The Underworld, Page 21Jessica Sorensen
At least that’s what I was telling myself.
It’d been two days of excruciating training, falling into visions, blinking out of visions. Fortunately, I hadn’t dropped down into anything world-ending, because I really didn’t want to see that again. In fact, I hadn’t dropped into anything important at all, which was okay with me.
I needed a break from seeing things I didn’t want to see, like the world frozen over by ice, my soul getting removed, and me curled up in a little ball with my eyes looking very empty.
It was too much.
After my crazy little episode I had during the world-ending vision, Nicholas had decided to take control over where we went for now, and all these places had ended up being fairly dull places so far. What Nicholas didn’t know—but desperately wanted to know—was what I had seen when I dropped into the end-of-the-world vision. He pressed me to tell him for over an hour before finally giving up.
And now here Nicholas and I were sitting on the black and white tile floor of Adessa living room, with the shimmering, violet ribbon floating, crystal ball balanced between us.
“So where’s the next place we’re going?” I asked Nicholas.
He was wearing a bright green shirt, and a pair of dark blue jeans. Each night, after everyone went to bed, he’d leave, and when he would return in the morning he would be all cleaned up and ready to go.
“Hmmm…. ” He tapped his finger on his lips, which he almost always did when I asked him a question. “That’s a good question. ”
“And it’s a question only you can answer,” I pointed out, crossing my legs.
“Maybe…or maybe not,” he wavered. “I think maybe it is time for you to try and pick the place again. ”
I shuddered as I remembered the end-of-the-world vision I had thrown us into the last time I’d tried to control going into one on my own.
Nicholas must have sensed something was wrong with me because he said, “If you don’t practice going into and out of visions on your own then you’re going to be no use when it comes to trying to go into The Underworld. Besides, practicing might help you when you drift off into one of your visions without a crystal ball. ”
Okay, time to change the subject. “Okay. ” I took a deep breath and extended my hand out to Nicholas, my other hand hovering over the crystal ball. “Then I’ll try again. ”
“Do you have an idea where you’re going to take us?” Nicholas asked, taking hold of my hand and unnecessarily intertwining our fingers.
“Yeah, I have an idea…. ” I shut my eyes and brushed my fingers across the cold glass of the crystal ball.
Yeah, it might have been a stupid idea, but I figured it was the best way to get an answer to my current problem. I mean, how bad could it end up being? I had already seen the world at its end, and there weren’t many things that were worse than seeing that.
But with as inexperienced as I was, I knew I was taking a risk, especially since Nicholas had warned me before that when we actually tried to enter The Underworld through the Ira, many things could go wrong.
I needed to know, though, how I was going to do it—how I was going to get my mother out of The Underworld. Because I had no idea, and neither did Laylen. When I had asked him how I was supposed to get my mom out of there, Laylen had looked as perplexed as I felt. And asking Alex was not an option, at least not until he got back, which his release date hadn’t been determined yet.
It was important that I knew what kind of bargaining tool we would use to get the Queen to let my mom go, and the only way I could think of to do this was to see what I would do. Of course, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work or not. For all I knew, the vision would show me that I would fail—that I don’t free my mom.
But I had to try.
I honestly wasn’t sure whether I had pulled it off, as I had taken us through the crystal ball, all I kept thinking was: The Underworld, my mom’s freedom, the Queen. But even after I landed with a great stumble, and a bump of my elbow, I still wasn’t sure I was in the right place.
“So where’d you take us,” Nicholas asked, rubbing his hands together excitedly. “Somewhere good I hope. ”
“Um…” I stared down the tunnel we were standing in, the walls dripping with musty water and moss traced the cracks in the dirt floors. Was this The Underworld? “I think I…” I tried to think of something to tell him and then I thought, you know what, who cares. We were here so I might as well tell him the truth. “I think we might be in The Underworld. ”
He was not happy. And I found out right then and there that faeries can get very angry very fast.
“You what?” He was struggling to contain himself.
“I think I took us to The Underworld,” I repeated, feeling like I might need to duck down and take cover.
He opened his mouth and sputtered a bunch of incoherent words and then kicked the wall of the tunnel, causing bits and pieces of mud and dirt to crumble to the floor. He was pissed, and I totally got that, since he had told me a bunch of times to take us to a simple places. But then a shriek ricochet through the air, and all of my attention went to solving where the noise had come from.
“What’s wrong?” Nicholas followed my gaze, even though he couldn’t see anything. “Is it a Water Faerie?”
I squinted through the blackness of the tunnel, trying to see what was at the end of it—something white, but I couldn’t make out precisely what it was.
“I don’t know…” I moved forward, straining my vision. “Something…”
“Something what?” Nicholas demanded with urgency.
