“Now we test your mettle! Harpoons! We’re taking that beast home,” shouted Galain. He ran up the stairs to the bridge and grabbed the tiller, whirling it to the right. “Hard to Starboard!” he shouted above the racket. The giant booms on the sails swept across the decks. Sailors ducked as they went by, narrowly missing several. “We’re coming about! Get that canvas down, move quickly men!”
Franks, who never made it down to sick bay, ran forward to the harpoon launcher mounted on the forecastle deck. He stuffed a harpoon from the rack into the barrel and cranked it back, blood running freely down his back. Salt spray from being broad-side in the current washed over him repeatedly. Demitri shouted orders, and the crew moved to act on them as one well oiled machine. Captain Jean Galain was proud of his men.
The Narume disappeared underwater just as the last sailor climbed down out of the rigging. With the canvas secured, Galain locked the wheel that controlled the rudder. La Chance de la Mer was unique, When Jean Galain captured the ship from the Mooredand Empire, he added a level on the back of the ship, three steps up from the poop deck, shaped like the tail of a whale. Massive aft cannons adorned each corner, and right beside each cannon was a harpoon rig. The harpoons in the back were designed for boarding, their tips were grappling hooks. The hooks folded backward during flight, but sprung forward when the rope was pulled taut, locking the spear in place. His men could then cross the rope onto an enemy ship. If he shot the Narume with one of those harpoons, the massive beast would pull his ship backward through the current. The water pressure on the flat rear of the ship would be catastrophic. Instead, Galain loaded the starboard side aft gun with a powder charge and shoved a twelve pound ball into the barrel and waited for the creature to surface.
The hide of a Narume was more valuable than any other part. Galain needed it largely intact. His aim would have to be perfect. Galain waited.
“Run out the sweeps!” shouted Demitri. Galain felt the portholes open belowdecks, and heard the long wooden oars slide out. “Come about! Hard Starboard! Keep us facing into the current!” Down below, a slow drum beat started, keeping pace for the men. With the ship running along with the current, being swept northward, there was almost no noise. Every boot on the deck could be heard. The crew waited for the next time the Narume surfaced.
“Narume! Port Aft,” called the watch, high up in the crow’s nest atop the main mast. Galain swore under his breath.
“Come about, hard to starboard!” The oars on the port side started rowing forward, while those on the starboard rowed backwards, spinning the ship in the current. With no sails raised, wind-sheer was much less of a factor. Galain watched as the whale came into range of his gun. “Hold,” he ordered, followed by, “Silence!”
The men used the sweeps to keep the ship oriented cross-current while Galain waited for the creature to move. “Come on, show me your head,” he muttered.
“Demitri, prepare the harpoon. I don’t want to loose this thing. As soon as I confirm the shot, spear it. We’ll have to tow it to shore as quickly as possible. If it sinks, it’ll drag us down with it!”
His first mate loaded the starboard harpoon and secured the rope. Still Galain waited with the creature in his sights. Finally, a giant spout of water erupted, marking the sleek black whale’s blow-hole. The Captain fired the cannon. Blood erupted from the creature. “Hit! Fire Harpoon!”
Demitri pulled the lever releasing the spear. It flew in a long, lazy arc, trailing the rope behind it. The Narume rolled over enough for Galain to spot a hole in it’s head, just in front of it’s blow hole. The harpoon struck the beast just behind the dorsal, impaling half it’s length into the monster.
“Sweeps! Hard Port! Take us to shore all speed ahead!” called Galain. The drum beat intensified, and the ship lurched forward. “Hoist the mainsail! Raise the mizzen!” He shouted, calling for the main and rearward sail to be raised, and men scurried to work. The main sail caught the wind and luffed, flapping in the cross breeze.
Just then, the giant creature seemed to come alive. It rolled back over and flipped it’s tail, smacking the water, and sliding beneath it’s surface. Galain and Demitri watched the point where the rope met the water coming closer and closer.
“Captain! He’s going under!”
