Not being afraid of heights or water and not being afraid of them while dangling at a dizzy height over a churning ocean beating against rocks during a storm were not the same thing. The soggy party dress was not helping her grip the slick rope either. Rosaliy squeezed her eyes shut tight and pushed off the wall, dropping a heart-stopping few lengths at a time as the thin, wet rope flew through her fingers. After one stomach-lurching drop, her feet fumbled on the slippery glass instead of rough stone. She squared her feet on the window and shoved, but the window pushed back, resisting her.

She opened her eyes. The window was latched, but just with a hook. Neither cliffside window security nor weather-proofing were top concerns, she imagined. She could kick at the window until it broke open, but she ran the risk of every pirate in the vicinity hearing her. Plus, her arms might fall off before she gained entry. If she could slide something narrow between the panes, she could flip the latch.

She wrapped her legs and one arm around the rope. The rain was coming down hard now, making the attempt to wrest a long, jeweled clasp from her thick hair quite challenging. The clasp was tightly pinned by a very thorough Elle and Jadelynn.

“Rose, watch out!” warned a voice above.

She couldn’t very well watch anything, but she tried to hurry. While she was feeling for the pins securing the clasp, Quita galloped down the rope with a mighty monkey screech and launched herself at Rosaliy’s head. It was all Rosaliy could do not to scream or release her grip on the rope as the monkey gnawed on the jeweled clasp. When that attempt failed, Quita dug frantically with her little hands, yanking out hair pins and flinging them left and right.

“Quita!” Rosaliy yelped. Hair pins tumbled into the ocean while Rosaliy struggled to balance herself under this new weight. Finally, Rosaliy freed an arm once again and clamped her fingers around the loosened clasp before Quita successfully yanked it from her head.

Quita screamed, furious at the loss of this glittering prize. Then something struck Rosaliy’s arm, something more substantial than a rain drop. The next one pegged Quita on the head.

“Quita,” Cliff called as softly as he could to be heard over the rain pounding on the balcony. “Look what I have for you.” He dropped another chestnut.

The distractable monkey hopped with excitement on Rosaliy’s head, then scrambled up the rope to claim her prize. Quickly, Rosaliy unfastened the now-free clasp and yanked it from her soggy hair. If she hadn’t been wearing the belt—well-disguised under twisted scarves—she might have lost a chunk of hair in the process.

Before Quita could devour her nuts and return to steal the sparkling hair clip, Rosaliy jammed the metal clasp between the wooden slats of the window pane and slid the thin metal bar upward. On what was the third try, but felt like the three thousandth, she caught the hook. On the eighth try, which felt like the millionth, she flipped up the hook and flung open the window. Arms burning, she latched onto the window sill with her feet and pushed herself toward the opening. A teetering moment later where she willed herself to fall the right direction, she tumbled into a dark room.

Jadelynn was quick to clamor after her, and Rosaliy pulled her in the open window, which she then re-latched to minimize banging from the wind kicking up. Rosaliy shook out her aching arms and ran her fingers through her wet hair, pulling out a few stray pins that were at this point merely trapping her hair in a hopeless state of rat nest.

“Study or healing potion?” whispered Jadelynn, out of breath.

Should they split up? Rosaliy decided no. She was responsible to make sure Jadelynn stayed safe. Sure, breaking into a pirate stronghold in a storm was already the opposite of safe, but there was no need to exacerbate the situation.

“Study,” Rosaliy whispered back.

She pushed open the door and peeked out. The hallway was lit by hanging torches, which meant it might also be patrolled by guards. Rosaliy’s heart pounded. She was sure her hands were shaking. How did Drake steal from this palace without dropping dead from anxiety? The options were to wait and see if guards came into this section of the palace or to make a run for the third door over.

“Hurry,” she whispered to Jadelynn, making a silent dash for the third door. They both tumbled in the door and managed to fumble it closed behind them. So far, so good?

In the dark room, Rosaliy expected to find a dozen sleeping pirates resting for an early shift tomorrow. When Jadelynn pulled out her firefly stone, Rosaliy was glad to see books instead of murderous men and women waiting in the dark with curved blades in their hands.

“Mat was right,” murmured Jadelynn. “The king’s study.” Rosaliy appreciated the surprise in her voice.

“Look for a book out of the ordinary,” Rosaliy reminded both of them.

Jadelynn pushed the glowing stone to scan the shelves methodically—back and forth across walls full of musty books. The pirates had not considered the king’s daily records of importance. Dust was collecting on the shelves and the hundreds of leather volumes. In between orderly rows of ignored books, there were empty spaces where valuable trinkets had been removed. Hopefully the pirates had missed the valuable object she and Jadelynn were searching for.

“Stop,” Rosaliy hissed. “Back to the middle of that shelf.”

They both peered at what looked like a normal book. A curl of old paint was just flaking off the corner.

“It’s wood,” Jadelynn exclaimed, reaching for it. She dragged the heavy book to an ornate desk where they pried opened the clever box to find a large, brass key, still safely hidden. Rosaliy pocketed the key and lugged the book back to its shelf. Repositioning the dust on and around the fake book was impossible, but it seemed the pirates did not regularly make a careful search of this room.

Euphoric over successfully completing one goal without being captured or skewered, Rosaliy was quick to head for the door. Jadelynn hesitated by the desk. “My mother always said,” she murmured, kneeling down, “my grandfather was forever hiding things in hidden compartments, and his favorite was the backs of drawers…” She had disappeared entirely behind the desk now. Rosaliy heard the sound of wood rubbing against wood and a series of clicks. “Sorceress, I found something.”

Jadelynn’s firefly stone went dead just as she said those words.

No, no, no. Things had been going so well.

“Jade?” hissed Rosaliy. “Jadelynn?”

