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The silver siren, p.23
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       The Silver Siren, p.23

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  The silver mask glistened again as the Raven tossed his head back and laughed. Desperately, I wanted to be able to hear what they were saying. It didn’t seem to be going in Tieren’s favor as I saw him raise his sword to attack the Raven.

  “Please,” I whispered. Wishing, hoping for the sword to strike true—wishing that the Raven would be no more. But it was Tieren whose sword stopped midair and fell from his fingertips. I gasped as Gideon’s sword flashed out and sliced through Tieren’s midsection, fatally wounding his own king.

  Red flowed from Tieren’s side and I could see his body tilt toward Gideon, a shocked expression on his face. He fell forward to the ground and stopped moving. I couldn’t tear my gaze away from the ghastly scene.

  Gideon killed Tieren!

  The Elite turned on Gideon, just as I realized that he was being controlled by a very powerful Denai. Gideon turned his horse, his face a blank and confused mask. His men fought for their lives behind him. Gideon sat frozen upon his horse like a statue as the Elite were cut down one by one. A quick arrow into his torso released Gideon of whatever spell he was under and he slid from his horse.

  “NO!” I screamed in fear as Sinnendor’s army was quickly overrun in the mass confusion. I lost sight of my father.

  Faraway! Get him out!

  But he wouldn’t answer me.

  The Elite fought bravely but were disheartened by the quick death of their king and the apparent betrayal of their own leader. The Septori rode forward, pressing Sinnendor back toward their gates.

  “VAAALDYRRSTAL!” The cry echoes through the valley. My father bellowed the battlecry once more, holding his sword high in the air, calling his men to him. “For Valdyrstal we ride; for Valdyrstal we die!” There was a surge of energy and the mass confusion that was a leaderless army regrouped under Bearen Valdyrstal. My father does not give up easily. I watched Faraway bravely carry my father into the fray. Twice, I saw him preemptively sidestep a sword strike, keeping Bearen just out of reach of his attacker’s sword. I kept holding my breath, but it seemed that Bearen and Faraway were a formidable team.

  Thalia, we can’t run away, Faraway finally answered. We are needed here. He is needed here. Please forgive me.

  I understood. I didn’t have to like it, but I understood. If Bearen ran now, everyone would follow. There would be no leader and we would lose before we barely began.

  Make me proud, Faraway!

  And he did.

  The tide slowly began to turn. But it would be too late. A gap had been made in the line and Raven’s army made it to the castle.

  The Raven watched the massacre of men before him with interest before his head turned ever so slightly to look up to the wall and right at me. I stepped back in alarm. He couldn’t see me from this far could he?

  Some of his men didn’t move in a natural way—more like they were puppets being jerked around by an unskilled puppeteer. More of his Denai powers?

  Sinnendor’s archers were deployed as they tried to pick off the early leaders in the attack. I breathed a sigh of relief that our gate was closed, and I didn’t see a battering ram, but then I was quickly reminded that an army created by the Raven would not need one.

  A huge blast ripped through the outer wall and the ground rumbled below me in distress. Screams of pain and fear ripped across the courtyard below as those who didn’t have time to run were caught in the explosion. Scattered about, they lay injured or dying. The first of Raven’s army ran through the opening in the wall and met with our army, who fought bravely.

  “Son of Light, save us,” Syrani called out in horror as she pointed to the Denai that blasted our wall apart. He stood on a small hill to the side. His blond hair whipped in the wind as the air he controlled whirled around him in mini tornados. His once-smiling face and dimples were hidden behind a mask of anger and hate.

  “Joss?” I cried out. My heart lurched with terror. There he was, standing tall, wearing the same clothes I had last seen him in, although dirtier and torn. His eyes looked dazed as if he weren’t fully in control of his own actions. Whatever they had done with Siobhan was child’s play compared to what they had done with Joss.

  He threw his arms open wide. Another flash of bright light and a blast of air ripped at another part of the wall. The second explosion mirrored the damage of the first one.

  “He’s going to bring the whole castle down on top of us!” Syrani screamed.

