SCARS OF THE SEA / book two /// chapter 83 / storm (NEXT TO LAST CHAPTER)
Posted May 3rd, 2018 by Garrett
in a city drinking coffee
a/n: there is one more chapter after this one.
it's been a long road.
| 83 |
I trace a nasty line across his throat with his own sword. Blood leaks down in forks, like little rivers racing down his body. It makes me smile—the sight of the red blooming like a flower in the spring. Leaving the winter behind for the crows to feast on.
His body hits the floor with a wet thud.
His crown clatters on the stone.
And I leave Leon Hadar writhing into the realms of death.
The god of the sea speaks to me first.
I ignore him.
She reaches out to me in my dreams. She asks me what I want more than anything else in the world. I tell her, “Power.”
She nods and twists her ethereal hands, creating something, forming something that is so tangible yet so blind to my eye that I can feel it with my soul but not with my hands.
“Do you want this?” She asks me.
“Of course,” I say.
“Then do what I say. Do exactly what I say. Can you do that?”
I want life.
I want life…forever.
I follow her every command. She reaches me through my dreams—waking and sleeping.
I will sit up in the morning and then it’s dark.
I think I have fallen back asleep but I know I have not. I know it’s still day and I’m still conscious, yet I’m walking around in a dream scape that twists and turns with reality, mist flying off of objects as if the wind is tearing it away.
I’m always searching for her.
For months and months, searching for her.
Where is she?
She always appears.
And she says something new. Do this. Do that. Paint a shrine. Read this book. Understand this. It’s a long process. Draw your blood here. I am sleeping. I am tired. Wake me up. Do this for me. Open your wrists and pour your fire on the wall to paint my eyes. I promise you will live. Just do what I say. Do what I ask.
So I do it all.
I resurface from the dream scape and I follow her wishes.
I don’t know what day it is.
I don’t know what time it is.
I don’t know if the sun or the stars light up the sky.
I barely even know my own name.
Serilda sounds foreign on my tongue and in my head.
All I know is Saoirse.
And the fire and the darkness and the mission.
Give it to me. I need it. I need the power. I need a second chance—to do things right…please…please…I’ll do anything for a second chance, just let me try again. I need it.
“Then do as I ask,” she says.
So I follow her instructions. I open my mind and welcome her inside, thinking that she only needs to stay for a moment.
But she never leaves.
And bit by bit, I feel myself disintegrating away.
Crumbling into dust and ash and falling into the darkness.
Now there’s little of me left.
Just scraps of my memory of consciousness—clinging on as the void tries to tear me to shreds.
Eileen stumbled away from the throne, gasping for air, blinking at bright world. Saoirse sat in her throne, perched as straight-backed and graceful as a cat. Her eyes glowered over Eileen, watching her as she staggered backward into Castor.
He reached out and steadied her with strong arms.
“It’s okay,” he whispered. “It’s okay.”
His hand wrapped in her hair as he held her against him. Eileen shivered, unable to unsee what Saoirse showed her.
It wasn’t okay. He didn’t see what she did. He didn’t know what she knew.
That Serilda…Serilda was still in there.
She was still in there…
“Now!” Eileen screamed, her vocal chords straining and popping as she yelled the command, wondering if the armies outside the walls could hear her battle cry.
Then chaos erupted over Berea.
Saoirse drew herself into a curtain of shadows, vanishing on the spot. The throne was tall and empty.
For a second, the entire world seemed silent. Then Eileen heard it, the sound of fighting outside, female screams as the slaves stampeded out of the shed. And their shrieks as Witches burned them down.
Had Saoirse ever truly been there?
Yes…Eileen had touched her.
She’d felt the goddess of fire.
And she felt the small, dying girl trapped inside her own body.
They failed, she realized. They already failed. Saoirse was gone.
Kailen’s Witches poured into the throne room, hands raised and ablaze. Eileen saw a sliver of the courtyard through the open door—the hacking and slashing of the slave women and the flying blood and roaring fire and ash—
“Where is she?” one of the Witches with long braided hair asked.
