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The Ever King: Chapter 5

The Serpent

Open. There for the taking, for destroying.

The maelstrom tides of the Chasm had always existed, a common border between the realms of the sea and land. A window to another world. Wilder below the surface than they looked above, the Chasm’s tides thrashed and tumbled in a storm I wanted to embrace.

Powerful ships of the Ever could sail above or below the surface, but when speed was warranted, below was the only way to command the currents.

The bruising pace we’d kept brought us from the Rusa isles to the Chasm in less than half a day. Doubtless, the crew had been as curious as me to see if the wards preventing the king from entering had truly fallen. Here it was, open and unguarded.

Water on the side of the earth fae was like a night sea with white stones and silver fish. The Ever Sea shifted to cerulean tides and vibrant sea life of plants, endless caverns and cliffs, and sly creatures one would never see coming if they did not know the waters.

From the first teardrop of the gods that formed the Ever Sea, the kings held the strength and burden to ease their folk through the barriers between the different fae worlds. But under my father’s rule, the lady of the sea witches gifted Thorvald his mantle, to forever mark his bloodline as the rulers of the waters.

The talisman allowed the Ever Ship to carve through any sea, any ocean, any storm, without straining the natural magic of the king’s blood. It gave the Ever Folk access to all the fae worlds; it shielded ships during crossings into dangerous waters with sea singers and dark creatures.

When the great war between the earth fae and the Ever ended, our enemies held my father’s mantle. The earth bender Night Folk king won it turns before by murdering Thorvald, and I’d failed to win it back. I wouldn’t fail my father again.

“After today, we’ll finally take back our kingdom,” Celine whispered at my side.

“No more waiting.” My lip curled. “Now get to your post.”

Celine never cowered under me. She rolled her finger off her forehead in a mocking kind of salute and bowed at the waist. “Yes, Highness.”

Turns of hating, fighting, of searching, were all at once ended. A thought almost too overwhelming to comprehend.

Almost.

“At your word, My King,” Larsson hummed from the stem.

Beneath the surface, words became a song. A sort of melodic current we felt more than heard.

I gripped the handles of the helm until the skin on my knuckles ached. At the rise of my fist, the ship jolted. Little by little, pressure from the sea gathered as the Chasm drew us into the center of its violence.

The earth fae had made me a prisoner within my own kingdom, but I was still the king of the sea. It bowed to me.

The serpent figurehead broke into the Chasm’s thrashing currents.

Mutters and a few shouts of surprise rose from the crew as furious water battered the hull. A whirl of foam and sea devoured the sails. I kept my tune, and the ship was tossed swifter, but straighter. Like sailing through a violent storm, the Ever Ship rocked and dipped, but never lost course.

Delighted cries rose from the crew, a glimpse at the mania and depravity we all embraced to survive the seas of our kingdom. Closer and closer came the gleam of the surface, shifting to a dull light behind angry mists and clouds.

“Keep her steady!” I hissed at the crew.

Celine wrapped rough rope around her wrist a second time, keeping the sails taut as we rose toward new seas. Larsson widened his stance at the stempost as he shouted orders at the crew to secure flapping rigs. Tait was a specter, silent and morbid, at my back. Perhaps he had some of the same gruesome thoughts as me—last we saw the earth fae lands, we’d been boys on the losing side of a war.

We’d been prisoners. Wounded. We’d nearly been sent to the gods more than once.

I closed my eyes again and dragged my fingertips through the water as it began to calm the nearer we came to the other side of the wall. One command, and I angered the seas on the surface.

I wanted thick, rolling clouds over the water. I wanted our ship to be a ghost in their world.

My desire was to rush and spill blood, to burn it all. I forced my hand to guide the currents around the ship to ease us upward, hidden in what would seem a natural sea storm. A damn lifetime of revenge hung in the balance. Impatience would not be my downfall.

Fire burned in my chest. I’d nearly forgotten what it felt like to surge through these waters, nearly forgotten the rush, the discomfort.

“Hold tight, you bastards!” Celine roared, laughing wildly when the tumult lessened. She gripped thick ropes of rigging and lifted onto the rail of the ship, leaning into the chaos.

Pressure from the water eased. A ripple of waves drew nearer.

I held my breath until the spray of the sea battered my face in a new way. The ship carved through the surface in a flurry of white-capped waves. Wind whipped against the red sails. The colors of the Ever Kingdom seal—a serpent skull and two crossed blades—flapped madly in the surface storm.

Once the ship settled on the surface again, the deck was silent but for the slap of rain and the hiss of wind.

Then, like the realization struck all at once, the crew roared against the rumble of thunder. They pounded fists into the air, flung curses at the shoreline visible through the storm clouds we brought with us.

I let out a rough breath. We were here. Earth fae walls and rooftops all sprawled out, not a care in their precious little world, ripe for the plucking.

“To the Ever King!” Celine cried, a fist above her head.

The crew followed suit. Tait met my gaze across the main deck. Even in my ruthless cousin’s eyes, his repulsion of me was replaced with a dark thrill for vengeance.

Larsson tipped his chin before beginning a slow, dark song. “A man he’s not, we work we rot, no sleep until it’s through . . .”

I faced the shore, a grin on my mouth as the rest of the crew raised their voices.

A sailor’s grave is all we crave, we are the Ever King’s crew!”


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