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The silver siren, p.20
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       The Silver Siren, p.20

           Chanda Hahn
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  I opened my eyes and turned my wrath on the trunk. The power seeped out like a trickle of water through a fissure in a mountain side—escaping even though the rock tried to keep it prisoner. That is how I described what was happening with me. The Siren blood was too loose—too powerful—in me now. It pounded at and weakened the Sinnendor barrier like it had when I splintered the knife. Only this time I wasn’t afraid for my life.

  Just furious.

  The trunk blasted into a hundred flaming pieces, all of the contents scattered. Apparently, it had been packed with books. Pages of paper fluttered to the ground as they turned to ash. I looked at Xiven triumphantly between half-closed eyes and smirked.

  He just clapped his hands in joy. Then he turned to Sevril and said, “You know she is showing you what an unleashed Siren’s gifts are. It’s not too late to reverse your process.”

  Sevril stared at the blackened spot, where his trunk had sat in front of the door. He shook his head, “No way. That is too much power for one person to have. Especially me.” Sevril’s eyes sadly left the carnage of burning books to give me a pitiful look. “At least I’m sane enough to know that.”

  The smile fell from my face.

  Chapter 27

  It was easier than I’d expected to leave the castle.

  I walked out of Sevril’s room. I listened at every bend for the maniacal laughter of Tomac and followed a group of servants out the front door. My remaining anger fueled my determination as I stormed into the stable and demanded a horse to be saddled. The stable master stuttered, bobbed his head, and ran for a saddle. I was counting on my current palace attire to curb any forthcoming questions.

  A few of the Elite gathered outside of the stables to watch my departure with interest. I ignored them, as any lady of a royal house would, and acted impatient. I was surprised when a very large destrier was brought out and presented to me. By no means was he as stunning as Faraway, but he was the largest horse I had ever seen. Sixteen hands tall and well muscled.

  Gideon’s head popped around from behind him, and he handed me the reigns. My cheeks flamed red. I was about to explain my actions but he just shook his head.

  “You’ll need a reliable companion to see you home.” He smiled wanly.

  “A suitable mare would have been fine, but you give me a war horse. Why?”

  “I hope that you will one day personally return him. But if it comes down to courage and strength of will, there isn’t any finer than Loker.”

  “I may beg to differ.” I said, again wishing for my own friend and companion. The leather reigns of Loker in my hand felt like shackles being snapped around my ankles. All the more reason to leave and leave now. “I should leave. I should have left earlier. If I don’t, you may have the whole Valdyrstal clan on your doorstep. Unanswered questions were all that kept me here.”

  Gideon came over and kneeled, politely offering me the boost I needed to get up on the large beast. I stared at the cupped palms he was offering me and hesitated only a moment.

  “I’m assuming that since now you are leaving, you’ve gotten your answers.” He adjusted the stirrups on Loker to accommodate my shorter legs.

  “All but one.” I took a deep breath and prayed for guidance. “Is King Tieren going to send any more men to attack my village?”

  This time Gideon turned red and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’ve heard that your own family line is not affected the way we are. I’m hoping that with time we can find a cure to help King Tieren and his sons. And I think the answer lies with you. You will see us again, hopefully under better circumstances. We would like to see an understanding between the two great families once again, because our future depends on it.” Gideon pinched his lips in a solemn expression.

  I supposed it was the closest I would get to an answer. I didn’t wait. I spurred the horse on and headed toward the gate before I lost my nerve, or before King Tieren had a mood swing and I ended up back in the dungeon.

  I neared the gate, and Gideon motioned for the guards to let me through. Sitting straight and tall in the saddle, I looked neither right nor left but continued on my journey. Unlike the palace in Calandry, Sinnendor’s castle was nestled in a small mountain range. The closest town, Merchantstown, was a good three miles away and located along the river Sterling. I could either take the main road into Merchantstown or bypass it and head into the forest that lay south of the castle. I was hoping to continue south and meet up with a road that would lead me back into Calandry.

