“It’s no good, captain. They’ll be here any minute.”
Juan Diego tied off the line and turned to see the captain’s shoulders slump. “I’m sorry, lads,” the captain said quietly. “I’d hoped to get us close enough to land that some of you could swim for it.”
Juan couldn’t swim, but maybe he could have grabbed onto a barrel or board and paddled to shore. Now even that faint hope was gone. Juan traded glances with his fellow sailors and saw the death sentence no doubt present in his own gaze. Their only chance now was to kill enough pirates to be taken on as crew.
Juan would rather die. He drew his dagger—it was all he would have against the pirates’ cutlasses. He’d try to take at least one of the cold-hearted bastards with him.
The pirate ship drew close enough to pepper the merchant crew with musket fire. A sailor near Juan lost his nerve and jumped overboard, and Juan spared a moment to toss an empty wooden bucket after him. It was a cruel kindness, since it would likely result in the sailor dying of thirst, but it was the only one he could offer.
“Look over there!” one of Juan’s crewmates shouted, pointing at the stern.
A giant watery hummock was heading for the pirate ship. It was far bigger than their own seventy feet and much faster than their ship even under full sail. White water curled away from it as if anxious to avoid its path. The pirates had seen it, too, for now they were firing at this new threat.
Now the pirates were abandoning their ship, leaping over the sides. “Tighten those sails, lads,” snapped the captain. “I want us out of here so fast we leave our shadow behind.”
Juan heaved on his line, and the wind caught their sails, pulling them away, but slowly. They were far too sluggish to outrun the beast, but so far the monster had shown no interest in them.
The beast’s tail was now visible, and it slapped the waters with a mighty blow. The creature leapt through the waves to crash against the pirate ship, its fearsome jaw ripping a wide gash in the side on the way down.
A tearing sound filled Juan’s ears, but the cries of mortal terror on the pirate ship were drowned by shouts of joy from their own. “Leviathan, leviathan, leviathan,” his shipmates chanted.
And then the monster turned toward their ship.