“Want her there?” Aedan finished his twin’s question. “Not really. Do you?”
Without breaking his stride, Bradan glanced back at their mother. Automatically, Aedan did the same and at once wished he hadn’t. She had never seemed as small – as alone – as she did in that moment, watching them walk away from her.
Watching them walk to what would change both their lives forever.
She hadn’t told them not to do it, but Aedan thought she wanted to. He’d talked about it with Bradan, and Bradan agreed with him. Their mother still hurt over their father’s death. They all did. No doubt she saw their decision to swear the same oath he had as the possibility that she’d lose them like she had lost him. But they couldn’t let that change their minds.
“Not really,” Bradan echoed at last, his voice a mere whisper.
His discomfort filtered through the bond, a mirror of Aedan’s. It wasn’t what they had decided to do that troubled them. They might only be eleven, but their father had always told them they were smart and brave. They hadn’t made this choice lightly. They had thought long and hard about it – about all of it. They had talked for entire nights about what to do, figuring out every detail. The oath was the first step, the only one their mother knew about.
When they came back, they would tell her about the rest. Or at least, some of the rest. She needed to know about Bradan going to the Otherworld, since she would probably have to go with him. The alternative was for Bradan to live with Anabel and their dame, and they weren’t sure whether Anabel would agree to that.
What they would keep a secret, however, was the fact that Aedan would become a vampire once he was grown. They had talked about that, too, for many long hours. It was the only way they’d found for Aedan not to be too old to be a guard by the time their Dame returned. They would both have preferred to remain together, but someone needed to remain on Foh’Ran and keep an eye on what was going on.
They walked on without hurrying, standing shoulder to shoulder, both their gazes fixed on the shimmer of the lake in the distance. This, at least, they had barely needed to discuss. They could have sworn anywhere, but by the side of the lake felt right. This was where they’d played their last games with Vivien before the queen had sent her to the Otherworld.
The water rippled under a light breeze as they approached the flat rocks on the nearest side of the lake. They sat there, on the sun-warmed rock, their legs crossed, facing each other.
“Sure? Yes. You?”
The only thing pulsing through the bond, both ways, was determination.
They seized the Quickening together. It had always been easier when they channeled at the same time, Aedan’s will strengthening Bradan’s and vice versa. Normally, they would have stood in front of the queen or king to swear the oath, but their dame was away, and in the end the one thing that truly mattered was for them to swear.
As always, the world lost its colors and turned to shades of gray. It matched how Aedan felt, inside. How he’d felt since their father and the other guards and the queen had died. How he felt every time he remembered he’d soon be alone.
Bradan went first, reciting the first line of the oath; he was the oldest, if only by moments, and it was his privilege. Aedan repeated it after him. Line by line, they ran through the QuickSilver Oath, and as they did Aedan channeled toward Bradan, marking the inside of his wrist with the silver curves of the QuickSilver insignia. Aedan would have no such reminder on his skin, but this moment, every word, every inflection, every catch in his brother’s voice or his own would be forever engraved in his mind – and in Bradan’s.
It only took a couple of minutes at most, but Aedan was breathing hard as they finished, the toll of channeling so intricately causing his heart to beat faster; or maybe, it was from what an important moment this was.
They released the Quickening at the same time, and looked up from Bradan’s marked wrist. A smile was rising to Bradan’s lips, and Aedan could feel a matching one curling his own mouth. Now both grinning from ear to ear, they hugged, even let out quiet laughs that reverberated over the lake. It was done. They were part of the Quicksilver Guard, now. Its only two members, and only children at that, guards to a dame who wasn’t even on Foh’Ran.
She’d be back, though. One day, she’d return to reclaim the throne. Then Bradan and Aedan would avenge her mother the queen – and their own father. And then, although Aedan hadn’t discussed this part with his brother, he’d ask their dame to mark him with the ritual tattoo. He could wait if it meant that she’d do it herself.
He could wait, but oh, he already knew it would feel like a long time…
And now a giveaway... This one is for US residents only, and the prizes are this custom-made candle in shades of purple and with the QuickSilver symbol, as well as signed swag.