Into the RiverMature

A ragged-looking man in peasant attire had sprung forth from the trees, waving a pitchfork.  "Ey, you three!" he shouted at them.  "You're dem crimynals frem Waelyngar, ain'tcha?  Well, I got some news for ya.  You ain't goin' no further!"

        Intending to catch us, are you? Seymour thought.  You and whose army?

         But he thought that it was cue enough to start moving again.  He gave Wyrinther a sharp slap on the hindquarters, prompting her to plunge into the water.

          "Helicopter!" Simon roared, shaking his fist at their would-be capturer.

          "Shut UP, Simon!" Seoc yelled over the roar of the river.

          "Helicopter," he muttered vindictively. "Helicopterhelicopterhelicopter."

           Seoc drove an elbow backwards into his ribs.

          Meanwhile on shore, Seymour drew his sword to ward off the pitchfork-man, backing slowly toward the river's edge as he did so.  "Stay back if you know what's good for you," he warned.  "I don't want to fight, but I will if you press me."

          To his alarm, the man laughed at this.  "Oh yeah?  Get 'im, boys!"

           At their leader's command, ten or twelve more men jumped out of the underbrush, whooping wildly and brandishing an exhibition of rural implements. As a city boy, born and bred, he couldn't name most of the menagerie, but he did recognize a rake and a hoe bobbing above the heads of the throng as the men charged him.  Seymour looked at his sword, looked at the oncoming horde, and thought better of standing his ground.  With a nervous grin, he sheathed his blade and splashed out into the river after his charges.

           Farther out in the water, the riverbed had dropped away beneath Wyrinther's hooves, and she had begun to swim.  Seoc had noticed the change immediately: for one, their vector of motion had changed quite a bit--for every one foot they moved toward the other bank, they  now moved several more downstream--for another, he was now up to his waist in water and the horse was clearly struggling against sinking more.  He could hear her strained breath over the roar of the river, and he could see the tendons standing out on her neck.  Heart beating in his throat, he gripped her mane tightly and shut his eyes as hard as he could manage.  He was aware of Simon's firm grip on the back of his belt and of the terrible pressure of the current on his upstream leg, pinning it to the horse's side.

         Seymour began swimming in shallower waters than Wyrinther had.  He aimed himself slightly upstream so that his trajectory would be closer to straight across, but his calculations were a bit off, so he found himself being swept quickly downriver as well.  Fingers and toes splayed out so as to take maximum advantage of the webbing, he propelled himself forward as gracefully as was possible under the circumstances, striving for otter-like efficiency but coming nearer to that of a frightened dog.  So much for his dignified retreat.

           When finally dragged himself onto dry land once more, he had to pause there, panting, on hands and knees.  His breath burned in his lungs and he felt nearly sick from over-exertion.   His clothing hung from him like deadweight, cold and dripping, dragging him groundward.  

         He was still kneeling there, deciding whether or not he was going to vomit, when he felt warm, calloused hands touch his own cold, wet, nearly-numb ones.  He looked up to see Seoc there, genuinely smiling now.  "Come on, Sey.  We'd better move, just in case those goons manage ta cross without drownin'."

          Seymour looked backwards to find that their pursuers had ventured into the water up to their bellies and were still hollering at them, waving their makeshift weapons, but they were apparently rather reluctant to go farther.  As he watched, one ran back into the woods; whether he had gone to send for reinforcements or to go back for a party to cross at the ferry, Seymour had no way of knowing.

          "Right," he agreed.  "Let's go."

          Seoc summoned up all the strength he could muster into his small, slender frame, and helped Seymour to his feet.  "Just one last thing," he added, a sly grin spreading across his face.

         "And what might that be?"

         In reply, Seoc put his arms around Seymour's neck, pulling him down to eye-level, and kissed him.

         Seymour was baffled for a moment, although not in the least displeased, until he heard the jeers of disgust issuing from the band of men in the river.  Then he understood, and kissed Seoc back, amused.  Perhaps it was just a show designed for the purpose of gloating, but that didn't mean he couldn't enjoy it.

          Peculiarly, he recalled, at this point, Simon's words from several days before, and he tried, unsuccessfully, to repeat them into Seoc's mouth.

         "Hmm?" Seoc wondered, breaking away.

         "Let them crawl," he whispered.

          Seoc glanced back at the river, where the men were flailing and floundering in an effort to reach them, now so enraged that they had forgotten their fears of the deadly current.  "Let them drown, I say."

The End

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