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The silver siren, p.25
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       The Silver Siren, p.25

           Chanda Hahn
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  Scar lip went over and gently picked up the dead girl and began to take her out. Her head flopped back and I could see her face clearly. My nightmare continued because I recognized her. I was confused. It didn’t make sense. I couldn’t have been there that night. I would have remembered if Scar Lip came back for me. Wouldn’t I?

  I must not have, because Scar Lip carried Cammie, my former cell mate, away from me, out of the room. Ten minutes later, he returned and with more Septori and a drugged Kael. Hours later they deposited us both back to our cells. I was laid unconscious, back on the cell floor, and Scar Lip locked the door.

  Half a day later, I awoke to a tin plate being shoved under my door through a flap and demanded to know where Cammie was.

  Chapter 33

  “Gah!” I screamed and opened my eyes. My heart beat incredibly fast, but my body felt alive and on fire. Sevril stood back from me and looked at me warily through the bars.

  “Thalia?” he asked carefully.

  “Yes?” I licked my lips, which felt swollen and cracked.

  “Are you okay?”

  “No. Yes! I’m sore but I feel alive. I’m alive right?”

  Sevril’s eyes were red and swollen from crying, but he nodded yes. He began to pull out the needles carefully and cover each of the large red wounds with a bandage. When he was done, he lifted up the metal bands and helped me out of the machine. His gaze kept shifting to my hair and then looking back to my face.

  “What is it?”

  “It’s turned white. Your hair I mean. Completely white.”

  I groaned but pushed my vanity aside. My feet gingerly touched the ground and I asked him about Xiven. Sevril refused to make eye contact with me and I had to ask again.

  “Where’s Xiven?” I demanded.

  Prince Sevril’s eyes filled with tears again, but he took a deep breath and answered. “It was his choice from the beginning. It was his way to make amends. You mustn’t blame him or me. If I had a choice I would have been the one to make the ultimate sacrifice, but I wasn’t the right type. You needed a Denai.”

  My voice started to crack and rise in alarm. “Sevril, what did you do?”

  “I didn’t do anything,” he whispered. “You did. You needed a Denai to balance the Siren. You are now fully both. He knew the risks; he knew that you would need every ounce after being turned to Siren. It’s okay. He understood.”

  I couldn’t turn around. Every fiber of my being said Don’t look. Don’t look. But I had too. I had to see if it was the same as my dream.

  I did look. Just like my dream, Xiven was on the small cot next to me. The extra tubes from my arm connected to him. When the Siren side had been about to overtake me, he sacrificed his gifts. The love and peace natural to a Denai helped balance the anger and fury of a Siren. He was the ice to my fire.

  Fresh tears poured anew down my face and my eyes burned like sandpaper. Xiven lay curled up on his side, his head nestled on his free hand, while the other was on his hip. He rested peacefully as if he were asleep. But I knew better. Power was a balance. To try and be a donor to me was too much for him. It drained him. Xiven could have chosen to stop at any time, but he pushed through. He fought until he knew I had made the transformation.

  “Xiven…not you.” I sniffed. The emotions I felt were so raw, so powerful. And the vivid image of Talbot beating Xiven made me furious. He was as much a victim as me in the whole twisted plan.

  But he had found redemption.

  “I will not forget you.” I stood up and my wiped my tears on my arms. Sevril came forward and watched me, a question in his eyes. No words can express the sorrow we felt, and when he opened his arms, I didn’t hesitate. I leaned over for a hug and cried my heart out. Sevril cried as well, and we took comfort in each other’s pain.

  A loud crash startled us, and we looked up in terror. They had found the hidden door. The enemy was coming for us.

  “Thalia, how…are you…can you?” Sevril took a few hesitant steps back and watched me expectantly.

  My head hurt. It was hard to concentrate. My body ached all over and I just wanted to close my eyes and sleep. I was weak, like a newborn child. I was in no condition to save anyone. I tried to step forward to meet him but I couldn’t. I crashed into the wooden table bruising my hip.

