Hunt stayed at the Comitium barracks that night. Bryce had lost track of the hours they’d worked, first through the night, then into the cloudless day, and finally at sunset she’d been dragging so much that he’d ordered Naomi to fly her home. And presumably ordered her to stand watch, since a dark-winged figure still stood on the adjacent rooftop in the gray light before dawn, and a peek into Hunt’s room revealed that his bed remained made.
But Bryce didn’t dwell on all the work they’d done yesterday, or all that lay ahead. Reorganizing the city’s leadership, Sailings for the dead, and waiting for the big announcement: which Archangel would be tapped by the Asteri to rule over Valbara.
Odds of them being decent were slim to none, but Bryce didn’t dwell on that, either, as she slipped into the still-dim streets, Syrinx tugging on his leash as she tucked her new phone into her pocket. She’d defied the odds yesterday, so maybe the gods would throw them another bone and convince the Asteri to send someone who wasn’t a psychopath.
At the very least, there would be no more death bargains for Hunt. Nothing more to atone for. No, he would be a free and true member of the triarii, if he wished. He had yet to decide.
Bryce waved to Naomi, and the angel waved back. She’d been too tired yesterday to object to having a guard, since Hunt didn’t trust the Asteri, her father, or any other power brokers to stay the Hel away. After letting Syrinx do his business, she shook her head when the chimera made to turn back toward the apartment. “No breakfast yet, buddy,” she said, aiming for the river.
Syrinx yowled with displeasure, but trotted along, sniffing at everything in his path until the broad band of the Istros appeared, its
riverside walkway empty at this early hour. Tharion had called her yesterday, promising the River Queen’s full support for any resources she needed.
Bryce hadn’t the nerve to ask whether that support was due to her being the bastard daughter of the Autumn King, a Starborn Fae, or the bearer of Luna’s Horn. Perhaps all of them.
Bryce settled onto one of the wooden benches along the quay, the Bone Quarter a swirling, misty wall across the water. The mer had come
—had helped so many escape. Even the otters had grabbed the smallest of the city’s residents and carried them down to the Blue Court. The House of Many Waters had risen to the occasion. The shifters had risen to it.
But the Fae … FiRo had sustained the least damage. The Fae had suffered the fewest casualties. It was no surprise, when their shields had been the first to go up. And had not opened to allow anyone inside.
Bryce blocked out the thought as Syrinx leapt onto the bench beside her, nails clicking on the wood, and plopped his furry butt next to hers. Bryce slid her phone from her pocket and wrote to Juniper, Tell Madame Kyrah I’ll be at her next dance class.
June wrote back almost immediately. The city was attacked and this is what you’re thinking about? A few seconds later she added, But I will. Bryce smiled. For long minutes, she and Syrinx sat in silence, watching the light bleed to gray, then to the palest blue. And then a
golden thread of light appeared along the Istros’s calm surface.
Bryce unlocked her phone. And read Danika’s final, happy messages one last time.
The light built on the river, gilding its surface.
Bryce’s eyes stung as she smiled softly, then read through Connor’s last words to her.
Message me when you’re home safe.
Bryce began typing. The answer it had taken her two years, nearly to the day, to write.
She sent the message into the ether, willed it to find its way across the gilded river and to the misty isle beyond.
And then she deleted the thread. Deleted Danika’s messages, too. Each swipe of her finger had her heart lightening, lifting with the rising sun.
When they were gone, when she had set them free, she stood, Syrinx leaping to the pavement beside her. She made to turn home, but a
glimmer of light across the river caught her eye.
For a heartbeat, just one, the dawn parted the mists of the Bone Quarter. Revealing a grassy shore. Rolling, serene hills beyond. Not a land of stone and gloom, but of light and green. And standing on that lovely shore, smiling at her …
A gift from the Under-King for saving the city.
Tears began rolling down her face as she beheld the near-invisible figures. All six of them—the seventh gone forever, having yielded her eternity. But the tallest of them, standing in the middle with his hand lifted in greeting …
Bryce brought her hand to her mouth, blowing a gentle kiss.
As swiftly as they parted, the mists closed. But Bryce kept smiling, all the way back to the apartment. Her phone buzzed, and Hunt’s message popped up. I’m home. Where are you?
She could barely type as Syrinx tugged her along. Walking Syrinx.
I’ll be there in a minute.
Good. I’m making breakfast.
Bryce’s grin nearly split her face in two as she hurried her steps, Syrinx launching into a flat-out sprint. As if he, too, knew what awaited them. Who awaited them.
There was an angel in her apartment. Which meant it must be any gods-damned day of the week. Which meant she had joy in her heart, and her eyes set on the wide-open road ahead.