A Hidden Paradise

Excerpt

Namayah emerged from the water, coughing, gasping; filling his lungs with as much air as he was capable of. He flailed his arms desperate to find something to cling on to, but found only the sea. His back ached and his muscles burned as he struggled to not get pulled down into the darkness again. But the weight of his armor was too great. He tried to shout for help but the words drowned as seawater poured into his mouth. He felt his remaining strength drain rapidly and his head sank back under the swirling waves.

Once again he was engulfed in the sea’s deadly embrace. As he clawed at his belt, his hand brushed past the hilt of his sword and he paused. There was no time to waste but he still found himself hesitating. The smooth steel of the hilt was almost warm to the touch and its silky wrap like the gentle caress of a lover against his skin—its presence at his side promising safety and filling his senses with calm. His conscious flickered and he jolted back into reality realizing he was about to die. His lungs felt as if they were on fire and bright white dots flashed before his eyes.

It pained him to let his sword drop to the bottom of the sea but he had no other choice. The belt slipped from his waist and a thin stream of trapped air escaped his lips with a mix of joy and grief. Thrashing around like a fish caught in a beast’s jaw he squirmed out of his chain mail coat and everything on top of it. Finally, he was freed from the terrible weight holding him down.

Namayah swam back to the surface, fighting through the waves trying to hold him down. He was shocked as he suddenly felt himself being pushed up against the hull of his ship. She was so close but offered no aid. Her hull too slick to hold on to, but what little grip he could find gave him a chance to look around.

Through the gloom of the storm he could see a shard of wood drifting towards him. He felt a surge around his legs and knew that there was a breach somewhere in his beloved ship. Her huge form loomed above him no longer moving, stuck in the rocky vice she had collided with. There was no telling how severely she was hurt or how much water she was taking in.

With some luck, his crew would find him when they would deploy the lifeboats, but he could just as well be slammed against the cliffs before then if he stayed. He placed his feet on Imanai’s hull and pushed away towards the driftwood. Gripping it hard he swam away from the immediate danger.

The shard was wide enough for him to be able to get out of the water, but as Namayah tried to heave himself on top of it his arm landed on a protruding nail. It pierced into his right arm and cut deeper as he pulled. He let out a frustrated cry as the pain radiated up his arm. Blood mixed with water and his heart began to pound hard in his chest. He felt a small rush of adrenalin and in a last burst of effort, he kicked in the water as hard as he could and rolled up on the wood with a sigh of desperate relief.

He lay on his back staring up at the black sky, the roar of the sea and the booming thunder fading into the back of his mind as he prayed to the gods to bring him safely ashore.

It had been a long time since he had last been in any life threatening danger, too long he realized now. He turned his head to look at his broken ship one last time before the waves would carry him out of sight. Slender elven shapes dived into the treacherous water with cries of helplessness and despair. If they died, their blood was on his hands.

Namayah couldn’t tell if it was rain or tears running down his pale face as the feeling of regret for bringing his men to such a cruel fate grew on him. He closed his eyes and focused all his intent on holding on to the sturdy wood that was the only thing between him and death, hoping his crew did the same.

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Characters: Namayah


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