The Shadowglass (The Bone Witch, #3)

The Shadowglass (The Bone Witch, #3)

Rin Chupeco

To the lovely people of Japan, for inventing ramen, the best damn thing on the planet.

He wore her unread letters like an amulet. They were tucked into his coat, folded carefully over his heart. Sometimes he ran a hand over where they lay hidden, reassurance that they were not figments of his imagination—that she still lived, though she had gone where his thoughts could not follow. He said nothing, revealed nothing. His reluctance to read them puzzled me, though I understood his grief. It was a closed coffin that no sympathy could penetrate.

A week of fierce riding found us traveling down the Sea of Skulls, where I had first met the bone witch. Farther south, a ship lay in wait to take us from southeastern Daanoris to the familiar pastures of Odalia, and then to Kion. But here, in this land of roaring waves and broken monsters, Lord Fox’s urgency disappeared. He was reluctant to leave these dead shores, content to wander the coarse sands his sister had once made her home.

He explored the cave she had appropriated for her shelter. “We searched for her in every city we knew. I never expected she would have been here.” He touched the various vials and knickknacks she had left behind. “Still so vain, even in exile,” he said, and a small, sad smile crept over his face.

Lord Khalad, the Odalian Heartforger, conducted a more thorough investigation. “Not all of them are for vanity, Fox,” he responded soberly, seemingly unsurprised by his findings. “There are enchantments in every bottle to anoint her hua with battle spells. She planned her revenge down to every rune.”

“Did you know what she intended to do, Khalad?” Lord Fox asked. “You were missing for so long that we feared we had lost you as well.”

The Heartforger met Lord Fox’s gaze without flinching. “I was an able helper and a willing hand.” His voice was calm. “But these were her plans, her decisions. I was another cog in her wheel, but I do not know what other levers she pulled.”

“She confided in you, at least.” Lord Fox turned away, more regretful than angry.

“Can we find her?” I asked, still stinging at my dismissal from her side. The bone witch had forbidden me a place in her monstrous entourage of daeva, though she had promised me her story to sing. “What good is it for us to lead this chase if a week’s ride is to her a mere day’s flight?”

“Only the azi flies, Bard,” the Kion princess, Inessa, reminded me. “And the indar, to a limited extent. The other daeva walk the lands with one foot in front of the other, as we do. The azi cannot carry them, and she will not leave any of her beasts behind.”

Over the course of our seven-day journey, Empress Alyx’s daughter had made little protest at our speed, eating soldier’s rations and sleeping without the comforts most traveling royalty demanded. We had left the rest of the army behind, knowing the importance of a swift return to Kion. We rode only two horses—the princess and Lord Fox on one, and Lord Khalad and I on the other. They were magnificent steeds and powerfully built, and it was a shock when Lord Fox told me they were Kismet and Chief, Lady Mykaela and the bone witch’s horses.

“When Mykaela…” Lord Fox’s features grew anguished. They all still grieved the loss of the beautiful asha. “Kismet fell dead when she died. It was how Mistress Parmina knew what had happened to Mykaela before the rest of us learned the news. Tea resurrected Mykkie’s horse, yoked it to herself.” He closed his eyes and pressed his head against Kismet’s. The horse nickered and snorted, showing no signs of its previous death.

“Fox.” Princess Inessa’s arms encircled his waist. She leaned her head lightly against his back. Her voice soft, she said, “We’re going to find Tea, and we’re going to save her. Let us talk to my mother and the rest of the asha, and to Kance as well. There’s always a way.”

Lord Fox took one of her hands, then bent to kiss the inside of her wrist. “I didn’t die when I lost contact with Tea. But I spend every day expecting it to be my last. I can’t go on like this, Inessa. I can’t be alive and dead all at once.” He shifted so that he was holding her, hands light and familiar against her hips. “She intends to save me. She knows a spell to bring me back to life, so that my heart beats as real as yours. But she requires the First Harvest, the same ingredient she needs for shadowglass. And she’ll sacrifice herself—and anyone else—to find it.”

His anger now flared. “Tea’s changed. Sometimes I’m afraid I no longer recognize my sister.”

“Then read what she left behind for you,” Princess Inessa suggested gently. “It may offer an explanation of her motivations, though her words will not change what’s been done.”

Lord Fox looked at the princess, and I saw the similarities he shared with the bone witch. The brother and sister had the same dark eyes, the same stubborn chin, and Fox gave Princess Inessa the same expression as when Tea looked at Lord Kalen. “I’m afraid,” he said, unashamed.

“I am not.” The princess smiled. “You wanted to know why Tea left Kion. You’ve carried the answer for nearly a week now. You cannot chase after her yet hide from her own words.”

Still, the man made no move to retrieve the letters.

“She is weaker,” I interjected, and his attention swung back to me. “Every time she uses her runes, it drains her. She told me once that darksglass was not meant to last for very long.”

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