“All hands, brace for impact!” The captain looked out across the deck. If the creature came out on the other side of the boat, he could spin them around, or, worst case he could flip the boat end over end. Franks was running towards him. Down the forecastle steps, across the deck. He was under the mainsail when Galain saw he was trailing a rope behind him. “Franks you fucking idiot!” he shouted, but the man was undeterred. Galain would have him flayed alive for this.
Franks launched himself up the stairs towards the poop deck. “Sorry Sir, no time!” he yelled as he passed the captain, who was wildly spinning the tiller trying to turn the ship enough that the beast didn’t capsize the craft. He tied the end of his rope to the rope connecting the whale to the ship, and then pulled out his knife and started sawing at Demitri’s rope. Franks had tied the beast to the front harpoon mount. If they could get the rope overboard in time, the creature would just end up towing them, rather than flipping them.
Franks sawed violently with his knife. Galain knew he wasn’t going to make it in time, the spot where the rope met the water was rapidly approaching the back of the ship. Galain dove for the rope, drawing his sword as he flew towards his crewman. The rope pulled taught, pinning Franks to the railing of the ship. Galain saw him frantically sawing as he brought his sword down, but neither of them were quick enough. The rope cut Franks in half, pinned against the railing.
The entire ship shuddered under the force of the beast pulling the rear of the ship underwater. Galain’s sword cut the rope, causing the ship to lurch back to it’s natural position, launching several men a dozen feet into the air. The rope zinged along the railing towards the front . Just as the flying men hit the deck, the boat shot forward, being towed towards the lee current by the giant sea creature. Franks was still holding on to the rope, guiding it over the railing when his torso was dragged overboard into the current.
The Narume dragged the ship south for several leagues. The vessel creaked and groaned under the strain. Demitri shouted to be heard over the roaring sea, “Captain! She can’t take this! The strain is too much, we have to cut the beast free!”
“She’ll hold, Demitri. La Chance has never let us down.” The captain worked his way the length of the tossing and turning ship. When he reached the stairs to the forcastle deck, the ship stopped suddenly, throwing him to the deck. Galain scrambled to his feet and half climbed, half crawled the stairs. The Narume was floating on the current at the end of the rope.
“Bring us alongside, Port side! Ready port guns one and two! Make haste!”
The crew below-decks began paddling, steering the ship towards the creature. Galain loaded another harpoon into the front launcher. There was no more rope to attach the harpoon, he was getting desperate. He hoped he could hit something vital with the spear. La Chance moved deftly beside the giant whale. Galain waited. They had one more shot.
“Guns one and two, ready Captain!” he heard the call from below.
“Prepare to fire, aim for the head,” he replied, and waited with his own Harpoon. Closer and closer, the crew pulled the sweeps in, now too close tot he beast to use them, relying on their momentum to carry them the last twenty feet.
“Fire one!” he called. The cannon reported, rocking the ship slightly. The cannon ball hit the water just beside the exhausted Narume, causing it to roll away. The creature opened it’s mouth and started turning towards the ship. It could easily fit the underside of La Chance in it’s mouth. Rows of gleaming white, sharp teeth shone in the afternoon sun. Galain fired his spear, aiming for the exposed eyeball, but the creature rolled and the spear fell short. “Fire two!”
The second cannon was spot on. The giant Narume rolled belly up and was still. Galain, looking at the mangled head of the creature knew they had won. He was proud of his crew. They’d lost a good man, and this magnificent creature had given it’s life to him, and he aimed to make sure none of it went to waste.
He looked down at the lifeless whale. “Thank you, beast, for the shelter, food, and fuel you will bring to me and my people. Your sacrifice is not in vain. We will sing songs of this day.” After a brief pause, Galain looked to his first mate. “Demitri, get us to shore. Time is short. I’m ordering every ship in our fleet here.”
“Sir, as you command. A great battle was waged and won. You have earned the respect of every man on the ship yet again,” Demitri replied.
“And Franks earned mine. Please see his remains to sick bay. When the Narume is butchered and loaded, we’ll see to it that he gets a proper return.” Galain retreated to his quarters to begin messaging his fleet.