Chapter no 5


By some twist of fate, the beach was nearly clear when I pulled the skiff ashore. Maybe Koy was telling the truth when he said the dredgers were still working the traders at the docks. Or maybe they were readying for the storm blowing in. Either way, there were only a few people to notice that I’d returned from the reef.

I threw the tangled nets over Koy’s still body and grabbed my belt, hopping over the side and splashing down into the water. The first question anyone who saw me would have was what I was doing in Koy’s boat alone. The second would be to wonder where Koy was.

I tossed the scull inside and put one foot in front of the other, taking my usual path to the cove where I kept my fish traps anchored. The sun was beginning to fall in the sky, the wind picking up. The crew of the Marigold would be preparing to set sail as soon as the storm passed.

A dredger with an armful of empty baskets eyed me as I passed him, and I reached up to touch my lip with the tip of my finger. There was no telling how bad my face looked, and there was no way to hide it. As soon as someone found Koy, they’d put two and two together.

I found the path and cut south, toward the end of the longest stretch of sand. Once the sun fell behind the ridge, the beach was draped in shadow. I followed the trail up to the cliffs, watching behind me every few steps. But I stopped in my tracks as I came around the rocks, sucking in a breath.

My camp was ransacked, the few things of value or use I had, gone.

Everything else was scattered in pieces over the sand.

Koy had been scheming. He took me out on an empty skiff to find my pyre cache while his friends tossed my camp for coin and pyre. But he

hadn’t counted on me getting back to the island alive. And whether or not he woke up in his boat, someone would have a knife in my gut by the time the storm hit the beach.

My eyes slid to the tree in the distance, my heartbeat faltering.

“Please please please…” I ran to it, jumping out from the cliff’s edge to catch hold of the thickest branch and swinging myself up and over the trunk. My hand ran up the bark frantically, feeling for the hollow, and a cry slipped from my throat as my fingers caught hold of the purse. I clutched it to my chest. They hadn’t found it.

I wiped at my eyes with the back of my hand, trembling as the image of the body floating on the reef came back to me. If I didn’t hurry, I’d have my own feet tied to the coral, the cold seawater filling my lungs. My feet hit the rocks and I tore the hem of my shirt in one long strip before wrapping it tightly around the coin purse clutched in my palm. I tied off the end with my teeth. If someone was going to take it from me this time, they’d have to pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

Below, boats full of dredgers were headed to shore from the barrier islands. Almost every one of their faces was turned to the horizon, where black clouds were swallowing the rising moon. I scanned the water’s edge for Koy’s skiff and when I found it, my blood turned to ice, my skin prickling. It was there, pulled up onto the sand where I’d left it. But Koy was gone.

My eyes went to the darkening path. I couldn’t go that way. Not without running into someone looking for me.

I turned into the wind and went upward instead, running over loose rock between rises of stone in a maze of dried-up riverbeds. I kept one hand to the wall, my bare feet struggling to find steady footing in the low light. The only way back down was the switchbacks, but the last time I’d taken that way was two years ago, when I’d fallen from the path and broke my leg. I’d almost starved to death, unable to get my own food or wood for a fire those first two weeks.

But right now, falling to my death sounded better than whatever Koy would do when he found me.

I bit down on my bottom lip as the walls opened up, the wind slithering into the cavern around me. I didn’t hesitate, stepping one foot onto the narrow path with my breath held. The warm wind came up off the water, pressing me to the rock, and I tried to keep my eyes on the ground, one arm hovering out over the drop.

My bare foot came down on something sharp as I inched down the wall, and I recoiled, hissing. A drop of blood dripped onto the stone below, and I walked faster, not waiting until I reached the bottom to jump out onto the sand. I landed hard, rolling onto my side before I stumbled back to my feet and limped toward the beach.

The line of boats in the distance were docked for the night. I could smell the crisp burn of fish skin and fire smoke coming from the trees, which meant most of the dredgers were busy cooking their suppers. All except one.

Speck was lying flat on his back, already drunk on the rye he’d bought with the day’s coin. The water came up over his bare feet, and his mouth was open, a crackling snore dragging over his throat. I gave him a light kick and waited, but he only made a gargling sound and rolled over, his face pressing into the sand.

“Sorry, Speck.” I whispered, leaping over him.

But I wasn’t sorry. While I was barely surviving the last four years, he was drinking enough rye to feed me for the length of my life. And he was my only way off the beach.

I waded out into the water quietly, dropping my dredging belt inside before I lifted myself into the boat and pulled up the small anchor, my heart racing.

“Fable!” a ragged voice rang out in the darkening light.

My head snapped back toward the trees, my face flushing hot. I pulled the anchor onto the deck and untied the sail.

“Fable!” My name tore through the silence again, lifting over the sound of the water.

The skiff drifted slowly as I took up the sculls. I’d have to row until the wind caught the sail, but I was out of time. Back on the beach, a figure burst through the trees.


As soon as his eyes found me, he was running down the slope, kicking up sand behind him. Dark blood ran down the side of his face and neck, spreading onto his bare chest like an open hand.

I dropped the sculls into the water and pulled with a groan. Above me, the canvas of the sail was barely fluttering against the wind. I wasn’t moving fast enough. My heart stumbled in a haphazard rhythm as Koy’s boat splashed into the water behind me.

