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Song of Sorrows and Fate: Chapter 39

The Storyteller

This couldn’t be happening. I didn’t understand. The song had burned in my soul, so this shouldn’t be happening.

“Calista,” Silas’s haggard voice followed as we raced into the trees where folk were taking the wounded, the broken. Where they took Tor.

“I need to get to him.”

Two clearings were already filled with fae, running about trying to tend to those we’d been able to drag behind the wards and barriers.

Warriors stood watch in the trees. The injured we were able to reach were laid out between them. Tova set to work along with Niklas and Elixist Falkyns. She was one of the few Mediski Alvers who knew how to heal the body, at least well enough to keep most folk breathing.

The Norn sisters aided with their hums of rune spells to cast away pain and blood.

I wanted to vomit at the sight of Gorm pacing near Cuyler’s head. Blood coated my Blood Fae’s—my friend’s—face. I could hardly make his features out beneath the gore.

A compress made of healing oils and blue moss was wadded into a clump by Tova. “Hold it; stop the bleeding.”

“His eye?” Perhaps for the first time, I heard the blood lord’s voice waver.

Tova shook her head. “I don’t know. You speak in absolutes, Lord Gorm, so I’ll be frank—stop the bleeding, or he’s gone.”

Gorm’s pale eyes shadowed. He took the moss and knelt. Soft whispers, words not meant for us, came from the blood lord to his warrior son.

Next to them, Hagen Strom gripped his brother’s shoulder as Tova fought her own tears and stitched up a festering gash on Bard Strom’s throat. Deep and dangerous should it bleed much longer.

I blinked through the tears and kept running toward the center clearing.

In the corner of my gaze, the dead were laid out and tended to by Raum, Isak, my Shadow Queen’s thieving friend, and his wife.

Pain was hot and cruel and carved through my chest as I took in the fallen. Magus of the Court of Serpents stared blankly at the treetops, his spell-caster mother’s body at his side. The eldest serpent sister dropped to her knees, her bloody blade across her lap.

The woman’s big, owlish eyes were soaked in silent tears as her folk crossed both Magus’s and Yarrow’s hands over their chests, daggers in their lifeless grips. The woman placed a kiss to each of their heads.

I kept running.

Ettan warriors with their thorns and roses embossed on their gambesons were laid out. Falkyns and huldra and blood fae. So many of our people.

A cruel fissure snapped through my chest at the sight of the once-cursed tracker from the South. Bo sobbed against the unmoving chest of Rune—the winged fae who’d befriended Saga and my Golden King.

They’d taken so long to love each other after the battles in the South. Now, their time was stolen too soon.

A tear fell onto my cheek. No more. No more hjärtas would be lost.

I forced my gaze ahead and ran for the crowd in the center of the trees. Where was he?

The gleam of the wards near the shore were still bright. How long we’d be separated from the sea fae, from Davorin, I didn’t know. I couldn’t think. I could hardly breathe.

My skin was on fire. Unseen flames licked down my arms to my fingertips where the lingering burn of seidr faded. I ignored the bite of pain and sprinted toward the crowd, the anguished cries in the center of the clearing.

“Stop the bleeding,” Sol shouted, his voice thick with agony. “Tor, stay awake. You look at me.”

My Lump was hunched over his consort, one hand behind his neck. Elise, Arvad, and Valen had their hands on Tor, trying to stop the wretched fountain of blood bubbling through the wound in his chest.

“Tor,” Sol’s voice cracked. He pressed his forehead to his lover’s brow. “Stay here. Alek needs you. I need you. Please, dammit, open your eyes.”

Sol buried his face into the crook of Tor’s neck, cradling his consort’s head. Tor’s chest was barely moving, and every breath he took rattled in wet blood. Bile burned my throat—the Otherworld was opening its gates.

Everyone else knew it.

