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The silver siren, p.27
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       The Silver Siren, p.27

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  “Are you bonded to her?” I whispered, feeling panic consume me. I didn’t know that a SwordBrother could be bonded to more than one person. The bond was backwards if he was. Her life was now connected to his, and since he was near invincible, it was sheer genius on Cirrus’s part.

  He didn’t answer, or he couldn’t.

  “Okay. Blink once for yes, twice for no.” I was grasping at straws.

  Kael’s eyes blinked once slowly. The hand holding the knife shook as he held it toward my throat.

  “Does she know about us?” I whispered again. He blinked twice slowly.

  “Don’t look at him!” Raven screeched, her voice rising in frustration. “Look at me! What are you willing to give me in exchange for the boy’s freedom? I know you care about him.” Even though she had the knife pointed at Joss, I couldn’t tear my gaze away from Kael.

  Freedom! What a glorious thought. I would give anything to be free, and that’s what I answered. “Anything.”

  “I want Cirrus back! And you can’t give me that. So instead, you’re going to watch Joss die, the way I watched Cirrus. Then I’m going to kill your father, your cousin, and all of your friends. Then my SwordBrother is going to kill you.” She beckoned to someone behind her and they were all there.

  One by one, other Septori came before me and shoved my father, Hemi, Siobhan, and Fenri onto the ground in front of me—all of them tied up and badly beaten.

  “No!” I felt Kael try and pull back as the knife brushed my throat drawing blood.

  “Yes! I win. I always win. In chess, you know you don’t win until you take out the queen, you stupid girl. You brought this on yourself.”

  She paced back and forth among her victims, toying with them. She made a long slice here and there across a forearm, or a little cut across a cheek. Siobhan screamed when the knife came near her arms.

  “Stop it!” I yelled. “It’s me you want. Not them. Hurt me. I’m the one who killed Cirrus.”

  “But where is the fun in that? I want you to suffer. Maybe what I should do is let them all live and take them with me.” She ran her hands along Joss’s face, then my cousin’s. Look I’ve got Denai, Sirens…I can build myself a whole new army.”

  “No!” I shouted. The thought of my father, of Joss, or of any more innocent people being subjected to the torture I had been through was almost my undoing.

  “Then choose. I’ll give you the choice of who dies first. Will it be the pretty Denai? I’ve heard you’re in love with him.” She placed her face close to his and he recoiled from the mask. “Will it be your father? Or the girl? I’ll give you to the count to ten, and then I’ll just pick, shall I?” She began to walk up and down the line of victims counting off and pointing the knife at each one of them starting with…Joss.

  TEN.

  Thalia, Faraway called out to me. Where are you?

  I’m by the river. I answered tears pouring out of my eyes as I watched the Raven move from Joss to Hemi.

  NINE.

  I’m on my way. Hold on.

  You’ll never make it in time. You’ll be too late, I answered.

  Another brush of thought touch my mind. Wolf.

  Wolf? Can you help?

  SEVEN.

  Nay, I cannot give you what you are unwilling to give up yourself. It was the second time he’d said that to me tonight. Then it hit me.

  SIX.

  “Kael,” I whispered.

  His eyes opened and met mine. He was crying with frustration, his tears running freely down his cheeks. His hand shook as he tried to pull the knife farther away from me.

  “I love you. I’ve always loved you, and I always will.”

  FIVE.

  He seemed to understand by my tone of voice what I was asking of him. He devoured me with his gaze, memorizing me. His eyes locked onto my lips before he let out a small moan.

  FOUR.

  Kael shifted ever so slightly and succeeded in lowering the knife from my throat. It slid it to a spot over my heart. His hands trembled, and I wrapped my hands around his fists, feeling the warmth of him under my touch. I’d missed his touch so much. I needed him. I missed him, and I knew I could no longer live without him.

  THREE.

  Thalia…No wait. I’m almost there! Faraway called out.

  TWO.

  Faraway! I love you. You are the best friend I could ever have. I’m sorry I couldn’t wait for you!

