Snake Heart (Chains of Honor #2) -Lindsay Buroker


Thank you, good reader, for following along with the Chains of Honor series. I hope you enjoy this next installment. I would also like to thank my editor, Shelley Holloway, for her continuing help with all of my books, and also Becca Andre and Kendra Highley for reading an early version of this manuscript. Lastly, thank you to Gene Mollica for the wonderful cover designs for the Chains of Honor series.

Chapter 1

Yanko White Fox patted the soil down into the pot and hummed the Song of Growth while attempting to ignore the icy glares that Captain “Shark” Minark shot at him from the helm. A stiff sea breeze gusted across the deck, batting about Yanko’s topknot. The leaves of the two dwarf lime trees remained still, protected by the walls of the impromptu grow house Yanko had made. He had fastened the wooden back to the side of a cabin, so it would not slide across the deck, and with Dak’s help, he had also constructed special bases for the pots that would keep them level even when the ship tilted with the rise and the fall of the waves. Yanko had not been surprised when his thuggish, muscular, one-eyed Turgonian bodyguard had, in less than ten minutes, sketched him detailed building plans that looked like something that might have come out of an engineer’s office.

Yanko stroked the side of one of the slender trunks, encouraged that the fruit growing on the branches had, with the help of a tropical sun and a little earth magic, increased in size in the short time they had been at sea. The captain would soon have a source of scurvy-preventing limes right on his own ship.

“Did you just stick a dead fish head in that dirt?” his traveling companion, Lakeo asked, coming up behind him.

“Yes. A live fish head would have been alarming, don’t you think?”

“Any fish heads are alarming. Especially when thrust into dirt where they can rot.”

“That’s the whole point.” Yanko finished puttering with the soil and stood to face her.

As usual, Lakeo’s muscular arms were bare aside from her leather bracers. Somewhere along the way, she had traded her sheepskin vest for a cotton one more suitable for the tropical waters they sailed. Perhaps she had stolen it, as she had priceless books from the Kyattese Polytechnic. Yanko hadn’t asked.

“When the fish decomposes, the nutrients enrich the soil for the plant,” he said. “It’s a common gardening technique in the villages along the northern fjords back home in Nuria.”

“You’re full of useless information, aren’t you?” Not waiting for an answer, Lakeo tapped the bow she carried on her back. “I heard Baldie talking to your girlfriend.” She pointed toward Captain Minark. “If you and Dak don’t come up with some pirate treasure soon, he wants to throw all of us overboard.”

“Arayevo is not—”

“I know, I know. She’s just your imaginary girlfriend. What does Dak say when you’re imagining her from your hammock at night?”

By now, Yanko should have been used to Lakeo’s blunt uncouthness, but he couldn’t keep from flushing in indignation. He was relieved when the captain stalked across the deck to join them, the charms he wore at his waist jangling with each step. He stopped at Lakeo’s shoulder to glower at the trees and at Yanko.

“Would you like to suck a lime, Captain?” Yanko offered, gesturing to the fruit and not commenting on how Minark’s sour expression made it look like he already was sucking a lime.

“I’d like you to help your brutish bodyguard produce the coordinates of this treasure that he promised me when I let you three troublemakers back on board.”

Yanko wished he could object to the idea that he was the troublemaker on a ship full of law-shirking smugglers, but he couldn’t, not when he was now labeled a criminal back home and also on the Kyatt Islands. Further, he had an irate warrior mage and an assassin after him, an assassin who was probably even more irate with him after he had collapsed a cave on top of her. He glanced toward the horizon behind them every hour, expecting his pursuers to find a new ship and catch up with him any moment.

“He’s working out the details in our cabin,” Yanko said. “I can’t help because there’s not room in that tiny broom closest for anyone else when Dak is standing up in there.” He didn’t mention that Dak was being secretive with his research, just as he was secretive with everything else, including