Ari’s face was hard as stone. He clung to Saga’s hand without mercy, and looked nowhere but Torsten Bror’s unmoving, bloody body. Kase’s eyes were black as midnight. Malin and Herja tried to help in stopping the bleeding, taking Elise’s place when my Kind Heart would hurry away, sobbing without trying to stop it, and snatch up more moss, more stained linens.

Halvar lowered to one knee beside Tor’s legs and gripped his friend’s ankle, like he wanted to be there as he stepped into the hall of the gods. Kari kept a hold on her husband’s shoulder. She didn’t speak a word, but what she knew would happen was written in every furrow of her face.

Valen cursed. His own desperation was bleeding through. Tor was his Shade, his brother, his family.

Sol pled—gods, he was damn near exhausting his voice with his pleas—for Tor to open his eyes, to wake up.

A strong hand took hold of my palm. Silas, face dirt-soaked and bloody, pulled me into his chest.

In his arms, I broke. “We sang the damn song.” I pounded his chest, shoulders shuddering. “His song was there. He was . . . he was supposed to be safe. You saw it. Seidr wrapped around us, and protected us, and . . .”

“I don’t know, Little Rose,” Silas whispered into my hair. “I don’t understand it. I felt the same.”

Gods, I hated the Norns. I hated them. I wanted them to burn in all three hells. How could they—how could they rip my Sun Prince’s heart again? How could they rob a boy of a father who’d suffered so much to find his love? A father who’d never hesitated to take in an infant fae who’d have been left to the wilds of a battle torn world?

I hated them.

The burn of my blood, of my cursed magic, felt as though it might split through my skin and devour the world in one breath.

I’d welcome it if it took away this pain.

“Tor?” Sol’s voice was clear. He paused. Slowly, I turned to look. All gods. Sol pressed a hand over Tor’s chest. He looked at his face again, fear written in every despondent crease. “Tor. No, keep breathing, gods, keep breathing.”

“Son,” Arvad said, gently trying to take Sol away.

The Sun Prince swatted at his own father and held Tor’s face, pressing desperate kisses to his cheek. “Please, keep breathing. He’s breathing, right?” Sol lifted his wet eyes to his brother.

Valen sat back on his heels, sweaty and broken. “Pulse is there, but—”

“Then he’s alive,” Sol shouted. “Don’t stop. Why are you stopping? Where is Niklas?”

“Sol,” Niklas’s voice came from the edge of the clearing, he was mixing pungent herbs vigorously. “I . . . I can bring comfort. I can’t bring back the beat of a heart.”

The Sun Prince was slipping into desperation and held his trembling hands over Tor’s chest. Elise kept a steady hand on the wounds, as did Malin. Valen joined, though he wore a despondent expression.

I hated myself, but turned away, unable to watch the final moments.

Stieg, Frey, and his brother Axel were some of the warriors standing guard. All the men kept their heads down. Stieg faced the trees. One of Valen’s Shade himself, Torsten Bror was a brother much like he was to many of us.

This shouldn’t be happening.

I hugged my middle and fell to my knees. Why them? Why did it have to be them?

“He mean something to you, Warrior?”

Stieg let out a shaky gasp, sword raised, but his stun was pointed at the trees overhead.

Silas stepped in front of me protectively and watched as branches rustled. I rose back to my feet, looking over Silas’s shoulder as someone climbed over the thick oak branches.

All hells.

The boy king and his crimson eyes peered out of the leaves.

I drew a knife. The wards must’ve slipped. I would not let these sea fae bastards take this moment from Lump. He deserved peace as he bid farewell. He deserved so much more than this.

“Leave, Erik,” Stieg said. “We looked out for each other once, remember? I’m asking you as that fellow prisoner to leave this be.”

The sea king tilted his head and flicked his gaze to the scene in the center of the clearing. “His heart still beating?”

Stieg hesitated. “I don’t know.”

Erik Bloodsinger was a tall boy, slender and lithe, but still a boy. I doubted he could grow a whisker on his chin yet. But there was a captivating, sinister aura about the sea king—one that was breaking into something like reluctant compassion.

“Does he mean something to you?” he asked again.

