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The Ever Queen: CHAPTER 49

THE SONGBIRD

Erik was only locked in his stun near Larsson’s body for a few moments before he snapped up. “Sewell.”

I draped his arm over my shoulders and helped him limp to where Gavyn, Celine, and a few of the Ever Crew must’ve shielded Sewell. In my rush to reach Erik, I’d hardly caught a glimpse of the injured.

Sick turned in my belly at the sight of my Sewell’s bloodied neck. Gavyn held a press to his father’s skin. Celine held tightly to Sewell’s palm, and only shallow breaths gave way that any life still lived in the man’s heart.

Erik was soaked head to foot in gore but fumbled to Sewell’s side. Gavyn, eyes rimmed in red, moved down wordlessly, giving the king space. Energy was spent in the Ever King. How much would be needed to save Sewell?

Erik’s bloodied hand curled around Sewell’s throat. Upon the first note of his song, he fell over Sewell’s chest, drained and weary. Still, he kept his hand steady, eyes closed, with the slow whisper of a song.

No one made a sound. My father rose from where he’d crouched to call a final bit of earth for Erik’s killing blow. Pallid, heavy with his own exhaustion, yet he curled me against his side, always the protector, always my shield.

“Touch him, little love,” he whispered. “He needs your touch.”

“When we heal the darkening, but—”

“Your mother has the same impact on me,” he admitted. “It is a gift of hjärtas. Trust me. Touch him.”

I dropped beside Erik. One hand touched the back of his head, the other, on his shoulder. Erik shuddered, never breaking his breathy tune, but little by little a flush filled his cheeks. More vigor soaked his song.

Sewell’s chest heaved with new breath.

“Gods.” Gavyn fumbled to his knees.

With help from Stormbringer, my father, and the bone lord, Erik was eased off Sewell’s chest. I held him against my body, a bolster for him to use for strength.

Sewell’s eyes opened.

“Daj.” Celine covered his body, shoulders shaking.

Her father wrapped her up in his arms. “No rain, Thunderfish.”

She only buried her face against his chest a little more. Gavyn, somber and torn, stepped aside. He was the bone lord, an orphan who played the role of a brutal son trying to make amends for a traitorous father. Doubtless most of his crew believed the lies. Doubtless there were still risks from vigilantes who might lash out and finish the commands of Harald.

Erik coughed. “Gavyn. Our world changes today.”

Gavyn blinked, mouth tight. After a pause, he nodded and knelt beside Sewell. Celine shifted for her brother, but never released her father’s neck.

Sewell, over her shoulder, looked to his son.

Gavyn smiled and clasped forearms with his father. “I’ve always been proud to be your son, and I want our folk to know it.”

A few murmurs followed the confession but faded quickly.

Sewell cleared his throat. “Same words, boy. Same words.”

Erik’s breaths rattled. For the first time, I looked over his wounds. Skin burnt and shredded across his chest. Blood down his nose, ears, belly. I watched how he’d moved, leg dragging behind. I’d guess the bones were fractured again.

“Erik, you need a boneweaver,” I said against his head.

He hesitated. “I can’t walk on my own.”

There was a bit of shame in his words. I hugged him closer and drew my lips to his ear. “Then it is a good thing you never have to.”


By the next morning, Blister Poppy had joined Murdock (who was rather petulant about her arrival) at the palace to tend to the wounded.

Sea witches offered healing herbs, but the two boneweavers healed bones and skulls, replenished blood, and staved off infection. Murdock, naturally, was with the king who, out of the scattered bodies across the great hall, was the most horrid when it came to dispositions of the sick.

Erik swatted at Murdock when the man, once again, offered a black polished walking cane. “I’m not using that.”

Murdock lifted his pointed chin. “You, my wretched king, cannot put pressure on the leg for at least a week. Not until the bones reset, or you will have a fiercer limp than before and be in constant pain.”

“Serpent.” I tilted my head to the side. “Could you try to be pleasant, just this once?”

Eyes narrowed, he snatched the cane from Murdock’s hand and pointed the end at me. “Traitor.”

