“Shillond,” Marek asked, “can you give me a wind from the west?”
Shillond raised a hand and peered into the distance.
“I can,” Shillond said, “but there’s a storm brewing in that direction. Changing the wind will bring it here sooner.”
Marek frowned. “And we have to go in slowly to avoid… Can you not…”
“My Liege, there is only so much that weather witching can do. A wind from the west will bring the storm. I can divert it away, but that would mean a wind from the east.”
Marek nodded. He looked back at Keven still sitting by the tiller then to the front of the boat. He then looked at Kreg and Kaila and shook his head.
“So be it. With a trained crew perhaps, but…” He shook his head again. “We have what we have. The wind, if you will, good Shillond.”
Shillond nodded and stretched his hands toward the sky. Pale blue light limned him at the boat’s prow. The wind shifted. Marek directed Kreg and Kaila to adjust the angle of the sail while Keven leaned on the tiller. As the boat turned, Marek had Kreg and Kaila trim the sail until finally the wind blew from behind them pushing the boat before them.
“Watch me,” Marek said to Keven. “When I raise my right arm, or my left, turn the tiller in that direction.”
Keven nodded. “Yes, father.”
Marek indicated the ropes holding the sail in place. “Pay heed to these sheets,” he said to Kreg and Kaila. “On my command, haul in this one to spill the sail.”
“Aye, Sire,” Kaila said. “This we will do.”
Marek returned to the front of the boat.
“Light, Shillond. As before, like a half-hooded lantern”.
As the boat progressed in the darkness, the only sound was the slap of the waves on the sides of the boat, the creaking of the ropes and sail.
The wind picked up. The boat’s rocking increased as the waves grew in size. Kreg glanced up. Behind them, to the west, the approaching mass of clouds blotted the stars from the skies.
The ropes continued to creak, growing louder as the winds increased. Kreg frowned and stood up, looking back. A different creaking, from their right, their starboard, side.
A deeper shadow loomed out of the darkness. A ship, far larger than their boat.
“Your Majesty!” Kreg called.
Marek looked back. “Port, Keven, port now!”
A shout in a language Kreg did not know came from the approaching ship. More shouts.
The fishing boat started turning to port, the ship to starboard, but not enough. The side of the prow of the ship rammed the starboard leeboard of the fishing boat. The impact hurled Kreg off his feet. Wood splintered. Seawater gushed through the ruptured side of the boat. Kreg staggered upright, already ankle deep in water.
The ship continued its turn, tearing out a section of the side of the boat as it did so. Kreg tumbled over the side, plunging into the sea.
The water closed over Kreg’s head, leaving him in pitch blackness. He struggled for a moment, his lungs burning, then forced himself to stillness. Bubbles foamed around him, invisible in the dark, but that he could feel. Air trapped within his clothes, caused them to bulge away from his back.
With those hints, he turned in the direction of the surface and began to swim.
When Kreg’s head broke the water, Kreg drew in a great lungful of air, half choked with salt spray. He coughed as he tread water, drawing in more air and less water. He struggled to remain afloat in the churning sea until his choking coughs subsided enough for him to look around.
The sea was dark around him. Shouts in the distance gave him his first hint of direction. Looking up, he could see the stars and the blackness that marked the line of clouds.
Someone on the ship lit lanterns. Kreg could see it, already more than a hundred yards away.
“Hey!” Kreg shouted. “Help!”
The ship continued to recede. Kreg could not see the remains of the fishing boat, nor any of his companions.
In the dimming light of the receding boat’s lanterns Kreg spotted some floating wreckage. He swam toward it. A plank, probably remains of their boat. He hauled himself onto it, pushing the plank under the surface. Still, it provided enough buoyancy that he could keep his head up despite the rising chop.
A blue light glowed on the ship. Kreg shouted, hoping the wind would carry his voice to whoever was on that ship.
The ship continued into the distance, leaving Kreg alone in darkness. The first drops of rain fell as Kreg clung to the section of planking.