Why did she have the chills everywhere she went? In a summer month, no less? Shadow wanted to get her knife out of her rucksack and tuck it in her cloak pocket, but she didn’t feel safe stopping. This was worse than Port Merrinor. The sooner Shadow could get away from the coastline and Kallicove, the better.
She met a few people’s eyes directly while she ate at the Singing Dolphin Inn. They quickly looked away. Most people avoided her gaze altogether. Just as Shadow had decided to ask for her money for her overnight stay back, a man came in, calling out,
“Anyone who wants passage up the river, follow me. River passage, right here!”
Shadow’s first instinct was to jump at the chance to leave this place, but the man looked unshaven. Three men in the bar got up to leave, however, and Shadow reconsidered.
Passage up the river. She only wanted to go to get to the Southern Shield, where the Singing and Silver Rivers converged into the Rosh River, in the rapids. If she couldn’t get off, then she would be taken upriver and back into the East again. And she hadn’t walked all this time and all this way only to be taken back where Drury might find her.
Shadow didn’t like the looks of the man. Or her chances. She was heading west, not north. No. She would keep walking. Passage on a boat would be nice on the feet, but she just couldn’t take the chance that the boat wasn’t stopping at the Southern Shield.
So Shadow said nothing, kept her seat and looked out the window. The man made one last call, then left.
She watched the men leave in the street and felt relief. Somehow, she believed that boat would have taken her north without a chance of getting off at her stop. She had a bad feeling about this port, and the sooner she could set out, the better.
In fact, now that she had finished her stew, there was no time like the present. There was just something… not right about Kallicove. Shadow could not put her finger on it, but she wasn’t staying another hour longer than she had to.
Shadow downed the rest of her mead, set her tankard down, and slipped upstairs to her room to get her rucksack. She could always wash up in the river, once she was on her way. She didn’t need a bath here. She would just get her overnight coppers back and –
“Leaving us so soon, are you then?” asked a male voice. A heavy arm grabbed her from behind. Then something forceful hit her in the head and all went black.
Seawater. Shadow smelled seawater. And everything was black. Her head hurt….
Someone had clubbed her! Her head throbbed and her ear was swollen….
She struggled and found that she was bound by rope, bound to a pole. She was on a boat! And blindfolded.
“That one’s comin’ to. The girl.”
Abruptly, Shadow’s blindfold was lifted and an unkempt man squatted before her.
“Lookit what we have before us, hey? A girl. We don’t get too many girls. Should be interestin’, should be interestin’. If nothin’ else, we can use you for –”
“Merold, shut up, you talk too much. So.” And another man squatted down before Shadow. “I’m your Captain. I’ll have the pleasure of your name, please?” This man had an oiled, black and gray beard, and his black eyes were shrewd.
Shadow said nothing, in shock. Certainly this was a dream. She was… she was… back in the tunnels and this a nightmare, that had to be right.
“No? Not speaking? Very well, I’ll name you myself. We’ll call you Skinny, for you are skinnier than a rail. Looks to me like you been walkin’ a while, judgin’ by them shoes. Not wantin’ to take river passage, I hear? Well, that’s a mighty good thing for you, as you are on my ship, the Destructor. Unless, of course, one of the Hound’s ships comes around and then we are the H.M.S. Horizon. Same number of letters.
“You, Skinny, are currently on the Treasure Sea, and you have got a hard little head, for you took the longest time wakin’ up.”
Pirates! Filthy scum! Shadow lashed out with her feet, kicked and fought against her bonds.
The Captain chuckled. “Well, I see you have a little spirit in you. You’re going to need it where you’re going. I’ll see you’re fed once a day but if you cause trouble, I’ll see you go in my brig, and I’ll starve you once a day every day you cause me trouble. Is that understood, Skinny?”
Shadow glared at him.
“I’ll take it for a yes. You people behave yourselves back here or it’s the brig for you!”
And the Captain of the Destructor stalked off, his boots echoing on the wooden deck.
Shadow could tell they were still near land, for she could hear sea gulls crying somewhere in the distance. They must have set sail just recently.
She strained at her bonds, roped tight to the mast behind her.
“My advice, don’t waste your energy. They know how to tie a knot – they won’t have tied it loose enough for you to get away,” came a voice behind her.
“Who are you?”
“Someone who’s been on this ship longer than you. Since Port Stanton.”
“Where are they taking us?” Shadow asked.
“I don’t know. Some sort of deal they have. But we’ve been bought.”
“Bought?” Her worst nightmare was coming true. She’d rather be back at HarCourt.
“Shh!” he whispered. “Don’t let on that you know, for all the gods!”
“What’s your name?” he asked.
She wasn’t going to give anyone her name now. What was the point? “Just call me Skinny,” she said, trying not to cry.
“My name is Yuri. I’ve been aboard this ship for three weeks now. Don’t fight them, whatever you do. I have learned that the hard way, and you can’t imagine a more unpleasant place than the brig. You would not last down there. I barely kept my sanity. Do not fight them, just… just do as they say.”
To have been captured by pirates, just her luck. She’d walked half of Hardewold to escape Drury, only to be captured by pirates. And now sold as a slave….