  I watched out of the corner of my eye as the Raven stopped in front of my father and lifted the knife high into the air.

  “One.” I breathed the word mere milliseconds before the Raven did.

  I grabbed Kael’s hands and flung myself onto the knife, plunging it deep into my heart. Instantly, Kael was released from the spell that held him. He reached out for me just as I fell into his arms. Kael crumpled to the ground, cradling me.

  I briefly heard my father’s cry of grief and Joss screaming my name over the thundering sound of horse hooves. But none of it mattered, except for the beating of Kael’s heart as I lay pressed against his chest. The sound of my own heart was slowly fading away.

  “I love you too,” Kael whispered.

  Our heartbeats—matched in a beautiful, slowing rhythm—stopped.

  Chapter 36

  There was nothing.

  Just a void.

  No sound.

  But then I heard it, very softly. The last sound I remembered before dying.

  Kael’s heartbeat.

  I opened my eyes and I was weighted down, like something heavy was on top of me. My cheek rubbed against something scratchy, and I lifted my head from the offending object. It was Kael’s extra set of knives, but something else had me pinned.

  I didn’t care, though. I was fascinated by the very handsome man lying underneath me at the moment.

  Kael’s eyes were closed, but then they started to flutter.

  And then they opened. He gaze met mine, and before either of us could say anything, Kael pulled me down to meet his lips in passionate kiss that never seemed to end.

  “Thalia.” A soft voice called my name, followed by the sound of clearing throats. I looked up and saw Joss staring down at me as I lay there wrapped in Kael’s arms. “I’m so sorry.” He turned away from me, and I looked up at my father in confusion.

  Bearen stood above Kael’s head watching us as well, his face pale. He kept grasping his chest. “I feel like I’ve just seen the impossible.” He dropped to his knees and reached forward to touch my cheek.

  I tried to move, but I was stuck.

  Kael noticed my discomfort and tried to help me, but we were both pinned to the ground.

  I shifted my weight and saw that Faraway’s head was actually lying across my back. “Faraway!” I called out playfully to him. “Move.”

  “Thalia…don’t.” Alba appeared suddenly and came to stand where I could see her. “You mustn’t be upset. It was time. I told you there would come a time when your Guardian would leave you. I said you would wake up and he would be gone.”

  “What do you mean?” I demanded.

  “The Guardian has but one purpose. To give up his life so that another may live. Faraway chose you from the beginning. He was drawn to your strength of courage and your selflessness. Even the wolf saw it. And since you took two lives with you when you departed, he offered up his own, so you could bring two back.”

  My heart stopped beating and I began to cry out in pain. “No! You lie. He’s just sleeping. He can’t be gone!” I pushed away from Kael, turned under the weight of Faraway and wrapped an arm over his still warm neck.

  It couldn’t be. It wasn’t fair.

  But no matter how I tried to call out to him through mindspeech, he wasn’t there.

  Faraway?

  Wolf? Even Wolf refused to answer me.

  Please Faraway, answer me.

  Nothing. I heard nothing but silence.

  Kael wrapped his arms around me as I mourned the loss of a piece of my soul.

  Epilo
gue

  Five years later.

  “I don’t want to hear about another delegation from the south. We have no need to trade with the country of Azure.” I threw my hands up in frustration.

  Lorna tapped the table with her fingers, pointing to an item on the list that I might have missed.

  “Horses. They raise and breed the best purebred horses,” Lorna said, taking advantage of my soft spot for horses.

  “Then send Master Joss and Darren out to Azure. Let them meet the delegates first. I am wary of bringing strangers into our land while we are still new and susceptible to other influences.”

  Adept Lorna smiled. “That is a great compromise. I think you are learning your duties quite splendidly.”

  “Not because I have a choice.” I rolled my eyes at her back when she wasn’t looking. She cleared her throat and excused herself, heading out the double doors of the great hall.