  A girl came and stood next to Joss, her blonde hair a shade or two lighter. She closely resembled a younger version of Gloria. “They are!” I agreed, as Joss’s sister, Tenya, hurled a wave of power at the closest flank heading to attack them. She was guarding Joss as he rounded up for another attack on the castle. She was smaller and not as strong, but she was still a weapon to be used against us.

  “Syrani!” I yelled at her, “Do something.”

  Syrani gritted her teeth and began frantically rebuilding the wall with earth. She filled the gaps in the walls and sealed them, trapping some of the Septori within the earthen layer as she desperately tried to build up the wall.

  I couldn’t help but scan the army and seek out the others. The Denai. If Joss was here, then the others that were taken would be here. And then I began spotting them. Brecken, Tydus, Marcel, Karni plus dozens more of controlled Denai, all scattered along the field. Fireballs erupted out of the earth as Brecken cleared the way for another wave of troops to attack.

  All of them, under the influence of the Septori, were reaping massive destruction upon the horde of the Sinnendor army. I picked up my bow and arrow and nocked it, but I couldn’t find the willpower to release it. How could I kill my peers? While my inner battle consumed me, I managed to pick out an older faceless target wearing a red robe as he ran down one of the Elite. I released the arrow, and sighted my next victim. One by one, I picked off random targets from among the Raven’s Septori. I felt a little more vindication with each death, but it couldn’t come near to erasing the devastation the mind-controlled Denai wreaked.

  “Thalia!” Syrani called out, her face now completely covered in sweat and dirt. She built up another wall, only for Joss to blast a hole somewhere else. “There are too many of them. I can’t fight off all of them by myself.”

  A desperate voice cried out a warning from below, and we ducked as a large fiery missile just missed our heads, crashing into the courtyard beneath us. Fireballs rained down from heaven as the young fire-gifted Brecken started an attack from the air.

  “Do what you can, Syrani. Show them what a Master Denai of Earth can really do,” I encouraged. Her worried look transform into one of complete and utter confidence.

  “You’re right! I’m from one of the most powerful Denai families in Calandry. I don’t clean up other people’s messes. I make them.” Syrani’s face lit with pure delight as she abandoned her defensive strategy and went on the offensive. She focused her power on the earth around Joss. Suddenly, he and his sister vanished into a cavern deep below the ground.

  “Did you…?” I couldn’t finish.

  “No, I just sealed them in a hole deep below. It will take them a bit to get out.” She turned her gaze toward another group of enemy soldiers running toward our gate. Hundreds of Septori slid into a huge pile of quicksand—the more they struggled, the more they sank.

  I fired another arrow and took out another Septori.

  Apparently, we would have to go without rebuilding the walls. Syrani couldn’t do two things at once, and attacking the army was more important at the moment. I needed Syrani to unleash her power like she’d never done before.

  Targeting pockets of the enemy army without attacking our own became more difficult for her, though she was clearly doing her best. Sometimes one of the Elite were caught in the landslide or shifting sands and disappeared with the men deep under the earth.

  I reached behind me for another arrow and came up empty. “Here! More arrows!” I called.

  A young boy ran along the wall, staying low, to bring me anot
her quiver of arrows. He deposited them at my feet and stood up to give me a relieved smile that soon fell into a mask of pain. His eyes dropped and I couldn’t help but follow his gaze to see the silver tip of an enemy arrow protruding from his chest. His mouth opened in a small oh and then he slid to the ground.

  “AAAAHHH!” I screamed and whirled around, searching for the attacker with an arrow at the ready, but I was greeted by the surprised look of Prince Sevril. He looked awful. Dark shadows ringed his eyes and he looked pale. He looked over the rampart and watched as Sinnendor’s flag bearer went down. The long black banner fluttered once, twice, and then fell to the ground.

  Prince Sevril looked grim. “Come with me before all is lost.”

  I looked to the boy and felt anger and fresh tears fall down my face. Everything was already lost. I couldn’t even find my father among the mass of red soldiers and field of blood. Our clan was now separated, and I had no clue who was alive or dead. I wasn’t ready to retreat, but we needed a better battle plan. I turned to grab Syrani, but Sevril shook his head.