“Yes.” I slid my palms over his chest. “The worst kind. The kind that frets over your well-being enough to demand you care for yourself.”

A smirk teased the corner of his lips. He kissed me sweetly, pulling back just enough to speak. “Despicable.”

A throat cleared. Tait stood in the doorway, bandaged from his own wounds. “He’s awake now.”

My heart skipped. With a groan and a few more protests, Erik conceded to using the cane and went with me to a chamber down the hall from the royal rooms.

A decent size of a chamber, yet it was packed with folk—sea and earth fae alike. When we stepped inside, Stieg placed a chair in the open, gesturing for Erik to sit.

“Look, love,” Erik said, glaring at the man. “The warrior has provided you with a seat.”

“Still being an ass?” Stieg asked me.

I sighed, and let my head drop to Erik’s shoulder. “Yes, I’m afraid.”

I released Erik’s arm, leaving him to bluster his protests and threats at Stieg and nudged my way toward the bed. Sander, bleary-eyed but awake, sat against half a dozen satin pillows. Chest bare, his ribs were wrapped, and a bit of pink was returned to his skin.

Jonas refused to move aside, not that anyone would ask him, but it left me to squeeze beside Sander’s shoulder. “You gave us quite a scare, you know.”

Sander winced as he held his ribs. “I know. Touch and go there for a bit.”

“A bit?” Jonas huffed. “Try all night, you bastard.”

“Go to sleep, brother. You’re getting sour.”

Jonas used his center knuckle to strike Sander in the thigh, sneering when his twin winced and clutched his ribs again.

“Have you spoken with your mother and father?” I asked.

Sander shook his head. “No. And I think we ought to not say a word about it.”

“Your mother can literally steal memories,” Aleksi said. “Tell me how you keep it a secret.”

“You won’t.” My daj spoke up from where he stood at the foot of the bed. “I’ve already told them.”

Valen.” Sander groaned and dragged his palms over his face. “Why?”

“Well, when your fellow kings and queens have saved your own ass more than once, you don’t keep mountainous secrets from them, like their son almost died.”

“Where’s Bloodsinger?” Sander strained to look over Jonas’s head. “I’m taking one of those vows but make it so I must remain in the Ever.”

Erik scoffed. “I can’t take more earth fae.”

“Not a fae,” Sander grumbled, but closed his eyes, settling against the pillows. When he opened his eyes again, his expression turned sullen. “It was worth it, right?”

Jonas gripped Sander’s arm. “Yes. It was worth it. Battles were won.”

“And the elven woman?”

“Alive.” Jonas clicked his tongue. “Unfortunately.”

“Jonas.” I flicked his ear.

“What? She stabbed Sander.”

“I’ve been thinking about it,” Sander said, the familiar, bemused furrow dug into his brow. “I think she was fighting to protect the chamber with the sleeping man. Don’t you recall?”

“No,” said Jonas. “I don’t recall much of what she said. Only that she could literally steal the blades from our hands with her damn dark magic.”

Mira snorted. “It’s not like you have the loveliest of gifts, Jo.”

“She kept telling us to leave him be,” Sander said. “She kept shouting that she would fight against us if we came closer. Like a warning first.”

Erik limped forward. “We have her, the guards, and the sleeping elven under our watch. Lady Narza is working to wake the man. He was placed in a strange sleep, not one made by Fione, but Narza believes she can still work through it.”

“I hope he wakes soon,” I said. “Skadi is refusing to talk to us.”

“What about that fiery bastard?” Aleksi muttered.

Erik shook his head. “Gone.”

“He is a problem,” I said.

“Aye.” Erik nodded. “And we’ll find a way to deal with him, but our answers will likely need to come from the sleeping elven if he wakes.”

The elven guards had been drained of what Narza called dark bindings, a sort of dark spell cast that left them mindless, only obedient to those with command over their lives.

Once Fione was gone, the tethers faded.

“What do we do until then?” Sander asked, voice heavy with exhaustion. He looked to Erik.

My skin heated when Erik slid his fingers through mine. He smiled faintly. “We rebuild the Ever Kingdom.”


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