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Song of Sorrows and Fate: Chapter 26

The Phantom

The world fell into an eerie stillness. As though everything—sound, air, movement—all of it ceased for a few breaths.

Calista let out a sharp gasp and slumped against my chest. During the song, we’d both lowered to the ground, too overtaken by the strength of seidr. Whatever we’d done, it reminded me too much of that night we’d found the Raven Queen tied to a bed, bloody and battered.

By attempting to be a beacon, or guide for other kingdoms, we’d once more done something drastic.

“Silas.” Calista lifted her head, her eyes fluttered open. “Do you feel strange?”

I nodded and tugged her body closer. “It feels like we’ve . . . unraveled something again.”

“Like a new path that wasn’t there before has opened.”

Exactly. My limbs were heavy, my pulse weak with exhaustion, but I managed to peer out the glossy window toward the main Row. “Dammit,” I hissed under my breath.

“What?” Calista said, keeping a hand on my chest but leveraging to her knees to look outside.

“The Rave,” I said. “The shield they created is weakening.”

Between the gilded swords on the shore, the flicker of their burning shield against the darkness beneath the waves was dying, like an ember in a rainstorm.

“Because of us?”

“It was the warning,” I said, a deep, wretched kind of foreboding gathered in my chest. “The tale ended, and the kingdom once more returned to the beginning. It is his land he is returning to. I think . . . this is a path that was destined to happen, but whatever alternate fate we just opened, we must find it. Quickly.”

Calista blinked, lips tight and bloodless. With a curt nod, she scrambled toward our discarded clothes. Gods, what I’d do to stay tangled in her limbs, peaceful, unburdened to the end of our days.

We dressed. My palms smoothed her wild braids. She helped secure the mask over my scar, as though she knew it caused a great deal of distress to be seen without it. Together, we abandoned Hus Rose through the front gates and sprinted down the newly restored cobbled stones of Raven Row.

“Hold,” Olaf barked, marching down the line of Rave warriors.

In the distance, a dark current over the surface of the sea bubbled. Like a pot slowly boiling, the water bubbled, gurgled, and hissed.

“Even the Chasm of Seas is different, more defined,” Calista whispered, gaze on the tides. “I . . . I remember it looking much the same as a girl.”

I slipped my fingers into hers. “Your daj always watched it, despite normally peaceful trade with sea fae, he always held a wariness about the Chasm.”

“Do you suppose he sensed this?” she asked, voice low. “Even then, do you suppose he sensed there was fate tangled with us and the fae of the sea?”

“It is always possible.” I didn’t truly understand the depth of Riot Ode’s power. The king had tutored me, guided me when my own song tangled with his child. But there was always a sense that the last king of fate could feel a great deal more than he let on.

“You brought us back,” Olaf shouted. “Now we fight for our land as we did long ago.”

“What is he going on about?” Calista asked.

“Cal!” The blood fae who guarded her appeared from behind one of the towering buildings, blade in hand.

“Cuyler.” She released my hand and went to the blood fae. “Did you see anything shift? We saw the land moving.”

“Anything shift?” His pale eyes widened. Cuyler pointed behind us. “Yes, I saw a shift. Look. Tell me that damn peak in the distance wasn’t there a few moments ago, for I’m convinced I’ve lost my mind.”

I spun around. True enough, frosted peaks took up the northern skies. Lusher forests filled the darkness of the night well beyond Hus Rose.

“Bleeding hells,” Calista said. “The kingdom . . . it’s grown.”

“No, it hasn’t grown. It’s restored,” I corrected. “Look at it, Little Rose. This is . . . home.”

“Home?” Cuyler forgot any trepidation for me and came to my side. “You mean the original kingdom? But the fae isles were split from the old kingdom of House Ode, right? Etta, even the regions of the East. I saw them break apart in King Ari’s dream—” He paused and glanced at me. “Well, I suppose you already know it since I’m quite certain you, Wraith, were the one leading Ari through it. Which, I have many questions about.”

He wanted answers. I doubted I’d be the one to give them. There was a strangling kind of panic that came when folk spoke to me. A panic I never truly knew was there until I stepped beyond the gates of Hus Rose.

I didn’t understand it.

With Calista I could speak fine enough. With this blood fae, I shrunk to the shadows, taking a step away from him.

