Taking place in the world of Cassandra Rose Clarke’s Magic of Blood and Sea, this is the story of a would-be witch who embarks on an adventure filled with intrigue, mystery, mermaids, and magic.
Hanna has spent her life hearing about the adventures of her namesake Ananna, the lady pirate, and assassin Naji, and dreams to have some adventures of her own.
One day when Hanna is with her apprentice—a taciturn fisherman called Kolur—the boat is swept wildly off course during a day of storms and darkness. In this strange new land, Kolur hires a stranger to join the crew and, rather than heading home, sets a course for the dangerous island of Jadanvar. As Hanna meets a secretive merboy—and learns that Kolur has a deadly past—she soon realizes that wishing for adventures can be deadly...because those wishes might come true.
About the Author
Cassandra Rose Clarke is the author of Our Lady of the Ice. She grew up in south Texas and currently lives in a suburb of Houston, where she writes and teaches composition at a local college. Cassandra’s first adult novel, The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, was a finalist for the 2013 Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for YALSA’s 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults. Her short fiction has appeared in Strange Horizons and Daily Science Fiction. Visit her at CassandraRoseClarke.com.
Read an Excerpt
Magic of Wind and Mist
I was picking ice berries for Mama’s start-of-spring cake when a spark of magic smacked me in the side of the head. My basket hit the ground and berries rolled out over the mud, and I scowled at the little trail of amber lights darting back and forth through the air.
“Larus!” I shouted. “What do you want?”
The light flickered and coiled in on itself. For a moment I thought it was going to extinguish, since Larus doesn’t exactly have the most reliable magic in Kjora. But instead it just zipped off to tell him where I was.
I cursed under my breath and knelt down in the soft, cool earth to gather up the escaped berries. A trail of light from Larus meant one thing—somebody had a message for me. Larus, untalented wizard though he may be, was still the only person in the village who had trained at the academy in the southerly seas and officially been named a wizard by the capital, and thus the only one people ever hired to do tracking spells. He took that job seriously, too, the prig. Like carting weather reports around the village made him important. It wasn’t as if he had even trained someplace renowned, like the Undim citadels.
So someone was looking for me. I knew it wasn’t Mama or Papa or my brother Henrik, since they all knew this little road leading away from the sea was the best place to pick late-season ice berries. My friend Bryn never hired Larus for anything after he ruined one of her best dresses with a love charm. And nobody else in the village had any reason to send for me.
Except Kolur, of course. I’d bet my entire basket of berries Kolur was the one looking for me.
I cursed again.
The wind, still sharp-edged with winter’s cold, blew through the bushes. I stuck my hand in the brambles and pulled out another handful of berries. This would probably be the last time I’d get to harvest them before next winter, and I wanted to collect as many as I could before Kolur’s message ruined my day. That you could still pick the berries this late in the season was why Mama used them in her start-of-spring cakes, since she always said spring was as much a goodbye to winter as it was a hello to summer. Mama liked winter, for some reason. Papa always said it’s because she grew up in the south, where heat is dangerous. I could never imagine it.
Larus took a long time following his tracking spell back to me. I’d managed to clear out most of the remaining berries by the time I spotted his tall, gangly figure up on the road. He raised one hand in greeting, the embroidered sleeve of his red wizard’s cloak billowing out behind him.
“Hanna Euli!” he called out, as formal as if he were a wizard from the capital. “I have a message for you.”
“Yeah, I noticed.” I sighed and hooked my basket in the crook of my arm and hiked through the mud to the edge of the road. Larus watched me, his eyes big and blue and round. He wasn’t much older than me, although I was still expected to treat him like an adult, given that he was an official wizard. I didn’t, though.
“Is it Kolur?” I said. “It’s Kolur, isn’t it? Couldn’t he have let me have a few days of spring?”
Larus cleared his throat and made a big show of pulling a scroll out of the cavernous depths of his sleeves. I sighed and shifted the basket of berries to my other arm. Larus unwound the scroll. It was a short one.
