Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница

When the healer finished, Neela bade Kora good night. She was aching and exhausted.

“I’m going to my room,” she said. “I’ll see you all in the morning.”

“No,” Kora said.

“No? Why not? Do you have another death-defying rescue planned for the evening?”

“You will sleep in a room in the ngome ya jeshi. It’s only fitting.”

Neela didn’t understand. “The ngome ya jeshi? But isn’t that—”

“Yes.”

“But, Kora, I’m not…”

Kora smiled. She touched her forehead to Neela’s. “You are now. Welcome home, Askara.”


NEELA WAS HUNGRY. She was starving Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница. But not for a bing-bang.

She’d left Kandina four days ago, after a huge send-off. Kora had swum with her to the outskirts of Nzuri Bonde.

“Dark days are ahead, I fear,” she had said on the way.

Neela had nodded. “We liberated your people, but the death riders may strike again. And Abbadon will be freed if we can’t find a way to stop it.”

“We will build up fortifications against any further raids,” Kora had said, “and you and the others must call on us if you need help. We are always here for Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница you.”

They said their good-byes, and then, as Neela swam away, she had heard Kora call out, “Kuweka mwanga, dada yangu.” Keep the light, my sister.

“Come on, Ooda,” Neela said now. “Let’s see if we can find some jellies. A bit of algae. Anything.”

It was evening, and the sea’s creatures were all rising to the warmer waters of the surface to feed. Neela joined them, scooping up handfuls of comb jellies and gulping them down.

She was hungry much of the time now. She had taxed her body greatly and it had Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница changed over the last few weeks. The long swim to the River Olt, her journey through Vadus to Matali, and then the swim to Kandina had made her tail strong, her arms sinewy, her ample curves firm. She found herself craving leafy blues, slimy vegetables, and crunchy proteins—preferably with their heads still on—instead of sweets.

Above her, floating on the surface, were clumps of tasty-looking red algae. Cautiously, she poked her head up, peering around for any danger. There was a large ship close by, and many more off in the distance, but they were Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница no cause for alarm. Their presence was nothing unusual, and a confuto would keep any gogg who saw her from telling another.

She ate her fill, then dove. Half an hour later, she and Ooda were at the outskirts of Matali City. She smiled as she spotted the shining domes and turrets of the palace. She’d never noticed how gracefully the sea grass swayed along the Royal Current. Or how the palace’s center dome turned from gold to silver in the late-day rays of sun. Her home looked more beautiful to her than it ever had before Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница.

Maybe because I came so close to never seeing in again, she thought, remembering Hagarla’s cave. She was so happy to see her city, and so relieved to be in a safe place after days in the open water, but as she gazed at the palace, her smile faded. She sensed something. The way Ava sensed things.

Ooda gave her a What? look.

“I don’t know. Something’s different. Something’s wrong.”

Neela’s gaze drifted over the myriad of buildings, the turrets and spires, archways and porticos. She remembered the attack on Miromara. She’d seen the Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница terrible destruction caused by the death riders. In only minutes, Blackclaw dragons had brought down huge sections of the city walls and flattened buildings. Nothing like that had happened here. Everything was intact. The flags were fluttering. And yet, she was uneasy.

Probably because my parents are going to kick my tail, she thought. Imagining the reception she was going to get when she swam into the Emperor’s Chamber was almost enough to make her head straight back to Kandina.

Her father and mother would be angry. They would want explanations. And she would provide them, but Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница she would not stand for being told she was crazy. Not anymore. She’d taken the precaution of having Kora send her father a conch, telling him everything that had happened and asking him for troops to patrol her waters and prevent more raids.

Neela had done what she’d set out to do. She found the moonstone. And she’d found a new way of doing things—her way.



“It must be me, Ooda,” she finally said, shrugging off her uneasiness. “I’m the thing that’s different. Come on, let’s go.”

As she swam under a soaring archway Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница that led to the main current and the palace, Neela rehearsed what she would say to her parents. As soon as she’d spoken with them, and had placed the moonstone safely in the royal vaults, she would send word to Serafina and the others that Navi’s talisman had been found.

It was weirdly quiet as she continued on, past shops and restaurants, embassies and government offices. Not many people were out. The current had picked up, and she could hear the flags snapping in it. There were so many of them flying tonight. Had she forgotten a Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница holiday?

Neela was so preoccupied by her thoughts, she didn’t realize at first that Ooda was nipping at her hand. It was only when the little blowfish swam right in her face and threatened to nip her nose that Neela stopped short.

