Home > The Broken Raven (Shadow Skye #2)

The Broken Raven (Shadow Skye #2)
Author: Joseph Elliott



My face is on fire, but I’m not gunna scream. I don’t think I could even if I tried. I need water but can’t ask for it. My mouth doesn’t work no more. I knew it was gunna hurt. It’s sposed to hurt. Still, I didn’t know it was gunna hurt as much as this. Somethin’s gushin down my cheek. I dunno if it’s ink or tears or blood or what. Praps it’s a mix of all three.

“I’m movin on to your neck,” ses the man. “Keep still.”

As if I’m gunna move with that hek massive needle close to skewerin me. I grip the sides of the stool, lettin its splinters dig into my skin. One of the stool’s legs is shorter than the others, so I gotta hold my weight slanted to stop it wobblin. Evrythin’s hek skittin in this shack. I knew soon as I came in that this was a bad idea, but it was too late by then. Mamma’d already paid him.

He looms over me, his breath harsk as milkreek. Dark blue ink drips from the end of the needle. I close my eyes as the stabbin starts again.

A forever time later, the man pulls away and tosses the needle on the side.

“Done,” he ses.

I’m hot all over. Swear Øden I never been so hot. Even breathin hurts.

“Þokka,” I say, although it seems hek foolin to thank him, given how he’s done nothin but stab me with a needle for the last however long.

My mother is waitin for me outside. Soon as I step out, the man slams the shack door shut without sayin goodbye or nothin.

“Well,” ses my mother, “let’s see it.” She grabs my head to steady herself and leans in for a better look. Her face is too close to mine. Bits of sweaty hair are stuck to her forehead, and her eyes are all faraway and wild. “Ha!” is all she ses.

“What?” I say. “What’s wrong with it?”

“Nothin,” ses my mother, but she’s smilin wicked. She could at least pretend it looks all right. It was her what convinced me this was a good idea, after all. And I was far too keen. But who wouldn’t want their first ink early? This wasn’t how I imagined it happenin, though. All of my mother’s ideas are bad ones; you’d of thought I would’ve learnt that by now.

“Did it hurt?”

“Yes,” I say. No point in lyin.

“It’ll heal soon,” she ses, pretendin she cares.

The walk back to our shack is a blur of throbbin. The ground’s sodden from where it’s been spewin all afternoon, and the wet finds my toes through the holes in my shoes. I tried fixin the shoes yesterday, but I guess I didn’t do a very good job. I’ll try again tonight, do them better.

Soon as we’re back, my mother crashes on her sleepin mat and asks for water. There’s a mirror by the water bucket, so while I’m fillin up the horn I see my new ink for the first time. The mirror’s cracked, which doesn’t help none. Has been ever since I knew it. Probly my mother did it before I was born. Or maybe it was my pa before . . . Well, before what happened to him happened. One of the mirror cracks goes right through my reflection. My face is diffrunt now. I keep starin at it, but I can’t find the person I was before. First inkin is sposed to make you look brave. On me, the way that sickweasel done it, it doesn’t look nothin but ugly. There’s no other word for it. It’s swollen red and crusty with blood. Mamma thinks he was lyin about used to bein a tatovmaðr. I coulda told her that. He woulda told her anythin to get his greedy hams on our money.

The ink’s sposed to be a raven. Mamma let me choose, probly cuz she couldn’t be bothered thinkin of somethin herself. It don’t look nothin like what I was hopin, though. It clings to my neck with its head stretchin over my jaw like it’s tryin to peck out my cheek. It looks dead, like someone clean snapped its neck. It looks like it’s cryin on my cheek but it’s not got no tears. Oh well, isn’t nothin I can do about it now. We just gotta hope it’s good enough to fool whoever my mother’s plannin on showin it to. Now I’m inked I should be able to get work on one of the larger farms, diggin up crops or somethin. It’ll be hard grind, but I don’t mind that none. Anythin’s better than spendin all day bein pushed around by Mamma.

I cross over to her now and hand her the water horn. She takes it without sayin nothin and doesn’t even open her eyes. I try to slip out, but of course she hears.

“Where you goin?”

“Granpa Halvor’s,” I say.

“What you goin there for?”

“I wanna show him my ink.” That’s a lie. He’s gunna be hek grieved when he sees it. I shoulda told him we were gunna do it. I didn’t cuz I knew he’d only tell me not to.

“You spend too much time with that old man,” ses my mother. “It’s not normal.” She doesn’t hardly speak to Granpa Halvor. I think cuz he reminds her too much of my pa. “Don’t be long. My head’s throbbin and I’m hungry,” she ses.

I’m already out the door before she’s finished speakin. Granpa Halvor’s shack isn’t far from ours. Close enough to run to when my mother’s turned sour from neckin. I knock on his door and, soon as he opens it, first thing he ses is “What has she done to you?”

“She didn’t do nothin,” I tell him.

“She may not have held the needle, but I bet it was her idea.”

His face is tight with so much concern, I feel my own face crumplin. “I shouldn’t of done it,” I say. “It’s my fault. I knew it was a sickrotten idea.”

“Hey, shush, girl. Come inside and I’ll make you some sweetmilk.”

He puts his arm around my shoulders and leads me in. Granpa Halvor’s shack isn’t nothin like ours. It’s hek poky, but everythin’s put neat and tidy clean. Best of all is the twistknot rug on the floor what’s nearly as big as the whole place. Granpa made it himself when he was a kidlin out of bits of old clothes and scraps. He cleans it every day so it isn’t never dusty. I sit on it and run my fingers through the scruffs.

He brings me over a bowl of sweetmilk, and while I’m drinkin, he dabs at my face with a wet rag. I hold in the wince what’s wantin to come out.

“Who’s the grotthief what did this to you?” he asks me.

“I dunno, Granpa,” I say.

“Sure as hellfire wasn’t no proper tatovmaðr.”

“I know, Granpa.”

“How much’d you pay him?”

“I dunno, Granpa.”

“It wouldn’t of come cheap, gettin him to do it with you bein only twelve and all. What was your mother thinkin? What’s her game? And what sort of a lyin, thievin scoundrel would do this to a girl? I feel like trackin him down and . . . and . . .”

I can’t help smilin at that. The thought of Granpa Halvor hurtin anyone is hek smirks.

“What you laughin for?” he ses. “If I was twenty years younger . . . I’ll have you know I was a force to be reckoned with in my time.”

“Sure you were, Granpa,” I say. I slurp down the rest of the sweetmilk. It’s hek creamin on my insides. “I thought you didn’t agree with fightin anyways?”

“Depends who’s fightin and what they’re fightin for. If it’s sendin away our kidlins to be slaughtered on foreign lands for nothin but pride and power, then no, I don’t agree with fightin one speck.”

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