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AUTHOR’S NOTE: Remember, if you guys ever get tired of waiting for new chapters, the entire book is for sale on Amazon. Now back to your regularly scheduled insanity.

Chapter Twenty Four

When Toke awoke the next morning, it was to the gentle rocking of the ship. He sat up, feeling it sway beneath him like he was in the world's biggest cradle, and blinked drowsily. Zashiel sat up as well on the opposite side of the small cabin, though her eyes were instantly more alert than his. Sunlight streamed through the porthole.

“They must be casting off,” he mumbled, still trying to banish the last remaining traces of sleep from his head.

Zashiel nodded in agreement. “We should go up and see if we can help.”

Toke grimaced, swinging his legs around the side of the cot. “I think not. If Treyn wanted us to help, he would have woken us up. I'm getting breakfast.”

Zashiel gave him a disapproving look, which he chose to ignore as he got dressed and made for the door. The floor continued to sway beneath him with every step.

“That's weird,” he muttered as they emerged into the corridor. Half the crew was lined up outside the dining hall, waiting their turn for whatever Grascow had thrown together this morning. “I've never been able to feel the ship moving before.”

Zashiel raised an eyebrow. “I've been able to feel it since we first stepped on board.”

“Maybe it’s just rocking more than usual since we're about to cast off,” he said with a shrug.

“We aren't going anywhere yet, young man.”

Toke looked to find himself in line behind Limbasko, the knitter who had performed their first night in Tad Moru. Though the ancient man's body was more bones than skin, he carried himself with confidence and his eyes sparkled with life.

“I'm sorry, what?” Toke asked.

“I said that we are not yet leaving the port. You'll find the mooring lines still firmly tied to the docks outside.”

Toke and Zashiel shared a look, and this time it was the Sorakine girl who shrugged.

“That's weird,” Toke said again. “What's going on out there, then? I've never felt the boat rock like this before.”

Limbasko's eyebrows lowered in confusion. “What do you mean? The ship is as calm as it has ever been.”

“You mean you don't feel it rocking?”

Limbasko shook his head. Toke frowned, leaning against the wall. Beneath his feet, the Seventh Swordfish gently tilted one way, and then back the other. Was he just imagining it? Maybe he was still half asleep. Maybe all the flying and flipping he'd done last night had given him some kind of extended dizziness.

No, he thought, that couldn't be it because...

He turned to Zashiel. “You said you felt it too, right?”

She nodded.

“Then I'm not imagining it,” he said decisively. “Which means... what?”

“I don't know,” Zashiel said with another shrug. “Maybe you can just feel it because of your powers.”

Toke considered this, but shook his head. “If that were the case, then why didn't I—”

“Toke, it's too early to think about this,” she cut him off with a weary wave of her hand. “Ask me again after I eat breakfast. Better yet, wait until after noon.”

Toke couldn't help but smirk. “Weren't you just telling me we needed to go help Treyn before eating?”

“Lifting and pushing stuff isn't thinking, Toke. It's the exact opposite of thinking.”

Toke sighed, but let the matter drop. Was it really that important anyway? No, no it wasn't. The line moved with early morning lethargy, but the smell of food filled the air with the promise that it'd be worth it in the end.

I wonder if Inaska's eaten already? Toke thought. He perked up a little with excitement and looked up and down the hallway, but couldn't see her in line in front or behind them.

“Hey,” he said softly. Zashiel turned to look at him. “Was I... too forward last night?”

He remembered the way he had pulled the white-haired girl into a kiss. He also remembered the way she had tackled him immediately before. Unfortunately, he couldn't forget the looks on his parents faces, or Ludsong's, when they’d found them kissing on the floor.

“Nah,” Zashiel reassured him with a shake of her head. “For another girl it might have been, but not her.”

“Why not her?” Toke asked.

