Home > Evernight (The Kindred #4)

Evernight (The Kindred #4)
Author: Donna Grant

1

 

 

Scotland

 

 

Breath billowed from Synne’s mouth as the snow continued falling relentlessly, blanketing the world in white. The mare shook her head, dislodging the flakes from her black mane as they stood on the hilltop, looking out over the landscape.

Synne patted the horse’s neck. “I’m cold, too, girl. But we’ve got a long way to go yet.”

At least that’s what Synne suspected. She had no idea where the Varroki lived exactly. All she knew was the direction: north. So, that’s where she was headed.

She knew snow well, but the kind of cold she felt now was much worse than she was used to. It penetrated her layers of clothing to sink into her bones, making her movements slow, dulled. Her fingers were numb, and she couldn’t feel her feet. She needed to move quickly if she ran into the Coven, and as it was now, she wasn’t sure she could.

Just thinking about the Coven brought rage and grief so intense that her throat clogged with it. She would never forget the sight of those she had called family slain by the witch Sybbyl and her band of Gira.

Synne was a Hunter. She had been trained by one of the greatest knights, Radnar, and Edra, a powerful witch, to hunt those of the Coven and keep others safe. Now, Edra and Radnar were gone, as were so, so many others in their sanctuary.

For years, Synne had known love and safety. She was an expert with her bow, and for reasons she couldn’t explain, she had a connection with nature. Trees, in particular. But everything she had known and loved was now gone. Because Sybbyl sought the bones of the First Witch. That’s what all this was about.

Luckily, another Hunter, Leoma, and a nobleman, Braith, had stumbled across the Blood Skull. Braith was the Warden of the Blood Skull. It only responded to him. That meant no one else—especially those of the Coven—could use it. Since the Coven couldn’t get to the Blood Skull, they had gone after the Staff of the Eternal. The piece of wood contained the thigh bone of the First Witch, granting the possessor immense power. And, unfortunately, Sybbyl had gotten her hands on it.

The scales had tipped in their favor when the Hunters learned that a witch named Helena was a descendant of the First Witch—the actual Living Heart. Helena’s magic was greater than Sybbyl’s. Regrettably, however, Sybbyl had been smart enough to get away during their battle.

Synne now believed that the Staff of the Eternal would allow Sybbyl to find the Varroki, who had been hidden for years. Everyone knew Sybbyl’s next stop on her list of enemies was Blackglade, where the Varroki lived. And if the Hunters and innocents were really unlucky, Sybbyl would find yet another bone of the First Witch and make herself even stronger.

A long sigh escaped Synne. She had gone over this countless times since she’d burned those she loved at the abbey, but she hadn’t come up with anything that might help her or anyone else. At least they still had Braith and the Blood Skull, not to mention Helena as the Heart. But there were other bones of the First Witch out there yet to be found.

Synne nudged her mare into a walk. The sky was thick with clouds, and it looked like the snow had no intention of stopping anytime soon. She needed to find some shelter. While the horse picked her way down the slope, Synne considered the Varroki. The Hunters hadn’t known about them until recently, even though the Varroki had been waging their own war against the Coven since the days following the First Witch’s death.

The Varroki were secretive, and for good reason. Their numbers included warlocks, something no one thought existed. For her entire life, Synne had believed that only women could have magic. Meeting the Lady of the Varroki, Malene, and her Commander, Armir, had opened Synne’s eyes to a whole new world.

She’d never thought to leave the forest and the sanctuary Edra and Radnar had created. Yet her path now led her toward Blackglade and the Varroki. She had no idea what awaited her there besides war. There was no getting past what was coming, not that she wanted to. And she honestly didn’t expect to survive the battle. After all, she had no magic.

It was the one thing she had wished for above all things. But wishing didn’t change anything. As she had learned the hard way.

Synne glanced around. She liked that she was out in the open. She had purposefully traveled that way since crossing into Scotland. It allowed her to see all around her when she crested the ever-rising hills. However, the wide-open spaces were quickly coming to an end. Ahead of her was a vast forest. Her heart leaped at the thought of being in the confines of the woods again. But that quickly dissipated as she thought of the Gira.

For as long as she could remember, Synne had been terrified of the nymphs. Their skin and hair resembled the bark of a tree, allowing them to camouflage themselves so that no one could see them until the Gira chose to reveal themselves.

The tree nymphs mainly kept to the Witch’s Groves, but they were known to venture out at times. Their whispers drew people. Once near the Gira, they pulled the unsuspecting person close, so the tree could surround them, holding them hostage for the Gira to torture and play with at their leisure. But it was the way the Gira killed that caused knots to form in Synne’s stomach.

The nymphs devoured people.

Synne couldn’t remember when she had first learned of the Gira, but she had known of their existence long before Edra had told her about them. Synne had never delved too far into her memories to learn when she had discovered the Gira—mostly because she didn’t care. The nymphs were evil, and she wanted to stay away from them.

She hated that the Gira used trees to hide. Synne had always been drawn to trees. Just touching them calmed her, but her fear of the nymphs kept her away from them after the Gira had killed everyone at the abbey. And Synne felt the loss keenly.

Despite her need to be near trees, Synne wasn’t looking forward to the approaching forest because of the dangers within. Her hatred of the Gira grew for taking that from her. Most of the anger inside her was directed at the Coven and the Gira. They had ripped her world apart. She didn’t remember her family or the time before Edra had found her, but she felt nothing about that now. Maybe it was because she had no memories of that time that she wasn’t consumed by the need for vengeance.

Unlike the sight of all her friends lying dead that she couldn’t stop seeing each time she closed her eyes.

Though she hadn’t spoken, the mare sensed Synne’s turmoil and nickered softly while swiveling her ears toward her.

“I’m sorry,” Synne told the mare. “I’m trying to control it.”

And control was something she needed to do. She couldn’t face her enemies while feeling such fury. It would cause her to make poor decisions. She needed to have a clear head and heart in order to succeed.

She did her best to let go of the anger. It took far longer than she liked, but eventually, Synne accomplished her goal. By that time, the forest lay directly in front of her. She pulled back on the reins to stop the horse.

The mare instantly obeyed. For the next few moments, both horse and rider stared at the woods before them. Synne looked to either side, but no matter how hard she searched, she didn’t see a way around the forest. No doubt there was one, but she didn’t want to waste time finding it. The shortest route was through the trees.

“Be vigilant,” Synne told herself and the mare.

The horse blew out a breath in response.

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