“Captain, the sail!”
Victor snapped around and swore when he saw it. The edge of the storm sail thrashed viciously, the line tethering it snapped. “Hold her steady!” The sky raged above, near black with the swirling of hurricane clouds.
Wood strained beneath his feet. Victor clutched onto the starboard railing as he staggered his way down the deck, keeping low as the ship lurched forward. The icy spray of the sea showered over him, stinging at his eyes and biting his skin.
As the ship dropped with crash of the wave beneath, Victor leapt across, seizing onto the rope whipping in the harsh storm winds. The muscles in his arms screamed as he fought the power of the elements, rope burning his palms as he heaved himself up, quickly rethreading the sail. A moment later and one of the deckhands slammed against his side, yelling as he grabbed at the rope to help secure it.
The swell of the waves rose over the height of their masts, but the wind caught the storm sail, sending them over before it crested.
All around them, the ocean stormed, rain cutting like daggers across his skin. Behind the helm, Victor could see Georgi attempting to keep the ship steady, driving them over the top of the waves. They climbed slow and dropped fast, at the mercy of the sea’s violent temper.
Victor heard the thunder before he could attempt to maneuver back to the wheel. The dark sky was void of the flash of lightening, but the thunder kept sounding, booming over the bow of the ship. It struck straight through his chest, the vibrations clamoring through his ribcage and Victor knew what it was before he saw them.
His warning was mute against roar of the storm, the thunder of their wings. The wind filling the sails went still, the ship’s momentum ceasing. A wave crashed against them the same moment that they descended, piercing through the black of the storm clouds. A murder of harpies, circling the ship like the swirl of the hurricane.
Their screeches flooded the ship, ear-splitting. Half-human, half-birds, and unlike the allure born by sirens, they were repulsive. Legs of a vulture, arms absent for wings. The stench of their feathers fouled the air, warning of the death they brought with them.
The first struck his shoulder and sent him reeling, falling fast to the deck. Victor rolled before it could grab him, its claws smashing into the wood beside his head. His pistol was drawn and fired into its chest without aim, harpy’s harsh shriek exploding with a spray of feathers and blood.
The second seized onto his arm, bared teeth flashing in his eyes in the moment before he ducked his head. The knife strapped on the inside of his boot was in his palm as its nails sunk into his flesh, the sea-soaked fabric of his clothing staining red. Victor yelled as he sliced through its claw, pitching forward to slam the creature against mast rigging, sword driven through its heart.
At the helm, he glimpsed Georgi firing on more, one arm attempting to keep the ship steady from the pounding of the waves. At the stern, a harpy hurled one of his crewmen off the side of the ship, body limp like a rag and lost to the sea. Victor shouted, the second pistol off his sash useless as the shot missed, hardly clipping a bloodied wing.
The harpy’s angry screech ripped at his ears, its force making him stumble. Another wave sent him off balance, tripping into the grip of the harpy swooping in.
Victor threw up his arms to protect himself, but he never collided with it. Right before his eyes, the harpy’s face twisted with a scream, spine arching as Yuuri tore the wings off its back. The siren’s eyes were as red as the splash of blood coating his claws, dripping as he tossed the harpy aside.
Yuuri’s wings were full and bold, spread grand in battle. His skin was stained near completely black, feathers bristling from his arms and legs.
Three more harpies fell to his hands as easily as if they had been gulls, others fleeing when they glimpsed the siren. Yuuri’s wings cut through the air, through the harpies still spiraling above the ship, before his voice pierced through the deafening roar of the storm.
Time itself seemed to stand still, the wind dead, waves calmed until the moment in which Yuuri’s cry disbursed. Fierce faces contoured, the harpies’ eyes settled on the siren as the thunderous beat of the wings bore down.
Yuuri spoke no command, spreading his wingspan over the center of the ship. The harpies scattered.
Then the sea slammed against the ship and Yuuri’s arm wrapped around Victor before he could be thrown into it, holding him tight to the siren’s side as he flew. Victor buried himself into Yuuri and the silk of feathers all around him.
Yuuri set Victor back behind the helm, wings encircling him in a brief embrace. Victor did not miss the brush of Yuuri’s hand through his hair, lips catching against the side of his face. The siren was gone again in the second that followed, leaving Victor to fight the fading of the storm with two words whispered sweet to his captain.