Moving outside the city of Maradaine, this new novel follows a lone member of the Maradaine Constabulary as she navigates a new but just as dangerous city.
Sergeant Corrie Welling--the young constabulary officer from Maradaine--has been abducted and confined on a ship bound for distant shores, where her captors have nefarious plans for her. With fortune and ingenuity, Corrie escapes, but finds herself stuck in a sprawling metropolis on the other side of the world: The Mocassa.
The Mocassa is a test unlike anything Corrie has ever faced. She doesn't speak the language, doesn't know the culture, and is forbidden from leaving the city until she pays off a colossal debt. Even if she's able to find decent work, it will take her years to settle her accounts and get home.
But Corrie Welling will not be cowed. She will work, fight, and hold her chin high. As a fringe faction of an apocalyptic faith spreads throughout the city, threatening the new friends she's sworn to protect, she'll continue to stand up for the values instilled in her as a member of the Maradaine Constabulary. Even if, as her darkest day approaches, she has to do it alone.
Release date: November 2, 2021
Print pages: 400
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An Unintended Voyage
Marshall Ryan Maresca
GARTEN HAD DIED IN THE night, the ninth so far. Corrie Welling had kept count, added every death to the tally of sins that she would visit upon these bastards.
And those sins were plentiful.
She had been in the fetid, rotting hold of this ship for twenty-seven days, shackled to the wall with just enough freedom of movement to get her hands to her mouth when her captors gave her a cup of water or a bite of moldy biscuit. Water and food was twice a day, and even in this darkened hold, she could tell when the sun was out, filtering through the seams of the hatch above them.
Plus the heat of the daytime had turned ungodly.
The heat, the stench of them all sitting in their own filth, the creep of salty bilge water that was sometimes several inches deep-all of it was too damn much to bear.
The animals who had done this to her and the kids locked in the hold with her, they would pay dearly. Corrie would make sure.
The rest were all kids, and they all had been looking to her. Most of them were around eleven or twelve, some as old as fifteen. Corrie was by far the oldest. By her reckoning, her twentieth birthday passed the same day the ship had made an abrupt swing in direction.
"Southeast to northeast," Garten had said that day. "We went around the Ihali Cape."
Garten had been a good kid. Twelve years old, went to the public prepatory in Dentonhill. He had clearly been a good student, since he knew geography and had a good sense of direction this whole time they'd been in the hold.
He had known when the ship made anchorage in Yoleanne, taken on water and supplies, and then presumed they had kept going south along the Acserian coast, naming cities they might have reached the next time supplies were brought on. Agenza, Corren, Torphia, Hamandaghad.
That one he had been certain about, especially when Corrie had told the rest what she could hear when supplies were loaded. Their captors had shouted out to the supply boats in something other than Trade. They were now off the coast of Imachan.
"Imachan is actually a bunch of countries," Garten had said weakly.
He had gotten sick the day before, unable to keep even water down. Corrie couldn't get close to him, but Eana, shackled next to him, said he was hot with fever. Fever and vomiting had been how it had started for Relia. And Washle. And Nicelle, Samon, and Tirl. For each of them, once it started, death came fast and hard and cruel. Garten had been no different. Corrie had tried to keep him talking, asked him to tell her more about Imachan, tell her more about the stories he read in school, tell them all about his home and his mother and his family, anything.
But he had died in the night.
One more crime, one more sin, that she would hold these rutting bastards to account for.
"He was your fault, stick," Penler said. Penler was one of the older ones, a real rutting pisser with too damn smart of a mouth for his own good. "He hadn't been right since Morger knocked him to punish you."
"That wasn't her fault!" Eana said. "None of that is her fault."
"None of what these bastards do to us is my fault," Corrie said. "But I am sorry they hurt you to punish me. It's because they know I can take it if they knock me."
"So stop pushing them, stick!" Penler said.
"Stop yelling at her," Eana said. "That'll make them come again, and they'll blame her, and they'll hit one of us."
"How do we know she's not in it with them?" Penler said. "It was sticks who grabbed me in the first place. Same for Washle."
"Same for me," Corrie said. Of all the parts that hurt the most of this rutting sewage was the fact that she had been betrayed by fellow officers.
