As we pulled up alongside we heard more noise; the creaking of the vessel in the wind but also the distinct sound of movement on board. “There’s someone up there.” Buller grabbed a rope and secured our craft to the ship. Despite the earlier indication of life, we discovered nothing once we’d boarded.
We’d lit a lantern for our short journey over and now lit the remaining lamps. The lights flickered with each gust of wind, casting dancing shadows on the rough boards of the deck. Hugh took the back section of the vessel, I the front. Marchese and Buller descended into the bowels of the ship.
Hugh’s feet echoed across the deck as I crept forward, moving my light slowly right and left to illuminate as much as possible before me. I heard a muffled noise, then a ‘God’s blood’ muttered.
“I’m fine, Brother, I tripped over something.”
Hugh interrupted me. “Brother, come here.” His voice was calm but insistent, and I hurried to the back, toward his light. I could hear faint bumps and cursing from the two men below. As I passed the main mast, I heard a thump from beneath me. I would have investigated further however Hugh’s tone had alarmed me.
I continued towards his light. After a few cautious steps Hugh’s shape appeared. He’d been listening to my footsteps but instead of acknowledging my presence, he just pointed.
My stomach dropped and bile rose in my chest as my eyes followed his finger. There, on the deck, was a body, bloodied and torn.
Hugh finally looked at me. “This was no sailing accident.”
“No.” My voice cracked and I instinctively reached for my sword. I indicated the stairs leading to below deck.
Hugh nodded. “Maybe an animal got loose?” Hugh’s hopeful tone disappeared into the fog surrounding us.
As we made our way toward the stairs, another banging noise shook the deck. Then, a moan, weak at first then growing stronger, causing the hairs on my neck to stand and my heart to race. I knew that sound.