She Swears an Oath
Content Warning: Bondage
The ropes gouged at the flesh of her arms and thighs as she fell to the floor of the small ship. She twisted around and glared up into the face of the soldier who had pushed her down. He sneered his contempt for her outrage and took his place at one of the oars as his comrades-in-arms did the same. Last of all, the Vogt himself boarded the craft, and he stood over her for several long seconds, smiling at the fire of hatred he had kindled in her eyes. Then, giving the command to set sail, he turned away from her without any further apparent interest.
She raised her eyes to the massing clouds, gray and heavy despite the speed with which they raced across the sky. The same wind that sped them onward eddied down into the ship and soothed the hot fury from her face. A storm was gathering, and as she waited for the first splashes of rain, she cursed herself for her self-indulgence. Had she only controlled her rage and that treacherous hatred for injustice, she might even now be sitting by her own hearth.
On the other hand, had she fallen in with the revolutionaries and their ambitious scheme to banish the overlords, they might together have set the whole countryside ablaze.
“This tyranny has continued long enough, gone far enough,” one of the three revolutionaries had said, speaking with her at her doorstep three days earlier.
“Aye, too far,” said another, through gritted teeth. “Murder, rape, blinding innocent men for imagined slights, imprisonment of more and more of our kin and countryfolk—it must end. We shall end it together. You must join us.”
She gazed up into the treetops, watching the sun play among the leaves of the forest where she had taken up her solitary ward. “Tyranny is self-defeating,” she said. “One need only outlast it.”
She let her eyes drop from the trees above and looked the first speaker in the eye. “I want no part in this revolution.”
“Without your valor, we will be crippled,” he said, a pleading edge in his voice. “Your strength and cunning are legendary in this land.”
“Legends are often exaggerated.”
“Then so is the renown that follows them,” he responded, growing bolder. “Many would rally to us if you would but lend your support—let it only be known that you have taken the oath with us. We meet three nights from now; meet with us!”
She shook her head. “I have my home, and food, and peace for me and mine.”
“This isn’t peace!” said the second man. “It’s fear. How can we have peace when we must constantly be appeasing?”
“Take thought for that yourself,” she said. “We are too small here. No one troubles us.”
“But think of your child,” said the third man, who had said nothing until now. He leaned forward a little, his bushy gray eyebrows rising as his eyes widened in earnest admonition. “You cannot wish him to grow up a slave.”
She looked over his shoulder, out toward the edge of the small clearing in which her cottage stood. Close to the edge of the trees, her 10-year-old son was kneeling, drawing back the string of his tiny crossbow. As he stood and loosed a bolt at the nearest tree, laughing in triumph when he struck it, she remembered the first time she had heard his voice.