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Song of Sorrows and Fate: Chapter 29

The Storyteller

A glimmer of gold, that was all I had on which to lay my hope as the dawn spilled into the dusky, red satin night. My legs dangled over the edge of a parapet wall; I gazed out on the turbulent sea.

Soon. A voice in my head spoke the truth of it. I liked to think it was my daj, maybe Stefan in his big burly Annon form over there in the Otherworld. All I knew was something was to change, and it was to change soon.

All night Olaf and our Rave had planned how to guard up the shores. I’d helped lay spiked fences. I’d aided the Norn sisters with their odd warding spell casts. I tried to find a song, words kept creeping up my throat, then dying once they reached my tongue.

In one breath, I wanted the sun to rise. In another, I wanted to run back to Hus Rose and hole away with Silas and never face what the dawn might bring.

According to Olaf, with a new length of land to manage, shielding every port, every cove, and every bit of the kingdom would be impossible. We had new peaks, new isles, places I certainly didn’t remember. I’d been too young to have every speck of land memorized.

Olaf and many of the Rave warriors knew well enough, there were plenty of areas our enemies could rise and overtake.

“I know the battle lord,” Olaf had said, hunched over an old, tattered map he’d pulled from one of the towers. A part of the fortress I’d guess was his old alehouse. “He’d often lead ships upriver and take the peaks, then descend from behind since he is quite skilled at navigating rocky terrain. Likely the reason you told me he set up his battle camp in the peaks of the old Southern Isles, true?”

“He overtook it, but I thought it was because he’d learned a blade for my Golden King was hidden there.”

“Possible,” Olaf offered. “But he favors mountainous ranges since most folk find it more difficult to navigate. He trained us often on unstable ground.”

“And he knows the Rave will know him.”

Olaf grinned a little viciously. “Exactly. Which is why I expect the attack to come here. Straight on. We should set our defenses on the shore.”

“All?” Silas asked.

“All. We do not have great numbers; we will need every blade.” Olaf’s thumb dragged away from the old north cliffs on the ancient map. “He has joined, somehow, with the folk of the sea. I’d say he’ll come head-on. Here at the docks. Look for swimmers and skiffs approaching in narrow coves or in the shadows since sea fae have larger vessels than us. They won’t be able to bring them all into port.”

Memories of the dead Ever King’s ship that ripped me to the East still lifted my skin. Then again, I wasn’t convinced it was the actual vessel that turned my insides—it was more that pushy bastard named Thorvald. He had few manners, and certainly didn’t know how to calmly ask for favors.

“Their ships are beastly monstrosities,” I said with a bit of theatrics, but it suited. “Like vicious deep-sea creatures that sail above the surf and below it, too.”

“I remember them similarly,” Olaf said. “They might not be able to take the rivers out of sheer size. So, the docks are where I’d suggest placing the most protections.”

I’d agreed, but it was half-hearted. Protections, even at the docks, wouldn’t be enough, and we all knew it.

What could we do? Spread ourselves thin, or put most of our attention on the main gates of our new fortress of Raven Row? I stared down at the lines of shields, the spears, the blades. The Rave were unmoving. Across towers and parapets and walkways, they all kept time in their steps. What I’d give for a bit of distance between us and the bubbling chasm.

So many wrongs could happen. So many lives could be lost. I was no warrior. By the hells, at times I hardly felt like a woman. I felt naïve, despite my turns of life. I felt uncertain, as though all this time I’d been more reliant on the nudges of fate and not my own seidr, and I’d never noticed.

Now, the ending was unwritten. It could go either way.

I closed my eyes, it seemed as though a thorny ball flailed about in my belly. The worst of it all was all this new, bleeding land, and none of my royals had shown their faces.

Had they been crushed? Were the Norns so cruel that they’d rip them away without a chance to fight? Was it my fault for waiting so damn long? The burn in my chest was unforgiving. Brutal, really. I felt as though I might crush beneath the weight of it all if I could not catch a glimpse of them soon.

“You can speak of your troubles to me.”

I whipped around. Silas, buried beneath a hood, mask hiding his scar, leaned one shoulder against a tower wall at the entrance to the parapet.