“Get on with it,” I muttered.
Larus drew back his shoulders and held his head high. Delivering messages was pretty much the only wizardly thing there was for him to do around the village, so he always took it too seriously. “Kolur Icebreak wishes you to meet him at the village dock at the start of longshadow. He wishes to set sail for the Bathest Chain, as he—”
“What?” I tossed my basket to the side and stalked up to Larus, reaching to grab his scroll. He jerked it away from me and sparks of magic flew out between us, stinging my hand.
“Don’t touch the scrolls,” he said.
I glared at him and rubbed at my knuckles. I called on the wind, too, stirring it up from the south, but Larus just rolled his eyes like it didn’t impress him.
“Tell Kolur I’ll sail with him next week,” I said. “I’ve got to help Mama with chores today.”
“Let me finish, Hanna.” Larus struck his messenger pose again. “For the Bathest Chain, as he’s thrown the fortune for the coming weeks and found that the fishing will be excellent for the next few days. He’s already spoken with your mother and knows that she can spare you.”
I glowered at Larus. He coughed and looked down at his feet. I made the south wind stir his robes, tangling them up around his legs.
“Stop that,” Larus said. “You know some child’s trick doesn’t make you a real wizard.”
“Is there anything else?”
“No.” Larus pulled a quill out of his sleeve. “Would you like to send a reply?”
“Do I have to pay for it?”
“All messages cost one common coin.” He glared at me. “You know that.”
“No thanks, then.” I picked up my basket. Sometimes you can wheedle a free message out of Larus if he’s in the right mood, but I should have known better than to try after teasing him with the wind. He doesn’t like being reminded that I’m a better wizard than him, even if I am a girl.
Not that I needed to send a message. Kolur knew I would show up whether I wanted to or not, because I was his apprentice and he was friends with Mama, and between the two of them there was no way I could ever slack off work. I mostly just wanted to send him something rude so it would annoy him.
“Has the message been received?” Larus asked, back to playing the village wizard.
“Yeah, yeah.” I ran my fingers over the ice berries, relishing the feel of their cool, hard skins against my fingers. The last crop and I probably wouldn’t even get a slice of Mama’s cake, since Henrik would eat every crumb by the time I got back. It was always that way, fishing with Kolur. He didn’t go out for just one day—no, he had to go out for three or four at a time. Only way he could get a decent haul.
“Well, if there’s nothing else,” Larus said.
“There’s not. Thanks for nothing.”
He made a face at me. I didn’t bother trying to retaliate, just left him there, making my way down to the road, toward the little stone house where I lived with my family.
• • •
When I walked up the muddy path, Mama was out in the garden, tending to the early-season seedlings she’d finished putting in the ground a few days ago. She waved, her hands streaked with dirt. I figured she’d been out here waiting for me, seeing as how she received word from Kolur before I did.
“Did you get the message?” She sat back on her heels. Mama’s accent was different from mine and Papa’s and everyone else’s in the village, since she’d grown up speaking Empire her whole life. Normally I liked it, because it gave her voice this pretty melody like a song, but today even that wasn’t enough to sway my annoyance.
“You knew!” I tossed the basket at her and she caught it, one-handed, not spilling a single berry. “Why didn’t you just come tell me yourself?”
She smiled. “Oh, I don’t like stepping in between your arrangements.”
“Larus said he checked with you first!”
“You know what I mean.” She stood up and tried to shake the mud from her trousers, although it didn’t do much good. “It looks like you have a good crop of berries here.”
“Oh, don’t be like that.” She came over to me and draped one arm over my shoulder. “You know you’d be bored if he hadn’t sent for you.”
“It’s only just starting to get warm! The sun’s out”—I gestured up at the sky—“and the south wind’s blowing. I was going to practice my magic.”
Mama gave me one of her long sideways looks. “You can practice aboard the Penelope.” She paused. “You know, when I served aboard the Nadir, there were no days off, warm sun or not.”
I’d heard this story before, and a million like it besides. “That’s because the Nadir was a pirate ship. Fishing boats have rules. He can’t just run me like a slave driver.”
