I managed to make the best dive of my life, but hitting the water at that velocity was still an incredible shock to my system. Not to mention that my momentum quickly carried me further below the surface than I had ever been in my life, swimming never having been one of my favored activities.
One of my eardrums popped, but I was scarcely aware for it seemed as if my lungs were about to do the same thing. Being the poor swimmer than I am, and addled as my brain was, it took me far longer than it would have a good swimmer to stop my descent and try to make my way to the surface.
The surface quickly proved to be even further away than I had thought, and I wasn’t entirely sure that I was even heading in the right direction. Until, that is, I was hit by the falling detritus of the castle and reasoned that gravity must be in the opposite direction from which I wanted to go.
My lungs were on fire and my already tired limbs aflame when I finally broke the surface of the river. I had enough sense to look for ways to avoid any more falling debris, but then realized I was already far downstream of the castle and out of the range of the explosion which still sent a massive column of smoke into the air.
I was also in the middle of a river so wide I couldn’t have swum to shore from that distance even if I hadn’t already been fighting a battle all day. Panic beginning to set in, I looked around for something floating down the river to which I could append myself in some way.
Coming towards me like a destroyer, was an enormous tree. The branches which were still above water were full of leaves, so I guessed it to be a tree that had been dislodged by our dam-caused deluge. I thought perhaps I could grab hold of its roots before it slammed into me and crushed my already crying lungs. That thought in mind, I tried to swim a little to the side, so that I might catch it, rather than it catching me full force.
Still, the chance of grabbing a root—or, seconds later, a branch—seemed slim. I reached out to try, though, and as I caught a root in my hands I felt as if someone had taken my feet below the water and boosted me up into the tangle of roots. As I scrambled up into a better spot (I hoped) I glanced back to see if there truly had been someone in the water with me. I saw no one.
The tree proved to be even larger than I had thought. Some sort of oak, it was a behemoth of the variety such as I am sure never grew in my day. I was to wonder many times if Marcus had grown that tree just for me. But it was later I would wonder that. At the moment, I was too busy trying to catch my breath and worry about things I could not control—like, “What if this tree starts to roll? Or sink?”
Over the next few minutes, as the tree rocked and turned (laterally, not spinning, praise God!), I was able to crawl higher up into the roots and away from the water. I found a hollow place in the bole of the tree and was able to get almost comfortable before the sun went down. I was still clinging to the nearest roots, though, as it got too dark for me to even know where the water would be were I to fall in it. I could hear it rushing by, though, a noise that was so constant and so overwhelming that my brain eventually stopped hearing it and I fell asleep from debilitating exhaustion.