Snake Heart (Chains of Honor #2) -Lindsay Buroker Page 0,1

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 last 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