The Emerald Storm

Free The Emerald Storm by Michael J. Sullivan

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Authors: Michael J. Sullivan
nodded to his first officer.
    “Take her out, Mister Bishop.”
    “Raise anchor!” Bishop bellowed. “Wheel hard over!”
    Hadrian found a place among those at the capstan and pushed against the wooden spokes, rotating the large spool that lifted the anchor from the bottom of the harbor. With the anchor broken out, the wheel hard over, and the forecastle hands drawing at the headsail sheets, the Emerald Storm brought her bow around. As she gained steerage, she moved away from the dock and into the clear of the main channel, and the rigging crew dropped the remaining sails. The great canvasses quivered and flapped, snapping in the wind like three violent white beasts.
    “Hands to the braces!” Mister Temple barked, and the men took hold of the ropes, pulling the yards around until they caught the wind. The sails plumed full as the sea breeze stretched them taut, and Hadrian could feel the deck lurch beneath his feet as the Emerald Storm slipped forward through the water, rudder balanced against sail-pressure.
    They traveled down the coast, passing farmers and workers who paused briefly to look at the handsome vessel flying by. At the helm, Wyatt spun the wheel steering steadily out to sea. The men on the braces trimmed the yards so not a sail fluttered and sending the ship dashing through the waves as she raced from shore.
    “Course sou’east by south, sir,” Wyatt updated Temple, who repeated the statement to the lieutenant, who repeated it to the captain, who in turn nodded his approval.
    The men at the capstan dispersed, leaving Hadrian looking around for something to do. Royce descended to the deck beside him, neither one certain of his duty now that the ship was under way. It did not matter much as the lieutenant, the captain, and Temple were all busy on the quarterdeck. The other hands moved casually now, cleaning up the rigging, finishing the job of stowing the supplies, and generally settling in.
    “Why didn’t we ever consider sailing?” Hadrian asked Royce as he moved to the side and faced the wind. “When we were trying to find new professions, that is.” He took a deep, satisfying breath and smiled. “This is nice. A lot better than a sweaty, fly-plagued horse—and look at the land go by! How fast do you think we’re going?”
    “The fact that we’re trapped here, with no chance of retreat except into the ocean, doesn’t bother you?”
    Hadrian glanced over the side at the heaving waves. “Well, not until now. Why do you always have to ruin everything? Couldn’t you let me enjoy the moment?”
    “You know me, just trying to keep things in perspective.”
    “Our course is south, southeast. Any clue where we might be going?”
    Royce shook his head. “It only means we aren’t invading Melengar, but we could be headed just about anyplace else.”
    Someone arriving deck side caught his attention, “Who’s this now?”
    A man in red and black appeared from below and climbed the stair to the quarterdeck. He stood out from the rest of the crew by virtue of his pale skin and silken vestments, which were far too elegant for the setting and whipped about like streamers at a fair. He moved hunched over, his slumped shoulders reminded Hadrian of a crow shuffling along a branch. He sported a mustache and short goatee. His dark hair, combed back, emphasized a dramatically receding hairline.
    “Broken-crown crest,” Hadrian noted. “Seret.”
    “Red cassock,” Royce added. “Sentinel.”
    “At least he’s not Luis Guy. It’d be pretty hard to hide on a ship this size.”
    “If it was Guy,” Royce smiledue of kedly, “we wouldn’t need to hide.”
    Hadrian noticed Royce’s glance over the side of the ship at the water that foamed and churned as it rushed past.
    “If a sentinel is on board,” Royce continued, “we can assume there are seret as well. They never travel alone.”
    “Maybe below.”
    “Maybe disguised in the crew,” Royce cautioned.
    To starboard, a sailor dropped his

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