Warlands of Song

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Chapter Forty-Three: Saige

“I’m sorry,” Fey said.

Saige smiled. “Don’t be. I’m the one who should be sorry.”

“I thought I could help you get out of here—”

“Stop. Everyone always feels the need to protect me. I’m just fine on my own. Always have been. I’m sorry you got pulled into this.”

“I pulled myself in. If I felt bad about it, I wouldn’t have done it to begin with. I never thought they would actually... I mean...”

“I don’t think it matters to them. Who they kill. Even if you’ve trained and Commanded the soldiers they hold dearest, you can be killed.”

They were quiet for a while, soaking in the facts.

Saige shifted in her bonds on the bed, stretching her neck. They’d been placed in another black room. This one was slightly bigger, with two beds inside. Their hands were bound at their sides, their ankles strapped together as well. They couldn’t move even if they wanted to. But they wouldn’t need to anyway. They’d be dead before the day was up.

“Glen just wanted to help people,” Fey said. “When I joined, one of the first things he told me was about how much he hated the injustice of the world. How much he just wanted to save the innocent and punish the evil the way they deserved to be punished. There was no talk about hating anyone. He never truly hated anyone. He just wanted the little people to have a voice.”

“He’s a good guy.”

And he was. For the first time, she really stepped back and thought about just how good a man he was. He’d helped her when he didn’t know her on earth. Even before she’d been attacked, he’d taken an interest in her and brought her food. Even when she was horrible to him, he hadn’t given up on her. He’d convinced Robert to help her, and even after his friend had died trying to save her, he’d stuck with her. Even when he knew what she was and had the chance to leave so many times. To give up on her. He’d stuck by her.

Even when he’d acted like he hated her, treating her roughly and harshly, he’d done it to make her stronger. To show her what the service really wanted from her. He was the only person who’d ever cared about her—Loved her—and she’d pushed him away. Hurt him even. Almost killed him herself, twice.

“I wish I could’ve thanked him,” she murmured. “I never got to tell him how thankful I was for him. I never got to tell Robert either.”

She sniffed, but no tears fell. Her node decided to run instead.

“This is what I deserve, but not you. You’re good. I’m the one that’s dangerous.”

“They know they have to do this to me. Because otherwise they’ll be exposed.”

She turned her head as much as she could to look at the other woman.

“What do you mean?”

“It makes sense, when you think about it. They’ve gone through all this trouble to make sure that the entire population of both Namai and Siren fear Xinaan. So for you to have been here and have people get to know you... They know good and well that anyone who knows you can’t possibly call you evil. They can’t possibly sit back and lie and say that you were cruel. Everyone here knows you’re as pure as they come. So of course they have to kill me, or I’ll tell the whole world otherwise. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re planning on killing every single person who has come in contact with you.”

The news flowed through Saige’s veins like wildfire.

“They’ve tried so hard to keep people like me a secret, but what would happen if we got out and started to make a difference?”

“They would have a heart attack.”

“But they would be forced to change their policies if the public changed their opinion.”

Fey was quite for a long time.

“Right?”

“I don’t think you understand, though. They’ve built this entire empire around the face that Xinaan are dangerous. For anyone to undermine that, they’d be a target for straight up assassination. And I thought you just wanted to be left alone.”

“I’ve had assassination attempts made on my life before,” she said. “On earth it would happen every couple of decades. That’s not new. So I’m not scared of their anger. They’ve been angry at me for a long time.”

“Well it’s a bit late to realize that, isn’t it?”

Was it? Was it really too late? She looked around the room and then to her bonds. The room was built to suppress her powers, but how did it work?

“How does this room work? Why can’t I use my powers?”

“The black is a paint made from Drenj. Drenj is the crystal in assassin’s daggers. It contains a poison that slowly burns through the victim’s body until it reaches the heart. But even when it isn’t introduce into the bloodstream, it interferes with brain chemistry. IT affects the part of our brains that control our abilities. When we try to use them, it alters the waves and we feel uncontrollable pain. That’s why we usually only give the daggers to Namai who don’t have powers. SO they won’t accidentally hurt themselves in battle.”

“Is there a way to work around it?”

“No.”

She sighed, slumping. She couldn’t use her Matter, and the bonds were too strong to break any other way. They were trapped and there was nowhere to go. Some point in time, she sneezed, and her voice echoed throughout the small room. The sound made a light-bulb go off in her head.

“Oh my gosh.”

“What?”

“It only affects Namai powers?”

“I mean... yeah. But what—”

“I’m half Siren.”

Realization dawned on Fey’s face.

“But what can your voice possibly do?”

“I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.”

She started at a low pitch, a single note. Nothing happened. She tried higher and higher notes, and a slight vibration registered in her bonds. But Fey grunted.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine.”

But there was a pained look on the woman’s face.