Castor drew his sword and put an arm in front of Eileen.
Eileen shot him a glare and he backed down.
“You name,” She said, stepping in front of Castor to speak with the Witch.
“Tamara,” the Witch said, “and this,” she gestured to her friend who had sleek black skin, more beautiful and darker than the night, “is Hadiya.”
“We were Kailen’s second and third,” Hadiya announced. “We didn’t have much of a chance to talk earlier.”
“Sao—Serilda’s gone…she disappeared,” Eileen informed them.
Tamara nodded, as if that were normal. “Kailen told us that she was experimenting with new and dangerous powers.”
Eileen looked around the throne room, now filled with Witches. There were almost a hundred of them huddled in there, backs pressed against the door to keep the battle outside, at least for the meantime. “I don’t know where—”
A cracking boom interrupted her.
Chunks of the ceiling cracked apart and fell, almost as if they were in slow motion. Then it wasn’t—everything moved at hyper speed. Eileen felt someone’s arms around her waist, lugging her back. She almost disintegrated them, but realized it was Castor pulling her away from the wreckage of the fallen ceiling. The rubble piled in the center of the throne room, the blood pooling on the tapestry where Witches were smashed beneath. Dust and smoke filled the room in a haze.
Everything happened so fast.
Eileen barely had time to keep up—to process.
She kicked her powers into motion, fire racing up and down her veins, water swirling around it, both ready to use at any second.
Where was Saoirse?
I’m always searching for her.
Serilda’s own voice surfaced in her mind, a memory of the memory she witnessed.
“Come on, Eileen,” Castor grunted, still trying to force her away from the carnage.
She pushed her elbow into his gut and pulled off him. “I have to find her.”
“She will find you, now come on!” Castor yelled.
Eileen turned to him, her senses suddenly cleared. Everything was focused, everything was honed in the moment. It didn’t all seem like too much. It was the race and roar of battle—the flow of a river, not the aimless tossing of waves at sea.
She said, “I love you,” though it was barely audible over the sound of the fight.
She began vanishing into dust and smoke, flowing on the wind.
But Castor lunged forward, arm outstretched, and wrapped his hand around her sleeve—
They both disappeared.
Finn saw the smoke just as the Witches guarding the city wall noticed their army growing on the horizon.
Time for war.
The soldiers charged, racing across the sand.
Feet and hooves kicked up sand as everyone raced for the line of demarcation.
Finn’s own horse charged like a bolt of lightning, galloping with the vibrato of a roar of thunder. Devdan, Safia, and Jack all raced around him.
This is it, he thought with a twinge of melancholy. This is the end of everything we’ve worked toward. The relationships we’ve built.
While Finn bounced up and down on his mount’s back, all he could think of were his regrets.
He should have told Ciara how he felt about her long before he left Acantha.
He should have made sure that Brana lived, no matter what, even if it meant sacrificing his own life.
He should have said goodbye to his sister before he left Berea the first time, to hunt for the Blue-Eyed Witch.
He should have loved more.
Finn didn’t even realize that tears were streaming down his face, the wind beating them away as he rode at breakneck speeds, surpassing his friends and many of the sprinting soldiers around them.
But he didn’t care—they were all going to end up the in the thick of the fight anyway, so why not get there first?
Finn howled into the day as his horse galloped tirelessly, as that line of Witches outside Berea grew into a legion.
And his howl turned into another person howling.
Then multiple people picked it up, the high pitched rise and fall of their voices sweeping the battlefield in a chorus of wolf-like howls.
Finn raised his arms and screamed battle cries until his throat gave out.
Everything else went silent, except for the pounding of hooves.
A heartbeat of quiet before—
The armies collided.
Ciara didn’t know what she was doing, but she didn’t care. Something about the racing thrill of battle excited every nerve in her body, and animated her in way she hadn’t been in weeks. A party of soldiers surrounded her, clashing with the Witches who attacked. Some of their steel traveled faster than the fire, slicing heads and necks and stomachs as little flames puttered into nothingness.
