“Take Me now or put Me down so I can walk,” I commanded coolly.
Con muttered something but began forging uphill toward the leaning prow, powerful muscles working against the incline. Sondra came up beside him, using an odd-looking walking stick to dig into the wooden planking of the deck, steadying herself and then Con with a grip on his arm.
“Close enough, Your Highness, or would you prefer I dangle you overboard?”
I ignored Con’s sarcasm, concentrating on reaching through the tempest to the waters of Calanthe.
“I have to stand,” I told Con.
He huffed out a sigh but set me down, bracing me between his bulk and the railing, one arm around my waist—and pretty much supporting my entire weight—his other hand gripping the rail. “Whatever you’re going to do, do it now. If the ship breaks apart, it will get ugly.”
A smile stretched my lips, the dry skin cracking painfully. Being dead left a body in less-than-ideal condition. Layering metal into my spine, I reached out to Calanthe’s churning seas once more. They responded less sluggishly this time, and I directed the currents to calm, to follow my bidding. With a mental twist, I reversed the direction of the waves. No need to be anything you are not. Simply flow the other direction.
The Last Resort lifted, shifted, then shot off the coral reef. A wave curled over us, dousing the spontaneous cheers as we hit a trough. I had the sea catch us, encircling the yacht in a pool of calmer water. Con laughed, a belly-deep howl of relief and delight.
“We’re on the wrong side of the reef still!” Kara shouted over the wind as he clutched the rail on our left.
“Shut up. She knows what She’s doing,” Sondra, on our right, yelled back.
I wouldn’t put it that strongly, but I did have a plan. During my abduction and imprisonment, I’d spent so much time and effort trying to reconnect to my lost Calanthe that She roared into me now, as if in trying to reach Her again, I’d given up all reservation to Her will. The orchid ring fluttered on my wrist as the dreamthink flowed like blood, infusing my lungs like air, and the coral reef spoke to me. Millions of small voices created a symphony of information, singing of their place, the movement of the water around them. I let them inform the waves, who then took us around and between the crevices.
Calanthe wanted me home as much as I wanted to be there, hurrying us along. With the sea carrying us into the harbor, I diverted my attention to the storm, inviting it to turn its savagery on the open water, away from land.
The fury of it lessened. Not abating entirely, but the rain no longer slanted sideways, and the wind no longer howled. The Last Resort glided into the harbor without sails, more or less upright, though with a definite list to one side.
“We’re still taking on water,” Kara reported, “but we should make it before she sinks.”
Percy would never forgive me if I sank his boat, so I encouraged the sea to flow back out again. Slowly, the yacht righted. Kara glanced my way but said nothing.
The harbor sat quiet in the drumming rain, the docked ships tossing in their berths, lights on in only a few houses that wended their way in spirals up the hill. No one waited to greet us. Not surprising, I supposed, as the hour was late and everyone would be hunkered down to wait out the storm. Still, returning from the dead seemed like it should be an occasion for a bit of celebration.
“Your Highness.” Lady Ibolya stepped into the place Sondra vacated, curtsying deeply. “I brought a cloak for You, in case You wanted to return without fanfare.” The cloak had a deep cowl and long sleeves with draping cuffs that would cover my hands—and lack thereof. My nobles and courtiers often wore that sort of thing to secret assignations, and I’d worn this one before to sneak out and visit Con in the map tower, back in my previous life.
“They don’t know, do they?” I asked Ibolya, then tipped my chin up to Con. “What did you tell everyone?”
“We kept the news as quiet as we could,” he told me gravely, a hint of doubt in his face. “I know how hard you’ve worked to keep your—our—people from panicking. Not many know you disappeared from the Battle at Cradysica.”
“What do they think happened to Me?”
“That you were injured and needed time to recover,” Con replied.
“Your other ladies went to the temple, Your Highness,” Ibolya added. “They’ve gone into seclusion, and we let everyone believe You went with them. To heal.”
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