She Swears an Oath - Part 8

Content Warning: Violence

She heard his scream, and the subsequent thump of his body on the rock, as she turned back toward the Vogt, who still lay writhing on the ground. She slotted another bolt into her weapon, then flipped him onto his back with her foot. He howled in torment as the bolt twisted in his shoulder; his armor held the shaft in place, but the point shifted with his body underneath when she moved him.

Looking down into his eyes, still haughty and filled with hate even in his death throes, she pointed the crossbow into his face.

“I told you the second was for you,” she said, and shot him between the eyes.

Running through the trees again, now far from Küssnacht, she could feel the gray dawn rising in the east, even though no light had yet appeared in the sky. The chill dead of night had given way to a chill quickening, as the world about her stirred and wakened, and she could feel her heart within her warming. It beat faster and harder, in hope and in dread, as she scaled the gentle slope of the forest that led upward to the open meadow of Rütli, gray-green even in the fading moonlight. As she neared the edge of the woods, she could see the meadow before her, and her heart seemed to wither inside her as she saw the silhouettes standing in plain view: two silhouettes of two men tall and strong in the time between the times.

Bursting forth from the woods, she ran to meet them, and at the sound of her advent they started and turned, drawing their weapons. Then, recognizing her face and the crossbow at her back, they re-sheathed their swords and came to meet her.

“We heard that you were bound for the prison, captive to the Vogt,” said von Melchtal. “How did you escape?”

“The word has spread that you defied him at Altdorf,” said Stauffacher. “If only you had told us about this change of heart, we might have moved sooner!”

“Is Fürst not yet come?” she asked, her jaw rigid with the effort of keeping the desperation from her voice.

“We expect him at any time,” said von Melchtal. “But tell us—what made you decide to throw in your lot with us?”

She turned away from their faces to hide the tears flooding her eyes, but her voice was clear as she admitted, “I decided nothing.”

She had not decided—only stared up into the righteous indignation on the face of the soldier who had confronted her at the center of the village square.

“You cannot expect such a thing,” she said, her own indignation still dormant behind her impassive eyes. “Are we to worship not only these Habsburg Vögte but the very clothes that have touched their flesh? I have better things to do.”

“Your life is forfeit unless you bow,” he growled. “Show respect, or the Vogt will deal with you himself.”

She glared, biting back the defiant words that sprang all too easily to her lips, and she took a deep breath to quell the hot rage within. Rearranging her features into the now-familiar expression of servility, she prepared to make her apology and her bow to the cap mounted on the pole in the middle of the square, but the breathing of her son arrested her.