“All girls are different, Toke. Some want to move faster than others. Some don't want to move at all.” She gave him a sideward glance when she said that, and Toke looked away. “Inaska's the kind of girl who develops feelings fast. If you let her, she'll probably be ready to declare her love for you in two days, and marry you by the end of the week.”

“What?” Toke exclaimed. Suddenly, he no longer felt the least bit tired.

That brought a smile to Zashiel's face. “I'm exaggerating. A little.” She frowned. “Maybe.”

Toke looked down at his feet, unease suddenly rising up in his chest. “Smite.”

“On second thought,” Zashiel amended, face grim, “maybe you should go a little slower. That is, unless you actually want to marry her.”

“I've barely known her a week, Zashiel,” Toke snapped. “I'm not ready to even think about things like that yet!”

The Sorakine girl's mouth twitched in a smirk. “But you're not throwing the idea out, are you?”

“Well... no.”

She shrugged. “In any case, if you're not ready to move at the same speed she is, then you need to slow down. If you want to take it slower, I'm sure she'll be all right with that. She seems completely smitten with you.”

Toke thrust his hands into his pockets. “Yeah. I can't understand why, either.”

Zashiel frowned. “What's that supposed to mean?”

Toke shrugged, but didn't answer. The line slowly meandered into the dining hall, up to Grascow's window where he was spooning out the crew's usual breakfast: bacon, eggs, and a bowl of dumphr. Once Toke had gotten his share, he snagged a fresh apple as well and found an empty table. Zashiel joined him a minute later, and they went through their daily ritual of Toke exchanging his dumphr for her fruit. It was a Vlangurtian food, a mushy grain paste with so much spice dumped on top that it was nearly as hot as their evening chili. The sailors couldn't get enough of it, but while Toke had learned to stomach the flaming stew at night, starting the day off with it was still a bad idea. Luckily, Zashiel had a stomach made of smiting iron, and she could drink both bowls down like milk.

Neither of them said anything until the other crewmembers had finished eating and hurried off, leaving the table all to them. Toke watched them go, then slowly swallowed his mouthful of bacon.

“So,” he said tentatively once he was sure nobody was close enough to hear them, “we need to talk about your sister.”

Zashiel immediately went rigid, just as Toke had known she would, and the tired look on her face became a scowl.

“What's there to talk about?” she demanded.

“What do you think? How we're going to deal with her without killing her!”

She pointed her fork threateningly at him. “I thought I told you—”

“Yeah, yeah, it's none of my business.” Toke rolled his eyes, and then pointed his own fork at his throat. “Remember this, though?”

“You're bluffing.”

“Do you really want to take that chance?”

The Sorakine girl glowered at him for a good minute before breaking eye contact to spoon more dumphr into her mouth. When she didn't say anything else, Toke took that as an opportunity to speak.

“So, do you have any ideas?”

“No.”

“Well, then we should spend a few hours today trying to think of some.”

She gave a noncommittal grunt, and still refused to look up at him.

Toke hunched over the table, propping his chin on his fist. “She probably won't join us willingly. Not at first, at least. So, I think our first plan of action should be to find some way to restrain her.” He looked encouragingly up at her, even though her eyes were fixed stubbornly on her empty dumphr bowl. “Well?”

“I don't know.”

Toke sighed and let his arm fall. “I'm doing this to help you, you know. The least you could do is help me help you!”

“This isn't your business!”

He thumped his fist on the table. “I'm making it my smiting business! Just because...”

Suddenly, he became aware of how loudly he was speaking. He looked around to find every eye in the dining hall on him. His cheeks flushed, but he faced forward again, trying to ignore their silent eavesdropping. What Inaska had said down at the magic pier... the one he'd already forgotten the name of... about how the crew was practically making bets about what his secret past was. Toke and Zashiel were a pair of enigmas in a crew that made a business of being enigmas. Growling softly, he leaned in closer and spoke in a harsh whisper.