  I could see barely see the outline the Shadow Mountains from where I was, and I could envision King Tieren staring out of his castle into that very mountain range and wishing desperately for his sister’s return.

  No wonder he became obsessed with getting her back.

  I spurred the horse forward toward the trees, hoping that I could put some distance between me and the castle before it became dark and Tieren sent Gideon back after me. I didn’t really know whom to trust. It wasn’t long before I found a path and followed it. Any time it forked, I took the road that seemed to head south.

  Hours passed and the sky darkened. I couldn’t help but glance over my shoulder every few minutes, looking for Gideon’s form or one of the Elite to come barreling after me.

  My stomach growled but I ignored the rumbling until it no longer cried out in protest. I was cold, shivering. By now I was fighting to keep from falling asleep. My eyes grew heavy and every few minutes, my head nodded off to the side. I would instantly jerk awake and stare into the night. I couldn’t help it, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted, and even my flight instinct wasn’t kicking in to keep me awake.

  I must have dozed off again, because I awoke to something poking me in the side. Maybe I had rubbed against a brambleberry bush. Loker stopped moving and the poke in the side dug deeper.

  I opened my eyes to the edge of a sword pointed at my face.

  Chapter 28

  I was instantly alert. It must be the Elite. Tieren must have sent them back for me. My hand reached for a weapon but I came up empty. The forest was unnaturally quiet, except for the whispers I could hear from my ambushers. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the sword pointed toward my throat, and I recognized the pain in my side as another knife. I saw black shapes moving about, dark cloaks, and more swords appearing.

  I heard hissing, the sound of an argument.

  “Oh for stars sake, here let me,” a feminine voice called out and then a small flash of light appeared in the darkness fairly close to my head. I jumped slightly, and so did the person holding the sword. Luckily, it didn’t slice my jugular. The bright flare made spots appear in my vision and I heard the same voice call out, “See, it is her.”

  There was no mistaking Syrani’s voice. The sword and knife in my side were quickly withdrawn. Strong hands pulled me down and I was embraced in a gripping bear hug.

  “Odin,” I called out and he released me. He stepped back and others came forward out of the forest. I saw Hemi, Gotte, Eviir, Fenri and Syrani. More lighted orbs appeared in the air and I could see my father approaching on a horse, with what looked like a whole army of clansmen behind him.

  “Father, you came.” I wasn’t surprised that he would. Just glad that he did.

  Bearen stared at me in confusion. But then it washed away to be replaced by a look of happiness. “Thalia? You’re free? How in the world is that possible? We were about to come and rescue you.” Bearen turned in his saddle and—as my eyes adjusted to the darkness—I made out far more silhouettes than I’d expected. There were hundreds of men. He must have gathered the clans to attack Sinnendor.

  “With some help of course,” Syrani called out. It completely surprised me to see Syrani, dressed in my clan’s fur cloak and armor. She was dressed for battle and looked quite comfortable. With a flick of her wrist, the orbs of light, which actually turned out to be floating burning coals, extinguished and dropped to the ground.

  “Yes, I’m free. It’s a long story, but I’m fine.” I was quick
ly ushered into the darkened camp. No campfires had been made, no torches, no light whatsoever trickled out of the camp. It looked like they had just made camp and were getting prepared to invade in the morning.

  I was given a bowl of gruel and a blanket to wrap around my shoulders. Even though there were no fires, it was warm. I gave my father an accusing look and he just shrugged his shoulders and pointed to Syrani. She was leaning over a pile of flat stones and I watched in awe as they slowly glowed. She pulled away and Odin picked up a large pot and placed it over the stones. A few seconds later the water was boiling.

  “How many injured and dead from the raid?” I asked as soon as we were away from the others.