“No you’re not.”

“Saige, we need to get out of here. Fast. You need to do this. Don’t worry about me. I can take it.”

She started anew, using differing pitches and tones until she hit a note that made her cuffs vibrate like they were experiencing an earthquake. She held the note and altered it slightly until she heard the first crack. Fey groaned aloud now, and Saige raised her voice, pulling at the bonds as well. She broke through just as Fey whimpered, and ran to the woman.

“Fey, are you okay? Can you hear me?”

The woman didn’t respond, still groaning in pain. Now free, Saige pulled at Fey’s cuffs. They were already cracked, so it didn’t take too much effort. But when she tried to pull the woman to her feet, she found herself unable to do so. Fey curled up in the fetal position, hands over her ears. Saige pulled her hands away to see black blood flowing from her ears.

“Oh my gosh... No...”

She looked to the door and back at Fey. She could heal her if only she could get out of the room and use her powers. But there was no way she could get out. She wouldn’t be able to use her powers long enough.

She forced a droplet of Matter out of her fingertip, dropping it into Fey’s exposed ear. A scream ripped it’s way out of her chest at the agony that resulted from the tiny act.

A new alarm she’d never heard before blared, and she covered her ears. The door swung open and Byron stalked in. He walked straight to her and punched her in the stomach. She dropped to the ground, still covering her ears.

“You’re being very irritating,” he said. “Why can’t you just accept that it’s over now? You can’t escape. You’re going to be killed, one way or another.”

She reached for his leg, and he kicked her.

“You will not escape this room! You are our property now!”

“I’m no one’s property,” she spat, trying to get up.

He knocked her down again, but this time she grabbed his collar and pulled him down with her. She tried all the moved Glen had taught her, but the unfair vantage point coupled with their size difference made things difficult. She found herself being mercilessly attacked, not unlike when she’d fought Glen at the last portion of her official test. But this time she couldn’t use her powers to win.

She curled into a position matching Fey’s on the floor and covered her head to ward off his attacks.

“Your kind will never understand.” He spat on her, and the wetness slid down her cheek. “You’re nothing. You’re not wanted, not needed, and all you can do for us is provide evidence against Namai and Siren breeding. You’re horrible mistakes!”

She felt her tears mingle with his saliva on her cheek. She was not a mistake. She was needed.

“You continue to fight us like you’re going to make some sort of a difference. Like if you escaped this base you’d actually be allowed to live. They would end your life the moment they saw you. You should’ve taken the free protection we offered you.”

“You mean slavery,” she wheezed.

Something was wrong with her lungs. Every breath felt as though she were underwater.

He reached down and grasped her ear, pulling. She shrieked, scrambling up even though her chest protested with a pain so sharp, she screamed.

“You would have been helping your kind. Now you’ll die a criminal. Is that what you wanted?”

What had she wanted? She’d wanted to save Glen from the horrible punishment he would have faced, had she not covered for him. Then she’d wanted to assert her own independence. Then she wanted to escape. Now... what did she want?

“You caused all of this trouble. Made us lose our most precious asset in Commander Mykel and even influenced one of our best Majors in Jensen. Killed her, too, from the look of it. Now you’re going to die as well.”

No, she wouldn’t. Byron continued o spew nonsense, but she felt her lungs grow hot and heavy in her chest. Anger begin to pour into her heart. She wasn’t a mistake. Her parents loved her. Even if they were dead, they’d loved her at one point. Somewhere in the galaxy, she had a family who wanted her to come back to them. She could feel it.

Byron still held onto her ear, screaming into her face. His own skin was gray with blood and blotchy. He looked almost ill. She sucked in a large, deep breath and released a scream louder than the ones she’d used to escape the tube he’d put her in earlier that day. She shut her eyes as well, so she didn’t see the damage she’d done.

His fingers released her ear, and she fell to the ground, still screaming. Something splashed onto her cheek, and a metallic smell reached her nose. She ended her scream with a sob and a wheeze. Curled into a ball on the floor, she sobbed and kept her eyes shut, willing the smell to go away.

What did she want now? There was nowhere for her do go, no one she could trust. Glen hated her now, Eavan was nowhere to be found... She was alone again. But that was what she’d wanted wasn’t it?

She shook her head and opened her eyes. Byron lay on his back on the ground in front of her. Blood streamed from his ears, nose, and eyes, but he still breathed. She lifted herself up with extreme effort and crawled over to him.

“I am not a mistake,” she sobbed. “I am not your property. And I will make things better for my people. All of them.”

“You will... fail...”

She shook her head at his bloody, slurred words.

“No.”

She let Matter flow from her hand, groaning at the burning that resulted. It solidified, and she broke it on the ground by his head.

“But you did.”

She thrust the shard into his chest, and his breathing stopped. His eyes dulled. His body went limp.

So did hers.

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