A high-pitched voice drifted up from the deck and brought an unfamiliar frown to Rashied’s lips. That would be the little girl, no doubt arguing with her caretaker again. He liked the five-year-old well enough, for all the mystery that surrounded her identity. She was as cute a kid as he’d ever seen, all black hair and giant silver eyes. She talked about a boy she thought she was going to marry one day a bit too much, but she was fun. And she was all sweetness and smiles to the sailors. But they’d all caught glimpses of the warrior she really was. The girl was an unfettered terror to her caretaker, and their screaming matches were already famous on the Fortune. Stories would be told of her for months after they were off the ship, no matter which way she ended up leaving. He hated the thought of the waters swallowing her nearly as much as Chetana.
The strange woman who cared for her was just about intolerable. She did nothing but snap and scowl at everyone nearby like a rabid dog. Rashied longed to balance the scales with some entertaining pranks, but Chetana had to be boring and point out how much trouble they would get into. Arturas would likely dump them at the next port without as much as a chit to buy a bite of bread. The captain didn’t tolerate anyone messing around with the cargo. And the woman’s wealth was apparently close to limitless, because not only were they searching for the Griffin’s Isle from fae stories, but she and her ward were counted as cargo more precious than anything in the hold. That was a first in the four years he’d been aboard the Fortune. As much as he hated admitting it, that meant tolerating her foulness.
The woman presented another and far more serious difficulty than unpleasant exchanges. She yelled at the girl about her magic enough to leave no doubt they were both mages. Or she was, and the girl soon would be. That meant he couldn’t use his own magic without her sensing it.
He figured out how to listen to the wind when he was seven. Since then, he and Chetana had been following its call. They stowed away at first. It was a dangerous game, and nearly cost him Chetana more than once. But finally Arturas found them and took them aboard the Fortune’s Promise. He taught them to be sailors and, though no one but Chetana ever knew it, Rashied kept the Fortune’s sails full in return. He’d learned the song of the waves too by then. It was nearly as beautiful and it helped keep all their bellies and purses full.
Except now the damn woman was below. He knew what mages thought of what he could do. They were always going on about “wild magic” and how it would get people killed. The songs were dangerous, and wild, but they weren’t anything to inspire the kind of fear he’d seen the last time he’d been caught. The girl had told them all how the woman had dragged her away from her father and sister for the crime of having magic. He didn’t even want to think about what would happen if she learned about him. Being locked up away from the sun and the ocean would be the beginning of his worries.
So he was stuck waiting on the wind, which had been utterly quiet for almost two weeks.
He heard the girl shouting again, but this time he heard the woman’s loud growl as well. He pulled himself up and peered down.
It was second watch. There was no reason for Dell to be on the deck. But the third mate’s shiny bald head was unmistakable. And there were at least twice as many men with him as there should be, all of them pressing in around a single point. In the center of the mass he could just make out Arturas. The flashes of light he saw could’ve been anything, but he knew it was steel.
“Shit,” he said again.