Hello, everyone! The blog has been pretty quiet for most of 2017, mostly because I’ve been pouring every spare moment into writing the THREE novels that have been finished this year! The other two novels are “Midnight’s Knight,” a Fae War Chronicles novel that takes us back to when Finn was a squire and Ramel was a page, before the Unseelie Princess was kidnapped, sparking the great war for Faeortalam; and “The Mad Queen,” Book Five of the Fae War Chronicles, a fast-paced adventure following the events after “The Lethe Stone.” If you haven’t yet read them, they’re great for reading by the fire or during those hours of holiday travel by plane, train or automobile. And if you HAVE read them, please consider leaving a review on Amazon and Goodreads! Love it? Great, tell others so they can experience the awesomeness! Hate it? Okay, lay it on me, what really grinds your gears about the story? Reviews are so, so important for indie authors!
In any case, the third novel completed in 2017 (on December 29!) is “The Dragon Ship,” Book Six of the Fae War Chronicles. This is a book that goes beyond the horizons of the Fae world as we’ve known it, so without further ado, here’s a glimpse of the Seafarers.
“There’s a storm coming.”
Mal sighed and straightened from the rail. Trust Hex to come and ruin a perfectly good sunset over the water. Pretending not to hear Hex never worked, and there was only so much avoiding someone that could be done on a ship at sea.
“You our weather-witch now?” Mal replied caustically. “Gonna whistle up a wind to whisk us away from the storm?”
Hex folded his arms over his chest. Mal didn’t miss the flash of hurt in his dark eyes. “Thought you’d do that.”
“I’m not a weather-witch,” she retorted. “You’n I both know that.”
“No, but you’re something. We do both know that.”
“Not this again, Hex.” The words came out more of a groan than she’d intended, but she was thoroughly sick of his insistence that she was anything other than what she was—what she wanted to be—and that was a third mate on the Dragonwing. She scratched at a patch of skin that had been bothering her for a few days.
Hex’s eyes softened. “You should get Jem to look at that.”
“It’s nothing,” she growled. “Don’t you have mainmast this watch?”
He shrugged one shoulder in that infuriating way of his that always made something odd happen to her stomach. “Kelor is letting us roam. It’s calm…for now.”
“Wish I had Kelor for my overwatch,” she muttered. The second mates got to add a syllable to their names, but the thirds joked that the longer the name, the meaner the mate. Thirds only rated one syllable, a sound to be barked and shouted, used to summon and discipline. Seconds got one more, and the handful of firsts onboard had a full three. And the captain had two names. Two whole names. The luxury of it, the elegance and excess of so many sounds to describe one person, sometimes made Mal dizzy with want. She already knew what name she would have when she was a first: Mallora. And she wished she’d been able to compose it herself in her hammock as she’d heard some of the other thirds do when they thought everyone else was asleep after watch. But that wasn’t her lot.
“Telen isn’t bad,” Hex said, leaning his elbows on the rail next to her. She slid a glance toward him grudgingly, like a copper ring pushed across a table at the end of a game of dragon’s tail when luck hadn’t been kind.
“He isn’t bad, but he isn’t good,” she said. Hex had filled out in the last year, his shoulders broadening and arms thickening with cords of muscle in a way that confused Mal. There were a few other women among the thirds: Sor and Oll and Iss. She’d heard Sor and Iss talking about Hex one night as she dressed in her red shirt and black breeches for watch. Thirds wore red so they could always be seen. Seconds wore gray, to blend with the sky and the ship (so they could prowl about and catch thirds unawares, the thirds muttered) and firsts wore crisp white, always spotless. The captain wore blue, the color of the sky at noon and the sails of the Dragonwing.
In any case, she thought Sor and Iss ridiculous as they talked about Hex. She’d known Hex since the beginning of their lives—his mother had been a second onboard and they both vaguely remembered her. Neither of them knew anything about Mal’s mother. Hex’s mother had nursed them both.
