She Swears an Oath - Part 5

She froze, readying herself to resist, but he cried out to her above the roaring of the wind.

“Save us!” he shouted. “Your strength. Steer the ship, or we’ll all die!”

He cut away the ropes binding her arms to her sides and hips, and she rose, shaking life back into her limbs. As she did, she saw the Vogt glaring up at her from his seat at the rear, but he nodded as she looked at him. She turned toward the prow, stumbling as the craft pitched her forward onto the wheel, and she gripped it with both hands. As she prepared to find some point of safety toward which to steer, she saw her crossbow lying at the feet of the nearest oarsmen.

Looking up as though she had not noticed it, she turned the wheel to drive the ship back toward the middle of the lake. It groaned under her strength, until she felt as though she was fighting the leviathan itself, but the wall of rock to her right began to recede, and within a few moments she had taken them out of immediate danger. Nonetheless, the waves continued to increase in height, washing over the deck again and again until she feared they would founder and sink. She kept to her course, every sinew taut as a bowstring, fighting the shifting tide of the waves, but with every breaker that crashed over them she felt the water rise around her legs. Casting about for some harbor in which they might shelter until the worst had passed, she saw an outcropping of rock ahead, low enough for her to reach with her outstretched arm.

“There!” she called to the oarsmen, pointing at the spot. “We can shelter there until it passes!”

They followed her direction and rowed as she steered them toward the outcropping that at once both threatened and welcomed them. As they neared it, she spun the ship to align with the face of the rock, so that they glided in without striking the deadly surface and casting themselves into the deep amid the wreckage of their craft. When she could reach up to grip the overhanging cliff, she pulled the ship under its rudimentary protection. Looking back at the crew, she saw their shoulders relax and a momentary relief pass over their faces, and she seized this brief lapse in their attention to release the wheel of the ship and dive for her weapon. Then she leaped onto the gunwale and kicked away as she swung herself up onto the top of the rock.