A smile tugged at my lips. I patted the space beside me, then watched as he crossed over to me and dangled his long legs much the same.

I let my head drop to his shoulder. Slowly, he tipped his head, so his cheek rested on top of mine.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” I admitted.

“Do what?”

“Fight. I barely survived the last battle. I had one bleeding job to do: hold Malin’s ring and summon the others through the damn Nightrender’s shadows. I dropped it. Dropped it. Then practically exploded.”

Silas chuckled softly. “I know. You sang. It was us connecting. Your seidr was too powerful for that leech to touch.”

“Leech is such a dull name for him. Dig deeper next time.”

Silas’s cheek moved on my head, and I took a guess that he was grinning. “Can I speak true, Little Rose?”


“I’m not certain I can do this either.”

I lifted my head, holding his stare. “You are strong. You’ve always been a fighter.”

“For you,” he said. “I fought for you.”

My brows tugged together. “You trained with the Rave, with Annon.”

“I was a boy, a boy, when our world changed. Since then, I’ve . . . I’ve battled shadows, Calista. My first real kill was that sea singer at the docks, and only because I’ve practiced and observed the proper way to snap a neck for centuries. I am no warrior, not like your kings and queens.”

My palm slid over the top of his hand, lacing our fingers together. “Yet you never ceased calling to me. You knew this would end in a battle, and you never shied away. How do you do it without fear?”

“I never said I have no fear,” he told me. “I have been afraid every damn day since I stood between you and that bastard with his sword.”

My eyes stung. All this crying was growing rather ridiculous, but it couldn’t be stopped. Something about this bleeding man had my heart sobbing at the memories we shared and the time we’d been forced apart. I touched the small bit of his scar that jutted beyond the curve of his mask.

“I face this with fear,” he said, voice low and soft. “But I will face it head-on.”


Silas shifted and took hold of my hand, lifting my knuckles to his lips. “Because I fear the loss of you more than a battle. Should I remain hidden, should I ignore this fight, I’ve no doubt I would lose you. I won’t again.” His eyes clenched shut. “Do you . . . gods, do you know what it’s like?”

I hugged his head to me, his forehead on my shoulder. My fingers slid under his hood, pushing it off his head, so I could run them through his hair. I pressed a kiss to his brow. “I don’t know what it’s like, Silas.”

“My words are nonsense,” he murmured. “Ignore them.”

“They’re not nonsense,” I told him. “What did I tell you? I don’t care if you talk to shadows, or if thoughts come out that you cannot control. I don’t know what it was like then because my heart’s song was kept from me.”

Silas went still, then slowly lifted his gaze back to mine.

I rested a palm against his unmasked cheek, my thumb tugged on his bottom lip. “But I know what it’s like now. I know what it feels like to find that side of your heart you never knew was missing. Should I lose you, I would be broken down the center, a walking half of a soul for the rest of my days.”

I kissed his cheek. Silas let out a soft sigh and closed his eyes.

“You’re right, though,” I said. “To lose you now would be worse than any battle. I’m afraid you’ll need to be satisfied with your grand champion being utterly inexperienced on the battlefield.”

He grinned, and I thought it might be the loveliest of things. “I have a champion?”

“Obviously. You use your tongue rather magnanimously, and I would like to keep it from now into the eternities.”

The skin visible on his face flushed with a bit of pink in the rising dawn. “No arguments from me.”

Together, we laughed. Then words, another tale burned on my tongue. This time, they grew clearer. My seidr was coming swifter, stronger.

Silas grinned. “You feel it?”

“There is a song of fate here, some twist trying to break through, but I can’t quite grasp it.”

Silas cupped a hand around the back of my neck, drawing my forehead to his. “It will come. You have the words, Little Rose. You always have.”

I tilted my face until our lips brushed. Gingerly, Silas kissed me with a touch of tender hesitation, like it was something we hadn’t done before. I didn’t mind. The slow claim of his lips soothed the ache in my heart. It added a bolster against the fear desperate to pull me under.

This kiss was a slow build. Tender and soft in the first heartbeats, then little by little it built to something deeper, something with a greedy fervor. I hummed in need when Silas’s tongue slid against my lips, parting them until I tasted the clean warmth of his mouth.

