Authors: Amber Argyle
Tags: #Teen Paranormal
Witch Song Companion Novel
By Amber Argyle
Copyright © 2014 Amber Argyle
Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
Also by Amber Argyle
Witch Song Series
Fairy Queens Series
Daughter of Winter
To Corbin, Connor, and Lily,
for teaching me what love is
A Witch Song Companion Novel
Lilette left the island like she came into it, amid a wave of suffering and death. ~Jolin
Lilette pointed her hands above her head and leapt off the cliff. Eyes closed, she reveled in the feel of falling. She sliced through the cool water at the base of the waterfall, kicking until she reached the rocky bottom.
There, she paused. Everything looked different down here. The water caught the sharp sunlight, bending it into slanting shafts of turquoise. The figures of the other girls on the bank were wavering and insubstantial—as if they were mere reflections instead of flesh and blood. It was like looking at the outside world through a mirror. But which side was real, and which was the reflection?
Lilette wished she didn’t have to go back, that she could stretch this moment beneath the cool water into forever. But her lungs began to ache for air.
I will escape my fate,
she promised herself. It had taken her nearly two weeks to gather enough sleeping herbs to drug Bian’s family. Tonight, two days before her wedding, she would slip the herbs into the evening meal. After everyone was sound asleep, she’d gather her supplies and slip away.
Lilette’s toes pushed off the rocks. She swam upward and broke the surface to take a gasping breath.
Pan stood at the rim of the cliffs, her arms folded over her chest. “Come on, Li. The others want to head back soon.”
Her words had a hard, biting edge that made Lilette inwardly cringe. She gazed downstream and felt a sudden urge to just swim away and slip into the jungle, evading Bian and his sons while gathering enough supplies to survive the week-long journey at sea. After that, she would have to steal a boat, and then it was merely a matter of navigating by starlight.
“You think he sent us here alone?” Pan said as if guessing Lilette’s thoughts.
Of course not,
Lilette mused bitterly. After her last escape attempt, he’d had her guarded day and night.
“I’ll call for them if I need to,” Pan went on, her voice flat.
Lilette hadn’t just lost Salfe that night. She’d lost her only other friend too, for Pan had made it clear she would never forgive Lilette for causing her brother’s banishment.
“Come on,” Pan said. “I need to practice fixing your hair.”
Lilette let the weight of her body pull her under again and swam to the edge of the pool. She pulled herself out of the water, her bare legs flashing pale as her hands and feet found the crevices to haul her up the cliffs.
At the top, Pan was waiting for her. “This is how things are for a woman, Li. With Fa dead, the village lord decides who you marry. If you’d just accept it, you could be happy.”
Lilette winced at the mention of Fa’s name. The sun hadn’t even set on the day of her surrogate father’s death before the village lord had announced she would be marrying him. “If you really believe I could be happy with Bian, you don’t know me at all.”
“He never shouts at my mother or my aunties,” Pan replied as if speaking to a small child. “And he plays with his daughters almost as much as his sons.”
Lilette knew better. She’d been born into a world where women ruled because they were the ones with magic. But that was oceans and a lifetime away from the Harshen islands.
She pushed the rising fury deep into her belly. In the darkness following her parents’ deaths, Pan had sat beside her, bringing her pink iridescent shells and combing her hair. Over the years, as Lilette longed to go home to her older sister, Pan had coaxed her out of the hut and down to this very pool.
Lilette thought she had locked her heart safely away. But if that was true, why did Pan’s coldness and Salfe’s banishment hurt so much?
The water had turned Pan’s normally frizzy dark hair into gorgeous curls. Lilette hesitated, then reached out and tugged one, a sad smile on her lips as the curl sprang back up. “We’ll never get to come swimming anymore.”
Pan batted her hand away. “Not everything changes just because you’re a wife.”
“Everything changes.” Lilette gazed into the jeweled tones of the water, hoping to see a different future reflecting back at her.
Pan seemed to soften. “Is it so very bad, marrying my father?”
Lilette’s hands curled into fists. She wasn’t going to marry Bian. By the Creators, she was escaping tonight. She would make it back to her homeland and the sister who was waiting for her. Afraid her eyes might betray her, she avoided Pan’s gaze and took a deep breath. She’d have a better chance at freedom if Pan dropped her guard. “Maybe you’re right. Maybe it’s not so bad.”
Lilette pulled on the tunic and loose trousers Bian had given her. She allowed a very small part of herself to enjoy the finery. The tunic hung to the middle of her calves, with a side slit that reached to her upper thigh. She tied the pleated silk sash around her waist and pinned a jade brooch to the front of it. Unlike her homespun cotton clothes, which had knots and bumps from her hand spindle, this was silk, so soft it was like wearing tensile oil. Both robe and tunic were a rich blue. Lilette hadn’t worn color since she’d washed up on the island eight years ago. She and Fa had never been able to afford dyed cotton—let alone silk.
She’d forgotten what it felt like to wear something that didn’t rub sores under her arms. She ran her hands down the length of her stomach, remembering the closets of fine clothes she’d once had. As usual, she forced away the memories of her previous life, surprised that any of them still surfaced.
She slipped on her new, finely tooled sandals. Pan’s sigh held an undercurrent of envy. “He was so generous with your bride price.”
No one seemed to care that Bian was old enough to be Lilette’s father, that he already had three wives and dozens of children. All that mattered was that he’d showered her with fabulous clothes, brooches, and winking rings—all of which only made his wives hate her. The fact that Lilette didn’t want the gifts or the attention only seemed to make them hate her more.
