Albert Camus

Don't walk behind me; I may not lead. Don't walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The tides of the Faerie War are turning... Justice at Sea (Empire of the House of Thorns #2) by Christian Klaver

"Klaver dazzles with an adventure rooted in complex feelings about family loyalties, and magically full to the brim with faerie mystery." -Tobias S. Buckell, World Fantasy Award Winner and New York Times Bestselling Author (about books#1)


Published: December 7th, 2021

The tides of the Faerie War are turning, but at how high a cost for the Kasric family?

Justice Kasric, her siblings, and her parents are locked in combat on both sides of the Human-Faerie War. At fifteen, Justice may be the youngest ever Admiral to command her own ship and lead a resistance, but she has the magic and the will to do it. If only nearly every other member of her family weren't either in immediate danger of dying-or attempting to kill her!

Forced to make dangerous pacts with more than one unpredictable ally, only Justice can decide how far she'll go to save London. Is it worth sacrificing even a member of her own family?

Praise for Shadows Over London
"An enchanting and enthralling series opener." -Kirkus Reviews

"Fantasy at its most fantastic. Monsters, mystery, and magic in a beautiful and frightening world all their own. Justice Kasric and her strange family are a delight from first to last." -Steven Harper, author of The Books of Blood and Iron series

"This first title in a new series slowly builds into a magical adventure in a world that is dark and unique . . . the plot and world building are sure to enthrall readers." -School Library Journal

"Klaver's rich, lyrical descriptions augment the fantastical source material in this engaging series starter." -Publishers Weekly



Estuary Raid

The Mist.

It pooled ankle-deep on the deck, moving in little eddies  around our feet every time we moved. A slow, dank current of it  flowed silently down the forecastle stairs in wispy trails, then down  to the main deck where it pooled again before draining out the  scuppers and down the hull to the ocean. But no matter how much  fog drained out, there was always more. Made me itch to grab a  broom or mop and get it all off the deck, only I knew it wouldn’t  do any good. There was plenty more where that came from. All  around us, in fact.  

I was at the front rail near the bowsprit, the very forefront  of the ship. A lantern threw yellow light that clung to the deck behind me but didn’t penetrate more than a dozen feet or so. All  I could make out was more fog pooled on quiet, black, still water.  The ship’s prow barely made a ripple as we cut through the water  without a sound. We’d been forced out into the Channel; coming  back towards the English shore had a forbidden feel. We weren’t  welcome here in England anymore. You could feel it.  

The mist had a way of dampening sounds, so that I kept looking back to make sure that everyone else was still there. I could  see the rest of the quarterdeck that Faith, Sands, and Avonstoke  shared with me, but the rest of the ship was lost in the haze.  

Quiet should have been good. We were prowling in enemy  territory. I’d given the orders for silence myself, but now the heavy  feel of it was making my skin crawl. I thought the darkness was  starting to show a little gray in it, at least, as if dawn might not be  that far off. 

“Justice,” Faith hissed from behind me. “We’re too far in!”  “Shh,” I said, craning my neck to listen for signs of other ships,  or possibly the English shore. England used to be home, before  the Faerie took it and shrouded it in this bloody fog. Now it was  enemy territory and there was no telling what changes the Faerie  had wrought to it. 

“Too far in!” she said again. I was supposed to be captain, but  one of the problems with having my older sister on board was that  she’d never taken orders from me and wasn’t about to start now.  Didn’t matter if I was a captain, admiral, or a bag of rutabagas.  

Faith looked unnatural in the eerie yellow light, with her  white London dress and her long ash-white hair. No pants for her,  despite being at sea. The Faerie might have conquered London,  but they hadn’t made much of a dent in Faith’s sense of propriety  or fashion. At least she’d forgone any hoops or a bustle. 

She stepped closer, her dark eyes wild with panic. “You know the strain it takes for Sands to keep the shield up. He’s going to  collapse if we keep him at it.” 

I pushed my weather-beaten wide-brimmed black hat back on  my head to peer up at her. She had to be prettier and older and taller. Life’s not fair.  

