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The silver siren, p.24
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       The Silver Siren, p.24

           Chanda Hahn
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  Prince Sevril came forward and shook his head. “We can’t worry about her right now. Right now we have to focus on stopping them. With you.”

  “We can’t stop that!” My voice rose in frustration. “They have an army of Denai and we have one—a spoiled rich girl who is going to die trying to defend a country she has no allegiance to. I’m completely blocked and I’m completely useless here in Sinnendor. Unless you can break through this seal.”

  “I believe we can,” Xiven said excitedly.

  “What?” I said in disbelief.

  “I can give you all of the serum we’ve extracted from Sevril already over the last few weeks. The overflow of Siren power may be enough to shatter the seal forever.”

  “But won’t I go insane? No offense, Sevril.”

  Sevril shrugged his shoulders. “None taken. I don’t want it back.” He gestured to the bottles filled with blue liquid.”

  Xiven shook his head. “You won’t go insane if I immediately balance out the Siren in you by flooding you with pure Denai essence.” Xiven paced back and forth, his fingers tracing invisible calculations in the air. “We’d do what the Raven couldn’t. Create the ultimate new hybrid. That’s what Lord Horden hinted at too. An Archangel.”

  “A what?” the word made me feel sick. Wasn’t it enough that for the last few months I felt like stranger in my own body? That it was slowly turning and changing me into a monster? Now they wanted to fully do that, turn me into something completely different?

  Another monster.

  The ground shook and dust floated down from the ceiling. A loud crashing could be heard and I could only assume that Syrani couldn’t hold Joss back.

  “Thalia,” Prince Sevril begged. “Please, help protect my people. Don’t let the Raven use our kind to create mindless drones.”

  “Why can’t you do it?” I pointed my finger hard into his chest.

  The Prince grimaced and wouldn’t meet my eyes. “Because I’m too far gone. I’m too human. We wouldn’t have enough time,” he turned and picked up a small glass jar and handed it to Xiven.

  “He’s right,” Xiven answered. “We’ve been spending weeks draining the Siren essence out of him.” He went to the table and picked up another glass jar filled with the eerie liquid. It swirled around gently, constantly moving, never stopping. “With each session I collected the Siren essence…here.” He pointed to the table filled with bottle upon bottle. “At the time we thought we were doing the right thing. We were making him human. But now we truly need a Siren to fight this war.”

  “I can’t.” I backed away from Xiven and the machine. They were asking me to go back on the iron butterfly. To willingly subject myself to my most terrifying nightmare. And not over a period of time, but in a supernatural speed attempt to break everything in my body.

  “Please don’t ask me to.” My hands started to shake and I found it hard to breathe. The room felt like it was growing smaller and smaller. “I can’t do it.” My legs went weak and I started to crumple. “No, no, no.” I was gasping, hyperventilating. Then I was on the floor, looking up at the ceiling and couldn’t help but notice how the constantly falling dust motes looked like shooting stars.

  Hands grabbed me around the wrists and ankles, and I felt myself lifted into the air. The room spun and I screamed as I felt myself placed in the machine. I screamed and screamed. Braces clamped around my arms and tears burned at my eyes. Pain laced up my arms.

  And I knew I was going to die.

  Chapter 32

  “Thalia…Thalia.” A dark head leaned over me and I reached out for him and grabbed on for dear life thinking it was Kael. The room stopped spinning.

  I looked around to find that I was not on the machine, but on a large cot off to the side of the room. The pain around my wrists stopped when Sevril let go of them. I blinked at the worried look on Xiven’s face and the anxious one on Sevril’s.

  “What’s going on?” I asked in confusion and saw the blanket placed over my lap, why are you not…why?”

  Xiven sighed in relief. “Thalia, I will not put you on the machine without your consent. I won’t change the very essence of who you are without your willingness to do so. Unlike the Septori, I believe that using the machine against someone’s will changes the nature of the outcome. I won’t risk it. You have to be the one to say yes.”

