Siege and Storm (Shadow and Bone #2)(11)

I turned onto my side, feeling the gentle roll of the ship beneath me. Was this what it was like to be rocked to sleep in a mother’s arms? I couldn’t remember. Ana Kuya used to hum sometimes, under her breath, as she went about turning down the lamps and closing up the dormitories at Keramzin for the night. That was the closest Mal and I had ever come to a lullaby.

Somewhere above, I heard a sailor shout something over the wind. The bell rang to signal the change of the watch. We’re alive, I reminded myself. We escaped from him before. We can do it again. But it was no good, and finally, I gave in and let the tears come. Sturmhond was bought and paid for. Genya had chosen the Darkling. Mal and I were alone as we’d always been, without friends or allies, surrounded by nothing but pitiless sea. This time, even if we escaped, there was nowhere to run.



LESS THAN A WEEK LATER, I spotted the first ice floes. We were far north, where the sea darkened and ice bloomed from its depths in perilous spikes. Though it was early summer, the wind bit into our skin. In the morning, the ropes were hard with frost.

I spent hours pacing my cabin and staring out at the endless sea. Each morning, I was brought above deck, where I was given a chance to stretch my legs and see Mal from afar. Always, the Darkling stood by the railing, scanning the horizon, searching for something. Sturmhond and his crew kept their distance.

On the seventh day, we passed between two slate stone islands that I recognized from my time as a mapmaker: Jelka and Vilki, the Fork and Knife. We had entered the Bone Road, the long stretch of black water where countless ships had wrecked on the nameless islands that appeared and disappeared in its mists. On maps, it was marked by sailors’ skulls, wide-mouthed monsters, mermaids with ice-white hair and the deep black eyes of seals. Only the most experienced Fjerdan hunters came here, seeking skins and furs, chancing death to claim rich prizes. But what prize did we seek?

Sturmhond ordered the sails trimmed, and our pace slowed as we drifted through the mist. An uneasy silence blanketed the ship. I studied the whaler’s longboats, the racks of harpoons tipped in Grisha steel. It wasn’t hard to guess what they were for. The Darkling was after some kind of amplifier. I surveyed the ranks of Grisha and wondered who might be singled out for another of the Darkling’s “gifts.” But a terrible suspicion had taken root inside me.

It’s madness, I told myself. He wouldn’t dare attempt it. The thought brought me little comfort. He always dared.


THE NEXT DAY, the Darkling ordered me brought to him.

“Who is it for?” I asked as Ivan deposited me by the starboard rail.

The Darkling just stared out into the waves. I considered shoving him over the railing. Sure, he was hundreds of years old, but could he swim?

“Tell me you’re not contemplating what I think you are,” I said. “Tell me the amplifier is for some other stupid, gullible girl.”

“Someone less stubborn? Less selfish? Less hungry for the life of a mouse? Believe me,” he said, “I wish I could.”

I felt sick. “A Grisha can have only one amplifier. You told me that yourself.”

“Morozova’s amplifiers are different.”

I gaped at him. “There’s another like the stag?”

“They were meant to be used together, Alina. They are unique, just as we are.”

I thought of the books I’d read on Grisha theory. Every one of them had said the same thing: Grisha power was not meant to be limitless; it had to be held in check.

“No,” I said. “I don’t want this. I want—”

“You want,” the Darkling mocked. “I want to watch your tracker die slowly with my knife in his heart. I want to let the sea swallow you both. But our fates are entwined now, Alina, and there’s nothing either of us can do about that.”

“You’re mad.”

“I know it pleases you to think so,” he said. “But the amplifiers must be brought together. If we have any hope of controlling the Fold—”

“You can’t control the Fold. It has to be destroyed.”

“Careful, Alina,” he said with a slight smile. “I’ve had the same thought about you.” He gestured to Ivan, who was waiting a respectful distance away. “Bring me the boy.”

My heart leapt into my throat. “Wait,” I said. “You told me you wouldn’t hurt him.”

He ignored me. Like a fool, I looked around. As if anyone on this saintsforsaken ship would hear my appeal. Sturmhond stood by the wheel, watching us, his face impassive.

I snatched at the Darkling’s sleeve. “We had a deal. I haven’t done anything. You said—”

The Darkling looked at me with cool quartz eyes, and the words died on my lips.

A moment later, Ivan appeared with Mal in tow and steered him over to the rail. He stood before us, squinting in the sunlight, hands bound. It was the closest we’d been in weeks. Though he looked tired and pale, he appeared unharmed. I saw the question in his wary expression, but I had no answer.

“All right, tracker,” the Darkling said. “Track.”

Mal glanced from the Darkling to me and back again. “Track what? We’re in the middle of the ocean.”

“Alina once told me that you could make rabbits out of rocks. I questioned the crew of the Verrhader myself, and they claim that you’re just as capable at sea. They seemed to think you could make some lucky captain very rich with your expertise.”

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