm.
Shots plunked around them into a hissing sea, foam rose and swept over
the Indy, the rain thickened. "Bowles!"

"Aye sir!" Bowles scrambled for a foothold, clinging to the railing.

Pellew spun and fell back to the rail beside the other man. "Get the men
to fire on that ship, we cannot let her finish us off!" More rocks
crunched into her hull, they no longer rolled lodged at a perilous angle.

"We've run aground, cap'n!" someone screamed.

"Prepare to fire starboard side on my mark!"

More shots from the Soleil Royal screamed overhead into the deck from the
fog, rapid fire.

"Damn! My *God* she's close!" Blinding rain was coming down in sheets.
Captain Pellew gripped the rope tight enough to turn his knuckles white.
"**Fire**!!!" Shots poured forth from the Indefatigable into the fog
toward the flashes of fire.

A lieutenant scrabbled down, thunder rumbled above and another flash of
lightning struck the topmast. "Sir! The Noire!" a cry came down.
Cannonballs tore into the deck once more, sending splinters flying, men
screaming. The Indy rocked and groaned, pitching the other way slowly.
Pellew slid down toward the choppy waves, anchored only by his grasp on a
rope. He turned and caught the sight of her -- the French schoooner was
heading straight for them.

"My *God*!"

*

Morton Shelley saw nothing at first, but someone was there. He felt
nervously blinded by this darkness, more vulnerable than he had possibly
in his entire life. He crept through the top crates, judging by feel the
distances between them. The ship rolled, he gasped and his foot kicked a
barrel off the tops of the stores. He spun, eyes flashed up at him,
staring at him, burning into him. Lightning flashed above and lit up the
figure of a man, the man crashed into the barrels, toppling the stacks
under Shelley's body.

Shelley hurdled up from the crates up toward the hole in the ceiling,
desperate to get away. For the first time in his life, he spun and fled
as the darkness slammed into slow-motion. His body felt thirty times its
weight; he forced each muscle fiber to move across the stores. Ramangard
spat vile curses curses and jumped up toward him, snatching at his foot.
He kicked; his boot hit the French pirate captain's chest and shoved him
back. Ramangard toppled, an ear-splitting scream piercing the black hold
as a lantern crashed into the hold from Ramangard's hand.. The assasin
didn't wait a breath. In a heartbeat, he kicked other crates down and
leaped up toward the hole...he'd never make the distance-

His blody slammed against the ceiling, he scrabbled for a handhold onto
the ripped edge of the deck. The ship pitched again with another crack
of lightning above; his grip on the timber slipped. He clambered up to
grasp onto the edge of the hole with one hand. The bastard's curses came
from beneath him in the darkness. The bowels of the ship burst into
flame as the lantern struck kerosine, the man's eyes caught him again.
Above, men screamed and run and shouted orders, fighting to keep the ship
from crashing against the shoal. Flames licked the stores below.

Ramangard fired a pistol, the shot tore into the back of Shelley's hand.
The smaller man shouted and collapsed to the hold below. The weapon in
his hand skittered away into the darkness.

Morton Shelley's body crashed through broken crates and supply barrels to
the deck. He looked up... couldn't see...instinct felt the impending
weight crashing down on top of him. He rolled out of the way as
Ramangard leaped for him, scarmbling to his feet. In a split-second, the
pirate captain had hold of his heel, throwing him back to the deck. He
crashed into more empty storage crates, barely able to glimspe his
attacker's shadow in the eerie light of the flames. Shelley spun on
deck; Ramangard pounced, slamming blows across his face.

