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The silver siren, p.11
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       The Silver Siren, p.11

           Chanda Hahn
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  “Y-your eye. It’s glowing. You’re not a rat,” Syrani stuttered. She tried to back away down the hall and maintain her confidence, but her fear was obvious. “You’re a freak!”

  Chapter 15

  “This is highly unusual,” Adept Lorna said. She tilted my face from side to side, studying my eye. Her blue eyes pierced mine. Lorna’s spiky white hair always seemed to be at attention. Her tanned skin and angular face made her look so serious, you’d never guess she had a softer side until you heard her deep throaty laugh. But she wasn’t laughing now. “I’ve never seen anything like this. Have you, Kambel?”

  “No, I haven’t. I once read about another race with eyes silver like the moon, but they weren’t here in Calandry.”

  “Where?” Lorna asked.

  “Not where…when.” The elderly adept known as Kambel Silverbane spoke. Taking off his spectacles, he cleaned them and slid them back onto his pointed nose as if by that action alone he could clear up the puzzle of the one discolored eye. He scratched his head with an ink-stained hand. “I came across a scroll from Avellgarde’s archives that spoke of another race from before the fall. Before the Denai came to Calandry. But that scroll disappeared shortly after I found it.”

  “Are you sure you didn’t just lose the scroll in your office?” Adept Cirrus asked.

  Kambel shook his head. “No, I’m positive. I’ve continued to search, but any other mention of Denai life before Calandry has been destroyed. The few books I’ve been able to recover over the years are unsalvageable.”

  They had found a stool for me to perch upon, and one by one, the five adepts studied my deformed eye and asked me pointed questions. I squirmed uncomfortably in the stool and tried to answer as honestly as I could, but the truth was I didn’t know what was happening to me any more than they did.

  But I was most uncomfortable with the silent figure that sat quietly in a chair, observing me with piercing blue eyes. Her red hair was held off of her shoulders with delicate bejeweled pins and her delicate hands never twitched or moved. Her posture and composure bespoke years of training that I knew I would never be able to learn or mimic. How could I possibly? She was the queen.

  “So you say you have been regaining more memories concerning the experiments done to you,” Adept Cirrus asked thoughtfully. His long blond-white ponytail made him look the most normal of the bunch. I just appreciated his level-headedness.

  “Vivid dreams have been bringing it back in bits and pieces in.” I shivered just recounting my last few.

  “How do you know what you’re dreaming is truth?” Adept Cirrus asked, no hint of accusation in his tone.

  “Also the pain of the experiments could have hidden the memories deeper as well,” Kambel spoke up again, his gray head bobbing. “If she kept encountering similar pains or experiences, they could have triggered the subconscious.”

  My mind immediately jumped to the sound of thunder and how it pulled me back into the pit, back to the prison. “I think Adept Kambel is right. High stress situations seem to bring it back faster. It’s been a slow process, like a disease. Over time, it’s spread and gotten worse. Especially in the last few weeks. I’ve been in more pain, but I’m getting stronger. Talbot himself said I was exhibiting at least four Denai gifts, and it is fairly obvious I’m not a Denai. The Septori must’ve succeeded, and I’m positive in what my powers are doing. They drain all of a Denai’s powers and give them to another.”

  “I don’t think we should trust her. Or whatever you are calling that Denai imposter” Breah challenged. She was never afraid of speaking her mind in front of Queen Lilyana. Breah, the youngest of the Adept Council seemed to have disliked me from the moment I arrived in Haven. Her auburn hair was in a coif today—probably an attempt to make her look older.

  “Look at her,” she fumed angrily. “Look into the true face of evil!” Silence filled the room, except for the angry panted breathing of Adept Breah. “I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again—she shouldn’t be here.”

  It was Pax who stood up and came to my defense, gently taking the young woman and directing her toward a chair. No one argued against the giant of a man.

  “She should be chained up, imprisoned,” Breah sniffed over her shoulder and sat down, glaring daggers at me.

