IX.

She sat on the sand, chin in hands, glaring out at the dark opalescent ocean. The moon was far away and unfriendly. The waves were smooth and calm. Anastasia scanned the horizon with a furrowed brow, unseeing of the black seas. Her heart froze almost before she saw them.

The ships; those ships had been haunting her for days. She blinked, and the silhouette of the ships sitting still and silent on the waves showed dark on the orange background of her eyelids. She could not run away from that vision. It was following her. Were the hundreds of slaves, chained and moaning, on the ships, as the visions had told her?

No; nothing.

Silence.

And how did the people get to the ships, anchored out in the Mediterranean, anyway? Was there a fleet of dinghies at the docks? No; there was not.

She blinked again, and when she opened her eyes the ships were gone, enveloped by the folds of the thick sea fogs. Or perhaps they had never been there at all. Perhaps it was an illusion. Perhaps it was a warning.

She sighed. She didn't know.

What to do now? There was no one left. All they left behind them was stillness, silence, and fifteen-year-old Anastasia Swallow lost in the lonesome gloom.

All of a sudden a black cloak was shoved unceremoniously in her mouth, her wrists clamped in hard irons and her neck nearly strangled by a long strip of rough sacking. Three black shadows moved into her vision.

Anastasia did not attempt to struggle or bargain. She knew that she could break through the irons easily. Better to let these strange creatures take her to their lair she she could save her mother, her friends and her sisters. For though she argued with her sisters several times daily, she knew she loved them deep down, as it is with many sisters. She would save them from their unknown fate. If she was still alive when she found them. She hoped she could resist anything these faceless shadows had in store for her. She hoped. She was sure her muscles were strong enough. But was her spirit strong enough? Only time could tell.

The End

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