Others were ashes on the wind before Ciara had a chance to remember their names.
She had a blade of her own, and when an opening appeared she would slash and slice and the heat of fire would caress her for a split second before her sword split open those Witchen necks.
That was the thing about the Witches—they had all these powers but no weapons. If an arrow sank into their skull, there was nothing they could do about it but die.
Ciara couldn’t believe how she was reacting to the battle.
It was almost like she’d been starved her entire life and now she was being fed real, juicy food. She was ravenous and insane and they sat her down at a table and gave her a five-course meal.
Kill whoever. Wherever. As long as their Witchen.
And there was no shortage of Witches. They’d barely made it up the main bailey, trying to work their way toward the city. For women who’d never had a day of training in their lives, the freed slaves fought with a fury and fire that even the Witches didn’t possess. Years of pent up anger and hate were released in each swing of their blades or release of their bowstrings.
Ciara had around eight months worth of anger and shame and guilt to make up for.
So every chance she got, she killed.
Everyone who said she couldn’t fight a battle being pregnant could go shove their heads up their own asses for all she cared. She as bloody damn doing it.
She was bloody damn doing it.
Ciara had just cleaved her way through another Witch when a familiar flash of knotted black hair darted through the heat of clashing bodies.
“Ren!” Ciara yelled, ducking beneath a scorching plume of fire. “REN!”
Ciara caught up to the princess and grabbed her shoulder.
“What?” The younger girl asked, with an agitated expression but fiery eyes.
“What the hell are you doing?”
Ren held up her bow, an arrow knocked and ready to fire. She was breathless, her chest rising and falling in deep waves.
Ciara knew there was nothing she could do now that Ren was already out there—already in the middle of the bloodshed.
“Stay by my side,” Ciara ordered, raising her sword with both hands.
Ren smirked and drew back her bowstring.
Finn watched an arrow sink into a Witch’s skull.
He swiveled his head around to see a man with a bow giving him a nod.
Not even a second later, before a single thought could pass through his head, another Witch burned off that archer’s face and then turned on Finn with blazing eyes. There he was, vulnerable with only a sword to defend himself, atop a horse that shifted uncomfortably in the sand.
“Shit,” he muttered under his breath.
He yanked the reins and his horse turned around, breaking into a fast canter, winding through clusters of fighting. Fire shot out everywhere, shattering the air in billowing bursts of red and yellow and orange. But it wasn’t fire that painted the sand a deep scarlet.
Finn felt as if he were riding through a shaken bee hive—everyone around him angry and buzzing with the primal need to kill—to attack—to defend.
You’re a leader.
Finn stopped his horse dead in its tracks.
He slid his feet out of the stirrups, lifted one leg over the side, and slid onto the sand. He shifted his feet, getting used to the new balance that moving on the silky sand required.
Though he had little time to adapt.
A Witch saw him on the ground and charged, palms sparking with energy—
Finn raised his sword and ran toward her, screaming a loud cry as he ran.
His blade sank into her neck as if he’d swung it against a tree trunk, sticking inside even when she toppled to the sand. Finn yanked and yanked, trying to free the weapon from her neck where it pulsed red. Finally, made slick by the blood pumping in the wound, he pulled his sword out. He lifted it once more, drops of red dripping on the sand.
Finn fought through the motions, watching Delmar’s men turn to ash on the wind one-by-one, or turned into a blackened husk of a person.
Then something groaned and clicked, a loud popping sound. Finn knew what it was immediately and spun around, scanning the battlefield for one of the trebuchets in action.
He saw it just when it snapped free, when one weight shifted and the other rose, chucking a boulder through the air. The giant piece of rock spun through the air, sailing as if shot by a sling. It arched across the blue sky, a shadow passing over the heads. Men and Witches alike stopped for a moment to crane their heads and watch the boulder tumble down and down—
It sank into the unbroken legion of Witches—shattering them—creating hole in their defense.
Screams and cheers erupted over the battlefield. Finn didn’t participate in any festivities just yet—they hadn’t won anything.