  “Oh no! We have to get you out of here until you have time to recover,” Sevril grabbed for my arm and pulled it around his shoulders. Footsteps sounded on the stairs, so much closer than before. He hurried and dragged me across the room toward another smaller door hidden in the floor under a rug. I stood propped against the wall while Sevril struggled, pulling on the ring in the stone block.

  There was yelling and screaming. I looked up in alarm as Tomac ran down the stairs into the room. He was bleeding from numerous wounds and had a murderous look in his eye. I cringed. I was not expecting to be cut down by the prince’s own brother.

  Tomac began to babble nonsense. “Death, death. No one can outrun death. And destiny does not play favorites.”

  I couldn’t tear my gaze away from the sword that Tomac held in his hand. The tip was covered in blood, and I couldn’t help but wonder whose blood it was.

  A black form slid silently out of the shadowed stairwell and flew into the room. The pain in my mind was so intense, I cried out, but I was overjoyed, because I knew who it was—Kael.

  Kael entered like hurricane, a sword in one hand and a smaller knife in the other, spinning and dancing. His face was a mask of unreadable expressions as he gave Tomac a wide berth. Even with the distance between them, his eyes never left Tomac. He stalked his prey, looking for an opening in which to try and kill him.

  I couldn’t drag my gaze from him—his tall muscled form, the dark hair that fell slightly into his face obscuring his vision. His eyes were an intense, stormy blue that changed to a darker color when he was angry, like now. His chin wasn’t smooth but showed a few days worth of growth, and his skin had a sallow tint to it. His expression was fierce. Quite a few rips and tears marred his shirt and blood dripped down, almost indiscernible among the black fabric.

  I waited for him to look at me, to catch my gaze. But he was intent on trying to get Tomac away from us. He feinted, trying to get Tomac to attack him, but Tomac stood firm. Tomac stood rooted in front of us, leaving us his back and refusing to rise to Kael’s baiting.

  Stone scraped against stone as Sevril slid the door over to the side. I heard the rushing of water and couldn’t help but look down into the dark hole. The thunderous sound grew louder and my heart froze. Sevril put his arms under my armpits and scooted me toward the door.

  “No!” I squealed and tried to kick.

  But he kept pulling.

  Kael’s head snapped to me and I called out his name. He darted to the right around Tomac. A second later, his hand went into his vest and a knife sliced through the air at me.

  Sevril yelled and yanked me to the left. The knife clattered on the floor, just beyond the spot where I had stood.

  “Kael?” I asked in confusion. That’s when I caught his dead expression. His head bent at an odd angle and I whimpered in realization. I looked carefully and could make out the dark purple thread controlling him.

  That wasn’t Kael.

  And I couldn’t believe Tomac was protecting us from him. Tomac, who now babbled even louder, saw the intent of Kael’s throw and screamed in fury. He lashed out right and left with his sword, attacking the SwordBrother and sending him on the defensive.

  Kael was backed into a corner. For all of his intense battle skills, there was no training against a mad man that follows no pattern.

  Another knife appeared between Kael’s fingers. Seconds later, Tomac grunted and slid to one knee, the knife buried in his shoulder. Tomac’s shaking hands reached up and pulled out the knife, grunting as a fresh flow of blood poured forth. He staggered to his knees, gripped his sword in the right, the knife in the left and backed up.

  Once again, Tomac put himself between the SwordBrot
her and me.

  “Run!” Tomac hollered over his shoulder at us. “For all that is holy, run.”

  I couldn’t look away as Tomac engaged Kael again, in an effort to help our escape. Never would I have imagined that I would see Tomac sane, nor that he would become my ally and Kael my enemy. It must’ve been the fighting and deadly battle that cleared his Siren mind. For once, he was being useful.

  Sevril pulled me back toward the hole, my feet now dangling in front of me into the darkness. “It’s an underground aqueduct. It leads out of the castle and into the river. It is the only way out.”

  “I can help. I can fight.” I tried to get up but fell again.

  “No, our only chance is for you to escape, to heal, and to return and save us,” he argued.

