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, Syd 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.
“I’m going to fucking kill her.” Syd reached for the twin swords on her back.
Dustin cocked a thumb at Abbey. “Yeah, that was pretty much her reaction, too.”
Abbey held up a hand. “I know this is upsetting, but—”
“Upsetting? That crazy bitch sold my brother into slavery! I’m beyond upset.” Syd took a deep breath and set her hand on the ship’s rail. “I’m not really going to kill her. Not yet. After all this time, we finally have a lead on Elliot.” She cracked a smile. “This is pretty amazing.”
“I know, right?” Abbey replied.
They were on the deck of The Foggy Day, Syd’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 they’d escaped The Foggy Day in a little sloop just before Captain Tor took possession of the ship. They’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.
“We’re actually going to Gren. Who would have thought?” Abbey shook her head in disbelief.
“We’ll need a small crew.” Syd talked slowly now as she considered the details of the plan. “Enough to sail The Foggy Day and defend ourselves, but no one we don’t trust completely. I’m thinking thirty people is the ideal number.”
Abbey nodded her agreement. “We’ll bring Fannar, if he’s willing. Clemens, too. And Olaf.”
Syd cocked an eyebrow at that last name but didn’t object.
Abbey continued. “And we’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.”
Syd met Abbey’s eyes. “I’d like your father to accompany us as well.”
Now it was Abbey’s turn to be surprised.
“What? The guy can create fireballs and he’s as good with a sword as anyone we have. Why wouldn’t I want to bring him?”
“Okay,” Abbey said. “I’d like to have him along, too. It just caught me off-guard, was all.” But there was something about the way Syd had said it. She’d seemed a little too excited to invite Benjamin along. “I’m just going to ask straight out. Do you have the hots for my father?”
“What? No! This isn’t about that!”
“Okay, whatever. If so, you have my blessing, but I’m not calling you ‘Mom.’”
“Can we move on?” Syd asked, her face flushed.
Abbey smiled. Sometimes it was too easy to harass Syd. “Okay, so we’ve got Dustin stormcalling, and a good core team. You sure you don’t mind kicking your old Storm Caller off the ship?”
Syd laughed. “God, no. He’s fifty percent blind and one hundred percent asshole. I’ll be glad to see him gone.” Her tone was serious when she spoke again. “One more thing, Abbey. I want you as my first mate.”
Abbey was so surprised that for a moment she didn’t know how to respond. “Listen, thanks and all, but just because we’re friends doesn’t mean—”
“It doesn’t have jack shit to do with us being friends,” Syd interrupted. “Look at everything you’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 king’s secret Storm Caller, and you helped destroy his fleet.”
Abbey smiled. “Dustin 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? There’s no way I can run a crew. The terminology alone—”
Syd held up a hand. “I don’t care about any of that. I can teach you that stuff. You’re a natural-born leader, and that’s what I need at my right hand. I mean, Clemens is the prickliest bastard I’ve ever met, and he’s calling you ‘boss.’ If you could earn his respect, I have no doubt you’ll be able to do the job.”
Abbey had to admit her friend had a point. Only a few days ago, Clemens had been using the term “boss” sarcastically and challenging her at every turn. Now he truly respected her.
Still, being First Mate on a stormship—even on a small mission like this—was daunting.
Most of her leadership had been impromptu. She’d stepped up because lives were on the line and someone needed to lead. It hadn’t been anything but a willingness to do what others wouldn’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. “You okay with all this? You’re the Storm Caller, and it’s your ship, too. You want me as first mate?”
Dustin nodded slowly. “Yeah, of course. There’s no one I’d rather have watching my back.” His voice sounded distant, like there was something he wasn’t saying.
Abbey put her hands on her hips. “What are you really thinking?”
Dustin looked out at the water for a moment, as if deciding whether to continue. Then he turned back toward them. “Look, I know saving Elliot’s important, but are we being idiots here?”
“How so?” Syd asked. Her voice was even.
“We went through a lot to capture Dahlia, and now we have her. She’s told us Elliot’s in Gren. Maybe we should proceed with the execution, then head to Gren on our own.”
Syd took a step toward him. “She says we won’t be able to find him without her. What if she’s telling the truth?”
Dustin shrugged. “Honestly? 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. I’m not too worried about Gren.”
Abbey had to admit he had a point. Dahlia wasn’t doing this out of the goodness of her heart. She’d held onto the information about Elliot and guarded it jealously until the time was right. Then she’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 Dustin’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 she’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 couldn’t let that happen.
“Look, I know it’s a risk,” Syd allowed, “but there’s still no question in my mind. This must be done. We’ll assign four men to her, and we’ll keep her hands bound. As soon as we get to Gren, we’ll bring her on land and keep her the hell away from any seawater. I know she’s a fierce enemy, but she’s not all-powerful.”
Dustin shook his head. “You’re underestimating her. She’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.”
“Technically, my sword and I cast Tor aside,” Abbey interjected, “but I take your meaning.”
“Point is, this is what she’s good at. She looks weak, lets you think she’s cowed, and then she strikes when you least expect it. She’ll do the same to us if we let her.”
“We’re not going to!” Syd was shouting now, passion clear in her voice. “That’s the difference. We know what she is, and we’ll never let our guard down.”
“That’s not how it works!” Dustin matched Syd’s tone. “She’ll find our weakness. It’s what she does.”
Abbey was barely listening. Something Dustin said had sparked an idea in her mind. “What if we can guarantee she won’t use magic?”
Dustin and Syd both looked skeptical.
“Okay, First Mate,” Dustin said. “Tell us how you’re going to ensure that.”
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!