“What about you?” I snapped. “Do you feel anything? Anything at all?”  

Faith’s lips went tight. “No, same as the last time you asked. If  I felt anything, don’t you think I’d tell you? Everyone keeps call ing me a magician, but that’s all they can tell me. You don’t learn  magic as much as feel it, but I don’t feel anything! I’m about as  close to singing fish into a hat as raising a shield! You have to take  us back!” 

I shook my head. “You know we can’t do that. They get one  ship across the channel and it’s all over.” I turned my back on her.  She made a smothered noise behind me and I could sense her frustration.  

The worst part about Faith’s warning was that she was probably right.  

Sands looked an absolute and unmitigated shamble. The  man’s face, when I glanced back again, despite myself, was covered in sweat though he shivered in the cold damp. His black coat  and tails were spattered with salt, and he’d lost his hat. His cheeks  showed two day’s growth around his blonde mustache and goatee  and his blonde hair stuck out in all directions. His eyes, a startling  emerald green under normal conditions, now shone like cat’s eyes  or undersea lanterns, washing the forecastle deck and our boots  with lime, eldritch light. He stared out over the water, looking for  dangers most of the us couldn’t even see.

The Faerie invasion force had put up the mist to keep us out,  of course. The Outcast Fleet stayed on the edge of the mist, where  the rest of humanity couldn’t reach us, but venturing further in, like  we were doing now, was like taking out a rowboat into a monsoon. 

My ghost eye, which helped me see through Faerie magic,  allowed me to penetrate the first line of defense: the illusions,  or glamours, as the Faerie called them. Dark flocks of predatory  birds, specters gliding on top of the ocean’s surface, that sort of  thing. It was enough to scare the crew into a wailing froth and I  was just barely holding that fear in check, constantly reminding  them that the glamours weren’t really there. The only person not  showing any fear was Avonstoke and I had him to thank for bolstering the crew. Without him, I’d have a mutiny on my hands for  sure. I looked back to where he stood, supporting Sands. 

Avonstoke was tall, a Court Faerie like the stern and uncompromising Faerie marines. But Avonstoke wasn’t stern, not by a  long shot. The average Court Faerie was slender, with high cheek bones and angular features in a way that was disconcertingly in human. But Avonstoke wore it better somehow, more mysterious  

than inhuman, and with that kind of height and broad shoulders,  he took the breath of every woman around him. I found him  endearing, distracting, and exasperating in equal measures, but  he’d become a sturdy support, my rock when things got danger ous, like now. His eyes, like the others of his kind, were pale gold,  without any pupils. They were an echo of my ghost eye, a solid  black marble in my left eye.  

That ghost eye also allowed me to see the visions that really  were out in the mist. Dark shapes cresting the water, ghost ships,  an enormous bat-winged shape far overhead. But only Sands and I  could see those, and neither of us mentioned it to the others.

“Ghosts,” he muttered when another of the ships went by. “Intangible?” I said, keeping my voice equally low. “So, they  can’t hurt us?” Avonstoke and Faith were close enough to hear,  but I trusted them to keep their mouths shut.  

Sands turned his glowing cats eyes to me and shook his head.  “Probably not.” There was the hint, like always, of France and  other unfamiliar places in the lilt of his voice. “Ships, or other  things, caught by a vortex and wrenched free of their place in time.  If they are ghosts to us, or we are ghosts to them, I cannot say. Now  they move through when, as well as through where. Let’s hope they  are not close enough in the fabric of time to reach us. Years spent  in the mist would leave you quite mad. I should know.” 

I wanted to ask more, but now wasn’t the time. He turned  away, peering out into the fog with those luminous eyes. What we were really worried about were the vortexes. Dark twisters, like supernatural tornados, that threatened  either to tear us to pieces or pull us entirely out of the world we  knew. One false step and we could be ghosts ourselves. Or we  could just be dead. 

Even as I watched, another black tornado lurched out of the  mist, moving far too quickly for us to avoid it, and battered itself  against Sands’ shield. The shield, which, through my ghost eye, I  could see as a soft green shimmer around the ship, rippled under  the impact. But it held. It was all eerily silent and unreal. I felt no  sign of the impact under my feet, which was even more unnerving. 

