It was getting irritating, listening to well-meaning statements about what was and was not possible. Lowri read it in Braelyn’s face while her little ring of advisor’s alternately offered their advice and slapped it into the dim, echoing hall. She listened to all of it in the same diplomatic silence, hands folded, back elegantly straight. But one corner of her mouth was tilting up, moment by moment, sharpening a crooked smile that Lowri loved and hated.
Kimbra barely heard the order, and didn’t care. Her shoulder was pressed hard to the broken crate beside her. Her chin was bent tight to her chest, her hands were braced against the deck around one knee, and she rested back against one heel. And she didn’t feel small enough. Carefully, she picked up one hand, clenched her fingers, trying to stop her shaking. Her heart was beating fast enough, she swore just the speed of her blood was knocking her off balance.
There were too many footsteps on deck. Too many to sound right, and too many to sort through.
“Uncuff me,” Aylin said again.
Kimbra ignored her. She tried to remember how many men and women she had seen climbing over the side. She tried to measure the length of the other ship in memory, decide how many it could fit, how many it needed to stay under sail, how many it could send across the water to take the deck. She couldn’t find a number. Her blood rattled and her head spun. Someone else shouted. Dozens of people ran. The ship clacked and cracked and thundered.
Aylin shoved her hard, just one cold hand at the back of her neck, and the other on her shoulder, driving her straight down into the decking. Kimbra’s elbows buckled. An instant later, she shoved back, just to keep her head from going past the far end of the crate. All it did was push tight against Aylin’s arm, and bring Aylin’s mouth closer to her ear.