Chapter no 33 – The Liar

Tress of the Emerald Sea

TRESS FOUND THE CAPTAIN on the top deck, leaning against the rail at the bow of the ship as she poured water from her canteen into a nice tin cup and gazed toward the setting sun that seared the horizon. Tress

stepped up, and at that moment the seethe stopped. Doug, the night helmsman, called for the furling of the sails, and the ship scraped to a halt. It was a quiet beast, slumbering to the gentle sounds of wind on spore and


Each time the ship stopped, the world felt suddenly out of step with its own music. There was no motion to compensate for, and the air was too quiet. The gentle grinding of spores was normally so constant that its lack became unnatural. Even the deck grew quiet as the Dougs went below to grab a snack and play cards until the seethe returned.

The captain didn’t acknowledge Tress. She drank the water from her cup, then dangled it from her index finger, staring toward the sun. As if she were a celestial executioner, sent to make certain the day rightly expired.

Tress didn’t speak up immediately. The captain had made it clear she

wasn’t to be interrupted when enjoying a drink. Tress just hoped the woman wouldn’t toss the cup into the ocean when she was done. Yes, it was

utilitarian in design, but so was Tress herself. She’d hate to have either be wasted.

The Verdant Moon watched overhead, covering a good third of the sky. I’ve often found it odd how little the people of the spore seas look at their moons. When I first arrived on the planet, I couldn’t help staring. There is a malevolence to the way they hover so close. Where most planetary moons

stick to the walls and wait for an invitation to dance, these are already on the floor—and they are wearing sequins.

“Why are you here, Tress?” Crow finally asked.

Tress deliberated. If she outright asked Crow to go to the Crimson Sea, the woman would undoubtedly be suspicious.

“Well,” Tress said. “I wanted to discuss something.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Crow said. “I want to know why you are here on these oceans. What do you want?”

As if that were a simple question to answer. People generally don’t know what they want, though they almost uniformly hate being told what it should be. Plus, Tress had lived her entire life feeling she shouldn’t ask for the things she wanted.

“I left my island to see the world,” she said.

“People often say that about becoming a sailor,” Crow said. “It’s a pretty little aphorism, isn’t it? With a dainty bow. Travel the seas, see a hundred different islands. Problem is, each dockside bar is frighteningly similar—and that’s basically all you’re going to see.”

“At least I’ll get to meet a lot of different people.”

“Well, yes,” she noted. “That is true. Problem is, their insides also all look frighteningly similar. And as a deadrunner, that’s basically all you’re going to see of them.”

Tress glanced away from Crow. She wished the ship would move again.

All this standing still made her nauseous.

“So that’s it?” Crow said. “Just some childish desire to be someplace else?”

“Yes,” Tress said.

The captain seemed disappointed. In the distance, the sun finally sank into the sea, fully extinguished. Only the afterglow persisted to give evidence of the crime.

It bothered Tress how much she’d had to lie lately. Certainly, one

shouldn’t feel bad about lying to someone like Crow. One shouldn’t hit

people either, but such social conventions don’t apply to the tiger gnawing on your leg.

So Tress wasn’t worried about this lie. She was more concerned by the general density of lies emerging from her. They were all for the greater good, yes, but the aforementioned tiger might also believe that said gnawing was for the greater good. Specifically its good.

Tress was coming to realize a discomforting fact: people are not separated into simple groups of liars and non-liars. It is often the situation, and one’s upbringing or genetics, that makes the lies—and therefore the liars.

“Actually,” Tress found herself saying, “there is more. Someone I love was taken by the Sorceress. I intend to travel to her island and confront her to get him back.”

Crow nearly dropped the cup. Tress reached out, anxious.

“The Midnight Sea,” Crow said. “You intend to travel the Midnight Sea.” “Well, hopefully not alone,” Tress said. “Ideally I’d like to do it in a ship.”

Crow laughed, and it was not a cheerful sound. Antagonistic and mocking, it was to ordinary laughter what a guard dog is to a puppy.

You?” Crow repeated. “A straggly-haired washer girl from nowhere?

You’re going… I can’t even say it!”

Something in Tress changed at that sound. It didn’t quite snap, but it

certainly bent—and found that it was able to flex far more than it had in the past. She looked Crow in the eyes and said, “I don’t think that’s fair. I have gotten this far. My mother always told me that the hardest part of any task is getting yourself to start it.”

“As someone who has climbed several mountains,” Crow said, “I can confidently say your mother is an idiot.”

Tress felt herself flush with anger. Some things were uncalled for, even among pirates.

“Who,” Crow said, “did you think would take you on this impossible mission?”

“Well,” Tress said, “I only really know the crew of one ship right now. I was kind of hoping—”

She was interrupted by another bout of laughter. She had expected this one. She’d provoked it on purpose. Because she was growing less and less embarrassed about lying, at least to Crow.

And she had just thought of quite the majestic one. “What if I found a way to pay you?” Tress said.

Crow laughed so hard she started coughing. Ulaam even came up and peeked about the deck at the sound, as the sole previous time he’d heard Crow laugh like that was when one of the sailors had managed to spear himself in the crotch with his own boarding hook.

“Even if I wanted to go to the Midnight Sea,” Crow said, wiping her eyes, “and even if you could pay me, the crew would never agree to it.”

“You’re probably right,” Tress said, pretending to think. “I’d have to ease them into it. Send them someplace menacing, but less dangerous at first.

What about…the Crimson Sea? I’d need to cross the Crimson to get to the Midnight Sea anyway. So we could go there first.”

“They’d never agree to it, girl,” Crow said. “This crew is as cowardly as the king himself.”

“But say I could get them to agree,” Tress said. “Would you allow it? Very few ships sail the Crimson, so the ones that do must be the richest and most valuable to loot!”

That, it should be noted, made about as much sense as assuming people who live in distant kingdoms must be the most fit, since it takes so long to walk to those places.

Crow shrugged. “If you can persuade them, fine. But they won’t agree.

Not yet. They’re not…desperate enough.”

Tress thanked the captain and excused herself. She didn’t want to say

anything more, and didn’t need to. Because the captain had effectively just been played by a straggly-haired washer girl from nowhere.


You'll Also Like