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Song of Sorrows and Fate: Chapter 21

The Storyteller

Sleep was a ridiculous notion, a mythical thing I’d never find when my blood had not ceased boiling since Silas left me to my damn thoughts.

A bond. He was the first bond everyone wanted me to find. My first song, the boy who’d awakened my magic, my words. The boy who’d watched my death over and over, trapped in cursed shadows, alone for centuries, all so he could help me sing the songs of fate for crowns and kingdoms and . . . us.

He did it all to guide me back to the beginning, to the first kingdom, to him.

Now, he’d left me here to deny him.

That’s what it truly came down to—Silas knew I despised fate dictating the desires of my damn heart, so he was willing to let me go. But let me go to do what? Touch another? Kiss another? Bed another? Take vows with some sod I didn’t even know? Live alone with Forbi and Danna and Oviss?

With a flurry of kicks, I tossed the furs of the bed off my body and paced near the foot of the bed. Hair stuck to the damp on my forehead, my skin was flushed in prickles of heat, and my bleeding pulse was on fire in my veins.

My royals were under attack, no mistake, but he wasn’t wrong. We had our own battles coming to our shores. There was untapped power, magic, seidr, the lot, inside this soil. I could feel it, as though every pump of my heart spewed more heat in my veins. More strength.

I simply couldn’t reach it. There was a step to take, one that I knew in the deepest part of my gut would help my family in the other kingdoms.

But was the flame because fate dictated who my heart was destined to love? Was it real?

I dragged my palms down my face, groaning, and leaned my brow against the chilled glass of the window. All I’d wanted was freedom from fate, from darkness, from fear. I’d taken the step, discovered the truth of my existence, now the man who’d unraveled it all had placed my future back in my hands.

“Dammit.” I let out a rough breath.

I didn’t know what was happening in the other lands, but hot, sharp tears burned behind my eyes. Were they alive? Injured? Was that bastard of a battle lord cutting down their forces?

I wished they were here. I wanted to speak with Saga; she always seemed to know what to bleeding say. I wanted Elise to give me that grin that said it would all be well. I wanted Malin to tease the scowls off Kase’s face until we all laughed.

I wanted Sol.

He’d sit beside me and listen to my fears of being a slave to fate’s whims. He’d let me rant and rave, then softly give his advice.

I wanted them all, but the wanting for the folk who’d shoved into my heart was a soft ember to the fire burning to find Silas. To feel his skin under my fingertips. To hear the rapid beat of his heart thrumming in time with my own.

While I paced, I caught sight of a torn piece of parchment beneath the crack in the door. The words brought a new thickness to my throat.

Spoke to Olaf. It was horrid, if you must know. I rather hate speaking to folk, but he assured me that signals are being sent to the kingdoms, and the Rave will inspect the sea at the dawn to ensure the water is devoid of sea folk and safe to sail upon. We won’t leave them defenseless, Little Rose.

—S

“Gods.” I clutched the parchment to my heart. That bleeding bastard and his damn fidelity. He’d stepped outside the gates, stepped into a crowd of folk that likely kept his heart racing, all to see that my royals would be supported.

I turned into the room, aimlessly touching and digging through drawers, as though my hands needed to simply keep busy.

Inside a drawer, my fingers brushed over the ridge of parchment. A book of childish charcoal drawings was inside. Scenes with rabbits with ears that dragged on the grass. Rose bushes with monstrous stingers buzzing about. Sunlight and stick-like horses.

This had been ours. I remembered it so clearly. A book of blank parchment we’d drag about, drawing tales during dull days when he was not required to study with the Rave youth or my father, and I was allowed to wander and explore without irritating nannies.

Hells, even now, I could recall how much I looked forward to the moments with him as a small girl. A soft laugh tangled in a sob as long-forgotten moments flooded through my mind with each page.

Silas, skinny and with his irritated scowl on his face, stood in my doorway. “What the hells are you doing?”

I’d spun around, fumbling with the sash over the dress I was told to wear by a stern-faced servant. “Getting dressed.”

Silas let his head fall back and groaned at the rafters before storming into the room. “You hate these stupid skirts.”

“I’m supposed to wear it.”

“And you’re just gonna let folk tell you what to do? I’m not going riding when you’re wearing that ugly thing.”

I huffed. “S’not ugly, you sod.”

“It’s ugly. Boots. Trousers. I’ll be in the stable if you find your backbone.”

My mouth twitched in a small grin as I turned the pages. More memories, more moments, choked the back of my throat.

“Old Mays is outta her damn mind,” Silas said when he’d found me with a knife against my tangled curls. He took the knife and dragged a hand down my hair, smoothing out the tangles, after an old cook insisted sparrows would soon take up and nest on my head. “Do you like your hair?”

I nodded.

Silas popped a shoulder in a shrug. “Then don’t be stupid and let words make you doubt those things that make you, you.”

I could recall so many moments of his brisk, boyish words. His protectiveness. His laughter. The way he pretended not to like picking blood roses but was always the one to suggest we go to the gardens. The way he mocked my childish lisp, then always told me I had a nice voice.

I recalled moments when gentry boys taunted him, calling him names for being an orphan. I’d been hiding outside the walls of the old schoolhouse, listening, as they’d made up lies that the king planned to get rid of his ward since he was so worthless to the royal house.

I closed my eyes and leaned my back against the wall.

“You think the king’ll keep you? Why? You don’t do anything but eat up his table scraps.”

Silas frowned and turned away, trying to leave, but Bragi Helverson was relentless.

He gripped Silas’s arm and forced him to wheel around. “Bet your mam was glad to go to the Otherworld.”

Silas’s face boiled in an angry red. His fists clenched. Bragi wanted it. He wanted the king’s ward to react, all so Annon and the other commanders would punish Silas to stable mucking for a month.

“Bet your daj tossed himself over too,” Bragi went on, “after he found out what a whore your mam was. You probably weren’t even—”

A strangled cry escaped his throat when the first pebble flew from the loft window. Then, another, and another.

“Arghh. Go, go!”

Bragi and his stupid gaggle of bullies tried to flee. Pebbles kept flinging, striking their faces, their arms; one boy stumbled forward, sobbing, when a small gray stone struck him in the teeth.

“Princess! No. Stop this right now. Gods, help us!” A servant had her skirts bunched in her arms, sprinting from the green lawns next to the stable.

Bragi and his wretched gang bolted, bleeding and simpering like little pups.

Silas peeked up at the loft window.

“Your aim needs work, Little Rose,” he said. But in the corner of his mouth was a smile.

A smile I never truly forgot. Silas looked at me like I’d saved his damn life. Much the same as I’d looked at him the night Davorin attacked my mother. The way he’d hidden me, brave and stalwart, standing in front of the armoire. The way he’d been forced to leave my father to a fight he couldn’t win, and face Davorin. He’d nearly been killed by the strike of that blade, all to keep me hidden, to defend my bloodline.

I closed the book of drawings, swiped the tears off my cheeks. What the hells was there to think about?

So, my heart bonded with the boy who’d always cared for me, the boy who’d always seen me as I was and never tried to change it. What did it matter? I’d picked him before fate bonded us together.

The Norns were the slow ones in making their decision. I was more cunning and picked him before we sang our song of destruction.

So why was I still here?

I glanced in the looking glass on the wall. My hair was disheveled, but manageable. My eyes were red from tears, but I didn’t have the patience nor the care to wait for them to clear. In three strides, I crossed the room to the door and yanked it open.

Silas, my phantom, my whisper, he wanted me to decide if my heart ached for him.

It didn’t ache for him. It lived for him.


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