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The silver siren, p.22
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       The Silver Siren, p.22

           Chanda Hahn
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  “We can’t. If the Septori take Sinnendor, there’s no stopping them. They’ll capture more Sirens. Create better warriors. It will be our doom. No one will be safe. Not even Calandry.”

  King Tieren danced up to the wall again, and I seized my chance. “Tieren,” I called out. “I’m tired and wish to come inside where it’s warmer. Your army is getting hungry and cold too. It’s bad form to not take care of your own men.” Tieren’s forehead puckered as he looked down at me in confusion. He turned to Gideon for explanation.

  “She’s right, your highness. We can’t leave our men out there unprotected.” Gideon spoke slowly. I could hear his unease.

  Tieren turned and waved at me. “All right. Bring them in, but make sure that they are ready tomorrow. I think I shall send a message to my brother-in-law Bearen. I would like to visit my niece. I wish to know if she looks anything like you, Thelonia.” He stepped down and disappeared.

  Bearen turned to me, his dark eyebrow arched so high in surprise it got lost in his messy mane.

  I shrugged my shoulders and turned to watch the gate. It was another five minutes before Gideon was able to convince the soldiers to let us in. Thankfully, Bearen had stayed quiet during the exchange.

  There wasn’t enough room for all of our clan, so Bearen and Odin split our army into three divisions. Two would head north and take a wide berth around Merchantstown, keeping to the outskirts. They would be part of the army that would pin the Septori, once the attack had begun. Valdyrstal’s main clan quickly fell into line with Sinnendor’s Elite. When men of battle came together for a cause, it didn’t take long to put differences aside. Especially when they all knew that they were truly brethren.

  I heard the whispers that spread like wildfire about Bearen. The true descendent of King Branccynall, the king that was banished. They were amazed at Bearen’s size and his apparent sanity. I could tell that it wouldn’t take long for the two lost families to merge into one.

  I had even seen Bearen speaking with Gideon. Gideon bowed in respect and moved to obey, not Tieren’s orders but my father’s. If we won this upcoming war, Bearen might not even have to fight for the throne of Sinnendor. It might just be thrust upon him, by Sinnendor’s people.

  But I was running out of time. I needed Xiven and Sevril to help my cousin. As soon as I entered the palace, I called out for a servant to prepare a room for Siobhan.

  Syrani followed me into the dark main hall and looked around and whistled. “It could use a female touch.”

  “The danger is not only outside the castle, but it’s inside as well. Stay far away from the two princes,” I warned.

  I thought Syrani would make some sort of snide remark about handsome princes, but Fenri distracted her. His face was pale, which made his reddish hair take on an even darker hue. He entered the hall with an unconscious Siobhan in his arms. I knew he was probably still physically weak from his attack, but this seemed to be a matter of pride. A servant came and pointed to a room upstairs, and he quickly followed. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for Syrani, since she couldn’t pull her eyes away from him.

  “You know he kissed me,” she whispered delicately to me. Her eyes took on a soft, vulnerable look.

  “I figured he might have,” I answered.

  She turned and shot me an angry look, and I felt I needed to explain. “It’s not like that…I can just tell he really likes you.”

  The resentment dropped from her eyes and she moved closer to the stairs as if she were going to follow him up. “I’ve never felt like this before. At first I hated him. I mean, I really, really hated him, because he humiliated me. He wasn’t much nicer when I went to stay with his family. I tried, I really did, to do what his mother asked of me, but I couldn’t do anything without making a mess of it. I burned the bread, served them raw meat, and I even put more holes in the sock instead of mending them. I threw the biggest fit of my life. I was terrible, I said nasty things, and do you know what he did?”

  I could easily picture everything Syrani was saying, even down to her temper tantrum. “What did he do?”

  Syrani tucked a strand of stray blonde hair behind her ear and her cheeks turned red as she continued, “He laughed at me. I showed him my worst and he laughed at me and told me that my bark was worse than my bite. Then he sat down and showed me how to darn socks. Can you believe it? A strong warrior knew how to sew and I didn’t. I was mortified and humiliated.”

