"Brusenna thought it was finished. She defeated the Dark Witch, saving the HavenWitches from imprisonment and death. She found love and a place to belong. She was wrong. Haven is not the sanctuary it appears to be. Evenlove is in danger of slipping away like water through cupped hands. Some things can't be saved. A new threat merges with the old as the Witches’dark history begins to catch up with them. Only Brusenna knows the extent ofthe danger and how to stop it, though doing so might cost her everything. Including her life.
Will Brusenna be required to make the ultimatesacrifice? "
Welcome to the chapter hunt for Witch Born by Amber Argyle:
Page Turners:Chapter 1 http://www.pageturnersblog.com
Soul Unsung:Chapter 2 http://soulunsung.blogspot.com/
Soul Unsung:Chapter 2 http://soulunsung.blogspot.com/
The Reading Geek:Chapter 3 http://thereadinggeek.blogspot.com/
Book Haven Extraordinaire: Chapter 4 http://bookhavenextraordinaire.blogspot.com/
Clean Teen Fiction:Chapter 5 http://cleanteenfiction.blogspot.com/
Amber Argyle:Chapter 5 continued http://www.amberargyle.blogspot.com
Chapter 6 http://whynotbecauseisaidso.blogspot.com
Witch Born Links:
Chapter 3. Pendant
After setting herhealing kit on the table, Sacra poured a measure of medicine into a cup. “Drinkthis. It will help with the pain.”
Senna’s hand shookso badly she could barely keep from slopping the medicine over the brim. Shethrew back the bitter stuff, gagging at its strength.
Every time sheclosed her eyes, she heard the bass’s gasp as she’d slipped the knife into hisguts. She could still taste the metallic fear on her tongue. Her body seemed tostore the impression of his arms wrapped around her, the licorice smell of hismouth. A tremor coursed through her body, and the mug slipped from her fingers,clattering to the floor.
Her mother glancedup. “You’re starting into an apoplectic fit.” She grabbed another potion fromthe shelf. She held it to Senna’s mouth and helped her drink it before wrappingher up in a blanket. But the shudders just kept getting worse.
“Senna, listen tome. You have to calm down.”
Senna half shookher head. Without the frenetic rush of fear to hold her emotions at bay, theycame crashing down on her. “I just—I wish Joshen were here.” She needed him tohold her and reassure her that all would be well.
A hurt look crossedher mother’s face. “Slow your breathing. Come, breathe with me.” She inhaledslowly and held in the air.
Senna mirrored heruntil the dizziness passed.
Soon, Senna noticedthe edges of her vision softening. Her eyes went unfocused and she tingledeverywhere.
“Good. The potion’sbeginning to work. Just concentrate on breathing.” Her mother relaxed a bit.“You’re going to be all right.”
Senna hissedthrough her teeth as her mother gently poured salt water onto her wounded hand.Blood welled into the lines of her palm. They formed dark, curling patternsthat swirled in the water like incense smoke shifting with the breeze. It wasalmost pretty.
“What happened outthere tonight, Brusenna?”
She only wanted toforget, but her mother needed to know. Senna had repeated her account so manytimes her head spun with it. Each time, it seemed more dreamlike, less real.With a sigh, she recounted it again.
Her mother held hercurved needle over a candle flame. She waited for it to cool before threadingit with thin strips of sheep intestines. “The cuts aren’t wide, but they aredeep. It should only take five or so.”
Senna glared at theneedle.
“Hold out yourhand.”
Shutting her eyes,Senna turned away. The needle dug in. She gasped, but it would be worse withouther mother’s herbs. She squirmed and fought the urge to clench her hand andpull away.
“Hold still. It’llhurt less.”
Senna tried tothink of something to distract her, but her thoughts danced out of her headbefore she could catch them.
She was silentuntil her mother tied the last stitch. “Finished.”
Senna studied theugly cuts in her hand, black string sticking out of her flesh. She wonderedwhat a palm reader would make of the new lines crisscrossing her palm. “Do youthink he’s dead—the man I stabbed?”
“With a gut wound,probably.”
How much must hehave hated her to use his dying breath to threaten her, threaten all theWitches? “Then where is his body?”
