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The Malevolent's Mark by Ripley Grimms

Read Online The Malevolent’s Mark by Ripley Grimms Fantasy Book

Overview: It's 1921 in Camelot City, and King Arthur is still missing. Not that Birdie Smith, the Siren Thief, much cares. She’s too busy getting arrested. Only the automata can cast magic according to the king regent.
To clear her name, Birdie will have to help a fallen knight, Sir Gawain, save the king by listening for a shattered sword’s song that only she can hear. And she’ll have to find it before a handsome traitor from a past Birdie doesn’t want to remember, can enslave their seven United Kingdoms with his mark.
Ensnared in a world where machines control magic, dark secrets abound, and forbidden romances await, Birdie is unsure whom she should trust, even her own heart.


Read Online The Malevolent’s Mark by Ripley Grimms Book Chapter One Free. Find Hear Best Fantasy Books And Novel For Reading And Download.
The Malevolent's Mark by Ripley Grimms

Read Online The Malevolent’s Mark by Ripley Grimms Book Chapter One

A BIRD ADRIFT
Camelot City Harbor, Britannia — October 1921




THE FOUR KNIGHTS’ FACES were no different from anyone else’s when Birdie broke out into song instead of a knife fight mid-heist. First, was usually surprise due to the novelty of her act. Next, uncertainty about why they enjoyed her voice so much instead of being concerned about her robbing them. And finally, total catatonic bliss as the magic of her lyrics relaxed her very captive audience’s muscles and minds into a peaceful trance.

Songdrunk, she called them. Siren Thief, they called her.

Despite not knowing her past, Birdie did know quite a few songs. And they were beautiful. The high and low inflections coupled with the rhythmic melody of the words in a language no one knew, not even her, made Birdie feel connected to the world in an inexplicable sort of way as it whispered to her with magic.

The song she’d chosen for today’s job aboard the royal navy aership (whose bridge she and Gwenn had already overtaken) was quick-paced and erratic, anxious like her as she held her sharp blade against an ensorcelled knight’s throat. Her tune told a tale about a beautiful woman who fell in love with the sea. In return, the sea swallowed her whole and washed her ashore the hidden otherworld of Avalon to make her a queen.

But Birdie’s voice snagged on the raw edges of her burning throat when she transitioned into a new song. Her eyes flicked to Gwenn standing by the aership’s bridge door with a gun trained on two of the knights also under Birdie’s spell: a pretty redhead and a bespectacled babyface. The third knight (who’d smiled too much at Gwenn) laid unconscious on the ground with one sizable bump just the size of her pistol on the back of his swarthy head. Thankfully she was still too busy watching them to hear Birdie slip up through her earplugs.

The wind howled outside as storm clouds laid heavy across the sky, and the aership rocked in the oncoming stormwinds. Rain would be here any minute. Birdie could practically taste it.

Her stomach flipped, sour from that second bottle of wine she’d swiped from the hotel lounge last night. She supposed it had smelled a bit stale, but all she’d wanted was some shuteye. Instead, she’d been wide awake, singing like an alley cat on her balcony until sunrise, watching a school of oil-slick-haired merms flap their tails about in the bay. It was rare to see them this time of year (the waters so cold), but they always came when she sang. When the ocean was tinted orange from sunrise, Gwenn was knocking and said, time to go.

Camelot’s empty city streets had been quiet when they’d left. Towering skyscrapers who’d slept like giants had still been blinking their bleary eyes open in the golden morning light reflecting off the dark bay surrounding Birdie, Gwenn, and the rest of Duncan’s crew disguised in repairman’s coveralls as they slipped across the sea on a skycutter to fix the navy’s conveniently cracked engine core.

Now, Birdie sang through a bitten yawn. She hadn’t seen this side of noon in months. But rumor was that the empire had tapped a new source of golenite potent enough that a sliver no bigger than her little finger could power a ship like this for a month.

One more sleepless night would be well worth the trouble. That is if Birdie could play her part. The chances of that, right now, like her voice, were shaky at best. Butcher this job, though, and the snap of her neck echoing through the dungeons of the Doorless Tower would be the last thing she’d ever hear. In the empire, Malevolents didn’t get trials.

So, Birdie focused on the boulder of a knight sitting still as a corpse before her in the captain’s chair. Sir Gawain de Lothe. They’d never met before, but everyone in Britannia, if not all the seven continental United Kingdoms, knew of the former lord commander of the Order of the Crown and Sword. Or rather, his cousin Mordred. The Traitor.

A serious expression was still carved into Sir Gawain’s face, classically handsome, what with his square jaw and glacial eyes that made him look wearier of the world than someone just twenty-four. Patient, she waited until her song thawed his icy stare into a glassy haze before finally lowering her dagger from his throat.

The knight who had once been a prince wore the dark crown of his undercropped hair swept back to the side behind his ears. And the empire’s golden crown stacked atop a sword pommel pinned to his lapel stood out against the midnight blue of his suit identical to the other knights’.

