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Song of Sorrows and Fate: Chapter 24

The Memory Thief

The Howl Sea—Shores of Klockglas

“Where are the boys?” Kase roared. His eyes were blackened, and shadows billowed off his shoulders like a dark cloak.

“Hidden.” I thrust a dagger into the scaly belly of a fae man who looked as though he had barnacles on his knuckles. The sea fae flooded from the Howl. They hissed revenge, shouted praises to their horrid Ever King that was slaughtered on Eastern shores.

The cliffs just beyond the Howl into the Fate’s Ocean, the ones Valen had raised from the sea floor so long ago, were flooded by bursts of dangerous tides. Even the Howl rolled and thrashed in great swells. It was too wild, too deadly; we could not reach the other regions.

Were the Falkyns able to keep sea fae off their shores? In Hemlig, Isak and Fiske had visited to gather new seeds for harvest seasons. Were they even alive? Bard had gone to Furen a week before, Tova and Hanna along with him, and I’d nearly allowed the twins to join them before Sander caught his cough that kept us near the palace.

Another sea fae lunged for me. Their weapons were wicked. Serrated, like the teeth of vicious fish. Some were colorful, with hilts of coral and blades of bone. We’d captured one sea fae with a look a bit like Thorvald. Pointed ears, a sunset glow to his eyes, nearly impossible to distinguish between our fae folk or those of the sea.

I’d robbed him of his memories.

It was worse than I thought.

“Do you see that bastard?” I shouted back at Kase, slicing my sword at a beautiful woman with stormy eyes. She was stunning, hauntingly so. Pale hair and ruby red lips. Her gown was iridescent green like she’d swam through a garden of sea flowers, and it fitted to her body.

She didn’t hold a blade, but widened her fingers and dark, jagged fingernails extended.

“He’s not here,” Kase insisted. His blacksteel blade opened the throat of a fae with a curved sword in hand.

I didn’t understand it. Within the memories of the sea fae who’d fallen, I’d seen Davorin. Those memories taken from bone dust from bodies washed ashore meant they’d been in his presence mere moments before they were slaughtered.

Some were killed for refusing to fight.

Their bodies were then thrust through the violent tides of the Chasm of Seas, left to wash ashore from the currents of the Howl or the Fate’s Ocean.

Others, the ones we’d snared before death, gave up his influence. His wretched features standing amongst them, empowering them to take revenge against those who had killed their king turns ago.

I’d never forget his damn face. He’d built the anger of the sea folk, nourished it, let it fester. He’d drawn them out of their own kingdom to fight against the fae who’d slaughtered their king. Thorvald could rot in the hells for all I cared. Valen held the Ever King’s title with that bleeding gold disc Thorvald kept flicking when we’d been trapped in that damn troll burrow.

Valen had warned the Ever King’s brother that every sea folk would meet their end should they step foot on land. Had Davorin emboldened them to try? None seemed to be under his dark trance, not the way the Southern fae had been ten turns ago.

Surely one mimicker was not so powerful he could convince an entire world to rise against us?

I dodged the sea fae’s jagged claws, spun on my heel, and rammed the point of the short blade between her shoulders.

She let out a shriek of agony and stumbled forward. Once her face was pinned to the soil, I stepped onto her spine, and leaned over my knee. “We warned your folk, return and you die.”

Where I thought she might shed a tear, might whimper, she bleeding laughed. Wickedly.

“Earth fae,” she said in a low, hissing voice, like a damn whisper on the sea. “Your time of peace . . . is up. It is . . . time for us to take back . . . the Ever.”

Her body spasmed and dulled, as though the life had somehow glowed beneath her skin, then bled out into the tides.

Time for them to take back the Ever? The realm of the sea fae?

They wanted revenge on the East since this was where Thorvald fell into his grave. But the Ever . . . the Ever was a whole damn world as far as I knew.

My stomach clenched. Gods, had they already overtaken the other kingdoms? The warning had come from the North, and Valen was Thorvald’s killer. A shudder beneath my feet caused me to stumble.

Time. There was something about this . . . time. My gaze drifted to the blood moon overhead. Crimson and horrid. It appeared, and the battles began. Like Davorin was somehow attached to the omen, it appeared in his presence.

The coward had yet to show his face.

I spat beside the fallen sea fae woman and took up my blade. There was more blood to spill.

Twenty paces away, Kase lifted his palms, inky shadows coiled around his fingers. He pulled his arms toward his chest. Sea fae trudged toward the shore, water dripping from the scarves over their heads, the rings pierced in their ears. They were a damn infestation.

“Dagny! At your back!” Luca’s voice roared over the crash of blades and angry seas.

My heart stuttered in my chest. Near a low stone barrier on the water’s edge, Dagny fought to be free of the crushing waves, but there were two sea fae with curved swords approaching her from either side.