She was a sergeant in the Maradaine Constabulary. The Wellings had served for eight generations. Her many-times-great grandfather had helped found the Constabulary and the City Loyalty. Her father had died with his red and green on.
She was still wearing hers. Maybe the bastards who took her wanted to taunt her that much, put her in this hold with her uniform on, so these kids would know she was an officer in the Constabulary. Crush any sense of hope they might have. Show them that no one could save them.
"Listen," she said quietly. "In a few minutes, Morger will be down here with our rations. None of us are going to give him any blasted trouble this time, give him any reason to stay down here more than he needs to. Not right now."
"What about Garten?" Treskie asked. He was on Garten's other side.
"Don't draw attention to him," Corrie said. The others all groaned and whined. "Listen to me. Listen!" She knew they didn't want to hear this. They were as scared as anything, and she couldn't rutting blame them. They were exhausted, they were sick, they knew they were being shipped to some horrific fate in some place only the saints and sinners knew. The next port might be where they were unloaded, and from there, who even knew what damned atrocity awaited them.
She was a damned officer in the Constabulary, and like her father, like her grandparents, like all three of her brothers and half her cousins, she had taken a damned oath to serve, to stand for the safety and protection of the citizens of Maradaine. The kids in this hold with her, no matter where they were in the world, were still citizens of Maradaine, and she still had her red and green on.
She would fulfill that oath or die trying.
"Listen," she said calmly. "I know it's horrible to be there next to him, to have to smell his rotting corpse-"
"No worse than any other smell down here," Iastanne said.
"But we don't want it to be Morger taking him out. It's got to be Hockly, tonight. So hold on."
She didn't have the sharp mind of her brother Minox-or his magic, that would rutting come in handy-but she had paid attention, noting everything about the hold they were in. She had figured out everything that could be used as a weapon, memorized where it was. She could find it all in the dark if she had to. She learned the patterns of the ship's crew. Morger brought them water and food in the mornings, Hockly in the evenings. Hockly, with bad knee and weak shoulder.
"Tonight?" Eana asked. Her raised eyebrow showed she understood what Corrie was driving at. She, more than any of the other kids, had been sharp and clever enough to see what Corrie had been doing all this time, and kept her mouth shut about it. Eana had a whip of a mind, Corrie saw that. Eana knew what the score was, and she clearly trusted Corrie to get it done.
It had taken twenty-seven days, slow and patient work, but Corrie had cracked the wood holding her manacles to the wall. She knew one good yank was all it would take to be free.
But she had to do that at the precise, ripe moment. She had to be ready to take the ship, free these kids, and make all the bastards on the ship pay for their crimes.
That moment was going to be tonight.
Corrie was a damned constable, even here and now, and she was ready to get to work.
MORGER HAD COME AND GONE with the morning rations, not even noticing that Garten was dead. That was what Corrie had suspected. The man was fundamentally cruel, but lazy. Like most of the rotten crew on this evil ship, he had little interest in dealing with the prisoners in the hold any longer than he had to. Corrie didn't know exactly what each of the crew did with their day, but she knew Morger wanted to get his work done quick and get back to it.
Rutting pig, he was.
The ship was full of them.
Corrie had used her ears for the past twenty-seven days, listening to the chatter of the crew as they wandered about on the deck above them. She kept track of voices, of names. She made sure she had them all.
There were twelve of them on the crew, all of them men. She was actually honestly shocked none of them had tried to roll her, or one of the other girls. Not that she was remotely interested in that, and if one of them tried she'd have bit their pisswhistle off. But it hadn't come to that. Of those twelve, Morger and Hockly were the main ones to come down and deal with the prisoners. On rare occasions, there were the ones she called Knocknose and Badeye. She didn't get their real names. Up on top, there was the Captain and the Chief, and then six more men she just called One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six. No need for more than that.
Focus your mental energies on the important details. That's what Minox would tell her. Coming up with names for the other ones, faceless voices, was a waste of time and thought. No need to do that.
She knew she had little to go on about the eight she had never seen. The Captain was old, moved slow. The Chief had an accent, one she couldn't place at all. He had a deep voice, that made her think he was tall and beefy.
