Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font  

The Underworld, Page 26

Jessica Sorensen

Page 26


  “You were lucky no one had just recently dumped any summoning ash in there,” Laylen said, glancing at the lake.

  “Summoning ash?” I asked. “What is that?”

  “In order for the Water Faeries to come up to the surface, summoning ash has to be put into the water first,” he explained.

  I nodded as I remembered how I’d seen Stephan dumping some black ash into the lake before my mom was dragged away to The Underworld.

  “Wait a minute,” I said. “How can you see any of this? I thought only the vision seer was supposed to be able to see the surroundings?”

  “I have no idea,” Laylen said. “All I can think of is that maybe we’re not in a vision, like when we traveled into the City of Crystal only we just traveled to somewhere else. ”

  Strange. “So why do you think I screwed up getting us back to Adessa’s?” I asked, picking at the grass. “Do you think it was because of the Death Walker?”

  Before he could answer a shadow cast over us.

  Alex stood unsteadily in front of us. “That and probably because you’ve been using your Foreseer power too much. ”

  I squinted up at him, standing there, the sunlight gleaming behind him. There were shadows under his eyes, and he still didn’t have a shirt on. Rounding his left rib cage was a circle traced by a set of fiery-gold flames—the Keepers mark.

  So that’s where it was.

  “I haven’t been using it that much,” I lied, trying hard not to stare at his shirtless chest. “I think it might have had something to do with the Death Walker getting a hold of me…which why were they even there? And with Nicholas?”

  Alex shook his head and sank down on the muddy grass. “Your guess is as good as mine. I honestly have no clue what the heck is going on,” he gestured around us, “with any of this. ”

  “Well, it might have something do to with the fact that Nicholas was tricking us when he said he could get me into The Underworld. ” I sat up and shielded my eyes from the sun with my hand. “He never even intended to help me get to The Underworld. In fact, according to him, he can’t even go there. ”

  Alex cocked an eyebrow at me. “What do you mean?”

  I sighed and began explaining what had been going on for the last week while he was trapped in the City of Crystal, strapped to that awful crystal ball.

  One good thing about Alex is that he’s a somewhat calm person…well, at least when it comes to stressful situations. With me…hmm…not so much. Things that would freak out a normal person barely upset him. And as I told him about the visions I’d been going into, he stayed fairly calm. The only thing that got a rise out of him was when I told him about his father and the mark—the Mark of Malefiscus. However, it wasn’t the rise I was expecting. I assumed he’d get pissed off and insist that there was no way that his father could have such a mark, but he didn’t.

  Instead, he stared out at the water, looking lost. He was quiet for so long that I began to worry he was going into a catatonic state.

  I gave Laylen a what-should-I-do look.

  He shrugged, like he had no idea.

  “Alex,” I said, keeping my voice low. “Are you okay?”

  He didn’t answer.

  I tried again. “Alex?”

  “So this blue sparkling thing you said I was giving to the Queen,” he said suddenly. “Do you know what shape it was?”

  “All I could see was that it sparkled,” I told him. “Then Nicholas pulled me away and made me take us back to Adessa’s. ”

  Alex popped his knuckles, his jaw set tight. “Okay, well we need to find out what this blue shiny thing is before we even try to head down to The Underworld. ”

  “And we need to get the Ira,” I added.

  The waves of the lake rolled up and back as we sat on the shore trying to figure out what to do.

  “What would the Queen want that’s blue and sparkly,” I thought aloud.

  Unexpectedly, Alex jumped to his feet, a little too quickly, and he tipped forward. Laylen leapt up and caught him before he dove head first into the water. Alex swayed a little before regaining his balance, and Laylen let him go. It was weird, because before Alex had left, the two had been fighting.

  “I think I might know what it is,” Alex said, gazing over at the forest.

  “You do?” I perked up and got to my feet.

  “Yeah, and it’s not too far from us. ” He nodded over at the trees. “It’s over there. ”

  I looked over at the tall green trees that encircled the lake. “It’s in the forest?”

  He nodded, stumbling as he took a step forward.

  “Okay…” I was starting to grow concerned over Alex’s balancing problem. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

  “Don’t worry about me,” he said, his tone sharp. “I’ll be fine. ”

  Well, if he was going to be rude about it, then fine. I wouldn’t worry about it. Okay, fine, technically that wasn’t true.

  “Well, what is this thing?” I asked him as I wiped the mud off of the back of my legs. “And why do you think it’s in the trees?”

  “It’s something that holds sentimental value to the Queen. ” He staggered off toward the forest like he was under the influence.

  Laylen and I both exchanged a questioning look, and then we jogged after Alex.

  “I still don’t understand why something that’s important to the Queen would be out in a forest,” I said breathlessly to Alex.

  “But yet it is,” he said, and sped up. Apparently, he’d gotten over his weakened state.