  A tall form stepped out of the shadows and came to wrap his arms around my waist. “You knew Azure was known for their horses. I noticed the moment you saw them on the list. You were going to agree to the delegation days ago,” Kael nuzzled my neck. Even now, he still wore no color other than black, but it had never bothered me. Even on our bonding day, when we exchanged vows in Sinnendor’s halls five years ago, he wore black.

  That was exactly why I’d commissioned Berry, the royal seamstress, to make Kael’s attire wedding attire both royal and manageable in case of a war.

  I shrugged my shoulders. “Am I that easy to read?”

  “Only because you’re my soul mate. I know everything about you.” He walked with me over to the large tapestry that now hung from the walls.

  With the help of the Denai, Sinnendor’s castle had been rebuilt. There were more windows, more oil paintings, and more candles lit throughout the whole castle. It looked alive—properly lived in—again.

  With the death of the King of Sinnendor, the title had fallen to Sevril, who’d barely survived his encounter with Kael. Kael had told me once that every time saw Prince Sevril, he was reminded of the terrible sacrifice Tomac had made—because of him.

  Tomac’s one true act of brotherly love.

  Still, when the war was over, Sevril abdicated the throne even though he had become completely human.

  Bearen Valdyrstal was a natural leader, and the people of Sinnendor gravitated to my father. But Bearen also refused.

  Which meant I was next in line.

  Sevril had since spent all of his days locked in his rooms, reading and studying. I noticed once that he keeps a single jar beside his desk. No one else but the two of us would recognize it for what it is. It’s filled with blue liquid that shimmers slightly. It is the last of his gifts, the only one that wasn’t donated to me.

  Even though it made me uncomfortable to see it, I couldn’t bear to make him part with it. Not after the sacrifice that he and Xiven made to help me. I’d never once seen him lose his temper, even though Darren and Joss often tried to goad him. Sevril had truly become my voice of reason in all things, a great advisor and a trusted friend.

  I reached out and touched the tapestry, smiling at the feel of Kael’s hand on my back.

  Once, I’d been worried about leading a clan, but now I was leading a country—or countries. We’d permanently opened up the borders between Sinnendor and Calandry. Many Sirens and Denai had found new homes, settling in both lands. In fact since the queen’s death, Kael and I had been traveling back and forth between the two nations, governing them. Although Calandry was doing fine with the clans governing them, they still wanted a queen. That was the Adept Council’s doing. My white hair and silver eyes were proof of hope in the union of the two races.

  I’d more or less become the mascot for the future and was stuck with it.

  At least until the next heir to the throne was old enough to start demanding her own pony.

  The door burst open and a little girl with raven black hair, silver eyes, and an impish smile ran in. She headed right for Kael and wrapped herself around his leg.

  “Ooh, help me, Daddy! Save me!” she cried out in mock terror.

  A small red-haired boy entered the room, growling at her. “Roar! I’m a lion,” he said as he held up his chubby little hands and pretended to extend claws. “And I’m going to eat you!”

  The little girl squealed in mock fright, but was interrupted by the boy’s mother who came running in after him.

  “Fenrier, what did I tell you about scaring the princess?”

  “Sorry, Momma,” the child said, but not before sticking his tongue out at Princess Lisanne.

  “Sorry for the interruption, Thalia. I was watching them, but then they took off. I’m a little slow these days.” Syrani chuckled and gently patted her rounding belly. Fenri is hoping for a calm little girl to add to our brood. But secretly, I want another boy.” Motherhood made Syrani glow.

  Gone was the spiteful, spoiled girl. She’d been replaced by a completely different woman. Everyone was watching Fenri and Syrani’s children carefully, because they were in fact—as Xiven had predicted—the combination of both Siren and Denai heritage. Already Fenrier was more powerful than some of the older Denai. It would be interesting to see what the future held for the next few generations.

  Kael swung Lisanne into the air before depositing her on his shoulders.

  She clung onto the top of his head and yelled, “Giddyup.” Her feet kicked him gently in the chest. “I want to wave to Grandpa!”

