Chapter no 23


I sank back into the tufted leather chair behind my father’s desk, drinking in the warm scent of his pipe smoke. It was soaked into every bit of the room, sweet and spicy and so familiar that it made my chest ache.

Traces of my mother were everywhere.

A compass that belonged to her on the windowsill. Dredger tools spilling from a small chest on the floor. Beside the door, a fraying turquoise silk scarf hung from a rusty nail. If I closed my eyes, I would still be able to see it wrapped around her shoulders, her long braid swinging down her back as she walked.

So, I didn’t close my eyes.

I lit the candles as the sun fell and went to the window, looking out over the Pinch. Eyes still watched from dark windows, and I wondered if any of those faces were ones I’d recognize. If any of them would recognize me as the little girl who used to walk these streets on Saint’s heels.

I glanced over my shoulder to the gilded mirror on the wall. The silver had begun to boil behind the glass, making everything in its reflection look like it was underwater.

In its center, there I was.

I stilled. Because I didn’t know the girl in the reflection. And also, I did. I looked like her. So much like her, in shape and color and angle of jaw.

The years had changed me. I was taller, of course, but there was a curve to my hips I hadn’t realized was there. The freckles that once sprinkled over my nose were now too numerous to count, many of them melting together. My auburn hair was darker, the colors shifting with the turn of light. There was something I didn’t like about seeing myself like that. It was unnerving.

I reached up, touching my face and letting my fingertips trail the shape of my bones. My hand froze when I felt it—like a deep current rushing inside of me.


I could feel her, as if she stood in the room beside me. As if the warmth of her was dancing over my skin. Something flashed on the shelf against the wall, and I squinted, my eyes focusing on the pale green glow.

Inside an open wooden box was something I recognized. Something I never thought I’d see again.

A sharp pain awoke behind my ribs, hot tears springing up into my eyes.

It couldn’t be.

The simple pendant sat inside the box, the silver chain spilling over the side. A green abalone sea dragon. Worth nothing, really. Except that it was hers.

My mother’s necklace had dangled over me every single night as she kissed me. It pulled around her throat when we dove the reefs. She was wearing it the night she died.

So, how was it here?

I picked it up carefully, as if it might turn to smoke and disappear.

Voices trailed in through the glass-pane windows, and my fingers closed over the necklace as I looked out.

Saint’s blue coat glowed in the dim light, the only bright thing in the dismal street. People moved out of his way as he walked, his silent presence almost seeming to leave a trail behind him. He’d always been that way.

The tremble in my bones returned and I shoved my hand into the pocket of my jacket. The necklace tangled in my slick fingers as I sank back into the chair. I sat up straight, squaring my shoulders to the door.

His boots stopped outside, and he waited a short moment before he fit his key into the lock. I tried to slow my racing heart, but beads of sweat were already gathering at my brow. I bit down on my bottom lip to keep it from quivering.

The door swung open, letting the cool air in, and the man I’d never been allowed to call my father stood before me, his ice-blue eyes sharpening in the candlelight.

I stilled, unable to even draw breath. “I’m—”

“Fable.” The deep grind of his voice filled the quiet room. He had recognized me. I knew he had.

Saint closed the door behind him and walked to the desk, leaning into it with both of his hands as he looked down into my face. I tried to blink back the tears threatening to come up into my eyes, but it was no use. I waited for him to speak, my thoughts racing with what he might say. What he might do. But he only stared at me.

“I bartered for passage on one of your ships,” I said, the sound of my voice like a stranger.

“The Marigold.”

I nodded. “That’s right.”

The floorboards creaked beneath his feet as he stood and went to the shelf, picking up his pipe and filling it with mullein leaves.

“Where’s Clove?” My father’s navigator was never far from Saint, and I wondered what he’d say when he saw me.



He hunched over the flame, puffing until the leaves smoldered.

But that couldn’t be right. Clove and Saint had crewed together since before I was born. There was no way he’d moved on from my father’s ship. Unless …

I wiped a stray tear from the corner of my eye when I realized what he meant. Clove was dead. And if Clove was dead, Saint was alone. The thought made me feel like I was back under that dark water, the flash of lightning silent above me.