“Probably hiddensomewhere we’ll never find it. Or maybe they really did escape.”
Senna shiveredinside. “Am I a murderer?”
“There’s adifference between defending yourself and killing someone who’s helplessagainst you.” Her mother smeared some salve onto a bandage and wrapped Senna’shand. “Keep it still for about a week or you’ll reopen them.”
Staring at theshockingly white bandages, Senna nodded.
As her mother begancarefully packing her kit away, she put to words the question that must be onevery Witch’s tongue. “How did men get onto the island?”
Senna cradled herhand to her chest. “Someone sang them in.” She’d thought the Witches were pastsuch dangers when she’d imprisoned the Dark Witch in a tree.
The sounds of hermother repacking her kit stilled. “You know what we must do.”
Senna shook herhead in an effort to clear the drugs dulling her wits along with the pain.“What do you mean?”
Her mother restedher hand on Senna’s arm. “We must leave.”
Suddenly moreawake, Senna sat up. “I’ve finally begun to learn. We can’t leave now!”
Her mother leanedforward. “I can teach you as well as anyone here. And you said it yourself. Theman claimed all the Witches would soon be dead. I can’t risk it. I can’t riskyou.”
Senna didn’texactly have friends here, but Joshen was tied to Haven. The Discipline Headshad made it clear time and again that he was their Guardian, not Senna’s. Andshe would not leave him. “So we run again? Is that your answer for everything?”
Her mother’sexpression tightened. “Senna, sharks and falcons and wolves chase. Deer andmice and sheep run. That’s the way of our world.”
Senna shook herhead. “It wasn’t always this way. We haven’t always chosen to act like prey.”
“Those days are fargone.”
“And you’d have usgoing back to Gonstower, would you? See how long it takes for them to hang oneof us?”
Her mother withdrewher hand. “It wouldn’t have to be Gonstower. Just…away.”
Senna rememberedthe taunts she’d grown up with. The hatred. “No. I won’t live like that. Neveragain.”
Her mother saggedin her chair. “Dying is easy, Senna. Living is hard.”
Senna started outof the room, her good hand out to steady her from the vertigo caused by theherbs. “No. Choosing to do the right thing, no matter the consequences, ishard.” She swayed into one of the walls, her eyes closed against the spinning.
Her mothercarefully draped Senna’s arm across her shoulders. “You’re not going to make itby yourself.”
Senna screwed upher face. “No. I’ve always had to have help from someone.”
“I imagine most ofus are like that.” They started up the curling stairs. It was a tight fit, especiallybecause Senna kept stumbling and swaying.
“Well, at least Iknow what kind of drunk you are—philosophical. Could be worse I suppose.” Hermother grunted with effort.
Senna stiffened.“I’m not drunk!”
Her motherchuckled. “The herbs I gave you were stronger than your grandfather’s whiskey.And they used to mix that with lacquer.”
Senna bumped intothe railing. “Grandfather? You never talk about him.”
Her mother bracedher feet to steady her daughter. “He made very strong whiskey.”
They’d finally crestedthe stairs. Senna felt like they should celebrate somehow. “What about Father?Was he your Guardian?”
Sacra shook herhead. “He gave it up when we had your sister. Someone had to raise her, and Iwas too busy.”
It was more thanSenna had heard about her father in years. “That makes sense.”
Her mother helpedher into the bed. “Good night.”
Senna hitchedherself up on her elbow. “But why didn’t he—”
Her mother closedthe door to her words.
Senna flopped backonto her bed and quickly forgot her frustration. The patterns the tree’s leavesmade against the backdrop of the stars fascinated her—black on black with ascattering of pinpoint light. She was grateful that for once, sleep came onhard and dreamless.
Two days later,Senna sat inside a tree house shaped like a bulging onion. Her stitches itchedlike mad. To distract herself, she stared westward out a window with peakedtops and bottoms and a swelling center, like a bubble trying to escape from aseed pod.
She was haunted byher attack of a few nights ago, by the land and people dying in Tarten, and bythe sweet licorice smell of a dying man.