  There was a time I’d have cheered at her misfortune, but I found it surprisingly pleasant that we were beginning a tentative friendship “What did you do?” I asked.

  “I did everything I could to get back at him after that. I put too much pepper in his bowl of soup. I put wood glue in the bottom of his boots. I even went so far as to cut more holes into every pair of socks he had.”

  I started to chuckle at her and she just shrugged her shoulders. “But he didn’t tell his mother or demand I leave their home. Instead, he cornered me in the stable. I thought he was going to yell at me or beat me.” She brushed her fingers across her lips in memory. “He said he knew a cry for attention when he saw it. And then he kissed me! It was the most mind blowing kiss ever and now…” Her eyes flew to the stairs.

  The sound of footsteps proceeded Fenri’s walk down the stairs. At the bottom, he halted and looked at Syrani. Confusion and guilt laced his green eyes, and he quickly turned his attention to me.

  “Uh, Siobhan’s still sedated. You said that there was someone who may be able to help?”

  “Yes, we need Xiven. Ask for the man named Xiven and see if he’ll take a look at her.”

  Fenri looked down at the ground and then back at me—ignoring Syrani completely. “What do you think the chances are she’ll come out of this unscathed?”

  “We’ll all bear scars when this is through. I held up my forearms to show him. But only time will tell. Fenri, what happened between you two after I left?”

  Fenri looked horrified at my question, but he saw my stubborn gaze and glanced over at Syrani apologetically. “Your father told me about your betrothal to Kael, since he won the Kragh Aru. I knew then that I would have no chance with you. When it was obvious that you were taken, Siobhan started to show interest toward me. But she quickly left under the pressure of her father’s traitorous actions, before either of us could ascertain our feelings. I swore to myself that, if she returned, I would find out if she truly loved me and if I returned those feelings.”

  Syrani sucked in her breath and took a step back from Fenri. It looked like she was going to try and make a dignified exit before hearing anymore. I felt ill for her, because I was the one who’d started this.

  “No wait!” Fenri turned and grabbed for Syrani’s hand, but she pulled away from him hard. Tears ran down her cheeks.

  “Let me go!” she cried out. “I stayed because of you. I was willing to give up my whole family and heritage because of you.” She yanked hard but was she was no physical match for the warrior Fenri. I knew how strong he was. She raked her nails across his hands, but he refused to let her go. “I was so stupid,” she seethed.

  “No, I won’t let you go!” He raised his voice. “We may not have another day together, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. So I will not wait for what could have been. Yes, I felt guilty when I saw Siobhan and what has happened to her. It hit me that it might have been my fault. If I had approached her with my intentions to court her, she may have stayed. She wouldn’t have been captured and turned into that…thing. What are you calling it?” he asked.

  “It’s not an it. We’re Sirens.” I spoke irritably.

  “Okay, whatever. Siren. I saw her and I felt overwhelmingly guilty for my lack of action, so I wanted to make it up to her. But since then, on the journey here, I’ve had time to think.” Fenri reached to grasp Syrani around the shoulders and pull her closer to him. In a last ditch effort of feminine ire, she slapped him.

  Fenri only smiled. “It looks like you’ve had plenty of time to think as well. But just
so you know, I can’t stop thinking about you, Meja Tigyr.” He pulled a shocked and crying Syrani into his embrace and kissed her full on the mouth.

  I couldn’t help but smile. It would take awhile for Syrani to learn our tongue and to realize that he just called her Little Tiger, which was actually fitting. I looked away and started up the stairs, trying to give them privacy as they made up and poured out their hearts to each other. Fenri was right, this might very well be the last night they truly did have together, so it shouldn’t be wasted being angry.

  And if we did all survive, they could very well be the first of a new generation, Denai and Siren living harmoniously together. Oh, how that would be a world worth living to see.

  I found a servant in the halls and told them to find Xiven for me and tell him that I would be in the upper tower room. The young boy promised he would immediately search him out.

