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Daughter of the Pirate King: Chapter 19

THREE SWORDS SLIDE FROM their sheaths. I pounce onto the closest man, Niffon. He deflects the blow as Cromis tries to get behind me. I jump to the side so I have both of them clearly in my sights.

“Keep her busy,” Theris says. “I’m going for the rest of the crew. Don’t let her get away.”

“Stay,” I tell him. I thrust at Niffon while sliding under a slash from Cromis. “I’ll have all three of you face-first in the sand in no time.”

He doesn’t delay, rushing off along the shore in the direction Vordan’s ship must be anchored.

Fine, then. I’ll deal with him next time we meet.

The two pirates in front of me are good at keeping me on my toes. They strike simultaneously, hoping that one of them will be able to hit their target. The movements I have to make to dodge them are dizzying, but I don’t slow down. I lash out with my sword and legs, but successfully striking one of them would require taking a hit from the other if I’m not careful. I have to wait for an opening.

It comes when they make the mistake of stepping back from me at the same time. One, to regain his footing from my last strike, the other, to get more force behind a timed blow. I fling my sword at Niffon, who was preparing to strike. I have just enough time to see my sword catch him in the neck before I turn to Cromis, who is still off balance. My closed fist pummels into his stomach. When he doubles over in pain, I take his own sword from him and use it to help him take his last breath.

When both men lie dead at my feet, I try to get my sights on Theris, but he is long gone. I don’t know how much time I have, but I do know Theris will bring reinforcements. I won’t be able to fight a whole crew of men.

With an angry exhale, I rush back over to Riden’s side.

“Don’t mind me,” he says through quickened breaths. “I’m only bleeding to death.”

“You’re fine,” I tell him. “Unless we don’t get off this island right away.”

Riden is not too heavy for me to hold up, but his injuries make the journey to the water impossibly slow. We’re racing against Theris and the rest of Vordan’s crew. I can’t make out footfalls over the wind, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

When at last we break through the trees and see the shoreline, I hurry our pace, despite Riden’s grunts of pain. We’re so close now.

But of course there’s no boat or other means of keeping us afloat in sight.

“We’ll have to swim for it,” Riden says.

“We can’t,” I say, anxiety creeping into my voice. I use the sleeve on my free arm to wipe the sweat from my brow. All the singing and fighting have taken their toll. “I can’t be submerged in the water. It’s too much. I won’t be able to help taking it in.”

“It’s our only option. Theris will be back any instant.”

I hesitate still.

“I can’t swim by myself, Alosa,” Riden says.

I look at him. For some reason, he was enough to keep me sane during my interrogation with Vordan. I hope he’s enough for this, too.

“You won’t need to. I’ll do all the work. I just hope I still remember you while I do it.” I survey his cuts. “This is going to sting.”

Riden and I plunge into the waves, wading out until the water reaches our knees. Riden hisses through his teeth when the salt water reaches his first gunshot wound.

“Take a deep breath,” I say, even as the water starts filling me. I feel myself changing, inside and out.

And with no more hesitation, I pull him under with me and begin to swim.

My heart races. Pure joy surges through me to feel so full, to be surrounded by the sea. To a human, it would be freezing cold. But not to me. It is soothing and revitalizing and refreshing. I can feel strength and health pouring into me as I start swimming at an impossibly fast pace.

And I can feel my body change.

My hair lengthens, takes on a life of its own as it swirls and whips through the water. My skin whitens, changing from the tan color the sun gave me to the color of white pearls. My nails lengthen and sharpen ever so slightly. I can breathe even while under the water. I can move effortlessly through it. I can see as well as if I were on land, night or day. I feel connected to the sea life around me. The snails on the rocks deep below me. The fish swimming far to the right. The plants swaying in the light current below. Even the tiny creatures that can’t be seen with my eyes. I can still feel them.

I want nothing more than to swim and simply enjoy the feel of the water flowing by me as I propel myself forward.

But a weight prohibits my swim.

I almost forgot. There’s a man with me. His eyes are open, even through the salty water. He’s watching me with clear astonishment.

As he should. I am power and beauty. I am song and water. I rule the sea and all creatures within it.

The man points upward. Then he gestures to his throat. A trail of blood mixes in the water, flowing behind us. A nearby acura eel smells it, but then it senses me and flees in the other direction.

The man shakes me, gripping my arm. I return my attention to him. Ah, he is drowning. He needs air if he is to survive.

I will relish watching him squirm and drown. It’ll be an enjoyable spectacle as I continue to swim and become one with the soothing waters. Perhaps I’ll dance with his lifeless body afterward.

He begins kicking his feet, trying to reach the surface on his own, but his injuries are too great for him to manage it, and my grip is too strong for him to ever get away.

Finally, he stops struggling. Instead he puts his hands on either side of my face, straining to look into my eyes. He presses his lips to mine once before he is still.

At that simple motion, something awakens inside me. Riden. This is the man who got himself shot by helping me escape from Vordan, and now I’m letting him drown.

