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Authors: Lindsay Buroker

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Snake Heart

BOOK: Snake Heart
4.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Table of Contents

Title Page


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25






Snake Heart


(Chains of Honor, Book 2)



by Lindsay Buroker


Copyright © 2016



Thank you, good reader, for following along with the Chains of Honor series. I hope you enjoy this next installment. I would also like to thank my editor, Shelley Holloway, for her continuing help with all of my books, and also Becca Andre and Kendra Highley for reading an early version of this manuscript. Lastly, thank you to Gene Mollica for the wonderful cover designs for the Chains of Honor series.


Chapter 1

anko White Fox patted the soil down into the pot and hummed the Song of Growth while attempting to ignore the icy glares that Captain “Shark” Minark shot at him from the helm. A stiff sea breeze gusted across the deck, batting about Yanko’s topknot. The leaves of the two dwarf lime trees remained still, protected by the walls of the impromptu grow house Yanko had made. He had fastened the wooden back to the side of a cabin, so it would not slide across the deck, and with Dak’s help, he had also constructed special bases for the pots that would keep them level even when the ship tilted with the rise and the fall of the waves. Yanko had not been surprised when his thuggish, muscular, one-eyed Turgonian bodyguard had, in less than ten minutes, sketched him detailed building plans that looked like something that might have come out of an engineer’s office.

Yanko stroked the side of one of the slender trunks, encouraged that the fruit growing on the branches had, with the help of a tropical sun and a little earth magic, increased in size in the short time they had been at sea. The captain would soon have a source of scurvy-preventing limes right on his own ship.

“Did you just stick a dead fish head in that dirt?” his traveling companion, Lakeo asked, coming up behind him.

“Yes. A live fish head would have been alarming, don’t you think?”

fish heads are alarming. Especially when thrust into dirt where they can rot.”

“That’s the whole point.” Yanko finished puttering with the soil and stood to face her.

As usual, Lakeo’s muscular arms were bare aside from her leather bracers. Somewhere along the way, she had traded her sheepskin vest for a cotton one more suitable for the tropical waters they sailed. Perhaps she had stolen it, as she had priceless books from the Kyattese Polytechnic. Yanko hadn’t asked.

“When the fish decomposes, the nutrients enrich the soil for the plant,” he said. “It’s a common gardening technique in the villages along the northern fjords back home in Nuria.”

“You’re full of useless information, aren’t you?” Not waiting for an answer, Lakeo tapped the bow she carried on her back. “I heard Baldie talking to your girlfriend.” She pointed toward Captain Minark. “If you and Dak don’t come up with some pirate treasure soon, he wants to throw all of us overboard.”

“Arayevo is not—”

“I know, I know. She’s just your imaginary girlfriend. What does Dak say when you’re imagining her from your hammock at night?”

By now, Yanko should have been used to Lakeo’s blunt uncouthness, but he couldn’t keep from flushing in indignation. He was relieved when the captain stalked across the deck to join them, the charms he wore at his waist jangling with each step. He stopped at Lakeo’s shoulder to glower at the trees and at Yanko.

“Would you like to suck a lime, Captain?” Yanko offered, gesturing to the fruit and not commenting on how Minark’s sour expression made it look like he already
sucking a lime.

“I’d like you to help your brutish bodyguard produce the coordinates of this treasure that he promised me when I let you three troublemakers back on board.”

Yanko wished he could object to the idea that
was the troublemaker on a ship full of law-shirking smugglers, but he couldn’t, not when he was now labeled a criminal back home and also on the Kyatt Islands. Further, he had an irate warrior mage and an assassin after him, an assassin who was probably even more irate with him after he had collapsed a cave on top of her. He glanced toward the horizon behind them every hour, expecting his pursuers to find a new ship and catch up with him any moment.

“He’s working out the details in our cabin,” Yanko said. “I can’t help because there’s not room in that tiny broom closest for anyone else when Dak is standing up in there.” He didn’t mention that Dak was being secretive with his research, just as he was secretive with everything else, including his full name and where he had learned such unlikely warrior skills as engineering, mathematics, and how to close his mind off to telepaths.

“You’re crowding me, Melon Head,” Lakeo told the captain, sticking her fists on her hips and thrusting her elbows out to push him away.

His dark eyes narrowed at her. “I’d say that I’m most looking forward to tossing your sarcastic mouth to the sharks, but that would be a lie.” He thrust a finger toward Yanko’s nose. “This is the reason my ship has been attacked by storms and fireballs.”

“If you hadn’t been so greedy about wanting a cut of our treasure, you wouldn’t have taken us aboard,” Lakeo said. “You’ve no one to blame for your troubles but yourself.”

Yanko tried to catch her eye as he made a subduing gesture with his hand. They didn’t need to antagonize their host. The captain might very well decide to dump them overboard.

“Land ho,” Arayevo called down from the crow’s nest, giving them a friendly wave, unaware of the tension on the deck below.

As usual, Yanko imagined that her wave and smile were just for him. Aware of Lakeo and Minark standing near him, he kept from gazing adoringly up at her when he returned the wave.

“That could be the island that holds the treasure,” Yanko said, hoping to placate Minark.

“For your sake, you had better hope it is. My crew and I weren’t enthused about being chased away by spear-throwing aborigines on the
island you dragged us all over.”

“There’s no need for you and your crew to come along when we check these islands,” Yanko said. “Dak and Lakeo and I are willing to take the risk of treasure hunting by ourselves.”