“And he’s not,” Mama said sharply. She lifted up the berries. “Come, let’s go make the start-of-spring cake so you can have a piece before you leave this evening.”
She strode out of the garden, and I shuffled along behind her, my hands shoved into the big pockets sewn into my dress. It was nice to be back inside, since for all my protestations about the warmth, the spring cold had been starting to get to me, and our house was always warm and cozy from the fire Mama kept burning at all times. Henrik was sprawled out in front of the hearth, pushing his little wooden soldiers around. He ignored both of us, and Mama stepped right over him to get to the tall table where she did all her hearth work.
“Are you going to help me, or you going to sulk?” she asked over her shoulder.
I crossed my arms over my chest and didn’t answer. Mama took that as a yes to helping her, the way she always did, and handed me the berries. “Clean those off for me while I mix up the batter.”
The basket dangled between us, and she was already pulling the little ceramic jar of flour toward herself with her free hand. She’d hold the basket there all day if she had to. I knew I’d lost. No fisherman’s ever gone up against a pirate and won, that’s what Papa’s always saying. Although in his case, she just looted his heart.
I sat down on the floor next to the fire and started separating the stems and leaves from the berries. Henrik kept on ignoring me, he was so involved in his toy soldiers. Mama hummed to herself as she worked, an old pirate song about stringing up the sails. She’d sailed under one of the greatest pirates of the Pirate’s Confederation, Ananna of the Nadir, and when she was my age, she was living on board Ananna’s ship and sailing to all ends of the Earth, fighting monsters and stealing treasure and basically having a far more interesting life than I could ever hope for. Sometimes I tried to imagine what it would be like to sail the seas in search of adventure instead of fish. I wondered about the sort of people I’d meet outside of Kjora, if they’d be as strange and different as all the elders in the village claimed, with antlers growing from their foreheads and cloven feet tucked inside their boots. Mama told me once that was a silly northern story, but I wanted to see for myself.
Mama met Papa when the Nadir blew off course and wound up in the waters off Kjora, where she and some of her crew hijacked Papa’s fishing boat. Apparently, Papa had been so handsome back then that she’d taken one look at him and decided to stay on the islands—at least, that’s how she told it. Papa said the story was a bit more complicated than that, but he never gave me any details.
At any rate, when Mama decided to stay, part of the deal to convince Ananna to let her go was that Mama’d name her firstborn daughter after her. And that turned out to be me. Of course, no one in the village could say “Ananna” right, so the name got distorted to Hanna. I didn’t mind. I liked having two names, a fisherman’s name and a pirate’s name. I took it as a sign that someday I’d do something more with my life than work for Kolur, that I’d sail beyond the waters of Kjora and see the rest of the world and all the excitement it held.
I finished stripping the berries and then carted the basket over to the ice melt we kept next to the stove so I could rinse off the dirt. By the time I’d finished that, Mama had the cake batter all whipped together in a bowl, and she let me stir the berries in before dumping the whole thing in the long, low pan she used for start-of-spring cakes. Henrik was still occupying the space in front of the hearth, and Mama had to shoo him aside like a fly so she could stick the cake into the heat.
“Did I ever tell you about the time Ananna and I stole a cake from the emperor’s own bakery?” Mama asked me. She turned to Henrik. “Sweetling, why don’t you dry off the bowls?” He sighed and tossed his soldiers aside and did as she asked. I was already stacking the mixing and measuring bowls for cleaning myself.
“Yeah, all the time,” I said.
