Teaser time! Enjoy.
Low-water freakout still has me by the balls, so I stay on deck in the dark. Six other people huddle nearby like paranoid insomniacs, and we think our own thoughts while sailors work around us, ignoring us sort of politely. Seasickness does not a bad-ass make. “It’s pretty, isn’t it?” I say softly. “The stars. I never take the time to look at them, usually.” Gorish wriggles closer, asking wordlessly for me to pet him. I do, rubbing the spot between his eyes. “I don’t suppose you can tell me which of those you came from.” “No, nice master,” he says sadly. I wonder if they miss their home. I suppose any Sundered alive now never even saw it. It’s stupid to stay awake. I lean against the mast and rub my eyes. I must be overtired, because I swear that dark cloud looks like a hand. A huge hand, black against the purplish night sky. “Weird,” I say. “Nice master?” “Do you see — ” The hand starts to glow. There’s no time to cry out. A prism dances through it, bright and colorful, and the hand opens with a sweep as if it’s throwing crumbs to the birds. A ball of power flies out of it and smacks the water close enough to splash some on the deck. People shout and scramble away from the stern. “What the hell was that?” somebody shouts. I know what it is. Bek always attacks at night. “Aakesh!” I cry. Aakesh appears and slams me against the mast, into a rough rope that provides a hand-hold. The next power-boulder splashes down closer, with so much force that the ship actually tilts to the left. I clutch the mast, screaming, trapped on a ship in the middle of deep water, and I know true fear. People come boiling up from below deck like the ship was on fire. Sailors run around, working rigging, trying to figure out what the hell is going on, and it’s useless, because we’re all going to die. Bek sucks at precision. It’s harder to hit a ship than a whole city, and the hand hovers over to the left, trying to keep pace with us. “Turn! Turn!” the captain screams. This attack hits close enough that the water splashing onto deck is still connected to the main body of water. Sailors and passengers are in the way. The water touches them, and it pulls them over the side so fast. They’re gone. They’re gone. I clutch the rope like my life line, hyperventilating. “Nice m….” Gorish freezes. Something starts rising out of him, straight up through his head, looking way too much like those m-shaped bird-spirits in the tunnel over Tenisia. His eyes go white. “No!” I scream, out of my mind, and let go of the mast to grab him, his limp, suddenly heavy body. “Aakesh!” And Aakesh is there, just there all of a sudden with his hair streaming over his head like that hand’s trying to take him too, but there’s no bird-spirit coming out of him. He puts his hand over Gorish’s spirit and pushes it back down. And Gorish breathes. Gorish breathes. I clutch him, one hand back on the rope, sobbing a little. The hand tries again, but this power-ball misses us completely. Power-balls. Power souls. It’s eating all the Sundered. “Damn you!” I scream at the sky. “Aakesh! Stop that thing!” “Set me free!” he snarls in reply, crouching with his hand over Gorish, keeping Gorish’s soul down, his hair streaming above him and his white teeth bared. “I cannot do this with the boundaries you have placed!” What? What? The next blast whizzes over the ship, so sharp and bright I see my shadow. Everything tilts, the deck, my balance, my life. The floating hand opens wider, probably eating more souls. Set him free? I’d be alone! I’d have nothing! Aakesh bares his teeth and roars, inhuman, leaning on Gorish and fighting to keep Gorish’s tiny soul in his tiny body. “Release me!” I can’t! “Do whatever you have to do to stop Bek! I give you full permission! I don’t care if you kill those bastards!” This is not what he asked for, and the look he gives me is cold, a door closed forever, a chance lost. But he stands, Gorish’s soul rising with his right hand just enough to make my orange Sundered twitch against my chest. Then, hair flying all around him in whorls, Aakesh raises his left arm and holds it straight out. I turn. There’s a ship in the distance. I can see it suddenly because of the orange light that engulfs the hull from below, like there’s fire in the deep water, but what bursts through the water’s surface isn’t flames. It’s tentacles. Each one is half the size of the ship. One, two, three huge pointed fleshy things, covered with what I know are suction cups and spikes, and it’s all so far away that the ship’s death is silent. The ship buckles. Breaks in half like burnt toast. Is pulled under. Gone. The giant ghost hand disappears. Nobody realizes the threat is over. They scream, run, panic. Aakesh lowers his hand slowly, his hair settling down around him like spider webs, tiredly pushing Gorish’s soul once and for all back into his body. Then he looks at me hard. I’m afraid. He can do this claimed. “Harry!” Parnum kneels beside me, his strong arm around my shoulders and his other hand gripping the rope. “You’re all right!” I nod at him. Can’t speak. Can’t look away from Aakesh. His irises are glowing. “Harry,” Parnum says. “Harry, look at me. It’s all right. We’re all right.” Aakesh turns away with disgust on his face, showing rare emotion. Gorish whimpers a little in my arms, and I cradle him, trembling. Aakesh scares me. And I just pissed him off.