Chapter no 17


I tried not to watch it.

I fixed my gaze on the ropes, ignoring the growl of the wind and the swell of the waves. But as the chill bled into the air, my heart began to sprint. Cold rain poured from the sky, filling the deck with water. It raced down the stairs to the passageway in a flood.

My eyes flitted up to the snapping sails, and I swallowed hard, keeping my head down.

“West!” Paj was on the mainmast, one arm hooked into the lines and leaning out to look behind us.

He was watching the clouds. They looked like a rising plume of black smoke, their edges curling under. I let out a long breath, waiting for West to call out the order before I moved an inch. Any second, he was going to realize what this storm was.

“Reef the jibs!” West’s voice was drowned in the sound of thunder.

I didn’t wait for Auster to make it down the ladder from the quarterdeck. I climbed the foremast, reaching for the lines just as the first gale slammed into the ship. The Marigold heeled, and my boot slipped from the peg, sending me dangling over the deck thirty feet below.

In the distance, West stood at the helm, bracing against the spray.

I held my breath, kicking through the air as the boat tilted farther and the dark blue of the sea came beneath me. When West saw me, his eyes went wide, his mouth moving around words I couldn’t hear. They were lost in the roar of wind.

I pulled myself up, hooking my arm into the ropes just as the ship righted, sending me crashing into the mast. As soon as my boots found the

pegs, I reached for the lines, bound tightly around the cleats. My fingers pulled at the wet knots until the skin at my knuckles broke, but they were too tight.

The next gale pricked the surface of the water as it rolled toward us, and I jerked against the rope, cursing. With the next tug, the knot finally unraveled, and the loosened line lurched forward, pulling me from the mast. I swung out into the air and the sail pulled up as I fell, slowing just as I landed on the deck hard. The rope slipped through my fingers, burning against my palms, and the sail dropped open.

“Paj!” West shouted over the sound of the water as the next gale hit us, and the Marigold heeled again, sending Auster sliding across the deck.

“Got it!” Paj took his place at the helm and turned us north, away from shore. We were already being pushed toward the shallows.

West ran for the mainmast. “Get the storm sails up now!”

I looked up. He knew the storm sails could be the wrong call. In a few minutes, we might need to drop sails altogether and take our chances on the swells. But by then, they would be too full to get closed.

Willa and Auster climbed the masts in lockstep and in the next full wind, the storm sails flew open, jolting the ship forward. The water underfoot swept me toward the portside railing, and West caught me as I passed him, his hands taking hold of my wrists and pulling me back up to my feet.

“Get below deck!” he shouted, pushing me toward the open archway. Over the stern, I could see the clouds rolling over the sea toward us.


I closed my eyes and drew the humid air into my chest. I’d spent my childhood in the face of storms just like her, many of them angrier than this one. It was the reason only the most daring traders sailed the Narrows. And even though I could feel her power in every bone, every muscle, there was something deep inside of me that opened its eyes from sleep when I felt it. It was terrifying, but familiar. It was as beautiful as it was deadly.

Silence fell over the ship for the length of a breath as the others saw it. Every head turned to West, who stood at the bow, his eyes ahead as the quiet rumble of wind rushed toward us.

“Brace!” West called out and everyone ran for the nearest anchored thing to hold on to.

I threw myself at the nearest iron cleat, wrapping my arms around the railing before the ship tipped. The crates in the breezeway broke free and slid into the water, cracking into pieces as they hit the waves. To the west, the faintest shadow of the shoreline was visible. We were too close. Way too close.

Auster shouted overhead, where he was still clinging to the foremast. The ship tilted before it snapped right, and he went flying, his arms and legs flailing as he soared toward the sea.

“No!” Paj’s raw scream tore through the raging wind, and we all watched as Auster hit the water and disappeared.

Paj didn’t hesitate. Not even for a second. He picked up the end of the rope lying on the deck.

“Don’t!” West shouted, running toward him.

But it was too late. Paj threw himself toward the railing and jumped. West slid through the water on the deck, catching the length of rope before it rippled over the side, and I fell to my knees behind him, anchoring it as Paj’s weight pulled against us. West watched over the rail, searching the water.

A sick, nauseating silence fell over the ship, the wind stalling for just a moment, and I pinched my eyes closed until West was shouting. “There! Pull!”

I couldn’t see, but I leaned all the way back and towed the ropes behind him, my palms shredding against the fibers as we hauled it in. And suddenly, a hand appeared on the railing. I screamed, pulling as hard as I could, and Paj’s head came into view, his mouth wide open as he gulped in the air. Willa and Hamish dragged him over, and when he hit the deck, Auster was clutched in his arms, vomiting seawater.

Paj’s face broke and he cried into Auster’s wet hair, holding him so tight that his fingers looked as if they might tear the seams of Auster’s shirt open.

“You stupid bastard!” Auster choked.

The moment was cut short by the sharp, metallic ping that echoed through the ship.

“Bowanchor!” Hamish leaned over the starboard side, looking down.

It had freed itself from where it was secured on the hull, dropping into the water, the line pulled taut. West cursed as he went to the helm and steered us into the wind. The storm was almost on top of us now. There was nothing to do but let it hit us and hope we didn’t run aground.

West held his hand out, reaching for me. “Get below deck. Now!”

The waves reached higher and the rain fell harder, dumping into the ship. It blew in sideways, the drops like bits of glass on my skin. I shook my head, searching the deck for Willa.

“Get below or I’m dropping you at the next island and you can swim to Ceros!” West took hold of my face with his hands, meeting my eyes.

A look like thunder after a lightning strike lit on his face. Fear wound around every inch of his body and squeezed, and the feel of his hands on me sent a chill up my spine. There was something knowing in the way he looked at me. Something that pulled at the knots in the net of lies we’d both told.

Behind us, the worst of the storm was seconds from hitting the ship. It was strong, but the Marigold would be fine as long as she didn’t hit the reef. As long as she didn’t …

“Fable!” he shouted again.

The ship tilted, and he let go, sending me sliding across the deck toward the archway. I caught hold of the post and swung myself down the stairs with a spray of water, hitting the floor flat on my back. Willa appeared in the opening above me before she slammed the hatch closed, leaving me in the dark.

I stumbled to my feet, sloshing in the deepening water. The ship groaned around me as I huddled into the corner of the cabin, wrapping my arms around my knees and drawing them to my chest. The muffled sound of the crew shouting and the knock of boots were washed out by the roar of the storm hitting the boat and the last bit of light coming through the slats flickered out.

She’s saying something.

My mother’s words found me, there in the black.

I pinched my eyes closed, her face coming into perfect view. One long, dark red braid over her shoulder. Pale gray eyes the color of morning fog and the sea-dragon necklace around her neck as she looked up into the clouds above us. Isolde loved the storms.

That night, the bell rang out and my father came for me, pulling me from my hammock bleary-eyed and confused. And when he put me in the rowboat, I screamed for my mother until my throat was raw. The Lark was already half-sunk, disappearing in the water behind us.

My mother called it touching the soul of the storm. When she came upon us like that, she was taking us into her heart and letting us see her. She was saying something. And only then would we know what lay within her.

Only then would we know who she was.

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