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Lost, Page 2

P. C. Cast

“Like I said, from you. In another version of our world. After Zoey called me there and Aphrodite and Nyx restored my humanity. G-ma, it’s a long story, but I swear on Zoey’s memory that you did give this to me and told me to go to you and show you. I need you, G-ma. I don’t know where else to go or who else I can turn to. Will you please let me come in? I won’t hurt you. I won’t ever hurt you.”

  Sylvia Redbird studied Kevin carefully. Then her gaze fell, once again, to the two words written in her own hand on the stationery she made for herself there on the lavender farm that grew such fragrant, unique plants that the vampyres left her in peace—as long as she kept providing them with the lavender products Neferet so enjoyed.

  “Kevin, I would like to invite you into my home.” The old woman stepped back, holding the door open for her grandson.

  He entered the cottage and took a deep breath of air scented with childhood memories. Through the tears flooding his eyes he grinned at his g-ma. “Do I smell lavender chocolate-chip cookies?”

  “You do, indeed. Would you like some?”

  “More than almost anything,” Kevin said. “But first, could I please have a hug?”

  “Oh, u-we-tsi, that would bring me great pleasure!”

  Kevin held open his arms, and his tiny, loving, beautiful g-ma stepped into his embrace. And suddenly he found himself sobbing as she held him and patted his back gently, while he released the sorrow and loneliness and regret at having to leave his sister and return to a world filled with struggle and fear.

  “It will all be okay now, u-we-tsi. It will be okay. I am here. I am here …”


  Other Kevin

  “G-ma, these cookies are the best in any world!”

  Grandma Redbird smiled fondly at Kevin. “You have restored my joy in making them. I have no idea how Neferet found out about them, but several months ago her Blue Army goons showed up here, insisting that I fill a weekly order of two dozen cookies—for the High Priestess herself. I thought it odd, but it did help insure my safety, and while they were here they also put in a standing order for my soaps and lotions …” Her words trailed off as understanding bloomed over her face. “You did this!”

  Kevin squirmed and grabbed another cookie. “Well, yeah. Everyone knows your lavender is the best in Oklahoma. Your soaps and lotions are awesome, and your cookies are special and delicious. I figured if Neferet knew about them, she would want them. She’s all about getting things no one else has, and no one else has your recipe.”

  “I don’t use a recipe.”

  “Exactly! They’re something only you can make. So, I mentioned it to a Warrior who is mated to the priestess who brings Neferet her nightly snacks. I knew all she had to do was try a cookie and she’d be hooked. Apparently, Neferet has a sweet tooth. The soaps and lotions were a bonus.”

  Grandma Redbird didn’t speak for several moments. She studied her grandson as if he was a puzzle she’d just figured out. “You were different. Even before you were pulled into that Other World.”

  Kevin nodded, speaking around a mouthful of cookie. “I kept thinking that would change—that someday I’d wake up and not be able to control my hunger at all. But it didn’t happen.”

  Grandma’s work-worn hand pressed against his cheek. “Oh, u-we-tsi, I wish you had come to me then.”

  “I couldn’t, G-ma. I was super scared of turning into a monster.” Kevin stared down at the ancient wooden table. “I couldn’t risk hurting you.”

  “So, from afar you made sure I would be one of the safe ones—the protected ones.”

  Kevin nodded.

  “Thank you,” she said simply.

  When Kevin was sure he wouldn’t dissolve into big, blubbery tears again, he met her gentle brown eyes and smiled. “It’s the least I could do after you lost Zoey. I know she was always your favorite.”

  “Zoey and I were close from the moment she was born, but that is often the way of it with grandmothers and granddaughters. That does not mean I loved her more than I love you.”

  Kevin felt tears fill his eyes again and he blinked hard to keep them from overflowing. “Really?”

  “I give you my word. It was easier to be close to Zoeybird. She wanted to cook with me, to garden with me, and to learn the ways of our people.”

  “And I wanted to play video games and tell fart jokes with my friends,” Kevin said sardonically.

  Grandma Redbird’s smile was warm with understanding. “You simply wanted to be a boy. There is no fault in that.”