But Sands shook under the impact, as if he had been hit  directly. Avonstoke’s grip on him was the only thing that kept  Sands from falling.  

Faith wasn’t wrong. The little blonde man couldn’t take too  much more of this. 

I could see back to the rest of the ship, which was a far cry  from a comfort. Every face that peered back was tight with sullen  fear, watching me, or Faith, but mostly watching Sands, our only  magician. 

Except Sands wasn’t a full-fledged magician anymore. Since  passing his mantle to Faith, his powers had been slowly fading. To  make matters worse, Faith, his replacement according to Father’s  plan, didn’t seem close to taking his place.  

I gnawed my lip. 

The air was still, the rigging quiet, the splash of water soft,  while we all struggled not to breathe too loudly. Everyone was listening hard enough to make their ears bleed. The ship itself made  barely a creak under my feet. No scent of land came with the bare  excuse for a breeze, even though I knew we had to be close. The  chill off the water was like something off a grave. 

A Prowler crew member ran up to report, knuckling his forehead. “Foretop lookout is seeing branches, Ma’am.” “Branches?” I said, raising an eyebrow. The man blanched,  his greenish skin going visibly paler, but nodded. “Yes, Ma’am.”  Sometimes I forgot the reverence the Faerie from Father’s domain, most of our crew, regarded our family. If they only knew. I opened my mouth to get a better explanation, but by then  there was no need.  

“There!” Faith said, pointing. “What’s that?” 

The mist parted to reveal a tree growing up out of the water,  craggy and black and dripping with lichen and slim. The trunk  was easily as wide around as the Specter was long, with branches  angling up in all directions, long, jagged shapes that disappeared  into the fog. 

The tree was festooned with bodies.

There were dozens of them, all very dead, hanging from the  branches on nooses. They’d been tall when alive, and not at all human, with great horns on their heads, white or black hair, gray  skin, and talons on their hands and feet that immediately remind ed me of the Soho Shark. The talons swayed, very gently, though  there wasn’t any breeze. Drops of moisture dripped down into the  water with a morose and solitary dripping sound. 

“Formori,” Mr. Sands intoned, his green eyes still blazing.  “Leaders of the Faerie once, but all wiped out by the Seelie Court.” “Much to everyone’s relief, according to the stories,” Avon stoke said softly behind him. “The atrocities they tell are enough to  make even a hag’s skin crawl.” His handsome face looked thoughtful and a little curious. 

“Formori,” I repeated grimly. “Like the Soho Shark.” Sands looked confused and alarmed and I told him and the  others, in as few words as possible, about our encounter with the  Soho Shark and Victoria Rose. Just thinking about the two of them  gave me shudders. 

Mr. Sands whistled low. “The leader of the Formori was said  to be missing one eye. A very dangerous individual, if this Soho  Shark is the same person . . .” He frowned, lost in thought, while  his hands plucked nervously at the brass buttons on his vest. He  jerked with surprise when his fingers plucked one off completely. 

“Damn,” the little ex-magician said.  

I had Mr. Starling ready a few crew members with long poles  so they could push us off from the tree, if necessary, but we glided  slowly and silently underneath the long line of hanged Formori.  

Immediately after clearing that grisly obstacle, however, someone shouted up in the topmast. I heard a grinding sound, then the  sound of breaking wood and the snapping of lines as a piece of the topgallant mast went splashing into the sea on the starboard  side. 

“What happened?” I shouted, breaking my own rule of silence. “We hits a low branch, we did!” a gravely, squeaky voice shout ed back. 

“Was anyone up in the gallants?” I shouted back. 

“Don’t know, Captain!”  

I leaned over the rail, calling to Avonstoke and Nellie down in  the chains. “Have Wil check that wreckage and make sure no one  is in it.” 

