So i married a sorcerer, p.9
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       So I Married a Sorcerer, p.9
 

         Part #2 of The Embraced series by Kerrelyn Sparks  

  “A noblewoman?” Sister Fallyn asked. “What happened to her?”

  “She was in big trouble,” Jeffrey explained. “It was a few years ago when King Frederic was in power. Lady Ellen’s husband failed to do something that King Frederic had ordered him to do, so he was executed. The king took his land and ordered Lady Ellen to be executed, too. She fled to Danport and begged Rupert and the captain to help her. We took her to the Isle of Moon where she’d be safe. She didn’t have a way to pay for her passage, so she left the clothes behind. Said she wouldn’t need them at the convent.”

  Sister Fallyn exchanged a surprised look with Brigitta. “Sister Ellen!”

  “Of course.” Brigitta grinned. Sister Ellen had helped Luciana prepare for her role as a noblewoman. “She taught us how to do the court dances.”

  “Then she’s all right?” Jeffrey asked.

  “Aye. She’s very happy.” To be alive. No wonder Brigitta had felt a great sense of relief when she’d touched Sister Ellen’s discarded clothing.

  These pirates weren’t so bad after all, Brigitta thought as she draped her cloak on the second step, then took a seat. They were not only intelligent, but capable of acting with honor and compassion. They’d rescued Sister Ellen, so perhaps they would help her, too. She just needed to explain everything to Rupert.

  The thought of spending time alone with him made her heart beat faster. If she touched him again, would she see more of his secret past? Would she be able to figure out what was bothering her?

  Horns suddenly blared again, and Brigitta stiffened.

  “Good goddesses.” Sister Fallyn made the sign of the moons. “What is happening now?”

  Brigitta eased to her feet. “What do the horns mean?”

  Jeffrey hesitated before mumbling, “Battle stations.”

  Sister Fallyn gasped. “Goddesses protect us!”

  “Who is threatening us now?” Brigitta asked.

  “Pirates,” he began but when they gasped, he quickly added, “Don’t worry. There are only three of them. Rupert will finish them off before you know it.”

  “Why are we fighting other pirates?” Brigitta winced when she realized she’d said we. Was she siding with Rupert now?

  “They’re the bad pirates,” Jeffrey explained.

  Sister Fallyn scoffed. “All pirates are bad.”

  “No.” Jeffrey looked insulted. “We’re the good guys. Whenever we buy supplies from a village like Danport, Rupert always pays in gold. The villagers love it, so they never report him to the Eberoni army. It’s what Rupert calls a mutually beneficial business arrangement.”

  Sister Fallyn planted her hands on her hips. “Ye mean he bribes them to stay quiet.”

  Jeffrey scowled. “They consider him a hero ’cause he protects them. You see, the bad pirates figured out that whenever Rupert leaves a village, there’s gold there, so they started attacking the villages after we leave. You wouldn’t believe how angry Rupert and Captain Landers were when they found out. Rupert calls them bloody vultures.”

  “So these bad pirate ships are about to attack Danport?” Brigitta asked.

  Jeffrey nodded. “We bought supplies there two days ago. We were staying close by when Rupert got the message about you, my lady. So we hurried north to get you, then rushed back to make sure Danport was all right.”

  Outside, Captain Landers shouted, and a thunderous noise vibrated throughout the ship as cannons were rolled into position.

  “Goddesses help us,” Sister Fallyn whispered.

  “I doubt we’ll even use the cannons,” Jeffrey told her. “Rupert can handle it himself.”

  What on Aerthlan would he do? Brigitta peered through the open doorway. She could see Rupert in the crow’s nest, but couldn’t tell what was happening with the three pirate ships.

  The pelican took off, flying high into the sky. A bird’s-eye view, Brigitta thought with envy, as the door started to swing shut. How could she remain here, not knowing what was happening?

  She caught the door before it could close.

  “We’re supposed to stay below,” Jeffrey muttered.

  “I know.” She didn’t want to endanger anyone by being a distraction, but her strong sense of curiosity was compelling her. “Don’t ye want to know what’s happening?”

  When he nodded, she peeked outside. Close to the wall of the quarterdeck and the portside railing, there were three large barrels for collecting rainwater.

