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Song of Sorrows and Fate: Chapter 32

The Phantom

We didn’t have much time. The whole of a damn sea kingdom was at our gates. Davorin had returned. How long had he been close to us? I should’ve known. I should’ve been sharper. Once, I’d been skilled at sensing danger.

I hadn’t even considered Olaf was not who we thought.

Now, the captain was dead and the battle lord was ready to claim his bleeding throne.

“What do you think he offered the sea folk?” The man, Niklas, asked at my back.

He’d told me I could choose silence as we descended into the catacombs, but in truth he’d asked a great many questions. Most had not seemed necessary for an answer, an occasional comment on the eeriness of the bones jutting from the walls, but this one was direct.

“What do you mean?” My reply was sharper than intended. This was why I kept quiet.

Niklas seemed unbothered. “I mean, how did Davorin entice an entire kingdom to fight his war?”

“They must get something in return.”

Niklas clicked his tongue, as though considering it. “You heard them shout about Valen when he cracked the road.” All at once, he snapped his fingers. “That must be it. They called him out by his power, like it was a mark. You know, they threatened to return to take Valen. Perhaps they’ve been promised him in exchange for their service to Davorin.”

“The Night Folk king is not a man one can easily take.”

Niklas chuckled darkly. “I know. It makes it almost entertaining, a little humorous. I want to say, I’d like to see them try, but honestly—I don’t. I want them to all disappear and leave us in bleeding peace. I was quite happy, you know, almost lazy. These last ten turns have been the first I can remember living without the constant threat of enemies. I mean, we all knew Davorin was still out there, but we had peace. Now . . .” His words trailed off.

I paused at the bottom of the staircase in front of an arched door. “Now?”

Niklas’s bright eyes were burdened when he lifted his gaze. “Now, I’ve lost two fiercely good friends. I’ve watched another boy become an orphan.”

Heat gathered in my chest. The familiar tug of seidr. Calista strengthened my gift, and I could not truly twist fate without her, but there were always nudges. Weaker versions others would call their gut feelings, but for workers of fate, it was always the voice of a new path.

Something about what he had said, brightened my own power.

“You should take in the boy,” I said without thinking. To think would be wise. I was not a fool and knew my words could be brisk and strange. Perhaps it was rude to say such a thing.

I didn’t know much of anything about the Falkyn, only that he’d been critical in restoring the Golden King.

Niklas lifted a brow. “Why would you say that?”

“Never mind.” I opened the door.

“No, why did you say that?”

“I don’t know.”

“Hmm. I don’t need my wife to be here to know you’re lying.”

Irritation rolled up my throat. “I don’t know why I spoke; it was just a thought.”

Niklas was pensive by the door. “It is a possible thought. One I think I will consider once all this is over.”

“You know this boy?”

“Of course, I do. As I said, his mother and father were dear friends.”

I shrugged, done speaking.

Apparently, the Falkyn, was not. Niklas rubbed his chin, bemused. “I don’t know why those words are . . . settling so deeply. It’s almost strange.”

It was seidr. I wasn’t going to explain it. A new path was broadening for the man and he could feel it. That was all.

“Here is the room,” I said. “Will it do?”

Niklas took it in. Walls made of bone and rock surrounded us. In the center was an old, wooden table with a layer of dust thick enough to coat my entire body. It reeked of musk and ancient air, but he nodded.

“It’ll do just fine, I think.” Niklas placed his hands on his hips and took in the space once more, then spun on me. “I will need access to a stove or fire. Possible?”

“The cooking rooms are old and empty. They’re yours.”

“You never eat or what?”

“I eat.”

“Hmm.” Niklas had a mischief about his gaze. “You don’t speak much do you? Odd. For I’m quite certain you are the Wraith from Ari’s dream, and you spoke enough there.”

Dream walking was not reality, another part I wasn’t planning to explain. Mostly because speaking was growing uncomfortable. The familiar dampness gathered on my palms and my scalp prickled with the urge to duck away.

Niklas didn’t press and waved his hand about, gesturing at the arched ceilings of the catacombs. “No time to waste, I suppose. I’ll go speak to Arvad.”