He’d lost his friends ages ago in the swarm of battle.
So, with nothing else to lose, Finn charged into the thick of warfare.
Eileen wrapped herself in flame and water and shadow and soared through that ethereal world, feeling Castor beside her, dragged along with her.
Why are you so stupid, Castor?
Somehow she knew that in this state, she would be able to track down Saoirse. In this state, she could find the goddess and kill her for good.
She could get Serilda out.
And when she did, she would smack Serilda cross the face for being so stupid.
The world tore at her, ripping at her clothes and hair and skin and mind as she searched the shifting, changing realm for Saoirse.
The goddess stood on the wall, watching the battle unfold beneath her on either side.
Eileen smiled and flew and then—
She opened her eyes and she stood on top of the Berean wall, staring out over a desert horizon that stretched on for so long, the edges of the world seemed to curve. Mohana’s mountains were visible—a jagged blue outline.
The sun sank over Eileen’s left shoulder as she stared across the desert, lowering her eyes to the battle directly below her.
Witches shot fire from their hands and Delmar Chaka’s soldiers hacked with their steel weapons.
Men stood atop the siege tower, shooting arrows into the Witchen army. The trebuchets were being wound back and fired.
Even from such a far distance, Eileen could see that the sand was stained scarlet. But she couldn’t see where Finn was. Or Jack. Or Safia, or any of the others who fought in the battle.
Ejiri was in there somewhere, probably hanging near the back with his son, Eiji.
Gods forbid that anything happened to them.
Eileen almost forgot why she’d teleported there in the first place.
And she remembered a second too late.
Cool steel stung her throat. Eileen’s eyes watered and she swallowed as she felt the knife pressed against her neck, as Saoirse’s warm breath stirred the hair on her head. She just stared out over the desert, over the battle, knowing that at any second Saoirse could slide that blade across her throat and she’d be dead.
“Eileen—” Castor started, but stopped when Saoirse held out a hand. A hand was all it took to sever his voice.
“Now…you’re going to do what I want,” the goddess said.
Eileen’s nose twitched and her eyes flashed side to side, trying to catch a glimpse of the voice hanging behind her.
“Hold out your arms face up and keep them there.”
“Why?” Eileen said through gritted teeth.
The blade pressed further in and Eileen hissed, beads of red rolling beneath her shirt.
Castor struggled against the invisible bonds Saoirse had him wrapped with—his eyes shining with furious tears as he tried to escape his own body.
Eileen held out her trembling arms, fingers curled into fists.
Saoirse removed the blade, but Eileen stayed still. The goddess circled her, precisely moving atop the parapet. She angled the blade over Eileen’s forearm.
“It’s going to hurt,” was the goddess’s only warning before driving that dagger down Eileen’s skin, splitting open her flesh and veins. Eileen writhed and hissed, biting down on her tongue to stop from screaming out.
“NO!” Castor yelled, his voice shattering against the restraints. He leaped toward Eileen—but Saoirse threw out another hand, this one sending him sailing across the parapet, fifty yards away.
But blood didn’t flow from Eileen…
Salt water spilled from her open wound, pouring out of her in a clear waterfall, pooling on the stone around their feet.
“What is this?” Eileen asked, feeling it now. The sense of being drained—of something being slowly drawn away from her.
“Shh,” Saoirse put a finger to her red lips and without a warning slashing the dagger again, this time quick and purposeful, across the other arm.
Eileen’s vision blurred, going black and fuzzy and—
Her knees buckled, and she fell down, unable to stop the salty water from pulsing out of her. Eileen saw Saoirse’s smiling face above her own. Her lips turned up in a ruby-red smirk.
But it wasn’t Saoirse.
It was Serilda.
That was Serilda smiling down at her.
“How?” she croaked.
“You pulled me out,” Serilda said. “In the throne room. For just a second. Long enough to finish Saren’s mission for me. Now I can have what I’ve always wanted.”
“Eternal life?” Eileen asked, her voice barely more than a whisper, her lips heavy and dry.
