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The silver siren, p.26
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       The Silver Siren, p.26

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  Cirrus attacked me head on—a blast to the chest and I flew back into a tree. My head exploded in pain as it slammed into the trunk. Every Denai trait was mine to command—earth, air, water, and fire—as well as the Sirens’ gift of death and destruction. If only my will were strong enough to wield them.

  I got up and lashed out at Cirrus with a bolt of ice. He blocked it before it touched him. I was at a slight disadvantage, because I didn’t know what I was doing, but he did. It became difficult to breathe again as Cirrus wrapped a thread of power around my throat. I fought against it and fell to my knees. I tried to reach for him, tried to stop him, when I heard another growl to my right. Out of the corner of my eye I could see the huge rabid dog growling and preparing to attack.

  He barked twice, flexed his muscles, and lunged for my face.

  Chapter 35

  I closed my eyes, expecting teeth to rip through my throat.

  Instead, something darted in front of me impacting the dog and knocking him down. I opened my eyes to see a large grey wolf in front of me, biting, clawing, and going for the dog’s jugular. I felt a touch of worry in my mind and knew it was my wolf. He’d come back when I needed him most.

  My lungs still burned, and I fought against the lack of oxygen, trying to gasp for air. But with every breath it seemed to squeeze tighter. Cirrus sent another wave, this time encasing me in a ball of fire. Heat engulfed me, flames flickered against my skin, barely touching me.

  But when they did pain followed. He was toying with me.

  “You see, I’m the teacher,” Cirrus taunted. “You’re still the student.” The ground shook, and I felt myself running as the ground began to collapse below me. I wished for a bow and arrow, for its familiarity. These new powers were still foreign to me. I saw a large stick on the ground and thought of it flying through the air. It did—and sliced Cirrus across the cheek.

  The pressure around my throat released and I could breathe again. But only until he attacked me again. I dodged another large fireball, which grazed my leg and instantly blistered my bare foot. I flicked my wrist and wrapped it with a bandage of frost. The coolness cancelled out the pain.

  His next attack throttled toward me, but I froze the fireball midair and directed it back at him. Cirrus’s eyes widened and he dove to the side as the giant ice snowball crashed into the tree, shattering behind him. It took him a moment to crawl back up.

  I continued my assault, focusing on the tree next to him.

  It grew rapidly, and branches wrapped around him, imprisoning him in vines. Cirrus grunted and the branches began to whither and burn. When they fell from him in ashes, he gave me an impressed nod.

  I just smirked.

  A realization struck me. To my knowledge, Cirrus hadn’t had this many Denai gifts. He must’ve been helping himself to a few of the injections. He was now stronger than a Master Denai. And he was fighting without showing any signs of tiring.

  But then I saw them—the threads of power flowing through the camp to the battlefield. I could see them all tied to Cirrus. Which meant that if he was fighting me, there was a good chance that he wasn’t controlling Joss and the others. I had to save them.

  Cirrus closed his eyes, and large ice crystals formed above him. Seconds later, they spun at me.

  I flung up a wall of power and they crashed into it and shattered, littering the ground with flecks of snow. I started to feel myself weakening already. I was draining myself after I had gone through an intense life-altering change. Even though I hated myself for doing it, I reached out to the nearest people and started take their energy to resupply my own.

  My breathing slowed and I stood straighter. I crossed my arms and flung them out with blasts of fiery darts, but I soon felt myself drained again. I reached farther, took more from more people. More Septori. I could actually feel them start to collapse to the ground as I took everything they had to offer.

  You shouldn’t take from them. Wolf nudged my mind. I could see that he was still circling the edge of the clearing, keeping the attack dogs at bay.

  They are not innocent!

  They are all innocent in the eyes of the one who loves them.

  They hurt me! I tried to justify myself. They hurt my family.

  Ja, so did Sinnendor. You forgave them so easily. Why not show these people mercy?

  Who are you to talk about forgiveness? You have not walked in my shoes. Only I can choose to forgive someone.