He tugged me closer, one arm slipped around my waist; the other slid through my messy braids. I dug my fingernails into his shoulders, clinging to him like the slightest breeze might tear us apart.

How was it I could go so long not knowing a bit of my heart was so near? It seemed vicious and wretched. Yet to have it now, to know the cost we’d paid to claw our way back to each other, made moments as this more precious than air in my lungs. It made them richer than the grandest treasury.

These moments would be my safety, my hope, and my shield against what was to come. These moments were where I would find the courage to face every sunset, and rise, blade in hand, with every sunrise. I would fight for these moments, for they were too beautiful to lose again.

Silas’s hand slid down my waist, curling around one of my thighs, readying to leverage me over his lap on the ledge, but his hand stilled at the haunting bellow of a ram’s horn.

We broke apart and faced the sea.

“Bleeding hells.” My lips parted. “Silas . . .”

He hurried to his feet, jaw tight. Silas tugged me back to standing, and nudged me a bit behind him. His hardened stare was unyielding on the thrashing tides of the dark Chasm line.

Our time for respite was at an end.

The water grew more violent. It tossed and thrashed. From beneath the tides, vicious spikes and strange masts of black and pale and blue sails broke through the water. Those horrid, massive vessels with decks and stairs and three masts instead of one shot toward the dawning sky like fatted whales breaching the surface.

One after the other, they rose and aimed their bowsprits at our shores.

Skulls and daggers dotted the sails. Some had coiled, skeletal serpents. All were swift and vicious. All were packed with dark, moving figures. Sea fae. Doubtless, the sort like Thorvald who could command the sea, yet walk our shores with blade in hand.

“There’s so many,” I said in a soft gasp. Blindly, I reached for Silas’s hand. A heavy weight gathered in the pit of my belly. Worse than the moment I joined the ruse against Davorin ten turns ago. There was something in this moment that told me . . . it was the end.

One side was not leaving this battle alive.

Silas squeezed my fingers. “There are many, but their power lessens on land. We’ve fought for this moment, and I am not about to give it up easily.”

“I understand them now.”

“Understand who?”

“My royals. For I am going to the shore, I am going to stand with the Rave, to defend the Row, and it is because I am unwilling to give you up. It is because I am standing with you, Silas. Their heart songs, their hjärtas, were the reasons behind my royals’ every move. I understand them now.”

His jaw pulsed once, twice, then he kissed me. No hesitation. No shyness. One feral, lasting kiss before he broke away and tugged me along the parapet wall to the winding staircase of the tower.

Horns rattled through the sturdier Raven Row. The Rave warriors, few as they were, lifted shields off their backs. In one, unified roar, they heaved the shields over their shoulders and placed them in front of their bodies. The first row of warriors crouched low. The second lifted their shields and stacked them on top of the first to form an impenetrable shield wall.

On the towers, archers tightened their bowstrings. A warrior on either wall traipsed along, dipping their arrow tips in oil wells. They’d rain fire down upon the sea; we’d watch them burn.

The Norn sisters laid out runes near the sea, and a brilliant, emerald flame burst from their spell. It slithered across the shoreline like a fiery serpent, adding another barrier between us.

“The sea comes.” Olaf approached us as he secured vambraces on his wrists.

“Davorin?” I asked.

“Not that I see, but we know he’s there, waiting. He sends the first wave now.”

“You were right, Olaf,” I said. “He is bold. They attack head-on.”

Olaf faced me, and he rested his hands on my shoulders. His touch brought with it a sharp shock over my flesh. I shook it away and had the decency to hold his gaze.

“You have been concealed from your truth and power for a great many turns, My Princess,” he said. “But Captain Annon never once doubted that you would rise to this moment.” Olaf flicked his gaze to Silas. “Both of you. Your place, boy, is as valued here as hers.”

I nodded briskly. “We look to your wisdom, Olaf.”

“You shall always have it.” He grinned, younger than he’d been in all my memories.

I reached back to Silas and took his hand. Facing Olaf again, I straightened my shoulders. “Then defend our shores. Until the last Rave falls.”


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