Serilda closed her eyes and whispered, “Let me go…”
The Witch’s body jerked and when she reopened her eyes, they were pure fire. Saoirse. No Serilda. Nowhere—not even trapped inside.
Saoirse blinked for a moment, glancing around at the burning city with a satisfied look.
Then she turned her head down, taking in Eileen and what Serilda had done to her.
“No,” the goddess muttered. “No, no, no, no—”
She swung out her arms and lances of fire cut through the sky, taking out random birds and stone columns…
“NO!” Saoirse screamed, her voice ringing over all of Berea. “You stupid girl…stupid, foolish girl…”
“What?” Eileen asked, staring up at the goddess, feeling every bit of energy disappear through the clear liquid seeping from her arms. It had slowed down, but the effects stayed.
“She woke Saren. That sacrifice…it woke my brother.” Saoirse’s eyes that were not eyes stared over the city, as if she expected for the Warlock god to appear out of thin air.
Eileen’s mouth moved, trying to form a question… “Sacrifice?”
Saoirse flicked her attention to the hybrid sprawled out on the parapet, her powers soaking into the stone around her.
Tears beaded at the corners of Eileen’s eyes.
Saoirse tilted her head back and screamed with so much anger and hatred that Eileen couldn’t hear her—not over the roar of fire that shot out of her, a vortex of flaming spiraling from her hands and gaping chasm of a mouth. Eileen pushed herself up onto her legs, though they wobbled beneath her, and she leaned against the balustrade to hold herself up. To see the damage Saoirse’s fire did.
The flames spiraled downward like a stampede of fire-bred animals—shattering over the armies below.
Eileen squeezed her eyes shut and extended whatever she could, hoping that it would be enough to just imagine a protective shield wrapped around Finn—wrapped around Jack—and Lawrence—and Devdan—even wrapped around Ejiri. None of the Witches were extended into her grace. But she turned her attention to inside the wall, where Saoirse’s fire now stretched.
She shielded Castor, where he stumbled on weak legs to get to her—though he would never make it in time. Ciara, where she hacked and slashed her way through the battle, despite being seven-months pregnant. She protected Hadiya and Tamara and Josef Naldwine where he was safely guarded by Witches in the abandoned whorehouse.
Lastly, Eileen wrapped herself in her own protective shield of fire and smoke and vapor—
And then Saoirse exploded.
The world went white for seconds. Pure, flame-white.
When Eileen squeezed her eyes open, staring over Berea, she saw ashes and embers falling like snow.
The only thing the goddess didn’t burn was Lord Heru’s fleet stretched out on the sea, sails dotting the entire port and beyond.
Ciara felt the world pulling in on itself seconds before it happened, like some instinct deep within her could feel power being drawn toward the wall.
She squinted and saw her—a dark silhouette of Serilda standing with her arms out, fire soaring from every part of her body.
The women and Witches around Ciara screamed, grabbed each other, finished their kills, and prayed—doing all the things they thought were necessary for the last moments of their lives.
Protect, a little voice inside her said.
She reached out for Ren and pulled the girl into her chest. Ciara sank to the ground, folding over her knees, pulling Ren down with her.
Wrap around her, my fire and blood.
Ciara could feel him burning in her womb, sending out bouts of power. She knew exactly where it came from. Exactly what he was doing.
So she shut her eyes and let her tears fall on Ren Roku’s face.
And then the world went white.
Ejiri Roku had just hacked through a Witch, blood spattered on his face, his son Eiji fighting at his side, when the world boomed and everything went white.
White and white and white.
Then it faded away, everything settling back to how it had been.
Eiji was staring at him. Eyes wide open, mouth gaping.
“Son,” the King of Kaede said. “Son what’s—”
Ejiri reached out to grab his son’s shoulder, but when his hand touched Eiji, the boy crumbled away into ash. His head sank into itself and then his chest and last his feet—all of it falling into bits of shattered death. Little flakes of gray falling to the ground in gentle sweeps, just like Amaya had when they’d scattered her over the ocean. Only now Eiji was lost in the sand and blood of a battlefield. Buried with the souls of thousands of men and Witches who died alongside him.
