Sacrificed to the Sea - Cari Silverwood


As they dropped her to the deck, lightning cracked, flashing on the maddened faces of the two men tasked with killing her. They’d flung the hatchway wide and hauled her, kicking and writhing, into a hurricane.

The sky was wilder than she’d ever seen it, and already the power and fury of the storm drenched and chilled her. Frigid water charged across the deck, dashing at her face, tugging at her dress, as if to take her prematurely.

She screamed, her throat tearing with nonsense babbles. The men turned their eyes from hers.

Swiftly, they silenced her pleas with a cloth gag.

Bound as she was, at ankles, wrists, and arms, she could do nothing as they carried her across the clipper’s deck.

Beneath the roar of the wind, she was carried, beneath the towering waves trying to smash them from the rolling deck of the ship – muted, terrified, and abandoned by every other human on the vessel. She cursed them in her mind even as she feared for her life. Above, the rigging and masts lurched beneath a swirling chaos.

The rain thudded at her skin. The cloth in her mouth tasted of oil. They’d silenced her. Ashamed of what they did, perhaps. Even Guffrey, the ship’s carpenter and the man she had last bedded, had turned away as she was accosted.

This storm threatened to take the ship, and she was a woman and bad luck – no matter that she’d been welcome to whore her way across to Ireland until this storm found them.

If they sacrificed her, they might be spared.

She cursed them again then sobbed and laughed all at once. Her tears were a paltry contribution considering what the sky and the sea were doing. Water washed across the timber deck as if the sea had already claimed the ship.

Grim-faced, the two men took her closer to the rail, lowered her, then steadied themselves, and made the sign of the cross on their chests. This was their last, desperate sacrifice to save a doomed ship running before the wind with bare masts and tattered rigging, with the keel likely to give if the winds and waves strengthened.

They didn’t speak, though the storm would only have torn the sound from their mouths.

They picked her up between them, by legs and shoulders, and hurled her over the rail.

A mighty wave curled past and followed her down. She might drown before she reached the sea.

That would be a mercy.

There was none.

She fell – still trying to free herself, as if she could swim to safety, as if the ropes were not knotted tight and cutting her skin, as if she were not already condemned.

No one lives without hope.

She tried to free herself and failed.

The sea did not grant her the final grace of allowing her to slowly sink. It swallowed her in one ravenous gulp, gobbled her into its foaming gullet and drove her fathoms deep. In seconds she was buried under tons of water. Her hands were still bound at her back, her arms to her sides, and her ankles clamped fast and hard together, so that the bones hurt where they pressed at each other.

Her red dress wrapped her gently like a shroud.

Silence filled the void as she sank. The storm noise became distant.

The last bubbles from her lungs were lost to the roiling sea, in the bedlam of a hurricane angry enough to roll the ship a few seconds later, to pour in until its holds were bursting, and then to drive it under.

Drowning, terrified, and lost, she felt her body begin that effortless plunge. The shadow of the ship followed her down. Beneath lay a mile-deep trench. A place to sleep.

As her heart beat its last weakened thud-thud, something bit her at neck and back, tore away her clothes, and released her from the ropes.

But she was gone. Already, Raffaela was a limp, lifeless thing, and the surface was too distant to be reached.

Her open eyes saw nothing but cold black.

In the black, something lusted after her, something strange with sharp triangular teeth.

It feasted on her, plucked at her, thrust into her. It gave her life. A new, if transformed, life.

When her eyes saw again, the carpenter was falling past her, tumbling to the very bottom. Where he would hopefully rest and rot.

“Curse you, all of you,” she croaked from her sea-swept, sea-scoured, salt-cured throat.

Somehow, her words reached her ears.

Her heart began to beat again and something dire swam away from her, lithely sweeping at the water with a sinuous tail.