Mama smiled and went on like I hadn’t answered. “It wasn’t an ordinary cake, of course. It had been enchanted. Anyone who ate even a single bite could be controlled by the person who had served it to him. A dangerous thing.” She lugged over the bucket of ice melt and set it on the table, and together we set to cleaning. “And worth a fair price, too, on the black market, which is what Ananna wanted with it. Of course, as a cake, we only had a few days to steal and sell it—there was no use trying to go after the emperor’s magicians to try and learn the spell, they’re too highly protected. So we had a few of the crew disguise themselves as guardsmen, and Ananna and I dressed up like noble ladies, and we walked right into the emperor’s palace.” Mama laughed, plunging a mixing bowl into the ice melt. “We were able to get ahold of the cake easily enough—it was in the kitchen, and the kitchen crew ran scared when they realized we were pirates—but carrying it while being chased through the streets of Lisirra, that was no easy task. The cake wound up falling and melting in the sand.” Mama and I lined up the mixing bowls to dry, and I waited for the usual final line. “I supposed it was all for the best. No good could come of magic like that existing in the world.”
I nodded in agreement, my expected response. I thought it sounded fantastically exciting, running through Empire streets in a lady’s dress, trying not to drop an enchanted cake, but I knew my life didn’t have anything like that in store for me.
Mama settled down in her favorite chair to wait for the cake to be finished. “I remember learning how to make start-of-spring cake. Your grandmother had to teach me.”
I’d heard this story too, but I didn’t say anything. I liked listening to her stories.
“I gave up on the second try and stomped out of the kitchen, cussing and shouting, just as your father was coming from his fishing. He hadn’t caught much that day either.” She smiled again, and the hearth light made her brown skin glow, and I wondered if that was how Papa had seen her that day as he walked in from the gray, cold sea. She must have been a shard of Empire sunlight here in the north. “And he told me it didn’t matter to him one whit if I could bake a cake or not, that he had married me for me, and if it was such a problem, then he’d bake all our cakes himself.”
I gave the expected titter. Henrik wiped off the wet mixing bowl with a scowl.
“Would you ever make a cake for your wife?” I asked him.
“Wives are stupid.” He set the bowl aside.
“Spoken like a man of the Confederation,” Mama said gravely. “As it happened, your father was the one who finally taught me how to make a start-of-spring cake, the next year. It was quite the scandal for a few days, a man teaching a woman how to cook.” She winked at me. “But I taught him some tricks myself.”
I’d heard all those stories too, about how Mama’d gone aboard Papa’s fishing boat and showed his crew a better way to string up the sails so that they could move more quickly through the water. That had generated a scandal for more than a few days, from what I gathered.
We finished cleaning up the bowls. Henrik went back to his toy soldiers, Mama went back to her garden, and I went into my bedroom to pack up my things for the fishing run with Kolur. The sweet berry scent of the start-of-spring cake filled the house, and I told myself it’d only be two or three days’ time before I’d be back home, ready to practice calling down the wind and finally welcoming spring to Kjora.
• • •
I rushed down to the docks, my hair streaming out behind me, a couple of slices of start-of-spring cake dropped in my pockets. It was already past longshadow and the sky was turning the pale purple-blue of twilight. I figured I could give Kolur a slice of cake for waiting.
The Penelope was the only boat in the dock, its magic-cast lanterns throwing a pale bluish glow over the water. Kolur waited for me on land, his arms crossed over his chest, the lanterns carving his rugged face into sharp relief.
“You’re late,” he said.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a piece of cake wrapped up in a scrap of old fabric. Kolur stared at it.
“I said longshadow,” he told me. “Not the middle of the night.”
“And it’s not,” I said. “The stars aren’t even out yet. Are you going to eat the cake or not?”
Kolur’s pale eyes glittered in the lantern light. Then he plucked the cake from my hand and dropped it in his satchel.
“Get on board,” he said. “If we don’t leave soon, we’ll miss our window.”
“I hate night fishing.” I sighed. “I’ve been up since this morning, you know.”
“You can sleep once we get to the islands.” Kolur gestured at the gangplank. “Go on, then.”
I squared my bag on my shoulder and walked aboard. The Penelope was small and sturdy, the sails knotted in the pirate style—Papa wasn’t the only one Mama taught Confederation tricks to. There was a narrow cabin down below where Kolur let me sleep, since he preferred to stay out on deck in case of emergencies. We had a storage room too, and a galley for preparing meals. I went down to the cabin and dropped my bag on the cot, then joined Kolur up on deck, where he was already plotting the navigation that would take us out to the open sea, toward the Bathest Chain.