“Silas was there.” Calista rested a hand on my arm, gave me a soft smile, then faced Cuyler. “He was Ari’s Wraith. It is his skill beyond seidr—to dream walk, much like my Shadow Queen does with her tricky memories.”

I let out a breath of relief. How did she know the words had been throttled in my throat before they’d even formed?

Olaf approached, sweat soaked his brow, the hint of damp and brine was laced into the threads of his clothing. Apart even this short time, he already looked younger, stronger, much more like the Rave captain he’d been in Riot Ode’s army. The silver from his ratty hair had faded to the dark brown, his eyes had less yellow to the whites, and more vibrancy bloomed in the paleness.

“Shields will be broken within two nights, mark me,” Olaf said. “That quake, it was not an act of the earth. It’s added shoreline and absorbed much of our strength to hold. We need more defenses if another attack should come. What happened in Hus Rose?”

My skin heated. Could they smell or sense that I’d left them to guard the damn shore while I tasted every surface of Calista’s body? It didn’t seem fair that I indulged in pleasure while others stood out in the night, blades ready.

Still, something had shifted. The connection we’d built must have been the final piece. A true bond had formed in those heated moments, one that had clearly shifted our world as a whole.

“Any sign of the battle lord?” Calista asked.

Olaf let out a sigh and faced the sea. “Not yet. But the Chasm, you see it there, it is more . . . lively. Sea fae have always been rather antagonistic, even during peaceful trade turns. They like to think of themselves as superior.”

“Don’t we all,” Calista answered, but she faced me. “Silas, there is something coming. I feel it.”

“Same,” I whispered, and pressed a hand to my heart, a signal that the feeling was within me too.

“You’re different.” Olaf narrowed his eyes at me.

“They are, aren’t they?” Cuyler offered and started to circle us. “I can’t place it, but Cal, even you seem different.”

Gods, how much detail should I give? Was it common for folk to divulge every movement they made as lovers? To properly defend us, did they need to know what I’d done with my mouth?

Calista’s hand fell to mine, squeezing gently, and the calm of her touch soothed the rage of taut panic. Her long-awaited acceptance of me, of us, seemed to give her some uncanny insight into my emotions. For she, again, spoke before I drifted into a suffocating unease where shadows would take me to a dark reality I struggled to escape.

“Our first kingdom began to shatter when a bond was formed between me and Silas,” Calista said. “We all know this. Gifts of fate have been scattered and gathered. What happened in Hus Rose was a final piece of a wretchedly beautiful story,” she said, looking at me. “No more secrets, no more hiding the bond that brought us all here. I’ve found it, accepted it, and it ended that alternate path we opened so long ago. It has brought us back to where my father began his battle.”

“That makes a bit of sense. It feels like the battles we fought beside the king,” Olaf said. “If I’m understanding, by breaking the kingdoms onto that new vein of seidr the two of you opened, Riot gave us time, yes? Time for the gifts of fate to grow stronger.”

“You would know, Rave,” Cuyler said. “You were there. Were you losing the battles?”

Olaf paused to consider it. After a moment, he nodded. “The battle lord was a terrible foe. His dark glamour overtook everything, and he knew the Rave like he knew his own twisted mind. We were his army, after all. We could rarely hide a move from him, so yes. I think even the king knew that defeating Davorin with our blades alone would have been a damn near impossible feat.”

Calista closed her eyes for a few breaths. “I’ve harbored guilt since I saw the way my parents sacrificed it all to keep me alive, but it was not a sacrifice to them. To divide the power of fate was my daj’s answer, his way to keep his people free and living. Daj . . . he was not a selfish king, true? With his power, I mean. He wasn’t power mad.”

“No,” Olaf said, a slight smile in the corner of his mouth. “No, Riot Ode viewed his seidr as a duty, not a call to riches and prestige. He was a mightily fair king, My Lady. He would never have passed on that duty to you—” Olaf spared a look to me. “To the both of you, if he did not know you would rise with the same justness he and the queen shared.”

“Folk I love—these other royals—they are honorable much the same.” Calista hesitated. “Sort of. The Shadow King is quite proud to be a thief. Be aware of it.”

Olaf smirked. “You have walked the path you were meant to walk. Your power is yours, but you face the fight of your parents. Our command falls to you. Well, I suppose if the bond is reunited, it falls to both of you.”

I winced. Hardly able to speak, how was I to give a damn army any kind of command?

