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The Ever King: Chapter 11

The Songbird

Say goodbye.

Such a final statement, one my mind refused to believe even as Bloodsinger turned away, his strong hands locked on the ghastly spokes of the . . . wheel? I didn’t understand this vessel. So large, so gaudy. There was nothing honed and smooth about Bloodsinger’s ship. Nothing like our warships with their slender, serpent-like frames, with the square sails to catch the right amount of wind.

This vessel had black spikes like broken bones jutting off the sides, and the edges curved in such a way a great, frothy wake surrounded the hull.

Rave warships, well-crafted as they were, would have a challenge even getting close.

I clung to the hope this monstrosity would be dreadfully slow, and the Rave would catch us before the Chasm. Until Bloodsinger raised a hand, and an unnatural breath of wind captured those bloody sails. They whipped and cracked and careened the dark ship forward.

I stumbled, my hip striking the banister that surrounded the top level. A level seemingly designed to hold the odd wheel. The woman behind me laughed and offered a cruel wink and gripped one of the rigs.

My stomach tightened into a harsh coil, like briars and jagged points. The nearer the ship drew, the more the shadows of the Chasm shifted into something else. Like the eye of a storm, water spun and thrashed. It reminded me of a kettle boiling over a flame.

We were caught in the tug, a fish on a hook, being reeled into the center of the coil. The Chasm was truly devouring us.

A quick scan of the deck revealed no one but me seemed bothered in the least.

Bloodsinger hummed at his horrid wheel, a tune low and terrible as a dark omen. His voice was almost lovely, like a ballad honoring a fallen lover.

But amidst the frightening beauty of the man was a sinister light in those horrid eyes, a cruel curl to the scar sliced through his lip. He was despicable, wretched, and I couldn’t look away.

He balanced the wheel. Where the ship rocked to one side, he’d ease the handles to the opposite. A dance of give and take with the monstrous vessel.

“Hold tight, me boys! She be bringing us home!” A bony man laughed against the spray of the sea a bit maniacally and waved the tattered leather of his hat against the wind.

“Last chance, Songbird.” Bloodsinger opened one arm, a gesture to hold to him. “You’ve my word, I won’t let you go.”

I turned my back to him, taking my chances with the Chasm. Hells, it might spit me back out if I fell overboard.

Or . . . it might snap my bones.

Surrounded by damp and I could not wet the back of my throat. The scarf tied between my wrists ached against my skin. If I fell overboard, how would I swim bound in such a way?

“Hold steady!” Bloodsinger shouted to his crew.

Gods, even the bleeding king braced, grip tighter on the sharp handles, knees slightly bent.

The roar of the Chasm drew closer. The bow of the ship tilted. I hit the rail, heart racing. Dammit. We were diving. Water spilled over the deck, then to the first mast, then the center. Like an undersea creature lapping us up.

Perhaps come dawn I’d despise myself, but before I could think twice, I had my body pressed against Bloodsinger’s side, my hands curled around his tunic. He didn’t shove me aside (part of me suspected he might in the final moments) and in a graceful shift, he positioned me between his body and his jagged wheel. Both of his arms caged me as he kept his grip on the spokes.

“Face me, Songbird,” he said, almost gently, against my ear.

The water was creeping up the stairs. He pulled me between his arms and aligned our chests in such a way my nose struck his. Gods, his eyes . . . I could tell myself they were awful, but in truth, they stole my breath.

I hated him for it.

As if he could read the contradictions of my thoughts, he grinned. “Wrap those arms around my neck. Like you did so well before.”

“My greatest shame,” I spat back, but complied. I lifted my bound wrists over his head, hooking them around his neck.

Water circled around my ankles. Damp as I was, the chill was still a shock. Unbidden, I tightened my hold on Bloodsinger’s neck, clinging to him as though he were not the future cause of my death. As though he would keep me from destruction.

His body tensed, not from my touch, he’d simply stopped maneuvering the spokes; he froze until the Chasm took us under. Until the beauty and wonder of my world faded.


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