The promise, p.23
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       The Promise, p.23

         Part #4 of Fallen Star series by Jessica Sorensen
 
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Page 23

  It s hard to believe she s your sister.

  I cupped the orb carefully in my hands.

  You two are nothing alike.

  That s because she believes in good, which makes her weak.

  And what do you believe in?

  I asked.

  She smiled vainly.

  Myself.

  I couldn t help but think of the story of Malefiscus and his brother Hektor. One selfish, the other good. And in the story, good triumphed for the time being. But I wondered how the story would have gone if Hektor had to sacrifice his life to trap Malefiscus in the portal. Would bad have triumphed instead? Or would he have thrown down his life, to save everyone he ever cared about.

  The question you asked me earlier, I have your answer.

  I approached the throne, not steady with great sureness, but terrified and emotional. Because that s who I was. I wasn t a fearless soldier with a hero complex to save the world.

  I was just a girl, doing what I had to do to make things right.

  Chapter 38

  (Alex)

  A traitor?

  Laylen questioned.

  Okay, I think you ve finally lost it.

  That sounds like something a traitor would say,

  I replied, my eyes never leaving him.

  He stared me down.

  You re insane.

  He s not a traitor!

  Aislin cried as she finished removing the Mark of Malefiscus from Sophia.

  And I m not either.

  Then why was I trapped in that floor?

  We all turned to Sophia as she sat up, blinking.

  I don t understand any of this.

  Are you sure about that?

  I asked, nearing my knife to her.

  Or could your confusion be an act to make us turn on each other, leaving you room to detach Gemma s soul again.

  I bent down, getting in her face.

  Is this a desperate attempt by my father? Did he put you in the floor to get to us?

  I never wanted to detach Gemma s soul in the first place,

  she said quietly.

  I thought I was doing what was right. I thought I was protecting the world.

  No, you were ending it.

  She nodded quickly.

  I know that now, but before, what I was trying to do made sense.

  She clutched onto my arm and I shook her off.

  It s your father. He brainwashed me.

  Trust me,

  I said.

  We ve all been there.

  Something shattered to the floor.

  Oh my God.

  I turned. The glass cow that was sitting on the table was now headless on the floor and Aislin s hands were shaking.

  What s wrong?

  I asked.

  I can t deal with this anymore,

  she cried.

  He s a horrible man who messes with minds and murders innocent people. What if somehow he got into our heads?

  We all exchanged looks, none of us speaking, or trusting, waiting for something unexpected to happen.

  What are we going to do?

  Aislin said, stomping her foot.

  The only thing we can.

  I reeled back to Sophia and grabbed her arm.

  Sorry Sophia, but until we know who s in control of their own actions.

  I pushed her back in the trapdoor.

  Alex, please!

  she begged.

  You can t do this! I ve ran out of food and I ll starve.

  I snatched a few bags of chips, cookies, and bread from the cupboard and tossed them into the trapdoor.

  That should hold you until we work this out.

  Alex, please don t leave me down here. I

  I slid the tile over.

  Seal that up,

  I said to Aislin, feeling bad, but drastic times called for drastic measures.

  Aislin hurried over, running her finger along the crack.

  Signa eius intus et clauditis hoc usque.

  The tile shimmered, the cracks blending away. She stood to her feet.

  Oh no!

  What?

  I asked.

  Didn t it work?

  She turned.

  I ve done that before.

  I was about to jump for her, take her down, and tie her up until I could figure out what the hell was going on. But then Nicholas entered, solid, human, and alive. He turned over his arms, incredulous.

  It s time,

  he said, solemn for the first day in his life.

  I shoved past him, knocking him into the wall, and then I charged up the stairs, ready to wake her. She was lying, motionless in her bed, skin paled with death, but just as beautiful as ever. I didn t feel the electricity until I was right beside the bed. The life in her was so weak it was barely a shock of static. I touched her ice-cold skin and bushed her hair back, waiting for her to open her eyes.

  But she didn t stir, didn t breath, and I cupped my hands around her face.

  Gemma, can you hear me.

  The only sound was silence.

  I shook her gently by the shoulders.

  Gemma. Wake up.

  But her body was limp.

  Aislin!

  I yelled, trying not to panic. Because I knew better than to panic. But this was pushing me. I inched my mouth for hers.

  Gemma, please.

  And then I kissed her.

  Chapter 39

  (Gemma)

  When the queen freed the souls, I could hear them whisking away, back to the world, back to their bodies. Then she held out her hand, her mood elated as I placed the ring in her palm.

  She slipped the ring on her finger and her body shifted into form. Her skin was like the Lost Souls, mummified and hideous, her hair a grey veil. Her lips were thin and her eyes hollow. She let out a sigh, like she was glad to be back in her own skin. But I didn t know why. She looked better in liquid.

  That s much better.

  She stretched her arms above her head and grinned.

  You can go now. I have what I need.

  I nodded and ran as fast as I could, never looking back. Alana was waiting for me in the archway.

  You did it,

  she said happily, but there was sadness about her too.

  Congratulations.

  I tucked Nicholas s essence under my arm.

  Are you going to be okay? I could try to go back and get her to free you?

  She shook her head.

