An excerpt from Rita Chang-Eppig's novel, Deep as the Sky, Red as the Sea:
The Portuguese quickly swarmed the main deck, still outnumbered, yes, but better armed and better trained. Shek Yeung fought defensively, trying to conserve energy for what promised to be a long fight. She hovered a little off to the side of the younger, stronger crew members, waiting until they’d weakened an opponent enough so she could sneak in and deal the death stroke, freeing them to focus on someone new. When she noticed a Portuguese sailor using a pistol instead of a blade, she quickly closed the distance between them to nullify the advantage of his firearm, forcing him to draw his sword instead, which gave her enough time to run him through with hers. At some point, she found herself near the top of the stairs. That was when she glimpsed Yan-Yan.
Why had that ridiculous girl left the cabin? There she was, stubbornly blocking the door with a spear in her hands, the worst possible choice for the cramped conditions of the lower deck, but Shek Yeung never insisted that she learn to use anything else, did she? She’d thought she would be able to protect the girl from the worst of the fighting. A little off to Yan-Yan’s side stood the northern woman, armed with two knives.
Another blast rocked the ship, a solid hit this time. It threw her to the deck and slid her several paces. Her elbows bore the brunt of the impact, and she felt skin scraping away from bone as she tried to stop her momentum with only her arms. What actually stopped her was the body of one of her best men. She pushed herself upright, hands slipping around on the bloody deck.
And that might have been the moment—or maybe the moment right after, when Shek Yeung noticed the new wave of Portuguese boarding—that she realized she might well lose everything today.
Death crept along the ship like poison vines, clambering onto one person, and then another, and then another, making blood blossom from chests and bellies and mouths. It sprouted shoots belowdecks. Out of the corner of her eye, Shek Yeung saw Yan-Yan lunge at a man with her spear and get knocked against the wall. The spear fell. Yan-Yan hadn’t been able to make the kill, she realized. The girl had hesitated, and that was the opening the enemy needed. Shek Yeung elbowed her way closer, but the northern woman got there first, throwing herself at the man who towered over Yan-Yan. He stumbled, and his blade carved Yan-Yan’s arm open.
The northern woman thrust a knife into the man’s stomach and then, using both hands, pushed the blade down the center of his body, slicing him from sternum to groin.
“Get her inside!” Shek Yeung shouted at the northern woman, who nodded and dragged Yan-Yan back into the cabin. Not that that was going to do much good. The Portuguese would find them eventually, after they had killed everyone else.
Ma-Zou, I beg you.
Excerpted from Deep As the Sky, Red As the Sea. Copyright Rita Chang-Eppig, 2023. Reprinted by permission of Bloomsbury. You can learn more about Rita and her writing here.