I jolted when he clapped me on the arm, like I’d witnessed folk do when they were attempting to be friendly. He flashed me a quick grin, told me to take a moment to go rest before the royals of every kingdom bombarded me with questions, then disappeared back up the staircase.

Centuries of solitude, now I had whole royal households as my damn guests.

My chest grew tight and my skin heated.

Other folk were thrilling in many ways. I was glad they were here. It was the right step, a unified front and all that. But the noxious, painful pieces that came when too much chatter, too many bodies were close by, had me also wishing the lot would find their own space and leave me to be alone with Calista.

I shook away the unease and followed where Niklas had gone up the stairs, anxious to find the only person in the entire palace that brought me solace.

Calista wasn’t in the music room. I thumbed a few strings on a lyre out of habit to soothe the race of my pulse, and went to look for her.

Folk strolled the corridors of the palace now. I avoided them. Truth be told, they seemed to avoid me, but curious gazes followed me as I strode past. I leaned into the shadows, seeking their dark reprieve. Most of those wandering about looking for rooms didn’t look familiar. Then again, I knew so few faces. Only those who’d truly stood closest to Calista all this time were recognizable. These unfamiliars were likely members of the thief guilds, other warriors, or possibly servants.

I kept my gaze schooled on the woven rugs in the halls until I rounded into the corridor with Calista’s bed chamber. Not a moment too late, for when I stepped into the hall, Calista backed out of the room. Soft steps, movements like a whisper, she gently eased the door closed.

In a breath of relief, without a thought, I wrapped my arms around her waist from behind and let my brow fall to the back of her head.

She jolted with a little strangled squeal, whirling around. Calista snickered and smacked my chest a few times. “Don’t startle me like that.”

“Sorry.” Now, I pressed my brow to hers. “You make it easier to breathe.”

Something about my words drew a small smile over her lips. She kissed the hinge of my jaw. “You weary of socializing?”

I balked. “If you call muttering a few words to the Falkyn, then avoiding every other soul in this damn place socializing, then yes. I’m quite finished.”

“Shhh.” Calista pressed a finger to my lips. “You’re normally so quiet. Lower your voice.”

“Why?” No one was around. Finally.

“We have exhausted littles in my bed.” She gestured at the door. “The only way we could get them to part with their parents at all was by promising they could all sleep in my magical room.” Calista wiggled her fingers.

“There’s not magic in—”

Again, she pressed her finger to my lips. “Silas. Hush. There is, and if you want them to sleep so we can make plans, you will agree with me.”

I dipped my chin and murmured against her finger. “As you say.”

“My royals are all meeting in the hall.” She gave me a cautious look. “Do you wish to join? You don’t have to, I can tell you what is said.”

I gripped her waist and kissed her softly. Why it mattered so greatly that she would let me be alone should I need it, I didn’t know. But it did. It was as though she took me as I was. As though she truly did not mind if I wanted to dwell in darkness. It burned through my heart to know, broken and unsettled as I could be, she finally knew of me again. She finally . . . wanted me.

“I wish to join you.”

“Really?” There was a heady kind of relief in her voice, her eyes.

“I should be there. This is . . . this is our fight.”

Calista let her shoulders slump a bit. “Thank the gods. I’ll admit this to you alone, but I’m terrified.”

I wrapped her in my arms and tucked her head under my chin. Calista hugged my waist.

“That battle sod, he terrifies me. He’s . . . he’s a nightmare to me.”

“He won’t touch you.”

“He could. He did. He was so close. Hells, the way he toyed with us and we didn’t even realize it is horrifying.”

“I know.” I pressed a kiss to her head. “But we know his games now. We’re all together. Our song, it brought the kingdoms together. He is strong, but so are we.”

She squeezed my waist a bit tighter. “This is why I want you with me. You think you do not have clever words, but your words always speak the right things to my heart. So, obviously, my reasons are utterly selfish, but who the hells cares?”

I chuckled and took her hand. “Lead the way. I can promise you, I will let you do all the talking.”

Calista smiled. Dark as the future appeared, her smiles were swiftly becoming the brightest part of my days.


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