  “Thirty injured, four dead,” he answered grimly. I could see the dangerous glint in his eye and the anger that he barely contained. I couldn’t help but wonder how many generations of living in Calandry it had taken to tame the fury of the Siren blood. Now that I knew the signs, it was easy to spot, even when diluted. But the question remained. Did my father know about his bloodline? Did anyone in Valdyrstal know anything about Sirens? And was that the true answer to why the Valdyrstals hated the Denai as much as they did? It sure seemed plausible.

  My eyes kept drifting to Syrani as she worked tirelessly around the camp. I couldn’t help but watch as Fenri stood by protectively, watching her every move.

  “I can’t believe you brought her.” I said skeptically. But I couldn’t help but feel somewhat proud at the same time.

  “Not on purpose,” Bearen growled out, trying to sound angry, but I could hear the hint of pride in his voice as well. “She wouldn’t stay behind. We were just getting back on our feet, day after the attack by the Elite, when a delegation appeared from Haven to pick up the remaining Denai and escort them home. The girl refused to go with them. She about destroyed the main road into town when they tried to force her, so they left her alone. We’ve been preparing to come here and demand your release, so she came with us. I don’t know what it is about her, but she kind of reminds me of you.”

  “Ugh, please don’t say that.” I rolled my eyes. I knew my father didn’t know the old vengeful and bitter Syrani like I did. “So the rest of the students were taken home?”

  “Yes, but something didn’t seem right,” Bearen said.

  “What do you mean, something wasn’t right?” I could tell from his tone he was worried.

  “It was just too soon. The timing was off. The messengers we sent to Haven hadn’t even returned yet, and there was an army at our village.” Bearen’s eyebrows furrowed and he leaned over and his voice lowered. “How could a large delegation arrive from Haven and make it through the pass before my men returned? There were two of them on our swiftest horses. They should have been back before the delegation arrived.”

  “Maybe they passed one of Queen Lilyana’s parties on their way to Haven and happened to pass on the message. Or maybe they were delayed in their return trip. Or maybe—”

  “They’re dead,” Bearen interrupted.

  “Don’t say that,” I gasped, feeling my stomach sour.

  “The delegation was too large. There were too many horses. Too many warriors.”

  “Well, our caravan was attacked. Maybe they are bringing extra protection from the Septori. They may be unstoppable if they continue these experiments to enhance their gifts,” I mumbled unable to even convince myself.

  “Ask the girl!” Bearen shook his head and pointed back to Syrani. He crossed his arms and refused to say anything else. It was odd that I found myself in this position, arguing with my father. “She said it was odd too, refused to go.”

  “Then why didn’t you make everyone stay? Refuse to let any of the Denai go?” my voice rose in frustration.

  “Because they weren’t my priority. Finding you was.”

  “But obviously you felt something was off, because you are bringing it up now.” I said.

  “Well, you’re safe so we can now focus on the important thing at hand,” Bearen scoffed.

  “Which is?”

  “We have to decide whether we will continue our assault on Sinnendor, which could lead into an all out war we would very likely lose. Or…”

  “Or what?”

  “We go after the delegation and get the children back,” Bearen answered, a mad twinkle in his eye.

  “Excuse me? Did I hear you right?” He couldn’t possibly have just said that.

  “You said the queen is at an impasse and they don’t know what to do. It’s time that someone did something. Our clan is prepared for war, prepared to fight to the death for the cause. Let it for once be a cause that will bring peace instead of more war.”

  “You really think that it was someone else that showed up and took the Denai students? You think it might have been the Septori—say it.” My knuckles cracked as my fists closed tight in rage. I couldn’t believe he just let them go. If he had any hesitation about their motive at all, he should have stopped it.

  “Thalia, we had just been attacked. We were not ready to face another battle; we were still burying our dead. We’re prepared now.”

  I sighed loudly and shook my head. There was a lot to think about. And I was about to give him more. I took a deep breath and looked him right in the eye.

  “I found something out about the King of Sinnendor. King Tieren is mad, you know.” He looked unfazed. “But you already knew that, didn’t you? It’s why you really don’t want to go back to Sinnendor, unless you have to. For fear that the madness will start to affect you too,” I accused.