No response.

Rosaliy dashed to the desk. Jadelynn was nowhere in sight. Where could she have—

Rosaliy collided with a hard surface in front of the desk. She rebounded a few steps from the impact, catching herself on a shelf before she hit the ground. Nothing was there—nothing visible, anyway. Before Rosaliy could make anything of this new problem, Jadelynn flashed into view along with her floating firefly stone, stepping back from a twisted metal ball on the desk in front of her. “You couldn’t hear me?” Jadelynn marveled.

“Or see you,” said Rosaliy, heart still trying to leap out of her chest. “Where did you go?”

“I didn’t go anywhere,” promised Jadelynn. “It’s a bubble enchantment. I did a report on these.”

A teacher at heart, Rosaliy was impressed by the real-world application of this knowledge. She could and would use this example the next time Issabeth complained about books.

“Fill me in.”

“They’re incredibly hard to make, partly because scorpion venom is a key ingredient. It’s not technically a Malum spell, because you don’t technically have to kill the scorpion to harvest its venom, but realistically— Anyway, you can read the report later. Take it!” Jadelynn picked up the metal ball by its chain and thrust it at Rosaliy.

“Is it dangerous?” Rosaliy asked warily.

“The danger is all in making it,” Jadelynn insisted.

Rosaliy held out her hand, briefly considered when her good judgment had left her, and cradled the crafted metal ball in her palm. The room around her was immediately glossy and shimmering. Right next to her, Jadelynn and her firefly stone were unchanged.

“The edges are solid,” Jadelynn bragged, patting a curved, glossy, translucent surface a few lengths away. “Nothing can get in or out.”

Rosaliy reached out to touch the smooth, protective dome. “Are there—” Rosaliy started whispering, then cleared her throat and spoke normally. “Are there drawbacks to using the enchantment for an extended period? Will we run out of air?”

Jadelynn shook her head. “Air gets through, but no solid objects, unless they’re touching you. I mean, look at the desk.”

Rosaliy did look. The desk had melted into a hazy outline of a desk. She reached to touch it, and her hand slid through what had moments before been a solid wood desk. Rosaliy took a few steps backward. She should have warned Jadelynn, because the moving dome pulled the girl along. As soon as the protective arc was clear of the desk, the massive wooden desk was solid once again.

“See?” said Jadelynn proudly.

This was indeed a well-made enchantment. Rosaliy dropped the ball from her palm, still holding the chain. The bubble dome vanished, and the room was normal once again.

“This belonged to your grandfather,” said Rosaliy, trying to pass the chain to Jadelynn. “You should keep something this valuable in the family.”

“You need it to help you,” Jadelynn disagreed. “Plus, I’m sure my Abuelo stole it from somebody else. At least with you, it’s doing some good.”

Despite Rosaliy’s wariness over unfamiliar enchantments, this was an amazing tool. All things considered, they might actually succeed.



These people were crazy. Delightfully crazy. Fat raindrops pelted the boys—the nice one with the chestnuts in his pocket and the mean one who kept calling her an ugly furball—but still they peered over the balcony at the window below them. Neither of those girls had any nuts on their persons, so Quita had no idea why the boys were so interested.

“So Rosaliy and Drake…” said the mean one.

“Uh huh,” said her friend Cliff, distracted by his urgent looking down. Quita had tried going that way, learning the hard way the rope and the sparkles only led to heartache in the end. She would stay here with her crunchy chestnuts.

“What does she see in him, anyway?” the mean one continued.

Cliff looked up and blinked in his adorable, clueless way. “See…in?”

The mean one continued having his own conversation. “They can’t be serious, right?”

“Huh?” said Cliff. “Wait, Rosaliy and Drake?”

They should have been hauling up that rope before those pirates came out here. Quita screeched and pointed at the balcony doors, but she was ignored. Ignored like a common seagull, practically a rat with wings. Fine, if that was how it was going to be, they deserved their punishment. Maybe the pirates had delicious nuts at their party.

“Hey,” barked one of three angry men stalking outside, “what are you doing here?”

Quita wondered why he was so angry. When she was feeling angry, chestnuts always made her feel better. Perhaps he needed some walnut banana pancakes. Mmm…drizzled with honey. Sticky, wonderful honey.

She was jostled when one of the pirates grabbed Cliff and yanked up the rope.

“What’s down there?” demanded the man who had grabbed hold of Matias. Quita had to use his name, because “the mean one” now described everyone on the balcony who was not her friend Cliff. These pirates were bad news. They were awful to Senira until Drake made them go away. Drake always brought Quita a handful of pecans when he came. Quita loved to save the shells. She would hide behind the rocks of her sea cave and pitch shells at Senira Luza’s unsuspecting visitors. They thought they were being attacked by ghosts of shipwrecked sailors. Hilarious.

“Should we toss them into the ocean now or throw them in the dungeon?” the pirate who had a hold on Cliff threatened.

“We need to go after the girls,” grunted Mean Pirate Two.

Mean Pirate Three answered, “I vote for letting the ocean deal with these two.”

With that, the snarling pirate hauled Cliff up while he hollered and kicked and generally made it hard for the pirate to pitch him over the edge of the balcony. Quita, from her moving perch on his back, was equally displeased with the jostling. She leaped onto the face of Cliff’s attacker and bit down hard on his fleshy nose.

The pirate screamed, dropping Cliff, who scrambled out of reach one way while Quita hopped the other. They needed to make an exit sooner than later while one pirate was bleeding and flailing and the other two were laughing.

The air cracked.

Everyone froze.

This sound was different than the thunder or the pounding rain, less like the sky was exploding and more like the air was breaking…or tearing.


About the author


Bio: From the (usually) rainy Pacific Northwest. Enjoys writing words! Some of them are in books:

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