Author's note: Megan originally snuck into Eastport with Eleanor and Damon, and while they broke into the prison to rescue Lynette she was left on the river in the boat.
A procession down one of the jetties downriver caught Megan's attention: half a dozen people making their way by lamp light. The glow caught the shapely figure of a woman moving in a way that was very familiar. Megan clenched as she recognised Gwyneth. A baby's cried drifted over the water. She didn't have to give up her child to protect its safety.
They reached the end of pier. Gwyneth was helped into one of the boats tied up there then her baby handed to her. Megan wondered what she'd called the little bastard, who she'd named it after. She doubted Gwyneth would have honoured her or their grandfather, though given her capacity for hypocrisy she wouldn't put it past her.
The rest of Gwyneth's party boarded the vessel and they cast off, heading for the warships down the Speed. They must be evacuating her from the city. This gave Megan hope. If the witches were scared enough to move Gwyneth it meant the priests' army had a chance. She also realised something else. Gwyneth and her baby were out on the open water, a few hundred yards away, with only the bare minimum number of guards. Could Megan pass up the opportunity? She looked up at the sewage outlet. A rhythmic clanging came from within. Damon and Eleanor didn't need her. This was more important.
Fingers trembling, she fumbled with the rope and untied her boat. The Speed dragged her away from the prison as if eager to witness the confrontation. Megan took control of the oars. Her position meant she had to crane her neck round to get a lock on Gwyneth's boat, but at least the lamps its passengers carried made it easy to spot.
She rowed as hard as she could, ignoring the screams of her muscles. Speed, she needed speed - both to get on top of Gwyneth before she knew what was happening and to build up the momentum to ram her. She grimaced as the image of the boats smashing into each other played out in her head. Gwyneth was a lousy swimmer, she would never survive the treacherous waters, and as for the baby ...
Megan's heart tightened as she imagined her niece or nephew thrashing about in the water, confused and frightened, before going still forever. Its death was the surest way to save Cate's, and this way she was saving it from the witches, too. It wouldn't grow up to be a figurehead for murderers and fanatics.
What was she thinking? She was justifying killing a baby? It was innocent, it didn't deserve any of this. Maybe if she made an attempt to snatch it from the water before it went under? No, she'd be lucky to get away with her own life, never mind save another. She would have to find another way.
Megan eased off the rowing, wincing from the burning in her arms. A groan escaped her lips as she saw the distance back to the prison, which she'd have to row against the current. She took a deep breath and raised the oars, preparing to turn. There was a hiss and a thud. An arrow stuck out of one of the oars, still shuddering from the impact. She threw herself to the bottom of the boat just as another arrows split the air above her head.
Megan peeked over the bulwark. A bowman was knelt at the stern of Gwyneth's boat, taking aim. An arrow thudded into the bow, its point splintering the planks on the inside of the hull. She couldn't stay here. She took a deep breath and tumbled overboard.
The Speed hadn't improved since her last experience with it. She oriented herself crosswise to the current and kicked, keeping herself under the water until her lungs threatened to explode. An arrow scythed into the water beside her as she surfaced. She tried to put it out of her mind and forced her leaden arms into some semblance of a stroke.
One last arrow splashed into the water a few yards behind her before the attack ceased. Megan glanced behind her. The boat had resumed its journey towards the warships. Keeping Gwyneth and her baby was more a priority than chasing down an unknown assailant - assuming she was unknown, of course.
The river was carrying her further and further away from the prison. That didn't matter as long as she made landfall before she passed the wall. She just had to keep kicking, fight the tiredness that threatened to overwhelm her.
A jetty raced towards her, like a bony arm stretched out in the water. Megan braced herself then, just as she shot past one of the pillars, made a grab for it. Her hand slipped on slick wood. She screamed desperately, as if outshouting the river would overcome it, and threw her other arm round the post. Her grip held.
Megan hugged the pillar tight as a lover, sucking air into her abused lungs. I have to stop doing this, she thought. She looked out to the silhouettes of the warships downriver and the pinpricks of light that betrayed activity on them. Wait, was one of the lights getting bigger? She tried to convince herself fear was playing tricks on her. No trick. She could discern the outline of a boat, a shadowy creature heading straight for her.
A ladder dropped down to the water between her pillar and the next. Megan steeled herself and let go. The current hit her with the force of a falling building, pushing her away from the ladder. She kicked hard, fighting it. The ladder came within reach. She stretched out for it. Too soon. The river took advantage of the break in her stroke to drag her away. She fought back, ploughing at the water as if she could shove the entire river behind her. This time she didn't make a grab for the ladder until she was virtually kissing it.
Water rained off Megan in torrents as she hauled herself up to the jetty. The boat was getting closer - no more than a couple of minutes before it docked. Planks rattled beneath her squelching feet as she made her way down the pier, her intended sprint nothing more than a barely-controlled stumble.
She had made it to shore just in time. The wall separating the inner city from the outer loomed to her right like a cliff face. Silas's house was nearby. Had anyone disposed of his body or had it been left for the dogs? She made the Sign of the Circle and said a belated prayer for him.
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True DarkTeen Fiction
As the war rages on, the witch army is unstoppable in its march for power. But there is one thing the witches hunger for: sixteen-year-old Megan, and the baby daughter she has hidden from them. A child who holds the key to their future. A child they...