Authors: Katherine Hurley
The Griever’s Mark
THE GRIEVER’S MARK SERIES
The Griever’s Mark
Chains of Water and Stone
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Copyright © Katherine Hurley, 2016
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations for review purposes.
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons, places, or events is purely coincidental.
Cover Illustration and Design Copyright © Apple Qingyang Zhang, 2015
THE BOOM WAKES us both. Logan shifts beside me, rising to his elbow. I can only make out a few lines of his body in the darkness, but I feel the tension in his leg where it lies under mine. I sit up beside him, but I don’t move my leg. If I do, he’ll get out of bed.
For the last several days, since the fall of Avydos, the elements have cycled through fury and calm. Sometimes a fit passes on its own. Other times, the Earthmakers have labored to pacify tearing winds, tossing seas, and bucking earth around the city. It has occurred to me that the sanctuary Heborian granted the Earthmaker refugees was not entirely selfless. Without them, Tornelaine would be rubble.
I hold my breath, hoping the earth will still itself. This is the first night Logan has not woken from a nightmare, the first night he has stayed with me so long. I know that exhaustion, not relaxation, is responsible for his sleep, but it’s better than nothing.
I tug his arm. “It’s just another tremor.” Maybe he’ll get back to sleep.
He starts to ease down, but when the castle shudders and dust shakes from the ceiling onto our heads, he jerks up and pushes from the bed.
I shape a Drift-light and let it bathe us with its soft blue luminescence. Logan snags his undershorts from a chair. I watch him shamelessly, studying the angles and curves of his naked body. This is so new for me, and it feels fragile, as though if I look away I’ll lose it.
The castle trembles again, and the curtains stream inward on a sharp gust of wind. I start wrenching on my own clothes. They still smell like lanolin from the time I spent yesterday helping move sheep in from the hills outside Tornelaine. I did not find it funny when Horik told me that if I ever needed work, I would make an excellent sheepdog. I must have popped in and out of the Drift eighty times to scare those addle-brained things in the right direction.
Logan, dressed now in rumpled clothes, is bent over the wash basin, scrubbing at his face. He straightens, raking wet fingers through his sleep-tousled hair. All the turmoil and uncertainty out there, and all I want to do is look at him. Water slides along his gold-stubbled jaw. He wipes his face with the back of a sleeve. Even in the soft Drift-light, I see his weariness. Dark shadows curve under his pinched eyes. The other Earthmakers can help in and around Tornelaine, but only Logan can venture out farther. Only he can touch the heart of the storm.
Because of that, he has spent much of the last few days away from me. Each time, it’s a little harder to pull him back.
I have tried to follow, but I can’t penetrate that elemental madness. Whenever I brush near the heart of it, my mind splinters under its force. I spiral out of control. Once, I washed up on a beach ten miles from Tornelaine. When Logan found me, the stark terror on his face was a bit annoying—I
take care of myself—but it also filled me with that particular warmth I am coming to know with him.
I pull my hair over my shoulder to braid it. Logan watches me. He wants to say something. I’m afraid I know what it is.
“Please, Astarti. Promise me.”
I drop my eyes to the hollow of his throat, and he sees the evasion. He steps near. He covers my hands with his, stilling me. The three ropes of hair stream from our fingers. He takes the sections from me and continues the braid. I shiver at the gentle tug as he works, at the way his fingers brush my arm and breast. I dig in my pocket for a tie, and he secures the end of my braid.
His eyes lift to mine. Even in the soft blue light, I can see the gold swirling through them.
Another boom shakes the walls, making the pitcher dance across the wash table. As the pitcher falls, I slip a tendril of Drift-energy under it and lift it to the bed.
I touch Logan’s arm, urging him toward the door. The muscles strain and twist under my hand, but I can’t set him at ease. I won’t make that promise.
We jog down the dimly lit hallway. A door opens ahead of us, and Aron emerges, looking as rumpled as we do. He glances down the hall, then does a double-take. His eyes harden.
My face heats. Avydos may have fallen, but apparently a Drifter is still not acceptable for an Earthmaker. Of course, Aron doesn’t know that Logan is no more an Earthmaker than I am. We’re both half. But where my other half is Drifter, Logan’s is...something else.
Aron motions us to walk with him. “This one felt closer.”
Logan grunts acknowledgement.
I remind them, “They’ve not yet attacked Tornelaine directly. And, Logan, you said you’ve never sensed the one Belos...has.” I don’t want to say “Leashed,” but the snap of tension through Logan’s body tells me he heard it anyway.
Aron mutters, “I still can’t make sense of that.”
I shrug. “The Old One is powerful. Belos may not have control of him yet.”
Aron shakes his head. “I mean I can’t understand why the Old One doesn’t break from him. Is the Unnamed that strong?”
The question is directed at me, but it’s Logan who answers. “The Ancorites were that strong. You think it impossible that Belos could be?” His voice is harsh, lashing through the word “Ancorites.”
Aron and I both tense. This is the first time I’ve heard Logan mention them. I know he thinks of them. I know they shape many of his dreams. But he doesn’t speak of them. In fact, he doesn’t speak of anything that happened to him. Not of his imprisonment and torture, not of Belos’s possession of his mind and body, and certainly not of the Ancorites.
I hook a finger through Logan’s belt at his back. He may not let me into his thoughts, but he always accepts my touch. Though he doesn’t look at me, his body loosens.
