CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: ARK (4/5)

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The trip back to the brig was much slower for Sol without Ramgor to carry him. For every one of the captain's steps, Sol had to take ten, and he quickly worked out that a three-minute journey for Ramgor meant a half-an-hour trek for him. He had to reevaluate, however, when he came to the first set of stairs.

Each step was as tall as Sol, forcing him to lower himself down each one slowly like a child. By the time he'd got to the bottom, he was thoroughly exhausted—and he still had another three floors to go. But his tiredness was not his chief concern; that would have been the room full of sailors sleeping in their hammocks.

Unlike before, very few of the hammocks were now empty, and upwards of twenty men now lay between him and the next flight of steps.

Sol crept quickly to the side of the room to take cover by the wall, the sound of his footsteps drowned out by the cacophony of snorts and snores from above. The creaking of the hammocks' ropes did little to calm Sol's nerves as he passed beneath the great swaying bodies of the sailors.

He covered most of the distance without any problem at all. The hatch was not far now, but he was not looking forward to venturing back into the centre of the room to get there. While all the sailors seemed to be asleep, it only took one to roll over and spot him and his daring adventure would be cut short.

But, whether it was good fortune or not, he never got to try.

Just as he was getting ready to cross the room to the hatch, a head emerged from within it and a sailor climbed out.

"Gormyn!" shouted the sailor.

There was no reply.

"Gormyn, where are you?!"

"What?!" said a tired voice. Sol realised it had come from the hammock directly above him.

"Get up. You're needed in the brig."

"For what?!"

"To guard the prisoners. Fheric has finished his shift."

"So? It's Meron's turn to do guard duty."

"Meron's sick."

"Then that's his problem; I'm sleeping."

"Either you go down to the brig now, or I go up and tell the captain you're refusing to do your duty. Which will it be?"

Gormyn spat on the floor, narrowly missing Sol. "Fine, I'll go down... but if I find out Meron's not sick, I'm poking his other eye out!"

"Just get down there."

While the other Demigiant walked away, Gormyn swung his legs over the side of his hammock and anchored his feet to the floor.

"Maybe I'll poke his eye out anyway," muttered Gormyn under his breath.

Sol didn't move a muscle as Gormyn swooped down with one of his enormous hands and grabbed a big black boot from the floor. As he pulled it on over his foot, an idea presented itself to Sol which was either subtly brilliant or utterly insane. If it worked, it would save him a lot of time and energy. If it failed, however...

As Gormyn finished donning his first boot and proceeded to pull on the second, Sol stepped away from the wall and stalked towards Gormyn's booted foot. The boot was made from some kind of thick leather and was even taller than Sol.

This is stupid, Sol told himself. It'll never work.

And yet he continued to advance.

He reached out with both arms towards Gormyn's foot like a hunter sneaking up on their prey. He was only a couple of feet away... but he couldn't bring himself to do it.

When Gormyn put his second booted foot down and stood, Sol's time was up. There would've been no shame in backing off and resuming his original plan, but he knew if this paid off, it would save him a lot of time and effort.

He didn't allow himself to think any longer; he stepped forward and grabbed the back of Gormyn's boot, clinging on with both arms while wrapping his heels around the ankles. He did it just in time, too, for Gormyn was suddenly away, walking towards the hatch.

Sol clung on as though his life depended on it.

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