“What is it?” she asked. She didn’t see what could be upsetting Ooda. A school of butterfly fish? A few jellies? The flags?

“Cut it out, will you? We’re here. I have to go inside now and deal with my parents.”

Visibly upset, Ooda streaked off.

“Come back!” Neela shouted.

But Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница Ooda didn’t listen. She swam high above Neela’s head, to the top of one of the flagpoles. Then she swam around and around the flag itself at a dizzying speed.

“Come down right now!” Neela demanded. “Ooda, I’m serious! Ooda, I said…” Her words trailed away as she saw what the fish had been trying to show her.

“That’s what’s different,” she said, staring at the flag.

It was red, like the old flag, which was why she hadn’t noticed. But it didn’t have the crest of the Matali royal family—the Razormouth Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница holding the moonstone—in its center. Instead, it had a huge black circle.

“What is that?” she said. “Why has my father changed the flags? You don’t change your realm’s flags unless…”

Someone forces you to.

Traho.

The scales on the back of Neela’s tail rose. “He’s here, Ooda. He’s taken over the city,” she whispered. “Those must have been Mfeme’s ships I saw. He must’ve transported Traho’s troops.”

But that made no sense. Traho was working for Admiral Kolfinn. If he’d taken over Matali City, he’d be flying Ondalina Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница’s flag, not this one, wouldn’t he?

Maybe Kolfinn doesn’t want it known that Traho and Mfeme are working for him, she reasoned. Or maybe the flag is intended to mislead people.

Neela didn’t know the answer, and she didn’t have time to puzzle it out. If Traho was here, he’d know that she’d left the palace and he would have guessed why. The moonstone was in her messenger bag. Once he found her, it would take him all of two seconds to find it.

“Sudden change of plan, Ooda,” she said Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница. “We’re out of here.”

Just as she turned to swim away, someone clapped a hand over her mouth.

She never had the chance to scream.


“CAN’T FAIL…can’t die out here…Neria’s Stone…have to get it back…”

Serafina was raving.

She’d been swimming for two days with little rest, ever since she’d pulled the infanta away from the Demeter. She was weak and disoriented now, barely able to follow the currents. The infanta was sapping her strength, taking her life force. Sera’s eyes had dulled, her cheeks were sunken, but all Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница the while, color was seeping into the ghostly Spanish princess. A blush bloomed across her cheeks. Her lips reddened. Her dark eyes danced once again.

“Just a little farther, Principessa,” she coaxed. “Only a few more leagues.” Her grip on Serafina’s hand tightened. Serafina moaned.

An octopus swam by. The creature made her think of Sylvestre. She had loved him very much. And the thought of him gave her strength. She would think of all the things she loved. That would keep her going.

“Sylvestre,” she said. “And Clio…Cerulea in the morning…the Janiçari singing…my parents dancing…fencing Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница with Des…Neela’s smile…keel worms and eel berries…the Ostrokon…the ruins of Merrow’s palace…Mahdi’s eyes, his smile…”

She struggled on, her fins shuddering with the effort. “Gone off course…must have,” she mumbled.

She had aimed for Cap de Creus, a rocky outcropping of land near Spain’s border with France.

“Should have been there by now…”

“Oh, Principessa!” the infanta suddenly cried. “Can you smell it? Juniper! Bay leaves and roses! Oranges!”

“Why aren’t we there? Gods, help me…please…” Serafina begged.

“Palamós!” said the infanta. “I Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница remember it! I came here as a child!”

Serafina’s head was spinning. She was so weak, she didn’t realize they were in the shallow waters of a deserted beach. She swam on and her head broke the surface. Gentle waves lapped around her chest. But it wasn’t over yet. The infanta had to break her tie with the sea. She had to put a foot on dry land. And Serafina had to get her far enough out of the water to do it. With the last of her strength, she heaved her body onto the beach, then handed Maria Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница Theresa out of the waves. The infanta stepped onto the shore and at last it was done. She released Serafina’s hand and walked out of the surf.

“I’m home,” she whispered. “Thank you, Principessa. Oh, thank you!” She kissed her palm and blew the kiss to Serafina. Then she turned and walked on, her head back, her arms outstretched to the bright blue sky, laughing like the girl she once was. Her body glittered now, became a million points of silver light, and then crumbled into a fine, shimmering dust. As Serafina watched, the warm Spanish winds Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница swept her away, until all that remained was the echo of her laughter.

