The promise, p.20
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       The Promise, p.20

         Part #4 of Fallen Star series by Jessica Sorensen
 
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Page 20

 

  I turned to Alana.

  I wasn t sure if I was in the right place.

  She smiled, stretching her hand to me, her bright green eyes welcoming.

  You re not quite there yet, but almost.

  I took her hand and she led me up the stairs, my body strangely lighter with each stair. I felt a weight rising off my chest, one I hadn t known I was carrying and everything started to make sense, like the pieces of the puzzle had finally connected.

  We re going to die,

  I said, calm and composed, my head clearer than ever, as if the poison I drank had been filled with knowledge.

  Alex and I we have to, don t we? Otherwise, there s no getting rid of the star or Stephan and everything that comes with him. It has to happen that way, because it s the only way.

  The portal will open regardless,

  she said, nodding.

  But the death of the star will kill it and everything in it.

  Is there any other way?

  I wanted to make sure.

  A way where I could at least save him?

  You d do that?

  Her hair drifted across her face as she turned her head at me, astonished.

  You would save him and let yourself go?

  It was like my life flashed through me, my mind trying to reach unreachable memories. A month maybe even a week ago, I d have said I didn t know. But now, in my death, it was different. My eyes were finally opening from a life of blindness.

  I think so,

  I said as we stopped at the top of the staircase in front of solid black door.

  Hold onto that thought for a while.

  Alana gripped the doorknob.

  Right now, you need to focus on the queen.

  Because it s not as easy as you said it was going to be,

  I said, knowing there was difficulty before me.

  She swung the door open.

  Nothing s ever easy, Gemma. Even in death.

  And death this was. The air was so thick it suffocated the light, replacing it with a darkness so heavy I nearly buckled to the floor. The foulest smell touched my nose, like the stench of something rotting. I gagged, feeling like I was floating yet falling.

  Keep your head down and try not to look at them,

  she whispered and then vanished through the doorway.

  I tipped my chin down, my hair a curtain around my cheeks. I tried not to breathe the intoxicating air and that s when I realized my need for air was gone. It s the most fascinating thing and that s where I fixed my attention. But then I glimpsed a bony foot in my peripheral vision and I couldn t help it. I peeked between the slivers of space in my hair. They were like mummies, pail and frail, with no meat on their bones, eyes as hollow as their coffins. I told myself to shut my eyes, but I was too fixated on the dead. The tortured. The lost.

  Some of the souls you re here to save,

  Alana explained over her shoulder.

  But don t look at them. It ll upset Helena.

  Lovely. I hurried to catch up with her.

  How s it going to be harder? Is the queen going to want more than the ring?

  No, you ll understand soon. And Gemma, whatever you do, don t give her that ring until you ve sealed the promise for the freedom of the Lost Souls that were lost because of the mark.

  Will she know what I mean when I say that?

  I asked, shutting my eyes as one of the souls let out a sharp cry.

  Does she know why I m here?

  She s the Queen of the Afterlife,

  she whispered.

  Not the Ruler of the City of Crystal.

  I dared another glimpse at the souls, secretly looking for one that looked like my mother, hoping I wouldn t find her.

  She s not here.

  She ducked her head as the ceiling dipped down

  And be grateful she s not.

  We reached the end of the tunnel and I suddenly understood what Alana meant. These weren t just Lost Souls, they were tortured souls. The room pulled at my memories of The Underworld, where the Water Faeries tormented those who were sentenced there. This place was the same; bones breaking, painful cries, as the mummy-like bodies were forced to work by men with whips and daggers.

  But the difference between The Underworld and the Afterlife was that these souls weren t evil.

  They were lost.

  Chapter 34

  (Alex)

  So we fixed the sink.

  Laylen leaned back against the counter and folded his arms.

  Now what?

  I contemplated this, trying not to think about Gemma, upstairs lying dead in her bed.

  Unless there s something else broken, I don t have a damn clue.

  I m pretty sure we only made the sink worse.

  He stared at a pool of water on the floor next to his feet.

  What were we even trying to fix?

  I asked, not even attempting to hide the fact that I knew zero about plumbing.

  Laylen shrugged.

  I don t know, I just thought it looked funny.

  That s probably why we couldn t fix it then.

  I dropped down in a chair, scooting the tools out of the way, and rested my head on the table.

  So who wants to help?

  Aislin asked, her cheerful voice like a knife to my ear.

  Go away,

  I mumbled.

  If you re going to be cheerful.

  She prodded my side with her foot.

  Stop being a downer. I need your help.

  With what?

  Laylen asked.

  Wait. Let me guess. A spell.

  With removing your Mark of Immortality.

  I raised my head, glancing at Laylen, who was staring speechlessly at Aislin.

  You ve figure out how?

  I asked her.

  When?

  She shook her head, frowning.

  I m not sure if I m quite there yet, but I m close enough that I want to test it.

  On me.

  Laylen raised his eyebrows.

  She nodded energetically.

  Then after I ve perfected that, it s on to the shield removing spell. Of course, I m not sure how I m going to figure out if that one works & well, unless I went to Stephan and used a spell on him.