  “I know I can’t fill the place left by Zo, but I want us to be close. I—I need you, G-ma.”

  The old woman pressed her hand over her grandson’s. “I am here for you. I will always be here for you. You will never be alone again, my u-we-tsi.”

  For the first time since he realized that he had to return to his world—had to somehow lead the Resistance into defeating Neferet—Kevin felt a little of the terrible weight that had settled over his body lift. “Thank you, G-ma. That makes everything better.”

  “I am glad. Now, I have a few questions perhaps you can help me with.”

  “Totally! Ask away and I’ll munch cookies.”

  “That is a fine idea. So, you’re telling me that our Zoeybird is alive in this alternative world from which you just returned?”

  “I am. And she is. Well, she isn’t exactly our Zo. But close enough. Close like that Grandma Redbird is almost exactly you too. It’s weird. Nice, but weird.”

  Grandma sat across from him, pouring herself a cup of fragrant lavender tea from the timeworn iron pot she’d used for as long as Kevin could remember.

  “Let me make sure I understand. In that world Zoey is High Priestess, and in charge. There is no Neferet, and—”

  “Neferet is there,” Kevin interrupted. “She’s magickally sealed inside the grotto in Woodward Park.”

  “That’s right,” Grandma Redbird nodded. “You said she’d become immortal?”

  “Yeah. I don’t really understand that part very well, but I believe Zo and her crew. They said she’d tried to make herself Goddess of Tulsa and went totally bat-shit crazy and killed bunches of people—humans and vamps. Uh, sorry ’bout the language, G-ma.”

  She waved away his apology. “Sometimes strong language is required. Your description is valid.”

  “Thanks, G-ma.” Kevin pointed at the copy of the journal Zoey had given him before he left her world. “Zo told me that explains a lot about Neferet’s past and her motivations. She and her friends discovered Neferet’s history is a weak spot for her. Zo thought that maybe we could find something in there that might help us defeat her here too.”

  “That does make sense. So, Neferet is entombed. Zoey is in charge. And she has opened the Tulsa House of Night to humans? Truly?”

  “Yep! You should see it—human kids were actually playing with red and blue fledglings in the snow. It was bizarre, but crazy cool, and Zo had her crew—they call themselves the Nerd Herd …” Kevin paused as his grandma giggled like a girl. “She had her Nerd Herd initiate human-student programs like the one in Tulsa all over the US. Apparently, it’s going pretty well, which is one reason why she was super worried when it seemed like Neferet might be stirring. She knew humans would be her second target.”

  “Because Zoey herself would be her first?”

  “Yep. They’re enemies. Um, G-ma, when I explained to Zo how she died here, she told me that she was positive Neferet had killed her, because in her world Neferet had killed two vamp professors the exact same way, though she staged the murders to look like the People of Faith did it.”

  Grandma Redbird paled at the mention of her granddaughter’s gruesome death. Kevin reached across the table and squeezed her hand. “It’s okay, G-ma. Just remember that she’s still alive. She’s just not here anymore.”

  The old woman nodded briskly and sipped her tea
, obviously composing herself. “Neferet’s plan in both worlds was to create a war between humans and vampyres?”


  “Zoey and her … Nerd Herd were responsible for stopping her in that other world?”

  “Yep again,” Kevin said.

  “Well done, Zoeybird,” Grandma Redbird said softly. “That other world—Zoey’s world—sounds like a lovely place.”

  “It is. Christmas decorations all over—humans and vamps mingling—G-ma, they even turned the Tulsa depot into a cool restaurant run by vamps. Humans pack it full every night.” Kevin quickly decided to leave out the additional detail about how red vamps and fledglings from this world had destroyed the restaurant and eaten everyone. G-ma didn’t need that sadness.

  “Truly?” she said with wonderment.

  “Absolutely! Zo told me they even have a farmers’ market on the House of Night school grounds every week, and the campus is completely open to humans for it.”

  “That is, indeed, magickal,” she said. “Why ever did you return here?”

  “I had to. I’m Zoey.”

