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Chapter Eight ◇ Fighting Fire

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KANE

-Iodeia's Belt-
-Mid Redwind-

Kane stood on the shores of one of the many small, wild islands in Iodeia's Belt, with his boots in the sand, staring out at the sea. The breeze ruffled his hair and blew his leather coattails, but he remained still. Calm and collected on the outside, but a raging storm on the inside.

His mind was a flurry of jumbled thoughts and choices he had to make. Selfishly, he'd made the crew stop on the island, despite their groans when he'd ordered them to anchor the Iron Jewel offshore. Perhaps it was the building nerves in his stomach for the Trials, or perhaps it was knowing the fact that one girl in Port Barlow could easily yank the throne from every captains' grasp with just a few words. Whatever the reason, Kane could not stand the sway of the ship as it rocked on the waves. His feet needed to be on steady land so that he could think clearly.

And there he stood. Motionless at the foot of the tide. A flesh and bone statue in a vividly moving world.

What in Goddess' name was he doing, thinking he could somehow make it to Port Barlow before Rove? He hadn't made plans for his next course of action once he'd arrived. Entangling himself in Rove's mission to silence the heir was not on his list of things to do. Being a hero wasn't something rooted in his nature, but there was a tug inside of him that pulled him towards Port Barlow, if only to see if it were true—if there really was a secret heir.

It would be just his rotten luck.

He remembered his father's luck and how grand it was, how he could scavenge the smallest trading ship traveling from the West to the East Kingdom and find a small case of rubies worth more than three Iron Jewels. It was when Kane was around that his luck seemed to run dry, and his father thought of Kane as a curse because of it. "A black spot of a Blackwater," he'd always say before thwacking him on the back of the head.

Even in death, Kane found he still disappointed his father in some way, even though he owed him nothing. He always felt his narrowed eyes watching him during every choice Kane made, even now as he debated his next course of action.

If he didn't make it to Crossbones before the starting pistol, he'd have to forfeit his chance at becoming king. But, if he could stealthily sabotage Rove on the way and prolong his arrival to the Trials, then this detour would be worth every day at sea.

The men of the Iron Jewel scoured the jungle behind him, searching for fresh fruit to bring onboard when they set sail again. There was nothing like sweet nectar after days of potatoes, salt beef, and hard biscuits. But Kane made no move to the trees.

A peculiar sound traveled on the wind. It was so faint, Kane hardly noticed it at first. Soft like a whisper, yet harsh like a hiss. Kane glanced over his shoulder, supposing a snake or spiked lizard had crept up on him from the jungle. But there was nothing to be seen except the pale cream sand.

Odd.

The sound continued to rise in crescendo, and Kane searched every which way but found nothing. Then he noticed the wide black spot in the sand to his far left. He'd thought it a rock the first time he'd glanced at it, but now he could see that wasn't the case. The sand seemed stained, as if someone had poured a barrel of tar over the patch.

It moved. Rippling out like water.

Kane stepped back, his eyes widening as the black spot rose up and down, as it were breathing. With each rise, the stain reached further, spreading like wine on cloth. He realized then, the sound he heard was not a whisper or a hiss, it was the sizzle and pop of oil against a fire.

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