“Yes Captain,” Nellie said. She called out in the soft and lilting  Prowler language and Wil’s head broke the surface of the water.  “What did you do that for?” Wil said after Nellie relayed my  orders, but then he dove without waiting for an answer. Two minutes later he surfaced. I couldn’t hear his words, but Nellie turned  and shook her head up at me.  

“Thank Heaven for that,” Faith said.  

I nodded in agreement, too overwhelmed with relief to speak.  At least that much luck was with us.  

There was a shadowy line of the riverbank on the port side  now, with the gleam of white through the fog as the gentlest of  surfs broke on the rocks. 

“Shoaling on the far side!” Nellie called out softly. 

I leaned over the rail, pointing so that there should be no con fusion. “Port?” 

Nellie nodded. “Yes, ma’am. Port.”  

“Pass along two points to starboard,” I ordered. The waiting  sailor nodded and turned to pass the message. 

A flurry of breezes came, luffing the main foresail immediately  above us with a snap like the crack of a whip.

“Hear that?” Faith said. 

I stared at her. The entire ship had heard it. 

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “Not the sail. The singing.” “I don’t hear anything,” I said carefully. 

She frowned. “It’s gone now.” 

Then I spied what looked like not only a land mass, but a  familiar one. The Girdler, a sandbank, which would put us in the  Queen’s Channel. I let out a long sigh. It was incredibly gratifying  to know that this much, at least, of English geography remained. 

Suddenly, the mist cleared. Well, not cleared exactly, but  became more penetrable. More normal, like regular old English  fog and not some supernatural abomination. There was even  enough breeze to catch the sails and I felt the Rachaela make  decent headway for the first time in hours. 

“Well done, Sands,” I said. 

“Thank you, Captain,” he said. His voice sounded normal,  more human than when he’d spoken under the strain of his spell,  but utterly exhausted, too. He looked more normal now, too.  Still disheveled, but more like a man than a magical beacon. The  eldritch light had faded from his eyes. He smoothed down his hair,  then took a rueful look at his vest and trousers. He took a shaky  step and Avonstoke steadied him. 

“Through!” Faith breathed.  

We’d thought it possible, but hadn’t been sure. The Faerie  could have had this stuff over the entire country for all we knew.  But apparently not. That was worth knowing and information I  had to get back to the rest of the fleet. Or what was left of it. Father  had commissioned a dozen ships like the H.M.S. Rachaela, but  they had been lost in the mist before I’d taken command. Now,  all that was left was the enormous Seahome and a few schooners. 

This was why it was folly to brave the mist, but also why it had  been so necessary. It was worth all the risk I’d taken just to know  we could navigate it. Now we could attack the invasion forces,  rather than just wait for them to make a move. One bold move  here could outweigh months of ineffectual engagements. 

“Land on the port side!” came the hoarse whisper from the  main deck. “Crow’s nest reports land on the port side!” They were  still relaying messages to avoid shouting. Good. We were in the  Estuary proper, in the Queen’s Channel just as I thought. I tilted  my head, listening hard, suddenly sure I heard something. 

“Take him below,” I said to Faith, nodding at Sands. “Let him  rest while he can.” As soon as we’d done our business here, he was  going to be needed for the trip back. 

She opened her mouth to say something, then stopped, her  eyes wide as saucers. She heard it now, too. Sands looked around  as well. 

Voices. Another ship? Then I could see them. Three dark silhouettes of sails and rigging slowly sliding across the still water.  Yes. More than one ship, it seemed. The largest looked big enough  to be second or third rate, maybe, comparable to our ship. Only  they probably didn’t know we were here because of the fog and  our effort to remain silent. We might be out of the magical part of  the Faerie mist, but fog was still fog. Also, the enemy ships, from  what I could see, didn’t look to have anything like a full complement of crew on board. 

I passed the word for the spyglass and it came in short order.  The nearest ship showed me silhouettes that were unmistakably  men. Normal men, not Faerie. English men pressed into service  by the Black Shuck. Probably not even sailors, since the Shuck had  run out of those. 