“Uh huh, sure you are. And then you’ll take note of the location of those riches when you find them, say you saw nothing, and come back another time without us.”

“I assure you, that would not be the case.”

Yanko forced a smile. All he wanted was the Golden Lodestone, the centuries-old artifact that could reputedly lead the person who held it to the lost continent from which the Kyattese people had originated. The continent, once destroyed by a magical plague, might have recovered in the centuries it had been left alone. If he could claim it for Nuria, his people could use the land as an agricultural resource and possibly solve the food shortages back home and steal the momentum of the rebels trying to oust the Great Chief. And perhaps in finishing this quest, Yanko could come to the Great Chief’s attention, be absolved of crimes he had never intended to commit, and redeem his family’s honor.

“Besides, Captain, how would we get another ride back out into the middle of nowhere?” Lakeo elbowed Yanko. “Who else would be foolish enough to take troublemakers like us aboard their ship?”

“No one,” Minark grumbled and stalked off.

Yanko glimpsed a flash of blue and red out of the corner of his eye, his only warning before the parrot, Kei, landed on his shoulder, talons sinking into his shirt.

“Puntak, puntak,” the parrot said enthusiastically. “Seeds!”

“I see that parrot is still insulting your eyes,” Lakeo said blandly. “And demanding food after it does so.”

“Yes.” Yanko had befriended many animals in his life using his affinity for the earth sciences, but this was the first one that could speak. It was definitely the first one to call him racist names.

Kei’s head bobbed up and down as he scrutinized Lakeo. “Jorat, Jorat!”

Lakeo scowled at the parrot. “I’m not a Turgonian.”

Yanko, who suspected she was half Turgonian even if she denied it, said nothing. Lakeo never answered questions about her parents when he asked.

Yanko fished into his pocket for a few of the sunflower seeds he had been using in an attempt to train the bird. He held them out, making a fist to hide them, though Kei was smart enough to know they were there. The parrot was willing to work for seeds, but Yanko had not yet been able to erase his vocabulary of socially unacceptable terms.

“Yanko,” he said slowly, waving his hand at his body. “Call me Yanko.”

With a flutter of wing beats, one of which slapped Yanko in the face, Kei leaped from his shoulder and pecked at his fist. Yanko stumbled back, dropping the seeds. Kei dove down and plucked them from the deck.

“It’s a mystery that you weren’t accepted into Stargrind,” Lakeo said dryly, “when it’s clear your warrior mage skills are so supreme.”

Yanko scowled at her. He was used to her teasing, and could usually ignore it, but failing those tests was still a sore point for him. It bothered him that he had allowed his pride to get in the way that day.

“Managing nature requires more subtlety and patience than hurling fireballs,” he said. “It’s difficult to turn animals—and birds—away from their true nature.”

“That bird’s true nature is to peck at you and call you names to get food?”


Arayevo skimmed down from the main mast and trotted over to join them, quirking an eyebrow at the parrot plucking up sunflower seeds from the deck. Kei finished and flapped back up to Yanko’s shoulder, making contented clucking sounds.

“Is this going to be the island with the treasure on it, Yanko?” Arayevo asked, smiling at Lakeo and at him. “I love exploring these places.”

“Did you also love having spears thrown at you on the last one?” Lakeo asked.

“I loved that none of the spears hit me.” Arayevo’s smile broadened.

“It’s possible this is the spot.” Yanko returned the smile and admired the way the wind tugged at her long black hair. What would it be like to stroke that hair? He had never dared, except perhaps as a little boy when she had been his babysitter. Then, he had likely been more interested in pulling at her long locks than stroking them. “Dak says he’s narrowed the likely islands down to six, and we’ve already investigated one.”

In truth, Yanko did not know how much of a clue Dak had as to the whereabouts of the stash that the seventy-years-dead Kyattese archaeologist turned “Mausoleum Bandit” had left behind. On the first two islands they had visited, Dak had been more interested in questioning the elders than in tramping through the jungles. He might simply be looking for first-person accounts because the books, maps, and old newspaper articles he had brought along lacked what he needed.

“The islands are interesting,” Arayevo said. “It’s too bad Minark offended the chief on that last one and we were driven off. The people seemed peaceful enough.”

“Until he started drooling on the chief’s daughter, yes. I—”

“‘Yevo!” a crew member with a spyglass called from the railing in the rear of the ship. “Did you see this?”

Arayevo frowned in his direction. The smuggler wasn’t looking toward the lush green island ahead of them, but instead to the rear of the ship.

Yanko’s stomach knotted with worry. Had the other Nurians caught up with him? The warrior mage Sun Dragon seemed to be able to track Yanko whether he was in sight or not. He ran to the back of the schooner, joining the man at the railing even before Arayevo did.

“See what?” Yanko asked.

The man pointed toward the water in the distance. Yanko searched for a ship on the horizon. With the sea calm today, visibility extended for a long way, but he couldn’t see anything except for the distant green smudge of another island they had passed. They were sailing through the Turtle Chain Keys to the northwest of the Kyatt Islands, and there were dozens, if not hundreds, of islands out here, so he doubted that had roused the smuggler’s interest.

“Closer,” the smuggler said. “Look at that tube.”

He lowered his pointing finger, and Yanko realized he wasn’t gesturing toward the horizon but toward the waters about fifty meters behind them. Something small stuck up above the surface. It did, indeed, look like a metal tube. For an instant, sunlight glinted off something—glass?—at the top of the object.

BOOK: Snake Heart
4.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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