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       Underland, p.20

           Chanda Hahn
 
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  “Look, Kira Lier, and tell me what you see.”

  Kira walked over to the loom. She stared at the blackened half of the tapestry, trying to see what had once been displayed. Nothing was there but black thread. Over and over, the woman pushed the shuttle with gold wool through the loom and it turned slowly black.

  Whatever picture she was weaving would disappear.

  Kira leaned closer to the woman nearest the black part of the loom. She stared, concentrated. Suddenly, the darkness parted, and Kira could see color underneath.

  It looked like an alley—one in the pearl district that she was familiar with. She leaned a little closer and saw a box next to a dumpster, a girl that looked like her. It was her world.

  Not just her world, but her.

  The Fate whose weaving turned black, her face hidden by a shawl, picked up a pair of scissors and cut off a loose piece of thread. She started to hum off-key, and Kira recognized the tune. The woman rocked and sang under her breath, “Kira Lier brings death wherever she goes.”

  “It can’t be,” Kira breathed out in fear. But one look at the ringed fingers, thick as sausages said it must be. Kira’s hand shook as she reached up to touch the woman’s arm. The woman turned her head, and Kira saw her face beneath the head shawl. She jumped.

  Madame Fortuna sat before her. Her eyes white as death and unseeing, she continued to push the shuttle through the loom, cut the cord, and sing softly to herself.

  “So it’s true then,” the nameless goddess said softly. “You can see the dark side of the tapestry?” Her hands brushed the darkened, finished section, and she looked up at Kira hopefully. “What about her? You’ve seen her before…in your world maybe?” She pointed to Madame Fortuna.

  “Yeah.” Kira felt her patience suddenly departing. “She’s just a kooky old fortune teller. She spoke my name and death, lots of death.”

  “No, this is Atropos, one of the Fates. She must have been trying to send you a message in your world.”

  “I wish I could have heeded it too, and never showed up here.”

  The goddess pursed her lips and spun her hair around her finger. “I think you must go. You can’t stay here. Hermes and Ares must think you’re their champion.”

  “I don’t even understand who I am. I’m nobody.”

  “No, the reason Hermes brought the games back was because long ago, a great and terrible killer was foretold, one who would save us from the darkness. As you can see, the blackness of the loom is slowly spreading like a disease.”

  “The games were their way of searching for that person—to find that gruesome champion, the killer the prophecy foretold.”

  “I think they would have found them after thousands of years,” Kira said a little frustrated.

  “No, all of the champions have failed the final test. The Underlords have become desperate as more of the races here are losing power. We’re forgetting ourselves. They’ve been sending criminals to the games for years, then the slaves, and anyone that’s in debt. They’ve tried to raise the stakes and glorified the competitors. But no one has completed the final game. I think the Fates got it wrong. They haven’t been searching for a killer. They’ve been searching for you…Kira Lier.”

  Kira’s legs weakened, and her world started to spin. “You’re wrong. You have to be.”

  “You think the gauntlet and the ring are horrible. You haven’t even seen the Labyrinth.” The woman looked worried. “We must get you away from here.”

  “Can you help me get home?” Kira asked feeling a shred of hope.

  “I do not have the power to send you back home, but I know of one who can. Come.” The woman left the weaving room, and Kira couldn’t help but stare at the one called Atropos. Was she really the same woman who appeared to her in the alley or just a projection of her?

  “Really, I can go home?” Kira asked. She felt like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz. All she had to do was click her red ruby slippers together and she could be back on the surface.

  The surface.

  Following the woman, she paused at an open window and looked out of Olympus Tower. So many lights were scattered for miles in the darkness. The main overhead lights were dimmed, so it must be the allotted night time. One of those lights came from the silo, where Zeke and Den were.

  She pressed on, an ache in her chest.

  She hadn’t gotten to say goodbye. She even missed Chaz and—she hated to admit it—Warrick. Wow, now she really felt like she was reliving a book, because the thought of leaving those three really made her pause.

  For once, she had friends. And she couldn’t honestly call her feelings for Zeke friendly. They were something so much more. If she left, she might never see him again.

  No, she definitely wouldn’t ever see him again.

  She’d never find her way back to Underland. Everything she’d learned here seemed impossible. Like she was reading a fairytale. Not a fairytale. A Greek myth. It was surreal.

  They went down the set of spiral stairs until they ended in front of a black wooden door. “There’s only one person I know of with the power to send you back to your home.”

  “Who is it?” Kira asked as she stared at the door. Deep scratch marks marred the wood, and she feared that this was a trap—that behind this door was another monster.

  “Knock, Kira Lier, and enter,” the woman spoke. “Don’t be frightened. For you’ll soon be home.”

  She stared at that door and felt a moment’s hesitation. Home. Where was it going to send her—to her mother’s? Back to the streets?

  “Why do you hesitate?” the woman asked.

  “My friends. I didn’t get to say goodbye.” Kira turned and felt her stomach drop. “I can’t go without—”

  “Listen to yourself,” she scoffed. “Are you telling me you prefer living here as a slave? What kind of life is that? You are a human. You belong with your kind.”

  Yes, she was right. As much as she could talk herself in circles, there was no future for her here. If she stayed, she’d eventually end up dead, or eaten.

  But the reality of going home felt so daunting to her. She knew, no matter where she went, it wouldn’t be home. Home is where the heart is. Currently, that was down in Underland with a certain undead monster.

  She really needed to figure out how to fall for normal people, someone mortal. Someone human.

  The woman stepped back, and Kira reached out her hand and knocked on the black door. It opened inward and she saw nothing beyond the lighted path in the doorway. “Hello?” she called out.