  “We can stay hidden.” She eased outside, staying low and close to the wall of the quarterdeck.

  “Brigitta, no!” Sister Fallyn yelled.

  Jeffrey followed her and shut the door. Together they scurried along the wall, then hunched down in the narrow space behind the barrels.

  She peered over the railing and whispered, “I can see the pirate ships. They have their cannons ready.”

  “Rupert will have to do something before we get into range,” Jeffrey whispered back.

  She glanced up at the crow’s nest. Rupert was focused on the pirate ships. Slowly he lifted his arms. His fingers were splayed, his palms slightly cupped, his movements graceful and measured, as if he were conducting an orchestra. A whirlwind spun over his head, growing in intensity as he fed it more and more air.

  Then suddenly, he struck his hands forward, and the whirlwind unfurled, shooting straight toward the pirate ships.

  Brigitta peered over the railing. Two of the ships floundered and skidded toward the rocky shore. Screams sounded in the distance, then a series of loud cracks as the ships crashed against rocks and ground into the sand.

  “He ran two of the ships onto the beach,” she whispered to Jeffrey.

  He nodded. “He usually does that if we’re close to a shore. That way, most of the men can survive.”

  She spotted men scrambling to get ashore. “What about the third ship? The big one?”

  Jeffrey chuckled. “Rupert must want that one. Are they waving a white flag yet?”

  She peeked over the railing. “Aye. That means they surrendered?”

  “Yes.” Jeffrey grinned. “Now we’ll have ten ships!”

  Brigitta glanced up at Rupert. “That’s how he increases his fleet?”

  Jeffrey nodded. “Most of our ships were taken from the Tourinian navy or other pirate fleets.”

  “But how can he trust them?”

  “He doesn’t. He’ll make one of his own men the new captain and give the ship a new crew. The old crew will be divided up and spread among the other ships. If they work hard and follow the rules, they’ll be rewarded after four weeks with a gold coin. If they cause any trouble, they’ll be put ashore.”

  “I see.”

  Jeffrey glanced up at Rupert, his eyes gleaming. “He has a fleet as powerful as any navy. And he’s destroyed more bad pirates than anyone. No one can beat him.”

  Brigitta suspected the boy had a huge case of hero worship where Rupert was concerned. But how could he not, she thought, as her gaze settled on the infamous pirate. He’d whisked the Eberoni navy safely out of the way so that he could take on the responsibility of protecting Danport and defeating the bad pirates. And he’d managed to do it all with the least amount of casualties. He was, simply put, an amazing man.

  As he lifted his arms to gather more air and push his fleet closer to the lone surviving pirate ship, she noted for the first time how his plaits of black hair stirred with the breeze. Underneath the braids, she could see the red scarf tied around his head.

  She blinked. Shouldn’t the scarf be on top of his hair instead of underneath? With a small gasp, she finally realized what had been nagging her. The black braids were off. And when she’d seen his whiskers up close, she’d noticed they were a light brown, even gleaming like gold in the sunlight. His chest hair had been brown.

  She eyed the black plaits. “They’re fake.”

  “Who?” Jeffrey asked.

  “Never mind.” Brigitta smiled. Watch out, Rupert. She’d figure out all of his secrets, one by one.
>
  Chapter Seven

  After watching Rupert handle the three pirate ships, Brody flew in a southerly direction along the shore, searching for Nevis and his soldiers. In addition to being King Leofric’s best friend, Nevis was a captain in the Eberoni army. Leo had sent him with a few troops to guard the coastline and capture the Tourinian pirates who were raiding the villages there.

  Nevis’s father, General Harden, was now Lord Protector of the Realm, which had been Leo’s job before he became king. General Harden and the bulk of the Eberoni army were currently guarding the northern and eastern borders of Eberon.

  Brody glanced westward, where the sun was lowering toward the horizon. In another hour or so, it would fall beneath the Great Western Ocean, and the twin moons would rise in the east. For the past month, the paths of the two moons had been drawing closer and closer together. Tonight they would eclipse.

  Any child born tonight would be Embraced. How many parents would be horrified when that happened? Brody had been fortunate that his family had loved him as he was. Until he’d lost them.