They didn’t have any little sparrows on the ship now. That’s what they called the kids, sparrows, because they pattered about the deck and flew up the rigging light as little birds. They got to be free until they were seven, and then they either took their oath to the captain and put on the black of a fourth—black so that they wouldn’t be constantly upbraided for a dirty shirt, small mercies—or put ashore at one of the Isles, usually Haven or Horizon. Fourths didn’t have names. They were all “you” and “boy,” whether they were a boy or a girl.
“Telen doesn’t let you roam on watch,” agreed Hex with conspiratorial smile.
Mal scowled at him.
“Stop that,” he told her mildly, grinning. He reached out with one hand and touched the crease at the center of her eyebrows with his thumb, like he could wipe it away. He’d done it since they were both sparrows whenever she was upset. Most of the time it gave her a feeling of warmth and comfort, but now it just annoyed her. She swatted his hand away, perhaps harder than she needed to. He raised his eyebrows.
“We’re thirds,” she said in irritation, as though that explained everything, but it didn’t. It didn’t explain anything at all about why she felt the way she did, and there was no one she could ask about it. Fat chance she’d ask Sor or Iss anything about being a woman. Oll wasn’t bad. They’d once made a spit-solemn when they were fourths together that they would practice together until they beat all the boys at climbing the rigging—and they did. But they didn’t share secrets anymore and spit-solemns were for sparrows.
They both gazed out at the ocean for a long while. Mal felt her heart expanding the way it only did when she looked at the sea, when she thought about the endless expanse of water surrounding them, its silken waves caressing the hull of the Dragonwing. The sunset bloodied the horizon and the shadows lengthened. Mal tipped her head back and watched the stars appear overhead, naming them quietly as they became visible.
She wasn’t a weather-witch—one of the firsts, Kalinda, was their wind-whistler. Kalinda climbed faster than the other firsts, but Mal was confident she’d beat her. Firsts didn’t have occasion to climb the rigging for actual work, though, so she’d never tested her skill against the small wind-whistler. She’d seen Kalinda work a few times, standing on the platform at the stern of the ship built especially for the task so that their weather-worker could see all the sails and adjust their enchanted wind with an eye to filling the canvas as the captain directed.
Hex watched the stars come out silently. Mal studiously ignored him, resting her elbows on the railing again as she watched the last stains of sunset fade from the sky in the west. She rubbed at one of the patches of rough skin on her neck. Lately she’d noticed the red patches cropping up in odd places—behind her knee, on the back of her arm, on her neck, scaly and itching like she wore a fine-hair shirt against her skin. Just her luck to catch some sort of disease—they hadn’t put ashore in weeks, though. Maybe it was something in the food, she thought, though they’d been eating the same fish and bread as they always ate.
“Jem might have an ointment,” Hex said, his tone annoyingly helpful.
“I don’t need to go see Jem,” she snapped. “And even if I did, I’d go when I wanted to, not because you’re playing mama and hovering over me like some sop!”
Hex straightened. She couldn’t see his face in the shadows.
“Don’t know why you’re so prickly lately, Mal,” he said. He tried to keep his voice light but she could hear the hurt buried deep in it. Something squirmed uncomfortably in her stomach, but she pulled back her shoulders.
“I’m not prickly,” she replied firmly. “I just don’t need you trying to take care of me. I don’t need anyone to take care of me.”
“Never said you did,” he said quietly.
The overwatch’s whistle sounded from midships, summoning all the thirds on watch.
“Mal…” Hex started.
“Kelor’s calling. You should go,” she cut him off.
