The Shadowglass (The Bone Witch, #3)(11)

“‘No longer will you be able to use life’s magic for your own’ was his curse. ‘Your influence shall be limited to the ways of the Dark and of the dead. You will never be able to give away your heart again, for you shall be alone until the day you unmake your treachery and see my will done.

“And so Little Tears, the first of the Dark, fled. Hollow Knife’s final blow severed her connection with Blade that Soars. Part of Blade that Soars’ angry spirit dwells forever within the lands as an undying wraith, fueling the continual death and rebirth of his seven demon spawn. And so both brothers died, and a mountain grew in their place.”

“That definitely isn’t a darashi oyun I’ve ever seen performed,” Althy admitted.

“But that’s impossible!” Likh burst out. “Are you saying Hollow Knife wasn’t the villain, and that Blade that Soars—”

“Was,” I finished grimly. If this was true, then it meant Aenah had been right all along.

They made elegant weapons, the Lady Zoya’s asha. They lined the ship’s stern, their backs like jeweled cannons, arms raised like exquisitely drawn arrows. They were danger wearing lipstick and rouge, and their fierceness shone even greater than their beauty.

I could not see the runes they fashioned around themselves—not at first. The brooch the Dark asha gave me grew hot against my breast, and then I saw their hands shape thread and needle out of air, crank and wheel from ether, weaving soft, invisible silks that danced across the edges of my periphery.

Their results were undeniable. The billowing winds behind us were a testament to the ashas’ power, and our ship sped faster than any I had been on. It sang across the water, our bow barreling through the foamy barricades of the sea. The sailors cried and prayed and cursed, but by the second hour, they had fallen silent, content to cling desperately to anything that was bolted down. They stared, awed and fearing, at the women in their flowing hua, with glinting suns and stars twisted into their hair, as the ship raced across the Swiftsea through no power of their own.

I could not study the bone witch’s letters as often as I wanted, for the swaying ship and fierce waves gave me little time for balance, much less scrutiny. Already some of what she wrote had disquieted me, and not for the first time, I wondered if she had summoned me for my expertise in songs or for some other purpose entirely.

Lord Fox and Princess Inessa talked quietly with the captain, assessing the damages to expect upon arrival at Kion. Lady Zoya had provided a list of casualties and confirmed no acquaintances on that list.

“It was deliberate, then,” Lord Fox said hoarsely. “There’s something in Kion she’s looking for. But what? Most of the elder asha died in Daanoris.” He turned to the Heartforger. “What do you think?”

Lord Khalad’s gaze was trained on the setting sun as the ship flew toward it. The vessel’s hull hit a large wave and leaped into the air, but at Zoya’s orders, the ship settled smoothly to skim the currents without slowing. “She never told me about returning to Kion,” he said. “I am as much in the dark as you are. Perhaps—” His voice hitched, the rest of his words lost amid the spray splattering the deck.

“Zoya,” Lord Fox asked, “did anyone see my sister leaving the city afterward?”

“No. She swooped in with only the azi. As I said, we saw no other daeva.”

The man slammed his fist against the railing in frustration. “What is she up to? If she harms anyone again, I…I…”

He leaned over the edge, breathing heavily, but when he righted himself, the agony was gone. His dark gaze was focused on the water, as if seeking his reflection in every turbulent crest and tide.

“Send a pigeon to Parmina if the army has not yet left Daanorian borders,” he said, voice like hammered steel. “And send another to Odalia, to Kance. If the daeva aren’t with her, then Ankyo may not have been her true target. She could be planning another attack elsewhere.”

“Zahid couldn’t find out where she and the azi disappeared to.”

“Because she’s still in Ankyo.” Lord Fox said grimly. “Despite everything between us, I know how she thinks, know what she would do in my place and what I would do in hers. She wouldn’t come to Ankyo, to the Willows, and have her azi blow its three-headed fires only to leave again without explanation. Not after what she said in Daanoris. She’s in Kion. She’s waiting for us. I’ll stake my life on it.”


There was no author’s name on the volume I read aloud from, no title to distinguish it from the rest. An interview with Istera’s head librarian revealed that it was the oldest manuscript they had, preceding the next version of the Blade that Soars legend by many years and dispelling any theories that it was a corruption of a previous text. The manuscript talked about other beloved stories—the lives of the Five Great Heroes, early battles between Tresean and Daanorian epics—but with barely a word changed.

“Vernasha of the Roses wrote the version of the narrative we know today,” Althy mused thoughtfully.

“Are you suggesting she changed it deliberately?” Kalen asked, and Likh gasped at the implication. “But why?”

“She may have had access to other documents since lost to time. She ruled Ankyo, after all. And as the city’s first asha, she would have vetted most of its books.” Althy turned to Councilor Ludvig. “Are there any experts in ancient legends still living in Istera?”

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