  No, you won t. I ll pay my dues, like I m supposed to.

  And then what?

  I asked.

  Will we ever see you again?

  She didn t answer, drawing me in for a hug.

  You re an amazing girl, Gemma Lucas. You really are.

  Then she let me go.

  Take care of him for me.

  I nodded.

  I will.

  Then I turned down the hall and the light captured me.

  ***

  When my feet touched ground again, I was back in the grassy field only there were no crows.

  Bout time you showed up.

  The half-faerie’s voice rose over my shoulder.

  I thought the queen had killed you or something.

  I turned, his essence tucked up against me.

  Nope, she let me be.

  I handed him the orb.

  Your essence.

  He swallowed hard, no tricky faerie evident in his eyes. In fact, he looked very human at that moment, about to be reunited with his life. He took the orb in his hands, his eyes glowing against the light, tears staining the corners of his eyes.

  Thank you.

  Two simple words, but coming from him it was a lot.

  You re welcome,

  I said.

  Now can you go tell Alex to revive me?

  He nodded, shoving the orb into his chest. And then, he was gone.

  I sat down in
the field, picking at the grass, and listening to the wind whisper. I felt different somehow, my mind less heavy, like my eyes had suddenly been opened. Annabella had told me that humans made the easiest things complicated. And she was right. The answer had been in front of me the whole time. There was no loophole for this one, no magic trick that would save me. Either I could go to the lake and end everything or I could stay away and let the world go.

  It was that simple.

  I shut my eyes, dandelion seeds kissing my cheeks as I was sucked back to my life.

  When I opened my eyes, his lips were on mine. Hot and fiery, I wanted to close my eyes again and let him keep kissing me. But the sharp zip of electricity caused him to shudder and he stumbled back.

  He let out a huge sigh.

  I thought you were dead.

  I was.

  I sat up in my bed, blinking my eyes.

  He shook his head, laughing. But then he remembered.

  Are you okay? Did you free the Lost Souls?

  I motioned at the window.

  Why don t you go look and see?

  He moved to the window and pried the board off.

  You really are amazing,

  he said, stunned by the sight of the mellow streets.

  You know that.

  Then he turned to me, with this look like he d suddenly figured out something that frightened him.

  I slid my legs over the side of the bed.

  So anything exciting happen while I was gone?

  The corners of his mouth curved down.

  Yeah, a lot actually. And I m pretty sure we might need to hide out for a while.

  Hide out from what?

  I stood, the wooziness of death still lingering in my head.

  We re already hiding.

  Hide out from them.

  He pointed to the floor.

  Aislin and Laylen and & Sophia.

  I gasped, my vision spotting.

  Gemma, breathe.

  I massaged my temples.

  I m sorry, but I think I just imagined something really weird. Did you say Sophia is downstairs?

  No, you weren t imagining it,

  he said slowly.

  Something happened.

  Something always happens,

  I said, giving a nervous glance at the shut door.

  But this? This is more than a something.

  Don t worry,

  Alex said.

  She s trapped in the floor.

  I sighed.

  Why doesn t that surprise me?

  He started to smile, but then suppressed it.

  There s more to it than that.

  How much more?

  He sank down in the computer chair.

  Sit down and I ll explain.

  So you re saying she s been trapped in the floor this entire time?

  My jaw was hanging to my knees.

  And that Aislin and Laylen were the ones who put her there?

  That s the rumor that s going around.

  He leaned forward in the chair, overlapping his fingers.

  But it makes sense. I mean, when Aislin and Laylen showed up at the Hartfield cabin that day, they seemed so confused about where they d been. And I think my dad brainwashed them temporarily. When the memoria extracto backfired on him, I think they might have been freed from him because they showed up right after that.

  I choked on a laugh.

  He arched an eyebrow.

  Care to share what s so amusing?

  It s just that this whole time I thought you were the one lying.

  Laughter snuck into my voice.

  And it turns out it was Aislin and Laylen.

  I don t think they were lying,

  he said.

  I just think they couldn t remember.

  I know.

  I wiped some tears from my eyes.

  I don t get why you think this is amusing,

  he said, trying not to laugh.

  This is some serious stuff.

  Oh, I know it is.

  I flopped back on the bed, lost in my laughter. I knew it was probably inappropriate, but for such a long time, I d questioned which legion Alex was part of. God, all that wasted energy.

  Well, I m glad you find this so funny,

  he remarked.

  I sat back up, putting my serious face back on.

  Okay, tell me how we re going to fix it. How do we know for sure if they re okay?

  He tapped his finger on his knee, considering.

  Honestly, Gemma, I really can t think of anything. Usually for this particular kind of thing, I d ask Aislin to do a spell or something, but how do we know if she does it right & and really, it s been so long, I don t think they re still brainwashed.

  And what about Sophia?

  I asked.

  Are you just planning on leaving her trapped in the floor?

  He stopped tapping.

  I was going to let you decide what to do about that. She s the one who &.

  He stopped, unable to speak.

  Destroyed my life,

  I finished for him.

  No, I don t really think that was her. I saw her in a vision, when she removed my soul and she looked like she didn t want to, but couldn t seem to stop herself.

 
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