The Faebreak groaned as she turned, hardened timbers creaking as they cut through the waves. Below decks, the groans were almost deafening, and the rolling of the ship invited nausea. Dirty water, stinking of salt and ammonia, sloshed around underfoot. When the timbers ceased creaking and groaning for any time, the irregular sloop-slurp of the bilges revealed the source of the water.
Chained against the hull with blackened, rusty lengths of chain linking sharp-edged manacles were two hundred people, not all of them alive. They formed two rows, one against each half of the hull. Most of them hung forward, their manacles and chain supporting their weight. Blood dripped slowly from wounds at their wrists and across their forearms, opened anew every time the ship rolled and the bodies were tipped and tilted, damaged flesh dragged across cruel edges. Eyes were rolled up into their heads showing only the whites, and flecks of spittle foamed at their lips. The corpses were cyanosing rapidly, flesh turning purple and livid, and a foecal stench swirling gently around on lazy air currents.
Thrush was one of those still awake. His eyes were cloudy with cataracts, and his vision was limited to a narrow tunnel in front of him, with a small amount of peripheral vision from his left eye. His lips were pulled back from his teeth in what seemed to be a perpetual snarl, and his hair, grey and greasy, was pulled back from his face into a queue. His hands were clenched into fists, his toes were curled painfully hard under his feet. His body, whipcord thin, was tensed, his ribs and muscles standing out as though he were trying to pull the manacles clean out of the side of the ship.
Which he was.
At his feet was what seemed to be a pile of bloodied rags, until a slight movement revealed that it was breathing. Then features suddenly resolved themselves, like a pointillist painting drawing far enough away to suddenly be comprehended as more than a coloured mess of dots. The rags resolved themselves into the robes of a battered woman, her hair matted with blood and her flesh bruised and swollen.
Thrush screamed, a primitive, incoherent sound of rage. In his bloodstream, the seleno-saline solution hadn't yet degraded beyond active levels, and his nervous system continued to tickle awake intermittently. Pulses of pain like black lightning assaulted his brain, each one a mini maelstrom of leashed energy. Thrush screamed again, and the release of adrenaline that accompanied it pushed the maelstroms up and over, the black lightning streamed along his nerves and blossomed like a sinister flower in his mind.
Pale green light danced around him like St. Elmo's fire, and the men and women on either side of him responded sympathetically, their own nervous systems now excited and discharging, and within a matter of seconds all those left alive were caught up in a pastel green glow that pulsed in time with their synchronised heartbeats. It pulsed five times, and then seemed to explode outwards, the light sinking into the tarred wood of the hull, disappearing, leaving below-decks in a calm, soothing darkness.
Then the hull exploded outwards in a billion splinters of fragmented wood.