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Chapter no 43

Fable

It was a love that broke us all.

My mother was high on the mast, just a slice of black against the glimmering sun overhead. It glinted around her and the dark red braid swung at her back as she climbed. I stood on the deck below, fitting my small feet into her dancing shadow.

She was the sun and the sea and the moon in one. She was the north star that pulled us to the shore.

That’s what my father said. The sound of his voice faded in the ripple of wind over the sails, the canvas snapping.

But I wasn’t on the Lark anymore.

The iron taste of blood was still on my tongue when I opened my eyes. But it was too bright. Every inch of my face throbbed, the corner of my eye so swollen that I could barely see out of it. I looked up to the rows of sheets reaching overhead, my heart wrenching in my chest. I couldn’t see over the railing, but I could hear it—the water lapping against the hull of a ship.

The deck beneath me was warmed in the sun, and when I looked up to find it in the sky, my stomach dropped like a stone in my gut. Tears stung in my eyes as I looked up to Zola’s crest burned into the ornate wooden archway.

My arms were pulled behind me, bound around the foremast, and the ache in my back shot into my shoulders, down to my wrists in a quick pulse. I tried to breathe through it, looking for anything nearby I could use to cut free.

Shadows slipped over me as the crew went about their work, their eyes not meeting mine, and I looked for Zola. But he wasn’t at the helm. Men

worked the lines on the masts and a woman with cropped hair sat in a pile of nets on the quarterdeck.

Behind me, on the boom, I spotted one figure I knew.

The pain in my body was nothing compared to the slice and sting of recognizing him. The set of his shoulders and the ears that stuck out beneath his cap. The way his hands hung heavily at his sides—hands that had held me as we leapt from the sinking Lark into the churning sea.

I shook my head, blinking to clear my vision. But when I looked up again, he turned, jumping down from the foot of the sail, and I caught sight of the profile of his face. The bridge of his nose and the curl of his blond mustache.

A feeling like frost inside my lungs crept up my throat, the name frozen in my mouth.

Clove.

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