“Just because I'm courting Inaska doesn't mean I don't still care about you. You might think you're my bodyguard... and fine, maybe you are. But before that, we were friends. To be honest, I'd rather have you as a friend than a bodyguard anyway. And I know how much Finch means to you, even if she's trying to kill me. I know what killing her would do to you. That's why I want to help you figure out a way to end this without that happening!”

Zashiel sat down her bowl, though her plate was still full, and became as still as a frozen corpse.

“You told me that forcing yourself to ignore your feelings is a one way street,” Toke whispered when she didn't respond. “You don't want me to go down it, and I understand that. But I don't want you to go down it either, Zashiel!”

Finally, moving so slowly it was like she'd tied a boulder around her neck, she raised her head to look at him. “I've already been down that road, Toke. Some days I have to fight to keep from going down it again.”

“Exactly! I'm scared for you, Zash. I'm afraid that if you do this, you'll go so far down that path you won't be able to come back.”

“Why?”

He pointed at her. “You take that path because you're scared of your own emotions. You don't know how to deal with them. I've seen it. Whenever you're not able to push them away, they almost overwhelm you. Killing Finch would be the hardest thing you've ever done. You would hate yourself for it until the day you died, and that hatred would bring anger with it. The only way you'd be able to escape that is to banish your feelings forever, and then...” He paused, and looked at her with pleading eyes. “And the Zashiel I know will go with them.”

All around them, the dining hall was emptying out, the crew finishing their meals and losing what excuse they had to sit and listen in on their conversation. They were speaking so low that they would have had to come and sit right next to them to overhear—and Toke pitied the poor fool who tried to do that now.

“Toke,” she finally said, “I think I need to tell you a story.”

“A story?” Toke echoed, smirking. “That's more up Boam's ally, isn't it?”

She shook her head, unamused, and the smile slid from Toke's face.

“All right, tell me a story, then. What's it about?”

“About us,” Zashiel answered. “Me and Finch.”

Though Toke's plate was still more than half full, he pushed it away and rested his elbows on the table in front of him, giving his Sorakine friend his undivided attention.

“There's a part of training that every Sorakine has to go through,” she began. “Everyone. Even the few that choose not to be warriors.”

“There are Sorakines that aren't warriors?” Toke asked, surprised.

Zashiel scowled at him for interrupting, but still answered, “No. Nearly everyone knows how to fight, should the need arise, but we're still a civilization. We need everything you humans do. Farmers, doctors, construction workers. If war comes to us, they can take up weapons and protect our home as easily as a soldier. But no, there are still some—very, very few—that choose not to learn how to fight, choose not to be warriors. We... don't talk about them much.”

She shook her head, bringing herself back on topic. “But there's one piece of training that even those cowardly few have to learn. Every Sorakine in Hashira does. The Seraphs hold the test every ten years, and everyone over five years old who hasn't taken the training must participate. I was eight when that day came. Finch was five, just old enough to go through it with me.”

“It must be something important,” Toke noted.

“It is. We call it the Trial of Loyalty. They bring everyone into a room, one by one, where they have two people tied to chairs. One Sorakine... and one human.” Toke raised an eyebrow at this, but didn't interrupt. “They're both sitting on a trap door. There are two Seraphs on either end of the room, standing beside two large cranks. They tell you that you have to save at least one of the captives, but you're not allowed to fly. For every step you take, they turn the crank one notch. Seven turns, and the trapdoor opens.”

She paused and gave Toke a cold look.

“So once you take seven steps, anyone still tied to the chair falls down the trapdoor,” he finished for her.

Zashiel nodded. A pit formed in Toke's stomach.

“What's down there?”

“Nobody but the Seraphs know. That's all the directions they give you, but there are two catches they don't tell you about: first, it's impossible to save more than one person. You're not allowed to fly, and the room is measured so perfectly that everyone can make it to one chair before running out of steps, but nobody can make it to both.”

“So someone always has to fall,” Toke concluded.