  Exhaustion slowly crept up my body and began to weigh heavily on my eyelids. I hadn’t slept in over thirty-six hours, and I knew that I needed to sit before I collapsed. My father and Gideon were preparing for an invasion. Any moment, Xiven would come and we would spend hours trying to find a way to save Siobhan. I might only have a few moments to myself.

  I rubbed my arms as I took the stone steps slowly. Once again I was filled with loneliness. Fenri said he had many hours to think over who was right for him, and I too had spent many hours thinking over my future. Joss and Kael. As much as I tried to tell myself that Joss was the more stable of the two, I couldn’t help but know that I was lying. I needed Kael like I needed air. I wasn’t whole without him. Everything started and ended with Kael. He was there in the prison with me, he was there by my side saving me, training me, guiding me. He was always there, and now he was always here. I touched my chest and felt my heart speed up just thinking about him.

  I turned left down the direction Fenri had come and found Siobhan in the fourth room. Exhausted, I pulled up a chair and sat next to her bed to wait. To watch her sleep. No one had cleaned her up, so I took a bowl of water and did my best to get the dirt and grime off of her. When I was finished and I had brushed her hair, I laid my head on my arms at the edge of her bed. I tried to close my eyes and scan for Kael. But I couldn’t. I was now surrounded by more Sirens. My gifts were muted once again. I could feel them, just beyond my reach. It was difficult, but I navigated the obstacles faster.

  Then Queen Lilyana’s words came rushing back to me just as I was about to pass out from fatigue. If I could reverse what was done to me, would I give it all up for a chance to be normal? Before, I had said yes without a doubt. But now…I didn’t know if I could.

  Chapter 31

  The knocking at the door didn’t surprise me—I was expecting it. But I wasn’t expecting Portia to come barreling into the room and wrap her arms around me in a desperate and undignified hug.

  “I knew you would come back. I knew that you cared,” Portia said.

  “Xiven,” I interrupted. “Have you seen Xiven? My cousin. We need to try and save my cousin.”

  She pulled away and a frown appeared on her face. “No, I haven’t seen him since yesterday.”

  “What about Prince Sevril?” I was now fully alert. This was not what I was expecting.

  “No. He didn’t come down for dinner last night or for any meals today.”

  “Then who’s going to help Siobhan?” I cried out, letting my worry and frustration ring through my voice. I knew we couldn’t keep her unconscious forever. She would eventually wake up on her own. And then, Cirrus could kill her.

  “She’ll be fine. But we need to discuss you and your future.” Portia admonished me, but I just ignored her. Whatever she was going to say wasn’t important.

  No one understood my concern. Siobhan was me. If they couldn’t help her, then what chance was there of ever saving me?

  Loud footsteps rushed down the hall and one of the Elite came in with a worried expression on his face. He spoke quickly and quietly to Lady Portia. His shoulders straightened and he turned to give me a onceover before he spoke aloud.

  “They’re here,” he said stiffly.

  Portia let out a little scream of fright, pulled up her skirt and ran out of the room. I ran after her. I watched as Portia ran down a hall away from the front door. I left my cousin and ran to the main hall, where I saw that a small selection of weapons had appeared. I watched as servants and anyone willing to defend the castle began to assemble themselves for battle. My throat constricted when I saw a young boy of ten or so pick up a sword much too heavy for him.

  I immediately pulled it out and tossed it onto the table. I grabbed a shorter, lighter sword and handed it to him. He gave me a defiant look and I couldn’t help but raise my voice at him.

  “You won’t be able to handle the larger sword. It’s too heavy and not balanced right for your arm length. Speed is your ally. Hiding and attacking from afar. Only engage in hand-to-hand combat when cornered. Do you understand me?” Next, I handed him the smallest of the crossbows, one that I knew he could load as well as a quiver of arrows.

  “Yes, ma’am,” he said before darting off to what I hoped was a good hiding spot. He seemed relieved that I didn’t deny him his right to defend his home. I should have told him to run to the woods and not come back. I took it upon myself to make sure that the household staff was properly outfitted with weapons. It didn’t matter how much convincing I did. The head cook wouldn’t choose any other weapon other than the meat cleaver. The same with the older boys. They took up stations using scythes and hoes. Each person chose a weapon they knew and were comfortable with over something that was foreign.