Her whole bodyached with the need to do something—find her attacker, release the curse onTarten. Something. But after only aday, the Heads had insisted all the Apprentices and Witchlings go back to theirregular classes, while they continued the search alone.
So Senna studiedthe trees of Haven. They never ceased to amaze her, especially their variety.For instance, some doors opened right onto the white gravel path. Others satabove curving steps made of woven roots or expanses of living wood. All thewindows and doors were peaked and bubbled outward, though they varied in size.
Arianis took down amap from the wall and placed it on an easel. “We begin studying a new nationtoday. Can anyone tell me what country this is?”
Silence echoedthrough the room.
“Senna, care toenlighten us?”
She suppressed agroan. The Heads had insisted she take some Witchling classes to fill in hersomewhat-spotty education. Unfortunately, some of those classes were taught byApprentices. This one was taught by Arianis, who had been trained from infancyto defeat the Dark Witch, and whose exceptionally powerful song had ensured aclear path to the highest level of Haven’s hierarchy.
And then Senna hadcome along. She’d defeated the Dark Witch. And there were whispers among theKeepers of her strength—whispers that Senna’s song was even stronger than theDark Witch’s.
No one spoke of theastonishing strength of Arianis’ song anymore.
Senna tore her gazefrom the window and glanced at the map before turning back to her vigil. “It’sHarshen.”
Arianis crossed herarms. “And what can you tell us of Harshen?”
Senna sighed.Sometimes Arianis gave up at this point. Apparently, today wasn’t one of thosedays. “It’s far to the south—a land of deserts and scrubby mountains. Thepeople live in large pavilions and have dark skin. Rivers run high and furiousonce a year, before dwindling to barren puddles by midsummer. Harshen is isolatedby deserts in the interior and horrible storms along the coast.”
Arianis grunted.“Almost word for word from DesertCountries, by Jennalee Odd. Do you have any original ideas in your head?”Senna didn’t respond. It was clear Arianis hadn’t really expected her to. “Andwhat do the Harshens think of Witches?”
“They blame us fortheir country’s lack of water,” said Nilly, an Apprentice with enormous earsand pretty brown eyes.
“They hate us. Thewhole world hates us. By destroying Tarten, the Heads only make that perceptionworse.” The words darted from Senna’s mouth like a flock of startled birds.
Arianis gaped atSenna. “This is a geography class, not a political debate.”
Senna didn’t regretwhat she’d said. After all, it was true. “You asked what the Harshens think ofus. I told you.”
Arianis answered,her voice dripping with scorn, but Senna had stopped listening. Outside,someone was calling her name.
She knew thatvoice. She shot from her chair.
Arianis startled.“Sit down. Class isn’t dismissed yet.”
“Senna!” the shoutcame again.
Senna lifted herskirt and ran from the tree house. In the sharp sunlight of midday, she caughther first sight of Joshen in two months. His brown hair hung over his foreheadin waves. His gray eyes—the color of snow in the shade—stood out on his tannedface. The skin around his eyes was creased, as if he never stopped smiling longenough for the lines to smooth out. With an involuntary shriek, she launchedherself into his arms.
He caught her andswung her around. She molded her body to his. This was where she fit. It waswhere she would always fit. Joshen released her and ran his fingers lightlyover the bump on the back of her head, his body tense. “Are you all right?”
She winced. “I’llbe fine. When did you arrive?” He’d been in their home country, Nefalie, on arecruiting assignment to find more Guardians.
He inspected herbandaged hand with a frown. “A few hours ago. We had to meet with the Headsfirst.”
“Do you know whysomeone would attack you?” Senna started at Reden’s Tarten accent. She hadn’teven noticed him coming up the path behind Joshen.
The Leader of theGuardians wasn’t a tall man, but he was well built. His eyes and hair werenearly black, his skin a creamy brown. His face had a certain ageless quality.He could be anywhere from twenty to forty, but Senna had learned over the lastfew months he was only twenty-four. He’d become Leader of all Tarten’s armiesat sixteen. His brilliance as a soldier and a tactician had assured his rise tothe Leader of the Guardians mere days after he’d rebelled from Tarten, leadingthe Witches safely away from the armies he’d once commanded.
