Sisters of Sword and Song - Rebecca Ross by Rebecca Ross



Evadne stood beneath the olive tree watching Maia climb with a knife clenched in her teeth. The sun was setting, but the breeze was warm, sighing from the west, where the Origenes Sea churned just beyond the grove. It would storm by evening; Evadne could sense it coming on the wind. And then tomorrow would arrive, the day her family had been anticipating for eight long years.

One more sleep until I see her, Evadne thought, hardly remembering why she was standing in the grove until she heard Maia slip and catch herself on a limb. The tree shuddered in protest although Maia was the smallest of their family, hardly reaching Evadne’s shoulder in height. She had insisted she be the one to climb.

“Can anyone see us?” Maia asked once she had regained her balance, her words blurred by the blade still held by her teeth.

Evadne glanced around the grove. They were at the thick heart of it; the grass was spangled with light, and the branches rustled with the breeze. She could hear sounds of the villa—voices and laughter—echoing in the distance. Both of their fathers should be together, working at the oil press on the far side of the property.

“We are alone, Maia.”

Maia cut the branch and let it drop to the ground, right at Evadne’s feet. She cut another, her knife ticking against the bark.

“Do you think your father will know, Eva?”

“That we cut from the god tree?” Evadne gathered the green-and-silver leaves, staring up as Maia balanced on the tree’s warped limbs. She imagined a god tumbling through such branches, breaking his wings, and said, “Well, if my father realizes it, I will simply tell him it was all for Halcyon, and what can he say to that?”

Maia swiftly traded one worry for another. “Do you think Halcyon will recognize me tomorrow?”

“You are her cousin. Of course she will recognize you.” But despite her confidence, Evadne had gnawed on this same worry for days. She had not seen Halcyon in eight years.

Evadne remembered the morning Halcyon had departed, had traced it so many times in her memory that she often dreamt about it at night. Evadne, nine years old, propped on a crutch, her ankle bandaged as she stood in the courtyard. Halcyon, twelve years old, hair bound back in braids, her belongings packed in a satchel, waiting to ride with their father to the city of Abacus.

“Don’t go, don’t go.” Evadne had wept, clinging to her sister.

But Halcyon had smiled and said, “I must, Eva. The gods will it.”

“Do not tell her this,” Maia said, shifting to another branch, “but I was once jealous of your sister.”

“So was I,” Evadne confessed and with a shock discovered that the flame was still there, burning within her. So am I, her mind amended. I am jealous of Halcyon, although I do not want to be.

Maia stopped cutting to look at her, and for a moment, Evadne feared she had spoken her secret aloud.

“Do not mistake me,” Maia rushed to say. “I was relieved someone in our family finally inherited something good. Halcyon deserved to make a name for herself. But . . . I do wish you and I could have something, too.”

“Yes,” Evadne agreed.

She and Maia were like the other members in their family. Void of magic, all because of their ancestor, a disgraced god who had fallen into this very olive tree centuries ago to break his wings. Or so the legend stated. That was why Evadne’s father disliked anyone touching it, or climbing it, or harvesting from it. The tree had been the end of Kirkos, god of the wind. But it had also been a beginning. The beginning of this grove, of their family.

“Why would a god be so foolish?” Evadne had often ranted to her mother when they worked at the loom. “He had everything. Why give it all up?”

Truly, her anger stemmed from the fact that she was magicless and common and bound to live the same dull life every day until she returned to the dust. All because of Kirkos’s choice to fall.

And her mother would only smile, a gentle but shrewd smile. “One day you will understand, Eva.”

Well, Evadne believed she already understood. The truth was Kirkos had flown over this piece of land, a grove that was called Isaura, and had seen a mortal woman harvesting olives. He had come to love her so ardently that he had surrendered his immortality and power to remain on Earth with her, living as a mortal man, to tend the grove at her side, to give her children, to be buried beside her when he died.

If any of his descendants aspired to ascend within their court, it would not be by inherited magic but by some other gift or strength.