Continued… (for a full list of the parts to Ancient Fire, click here)
(Previously: Lottie was caught trying to escape with Fyre, and lost all but the tip. Once out at sea, she was forced to walk the plank, and as the pirates waited to watch her drown, they found out only too late that their ship was burning)
Beneath the water’s surface, Lottie contorted her wrist, slicing through the ropes that tied her and struggling free. Now the only problem before her, besides escaping without the pirates noticing, was swimming. In her days at the castle, she had never set toe in water as big as this. She figured she could figure it out as she went.
With the instincts of a drowning man, she kicked to the surface. The tide was against her, and the unexpected bitter saltiness in her mouth was a shock. She slapped out with her arms, kicking wildly with her legs, unable to find any kind of rhythm. The waves surged and dunked her under again. Lottie fought to keep her breath, but she couldn’t find the surface and accidentally tried to gasp for air – and was rewarded by water instead. Her head broke free again, and she sucked in gratefully, coughing and spluttering to empty her lungs of the foul sea. She glimpsed the shore, barely closer than it had been.
A sob escaped her as panic began to take control. She was going to drown! She couldn’t make it! It was all useless; she had ruined the mission! The sword would be drowned in the sea with her and the burning ship. Fighting panic and the constant dousing and resurfacing, Lottie changed tactic. She forced her limbs to move with steady, rhythmic strokes, managing a sort of paddle parallel to the land, cutting across the current. This way she had more control, and was able to time her breath with the waves. Still, exhausted and afraid, she found she needed to breathe far more frequently than she had opportunity.
Lottie twisted her head to look at the land. It might be a little closer, but not much. She looked over her shoulder. The Deathbrand was farther away than she had expected, fully devoured by flames and sinking into the sea. Before much longer, it would be gone forever.
Her muscles were failing. Every inch of her felt like it was carved in lead. Her hands stung where they had been cut, and she raised her left hand from the water, the one that still gripped the shard. She could try to throw it to the land. It might reach… But what use would the shard be without her? There would be no one who could wield it. Another wave broke over her, and though she was only victim of its outer edge, it bore her down. She couldn’t fight anymore. There was only air and water. She couldn’t choose which came when. She couldn’t change anything. She needed to rest.
I – I can’t… anymore. All-Maker forgive me; I can’t fight anymore. I’ve failed. I’m dying. Not long now. I’m… sorry.
The waves pounded her down and she scraped against sand. Coughing, Lottie came to her knees as another wave crashed against her back, swaying her forward. Falling onto her hands and knees, Lottie gasped for air. Her lungs were waterlogged, she was dizzy and faint, and for a minute she didn’t process her situation.
She was on ground. Solid ground. Raising her head a little, she saw the sand rising up out of the sea in front of her, the waves spending themselves out on it. Crawling, she staggered foot by foot up onto the sandbar that lanced like a haven of refuge out from the shore into the sea. Free of the water, exhausted and stone-heavy, she collapsed. Darkness, whether sleep or unconsciousness, overtook her.
Night was still about her. She awoke in a huddled ball, curled to retain her precious heat. Her clothes were still very damp, and where they were dry, they were stiff with saltwater. Lottie tried to raise her head, but even that movement seemed too much. Withdrawing her hand from the coil of her body, she slowly unfurled her fingers and looked at the tip of Fyre. Even in the patchy moonlight it glowed golden and fiery. It looked like it should burn her, but she felt nothing, aside from the cuts it had made on her palm and fingers. Probably the only reason those weren’t bleeding more was because of their harsh baptism by saltwater.
She closed her fingers over it, and sighing, shut her eyes. What now? Would she die out here, alone and cold, having survived so much? And where in all the expanse of sand and sea was Elad? She had left him sleeping. He would wake up and she would be gone. He wouldn’t know what had happened. She suddenly felt more alone than she had ever felt before – not even in the endless days at the castle, when she had no one but herself. She was utterly alone now… so alone.
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