The lost soul, p.21
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       The Lost Soul, p.21

         Part #1 of Fallen Souls series by Jessica Sorensen
 
Page 21

 

  “Who are you trying to convince? Me or yourself?”

  I don’t respond, taking slow steps for the hillside. My shoes slip in the loose rocks and mud as I scale to the bush blooming with violet flowers. Inside the dark hole a soft pale glow flutters. My heart skips nervously as I climb down the ladder and to the bottom of the hideout. Two silhouettes sit in the dark. Candles glow around them, orbing the dirt walls and the trunk in the corner.

  I could try and convince myself that it’s Alex and me sitting there, but the blue eyes staring at Alex are not mine. Their hands are pressed together, blood sopping from their palms. I don’t fully understand the intimate words they whisper to each other. But the one I recognize is enough.

  Forem—forever.

  And for the first time in a long time, I turn my emotions off. Because I don’t want to feel the pain. I don’t want to feel anything.

  ***

  “Can we go?” I ask Nicholas as I slide down the hill.

  “Didn’t like what you saw?” he remarks with a grin. He’s leaning against an oak tree, his arms crossed as leaves feather from the branches.

  “Just once, can you not give me a hard time?” I stop in front of him, cleaning my muddy hands on the side of my shorts. “Please. ”

  Something in my expression alleviates the cold look he carries. He doesn’t speak. Biting his lip, he glances sideways. “How bad do you want your Foreseer power back?”

  “Badly,” I reply with zero hesitancy. “It’s the only way to save my father. ”

  “And Alex?” He meets my eyes with curiosity.

  “Yes, I still want to save Alex. ” I clear the fluctuation in my voice. “I’ll always save him. ” I wonder if those words belong to me or the promise. I wonder if the dream I had was more than just images. I wonder how much of my life is real. And how much is a lie.

  He shrugs me off, but deep down he’s bothered. “It’ll cost you. ”

  I huff out a frustrated breath. “Tell me what I have to do? What will I owe you?”

  He smiles sadly. “You won’t owe me anything. ”

  “I don’t understand,” I say. “Who will I owe?”

  He exhales dramatically. “The person’s life that you’ll take. ”

  Chapter 18

  Sunlight overflows the forest, which is as quiet as a graveyard. Nicholas breathes gently and my heart drums in my chest.

  “I have to kill someone?” Spinning with dizziness, I brace my hand against the trunk of a thick tree. “To get my Foreseer’s power back, I actually have to kill someone?”

  “No, but it’s just as bad as death. ” He steps away from the tree, his hair hanging in his eyes. “You know the large crystal ball in the center of the city?”

  The coarse bark scrapes my hand. “You’re saying I have to put someone there? Are you joking?”

  “Not put them there,” he says. “But basically yeah. In exchange for returning the power of the Divination Crystal, you have to give the crystal power. ”

  “How do I do that?” I gape. “How am I supposed to just get someone to go down there and feed their energy to the crystal?”

  “How does anyone get someone to do something they don’t want to do?” he replies. “You make a bargain you know they’ll break. ”

  My hand falls from the tree. “Like Dyvinius did with Alex? Because that makes no sense. The promise would have to be made in the City of Crystal for it to be binding. ”

  “I never said it was going to be easy. ” He sketches the Foreseer’s mark on his wrist. “Getting you into the City of Crystal unnoticed is going to be the hardest part. Humans are suckers and I’m sure you can get one to hand over their life pretty easy. ”

  “I thought I was expelled from the City of Crystal? That’s what the voice said when it was reading me my punishment, which, by the way, thanks for bailing out on that. ”

  He stares at me, emotionless. “I’d watch your snotty tone, since I’m the one bailing you out now. ” He departs through the forest, dry leaves crumbling under his shoes.

  I zip up my jacket and follow him. “Why are you helping me? What’s in it for you?”

  “Nothing but the pleasure of your company,” he jokes, tucking his hands into the pocket of his jeans.

  I whirl in front of him and he runs into me. “I’m going to tell you right now, that I don’t want your help unless it’s genuine. ” I put space between us. “If it’s not, then I’ll hurt you with no hesitation. I can’t deal with your tricks right now. ” A barrel of emotions shove through my body. I suck in a breath and bottle them back up. I will not feel them.

  His eyes flood with honesty. “It’s genuine. I promise. ”

  The faerie shocks me more than he ever has. “Well, okay then. Just as long as we’re on the same page. ”

  He rolls his eyes at me. “We’ve always been on the same page. You just refused to believe it. ”

  Not true, but I don’t argue. He takes my hands, ready to foresee us away.

  “Where are we going first?” I ask. “Back to the Faerie Realm, I hope. I need to get Aislin out of there. ”

  He shakes his head. “There’s no point. You can’t save her from freeing Luna. ”

  “Wanna bet?” I challenge. “I saved the world from Stephan, so a little faerie should be easy. ”

  His eyes narrow, offended. “She’s more powerful than her size, Gemma. You shouldn’t be so judgmental. ”

  I smile, but it hurts. “I’m not being judgmental. I have you on my side now and she’s your grandmother. That’s gotta have some weight. ”

  He stares at the ground, lost in thought. “Less than you’d think. ”

  “But more than going in solo. ” I shake his hands encouragingly. “Now, come on. We need to hurry. ”

  He internally struggles with whether to help me or not. The good ends up winning, and I wonder if the faerie might be changing. But I’m not counting on it. I’ll never count on anything again.

