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       Emblaze, p.24

           Jessica Shirvington
 

  And, Phoenix had said, only me.

  Phoenix would not stop. He would hurt me, hurt everyone I loved. He"d done it to Lincoln when he brought back Nahilius, to Steph by kidnapping her, and now he had threatened Dad.

  It will never end.

  A tear fell from my eye and I quickly brushed it away.

  No time for that.

  There would be no good in telling Lincoln. He couldn"t change my mind and it would only make it harder for both of us.

  I needed to work out the best way to let everyone know that Phoenix and countless exiles were already here, without revealing that I"d actually seen him.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

  „ And the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star fall from heaven unto the Earth; and to him was given the key of the bottomless pit. And he opened the bottomless pit; and there arose a smoke out of the pit; as the smoke of a great furnace…

  Revelations 9:1-2

  „Zoe, we need to get a sense of the water depth around the island. Can you manage that?" The female Conductor said, as if she barely had any faith in her abilities.

  Guess she missed the part where Zoe made an entire mountain rock it out in Jordan a few months ago!

  Zoe shot her a smart-ass smile. "Already done. It"s deep all the way around, but definitely the deepest on the western coast. and …" she looked uneasy and rolled her shoulders,

  "There"s something moving in the water. It"s creepy."

  „What is it?" I asked, re-focusing on the conversation.

  She made a sour expression like she"d just eaten something bad. "Don"t know, just that there"s motion deep down that isn"t a fish, you know?"

  The Conductors nodded, wrote down the details and got back to business.

  „How many metres to the bottom?"

  Zoe bulked. „Do I look like a tape measure? Deep, as in - no needs to go that deep.

  Easily hundreds of metres."

  „And what about the volcano? Can you sense the energy coming from it, sense what is below? Do you think you could influence it?"

  Zoe shifted her weight then closed her eyes for a moment before re-opening them, grim.

  „I can"t sense the volcano at all. It"s almost like it isn"t even here. Maybe … maybe if it erupts I"d get a better handle on it …"

  Oh, well - there"s something to look forward to.

  The Conductors nodded and walked off without another word.

  Steph joined us as Zoe muttered, „Damn pencil-pushers. Wait till everything goes wrong, then we won"t see them anywhere."

  „What do you think they"re planning?" I asked, watching as they moved further away, now talking with Josephine and Lincoln.

  Zoe shrugged.

  „I think they"re trying to work out a way to control the volcano. Maybe to disable it or something," Steph said.

  We shared a grave look. Even with Grigori skills, controlling a volcanic eruption seemed unlikely. Before any of us managed to put this doubt into words, there was a thundering explosion from where the Conductors had just been. The three of us hit the ground in time to see the showering of what had once been a very large boulder into thousands, millions, of tiny pieces, raining down on us like grains of sand.

  Josephine stood tall and as we watched in shock she dusted off her hands and walked ahead.

  „Well," she said, loud enough for us all to hear, „At least we know my power is not affected hear."

  What - in holy hell - is her power?

  I stood up, ruffling rock dust out of my hair.

  „Show-off," Zoe sniped between coughs as she got up.

  „More like homicidal maniac," Steph said looking at her now not-so-cute shorts-and-singlet combo after I pulled her up. Morgan, who had been a little further away, seemed to escape without too heavy a dusting of sand.

  Ahead of us, Lincoln grabbed hold of Hiro"s shirt, pulling him back a few steps while exchanging a number of heated words that I didn"t catch. Max and Mia had to step between them to pull them apart. After Lincoln appeared to calm down, eventually resuming his conversation with the Conductors.

  We spent the next couple of hours scoping out the volcano. Every now and then Josephine would blow something up, never giving any warning. By the time we were ready to return to the boat, we looked like we"d been rolling around in a dirt bath, though nothing had come as close to us as the initial blast.

  Josephine, unsurprisingly, wasn"t marked at all, apart from wearing a smirk of satisafaction.

  Zoe, Steph and I broke away from the pack on the walk back to the boat and Zoe filled us in: "She can separate atoms. She Isn"t actually exploding anything so much as pulling things apart with her mind. She explained it to our class once, saying she can look at any natural object and see its billions and billions of atoms. Once she sees them, she can move them. Apparently, though as dramatic as she made it look today, it has its limitations. She can"t move anything larger than a pencil. So unless she wants to just separate something into pieces on the ground and have it fall to dust she"s relatively useless on her own."

  „So how did she make the rocks move?" I asked, watching Josephine as she walked ahead.

  Zoe smiled ruefully. „Hiro"s speciality is gravity, he can remove it for short periods of time in isolated areas, but only enough to lift an object to hover level. The combination of her power and his causes the explosive reaction, a kind of double-effect. There are other Grigori who have well-developed telekinesis, too - Josephine always keeps one of them close."

  I shook my head. „She had him raise the rocks so she could make as much impact as possible." I totally agree with Zoe and Steph - she was showing off and it did seem homicidal.

  I wondered if it was Hiro or Josephine who had decided to let the explosions" residue come down on us, but didn"t deliberate for long. Hiro would have been under orders.

  Steph cast a suspicious look my way. „And since everyone else knew this stuff I guess it was mostly for your benefit, Vi. The question is, why?"