  “U-we-tsi, you’re going to have to explain better than that.”

  “G-ma, just like Zo in that world, I have an affinity for all five of the elements.”

  Her eyes widened in happy surprise. “Oh, Kevin! That is lovely news.”

  “Well, yes and no. Yes, because it’s cool and a sign of Nyx’s favor. Hey, I almost forgot to tell you! Zo’s fully Changed tattoo is just like mine—only hers is blue, of course. But she also has a bunch of other tattoos—like on her palms, around her waist, down her back, across the top of her chest.”

  “She went to a tattoo artist? It sounds beautiful, but it would certainly take quite a bit of time.”

  “No, G-ma, Nyx gave her the tattoos as a sign that she was on the right path.” Kevin sighed. “I’m kinda hoping Nyx might help me out like that too. At least I’d know I was doing the right thing.”

  “And what is this right thing you’d do?”

  Kevin didn’t hesitate. “That brings me to the not-so-lovely part. Because I have an affinity for all five elements like Zo, that means I also have the Goddess-given responsibilities she does. G-ma, I have to defeat Neferet like Zo did in her world and set the balance of Light and Darkness right again.”

  Grandma Redbird didn’t miss a beat. “And how do you plan on doing that?”

  “No clue, G-ma. I have no clue.” He grinned cheekily at her. “But I’ll bet you can help me come up with a plan.”

  “If I can’t I know who can. Kevin, what do you know about the Resistance?”

  “I’m a lieutenant in Neferet’s Red Army. Our only mission right now is to find and eliminate every member of the Resistance.”

  “You being a lieutenant might help. Do you have access to information like where Neferet believes the Resistance is hiding and how they smuggle people out of the Midwest to safety?”

  “Not really. Strategy is left to Neferet, the generals in the Blue Army, and the Sons of Erebus Warriors. Even us red vamps who manage to retain enough of our humanity to be made officers aren’t included in planning. Basically, Neferet’s Warriors use us like we’re mindless weapons. When I first made the Change, I overheard General Stark talking about the Red Army. He called us expendables.”

  “General Stark sounds despicable.”

  “In this world, yep, he is. In Zo’s world he’s her Oathbound Warrior and mate—a really good guy.”

  That had Grandma Redbird looking thoughtful.

  “And General Stark isn’t wrong. All he has to do is just point the Red Army in a direction and set us loose.” Kevin shuddered. “Most red vampyres are mindless eating machines bent on devouring everything in their path.”

  “That is actually good for us,” G-ma said.

  “Huh?” Kevin said, sounding a lot like his sister.

  “Well, if this General Stark is a good guy in Zoeybird’s world, then at his core there is goodness. Perhaps he can be reached. And you’re an officer. You have access to come and go easily from the House of Night, correct?”

  “Yeah, I guess. But only between sunset and sunrise. During the day we’re all banished to the tunnels under the depot.”

  “But no one at the House of Night—not one vampyre—would imagine that you are on the side of the Resistance.”

  Kevin sat up straighter. “You’re right, G-ma! That wouldn’t even occur to them. They don’t usually include officers of the Red Army in their strategy meetings, but they wouldn’t notice if I was there, just standing around waiting to be given orders.” He grinned. “I could learn all sorts of stuff!” He hesitated, and his grin slid away. “Except I don’t smell right, and they would notice that.”

  G-ma’s eyes glittered mischievously. “Let me worry about that, u-we-tsi.”

  “Ugh, okay. So, is that our plan? You make me stinky again, and I spy on the House of Night and find out stuff about the Resistance? Then we’ll have to figure out where they are hiding before the army finds them and tell the Resistance whatever I learn.”

  “Finding them is not a problem.”

  “G-ma! Are you part of the Resistance?”

  “As Martin Luther King Jr. put it so succinctly, ‘The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people, but the silence over that by the good people.’ I will not be silenced.”

  “Holy shit, G-ma, you are part of the Resistance!”

  “I am proud to say, yes, I am.”

  “They’d kill you if they caught you. Sheesh, G-ma. Neferet wouldn’t care that you’re just one old woman. You’d die,” Kevin said.