That didn’t change what I had to do, because the ships’ holds  would be filled with all manner of Faerie infantry. Enough infantry  to get and hold a landfall in France. Even just a few could be too  much for mundane forces and the Faerie would spread over the  continent. The only thing stopping the Faerie from crossing and  taking over the rest of the globe was the remaining Outcast Fleet.  For three months, we hadn’t been able to penetrate the mist, but  we’d easily thwarted an attempt at crossing the channel because  the invading Faeries knew nothing of sailing. But we’d lost so  many ships trying to raid the coast that our defense of the channel  was stretched hopelessly thin. If the invaders realized that, we’d be  in trouble. 

Other figures, tall and angular, moved on the enemy deck.  Court Faerie like many of my own crew, but in uniforms of dark  leather and bone. The Unseelie Court. The Black Shuck’s people. 

The Rachaela might have been outnumbered, but that  wouldn’t matter as much if they were only partially manned and  rigged. They barely had any sail up and all listed and wallowed  uncertainly. They weren’t using the wind like we were; they were  being towed by rowboats. Foolish. In addition, something had  gone wrong with the towing ropes of the lead ship and a knot of the  enemy, Faerie and human, were huddled around the prow, arguing.  

Good. The Faerie still hadn’t learned any real seamanship.  They’d never had the need before now, since all sailing in Faerie  was done with magic. That was our only advantage and I was going  to exploit it to the hilt. 

“Oh God,” Faith’s voice came softly next to me. She and  Sands were still here. She sounded like she was going to pass out.  Or throw up. Maybe both. I had the same feelings when I’d been  poring over maps and planning the engagements. I’d have them again, when I was looking over the lists of the wounded or seeing  the damage wrought on my ship.  

But now, all I felt was a sudden, thrilling rush. I could even feel  a madcap grin crawl over my face. 

“Oh God,” Faith said again. “Whenever you get that look in  your eye, I know we’re going to be knee-deep in flying cannonballs  right away. I hate cannonballs.” 

“That’s why you’re taking Sands below,” I said cheerfully. “Go  on.” 

Of course, cannonballs could penetrate below decks, but mentioning that to my sister wasn’t going to make her feel any better. I  could have had Avonstoke take Sands below, but I needed Avon stoke up here as much as I needed Sands and Faith out of the way. 

Faith finally moved to go, and then stopped, glaring at me.  “It’s unnatural, you know.” 

“Of course it’s unnatural.” I turned and stepped past her to  bring the spyglass to bear on the enemy ship again. “We’re at war  with the bloody Faerie. Where have you been?” 

“Not them,” she said stiffly. “You. You’re not supposed to be  happy on the brink of battle. It’s unseemly.” 

I waved her away, keeping my eye to the glass, too busy to  bandy words with her now. But I could feel a delicious thrill rising in me at the prospect of action, unmistakable now that she’d  pointed it out. 

“Unseemly,” Faith said. “Especially for a girl.” She finally took  Sands below. 

I turned and leaned down over the railing aft of us and called  down softly to the main deck. 

“Password to Starling. Bring us about on the port tack. Ready  a turn to starboard and ready the starboard guns.”

M 12 N 

Justice at Sea 

“Aye,” a barely-visible crewman called back. They rushed off  aft. 

“Swayle,” I hissed at the Faerie marine colonel, also on the  main deck. “Have your people ready.” 

“Yes, Ma’am,” Swayle said. She nodded at her people, who  began nocking arrows to bows and readying themselves at the  rails. All the marines were Court Faerie like Avonstoke, tall, slender, with those same blank, golden eyes. Most of them looked  severe, but Swayle had an expression so stern you could crack  walnuts on it. 

She pointed twice, without speaking, and another detachment  of marines started climbing lithely up the masts to elevated positions, silent as wraiths. For all that the Faerie weren’t so great at  seamanship, war was another matter altogether. 

I looked back at the enemy ships. Amazingly, they showed no  sign of having heard or seen us. The nearest of them were still  arguing over the tangled tow rope. For once the mist was working  in our favor, dampening sound. 

Relieved of being Sands’ caretaker, Avonstoke came and  joined me at the front railing. He didn’t say anything at first, merely  stood there next to me, a comforting presence, tall and reliable. 

