My first dive was followed by my first drink of rye.
The sea was filled with the sound of gemstones as I swam after my mother’s silhouette, toward the puddle of light rippling on the surface of the water.
My legs burned, kicking against the weight of the dredging belt, but Isolde had insisted I wear it even on my first descent to the reefs. I grimaced, my heart racing in my aching chest, and I surfaced beneath a light-filled sky.
The first thing I saw when my eyes focused was my father peering over the portside of the Lark, leaning onto the rail with his elbows. He was wearing one of his rare smiles. One that made his blue eyes flash like the strike of flint.
My mother dragged me through the water, lifting me up to catch the lowest rung of the ladder, and I climbed, trembling with cold. Saint was waiting at the top, sweeping me into his arms as soon as I came over the side. Then he was carrying me across the deck, seawater dripping from my hands and my hair.
We ducked into the helmsman’s quarters and Saint pulled the quilt from his bed, wrapping me in the smell of spiced mullein. My mother was coming through the door a moment later, and I watched as my father filled one of his emerald-green glasses with rye.
He set it down in the center of his desk and I picked it up, turning the glass so the sunlight fractured and glittered in its facets.
Saint waited, one side of his mustache lifted on a grin as I brought the glass to my lips and took the rye in one swallow. The burn bloomed in my throat, racing down to my stomach, and I hissed, trying to breathe through it.
My mother looked at me then, with something in her eyes I’d never seen before. A reverence. As if something marvelous and at the same time harrowing had just happened. She blinked, pulling me between her and Saint, and I burrowed in, their warmth instantly making me feel like a child again.
But I wasn’t on the Lark anymore.
The knock of a pulley hitting the deck made me blink, and suddenly the white-washed world around me came rushing back. Footsteps on wood. Shadows on the quarterdeck. The snap of rippling sails up the mainmast.
The pain in my head erupted as I squinted against the glare of sunlight and counted. The crew of the Luna was at least twenty, probably more with the Waterside strays on board. There had to be a hand or two belowdecks or tucked away into the helmsman’s quarters. I hadn’t seen Zola since I’d woken on his ship, the hours passing slowly as the sun fell down the western sky at an excruciating pace.
A door slammed in the passageway and the ache in my jaw woke as I clenched my teeth. Clove’s heavy steps crossed the deck as he walked to the helm. His rough hands found the spokes as his gaze set on the glowing horizon.
I hadn’t seen my father’s navigator since that day on Jeval four years ago when he and Saint pushed the tender boat out into the shallows and left me on the beach. But I knew his face. I’d know it anywhere because it was painted into almost every memory I had. Of the Lark. Of my parents. He was there, even in the oldest, most broken pieces of the past.
Clove hadn’t so much as looked at me since I’d first spotted him, but I could see in the way his chin stayed lifted, keeping his gaze drifting over my head, that he knew exactly who I was.
He had been my only family outside of my parents, and the night the Lark sank in Tempest Snare, he’d saved my life. But he’d also never looked back as he and my father sailed away from Jeval. And he’d never come back for me, either. When I found Saint in Ceros and he told me that Clove was gone, I’d imagined him as a pile of bones stacked on the silt in the deep of the Narrows. But here he was, navigator of the Luna.
He could feel my stare as I studied him, perhaps the same memory resurrecting itself from where he’d had it carefully buried. It kept his spine straight, his cool expression just the tiniest bit thin. But he wouldn’t look at me, and I didn’t know if that meant he was still the Clove I remembered or if he’d become something different. The distance between the two could mean my life.
A pair of boots stopped before the mast and I looked up into the face of a woman I’d seen that morning. Her cropped, straw-colored hair blew across her forehead as she set a bucket of water beside me and pulled the knife from her belt.
She crouched down and the sunlight glinted on the blade as she reached for my hands. I pulled away from her, but she jerked the ropes forward, fitting the cold iron knife against the raw skin at my wrist. She was cutting me loose.
I went still, watching the deck around us, my mind racing as I carefully slid my feet beneath me. Another yank of the knife and my hands were free. I held them out, my fingers trembling. As soon as her gaze dropped, I pulled in a sharp breath and launched myself forward. Her eyes went wide as I barreled into her, and she hit the deck hard, her head slamming into the wood. I pinned her weight to the coil of ropes against the starboard side and reached for the knife.
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