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The Silent

By:Elizabeth Hunter


The Black Sea Coast


Kyra sat cross-legged in front of the fire, breathing in the incense and focusing on the door in her mind. It was a small door, growing smaller every day. Behind it lay the soul voices of humanity.

Her gift. Her torment.

The voices had once battered her mind, rendering her incapable of normal human interaction.

Emetsam tarrea.

Ya emetsam tarrea.

Emetsam tarrea me.

The whispers grew quiet.

Emetsam tarrea.

Kyra reached out in her mind and closed the door, imagined pressing her palm against it and holding it until the pressure in her mind eased. Then she took a deep breath and released it slowly, grateful for the silence that followed.

Kareshta. The silent ones. Daughters of Fallen angels and human women. They were her sisters, her friends, and her burden.

Kyra breathed in and out, tasting the damp sea air on her tongue along with the spice of the incense and the scent of orange blossoms coming from the orchard outside the farmhouse above the sea. Her eyes were closed as she focused on keeping her breath steady and her body still. She wore the loose sundress she always wore to meditate and prayed the beam of morning light she felt across her back wasn’t burning her pale skin. Her thick hair was piled on top of her head, and dark tendrils brushed across her neck, moved by the warm breeze rolling down the hills.

She, her brother, and their charges lived a nomadic existence. This retreat was in the mountains near the Bulgarian coast. It was isolated and remote. The neighbors either had no curiosity or her brothers had dissuaded them from inquiring, but no strangers had ever come to visit.

In the months and years that had followed the Battle of Vienna—the great struggle among the Fallen where her father had finally sacrificed his life—many of Kyra’s sisters had sat with her, practicing the mental discipline that would allow them to mingle among humans. One by one, they had left.

The kareshta who had longed for the world had learned the necessary spells and fled. Some to Irin scribe houses in the major cities, eager to find among the sons of the Forgiven mates who could protect them in their strange new reality. Others took human lovers or struck out on their own, longing for a taste of the life that had been so long denied them by the angels who had sired them or the Grigori brothers who had guarded them.

And then Kyra was alone.

Some of the kareshta who remained had tried to learn from her, but most were unmotivated. They didn’t desire community with humans, felt too exposed by silencing their minds, or had psyches too damaged to practice magic. Many were old, far too old to learn new magic, they said. They only wanted peace in their final years.

Then there were the children. The children were the most damaged of all.

While her brother, Kostas, remained in the city hunting minor angels and Grigori who threatened the human population, Kyra resided in the mountains outside Burgas with her half brother Sirius, caring for the weakest and oldest of their family.

She heard raised voices coming from outside her cottage. Sirius and Kostas were fighting again.

“Then you tell her!” Sirius shouted. “You tell her she’s to remain here, locked away from the world while her sisters—”

“Her sisters are not my sister. Not my twin. You know why she needs to remain close to me. I have to find a way—”

“She deserves her own life, Kostas. She deserves far more than we can give her, but while she still has time…” Sirius’s voice trailed off as Kostas dragged him back inside. She heard a door slam.

And then silence.

While she still has time…

Kyra closed her eyes, and her lips tingled at the memory of a dark corridor and a tall scribe’s stubble against her mouth. His scent was in her nose, and her fingers clutched his shirt. His arms were strong around her, holding her as she pressed her ear to the wall of his chest, searching for the sound of his heartbeat. She’d been afraid, so afraid for him.

“Come away with me. Or stay here. Just don’t leave again. Give this a chance, Kyra.”

“I can’t.”

“Your brother—”

“My brother is not the reason.”

“Then what?”

The farmhouse door slammed again, and she heard footsteps on the path to her cottage. Sirius. After one hundred years, she recognized his step. She’d watched him grow from a baby to a boy to a man. Now the tall warrior was the protector of the weakest ones. The ones who remained.

And Kyra.

Sirius knocked quickly and opened the door, only to pause and fall silent when he saw her sitting before her fire.

“Give me a moment,” she said quietly.

“I can come back.”

“Or you can wait. Patience.”