  I couldn’t help but feel a mixture of pride for their willingness to fight and sadness. This day would end in a lot of death.

  For myself, I found a bow and a quiver full of arrows. Next, I chose a knife and began to work on my dress. It had long since been destroyed by my foray through the woods and riding. I sliced the dress off at the knees and cut long slits up the sides, so it resembled a tunic. My riding boots, thankfully, were high and would offer some protection.

  I went out to the courtyard and met my father and his men; they were preparing to go with King Tieren to meet the army. Bearen and Fenri were already mounted. I had convinced my father to take Faraway into battle instead of his own steed. There was no one I trusted more to take care of my father if things went downhill. Faraway would protect my father since I couldn’t. Even now, I could easily spot Faraway’s gleaming white coat with Bearen’s large form riding next to Gideon. Everyone’s faces mirrored the same grim expression.

  Keep him safe. I shot to Faraway as he rode proudly on.

  I will take care of him. I promise.

  Syrani came and stood by me. As the men rode toward the gate, she reached forward and gripped my arm.

  “I’ve never been so scared in my life,” she confessed. “This is nothing like the arena.” She gently led me toward the stone steps to go to the wall where we could try and watch the armies meet.

  “I know what you mean. There is no safe zone. We can and will die in battle.” I gave her a reassuring squeeze. “But I think you might have an advantage here. There’s a whole lot of earth, and you’re very strong.” I encouraged.

  “I am strong. I’m one of the strongest Denai ever born in earth,” she said confidently. Syrani’s blonde hair was braided and tucked under her cloak. A stray wisp kept getting blown about by the wind. She tucked it behind her ear again.

  I could feel her anxiety.

  “But I’m not as strong as you. I felt it, in the arena, your power. When you were under the earth, I could feel you start to give up. But then I felt a sudden surge of power burst forth out of you, and you counter-attacked. Are there more like you? Out there?” She nodded with her chin to the approaching army.

  “Oh, stars, I hope not. I don’t think I’m strong enough to face others like me.”

  “You’ve changed since the arena. If anything, you’re stronger,” she argued.

/>   “There’s a barrier here.” I snapped back, suddenly irritated. “It makes it harder for me to use my gifts. Unlike you.”

  Syrani spun to face me, her nostrils flared in anger and a heated spark flashed in her eyes. “The only barrier is in your mind.”

  Noise below drew my attention to the courtyard. Troops ran back and forth, calling each other to arms, to the gate. I followed the army of Sinnendor, their black banner, with a silver wolf flying high in the sky across the field as they met the encroaching army. I could easily pick out my father, who looked like a giant surrounded by his own retinue of men.

  I saw hundreds of approaching horses and a division of riders wearing a color that I wished I could rid my mind of—red. In front of the army was a large group of ground soldiers, dressed in browns and red, armed with swords and shields. Something glinted toward the front of the army, and I craned my neck to see if it would flicker again. There! A lone rider covered in a robe wore a silver hook-nosed mask, and perched on his shoulder was the largest black raven I’ve ever seen.

  My body ran cold and my hands started to shake, but only for a minute as my fear was replaced by anger. We had a score to settle, and I was determined to watch him die. Preferably by my own hand.

  After all, it would be fitting for him to be killed by his own creation.

  The Raven and his army marched down the hill, and I watched as King Tieren, dressed for war, rode out to meet the much larger army.

  I couldn’t help but wonder if King Tieren was in his right mind at the moment. I could see Gideon’s white head riding close to the King, keeping him protected and flanked. Both armies pulled up to face each other and stood firm a short distance apart, unmoving. King Tieren and Gideon spurred their horses forward, and the Septori parted so that the Raven could come forward and greet the men.

  Words were exchanged and King Tieren pointed his hand back the way the Raven had come. It didn’t take much to read his body language.

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