A fleet shadow topped with bouncing copper curls darted in the dark into the fen, shoes and staff being sucked into the mud with every step – it didn’t matter; she was filthy enough already – no one would follow her this way. It was slower than the road; she would have to make up for it with her pace.
Bullfrogs croaked, insects sang… and dogs brayed in the distance behind her. Saoirse lengthened her strides.
She’d had no time to say goodbye; no time to explain; no time to think, not yet. Misty air puffed from her lips, breathing growing heavy, head aching almost worse than her body.
It didn’t matter that she couldn’t trust the sailor with the mask and the colorful clothes; the young Dun decided that the only choice she had was to throw her lot in with him. The mud beneath her turned to sand, lending more strength to her burning legs carrying her as quickly as they could to the boat. “Take me with you,” she begged through labored breath, cheeks flushed pink with exertion, “please,”
The man – who she would soon learn to be called William II de la Marck – looked up as she spoke with eyes drooping like a hound’s. “You… I’ve seen you before. Aren’t you… you’re from Craigellachie,”
“Aye,” Saoirse panted, “Please, ye must have room for one more,”
He frowned, looking out over her shoulder. “Do you have papers?”
She did not have papers; she did not have anything at all. “No, I…” She faltered, and shifted demeanor – she could not fail tonight, “I’m getting on that boat and ye cannae stop me, even if I’ve got tae lash myself down tae the bow like a figurehead,” she declared as insistently as she could, her accompanying stomp muted by fatigue and the sand.
“I would pay to see that, maybe we should,” he responded, looking back at another sailor behind him, a patronizing glimmer of mirth in his eyes. They shared a laugh before he turned back to her, “Or you can hide down in the hold with the grain?”