Stolen Songbird Page 50

I didn\ get far. By the time I reached the tree line, Chris had caught up to me on his father\s horse. Reaching down, he grabbed hold of my reins and pulled the two horses to a halt.

’’Have you lost your mind?’’ he shouted.

I kicked the horse\s sides and tried to pull the reins free, but I was already exhausted from the short gallop, my injured side screaming from exertion. ’’I need to go back!’’ The words came out in a choked sob. ’’He\s hurt. I have to help him.’’

’’How?’’ Chris swung down from the saddle and pulled me off the horse. ’’What do you possibly think you can do? Ride back into Trollus and demand they let him go? He can\ leave, Cécile. He\s as stuck there as the rest of them.’’

’’You can\ expect me to do nothing!’’

’’That\s exactly what I expect you to do. That\s exactly what Tristan expects you to do.’’ He grabbed my chin and forced me to look at him. ’’If you go back, everything he did, everything he sacrificed to keep you alive will be for nothing. You can\ help him, Cécile, but you can ensure his sacrifice was worthwhile.’’

’’Of course you would say that,’’ I hissed. ’’You hate him. You\ e jealous of him. Don\ pretend you\d shed a tear if you found out he was dead.’’

Chris abruptly let go of me. ’’Is that what you think of me?’’

I looked away, lowering myself on weak knees to the ground.

’’You think I\d see someone dead because I was jealous?’’

’’Then prove me wrong.’’ My voice was barely audible. ’’Help me save him.’’

’’Letting you go back would be the exact opposite of helping him,’’ Chris replied, blankly watching the horses wander off to graze. ’’He made me promise to keep you safe, but even if he hadn\ , I still wouldn\ let you go. Hate me if you want to, but I\m not letting you throw your life away for a troll.’’

’’You shouldn\ even be able to speak his name.’’ I dug my fingers into the dirt. ’’You shouldn\ be able to talk about anything to do with Trollus.’’

’’He released me from those oaths. And he told me to give you this.’’ He dropped a folded letter onto my skirts, its golden embossed seal glittering under the sun. Tentatively, I picked it up and pulled it open, the sight of Tristan\s familiar script causing a pain in my stomach.

Cécile,

There is much I wish to say to you - so much, that if I had hours, even days, to write this letter, it would not be enough. All the words in this world and the next are not enough. But even as the ink on the page dries, you are dying. I have no more time than to tell you that I love you, and on the hope that you survive to read this, to warn you. You must never return to Trollus. Only death awaits you here...

My eyes skimmed the rest of the page, and then again, the page shaking between my fingers.

’’He\s giving you the chance to start over, Cécile.’’ Chris knelt next to me and pushed the trembling page down into my lap. ’’You can have a life here, if that\s what you want. Here, in the Hollow.’’

I knew what he was thinking, though the words remained unspoken. With dull eyes, I watched my family hurrying towards me. Chris was right: the right decision - the safe decision - would be to stay in the Hollow. To one day get married and have children and forget about Trollus. To forget about magic. To forget about Tristan.

You must never return to Trollus...

My eyes turned southward, towards the ocean and towards Trianon. Trollus might be forbidden to me, but there was no power on this earth that could make me forget. Or make me give up. I wasn\ powerless - far from it. I had witch magic in my blood strong enough to stop a troll, and that had to mean something. Who knew what I could accomplish with a little practice. And while I was learning, my hunt would begin. I wasn\ certain where I\d find her or what I\d do when I did, but there was one thing I knew for certain.

The witch must die.


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