The night time kept Ellie hidden from the townspeople as she watched the dock. She could take a small canoe, just enough to reach the other side of the lake. She would have preferred to keep her feet on dry ground, but the city walls kept that from happening. So she was forced to head for water. The only ones out right now were the town guard carrying their torches and clubs, little for her to worry about, even if her only weapon was the simple steak knife she had slipped under her tunic to hide from the young man and his lackeys.
The canoe swayed as she sat down in it. Little more than a dinghy, it gave her too little room to be at ease in the water. She'd heard tales of what lay beneath the surface, monsters with long scaled tails, a beast with tentacles surrounding its entire body that fed on whatever disturbed its sleep, even stories of creatures so great that whenever they moved an earthquake would occur, causing waves so large that they took out entire cities and country sides. Besides, she was born a land lubber, hundreds of miles from the coast.
It took awhile for her to figure out how to use the paddles in the boat. Oars she recalled them being spoken as. After awhile, she figured out how to use them correctly, but she kept her mind focused on the rowing, just in case. She didn't want one of the oars to slip from her hand, so she tried to make sure that neither of them did.
Before long her arms were weary, tired and aching from oaring, and the sun was rising over the horizon. She set the oars down on the floor of the canoe, and then laid down uncomfortably to rest.
"She's not here!" The young man exclaimed. "Where is she?" Ellie was not in her room, the confinement area that they had decided to keep her in. The guard, however, was hog tied in the cell and unable to move on top of the hard wooden bed. He left the guard there, searching for the head of the night watch.
"My men saw nothing, sir," The captain of the watch reported, shrugging his large soldiers. "We thought that there was some movement at the docks, but when we checked, we saw nothing amiss."
"Of course you saw nothing amiss, you dolt!" The young man scolded. "There are so many boats down there, a legion of them could be missing and you could not see anything amiss. Now come with me, we're heading there ourselves. Hurry!" Upon seeing the docks, the young man grew angry; he kicked at the smaller ships and banged his fists against the larger ones. He, unlike the captain, noticed the missing canoe, he spent so much time in the water that he could name every one of the boats there by heart.
"Bring out some sailors," He ordered. "We're going after that filthy wench!"
Loud yells woke Ellie from her troubled slumber. She rose groggily to see a large ship, followed by a swarm of smaller boats, heading in her general direction. She recognized the barely visible form of the young man on the head ship, watching from the front of the bow, searching for her. He had a bow slung over his side and a sheathed short sword at his left hip.
Any words that she could use against the fleet of ships escaped her. She remembered the stones of the castle falling all around her, threatening to crush her to death, and now, it seemed as though she really would die.
There was another sound as well, like a swarm of bees buzzing in fury. She turned and saw what made the noise. A ship, gigantic oars sticking from its sides, was on the other side of the canoe. A galley. Only the oars weren't moving, and the galley wasn't touching the water. The buzz was familiar, magic.
The fleet from the city seemed to stop in place. The smaller boats did nothing whatsoever, as though the water had frozen them in place. The ship however turned its sails every which way, trying to catch a breeze that just wasn't there. They were afraid. And they had right to be. For the green skinned man that stood on the galley's bow was the one man they had been sweating bricks over. It was Hortil.
"O mighty Hortil, magician and sorcerer of the great tower," The young man shouted from his ship in false loyalty, "we have brought to you this woman, who evaded your justice and tried to flee from us as well." He bowed.
Hortil made a loud hissing sound, his face seeming to change for a split second from the man it once was to a fierce naked beast. The young man shrunk back, the men aboard the ship and smaller boats crying out in terror. Hortil turned to Ellie.
"How kind of you, Ellesmera," He declared in his echoing voice, "to come and meet me here in the lake like this. As you can see, I have acquired a vessel for myself. But it lacks a woman's touch." He snickered. "Say the words that I spoke join me, my dear. We shall watch the world burn together."
Ellie searched for words that she could use to drive away her opposition, but still to no avail.
The waters began to bubble, like a pot boiling over a stove or a fire, but there was no heat, only the bubbles. Air, she realized. Air was coming up from the deep, flowing from the large river that connected the lake to the sea. Her heart turned to stone. Even Hortil seemed shocked by this.
Then, a large thing, silver and snake-like monstrosity with a pointed tip, burst from the bubbles and water. Hortil gave a loud cry as he saw it, summoning up a long spell that Ellie had never heard before. The silver monstrosity seemed to hesitate, then lunged forward and slammed into Hortil's galley. The boat rocked, then the thing slithered up wrapped around it, like a boa at its prey. Hortil gave a cry as the thing squeezed, and the ship shattered into thousands of little wooden pieces. The green skinned sorcerer fell, splashing into the water in a heap.
Another silver thing burst from the water and scooped him up, tying around him and pulled him under. Moments later a pool of green blood-like fluid touched the surface. Ellie winced at the sight.
The men in the ships cried out in terror, attempting to turn the boats. The silver monstrosity that stood still above water was soon joined by six more of its kind, and they flung themselves at the smaller boats. Four more came from the water and tied themselves about the large ship. Ellie found that she was able to do nothing.
Constantly, more and more of the silver things came from the water, tearing into the boats and gripping the men on them, all the while it ignored Ellie. Men shouted and several even jumped into the water, later picked up by the monstrous silver water snakes. One thing lumbered down with a boat, straight at Ellie's little canoe. She cried out and covered her face with her arms, unable to defend herself. Then she was in the lake, her canoe in tiny splinters of wood.
A man now floated beside Ellie, he was thrashing about like a fish out of water. He was, however, in quite deep water. A silver thing snatched him up and dragged him below. Not long after his gore and bits of his body went to the surface.
All the while, Ellie was transfixed, too frightened to even breathe or move, she just floated with her back to the surface, eyes wide at what she saw. The silver snake things all seemed to end at a single point, a bulking mass that even in the water was so pale it could have been the sun. A smell radiated from it as she watched it from the water, it was so vile that Ellie couldn't hold back the bile that rose and exploded from her mouth.
The thing below her in the water's deep swiveled what appeared to be an eye, a glowing yellow blob with a single dark speck in its center. The eye stopped in her direction, then a tentacle, for that's what they were not snakes at all, hovered curiously close to her, but not maliciously. It prodded at her with its tip, not razor sharp as it had appeared to be, not even muscled, but rubbery and soft, then wrapped around her, and she felt its muscle. The thing did squeeze, luckily since Ellie was running out of air. Instead it let her go, like she was just useless flotsam, like the useless shreds of wood that floated in the lake.
The monster blinked its huge eye, swiveling it lazily, and Ellie's lungs screamed at her. The thing pulled its tentacles away from the water's surface, and the bulk of white began moving, its tentacles pushing at the water behind it, it seemed. The thing was gone in seconds, heading once more for the sea.
Ellie pushed her head above the water's surface, gasping for huge gulps of air. She grabbed for a bit of wood floating in the lake; her hands trembled from the cold and from fright. She had no idea what to do now, only that she wanted to be dry again. So, using her bit of wood as a buoy, she began kicking her legs to propel herself towards the shore.