  It’s not your forgiveness they need. It’s your mercy. Wolf spoke firmly. You mustn’t take from others, if you’re not willing to give yourself.

  My determination wavered and I faltered in my next attack. I made the ground shake beneath my feet and made large cracks appear. I aimed them not at Cirrus but at Lilyana. Cirrus rushed forward and pushed her out of the way just as a giant hole appeared where she had just vacated.

  He studied me. “Oh, I see what you’re doing, but it won’t help you for long.” He started to laugh and it sent a chill to my core. I could see his thread of power follow and search and connect with every single Septori I had been draining. A moment later, I heard simultaneous gasps of pain, and power rushed back at me in a painful whiplash. There was a supernatural disturbance as if a rushing wind had passed through and sucked out all the life.

  Cirrus had just dealt a hand of death to all of them.

  Lilyana watched as one after the Septori running around the camp fell over dead. “What are you doing?” she screamed at him.

  “She was using our own army against us, draining them to fuel her powers. Now there’s none for her to drain her in camp. She’ll have to take a chance on them.” He pointed down the hill to the castle. “There’s no way she can distinguish between the armies. She could be hurting her own friends if she tried.”

  He was right. I tried to go after and drain Cirrus and the queen but they were shielded against me.

  Unless I could touch him. He wouldn’t be able to shield from me if I touched him.

  I gathered everything that I could to me—every remaining dreg of strength within me—and marched toward Adept Cirrus. He sent bolt after bolt of fire, wind, earth. Attack after attack.

  I threw everything I had into deflecting, but some of them got through and scorched me, bruised me, and injured me.

  It was a losing battle, until I realized that I couldn’t lose. I couldn’t afford to lose.

  I stopped fighting against my fear of pain and started focusing on the pain. I could deal with pain—I’d been a born Siren. Sirens relished pain. Instead of fighting it, I welcomed it. Used the pain and fear to bring forth my other gift. Ignoring the blackening vision, I marched forward and watched as Cirrus backed away from me in fear. Power raced up and down my arms. Visible waves of dark power rolled along me.

  Cirrus was scared.

  Every painful step closer to him I came, the wider my smile grew.

  He tripped over a root sticking out of the ground.

  “No, no, it can’t be. You should be dead by now.”

  It hurt and I knew that I would blackout soon, but the raspy words fell from my lips and I knew he heard them because he paled. “I’m not afraid of death, not when I know the timing of my own death, for I control death.” My finger touched Cirrus through his shirt straight to his hateful black heart.

  I commanded it to stop beating and watched sadly as he shouted, clutched his chest, and died.

  Lilyana screamed in dismay and ran to him. She cradled his body, appearing pitiful. Her hair had come loose, tears streaked down her face, and her dress was ruined from the mud. It was obvious that without Cirrus, she was nothing more than a beautiful, broken doll.

  I turned from her and walked through the camp to see it littered with the dead bodies of the Septori. Dead not by my own hand but by the will of Adept Cirrus.

  I should have felt relieved, avenged. Instead I felt hollow. The more I walked, the number I felt, even when I passed the bodies of Talbot and Mona lying near each other in the grass. They both
looked peaceful. I saw the small book that poked out of his vest, and I reached down and pulled out the Horden journal.

  I tucked it inside my dress.

  It was a death march. My footsteps silent as whispers, I made it to the edge and gazed across the field to the castle. More bodies lay strewn across the ground. Young and old, some of the queen’s own army and her Septori, the others Elite and Tieren’s army. I kept walking through the field, my body quivering and shaking with emotion and exhaustion. From where I stood in the middle of the field, I could still see the battle raging on within the castle walls. A few Denai that were close to me fell to the ground. I assumed that without Cirrus’s control they had little power left of their own. But I hoped with their freedom, they were only dazed. Not dead.

  But the large Septori army still fought. Why shouldn’t they? They had already breached the castle walls. There was no way I could attack them all without harming everyone.