“I saw your ships in Dern and down in the harbor.” I sniffed, changing the subject. “How many are there now?”

He sat in the chair before me. “Twenty-eight.”

My eyes widened. I’d thought maybe twenty. But almost thirty ships sailing under your crest was something more than a trading outfit. If he had that many ships, then he wasn’t the rising trader I’d known four years ago. He was the at the top of that ladder now.

“You did it,” I whispered, a smile pulling at my lips.

“I did what?”

“You opened your route to the Unnamed Sea.”

He drew in a mouth full of smoke, and it rippled out through his lips slowly.

“Just like Isolde—”

“Don’t say her name.” He stiffened, his eyes narrowing.

I tilted my head, trying to read him. But Saint was a fortress. An abyss with no end. Very few things put him on edge, and I hadn’t suspected my mother’s name would be one of them.

It wasn’t the greeting I’d expected. He wasn’t a warm man, and I didn’t need an embrace or a display of emotion, but he hadn’t even asked me what happened after he left me on Jeval. How I’d survived. How I got to Ceros.

“I’ve come for what you promised me,” I said, the anger bleeding out into the words.

The lines around his eyes carved deeper as he surveyed me for a long moment. He bit down on the pipe and stood again, sending the chair scraping over the floor, and went back to the shelf. He picked up stacks of dusty books by the armful, setting them on the desk. “Your inheritance,” he said.

I leaned forward. “My what?”

He pulled a thickly rolled parchment from the back of the shelf and dropped it onto the desk in front of me. I picked it up slowly, a tingle running over my skin. He watched me unroll it, and the candlelight spilled over a faded map. It was Tempest Snare.

“I don’t understand.”

Saint pulled a single copper from his jacket pocket and set it on a point in the upper right section of the map. “The Lark.”

The sting on my skin grew, traveling over the whole of me until I was buzzing with the heat of a storm. “What?”

He set the tip of his finger onto the coin. “She’s there. And she’s yours.” I looked up at him through my eyelashes.

“I saved her for you.” “You never went back?”

“Once.” He cleared his throat and my fingers tightened around the necklace in my pocket. That’s how he had it. He’d gone back. For Isolde. “But I left the cargo.”

“There was a fortune in the hull of that ship…” My voice trailed off. “There are only three people who survived that night.” For a moment, it

looked like the flash of memory pained him. “Only three people who knew where the Lark went down.”

Me, Saint, and Clove.

“It belongs to you,” he said.

I stood, moving around the corner of the desk and wrapped my arms around him. I pressed my face into his shoulder and he stood erect, the tension widening throughout him. But I didn’t care. I’d spent every day of the last four years trying to get back to him. And I’d spent every day wondering if he’d keep his promise to me.

He had.

The Lark slept in Tempest Snare with my mother, waiting for me. For us.

There was enough coin and gems there to do whatever I wanted. After four years of scraping every single day, I would want for nothing.

I let him go, wiping my eyes. “When do we go?”

But his face changed then, the slant leaving his eyes. “We’re not.” I stared at him.

“I left that ship at the bottom of the sea for you. If you want it, then go get it.”

“But I thought…” The words broke off. “You said you would give me what’s mine.”

“And I have.”

“I thought you meant a place here.” My voice strained. “I came back to be with you. To crew for you.”

“Crew for me?”

“I’m a good dredger and an even better gem sage. I’m not as good as Isolde was, but—”

“Don’t … say … her name,” his voice clipped. “I don’t understand,” I breathed.

“I never should have let your mother step foot on my ship. I’m not making the same mistake twice.” He stood, walking to the window. I watched the muscles in his neck tense as his jaw clenched.

“You’re turning me out? Just like that?”

“I just gave you your future!” He flung a hand at the map.

I picked it up, throwing it across the desk. It hit him and fell to the floor. “I don’t want the Lark. I want to crew under your crest.”


