Jurgen glared at his wife. Diantha ran a hand through Rozenn’s long red hair before leaning in to kiss the pretty little bed-slave. Rozenn responded to her touch eagerly, her hands already on Diantha’s body. “Blood and ashes, let me go.” He yanked at the restraints keeping him secured to the bed frame.
“Did you hear something, sweet one?” Diantha raised an eyebrow at Rozenn.
“The wind, perhaps?” Rozenn’s smile was wicked.
They went back to kissing, though Diantha ran a hand up his leg to give him a brief fondling before returning her attentions to Rozenn. He’d been so distracted by Diantha atop him on the bed he hadn’t even notices the manacles were there before Rozenn had closed them around his wrists. They’d then gone after him, tickling mercilessly, until he’d let them bind his legs. At the time, he’d been assuming they’d intended to have their fun with him. His gaze darkened as Rozenn bent her head to Diantha’s breasts. “I am going to put both of you over my knee after this.”
Diantha merely laughed before grabbing Rozenn and flipping the slave girl onto her back. Rozenn’s head was on his torso, her hair tickling him as she giggled under Diantha’s caresses. She gave Jurgen an evil grin before lowering her head to attend to Rozenn. The slave girl squirmed atop him, making him squirm in turn. “I want you to know that my vengeance will be thorough.” Rozenn was moaning now, her breath coming in little pants. “Get these cuffs off me, now.” He yanked at the restraints again.
“A moment, my dear.” Diantha patted Rozenn before shifting position and coming toward the head of the bed. For a heartbeat, he thought she was actually going to let him go. She bent her head to kiss him, and he lifted his head up to meet the kiss. Only for her to shove Rozenn’s breast covering into his mouth. “Hush. You’re distracting me.” She kissed his cheek, then went back to Rozenn.
Blood and ashes, the ache for them was starting to get painful. Behind the gag, he laughed. Oh, he was going to enjoy making her pay for this later.
Baako stood on the deck, watching the storm batter the straits. The squall had come suddenly, a shipkiller if he ever saw one. Had they been in the straits when it hit, their vessel would have been demolished. What crew managed to swim to the rocks would have perished from exposure, if they weren’t picked up by scavengers and sold to Manisar. He smiled, and went to join the young man leaning on the railing. “What else did you see?”
Liam glanced at him, then nodded toward the water. Baako leaned over to see a half-dozen dolphins gathered, swimming idly around the ship as they too, waited for the storm to pass. “I think this is the same pod.” Liam shrugged. Then he looked back toward the storm. “There will be a break soon, but more storm will follow. Funnels over the water.” He exhaled. “There is a ship on the other side. They are being chased, so they will risk the break.” He swallowed. “We’ll be able to rescue some. Not many.”
“Badly wounded?” He looked down at the dolphins. It did look like the same pod. The largest of the dolphins had a scar on its head that was fairly distinctive. Clearly the dolphins had figured out theirs was a ship worth following.
“I couldn’t tell. Too much could change as we pick them up.” He sighed. “Efua tried to help me focus, but I couldn’t hold it long enough to be sure of the number. At least nine.”
“Nine, plus everyone on this ship.” Baako patted Liam’s shoulder. His soon to be son’s shoulder. “More than would have lived, without your warning.”
“Something about that other ship is important. Or maybe it’s one of the survivors. I’m not sure.” He frowned. “I might know more after we retrieve them.” He glanced at Baako again. “They are Ilael.”
This would make it the fourth time Liam’s gift had enabled them to recover crew that would otherwise have been lost. The last time they’d been able to save the ship, though they’d had to tow it to an island for repairs before it could sail again. The boy really was a miracle. “Efua’s already told the shaman?” He raised an eyebrow.
He gave Liam an appraising look. He didn’t wake screaming as often as he used to, but attempting to focus his visions sometimes took a physical toll on him. The young man looked concerned, but well. He smiled. There was little trace of the scrawny, terrified boy they’d met in the Unitafels left. Life at sea had clearly agreed with Liam, and he’d started growing almost the day he’d set foot on Uduak’s ship. Now he was half a head taller than most of the crew, and still apparently growing. “Storm’s mercy, you get any bigger we’ll be able to use you as a mast.”