Serafina could barely breathe now. Her exhausted body was failing. She tried to push herself back into the sea, but she didn’t have the strength. The ghost had taken too much from her. Her chest was hitching. Her face was turning blue. She collapsed on the sand and rolled onto her back.

The sun blinded her. She closed her eyes, knowing she was going to die there.

Knowing she had failed.

And then she felt hands on her.

They were pulling at her Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница. Her body was being dragged over the rough sand, inch by inch. It was the terragoggs. They were dragging her out of the water to put her in a tank. That’s what they did to sea creatures.

Sera struggled, but didn’t have the strength to fight them. The infanta had taken too much from her. Please, gods, don’t let the humans take me. Let me die, she prayed.

But no, she was being dragged into the sea. She suddenly felt the life-giving water all around her body. Her head went under.

“Serafina!” A small, worried face Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница smiled at her. “We’re not too late! You’re alive!”

“Coco?” she rasped. “How…how did you…” She couldn’t finish. She was back in the water, but breathing was still so hard.

“The conch! The one you were listening to in the Ostrokon before you left. After you swam away, I picked it up and listened to it. I figured out that you were going to the Demeter, so I followed you!”

“By yourself…How?” Sera asked, coughing.

“No. I went for help.”

“Serafina…Oh, gods, Sera, what have you done?”

Serafina knew that voice Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница. It was Mahdi. He’d pulled her back into the water. He had her in his arms now.

She smiled at him. “It’s okay.…I found it.” She was gasping now.

“It’s not okay. Look at her, Mahdi! I’m scared!” Coco said.

“Take a breath, Sera.…Just take a deep breath.”

“She’s turning blue!” Coco cried. “Do something, Mahdi!”

“Come on, Sera…stay with me.…Don’t do this, Serafina! Breathe! Please, please breathe!”


NEELA FOUGHT like a tiger shark.

Her attacker had dragged her off the current and down behind a coral reef. He was still behind Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница her, his hand pressed to her mouth, his arm around her waist, squeezing her tightly.

This filthy death rider is not getting the moonstone, she thought wildly. He’s not.

She whipped her tail back and forth, battering it hard against his. She grabbed his arm and dug her fingernails into it. She sank her teeth into his hand.

“Ouch! Quit it!”

Quit it? Neela thought. Since when do death riders say “Quit it”?

“Neela, it’s me, Yazeed!”

Neela stopped moving. Her attacker released her and she turned around. Her hands came up to her mouth. The boy Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница in front of her was thin and weary-looking, but he was Yaz.

“Oh, my gods!” she said, throwing her arms around his neck.

She’d nearly beaten her brother to a pulp. Now she hugged him so hard, he could barely breathe.

“I’m sorry, Yaz! I’m so sorry! I didn’t know it was you. You’re alive!”

“I was,” he grumbled.

She let go of him and swam back a few strokes, her hands on her hips. “Where the hell have you been all this time? Why didn’t you let anyone Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница know you’re okay?”

“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you later.”

“Why did you grab me just now? You scared the silt out of me!”

“To save you from a whole squad of death riders. They were just about to swim out of the main gate. They would have seen you. There was no time to explain. Sorry.”

“What’s going on? Why are they here? Why are these flags flying?”

“Because Matali belongs to them now.”

Neela shook her head, distraught. I was right, she thought. “And Mata-ji…Pita-ji?” she asked tearfully.

“They’re okay. They Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница’re alive. Traho’s got them under house arrest, but he hasn’t hurt them.”

“Traho’s in the palace?”

Yazeed nodded. “His boss, too.”

Neela’s blood ran cold. “‘Kolfinn? He’s here?”

Yaz shook his head. “No, Neels…she is.”


“SHE?” NEELA SAID. “Kolfinn’s a he.”

“It’s not Kolfinn. Here,” Yazeed said, handing her a transparensea pearl. “Cast it. I’ll show you.”

Yazeed cast a pearl too. When they were both invisible, he led Neela through the Emperor’s Courtyard and into the palace. They swam just below the ceiling, and over the Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница heads of dozens of death riders.

Seeing the invaders in the palace, in her home, made Neela’s blood boil. Murdering sea scum, she thought. You have no right to be here.

“Stick close,” Yazeed whispered.

They made their way into the Emperor’s Chamber and hovered under one of the chandeliers. Burly death riders holding swords lined the chamber’s walls.

