Beyond the great blue expanse, the coast of Avalon sat like a circlet atop the waves. It was so far away already Cyprus couldn’t make out any buildings, only the greenish ups and downs of hills. “There she goes,” Kaz said cheerfully, noting the change in Cyprus’s expression.
A goat screamed above. The smell of blood and urine rolled down the stairs. Cyprus and Shay clung to the net and each other, shaking.
After the first pirate attack there were the humiliating murmurs, the way Neils would gently separate them after that. He’s meant for Cypress, people tried to explain to Lonan. Then Xan got the seashell tattoo, pearl-white on his chest.
Xan turned and watched him until he misstepped, overturning the driftwood and tripping into the sand. “If that’s what you want,” he said.
The flutist stood at the railing of the ship, playing a cheery jig over it all. The song died when Lonan skidded to the water’s edge. He looked Lonan up and down.
The pirates still in the street—excluding the man who’d taken the swords, with the blacksmith and the Rune-reader dead at his feet—bristled towards the newcomers. One of them seized Lonan by the upper arms and hauled him against the wall with everyone else.
Everyone had abandoned the street by the time Lonan returned to it. Doors still hung open. All the people were turned out of their houses, and continents of pottery shards were scattered outside Serafina Fiamma. There was no fire this time, no scorched feathers.
She was slim like a leaf and painted in a dark stain, highlighted by white-grained wood underneath. The lateen sails were cleanly secured, and her prow dipped gently over each pull of the tide.
A young man crouched over the embers, stirring them with a stick. His black curls were pulled back in wet strands and a raven skull leered on the shoulder of his tatty greatcoat, spewing its own feathers.
Before Cyprus was born, there had been a proper schoolteacher in Serafina. A woman straight from the capital, or somewhere close enough to count.