“Unmoor us,” he told me without looking up.
“Aye.” I pulled up the gangplank and unlooped the rope tying the Penelope to the dock post. She floated free in the bay, the frozen twilight shimmering around us. I called on the wind before Kolur could cast one of the cheap charms he always bought in the capital—it was easy work, since the wind was already blowing from the south, pushing us where we needed to go.
The Penelope glided forward, her sails snapping into place. We drifted silently through the moonlit water as Kolur steered from the wheel and I tended to the sails and all our fishing equipment, ensuring that everything was in its place. It was dull work, but at least I got to practice a bit of my magic. Besides, there was something calming about the rhythm of moving through the boat, going step by step to make sure everything was perfect. Like arranging the parts for a spell or a charm. If I used my imagination, I could pretend I was apprenticing for a wizard and not Kolur.
We sailed on toward the northwestern corner of the sky. I dropped the fishing nets at Kolur’s feet and then sank down in them, quite prepared to get in a nap before we started fishing. But Kolur was feeling unusually chatty. Just my luck.
“Saw a big school of skrei in the bones,” he said, looking straight ahead out at the starry night. “Last of the season.”
I pulled out my cake slice and nibbled at it while he droned on about throwing the old fish bones he kept in a pouch around his neck. “Odd to see them this time of year, you know. Usually we’re just pulling up ling and lampreys. That’s why I wanted to give it a go. Bones told me they’d be gone by next week.”
I made a muffled humph sound, my mouth full of cake.
“You need to be learning this, if you want to take over your father’s boat someday.”
He paused, waiting for my answer. I took my time chewing.
“Henrik can take over Papa’s boat,” I finally said. “I’ve got other plans.”
Kolur laughed. “Taking cues from that friend of yours? You’d be better served learning how to dance than learning how to fish, if you’ve got your eye on a husband.”
He was talking about Bryn, who was quite beautiful and already had a handful of marriage prospects. Good ones too. Elders’ sons and even a wizard from Cusildra, two villages over. Most of the girls in the village planned on marrying, but Mama had pushed me into fishing with Kolur. She said I needed to make my own way. I didn’t disagree with her, but fishing wasn’t where my future lay. I knew that. I was going to be a witch.
“Nah,” I said. “Not unless I can marry someone from outside the village. The boys here are dull.” I didn’t bother telling him my real plans. Kolur didn’t talk about much, and I didn’t think he’d understand. All he needed to know was that I didn’t want to be a fisherman or a fisherman’s wife. Ideally, my future would involve as few fish as possible.
Kolur laughed again. “Ain’t that the truth? Glad to see you’ve inherited some of your mother’s good sense.” He tilted the wheel, and the Penelope turned in the water, splitting open the reflection of the moon. It was full and the stars were out, but the night still seemed too dark, like it was trying to keep secrets.
“Here, take over for a bit.” Kolur jerked his chin at the wheel, and I hopped to my feet and gripped the smooth, worn wood while he knelt down on the deck a few paces away, rubbing the space with his hands.
“I just keep going straight?”
He nodded. I tightened my grip and steadied the wheel. Kolur took off his pouch, dumped the bones in his palm, and muttered one of the old fisherman’s incantations. As far as I knew, this was the only spell he’d ever attempted.
The bones leaped and rattled in his hand, a tinny, hollow sound, as they charged with enchantment.
He tossed them along the deck like dice. And then he gasped.
Now, I’d learned to read fish bones when I was a little girl, hanging around down at the docks while Papa tended to his own boat, the Maia. It’s easy, easy magic. So I knew what I was looking at when the bones scattered into their preordained patterns. A twist of tail curving out from jawbone: times of strife. A tooth inside a chest cavity: stranger coming to town. And two skulls facing away from each other: romantic troubles.
Not a single thing about the state of the ocean. Not a single thing about skrei.
