SCARS OF THE SEA / book two /// chapter 69 / a shattered mind (THIS CHAPTER)
Posted April 7th, 2018 by Garrett
in a city drinking coffee
an: alas, another chapter. maybe i will be on a roll this time. maybe ill see you next month. who knows.
| 69 |
A Shattered Mind
The pale Witch sat with her back to the bay, muttering under her breath. The gentle sea breeze lifted and spun tendrils of her ebony hair, swirling them around like vines. Kailen stood behind a pillar on the large balcony, watching her from the shadows. The view behind Serilda was breathtaking—an open blue sky sweeping over an expanse of cliffs and the ocean far below, stretching into the horizon to make a seamless white line. A salty sea breeze soared above the rocks and trailed its cool fingers over Kailen’s buzz cut. It had been days since Saoirse tried to burn the city down. Days since Kailen had shoved the goddess into the recesses of Serilda’s mind, and as a consequence had the fire stolen from her.
She looked at her pale hands, pushing into her veins to make a flame appear. Nothing. She was no longer a Witch.
She was barely a person. Just a broken shell of who she once was.
It had taken her every day since then to work up enough courage to approach Serilda and try to get some answers from her.
Cowering behind a pillar was the closest she had gotten.
Kailen counted to three and stepped into the sunlight, walking towards Serilda with cat-like precision.
“Serilda,” she tried to say, but her voice broke. She hadn’t spoken in days.
She swallowed the knot in her throat and tried again. “Serilda.”
The Witch’s eyes flew open, their fiery depths simply a reminder of the dark brown coals Kailen now had.
“Serilda, it’s me. Kailen. Your friend.”
“Go away,” Serilda said. “You’re no friend.”
“Yes. I am.” She took another careful step forward, feeling as if Serilda would lash out like a wild beast if she made any sudden movements. “I just wanted to…to ask you some questions.”
Serilda narrowed her eyes. “Of what sort?”
“Regarding your recent, um, endeavors.”
Serilda rose, her long legs unfolding so that she stood well above Kailen’s height. Her black robes billowed around her, the ebony cloth swelling with the breeze.
She pursed her red lips. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“The fire. And…and…Saoirse.” Kailen felt like she should whisper the goddess’s name, but wasn’t sure why. It was like she thought that if she spoke the name too loudly, Saoirse would hear her name being called from wherever she hid in Serilda’s mind.
Serilda looked innocent, with her big red eyes pierced on Kailen. “I haven’t done anything.”
The air shifted, a cloud passing over the sun, Serilda standing taller. “Don’t accuse me of crimes I didn’t commit!”
Kailen shrank into herself, wishing she could summon the powers to teleport away like she had when she’d stolen some of Saoirse’s fire. Look where that had gotten her. Powerless. She couldn’t even conjure up enough fire to light a candle if her life depended on it. How did normal humans light candles? What did they use?
Kailen shuddered, wondering if it would kill her if she threw herself off the balcony. She wouldn’t have to deal with Serilda or the consequences of the inevitable day when Saoirse returned. She wouldn’t have to learn to cope with being a human. She would just be nothing. Would that be better?
She felt herself longing to get closer to the balustrade, just to lean over the edge and judge the distance to the rocks far below.
Serilda glared at her and then pushed past her, striding inside, slamming the glass door shut.
Kailen stared at the closed door for three heartbeats and then slid to the ground, her back slumped against a column.
Dammit. Why did she feel so weak? She had lost the fearless demeanor she used to have. It was like the very essence of what made her her was gone. Vanished with her fire.
Saoirse. She was the one responsible for this. That damned goddess. Kailen would kill her. When she inevitably took Serilda back, Kailen would not hesitate to drive a knife through her chest in the middle of the night. If there was anyone Saoirse trusted not to hurt her, it was Kailen. At least, that had been the way before Kailen had stolen some of her power and pushed her off a tower.
Things might be different when Saoirse returned.
For now, she had Serilda. For now, she had a way to get the answers that she wanted.
Kailen swallowed her doubt and went inside.
Night swallowed the sky and stars blinked to life. Kailen paced outside of Serilda’s bedroom, wondering if the Witch would ever come out. Things were different this time. She used to spend hours upon hours in her study, blood-shot eyes twitching as she read from dusk to dawn. Kailen never found out what she spent all those hours reading, what answers she thought she would find in the pages of ancient texts. Maybe she had found them. Maybe that’s why she no longer stayed cooped up in her office.
After an hour of waiting outside the closed door, Kailen knocked.
She knocked again.
She tried to knob, and it clicked and turned easily. The door slid open on silent hinges, revealing a pitch-dark chamber. Kailen crept inside, every scuff of her shoes against the stone setting off alarms in her head. She wanted to speak to Serilda, so why was she so scared of waking her? Maybe it was because when she glimpsed the Witch’s pale skin and sharp nose framed by her long hair, all she could see was that goddess burning with endless power atop that tower. She would have pulverized Berea if Kailen hadn’t stopped her. Everything inside the city walls would have been ash.