  Kael laughed and led me, keeping my hand in his as we walked down the hall toward a side entrance. Two shadows fell into step behind us, quiet but observant. I waved jovially to Alek and Gwen, our personal bodyguards. Kael complained that I didn’t need a bodyguard since I had him, but after the war we were hounded with offers from SwordBrothers to personally guard our family. We took two of their best, Alek and Gwen. But we refused to be bonded to them. Their lives are their own.

  We stepped out the side entrance and headed across the courtyard to the training field. Bearen yelled loudly to a young soldier as he corrected his stance and the swing of his sword. At least, on the battle field with the soldiers in training, he could fight with a smile. Life in the castle was another story entirely. Bearen and Portia turned out to be mortal enemies. He spent most of his days ranting about how terrible the woman is and how she was secretly trying to kill him with all her etiquette lessons. So he avoids the castle as often as possible, preferring the company of warriors to women. Or so he says.

  Even though he adores and spoils his granddaughter.

  With Bearen’s leadership qualities it wasn’t long before he was installed as the new leader of the Elite.

  “Do you regret not training them?” I asked Kael as we watched my father fighting.

  “No. It feels right. Sirens being trained by their own. Besides, I have my hands full protecting you two.”

  I smiled.

  Bearen caught sight of us and raised his hand to wave at his granddaughter who happily whooped and yelled back. We stayed that way, watching my father for a few moments before we headed back inside.

  I couldn’t help but think of Hemi whenever I saw my father. Hemi and Fanny had married. They now spend their free time tracking down the any remaining iron butterfly machines and dismantling them. They’ve found three others over the years and more copies of the journals, which were all summarily destroyed.

  As we stepped out of the sunlight into the cool air of the great hall, a young page approached us.

  “Milady, we’ve just received word that Joss Jesai and Darren Hamdin will be arriving in a few days’ time.”

  “Thank you. Will you run and tell the others to prepare their rooms for them?” The boy bowed his head and ran off, his skinny legs flying behind him.

  Joss had never been quite the same after the war. He was a little slow to smile, though when he did, his dimple still remained. His eyes still twinkled, though not as often as I would like. At first I thought it was because he couldn’t hand
le the thought that I had chosen Kael, but that didn’t seem to bother him. It was the loss of his sister Tenya during the war. He won’t speak of what happened, but apparently it was enough to shake him to the core.

  Many times since then, he has come up to me and apologized for not understanding fully what happened to me when I was taken by the Raven. He found it hard to look me in the eye and not be reminded of what happened to him and his sister.

  I had hoped he would marry and settle down, but it seems that he has taken after Darren and enjoys the rover lifestyle. He feels most himself when he is on the road, traveling to new and distant lands. When he comes home he is reminded of Tenya’s absence. And when he comes to visit me, he is constantly reminded of the Raven. Which is the other reason he apologizes so much.

  Kael and I had come full circle and were back in the great hall filled with tapestries. Kael put Lisanne down and she ran across the room to play with a small kitten that had made its home in a basket by the corner. Gwen moved to silently stand in the shadows near our daughter.

  Kael recognized my thoughtful gaze and pulled me into another embrace. “Lost in the past or future?” he asked.

  “Mmm, past,” I answered. “I feel like all of the answers to the future are in the past. If only we look hard enough.”

  “Well, that’s what Kambel is good for. Let him do the studying.” Kael grabbed my chin and placed a kiss on the tip of my nose. “You need to remind yourself to look to the future for your answers.” He looked to the tapestry beside us, and I was reminded of all that we had accomplished in the last five years. It had taken many council meetings and that many years of networking and planning. I was promoting a more council-led form of leadership for Sinnendor, similar to Calandry.

  New maps had to be commissioned, borders redrawn, clan lands extended. The royal crest was no longer a lone wolf, but now included white horse. And everyone had agreed that since the two countries were now officially one, under new leadership, it was my right as the queen to choose the new name.

  Even now, Kael pointed out the beautiful script of our new country’s name on the tapestry right above a white horse and grey wolf in expansive forest.

 
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