  That s not happening. No one s ever going to be around him again. It s too dangerous,

  I said.

  Hold on & Why didn t anyone give up our location when you guys switched sides?

  Because I put an interpres incantatores on us,

  she said.

  When you left you missed out on all the amazing things I did.

  She put her hands on her hips.

  I put the spell on the five of us to prevent anyone from telling an enemy our location.

  She glanced at the boarded window.

  And we have a lot of enemies.

  But why didn t you do the spell on me.

  She raised her hand in front of her.

  Non proferre verbum ad emeny.

  Then she sparked silver dust all over me.

  Dammit Aislin!

  I jumped to my feet, dusting off my jeans.

  What was that crap?

  That was the spell,

  she said and Laylen laughed, thinking she was funny or something.

  I m getting good at this witch thing, huh?

  Hopefully good enough to even remove the Mark of Immortality.

  I brushed the last of the silvery stuff off.

  Oh, I am.

  She dropped a book on the table and opened it to a marked page.

  I raised my eyebrows at her.

  What s that?

  A spell book.

  She said in a duh way.

  Sorry I m not more up to date with my witchcraft knowledge,

  I said, shoving her hand out of the way.

  Bonum et malum. What is that?

  It s the Good and Evil
spell.

  She turned the book, sat down, and Laylen joined us.

  It separates the good from the evil.

  But the Mark of Immortality isn t a good thing.

  Laylen covered the Mark of Immortality on his arm.

  So trying to take it off Stephan? That s bad and bad.

  That s not what this is.

  She tapped her finger on the page.

  This spell separates things that don t go together. Like Stephan and the Mark of Immortality. Or like Laylen and his mark.

  It seems like a long shot.

  I crossed my arms on the table.

  Can t you just use the same spell you ve been using to take off the Mark of Malefiscus?

  Magic doesn t work like that.

  She turned the page.

  Everything works according to rules. And as a witch, I think this will do it. There s just one tiny little problem.

  I flopped my head back and sighed.

  And what s that?

  There s this thing about blood.

  She flipped the page back.

  It needs the blood of someone who s both good and bad. So any ideas?

  I had one idea, but I wasn t about to say it. If I d learned anything, it was never to mention this particular person s name in reference to something bad.

  I have an idea.

  Laylen paused.

  Me.

  Glad he was the one who said it.

  You what?

  Aislin asked, puzzled.

  Me, as in my blood.

  He stared at the table, ashamed.

  Oh, I don t think that s what it means,

  Aislin said, skimming the pages with her finger.

  It couldn t be &

  Why not?

  I decided to put my two cents in.

  He s a vampire and a Keeper. Good and bad, well at least the Keeper part is kind of good.

  Alex,

  Aislin started.

  No,

  Laylen put his hand over hers.

  I think it might work, if that s the spell you want to try.

  She blinked dazedly at his hand and I rolled my eyes.

  I don t know. I mean, I guess it might work.

  Alright then.

  I rubbed my hands together.

  Let s do it.

  It more complicated than that, Alex,

  she said.

  We need more than just blood.

  What else do you need?

  I heaved a dramatic sigh.

  Ice from an Iceberg, salt only from the sea? Or how about the toe of a faerie?

  No, nothing like that.

  She paused and then smiled skillfully.

  And besides, if we needed the toe of a faerie we wouldn t have a problem. We ve got one upstairs.

  That one s a ghost.

  But not for long.

  I hated the direction of this conversation. It forced me to think of Nicholas up there with Gemma.

  So what else do we need?

  She ran her fingers along the list of ingredients.

  Honestly, the worst thing is the blood. Other than that, I probably have most of these things. And anything I don t have can be picked up from a basic witch store.

  She scooted back from the table.

  I ll go check and see what I got.

  She s crazy,

  I muttered, shaking my head.

  She s your sister.

  Laylen muffled a laugh.

  And she s your what?

  I questioned.

  Because I m still not clear on that.

  We stared each other down. He knew what I was thinking, and it was a thought that had crossed my mind more than once. Gemma and Laylen had this close connection and I was never exactly sure what it meant. Were they just friends? Or did he like her more than that?

  That s really none of your business.

  He rapped his hand on the table and stood up.

  I think I ll go help Aislin.

  The stillness of the kitchen wore on me quickly. It was driving me crazy not knowing what was going on. Not knowing if everything was going smoothly.

  Not knowing if she d make it back to me.

  Chapter 35

  (Gemma)

  This was worse than I expected,

  I told Alana. We d put the torture chamber far behind us and I was happy for a brief moment, before realizing the sights of that room would haunt my dreams for a long time.

  You expected less?

  She gestured at the decaying walls, lit up by red lanterns.

  This is death Gemma.

  I know,

  I said.

  But I guess I didn t really look at it like that until now.

  When people die before their time,

  she traced her hand along the wall,

  their soul is considered lost. There s no real place for these souls to go, so they end up here. Queen Helena collects them and turns them into the mummies you saw working as slaves.

  But my mom.

  I swallowed hard.

  You said she crossed over. So her soul s not here right?

 
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