  I could tell from the way he kept looking over his shoulder that he wasn’t going to come with me. He was only partially paying attention to me. The rest of his focus was on Tomac’s struggle to protect us.

  “Come with me?” I begged.

  He shook his head. “Tomac was right. Our destiny has come, our time is now. This is our home to protect, not yours. It’s not your time yet. You’ll know when it is. Our kind know when our end has come.”

  He was saying goodbye.

  “He’s a SwordBrother, and he won’t stop,” I whispered, glancing over to Kael. He winced as Tomac’s knife found purchase and stabbed him deep in the side. Kael growled out in pain but continued to fight, backing Tomac toward the wall. “I love him, and he’s bound to me so he can’t be killed.”

  Sevril bit his lip and his eyes crinkled in worry. “Well, that doesn’t look like it’s going to stop him.” He quit arguing with me and pushed me into the hole.

  I fell forward and screamed. My fingers grabbed the edge as I dangled in the darkness. “No, pull me up. Let me help. I can fight him,” I cried out, my voice echoing around me. The rushing water sounded from far below.

  “You can’t take him like this.” Sevril turned back and his face paled. I couldn’t see, but I heard a curdling cry of pain and I knew that Tomac had lost. “Go!” Sevril demanded. He kicked at my hands and I lost my grip. I screamed, fingers burning, as I fell into the dark abyss.

  I landed with a splash and was surrounded by cold darkness. I kicked in the direction that I thought was up, but it was hard to tell. All I knew was cold, dark, and stinging pain all over my body.

  An eternity later, I surfaced with a gasp, as lovely air filled my lungs. I tried to fight the current and swim back to where I could see the light from overhead, but I was tired and sore. I hardly had enough strength to keep me afloat.

  I looked up toward the light just as it began to disappear.

  Sevril closed up the hole and I was swept away with the water.

  Chapter 34

  I awoke choking and coughing. Light blinded my eyes and my stomach started to spasm. I rolled over as water expelled itself from my lungs. My body heaved until there was nothing left to purge. I settled onto my back and stared at the stars overhead, each twinkling brighter than the next—so large in the sky they looked like they were only feet away.

  My hand reached forth and I tried to catch one, but it danced away. I watched as my burning stars morphed into reality—lightning bugs. I couldn’t move but continued to lie there on the river bank in a small inlet away from the rushing river. My very breath, each and every one, felt like a glorious miracle. And I savored them—because I was alive.

  When the coldness wore off and feeling returned to each of my toes, I pulled myself into a sitting position, then a kneeling one. Minutes later I stood and stared at my reflection in the water from the moon lit sky.

  I was unrecognizable. My eyes were still silver, but my hair had lost its luscious darkness and was now a silvery white which only made my complexion seem paler. My skin no longer had the spattering of a few freckles. It seemed to glimmer and glow with power.

  Which I hoped would wear off.

  My hands seemed to be constantly buzzing. I reached forward and touched the water. Without any effort at all—with only the thought of cold—the water crackled and froze into a solid sheet of ice. My body hummed in response, eager and pleased with itself. Curious as to what else I could do, I reached toward a small plant and touched it. I was able to make it grow three feet in a few seconds. With a change in thought, I made the plant wither and die, crumbling to the ground. I now had both extremes of the gifts, healing and death. The power was both intoxicating and infuriating. I wanted to scream out my frustration to the only person listening—the woman in the moon, but I knew she probably wouldn’t hear my pleas. This was too much power for one girl, and it scared me.

  Surrounded by tall trees and dense thickets, I found it impossible to know where to go other than to follow the large orange glow in the sky, which had to be Sinnendor’s castle. One of my boots was gone, lost in the aqueduct. I quickly unlaced and rid myself of the other so I could run toward the castle.

  And toward the enemy.

  I was quickly out of breath and out of energy, but I continued on and tried not to think of everyone I was losing. I tried not to think of Joss and Kael. The only way to save both of them was to kill Cirrus and Queen Lilyana. They were my mark, they were my focus.