  Something moved beyond the door, and Kira stepped inside. Every part of her wanted to run away, but if the woman said this was the only way to go back, then she needed to speak to the man who could send her there.

  “Come in,” the voice echoed. It wasn’t a terrifying voice. It had a pleasant tone to it, like a grandfather speaking to a child. Kira took another step inside.

  The door slammed behind her, encasing her in black, nothingness. Something touched her and she felt herself falling—

  Down

  Down

  Until she hit bottom.

  The raindrops felt like ice as they touched her skin and rolled off the back of her hand.

  Rain?

  She shivered and opened her eyes. Blinked. She was lying on the cold wet street. The sound of a distant car horn had her covering her ears as she looked around in confusion. Where was she? She looked up and saw a brick two-story building and a light from a window.

  A hiss from the sewers had Kira scrambling to her feet. Everything looked foreign, but at the same time strangely familiar. She could smell the scent of fresh baked bread. She knew exactly where she was.

  She had made it back to the upper world. She was back in Portland.

  Chapter 31

  Life had resumed. Although not much had changed since she’d come back from Underland. Madame Fortuna’s shop was closed, gone out of business. Kira had gone to the post office to see if the old woman lef
t a forwarding address. But the attendant behind the counter told her there had never been a fortune teller at that address.

  Kira mostly spent her days wandering, looking for meaning. She stepped into a pub and watched the football game on TV. It felt odd. She couldn’t help but look at her wrist and see the spot where her brace would have been. She pulled the sleeve of her jacket down over her bare wrist and felt as if she was missing something.

  As crazy as it was, she had earned and lost more freedom tokens down below than she had ever earned surviving on her own. No, she didn’t miss fighting to earn them, or almost dying. But she did miss that—for a moment—she had something. Something that was hers.

  Zeke’s absence was the hardest to get over. She missed him…bad. She hadn’t known how much it affected her until she found herself wandering the streets, looking into the gutters. Twice she’d used a crow bar to pry up a manhole and walked around the sewers looking for the wall with the graffiti, the one that said Monsters.

  Even if she found it, though, it would be impossible to find her way back. Each time, she left the sewers a little more dejected. She wandered. Slept on benches, hardly ate, and wandered again. What was she even looking for? Answers maybe?

  She went back to the alley and stared at the dumpster, at the spot she had been sleeping in all those nights ago. She took a few steps back and surveyed the scene. It looked almost like the same scene in the tapestry, the one Atropos was weaving.

  Kira realized she was looking at it from the wrong angle. She needed to get higher.

  Kira looked over her shoulder and saw the fire escape ladder. That would do it. With a lot of pushing, she got the dumpster over to the ladder and pulled herself up on top. She leapt and caught the bottom rung, pulling the ladder down. Once she got up to the second floor, she surveyed the scene again. She still needed to go higher.

  Kira climbed one more floor and looked out over the alley.

  This. This was the angle the tapestry had shown her. The angle the Fate had weaved that no one could see but her.

  But why? What was such a big deal about her alley? Kira turned behind her and noticed the window of the building was slightly ajar. Brown paper was taped over the dusty glass, so she couldn’t see inside. She pulled up. The wooden window shuddered as it lifted.

  Kira ducked and stepped inside the building.

  There was just enough light from outside to illuminate a path to the middle of the room where a light bulb dangled. She reached up and pulled the chain. The room lit up, and a stone door appeared. Whoa. Totally out of place in a 1930s industrial building. The door, surrounded by sandstone, seemed thousands of years old.

  There was a symbol on the door.

  Kira moved to touch it.

  “Kira.” A voice called to her from beyond. She knew that voice.

  “Zeke?” Kira turned. He stood in the empty room with her. She ran to him. “How did you find me? How did you get here to Portland?” The questions came tumbling out.

  “I’m not in Portland.” His arms wrapped around her, and she could feel the warmth of him. Why did he feel warm, when he’d always been cool to the touch? Something was wrong.

  “What do you mean?” She pulled back and looked up at him.

  He looked down and smiled, gently touching her forehead to his. “You’re not in Portland either. You’ve never left the Underland. Hypnos has control of you. You need to wake up, Kira, before they see you found it.”

  “Found what? And what do you mean wake up, Zeke?” He pulled away and she felt him fade into the darkness of the room as if he was being pulled by an unseen force.

  “Wake up, Kira!” He commanded. His voice grew distant.

  “Zeke, I am awake!” She cried out and spun in circles, searching for him. “Don’t leave me.”

  “I won’t ever leave you, Kira. But you need to wake up and wake up NOW!” His command shook her to her very soul.

  Something inside of Kira snapped.

  She gasped.

  And woke up.

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  Chanda Hahn is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author. She uses her experience as a children's pastor, children's librarian, and bookseller to write compelling and popular fiction for young teens. She was born in Seattle, WA, grew up in Nebraska, and currently resides in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and their twin children.

  Visit Chanda Hahn’s website to learn more about her other forthcoming books.

  OTHER BOOKS BY CHANDA HAHN

  THE UNDERLAND SERIES

  Underland

  Underlord (Coming 2017)

  THE UNFORTUNATE FAIRY TALE SERIES

  UnEnchanted (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 1)

  Fairest (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 2)

  Fable (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 3)

  Reign (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 4)

  Forever (An Unfortunate Fairy Tale Book 5)

  THE IRON BUTTERFLY SERIES

  The Iron Butterfly

  The Steele Wolf

  The Silver Siren

  Connect with Me Online at:

  Web site: www.chandahahn.com

  Twitter: www.twitter.com/chandahahn

  Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChandaHahnAuthor

 


 

  Chanda Hahn, Underland

 


 

 
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