Instantly, I swim for the surface. He’s not breathing, even above the water. I need to get him to land. I sense around me for interruptions in the water, looking for something large that resists the flow of the natural currents around me. There is a ship not too far off. Riden’s ship. They must be searching for him.

Faster than anything else in the water, I swim for the ship. Like a bird in the air, I pass through effortlessly, mounting league after league.

I’m swimming toward my other captors yet again, but I cannot hand myself over to them without a plan of escape. Panic sets in. There’s no time. Every second that passes is a second that brings Riden closer to death. I need to get to the ship now.

I don’t halt my movements toward the ship, but I submerge my head and start singing. From below the water my voice is clear. Clear and sharp as a bell. It travels fast, reaching the ears of those on the Night Farer. The power of my song is limitless when I am in the ocean. The sea keeps nourishing me, feeding me so I never tire.

Reaching out toward the ship, I prepare the men for what is to come. They need to be ready for us. We cannot waste a second. I still can control only three men at a time, so I first reach out to Kearan, telling him to move the ship in our direction. Then I find Enwen and Draxen. I bring them to the ship’s edge and hold Riden up, so it will be him that Draxen sees first.

“Lower a rope!” Draxen commands immediately.

As his men hasten to obey, I let out one more verse. This time I reach even farther out.

I’m forced to swim to the right, dodging the large knotted rope that splashes me with water as it reaches its end. My body changes as soon as I’m hoisted out of the water, so quickly that no one can take notice. None can see my siren form unless they peer through the water, and I think it’s safe to say that they were too far away to notice. But that is hardly a concern for me at the moment.

Draxen’s men haul us up quickly. There must be at least five of them tugging on the rope. I have to grip the edge of the railing once I get to the top—it’s difficult while holding on to Riden’s weight as well. Otherwise they would have hauled me all the way over, and I probably would have broken a finger or my wrist as it jammed into the railing.

Draxen grabs Riden and lays him down on the ship’s deck. I’m about to step forward to help when I’m seized by what feels like twenty men.

“Go grab Holdin!” he orders. Someone runs belowdecks.

“The ship’s doctor can’t help him,” I snap.

I’m momentarily distracted by the filthy fingers at my body. They probe and push, straying to places they shouldn’t. Places hardly necessary for restraining me. My muscles hurt from the strain. My pride hurts from the whole scene.

“What did you do to him?” Draxen demands.

That’s it. I don’t care if the whole crew witnesses this. They’re about to die anyway. I slam my abilities into Draxen, ordering him to make his men let me go.

His crew hears me singing; they’re perplexed enough by that. But once Draxen orders them to let me go, they’re dumbfounded.

He has to repeat himself, more loudly this time, before they listen. They must decide I’m not behind the change if they still obeyed Draxen’s order. Good.

I rush to Riden, sit on the cold deck, and place a hand on either side of his head. I lower my head as though going in for a kiss. I need to force air back into his lungs. Plugging his nose with the fingers of my right hand, I blow into his mouth, willing the air to reach down into his lungs.

I wait a moment and then try again. Five times I do this, and nothing changes.

“No,” I say, barely a whisper. I lie on top of his body, placing my head against his chest, a silent plea for it to start moving up and down, for his lungs to work, for his body to keep the life within.

This can’t be happening. Not after he rescued me. Not after he let himself get shot to help me. He can’t die now.

But there is water in his lungs. I can sense it beneath my cheek. And if I could just get it out …

I place my hands against his chest to make it look as though I’m using them to force the water from his lungs, but I know at this point they’re useless.

I sing, so softly that only Riden can hear, were he awake. I tell his mind to stay alert. I beg the organs to remain steady. I cannot heal his wounds. I cannot speed up or change anything. I can only reach his mind. I tell him not to give up. Not yet. He’s not allowed to die.

When I’ve expelled some of the song from me, I pull at the water beneath me, the water in Riden’s lungs. I cannot touch it, but I can sense it. And I demand that it come to me.

It does not move.

But I dig my fingers into Riden’s chest, and pull—both physically and mentally. I will him back to life with every essence of myself.

And finally, the water sways upward. It drifts out of the lungs, through his flesh, sweats out of his skin, and comes into me.

“Now breathe!” I say and sing at the same time. I blow air into his mouth once more. Demand that his lungs start working. Riden’s heart still beats, so if I can convince his lungs to pump on their own, he will be all right. He has to be all right.

Riden gasps, heaving in the loudest breath I have ever heard. It reminds me of a newborn babe taking its first breath. It is the sound of life.

I lean away from him and take a moment to breathe myself.

In seconds, they are upon me. Draxen must have regained his senses. A blade is shoved under my throat. Another presses against my stomach, digging in enough to scratch the skin. I can’t even muster up the strength to care. Riden is alive. That’s all that matters. His eyes are closed and his wounds still bleed. But he will survive.

“What would you like done with her, Captain?” one of the offending pirates asks.

“Take her back to the brig. I want five men down there watching her at all times. She’s not to be given food or water. And don’t talk to her.”

Like a caged bird, I’m locked up. Again.

I’m really starting to hate this.


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