“I know little about armies,” Calista said. “Silas was a boy when our worlds faded. He might know more about the Rave, but I doubt he knows how to lead an army.”

Calista wasn’t degrading me—her smile told me she was shielding me. I dipped my chin and stepped closer to her side.

“I think that is where we are lucky to have so many kings and queens in this game,” she went on. “They each will bring a talent, a thought, a strength, that perhaps the final throne does not have.” Calista hooked her palm around my forearm, her gaze only on me, as she lowered her voice. “For that is what we are. The final throne.”

Four queens. Four battles. Four fates.

“Agreed,” Cuyler said. He faced the new distant peaks. “What I want to know is what bleeding happened, though.”

“Forbi said the battle bastard would return to his old land,” Calista said. “I think it is because there is no longer a song of Riot Ode keeping him out. Just like Saga was shielded, I think there have been slight advantages that have kept the kingdoms safer from his influence.”

“You,” I muttered under my breath.

Calista tilted her head. “What do you mean?”

“You helped guide them. Protected them. You formed bonds that did not need to be so strong for them to find their fate. You could’ve been a distant worker of fate, but . . . you made them your folk. You were their advantage.”

Her brow wrinkled. Calista stepped into my side and let her head fall to my shoulder. “Then so were you.”

I always viewed my involvement in the other kingdoms merely for her sake. But the more I thought on it, the more I realized, through the turns I, too, had grown respect for folk I’d never truly met beyond the Golden King.

I sang fierce songs, pushed my limits, telling myself it was all for her, but in truth, I didn’t want her heart to lose them. I wanted them to live, to grow stronger, because I wanted Calista to have her damn people again.

“So, if I’m understanding all this,” Cuyler said. “There are no longer any wards, any protections against the battle lord. Your father cursed the lands, cursed you, to keep you safe, right?”

“I think so,” said Calista. “I think a new tale is beginning. One where either he rises victorious, or us.”

“Three damn hells,” Cuyler said, almost exasperated. “This bastard is like a pest that never dies.”

Strange, but I almost laughed. I swallowed the sound, uncertain if this was a moment, if that was a comment that warranted laughter. There was much to learn in the ways of . . . people, and I didn’t know where to bleeding start.

Calista snorted, convincing me I was correct in assuming it was a little humorous.

“He’s more than a pest, he’s a damn disease. I plan on making certain our blades are the antidote to be rid of him.” She rolled her shoulders back. “We don’t know when he’ll come, but we can be bleeding sure he will. He is already spreading his pestilence. We must prepare, but . . . this new path we created—” She glanced at me. “Is not meant to be walked alone.”

“Should we send word to the other kingdoms, then?” Cuyler asked. “I don’t know if it will get through, but we can try.”

Calista shook her head. “Cuyler, I don’t think there are other kingdoms. Look at the shoreline, the peaks.”

“Where are our folk, then?” A bit of strain was in the blood fae’s tone. No mistake, his thoughts were with his people in the fae isles.

“Silas,” Calista looked to me instead. “When they began to break, we tried to be a beacon to them. Is it possible we brought them here?”

“I don’t know, Little Rose.” I was walking a new path with everyone else.

“Those peaks—” Calista gestured toward the northern cliffs. “Those look similar to the landscape in Etta. And . . . the forests—” She turned in the opposite direction. “What if the fae isles have returned to where it all once was? What if they’re here?”

“How would they survive such a shift?” Cuyler murmured, a little more broken than before. Truth be told, I didn’t think he meant to say it out loud.

“We sang a tale,” Calista said softly. “A song meant to guide them here. They have always had a place in this fight. Four . . . four queens. Four thrones. We’re to stand as one now.”

“I suggest we protect our shores,” Olaf interjected. “While also, perhaps, sending out a search. Gods know we could use more warriors.”

“I’ll go.” Cuyler lifted his pale gaze to me, then Calista. “I’ll take my men, we’ll search for . . . for whatever might be left.”

“He’ll be there,” Calista said, a crack in her voice. “Your father will be all right.”

Cuyler’s jaw tightened. His smile looked forced. “Give us time to gather a few supplies and we’ll be off.”

“Be careful, Cuyler. I have no guide on what will happen from here. Silas?”

I looked to her and shook my head. “Our fate is in our hands now, Little Rose. How our paths unfold is now up to us.”

In our hands, and I didn’t know if we’d be the ones to fail or rise as victors at long last.


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