Siege and Storm (Shadow and Bone #2)(7)


THE FIRST THING I knew was real was the rocking of the ship—the creak of the rigging, the slap of water on the hull.

When I tried to turn over, a shard of pain sliced through my shoulder. I gasped and jolted upright, my eyes flying open, heart racing, fully awake. A wave of nausea rolled through me, and I had to blink back the stars that floated across my vision. I was in a tidy ship’s cabin, lying on a narrow bunk. Daylight spilled through the sidescuttle.

Genya sat at the edge of my bed. So I hadn’t dreamed her. Or was I dreaming now? I tried to shake the cobwebs from my mind and was rewarded with another surge of nausea. The unpleasant smell in the air wasn’t helping to settle my stomach. I forced myself to take a long, shaky breath.

Genya wore a red kefta embroidered in blue, a combination I’d never seen on any other Grisha. The garment was dirty and a bit worn, but her hair was arranged in flawless curls, and she looked more lovely than any queen. She held a tin cup to my lips.

“Drink,” she said.

“What is it?” I asked warily.

“Just water.”

I tried to take the cup from her and realized my wrists were in irons. I lifted my hands awkwardly. The water had a flat metallic tang, but I was parched. I sipped, coughed, then drank greedily.

“Slowly,” she said, her hand smoothing the hair back from my face, “or you’ll make yourself sick.”

“How long?” I asked, glancing at Ivan, who leaned against the door watching me. “How long have I been out?”

“A little over a week,” Genya said.

“A week?”

Panic seized me. A week of Ivan slowing my heart rate to keep me unconscious.

I shoved to my feet and blood rushed to my head. I would have fallen if Genya hadn’t reached out to steady me. I willed the dizziness away, shook her off, then stumbled to the sidescuttle and peered through the foggy circle of glass. Nothing. Nothing but blue sea. No harbor. No coast. Novyi Zem was long gone. I fought the tears that rose behind my eyes.

“Where’s Mal?” I asked. When no one answered, I turned around. “Where’s Mal?” I demanded of Ivan.

“The Darkling wants to see you,” he said. “Are you strong enough to walk, or do I have to carry you?”

“Give her a minute,” said Genya. “Let her eat, wash her face at least.”

“No. Take me to him.”

Genya frowned.

“I’m fine,” I insisted. Actually, I felt weak and woozy and terrified. But I wasn’t about to lie back down on that bunk, and I needed answers, not food.

As we left the cabin, we were engulfed in a wall of stench—not the usual ship smells of bilge and fish and bodies that I remembered from our voyage aboard the Verrhader, but something far worse. I gagged and clamped my mouth shut. I was suddenly glad I hadn’t eaten.

“What is that?”

“Blood, bone, rendered blubber,” said Ivan. We were aboard a whaler. “You get used to it,” he said.

“You get used to it,” retorted Genya, wrinkling her nose.

They brought me to a hatch that led to the deck above. Ivan clambered up the ladder, and I scrambled hastily after him, eager to be out of the dark bowels of the ship and free of that rotting stench. It was hard climbing with my hands in irons, and Ivan quickly lost patience. He hooked my wrists to haul me up the last few feet. I took in great gulps of cold air and blinked in the bright light.

The whaler was lumbering along at full sail, driven forward by three Grisha Squallers who stood by the masts with arms raised, their blue kefta flapping around their legs. Etherealki, the Order of Summoners. Just a few short months ago, I’d been one of them.

The ship’s crew wore roughspun, and many were barefoot, the better to grip the ship’s slippery deck. No uniforms, I noted. So they weren’t military, and the ship flew no colors that I could see.

The rest of the Darkling’s Grisha were easy to pick out among the crew, not just because of their brightly colored kefta, but because they stood idly at the railings, gazing out at the sea or talking while the regular sailors worked. I even saw a Fabrikator in her purple kefta, propped up against a coil of rope, reading.

As we passed by two massive cast-iron kettles set into the deck, I got a fierce whiff of the stink that had been so powerful below.

“The try-pots,” Genya said. “Where they render the oil. They haven’t been used on this voyage, but the smell never fades.”

Grisha and crewmen alike turned to stare as we walked the length of the ship. When we passed beneath the mizzenmast, I looked up and saw the dark-haired boy and girl from my dream perched high above us. They hung from the rigging like two birds of prey, watching us with matching golden eyes.

So it hadn’t been a dream at all. They’d been in my cabin.

Ivan led me to the prow of the ship, where the Darkling was waiting. He stood with his back to us, staring out over the bowsprit to the blue horizon beyond, his black kefta billowing around him like an inky banner of war.

Genya and Ivan made their bows and left us.

“Where’s Mal?” I rasped, my throat still rusty.

The Darkling didn’t turn, but shook his head and said, “You’re predictable, at least.”

“Sorry to bore you. Where is he?”

“How do you know he isn’t dead?”

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