Chapter no 34


The six of us stood at the railing side by side, the only sound the ring of grommets sliding onto rope above us.

In the distance, torches bobbed beneath the iron archway that led into the harbor below Ceros. The fog had thinned in the cool wind, uncovering the Marigold from her hiding place.

“Well.” Willa sighed. “That’s not good.”

I looked up to the foremast, where Leo was finishing the last of the new sails and he froze when his eyes landed on the harbor. Zola’s crew was coming to finish what he started.

“What is it?” Leo called out.

The torches were almost to the docks, and I could just barely make out the throng of men carrying them. The weight of a stone pulled at the center of my stomach as I realized what they were going to do.

They were going to set fire to the Marigold.

“Make ready!” West shouted, his voice echoing as he ran to the starboard side where Auster was already unlocking the crank for the anchor.

“If you’re not off this ship before we shove off, you’re going with us!” I yelled, and Leo’s eyes widened. He pulled a tool from the back of his belt and went back to work, fastening the corner of the last sail with shaking hands.

The sharp click of the crank rang out as Auster and West raised the anchor, and I went for the lines, untying them with one eye on the harbor. Zola had thought the sails would finish West, but they hadn’t. Now, there was only one thing to do if he wanted to put an end to the Marigold and its crew—he’d have to sink it.

Leo slid down the foremast, landing too hard. His legs buckled and he fell to the deck, groaning, before he got back up with his arm pinned to this side.

“Are they ready?” I looked up to where the clean, white canvas was neatly folded, the grommets gleaming.

“As ready as they’ll ever be!” He limped toward the railing. “Hey!”

He turned back, his bag of tools slung over his shoulder. “You want your coin or not?”

He cursed, running back, and I picked up the sack at the top of the steps. He took it from me before he ran back to the ladder and disappeared over the side.

Willa untied the sails on the foremast, and the wind picked up, blowing in from the south. We’d need it if we were going to get out of the harbor before those torches hit our deck.

Once the lines were free, I jumped out from the mast with the ropes wrapped around my fists. They slid open in one smooth motion, and I landed on both feet, looking up to their crisp, angled shapes against the black sky. They were beautiful, with lacquered wooden rod boning that fanned out from the bottom corner like two wings, ready to take flight.

Hamish took the ropes from me, and I swung myself over the side, making my way down the ladder to the dock. With the sails open and the anchor up, the Marigold was already drifting. I released the heaving lines from the first post, and they slapped against the hull as Paj wound them up.

Shouting sounded behind me, and I worked at the second one, but the rope was wedged too tightly in the knot. I fit my fingers into the loop and sank back, yanking with all of my weight and screaming, “Come on!”

The rope slipped, and I fell flat on my back, hitting the ground so hard that the impact made my lungs curl like fists. Zola’s crew was already on our bay, running straight for me. I scrambled back to the post, unwinding the lines, and Paj pulled them up, but the ship was already too far. I couldn’t reach the ladder.

“Fable!” Willa shouted as I came to the edge of the dock, swung my arms back behind me, and threw myself forward, leaping for the rungs.

I caught the ropes with both hands and hit the hull, my boots dragging in the water, but the glare of a torch was already flying overhead.

“Climb!” West appeared at the railing, his hand reaching for me.

I pulled myself up the swinging ladder and just as I made it halfway, it jerked and snapped, almost throwing me from the ropes. Below, a man had hold of the last rung. He launched himself up out of the water and grabbed my boot, pulling me back down. I kicked until the heel of my foot caught his jaw and he groaned, but he was already climbing. My elbows hooked into the ropes, and I grunted, trying to hold on against his weight as my fingers reached for my belt, but it was no use. I couldn’t get to my knife, and if I let go, I would fall.

A shadow fell from overhead and a body dropped through the air, splashing into the sea below us. When I looked down, West surfaced in the black water. He swam back toward the ship as the man wrenched me back by my shirt.

West climbed up the opposite side between the ship and the ladder, and when he was face-to-face with me, he reached around my waist, taking the knife from my belt. He swung his arm out wide, bringing the blade from the side, and sank it into the man’s ribs. He screamed, his hands trying to grab ahold of me before he slipped, but West kicked him in the chest, sending him backward.

The ladder swung, and I pressed my face into the ropes, gulping air as my arms shook.

“Are you all right?” West reached through the ropes, pushing my hair back from my face and checking me over.

I turned, the harbor drifting away from us, the silhouettes of at least a dozen men standing on the dock. When Zola heard about the sails, he’d sent his crew for blood. By morning, every trader in Ceros would know that we’d made it out of the port. And after his public display of putting the crew of the Marigold in its place, the humiliation of it would fall at Zola’s feet.

In the distance, the Luna sat anchored without a single lantern lit on its deck. But he was there, watching. He had to be. And now, he wasn’t just West’s enemy. He was mine.

But the flash of something on shore made me look up to the shadows of Waterside, where the deep blue of a coat almost glowed in the dark.


He leaned into the post on the street, unmoving, except for the hem of his coat blowing in the wind. I couldn’t see his face, but I could feel his eyes on me. And if he was watching, then he knew. His own copper had paid for the sails that now stretched out over the Marigold, pulling us out to sea. And it didn’t matter who I was or what had happened between us. For the first time in my life, we were on opposite sides of a line.

“Fable.” West’s voice shook me from the thought, and I blinked, finding his face before me again. Seawater still ran down his skin, his hands clamped onto the ropes below mine, where the bloodied blade of my knife caught the moonlight between us. “You all right?” he asked again.

I nodded, looking down into his face and letting the calm in his eyes steady me. That same smooth expression that was always there. Since we left Jeval, we’d come through a storm that almost swallowed us, and Zola had nearly killed him before stripping and almost sinking the Marigold. Nothing ever seemed to shake him.

“I’m fine,” I answered.

He nodded, sliding the wet knife back into my belt. “Then get your ass on the ship.”

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