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The silver siren, p.19
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       The Silver Siren, p.19

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  “Where are the Elite when you need them?” I called out as I picked up my skirt and followed Sevril up a staircase and down to a landing. Xiven stayed right on my heels.

  “They’ve learned not to deal in family affairs,” Sevril huffed as he continued to run. He went to the third door and pushed it open, waiting for us to pass through before he closed it. After locking it, he stepped away from it. After a second thought, Sevril pushed a large trunk in front of the door for added support.

  I glanced around the room and was quickly able to deduce it was Sevril’s personal suite. A very large four-poster bed stood in the center of one wall, with curtains all around, drawn to keep the light out. A sizeable table covered with scrolls, quills, and journals was off to the side. Candleholders littered every space available with candles, long since burned out. A hefty plate filled with half-eaten food sat forgotten on a stool.

  All of these were signs that Sevril probably slept through the day and spent many nights awake. Xiven ran his hands through his hair and took a deep relieved breath.

  An animal-like scream erupted from the hall as a heavy body was thrown against the door, and Xiven jumped.

  Laughter followed by a singsong voice carried through the thick wood. “Come out, come out! It’s time to play!”

  I found myself stepping farther away from the door in terror, eyes glued to the rattling handle.

  The pounding continued.

  None of us spoke as we waited for Tomac to stop. It was a half candle mark later when we heard him call out to a passing servant.

  “Hey, is that a cobbler I smell coming up from the kitchen?” Someone mumbled an answer. “It is? Oh boy! I love cobbler.” A few seconds passed and then he called out again to the servant. “You haven’t seen my brother, have you?”

  Then we heard nothing.

  “What was that?” I whispered, letting the fear show in my voice.

  Sevril turned to look at me. “An episode. It seems that we all get moments of blackouts where we do terrible things and hardly remember them. It’s why we were desperate enough to turn to Xiven and the Horden journals for answers.”

  Xiven moved forward, but I pointed my finger up at him. “Not you! You can sit over there, where I can see you. And you, Prince Sevril, can start at the beginning.”

  Sevril looked taken aback, but he rubbed his chin and then asked. “Okay, so how much do you know about Sirens?”

  “Gideon dumped that information on me a few hours ago. We’ve got Denai, Sirens, blah blah blah, and Sirens have no power and are going crazy. But that doesn’t explain what he’s doing here.” I pointed to Xiven again, who had moved the tray of food off of the stool and sat there, waiting patiently as instructed.

  “I am kind of a mystery, aren’t I?” Was he trying to lighten the mood?

  “Shut it.” I turned on him and he looked down at his hands and stayed quiet.

  Sevril snorted in response. He moved to the table, picked up a cloth napkin, and poured water from the pitcher onto it. Then, he handed it to me. I stared at it with a look of confusion.

  Sevril looked at me sheepishly and then glanced at the floor. “Uh, your neck.”

  How could I have forgotten the wound? It had stopped bleeding, but now I was streaked with blood and my dress had stained a dark black. I dabbed at the bloodstain, but when I pulled the cloth away, it was still black.

  “Blistering son of a scorpion, why is it still black?”

  “It’s just you. It’s who you are.” Sevril stated. I wiped at my neck furiously, but the cloth kept coming away black.

  I could feel myself start to panic. It was the dreams—the dreams were becoming real.

  Xiven glared at Sevril in obvious frustration. He came over to me, grabbed a knife off the table, and made a quick slice down the palm of his hand. He held up his hand and I could see rich, red blood making a fine line across it.

  Prince Sevril winced at Xiven’s actions, but held up his hand for Xiven to pass him the knife. A second later, Sevril mirrored Xiven’s actions and held up a hand lined with dark black blood. “Do you want any more proof you are not human or Denai? You’re Siren.”

  “But it wasn’t always like this. You did something to me!” I tossed the wet and bloody napkin on the table and went and sat down on an empty stool. I made sure to turn just enough that I wouldn’t have to make direct eye contact with Xiven.