Hex tilted his head like he wanted to say something else, and then he walked past her, headed to muster with his watch mates. She told herself that it was better to gaze into the twilight alone, that she didn’t feel a twinge of guilt at her harsh words. Hex had always been a constant in her life—him and the captain and the Dragonwing. Once she became a second, she could move between ships, but she didn’t want to. Captains could trade their thirds—reassign them if they weren’t progressing, or if they’d gotten off on the wrong foot with a second or a first onboard. When they’d first put on the red shirts, Mal had nightmares that she’d been traded to another ship and had to leave the Dragonwing. The thought of it still made her breathless with dread, but she worked hard enough that she was among the top third of the fifty or so thirds they had onboard at any given time. She wasn’t as strong as some of the lads, but she climbed the rigging faster than any of them and she’d go up in raging storms when others’ courage deserted them.
She stood at the rail for a while longer. On the whole, more senior thirds were left alone when they were off watch, not like when they’d been fourths and none of their time had been their own. The youngest thirds still had the worst jobs, like the scullery. Mal didn’t miss the days when her hands were constantly chapped and blistered from scrubbing trenchers and cleaning Cook’s pots.
A cool breeze ruffled her hair. She kept it short, though some of the other thirds grew theirs out. Iss could even braid hers now, but Mal thought that Iss would probably have a baby in her belly soon and be put off at Horizon. Thirds weren’t supposed to have kids, not until they’d earned their place as a grayshirt. Iss would rather wear the shirt of a first after she’d lured him into bed than put on a grayshirt on her own merits, Mal thought scornfully.
“Hex said you needed some ointment.”
Mal felt her face compress into a scowl again. “Hex says a lot of things he shouldn’t say.”
“And so do you,” replied Jem, undaunted. He was the best among the thirds at doctoring, though if they were really sick their overwatch would take them to Bonesaw. None of them ever wanted to go, though. Bonesaw was a hulk of a first who looked like he’d rather break a limb than set it. He’d lost a leg to a kraken attack. There were rumors that Bonesaw wasn’t much good at climbing anymore, what with his peg leg, and that was why he was the ship’s doctor. Bonesaw wasn’t his real name, either, and none of the thirds knew what he was truly called.
“Don’t need anything,” Mal muttered stubbornly.
“Then maybe you should stop scratching like you’ve got fleas,” replied Jem with a grin.
Mal snatched her hand away from her neck, her face heating. Jem held out a little pot of ointment. She sighed and took it from him, twisting it open and sniffing its contents. “Ugh. Smells terrible.”
“But it works,” said Jem, leaning his slim frame against the railing. “Want me to put it on?”
“No,” Mal said hastily. “Don’t want you to catch it.”
“I don’t think it’s something you can give to anyone else.”
Mal narrowed her eyes at him, even though he wouldn’t be able to see her in the shadows. “What makes you say that?”
Jem shrugged. “I just don’t think it’s contagious.”
“Are you and Hex competing to see who can irritate me most?” she demanded as she dipped her finger into the ointment and slathered it onto the scaly patch on her neck. It burned for a moment and then a delicious cooling sensation soothed the terrible itch. “It does work,” she admitted. “Thanks.” She slid the pot into the pouch at her belt. “Need any rings for it?”
Each ship had its own currency. On the Dragonwing, thirds used copper rings, the seconds silver and the firsts gold. Fourths weren’t allowed to trade anything but their own time, and the captain had no need for rings at all. Some of the thirds wore their rings on their fingers and in their ears, but Mal thought that looked garish. Besides, why would you want everyone to know how many rings you had? And if a bigger third wanted to corner you and take them from you, well, it was your own fault. She kept the majority of her rings in a hidden place, with a few stashed in her belt pouch for easy access. She even had a silver ring concealed in a different place, given to her by Telen after she’d dislocated her shoulder keeping him from being washed overboard during their last bad storm. He’d put her shoulder back in its socket with quiet efficiency when the squall died down, and slid the silver ring onto her finger while she was still white-faced and panting, gripping her good shoulder with his strong hand before walking away without a word.
“No rings,” said Jem. “It’s extra, really, of a batch that I made for one of the seconds.”
“Let me guess,” said Mal wryly as she patted the ointment onto another patch on the back of her arm, “one of the seconds caught a bad itch from one of the Nuremian girls on Horizon.”
