We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

The Ever Queen: CHAPTER 43

THE SERPENT

Valen abandoned the helm when Larsson’s ship crashed against ours. He’d covered Livia; I breathed again.

“Reload!” I shouted in a snarl so ragged it scraped like slivers along my throat. My arms yanked on the helm, drawing the bow about—an attempt to break free of the hold from Larsson’s hull. “Keep the wind in those sails, you bastards!”

A brilliant flash of lightning speared through the heady billows of swirling clouds. Drenched from Stormbringer’s rain, my men covered the ember spear touch holes, desperate to keep the flame alive to fire.

“A little more, Finn!” Celine cried, then to Stieg. “Prove what earth fae can do, Warrior.”

Both Stormbringer and Stieg had hooked one arm around rope near the rails, then lifted their palms. Gusts of frosted wind swept across the deck, snapped at crimson sails. Groans and shouts of surprise lifted to the skies when dips and lulls of the sea rocked the ship. Stormbringer gritted his teeth, tense and on the verge of giving out.

Celine sprinted over the rails like a wraith in the night and held tightly to his waist, embracing him. Mouth half opened to curse and spit my rage, I swallowed it back.

Stormbringer let his shoulders drop, and the sea rolled violently.

His song was growing. Enough that the bow of the Ever Ship tilted and slid away, giving a bit of space between the two decks.

Some crewmen from the deck had tumbled into the thrashing waves. Others aboard the elven vessel had been swallowed into a pit of needle teeth and siren songs. Merfolk lunged from the waves for men on the rigging and rails of the phantom ship.

Peaceful looking most days, fearsome and beastly when they fought. Retractable claws extended like curved branches on their long limbs.

My fingers ached around the handles when I recognized Nixie, a loyal maid, who spent too much time attempting to get my crew to take a swim. She hissed and snapped her sharp teeth, hooking her barbed fingers into the belly of an elven man dangling by a rope over the edge of the ship.

I needed to get to Larsson. My voice was rough as chipped glass when I bellowed, “Make ready!”

Spears on starboard, make ready!

Steady on, me boys!

Aim for the head or them cocks!

Commands and warnings flowed up the deck. The din fierce and deafening, I could hardly take note upon which ship the orders were leveled. We had our ember spears, but—

“Dark tides, little eel!” Sewell cupped his hands around his mouth, hollering and pointing at the elven ship.

Dark tides—danger on the water.

Beneath the cover of mist and storm, flames, untouched by the sheets of rain, blazed overhead. Fire arrows.

I leaned over the helm, wood digging into my gut. “Load those spears faster, or we meet the gods of the seas!”

Boom, boom, boom. Spears fired in quick secession. Stones set aflame hurtled across the gap between ships. Cracking wood and shredding canvas was the only hint we’d succeeded before Tait followed with a fierce, “Cover!”

The whistle of the falling arrows burned in my skull. “Songbird! Against the rail!”

I dove over the deck, pressing my spine and my hips against the rail. Frantic, I found Livia—Valen still served as his daughter’s shield, and together they’d pressed as close as possible to the rail of the ship.

Arrows thudded over the deck. Flames licked up the masts and rope. I wasted no time and heaved my body half over the side of the ship, drawing a curling wave to spill over the main deck, snuffing out the fire.

When I lifted my gaze, across the tempestuous gap between us, Larsson stood on the quarterdeck. His palms pressed to the sleek wood rail, gaze trained on me, nowhere else. His hair was tied off his neck, a scarf over his head, the same as when he’d sailed under the banner of the Ever Ship.

For a moment, a mere breath, the battle went still, the storm quieted. His face was hard, but unreadable. A remnant of the man I thought I knew. In this moment, he was something else. A dark creature that needed to be peeled from the Ever Kingdom.

I righted over the rail, slid one of the daggers from a sheath on my leg, and tilted my head, so one eye skimmed down the edge of the pointed blade. The point aimed at Larsson’s heart. “I’m coming for you, brother.”

Impossible to hear me over the booms of ember spears and thunder. Still, Larsson’s teeth flashed in a twisted kind of grin as if to say, I welcome you to try.

“Bloodsinger!” Aleksi shouted, keeping his balance on the rocking deck by clinging to a rope. “Witches called. Shores are free. Our time is now!”

Over the black sails of Larsson’s vessel the isle came into view. The smaller ships had left the shores, aiming to overpower us. My gaze locked with Livia’s. She clung to the rail, eyes like deep sea lagoons, fierce and vibrant.

The only hint of her disquiet lived in the gentle wrinkle of her brow, the pinch of her lips.

I love you, Songbird.

Even without the heartbond, I took a bit of pleasure imagining she heard all the same. She covered her heart with one palm, a silent response that said it all.

“Hold a little more,” I returned to Alek. Already the fae royals were taking to their marks. Tait stood between them but faced me. I lifted a palm and watched my cousin relay the order to hold.

A little longer. I scanned the rough tides with a new desperation. Where the hells are you?

“Hold,” I shouted again, chest tight.

Bloodsinger.”

I ignored the prince. Where are you, godsdammit?

Another ember spear fired. Two dozen arrows arched over the sea. Celine and Stieg focused their winds against them, knocking the flame off course.

Then, the sea seemed to sink and swirl, as though piling in on itself, dragging our ships down with it. A mermaid, painted in moss, holding a skull in her palms broke through the surface. Skulls with bloody eye sockets whipped on a black banner. Ivory laths from the birch groves on the House of Bones aimed for the sky. Gavyn’s ship broke through on the opposing side of Larsson’s ship.

Cheers erupted on deck. My crew punched fists into the rain, chanting for the bone lord.

Larsson whirled around. I could not hear over the cries of the wind, but I imagined he cursed, imagined he felt the sinking of his gut when Gavyn’s crew bellowed their battle cries into the darkness.

The Siren’s Vengeance, aptly renamed when Celine’s voice was cut out, dropped her thick, cerulean sails. The bow skidded over the surface of the water, aimed at the hull of Larsson’s ship. Elven sloops adjusted, focused on the onslaught from both sides, turning their attention from the isle.

“Took long enough, you bastard,” I muttered under my breath and limped away from the rail. “All hands! Grappling hooks at the ready, you sods. Make ready to board.”

Skulleater took the helm. I snaked a rope around my wrist before stepping beside Sewell on the rail.

“Serpent.”

I drew in a breath. One look, one pause, and I said the words I should’ve said at the end of the war when the first glimmer of hope to a deadened heart came from a smile through the bars of a prison cell. “You are my light in the darkness!”

With a nudge from Valen, Livia was urged belowdecks, but before her face slipped from view, she called to me. “A thousand turns, Erik Bloodsinger.”

I closed my eyes and faced the sea. A thousand turns, Songbird.

Iron hooks flung over the gap between ships. Gavyn’s crew was already doing the same.

Larsson snapped his orders on the deck, cursing and hissing for his men to kick the barbs free. Once the hooks were lodged against their rails, crewmen in the center of the deck flung the slack of the ropes over their shoulders and heaved in the opposite direction. We drew ever closer.

The Siren’s Vengeance and the Ever Ship caught Larsson between our hulls, a fish in its net.

“On the rails,” I called out. “Keep your blades ready, take as you please, but Bonekeeper lives for me!”

This ended now. I planned to start those thousand turns with my queen with new blood on my hands. In another breath, I kicked off the rail and swung out over the sea.


Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Options

not work with dark mode
Reset