  Sevril let out a rush of air and tried to explain, “If you had grown up in Sinnendor that would have always been the color of your blood. It would have eventually turned black like mine—a sign of royalty and a sign that you are indeed Siren. It was only because you lived in Calandry and away from our lands that you showed more human characteristics. There were rumors that the Valdyrstal clan living in Calandry weren’t exhibiting the same traits as us. The only thing we could think of was that maybe the trait had died out genetically. Or somehow, because they were living on Denai land, it balanced it out.”

  There was that word again. Balance.

  He shifted in his seat and continued. “Thelonia went looking for your father as a means of escaping her own curse. We don’t know if she found it or was ever cured because she died a few years later. But it seems she succeeded in raising an heir to the throne that isn’t…well, useless like me.” He smiled feebly and his hands started to scratch at his skin, like something was crawling under it.

  “What about the Septori?”

  Xiven leaned forward. “My story was similar to yours. All I know is the Septori—they are my family. Or were.”

  “You admit this and yet you want me to trust you?”

  “No, I just want you to listen.”

  I was about to say more but pinched my lips together and crossed my arms.

  “I have no memories before my time with them. I don’t even know how old I am.” Xiven paused and stared at the back of his hands as he held onto his knees.

  I nodded my head in encouragement for him to continue. Having no memories was something that I could relate to.

  Xiven continued, “They ingrained in me their convictions, their mantra, and their cause for a better future for the Denai. I had no reason to argue with them. They convinced me that they had the key to helping the Denai regain their former glory.” Xiven stood up, lifted up his shirt and turned around to show me the Septori brand on his upper back. “We have to be willing to be branded, to show that we are willing to inflict pain as well as endure pain for the good of Denai kind.”

  I flinched and had to look away. It was uncomfortable for me to hear this, making me feel sympathy for those who did this to me. I couldn’t allow my feelings to be swayed. But his words made sense, they were doing this for the good of Denai and the map with the tokens centered around Haven filled my mind.

  Xiven saw my hesitation and spoke. “Thalia, if you don’t want me to continue, I’ll stop. Just say the word.”

  “No, I need to know what else happened. I want to know what you know,” I answered.

  Xiven looked grim but kept going. “I think I was a scholar’s apprentice or something before I lost my memories, because I know how to read complex formulas, translate ancient texts and languages, and build things.” He clenched his hands together in frustration. “They used me to translate these journals and I was kept on a tight leash. I didn’t complain, because I was completely fascinated by the whole idea and process. Of course I wanted to see if it worked. I was only allowed to set it up and watch. It didn’t take long to figure out that what they were doing was wrong.”

  “Of course it’s wrong. People died.” I stated. My skin crawled when I looked at Xiven—and at the realization that he may have seen me being tortured.

  “Not you! Not Kael,” Xiven answered, a knowing look appeared in his eyes.

  “Luck,” I said.

  “I had heard about you long before I met you. You surprised the Raven, Talbot said. You reacted differently than the others, differently than the Denai. Sirens thrive on pain, anger, and destruction.
Your anger made you stronger. More volatile, and that was intriguing. I heard that in one of the sessions, you actually destroyed the machine.

  “No, I didn’t. I would remember that.”

  “I’m just telling you what I heard. You didn’t show evidence of any Denai traits at the time, because you were definitely not Denai. That’s what alerted the Raven to the existence of the Sirens here in our world. I had found the name of the race repeated over and over in the Horden journals. You were just proof that they truly existed.”

  “I thought I was turning into a monster,” I sighed and rubbed my arms, trying to make the goose bumps running up my spine go away.

  “All I can say is that the news of your escape traveled fast. The Raven wanted you captured quickly and silenced. There was even a bounty placed on your head, but the attempts to collect you kept failing. Thanks to the SwordBrother.” Xiven smiled slightly.

  “Yeah, Kael takes his job very seriously.”