His keen eyesseemed to bore into Senna. And he wasn’t the only one staring. Senna becameaware of dozens of eyes watching them. Clearly reluctant to obey Arianis’attempts to shoo them back to their seats, Witchlings peeked out the window anddoor of the tree. Senna felt the weight of their stares like stones in herpockets.
“I need to borrowyour student, Apprentice.” Reden gripped Senna’s arm and steered her away.
Arianis’ eyesnarrowed to slits, and Senna could see her trying to come up with some reasonto deny his request. But Reden only answered to Chavis and the other Heads. Notto upstart Apprentices.
“Fine, but I wantan oral report on Harshen mountains and trade routes, due tomorrow,” Arianissaid.
She no doubt knewhow much Senna loathed public speaking. But it was a small price, one she’dgladly pay for the chance to be with Joshen again.
Before either Guardianpelted her with a barrage of questions, she told them of feeling like someonewas watching her the night of her attack. The secrets whispered in an abandonedtree house. Being attacked by the two men. Her narrow escape. The terrifyingtrip back into the darkness with the Heads. “I took them back the next morning.All we found was broken vegetation and some bloody soil to go with theslingshot.”
Reden pursed hislips. “You realize they were after you? You’re the captive.”
Senna’s head spun.“No—that’s not possible.”
Joshen raked hishands through his hair. “How do we know they didn’t simply attack her becauseshe overheard them?”
Reden scanned thetrees around them. “If that were the case, she’d be dead. Instead, they triedto subdue her. That means they wanted to take her alive. The question is why.”
“Maybe they justdidn’t want to kill anyone,” she murmured.
Reden’s expressionhardened. “You don’t come on a mission like this unprepared to kill someone.”
Joshen noddedwestward. “The Tartens? But why would they want Senna?”
Reden shook hishead. “We don’t know it was the Tartens. As for why someone wants her, we don’tknow that, either.”
She stared in thedistance without seeing anything. “Their accents didn’t sound Tarten.”
“What did theysound like?” Reden asked.
Shuddering, shetried to match the accents to anything else she’d heard. She was usually goodwith all kinds of inflection, but she was pretty sure she hadn’t heard this onebefore. “I don’t know.”
Reden ground histeeth. “Is your Witch song as strong as they say it is?”
Senna lowered hergaze. Her song had always been exceedingly strong, but since the Creators hadgifted her with the Dark Witch’s song, the power of her voice had shot up likea summer weed. “Yes.”
Reden hesitated.“The Heads have searched the island. They believe whoever attacked you is gone.I’m not so sure.”
Joshen grunted inagreement. “This place has more burrows than a field full of gophers.”
Senna pressed herhands into her stomach, just over the crescent-moon tattoo that circled hernavel and marked her as a Witch.
Reden eyed thefoliage between the trees. Senna tried to see it as he would—cover for anyonesneaking around the island instead of a beautiful byproduct of hundreds ofdaily songs.
“I tried toconvince them to move the island,” he said. “They refused, claiming theWitches’ numbers are too low to attempt it. Nor do they believe they are in anyreal danger.”
Senna halted. “Butthe man said—”
Reden held out aforestalling hand. “I know. But the Heads trust in their walls and their songsto protect them.”
Senna’s woundedhand pounded in rhythm with her racing heart. “So they won’t do anything?”
Reden gestured toJoshen. “I convinced them to bring Guardians onto the island to watch theentrance and send out patrols. That way there will be no more men sneakinginside.”
Senna’s mouth fellopen. Men had never been allowed on the island for longer than a few days. Thatthe Heads had agreed to let the Guardians stay spoke volumes of their fear.
Reden started offagain, and Senna fell into step beside Joshen. She didn’t know where the twowere going, and she didn’t care, as long as she was with Joshen.
“Will they let youGuard me now?” she asked him.
His jaw was tight.“No. They say safeguarding the entrance should be enough to keep you safe, andmy presence would only distract you from your studies. Besides, it’s againstthe rules.”
She managed a tightsmile. It wasn’t enough, but that Joshen was here at all was a miracle.“They’re probably right—you would distract me.”