Zashiel nodded again.

“What's the other catch?” he asked, though he wasn't sure he wanted to know.

“The other catch is that if you take so much as a step toward the human, you have to come back and do it again the next day. Everyone who is taking the test is kept in a special building, and the ones who pass are given amazing food, warm beds and no chores. The ones who stay are given burnt gruel, get worked to the bone with meaningless tasks, and then they're made to sleep on wooden pallets without pillows or blankets. And the whole time, the Seraphs won't tell you why you're being treated differently. You just are.”

She signed, leaning back casually, but Toke could see the shadows in her eyes. These weren't pleasant memories for her.

“Nearly everyone has to take the test more than once,” she went on. “Even the ones who rescued the Sorakine hesitated at first and thought about saving the human. It takes most children at least three tries before they subconsciously realize why they're being punished. Some still hesitate after that. We're not heartless, Toke. We're raised from birth to be warriors. We want to save everyone who's in trouble. But over time, they always figure it out. Saving the human, even feeling pity for him, gets you punished. Saving the Sorakine, your own brother, gets you everything you could want. They start to resent the human for what they went through. Give them enough time, and every single one of them will help the Sorakine and act as if the human isn't even there.”

“That's horrible,” Toke said once it was clear she was finished. “What's the point of that?”

“To ingrain a very important lesson into our brains at a young age: we come first. Sure, we'll protect you if you need us to, but... remember Zetheran Pass?”

Toke nodded silently. The battle that had made Navras famous. He and a small battalion of soldiers under his command had held off the Vlangurtian military for almost a week, likely saving all of Yasmik as a result. Nearly all of his men had died, and they'd done so with Navras promising that the Sorakines would come to help them. The winged warriors had never so much as left Hashira. It was that act of selfish indifference that had put Navras on the path that would, decades later, end with Toke killing him atop the Terracaelum, on an insane mission to exact vengeance on their entire race.

“The needs of our people outweigh the needs of yours,” Zashiel said, eyes downcast. “Be ready and willing to help, but measure the risks. Never put the security of your own people at risk for the sake of others.”

“That's...” Toke struggled for the right words, but all he could do was echo what he'd already said. “That's horrible!”

“I know.”

“But what does that have to do with you and Finch?”

“Everything, Toke.” Zashiel hunched over, like a dog that had been caught digging through the trash. “Finch was just old enough to go through the Trial the same year I did. That night after we'd attempted the Trial for the first time, the Seraphs were all clamoring about a five year old girl who had passed the test in record time.”

The pit in Toke's stomach grew heavier. “Finch?”

Zashiel nodded. “They said she walked in, looked at both captives, and then released the Sorakine without even giving the human another passing glance. They said...” She paused, and swallowed hard. “They said she even stopped on her eighth step to turn and watch the human fall through the trapdoor. It was perfect, they said. Nobody had ever beaten the Trial of Loyalty that quickly.”

“What did you think of that?”

“I didn't know it was her,” Zashiel said with a shrug. “I knew she was one of the ones getting special treatment, but that's it. It wasn't till we both went back to the academy that she told me.”

The two sat in silence for a while. Toke's head was buzzing with this new information. He still wasn't sure what Zashiel's point was in telling him this, but hearing about the Trial of Loyalty was more than enough to take away his appetite. The idea that the Sorakines, the race supposedly made entirely of chivalrous, selfless warriors, would beat such a horrible message into their children's heads, and they had refused to come to Yasmik's aid during the invasion all those years ago because of it... it almost made Navras' hatred of them seem warranted.

And that was a thought that chilled Toke's blood more than anything else.

He began to wonder if Zashiel was done telling her story, but right as he opened his mouth to ask, a series of loud, angry footsteps came from the corridor. Curious, Toke turned around to look just as Ludsong burst into the dining hall. The stocky sailor shifted his eyes left and right, looking for someone. They fell on Toke and narrowed angrily. Toke mentally prepared himself to escape to the ceiling from the attack he was suddenly sure was coming, but instead of charging him Ludsong grunted in irritation and stomped back out of the dining hall.