Shelley scrabbled his fingers into the man's face, twisting, fighting
against the weight pinning him down. He wrenched his arm free and
snapped back the captain's neck, for a killing blow. Ramanagard spit and
slammed harder blows into Shelley's head, he heard a crack in his own
skull, reality spun, he tasted blood. Ramangard attacked harder, insane
murdering fury. The ship rolled, timbers crashed down from the flames
onto the pirate's body. The man shouted and cursed; the space was enough
to roll away. **Damn it, where it Mr Hornblower?!**

Shelley coughed, spitting blood into the darkness, the world spinning,
the...flames... He staggered back against the hull, Ramangard brought up
his pistol to bear. Flames flickered across his face, something colder
than lead burned in the smaller man's heart. Shelley let out a battle
cry and leaped from the shadows. He attacked. Ramangard collapsed under
him, Shelley was aleardy aiming for a lethal blow. The pistol flung away
into the blackness, Shelley kicked it into the flames with his boot.
Ramangard tackled him, the two men rolled onto the deck, in a growing
puddle of kerosine, hands scrambling for purchase, slamming blows,
lashing out, each to kill one another. Shelley tried for weapons, each
time Ramangard caught him.

Ramangard tackled Shelley again; he was prepared. The assassin caught
the man's foot, threw him off, and he leaped again, onto Ramangard. The
captain returned the blows, wrestling him down. The hold exploded around
them as the flames burned through the magazine wall. Ceiling timbers
crashed upon them, flaming debris rained down. The deck began to give
way above them. Flames licked higher, burning the shadows. Fire caught
on Ramangard's shirt; he screamed and fought to stop it. Shelley quickly
rolled away across the deck and up to his feet. He heard a creaking,
crashing, and risked up a glance. Timber and a support beam gave way in
the flames, smashing down.

Shelley yelped and jumped out of the fire's path. He tucked and rolled
into a corner. Flames grazed his bleeding skin from where the shirt had
been torn.

**The knife!** He glanced around him in the flaming hold. He couldn't
see it.

More support beams crashed down onto the two men. Shelley ducked into
the corner. Ramangard cried out in pain, ripping off his fire-covered
shirt. Shelley risked a glance up to the hole out of the hold, the only
way of escape now. He raced for the gap, but Ramangard saw him again.

More flaming shards fell, the smoke thickened around them. The larger
man was fast, tackling him down again before he could climb up the
burning crates. Shelley shouted his own curses, kicking at his
attacker's face. "You fool! We'll die in here!" he shouted over the
burning debris raining around them.

*

Horatio sprang out of hiding onto the deck. "Stay here, Mr Hornblower,
that's an order!" Bracegirdle barked after him.

Hornblower ignored him, skidding out into plain view. He spun and stared
out through the black fog...and he saw her. The Indefatigable! **She's
washed up against the rocks!** the French pirates rushed up behind him,
firing off a spray of bullets that dug into the wood. He jumped, the
shots tore into the place he'd been standing. Horatio jumped again,
tucking, and rolled into hiding behind a few supply barrels on deck.

He spun and looked out once more. If the Indy's crew didn't dislodge her
soon, the Royal was going to finish her.

*

"I don't care!!! Better to die and take you with me!! You murdered my
cousin!! I'm going to introduce you to him!!" Fists slammed into
Shelley's face, his side, against one of the cracked ribs. He gasped in
pain, couldn't breathe...! Smoke filled his lungs. He coughed, his
lungs screaming for oxygen.

Shelley prayed for self control. "Oh, of all the stupid-!" Now he knew
why he didn't like getting involved in family matters. He cried out in
frustration and twisted his body mostly free. He slammed his leg up and
snapped back Ramangard's head. The pirate's yelp was cut short, then man
lay stunned. Morton Shelley stood and watched with horror the crates
giving away under the flames. He spun back around and drew out the cable
from his sleeve. In split-second, he shoved Ramangard out of the path of
fire and snapped the cable around his neck, forcing the pirate captain to
his feet.

Ramangard struggled until Shelley drew the cord tighter. His body
stilled. The assassin, ex-Britishman leaned in close next to his ear.
"You don't want to die yet, Ramangard. I don't know why I'm saving your
life," he growled and spat blood away into the fire licking toward their
feet. "Except that I need you to command this hulk. There's hundreds of
lives at stake, and your men, and you, so get your carcass through that
hole, you hear me?!"

