Kate and Ros’ final adventure takes them to the ends of the world as they dig deep into the world’s past to decipher the problems of the present.
Their destination is the fabled city of Baheal, a city so old it was lost long before the Pactus were created, but first they have to find the location. That isn’t an easy matter when every ship on the high seas refuses to take them past the dark shadows that surround Umbria, the kingdom of their nemesis, Corvinus. The machinations of the King of Shadows work against them, thwarting their every move as they try to pass over the rough and uncharted western seas.
An old friend comes to their aid, and on the waves they discover that Kate has come away from the adventure in the capital city of Cunabourne with a few changes. The goddess’ words ring in her mind as they near the end of their odyssey, and she begins to wonder if she’ll return as herself, or something else. With Ros at her side and the future ahead uncertain, they face their greatest trials with one thing certain.
If one falls, they both fall.
The feel of the soft port breeze. The scent of the wide, clean ocean. The odor of the bird poop on the rotten nets beside me.
I took in all these sights and smells with impatient, and slightly nauseous, curiosity. Boredom was my companion as I sat atop a hard wooden crate. The busy port of Cunabourne lay about me. Workers with arms thicker than my hips strode to and fro, many carrying one or two barrels or boxes on their broad shoulders. The ships were tied to the weathered pier posts, or lay anchor in the deeper dark blue waters of the bay.
A handsome man, my future husband, weaved his way through the motions of life around him. I could tell by his slow gait as he approached me that things hadn't gone very well. "No luck?"
He dropped onto the net-covered crate beside me and shook his head. "Nobody will take us westward, especially past Umbria.
Apparently after our escape from the castle Corvinus put up blockades around the waters of his domain, and any ship that passes may be searched at any time, including being forced into a dry dock inside one of his pistrix, if their ship will fit."
I blinked at him. "His what?"
"The pistrix are the water versions of his huge tela, that is, his flying ships, but even larger than those," Ros explained as he leaned his back against a pile of crates behind us. "They're capable of opening their bows and pulling in any ship attached to their merciless hooks." A dark cloud settled on his brow as he shook his head. "I've never seen a ship escape them."
One of his words brought to mind a question that had lingered in the back of my mind since I first came to this world. "They aren't powered like the airships, are they?"
He shook his head. "No, they have sails, and have been in use for quite some time. My father mentioned seeing one of the first ones built when he was young."
I furrowed my brow. "So we still don't know how those ships fly, unless they really are powered by turtles."
He managed a grin. "If they are then I have to admire the pluck of the pilotles." His good humor faded as he looked out over the vast horizon that stretched before us. "Would that we could find one of those. . ."
I swept my eyes over the many rough men around us who plied their trades. "There isn't anyone you know who could take us?"
Ros pursed his lips. "I know of one man who might. You know him, as well."
I blinked at him a moment before it dawned on me. "Fantoma?"
Ros nodded. "Yes. The good captain fears no one and, as proven in the bay of Umbria, he finds it quite thrilling to disobey rules." He furrowed his brow. "How we ware to find him, however, is the mystery."
"What about Sissy?" I suggested as I looked over my shoulder in the direction of the Lacuna Markets. "She might know where he is."
My companion shook his head. "If she did he would be buried beneath some rather harsh letters."
I shrugged. "What other choice do we have?"
Ros sighed, but climbed to his feet and turned to offer me a hand and a faint smile. "Let's go see Sissy before Collins worries that we have fallen into the bay."
We hurried off into the maze that was the Lacuna Markets. The market was in full swing, with vendors shouting their wares and a full crowd ogling at all the myriad of trade goods that swarmed in from the port. With Ros' guidance we quickly found the Stern Stalls. Sissy was busy with another customer, but shot us a look of curiosity mixed with annoyance.
Ros returned it with a mischievous smile before he guided us over to a far corner out of the way of the trade. As we took our seats on a well-positioned bale the five year old girl from before bounced out of the tent. She noticed us and her red eyes widened.
I gave her an encouraging smile and beckoned to her. She cast an uneasy look between her mother and us before she reluctantly eased over to us, though she stopped a few feet short of our position.
"Hello there," I greeted as the young girl bowed her head and clasped her hands behind her back. "I'm Kate, and this is Ros. What's your name?"
She caught her mother's eye, who frowned, but gave a slight nod. "I'm Stela."
I scooted to the end of the bale closer to her. "That's a very pretty name."
Her face brightened a little and she raised her head. "You're nice. Much nicer than most of the people who come to the market."
I tilted my head to one side. "How do you know that?"
Stela winced and bit her lower lip. Her red eyes glowed a little brighter than I remembered. "No reason. . ."
Ros stiffened a little by my side, though by this time Sissy had finished her business with her customer and strode over to us. She stopped beside her daughter and crossed her arms over her chest. "You have your bales, so what are you doing here?"
"We were wondering if you might know where the captain was hiding out," Ros revealed.
Sissy scoffed and rolled her eyes. "If I knew then I'd have thrown him off the deck of his own ship long ago." Her keen eyes flickered between us. "But you're better off finding yourselves another captain. That scoundrel is as reliable as the ocean itself."
Ros shook his head. "We can't find someone else for this voyage."
Sissy shrugged. "Well, I don't know where he is, and I don't know of anyone who can help you."
"I know where Daddy is."
The conversation came to a standstill as we all turned our eyes to the little girl who stood beside her mother. Stela shrank beneath the attention.
Sissy frowned as she knelt down and grasped her daughter's shoulders. "What do you mean, honey?"
Stela bowed her head a little. "Daddy sometimes tells me where is he. . ."
Sissy searched her daughter's worried face. "Through your eyes?" Stela nodded. "So you know when he's nearby?"
Stela shook her head. "No. When I think about him real hard I can see where he is. Sometimes he knows I'm there and shows me around." Her face brightened a little and a faint smile touched her lips. "He goes to so many nice places, Mama! There are islands and birds and strange people!"
Sissy pursed her lips before she looked up at us. "Inside the tent."