  “Let her be. She will be most useful here,” he said.

  “She could die here.”

  “We will all die here,” Sevril said solemnly but grabbed my wrist and pulled.

  I hesitated. I couldn’t abandon Syrani.

  He saw my hesitation. Sevril took a deep breath looked me in the eyes and begged. “Please. I need your help.”

  It was the ‘please’ that did it. I ran after him, careful to not look at all of the dead bodies lying on the ground. Even though they were strangers, a sense of heavy injustice filled me. They were my people. They were Sirens like me. Blood watered so thin we couldn’t possibly be related, but still. I felt like they were my responsibility.

  Swords and shields clashed as the army made it through one of the partially repaired walls. They were right on our heels. The large double doors were barely being held open as a servant waited for Prince Sevril and me to dash through. As soon as I passed through the threshold, the doors were slammed and bolted. Furniture started to pile up in front of the doors. Ready to make a last defense, the servants faced the oncoming slaughter with grim determination.

  This day was a rewriting of history. Only this time, it wasn’t the Denai being slaughtered but the Sirens.

  We could hear the pounding of the castle doors as the army tried to break in. Servants and more troops arrived to block the door with more heavy objects, tables and chairs. More of the Elite in armor gathered in the main hall preparing to defend with their lives. It was odd. A few days ago, they’d been my enemies. Now they were trying to save me.

  Sevril pulled me on. I followed him down hall after hall, until he came to a large marble sculpture in an alcove. Sevril stepped up to the statue and pulled the curtain behind the alcove to reveal a small wooden door. With a quick push, he had it open and beckoned me to follow him down a dark set of stairs. Why did everything always have to lead down? I halted and he turned to stare at me impatiently.

  “Come on,” he grabbed my hand and pulled me down after him.

  “No, not until you tell me where we’re going.” I argued. A loud crash and the metal clang of swords alerted me that the invaders had breached the main hall.

  “We don’t have time for explanations,” Xiven suddenly appeared behind me. His hands hit my shoulder blades and pushed me roughly down the stairs. I fell forward the first three steps, my ankle twisting as I tried to catch myself.

  Xiven entered and bolted the door behind him, encasing us in darkness.

  Sevril reached down and tried to help me back up, but now I was limping. He put his head down next to mine and wrapped my arm around his shoulders. He half-dragged, half-carried me the rest of the way down the stairs. I impeded him with my awkwardness and refusal to walk where I couldn’t see.

  Xiven stopped and felt along the wall for a torch.

  A few seconds later, it was lit. Then, I was only semi-impeding Prince Sevril’s movements.

  “Where’s Tomac?” I asked as the stairs ended and we were met with a catacomb of tombs. Again I tried to stop.

  “Thalia, for the love of all that is good, you have to keep going,” Xiven said.

  Sevril shook his head. “I don’t know. I saw him run out in the first wave of troops to meet the army. I hope the fool survives.” Fear raced across his face and he kept running his sleeve over his eyes, evidently trying to keep the tears at bay.

  Xiven took the torch and now led Sevril and me to another door that he held open, waiting for me to enter.

  As soon as I cross the threshold, I wished I hadn’t.

  It was the machine, the torture device.

  The iron butterfly.

  Every part of me started to shake in terror and I grabbed the handle to the door and tried to rush out. Xiven held the door closed and Sevril grabbed my arms. Tears raked down my face and I started to sob.

  A hand slapped my face.

  I blinked in anger at Sevril.

  He leaned in close to me, his hot breath on my neck. “Stop crying. You don’t have time for tears.”

  Anger flowed through my body and I punched Sevril in the face. I watched in pleasure as his head snapped back and his lip started to bleed.

  His eyes lit up and he became excited. “Yes, that’s it. You pathetic excuse for a Valdyrstal. You half-breed imposter to the throne.”