“I don’t gossip,” said Jem loftily.
Mal sniggered. “But you didn’t deny it.”
“You should just be grateful he paid me more than enough rings to cover it all,” Jem said.
“And I suppose you think I should be grateful to Hex, too, putting you on my case,” she said.
“Don’t go sniping at him,” Jem said.
“Oh, are you going to call me prickly too?” Mal crossed her arms over her chest, smearing the ointment she’d just applied.
“No. But I don’t like being caught between you two.”
Wiry Jem, with his quick hands and quicker smile, complemented her and Hex. The three of them hadn’t been on a watch together for a while, but if they were battling a kraken or getting ready for a raid, the seconds almost always put the three of them together. The whole ship understood, from fourth up to first, that to take one was to take all three, whether it was in a fistfight or in a longboat.
She couldn’t be irritated at Jem. “Sorry.” She sighed. “Most of the time I don’t realize I’m doing it.”
“That’s not entirely the truth, and you know it.”
Jem also had a way of seeing through her that should have been annoying but, because it was him, simply kept her honest.
“I do,” she admitted. Then she burst out, “I just…he just irritates me, Jem, I don’t know why but he does!”
“Maybe because you’re growing into a woman and he’s a man,” suggested Jem with a hint of humor.
“I’m not a woman, I’m a sailor,” she growled. “I’m a third.”
Jem chuckled. “Doesn’t make you any less of a woman, Mal.”
“So are you.”
She snorted and turned back to the ocean. The waves glimmered under the rising moon. “Think we’ll have another raid soon?”
Jem shrugged. “Depends if we can find a seam.”
“It always depends if we can find a seam.” She thought of the silver threads dancing in the air, the excitement and anticipation of the crew after a seam was sighted as they prepared for their raid into another world. “You know they say on Horizon that our captain is the best at it.”
“They also say on Horizon that you’re a third who’s spotted more seams than most firsts,” countered Jem.
“I guess I just have better eyes for ‘em,” said Mal, shifting uncomfortably.
“And you seem to know when a kraken is lurking,” Jem said.
“Not you too. I’ve had too many people harping on about how I’m different somehow,” she said, her voice colored with frustration. “I just pay attention, that’s all.”
“And you’re pale as a pureblood, with no gold ever from the sun,” countered Jem.
“Oh, right, I forgot, you’re of the opinion that my mother was some lost little Unseelie beauty who somehow ended up farther past the horizon on the ocean than any of her kind in centuries.”
“Preferable to being Nuremian,” said Jem.
“I don’t know about that,” retorted Mal. “And besides, the Nuremian women burn in the sun.”
“Could just be your Seafarer blood coming through.”
“I don’t care who my mother was,” she said, even though she did. She thought about it at night in her swaying hammock as she listened to the even breathing of the other sleeping thirds. She thought about it as she watched the horizon, perching on one of the ratlines highest up the mainmast. Jem knew it and she knew it. Somehow she just needed to say that she didn’t care. She didn’t care about her mother and she sure as the ocean tides didn’t care about the man who’d put a babe in her mother and then abandoned her. Her stomach clenched. Sometimes she imagined finding her father and confronting him, teaching him a lesson about leaving with her fists.
“Hex said that he thinks there’s a storm coming,” she said, more to change the subject than anything else.
“Kalinda moved her hammock up on deck,” Jem said in agreement.
“Have you seen the captain?”
“He’ll be up, if there’s a storm,” she said.
Jem didn’t need to agree with that. A ripple caught Mal’s eye. She straightened and Jem glanced at her.
“What did you see?”
“Might be nothing,” she murmured, settling into the quiet place where she let her eyes roam the waves, watching for another disturbance. Jem turned his eye to the sea as well.
“A storm and a kraken,” he murmured, his whip-like frame coiled in interest.
“Maybe neither,” Mal replied tersely.
“Storm’ll stir up the water enough that our hull might not be enough,” said Jem.