“There she is,” Yazeed whispered, pointing to the mermaid seated on the emperor’s throne. “Meet the mastermind.”

Neela looked down. The mermaid had long auburn hair, emerald eyes, and a stunningly beautiful face.

“Portia Volnero!” Neela Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница hissed.

“The one and only,” Yazeed said.

Portia was a duchessa, one of Miromara’s highest-ranking nobles. She was also Lucia Volnero’s mother.

“It’s not Ondalina. Astrid was telling the truth,” Neela said. She had to get word to the others.

“What are you talking about?”

Neela was about to explain, when Khelefu, the grand vizier of Matali, swam into the room. Seeing him, Portia spoke. Her commanding voice carried up to Neela and Yazeed.

“You’ve opened the vaults as I requested, Khelefu?”

“I have, Your Grace.”

Khelefu all but spat the words. And though Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница his face was composed, Neela—who had known this proud and loyal merman all her life—could see the hatred in his eyes.

“Very good,” Portia said. She rose from the throne and swam to him. “I wish to have Ahadi’s diamond tiara for Lucia’s coronation in Miromara. The one with the Pearl of the Maldives in its center. And she’ll need something for her betrothal, too. Sapphires, I think, to go with her eyes. And for her future husband, Crown Prince Mahdi, the Bramaphur Emerald. It will look wonderful on his turban.”

“Say Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница what?” It was all Neela could do not to shout the words.

“Shh!” Yaz said.

“I was not aware the Crown Prince was to be betrothed to your daughter, Your Grace,” Khelefu said. “I thought he had been promised to Serafina, principessa di Miromara.”

Portia’s eyes darkened at the mention of Serafina’s name. “He was, but unfortunately the poor principessa is dead. We believe she was killed in the attacks on Cerulea. Our diligent Captain Traho put signs up throughout the realm, seeking her return, but we’ve heard nothing of her. Although it pains us greatly, we Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница must accept this difficult truth.”

“How very sad, Your Grace.”

“Tragic,” Portia said. “I’ll need those things packed immediately, Khelefu. I plan to leave for Miromara in the morning.”

“We’ve got to warn Sera!” Neela whispered to Yazeed.

“I shall have the proper forms prepared and brought to you, Your Grace,” Khelefu said. “You will need to fill them out before you remove the jewels from the vaults.”

“Actually, I won’t,” Portia said.

“But that is the way things are done. That is the way things have always been done,” Khelefu protested.

Portia nodded at two of her Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница guards and they seized the grand vizier. She drew a crimson-tipped finger across her throat and they dragged him away.

Portia smiled as she watched them go, then said, “Not anymore.”


SERAFINA OPENED HER EYES. She didn’t know where she was. The waters around her were dusky. She was lying on something soft. A lava globe glowed on a table nearby.

Noiselessly, she snaked a hand toward her hip, and the dagger hidden there.

“It’s all right, Sera. You’re safe.”

“Mahdi?”

“We’re in a farmhouse in a village off the Costa Brava. It belongs Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница to a couple named Carlo and Elena Aleta Roja. They’re loyalists.”

Serafina propped herself up. She was woozy. Her body ached. She saw that she was lying in a narrow bed in a small, rustic room. Curtains framing the room’s single window fluttered in the night current. A pot of tea and two cups had been placed on a table under the window.

Mahdi was sitting on a chair next to the bed. He took her hand. “How are you feeling?”

“Better now that I’m holding your hand instead of a ghost’s,” she said Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница weakly.

“It was a shipwreck ghost, wasn’t it? That’s what Coco said. Sera, tell me you didn’t do what I think you did.”

“I had to. She had something I needed. It was the only way to get it.”

“How long were you in contact with her?”

“I don’t know. Two days, maybe? Three? It’s all kind of foggy.”

“That can’t be right. No one could survive contact with a shipwreck ghost for that long.”

Sera shook her head, trying to clear it. Had she somehow gotten the number of days Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница wrong? She was so exhausted it was hard to think straight.

“What happened after you and Coco pulled me back into the water?” she asked.

“You blacked out. You weren’t getting enough oxygen. You turned blue and stopped breathing. I gave you mouth-to-mouth. You coughed up a lot of air, then started breathing again.”

“I would have been dead without you, Mahdi. You saved my life,” Sera said, squeezing his hand. “How did you get out here? Aren’t you supposed to be on patrol in Cerulea?”