“What the hell?” I dropped the wheel. The Penelope swung out from under me, and Kolur cursed and I shrieked and realized my mistake and jerked us back into position. The bones scattered over the deck. Kolur slid with the boat and gathered them all up in one clean motion.
“Pay attention, girl!” He squeezed his hand into a fist and when he opened it, the bones were jumping again. “I didn’t tell you to play fortuneer; I told you to take the wheel. You know what happens when sailors don’t do their assigned job? Your mama ought to have made that clear.”
“I’m not a sailor,” I said.
Kolur threw the bones again. This time, they fell in more common patterns, twists and squiggles that gave us a direction, northwest, and the promise of a good catch.
“Told you,” he said. “A school of skrei in the northwest.” He pointed at a scatter of teeth that looked like islands in the Bathest Chain. “There’s our destination. Getting all worked up over nothing.”
“That is not what I saw the first time.”
“Because the moonlight was playing tricks on you. It’s what I saw the first time, until you tilted the damn boat.”
“Then why’d you gasp like that?”
“I didn’t gasp like nothing.” He gathered up the bones again and dropped them back in his pouch. When he stood up, his face had a hardness to it I’d never seen before. A determination. Kolur never looked determined about anything except the ale down at Mrs. Blom’s inn.
“Let me take that.” He grabbed the wheel away from me, and I knew enough to let go. I was still seething about what I’d seen in the bones. He was lying. Which he did often enough, but it still annoyed me.
“Where are we going?” I glared at him, my hands crossed over my chest.
“Told you, girl, the Bathest Chain. Now go set up the nets before we sail right over the damn things.”
He wouldn’t look at me. Kolur was already pretty old, older than Papa at any rate, but in the darkness he seemed ancient. Like the capital wizards who have cast so many spells that the magic keeps them from dying.
“Do it,” he snapped, and this time I did, because I knew if I didn’t, he’d tell Mama and I’d be washing out the outhouse for months. But I wasn’t happy about it.
Kolur and I worked well into the night, the Penelope slipping through the water with the nets splayed out behind her, the fish glinting silver in the moonlight. The air turned colder, and I was lucky I had one of my old winter coats stashed down below so I wouldn’t freeze. Trawling like that was dull work, but with the waters as smooth and calm as they were, it wasn’t dangerous. Most of the night, I just sat around on the boat, waiting until Kolur decided it was time to heave the nets aboard and check the catch. We worked together to get the fish on the deck, and then Kolur had me cast the charm to keep them fresh for the two or three days we’d be out at sea, sailing a wide circle around the Bathest Chain. When the Penelope couldn’t hold any more fish, we’d sail back to Kjora, and I’d be free until the next time Kolur decided to drag me away from home.
I thought about home as we sailed through the cold, shivering night. Kolur didn’t go in much for talking if he could help it, but he was unusually quiet tonight. Withdrawn. I didn’t mind the silence; I’d gotten used to it since becoming his apprentice, but it could get tiresome, being alone with my own thoughts all the time. Bryn would probably have some news about her suitors when I got back—she liked to tell me all the details about their weird habits and conversational topics. Mama’d probably make me help in the garden, and we’d sing old pirate songs as we worked. Papa’d come home with stories about his own fishing trip—all of them dull compared to Mama’s stories, even the ones I’d heard over and over. But still, he’d pick Henrik up from the floor and swing him around and then give Mama a big hello kiss. Maybe the sun would even dry up the mud by the time we made it home, and I could go out in the fields and practice my magic without anyone watching.
“Check the nets,” Kolur told me from his perch up at the wheel. I pulled myself away from my thoughts and did as he asked.
“Everything’s fine.” My voice carried with the wind. It was definitely stronger now, the sails snapping and pulling tight on their ropes. I frowned up at them. There hadn’t been anything in the fish bones about bad weather in either of the castings, and generally I had an easier time controlling the winds than this.
I glanced up at Kolur. He held the wheel tightly and didn’t look at me.
“You think a storm’s coming?” I shouted. “You said the weather would be smooth.”