  Sevril’s eyes were moist, and he was now sitting on the floor, his head against the wall. He kept using his thumb and forefinger to rub his eyes. Little paths of glistening tears had left trails down his cheeks. He looked around the room dejectedly and stood up, brushing his hands on his pants. “Come on. If there is nothing more that we can do down here, then we need to go back up and help. I will not hide down here like a coward when innocent people are dying.” His voice, though full of disappointment, rang with pride.

  Xiven nodded his head in agreement and went to stand by him. Sevril would truly be a great king one day, if he didn’t fall to the insanity of the Siren.

  No, I couldn’t let anything happen to Sevril. He might be our only hope for the future. It wasn’t about me. It had never been about me. It would always be about what was good for the people. Not just his people, but all races. That was what made a great king. Someone willing to die for others.

  Sevril would make a great king, if I had anything to say about it.

  My heart was in my throat and I found it hard to talk—so I didn’t. Xiven and Sevril had gone to the stairwell and were arming themselves for battle. Neither one noticed when I pushed the blanket off of my legs and stood up. My legs wobbled, and I eased myself around the large table and went to stand in front of the machine.

  Close up, it didn’t look as scary as I remembered it. It was a long metal table with little knobs along the back which aligned along the spinal column. Bands would wrap around the body, imprisoning the victim, and leather straps held the arms to the side and in place. Only this version of the machine didn’t look as ominous. There were no leather straps to hold the arms in place and there weren’t as many bands. Instead, I was fixated on what looked like a silver crown that would sit on the person’s head.

  My lips were dry, and I couldn’t swallow. I was trying too hard not to throw up. I slid my hand up the back of the machine and rested my hand on the crown. I didn’t even care that Sevril and Xiven had stopped talking and watched me with silent interest.

  Neither one of them moved.

  I couldn’t stop the terrified tears that slid down my cheeks, but I wasn’t breaking down into a hysterical mess either. I held my head high as I crawled up onto the table and lay down. When Xiven and Sevril still hadn’t moved to assist me in my insane plan, I reached up and pulled the crown down onto my own head, and began to fumble and pull the bands around my own body.

  Xiven came over to stand by me, his face solemn. “Thalia, are you sure? I will not be a part of this unless you are completely sure.” He reached out and lightly put his hand on my shoulder.

  I closed my eyes and nodded. If I tried to speak, no words would come out.

  He slowly started to readjust the machine for my height. He did it carefully and slowly, although I know he was trying to hurry. A hand reached through the metal bands and grasped mine. I turned my head and gave Sevril’s hand a squeeze. He squeezed back and refused to let go.

  Xiven started to bring the glass jars of Sevril’s Siren essence over to the machine and place them on a table next to me. He started to talk incessantly about what he was doing, as if trying to not make me nervous. It didn’t work.

  “So I will activate the current through the machine myself after I’ve given you the injections.” He took out a syringe and filled it with the liquid blue essence of Siren. He felt along the underside of my arms and gently touched the old scars. I had to turn away and not look when I felt the first prick of the needle. The headpiece is different; it’s of my own design. It seems to help the process go faster in unlocking the seals, because it seems to mostly be a mental block. I call it
my Crowning Glory…get it?”

  Not the time for humor. I couldn’t help it, I let out a whimper at the first sting. Then, a foreign feeling filled my body. Then another sting, and another, as he gave me more doses of the serum. I wasn’t looking forward to the pain I knew would come.

  “That was the last one,” Sevril spoke softly and I opened my eyes to see his sad but grateful ones looking at me. “Thank you,” he whispered.

  The sound of the cot being pulled and scraped across the floor as it was scooted over to the machine made me curious enough to turn my head and look. Numerous needles and small tubes led from a table filled with bottles to my right arm, but half of the tubes led off of the table and just out of eyesight. I couldn’t see where they led, but I could hear Xiven moving around.

  Finally his voice came out strong and clear. “Are you ready, Thalia? To save us from our past, you must become the future.”

