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The silver siren, p.18
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       The Silver Siren, p.18

           Chanda Hahn
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  “King Branncynall?” I whispered in awe. “Why isn’t there a record of this? Didn’t the Denai know that their enemy was among them?”

  Gideon shook his head, “No, they were as human looking as…well, a human. Listen up.”

  “What does that have to do with the Raven and the Septori?”

  “Everything.” Portia’s voice quivered with anger. “It’s a balance, Thalia. Just like the sun needs the moon, light needs shadow. They are both magic races.” Her eyes flashed. “The Denai are dying out, because we are dying out.”

  Chapter 24

  “Who are you?” I asked warily. If what she said was true, it involved me.

  “Long ago we had many names: demons, Djinn, angels,” Gideon spoke. “Here in this land, we’ve chosen to be called Sirens.”

  The name consumed my mind and I tested it on my tongue.

  “But how is it possible? How can one race affect the other so? The adepts said there’s a balance. That the thread of energy is in everything,” I argued. “Can’t you create a balance?”

  “We are the balance. We have nothing. No power, no magic. While the Denai have it all. Our power is locked away, Thalia. But if the seal on our power were broken, we’d be free to use it. If there weren’t so many of us here canceling each other out. The lack of magic starts to drive those with the strongest Siren bloodlines mad. It’s the reason Denai aren’t allowed in Sinnendor. Fear of discovery. Our race is at the weakest we’ve ever been.”

  “That’s why Sinnendor wanted the SwordBrothers, to protect themselves from the Denai,” I spoke aloud, the sudden realization dawning on me.

  “Not just that, but for a while, it seemed being bonded to a SwordBrother stabilized the royals. Still, it wasn’t fool proof, which led to the mass destruction of most of the SwordBrothers. Since then, only the Sirens that are the most stable have become a part of the Elite.”

  “But you said your kind are dying? And that’s why the Denai are dying out as well?”

  “The hand we’ve been dealt is unfair—our gifts sealed away within us. Knowing they’re there but being unable to touch them is like being deprived of air. It slowly drives the strongest mad.”

  “What about before the Fall?”

  Gideon smiled wanly. “It’s said that the Sirens’ power came from our fury. Death and destruction were once our greatest gifts and we were unstoppable. There were no physical limits, because we could take at will.”

  Gideon’s words chilled me to the bone. “And now?” I asked, uncomfortable.

  The smile slid from his face. “We’re nothing.” He held his hands out palms open. But you’re not. Your clan came from the strongest Siren blood. Your father is descended from King Branccynal, which means you are too. Your mother is from the second strongest Siren line after the war. You, child, have been blessed because you are a Siren like us, yet born and raised outside of Sinnendor. The seal around your core, around your powers, have started to break open.”

  “It wasn’t with my consent,” I accused. “It must have been the Septori. They must have found a way to do it.”

  “But you are the first Siren since the Fall to show signs of regaining their power,” Portia spoke up quickly, hoping to encourage me with the news.

  “This gift you keep telling me about came at a great cost, and with a lot of pain,” I clenched my fists together in anger. “And it is not wholly my own.”

  “It’s a lot for you to take in, but we would like you to understand you are free to leave. We only ask that you give us time to help you learn who you really are—your heritage, your destiny. Then when you are fully satisfied, you can go.” Portia, for the first time, looked vulnerable. Scared that I might take her up on her offer. She abruptly added, “But might I remind you, you are safer within the walls and borders of Sinnendor than you have ever been in Calandry.” She moved as if to touch my shoulder but pulled her hand back at the last minute.

  “So I can leave? Walk out that door right now and you won’t stop me? Tieren won’t stop me?” It seemed too good to be true.

  Both Gideon and Portia shot each other worried glances as if reassuring themselves. Gideon shuffled his weight and cleared his throat. “Um, well you do have to wait for a time when Tieren is more…in the present than in the past.”