“Dragonbone isn’t ever a sure thing,” she said, feeling vaguely disloyal to the beautiful, sleek Dragonwing. There were only a handful of ships left with dragonbone in their hull. They’d been built in the early days of their people, passed down through families of Seafarers. It was thought that dragons once hunted krakens, so the scent of the dragonbone still deterred the giant sea creatures…but during a storm, the sea lashed with rain and wind, even dragonbone wasn’t an effective deterrent against the monsters. Perhaps the captain would try to provoke the creature before the storm, give them a better chance at driving it away before they were all fighting the ocean and wind, too. A little shiver wriggled down her spine. If a kraken was sighted, the captain would invoke the law of the storm: no sailor washed overboard could be saved. It was the ocean’s due. It was the price they paid to sail the wild seas, slipping through seams and raiding treasure in other worlds.
Mal felt her mouth go dry at the thought of the kraken and the storm both at once. Last kraken they’d fought had been a small one, and it had ripped away part of the port railing and damaged a few planks on deck. During the last storm, two of the thirds had washed overboard and the captain had circled the ship, taking the helm himself, handling her brilliantly amid the driving rain and crashing waves. They’d hauled Kar out of the storm-lashed seas while the deck pitched and heaved, and one of the firsts had taken him to Bonesaw right away. They’d never found Vys, not even after the sea smoothed to glass under the pale pink of dawn.
“There,” she whispered as she saw the unmistakable loop of a tentacle curving out of the waves.
“Maybe it won’t go for the ship,” Jem said hopefully.
“And maybe it’ll give Bonesaw back his leg,” Mal retorted. Krakens attacked ships. It was what they did. And it was the crew’s job to fight them.
“We should sound a whistle,” Jem said, but he didn’t reach for the whistle that hung on a cord around his neck. He was waiting for Mal to do it, so she could claim credit for the sighting, she realized.
“Let me see it again,” she murmured, her eyes skimming the dark waves. She gripped the rail with both hands, the strange patches on her skin forgotten along with her earlier irritation at Hex. Her scalp prickled.
Closer to the ship than before, another tentacle brushed the surface, barely breaking through the waves. Mal slid her whistle into her mouth and sounded the five short blasts that meant danger. Kelor appeared out of the shadows shortly.
“Kraken,” she said calmly, pointing with a steady hand to the last place that the tentacle had broken the surface.
“You’re sure? Not just a sea snake?” Kelor asked.
She turned and gazed up at the taller second, letting him see her eyes. “I’m sure.”
Kelor nodded and disappeared again to tell his watch. Soon after, the bell sounded, calling all hands to their battle stations. It also signified that if they fell overboard, they wouldn’t be recovered as the ship outran the kraken occupied with its meal.
Mal gripped Jem’s forearm hard before they went to their separate watch stations. He went to the archers on the bow, and she took up her light spear from the rack by the foredeck and went to stand midships, ready to spring into the rigging with her spear slung across her back.
“Don’t be kraken meat, Mal!” called out Oll as she passed, on her way to join Jem with the archers.
“Ah, I’m too scrawny for a kraken to eat!” Mal responded with a grin that she didn’t feel.
“Third time you’ve been first to see the beast,” said Telen as he counted his squad of spearmen. He looked directly at Mal. “Some’d say that’s more than luck.”
“Just sharp eyes,” said Mal.
“Take those sharp eyes up to the platform,” Telen ordered.
“Aye.” She ducked her head and leapt into the rigging, climbing quickly to the platform that surrounded the mast about halfway up its height. There was no railing. She took her length of stronger-than-it-looked spidersilk off her belt and tied herself to the ring set into the mast. She’d paid ten rings to a one-eyed merchant on Horizon for her length of spidersilk, which most of the thirds thought was ridiculous; but she’d taken one of the heavy lines, longer than the spidersilk and what all the rest of the thirds used, and tied herself into it as a backup before throwing herself off the rigging. The spidersilk held her weight without any problem, and she didn’t have to worry about the extra weight now when she climbed.