“No, Dag! Kase, hurry!” I shouted, desperate, a little delirious, as though something inside knew I was too far from her. Kase was too far.

I sprinted for the water. The ring scorched over my skin, hot and sharp like embers in a new flame. My mesmer swirled inside my veins until the surface of my skin ached like someone had taken a torch to my flesh.

Sea folk came close. I used my open palms, mere touches, and they cried out, clutching their heads. Thoughts were too wild, too hurried; I didn’t know if I robbed them of their recollection to breathe, to sleep, to fill their bellies? Perhaps they forgot their blood hailed from the sea. It didn’t matter, the beauty of my mesmer since claiming the queen’s ring was that the initial attack was always disorienting.

It always robbed folk of their wits for a moment.

Trouble was, it drained my own strength. Already, the muscles in my legs barked their fatigue as I carved through the waves. I cursed as I fought to keep pace, but I was passed by Luca. He ran for his wife with a desperation I knew too well. A desperation when the heart knew danger and death awaited the one you loved.

I’d lived it. I’d watched Kase die in my arms.

It was the kind of desperation no lovers should ever experience.

Luca cut down a spindly looking sea fae with a beard to his chest and leapt over a few white capped waves.

Dagny shrieked, slicing her knife at the sea fae, but she stumbled. The sea bastard raised his blade, ready to land the killing blow.

“Dag!” Luca lunged for her.

Time went still. A dagger—or a pain just as wretched—found my heart when Luca covered his wife with his own body and the point of the sea fae’s blade thrust deep into his spine.

Without mercy, the sea fae wrenched his blade free and made a rush for the shore as though Luca were nothing more than an obstacle—as if he were simply . . . nothing.

“Luca!” Kase’s frantic voice was mere paces behind me. Kryv called for their brother, for the man who’d kept them safe from Ivar as children.

Tears blurred my sight as I cut through the waves.

Dagny’s head surfaced and she sobbed as waves struck her over and over. Luca’s hand trembled as it reached for her face.

She gave him a small smile. The sort of smile one gave when it was the last. When your heart knew it would be the final thing another soul might see.

“Dagny, no!” I shouted. “Move!”

The second sea fae remained. A second blade. A second enemy.

Dagny hugged Luca’s head to her chest and lifted her gaze over his tousled hair. The same damn smile she’d offered her husband, she now pointed it at me.

“Tell him we love him,” was all she had time to say before the fae at her back lowered his sword against her throat.

“No!” I doubled over. A reckless move in the middle of battle, but the pain was too consuming. Agony, bitter and sour, robbed the air from my lungs as I watched my friends, my family, fall into the bloody waves.

I couldn’t draw in breath. I couldn’t bleeding see through the tears. Rage, unlike any I’d felt, sifted through the pain. As though the loss of everyone I loved gathered like a furious knot in my chest, I blamed them all on this wretch, this monster, who’d polluted our kingdoms with his hatred.

For the pain of losing Kase to a cruel masquerade.

For Hagen’s lost family.

For Jens.

For Vali.

For our parents who did not get to raise their littles.

Now, for Dagny. For Luca. Two souls who’d wanted nothing more than to live simply until old age dragged them to the Otherworld. Souls who deserved to watch their son become a man.

They were gone. Because of him.

I trembled in wretched anger and raised my palms. Heat pulsed through my fingertips. The ring burned. All around me, shadows thickened.

Silent and frightening, Kase stepped to my side. He took my hand without a word, and the bond we shared, both as Alvers and our vows sent a shocking rush of power through my blood. Dark power. A kind that could corrupt and consume should I let it.

For a moment, I did.

Billows of darkness with a few sharp flashes of light swirled around us like a wild storm. The sea fae in the waves halted. Rows of enemies, at long last, looked upon our shores with a bit of trepidation.

They only fueled Kase’s mesmer.

His vicious, white grin split over his features once two haggard looking fae stepped onto the rocky banks.

“Are you afraid, sea fae?” Kase’s rough rasp sent my pulse racing.

Most seemed too stunned to move, others took steps back toward deeper waters. Some dove beneath the surface.

“You should be,” Kase went on, a mad look to the glossy black of his eyes. “Did you not realize you’ve stepped into a realm of nightmares?”

His movement spurred my own. A unified attack, bonded through our hearts and souls, we flung our arms out wide.

A furious gust of shadows ripped through the soft bellies of our invaders like dark daggers. Rows and rows of fae fell as splinters of his mesmer lodged deep in the ribs, the eyes, through the throats, even a few through their open mouths as they screamed, the dark points splitting holes out the backs of their skulls.

Brilliant light from my mesmer collided with the crowns of their heads, ripping through the most basic of thoughts. Breath, survival, a will to live. They were peeled back from their consciousness until the fae could not think to stand any longer.