  Portia rushed in, “He’s really much more himself in the morning compared to evening when his mind starts to tire. You arrived here late at night and he couldn’t remember you, so you were placed in the dungeon until we could change his mind.”

  “I’m sure I should understand, but I don’t. More reasons to leave. What about Sevril and Tomac?” I asked. “Neither of them seem like they want to harm me…yet.”

  “Sevril understands why you’re here. He knows that our future depends on you. Even though it depresses him, he works tirelessly for our cause. He has been showing great progress. Tomac is another story. Keep your distance from your youngest cousin. He is quite mad, more so than Tieren. And he is not safe.”

  “Not the most reassuring news.” I moved around Gideon and Portia and walked to the door.

  “It would be wise to wait,” Gideon answered.

  I paused in thought, my hand on the doorknob.

  There were still so many answered questions, and I was the first in my clan to get back into Sinnendor. Did my father know about the madness that would have plagued him if he had come back? I thought back to the dinner table and imagined me in Tomac’s place. Talking incoherently, throwing food. How long could I stay before I started to show signs of madness?

  Was that my destiny? Had I already started down this dark path? In some ways it felt that way.

  “One more thing, Thalia,” Gideon suddenly spoke up. “You may have loyalties to the Denai now, but you are first and foremost a Siren. You belong here. With us.”

  I grimaced in pain when I pulled the door handle open, and I heard Portia’s intake of breath as she waited to see if I would leave. I didn’t turn around, for fear of changing my mind. Instead, I walked out.

  Immediately, I heard soft sobbing sounds behind me, as the stoic Portia broke down in tears. Gideon’s comforting voice followed me down as I made my escape from the tower.

  Surprisingly, the Elite outside the room didn’t try to stop me. Nor the ones at the bottom of the tower. I did make a few wrong turns before I made it to the main hall and looked around me in wonder. If my mother had lived, I might have roamed these halls and played with my cousins.

  Or I might have never stepped foot in the palace. There were too many what-ifs. I could be lost in my own thoughts forever.

  One side of the double doors opened as a page walked in and turned down a hallway. Sunlight streamed into the entryway, creating a path of light that beckoned me to freedom. The view to the courtyard called to me, mere feet away. Seconds more and I’d be out the door.

  I could feel my feet slowing in hesitation. I tried to remind myself that this was a prison and right now the door was open. I could walk out the double doors and never look back. I could go home, see if my father was okay, find Faraway…and then do what? Wait impatiently for Kael to return? Wait and see if he had found Joss and the others yet? Wait for the Raven to eventually find me? The thought of waiting for the unknown terrified me as much as being in a castle surrounded by insane relatives.

  Or, I told myself, I could stay, try to find out what really was going on, find out why Xiven was here, and maybe find the Raven first. I crossed the threshold and stood on the large stone steps outside.

  People were working—servants were busy carrying wood inside, and a man was leading a very magnificent horse through his paces. I watched as two of the Elite elbowed each other in excitement. I heard girls laughing as they carried a large bucket of water to some workers repairing the outer wall. A dog chased a cat under the horse’s feet, and the horse reared, making the Elite jump into action. Two of them calmed the horse and moved it away. A third man caught the dog and held it back from the scared cat who scurried u
p a tree. I expected the Elite to whip the dog or get angry. Instead they laughed and trying to coax the cat out of the tree.

  Why did the people of Sinnendor have to remind me so much of my own clan and family? Why couldn’t I view them as the enemy?

  A shadow flitted across the courtyard. A very large black bird flew across and perched on the outer wall—a raven. Something about it chilled me to the bone. A bad feeling overtook me, and I stepped backward into the main hall and shut the door. At the sound of the latch, I realized I’d just chosen prison over freedom.

  “So you’ve decided to enjoy our hospitality a little longer. I commend you. Although remember that while the food here is very fine, the company has much to be desired,” a male voice spoke from behind me.

  I whirled around and saw the tall form of Prince Sevril leaning against a column. His clothes looked tidier than yesterday. He still had the dark circles under his eyes, but today at least he tried to be friendly toward me.