The pirate captain gasped, grasping at the cord around his windpipe.
Shelley turned his face away and coughed as more smoke billowed around
them. The final supports creaked and groaned, straining to fall and
crush the two men. Their eyes met; they both stared at the ceiling, and
Ramangard nodded. Morton Shelley grabbed the cable like a collar around
a dog's neck, and sprinted for the collapsing crates. Ramangard screamed
and hid his face against the wall of flames. Shelley dragged him through
into the corner. Above thunder rumbled, lightning flashed. Another keg
of gunpowder exploded. He shoved Ramangard down and covered his face
with his arm against the sparks.

The hold was spinning now, the flames licking, the world fading. Shelley
choked, his lungs aching for more oxygen. Some part of his mind
whispered past the pain-filled delirium. **The magazine is going to
explode. Get out!**

This time it was Ramangard who grabbed his torn shirt and forced Shelley
out with him. He threw the smaller man up onto the toppling crates and
jumped up after him. Shelley covered his nose and mouth with the cloth
of his shirt and reached down to pull the heavy pirate captain up with
him. The crates creaked and groaned, flames licking higher. He could
feel the boards giving way under their combined weight.

"You'll be the death of us!" Ramangard shouted vile curses and attacked
Shelley once more, his fingers clawing for pruchase. The assassin kicked
the man back, knocking down an empty barrel that fell, consumed by the
flames that crept higher and higher.

"Idiot!!" Shelley twisted around and slammed his arm down onto the back
of Ramangard's neck. The heavy man's body fell limp on top of him.
Shelley cursed softly and kicked Ramangard off. Shelley snapped back the
cable and risked a look above.

--The barrels and stores groaned and swayed under his feet--

Shelley shook his head at and dragged Ramangard with him. He threw out
the cable; it fell back. He tried again, and this time it snapped
against something solid. Muttering all the way, he dragged himself up
slowly toward the hole, one arm around the bigger man's chest.

--wood creaked, cracking--

*

Hornblower heard the explosion and dived for cover. French pirates
shouted and scurried to the deck pumps, racing for buckets of water to
put out the fire. Horatio pushed himself up to his feet once more and
stared up at the masts swaying dangerously above. They wouldn't last for
long with another strike of lightning. But... there was a chance... He
looked out toward the fighting Indefatigable and circling ghost ship, and
he suddenly remembered something. He spun and raced out onto the deck.
"Mr Bracegirdle!"

Bracegirdle was already helping the men put out the fire. All enemies
and wars had been called off in the fight to save the La Morte Noire.
Flaming shreds of sails fell onto the deck from the masts, drowned by the
rain. Horatio skidded across the deck, his feet slipping.

In the distance, he could hear the rumble of cannon fire. A shot
screamed overhead, he slipped and fell to the deck. Hornblower scrambled
back up and raced across the deck through torrents of water. He jumped
the last few feet and landed beside three French pirates, all barking
orders in French. Lieutenant Bracegirdle grasped a bucket of water,
throwing it over the smoke coming from the hold. Horatio braced himself
against the capstan. "Mr Bracegirdle!" he shouted over the storm. "I
just remembered! I have an idea sir!"

Bracegirdle grasped another bucket, throwing another one to the pirates.
"Keep the water coming! Not now, Mr Hornblower!!"

The Noire pitched up and rocked dangerously in the chopping waves. Water
crashed up against the hull. "Sir!" Horatio braced against the side
railing. "We can still save the Indefatigable! All we have to do-" The
ship rocked and groaned, thunder drowned him out. "All we have to do is
to turn the ship around and sail her into the Soleil Royal!" he shouted
once more.