“What's his smiting problem?” Toke wondered, turning around to face Zashiel again.

“Well, you did start courting his daughter without even telling him,” said the Sorakine girl.

Toke grimaced. “Yeah, that would do it. Can't say I'm looking forward to that 'talk' he's wanting to have with me.”

“You've faced worse.”

That pulled a humorless laugh from Toke's throat. “Worse than the angry father of a beautiful daughter? Somehow I doubt that.”

He looked at Zashiel, but her eyes were as cold as ever. “If you care about her, you'll do it.”

That shut him up, and he looked down at the table in embarrassment.

“So...” he said, trying to bring the topic anywhere but Inaska. “How many times did you have to take the Trial?”

Zashiel's eyes narrowed, and shifted to look away. “Eighteen.”

Toke's head shot back up in surprise. “Really? That many?”

“Just like my sister passed the test faster than anyone the Seraphs had ever seen, I was one of the slowest. The Trial will keep going until the last child has passed it. I, all on my own, made it last almost three weeks.”

“Why did it take you so long?”

“Because it was... difficult for me. No matter how many times I was sent into that room, I could never force myself to ignore the human. The first few times, I actually rescued him first.” To Toke's surprise, she laughed at that. “I figured if the Sorakine was worth his feathers, he could free himself from that stupid chair. Apparently, the Seraphs didn't agree. As the days went by, my chores got harder and harder, and they gave me less and less food. I wasn't stupid, though. I knew exactly what they wanted me to do. I just... couldn't.”

Zashiel was hunching further and further forward with every word, as if she were going to lay her head down in her plate of food. Her bangs were already dipping into her greasy dumphr bowl. Toke frowned, and leaned forward too.

“Why not?” he asked quietly.

She took a deep breath. “Because I knew the human couldn't help himself. And I knew if I didn't, nobody would. I kept telling myself I was making the right choice. That's what being a warrior meant: protecting those weaker than you. It wasn't until the night of the seventeenth day that... he came.”

“Who?”

“Klevon.”

Fright lanced through Toke's body at the mere mention of the manic Seraph's name, and he sat back up straight so quickly that he nearly toppled over backwards. He heard Grascow and the few remaining sailors whirl around to look at him, and he silently cursed himself for being such a coward. Klevon may have been his enemy, but Toke was above such humiliating displays. Taking a deep breath, he forced his fingers to release their death grip on the edge of the table—his right hand twinged with pain, but he ignored it—and leaned in close to Zashiel again.

“W- What did he want?” he asked, cringing when he couldn't completely banish the tremble from his voice.

Zashiel refused to make eye contact with him. “He came into my room without knocking late at night, long after everyone had gone to sleep. I was asleep too, and... and I wasn't... dressed.”

Toke gasped, and saw Zashiel's cheeks redden behind the veil of hair that covered it.

“He didn't!” Toke hissed.

Zashiel violently shook her head. “No, no, it wasn't anything like that! He just... He grabbed me by my hair and dragged me off my pallet. I begged him to let me get dressed, but he refused. He said I didn't deserve the dignity.”

Zashiel's face wasn't the only one turning red now. Rage the likes of which Toke had rarely felt was rising up inside of him. He felt like a volcano, his head ready to explode if the temperature rose even one degree more. Klevon, that dirty, smiting, slimy piece of...

“He yelled at me for over an hour,” she went on, whispering now. “He called me worthless. A failure. An embarrassment to the Sorakine race. He said that if I didn't pass the Trial tomorrow, he would name me a traitor and have me exiled from Hashira forever. He yelled so loudly and for so long that all the other children came to watch. I tried not to cry, but when I finally did he stopped yelling... and started hitting me. When he finally left, I had bruises all over my body and one of my eyes was swollen shut.”