Even now, in the middle of her second song, she could see the tension creasing his eyes. The knight was fighting back. If she’d had some sleep and maybe a vat of tea or a shot of something stronger, her magic’s hold would have been near unshakable. But Birdie’s nightmares had been restless. Really, it was only the one that liked to replay over and over again.

Before the dark thoughts could take root, she pushed the unwanted memory away and let her attention fall to her left ring finger wrapped with the wide band of silver she’d washed ashore wearing two years ago.

“Birdie, look,” Gwenn said, her pale curls bobbing as she nodded at Sir Gawain’s fidgeting fingers. In one motion, she swung her arm and knocked the pair of still semi-conscious knights out cold with her gun. Birdie used the hilt of her dagger to do the same to Sir Gawain, and he slumped over in his chair. If the knights were twitching already, the rest of the crew scattered throughout the ship would be too.

The farther Birdie was from her audience, the weaker her song’s enchantment. All it would take were a naval officer’s kill orders to any of the dozens of faceless, porcelain, and metal automata rolling around, oblivious in their pre-set tasks, and her chances of escape dropped to nil.

Gwenn pulled her Glass out of her stolen coveralls and, with a tap on the opaque square, said, “How much longer, Colin?”

“As long as it takes. Why?”

“Just asking,” Gwenn replied, too quickly, and Birdie cringed.

She spotted Colin’s grease stain of red hair from the bridge’s overlook as he stood on Duncan’s smaller and much quicker skycutter anchored mid-air beside the royal navy aership. He was squinting right at her.

Littered around him on the upper decks, crewmen dressed in navy and gray military fatigues hunched over like the undead as Birdie’s voice filtered through the aership’s loudspeakers. Meanwhile, Duncan’s men ferried one hoverpallete after another from the cargo bay single file. Atop were stacks upon stacks of freshly mined golenite.

Visible, even from the bridge, the piles of crystal glowed teal, rich with quintessence: the fifth element according to the empire’s top alchemists—or simply magic for everyone else.

Birdie could practically feel Colin’s temper heating from up here. Gwenn’s Glass beeped when he said, “You tell your useless Malevolent piece of shite friend that she better sing if she doesn’t want to get left behind, you hear me?”

Gwenn clicked off her Glass and adjusted her cap, nervous. Unlike Birdie, Gwenn donned no band of black silk over her eyes. They were both thieves, but only one of them had the right mark inked onto her hand, and it wasn’t Birdie. Gwenn could still trade this life of crime for a new one. Could still leave.

Yet they both stayed here, stuck in sodding and rotting corrupt Camelot City for all the wrong reasons. Gwenn’s chief most being an unhealthy obsession with their boss, Duncan. Birdie’s reasons, well, she’d rather not remember those. The nightmares were more than enough.

“Did you get any sleep?” she asked, knowing Birdie, too busy singing, couldn’t respond.

Did you? she replied with an arched brow, knowing Gwenn had spent most of her evening in Duncan’s bed instead of the suite next door to hers. Gwenn shrugged a shoulder.

So much for never again.

Gwenn was fine now, happy even, but Birdie would bet every banknote stashed under her floorboards that in less than three days, Duncan would get bored, and his interests would wane. Gwenn would then swear him off, again, up to her eyeballs in gin.

Birdie closed her eyes and tried not to think about what was turning out to be one wicked hangover as the minutes ticked away slower than she ever thought possible. At least until her voice cut out. Then, Birdie wished for every single second back.

“No,” she rasped. But each note came out broken and hoarse.

“Keep trying,” Gwenn said, panicked. All Birdie could do was croak. She whisper-shouted the lyrics to a low warrior’s march, but the officers standing around the unloading dock below were already shifting on their feet and rolling their shoulders as if waking from a restful night’s sleep.

“Shit,” Gwenn breathed. Taking up her Glass, she shouted, “Bird can’t crow! I repeat, Bird can’t crow! Abandon ship!”

From her spot on the bridge, Birdie saw Colin wave a silent signal to the rest of Duncan’s men, who couldn’t hear her, their ears plugged with rubber. Thankfully, they’d already thrown the crew’s weapons overboard. So, their escape would be easy. But if there was ever a truth about stealing, the hardest part isn’t getting the goods. It’s getting away with them, especially when you’re last to leave the scene of the crime like Birdie (usually singing until she stepped foot on whatever getaway vehicle was best suited for the heist).

Right now, that was Duncan’s skycutter loaded with golenite and on the other end of the ship, but the only way back to it was through the maze of hallways, soon to be swarming with angry officers.

“Come on,” Gwenn yelled as she raced out the bridge door, careful not to trip on the unconscious knights. But a firm hand wrapped around Birdie’s wrist and held her back.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Sir Gawain said, already awake but still fighting the grog of getting knocked out. She yanked her hand from his, but he grabbed her other wrist, and time slowed again as his lethal glower—like two holes cut from a lake whose edges beckoned Birdie to the ledge to slip in and drown, traveled down her shoulder, then her arm, to settle on her ring finger, now bare. Her silver ring glinted in his hand, and they both stared at the iridescent ink of a raven as its wings flapped in flight across the backdrop of her dark skin.

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