Pan looked Lilette up and down. She reached out, stopping just shy of touching the fine silk before withdrawing her hand. “Sit down.”
Lilette sat gingerly on a large rock Pan had draped with palm leaves to protect her clothing. She studied the other girls, Pan’s younger sisters. All seven of them were chatting happily as they plaited flowers in each other’s hair. They all looked very much alike with their darker skin, curling black hair, and laughing, almond-shaped eyes—very different from Lilette’s golden skin, pale hair, and brilliant turquoise eyes.
Pan’s quick fingers worked rich-smelling oils into Lilette’s hair before tugging a little more roughly than necessary at the knots with the comb. “You’re hair is so thin,” Pan complained as she bound Lilette’s hair into complicated rolls and poufs. She placed three white orchids, the symbol of fertility, behind her ear. Lilette brushed her fingertips along the petals, resisting the urge to rip the flowers from her hair.
Pan’s next younger sister knelt behind Pan and watched them shyly. “Sing for us, Auntie,” she said.
Lilette held back a wince at being called Auntie. She studied the cluster of girls who would be her stepdaughters if she failed to escape tonight. She imagined Bian’s dark eyes watching her, possessing her, and she shuddered.
Lilette took a deep breath and sang one of Fa’s songs.
Down to the depths of the stream you must pour
Heartache and loneliness, hurt, and what’s more,
Missed opportunities passing you by.
Mistakes and aches, let them fly
stream of forgetting.
The world around Lilette stilled, waiting for something more, but she hadn’t sung the words in the Creators’ language—the language of power. She’d buried her knowledge of that language so deep she could only remember one song, and that one only recently.
As last note drifted away, the elements slowly went back to sleep. In the quiet that followed, Lilette fingered the phoenix carved into the decorative comb Salfe had given her. It was the only thing of value she truly owned. The only thing she’d take with her when she escaped.
Pan tugged the comb from her fingers and slipped it into Lilette’s hair. “Not quite straight,” she murmured and shifted it. The comb suddenly jerked out, taking some of Lilette’s hair with it. She yelped and whirled to look at Pan. At the look on her friend’s face, the words she might have said froze in her throat. She followed Pan’s gaze to see a man watching them from the shadows—probably Quo, one of Pan’s many brothers.
But instead of running away in shame for having been caught watching the women swimming, he slowly rose to his feet. Lilette took a breath to threaten to tell Bian, but the man stepped into the light. Lilette didn’t recognize him, which was impossible. She knew everyone on their small island.
Her mouth came open in a noiseless gasp. He’d spoken in her native tongue—Kalarian. And used her full name. No one had called her that in eight years.
She rose to her feet and took in his dark hair bound in a queue, the fine features and full mouth. But it was the poised way he stood, the leather-and bronze-studded armor he wore that gave him away. She realized with a start that she did know this man.
Chen had come to kill her, just as his father had killed her parents. The fear that had long slumbered in Lilette roared to life, and the air seemed thin and wavering. “It can’t be.”
“Who are you?” Pan’s voice came out breathy.
Where were Bian’s sons? Lilette was suddenly frightened for them. They would be worse than useless against Chen.
“Quo? Zu? Ji?” Pan called. When they didn’t answer, her face paled and she cleared her throat. “What do you want?”
“He’s come to murder me,” Lilette answered.
Chen’s brow furrowed as he turned to her. “Murder you? No. You will become my concubine.”
Lilette narrowed her gaze. “I don’t believe you.”
Pan puffed out her chest in a show of bravado. “You can’t have her. She’s already taken.”
Lilette rested her hand on Pan’s shoulder in warning.
“Yes,” Chen agreed. “Long ago.” He motioned with one hand. Dozens of men eased from the shadows of the jungle, the sharp sunlight of midday revealing their leather armor reinforced with bronze studs. Each man carried two long swords at his waist or across his back. Some also carried halberds, the wicked blades resembling half moons. The heavily armed men blocked the way back to the village.
Lilette and the others made to dive into the pool, but soldiers appeared at the base of the cliff. They were surrounded.
“Quo! Ji! Zu!” Pan cried for her brothers, this time her voice full of fear instead of supplication.
“Are you looking for them?” At a gesture from Chen, the soldiers brought forth three boys who were almost men. Each was bound and gagged, eyes wide with fright. Quo’s cheek was swollen and his face bloodied.
Chen eyed Lilette up and down. “This isn’t going to be nearly as arduous as I thought.”
She knew firsthand this man’s ruthlessness. If she didn’t do something soon, everyone would die. “Let them go.”
He cocked an eyebrow. “Are you giving me an order?”
She swallowed. “If what you say is true—if you really mean to make me your concubine—I’ll come quietly.”
Chen looked pointedly at the men surrounding the females. “You’ll come either way.”
Lilette’s hand snaked out and grabbed Pan’s knife from its sheath. She held the blade to her throat, hoping against hope he’d spoken the truth before and didn’t mean to kill her.
Some of the cockiness fled Chen’s face. “You won’t use that.”
Lilette pressed down and the tip bit into her skin. Her flesh parted, the metal sliding inside her. Blood dripped down her neck, soaking her beautiful robes.
“Chen!” said one of his soldiers, a man with a scar that stretched from one mangled ear all the way across his cheek before biting into his nose.
Chen stretched his hand toward Lilette, palm forward, and spoke to his men. “Let them go. I have no need for them.”