“How could he do that?” Toke asked in horror.

“I went back to the Trial that morning and did what he said. I had tears in my eyes the whole time, but I ran across the room and untied the Sorakine without even looking at the human. The Trial was over after that. Everyone went home or back to the academy. Nobody talked about what had happened to me, not even Klevon. He acted like nothing had happened, but I could always tell by the look in his eye, the tone of his voice, that he hadn't forgotten... and he didn't trust me.”

A drop of water landed on the table, and with a jolt Toke realized that Zashiel was crying. She seemed to realize this at the same time he did, because she quickly hid her face and dried her eyes, and when she looked at him again her expression was as calm and cold as it had ever been. But now that Toke looked, he could see that grief, that pain, flickering in her eyes just behind the mask of indifference she wore, like a candle that nothing on Fissura could put out.

“Zashiel, I- I'm sorry,” Toke stammered. “I had no idea.”

She shook her head. “Don't worry about it. That was a long time ago. I'm fine.”

“You don't look fine to me!”

“Looks can be deceiving, can't they? Anyway, that was when I started learning how to ignore my feelings. I realized they would be a weakness if I didn't, so I did what I had to do.”

Toke's stomach churned with anger, fear, disgust, and a dozen other emotions, to the point that he thought he might throw up. He didn't trust himself to say anything for fear that his breakfast would end up back on the table again.

“Anyway,” Zashiel went on briskly, as if nothing was amiss, “I told you that story for a reason.”

“Why?” was all Toke could force out of his mouth.

“So you would know what kind of person Finch is. She's... She's not evil. That's not what I meant it to sound like. But at the same time, she doesn't have a speck of pity for the human race. To her, you're all nothing but ants. Harmless at best, irritating and invasive at worst. And she won't hesitate to step on as many of you as necessary to get what she wants.”

Toke felt his face go pale.

Zashiel kept talking. “When I betrayed my people to help a human—and not just any human, a smiting Juryokine—attack our home, that probably felt like a knife to Finch's back. I betrayed her for something she considered only a little more valuable than dirt. I think she probably jumped at the chance to become Klevon's minion. That way she could get her revenge in person.”

Toke stared at her, wide eyed. “I still don't understand, Zashiel.”

“What's there to not understand? She hates you, and she hates me even more for I did. You keep talking about ending this without killing her, Toke, but you just don't get it. She won't stop. She'll never stop. Not until we're both dead. So I can hold off killing her as long as you want, but sooner or later that's how this is going to end. It's the only way it can end.”

Zashiel's eyes turned from cold to frigid, as if daring Toke argue with her. Toke might have done just that, if their conversation hadn't been interrupted.

“Casting off!” Treyn shouted, hurrying from his cabin toward the deck. “All hands on deck! Prepare to cast off!”

“We should go help,” Zashiel said, obviously grateful for the interruption. She was already halfway out of her seat.

“No, sit down!” Toke commanded her, pointing at her chair. “We're not done here yet! You—”

Before he could finish, another much louder series of footsteps came from the hallway outside. A couple crewmembers were making their way toward the dining hall's door, but were bowled aside as a very angry Ludsong charged into the room.

Treyn was hot on the first mate's heels. “Ludsong, don't do it. Don't you dare!”

The huge man ignored his captain, though, and his eyes zeroed in on Toke. Toke didn't have time to even think about getting up before Ludsong crossed the dining hall and wrapped his meaty hand around Toke's throat.

“Hey!” Zashiel yelled, leaping onto the table.

“Ludsong!” Treyn yelled at the same time.

Ludsong didn't pay any attention to either of them. He whirled Toke around as if he only weighed as much as a bag of laundry, and hurled him across the room. Toke lashed out with his powers, but the room was too small and he crashed into the far wall before he could make an anchor. The wall shook from the impact—or was that him shaking? He collapsed to the floor, head spinning as Ludsong tromped over to him.