Lanterns burned fore and aft, ready to light the fire pits that the archers used for their flaming arrows. Fire onboard a wooden-hulled ship was a risk that they only took when they were preparing to fight a kraken. Mal looked down and watched the shifting shadows on deck, the crew small from her vantage point amid the sails. Her fingers found her knives, touching them for reassurance: a long one at the top of her boot, one at her waist and another strapped to her left wrist. She unslung her spear and settled down to watch. If she saw the kraken, she’d tell the rest of the crew with a series of whistles that they knew as well as words. The whistles and bells were their second language amid the salt wind of the sea.
She remained motionless, scanning the sea, for the next hours. The wind picked up, stirring from a breeze to a stronger wind that tasted of rain. Maybe there would be a storm. Her eyelids grew heavy—she hadn’t slept since the night before, since she had the dawn watch; but she didn’t move and she didn’t sleep. The safety of the crew and the ship depended on her and the other lookouts posted among the sails. The archer firsts added more oil to their lanterns. No one questioned that she had seen a kraken. They were wily beasts, and the older and larger they were, the more unpredictable. Some krakens stalked ships for weeks before attacking. Mal sighed as she thought of standing battle stations for weeks. They could do it, but it would mean less sleep and little time to do anything but watch the waves for the next sighting of the beast. Her neck started itching again, but she didn’t want to take her eyes away from the ocean long enough to apply more ointment.
“Captain’s directed the station leaders to start rotation,” said Ila, one of the seconds who was friendly with the best thirds. He pulled himself up onto the platform and handed Mal a steaming mug of broth. She took it gratefully, blinking as she finally drew her eyes away from scanning the waves. A few raindrops pattered onto the platform. Ila grumbled and pulled out his oilskin. Mal moved over to let him take his position as he liked, sipping at the broth.
“So it’s you and I on this station,” Ila continued, his gaze focused on the ocean. “Six on, six off, so you’d better go grab some sleep. See you at dawn.”
She nodded and finished her broth. If it was raining and cold, she’d want to wear her gloves and oilskin for next watch, she thought as she untied her spidersilk and coiled it, clipping the end to her belt. She slung her spear across her back and descended from the platform, the wind combing its fingers through her hair. The deck was quiet, only the sounds of the waves slapping the hull and the canvas creaking in the wind carrying through the dark air. Without saying a word to anyone, Mal found her way to her hammock in the dark, her steps sure. She knew the decks of the Dragonwing better than she knew her own body. Tying her spear to a crossbeam within easy reach, she slid into her hammock and fell instantly asleep, unbothered by the footsteps of other thirds coming into the berthing and their whispered conversations.
When she awoke, she knew before she regained conscious thought that a storm gripped the Dragonwing, her hammock swinging quickly from side to side as waves rocked the ship. She heard the howl of the wind and the creak of the hull, assaulted by the forces of nature. There were no whispered conversations now, nothing but grim efficiency on the faces of the thirds, lit by the dim witch-light that one of them—probably Orr—had managed to conjure and stick to the ceiling of their berthing.
Mal pulled on her boots and checked her knives. She draped her oilskin around her shoulders and tied it at her waist, drawing the strings of the hood under her chin. On her hands she wore her thin seal-hide gloves, flexible enough that she could still feel the rigging under her fingers as she climbed; and over those, thick, fingerless gloves with scored palms to grip her spear in the driving rain.
The wind made her stagger as she emerged on deck. Rain pelted into her face, cold and stinging. They’d rigged lines between the masts for transit, and she gripped one with a gloved hand. Smears of lantern light painted the fore and aft decks. She caught sight of a blue shirt through the driving rain: the captain, a huge and impressive figure, standing at the helm. She shivered: he only took the helm in the worst storms. Their odds weren’t good to face a kraken and this maelstrom. Her heart clenched at the unfairness of it. The Dragonwing was the most beautiful ship ever to sail the Unnamed Seas, her crew strong and brave and loyal, and she would go down in a raging storm, torn apart by a kraken and the unforgiving seas.