They arrived at thetree house Reden had used during his last stay on the island. He unlocked thedoor and pushed on it, but it stuck fast. He dropped his shoulder and rammedthe door. It flew open and banged into the opposite wall, making Senna jump.
Reden’s desk wasjust to the left of the entrance. He brushed the dust from his chair beforecollapsing onto it. “You need to tell me the truth about what you were reallydoing in the uninhabited part of the island in the middle of the night. None ofthis, ‘I couldn’t sleep’ business you gave the Heads.”
How had he known?She closed her eyes.
Despite how manytimes she had told her story, she’d always left this part out. “I’ve begged theHeads to release the curse on Tarten. They’ve refused me time and again. Iwould lift it myself, but it takes an entire choir…so I do what I can.”
Joshen brushed herhair over her shoulder. “Oh, Senna.”
She met his gaze.“They saved our lives, Joshen, at risk to their own. How can we just forgetthat?”
“I haven’tforgotten,” Reden said, his voice thick.
Her face burningwith shame, Senna stared at the perfectly smooth floor. Of course Reden hadn’tforgotten. He was Tarten. And he’dsacrificed his country for the world. Senna wondered if she had that kind ofstrength. She measured herself and came up dreadfully short. “I’m sorry.”
Somehow, this washer fault. After all, she had agreed to curse Tarten. Had asked Reden to betrayhis people. Had helped sing that curse into being.
“I’m where I shouldbe.” Reden’s voice had softened.
The Leader startedsearching his desk. “How did you know to hide from your attacker in the firstplace?”
Her breath caughtin her throat. Haltingly, she told him she’d heard music nearly every night—thesong of the Four Sisters. And that the night she was attacked she’d heard musicall around her, warning her.
“Has it happenedsince?” Reden asked.
“Not like that.”
He opened his mouthto say something but hesitated, as if measuring his words carefully. “Senna,sometimes a lie is better than the truth—if that truth does more harm thangood. I think it best that your singing for Tarten stay among us. Do youunderstand?”
Senna stared at himin disbelief. She thought she knew Reden, just like she knew Joshen. Reden wasa career soldier, a man of honor, a man who saw the world in terms ofdefensibility and tactics. She’d never expected him to encourage her to lie.Especially not to the Heads. But then, he’d betrayed his country and his men tosave the world. Some might not call him honorable at all.
As if uncomfortableunder her scrutiny, Reden waved them toward the door. “Joshen, see that shegets to her next class.”
His hand on thesmall of her back, Joshen held open the door. They stepped out of the tree andmoved down the steps made of the tree’s roots. Senna eyed the horizonexpectantly. She sensed a storm would be rolling over the cliffs soon—afterall, she had helped sing it into being this morning.
As she listened, itseemed the wind’s fingers strummed branches like strings; the sound resonatedin hollows and crevices. She could almost taste the mineral rain, see the colormelt away into shades of gray, and feel the cool damp.
She realized Joshenhad been speaking to her for a while and she hadn’t heard any of it.
She forced a brightsmile. “How are you?”
He shrugged. “Imissed you. And I’m starving! Are you sure you can’t sing a steer to swim tothe island? I could use a steak.”
She laughed forreal this time. “You know Witch song doesn’t work on animals. If it did, I’dhave sung you here weeks ago.”
Grinning, heglanced up and down the trail as if making sure no one was watching beforepulling her off the path. They ended up hidden by the plants, cradled in thebuttressed roots of an enormous tree.
Turning suddenlyserious, Joshen studied her, his gaze seeming to unearth everything she wantedso desperately to keep hidden. “Now, tell me why you’re so sad.”
She let out abitter laugh. How could he so easily see the darkness she was desperatelytrying to hide? “I thought being with all the other Witches would mean I’dfinally find a place I belonged, but I’m more alone here than anywhere I’veever been.” It was true. Even when her mother had left her, she’d had her dogBruke, and later Joshen. Now Bruke was dead, and they’d taken Joshen away.
But he was backnow. It would get better.
“What about yourmother?”
Senna fought tokeep her emotions from overwhelming her. “The only words that ever pass betweenus are angry. So we keep silent.” She didn’t say her mother wanted them toleave Haven forever. Nothing good could come of his knowing that. She grippedhis shirt and buried her face in his chest. “And there’s the nightmares. Nearlyevery night.”