“I caught a very lucky break. A few nights ago Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница, Coco came to me in a panic. She told me you’d set off to find the Demeter and that she was worried about you and begged me to go after you. Two nights before that, I was at the palace, having dinner with Traho. Turns out he has a new acquisition—a painting that Rafe Mfeme took from the duca. He’s cast some sort of spell on it, to protect it from water. It’s hanging over a lavaplace and—”

“—it’s a portrait of Maria Theresa, an infanta of Spain,” Serafina said.

Mahdi gave her a quizzical Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница look. “How did you know that?”

“I admired the portrait when I first arrived at the duca’s, and he told me that she was an ancestor of his.”

“Traho didn’t tell me that. He told me the story of the Demeter, though, and of the infanta’s blue diamond. He said it’s very valuable and that he wants it.”

“Yes, he does,” Serafina said darkly. She remembered how it felt to hold the diamond in her hand. The sensation of power was like nothing she’d ever felt before, both frightening and intoxicating.

“After I Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница spoke with Coco I was worried about you too, so I came up with a way to leave my command,” Mahdi said. “I went to Traho and told him it would be a great honor if he would allow me to find the infanta’s diamond for him. He was so pleased, he immediately gave me permission to search for it. I have a dozen death riders with me.”

“Nearby?” Serafina asked, alarmed.

“About a league east of here. At my suggestion, we fanned out to look for the shipwreck. Except for me. I went to look for you.”

“They Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница’ll never find the wreck, and even if they did, they’ll never find the diamond,” Serafina said. “The infanta was the only one who knew where it was and I just set her free. She’s gone. The wreck is empty.”

“And the diamond?”

Sera didn’t answer.

“Back at the safe house, you asked me to tell you what was going on. You asked me to trust you. Now I’m asking you to trust me.”

“I’ve got the diamond.”

“Wow. Okay,” Mahdi said, clearly surprised. “You found it on the wreck?”

Sera nodded.

“That’s Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница weird,” said Mahdi.

“Why?”

“Traho told us to find the wreck, then search the seabed half a league due north of it. He said that the infanta had a hawk, and that the bird took off with the necklace and dropped it there.”

Serafina released Mahdi’s hand. She sat bolt upright. “What? That’s impossible! How does he know that? Only a handful of people could have known that, and they’re all dead!”

“Wait, I don’t understand…know what?”

“Don’t you see? Only the infanta, the pirate who attacked her, and the rest of the people Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница on their ships could know that the hawk carried the necklace away. The infanta certainly didn’t tell Traho and, up until yesterday, she’s the only one who could have. Mei Foo and his crew didn’t tell him. According to the conch I listened to, they were all hanged ashore centuries ago. The Demeter’s crew and passengers didn’t either, since they all likely died ashore as slaves. So how does Traho know where the necklace is?” She frowned. “Or rather, how does he think he knows?”

“What do you mean?”

“The infanta fooled Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница Mei Foo,” she said. “The necklace her hawk flew away with was a fake. She kept the real diamond necklace hidden.”

“What are you not telling me about this diamond, Sera? Why is it so important? Why is it worth your life? Are you going to sell it to fund the resistance?” Mahdi asked.

“It’s worth much more than my life, and I would never sell it. It’s powerful, Mahdi. Really powerful. I think it’s the reason I survived the infanta. Its power protected me from her.”

Mahdi gave her a long look. “There are other Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница things—things besides the diamond—that you’re not telling me about, aren’t there?”

“I wanted to tell you. At the safe house. I would have, if the death riders hadn’t raided it.”

“Tell me now.”

Serafina glanced at the teapot. “Could I have a cup of tea first? I’m going to need one.”

Mahdi poured. As he handed Sera a cup of the hot, soothing drink, she started to talk. She told him everything that had happened to her since she and Neela fled the duca’s palazzo. An hour later, she finished.

Mahdi sat back Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница in his chair, dazed. “You could’ve been killed, Sera,” he said. “By death riders. By Rorrim. By Rafe Mfeme. By the Opafago. Why didn’t you come back? Why didn’t you let me help you?”

“Hmm, let’s see…because I had no idea you were Blu? Because you never told me?”

“And you think Ondalina’s behind all this? You think Kolfinn’s the one who wants to unlock the monster’s cage?”

“I was sure it was Ondalina until I met Astrid. She was summoned by the Iele too. She fought the monster Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница so courageously and she swore that her father had nothing to do with the attack on Cerulea. But then she left us. She won’t fight with us. And now I don’t know what to think.”

