All the Tides of Fate (All the Stars and Teeth #2) - Adalyn Grace
This water is fierce.
It snarls as it thrashes against The Duchess, who lets herself be jarred by the wrath of winter’s tides. She tests her new captain, knocking me against the weatherworn helm as grainy seawater slickens the wood and dampens my fingers.
But I won’t slip. Not this time.
“Back the mainsail!” I dig my boots into the deck and grip the helm tight, refusing to let the ship bait me. I am the captain. If The Duchess refuses to listen, I’ve no choice but to make her.
Today there’s no promise of neighboring islands in the distance. None of Mornute’s mountains are visible through the milky-white haze that blows in from the north. It wets the air, seeping into my pores and plastering dampened curls to my neck.
The ship buckles from another blow of the tides, and I brace myself for what’s coming as I see the faint shadow of the fast-approaching buoy I anchored to the sea a full season ago. I shut my eyes and pray under my breath to any god who might listen as we approach, begging them to spare me. Begging them to let this be the day that the boundaries of my curse are pushed further.
But as always, the gods refuse to listen.
The moment The Duchess passes the buoy, my knees buckle as white-hot pain rips up my spine and through my skull like a too-familiar blade cleaving through me. I bite the inside of my cheek until I taste blood, doing everything I can to keep my pain contained so that the crew won’t grow suspicious. I dig my fingernails into the helm, cool sweat licking at my neck as my vision flickers in and out. Desperate, I give Vataea the signal.
She leans over the stern at once, whispering a chant so fierce that every word that passes her lips is a clap of thunder. The sea regards her curiously at first, then obeys Vataea’s siren magic with a snap, twisting the direction of the tides. Some of the crew mumble with irritation as we turn back toward the docks, wondering why I have them do this same silly trip every day—not even half a morning long, and never to any specific destination. But at least out loud, they don’t complain. They’re not foolish enough to go against their queen.
The moment The Duchess is southbound toward Arida, the tension against my skull eases and my ragged breathing steadies. Only when my vision begins to clear do I loosen my grip.
Vataea presses a tentative hand upon my back. “Perhaps it’s time we stop this.” The mermaid’s voice never fails to sound like the sweetest of songs, even if the words threaten to cleave me again. “Maybe it’s time to stop fighting your curse, and to make the best of it.”
I say nothing. Until someone’s had half their soul ripped away and cursed into another living person, I don’t care to hear their suggestions. Vataea will never know what it feels like to have part of her being merged with someone else. To be able to feel their presence. Their strongest emotions. Their everything.
She doesn’t get to be the one who’s fatigued from trying to break this curse.
Vataea’s hand slips from my back, leaving my skin cold. “I’m sorry for what happened, but being reckless isn’t going to cure you any faster.”
I want to bristle. I want to turn and yell about all the things she doesn’t understand. But instead, the air in my lungs deflates as she turns and makes her way to the bow.
Those are the limits of my curse. A curse that means half my soul—and all my magic—lives within Bastian.
And like today, every attempt to break it only ends in failure.
The docks are filled with royal soldiers and servants who draw back as we approach Arida’s docks, where the fog camouflages the visiting ships, turning their sails opaque. Instinctively my chest seizes when I see the figures waiting there for me, knowing it’s no longer time to be a captain, but a queen.
“Toss the anchors!” I twist the helm and the ship groans as I force her against the waves, slowing our brisk speed. My crew obeys, and the two anchors catch the bottom of the shallow water, jarring us. Someone slams into the ship’s ledge and slips face-first onto the deck, but I can’t help them. I twist the helm the opposite way, forcing the ship to oblige. To obey.
She steadies herself, and my grip loosens as my muscles relax.