  I licked my lips and tried to act pleasant. “I might be able to stomach a few more days as long as dinner doesn’t always end up in my lap. I generally like to eat my food, not wear it.”

  Sevril’s laugh started deep in his throat and then it got louder. He held onto the column and wheezed, having to cover his mouth. When he was able to breathe again he smiled widely. “You, Thalia, are a breath of fresh air. So how do you like your family so far?” He moved away from the pillar and clasped his hands behind his back as he circled, studying me. “Are we as crazy as you expected?”

  “I think you’ve all been given a raw deal,” I answered truthfully. “If what Gideon says is correct, and our family will eventually go insane then I feel pity toward you and your actions, since they can’t always be helped. But I notice you use it to your advantage, as well. To get away with foolish behavior, just because everyone expects you to.”

  Sevril stopped his pacing and turned his dark brown eyes on me. I didn’t feel afraid, but I didn’t feel entirely safe either. “Every single day, I fight the feelings, the shadows, the dark thoughts, the anger. And every day I find another reason to prove my sanity. That is what I find my solace in, my striving to be human.”

  I started to laugh. It wasn’t meant to be mean or condescending, but I felt hopelessness bubble up out of me and I couldn’t help but wonder where it came from. “But we’ve never been human. We truly are just freaks who would be better locked up.” The laughter turned into a pitiful sob, and I could feel the sting of disappointed tears in my eyes.

  His eyes turned dark with anger.“Careful, Thalia. Not all of us have such control of our other inner demons.” He whirled around and left the room, leaving me in solitude.

  His footsteps echoed outside the chamber and I was left with one thought. Now what?

  Chapter 25

  Portia and Gideon were right about King Tieren. He seemed more himself in the earlier hours of the day and more lost toward evening. Part of me thought it had to do with all of the drinking he was doing, but then I began to believe it had as much to do with the darkness that came with the night. Sometimes I found him avoiding darkened hallways and stepping around shadows that were cast on the floor.

  Tomac on the other hand, I didn’t believe was ever sane. I had stumbled across him in a side parlor practicing sword fighting with a dummy. He was swift, agile, and explosive—expending all of his energy across the room. He would run and jump up on a stool, knocking it over, use his sword to slice through the roses, cut up the long curtains, and flip over a chaise, all before he even attacked the dummy.

  I could actually picture him as a true Siren, his red hair blowing in the wind, eyes glowing with power. In that mental image, he wielded a flaming sword as he threw himself into battle. At one point as I watched, he leapt from the top of a table and I could imagine him with wings flying. His energy was so intense I could feel it almost bubble over him in waves. But here, where there wasn’t any magic, what I felt from him was enough to roll my stomach. It was hatred, despair, and self-loathing, and I had to ask myself whose feelings I was truly experiencing.

  His or mine?

  Tomac’s sword arced and he turned his body into the movement, decapitating the mannequin in one fluid movement. The straw-filled head flew across the room to come and rest by my foot, face down. Tomac turned and apparently noticed my intrusion for the first time. His head cocked to the left, the movement very much like a bird of prey as he studied me with interest.

  “Tha-l-i-a,” he dragged out my name in a trill of notes that made my skin crawl. “I broke it.” He gestured to the stuffed head that had rolled to my feet. “Could you fix it, please?”

  I looked down at the faceless structure and picked it up. Part of me wanted to run from him, but another wanted to prove to myself that I wasn’t afraid of Tomac. That even without my powers he couldn’t scare me. Somehow, knowing that we were both the same, both susceptible to the same anger and fury, made me want to pity him. Help him—because in some way, I would be helping myself.

  The head felt heavy in my hands and I looked underneath into the neck and saw that there was a wood handle that had been severed in two. I walked with confidence across the room, my shoes echoing across the stone floor. The mannequin was finely made. Someone had taken good care in making it as lifelike as possible. It was even dressed in a long green robe. I pulled the handle farther out of the head and jammed the stake into the body of the practice dummy, twisting and turning it as it slowly slid down. I had to stand on tiptoe as I spun the head around to face the front.