Mahdi digested this. “I don’t know either, Sera, but I do know this: that story you told me about the infanta’s hawk and the fake necklace? That’s some very good news.”

“Why?”

“Because Traho believes the hawk dropped the real necklace. If I can find the fake necklace for him, he’ll have a fake talisman, but he won’t know that Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница. And he—or Kolfinn—will fail if they try to use it to free Abbadon.”

“You’re right. You have to find the fake, Mahdi,” Sera said. She told him exactly where the wreck was, so that he could search north of it. As she finished talking, there was a knock on the door.

“Come in,” Mahdi said.

“You’re awake!” said Coco, swimming into the room with Abelard right on her tail. She hugged Serafina tightly. “Elena wants to know if you’re feeling up to dinner.”

“Is it that late?” Mahdi said, looking out of Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница the window. The waters were dark now.

“Can I tell her you’ll come down?” Coco asked.

Serafina smiled. “Yes, you can.”

As Coco left, Mahdi turned back to Serafina. “I’ll need to leave right after dinner. I have to get back to camp.” He hesitated, then added, “Sera, there’s news of your uncle. Good news, I think.”

“What news? What’s happened?” Sera asked excitedly.

“I don’t want to get your hopes up, but he’s been seen in the waters off Portugal with an army of Kobold at his back.”

“Mahdi, are you serious?”

He Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница nodded and Serafina whooped for joy.

“I also hear that Portia Volnero has left Cerulea for parts unknown.”

“Does anyone know why?” asked Serafina. “Was she a collaborator? Did she side with Traho?”

“It’s possible. And if she was, she might’ve left because she was worried about what would happen when your uncle retakes the city.”

“What about Lucia?” Sera asked.

“I don’t know. I haven’t seen her for days. Kind of makes me nervous. She’s like a rockfish—the most dangerous when you can’t see her.”

“Oh, Mahdi, this is Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница such good news. I want to have hope, I can’t help it, but I’m almost afraid to,” Serafina said.

Mahdi’s face grew solemn. “You should be, Sera,” he said quietly.

“Why? What’s wrong?” she asked him.

“When the death riders came to Cerulea, it was an invasion. When Vallerio returns to the city, it will be out-and-out war.” He took her hand again, then said, “No matter what happens, I want you to know that I love you, Sera.”

“Oh, Mahdi,” Sera whispered.

“I’ve loved you since the day I met you Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница. Really met you. In the garden.” He smiled. “When you were listening to a conch and knocked the sea fan down to get my attention.”

“What? I didn’t knock it down! It fell!”

“Uh-huh. Sure it did.”

“Mahdi!” she protested. And then she leaned over and kissed him. Slowly and sweetly. “I love you, too. Always have. Ever since you made Ambassador Akmal knock the sea fan down. To get my attention.”

“Sera,” he said, serious again, “I don’t know what will happen when your uncle tries to re-enter the city. I’m moving people Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница between safe houses. I’m helping Fossegrim and the Black Fins. Traho could find out at any time, and if he does…” He paused for a moment, as if to work up his courage, then all in a rush he continued. “I want us to say our vows to each other.”

Sera blinked at him. “Mahdi, I…I just…I mean, wow. This is sudden.”

“Once I told you that you were my choice. Am I yours?”

“Yes,” Serafina said. “Always.”

“Then let’s do this. Carlo and Elena’s neighbor is a justice of the seas. His name is Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница Rafael. I’ve already talked to him. It won’t be a big-deal state ceremony with you promising the realm a daughter and all of that. In fact, it won’t be much of a ceremony at all. No glittery ring, no fancy dress. It’s hardly what a merl dreams of, I know, but it’s still a Promising. We’ll vow to be together one day. Even though Traho wants to rip us, and everything else, apart. No matter what happens, I want to know that you’re mine, and I want you to know that I Copyright © 2015 by Disney Publishing Worldwide Cover photo by Rachel Elkind and Roberto Falck Cover illustration by Shane Rebenscheid and Grace Lee Cover design by SJI Associates: Endpaper maps and 11 страница’m yours. Always.” He took her hand in his again. “Will you?”

I know why he’s doing this, Serafina thought dully. A war is coming and he doesn’t think he’ll survive it. A pain, familiar now but still terrible, tore through her. Traho had taken everything from her—her family, her people, her realm. And still he wanted more.

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