  “No,” I whimpered out, barely audible. “I don’t want to do the saving. I want to be saved.” Oh Kael, please forgive me. I prayed that I would have the strength to survive this for both Kael’s sake and my own. My mind started to flip out and flash forward and backward as Xiven started the machine. I felt a jolt of electric current shoot into the bands and into my spine. I spasmed and started to scream, and it wasn’t even that painful yet. My mind spiraled into a nightmare as I relived every session on the machine at once. The currents began to pulse through my body in a steady stream and each one made my heart flutter faster and faster, until I swore it stopped on more than one occasion. Then the next current would feel like it jumpstarted my breathing again.

  My blood was on fire and a burning pain seared through my stomach. I could only open my mouth in a silent scream as I was rocked with pain through my very core. It hurt so bad I wanted to die. I wanted them all to die. I wanted every person that ever hurt me to die.

  Then there was such an intense pain it was if my soul was being cracked in two…and then I was free. Truly free. I could feel the darkness, the monster that was inside of me—my fury—reach out and relish the freedom. I saw fire, death, and destruction. I knew it was the future I was envisioning, my future as the Siren part of my soul came into full power.

  It was terrifying. I could see myself with dark wings flying over the army, raising my arms and destroying every one of them. Killing them, greedily draining their very lives away and still being hungry for more.

  “No!” I breathed out. “Kill me. Don’t let me become that.” Sevril never let go of my hand and I could feel myself start to reach out to him, to pull at him for help. Instinctively, I reached for his life force and I heard him gasp. I recoiled in horror, releasing his hand. “I don’t want to become that. They were right. The Sirens’ fury should have been sealed away. We don’t deserve this kind of power.”

  The power rushed through my veins and it was addictive. My head rolled to the side and I felt drunk and I needed more. My body began to crave more power, and I knew that if they let me go now, with the seal broken, I would destroy the world.

  A throbbing started in my head, and I first ignored it, thinking it was another side effect of the machine and the crowning glory.

  But it was a familiar pain and one that made my heart soar. Kael!

  Kael was near. He was in the castle, floors above me. KAEL! My heart and soul cried out, and I could feel him and almost see him. He was fighting and he stopped. He turned and began to search for me.

  But then I lost him as the fury and anger once again took over and my heart burned for revenge. Sevril yelped in surprise when the candle on the table next to him alit on its own. Followed by the next candle, and the next. I was trying to fight my instincts to light everything on fire, so I was staying focused.

  “Okay, Xiven,” Sevril called out. “Now.”

  The pulsing continued, but instead of a burning feeling, it became a cold, soothing pain. I would go hot then cold, then hot then cold. My visions went from destroying the world with fire, to bringing about a famine by a never-ending winter. My teeth started to chatter, and I swore that I could see my breath in the room.

  The soothing ended. This time, the pain felt like I was being not just ripped in two but broken and shattered. Someone was going to have to pick up the pieces of my soul. I bit my tongue and tasted blood. I began to thrash against the bands and scream out my anger. I wanted to die, but then I didn’t. But I couldn’t survive what was happening to my very essence.

  My head slammed against the metal brace and I flashed back to the past. But I was somehow omnipresent. I saw Raven leaning over me. In my dream state, I was able to pull back and gaze around the room from a greater distance. I saw the Raven leave the room with another taller member of the Septori. My subconscious followed them through the heavy wooden door. I don’t know how I did it. Maybe I was dead. I was able to move to easily, and right now I was seeing my life flash before my eyes. I don’t know how, but I was free to follow.

  The Raven stepped into a small room adjacent to the machine and waited as his companion took off the robe and hung it up. I recognized Adept Cirrus and hate raced through me.

  Then, the Raven stepped back and adjusted the hood. Deep red locks spilled forth. I wasn’t expecting long hair to come from beneath the folds of the hood. How had I not seen that before? The Raven was female. Then she opened up a small wooden box with a velvet interior. She took off the silver hook-nosed mask, set it on the velvet pillow, and closed the lid. She turned to Adept Cirrus and wrapped her arms around him, kissing him deeply on the lips.

  I released a mental scream in fury at the deception. Not only by Adept Cirrus but the Queen of Calandry—Lilyana.

