Chapter no 7

House of Earth and Blood

The black steps ringing the foggy shore of the Bone Quarter bit into Bryce’s knees as she knelt before the towering ivory gates.

The Istros spread like a gray mirror behind her, silent in the predawn light.

As quiet and still as she had gone, hollowed out and drifting.

Mist curled around her, veiling all but the obsidian steps she knelt on and the carved bone gates looming overhead. The rotting black boat at her back was her only companion, its moldy, ancient rope draped over the steps in lieu of a mooring. She’d paid the fee—the boat would linger here until she was done. Until she had said what she needed to say.

The living realm remained a world away, the spires and skyscrapers of the city hidden by that swirling mist, its car horns and array of voices rendered mute. She’d left behind any mortal possessions. They would have no value here, among the Reapers and the dead.

She’d been glad to leave them—especially her phone, so full of anger and hatred.

Ithan’s latest audiomail had come only an hour ago, stirring her from the unsleeping stupor in which she’d spent the past six nights, staring at the dark ceiling of the hotel room she was sharing with her mother. Ignoring every call and message.

Ithan’s words had lingered, though, when she’d slipped into the hotel bathroom to listen.

Don’t come to the Sailing tomorrow. You’re not welcome there.

She’d listened to it over and over, the first words to echo in her silent head.

Her mother hadn’t woken from the bed beside hers when Bryce had exited the hotel room on Fae-soft feet, taking the service elevator and

leaving through the unwatched alley door. She hadn’t left that room for six days, just sat staring vacantly at the floral hotel wallpaper. And now, with the seventh dawning … Only for this would she leave. Would she remember how to move her body, how to speak.

Danika’s Sailing would commence at dawn, and the Sailings for the rest of the pack would follow. Bryce would not be there to witness them. Even without the wolves banning her from it, she couldn’t have endured it. To see the black boat pushed from the dock, all that was left of Danika with it, her soul to be judged either worthy or unworthy of entering the sacred isle across the river.

There was only silence here. Silence and mist. Was this death? Silence and fog?

Bryce ran her tongue over her dry, chapped lips. She did not remember the last time she’d drunk anything. Had a meal. Only her mother coaxing her to take a sip of water.

A light had gone out inside her. A light had been extinguished.

She might as well have been staring inside herself: Darkness.

Silence. Mist.

Bryce lifted her head, peering up toward the carved bone gates, hewn from the ribs of a long-dead leviathan who’d prowled the deep seas of the north. The mist swirled tighter, the temperature dropping. Announcing the arrival of something ancient and terrible.

Bryce remained kneeling. Bowed her head.

She was not welcome at the Sailing. So she had come here to say goodbye. To give Danika this one last thing.

The creature that dwelt in the mist emerged, and even the river at her back trembled.

Bryce opened her eyes. And slowly lifted her gaze.

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