Sailing the Sea of Coils

Sharp wind cut through the thin blanket that William had wrapped around himself. He took a shuddering breath and crouched next to a crate to block the wind.
“First time to Njordr?”
William looked up at the voice, eyes dead. He nodded.
“You look cold.”
William nodded again.
“I’m Asja. Asja Gatewatch. And you’re William, yes?”
Sighing, William sat straighter. “What do you want, Asja?”
“Well… the others were saying that you were one of the guys in charge of the Sea Beggar? Big fan of your business. I was the one who helped Fearghas Llewyn get North.”
William shrugged, still not really interested in pursuing the conversation.
“Well, before we left, the captain, Julio de Monique? He said that you could use some help.”
William sighed. “No. I really don’t want any help. I don’t care who you are. I just want to be left alone.”
“God, you’re depressing.” Asja folded her arms and shook her head.
William shook his head as well and huddled down again.
Asja shook her head. “Look. Julio told me about Miss Tiarnan. Said you’d need some help getting back on your feet.”
William felt his anger building, but shook his head again and didn’t respond.
“I’m trying to help,” she said with a sigh. “If you don’t want it, I’ll just leave you alone.”
Pulling the blanket tighter around himself, William sank back down to his slumped position.
Shaking her head, Asja turned and walked away.

How dare he. How dare Julio tell this stranger about him, about his business. And how dare she bring up Lile. He gritted his teeth and tried to fall asleep. He dreamt of Lile.
He awoke to wind whipping past his face and his stomach lurching. He was falling. He hit the water and his breath was slammed from his chest. He fought his way to the surface and took a deep breath. He looked around, treading water. It was dark. William grabbed the edge of the boat and began to pull himself from the water, letting his waterlogged blanket fall from his body. He heaved himself over the rail and collapsed to the deck. He rolled over, still gasping for air. An axe hit the deck next to him and his eyes rose to meet those of a thickset man with njordic markings coating his skin. William’s eyes opened wide.
“What the hell?!”
The man lowered the axe toward him. “Don’t move you fat swine.”
William held his hands up, somewhat relieved. Maybe they’d just kill him.

Sitting in the boat, all William could hope for is that he’d freeze to death. His eyes were dull and he couldn’t feel his fingers anymore. He wished they would at least have left him his mask. They were sailing North, towed behind the enemy’s ship. He tried to feel something at the very least, but honestly couldn’t. Maybe it was good that he’d survived, but he didn’t care, not without Lile. North.

One Reply to “Sailing the Sea of Coils”

  1. It was cold. Freezing. The ice was almost as brutal as the Dogheart raiders whose whips tore into the backs and legs of those stupid enough to fight against their orders. It was sunny, but whatever relief that brought was mitigated by the sunburns on most of their faces, from where the light reflected off the snow. The wind whistled around them. Several of the captured merchants were already missing ears or fingers from the frostbite. William limped with them, hands under his armpits and scarf wrapped around his face. They had traveled a few weeks north by boat before they’d been driven ashore. Another Rime Clan, so the Doghearts claimed. They didn’t want to lose their prize.
    Disease had cut their number by half. Frostbite had taken even more. William was lucky. He’d been beaten, when he’d fallen, but he’d gotten back up, somehow, even when a bear had torn into their ranks. At the time of the attack, there had been twenty or so raiders, four times the amount of guards they’d had on the Vinvald. Now, there were ten raiders, and about the same number of captives. Their leader, a member of Clan Hollowsong, was leading them north. Apparently, they were to be sold as food stock to her clan. She’d come along to make sure they got their delivery.
    Howling tore through William’s thinking and he looked around. The raiders were moving again, taking up positions around them. There were more howls. The Doghearts were clear what they were supposed to do when this happened before. The slaves crouched low in the snow, not moving, so that the warriors could defend them. They’d be cut down if they ran. Wolves began to pour out of the treeline. There were ten, twenty, no, thirty wolves that came bearing down on them. The Hollowsong warrior started bellowing orders and the others started yelling back.
    Not for the first time, William looked around and wondered if he was going to die. There was already blood splattered in the snow. Suddenly, something grabbed William’s scarf and pulled him backward to the ground. William’s knee went out, not for the first time, and he cried out. The wolf pulled him away from the group, dragging him along the ground. His air was being choked off and he scrambled to get his footing. He could see one of the other slaves coming toward him and tried to call for help. The slave threw something and he stopped. He took in as large a breath as he could. The slave kept coming and William sat up to look.
    His eyes were drawn to the tree line. Something was staring at him from the darkness. There was a howl that he less than heard and more felt, reverberating in his bones. Everyone froze; the wolves, the raiders, the slaves… It felt like time had stopped. A wolf, white a Njord bear and three times as big, pushed aside trees like stalks of grain and stepped out to face them. The breath caught in William’s throat. It must have been Jorg herself. She howled again.
    William became aware that the slave who’d been running for him before had started running again. One of the Clansmen shouted and pointed, but a wolf caught him by the throat. The slave grabbed him and pulled him to his feet, then took the blade from the wolf behind him. William felt himself being pulled away, eyes not moving away from the massive wolf.
    There were sounds in his ear, but he couldn’t comprehend them. The other slave spun him around, forcing his eyes away from the beast. The man slapped him.
    “Hey!” he screamed.
    William blinked at him, not quite understanding yet. “What?”
    “Let’s go!”
    William took a deep breath. “Yeah. Yeah!”
    The man started sprinting away, pulling him by his shoulder. A moment later, William caught his feet and also started to run.
    They were free, somehow.

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