She breathed in and out for five more breaths, trying to ignore the frustration bouncing around the room. Sirius was usually the calm and quiet one, but something her sullen and serious twin had said must have riled him, and Kyra suspected it had to do with her. Sirius was constantly pushing her to be more independent. He’d trained her to fight with daggers when Kostas had refused. She’d learned how to fire a gun properly and even participate in hand-to-hand combat under his instruction.

The baby she’d raised after his mother’s death had become her teacher. He pushed, always gently, for her to go into the village more often despite Kostas’s objections. He regularly gave her tasks that would put her in the path of a variety of humans, from the local priest to the clerk at the village store. At his urging, she’d even learned to drive a car and taken a drawing class in Burgas.

She turned and motioned to the spot on the carpet next to her. “Come. It’ll do you good to meditate a little.”

Sirius rolled his eyes a bit, but he came and sat beside her.

“What are you two shouting about, bata?”

He couldn’t stop the grin. “Should you still be calling me little boy when I’m taller than you?”

“I wiped your nose when you were a baby. I can call you what I want.”

Sirius laughed and kicked his feet out, laying his head in Kyra’s lap as he had when he was a child. Kyra put her head on his forehead and let some of the nervous energy that had built up in her mind release against her brother’s skin. He’d been working in the sun, and his usually fair complexion had turned a pleasing light brown.

Sirius grabbed Kyra’s hand and pressed it to his cheek. “You’re upset.”

“No, just feeling anxious today.”

His forehead wrinkled. “The voices?”

“Not that.” She took a deep breath and imagined herself walking among the orange groves, smelling the heady fragrance of the pale cream blossoms. “I was thinking about a visit to Ava in Istanbul.”

Ava Matheson was a kareshta who had lived as a human for most of her life. She’d had no idea she was the granddaughter of a Fallen archangel; she just thought the voices she heard were the result of mental illness. When she met Malachi, an Irin warrior, she discovered a shadow world where angelic and human blood mingled. Now Ava and Malachi were “mated” in the Irin tradition, and Ava and Kyra spoke frequently by phone or video call.

Kyra suspected a visit to Ava might not be too objectionable as long as “that damn scribe” wasn’t there. Ava understood Kyra better than any other person she’d met. She’d lived with mental chaos and didn’t take silence for granted.

“It’d be good to see Ava,” Kyra said softly. “I haven’t seen… anyone outside our family. Not in months.”

“What if I had an idea other than Istanbul?” Sirius asked quietly, his eyes closed, and Kyra stroked his cheek.

Her touch, and the contact with his sisters, was one of the reasons Sirius was nearly faultless in his interactions with humans. Offspring of the angels all hungered for soul energy. Irin males got it from their Irina, but Grigori who were starved of soul energy turned to taking it from humans since most weren’t raised with sisters. They were slaves to their angelic fathers and would stalk humans like a lion hunting his next meal. Kyra had no illusions about the Grigori. Most were evil. Only a few managed to live an honorable life.

But Sirius had been raised in Kyra’s arms. Never had the boy been hungry for love or affection. Instead of a predator, he’d grown into a protector.

“What kind of idea?” Kyra asked. “You know Kostas won’t let me travel far without him.”

“You could go back to the compound in Sofia.”

Kyra shook her head. Two of her half brothers had found mates among the archangel Jaron’s daughters. Kostas’s men had once protected the women by hiding the kareshta for Jaron, but since the angel’s death, the women were free and happy to find husbands among Kostas’s men. It wasn’t mating like the Irin had, but it was something, and the Grigori couples who found each other were happy.

While Kyra was delighted for her brothers, she felt out of place at the compound in Sofia where they lived. Added to that, seeing his men content with wives seemed to have an adverse effect on Kostas, whose simmering anger bled into Kyra’s mind, sending her anxiety through the roof.

No, Sofia was not an option.

“If you don’t want to visit Sofia”—Sirius sat up and crossed his legs, grabbing Kyra’s hands and holding them between his own—“then I want you to listen to me.”