The ships were still moving closer. Slowly, so slowly. I’d have  to order the turn soon, but for now, we had everyone ready and  our slow progress through the water only brought things into a  better position for our maneuver. Better to milk our element of  surprise for all it was worth. Only it sent my nerves jangling, knowing I could hear an outcry any minute, but holding, holding . . . 

“Like an Avatar of Naval Warfare,” Avonstoke murmured,  very softly, “watching as battle draws nigh.” He sighed solemnly  and profoundly pained at the poetic sorrow of it all. “I wonder, perhaps,” he went on, “if an Avatar should have, I don’t know, a  cleaner coat? Or a hat that isn’t quite so lumpy?” 

“Shut up,” I said softly. “I love this hat. You, I barely tolerate.”  A captain had to keep a certain level of aloof decorum, but I let a  whisper of a smile come out. Avonstoke had a way of bringing that  out in me, even at times like this. 

He grinned down at me, a wild light in his eyes. There never  really was any way of telling what he’d do next, a creature of mercurial urges with so many apparently random emotions that it  wasn’t a matter of detecting them on his face so much as sorting  them out. Did he think of that kiss we had shared as much as I did?  Of course, that had been months ago and now things were different. I was his commanding officer. I couldn’t look at him that way  anymore, and yet, I couldn’t quite forget.  

If he was having any conflict with how he thought about me,  I’d seen no sign. 

The fog was breaking up even more, allowing me to see the full  length of the Rachaela behind me. I made out Mr. Starling, my se ond-in-command, back on the quarterdeck. He was a burly Dwarf,  completely bald except for a tall, startlingly-red topknot waving  above him like a thin scarlet flag. His mustache and beard were  equally red and his mouth, like always, twisted in a frown. He was  also quivering with readiness. 

The increased visibility meant that the enemy now had a clear  view of us, too. Astonishingly, they still hadn’t called out any  alarm, though if it was because they didn’t notice us, or simply  didn’t recognize the danger, I didn’t know. It didn’t matter. No  point waiting any longer. 

“Bring us about!” I shouted, no longer worried about anyone  hearing us. “Ready cannon!”

“It’s her!” someone from the other ship shrieked. “It’s Bloody  Justice Kasric!” A clamor went up, both from the enemy ships and  the rowboats down in the water. That, at least, felt good. I could  feel that grin on my face getting wider. 

“Fire as you bear!” I shouted at Render, another Dwarf and  captain of the gunnery crew.  

“Aye, Captain!” Render said. He signaled one of his gunner’s  mates standing at the hatch, who would then signal the gundeck  captains below. Then Render tapped both gun captains on the  shoulder with his riding crop. Both the guns boomed, shaking the  deck beneath my feet and throwing up two plumes of acrid smoke.  The glyphs and sigils on the side of the brass cannon glowed a fiery  yellow, then immediately started to fade. Extra enchantments to  pierce Faerie protections, but also to keep the brass cannon from  falling apart, since cold-forged iron couldn’t be used by the Faerie  at all.  

I turned. “Swayle!” Hardly had the word left my mouth than  the deadly twang and hiss of loosed arrows snapped all around  the deck as our marines fired. Screams from the other ship floated  across the water. Swayle’s Court Faerie archers, unerringly deadly,  would rack up as many casualties as the cannon by the end of this  engagement.  

Unfortunately, the enemy archers would be just as good, but  we had a few moment’s respite as they recovered from their surprise. 

But the gundeck below was still silent.  

“Render!” I snarled. “Why aren’t they firing down there?” “Aye, Captain!” He shouted and rushed to the hatch. Ren der was still new, having taken over as gunnery captain after  the previous one had been killed. He was alert, but still trying to compensate for both not having enough Dwarves to man everything, and the bloody slow process of passing commands from  deck to deck. 

Finally, the gun captains down there must have gotten it  together because more cannon banged and the ship shuddered  with even greater fury. More smoke drifted up into view off the  starboard side and more screams came from the opposing ships.  