She stood by the Witch’s sleeping side. How was she to wake her?
“Serilda,” Kailen whispered.
The Witch’s eyes flew open. The molten depths of her irises swirled and then settled like fresh lava.
“What?” Serilda asked. It was the most normal she had sounded in…months.
Kailen fumbled for something to say. She hadn’t thought about what questions she would ask Serilda once she got her attention. So she went with the first thing that came to mind.
“Why?” She asked.
“Why did you let Saoirse possess you?” Kailen asked, letting the question hang in the air for a second.
Serilda blinked and sat up, cocooned in blankets. She wrapped her arms around herself. “I had watched all of our sisters fall and die around us. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t die.”
“I don’t understand.” Kailen sat on the edge of her bed, watching the glow of her eyes in the dark room.
“You wouldn’t. You were never afraid of death. Fearless. That’s what you were.”
“Serilda, please explain to me what you mean. What does you fearing death have to do with Saoirse?”
Serilda swallowed and looked away. “I bargained.”
“With who? Saoirse?”
“With the gods.”
Kailen folded her legs and faced Serilda, feeling like they were back in their village in Mohana, sharing midnight secrets in bed.
Serilda took a shaky breath. “Saren offered me another life if I did what he asked, and so I did everything he asked. Every little thing…I did it all.”
“Saren…the god of the sea. The god of Warlocks.”
Serilda nodded. “It was a trick. They’ve used me for months. Saoirse tapped on my mind for so long and I finally let her in…I created the shrine for her, like they asked me to. I studied and read thousands of books on immortality. But I still wasn’t prepared for what it would be like when she came and took me over. They work together. Brother and sister they work together.”
Serilda started trembling, her hands shaking as she brought them up to her face. “No…I’ve said too much. She’s watching me. I can feel her…her eyes…I…”
Kailen climbed off the bed and watched as Serilda paused, mouth gaping, before she blinked and her eyes began burning with a purer fire. Saoirse’s fire.
Saoirse turned her head slowly and sneered at Kailen.
“She told you too much.” Saoirse stood from the bed and took slow, lingering steps across the floor.
Kailen wasn’t going to stay to find out what her consequences were for hearing too much. She bolted into the corridor, slamming the door in the goddess’s face, and started into a sprint past door after door. Finn Hadar’s old room. A staircase. She almost slid down it she moved so fast, her feet gliding beneath her as if she still had powers to use. But it was different. Clunkier. Where she once felt like fire shifting through the air, flickering and quick, she now felt like she would fall on her face if her legs sped up anymore because of how they wind-milled beneath her.
Look at you, she heard a voice say to her.
It was her own.
Running again. Coward. Where are you going to run to?
Nowhere you go is going to be safe. She can find you anywhere. And if she can’t, she can burn the entire city down. You don’t have any power to stop her now, do you?
Kailen stopped, almost tripping over her feet as she halted in the middle of a corridor, staring at the entrance to the throne room. She opened the door and stepped inside, the torches already burning in their sconces.
She took slow, slinking steps up the room, eyes set on the throne perched at the end. Tall and royal and empty.
Kailen stepped up the dais, her human hand gliding over the smooth armrest. She inhaled and sat.
Three seconds. That’s how long it took for Saoirse to arrive.
That’s how long Kailen got to enjoy the satisfaction of sitting in a throne like a queen.
The wooden door shattered into a thousand pieces, each one burning, imploding with trails of smoke. The shrapnel scattered across the throne room floor. Embers glided through the air like motes of dust, swirling around Saoirse, who stood in the center of it all.
“Quite an entrance,” Kailen said, cocking an eyebrow.
She hoped Tamara and Hadiya would fight against their own kind when Eileen arrived.
“Scum,” Saoirse growled, striding toward her, her bare feet snuffing out embers.
Kailen smiled as the goddess grew closer. She smiled right in her face.
“Serilda is going to get out of there. And you’re going to die. A slow, painful, horrible death.”
Saoirse stared at her with wide, raging eyes.
“Bitch,” Kailen added.
Saoirse grabbed Kailen’s thigh with searing-hot hands.
Kailen lurched, her scream echoing throughout the castle and the city beyond. She writhed in the throne, trying her hardest to kick the goddess off of her, but failing. It burned—it felt like Saoirse had pushed past skin and bone and shoved her hand all the way to the seat, like Kailen’s blood should have been gushing across the dais.
But when Saoirse pulled away and Kailen squinted open her eyes, sucking in ragged breaths, both of her legs were there. Only a hand print seared through her pants showed the agony she had just endured, the pain that still rocked her back and forth.
“I’m not dying,” Saoirse said, nose-to-nose with a gritted-teethed Kailen. “As soon as I get done with you, I’m taking an army and we’re going to destroy Acantha. When I’m done, there will be nothing but ash and a forgotten kingdom. When I’m done, there will be no Eileen Hadar. No Finn Hadar. There will be no Ejiri Roku or any heirs to follow him. There will be me and there will be my enemies to come. Anyone who wishes to challenge me.”
And it was the last thing she ever did.
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