Running footsteps make us all turn. Bran jogs to catch up with us. His eyes go to my hand on Logan’s belt. He gives me an unreadable look. Humor? Surprise? It’s not disapproval, like I get from Aron, but even so I let my hand drop. All my life I’ve controlled and hidden my thoughts. I have been a liar and manipulator, creating deliberate impressions, subtly directing those around me to think as I want them to think. When I am with Logan, all of that falls away. I am bare, exposed, my feelings so obvious. Maybe I shouldn’t touch him so much.
Yet, my hand feels cold and useless when I take it away. I shove my fists into my jacket pockets.
We find Heborian and his Drifters up on the wind-swept battlements facing the sea. Blue Drift-light glows in torch brackets. No flame could withstand the wind whipping across us. Heborian’s fur-trimmed cloak snaps, and his dark hair streams back from his face. He’s more fully dressed than anyone else, as though he never went to bed. It’s almost dawn. Does the man never sleep?
The wind eases around us, and my braid settles against my back. I look over my shoulder to see Bran’s relaxed but focused expression.
“Thank you, Primo Branos,” rumbles Heborian’s deep voice.
At Heborian’s side, Horik rubs dirt from his watering eyes.
Light flares in the distance. Mount Hypatia has belched flame periodically over the last few days. I shudder at the memory of the mountaintop exploding with liquid fire, at the image of a woman’s gigantic, fiery form rearing from the top. The light vanishes, leaving the horizon dark once more.
Beyond our bubble of calm, the wind continues to rage, and the sea batters the cliffs. The earth trembles, vibrating through stone all the way into my bones.
There’s little that Drifters can do against this onslaught. As Polemarc Clitus arrives with his Wardens, the Earthmakers work to extend Bran’s protective shell. Even so, wind rips through from time to time. The fact that the Earthmakers can affect the elements at all indicates the storm is not directed at us. If it were, Tornelaine would look like Avydos, a blackened husk.
Horik and I step into the Drift and begin a circuit of the castle grounds. We are within Heborian’s barrier and cannot move beyond it from the Drift, but we can still see beyond. There’s no sign of Belos or the Seven.
As we sweep back to the battlements where the Drifters and Earthmakers stand, I pick out Logan’s lighted form. His energy whips and lashes through him. It’s different from when Belos lodged a sliver of his own energy in Logan. Then, Logan’s energy clenched around his heart, twisting inward. Now his energy surges against the boundaries of his form, as though seeking escape.
When I step from the Drift beside him, his still face and body give little indication of the turmoil I saw. His fingers tighten on the stone-toothed crenellations and he shifts restlessly, but no one would ever guess at the degree of his agitation. It’s unfair, in a way, to see what he’s hiding. But it’s a reminder that just because he seems all right doesn’t mean he is.
I want to ask what he’s thinking, but I know he won’t tell me. Instead I say, “The Drift looks clear.”
I hear Horik making a similar report to Heborian.
Logan nods, but I detect no relief. Apparently, it’s not fear of Belos that’s gnawing at him.
The earth trembles so violently I careen into Logan. The sound of breaking stone comes from a distant section of the castle grounds. Several of Heborian’s Drifters vanish, seeing to the damage. The earth settles at our location, but wind keens across the open ocean.
“I’m going,” Logan says.
My heart gives an anxious thump. He will try to draw them away. He is drawn to them, as they are to him. That is why he can lead them away from Tornelaine. But what if they get a hold of him and he can’t get back? We don’t know what they want. We don’t know whom they serve.
A more selfish fear rattles inside me: what if he chooses to not come back?
“Please, Astarti, promise me.”
“I promise to do no more than I deem necessary.”
He growls, “That is not what I meant.”
I look away from him, focusing on the distant ocean, where predawn light bleeds the world to gray. “Don’t ask me for promises you know I won’t keep.”
He exhales sharply, annoyed. “We’ll discuss this later.”
While it irritates me that he seems to think he can tell me what to do, my heart lifts to hear him speak of returning. I don’t know why I’m so afraid he’ll leave me, but I am.
The castle shakes again, and a sharp lash of wind cuts through the calming influence of the Earthmakers.
“Logan!” Heborian shouts from farther down the wall.
Logan calls back, “On my way!”
He leans down. When his lips press mine, I clutch at his neck. His hands find my waist. He breaks away first, but his eyes stay locked with mine as he begins to dissolve. A cool finger of wind brushes my cheek, then he’s gone.
* * *
By mid-morning, the worst of the tremors have stopped, but Logan has not returned. With Heborian and his Drifters, I make my way to the bridge connecting Heborian’s castle to the city, then we travel the Drift to the harbor. Though the waters are quiet now, several docks have broken from the port road. A sailing vessel floats on its side, its mast lying brokenly across the smashed deck of another ship.
Using Drift-energy, we help drag the fallen ship upright and gather the worst of the debris to the port road. The sailors and ship-masters set in on the rubble, seeing what can be salvaged.
The wind carries a chanting sound to me, and I turn to squint at the rocky bluff across the harbor. A small crowd has gathered there. The bleating of a sheep sounds faintly.
“Runians,” Horik says, pausing beside me. “They beseech the gods to take pity on them.”
The bleating cuts off abruptly.
I turn away. “I don’t think the gods are listening.”
When I slide into the Drift, intending to return to the battlements to wait for Logan, I spot a lone figure far out in the water. Someone has been swept out to sea.
As I streak toward the figure, I realize it’s not a person, but a fish, though it blazes with too much energy for one. It’s swimming away from Tornelaine.
I draw closer. No, not a person, but not a fish either. The upper body is shaped as a woman, but from the waist down pumps a powerful tail.
I know only one woman who can take such a form, though I don’t why she would be swimming away from Tornelaine.
I follow Gaiana into the sea.