Fifty paces on either side of the shore, sea fae toppled over. Those rising from the depths of the Howl drew to a halt, watching with a bit of horror as their people stumbled and fell. Dead before they knew what was coming.

Silence fell over the sea for mere breaths before the fae of the sea retreated. They shouted calls for escape. They plunged their horridly beautiful features, or scales, their wretched eyes, into the depths of the Howl.

I stumbled against Kase, and he against me. Such a rush of mesmer robbed us both of our strength, but more than that . . . the grief was debilitating.

Kase fell to his knees. At his back, the Kryv gathered in a wretched silence as they looked on to where Luca and Dagny had fallen near the shore, arms still linked together. Raum hung his head, hiding his eyes. Lynx clapped a hand on his shoulder.

Ash pressed a hand to his broad chest. One of the youngest of the Kryv had grown taller than most of the others. Ash let tears fall, unashamed, over his stubbled cheeks.

Kase cleared his throat. He wiped one corner of his eye with the back of his hand and rose from the slap of the sea.

“Help me take them back to Felstad. Where we were first truly free.” His voice croaked. “Von Grym will know his parents died as warriors. He needs to know they . . . they dine with their gods tonight.”

I slipped my hand into his. Kase tended to ignore the existence of gods, but he knew Von would want to believe his mother and father were greeted by those who’d passed before. Kase would want the boy to cling to that faith now.

True, Kase did not believe in the gods, but I’d sent countless prayers to the skies that we’d have a bit of respite from the attacks, a few clock tolls even, to light funeral pyres for Dag and Luca.

It seemed, for now, those prayers were heard.

The pyres ignited the still-scorched stones of Felstad in dancing shades of gold and red. Von stood in the front, chin trembling, tears lining his eyes. A boy. A mere boy of fourteen and he’d now face the world alone.

No. Not alone. He’d always have us.

I rested my head on Kase’s shoulder, watching as Jonas slunk next to Von and slipped his hand in the boy’s left palm. Sander gently took the right. The two princes held to Von, a boy who’d befriended them, even young as they were. He whittled with them. Went swimming in the rivers. Visited the Falkyn Nest to cause havoc much like . . . much like Kase and Luca had done as boys.

A tear trickled off my lashes, down my nose, until I tasted the salt on my lips. Dagny befriended me when I was afraid of the Kryv. She fought tirelessly for Von, for Luca. She was bold and selfless.

Luca, all he’d wanted was his family. His friends. His peace.

“Save us a seat,” I whispered to the flames. Every sunrise, I will miss you.

Kase shifted and wrapped an arm around my shoulders, holding me tightly against his side. I hugged his waist.

To those who did not know him, the Nightrender was a fiend, a heartless shadow. To the rest of us, he was a man who valued nothing over those in his family. Luca Grym was his family. Dagny was both honorary Kryv and Falkyn. She was his family.

He loved them.

He hurt without them.

And he would try to hide it from the rest of us.

I tightened my hold on his waist a little more. “You were his brother, Kase Eriksson.”

He didn’t take his eyes off the dying pyres, but a muscle ticked in his jaw. “And he was mine.”

The pyres would fade through the night. Silence followed the procession back to the open gates of Felstad. Inge mutely ushered us toward the doors where we would soak up what time we had left before a new wave of sea fae, doubtless, returned to terrorize our shores.

We had plans to seal the shores. If we could but reach Niklas and the others across the Howl, perhaps we could manipulate some Elixist warding. Boil the sea so the fae would cook through their innards. Something equally brutal to make up for those they stole from us today.

On my next step, the ground shuddered. The same as it had done at the shore. Kase gripped my elbow and whirled toward the shore. Perhaps he had the same thought—had the North arrived?

Nothing, until . . .

“What is that?” Lynx asked.

A flash of strange, golden lightning burst across the sky.

“Raum, what do you see?” Kase gestured to his Kryv. Raum’s eyesight and mesmer had only gained potency over the turns.

Raum stepped forward, eyes narrowed. “I-I can’t tell exactly, but it looks like a burst of just . . . light. It’s from—gods—it’s hailing from the West.”

Calista. My pulse quickened, but I had little time to fret over our storyteller. In the next breath, the ground lurched again. More violent. A sick crack below us gave way to the truth that our foundation, the damn bedrock beneath our feet, was crumbling.

Kryv moved swift as shadows and reached for the young ones. Lynx snagged Von, while Inge shouted for Hob to shield their daughter.

“Jonas! Sander!” Kase shouted, one hand on me, the other arm open, beckoning to our sons. “Come to me, now. Now.”

The twins sprinted for us. No sooner had they wrapped their skinny arms around their father’s waist, the soil shook with such force that we stumbled to our knees, and Klockglas seemed to sink into the sea.


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