Caledonia Styx will risk everything—her heart, her crew, and even her life—to defeat Lir and take back the Bullet Seas once and for all…
We’re excited to share an excerpt from Stormbreak, the epic conclusion to Natalie C. Parker’s Seafire trilogy—publishing February 9th with Razorbill.
Aric Athair is dead. But the fight for the Bullet Seas is far from over. Caledonia’s nemesis, Lir—the one responsible for destroying her family—has seized control of the warlord’s army.
Caledonia and her crew have fled to Cloudbreak to prepare for an all-out war. And they are not the only ones. Rogue ships and even a few defecting Bullets show up to join their fight. But Lir always seems to be one step ahead of Caledonia, anticipating her every more as he secures the seas for himself.
With the fight growing desperate, Caledonia is forced to make an unlikely and unsteady alliance with a new enemy. It’s a gamble that could cost her everything, but with the fate of the seas in her hands, Caledonia will do whatever it takes to win the war.
Caledonia stood high above the bridge of the Luminous Wake, the sun-bright arrowhead driving her fleet forward. What once had been a single ship, a single brilliant crew, was now eight ships, with hundreds of crew members, all hers. She was still adjusting, but every time they sailed out together like this, they got better at it and so did she.
To either side of the Luminous, the Blade and Piston cut deep tracks into choppy waters. Farther behind, the five remaining ships of Red Fleet held back, ready for the order that would call them into battle. Sledge and Pine were in command of the Blade with a crew of their own. The Piston was under Mino’s command and the entire crew was made up of Hesperus’s people. Their cerulean capelets had been transformed into jackets more suited for seafaring, and they burned brightly against the muted blue of the ocean.
Down on the rounded nose of the Luminous Wake, Amina moved methodically along the rail, stepping around the newly installed catapults to check that everything was secure and in working order. Behind her, Hime carefully positioned carbon-shelled bombs in the cradle of each catapult before strapping them in place. Directly beneath Caledonia’s feet, Nettle stood at the helm, driving them forward with a steady hand. On the main deck, the five Mary sisters moved as a flock, keeping the rest of the crew on their toes.
The sun was halfway up its morning climb, the sky clear and blue. A bit of cloud cover would have benefited their sightlines, but after enduring Cloudbreak’s dreary weather for weeks on end, it was hard to wish blue skies away.
“Heading up!” a voice called from the level below. Pisces appeared a moment later, hauling herself onto the reclaimed ghost funnel that now served as Caledonia’s lookout. The past
six moons had given Pisces a resolve of stone and physical strength of the same. Her new confidence was matched only by her right hook.
“Closing in?” Caledonia asked, feet braced wide against the wind.
“Closing in,” Pisces confirmed with a nod of her smooth shaved head. Sweat glistened against the dark tan of her cheeks. “We’ll be on them in another mile.”
Pisces wasn’t the only one to change since the attack on Cloudbreak. Since Lir killed Aric and took command of the Bullet Fleet. Since Caledonia’s brother, Donnally, had looked Caledonia in the eyes and chosen Lir instead. In that time, Caledonia and her command crew had gathered their own fleet and transformed Cloudbreak from a bustling market town into their base of operations, and Sly King Hesperus from a reluctant accomplice into their most trusted ally.
News of Caledonia’s victory at Cloudbreak had spread quickly. Rogue ships looking to join the fight had arrived in a near constant stream, adding ships to her growing fleet and willing hands to its ranks. Even a few Bullets had defected, which presented a very specific set of problems, but Caledonia wasn’t in the business of turning people away. Sledge and Ares had
created a system for supporting Bullets as they slowly squeezed the Silt from their veins. It didn’t always go smoothly; no matter how willing a Bullet seemed, or how well they came through their withdrawals, it was difficult to trust them enough to put a weapon back in their hands. For his part, Hesperus had a small, dedicated team working on soiltech, while his sister Kae partnered with Far to keep everyone fed, watered, and organized.
Oran, as always, was Caledonia’s eyes and ears whenever she was away from the city. He was her proxy in spite of Hesperus’s copious, unbridled objections.
Their efforts kept Caledonia free to do what she did best: hunt.
Caledonia narrowed her eyes against the wind and swept her gaze along the horizon. They’d been en route to the Braids to meet with the Hands of the River when her scouts unexpectedly spotted an AgriFleet barge just south of their location. They’d changed their plans, radioed to Cloudbreak for additional support, and held position until Silver Fleet arrived.
“Sledge was right,” Pisces added. “Looks like Fiveson Decker’s fleet is escorting them. Ships are all marked with green.”
Caledonia smiled hungrily. She’d been waiting for an opportunity like this for moons. Aric’s death had ripped through the Bullet Seas like an electric current, igniting small pockets of rebellion from the Colonies to Slipmark. In response, Lir had recalled nearly all his ships to the Holster, which he’d claimed as his seat of power like Aric before him. The infamous city was entrenched in the southern peninsula, protected by a devastating crown of gun towers. But well-fortified as he was, he still had to provide food and Silt for his Bullets, and that meant eventually the AgriFleet barges had to sail. Barges that Caledonia could steal or destroy.
“Silver Fleet is on standby?” Caledonia asked.
“Holding back and awaiting our signal,” Pisces confirmed.
The first blush of orange blossoms appeared against the brilliant blue sky as the towering barge came into view. Caledonia felt an answering spike of adrenaline in her blood. The barge stretched a quarter mile in each direction, its long platform deck covered in baleflowers reaching for the morning sun with their mouths open wide like baby birds.
Caledonia turned to Pisces. “Looks like trouble,” she said, invoking the words their fallen friend Redtooth had said so often. “Trouble” was code for a fight, for an opportunity, for a chance to strike back instead of turn tail and run.
One side of Pisces’s mouth tipped up at the memory of their friend. “There’ll be more on the other side,” she warned.
“I hope so,” Caledonia said, offering her sister a mischievous smile before sliding down the ladder to the command deck. “Drive us in, Nettle!” Caledonia called, striding onto the bridge. “Harwell, alert the Blade and Piston that we’re sailing for gold.”
Harwell’s voice rose softly from his station at the radio. It had taken some convincing for Caledonia to go along with using the thing, but it turned out coordinating with ships was a lot easier if you could just talk to them. The Blades had set up a system that allowed them to communicate on open frequencies without broadcasting their plans to their targets. “Gold” was code for driving in together and hitting the target like a spear.
“Amina’s silencers are ready for a test run, Captain,” Pisces reported from the hatchway. “As long as Nettle can get us close enough to launch them.”
“I’ll get you close enough to spit on that barge if you want,” Nettle said, never shifting her eyes from the searoad ahead. She’d grown an entire foot and every part of her body had stretched thin but for her cheeks, which were as round as the scrolling scars upon them.
“Shouting distance will do,” Pisces responded with a smile.
“Ready for gold, Captain,” Harwell announced.
“Good. Engines to full!”
Caledonia’s eyes landed on the furious orange of the baleflowers ahead. Above, two purple flares unfurled spidery petals, signaling to whoever was near that the barge was under attack. They would have a few precious moments to prepare before Caledonia and her flagships were within range. All she had to do was be faster than the rest of Decker’s fleet.
Pisces leaned in close and whispered, “Lir won’t like us taking down his brothers.”
Anger pooled in Caledonia’s gut, leaving her mind with a cool kind of clarity as the seas rushed by. “If Lir didn’t want us coming after his brothers,” she said, savoring the dark edge of her rage, “he should have left ours alone.”
Excerpted from Stormbreak, copyright 2021 by Natalie C. Parker.