His arms tightenedaround her. She wet her lips. Dare she tell him the next part? “Something’shappening to me, Joshen. It’s not just that my song’s getting stronger. Mysenses are, too. I truly hear the pain of the Four Sisters in Tarten. It hauntsme.”
With the tip of histhumb, he traced the tattoo on her stomach—his touch unerringly accurate. “Whatcan I do to make it better?”
By the Creators,she’d missed the smell of him—horses and the sea. “Make me forget, for just alittle while.”
He tipped her chinup and kissed her. He was always soft and gentle, but today she felt anundeniable hunger somewhere deep inside him. He was trying to suppress it. Butshe didn’t want that. She wanted him to banish the lingering foulness of thecurse and the fear that had never released her from its sweaty grasp, replacingall of that with the sweet taste of his mouth.
Gripping fistfulsof his dark hair, she pulled him down and deepened the kiss. His lips crushedagainst hers, Joshen responded, kissing her like he’d never kissed her before.The stubble along his jaw was rough against her chin. She felt herself melting,going soft inside.
Breathless, shepulled away before things grew more heated. “Mother will call out the Heads ifI’m not home for supper.” She wanted to invite him, but she feared his presencewould upset the fragile silence in her home. “And after, I have another class.”
With a groan thatsounded like half frustration and half pain, Joshen rested his forehead againsthers. “This late?”
“Three of the FourSisters are more awake at night. On the next dark phase of the moon, the chesliharvest will begin. That lasts until dawn every night until the moon starts tooutshine the flowers.” Senna let herself linger next to him. “Drenelle sayscommuning with the earth works best at night during a rainstorm.”
“Mmm hmm.” Shecould tell he wasn’t really listening. He ran his fingers along the edges ofher face. “How much longer until I can marry you?”
Senna licked herswollen lips, savoring the taste of him. “Apprentices aren’t allowed to marry.You know that. ”
He cradled her facein his hands. “Well then, how much longer until they graduate you to a Keeper?”
She tried toimagine their future, but she couldn’t picture spending the rest of their liveson this tiny little island, hidden away from the rest of the world. Joshenwould never have his horses. She would never have the freedom she longed for.
Putting a littledistance between them, she pulled her necklace out from under her dress. Fromit hung her pendant—a circular amber piece that had been cut into a waxingcrescent and a waning gibbous.
She tried tounclasp it, but her injured hand wouldn’t cooperate. Joshen brushed her hair tothe front of her shoulder and fumbled with the catch until he had it free.
With a click, shedetached the waning gibbous and slipped it from the cord before settling thecrescent back in the hollow of her throat. The gibbous felt warm and familiarin her palm. “I meant to give this to you earlier.”
Taking Joshen’shand, she placed it inside. “The moon is the sign of the Witches. Each phaserepresents our power as individuals. The full moon is the combined power of allof us. This pendant was cut to represent that. You and I, we’re strongertogether than apart. And if you ever need to find me, just tap the pendantagainst a piece of metal. It will vibrate and lift, pointing in my direction.I’ll be able to do the same for you.”
Joshen stared atthe pendant. “I don’t know what to say.”
She smiled. “Sayyou’ll always be there. No matter what.”
She fingered hernecklace. Next to the pendant was the ring Joshen had given her over two monthsago. It was a simple thing, made of willow branches that Coyel had sung to wraparound a pearl.
Senna’s mother andthe other Heads had had a fit over it. Apprentices weren’t allowed to havecontact with men, let alone be betrothed to one. So Senna had quietly moved itfrom her hand to her neck. For her, the meaning was still the same, regardlessof its location.
Joshen rubbed thepearl with the edge of his thumb. “If it were just you and me on a horse ranchsomewhere, we could marry whenever we pleased.”
Senna leaned towardhim, inhaling the air he breathed. “Someday.”
He kissed heragain, but there was a taste of goodbye in it. She wouldn’t risk being late forclass—not when she still had so much to prove.
Read the next chapter over at Book Haven Extraordinaire http://bookhavenextraordinaire.blogspot.com/
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