The Shadowglass (The Bone Witch, #3)(10)

The boy blushed and laid down the book. “All the books here are fascinating,” he squeaked.

“Think about the possibilities!” It was hard to dampen my excitement, even with Althy’s sensibility. “There could be runes here that we’ve never even heard of. Imagine a rune for every kind of spell you could imagine. Isteran librarians have been studying these books all their lives, and even they say they haven’t begun to understand half of what is written here!”

“While I always make it a habit to support enthusiasm for learning,” Althy said, “today is not that day. Tea, might I remind you that this trip to Istera was your prerogative.”

“Sorry.” Chastened, I focused on the book she indicated. “In the beginning, Blade that Soars,” I read. “In the beginning, Dancing Wind. They ruled the sky as the land took breath, the lands as wide as the ground held sand and soil…” I trailed off. “So far, this doesn’t sound all that different from what we sing for the darashi oyun.”

“The darashi oyun prides itself on its authenticity.” The older asha frowned at the page. “We both knew coming here that discovering new source material was a long shot, Tea. The elder asha may have their secrets, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they have anything to do with keeping Mykaela’s heartsglass or colluding with Aenah.”

“I’m positive about this.” I saw their treachery in Aenah’s head as easily as I could see my own reflection in the mirror. But it was my word against theirs—and I was a bone witch, tolerated and feared but never truly welcomed, while they defined what it was to be asha. All I had to go by was Aenah’s claim that there was more to the story, and the Faceless wasn’t known for her truthfulness either.

The woman sighed. “The librarians were kind enough to collect all known books that talk about the legend in some way—three dozen at last check.”

“Thank you, Althy.” There weren’t a lot of people who believed me, but Althy, at least, was willing to give me the benefit of the doubt.

The next few hours passed in silence. I pored through an unnamed collection of first-century manuscripts allegedly passed down from the first age, and a few passages struck me as odd. The feeling grew worse the longer I continued reading.

“I think I might have found something.”

Likh and Althy came to peer over my shoulder as I pointed at the text and read aloud. “Blade that Soars cloaked his lover in moonlight and wove stars into her hair. He gave Dancing Wind the brightest and most beautiful of gemstones to wear on her graceful neck. But his love came at a price. He reserved the best of creation for her, and so the lands faltered. Trees and plants failed to take root, and the people cried out for sustenance. Many rose in revolt against the god they once loved, but Blade that Soars was a cruel tyrant, twisted by his passions. At his command, unseemly creatures rose from the ground, seven in number, and suppressed the people’s uprisings.”

“Wait,” Likh said. “That’s not right. It was Hollow Knife who conspired to taint the land because he lusted after his brother’s power, right?”

I continued reading. “Blade that Soars feared he would be overcome when he was unaware and sought to entrust his being to the one he cherished above all. At his behest, Dancing Wind carried a part of his heart within hers, and a greater part of her heart dwelled within his. She would never betray him, he believed, if he commanded a portion of her soul as well.”

“Romantic guy,” Likh grunted.

“According to this, Blade that Soar’s brother, Hollow Knife, ferreted out the whereabouts of that heartsglass in an effort to save the people. ‘Help me, Dancing Wind,’ Hollow Knife implored the goddess. ‘Help me take Blade that Soars’ heart, and we can make the world whole again.’”

Althy frowned. “From what we’ve been taught, Dancing Wind speaks those lines, not Hollow Knife.”

That was true. In the legend as I knew it, a power-hungry Hollow Knife convinced Dancing Wind’s envious sister, Little Tears, to steal Blade that Soars’ heartsglass to merge with his own and create godsheart. He then tried to bend the world into his own making, creating the daeva to carry out his plans. But Hollow Knife was defeated when Dancing Wind merged her heartsglass with Blade that Soars’, bringing the god back to life to vanquish his cruel brother and exile Little Tears, who became the first bone witch.

“There is no other mention of Dancing Wind after this point,” I said, scanning the rest of the pages. “In the tale we know, Blade that Soars broke his heart into three parts and sacrificed two of them to heal the land. There’s none of that in this text. Listen to this: But before he could use his brother’s heartsglass, Hollow Knife found himself betrayed. For Little Tears still harbored feelings for Blade that Soars and sought to save his life by fusing half her heartsglass with his. And in doing so, she revived him and acquired part of his Darkened magic.

“Blade that Soars struck Hollow Knife and tried to take the shadowglass. Caught unawares and knowing his brother would succeed, Hollow Knife halted the spell before it reached completion. He was overpowered by his sibling.

“But the unmanning of Blade that Soars’ heart made him weak. He could only banish Hollow Knife to the underworld, where he was to wander among the ruins of the dead for all eternity. At the moment of his exile, Hollow Knife turned his anger and the last of his strength toward Little Tears, who had deserted his cause for her love of his brother.

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