  The hatred that poured from Breah toward me came off of her in waves and, for once, I actually feared the adept. In that moment, I saw clearly how delicate the balance of power was among the Adept Council members. I glanced around and saw the uncertain expressions on Kambel and Cirrus. Adept Pax and Lorna were unreadable, and they were the two that usually were on my side about everything.

  The scale could have tipped at any moment, deciding the rest of my future. Maybe the Adept Council weren’t my allies but could potentially be my enemy. Ultimately, I could only trust myself. And right now the less I told them the better.

  Queen Lilyana had raised an eyebrow at Breah. “Come now. I doubt she is in any way to blame for what was done to her against her will. You need to let that go, Adept Breah. She’s the victim here. She wasn’t a danger to us before, and even though she is growing stronger, I doubt that her intent is to kill us all in our sleep. Thalia would rather have this whole process reversed if possible, am I correct, Thalia? If you had the chance to undo what was done to you, would you take it? Give it all up for normalcy?”

  The air left my lungs and I couldn’t catch my breath. My hands shook and I leaned on my knees and lifting my gaze with utter hope. A weight lifted off of my shoulders as I stared into her beautiful blue eyes. I would do anything to just have two the same color again.

  “Yes,” I sighed. Even to me the words were barely audible, but she leaned forward as if to catch them.

  Then she smiled softly and leaned back in her chair. “So now that we know that we have her cooperation, let’s work on fixing this.”

  Kambel spoke up in nervousness, “My Queen, I don’t think I could unless I actually had Lord Horden’s journals. I think these experiments are a direct link to his findings. If only I had the original journals. I could—”

  “Well you don’t,” Lorna interrupted. “So use that brain of yours and find a way around it.”

  Cirrus stood. “I’ll help you, Kambel.” Kambel visibly brightened and the two began to talk quietly.

  The great entryway doors crashed open. “She’s escaped!”

  I whirled around in my chair to see who had burst through the double doors of the Adept Hall. One of the captains of the guard. The reddish-blond hair could only belong to my friend Garit.

  Garit’s face was ashen; his hands were clenched in fists displaying his anger at the situation that he now faced. But he stood tall and straight, his chest only slightly heaving from his haste to warn the others.

  Pax stood up. “Who did?”

  “The female prisoner they brought to the castle. She’s gone.”

  My stomach dropped. Mona had been our only chance to find out where Tenya, Joss’s sister was. Now we would never find her—unless we found every Septori member and used the truth serum on them. I couldn’t help but sink dejectedly into the chair and feel the weight of the news press into my heart. Who would be the one to tell Joss?

  Queen Lilyana stood up and raised her voice angrily, “What are you doing then? Send out a search party.”

  “Commander Merryl has already done so,” Garit answered back.

  Queen Lilyana turned and looked at Lorna. “Because the prisoner is a Denai, I would like the adepts’ help in the search. I have heard rumors of the Septori being spotted in the southern provinces. I want you to search south as well.”

  Adept Lorna walked over to stand by Queen Lilyana. Lorna was a good foot taller than the young queen. “Of course, Your Majesty. I’ll personally look into this.”

  She nodded her thanks and turned to me. “I am very sorry for all that you’ve been through. I can only hope that this will all be over with soon.”

  Garit shifted his weight uncomfortably. “My
Queen, we need to take you back to the palace quickly. We don’t know how she escaped or if there are others helping her. You are not safe here.”

  He turned on his heel and left, ushering the queen out before him. I felt oddly offended that he hadn’t even acknowledged me. He must have seen me. When the doors closed with a click, the atmosphere in the room exploded.

  “Lorna, we are not the bloodhounds for the queen’s army,” Breah huffed out. “They can’t expect us to help track down people whenever they ask. The prisoner is a Denai for goodness sake—one of us. Next thing you know, Queen Lilyana will change her mind about the Citadel and want us to track down all of the Denai in Calandry.”

  Lorna spun around and pointed her finger at Breah. “It is exactly because the prisoner is a Denai that we will help. We will not endanger the weaker because one of our kind chose to use their gifts for evil. If this Denai kills any humans, the responsibility falls on us. All of us as, a race. We can’t afford for another genocide on our kind. Our race is already too weak—and growing weaker with each generation.”