Steig glanced at Frey, then back to the boy. “Yes. He is like a brother to me. A close friend.”

The warriors took a step back when the sea fae king slid from the low hanging branch. When he landed, he winced, and rubbed his left thigh. Silas took hold of my arm, but I wasn’t afraid. Not anymore.

“Do you feel it?” I whispered, patting Silas’s arm.

He hesitated, then nodded. “There is a tale here.” Silas glanced at the Ever King. “Weren’t you wounded?”

“Don’t know what you mean.” Erik didn’t look at Silas, he rested a hand on the hilt of his curved sword and kept his focus on Stieg. “I’m in your debt for saving me a time or two, so I’ll do it to repay you.”

Stieg arched a brow. “Do what?”

“What do you think?” Without another word Erik lifted a hand to his mouth and scraped the meat of his thumb across the sharp, slightly elongated point of his canine tooth until a trickle of blood coated his skin.

Stieg’s mouth parted. “Bleeding gods, you’d do this?”

“What are you talking about?” I snapped.

Steig took a step—a feckless step—toward the poisonous sea fae. “Erik can kill with his blood, but remember what I said, he heals too. You’d sing, boy?”

“If it squares us.”

“Why should I trust it when you fight with our enemies?”

“I made my reasons for being here clear,” said Erik. “If he is dying anyway, what does it matter?”

“Will you sing?” Stieg pressed sharply.

Erik’s scar through his lip went taut against his smirk. “Aye. I’ll sing. But it squares our debts.”

Like a hand struck my chest, I let out a gasp. My fingernails dug into Silas’s arm. “A song of blood. A song of blood, Silas.”

Silas narrowed his eyes at the fae boy. “Bloodsinger.”

The Ever King glared at us and took a step behind Stieg toward the clearing.

“A song of blood keeps life.” I couldn’t finish the thought, my words were too breathless, too damn hopeful.

Hand tangled with Silas’s, we followed close behind as Stieg led the sea fae toward Torsten.

Nearly there, Erik paused. His shoulders rose in sharp breaths. “I won’t do it near him.”

Erik pointed at Valen. The Night Folk king looked weary, lost, but he had enough thought to draw a blade and stand. By now, others had noticed an enemy had descended into our death camp. Not just anyone—the damn sea king.

“Stieg?” Kase said, a deep growl to his voice. “What is this?”

Stieg blew out a breath. “The Ever King has offered his healing blood to Torsten.”

“Lies.” Ari snapped. “There is no reason a minion of Davorin would do such a thing. Little bastard’s probably possessed by him right now.”

Erik narrowed his eyes but said nothing.

“He’s not.” Junius, haggard, sweaty, bloody, and locked in wretched despair at the sight of Tor, emerged from the trees. She stood beside Niklas, who still fought to mix his herbs, but didn’t look at the Ever King. “I wanted to see him . . . but . . . the boy king is not lying. He is here to heal.”

Ari’s face softened. He looked to Saga, almost hopeful.

“He has reason,” Stieg insisted. “Payment for protection I offered during the Eastern battles of the Black Palace.”

“Won’t do it with him near,” Erik seethed again. He closed his eyes as if battling some internal thoughts that were vicious and cruel. “Get him gone, or I challenge him, and your like-a-brother dies. Your choice, Warrior.”

“We sang the song, Cursed King,” I said gently. “Before the fighting, there was a song for Lump. I sang it. A song of blood brings life for the one you love. Those were some of the words.”

“And the rest?” Valen snapped.

I swallowed. Hells, this was the path, the twist of the song of seidr. The more I thought of the tale and its song, the clearer it became. “Trust and let it be, in this, a-a-a tale of land and sea. Let it be, Valen.”

Stieg looked at his king imploringly. Valen hesitated, but slowly rose and stepped away from Tor’s unmoving form.

He dropped his axes. “As you say.”

Erik gave a slight hiss at the Night Folk king as he shoved his way toward Torsten.