  He shoved those thoughts aside, for he’d learned the hard way that he couldn’t afford to lose his concentration while flying. After a few minutes, he spotted the small army camp. He swooped down to land behind some bushes, then shifted into his usual canine form. As he trotted into camp, the guards, who were accustomed to seeing him, merely called out a greeting as he passed by.

  He scratched at the closed flap of Nevis’s tent and gave a loud bark.

  “Brody, is that you?” Nevis lifted the flap with one hand, his other hand holding a half-eaten pork chop.

  Food. Brody dashed inside. The heavenly scent of freshly cooked meat led him straight to the desk, where a lit candlestick illuminated a tray filled with five different dishes. Nevis was having a huge dinner.

  “What are you doing here? I thought you were supposed to be on a ship with—sheesh.” Nevis stopped talking when Brody shifted into human form and helped himself to a pork chop. “Put on some breeches, will you?” He tossed him a pair.

  Brody caught them with one hand while he continued to eat the pork chop. After hours of swimming and flying, he was starving.

  “If you’re here, you must have uncovered something important. What is it?” Nevis asked, but Brody kept eating. “Hey, you’re eating all my food!”

  “And it’s delicious,” Brody mumbled with his mouth full.

  Nevis snorted. “Fine. I’ll bring some more.”

  In between bites, Brody pulled on Nevis’s breeches. They sagged around the waist, so he sat in Nevis’s chair to keep them from falling down. He was just finishing the last morsel of food when Nevis strode inside the tent with another tray and pitcher of wine.

  “Here you go.” Nevis set the new tray next to the old one that was now stacked with empty dishes. “Damn, Brody. Are you sure you’re actually human and not a pig?”

  With a pig-like snort, Brody pulled at the waist of Nevis’s breeches to show how loose they were. “I’m not the one carrying extra pounds.”

  “This is muscle.” Nevis tapped his extra-wide stomach.

  “Right.” Brody grabbed a loaf of bread off the new tray, tore it in half, and handed a piece to Nevis. “I have news.” While he slathered butter on his bread, he explained how one of Queen Luciana’s sisters had been kidnapped.

  “Damn.” Nevis dropped his piece of bread on the tray. “I had no idea Brigitta was a Tourinian princess.”

  “Neither did I.” Brody ate his half of the bread.

  “And that bastard Rupert took her,” Nevis grumbled. “I’ve been trying to capture him for months.”

  “He’ll be hard to catch. The local people will protect him. They consider him a hero.”

  “What? Why?”

  Brody downed his cup of wine, then described what had happened with the three pirate ships.

  Nevis stiffened. “So two of the ships were run aground? Where?”

  “About five miles north of here. The men were scrambling to get ashore.”

  “Now you tell me?” Nevis shoved the flap of his tent open and yelled at his men to ready their horses. “We ride now!” He dashed about the tent, grabbing his weapons. “Dammit. You should have told me that right away!”

  Brody shrugged as he helped himself to Nevis’s discarded piece of bread. “I think you should send a message to Leo that Brigitta and Sister Fallyn are safe. I’ll go back to the ship to keep an eye on them.”

  “Write the message yourself,” Nevis growled as he buckled on his sword belt. “If all goes well, I can deliver it to Ebton along with some pirates.” He ran outside, and soon Brody could hear the sound of his troop charging away on horseback.

  Brody refilled his cup with wine, then removed the first tray from the desk so he would have room to write. After a brief description of all that had happened, he added a few lines about Rupert.

  I believe he will keep the ladies safe. In fact, he seems intent on keeping all the Eberoni people safe. The only one he steals from is the Tourinian king, whom he hates. I don’t know why yet.

  I will continue to watch over the women and keep you informed.

  Brody signed the letter, then smiled at the food on the second tray. It would be a shame for any of it to go to waste.

  * * *

  Still hidden behind the barrels, Brigitta watched the dinghy from the last surviving ship slowly approach. There were four men on board—two rowers and two sitting stiffly with feathered hats on their heads. They must be the captain and an officer, coming to surrender their ship.

  She glanced up at Rupert, who was standing perfectly still in the crow’s nest. Apparently, he wasn’t going to use his power to move closer to the dinghy and make it easier for the surrendering pirates.