Since none of the crew were looking, she stole a kiss from her soon to be husband. Baako had acquiesced to her claim of him, and they’d be bonded at the next shipsmeet. Liam hadn’t been at all surprised when she’d informed him. She’d asked him if he’d seen it in her dream, only for Efua to told her that the entire ship had apparently figured it out before Uduak herself had.
Less than a year, and her ship was already one of the most profitable. On their first visit to Ocia, she’d asked Liam for a suggestion on what to purchase. He’d told her dyes. Even knowing what he could do, it had been difficult trusting the suggestion. Her planned cargo would have brought in more profit. She’d listened to him anyway, and they’d arrived in Ipruci to learn a warehouse fire had resulted in a dye shortage. The cloth guild had paid heavily for her cargo rather than lose Thatelan commissions. After that, she’d simply named him the assistant cargomaster to Baako.
He still slept in her cabin, and on the nights she couldn’t stay with him she had Efua take her place. The dreams still woke him more nights than not, and he often woke confused and disoriented. They’d taken to binding his ankles when he slept to ensure he didn’t go anywhere while the dreams still held him. At least he slept silently most nights. The last time he’d woken screaming it had been for them to change course immediately. What few of the crew that complained had changed their tune when the lookout spotted the monster rising from the water. Were it not for that screamed warning, they’d have sailed right into the beast.
She’d started trying to teach him the art of bartering, only to run into an unexpected setback. Liam couldn’t lie. He wasn’t just a bad liar. He was physically incapable of speaking or even writing words he knew to be untrue. At first it had seemed a large problem, until they’d figured out he could still translate her words verbatim even if he knew she herself was lying. He simply couldn’t lie on his own. It made no more sense to her than the rest of his abilities.
Affection would have ensured she paid the ransom regardless, but none could deny her boy was worth his weight in gold. The whole crew had grown a little overprotective of him. A smile came to her face as she saw him and Enu chasing each other across the deck, apparently fighting over a hat. Both young men were laughing. Young men. It was occasionally strange to realize she was only thirteen years older than her son. “I think he’d be a good older brother, don’t you?” She glanced at Baako.
“That depends…” He frowned. Her eyes stared to narrow, and he held up his hands. “On whether he takes their side or ours. Either they’ll never get away with anything…” He shrugged.
Uduak laughed. “Or they’ll get away with everything.”
He kissed Diantha, pushing her back against the column. She returned the kiss, wrapping her legs around his waist as she eagerly devoured his mouth. He caught her hands, twining his fingers through hers before leaning to nuzzle his neck, then pushed her arms back a little as he kissed lower. She started to arch toward him as his mouth found her breasts.
Then she went utterly still as the manacles clicked closed around her wrists. Her eyes narrowed as she stared at him, and he just smiled. “You…” She started to shake her head. He let go of her and took a step back. “No. You get back here right…” Her eyes widened when he held out his hand and Rozenn stepped out from behind the pillar to take it.
Jurgen wrapped his arms around Rozenn’s torso and rested his head on her shoulder as they both looked at the now trapped Diantha. “So…” Jurgen took a deep breath, then leaned forward to he could look down at Rozenn’s magnificent breasts. “Darling wife, I bought you a present in the market the other day.” He gestured toward the corner, and a handsome young man stepped into view. “This is Torin. He was training in Manisar, and according to the seller, he is all but magic with his mouth.” He turned his head a little to look at Rozenn. “And based on earlier experimentation, I have to agree. You?”
“Oh yes.” Rozenn’s grin was wide.
“Jurgen, I —”
“Torin here…” Jurgen nodded to the young man, who was smiling. “Is going to play with you a bit while Rozenn and I have a little fun. Now, Torin here has very specific instructions.” He caressed Rozenn. “What were they again?”
“Tease and torment…” Rozenn ran her hand through his hair as she squirmed against him. “Then deny.”
“I…” Diantha pulled at the manacles securing her wrists to the column. “Oh you…” Her words cut off with a gasp as Torin knelt in front of her and leaned forward. “Oh you…” Her eyes widened. “Oh…”
“Now…” Jurgen swung Rozenn up. “There is still the matter of your punishment, young lady.”
