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The Underworld, Page 20

Jessica Sorensen

Page 20


  Laylen went over and sank down on the bed. “So that’s it then. The portal opens and the world ends. ”

  I sat down on the bed beside him. “I guess…unless we change it…somehow. ”

  “How, though?” Laylen’s eyes were still wide, staring off into nothingness. “How are we supposed to stop something that’s already been seen? It’s not supposed to work that way. ”

  “It’s not?” I questioned. “Because I’ve been told for the last few days that my whole life has been centered on trying to do just that. ”

  “Yeah, but are we even sure about that anymore. I mean, no one knows for sure why Stephan really wants the stars power? Or maybe,” Laylen turned to me, “he doesn’t want it at all. Maybe he’s trying to get rid of it. ”

  I tapped my fingers on my knee, thinking. “If he didn’t want it, though, wouldn’t he of just killed me or something to get rid of it, instead of sending me away to live with Marco and Sophia? Why keep me alive? And put all that effort into keeping me unemotional? What’d be the point?”

  “The point. ” He twisted his lip ring from side to side as he contemplated this. “Who knows what the point is. This is Stephan we’re talking about. ”

  I thought about the vision, and Demetrius and Stephan’s conversation. “Who’s Malefiscus?”

  Laylen’s jaw just about hit the floor. “Where did you hear that name?”

  “In the vision,” I said. The horrified look on Laylen’s face caused goose bumps to sprout on my skin even though it was nowhere near cold. “Demetrius and Stephan were talking and they—”

  “Wait a minute. ” Laylen cut me off. “They were there—both of them were there. ”

  I nodded. “Yeah, I was in Vegas, only it didn’t look like Vegas anymore. There was ice covering everything and there was no one in sight. Well, no one except a few Death Walkers and Stephan and Demetrius. They were talking to each other and Demetrius said something about Stephan’s scar once being the Mark of Malefiscus, but his parents cut it off when…” The look on Laylen’s face made me trail off. “What’s wrong?”

  Laylen looked utterly shocked. “So what you’re saying is that the scar on Stephan’s face used to be the Mark of Malefiscus?”

  “Yeah, but what’s the mark for?” I asked. “I mean, who gets it?”

  The fear in Laylen’s eyes had me worried. Well, more worried than I already was after seeing the world frozen at its end. “It’s the mark of evil. ”

  Why did that revelation not surprise me? “So Stephan has the mark of evil. No wonder he’s probably trying to make the world end. ”

  Laylen shook his head. “No, Gemma. The Mark of Malefiscus isn’t just the mark of evil. It stands for so much more. Malefiscus is also a man. ” He shifted uncomfortably on the bed, and then leaned in so we were huddled together and dropped his voice. “There’s this story that’s told among the Keepers, kind of like a bedtime story. ”

  “A bedtime story,” I repeated, dumbfounded. “The Keepers tell bedtime stories about a man who’s evil?”

  “An evil man the Keepers destroyed,” he explained. “But anyway, the story goes that Altamium, the very first Keeper to ever be born, fathered two sons—twin sons, Hektor and Nikon. Apparently right before they were born, a Foreseer told a vision about these sons. He said that one of the sons would grow up to be a great warrior, and the other would grow up to be jealous of the other one. And that jealousy would become so great that it would turn into hatred. Eventually, that hatred would bare a mark no one had ever seen before. The mark of evil. Or the Mark of Malefiscus as Nikon would later name it after he changed his name to Malefiscus, which means evil in Latin. ”

  “So the vision came true?”

  “Yes, the vision came true. ” Laylen took a deep breath, loud enough that I could hear the shakiness it held. “And if what you saw is true, then it means Stephan bares the Mark of Malefiscus, which isn’t good at all. ”

  “Yeah, that is bad, but I think we already knew he was evil without the mark, didn’t we?”

  “No, it’s a lot worse than him just being evil. ” Laylen leaned in even closer to me, his weight sinking the bed in, causing Laylen’s leg to bump into mine. “After Nikon—or Malefiscus got the mark, he began causing havoc all over the place. He joined forces with the Death Walkers, who up until then had been living in hiding for hundreds and hundreds of years. ” Laylen shook his head. “And things continued to get worse. The number of Death Walkers seemed to be multiplying and taking to the streets. It would have probably ended up being the ice age all over again if it wasn’t for Hektor. ”

  “Malefiscus’s brother?” I asked, checking to make sure that I was keeping up.

  Laylen nodded. “Hektor eventually defeated Malefiscus, but couldn’t bring himself to kill him so the Keepers sentenced him to a place…I’m not really sure where it was. In fact, I think no one knows, which was part of the point…so no one can find him and set him free again. ”

  “Can’t find him? But what would it matter if anyone found him—he’d be dead by now, right?”