  I almost walked right into the enemy camp before I heard or saw anyone. I ducked behind a bush as a small patrol of guards wearing the emblem of the Septori walked past me. I was right at the edge.

  I was close to Raven.

  Silently, I crept forward until I saw an outcropping of tents. It appeared that after the battle had begun, the Raven retired to her quarters to rest. It must’ve been grueling work controlling an army of Denai. It was easy to spot the largest of the tents—the one that was heavily guarded. Patiently, I waited and watched as someone moved past a lantern inside, a sign that it was indeed occupied.

  Reaching down to the ground, I focused my power and sent a bolt of fire directly from the tips of my fingers across the dry and brittle grass to envelope the edges of the tent in flames. Within seconds, the red fabric caught and smoke billowed upward. Cursing and yelling came from within, and Cirrus rushed out followed by Queen Lilyana. Adept Cirrus didn’t waste any time as he quickly smothered the fire by creating a large bubble around it and removing all of the oxygen.

  My hand went to my throat and I could imagine that same feeling wrapped around my throat. Cirrus had been the Denai in the wagon, the one who attacked me. Queen Lilyana looked around the camp nervously. More of the Septori rushed to their aid, and everyone began to search the camp for an intruder. I didn’t try to hide my presence anymore. Besides, it only took Cirrus a few more seconds to follow the burned trail of grass to me.

  I walked into the middle of camp and head held high, my hands glowing with power.

  Cirrus was awestruck by my presence and blinked a few times against the darkness. Then he recognized me.

  “See Lily. She came back.” He flashed her a charming smile and held his hands wide open to me in a welcoming gesture. “Our creation came back.”

  “I’m not your creation.” I seethed, feeling the fury begin to take over. I walked closer to them, into the ring of light created by the torches. So he could see what I’d truly become.

  “She’s beautiful,” Lilyana gasped. “She’s become far more than we ever dreamed. Power and beauty. The Denai will be stronger than ever before. Come Thalia, and we can take it all away. I can make you human.” She beckoned me toward her.

  “I have not come to give you anything. You’ve taken enough from me. I’ve come to make you stop.”

  Queen Lilyana’s pretty brows furrowed, creating a pinched and ugly look. “You said, if given the choice, you would give it all up just to be normal. I can make that happen.” She held her petite hand out to me, inviting me to take it. Cirrus stood off to the side, his hands clasped in front of him. He nodded his head in encouragement.

  “That was before I knew who you really were. Do the rest of the adepts know that you’ve bee
n lying to them? Does Calandry know that you are behind all of the missing Denai? And what do you think they will do when they find out?”

  Her face registered a moment of shock, and I knew that the other adepts couldn’t know. Then her face took on a haughty expression. “They won’t find out, you idiot child. Because I’m their queen. All Calandry wants is peace. All the Denai wanted was peace, but they were dying out. They weren’t interested in war. I did what I had to do. The answer to their curse lay within the blood of their enemies. I’m doing them a favor. Ridding Calandry of their hated neighbors and providing the cure for the dying out breed. They will grow in power and be safe, and we will be twice as rich and powerful, because I will peacefully rule both countries.”

  “You dare call that peaceful!” I yelled, pointing to Sinnendor’s castle up in flames. My heart raced powerfully fast as I tried to not think about my father, about Siobhan, Joss, Kael, and all of the innocent lives that were at risk—or already lost. “You call using mind control and drugs to force them to fight for you peaceful? They are people with their own free will.” I took another step toward the young queen. Her hands were hidden within the fold of her red dress, her face expressionless.

  “No, I call them a necessary expense.” Her lip rose in a smile of disdain.

  “No lives are ever expendable.” I roared and felt power begin gather as my fury rose. “I’ll have you know—”

  Snarling erupted behind me, and I turned to see a pack of hybrid dogs, with blood-red eyes. Cirrus made a single motion and the pack raced to attack me.

  This time, I knew what to expect as five furious canines barreled down on me. Without even a glance, I flung out my hand and sent them spiraling into the air and crashing back through the underbrush. Yelps of fear littered the darkened forest, though I could hear some of them gathering for another attack.

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