  The ground shook and I heard the sound of hundreds of horses behind me. I turned in fear, thinking I was about to be run down by a second wave of Septori. Except they weren’t wearing red. The army that came charging down the hill was actually two separate armies, side by side.

  I couldn’t help but smile and cry as the hill was covered with a hundred SwordBrothers riding into battle. Beside them, a much smaller army of Denai. The SwordBrothers rode right past me and dashed into the castle. Within minutes, I could hear the tide of battle change. People started yelling, not in pain, but in excitement.

  They were cheering.

  It didn’t take much to pick out the large dark form of Pax Baton and Lorna Windmere’s short-cropped hair leading the throng onto the remains of the battlefield. Behind them I saw Adept Kambel trotting admirably on a donkey. Breah followed close behind him and kept yelling at Kambel that he was going to fall off and kill himself before he even did any good.

  The Denai didn’t attack or join in the battle like the SwordBrothers, but were sent out into the field by Pax and Lorna to for the survivors. Breah was the first to stop beside a young man with a head wound, and she pulled off her cloak and gloves and began to heal him. Never once did she make a snarky comment as she tended this man of Sinnendor. Her enemy.

  Lorna came over to me and looked at my tear-stained face. Her eyes filled up with tears as well, and she nodded her head. “I know child. I know,” she intoned in a motherly voice.

  “Well, why didn’t you do anything? Why didn’t you stop them?” I cried out, feeling useless.

  “We found out too late. It was when your father’s messengers came to the Citadel that we started to piece everything together. We searched Adept Cirrus’s rooms and found all the evidence we needed: detailed plans, maps, routes of all of the hidden laboratories. As well as letters from the queen. All of them signed with a raven in the corner.”

  “We gathered everyone that was willing to come,” Pax Baton spoke, his deep voice rumbling in his chest. “And we happened to meet up with the SwordBrothers. It seems they were on their way here, and we explained what the dreadful turn of events.”

  “Adept Cirrus. Is he…?” Lorna drifted off, unable to ask.

  “Dead,” I answered.

  “Where’s the queen?”

  I shrugged my shoulders and pointed back to camp. She hadn’t seemed that powerful or important, since it looked like as if Cirrus was the one truly controlling everything.

  “Is it over?” Kambel urged his donkey toward us. He had tied his long beard into little braids, which were wrapped around his head and tied. I supposed it was to keep them from impeding his hands, but it certainly was strange. I couldn’t help but stare at the beard.

  “I told him to just cut the thing off but he insisted I braid it.” Breah huffed and put her fists on her hips.

  “I told you, Breah, that a man’s beard is his dignity. It signifies age, experience wisdom.” Kambel slid off his donkey.

  “You speak of dignity and wisdom when you look like a furry rabbit?” Breah called over her shoulder as she moved on to another injured soldier.

  Lorna called out to stop the argument. “Hush you two. We have plenty of work to do. There are more injured. Get to it. Argue later.”

  As the adepts went to work on the injured, I scoured the field, studying the faces of the dead, looking for any signs of Joss.

  On and on. I searched the deformed hill where Joss had fought Syrani. A few times, I saw the hem of a shirt that looked like Joss’s and started to dig through the dirt. Each time to find nothing but a nameless face.

  More SwordBrothers raced past me into the castle and I scanned each of their faces, looking for Kael’s. Not once did I see his stormy blue eyes.

  Hours I spent, searching the battle grounds for them. For any signs of Kael, Joss, and my father, but I only found death and more death. It was becoming too much, too overwhelming.

  Especially when I began to recognize more and more of the dead. Soon they were no longer nameless. I stumbled across Gideon’s and Tieren’s remains. My stomach tightened in a spasm, about to retch at the look of their glazed sightless eyes.

  But it was Eviir’s lifeless body sprawled protectively across that of a young Sinnendorian child that really ripped the blindfold off.

  I felt it. All the pain. And I began to mourn silently.

  Bit by bit, with the help of the adepts and others, order began to restore itself around me. I knew peace would eventually ensue, but I couldn’t bring myself to go to the castle. I wasn’t ready to confront anymore familiar faces.

