The ​Crown of Gilded Bones

Page 31

“Then you saw the deities chained there, left to die?” Their fate still made me sick to my stomach. “I was kept with them. I don’t know for how long. A couple of days? Alastir and Jansen said that the deities had become dangerous.” I told them the story, repeating what Jansen and Alastir had told me about the children of the gods. “They said that I too would be dangerous. That I was a threat to Atlantia, and that was why they were…doing what they were. Were the deities really that violent?”

Kieran’s gaze touched Casteel’s over my head as he said, “The deities were gone by the time we were born.”

“But?” I persisted.

“But I’ve heard they could be prone to acts of anger and violence. They could be unpredictable,” Casteel stated carefully, and I tensed. “They weren’t always like that, though. And not all of them were. But it had nothing to do with their blood. It was their age.”

I frowned. “What do you mean?”

Casteel exhaled heavily. “You think an Atlantian’s lifespan is unthinkable, but a deity is like a god. They are immortal. Instead of living two and three thousand years, they lived double and triple that,” he said, and my heart stuttered. “Living that long would make anyone apathetic or bored, impatient and intolerant. They…simply grew too old and became cold.”

“Cold? Like the Ascended?”

“In a way, yes,” he said. “It’s why the gods went to sleep. It was the only way they could keep some sense of empathy and compassion. The deities never chose to do that.”

“So even if that were to happen to you,” Kieran began, drawing my gaze to his, “you would have thousands of years before it came time to take a very nice, long nap.”

I started to frown, but what Kieran said slammed into me with the speed and weight of an out-of-control carriage. My heart started racing as I stared at him first and then turned to Casteel. A tingling sensation swept over my skin as my mouth tried. “Am I…am I immortal now?”

Chapter 11

Casteel’s chest rose with a deep breath. “What I know is that I took what was left of the blood in your body. And when I felt your heart stop,” he said, clearing his throat, “I gave you mine. It was my blood that restarted your heart and kept it beating, and it was my blood that fed your body. There isn’t a drop of mortal blood in you.”

My lips parted as I tried to wrap my head around what he was saying—and what it meant.

“And that is not all I know,” he continued, and a fine tremor danced through my body. “You…you don’t feel mortal to me.”

“You don’t feel that way to me either,” Kieran added. “You don’t smell mortal any longer.”

“What…what do I feel like? What do I smell like?” I asked, and Kieran looked like he didn’t want to answer that question. “Do I smell more like death?”

He blinked slowly. “I wish I’d never said that.”

“Do I?” I demanded.

Kieran sighed. “You smell of more power. Absolute. Final. I’ve never smelled anything like it.”

“You don’t feel like an Atlantian or an Ascended,” Casteel said, curling his fingers around my chin and guiding my eyes to his. “I’ve never felt anything like you before. I don’t know if that means you feel like a deity. My parents would know. Maybe even Jasper, but he was very young when he was around any of the deities so I’m not sure about him.”

Before I could demand that he find Jasper immediately, he continued, “And I don’t even know if you will continue to need blood.”

Oh, gods.

“I hadn’t even thought of that.” My newly restarted heart was going to give out on me. Vamprys needed blood—mortal or Atlantian—nearly every day, while an Atlantian could go weeks without feeding. I didn’t know about deities and the gods. Wasn’t sure if they needed blood or not. No one had really specified that, nor had I even thought of it. “Do deities and gods need blood?”

“I don’t think so,” Casteel answered. “But the deities were guarded when it came to their weaknesses and needs. The gods even more so. It’s possible.”

I bet his mother would know. But even if they needed blood, it truly didn’t matter. I was neither of those things.

“I don’t even know if I can think of that right now. Not because I find it repulsive or anything...”

“I know. It’s just different, and it’s a lot to add on top of a lot. But we will figure it out together.” He tucked a strand of hair back from my face. “So, I don’t know if you’re immortal or not, Poppy. We’ll have to take that question day by day.”


Living thousands and thousands of years? I couldn’t process it. I couldn’t even fully comprehend it when I had been the Maiden and believed I would go through an Ascension. The idea of living for hundreds of years had frightened me then. A lot of that had to do with how cold and untouchable the Ascended were. I knew that the Atlantians and the wolven weren’t like that, but it was still a lot to wrap one’s head around.

And if I ended up immortal, Casteel wasn’t, even though he could live like a hundred or more mortal lifetimes before he truly began to age. He still would. He would eventually die. And if I was something…else, I wouldn’t.

I shut down the unnecessary panic so I could freak out about it another day—like maybe after I learned if I truly was immortal.

I nodded, feeling rather logical at the moment.

“Okay,” I said, taking a nice deep and slow breath. “We’ll take that day by day.” Something occurred to me then, and I looked at Kieran. “You’re going to be happy to hear this. I have a question.”

“I am so thrilled.” Only the light in Kieran’s eyes told me that he was glad I was alive and able to ask questions.

“If the wolven were bonded to the deities, how did they not protect the deities during the war?” I asked.

“Many did, and many died in the process,” Kieran said, and my shoulders tightened. “Not all deities were killed, though. There were several left after the war, ones who had no interest in ruling. The wolven became very protective of them, but there was a rough period after the war where relations between the wolven and Atlantians were tense. According to our history, an ancestor on your husband’s side handled it.”

“What?” I looked at Casteel.

“Yep. It was Elian Da’Neer. He summoned a god to help smooth things over.”

“And the god answered?”

“It was Nyktos himself, along with Theon and Lailah, the God of Accord and War and the Goddess of Peace and Vengeance,” he told me, and I knew my eyes were wide. “They spoke with the wolven. I have no idea what was said, I’m not even sure if the wolven alive today know, but the first bonding between the wolven and an Atlantian came out of that meeting, and things calmed down.”

“Was your ancestor the first to be bonded?”

Casteel grinned as he nodded. “He was.”

“Wow.” I blinked. “I really wish we knew what was said.”

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