Kya and Hearthorne gasped as though they’d been swallowed by the waves after all. The woman’s voice was a tidal wave of sound and music, with the roar of the waters and the swell of the currents flowing at the edge.
“He-hello,” Kya said. She sat on the deck with a sodden plop before her legs could give out beneath her.
“Hidden One,” Hearthorne said in a strained voice as she bowed. She shot Kya a look that was both dismayed and exhilarated, and shook her head slightly in warning.
Kya gulped and nodded. It hardly mattered whether the woman standing before them with hair and skirts streaming out behind her in watery waves meant to harm them or not—not when her very presence came so very near to crushing them all.
“You are the one whom the moon favors,” the woman said, gesturing to the waterlogged petals Kya had forgotten she’d been clenching in her fist.
“I am on an errand for the moon dragon,” Kya said. While she might have earned the white queen’s favor, the dark queen was another matter entirely, and she couldn’t be sure. And something about the woman warned her against speaking a lie—even if on accident.
The woman nodded as she thought, the waters composing her body swirling and in constant dizzying motion. “I have spoken to my sister and she speaks highly of you. She believes you must be worthy if the dragon parted with his most precious of treasures.”
Kya frowned. What the woman said was the truth, but it didn’t feel like it. Honor was cold and distant, hardly akin to the friendly fire in the moon dragon’s eyes once it had decided not to eat them.
Hearthorne’s petals trembled, and she smoothed them with her leaves. Then, turning the blue bud of her face to the woman, she asked, “Have we done aught to offend you?”
“Offend me? Of course not. I hardly know of you, and believe me, if you had done aught against me or mine, I would have known of it.” She gave them a smile that was all sharp, ragged teeth—no less frightening for being made entirely of water.
“Then why have you tried to destroy our ship?” Kya asked, finding the smallest seed of courage hiding in her heart. If the sea was going to drown them all, she wanted to know why.
The woman blinked at them, bewildered. “I have not tried to destroy anything. If I had, your ship would be little more than bits of flotsam that would be returned to the shore as per the treaty.”
Hearthorne pursed her lips, a bit of her old spark coming back. “And yet you called up this storm. Don’t deny it, for your word was on every breath of the wind, and it was you who drenched us, not the ordinary clouds.”
“I tried calling to you many times,” the woman sighed, her shoulders slumping just enough to take the edge off the danger radiating from her. “But you didn’t hear. Didn’t respond. So I called louder.”
“You have our attention now,” Kya said. She pressed her lips together against the surge of temper she longed to hurl at the woman. All the fear and anguish, every dent of her ship, every tear in her mast. She took a deep breath and tried to swallow back the rills of relief and fury crackling through her, for just because the woman no longer looked dangerous didn’t mean she couldn’t still sink the ship and all her crew should she wish to.
“Any louder, and we would have been beyond giving you aid,” Hearthorne said, shaking the sea water from her petals.
“Sometimes I forget how . . . fragile those from air and earth tend to be,” the woman said, lowering her watery lashes and frowning. “But it hurts so terribly . . .”
She held up her hand, and for the first time, Kya noticed the silver chain wrapped around the woman’s wrist and trailing off into the waters. Though the woman was made of water, the chains cut deep enough that the water swirling about them was of a bluer hue than the other water, and—impossibly—brought to mind the image of blood.
“Who could shackle the sea?” Hearthorne whistled her amazement.
. . . TO BE CONTINUED . . .
© 2014 by Danyelle Leafty. All rights reserved.
If this is your first time visiting, check out the first installment of this voyage, and swing by the library to read The Curious Leaf for free if this is the first time you’ve met Kya or Hearthorne. Or, subscribe to join the Wonder-Kin and receive The Curious Leaf free as part of your Free Starter Library. 🙂