  I needed solitude. I had something that needed to be done.

  Wandering back toward the camp, passing the burned tent of the Raven, I headed toward the river. When I got to a secluded spot, I pulled out the journal and flipped through it. I couldn’t read a single word. It was in a language I had never seen or heard of. The script looped and swirled and then ended in sharp angles. It wasn’t going to do anyone any good, but then I remembered Xiven. He’d been able to translate it for Talbot. Cirrus had his own notes, and even Xiven had started making his own additions and performing his own experiments.

  Even if I destroyed this copy of the Horden journal, there were other copies out there.

  Still, it felt good to destroy the item that had ruined my life. I laid the journal on the ground, placed my hand over it, and sent it up in smoke, burning so hot and fast there were hardly any ashes left. After all of the death and battle, this was the one moment I felt a bit of vindication.

  “Get up slowly,” his deep voice whispered into my ear. Instantly, my pulse raced and I felt my knees go weak. I turned to gaze up at him and he was dripping wet. Had he jumped into the aqueduct after me?

  I wanted to throw my arms around him, hug him, kiss him, and tell him I would never ever leave him or send him on a mission again.

  But I couldn’t, because he had a very large knife pressed against my throat.

  My mind reeled. How could it be? I killed Cirrus—Kael should be free. I carefully used my hands and pushed myself off of the ground, standing up to face him.

  That’s when I saw her, and my body recoiled in hate and fury. She was once again standing feet away from me, wearing a red dress instead of the robe, her hair spilling out of her regal bun. Of course, she wore the silver hook-nosed mask upon her face. It seemed that she needed the mask to help her become the Raven, that she couldn’t quite separate herself from Lilyana without it.

  But what made my heart rise to my throat was the prisoner tied up and on his knees in front of her. Joss’s eyes were clear as day, and his face was red with anger. The Raven pressed the knife to his throat.

  We were at an impasse.

  When Joss saw me he called out my name.

  “Joss, don’t move,” I answered back.

  Physically, I was drained, and I couldn’t reach into the castle for power without endangering my friends and father. But I needed strength. I was furious at myself for foolishing turning my back on the queen, and that anger made me reach far
ther than I’d ever reached before. Instead of inward, or stealing from others, I reached down. Into the earth, into its very core, searching for magic. Gideon had said it was abundant in Calandry, but magic didn’t dwell where Sirens where. But he had to be wrong. There was power in everything. I just had to find it.

  Pushing myself farther and faster than I ever did, I kept at it. Searching deeper into the earth. It was dark and cold against my consciousness.

  There! I could feel it. Power. Miles below the earth. Slowly, like a dragon waking from a deep sleep, the power reared its head and moved toward me, almost eagerly. It filled my very being, and I started to shake with the intensity of the power I had touched. It was old—very old. And it was mine.

  I pulled away from the knife and sent a bolt of lightning straight into the queen’s heart. She fell backwards onto the ground and twitched.

  Once.

  Twice.

  And then she stopped.

  I sighed in relief thinking I had done it. I killed her. But Kael still held the knife. I looked at him quizzically. He should be free. Kael’s eyes filled with pain.

  Something was wrong. He gasped and then pressed the knife closer, deeper into my skin. I felt a slight sting but was afraid to move. Afraid for what was happening to Kael and what this meant.

  I heard her hysterical laughter before I saw her walk back into my line of sight and cringed. The queen was not dead.

  “Aha! It worked. I didn’t believe him, but it worked. I have my own SwordBrother. I’m invincible.” She crowed and grabbed Joss by the top of his head and wrenched it so far back he cried out in pain.

  The knife at my throat pulled away slightly. I looked up into Kael’s eyes and behind the expressionless mask that he always wore. I saw him. I had stared into his eyes enough times to ponder what he was thinking. And I knew, in this moment, he could see me and he was fighting against that which controlled him.

  He didn’t want to hurt me. His eyes were dark storms of fury and pain. I could feel the shadowing anger roll off of him in waves.

 
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