  This time I balled up both fists and focused on his pretty front teeth. I was determined to take out a few. “I don’t want your bloody throne, but I’m not above leaving Tomac next in line,” I growled out. Feinting a punch, I spun and kicked him in the stomach. Sevril grunted and then fell back into a table full of beakers and instruments. Glass crashed and shattered on the stone floor.

  Xiven yelled at me, “Thalia, stop it! You are not helping any by destroying Sevril’s sacrifice.”

  I whirled on Xiven who was working on pulling open the metal bands and preparing the machine for the next victim. This one looked different than the one I spent weeks in but also different than the one I saw in Fanny’s workshop. I felt like I had come full circle.

  “Thalia, I told you in Skyfell that I was your friend. I really hope that right now, you can believe me and trust me what we are about to do.”

  “You almost killed me, and then you ran away,” I confronted Xiven, pushing him.

  His skin color deepened in embarrassment. “If Talbot had found out I challenged you in a fight, I would have been dead anyway. And if I remember correctly, you were the one who almost killed me.”

  “Something I now regret not finishing properly,” I hissed.

  “Good, Thalia, that’s it. Stay angry. It will help you through the pain and will bring out the Siren in you faster.”

  I grabbed a candlestick holder covered in wax and threw it at Xiven’s head. “There’s no way I’m going near that thing.”

  He looked serious. He crumpled his hands into fists and took deep breaths to calm himself.

  Sevril didn’t look happy either, pacing back and forth, eyeing the door. As if hoping Tomac would burst through. Or maybe he was waiting for the Raven to come in so he could crow about how he lured me in to his trap to finish the job.

  “Did you kidnap Joss’s sister? What happened to those people out there? Are you a part of it?”

  Xiven looked anxious, but he saw that I wasn’t going to make it easy on him unless he gave me some answers. “Thalia, I’m on your side.”

  “From where I stand, I’m surrounded by enemy.” I cocked my head upward, indicating the Septori and Elite battling it out to the death somewhere above us.

  “Right. I understand. It can seem confusing and complicated, but what if I told you that there is no good side in this war? Everyone’s wrong. Everyone’s made mistakes and you now have to choose the lesser of two evils. No matter what happens, there will be no happy endings. Just the possibility of an ending that has less people dying horrible deaths.”

  Why did he have to make sense…now? “The
n I would choose the outcome with least amount of death,” I stated.

  “And what if I told you that that outcome comes at your own expense—your own life.”

  “I’d say that you a liar. That you can’t know the future. I can change my destiny, if I’m given the choice to do so.” I pointed at the table. “That is not giving me a chance to live.”

  “Thalia.” Prince Sevril gently took my elbow. “Everything we are doing is so that you will live. That through you, our kind will live on.”

  I shook my head, the anger slowly dissipating. I didn’t understand anything anymore. I was so tired of hurting. I just wanted to wake up from this nightmare.

  “Okay Thalia, listen. The Horden journals were never clear on what the final step was in creating an all-powerful super Denai. It’s why the experiments didn’t really start to work until they found you. They gave you Denai gifts—”

  “What? How did they give me Denai gifts?”

  “By infusing you with Denai blood.”

  I had both Denai blood and SwordBrother blood in my veins?

  “You started to grow in power, even taking on the traits of the Denai. You were the first to succeed, but you were also the answer. To make the Denai stronger, they needed Siren blood…yours. All of those sessions were to harvest your blood, to make a serum, to create that army, Thalia.” Xiven pointed upstairs.

  “That’s why they’ve been after me? So they can use me to create more…more mind-controlled soldiers!” I felt sick. What they had done to Joss and Tenya and all of the others was done because of—maybe with—my own blood. “That’s why they went after Siobhan. They were trying to find another like me.”

  “I saw her upstairs.” Xiven acknowledged. “They’ve drained her pretty good, but I’ve seen her eyes. They made sure to turn her fully into a Siren before they did it. Probably so they could work faster and she’d be strong enough to live through the process. It means that they probably sacrificed a Denai to do it.”

  “But she’s being controlled.” I wiped my tears on my sleeves. “Can we save her?”

 
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