Welcome back! When we left off in the first installment, Abbey was about to tell Syd what Dahlia did to her brother fifteen years ago. This installment starts with some mighty salty language. But, hey, SydÂ has never been afraid to express herself in a colorful manner.
Thanks for all your nice comments on Snippet 1. I’m delighted to see that so many of you are excited about this book. I am too!
Okay, no more preamble. The snippet starts after the cover image.
â€œIâ€™m going to fucking kill her.â€ Syd reached for the twin swords on her back.
Dustin cocked a thumb at Abbey. â€œYeah, that was pretty much her reaction, too.â€
Abbey held up a hand. â€œI know this is upsetting, butâ€”â€
â€œUpsetting? That crazy bitch sold my brother into slavery! Iâ€™m beyond upset.â€ Syd took a deep breath and set her hand on the shipâ€™s rail. â€œIâ€™m not really going to kill her. Not yet. After all this time, we finally have a lead on Elliot.â€ She cracked a smile. â€œThis is pretty amazing.â€
â€œI know, right?â€ Abbey replied.
They were on the deck of The Foggy Day, Sydâ€™s ship, just Abbey, Dustin, and Syd. The rest of the crew were still on the Farrows celebrating the recent victory over the Barskall fleet.
The three of them being alone together made Abbey think of the night theyâ€™d escaped The Foggy Day in a little sloop just before Captain Tor took possession of the ship. Theyâ€™d had quite the adventure: sailing south, disappearing into the mountains, defending a village from Barskall Warriors, and finally doubling back to save The Foggy Day from Tor and Dahlia.
And now it looked like they were going to be setting off on a new adventure.
â€œWeâ€™re actually going to Gren. Who would have thought?â€ Abbey shook her head in disbelief.
â€œWeâ€™ll need a small crew.â€ Syd talked slowly now as she considered the details of the plan. â€œEnough to sail The Foggy Day and defend ourselves, but no one we donâ€™t trust completely. Iâ€™m thinking thirty people is the ideal number.â€
Abbey nodded her agreement. â€œWeâ€™ll bring Fannar, if heâ€™s willing. Clemens, too. And Olaf.â€
Syd cocked an eyebrow at that last name but didnâ€™t object.
Abbey continued. â€œAnd weâ€™ll want to bring Viktor and some of his Storm Callers. Enough that they can team up with Dustin to create some serious firepower if need be.â€
Syd met Abbeyâ€™s eyes. â€œIâ€™d like your father to accompany us as well.â€
Now it was Abbeyâ€™s turn to be surprised.
â€œWhat? The guy can create fireballs and heâ€™s as good with a sword as anyone we have. Why wouldnâ€™t I want to bring him?â€
â€œOkay,â€ Abbey said. â€œIâ€™d like to have him along, too. It just caught me off-guard, was all.â€ But there was something about the way Syd had said it. Sheâ€™d seemed a little too excited to invite Benjamin along. â€œIâ€™m just going to ask straight out. Do you have the hots for my father?â€
â€œWhat? No! This isnâ€™t about that!â€
â€œOkay, whatever. If so, you have my blessing, but Iâ€™m not calling you â€˜Mom.â€™â€
â€œCan we move on?â€ Syd asked, her face flushed.
Abbey smiled. Sometimes it was too easy to harass Syd. â€œOkay, so weâ€™ve got Dustin stormcalling, and a good core team. You sure you donâ€™t mind kicking your old Storm Caller off the ship?â€
Syd laughed. â€œGod, no. Heâ€™s fifty percent blind and one hundred percent asshole. Iâ€™ll be glad to see him gone.â€ Her tone was serious when she spoke again. â€œOne more thing, Abbey. I want you as my first mate.â€
Abbey was so surprised that for a moment she didnâ€™t know how to respond. â€œListen, thanks and all, but just because weâ€™re friends doesnâ€™t meanâ€”â€
â€œIt doesnâ€™t have jack shit to do with us being friends,â€ Syd interrupted. â€œLook at everything youâ€™ve done in the short time since you first set foot on a stormship! You exposed Captain Tor and Dahlia as Storm Raiders, you helped save Holdgate, you rescued the Barskall kingâ€™s secret Storm Caller, and you helped destroy his fleet.â€
Abbey smiled. â€œDustin may have had a little something to do with that stuff, as did a lot of other people. Besides, how the hell can I be First Mate when I can barely handle being a normal stormship sailor? Thereâ€™s no way I can run a crew. The terminology aloneâ€”â€
Syd held up a hand. â€œI donâ€™t care about any of that. I can teach you that stuff. Youâ€™re a natural-born leader, and thatâ€™s what I need at my right hand. I mean, Clemens is the prickliest bastard Iâ€™ve ever met, and heâ€™s calling you â€˜boss.â€™ If you could earn his respect, I have no doubt youâ€™ll be able to do the job.â€
Abbey had to admit her friend had a point. Only a few days ago, Clemens had been using the term â€œbossâ€ sarcastically and challenging her at every turn. Now he truly respected her.
