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Two Twisted Crowns: Part 2 – Chapter 23

Elspeth

In the end, he reached me the way he’d reached me as a child, just as the trees had once reached him.

On a rhyme.

In the wood, the spindle is slight. A delicate tree against hail, wind, and might. But how the tree carries, and how the roots dig. She weathers all storms, no matter their bite.

I managed to move. A small but incontestable ripple in those dark waters. I opened my mouth—called out his true name. “Taxus.”

A cold hand found my arm—wrenched me to the surface. I looked up into yellow eyes.

“There you are.” He wrapped me in his arms, holding me against his armored chest like a father would a child. “One day, you will be nothing more than memory, Elspeth Spindle. But not yet.” His yellow eyes rose to the blackened sky. “Don’t leave me alone with these fools.”

Voices rolled through the air like thunder. Far away at first, then closer. A man’s voice. “No—no! Don’t move Petyr.”

Coughs, shouts.

“Tie it off below his knee. Jes—light a fire. Wik—help me move him.”

I knew that voice. Deep. Turbulent, like the lines of a calloused hand. Rich, smoke and wool and cloves. “Do something,” the voice called. “Nightmare!”

Ravyn.

“If I take you away from this place, Elspeth,” Taxus said, “you will see what I see. But you will have no control of what used to be your body. You will live in my mind as I once lived in yours.” He looked down at me, the lines of his face drawn. “Only my mind is monstrous.”

“Are you trying to frighten me?”

“No, dear one. Only warn you.”

Ravyn’s voice sounded from above once more, louder. “Damn it, help us.”

Taxus kept those strange yellow eyes on me, waiting for my answer.

I reached out for his hand. When I pulled in a breath, my first words on that darkened shore became my last. “Let. Me. Out.”


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