Chapter 13

It was difficult for Sigmund to navigate the darkness, crouching around the deck in search of any sign indicating the old man’s presence.  He dared not even whisper out the man’s name for fear of alerting one of the three remaining deck guards.  Had he any confidence in his skill with the blade, he would have attempted to kill the other sleeping pirates, but would already be vomiting at having taken the life of another man were he not in such a pressing situation.

His was largely an expedition of failure on the deck and so he resigned himself to try an investigation of the cabin.  If he had minutes remaining before they noticed his escape, he would consider himself lucky, but if he left without Donovan, he would be more lost than he was in bondage.  If only he’d have waited until the next time they landed on the shore, the odds might have been greater stacked in his favor.  But he had already slain one man, leaving him no chance to change his mind.

He stepped up to the cabin door.  The night was silent aside from the infrequent calls of unseen forest beasts and the flow of the river beneath the boat.

He reached for the cabin door.  The night continued in its silence.

He pushed slowly on the cabin door.  A bird screeched and the king lurched forward with shock.  His forefoot landed heavily onto the cabin floor and he knew in an instant that his cover of silence had been lost!

He looked up for a quick second into the cabin, but his eyes were slow to adjust, revealing only the vague images of a small table, some rudely awakened men and various indefinable objects.  Then, he turned and ran.

The pirates were alert now, shouting and running to catch the escapee.  In his confusion, the king did the only thing that came to mind- he jumped into the river!

Luckily for Sigmund, the pirates were not prepared with bows, and the ship pulled quickly away from him.

It was also quite lucky that- by the time the pirates had gathered their bows- a very unexpected thing occurred.  Arrows from the shore began to shower down on the pirate craft, striking the men with astonishing accuracy.  Sigmund could hear the large splashes of injured or dead men falling into the river one after another.

But Sigmund could hardly concentrate on the scene ahead of him, as he suddenly felt overwhelmed by the pull of the river current.  When he jumped off the ship he didn’t take the time to consider that he had only ever swam in the shallow pools of his palace garden- never in a rushing current such as now.

In a sudden moment, the king was pulled under the water towards the river’s pebbly bottom.  The sound of rushing water endlessly punished his submerged ears, and then something hit his chest- forcing him to exhale the remaining breath from his lungs.  He felt his body being pulled upwards against the drag of the current and then all became silent and black.

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