• T.A. Creech

    Author

  • Winter’s Heart: Pillager’s Moon (Part 2)

    A shiver ran down Shi’ma’s spine and the Delight pitched as the ocean roiled in response to her surprise. She grabbed onto the closest slick beam to keep upright, and stare at the woman who clutched the steel bars across the dim space.

    She’d found numerous people tucked away in cargo holds, bound for some horrendous fate. A nameless thing sparked in her chest, beneath exhaustion and bruised tits and battle plans. It caused her to breathe deep, calm down and relax. Most of the rescued needed a steady voice of authority. As captain, that was her job.

    The woman seemed fine, though. Her hands were steady around the rusty bars and her gaze followed Shi’ma’s every move with unwavering focus. Shi’ma hazard a guess that she wasn’t blind. Maybe she had a sixth sense that allowed her to see. There were spells used for that purpose.

    Another beat passed as they stared at each other, and Shi’ma shook it off. There were still tasks to be completed and wounded to look after. She also had to oversee a watery grave for the dead crew of the Delight.

    Shi’ma straightened up from the side she’d been pitched into and rolled back her shoulders to ease the tension stretched across her back. This part was simple, more or less. “Okay.” Shi’ma flapped her hands at the captive until she took the hint and scooted back on her knees.

    Every ship had tiny leaks. Usually around the rivets and joints, where wood came together and tar hadn’t quite sealed all the way. Those were her favorite parts of an enemy vessel. The glimmer spread across her hands and the ocean’s power came to her call.

    It was easy. The deeper the water, the more effortless it became to summon up, like it weighed nothing. The briny ocean trickled up between the cracks, burbled around the base of the bars in a happy little dance, sunk deep into the seams. Salt sting Shi’ma’s nose as she coaxed the sea water along the iron and set it spinning with the bars at the center, like a whirlpool.

    Dull gray shone under the rippling liquid for a brief instant before the first signs of deep red rust appeared along the bars. The iron flaked away and joined the swirling water. It was enchanting in its own way. And less dangerous than smashing a hole in the hull.

    The bars looked like twigs in moments. Shi’ma lost her patience and grabbed the pole in front of her face, through the cold flow water, and yanked. It crumbled in the grasp the same way wet sand did. She released her hold on the magic and kicked the bottoms off a couple more bars, though every muscle protested. It has been a long day.

    Silvery eyes tracked Shi’ma’s every move as the stranger crawled out of the tiny cell, finally free.

    She had one last thing to do before she crashed in her bunk.

    November 9, 2022

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