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House of Sky and Breath: Part 3 – Chapter 73

Rigelus laughed. “I was under the impression that you were only here to access the information for which Sofie Renast and Danika Fendyr died. You’re going to kill me as well?”

Bryce squeezed shaking hands into fists. “Why? Why do any of this?”

“Why do you drink water and eat food? We are higher beings. We are gods. You cannot blame us if our source of nutrition is inconvenient for you. We keep you healthy, and happy, and allow you to roam free on this planet. We have even let the humans live all this time, just to give you Vanir someone to rule over. In exchange, all we ask is a little of your power.”

“You’re parasites.”

“What are all creatures, feeding off their resources? You should see what the inhabitants of some worlds did to their planets—the rubbish, the pollution, the poisoned seas. Was it not fitting that we returned the favor?”

“You don’t get to pretend that this is some savior story.”

Rigelus chuckled, and the sound knocked her from her fury enough to remember Hunt and Ruhn, and, oh gods, if Rigelus knew she was here, he’d find them—

“Isn’t that what you’re doing?”

“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?”

“You left such a noble audiomail to your friend Juniper. Of course, once I heard it, I knew there was only one place you could be going. Here. To me. Precisely as I had hoped—and planned.”

She shut away her questions, instead demanding, “Why do you want me here?”

“To reopen the Rifts.”

Her blood froze. “I can’t.”

“Can’t you?” The cold voice slithered through the intercom. “You are Starborn, and have the Horn bound to your body and power. Your ancestors wielded the Horn and another Fae object that allowed them to enter this world. Stolen, of course, from their original masters—our people. Our people, who built fearsome warriors in that world to be their army. All of them prototypes for the angels in this one. And all of them traitors to their creators, joining the Fae to overthrow my brothers and sisters a thousand years before we arrived on Midgard. They slew my siblings.”

Her head spun. “I don’t understand.”

“Midgard is a base. We opened the doors to other worlds to lure their citizens here—so many powerful beings, all so eager to conquer new planets. Not realizing we were their conquerors. But we also opened the doors so we might conquer those other worlds as well. The Fae—Queen Theia and her two foolish daughters—realized that, though too late. Her people were already here, but she and the princesses discovered where my siblings had hidden the access points in their world.”

Rage rippled through his every word. “Your Starborn ancestors shut the gates to stop us from invading their realm once more and reminding them who their true masters are. And in the process, they shut the gates to all other worlds, including those to Hel, their stalwart allies. And so we have been trapped here. Cut off from the cosmos. All that is left of our people, though our mystics beneath this palace have long sought to find any other survivors, any planets where they might be hiding.”

Bryce shook. The Astronomer had been right about the host of mystics here. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Why do you think we allowed you to live this spring? You are the key to opening the doors between worlds again. You will undo the actions of one ignorant princess fifteen thousand years ago.”

“Not a chance.”

“Are your mate and brother not here with you?”


Rigelus laughed. “You’re so like Danika—a born liar.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.” She lifted her chin. “You knew she was onto you.”

“Of course. Her quest for the truth began with her bloodhound gift. Not a gift of the body’s strength, but of magic, such as the shifters should not have. She could scent other shifters with strange powers.”

Like Sofie. And Baxian. Danika had found him through researching his bloodline, but had she scented it, too?

“It prompted her to investigate her own bloodline’s history, all the way back to the shifters’ arrival in this world, to learn where her gifts came from. And she eventually began to suspect the truth.”

Bryce’s throat worked. “Look, I already did the whole villain monologuing thing with Micah this spring, so cut to the chase.”

Rigelus chuckled again. “We shall get to that in a moment.” He went on, “Danika realized that the shifters are Fae.”

Bryce blinked. “What?”

“Not your kind of Fae, of course—your breed dwelled in a lovely, verdant land, rich with magic. If it’s of any interest to you, your Starborn bloodline specifically hailed from a small isle a few miles from the mainland. And while the mainland had all manner of climes, the isle existed in beautiful, near-permanent twilight. But only a select few in the entirety of your world could shift from their humanoid forms to animal ones. The Midgard shifters were Fae from a different planet. All the Fae in that world shared their form with an animal. The mer descended from them, too. Perhaps they once shared a world with your breed of Fae, but they had been alone on their planet for long enough to develop their own gifts.”

“They don’t have pointed ears.”

“Oh, we bred that out of them. It was gone within a few generations.”

An isle of near-permanent twilight, the home world of her breed of Fae … A land of Dusk.

“Dusk’s Truth,” Bryce breathed. It wasn’t just the name of this room that Danika had been talking about with Sofie.

Rigelus didn’t answer, and she didn’t know what to make of it. But Bryce asked, “Why lie to everyone?”

“Two breeds of Fae? Both rich in magic? They were ideal food. We couldn’t allow them to unify against us.”

“So you turned them against each other. Made them two species at odds.”

“Yes. The shifters easily and swiftly forgot what they had once been. They gladly gave themselves to us and did our bidding. Led our armies. And still do.”

The Prime had said something similar. The wolves had lost what they had once been. Danika had known that. Danika had known the shifters had once been Fae. Were still Fae—but a different kind.

“And Project Thurr? Why was Danika so interested in that?”

“Thurr was the last time someone got as far as Danika did in learning about us. It didn’t end well for them. I suppose she wanted to learn from their mistakes before acting.”

“She was going to tell everyone what you were.”

“Perhaps, but she knew she had to do it slowly. She started with Ophion. But her research into the bloodlines and the origins of the shifters, her belief that they’d once been a different type of Fae, from a different Fae world, was important enough that they put her in touch with one of their most talented agents: Sofie Renast. From what I gather, Danika was very intrigued by Sofie and her powers. But Sofie, you see, had a theory, too. About energy. What her thunderbird gifts sensed while using firstlight. And even better for Danika: Sofie was an unknown. Danika would be noticed poking about, but Sofie, as a passing human working in the archives, was easily missed. So Danika sent her to learn more, to go undercover, as you call it.”

She’d made an enormous mistake coming here.

“We were eventually notified by one of our mystics here, who learned it from prying into the mind of one of Ophion’s Command. So we did a little tugging. Pointed Micah toward synth. Toward Danika.”

“No.” The word was a whisper.

“You think Micah acted alone? He was a brash, arrogant male. All it took was some nudging, and he killed her for us. Had no idea it was on our behalf, but it played out as we planned: he was eventually caught and killed for disturbing our peace. I thank you for that.”

Bryce shot from her chair. They’d killed Danika—to keep all of this secret. She would rip them to shreds.

“You can try to run,” Rigelus said. “If that will make you feel better.”

Bryce didn’t give him a chance to say more before she teleported back to the alcove, Hunt’s power fading like a dimming flame inside her.

No sign of Ruhn. But Hunt—

He was on his knees, Umbra Mortis helmet discarded on the stone floor beside him. Hands behind his head, bound with gorsian manacles.

His eyes turned wild, pleading, but there was nothing Bryce could do as freezing stone clamped around her wrists as well, and she found herself face-to-face with a grinning Harpy.


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