“Move along now!” shouted someone behind her. She recognized Telen’s voice and her feet moved of their own accord, carrying her toward the mainmast. The ship rocked and pitched wildly, the deck surging beneath them one moment and falling away the next. Mal felt her heart leap into her throat. They’d never been in a storm this bad. Frothing waves washed over the side of the ship every few moments, slicking the decks with seawater. She felt like she couldn’t breathe, the wind whipping rain into her mouth, but somehow she reached the mainmast and started the climb to the platform.
She was halfway to the platform when the kraken attacked.
A black tentacle reared out of the waves, crashing down onto the deck. The ship gave an ugly, terrifying lurch. Mal clung to the rigging, watching in frozen terror. By the size of the tentacle, this kraken was a monster, the suckers on its tentacle bigger than her head. The crew nearest the tentacle threw their spears and then hit the deck as flaming arrows arced toward the tentacle from fore and aft.
“Come on, Mal, get up here!” roared Ila from the platform, his face illuminated white in a flash of lightning.
The kraken screeched and withdrew its tentacle, the huge, slimy appendage rushing across the deck and back into the water, leaving a gaping hole in the rail. Water frothed across the decks and she saw at least two bodies that had been crushed by the kraken’s tentacle. Mal forced her arms and legs into motion, tearing her eyes away from the scene of destruction.
“Good lass,” yelled Ila approvingly, grabbing the back of her shirt and hauling her up onto the platform. She quickly tied her spidersilk onto the ring with shaking hands. “Now, let’s see if we can get a clean shot next time!”
Their spears were tipped with poison. One spear wasn’t lethal to a kraken, but dozens could be. The one attacking the Dragonwing now, though, was a monster, bigger than anything Mal had ever seen. She wished suddenly that she knew the names of the gods that some of the crew prayed to—maybe she wouldn’t have felt so overwhelmingly frightened. The ship pitched and rolled through the foam-lashed waves at such an angle that the platform was nearly vertical, the mast suspended over the roiling ocean. She felt her spidersilk go taut, pulling on her belt, and there wasn’t anything she could do except clutch her spear and wait for the ship to roll back the other direction.
A flash of lightning illuminated a hellish scene, not one but three tentacles now curling like monstrous snakes out of the water toward the Dragonwing. The kraken screeched again, an earsplitting cry that sent a sharp pain through Mal’s head. She gritted her teeth and got her feet under her, pulling her spear out of its carrier and wrapping her other hand around her spidersilk line. To her left, Ila hefted his spear too, grinning against the deluge of the storm.
Two of the kraken’s tentacles arrowed down toward the deck of the ship as a monstrous wave crested before the bow.
“Gods save us,” whispered Mal, not sure which gods would even listen.
She saw Hex leap toward the tentacle on deck by the mainmast. She’d know his broad-shouldered silhouette anywhere, even through the dim light and driving rain of this storm. He carried two spears and thrust both of them deeply into the kraken’s flesh. She stood and used her whole body as leverage to throw her spear into the same tentacle, yelling in triumph as her weapon struck home. The kraken thrashed, knocking Hex to the deck with bone crushing force. The Dragonwing plunged down into the trough of the massive wave, all of them suddenly sickeningly weightless for a long, suspended moment.
Mal saw someone grab for Hex’s unconscious body, but then there was whitewater rushing across the decks and he was swept over the ruined rail shattered by the kraken. She felt the breath punched out of her with shock and anger. The sea would not take him. The kraken would not make him its meal.
The knife at her wrist was out of its sheath before she recognized her own intention. She cut the spidersilk near the brass ring, slid her knife back into its sheath, and when the ship rolled next, she dove from the platform into the roiling seas, Ila’s yell ringing in her ears.
Content copyright January 2017 by Jocelyn A. Fox. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited without express permission of the author.