1 Chapter 1

1

The captain had ordered two raiding ships carrying sixty men be sent to scout an island north of the capital. The island had been dominated by the Vivarrians for years. Driada’s crew had ships that were long and narrow and were pushed forward by thirty oarsmen. These ships were ideal for raiding, as they could move swiftly, and were lightweight. The men took turns relieving each other from the labor.

Driada was aboard one ship with her Highlander friend Erjon by her side. The captain was not on board their ship, but she could see him on the other one ahead of them. He was tall, with an angular face and dark eyes. His head was shaved, and his beard was well groomed. He was well known in their kingdom as being a stern captain, but one who successfully raided many ships. Though often I wonder if that renown should be given to him or to the crew, Driada thought.Yes, he gives the orders. But we are the ones who do the fighting

Oarsmen unfurled their single sail and the wind pushed them forward toward the sea. Archers were stringing their weapons, and men were readying their spears. A few whispered prayers to the gods. We haven’t even spotted an enemy vessel yet, and already they’re speaking to their gods. Driada fought the urge to roll her eyes. As foolish as they might seem, she knew how important these rituals were to them. Raiding is about more than being physically prepared—it’s about being mentally prepared, too

“I suppose your sword is already sharp enough, Erjon?” Driada asked.

He patted the scabbard hanging from his hip. “I’m as ready as ever.”

“I hope we come upon a merchant vessel on the way,” Driada said. She secured a brimmed hat onto her head. “It would be nice to bring back some extra wine to camp. Especially with the Highlanders guzzling it all.”

“Perhaps we should begin drinking something weaker, so they don’t try to steal it from us,” Erjon suggested with a crooked smile.

“Wouldn’t that be nice.”

Erjon picked up an oar. “I had better get to work.”

She looked at the rowing men. She was relieved from manning the oars that day. “It’s too bad I’m not strong enough to help with that,” she said sarcastically.

“I think you’d need to gain a bit more muscle first.”

She swatted at him and missed. Driada huffed and moved to the bow of the ship. She looked to the sky. It was cloudy, and the wind blew strong. The sound of the grunting oarsmen filled the air. They sailed past islands that they had all become familiar with throughout their years at sea. She knew who ruled over each island, and who they answered to.And hopefully, they will all pay tribute to the king when the time comes.

She noticed movement in the corner of her eye and turned to look at what it was. One of the men was pointing at something in the distance. She followed his line of sight and saw it. Sails

Another crewmate beat her to the triumphant call. “Sails!”

The men jeered. Driada felt her spirits lift as well. She narrowed her eyes, eager to see who their opponent would be today. The ship moving toward them was a merchant ship, and by the looks of it, it was a Vivarrian vessel. It had two sails, and oars on both sides. It was long, and deep, which gave them the advantage of speed. With two ships attacking it, the fight would be won swiftly.

“I wonder if they spotted us yet.”

Alarmed screams emanated over from the merchant ship. “By the sounds of it, they have.”

He slammed a hand on her shoulder and squeezed it. “Ready?”

She grinned. “Always.”

I may not be as strong as the other crewmembers, but I’m fast. And no one ever expects a girl to come at them with a weapon

Both of their ships approached the merchant vessel. The Iosians lifted spears and launched them, piercing the ship’s side. Archers let their arrows fly. Driada watched them burrow into the chests of merchant men too foolhardy to hide from the onslaught.

Once their sister ship was close enough, they threw out a plank and began to board. They rushed onto the deck, cutting past those who stood in their way. As soon as they were close enough, her crew followed suit. Driada was pressed against a crowd of bodies practically vibrating in anticipation. With a signaled cry, they rushed forward and joined the rest of their crew.

Once on board, one of the guards on the merchant ship swept at her with a curved dagger. It nicked her arm and she cried out, swinging her sword toward her enemy’s chest. It left a wide gash, and he fell to the deck, his head smashing against the planks. Before she turned to face her next opponent, she looked into the man’s eyes. He was young, around her age, with glistening black curls. He gaped at her, as if he couldn’t possibly imagine why they were here—why an armed woman was here, and why she had killed him. Driada hardened her heart and pushed all feelings of remorse away.

Next chapter