Chapter no 33


Two days felt like twenty.

We kept our heads down in the city, drinking too much rye and sleeping late to avoid notice as Leo worked around the clock to finish the sails for the Marigold. But I could feel Zola’s eyes on us at the docks. He wasn’t stupid, and we weren’t rid of the Luna’s crew yet. They turned up at every tavern we drank at, their footsteps following ours on the bridges and in the alleyways.

He was waiting for our next move.

But no one could guess what was coming. In another two days, the Marigold would be anchored in Tempest Snare, and we’d be bringing in the haul that would buy us out of West’s debt to Saint. The crew would be free to scrape the crest off the floor of the helmsman’s quarters, and for the first time, the Marigold would be beholden to no one.

West holed up in his quarters, refusing to leave the ship while he healed, the injuries that Zola’s crew had left him with still covering almost every inch of him. The bruises had begun to yellow, the skin puckering along the stitches, but it would be weeks before he fully regained his strength.

Leo sat high on the mast, the striped silk scarf that was tied around his neck fluttering in the wind. Willa was perched beside him, holding the rolled sail in her arms. Since the moment the sun went down and the fog rolled in, they’d been working, Leo’s hands moving so fast at the riggings that it was difficult to even see what he was doing. When we told him he would have to fit the sails in the pitch-dark to keep from being seen, he looked excited by the added challenge. By the time the sun rose, we’d be out of the harbor and on our way to Tempest Snare.

The others were already waiting when I came into the helmsman’s quarters, the map Saint had given me clutched in my hands. West stood at the head of the desk and I didn’t miss the way he avoided meeting my eyes.

“Almost finished,” I said, closing the door behind me. West looked to Hamish. “What else?”

He pushed the spectacles up his nose with the tip of his finger as he answered, “I’ve called in all our debts. It took one or two broken noses, but we’re paid up, and it should be enough to cover us until we can trade in Dern.”

“And the cargo?”

“Auster and I have offloaded everything we don’t need. We had to sell it at a loss, but by the time we meet back up with our merchants, we’ll be able to pay them. They never have to know what we lost in the storm or what we dumped here in Ceros.”

It had taken us an entire day to get everything out of the hull. The Marigold would have to ride lighter than ever before if we were going to get through Tempest Snare without sinking.

“Now, we just need to chart the course,” Paj said, eyeing the map in my hands.

I hesitated, for just a moment, feeling the weight of it baring down on top of me. The Lark was the only thing I had in the world. By giving it to West, I was putting my life in his hands. The thought made my stomach roil, the beat of my heart quickening.

Paj reached out, and I set the map into his hand before he unrolled it on top of the others scattered over the desk. “All right. Take us through it.”

I touched the scripted letters that ran along the edge and followed the line of the shore, remembering the feel of the parchment under my fingertips. They moved up and away from the coast and past Jeval, stopping on the thin slices of land encircling one another in the middle of the sea.

“Tempest Snare.” West leaned on the table across from me, his voice low.

Paj ran his hands over his face, sighing. “That’s where this haul is hiding? Tempest Snare?”

I nodded.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Hamish muttered. “What’s down there?” “Gems. Metals. Coin. Everything,” I answered.

“A shipwreck.” West stared at the map.

“And how are we supposed to get to it?” Auster looked at me. “There’s a reason no one goes into the Snare. It’s a death trap.”

“Unless you know how to navigate it,” I said.

West looked up, then, both hands planted on the desk before him. “You know the way through Tempest Snare?”

I didn’t take my eyes from his as I unclasped my jacket and let it fall from my shoulders. It dropped to the floor, and I rolled up the sleeve of my shirt. The gnarled, puffed scar looked up at us, dark red in the lantern light. I set my arm on the table, lining it up over the map.

Paj pressed his fist to his mouth. “Are you telling me…?” Hamish shook his head, unbelieving.

I pointed to the farthest right point of the scar beneath my wrist. “It’s here.”

“What is? You still haven’t told us what’s down there,” Auster said. I swallowed hard. “The Lark.”

All at once, they collectively stepped back from the table, a hush falling over the cabin.

I put one finger on the center of the reefs and put the other in the sea above Jeval, repeating the words just as I’d heard Clove say them after the storm. “The storm that hit the Lark came from the north.” I pulled my finger down toward the reefs. “It pushed her into the reef, but then it turned.” I moved my finger that was on the reef back into the sea. “Then it shifted west. It dragged the ship here, before it sank. She’s there.” I stared at the small atoll sitting in the maze of reefs.

Hamish looked up at West over the lenses of his spectacles. “If we do this, that’s it. Our ties with Saint will be cut for good.”

“He could come after us.” Paj looked worried. “He won’t.” I paused. “The Lark belongs to me.” “Belongs to you? How?”

“He gave it to me.”

“He gave it to you,” Auster repeated.

“It’s my inheritance.”

They all stared at me. Everyone but West. “It’s only forty or fifty feet down.”

West was quiet, his eyes still running over the map. “I can get us through,” I said. “I know I can.”

“All right,” West finally said, and the others looked relieved, a nervous smile on each of their faces. “We’ll dredge the Lark and sell what we can in Dern to fill our hull with coin. Then we come back to Ceros and give it to Saint to pay for the Marigold.”

“If the sea demons don’t get us first,” Auster whispered, his smile spreading wider.

They’d crewed the ship for more than two years, but it had never been theirs. It never would be, if Saint had anything to say about it. He’d brought West on under the debt because he knew he’d never be able to pay it. He had no reason to think that he’d ever actually lose his shadow ship.

“We better get out of here before this whole damn city starts wondering what we’re up to.” Paj went for the door and Auster followed him.

“One-third,” West said, still looking at the map as the door closed. “All right. One-third to the Marigold’s ledgers and the rest—” “No,” he cut Hamish off, “she’ll take one-third.”

Hamish nodded.

“But why?” I asked. Taking one-third of the haul for myself meant after coin for the ledgers, only one-third would be left for the crew to split. It wasn’t fair.

“When we made the deal, you didn’t tell me it was your inheritance,” he said.

“You didn’t ask. It’s mine and I can use it however I want.” “You don’t have to do that,” Hamish said.

“Yes, I do.”

West let out a long breath. “You may never get another chance like this again, Fable.”

“I know. That’s why I’m not going to waste it.” I hoped he could hear what I wasn’t saying. That even though I’d said I didn’t owe him, I did. And I wanted to pay him back tenfold. “Two-thirds to the Marigold’s

ledgers, and we’ll split the rest between us. Evenly.” I rolled up the map and tucked it back into my jacket.

West’s eyes moved back and forth on mine, his jaw ticking like he was working up the courage to say something. But just as he opened his mouth, footsteps pounded on the deck, coming into the breezeway.

“West!” Willa appeared in the doorway, her eyes wide. “We’ve got trouble.”

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