“Come on!” I screamed, willing the wind to come. “Come on!”

The sail snapped, bowing as the wind filled it, and the boom swung across the deck as the boat lurched forward, knocking me down. I crawled back to the stern, taking hold of the tiller. Behind me, Koy’s skiff was turning about. The barrier islands were only barely visible, but at my back, Jeval was illuminated in the last moments of a fiery amber sunset. And Koy was gaining on me.

I was stupid for not leaving him in the water. I was stupid for getting on that boat with him alone in the first place. It was my own fault that he’d been able to sneak up on me on the reef. And now, if he caught me before I got to the Marigold, I’d have no one to blame but myself.

You weren’t made for this world, Fable. You want to prove me wrong?

Get yourself off this island.

“Shut up,” I rasped, the tears burning in my eyes as Saint’s face conjured like a ghost before me. If I’d come this far only to die, I’d prove him right. A hundred times over.

I didn’t slow as I came upon the docks. I stepped up onto the side and crossed my arms over my chest, jumping into the dark water with my belt and purse. When I came back up, Speck’s boat crashed into the post, the crude wood scraping and cracking as I swam for the ladder. I pulled myself up the rungs and ran as soon as my feet hit the wooden planks.

“West!” I screamed his name into the dark as the Marigold came into view.

The ships floated silently in the bays, their lanterns flickering on empty decks. Behind me, Koy’s footsteps pounded on the dock. Faster than mine.


A figure appeared on the starboard side of the Marigold, and a lantern lifted to illuminate the face of a girl—the girl I’d seen up in the masts that morning.

“Fable!” Koy growled behind me, his voice like thunder.

The girl stared down at me wordlessly as I skidded to a stop beside the ship.

“Please!” I shouted, reaching up for the stowed ladder.

Her eyes went behind me, to Koy. She hesitated before she finally pulled at the ropes, and the ladder unrolled, slapping against the hull. I leapt for it, swinging out over the water and crashing into the side of the ship with my shoulder.

Koy slid on the dock, reaching for my legs, and I kicked him back, climbing the ropes with shaking hands until I was tumbling over the railing. I fell onto the deck hard, landing on my back and gulping in the air.

The girl stood over me, the lantern still swinging from her hand.

“What the hell are you doing?” West was suddenly behind her, his face almost invisible in the dark. He reached down, taking hold of my arm and yanking me back to my feet.

I went for my knife, opening my mouth to speak, but in the next breath, the cold, sharp point of a blade was pressed into the soft skin below my jaw. The girl was instantly at my side, a jeweled dagger clutched in her fist.

My hands lifted before me, and I went still as more figures came out onto the deck behind West. His furious gaze was fixed on me.

“Fable!” Koy’s hoarse roar sounded again below, but West didn’t budge.

His stare didn’t wander.

“Forty coppers to take me to the Narrows.” I lifted my hand between us, where the heavy purse was still tied to my fist.

West stiffened, a storm of thoughts lighting in his eyes before he took hold of my arm again and shoved me backward. “Get off my ship.”

I bit down hard on my lip, the sting of tears reigniting behind my eyes. I was going to have to give him everything. “Fifty-two coppers and two good pieces of pyre for passage,” I panted. “Please.”

“We’re traders. We don’t sell passage.” West said, his hands clenching into fists at his sides.

That was a lie and we both knew it. Traders sold passage all the time.

West’s eyes fell to my busted lip, and I watched the tick of his jaw. I could still feel the dried blood, tight over the skin on my face. “What’d you get yourself into?” He looked over the railing to Koy, who was pacing the dock below, waiting for me.

I reached back slowly, taking the knife from my belt. In one motion, I slid the blade between my palm and the purse, cutting it free before I pushed it into his chest.

“I’m not taking you anywhere,” his voice ground like wet sand against stone.

I swallowed hard, grateful for the dark. I could feel the flush beneath my skin, the traitorous tears pooling in my eyes. “All right. There’s at least one helmsman on these docks who will take fifty-two coppers.” I clamped the blade of my knife between my teeth and slung one foot over the side, reaching for the ladder.

West’s shoulders tensed, and he let out a long breath, his grip tightening on the rail. “Wait.”

I froze, one tear falling down my cheek. He looked over me, to the other ships anchored down the dock before he turned back toward the water.

“West,” the girl said, her tone tipping down in a warning.

The profile of his angled face sharpened against the moonlight as he looked at her. He cursed as he held a hand out to me. “Give me the copper.”

My mouth dropped open. “What?”

“What?” The word was echoed by someone else on the deck I couldn’t see.

West ignored him. “The copper,” he said again, more slowly.

I jumped back down from the rail. “Fifty-two coppers and two pieces of pyre for passage to Ceros,” I repeated the terms, the desperation in my voice not hidden.


I took his hand into mine and shook on it, but the girl beside me was staring up at him, her head tilted in disbelief.

“You better not ever come back here, Fable!” Koy shouted, and I flinched as my hand fell from West’s. “If I ever see your face on this island

again, I’ll tie you to the east reef! I’ll watch the flesh rot from your bones!”

I watched him walk back down the dock, disappearing in the dark. It wasn’t until I turned back to the faces of the crew standing on the deck of the Marigold that I realized what I’d done.

I’d made it off Jeval.

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