Marianne has been training to be the Viper for her entire life – to serve and protect the King and the citizens of The Twelve Isles – but to become the Viper and protect the islands she loves she must find the strength to defeat her father.
As you may know, I love these books, and Bex, so am super honoured to be taking part in this treasure hunt! If you’ve not seen it, check out Bex’s twitter to see the clues and fun. But for the story – part one can be found here!
Set between Viper and Venom, this short story follows a member of The Maiden’s crew, Shard. Once loyal to Captain Adler, now his only loyalty lies with himself. The line of succession passes to one who kills the Captain, and if it’s been done before, it can be done again…
Vitriol contains spoilers for Viper, so read with care!
About the Author
Raised on a healthy diet of fantasy and fairy tales, Bex Hogan has spent much of her life lost in daydreams. Writing her stories down was a natural progression and now she enjoys sharing her time between living in the real world and escaping to her imagination. A Cornish girl at heart, Bex now lives in Cambridgeshire with her husband, two beautiful daughters and crazy cocker spaniel. She might be found riding horses, talking to her plants or eating marzipan. Or not.
She never did. The next time he saw her was later that day when she gathered the crew on deck and climbed a little way up the foremast so they could all see her as she addressed them.
Shard readied himself – this was going to be it. A public acknowledgement of his achievement, a public moment of thanks. A recognition of his talents at last.
‘Snakes!’ The Mouse’s voice carried on the sea breeze. ‘Today, we lost one of our own, a loyal member of the crew, who died defending the Isles. We will not forget him, or the greatest sacrifice he made in the name of duty. To Raze!’
‘To Raze!’ The crew all lifted their voices and ale at the same time.
When the noise had quietened down, the Mouse resumed her speech. ‘These past few months have brought changes for all of us, many of which have been far from easy. So I have made a decision. As tomorrow is my birthday—’
At this, a cheer rang through the crowd. The Mouse smiled.
‘I thought we should have a celebration.’
To which there was an even louder cheer.
‘Since I became Captain, we’ve been privileged to have so many members of the Avenger’s crew join us, especially Harley and Ana, and I can think of no better way to mark my birthdate than by officially welcoming them all as Snakes. They fought and bled for me in the West and need no further Initiation to earn their titles.’
Another resounding chorus of agreement roared through the air. After that, the Mouse had nothing else much to say, and the crowd began to disperse and return to their work, their moods buoyant despite the loss of Raze.
All except Shard. His fury threatened to consume him. Not a word. Not one word about him, or his return of Choke. Not even a passing comment on his remarkable achievement. The outrage devoured him from the inside out. She would pay for this slight. Oh, how she would pay.
Still. The date was set, the time decided. The Mouse thought there was no better way to celebrate her birth date – and the anniversary of her failed Initiation – than to make these nobodies part of their elite crew. Well, Shard had other ideas. The best way to mark her epic failure was to end her once and for all. To rescue his fellow snakes. To finish what Adler started.
How sweet his victory would be! How delicious the taste of betrayal! He could imagine already the look in the Mouse’s eyes as he sunk his blade into her gut. Her shock, her disbelief. Her weakness. Oh, how he would savour it.
True, it was sooner than he’d have liked, but it was too good an opportunity to miss. All he had to do was keep his head down for one more day, make sure no one had any cause to suspect him while he made his final preparations, and then victory would be his.
So when Bronn came to join him at his table in the mess hall for a second time, Shard had to do everything possible not to show his irritation.
‘Again? To what do I owe this honour?’ Shard said, forcing a smile to his lips. ‘Captain got another mission for me?’
Bronn’s smile appeared far more natural than Shard’s, as he leant forward to clap Shard on the arm. ‘Not at all. On the contrary, I’m here to congratulate you. You did a good job bringing Choke back.’
Shard couldn’t help but swell with self-importance. ‘I know it wasn’t quite what the Captain ordered, but I will resume my search for Karn whenever you wish.’
‘No need,’ Bronn said. ‘The bandits you brought in will sing their song soon enough. I’ll see to it personally.’
A knot of concern tightened inside Shard’s belly. ‘You plan to torture them? Didn’t think that was this Captain’s style.’
Bronn’s eyes seemed to burn with devilry. ‘It’s not. But it’s mine. If they know where Karn is, they’ll tell me soon enough.’
Shard swallowed hard, panic rising in his throat to choke him. ‘Well, if you want any help. . .’ He let the offer linger.
Bronn’s gaze seemed to penetrate through him. ‘I might take you up on that. Reckon you deserve to see them suffer after what they did to Raze.’
Shard’s mind raced. Choke would be no problem, she would withstand anything Bronn did to her, would take her secrets to the grave. But what of the bandits? Karn had said they were loyal, but would they hold up under interrogation?
‘I’d like to make those men pay,’ Shard said. ‘Maybe I should take them, while you take Choke?’
‘Maybe.’ Bronn smiled once more. ‘I’ll let you know. For now, drink up. Enjoy the revelries. Looking forward to the celebrations tomorrow?’
And finally Shard’s grin was genuine. ‘Oh, more than you know.’
The ninth and final part will go live tomorrow and the clue is:
All the blogs taking part are in the graphic below – can you decipher who is next?
Read the whole story: