Jonathan’s Wish (An Adventure Novel)
(Copyright 1984, Mark D. Jones, All Rights Reserved)
Book Three, Chapter Three, Part Nine
Maestyg and Jonathan rowed for all they were worth, in order to get the longboat offshore and out to sea past the swimming guards that were desperately trying to grab hold of their escaping boat. Meanwhile, Sammy kept watch at the stern to keep grasping hands away from the transom with his barking and biting. They had to move beyond the surf into smoother water if they were to make any progress, while at the same time needing to turn towards the south in hopes of picking up a westerly sea breeze rounding the southern tip of the sandstone Island Fortress of Tyull. Without a breeze to fill their languishing sails, they had no hope of out-rowing the guards’ pursuing boat, which was attempting to cut them off by angling in closer to the beach and surf. If the guards’ boat beat them to the southern tip of the island, it wouldn’t matter if there was a sea breeze rounding the cliffs or not, for they would latch onto Maestyg, Jonathan and Sammy’s boat with long, hooked poles to capture them once they were close enough. End of story.
Knowing the guards’ boat was taking the inside track, Maestyg steered their course slightly out to sea to get as much separation as they could, while at the same time still making a southeasterly track. Perhaps further out to sea the breeze would make itself felt sooner than closer to shore, for their only hope was in filling their sails with a sudden wind and outrunning the guards – who hadn’t even bothered to put up their sails. The guards had also launched a second longboat, which was now taking the same southeasterly course as they were. The guards were obviously trying to do a squeeze play, with one boat abeam to their starboard side, and the other chasing aft of their stern. The only good news for the moment was, that Maestyg, Jonathan and Sammy’s longboat had good separation from both pursuing boats – one to their aft and another along the shoreline to their starboard side – in this desperate race to find a wind out farther from shore.
Jonathan tried his best to match Maestyg’s powerful rowing action, but could neither move as much water as his courageous friend, nor could he match the speed of his rowing. The best thing Jonathan could do was to keep his middle set of oars from accidentally striking Maestyg’s stern set of oars due to being out of sync. Not only was Jonathan completely tired and worn out by now, he could tell that Maestyg was struggling to keep rowing himself, as neither of them was in good condition for such hard rowing – but what was the alternative, besides capture? Hope alone wasn’t enough or even realistic in this situation, as one man couldn’t out-row two pursuing rowboats of ten rowers each. The odds were not only stacked against them, but mathematically they were nonexistent.
The guards’ first longboat on the inside track closer to the shoreline was now not only abeam them, but its rowers had slackened their pace, as it only took a leisurely rowing cadence for them to maintain their superior tactical position and conserve their strength. Their inside track cut off all hopes for the escapees to turn westward south of the island, in order to make their way towards Myllanthar, as the guards’ boat was directly blocking their escape route. At the same time, the guards’ boat behind them continued rowing as fast as they possibly could, and despite their late start, they were quickly closing the distance between them. Given another ten minutes or so, the pursuing boat of guards would overtake them, and come abeam for the capture – especially with Maestyg’s rapidly fading strength from rowing solo.
With the given course, the distance between the starboard shoreline and the guards’ boat abeam them continued to widen, as Maestyg now maintained an east-southeasterly course in a desperate attempt to catch the prevailing wind. The sandstone volcanic island could only block the westerly wind to a certain distance from shore, and it was unusual for the winds to be this calm for this long. If there was a wind to be found, any wind, it had to be farther out over open water. Meanwhile, the pursuing longboat to their aft was catching up, with its ten guards rowing in extreme haste. Maestyg understood that the guards’ orders were to capture the escaping boat or die trying – especially if they returned empty handed. The fortresses ruler wouldn’t take kindly to losing the escaping intruders who had roamed the beaches of the Island Fortress of Tyull at will, nor the loss of one of their longboats, and the guards were sure to pay the price no matter the outcome.
At this point, the guards’ boat paralleling the beach began turning out to sea, all the while maintaining a cutoff position to prevent Maestyg, Jonathan and Sammy from turning west around the southern tip of the island towards Myllanthar. It was inevitable now that the pursuing longboat would overtake their own efforts within minutes, without any possibility of eluding them at this point. Turning circles wouldn’t help, nor would jumping overboard into the sea help their situation, for every advantage lay with the guards. ‘How could they have found themselves in this situation,’ thought Jonathan, almost giving into despair. ‘This wasn’t his idea of what their adventure was supposed to have turned out to be, and all there was at this point in their future was a dark prison cell somewhere deep within the sandstone Fortress of Tyull awaiting them, and worse…’