  Breah’s eyes went wide in shock and then squinted as she pointed heatedly at me. “She’s not growing weaker. In fact it seems like she is the only one that is growing stronger…and she’s not even one of us. Maybe the Raven is the only true Denai among us. Maybe he is the one that is in the right. Have you thought about that? If he did this to a mere human, what do you think he could do for the Denai?”

  Lorna gasped, Kambel dropped the book he was holding, and Pax stiffened. Cirrus’s eyes bored into Breah’s with intensity. Breah took a step back, her skirt swishing against her legs and she looked at each of her fellow adepts in turn.

  “Don’t tell me none of you have thought about it. I know you have, because I have. I only want what’s best for us. Best for the Denai race,” her voice quivered and her eyes were glassy with unshed tears. “She is not our future.” Her finger pointed at me. “That girl is not the savior of the Denai race. She is only the product of a greater Master Plan. We should simply consider that we might be wrong about the Septori. Maybe they are right.”

  Lorna swallowed slowly and raised her hand in an attempt to calm Breah down. “Breah, this cult has kidnapped, tortured, and killed Denai children.”

  Breah shook her head. “No, we don’t know that. We don’t know for certain. All we have is her word on that. She could be lying. Did you actually see the Denai killed—did you see their bodies?” I stopped breathing as her words rang through my head. Had I seen any bodies? No. But I’d heard Scar Lip and the others talk about how no one else survived.

  “No, they’re dead. I heard the Septori say that some of them weren’t strong enough for the treatments.”

  Breah kept shaking her head at me. “Liar! You aren’t a Denai. How can a mere girl without any gifts be strong enough for the treatments but not a powerful Denai? It doesn’t make sense.”

  “No, it doesn’t. It probably never will. But I can tell you that I’m not just a girl without any gifts. I’m a Valdyrstal, a steel wolf. I have the blood of the Sinnendor Kings running in my veins, I was raised to rule our clan, and I’ve fought in a Kragh Aru tournament. I am who I am, and I am who I will become—which is…I don’t know what. A monster, a powerful Denai, or something else, But I am no mere girl.”

  I stood to leave but I looked over my shoulder at the room that had now been divided. Kambel, Pax, and Lorna on one side of the room. Breah on the other and Cirrus who sat squarely in the middle, obviously not taking sides.

  “You, on the other hand, dear Breah, are nothing more than a mere Denai.” I opened the door and closed it, but not before I heard an angry shriek in return.

  I couldn’t help but smile.

  Chapter 16

  I had never felt more helpless than I did the next morning. I wandered the halls and peeked my head into the classrooms, my heart saddening at so many empty seats. No one had come out and stated it, but I knew deep down that these missing students hadn’t gotten anxious and gone home. The empty seats signified how many had been kidnapped in the middle of the night.

  Like I had been.

  A sour taste filled my mouth and I bit back the bile that wanted to rise to the surface. I’m stronger than this. I’m stronger than all of them. But I needed to do something useful until the adepts had news. Pax, Lorna, and Breah had all left that morning with a couple of the journeyman students. Hopefully, the next time I saw them they would know something.

  Joss had fallen back into the routine of attending classes and studying. Kael had disappeared, and Hemi and Fanny were out in the city, quite taken with each other.

  I didn’t want to attend classes like Joss, but I felt useless standing around. In my wanderings, I made my way back to the kitchen. I entered and tried to stay out of the way of the servers and kitchen staff. Having worked here, I knew how crazy it could get. I found myself pitching in, washing dishes. It was busy work and I let my mind wander.

  I had probably been washing dishes for a few candle marks when strong hands wrapped around my waist and lifted me into the air.

  “You’re back!” Donn yelled out happily. “I’ve missed you.”