The men scrambled and fought to put out the fire, another explosion sent
them tumbling to the deck. Bracegirdle fell back against Horatio, and
lay there for a moment, then nodded once, jumping back up to clumsily
help the men. "Very good indeed, Mr Hornblower. Blast it all, where is
that man Mr Shelley! Brought us to our death he has! Plan B!"

"Yes sir!" Horatio jumped away, across the rolling deck toward the
ladder up to the quarterdeck.

"H-Hornblower-!" a voice croaked out from a small distance away. Horatio
slipped on the planks, grasping a rope to hold himself upright. He
glanced around. Where had the voice come from? The man coughed and
another explosion came from the bowels of them ship. Then he saw him.
Mr Shelley hung from the edge of a hold in the deck, another man tucked
under his arm. Flames licked up around him.

Horatio slid back down the deck, the Noire groaned under them. He
slipped and rolled, until he caught himself against the grating and
thrust out a hand, grasping Shelley's just as the cable holding the
mansnapped. He pulled him up, straining to help both Shelley and the
other man, whom he recognized as Ramangard. He didn't have time to ask
questions now. "Mr Shelley! Grab my hand!"

"No! We cannot kill Ramangard, he's the only hope of surviving we have!"

"Now is not the time to fight!" Horatio shouted, flushing red with anger.
He had no patience. With every second, those shots firing in the
distance would come closer to destroying the Indefatigable.

"Him first!" The blood-covered Shelley anchored himself against the
sides of the hole and shoved Ramangard. Horatio grasped the man's jacket
and pulled him reluctantly out on the deck. The crates below crashed
beneath Shelley's body and the smaller man leaped, catching the sides of
the hold, and levered himself up just as the flames exploded throught he
hold and consumed where he had been. Horatio grasped his hand and both
men toppled to the deck. The Noire swayed, more waves crashing up its
sides.

Hornblower didn't bother to help the man. He scrambled to his feet and
fought the rocking ship toward the ladder once more. He had to reach
that wheel and turn her toward the Royal. That was their only chance.
"Come on!" he ordered. Shelley hesitated a moment and quickly followed
him as Horatio grasped the rungs of the ladder-stairs and strained his
arms to pull himself up onto the quarterdeck.

"What are we doing, Hornblower?!" he shouted out after him.
"*My* plan! We are going to turn her into that ghost ship! Or have you
never heard of fire and spirit!" Horatio called back, racing across the
back toward the wheel.

Shelley stumbled next to him against the cabin as the Noire rocked again;
they traded glances. A strange light of excitement burned in Shelley's
eyes, recognition.

The two men leaped as one the final distance to the aft rudder. Horatio
grasped the wheel. With his unbloodied hand, Shelley pulled on the rope
that anchored the wheel in one position. It wouldn't budge. Horatio
grasped the rope. "Pull the wheel as far this way as you can!" he
called. The other man obeyed. Horatio silently prayed, something he
never thought he'd ever do in his lifetime. Both men groaned with
effort, as the loop of rope slowly began to budge.

*

Archie Kennedy uncurled from hiding and scampered across the deck to help
the men with the oars trying to push the Indefatigable free. Another
good shot like the last one from the right side, and they'd be loose from
the rocks. Another good shot from the Soleil Royal, and they wouldn't
have a prayer. "Over 'ere! Help!" Matthews called.

Kennedy grasped the heavy wood in his hands and shoved with all his
might. Men groaned, backs strained. More thunder rumbled. Archie
glanced up at the thickening black sky. Some terror gripped him. This
could be no ordinary storm. He had heard of these before. Whenever a
ghost ship was seen, to follow it was to run to death, so the stories
went. Somehow, some evil force wanted them destroyed. **We should never
have followed the Soleil Royal! I knew it!** he moaned to himself.

"Come on! Put some back into it!" one of the officers shouted, fighting
to anchor an oar against the rocks and pull it slowly. The wood creaked
and groaned, waves crashing up to drown the deck and the men onboard.

The Indefatigable groaned.

