Chapter 1: Lady Luck

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A/N: This was my contribution to the Sun Kissed fantasy anthology. Having fun with this so want to continue it here. Look forward to your thoughts! Beautiful cover by the talented Lucy Rhodes.

Captain Mad Mo and her ragtag band of scoundrels were the most fearsome crew of thieves, murderers and seducers to ever fly the open skies. In the five years The Siren and its company had terrorized the airspace above the Barbary Coast, they had never once been grounded by an enemy ship, though the same couldn't be said for their enemies. And between the lot of them, they had enough magical firepower to destroy an entire city.

Mad Mo did abide by a moral code of sorts, and she held her crew to it: they didn't kill unless they had to, they didn't steal from those who could ill afford it, and if one of her men got a girl with child, they'd do the right thing by her and make an offer. Oh, and if the crew ever dared lie or steal from Mad, she took a finger—sometimes two. A few of her more impressionable men believed she kept the fingers as mementos in the lockbox beside her bed in her private quarters. A little fear was a good reinforcement to the bonds of loyalty, Mad found, and she'd never bothered to dispel the rumor.

Only her First Mage and her Engineer knew the truth: that all of this raiding and marauding was a cover. Everything she'd done—who she'd become—was all for Pippa, and the blackguard who stole her from their family. She'd fly the skies for all eternity, burn cities to the ground—whatever it took to find her beloved baby sister.

Five years since Lady Morgan Strand became Mad Mo, pirate queen and rogue mage—five years of searching for any hint of her sister—and finally, finally she'd found a clue.

It was a French slaver ship, sleek and built for speed, but large enough to hold a dozen or more captives, in addition to the ship's crew. Lightning, Her First Mage, sensed it a mile off the coast of France, hiding behind the clouds. Mad recognized it at once. L'Etoile. The same airship that had carried away Pippa.

And yet, somehow, what should have been the biggest stroke of luck in five long years became an unmitigated disaster. Before she could organize a raid, The Siren was commandeered—and, in what would no doubt become a permanent source of humiliation for Mad, without using the slightest hint of magic.

She was still groggy when she woke up in unfamiliar surroundings, a hot, stuffy boiler room that smelled faintly of sawdust and burnt aether. The propulsion machinery and double-ended boilers were newer than The Siren's, and the carburetor was designed for a nonmage crew. Old, extraneous parts were strewn about the room, in varying states of rust and disrepair. She went to rub the grit from her eyes, only to find her hands bound and her arms tied around the back of the chair behind her. She tested the ropes. Too tight to wriggle her way out of.

Whoever her captors were, they were smart. If they'd stashed her anywhere else, she'd have burned the ropes away. But the boiler room was highly flammable; one burst of her magic and she'd incinerate the entire airship, herself included. Some fire mages had the precision to burn a single thread of rope, but Mad wasn't a fire mage. Her magic was ten times as hot, and twenty times deadlier.

She wasn't alone; her Enforcer was tied up to one of the exhaust blowers. His eyes were closed, his head drooping against his chest, which, Mad was relieved to see, rose and fell in even breaths. Idly, Mad wondered how they'd managed to bring him on board. He was a behemoth, so large The Siren's Engineer had to factor in his weight in making their flight calculations.

"Angus!" she hissed.

The big man stirred, raising his head slowly. His green eyes lit when he saw her. "You're alive. I thought they might've killed you."

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