  Laylen leaned in more, his knee pressing against mine. “Right before Malefiscus was sentenced, he found a way to become immortal, at least that’s what people say. ”

  “How did he make himself immortal?” I asked, fully involved in his story.

  Laylen slowly shook his head. “As far as anyone knows, becoming immortal isn’t possible unless someone becomes like a Black Angel or a Death Walker or a…vampire. ”

  I glanced down at Laylen’s forearm where the black symbols of his mark of immortality were tattooed. “Did he actual get the mark of immortality?”

  “I don’t know…I’m not sure if my parents left out parts of the story to sugar-coat it for me, or if there are parts that even they didn’t know about. ” A look of deep thought passed over Laylen’s face.

  “Well, if Stephan has the same mark as Malefiscus, then what does that mean?”

  “It means Stephan has to be a descendant of him, at least he most likely has to be. There are very rare cases where someone gets a mark without being a descendant from someone with the same mark” He paused, glancing down at the mark on his arm. “Well, except for the mark of immortality that is. ”

  We sat there in silence, and I wondered if he was thinking about his mark of immortality. I was thinking about a million different things that ranged from my end-of-the-world vision, to the Mark of Malefiscus, to my Foreseers mark and how I didn’t seem to be a descendant of a Foreseer. Well, at least that I knew of. Since I didn’t know who my father was, it was still possible that I might be.

  “So Stephan could be a descendant from the most evil man that has ever walked the earth?” I asked with a shiver.

  “If he is,” Laylen said, the heaviness of the situation ringing in his voice. “That would explain why he is controlling the Death Walkers. Those who have the Mark of Malefiscus have control over them. And…”

  “And what?” I pressed.

  “And it would give him a reason to open the portal. ” Laylen’s eyes pressed the gravity of the situation. “And why he’d want to try to end the world,” Laylen added. “It’s in his blood. ”

  Silence dripped by. The house was quiet and I wondered what Aislin and Adessa and Nicholas were doing, and in a way, I wished I were them and didn’t know about all of this.

  “Do you think my mom knows Stephan had the mark?” I asked quietly.

  “I think your mom may know even more than that. ” Laylen’s bright blue eyes never left me.

  Something else was bothering me. “Laylen, do you think it’s possible that Stephan… that he…,” I let out a breath. “That Stephan wants to use the stars power for something bad. That maybe that’s why he’s been keeping me around all this time. . . Do you think he might be using it to open the portal. ”

  Something about the way Laylen was looking at me made my heart stop.

  “I don’t know…” He said quic
kly looking away from me.

  “Laylen, please just tell me if you know something” I begged. “You always tell me stuff. Don’t be like Alex. ”

  He turned his head back toward me. “The thought has crossed my mind that maybe…that maybe that’s exactly what he’s doing. ”

  I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. Even though I had thought it myself, it was a lot harder to deal with hearing him say it aloud. That I could be carrying something around inside me that could end the world. That my very existence could be bad. “How long have you thought this?”

  “Since Aislin and I showed up at the Hartfield cabin back in Colorado—when Stephan showed up with the Death Walkers, but yet he didn’t try to kill you. He wants you alive for some reason. And that reason I’m sure isn’t a good one. ”

  I nodded. Keep it together. Keep it together. “Okay…Okay. ” I was trying very hard not to fall apart. But, at the same time, how could I not fall apart?

  “Are you okay?” Laylen asked, concerned.

  I had to force myself to speak and was startled by the hollow tone my voice had taken on—something I hadn’t heard it do in awhile. “Yeah, I’m fine. ”

  He looked like he wanted to say more, but I decided to stop him, because honestly, I didn’t want to talk about how I was feeling at the moment. Or about the fact that the prickle was poking at the back of my neck releasing an abundance of worry and panic at a level I had never felt before.

  “I think I better get back to Nicholas and my training. ” I stood up from the bed.

  “Gemma. ” Laylen got to his feet. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

  “Yeah. ” My voice sounded numb. “I just need to get back, if for nothing else, so I can get into The Underworld to save my mom. Then maybe we’ll get actual answers, instead of just a bunch of guesses. ”

  “Okay…” Laylen watched me as if I were a scared mental patient who was about to go off the deep end, and I left the room with a giant lump swelling in my throat.

  Chapter 15

  Nicholas was turning out not to be so bad to be around. Let me stress the not so bad part, because he still got under my skin more times than he didn’t. This could have been because, after what Laylen had said to me about him thinking that I just might be carrying around something that would end the world that I really just didn’t care anymore how Nicholas was. I mean, why waste time getting worked up over a guy who was a little bit friendly. Okay, well a lot friendly, but at least he was friendly. And yeah, he did smell strongly of flowers and rain and forest, which was kind of a strange smell to be coming off of a guy, but he was a faerie, and these little things seemed like they might just be faerie traits, and something he probably couldn’t help.