“Where's my—” he began, but then grunted in pain as Zashiel tackled him from behind. They both hit the ground hard, Zashiel's superior strength trapping him in a headlock, but to Toke's surprise he ignored the Sorakine girl and fought to get back to his feet, eyes still fixed on him.

“Ludsong, I order you to cut this out!” Treyn yelled. His hands were twitching, as if he wanted to draw his knives.

“Where...” Ludsong gasped, struggling to draw breath with Zashiel's arms wrapped around his neck, “is my... daughter?”

Everyone froze. Toke stared at him, unsure what to think.

“I- Inaska's not on the ship?” he asked.

Ludsong drew in another raspy breath. “She—”

Then Zashiel planted her feet on the floor, twisted around, and threw Ludsong up and over her head. Up he went, and then back down, right onto the table Toke and Zashiel had just been eating at. An earsplitting crack filled the air as the table broke beneath him.

“Now,” she declared, planting her foot on his chest, “if you have something to ask us, you can do it politely.”

Ludsong's eyes narrowed hatefully as he looked up at the Sorakine girl, but Toke wasn't worried. Big as he was, he still wasn't a threat to either of them. The only reason he'd been able to throw Toke around like that was because he'd taken him by surprise. Ludsong must have realized this as well, because though he growled at Zashiel he didn't make a move to fight her.

Treyn, on the other hand, was in hysterics.

“My table!” he screamed, shoving past Toke to look at the two giant slabs of splintery wood. “My puzzing table! Do you have any idea how much that cost?”

“I think we've got more important things to worry about, Captain,” Zashiel said without looking up at him.

“By the eternal disease, we do!” He dropped to lay down on his stomach, eyeballing Ludsong manically. “What the zrruk do you think you're doing, you idiot?”

“Inaska ain't on the ship, Cap'n!” Ludsong yelled back, voice a little strained with Zashiel's foot on his chest. “That aftdragger knows where she is. He must’ve stole her away last night and... and...” His face was turning red now. “I know he has! Boy, if you laid one finger on my girl, I'm gonna—”

“I haven't seen her since last night!” Toke cut him off. His entire body was sore from his unplanned flight into the wall, and he wasn't in any mood for Ludsong's angry father act. “I have no idea where she is!”

“The depths you don't!” Ludsong struggled to get out from under Zashiel's foot, but her Sorakine strength kept him pinned down.

Treyn was still lying on the floor beside him. “You idiot! She's just in town somewhere. She always goes into town the morning before we cast off.”

Toke looked from the captain to Ludsong. “Do... you need me to go look for her?”

”DON'T YOU GO NOWHERE NEAR MY—”

“Yes, please, if you don't mind,” Treyn agreed. “She does this everywhere we go. Sometimes she gets back later than others, but she's never taken this long before. Maybe Ludsong's right to be worried.”

Toke thought about Tad Moru. It didn't seem like a very threatening town. Every city had its lowlifes, but Inaska knew how to fight. Surely there wasn't anything out there that...

He and Zashiel's eyes widened with realization at the same time.

“Finch!” they both yelled.

In a flash, the two of them were out of the dining hall and on the Swordfish's deck. Zashiel wasted no time in pulling Toke close to her, and together they took flight over Tad Moru. Toke's heart hammered in his chest. He didn't have his jacket or his weapons. If Finch really did have Inaska, and it came to a fight...

No, he thought desperately. Please don't let it come to that!

NEXT TIME: Oh shoot, dadgum, d’yargo, and a thousand kinds of smite! Toke hasn’t given up on Finch yet, but what will happen if she hurts Inaska? Zashiel may not have to worry about killing her sister, because Toke might just beat her to it.

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About the author

ThisAdamGuy

Bio: Growing up with autism, Adam has always had a passionate love for books. It wasn't until recently that he decided to make his dream of being an author a reality. His stories are all free to read, with new chapters going live every week!

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