“Whatever you do, Master Jurgen…” Rozenn grinned. “Don’t make me be on top, having to do all the work.”
“I…” He laughed. “Well, if you put it that way.” He tossed her onto the bed.
“Jurgen…” Diantha’s voice sounded just a bit desperate. He grinned, then pounced on Rozenn.
“There.” Liam grabbed hold of the tether, then leaned over the side to stretch his arm out. The young woman in the water caught his hand, and he pulled her toward the little boat. As soon as he brought her closer, two of the others reached out to help him get her on board.
Then he half closed his eyes, trying to focus. Efua’s hand touched his shoulder. He gestured to port. “That way. Hurry, he’s already losing his grip.”
Efua shifted position as they pulled the man aboard. He was limp, but Efua was able to get him coughing the water out of his lungs. “Nine.” Baako’s voice was quiet.
“I’m sorry.” Liam shook his head. “Those were the…” He sighed.
“No.” Baako gently squeezed the back of his neck. “I’m just glad we got all the ones we…” He blinked, then took a closer look at the shivering girl near Liam. “Adaeze?”
The girl gave him a befuddled look before her eyes widened. “Baako?”
“Storm’s Mercy!” Baako gave a shake of his head. “Adaeze, what are you doing…”
“Baako?” Liam raised an eyebrow.
“Liam, this is Adaeze.” Baako’s voice was rough. “Enu’s sister.”
She accepted the cup of steaming broth before looking up at the young man who’d brought it. His height would have made it clear he was not born of the Ilael, if the color of his skin hadn’t. She’d heard her aunt had adopted a child from dryland, and an unusual child at that, but she’d been expecting an actual child. Not someone her own age. “You brought the ship right to us.” She looked up at him before taking a sip of the broth. “Like you knew where we were.”
“He did.” Enu spoke up softly from where he sat next to her, letting her lean on him. “It’s alright, Liam. Adaeze is…” He nodded. “You can trust her.”
“I know.” Liam sat, and gave her a sympathetic look. “You were being chased.” There was no trace of an accent in his speech. He spoke her language as though he’d done it his entire life. “Manisar pirates. Slavers.”
“Yes, we…” She exhaled. “We thought we were far enough from shore to be safe. But one Ilael ship by itself presented too tempting of a target.” She’d warned Captain Ekene it was too dangerous. Deep water around Manisar. But then the reefs were there and their only choice was the straits or fighting. Manisar could get a high price for Ilael slaves. Captain Ekene took too many risks. Apprenticing on her ship had been a mistake and now… She swallowed.
“They followed you from the other port, knowing you were going to be on your own.”
Adaeze blinked, then sat up to look at her elder brother. Enu nodded. “Liam has the gift of spirit eyes. He sees the future in dreams and trances. That is how we knew where your ship had gone down and were able to find you.”
That was… She looked back at the young man. It wasn’t until he started shifting a little in the chair that she realized she was staring. “That’s not…” She gave a small shake of her head, glanced at Enu, then looked back at Liam. “How?”
“I don’t know how it works.” He shrugged, hunching in just a little uncomfortably. “I can’t really control it. Efua can help, sometimes, but unless I know to go looking, it has to cross paths somehow.” He tilted his head. “You’re Enu’s sister, and he’s my friend. That might be…” He frowned a little before giving a small shake of his head.
Over the sounds of the storm and the ship breaking apart, she’d heard the screams of her friends and family. Hours in the cold water, then hearing only silence save for waves nibbling on the edges of the flotsam to which she’d clung for dear life. “You saw the ship go down?”
“I…” He met her eyes, then gave her a small nod. “She hit her head when the ship rolled. She never woke to feel the water take her breath away.”
Tears filled her eyes, and she nodded as they started to fall. Enu’s arm tightened around her shoulders, and Adaeze swallowed. “Onyeka was only ten. It was her first voyage. I was sort of looking out for her, you know? Playing the big sister and…” She let out a ragged sob and started shivering. Enu shifted to put both his arms around her, and she felt a blanket drape over her shoulders before Liam sat down on her other side. They both held her as she wept for those that had returned to the sea.