The half heart brightened as Silas held it out to me. I looked up at him, finally connecting everything that had happened. My eyes widened to the size of moons.
“I couldn’t tell you,” Silas said, cutting me off as he pulled the half heart back towards him. His fingers clutched it tightly as he looked upon it. “I, I didn’t remember everything. I just knew you were a part of my life. When I was with you, everything seemed right.”
I stared at him, speechless. Silas. The young blacksmith. They’re one in the same. I looked to the sword which was now lying on the kitchen table. I’d been wielding Silas’ sword this entire time. The one he had made. The one the stranger had enchanted for him.
The wheels began turning in my head. There’s only one man who could have enchanted a sword with the mark of The Mender. I looked back as Silas, raising my eyebrows. “You know The Mender. That’s why you always believed in him. You already met him.”
Silas nodded slowly, pulling his gaze from his half heart to latch onto me. “I couldn’t make you believe in him. You had to meet him for yourself.” His eyes looked confused, straining to understand what was happening.
I stared back at him, equally confused. “If that sword is really yours, how come it’s given me power all this time?” The Mender said that the sword, this Alme, was limited because it wasn’t mine. The way the sword was drawn to him proves it must be Silas’. But if it’s his, how could I have wielded so much power from it?
The confusion quickly left Silas’ eyes as he looked at me, his stare unwavering. I swallowed hard as the beating of my mended heart sped up. Leaning across the table, Silas grabbed my hand, placing the half heart within it. My fingers trembled from the power I felt coming from it. He closed them around it, clasping both of his hands around mine.
“My heart always has and always will belong to you.”
My mouth dropped open in response. I knew now was the time I should tell him I felt the same way. That I’ve always longed for him to say those words. But I was too dumbfounded to say anything.
The half heart beat excitedly in my hands, satisfied with my reaction. I stared down at it then back to Silas, whose serious look had faded into a crooked smile.
“I never would’ve thought I would make you speechless twice in one conversation.”
Immediately closing my mouth, I felt my cheeks begin to burn red, a new experience given my new heart. It emitted far more emotion than my last and I haven’t gotten used to it yet. Silas noticed my reaction and his smile grew wider.
“That’s new,” he said, retracting his hands from my own.
Still embarrassed, I pulled his half heart towards me, cupping it between both my hands. As I peeled open my fingers, a red hue spilled out, revealing the steady beating of the half heart. It was so vibrant, so alive with life. I could see why Ophidian wanted it so badly and how he had gained so much power from only obtaining half of it.
My mind began to race as I jerked my head up to look at Silas. Ophidian. He was still out there, looking for not only my heart, but Silas’, as well. The destruction of Barracks was evidence enough that he was here. But…Silas and Nana were okay. Not that I was ungrateful, but how did they survive when no one else did?
Still cupping my hands around his heart, I asked cautiously, “What happened when I left?”
A dark look passed over Silas’ face, one I have seen him bare only once before. He clenched his fists as he looked down at the table.
“I’m thankful I didn’t have a heart when you jumped through that door. If I did, it would have shattered.” I bit my lip, trying to hold back my tears of guilt and joy. “As soon as you jumped through, Schism changed. He wasn’t the manipulative idiot he’s always been. He transformed into a monster.” Unclenching his fists, Silas looked up at me, pain lacing his face. “I tried to save them, Addie. I tried to save as many as I could.”
Placing his heart in one hand, I reached out with the other, clasping his in my own. It was rough and callused, much like The Mender’s. He firmly grasped my hand, lacing his fingers with my own.
“But it wasn’t enough,” he said, looking down again while running his other hand through his hair. “So many people, gone.”
I furrowed my brows. “What do you mean, ‘gone’? He didn’t kill them?”
“Oh, he killed some.” Silas squeezed my hand tight, causing me to wince at his strength. “But not all of them. The ones that were ‘deemed worthy,’ as he said, were taken.”
“Taken?” Fear sliced through my heart as I remembered Claire, taken from everything she knew because her mother traded her away. “How could he have taken them? Didn’t a trade have to be made?”
Silas’s face turned cold. “The days of fair trading are over.”
I swallowed hard, realizing the severity of what lied ahead. The Mender said my journey was just beginning, but I never thought Ophidian would have begun taking people from other realms.
“What about Doctor Magnus?” Ever since I met his daughter, I had secretly planned to reunite them.
Sadness encased Silas’ eyes, leaving me to imagine the worse. When I stifled back a gasp, Silas grabbed our hands. “I don’t know if he’s dead. But I don’t know if he’s alive. Schism knew he was too valuable to kill, so he was one of the ones taken.”
Blinking back tears, I nodded. There was still a chance. Even if it was a small one.
“How did you and Nana escape?”
I watched Silas’ Adam’s apple bob as he swallowed. “As soon as Schism started capturing people, I ran here to find Nana. I didn’t know what to do or where we could go, but I knew I was the only one she had left.”
Tears welled in my eyes again, feeling the guilt layer upon me. When I jumped through Schism’s door a year ago, I only thought of what was ahead, not of what I was leaving behind.
Tough skin caressed my cheek bringing my thoughts back. I looked up to see Silas watching me closely.
“Hey, I’m not saying that to make you feel guilty. I’m saying it because it’s the truth. Who else would think of her?”
Pressing my cheek into his hand, I cherished his strength against my weakness. He was right. If it wasn’t for Silas, who knew what Schism would’ve done to Nana. Especially after finding out her connection to not only me, but James’ as well.
“After I got her, we began packing up everything we could and planned on escaping into Wintertide until we could think of something better. I knew her wheelchair wouldn’t get far, so we left it here and I carried her on my back.”
My heart pumped with guilt and thanks, picturing Silas carrying Nana through Wintertide as Schism raided Barracks. A small smile creeped upon my lips as I imagined her complaining the whole way that she wasn’t too old to walk by herself.
Noticing my smile, Silas grinned back. “Yes, she was just as much of a pain as you would be if I tried to carry you.” But his grin soon disappeared as he recollected the next part of his story. “We were doing okay, hiding in Wintertide. It seemed like Schism got what he came for, leaving us only the horrid sounds of lives ending beneath him. When I thought it was over, that we could go home, a horrible sound came from those damned doors.”
A chill ran up my spine, causing the hairs on the back of my neck to rise.
“Before I knew it, Ophidian’s creatures began pouring out of them, slaying and feasting on anyone who was left. I was quick enough to hide Nana within the trunk of one of the trees, but not quick enough to save myself. Luckily, they left after I impaled a few with the fire poker.”
My eyes burned as they traveled along the three red scars on his face, knowing I had driven Ophidian to unleash his monsters into this realm. I unclasped my hand from his and began tracing the scars that ran down the side of his face. Silas muscles tensed as my fingertips caressed the unscarred skin between them. The half of his heart beat harder in my hand. Looking back at him, his eyes were watching me intensely, saying so much more than any words could.
“My heart broke,” I said quietly, pausing my hand.
Silas blinked once. “What do you mean?”
“When I thought I lost you, my heart broke.”
His eyes held an emotion I had never seen them bare. He reached out and grasped the sides of my face between his hands, pulling me close.
“Addie…” he whispered. His warm breath rolled against my skin. My heart and his beat excitedly, perfectly in sync with one another. I leaned in, ready for the moment I had been waiting for when a crash from the other room.