“Sir, we’re running out of wood!” Antoine, the shipwright of the Liberator, gestured to the three pieces of wood he carried under his arm. “This is all we have left.”
Captain Erol’s eyes widened. “All?
Antoine shrugged. “We could always dismantle the lifeboats.”
The captain shook his head sadly. “No Antoine, I think we’re going to need those intact.”
“But sir, they were nailed together, too.”
Of course they were. Everything on the ship was made with iron. It was the only way the humans had been able to combat the fae. Iron stopped their magic from working, which was why every free human was loaded with the stuff. And when the humans had decided to pursue the fae across the sea to the islands, their ships had been heavily reinforced with iron, just like their strongholds back on land.
And it had worked, too. The fleet had launched, and pushed the fae back, until something in the water started to eat all the iron. The Liberator had sprung a leak two days back. Erol had thought nothing of it, sending Antoine to go and patch the leak. But then more and more leaks were discovered. They started appearing faster than the shipwright could fix them. And then the crew realized that the leaks were springing up in places that had been fixed already. Whatever was causing this seemed to be eating the iron holding the ship together.
Erol closed his eyes in dismay, his hand trying to massage away the headache pounding at his temple. “I don’t see what other choice we have.”
"What if we took the iron out?" Antoine asked thoughtfully. He put the timbers down gently then rummaged in the pouch on his belt. After a moment he triumphantly held up a piece of twine. “What if we lashed them together instead?”
Erol considered, mentally calculating how long it would take. And how long they had before the ship started sinking in earnest. “If we did this, do you think we could get to land?”
“Sure,” the shipwright said without hesitation. But then his features paled. “But we wouldn’t be able to take any iron with us.”
“What?” Erol's face reddened. “You would have us go down in history as the ones who lost Fae Striker? And Dragon Piercer?”
“And all the others." Antoine's face was grim. "The way I see it, we’ll be losing them either way. It’s just a matter of whether or not we die, too.”
Dismayed, Erol realized Antoine was right. Iron was the most precious resource they had, being the only thing to keep the fae at bay. Each piece, whether tool, armor, or weapon, had its detailed history recorded. Its owners were able to recite that history from memory. Being the ship that was scouring the seas for the fae, Liberator was not only carrying tons of iron, but was made of its own fair share. That made Liberator itself one of those precious pieces. And she was going to be lost on Erol’s watch.
But they would all grieve later if they survived. Erol turned to the shipwright. “Alright, hurry and make us that raft. I'll round up the crew and get them to leave every piece of iron here. It'll buy us some time to get away from whatever this is. Hopefully we'll be able to make it to land to warn the others."
Antoine released the breath he'd been unconsciously holding. "Thank you, sir."