Didn't matter. Once she was free, had something in her hand she could fight with, she could whip any one of them. She was certain of that.
As long as she didn't have to take them all at once.
The hold didn't have the baking heat it usually had today. She wasn't sure why, until she heard them talking up above her. Two and Six.
"Storm is coming fast."
"We can get ahead of it."
"Don't think so."
Blazes, yes. That was rutting perfect.
Within an hour-still before the evening rations-the ship was pitching hard, and thunder rolled in the distance. One wave hit the ship, sending everyone in the hold careening toward the bulkhead, filthy bodies crashing on top of each other. Corrie's stomach would have rebelled at that, had there been much of anything in there.
"Corrie!" Eana shouted. Because Corrie was lying in her lap. That knock had sent them flying, including tearing her manacles from the housing on the wall.
"Blazes," Corrie muttered. She had wanted to come free when Hockly was down here, take him by surprise when he was dealing with Garner's body. Now she was off the wall, and they'd see that as soon as they started down the hatch.
"Get 'em provisioned and batten that down!" the Chief shouted.
The hatch. Hockly was about to come down, and if she was spotted off the wall, he'd surely call for everyone to come down, beat her senseless again. Like when those two rutting traitors took her by surprise on the northside docks.
She still wondered what else happened that night. After they took her, shoved her on the ship, did they get Tricky? Was she dead? Somewhere else on this ship? Something worse?
Minox would be shattered. So would Mama. The whole family. They knew-they all knew-any ride out could be the last one, but it was one thing to know that as an idea, and another to face it.
Saints and sinners, they would surely blame Tricky. The lady didn't deserve the hate the family would give her for that. And they would, saints knew. Not Minox, of course. But most of them already hated Tricky, even if she had saved Nyla, and this would lock that down.
Provided Tricky was still alive.
But if she was, all the more reason to fight her rutting way out of here and get back home.
She hadn't ridden her last ride, and, by every saint, she wasn't about to yet.
The hatch was opening.
Despite the rocking of the hold-the ship was really getting battered by storm and wind-she scrambled to her place on the wall, got her arms up. Hopefully Hockly-that sweaty dog-wouldn't notice before it was too late.
"Chows up, cats!" he shouted as he came down the ladder.
"Don't you-" Penler muttered.
"Hush your face," Corrie hissed back.
"What's the whisper here?" Hockly asked as he reached the ground.
Before anyone else could speak, Corrie said, "Garten died, that's what."
"Who's Garten?" Hockly asked. "Blazes, I only remember your name, stick, since you keep it on your chest. Ha!" Not that Corrie had a choice about that-she couldn't reach her brass name badge to get it off. She was pretty sure they only left it on her uniform coat-left her the entire uniform, for that matter-as a taunt. Such a funny jape they had a stick sergeant locked up down here with these kids.
"Him," Eana said, knocking Garten's dead form with her knee.
"Ugh, he's looking ripe as a rutter," Hockly said. "What got him?"
"The same fever that's been running through all of us, idiot," Corrie said.
"Hey, girl!" he snapped, "You give more of that mouth, I'll crack someone's jaw open."
Corrie glowered. Let him think he had tamed her.
He turned to Garten's body, taking the keys off his belt.
"Hurry it up, Hockly!" Four shouted from up top, his words punctuated with a crack of thunder.
"I gotta get this dead one out!"
"Rutting leave it!"
Corrie froze for a moment. She couldn't see Four, couldn't tell what he was seeing from up there, how close he was looking.
This might be the only moment she'd have, and if Four raised an alarm before she was ready, it'd all go to sewage.
But this was the moment. Hockly was bent over, back to her, hands occupied.
Saints watch over me, she whispered to herself. You too, Pop.
She darted from the wall, in one fell motion, leapt up and planted her boot hard on Hockly's bad knee.
He would have cried out, but Eana-bless the wits on that girl-grabbed Garten's arm and shoved it into his mouth, muzzling him. Corrie walloped him over the head with the chain of her manacles, and then again. He had a handstick and his belt that he tried to go for, but Corrie snapped at it, drawing it out and pulling it up under his weak shoulder. She slammed her foot onto that knee again while she drove him down, pushing his face into Garten's body.
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