  What I saw stopped me cold.

  This dummy was not faceless. I had expected this one to be like those we’d used at the Citadel. But someone had taken the time to sew on a mouth and two silver coins for eyes. My hands started to shake as I stared at the face of the dummy. There was no mistaking his choice of coins for eyes. The silver was intentional. I swallowed nervously.

  The hysterical laugh was the only warning I got as Tomac’s sword cut through the air.

  I ducked and rolled. The sword missed my head by mere inches, re-decapitating the practice dummy. Only my roll didn’t go as well as I hoped, since my very long dress wrapped around my legs, hampering my escape. My heart was in my throat as I tried to scamper backwards on the floor and untangle my feet from the yards of material considered proper for a young woman. This dress would soon be the death of me.

  Tomac danced around me on the floor, whooping and hollering to his own manic song. I kicked free of my dress and jumped up, running for the door. He flung a broken piece of chair across the floor at me and it rattled along and tripped me. My chin slammed into the floor first and pain raced up my jaw. Lights flickered painfully in my skull. I felt dizzy as I rolled over to my back, just as Tomac kneeled over me pinning me with his knees and body. One hand grasped me around the throat and his other arm rose high behind him, the sword tip at my throat. My hands wrapped around his hand and I worked on twisting it to release, but I couldn’t fight both the hand and the sword tip. I felt a prickle of pain and something wet pooled down my neck.

  “Nighty-night, birdy. You will no longer plague my dreams.” His body weight lifted, and I knew he was about to plunge the sword into me.

  I closed my eyes and relaxed, preparing myself for the pain that would inevitably come, followed by my death. Until I reminded myself that I was surrendering, and I don’t surrender.

  Besides, Kael wouldn’t want me to. He would tell me to be strong. And I had to for him as well as myself. My death would leave him vulnerable.

  I reached deep down in myself for the anger and rage at my situation. Right now I hated Tomac. Not as much him as what was done to him. This wasn’t his fault.

  My body silently screamed with rage, focused not on Tomac but on the sword. Pain ripped through my body and I felt like I had been pierced, though the sword had not touched me. I let the pain flow through me and outward, focusing on the sharp blade only inches from me. Tomac hesitated for a second, and in that one pause
I was able to push through the nothingness, the void, the shadows that were Sinnendor.

  The sword cracked, just a single crack splintered up the side, but Tomac pulled back to look at the sword in puzzlement. It wouldn’t be enough to stop him. He just smiled and raised it again.

  Now, I was beat, tired, and exhausted.

  A roar ripped through the air as Sevril’s body flew into Tomac, knocking him to the ground. The sword still nicked me, but I was free. Hands gripped me under the arms and started to drag me backwards out of the room. I watched as Sevril had Tomac pinned to the ground, punching him again and again. The sword lay abandoned feet across the floor.

  I lost sight of Sevril and his brother as someone pulled me out of the hall. Whoever had me stopped and then came to my side to pick me up.

  Xiven. I couldn’t help but use what little physical energy I had left—

  To slap him.

  Chapter 26

  “Ouch! What in heaven did you do that for?” Xiven grunted as he continued to keep a hurried pace as he jogged away from the hall where Sevril and Tomac were fighting.

  “Put me down! Put me down before I kill you,” I seethed. His hands loosened and I dropped unceremoniously to the ground. My feet barely caught me.

  “Now, Thalia! It’s not like you think. I mean…it is like you think, but really it’s not.”

  “You work with Talbot. You’re part of the Septori,” my voice carried loudly and echoed. Xiven winced and looked around helplessly.

  Feet pounded down the hall, and then an out of breath Sevril appeared. “Quick, let’s move her before Tomac gets up. I hit him hard, but he could wake up in a rage.”

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