  Xiven wiped his palms on his pants and looked at me. “They didn’t know he was a SwordBrother. They thought he was part Denai, so you could just imagine their shock when they accidentally bonded the two of you. Now you are a hybrid of the two races. Which made the Raven value your gifts even more. Not only were you collecting more traits than any of the others, your Siren powers were coming through and you were bonded to a SwordBrother. You were the ultimate threat,” Xiven started to chuckle wanly.

  “Why did you leave? Why are you here?”

  “I didn’t want to be a part of what the Septori were doing. I started to feed the Septori false information in the translations of the journals. Which unfortunately led to more failed experiments.”

  “Deaths of innocents.” I snapped. Xiven flinched as if my words physically hit him.”

  He licked his lips and continued, “Raven was beginning to distrust me, so he sent me with Talbot and Mona for collection.”

  “Collection?” I let the word slip out.

  “Kidnapping. It was all the same. We needed Denai.” He shrugged his shoulders and gazed at the ground. “What the machine actually did was slowly strip a person’s power and convert it into a liquid serum. Ultimate power in a bottle. Sometimes the Denai lived through it and sometimes…” Xiven shivered. “All that was left was a hollowed shell of a being.”

  “Why? Why would you do something so horrible?”

  Xiven stood up, his eyes blazing in indignation. “I didn’t know any better. I felt trapped. I stayed until I learned all I could. I pretended to go along with everything, translating the books, writing up plans, and then I watched what they did and I felt sick to my stomach. When I saw with my own eyes how powerful you were, I realized the Raven wasn’t going to stop with just you. There were hints, things said, that lead to a much larger plan. And since the secret of the Sirens was out, I had to act. In Skyfell, in that moment of chaos when I thought I’d killed you. It was my only chance.”

  “You left me to die!” I screamed at him. “If it wasn’t for Hemi and Fanny, I wouldn’t even be here.”

  “I know. It was wrong of me. But I did it. And I fled to Sinnendor. I had learned enough to follow the Siren bloodline and went to the source.”

  Prince Sevril leaned forward and scratched the back of his head. “He admitted freely what he had done and we began to talk. We believe we can alter the machine to help with our Siren curse.”

  “By breaking the seal on your power?” I asked.

  Xiven shook his head no. “We don’t want to make Sevril stronger by injecting him with Denai gifts. Instead, we’ve chosen a safer alternative. We’ve just decided to strip every essence of Siren blood from him. We do it in small steps, not as painful. And much easier to monitor.”

  “You can’t be serious,” I said. The horror of their building another machine made me cringe.

  “Even I know what my future holds. Madness, pain, and darkness. I’m willing to go through all that to stop the curse from passing on to another generation. Do you really think I want to have children like Tomac? Who are happy and beautiful one day and the next terribly insane? I would give it all up to be free of my generational curse.”

  “But you heard Xiven. Half of the experiments failed. They ended in death.”

  “And the others ended up empty shells. Both are preferable to my current destiny. Right now, even death seems like a quiet and peaceful alternative.” Sevril cried out, jumping up from his spot and pacing the room He fidgeted with his shirt sleeve.

  “Thalia,” Xiven said. “We are not asking you for anything. We aren’t asking for your permission. We’ve already begun the process. You may not know it because you haven’t been here that long, but Sevril’s already changed.”

  “What? You mean you’ve already started?” I turned and glared at Sevril, feeling like he was a bigger traitor than Xiven. That he would willingly trust and accept the help of someone who admitted to lying, kidnapping, and torturing innocents.

  Sevril worried the inside of his cheek, let out a long sigh, and then pulled up his sleeves to show me the black bloodied bandages that ran up the inside of his arms. No wonder his arms were uncomfortable. “I doubt you would ever believe me, but the episode Tomac had was tame compared to how mine were even few short weeks ago.”

  I couldn’t tear my eyes away from Sevril’s arms. He willingly went under the machine, knowing he could die, just to be free of his curse. A curse only now beginning to plague my body.

  “It’s not the same as what was done to you, Thalia.” Xiven tried to make an excuse to ease the horrified look I plastered Sevril with. “The Raven figured out what you were when the experiments started to work.”

