Chapter no 29


A single lantern glowed up on the Marigold as I walked down the dock in the dark.

The empty ships floated in the harbor like sleeping giants, the crews drinking their weight in the city, and only the harbor workers they’d paid to watch the bays were out. Even Waterside looked empty, the little faces that usually lined the alleyways gone. Ceros looked so much smaller in the dark, but I felt less small within it.

When I reached the slip where the Marigold was anchored, my boots stopped at the bloodstain on the dock where the two bodies had been that morning. It was scrubbed clean, but the hints of red were stained into the wood. I could still see them, their crumpled frames lying in the sun, and I wondered who they were. Probably poor men spending their nights for hire to make extra coin. It was a pathetic way to die, caught in the middle of someone else’s feud.

The ladder was unrolled, waiting for me, and I looked up, fitting my bandaged hands onto the rungs. I thought I’d stood on the decks of the Marigold for the last time, but now, this ship would become my home. This crew would become my family. And like the turn of the wind before the most unpredictable of storms, I could feel that everything was about to change.

I lifted myself up over the railing, and the others were already gathered on the deck, standing in a circle before the helm. The naked masts towered over us like skeletons, reaching up into the dark until they disappeared. The torn canvas now lay rolled up in the hull.

West stared at the deck as I found a place beside Willa, the tension visible in the way he stood. He’d agreed, but he wasn’t happy about it, and that wounded me more than I wanted to admit.

“You sure about this, dredger?” Willa’s arm pressed into mine as she leaned into me.

I looked at West, and for just a moment, he met my eyes. “I’m sure.”

And I was. It wasn’t just that there was nowhere else for me to go. It was that since that first night sleeping in the empty hammock below deck, there seemed to be a place for me here. I fit. Even if West didn’t want me on the crew, I could make my own way with the five of them. I could trust them. And that was enough. That was more than enough.

Auster pulled the wool cap from his head, letting his unbound hair spill over his shoulder, and held it upside down in the middle of the circle.

A lump rose in my throat as I stared into it.

Willa took a single copper from her belt. “I say we let this good-for-nothing Jevali dredger crew for the Marigold.” She flicked the coin into the air, and it flashed against the lantern light as it spun, landing in Auster’s hat. “Even if she is a bad luck charm.”

“Fine by me.” Paj snapped a copper between his fingers, shooting it in after Willa’s.

Auster followed, giving me a wink. “Me too.”

Hamish took a copper from his vest, eyeing me. The hesitation wasn’t hidden on his face. “What was Saint’s daughter doing on Jeval?”

I shifted on my feet, my hands sliding into the pockets of my jacket. “What?”

“If we’re going to trust you, I want to know the story. How’d you end up on Jeval?”

“We don’t need to know.” West gave Hamish a warning look. “I do.”

“He left me there,” I said, my throat tightening. “The night after the Lark

sank, he left me on Jeval.”

They fell silent, their eyes finding the ground. I didn’t know their stories, but I imagined they couldn’t be much better than mine. I wasn’t foolish enough to feel sorry for myself. The Narrows was the edge of a blade. You

couldn’t live here and not get cut. And I didn’t have it in me to be ashamed of where I’d come from. Those days were gone.

Hamish gave me a nod before he flipped his coin in, and they all looked to West. He stood silent as the seabirds called out in the dark behind him, and I wondered if he would change his mind, letting the crew outvote him.

When he finally lifted his hand, the glint of copper shined between his fingers. He dropped it into the hat without a word.

His words echoed in the silence. He’d take me on. He’d take my coin to save the Marigold. But that was it.

“Get the rye, Willa.” Auster pushed the hat into my hands, and I looked down into it.

It was tradition for every member of a crew to give a copper to the newest member as a show of good faith. I’d seen my father’s crews do the same many times. But in the years since I first set foot on Jeval, I’d never been given anything. Ever. I didn’t bother trying to hold back my tears. They streamed down my face one after the other as I hugged the hat to me.

Like a weary bird flying out over the most desolate sea, I finally had a place to land.

Willa uncorked one of the ink-blue bottles from the tavern, and Paj passed out the glasses as she filled them, the overflowing rye hitting the deck at our feet. All together, we knocked them back, taking the rye in one swallow, and they erupted in cheers. I coughed against the burn in my throat, laughing.

“How much?” I asked, turning the empty glass in my hand. “How much what?” Willa refilled her glass.

“How much coin do we need for the sails?”

Hamish looked a little surprised at the question, but he pulled the book from inside his vest. He took the lantern from the mast and set it on the deck between us, opening to the last marked page, and we all crouched down around it, our faces lit in the dim light. His handwriting scrawled across the parchment in rows with the numbers on the right side organized into sums.

“After paying the repair crew and making up the losses from the storm, we’ll need at least eight hundred coppers for the sails.”

“Eight hundred?” Paj looked skeptical.

“I’m pretty sure that’s what we’ll have to offer to get a sailmaker to do it.

No one will want trouble with Zola.” “He’s right,” West said.

The rye in my veins didn’t dull the sting of the number. I knew it would be expensive, but I hadn’t guessed the cost would be that high. I hoped my plan would still hold against it.

“Can you get it or not?” The light reflected off of Hamish’s spectacles as he looked up from the page.

“I can get it.”

Willa twisted the cork back into the bottle and set it between us. “You never said how.”

“Does it matter how?”

“Not really.” She shrugged. “But I’d like to know all the same.” “Saint’s going to pay for the sails.”

West’s eyes snapped up to me, and Paj cleared his throat. “Saint?” “That’s right.”

“And how are you going to get him to do that?” Willa was clearly entertained.

“I have something he wants. Something I know he’d give anything to have back.”

They didn’t ask what it was, but I could see on their faces that the idea made them nervous. Saint was already angry with them about Zola. As soon as he figured out I was playing him to repair the Marigold, he’d likely want all of our heads.

“You’re playing with fire, Fable,” Willa said, but the wicked smile on her lips reached her eyes, making them twinkle.

I could see that West was thinking the same thing, but the amusement was missing from his face. He stared into his empty cup, the light catching the green glass. The cut that ran along his forehead was hidden beneath his hair, but the entire left side of his face was still swollen, one of his eyes bloodshot.

This crew had already been in trouble when I stepped onto their ship, but I couldn’t help wondering if I was going to be the storm that finally sank



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