One of the Goblins on our side, a little fellow named Chuck Chuck who had tufted bat’s ears and a bulbous nose, cackled merrily and a ragged cheer went up from my crew. 

“Back the topsails!” I shouted. I wanted to slow our progress  now that we were in prime firing position. 

“Aye,” Starling shouted back. 

Avonstoke, still next to me, clenched his hand. 

I’d seen it before but hadn’t gotten used to it. This was shadow  magic, and part of why Father had assigned Avonstoke to protect  me in the first place. One instant, his hand was empty, the next, a  dull-black scimitar blossomed in his fist. It looked like three feet  or so of heavy, curved metal, but I didn’t think metal had anything  to do with it. The material, whatever it was, trapped light rather  than reflected it, a thing of shadow with an occasional glimmer  of moonlight that hadn’t come from any sky above us. The edges  shifted slightly any time I tried to get a good look at them, making  the exact dimensions disconcertingly fluid. 

An arrow shot out of the cloud of gun smoke, coming right for  me. I ducked, but Avonstoke batted the missile with a flick of his  sword. Seemed the enemy archers had recovered. 

“Glad you’re here,” I said. 

Then the musket ball shattered part of the rail two inches from  my right hand.

I looked at the broken part of the railing. Two inches. Two  inches in the right direction and I’d never use that hand again,  regardless of Avonstoke’s protective intentions. I hadn’t even  caught any of the ragged splinters, which were deadly enough on  their own. 

But for now, I was fine.  

The other ship was still a skeletal gray shape in the mist,  with shadowy outlines on something flat a dozen yards ahead  that might have been sailors on a deck. Some of them must have  had rifles, because that’s where the shots were coming from, but  then a dozen more of Swayle’s marines fired and more of our  cannon banged away, shaking the deck underneath my feet, and  then all opposition stopped. Men were fleeing the rowboats and  already two of the three enemy ships were listing. We’d have them  demasted and sunk in a few more minutes and the enemy could do  little to resist us. More Faerie were pouring out of the holds and  jumping overboard. 

We’d won the day. 

I could feel the grin return to my face. The Black Shuck wasn’t  going to get any ships across the channel today. If Sands was  strong enough to get us back through the mist, we’d have dealt the  invaders a bitter blow with relatively little cost to us. 

Then the light wind tore the smoke barrier away and my grin  died as I could better see what kind of damage we’d wrought. Just  because we weren’t the ones paying a cost didn’t mean it wasn’t  being paid. 

But I kept my mouth shut and let the firing continue, despite  the taste of smoke and ash in my mouth. 

The Faerie weren’t going to carry their invasion forces across  the English Channel. At least not soon. 

We’d bought the rest of the world a few weeks’ reprieve, at  least. After that, it was still anyone’s guess. 

Faith came back out on the deck while the battle was continuing. If you could call it a battle. Mostly, it was our gun decks belching flame, smoke, and destruction and the other, smaller ships  screaming. I could see in her face that it would be no use trying to  send her below again. Her thoughts were as clear on her face as if  she’d spoken them out loud. I can’t fire the cannon or shield us from  vortexes in the mist, but I can stand with you here, now. 

She stood, very close, both our hands on the rails, which trembled under our white-knuckled grip as the topside guns and those  on the deck below continued firing, over and over. There was little  that needed done by way of sailing, so Avonstoke came and stood  with us, too. 

Having them next to me helped, some, but it was still horrible.  It was war. 


About the author:
CHRISTIAN KLAVER has been writing for over twenty years, with a number of magazine publications, including Escape Pod, Dark Wisdom Anthology, and Anti- Matter. He’s the author of The Supernatural Case Files of Sherlock Holmes, the Empire of the House of Thorns series, and the Nightwalker series, but has written over a dozen novels in both fantasy and sci-fi, often with a Noir bent. He worked as a bookseller, bartender and a martial-arts instructor before settling into a career in internet security. He lives just outside the sprawling decay of Detroit, Michigan, with his wife Kimberly, his daughter Kathryn, and a group of animals he refers to as The Menagerie.

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