By Helen Henderson

Fantasy, Romance

Paperback, eBook

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1 mins


The high observer’s panicked cry shattered her thoughts.

“Masts ho, on the starboard bow.” Before Ellspeth could act, another yell reached the already edgy crew. “Pirates! She flies a black banner crossed by white lightning.”

“Pirates! All hands to arms!” Ellspeth’s voice, pitched for battle, carried from one end of the ship to the other. “Prepare to repel boarders. No quarter!”

The Sea Falcon’s first officer spun the ship’s wheel in an attempt to avoid the unseen object. The screech of hull on hull pierced the air. To Ellspeth the fog now appeared almost solid. She could see nothing except shifting shadows. The dense air dampened the sounds of men running, and then was soon filled with screams and the clang of swords.

Mage light flared into being. It burned up the fog an arm’s length around Dal to reveal dark objects that were men. The green glow hovered over Dal’s head and glinted off the wizard’s sword. He swung the heavy weapon in great arcs, cutting through not only the obscuring air, but through flesh and bone. Each move severed an attacker’s limb or blocked a sword thrust. The press of a dozen halberd-wielding men forced the wizard back. With each step, the circle of the invader’s weapons tightened.

A flick of Ellsepth's wrist sent a stiletto into a pirate's back. She started toward Dal. Two men climbed the steps to the quarterdeck, blocking her way to the wizard. Her flashing swords discouraged their advance. One dropped to his knees, clutching his stump of an arm while the other fell back to the deck.

“First, help Lord Dal. I can hold the wheel.” At Ellspeth’s command, the Sea Falcon’s first officer leaped the rail to land in a crouch on the deck below. The moment his feet hit, his dirk stabbed out and a pirate stiffened when the sharp blade slid into his kidneys. Blood spurted from the throat of another.

In the instant of surprise, three additional men fell before Dal’s sword. More and more invaders died before the combined forces of the wizard and the first officer. In the brief respite, the wizard gathered his magic for one last attempt to disperse the concealing fog. His sword slipped into its sheath. Blood-red runes shimmered into the air as his fingers sketched a spell.

Ellspeth held her breath and willed the air to clear. This time the dark cloud evaporated. Able to see the pirates, the Sea Falcon’s crew shifted their defensive actions—and attacked. Now pirate blood mixed on the deck with that of the ship’s defenders.

“Ellspeth... No.” The yell wrenched from Dal’s throat. His leap toward the bridge was blocked by groups of men fighting.

At his cry, Ellspeth turned and saw an archer in the ghost ship’s netting raise a crossbow. A heavy weight knocked her away from the wheel. Her head crashed into the wooden map case. Sparks from the pain blinded her.



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