  Nicholas squeezes my hand and floats us away, leaving the hideout and the painful memory in a trail of dust.

  “We need a game plan,” I say from up in a tree. We’re watching the cages though a space in the leaves. “How does one bargain with a faerie?”

  “Well, if you were bargaining with me, I could think of a few ways. ” He pinches my side and I elbow him in the gut. He smiles, amused. “But with Luna, it’s not going to be that easy. In fact, it’s not going to happen because you have nothing she wants. Aislin does. ”

  “Then we might have to do it the good old fashion way. ” I hop to the branch below.

  He matches my move, shaking leaves to the ground. “And what’s that?”

  “We escape. ” I leap to the next branch, a thinner one that bows under my weight. I grasp onto the side branches. “We free Aislin and run. ”

  “It sounds like something I’d do. ” He grapples the branch above my head, his floral scent potent. “Bailing out. ”

  “No, you’d just bail on your own and leave Aislin,” I say, then feel bad. “Sorry. ”

  The cages rock in the wind. I creep down the branches, slowly, head tucked in, knees bent. When I reach the cage, I spot Aislin sleeping inside. Her hands are tucked under her cheek and leaves tangle her curls. I mount the branch above the cage.

  “Aislin, wake up,” I whisper, tapping on the bars.

  She snores loudly and mumbles under her breathe words that sound like a chant.

  Checking that the coast is clear, I sidewalk to the front of the cage where the leaves are scarce. The sun and wind hit my back and if anyone walks by, they’ll see me. I observe the thick padlock and run my finger along the border of the cage door.

  Nicholas drops down beside me.

  “Do you know how to pick a lock by chance?” I yank on the door.

  His hands snake around me so I’m trapped between his arms and his chest crowds my back. He grabs the lock and I notice he has a bobby pin in his hand.
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br />   Unable to help myself, I stifle a smile. “Did you have that in your hair?”

  He sighs, his warm breath feathering my neck. “Ha, ha, your humor is hilarious. ” He sticks the pin in the lock, nodding his chin at Aislin. “I took it out of her hair. ”

  Aislin always has pins in her hair. “Oh right, good thinking. ”

  His eyes convene with mine and his eyebrows arch. “Did you just give me a compliment?”

  “I…” Glancing around, I shrug. Then I maneuver out of his arms and balance to the side of the cage.

  Nicholas works the pin up and down, and gives it a twist. The lock clicks. “Sometimes I amaze myself,” Nicholas remarks admiring his handy work.

  “I’m sure you do. ” I scoot past him and into the cage. Holding the door open with one hand, I nudge Aislin in the foot with my shoe. “Aislin, get up. We gotta go. ”

  “I’m not going to shut the door on you,” Nicholas says. “You can go in. ”

  Still holding the door ajar, I give Aislin another nudge and raise my voice. “Aislin, come on. We have to go before Luna finds you. ” I kick the bottom of her shoe, maybe a little too hard, but it does the job.

  She blinks her eyes open, dumbfounded. “Where am I?” She rubs her eyes. “Oh. OH! We’re still here. ”

  I quickly motion at the door. “Yep, and we have to hurry before Luna discovers you’re here. ”

  “What about Aleesa? And Laylen?” Disoriented, she staggers to her feet. Her pupils are dilated and glossy. “And why’s he here?”

  I glance over my shoulder at Nicholas, who’s leaning against the cage, watching us with a bored expression. “He’s helping us. ”

  She frowns skeptically. “Did you hear what you just said?”

  I nod and tug her out of the cage and onto the branch. “Again, no time. We have to get out of here before Luna comes for you. Laylen’s not here and we’ll have to come back for Aleesa when we have a game plan and the Empress isn’t heading for us. ”

  Nicholas glances from left to right. “I think she’s already here. ”

  Tiny footsteps pitter-patter toward us. From below our feet, sprites giggle and clap their hands.

  “Can you get us out of here?” I plead with Nicholas.

  “I could,” he muses. “For a price. ”

  Before I can argue, he takes our hands. Just as the Empress presents herself through the branches, he blinks and foresees us away. The last thing I see is a smile on the Queen’s face. And a smile on a queen’s face is never a good thing.

  ***

  Nicholas drops us near the lake, unable to enter the Keeper’s castle lined with praesidium. We make a beeline for the castle and settle in the library. Aislin slumps down on the leather couch, wiping the sweat and dirt from her forehead. “I feel weird, like I have a concussion. ”

  Nicholas makes himself at home on the velvet sofa in the living room. Outside, the sun is rising over the mountains, making the land glow a faint pink. “Maybe you do. Maybe a sprite knocked you over the head while you were passed out. ”