Namesake (Fable #2) by Adrienne Young

ONE


The knock of a pulley hitting the deck made me blink, and suddenly the white-washed world around me came rushing back. Footsteps on wood. Shadows on the quarterdeck. The snap of rippling sails up the mainmast.

The pain in my head erupted as I squinted against the glare of sunlight and counted. The crew of the Luna was at least twenty, probably more with the Waterside strays on board. There had to be a hand or two belowdecks or tucked away into the helmsman’s quarters. I hadn’t seen Zola since I’d woken on his ship, the hours passing slowly as the sun fell down the western sky at an excruciating pace.

A door slammed in the passageway and the ache in my jaw woke as I clenched my teeth. Clove’s heavy steps crossed the deck as he walked to the helm. His rough hands found the spokes as his gaze set on the glowing horizon.

I hadn’t seen my father’s navigator since that day on Jeval four years ago when he and Saint pushed the tender boat out into the shallows and left me on the beach. But I knew his face. I’d know it anywhere because it was painted into almost every memory I had. Of the Lark. Of my parents. He was there, even in the oldest, most broken pieces of the past.

Clove hadn’t so much as looked at me since I’d first spotted him, but I could see in the way his chin stayed lifted, keeping his gaze drifting over my head, that he knew exactly who I was.

He had been my only family outside of my parents, and the night the Lark sank in Tempest Snare, he’d saved my life. But he’d also never looked back as he and my father sailed away from Jeval. And he’d never come back for me, either. When I found Saint in Ceros and he told me that Clove was gone, I’d imagined him as a pile of bones stacked on the silt in the deep of the Narrows. But here he was, navigator of the Luna.

He could feel my stare as I studied him, perhaps the same memory resurrecting itself from where he’d had it carefully buried. It kept his spine straight, his cool expression just the tiniest bit thin. But he wouldn’t look at me, and I didn’t know if that meant he was still the Clove I remembered or if he’d become something different. The distance between the two could mean my life.

A pair of boots stopped before the mast and I looked up into the face of a woman I’d seen that morning. Her cropped, straw-colored hair blew across her forehead as she set a bucket of water beside me and pulled the knife from her belt.

She crouched down and the sunlight glinted on the blade as she reached for my hands. I pulled away from her, but she jerked the ropes forward, fitting the cold iron knife against the raw skin at my wrist. She was cutting me loose.

I went still, watching the deck around us, my mind racing as I carefully slid my feet beneath me. Another yank of the knife and my hands were free. I held them out, my fingers trembling. As soon as her gaze dropped, I pulled in a sharp breath and launched myself forward. Her eyes went wide as I barreled into her, and she hit the deck hard, her head slamming into the wood. I pinned her weight to the coil of ropes against the starboard side and reached for the knife.

Footsteps rushed toward us as a deep voice sounded at my back. “Don’t. Let her get it out of her system.”

The crew froze and in the second I took to look over my shoulder, the woman rolled out from under me, catching my side with the heel of her boot. I growled, scrambling toward her until I had hold of her wrist. She tried to kick me as I slammed it into the iron crank that stowed the anchor. I could feel the small bones beneath her skin crack as I brought it down again harder, and the knife fell from her grip.

I climbed over her and snatched it up, spinning so that my back pressed against the railing. I lifted the shaking blade before me. All around us, there was only water. No land as far as I could see in any direction. My chest suddenly felt as if it was caving in, my heart sinking.

“Are you finished?”

The voice lifted again, and every head turned back to the passageway. The Luna’s helmsman stood with his hands in his pockets, looking not the least bit concerned by the sight of me standing over one of his crew with a knife in my hands.

Zola wove through the others with the same amusement that had shone in his eyes at the tavern in Ceros. His face was lit with a wry grin.

“I said clean her up, Calla.” His gaze fell to the woman at my feet.

She glared at me, furious under the attention of her crew. Her broken hand was cradled to her ribs, already swelling.

Zola took four slow steps before one hand left his pocket. He held it out to me, his chin jerking toward the knife. When I didn’t move, he smiled wider. A cold silence fell over the ship for just a moment before his other hand flew up, finding my throat. His fingers clamped down as he slammed me into the railing and squeezed until I couldn’t draw breath.