Water suddenly rushed into the room before the ship righted itself, but this only lasted for a few seconds before leaning to the other side again. Fleur went to retrieve her belt, armour, and sword from the floor, securing them back where they belonged. Tywin grabbed Fleur by the wrist and pulled her along with him through the tilted hallway. Cold water swirled around their legs, quickly rising up to their waists.
“Can you swim?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said through chattering teeth.
“Good. I need you to survive.”
“You ‘need’ me to survive. Not want!”
“God, woman! We’re about to die if we don’t leave now. We have to swim in this storm just like the little sea rat you wrote about in your book!”
He kicked off his boots. Her feet were bare, so she was ready to jump. She could make it. She had to.
Tywin leaped off the ship without warning. Taking a deep, shaky breath, she followed his lead. When her submerged body broke the surface, small mountains of water surrounded her. She and Tywin swam away from the vessel as it sank below the waves. She never would have thought she’d have to face one of her biggest fears on top of completing the suicide mission. She’d spent the last couple of summers swimming in open water, so her muscles were conditioned for the exercise even with the extra weight of her weapon and armour. As her survival instinct took over, she focused on the most important goal – reaching the shore and keeping her head above water. Her limbs burned as she swam with all her might over the crests and troughs of waves.
When her hands gripped the wet sand of the beach, she emptied the contents of her stomach. Rolling onto her back, she stared up at the starry sky, catching her breath. Sitting up, she realized Tywin wasn’t anywhere in sight. With her sword and light thigh armour still intact, it was her chance to break free and get on with her mission. Without blinking, she sprinted for the forest, leaving the pirates behind. As she ran, a sense of relief swept over her. Even though the dragon still loomed in the distance, she’d no longer have to worry about renegades sabotaging her mission.
She ran through the night until she reached a creek. Kneeling, she cupped her hands and drank from the mountain spring. The ship ride shaved a few hours off the hike. Though her limbs still shook from the exertion and terror of swimming in a sea storm, she didn’t have too far to go.
Tywin’s voice echoed in her mind. Those with good intentions are able to make it through the woods without being harmed by the creatures.
She continued through the lush landscape, hoping that the legend was correct. The forest didn’t look much different from the ones closer to where she lived, but dangerous wild animals supposedly lurked in those parts. After jogging for the better part of an hour, men’s voices interrupted the quiet atmosphere. Her heart nearly stopped at the realization that the pirates were gaining on her – and they might have seen her. She hadn’t been traveling fast enough.
Finding a thicket, she disappeared into it and crawled on all fours as the pirates’ voices grew louder. She pressed her body flat against the forest floor as their sharp curses infiltrated the air. They seemed to sink into every corner of the forest. Someone walked close to her, swaying the bushes and snapping the twigs on the ground. Leaves fluttered everywhere. Holding her breath, she willed for him to pass without stepping on her. She’d come so far. Men like Tywin took what they wanted when they wanted it, but maybe having a vision that surpassed her own selfish desires would pay off this time.
A branch snapped not three feet away from her. Paralyzed by fear, she waited as deafening silence fell over the area. With a deep sigh, the man backed away.
“She’s not here. I think she’s long gone.”
Her heart lurched.
“I can’t believe that bitch got away,” snarled Tywin.
“I’m pretty sure she drowned,” said one of the men.
“No. I saw her running on the beach. It couldn’t have been anyone but her.”
“I think we should stick to our original mission. We caught her and she escaped. No point in wasting more time trying to catch her – it’s not like she’s going to make it up that mountain anyway – and if she does, she’d be too weak to defeat a dragon.”
“Not that she had much chance anyway,” scoffed another.
“She’ll pay for this one way or another,” said Tywin.
“We’ve got our weapons. If anything comes at us out here, we’ll be ready,” said another.
The group stepped away until the only thing Fleur could hear was silence. They were taking the main trail, so she’d need to find a different path. One higher up with a good view of where the pirates were. She sprung up to her feet and climbed the rise, staying within the protection of the brush. She found the gang below. The pungent scent of smoke and roasting meat permeated the air. They had stopped to eat and rest – two luxuries she wouldn’t be taking part in. She padded lightly, noiselessly as she passed them from above. Little did they know. One could always travel faster alone.
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt for Inspiration, a story about a girl’s journey to meet her dragon. It’s only $3.99 on Kindle. You can purchase it here.