  I sped up too, the fabric of my clothes scratching against my skin with my every movement. Also, since I had been wearing flip flops when I fell into the lake, they fell off of my feet, and now I was walking around barefoot. The leaves, twigs, and rocks rubbed sharply against the soles of my feet as I practically ran to keep up with Alex. But that was okay. Alex was barefoot too, and if he was tough enough to do it, then so was I. Besides, I’d felt worse pain in my life, both physically and emotionally.

  Laylen trailed off a little ways behind us. He’d taken off his shirt while he walked and was ringing out the water. I didn’t mean to stare at him for so long—I mean it wasn’t like I never saw a guy without his shirt off before. And really, I wasn’t staring at him because he had his shirt off, so much as what I saw on his shoulder. (Well, that was stretching it a little, but I was still partially staring at his shoulder). Cupping his shoulder was the Keepers mark—fiery-gold flames bordering a black circle. So there it was; the mark that had branded him a Keeper. And right along his forearm was his other mark; the one that had branded him not good enough to be a Keeper anymore.

  Laylen shook out his shirt and then noticed me gawking at him like a stalker. He gave me a funny look and I turned around, rolling my eyes at myself.

  We walked through the forest for awhile, with Alex stopping every so often to glance around. He looked lost, and finally, with his forehead scrunched over, he muttered, “Where the heck is it?”

  “Well, if you tell us what you’re looking for, then maybe Laylen and I can help you,” I pointed out as I shooed a bug away from my face.

  “I don’t know…” He was hesitant, which meant there was something he didn’t want to say. “There’s this little hideout I use to hang out at when I was little…there’s a hill somewhere with a bush covered by violet flowers. ”

  Well, there you go. I actually knew the solution to this problem. Go figure.

  I turned in a circle, scanning through the trees and bushes, until I picked up on the direction I’d wandered in when I was in the vision and found the little hideout.

  “It’s over there,” I pointed in the direction where I was ninety-nine percent sure the hideout was.

  Alex gave me a funny look. “What is?”

  “The hiding spot we use to go to when we were kids,” I told him, adding emphasis on the “we” to make a point that I remembered.

  “You re
member that?” he asked, taken aback.

  I watched him as I started to explain, wondering how he was going to react to the fact that I knew about our little promise we made when we were kids. “While Nicholas was taking you to the City of Crystal, I unintentionally went into a vision here. ”

  He raised an eyebrow at me. “Anything important happen?”

  I shook my head, trying not to think about how I had to watch my own soul get detached before I could leave the vision.

  “Nothing important at all?”

  Now I gave him a funny look. “What does forem mean?”

  For a brief second, his bright green eyes widened in surprised, but then the look quickly disappeared and was replaced by Alex’s lying poker face, as I was going to call the straight-faced look he got whenever he was going to tell me a lie.

  “I have no idea what forem means,” he said, acting all whatever.

  My gaze drifted down to his hands and I looked for a very faint, very small scar.

  He clenched his hands into fist and started off in the direction I had pointed toward.

  I didn’t follow him. Instead, I turned around and called out to Laylen, “Do you know what forem means?”

  I heard Alex mumble curse words under his breath, but I ignored him.

  “What?”Laylen came to a stop in front of me, his eyebrows dipping down.

  “Forem. Do you know what it means?”

  He gave me a puzzled look. “Yeah, it means—”

  “Found it!” Alex yelled louder than was necessary.

  Laylen and I headed off in the direction his voice came from and found him standing on the side of the hill, holding back the branches of the blooming violet bush. I climbed up the hill, my bare feet sliding in the rocks and mud, and Alex gave me his hand and helped my over the bush. I dropped my feet down into the hole and onto the first step of the ladder. Then I climbed down into my old childhood hideout.

  Laylen, not even bothering to use the ladder, dropped in right behind me. It was pitch black, except for the soft sunlight trickling through the hole.

  “Anyone have night vision?” I asked, and Laylen let out a laugh.

  Alex pushed past us and vanished into the darkness. There was a lot of banging around, and then he struck a match. The pale orange glow orbed around the room as Alex hurried and lit a candle. Then he placed the candle down on top of a table, sat down on the floor, and began digging in the dirt floor.

  “It’s buried in the floor?” I asked, squatting down next to him.

  He nodded, digging quicker until there was a fairly good size hole. Then he stopped and pulled out a small wooden box. On the top of the box, written in child-like handwriting was the names Gemma and Alex.

  “We had a secret box?” I asked him in awe as he pried the lid open.

  He shrugged, like it wasn’t a big deal, but the glow of the candles showed a twinkle in his bright green eyes. He lifted the lid off, and all three of us leaned over the box, like we had just opened a trunk of buried treasure.

  I had to wonder what was going to be inside a box that was made by two kids—two very strange kids I might add. There was nothing too strange in it, though: a rock, a bracelet, a photo of me and my mom, which I immediately snatched up. In the photo, my mother and I stood out in a field dusted with violet flowers. The sun shined brightly in the background, and we were both smiling—happy.