Silence. The wind was howling now, cold and sharp as knives, the Penelope tilting back and forth in the water. I reached out for it, trying to call it back through me so I could work my magic, but it was as slippery as the ocean.
“Kolur!” I shouted.
This time, he glanced over at me, his dark hair flying into his eyes. “Yes,” he said in an odd, flat voice. “Yes, a storm is coming.”
Storms had never scared me much, not even out here on the open sea—I’ve got my affinity with the wind, and I knew enough protection charms to keep the boat safe. But I didn’t like Kolur’s behavior at all. It wasn’t like him. Normally, when a storm blew in, he’d be fussing and fretting over his precious Penelope.
“Do you want me to bring in the nets?” The wind zipped my question away as soon as I spoke it. Kolur looked at me again.
“Yes. The nets. Of course.”
Fear gripped me hard and cold. Kolur wasn’t much of a fisherman, but he never forgot the nets.
I didn’t like this at all.
I pushed my alarm aside and grabbed the nets with both hands and hauled them aboard. If I stood around feeling scared, then that’d be the end of us for sure.
The nets were empty save for the glitter of old fish scales. Ice water splashed over the railing, slapping across the boards and leaving a pale froth in its wake. It was too dark to see anything but the confines of the boat, even with the magic-cast lanterns swaying back and forth. Kolur was still at the wheel. He might as well have been a statue.
I ran up to him and grabbed him by the arm, steadying myself against the podium. “Kolur!” I shouted. “What’s going on? The storm!”
He looked at me, and he looked almost normal. Maybe a little older than usual.
“I’m trying to keep the boat steady, girl. What do you think I’m doing?” He sounded like himself. “Put a charm on her for us.”
I nodded, taking deep, shuddery breaths. Maybe the strangeness earlier had just been my imagination. A little bit of fear creeping out to blind me. That could happen.
I rushed down below to gather up the lichen powder and the mortar and pestle. The Penelope tilted wildly, and everything slid back and forth. Dark seawater dripped down through the ceiling from the deck and stained the cot. I caught a few drops of the water in the mortar and braced myself against the wall as I sprinkled in the lichen powder. As I mixed them together, I muttered an incantation in the language of my ancestors, guttural and sweet at the same time. Magic thrummed through me. All that power of the islands, all that power of the winds, all that power of the north.
The boat tilted again, lifting up on the starboard side. I cried out and covered the mortar with one hand. For one long and terrifying moment, I thought we were going to flip, and then we’d freeze to death in the black and unforgiving sea.
But then the Penelope righted herself, and I cried out in relief and rushed up on deck to finish the rest of the charm.
The winds were worse now and laced through with tiny pellets of ice that struck my bare face. Kolur was still at the wheel, as calm as if the water was flat and the skies were clear. I smeared lichen paste on the masts and the railings, shouting the incantation against a storm. I was so cold, I could hardly think. When I finished, I slumped down next to the small, scattered pile of skrei, trying to steady myself as the boat rocked and the magic flowed out of my veins and into the wood of the Penelope. I could feel it working, distantly, like an overheard conversation. We kept rocking and swaying, but thanks to the charm, the ocean no longer washed over the railings, and the water already on deck was no longer frigid. The storm crashed around us but it didn’t touch us.
I was exhausted.
Kolur looked over at me and gave a short nod of approval. “You did good,” he said. “Kept calm under pressure. Very good.”
He turned back to his sailing.
Yes, calm under pressure. He’d been too calm. But I was too tired to say anything about it. My limbs ached, and my eyelids were heavy. I pushed myself to my feet, leaned up against the mast.
“I need to rest,” I said.
Kolur nodded again, this time without looking me at me. “Figured so. You go on down below, rest off the magic. I’ll see us through the storm.”
Something tickled in the back of my mind, a phantom thought that maybe I shouldn’t trust him. But that was absurd. I’d trusted him for three years, and besides, he was Mama’s best friend.
So I went down below and fell asleep immediately.