  The one person whose total goal was to help in the survival of the Denai race played with their very lives, throwing them away for tortuous experiments.

  The door to the room opened and Talbot’s short figure ambled in toward the queen.

  “Good evening, my queen,” Talbot intoned politely. “Are you pleased with the results so far?”

  Queen Lilyana shot him a condescending look. “You said this one came from the Valdyrstal clan, did you not? And she has the right heritage.”

  “Talbot pulled out a piece of crusted paper out of his pocket. “Yes, I have it on good faith from her uncle that she’s Bearen’s daughter.”

  Cirrus touched his chin in thought, his eyes alight. “She is showing progress with the treatments, getting stronger, not weaker like the others. So it looks like we found a Siren. If that’s the case, we should stop with the treatments and use her for harvesting to make the portensi serum. You want your army, Lily. I will give you an army,” Cirrus crooned and gently rubbed the cheek of Queen Lilyana. “Then we will control the Denai and wipe out Sinnendor and all of that feral bloodline for good.”

  “You, my dear Cirrus, will make a fine King of Silandry when we are through,” she laughed.

  He continued with the caress and gently followed it with a kiss. “Silandry? I thought we had agreed on Calendor,” he teased.

  “Either one is fine with me, as long as we rule it together.”

  Talbot moved aside and bowed respectfully as Cirrus and Queen Lilyana passed and went up the underground passage to leave. Talbot sat at a table continuing to write notes in a book, when time began to fast forward. In my vision, I saw Xiven hours later knock on the door and enter. He looked tired and worn out, but excited.

  “Talbot. You will be happy to see that I think I’ve figured out this last translation in the Horden journals. It’s something about finding the balance between light and dark, good and evil. I think this is what Lord Horden was talking about when he was able to create a Denai unlike any other.” Xiven pulled out a large book and laid it open on the desk, pointing to the scribbles here and there. “So you see, I think there may be another way to save the Denai from going extinct. It talks of breeding the two races. I don’t think it means what we are trying to do. I think it is just a natural occurrence that can be fixed with simple intermarriage…

  Talbot ignored Xiven and kept working. “Yes, yes. Fine, fine. Leave the notes and go back and keep Mona company. We are off tomorrow to find Raven some stronger Denai.”

  “But don’t you see? If the two races combined naturally, then they would grow stronger. We wouldn’t have to force a change on them metaphysically.”

  Talbot jumped up from the table and swung his short beefy hand at Xiven, boxing him in the ear. “Listen to your master, you pinheaded weasel, or you’ll end up one day on the table across from the girl, being drained of your powers. You’re tasked with translating. That is it! Tell Mona we need to find another Denai and I’ll be up shortly. I want to check on the girl before I leave.”

  Xiven grabbed his head where he’d been boxed, his face beet red in embarrassment. But he turned stiffly and eyed the door that separated the machine from his current room. “Do you think that I could see—?”

  Talbot jumped up from his chair and lunged toward Xiven, who backed out of the door and scrambled up the hidden passageway to the exit. Talbot left his notes and journals on the table. He looked around to make sure no one was watching before he picked up the queen’s silver mask, attached it to his portly face, and then entered the room where I still lay passed out on the machine.

  He walked over to the table and loomed over me.

  I was once again barely conscious on the table in the laboratory. But my dream self could see and hear everything. Talbot walked behind me and mumbled something incoherent. It looked like someone was sleeping in a small metal chair to the right of me.

  Talbot let out a few choice words when he noticed she wasn’t moving. He leaned out in the hall and yelled for Scar Lip, who came walking in wearing his leather butcher’s apron. “Scar Lip, we’ve got one still drugged and another that didn’t make it, but at least her gifts won’t go unused.”

  “Oh, and one more thing. Since the Valdyrstal girl is still unconscious, see if you can get the others to bring that young man in again for another donation to our main girl here. He’s a fighter that one. I’m sure he is gifted somehow, if only I can pinpoint his family line and gifts. What the others won’t know won’t hurt anyone.”

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