  “I am aware of that, but, Kevin, if I stood by and did nothing my spirit would die.”

  Kevin sighed heavily. “Mine too. That’s why I came back. I have to do something, and I think I’m the only one who can.”

  “That’s very brave of you, u-we-tsi.”

  “Nah, doing the right thing isn’t brave. It’s just what decent people do,” Kevin said.


  “I want you to take me to them,” Kevin said firmly.


  “The Resistance. I want to talk with them—tell them what happened to me in Zo’s world.”

  “I’m not sure that will work. They may only see an enemy when they look at you,” G-ma said. “What might work better is for you to spy—report to me—and I’ll take them the information.”

  “That would be fine, if it wasn’t for Aphrodite,” Kevin said.

  “Aphrodite? The Greek Goddess of Love?”

  Kevin grinned impishly. “I sure think she is, but I guess technically she’s a Prophetess and not a goddess.”

  “Child, you are making no sense.”

  “Sorry, G-ma. It’s simple, really. In Zo’s world there is a Prophetess of Nyx named Aphrodite who has the power to grant second chances. Because of her, none of the red fledglings or red vampyres there have lost their humanity. She’s in this world too.”

  “Oh, Great Goddess! If only that could happen in this world as well!” G-ma exclaimed.

  “Yeah, if humanity is returned to the soldiers in the Red Army, Neferet loses her weapons,” Kevin said. “In Zo’s world Aphrodite and I had a connection.” He paused, ignoring the fact that his cheeks felt super warm. “She, um, told me to find her other self in this world, and that she’d love me too.” Grandma Redbird’s brows lifted, but she said nothing. Kevin cleared his throat and continued. “Also, Zo said I have to put together my own circle—basically, my version of her Nerd Herd. I already know that at least two of the vampyres I need to recruit are blue—and are at the Tulsa House of Night right now.”

  “But, u-we-tsi, the Resistance is filled with many blue vampyres. Can you not just use them for your circle?”

  “I guess, but Zo’s Nerd Herd is different�
��just like her—just like me. They have affinities for their elements too.”

  “Which makes her circle more powerful than a regular one,” G-ma said.

  “Yeah. Do you see why I have to do more than just spy for the Resistance?”

  “I do. And because I do, I am much more hopeful about our chances for success than I was just minutes ago.” Grandma Redbird glanced out the front picture window. “Dawn is already pinkening the horizon. We will sleep, u-we-tsi, and tomorrow—tomorrow we go to the Resistance.”

  “Okie dokie, G-ma,” Kevin said bravely before he shoved another cookie in his face and thought, Ah, hell …


  Other Kevin

  “Sap-a-loop-ah? Really, G-ma? Talk about the middle of nowhere,” Kevin said as G-ma directed him to exit the Turner Turnpike.

  “Kevin, pronounce it correctly.”

  “Fine. Sapulpa. Still—really, G’ma? Why here?”

  “Because, as you said—middle of nowhere. Which is an excellent place for the headquarters of the Resistance, as Sapulpa is only about thirty minutes from downtown Tulsa. Close enough to be useful, but still a rural town with nothing to interest vampyres except several ranches that grow some of the best alfalfa in the state.”

  “So, they have just enough going on to be protected by Neferet, but not enough going on to interest her into actually hanging out here or anything.”

  “Exactly. Take a left at the next light. That’s South Hickory. Then follow this road for about a mile until we go through a couple of stop signs. After the smoke shop look for Lone Star Road and turn right onto it.”

  “Where the heck are you taking us, G-ma?”

  She smiled seraphically. “To one of those lovely little alfalfa ranches, u-we-tsi.”

  They wound along Lone Star Road, passing rolling fields, some left fallow to ready for the spring planting, and some already green with winter wheat. As per usual for Oklahoma, the houses went from gorgeous almost-mansions to crappy trailers, and back to mansions.

  “Hey, check it out, G-ma. It’s the Okie white-trash trifecta—a trailer house, an above-ground pool, and an old mattress those pit bulls are using as a bed—all in one yard.”