Ejiri looked around, unsure what just happened, unable to comprehend it.
Everyone around him turned to ash.
Gray swirled around on the wind as it picked up, a cool breeze that usually hinted at a storm.
Ejiri tilted his head up to see dark clouds gathering on the sky.
Ash coated his skin now, gathering on him as it drifted around, wetting against his lips and flecking his hair.
He didn’t care.
A big, wet drop plopped against his forehead and trickled down the side of his face.
The last time Euanthe saw rain was eighteen years ago.
Thunder boomed over the silent city.
“Goodbye,” Ejiri said, unsheathing the knife he had strapped to his belt. Still stained with Amaya’s blood.
The sound of its sheath clicking open reverberated throughout the entire desert, drowning out even the crashing thunder and hissing rain.
He held the blade to his chest, slid it between his ribs, and drove it into his heart.
Ciara dared to open one eye.
She was unscathed. And Ren, in her arms, was unscathed.
Two Witches stood, the ones who had fought on their side.
Everyone else crumbled to ash.
Thunder echoed across the city, dark clouds roiling in the sky.
The storm opened its wound, bleeding thick drops of rain across Berea. Ren stood like a doe from a hiding place and helped Ciara to her feet, uneasy now, her insides buzzing with something new and undiscovered. Ciara pressed a hand against her stomach and felt it purring almost—a deep, otherworldly vibration.
And then the bottom dropped.
Castor crawled on hands and knees as the world turned to ash beneath him. As icy daggers of rain shattered across Berea—sluicing down roofs and carrying debris from the battle down the streets, churning it all through the sewer grates.
When he reached Eileen, he first grabbed her face in his hands and wrapped her up in a kiss. Then, he examined her arms, the wounds already closed up. There were twin scars—long and white—where Serilda had cut her open.
Tears ran down Eileen’s face, seeping from her Witchen red eyes.
Brighter than Saoirse’s flame.
Brighter than the sun itself.
Once the Blue-Eyed Witch, and then the hybrid with purple eyes, and now a Witch. Burning and red and filled with hate and shame.
“Eileen…” Castor put a hand to her face, feeling her skin, making sure it was the same—that she was the same.
She didn’t speak. She just leaned into him and cried.
Sheets of icy rain shattered through Berea’s empty streets, washing away the ash that coated everything like snow.
Finn stumbled up the street with Jack, Devdan, Safia, and Lawrence beside him, all of them making their way toward the castle to see what happened and where Eileen was and why it was raining in Euanthe.
It hadn’t rained in Euanthe for Finn’s entire life.
And now—it poured harder than it had the night of the winter turning, falling in sheets so dense they couldn’t see five feet ahead of them. The only reason Finn knew where he led the group was because he had grown up there and could maneuver through Berea in his sleep.
But he could barely concentrate with that voice roaring in his mind.
ALIVE, MY SHELL, YOU’RE ALIVE, LISTEN TO ME
MY SHELL PLEASE LISTEN TO ME.
Finn’s head suddenly felt funny, like it was just swept up by something, soaring through the air like the boulder flung by the trebuchet. His lips tingled and his vision darkened and then he crumpled on the city street, rain pounding over him.
“Listen to me,” a masculine voice says. It sounds more human than it ever has before.
“I’m listening,” Finn says, slightly agitated.
The man appears out of mist. He has no hair, no face, and no clothes.
“Tell Raoul Hadar’s heir that my sister is not dead.”
His voice sounds like water pouring against stone, but Finn understands every word.
“She is where her shell began her mortal life. The Witchen shell asked for immortality, so I gave her a second life. I never meant to bring my sister into this. She…brought herself into this…took over what I was doing.”
“Yes,” the man hisses. “Raoul’s heir will know what I speak of. Thank her for her sacrifice. From me.”
Finn nodded. “Anything else?”
The man with no hair, no face, and no clothes hesitated. “Kill Saoirse.”
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