“I’m telling Father about this the second we get home.”
I let out a sigh. “I would expect nothing less from you.”
Her eyes shot to mine and for just a second I saw the little girl I’d experienced through her memories.
“Mama, why don’t you love me?”
Shaking my head, I held a hand out to her. She let me help her to her feet at least.
“I need a new dress. This one is ruined. Which is fine by me, I hated it anyway.”
“I can fix it,” I pulled a dagger from a strap on my calf.
“What are you doing? Lark, stop it!” But I’d already cut the train off the bottom and sliced through some of the thick material leaving the bottom edge jagged. With tiny cuts, I split the material and then pulled each slit apart. The full skirt became a loose, many pieced hula type dress. Belladonna shifted her feet and the tiny slices moved around baring bits and pieces of her smooth legs.
“That’s actually not bad.” She patted me on the top of my head absently. As if I were a servant. Did she know what I’d seen of her memory? Probably not. The only reason Ash had known what I’d seen of his the first time I’d Traveled was that he’d known it was a possibility. My mother, Ulani, had the same ability. Or curse, depending how you looked at it.
“Let’s find a boat.” I stared past her to the devastation that had occurred. How the hell were we going to find a boat with this mess? Trees were down, human garbage was everywhere and—
“Will that work?” Belladonna pointed toward the water’s edge. A rowboat floated, oars sitting balanced across the middle. As if that were a normal occurrence immediately after a tsunami.
“There’s no way that just showed up,” I said, pulling my spear from my side. With a swift twist, I connected the two pieces and held the weapon out in front of me as I approached the bobbing boat.
“The Undine’s must have sent it. Maybe their civil war is over? That would be brilliant. I’d rather not go and deal with the fish lips.” Belladonna leaned forward, her feet dipping into the water; I pushed her back.
“Stay behind me. We don’t know this isn’t a trap.”
Surprisingly, she nodded and let me go first. I stepped into the water waiting for something to grab me and pull me under. My experience with the other two families, air and fire, had not been . . . pleasant.
Funny enough, I didn’t expect my visit to the Undines to be any different.
I used the hook on my spear to pull the boat closer. Nothing pulled back or launched out at us. The boated floated nicely toward me, bobbing on the water almost as if welcoming us with a tiny dance.
Dragging it onto dry land, I looked it over. A simple slatted wooden boat with oars, two seats—one for the rower in the center, and one for the person being ferried at the prow. There was no question where I’d be sitting. On the center seat was a thick envelope with no writing on it. Belladonna grabbed it before I could and peeled it open. A slow smile slid across her face. “We are cordially invited to come to the Deep. Courtesy of Requiem.”
“Do you know him?” I took the paper from her and looked it over. Nothing else. No clues.
“He’s one of the men vying for the throne.”
“Then do we really want his help? Aren’t we supposed to be neutral in this?”
She let out an exasperated sigh and shook the paper at me, and then at the boat. “Larkspur, how do you expect we’re going to get to the Deep without a boat? Just because we take this rickety little thing doesn’t mean we are on Requiem’s side.”
It was my turn to snort. “That is not how politics work, and we both know it.”
But she had a point. We needed to get to the Deep, and right now I wasn’t sure we’d find a better way.
“Come on, let’s get this show on the road. Not that there’s really a road, but definitely a show.” I helped her in then shoved the boat out, wading up to my waist before pulling myself in. I slid the oars into the round oar locks and drove the paddles down. The water swirled out around the oars each time I dipped them, eddies disappearing into the crystal-clear water. Belladonna leaned off the side of the boat, trailing a hand in the ripples from the boat cutting the water. “You know, this is really nice.”
“Easy for you to say,” I grunted as I adjusted our direction. From the globe, I knew I had to head straight east from the coast of Bermuda. Sweat already coursed down my spine and arms. The heat was unreal and the humidity high, and I knew it wouldn’t take me long to run out of energy at that rate.
We were in the open ocean within an hour, far enough out that I could barely see the island we’d started on. I sighted it once more, checked our bearings, and continued to row east.
I eyed up my sister, lounging in her seat. “So do you have a plan to get the information Father wants?”
Belladonna sniffed and raised her hands to her hair. With deft fingers she twisted her long locks off her neck and into a perfect French roll. “Men spill their secrets when they are in bed. Even you have to know that.”
My stomach tightened and I stopped rowing. “Father sent you here to sleep with someone?”
She turned on the wooden seat to look me in the eye. “You still think he’s a good man, don’t you? Even after the way he’s treated you, and don’t give me that look. We all see it. He treats you like compost, Lark. The king will use the tools he has at hand. You. Me. Ash. Whoever he has to in order to rule. That’s politics, but of course, what would you know of politics, grubbing in the dirt for most of your life.” She flipped a stray curl of hair over her shoulder, and quite literally looked down her nose at me.