“White and wavy and…” Oh no. I’d seen this thing before, once in a dream, when I had heard my mother call out my name. It was the thing that had sent a new level of fear charging through me. “Ghostly and boney. ”
Nicholas tugged on the back of my shirt and pulled me to the side of the tunnel, pressing us up against the wall. “It’s a Water Faerie,” he hissed.
“Yeah…but it can’t see us,” I pointed out.
He shook his head and whispered, “It’ll be able to sense I’m here. ”
I stared at him, shocked. “How?”
“Water Faeries are fey so it’ll be able to sense I’m here because I’m part fey. ” His tone singed with anger. He pushed himself closer against the dirt wall. “And if it does…. ” He didn’t finish, taking a shuddering breath.
I leaned toward him, keeping my voice low. “So what do you want me to do then?”
“Keep me away from it. ” He held out his hand for me to take. “I can’t see it—you know that—so you’ll have to guide me away from it. Once we get far enough away from it, take us back to Adessa’s. But don’t do it while the Water Faeries are close—it’ll more likely be able to sense I’m here, and that’ll make things even worse for me. ”
I looked up and down the tunnel, trying to decide which way to head. The only difference between the two ends was that one had a Water Faerie floating toward us and one didn’t.
“Come on. ” I grabbed his hand and led him toward the unoccupied side of the tunnel, moving fast, the air swelling damper with each step we took. At one pointed I shot a quick glance over my shoulder and saw the Water Faerie a little ways behind us, gliding through the air, all pale and mirage-like, and close enough that I could see its eyes were hollowed out like a skeleton.
We ran faster.
Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Nicholas and I were stepping out of the tunnel and out into a large, open cave. Rays of white light glittered from all over, hitting the rocky floors and walls like tiny laser beams. In the center of the cave stood a throne-shaped graphite rock, the back of it snaking up to the domed quartz ceiling.
“Where are we?” Nicholas asked, giving a quick glance over his shoulder, even though he couldn’t see anything. “And where’s the Water Faerie? Is it gone? Can you get us out of here?”
Looking back over my own shoulder, I saw tha
t the Water Faerie had vanished. “It’s gone. ” I turned back around. “And we’re in some sort of cave with a throne. ”
“It’s the Queen’s quarters. ” Panic laced his voice and he jerked on my arm. “We need to go. Now. ”
I didn’t budge. “Just a second…I just need to see something first. ”
Nicholas kept pulling on my arm, but I refused to move, digging my feet into the dirt as I waited for something to happen. I could feel that something would, I just hoped it was the Queen entering, along with a future me and future Nicholas as we tried to strike up a deal to get my mother out of this creepy place.
“Gemma!” Nicholas hollered. “We have to get out of here!”
I looked at him, his expression petrified with fear, and a realization clicked. “If it’s so bad that a Water Faerie can sense you’re down here, then how are you supposed to come down here with me to save my mom? And…if you want to leave so badly, why don’t you just take us out of here yourself?”
“Because. . . ” He let out a breath. “Look, I can’t give you the details, but I can say that there are certain reasons—rules that won’t allow me down here…And I can’t take us out of here, because I can’t—my Foreseer power is no use down here. ”
I gaped at him. “So, if all that’s true then how did you ever plan on helping me save my mom?” His silence told me what I needed to know. “You weren’t ever planning on it, were you?”
More silence and I wanted to smack him.
“I can’t believe this. These last few days have been nothing but a bunch of lies and games, haven’t they?” I balled up my fist, infuriated. “This whole training thing was just a charade, wasn’t it?”
He shrugged, being super obnoxious.
“Why would you do that?!” I cried.
He shrugged again, his scared expression now replaced by a deceitful smile. “To spend time with you, of course. ”
I opened my mouth, ready to scream a few choice words at him, but then snapped it shut when I saw her out of the corner of my eye—a woman with long brown hair and bright blue irises. My mother.
She had entered the cave and walked up to the throne, where she started to dust it off with a white cloth, as if she were a cleaning maid. After she had finished, she stood there for a moment staring at the throne. Even from where I stood, I could see the emptiness in her eyes; an emptiness that hadn’t been there when I had seen her in the previous visions.
Another scream shook at the air, like the one I heard earlier, and moments later another woman came into the cave. She was dressed in white; her eyes were two sunken in holes, and her snow-white hair trailed down her back like a wedding veil. I knew she had to be the Queen by how she carried herself; with utter confidence as if she owned the place. And also by the way my mom’s eyes lit up with fear when she saw her.
Unlike the Water Faeries, the Queen didn’t float, and she looked mostly normal except for that fact that her skin was nearly translucent and she didn’t have any eyeballs.