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Song of Sorrows and Fate: Chapter 9

The Storyteller

“Are you the king?” My voice croaked. “Something is happening to the Row, and I think . . . I think a dark fae is returning. I’ve faced him before, and he’s a fiend, a creature. He’ll take the whole of the kingdom.”

“What happens is an unavoidable consequence of wasted time.”

“No.” I didn’t care if this fool was the king, I was going to throttle him. “People I care for are out there, trapped and facing this alone, you—”

“There is no going back. It is too late. You’ve crossed a bridge, now watch it burn.”

My heart stilled. “No. You cannot keep me here. Our people need help.”

“Yes.” He let the word drag over his tongue. “We helped them.”

“What?”

“We have been given time.” He swung his hand in the shadows. “A final flicker of hope and a moment of pause to see if a bond has been neglected for too long.”

Find the first bond. I swallowed past a knot. “They’re . . . time is standing still?”

“Time goes on,” he said. “The people have gone still. For now. Will you accept the bond you have tried to forget?”

“I-I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

He chuckled darkly. “When did lies come from your tongue?”

The first bond. A tale of golden light tethering two voices, two children, as they shattered a world. This couldn’t . . . it couldn’t be.

I tilted my head. The Mad King stood before me, yet . . . he was more. He meant something more, and I felt as though I’d suffocate if I didn’t find out why. Another step placed me on the stairs. He kept to the shadows, but one hand flexed at his side. Perhaps my nearness caused him as much disquiet as he caused in me.

“Do you use seidr?” I asked. He said nothing. “Look, show yourself.”

A long pause settled, then, “Will you run, Little Rose?”

Little Rose. The name was a memory, a past title my heart wanted to love, but my mind wanted to bury beneath fear.

I rolled back my shoulders. “I won’t run.”

Gods, I wanted to flee more than anything.

He hummed in derision. “Every story must end. Ours is fading, and it will not end in our favor.”

“Our story?”

Shadows shifted and he stepped out of his hidden corner. My insides tightened in anticipation. Tanned skin and dark eyes peeled through the haze. Dressed all in black, he was tall and breathtaking in a haunting way. His jaw was made of sharp edges, and a black mask that coated one side of his face from view.

So familiar, yet so different.

Without a word, he descended the staircase. Two paces from me, his dark eyes swallowed me whole. They weren’t soft eyes. A color like stone stained with rain, but buried in the dark shade was something like desperation.

Every muscle in his strong body seemed to tremble as he held out a gloved hand.

I dropped my chin, ashamed of the fear he’d surely see.

Look at me,” he snapped. I jolted and held his unwavering stare. “You’ve passed over a point from which you cannot return. I won’t let you go, not now. Our world is about to burn, and I will not watch it take you.”

Fear lanced through me. After surviving the North, I vowed I’d never be trapped again. Panic wanted to build, but my pulse slowed when the soft leather of his glove cupped one side of my face, almost tenderly.

Where I wanted to run moments before, all at once my body fell into a strange sort of trance, so calm, so at ease. It took conscious thought to keep from leaning into him.

“Don’t run from the truth, Little Rose,” he whispered.

A boy’s voice fluttered through my head. Sing with me, Little Rose. You have the words.

Words from visions of the dream walk of my Golden King. No. This was wrong, dangerous. I conjured the Wraith from Ari’s dreams as a figment, a phantom guide on behalf of myself since I could not be there with him. He wasn’t real. Those memories were mine alone. I sang the songs as the child of Riot Ode, there hadn’t . . . there hadn’t been a boy.

I looked to the masked stranger again. Beneath the dark shade in his eyes was a look of the lost, the forgotten, the tormented. There was a plea buried beneath the shadows. As though silently begging for me to take hold, to not turn away again.

My fingers trembled as I reached for his hand on my face. The moment my palm touched the smooth leather of his gloves, memories seemed to burst like a new bloom in my mind.

Running through blood rose shrubs, giggling. Hiding beneath covered tables in Daj’s study. Feeding goats in the stables. Falling asleep on the warm grass on the back lawns to the soft hum of a voice. A boy’s voice. Days, memories, moments, whatever the hells they were, bloomed through my mind, bright and clear.

“Silas.” His name was not a question, but a statement of familiarity. I knew him.

The dark mask on my phantom’s face shifted when his mouth curled into a sneer. He yanked me against his chest. He dipped his face close. “Never forget again.”

I couldn’t draw in a deep enough breath when his arm encircled my waist. How could something feel so safe and so dangerous in the same moment? “Don’t forget what?”

“That you belong to me.”


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