  “I only know what your mother told me,” he rushed out. “We haven’t had any of the side effects that they had. It could be because we settled on Calandry land. It could be because that trait died out. We don’t know, except that you weren’t affected. It’s even more proof as to why King Branncynal wanted to rule Calandry, and why they hate the Denai.”

  Bearen’s hand rose in warning, and he cocked his head and listened. I strained to hear what he was listening to and heard it as well. A commotion on the far side of camp. Bearen picked up his sword and ran. I followed closely at his heels, my heart pumping with anxiety. I jumped over a fallen log, pushing past the swinging branches that my father inadvertently sent crashing into me as his large form broke through them.

  He stopped, and I almost ran into his large back. I nimbly jumped aside and saw what caught his attention. A large group of clan members had surrounded a wild and mute girl. Odin held a lit torch. Apparently, one too many visitors on the same night warranted a breech in protocol.

  Bearen pushed forward but kept his distance from the one causing the ruckus.

  The girl’s dark hair was tangled, her skin smudged with dirt. Even her dress was frayed and tattered. Her mouth opened and closed like a fish, but no sound came forth. Her hands were splayed out in front of her like she was balancing above an invisible crevice, and she looked like she was about to fall over.

  “Siobhan?” Fenri stepped out from the back of the ever-growing crowd of warriors. He moved to stand in front of her and tried to reach for her hand. It was my cousin, but something was off about her. There was something about her eyes. When she turned, I saw an odd color reflected in moonlight.

  She turned her eerie silver eyes on me, and I was startled at our resemblance. Same hair coloring, same silver-tinted eyes. I was looking at myself. I took a step closer and a slow, evil grin slid up her face. But it looked forced.

  “They come,” she called out. Her voice sounded hollow, empty. I felt my heart break in sorrow as I saw the marks upon her arms. She never made it to her aunt’s. She’d been taken by the Septori, like I was.

  But this time, they knew who they’d caught. They’d found another Siren.

  My heart thudded loudly in my chest as fear ripped through my body. I swallowed and tried to focus my gifts and to see her. To truly see her.

  It took a few tries, but I blinked and I saw the shadow that surrounded her. Also, a dark purple thread of light wrapped around her heart
and led into the woods. The shadow that I saw within Siobhan wasn’t as dark or large as the one I could see within myself.

  But the thread of power troubled me. It meant that she was being controlled. Just as the Raven controlled animals, just as Mona controlled humans. Siobhan wasn’t acting of her own accord. A puppet. But who was pulling the strings, and why was she here?

  Siobhan’s body started to shake and I could see the thread of power connected to her start to wane, thin out, and disappear. She fell to the ground and looked up at me, her arms reaching out to me, pleading.

  “Help me! It hurts. It hurts so much!” She wrapped her arms around her stomach and began to rock back and forth, crying. Big tears slid down her face and dropped into the soft, darkened earth. I knew the pain she was in, the gut wrenching fire that consumed one during the change. Fenri gave a little cry of anguish and ran forward to help Siobhan up off the ground.

  “Don’t touch her!” Syrani cried out and entered the circle. Fenri pulled back and gave her a frustrated look. She rushed forward and stared off into the woods where the thread dissipated. Her hands clenched into fists and she looked between the crying girl and the disappearing thread. Syrani turned to frown at me and then stared back into the woods, worried. She had evidently come to the same conclusion I had.

  Siobhan’s cries continued, and I could see Fenri on the verge of ignoring Syrani’s warning. I teetered between feeling somewhat responsible and helpless. A few seconds more and Syrani stood up and turned to look not at me but at my father.

  Her expression was grim. “Leave her. We need to go!”

  Siobhan must have heard the golden-haired beauty because she began to cry even louder. “No, please, don’t leave me. Help me!”

  I could feel tears sliding down my own cheeks in response to my cousin’s cries. I stepped in front of Syrani and tried to defend Siobhan. “You don’t know what they’ve done to her. We need to help her.”

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