  I grunted from the strength of Donn’s awkward hug, but I put up with it until I was set gently back down on the ground. “Look at you. You’re skin and bones! Here, I bet you’re hungry. Come eat, come eat.” I was pulled into the side kitchen and Donn started to make me a plate full of eggs, sausage, and bread.

  I hadn’t realized how hungry I was until my mouth started to water. Eating back there felt like old times, so I stayed and chatted with him until lunchtime. Happily, I grabbed a tray and started out to the tables to serve the students. I couldn’t help but think back to how embarrassed I’d been to be a servant in the kitchen.

  Now I couldn’t care less. When I put the tray down and unloaded the roasted chicken, I noticed how quiet the room was. Students were eating, but it was obvious from the mood of the room and from the table on the dais with five empty chairs where everyone’s thoughts were. Two more students had been found to be missing just that morning, and even more guards and teachers patrolled the halls and city.

  A few hushed whispers and panicked looks flickered between the younger ones, but then an older Denai would lean over and give them a pat on the back to relax them.

  On my second trip out of the kitchen, I carried a jug of cider to pour at each table. I was about to hand a cup to a young Denai boy when someone knocked the cup out of my hand.

  “Don’t touch or eat anything the freak serves you. She’ll turn her evil eye on you and you will disappear like the others.” Syrani spouted loudly. My hand still stung from where her hand slapped the drink out of my grip.

  I watched as the Denai boy looked at Syrani and then looked back up at me. It was then that he noticed my eyes. He shrunk back from me in fear and began to shake.

  “How dare you spew lies and instill fear into them!” I turned on her angrily. “I have nothing to do with those missing children, and you should know better.”

  Syrani smiled wickedly. “I think you know more about the missing students than you are letting on.”

  I was taken aback. Was she bluffing, or did she actually know what happened to me? Syrani must’ve noticed my hesitation.

  “I thought so.” She leaned in close to me and whispered. “I’ve heard things about you. None of them good. Everything I’ve heard proves you to be nothing more than a freak. You should leave now! And not just the room. Leave the city and don’t come back.”

  I felt everyone’s eyes on me. “I have nothing to do with their disappearances. I wasn’t even here when they happened. So lay blame where the blame lies, and that’s not on me—but on whoever took them.”

  “So you too believe they were taken. No one else has said anything about kidnapping.” The room erupted with the sound of Denai talking, yelling, and a few crying.

  My whole body wanted to melt into a puddle on the floor and disappear. I had caused this.
  “Who’s next? Am I next to be kidnapped? Are you a spy sent here to lure us out into the night?” She pointed to the young Denai boy I had tried to serve. “Is he going to disappear next? When will the madness stop?”

  “It’s not like that. The Adept Council will find them. They will save them.” But my words fell on deaf ears. No one could hear me over their own fear. The room had turned into a terrified mob.

  It was time to tell the truth, no more lies. I stood on a table and whistled loudly. It took a few moments for the room to quiet down, but I had everyone’s attention.

  My hands shook with nervousness, and I tried to hide them in my skirt. “Do you want to know the truth?”

  Heads nodded, and I glared at Syrani, daring her to interrupt. “Then, I will tell you the truth, even though it could put me in danger.” I sighed and prayed for wisdom before I spoke. “Yes, there is a possibility that they were kidnapped by the Septori. The Septori wear red robes and are branded with a circle and slash mark somewhere on their body. They follow the directions of their leader, known only as the Raven. I know, because I was once taken in the middle of the night by these men, from my own homeland. I was imprisoned with others.”

  “What happened next?” The young boy who’d been so afraid of me moments before asked. A movement by the door caught my eye, and I saw Joss enter quietly to stand by the back wall.

  I looked at him and smiled. “Well obviously, I escaped. The people who kidnapped me are still looking for me. I know for a fact they are not done with their plan, because more and more Denai are disappearing, and none are reappearing.” I looked at Joss pleadingly.

  He nodded his head once and gave me permission.

  “Joss’s own sister Tenya was kidnapped. These people infiltrated his home, used mind control, and manipulated his family. And they were a family of strong Denai. I believe this same group—the Septori—are behind the missing students here.”

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