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Part One: Sea And Fire - Chapter One: Csilla

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"Only the highest of valor can brave the seas.

Only the sharpest of wit can turn the tides.

Only the strongest of honor can sail straight on crooked seas.

Only the purest of heart can save a legacy."

—Captain of the Storm, First King of Bones


***

Port BarlowLate Sunspur


I will not die today.

Csilla's unspoken words crowded her mind. She never dwelled on death—there was no reason to in the life she lived. Death came, it took, and it did not give back. She hadn't given much thought to how she would die, but she assumed it would be bloody and brilliant. Not like this.

As she walked through the crowd with her wrists tied tightly behind her, her fingers ached for the leather hilt of her sword. If she could, she'd fight until every Incendian soldier lay dead or until her last breath wheezed through her bloodied lips.

Around her, the weathered courtyard overflowed with unruly harbor-folk who'd normally be selling wares or watching the soldiers' demonstrations. On this day, however, they'd be witnessing her execution.

The soldiers marched before her, parting the path like a sword through the sea. To onlookers, she was a stain on their garments they couldn't scrub out, a plague they couldn't be rid of. Every time their eyes ran over the scars along her skin, the piercings that lined her ears, and her one blind eye, their anger flickered with fear and their shouted insults grew louder.

Csilla ignored them. The distant crash of waves and the briny scent of the sea was enough to calm the frenzied beating of her heart—for now. It was impossible to truly be calm when a storm was on the horizon.

Time was running out. The noose loomed across the courtyard.

If the Incendian Navy thought to humiliate her in her last moments, they would fail. She held her chin high and stepped with grace. No one would see her falter. No one would see her break. She'd show them only a girl who was proud of her pirate heritage, who preferred to die and be seen than to waste away, hidden in a cell.

"Filthy pirate!" a woman's voice yelled, her words slicing above the crowd's jeers like a sharpened blade.

Csilla glanced to her right, her good eye coming to rest on a woman whose worn face snarled at her. The woman wove through the crowd, following as the soldiers pushed Csilla forward. Then the woman stopped, slipped off her shoe, and hurled it, the shoe smacking hard against Csilla's cheek. She ignored the searing pain as well as the taunts and laughter that rose from the crowd.

Rage burned through Csilla like wildfire. They could rot in Limbo for all she cared. She stopped walking, pulled against the rope binding her to the soldier, and cut her sight to the woman. When their eyes met, the woman shriveled back, averting her gaze to the ground. It wasn't the first time Csilla had received this reaction, which was why she usually wore a scarf to cover her white eye, but today she embraced her difference. Today, she was glad the soldiers wouldn't let her wear it.

"Sobel liitena shobenasku," Csilla said, repeating the same words that had cursed her half blind. "Sobel miitesa jaharren eto."

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