Still, being First Mate on a stormshipâ€”even on a small mission like thisâ€”was daunting.
Most of her leadership had been impromptu. Sheâ€™d stepped up because lives were on the line and someone needed to lead. It hadnâ€™t been anything but a willingness to do what others wouldnâ€™t, to do anything and everything required to keep her friends and family safe.
But maybe that was what being a leader was all about.
She looked at Dustin. â€œYou okay with all this? Youâ€™re the Storm Caller, and itâ€™s your ship, too. You want me as first mate?â€
Dustin nodded slowly. â€œYeah, of course. Thereâ€™s no one Iâ€™d rather have watching my back.â€ His voice sounded distant, like there was something he wasnâ€™t saying.
Abbey put her hands on her hips. â€œWhat are you really thinking?â€
Dustin looked out at the water for a moment, as if deciding whether to continue. Then he turned back toward them. â€œLook, I know saving Elliotâ€™s important, but are we being idiots here?â€
â€œHow so?â€ Syd asked. Her voice was even.
â€œWe went through a lot to capture Dahlia, and now we have her. Sheâ€™s told us Elliotâ€™s in Gren. Maybe we should proceed with the execution, then head to Gren on our own.â€
Syd took a step toward him. â€œShe says we wonâ€™t be able to find him without her. What if sheâ€™s telling the truth?â€
Dustin shrugged. â€œHonestly? We just snuck into a secret stormcalling school on a damn mountaintop guarded by a hundred Barskall warriors, and we lived to tell the tale. Iâ€™m not too worried about Gren.â€
Abbey had to admit he had a point. Dahlia wasnâ€™t doing this out of the goodness of her heart. Sheâ€™d held onto the information about Elliot and guarded it jealously until the time was right. Then sheâ€™d played it like a card, using it to save her own life.
Dahlia would betray them at her first opportunity, of that there was no doubt. Her only goal was to prolong her own life.
That, and perhaps to learn the secret of Dustinâ€™s ability to stormcall on land.
Dustin had said there was no secret, that there was nothing for her to steal. The only thing keeping her from being able to do it was her belief that there was a secret knowledge she had to obtain in order to do so.
If she watched Dustin long enough, perhaps sheâ€™d overcome her disbelief and break through her mental wall.
A Dahlia who could stormcall without seawater was a terrifying prospect, especially now that her fleet had been destroyed and her only army was the Barskall horde hidden somewhere on the Kaldfell Peninsula. They couldnâ€™t let that happen.
â€œLook, I know itâ€™s a risk,â€ Syd allowed, â€œbut thereâ€™s still no question in my mind. This must be done. Weâ€™ll assign four men to her, and weâ€™ll keep her hands bound. As soon as we get to Gren, weâ€™ll bring her on land and keep her the hell away from any seawater. I know sheâ€™s a fierce enemy, but sheâ€™s not all-powerful.â€
Dustin shook his head. â€œYouâ€™re underestimating her. Sheâ€™ll use that to her advantage. She always does. Captain Tor and King Elias both thought of her as an underling, but she manipulated them until they no longer served her purpose and then cast them aside.â€
â€œTechnically, my sword and I cast Tor aside,â€ Abbey interjected, â€œbut I take your meaning.â€
â€œPoint is, this is what sheâ€™s good at. She looks weak, lets you think sheâ€™s cowed, and then she strikes when you least expect it. Sheâ€™ll do the same to us if we let her.â€
â€œWeâ€™re not going to!â€ Syd was shouting now, passion clear in her voice. â€œThatâ€™s the difference. We know what she is, and weâ€™ll never let our guard down.â€
â€œThatâ€™s not how it works!â€ Dustin matched Sydâ€™s tone. â€œSheâ€™ll find our weakness. Itâ€™s what she does.â€
Abbey was barely listening. Something Dustin said had sparked an idea in her mind. â€œWhat if we can guarantee she wonâ€™t use magic?â€
Dustin and Syd both looked skeptical.
â€œOkay, First Mate,â€ Dustin said. â€œTell us how youâ€™re going to ensure that.â€
That’ll do it for this installment. Tune in Thursday for our third and final snippet in which we’ll get a glimpse at what Elliot has been up to in Gren for the last decade and a half. Thanks for reading!