**Horatio...where is Horatio?** he wondered. Sweat poured down his face.
The ship's hull began to budge again.

"*Fire*!"

The cannons exploded on the side, sending the ship rocking. Wind wailed
through the Indy's rigging, her death cry. "God save us..." Archie
whispered, closing his eyes.

"Sir! She's got us sir!"

Kennedy pulled against the oar, she budged. The men twisted them free
and shoved against the rocks. The Indefatigable leaned unstable,
groaning, tilting slowly back toward the dark waves. **Horatio. What
would he do? What would he...?** "Matthews!"

"Sir! The Noire!" someone shouted to Pellew. Archie turned and
looked...she was headed straight for them. He couldn't believe their
fortune. Surely they couldn't fight two ships, not with the damage
already done to the Indefatigable! Archie's heart sank.

*
Sweat dribbled down Horatio's forehead as he fought to pull the rope from
the spoke of the wheel. He pulled, Shelley shoved, and Hornblower slowly
slid the loop up the wood. If they stayed their present course, they
would go right into the rocks themselves, straight for the Indefatigable.
The anchor had been severed so they could no longer stop the ship. A
crack of lightning split the clouds, severing the ship's topmost spire
from the mast and sending it, burning, into the sea. **Just
another...few...millimeters...**

From below, Bracegirdle's voice called out orders. "Leave the fire, it's
too far gone! Prepare to abandon ship!"

Hornblower pulled with all his might. Suddenly, the rope snapped off the
wheel, and the rudder wrenched sideways, crashing both men to the
quarterdeck. The Noire groaned as it leaned into the sea. Horatio
scrambled up from the deck and pulled the wheel back the other direction.
It shrieked, wood creaking, protesting as he and Shelley pulled it back
with combined strength. Horatio finally gripped it and shook his head
sharply to the other man. "Mr Shelley! Go back below and get Ramangard
aboard a boat! Help Mr Bracegirdle! I have the wheel!"

The excitement-light in the assassin's eyes didn't fade. He jumped back
down the steps. "Hurry! The powder should have reached the magazine by
now!"

Horatio nodded, and wiped his forehead on the sleeve of his soaked
jacket. Hew attacked the wheel and sent the Noire's rudder turning
slowly, steering toward the ghost ship in the distance moving in toward
the Indefatigable for her final kill. "Just a few more seconds...a few
more..." he whispered, hoping his calculations were correct and the fire
hadn't quite reached the powder...

*

"Sir, she's turning!"

Archie raced to the port side and clasped the rail until his knuckles
were white. The La Morte Noire was turning not toward them, but toward
the Soleil Royal. Did that mean Horatio had the ship under his control?
Was it possible?

*

"A few more..." Horatio's voice pleaded, strained. He kept the Noire
moving in one direction, his feet braced against the rocking of the ship.
Rain poured down in torrents, men shouted below and scurried, launching
what boats they could.

The Soleil Royal was so close... Bare meters away...

*

Captain Pellew turned and pointed at the oars. "On my mark!" The men
pulled them back, the Indy groaned, slowly tipping down, sliding down the
rocks toward the deeper water. The Royal fired, balls of fire pouring
forth from the cannons onto the deck, whistling overhead. "Almost..." he
muttered, gripping the rail of the quarterdeck for stability.

The ship fired again, pouring shot into the Indy's deck once more. Men
screamed as splinters flew, racing to the guns. "Fire!" Bowles cried and
the port side of the Indefatigable unleashed its fury into the Soleil
Royal. The shots went straight through her as though she did not exist
and plunked into the churning water.

"**NOW!**"

The oars creaked and jutted up against the rocks, the force sending the
teetering frigate down the rocks back into the water. Waves crashed up
around the Indefatigable, she was hastily steered from the shoal. They
were free. The Soleil Royal turned after them... Pellew held his breath.
"Dear *God*..."

*

Horatio felt it more than he could see it, a split-second warning, he
gasped and scrambled off the deck.