Sol lifted his tear tracked face. His deep blue eyes seemed to shade to a cruel black when he saw Erik. “Get him back. You don’t touch him, sea fae.”

“Lump.” I rushed to his side. “Did you not hear Junius? This is part of your song; I feel it. That’s why the wards went up. Torsten has a song. Let it be.”

“Out of time, earth fae.” Erik glanced at Tor. “He’s half in the Otherworld. Can’t bring back the dead, now, can I?”

“Son,” Arvad tried again. “It’s the only chance you have.”

“He could kill him.” Sol gripped Tor’s tunic.

“He is dying,” Silas broke, and pointed out the truth none of us—Sol most of all—wanted to admit.

“He will,” Arvad added. “He will die, son.”

“No, he—”

“Moments,” Arvad said with more force. “You have moments. I’ve been around enough death to know when a soul is leaving the body, Sol. This is a chance. A gift of fate.”

Sol’s mouth tightened. He trembled as he fought to keep the anguish from spilling out. With a furious kiss to Tor’s forehead, he whispered softly against his consort’s ear, then stepped back as Erik replaced him by Tor’s head.

“Keep everyone back,” Erik told Stieg. “I can’t lose the song or he’s a dead fae for certain. It’ll look like I’m killin’ him. I’m not.”

Stieg took a place between Erik and our folk, then watched with a bit of curiosity as the boy lowered to his knees at Torsten’s head. He winced. There was a pain in his leg, and the Ever King fought to hide it desperately.

With the blood on his palm, Erik placed it over the flow of gore in Torsten’s chest.

Accustomed to Silas’s voice, his low, silky rumble, it was a bit of a shock to hear the smooth, higher sound of the Ever King. Sea fae found power in their voices. Almost like seidr. Perhaps it was a bit of proof we were all connected. We were all fae folk, if we could look beyond our bloody skirmishes, we might find true peace someday.

Erik closed his eyes, bloody hands over Tor’s wound. His voice grew in intensity. A hum from deep within his chest. Slow, haunting, steady.

Until Torsten’s body spasmed.

“Stop!” Sol roared. Arvad wrapped his arms around his son’s shoulders, holding him close. “Stop it.”

“Lump.” My voice cracked. “Let it be. Let it be.”

Blood spewed out of Torsten’s mouth the longer Erik sang. The boy’s shoulders slumped. His voice grew softer. His fingers trembled. The song was draining him.

A little more, sea fae. A little more.

I clung to Silas’s arms, unable to breathe, unable to move, until Tor’s body ceased spasming. Until the blood stopped flowing over his lips.

Erik stumbled. He caught himself on one of his hands before he fell to the side. Stieg went to the young king’s side, propping him up. The boy swatted him away and wiped his lips with the back of his hand.

“Wound’s closed,” he said, weaker than before. Erik didn’t try to hide the limp as he stood and rubbed his upper thigh. “That’s all I can do. Hope you didn’t wait too long.”

Without a word, the Ever King began to trudge back to the trees.

Before I could think, the words came. “Your story is only beginning. Take care with the hearts you claim.”

A furrow creased between his crimson eyes. He said nothing to me, but turned on the crowd. “Consider my debt square, Warrior.”

“Erik,” Stieg said, holding a hand out. “You don’t want this fight. You can end it, don’t listen to Davorin. He’s a spineless bastard who will give you no loyalty.”

Erik ignored Stieg and looked to where Valen kept to the edge of the trees. “My debt with your warrior is clear. Tack on the blood hair woman too.” He flicked his gaze to Malin. “Seeing how she took me out of that room. But with you—it will never be cleared until blood spills.”

“We don’t have to be enemies, boy.”

“Is that what you told my father right before you killed him?”

Valen sighed. “You were young; you do not know all the reasons.”

“Don’t tell me what I know. I know what he did to your precious little seer fae. I also know I will never forget the sight of him tumbling into the sea.” Erik stepped into the shadows of the trees. “Consider this truce at an end.”

The Ever King faded into the darkness in the same moment Torsten drew in a sharp breath.


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