I shook off my unease. “Bella I’m going to need a lot of gear. Grappling hooks, ropes, and a harness for myself. You’re going to have to help me carry it all. Understand?”
“I’m not your pack mule, Lark.”
“This is for the safety of you and our family. You will do what I say,” I said, somehow managing to keep my tone even.
She glared at me, eyes snapping with fire. “Fine.”
I approached the edge of the bridge, eyeing the ropes. The wooden slats floated but as I stepped onto them they sank so I was knee deep in the water. “I don’t like this.”
“I’m not really happy about it, either,” Belladonna said. I glanced over my shoulder at her. She shrugged, but I saw the sheen of sweat on her forehead, the tremor in her shoulders.
“You can wait here, if you want, but don’t go far. Alright?”
She nodded and folded her arms over her chest. “Yes, I think that would be best.”
I didn’t blame her. Getting chewed on by a shark in the dead of night would leave a scar on the strongest of people. I crept across the bridge, the slats sinking with each step until I was in the middle where the water rose to my waist.
“Lark,” Belladonna squeaked my name and I froze.
“Hurry, just hurry. Don’t look down.”
Grabbing the edge of the bridge I couldn’t help myself and looked over the side. Tentacles with suction cups the size of my head wrapped around the bridge, the wood creaking under the pressure they exerted. A deep, ruddy red they moved and flowed through the water, almost gracefully if it weren’t for the fact that they were attempting to pull the bridge out from under me.
Swallowing the scream that lurched in my throat, I pulled myself forward. Bella’s screaming behind me was enough for the both of us. But that wasn’t what drove me.
Shouting echoed across the water to me from the barracks; the cries of a child’s fear piercing my heart. The bridge crumpled around me and if I didn’t do something fast, I was going to be tangled into the lines.
I sucked in a deep breath and dove into the crystal clear ocean, praying I didn’t make a mistake and get myself killed.
Images of open mouths filled with rows of triangular teeth filled my mind and spurred me on, driving me to swim faster than I ever had. There was a flick of a muscular tentacle slipping around my leg as I gave the final kick before I gripped the edge of the landing. I hauled myself out of the water and spared a glance back. The tentacle creature dropped out of sight, but not before it looked at me, red eyes seeming to burn through me, parrot beak open in a silent roar.
Bella stood on the far side and even at that distance I could see her shaking. I gave her a wave with both hands. “Stay back from the water.”
She put her hands on her hips. “Like that’s going to be easy on an island!” She did however take more than a few steps back.
Her words followed me as I ran into the barracks, water dripping off me. The scene that unfolded, stole my breath. Three Undines fought on what could only be the training room floor. Dolph and Urchin faced an Undine I didn’t recognize. His face was scarred and had been stitched back together badly. His nose was split down the middle and snot flung from both nostrils in a steady stream. His skin was the same pale blue that Mako’s had been, though that was where the resemblance ended. Big Ugly was fast, and he kept both Urchin and Dolph dancing as he swung a long line over his head—barbed hooks dotting it—in one hand and a four-foot-long sword in the other.
Across the room under a rack of weapons lay a tiny girl who couldn’t have been more than ten years old. Her hair was a deep blue and lay in ringlets over her shoulders. Pale, creamy skin accented the blue of her eyes and hair. She clutched one hand over her side, blood dripping past her fingers. What was a child doing in the Enders barracks?
“Urchin, for all you’re worth, protect Finley. She is our only hope,” Dolph yelled, his eyes darting to me. As if I were the enemy.
Finley. The princess.
Urchin was blocked by Big Ugly, and I ran to Finley’s side. “It’s going to be okay, but you need to stay out of the way.” She nodded, and I reached above her, pulling down a trident. It wasn’t my spear, but it would work just as well.
I spun in time to see Urchin drive a short sword into his father’s side. Dolph stumbled away, his hand reaching for his son.
Dolph fell to the floor, a groan rolling out of him. “No, not my son, how could you betray the princess?” He looked to me, raised a hand, and I nodded, a flood of energy zinging through me. “I’ll protect her.” The words were out of my mouth before I thought better of them. But I knew I couldn’t leave the princess to fend for herself, not against two Undine warriors.
Dolph gave me a weak smile. Big Ugly kicked him, sending him flying across the room into the far wall with a heavy thud.
Urchin and his ally approached and I steadied myself. No room for fear, no room to hesitate. Not even for Urchin.
The boy’s cheeks were streaked with tears but his eyes were hard. Empty. “I didn’t want to kill him. He made me do it. This is all his fault, if he would just do what Requiem wanted and hand her over, I wouldn’t have had to kill him.”
“Shut up, boy,” snarled Big Ugly. He whirled a hand over his head, the long line of hooks whistling as he snapped it toward me with a sharp crack of his wrist. I leapt to the right, one hook burying into my arm and tearing through the flesh. I bit back the cry that rose to my lips, turned on the ball of my foot and snarled at the two Undines.