Hot tears rolled down my face, the panicked breath in my chest coming faster. “You have no idea what I had to do to get here.”

“And now you know how to stay alive in this world.” He lifted his chin. “What does that mean?”

“The best thing I could have done for you is to leave you on Jeval.” “You mean the best thing you could have done for you. I was starving. I

was terrified!” I glared at him, my teeth gritted. He expected me to be grateful for the hell he’d put me through, so he could take credit for who I was. “I lost my mother and my home. And then you dumped me on the nearest rock to fend for myself.”

“Fend for yourself?” He spoke quietly, bitter and sharp. “Who do you think kept you fed? Who do you think put the coin you used to get passage in your pocket?” His voice rose.

I stared at him, confused.

“What do you think the Marigold is, Fable?”

“I know what a shadow ship is. It’s the decoy you use to manipulate trade and gather information. I’m not stupid. West is probably saddled under a debt to you that he’ll never be able to pay.”

“Very smart.” He looked pleased. “What does that have to do with me?”

“You think West would have shown up in Jeval if I hadn’t sent him there? You think he would have paid you for pyre if I hadn’t ordered him to?”

My eyes widened, my mouth dropping open. I reached out with a shaking hand to the desk, bracing myself against the words. “What are you saying?”

“I took care of you.”

A sob broke from my chest before it turned into a bitter laugh. Of course. West knew exactly who I was. This whole time. And when he sailed into the barrier islands two years ago looking to buy pyre, he was really just looking for me. That’s why he didn’t want me on his ship. That’s why he couldn’t let anything happen to me.

I was the most expensive cargo he’d ever taken across the Narrows.

I stared at the ground, trying to keep the room from spinning. Everything was sideways. Everything was wrong.

“You don’t see it yet. Maybe you never will. But I did what was best for both of us. You kept your promise and I kept mine.” He picked the map back up, rolling it tightly. “Now it’s time to go your own way, Fable.”

Another cry slipped from my lips, and I covered my face with my hands, humiliated. I’d crossed the Narrows for a man who’d probably never even loved me. For a dream that would never come true. And in that moment, I had no idea why I’d ever believed it could.

“You’re strong and you’re sharp. You’ll figure it out.”

“If you’re not coming with me, then this map is useless.” I stared at it, my body feeling suddenly heavy. “Even if I find a way to get there, I’ll never be able to navigate Tempest Snare without you. You’re the only one who knows the way through those reefs.”

His hand reached out for me and I flinched, stepping back. But he followed, snatching up my arm and pushing the sleeve of my shirt up to my elbow. In the flickering light, the raised, pearly skin of my scar glimmered between us.

“There.” He pointed to the upper right corner, at the tip of the longest thread of the scar.

A sick, sinking feeling pulled in the pit of my stomach as I put it together. As if I were seeing it for the first time, the pattern came to life, taking shape before my eyes.

It was a map.

That proud, stubborn bastard had carved a map to the Lark into my skin. It was the intricate path through the graveyard where two hundred years of sunken ships were laid to rest.

I wrenched my arm away, my face on fire.

“You have everything you need to build your own life.”

He meant a life away from him. This wasn’t an inheritance. It wasn’t even a gift. It was a bribe to stay away. “Fine,” I choked. “I’ll go my own way. And if you think I’ll owe you anything…”

“You’re my daughter, Fable.”

I looked him in the eye, my voice seething with every drop of hatred that boiled within me. “I’m Isolde’s daughter.”

The ironclad set of his mouth faltered then, just barely, and I knew the words had hurt. But I meant them. I’d been a fool for believing that Saint would welcome me back to the Narrows. That he’d be happy to see me.

He was the same cruel, cold tyrant he’d always been.

And I hated him more than I’d ever hated anything in my life.

I took the map, walking straight past him. My reflection in the gilded mirror flashed like a ghost as I passed, and when I opened the door, the foul smell of the Pinch rushed inside. I stepped into the muck, tucking the map into my jacket.

And this time, I left Saint behind.

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