  I turned to glare at Xiven, my voice filling with conviction. “Who is the Raven?”

  Xiven shifted uncomfortably and sat down on the stool again. “I’m not exactly sure.”

  “How can you not know?” I snapped.

  He bowed his head to stare at a spot on the floor before he looked up to me. “I have a suspicion, but it’s unfounded and quite unlikely that anyone will believe me. And even if I did tell you, it won’t change what is to come.”

  “And what is that?”

  “The Raven wants the Denai to be the most powerful race in the world. To make that happen, the Sirens need to be destroyed.”

  “Well, the queen is certainly convinced all of the evidence points to Sinnendor,” I said.

  Xiven’s head snapped up and he met Sevril’s eyes. A silent pause passed between them, and I could almost see the silent conversation.

  “Interesting and a bit coincidental isn’t it?” Xiven asked. “The queen and her Denai are hesitant to pursue justice for these horrendous deeds. They won’t enter Sinnendor to find answers, even when—”

  “It’s not like that,” I sighed loudly. “The Denai are not strong enough to enter into a war with Sinnendor, and I doubt that even Queen Lilyana would sacrifice any of their lives needlessly. Even though I’m sure if she asked the Adept Council, they would do everything they could to help her.”

  “So what? She could send Calandry’s emissaries into Sinnendor? Why hasn’t she done so already?” Sevril replied, crossing his arms to wait for my answer.

  “Maybe she fears King Tieren would think it a threat and attack Calandry in retaliation,” I rushed out.

  “Listen to yourself. You are basing this on a whole lot of what-ifs, for a queen and race your clan doesn’t even like.” Xiven answered back, a quizzical expression on his face.

  “I am listening to myself, and I’m making more sense than you are. You suddenly show up in Sinnendor of your own free will. You’re doing experiments to try and remove all trace of Siren genes from the Prince of Sinnendor. And all to save a dying race that you didn’t even know existed a few months ago.” My voice rose loudly in conviction with each word I uttered. It felt like my blood was rushing through my veins, and I was finding it harder to control my emotions. I looked over to Sevril to see if he shared my concern.

  He looked at
me and shrugged his shoulders. “If he has an ulterior motive, so be it. I would rather live a fully human life than a mad one.”

  “You’re pathetic,” I shouted. “He could be plotting the destruction of all of us—your grandmother, father, brother. Don’t you have any loyalty?”

  Sevril’s eyes blazed. “My loyalty has always been that of the people of this land—no matter what their race. I do this for them! So that they can have hope for the future. A cure. Who are you to question my choices and motives?”

  I was stunned by the utter fury and conviction that laced Sevril’s words. His eyes were dark with anger, his hands clenched into fists. Even his hair looked as if it stood on end in anger. I had, in that one moment, seen a glimpse of the madness and power that lay sealed within Sevril. Here was proof that he may have been the more unstable one.

  My own vision became blurry with fury. I knew I needed to leave and leave now, before I lashed out. I stomped over to the barricaded door and began to forcefully shove the trunk to the side. It was heavy and made a loud screeching noise.

  Xiven stepped forward to offer help.

  “Get away from me!” I yelled at him and whacked his hand. He moved suddenly, and I fell onto my backside.

  Instead of keeping a serious face, Xiven started laughing. Even Sevril began to chuckle, their moods easily tempered apparently. Mine was too far gone.

  “Stop laughing,” I said in warning. I tried to focus on my uneven breathing.

  The laughing continued and my hands began to shake.

  “Knock it off!” I yelled out loudly and stood up, my whole body trembling with the beginning of the power again.

  Sevril snorted which caused Xiven to howl.

  My ears burned red, my temper loosed, and I couldn’t hold it in anymore. The anger at my situation, my attempted assassination by Tomac. There’d been too much. I was helpless in finding the solution to my disease, which is what I was now calling it. I was more than frustrated over not knowing what was happening with Kael and Joss. I shouldered guilt over not saving the innocent Denai. It was too much for me to contain, and I let it go with a throaty yell.

 
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