  Meanwhile, Captain Landers was busy giving orders. Sails were lowered, the anchor dropped. Was Rupert intending to stop here for the night?

  As the dinghy drew near, Captain Landers had the crew line up, all well dressed in clean clothes with sword belts strapped on. A display of power and wealth, Brigitta assumed. She also figured Rupert would be coming down from the crow’s nest to meet the newcomers, so she had better move belowdecks before he or the captain spotted her.

  “Let’s go,” she whispered to Jeffrey, and they scurried back along the wall, then slipped through the door.

  Sister Fallyn was sitting on the bottom step and jumped up when they descended a few stairs. “Finally! I was so worried. These pirates are having a bad influence on you, lass. Ye’re doing things that are far too dangerous.”

  “No one saw us.” Brigitta assured her, then described everything that had happened.

  “So the even-more-evil pirates are coming onboard?” Sister Fallyn motioned toward Jeffrey, who lingered at the top of the stairs. “Quickly, child, close that door!”

  Jeffrey peered outside. “They’ve arrived.”

  “Wait.” Brigitta stopped him from shutting the door all the way. “I want to hear them.”

  Sister Fallyn scoffed. “We mustn’t let them see us. They would ravish us for sure!”

  “I’ll be careful.” Brigitta eased close to the crack in the door and heard Captain Landers introducing himself and Admiral Rupert in the Tourinian language.

  “I am Captain Wermer,” a gruff voice replied, then mumbled something Brigitta couldn’t catch. She opened the door a bit wider.

  “Don’t ye dare go out there,” Sister Fallyn whispered. “’Tis too dangerous.”

  “I know.” Brigitta hunched down on the first step next to Jeffrey.

  “And this is my first officer,” Captain Wermer said. “Commander Stahl.”

  Sister Fallyn gasped.

  “What’s wrong?” Brigitta asked, but the nun hushed her and leaned over Jeffrey to listen.

  “An honor to meet you, Admiral, Captain,” the commander said.

  Sister Fallyn gasped again, a hand pressed to her chest. “Nay. It cannot be.”

  “What?” Brigitta whispered.
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  Without warning, Sister Fallyn barreled past her and Jeffrey and dashed out the door.

  “Wait!” Brigitta ran after her.

  The nun darted around the line of seamen, then stopped with a jerk. Brigitta caught up with her and winced at the disapproving glares from Rupert and Captain Landers. The new captain and commander were looking them over with annoying smirks.

  “Ladies.” Captain Landers strode toward them and lowered his voice. “Please return to your cabins now.”

  “Sorry,” Brigitta murmured as she tugged on Sister Fallyn’s arm, but the nun remained frozen as she stared at Commander Stahl.

  “Kennet,” she whispered.

  A trace of shock crossed the commander’s face before he turned away with an air of indifference.

  Brigitta’s breath caught. This man was Kennet?

  Sister Fallyn’s eyes misted with tears as she stepped closer to him and spoke in the Tourinian language. “It is you, isn’t it?”

  Captain Landers’s eyes narrowed on the commander. “You know this woman?”

  The commander scoffed. “How would I know a nun?”

  Captain Wermer cast him a wary look. “Your given name is Kennet.”

  “You’re alive.” A tear slid down Sister Fallyn’s cheek. “Why didn’t you let me know? All these years, I thought you were dead!”

  “You know this man?” Rupert asked her.

  “Yes, I—” Sister Fallyn began, but the commander interrupted her.

  “She’s confusing me with someone else! She doesn’t know—”

  “I would know my own husband!” Sister Fallyn cried.

  Captain Landers stiffened, then his eyes hardened as he glared at the commander.

  Kennet muttered a curse. “That was a long time ago, you stupid wench.”

  Sister Fallyn flinched.

  “Watch your tongue,” Captain Landers growled.

  “What happened to you?” Sister Fallyn eyed him warily, her expression both injured and confused. “I thought my father’s men had killed you.”

  Kennet snorted. “They paid me to leave you. Why the hell did you become a nun? You were supposed to go back home.”

  Sister Fallyn stumbled back a step, and Brigitta caught her. “Y-you left me? For money?”

 
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