  I already knew the answer. It was a warning.

  -

  I was relieved to be back on the boat and rushed to take my same position at the bow, facing the wind. There was little I could do on the volcanic island and being stuck over there had brought my old escape instincts to the surface.

  Despite Kaitlin and Samuel"s efforts, when we disembarked at the marina we had to push through dozens of tourists demanding to know why they were not allowed to visit the famous landmark, especially angry now they"d seen us sail in from that very place. We put our heads down and walked through, spotting Salvatore waiting for us halfway up the steep path that would take us back into town.

  I had sensed exiles as soon as my feet hit land, So many people surrounding us made me nervous. Looking at all the faces, knowing I could sense the exiles but not being able to pick them out clearly was disconcerting.

  „Steph!" I yelled. She was hurrying ahead, trying to get to Salvatore, and didn"t hear me over the people traffic.

  „Violet?" a voice cam from behind.

  I closed my eyes briefly, partly in dread and partly in pleasure soaking up his presence -

  sun first, then melting honey. Of course, Lincoln didn"t need to hear me to know something was wrong - he would have felt the spike in my anxiety.

  He came up beside me. „What is it?"

  I shook my head to tell him now was not the time to discuss it. „Back at the hotel."

  He nodded and I was grateful he didn"t push. „How about I walk with Steph?" he suggested, giving me a look of understanding that made me want to cry. My recent anger with him slipped away. He didn"t need me to explain I was worried for her safety here, he didn"t need to ask for answers. He just knew, knew me.

  Unable to manage words, our eyes lingered on each other, sending my heartbeat into overdrive before he broke contact and hurried to catch up with Steph. He whispered in her ear that made her look back at me and make a show of linking her arm through Lincoln"s.

  I lagged behind staying where I c
ould keep a good watch on things. I thought I was the only one who had fallen so far behind until Josephine appeared by my side as if she"d always been there. How she managed that I had no idea.

  „Violet, is there anything you would like to discuss with me?"

  I looked straight ahead. „Nothing I can think of."

  „I expected you to say something about last night," she said, but that wasn"t what she was really asking,.

  „I heard enough last night. You had a job to do. You did it. Right?"

  I glanced at her and then looked ahead again. Her lips were curled. "I"m glad you understand. It gives me hope that we might be able to get on after all."

  No chance of that.

  I forced a tight smile.

  „Given your abilities, I assume you are aware of the increased presence of exiles?"

  I nodded, wondering what her sense was.

  „When did you plan on alerting us to this?"

  I fought the urge to put distance between us and held my steady pace. "I only just felt them. I might"ve been able to sense them earlier but I wasn"t feeling myself this morning," I said, unable to resist the dig.

  She stopped walking, taking hold of my upper arm as she did. I froze, doing nothing but staring at the hand restraining me. Lincoln had grabbed me in the same way this morning, he"d been rough even, but Josephine"s hold was different. Cold, rigid fingers and sharp nails dug into my skin, eager to break the surface. Yeah, she wanted to … badly.

  „I am not one of your devoted recruits, Violet. I have no intention of bringing my people into this mess you have created and risking their lives simply to save yours. I am fully aware that the lost opportunities to eliminate Phoenix are predominantly due to efforts to protect you. I won"t suffer such hesitation for my people." She squeezed my arm, assuring me of her strength. "If I find out, at any stage, that you are lying to me, I will have you detained and removed from the island."

  Her fingers tightened, nails now cutting into my skin, and she pulled me close to herself, adding, „ And from Lincoln."

  I clamped my jaw shut and fisted my hand. I kept my head down but lifted narrowed eyes to meet hers. „Are you finished?"

  „Quite," she said, holding my arm for another few seconds before letting go and proceeding up the path before me. Mia and Hiro quickly appeared by her side.

  I don"t know how long I stood there, people moving around me as I watched Josephine hike back up to the hotel. She had just drawn the lines and I was now more certain than ever - I couldn"t risk involving anyone else in my plans.

  CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

  „ Thus saith the Lord God; An evil, an only evil, behold, is come."

  Ezekiel 7:5

  Dapper came to our room that afternoon. He"d been confined to the hotel with Onyx and he and Steph had just come back from reporting their latest opinions on the Scripture to Josephine and Lincoln. I left them to the braniac business, locking myself away in the bathroom for a shower - where I noticed Josephine had been successful in her mission, crescent-moon-shaped cuts from her nail"s remaining as evidence on my arm.

  I considered trying to cover them up but I"d spent enough time trying to conceal such things in the past and I was damned if I was going to protect her. When I emerged from the bathroom in cargos and a black singlet, Onyx was sauntering into our room, carrying a bottle and two glasses. Dapper didn"t even look up as he poured them each a drink. As odd as their weirdly synced, alcohol-fuelled friendship - which I suspected might be a little more

  - seemed, it was becoming comfortable. Onyx had changed. not only did he show fever signs of his previous insanity, but it was also becoming apparent that he wasn"t as immune to us as he would have us believe. Onyx and Dapper, unlikely a pair as they were, had unwittingly become my allies. I trusted them more than some of the Grigori.

  I leaned on the bathroom doorframe, draying my hair with a towel.

  „You"re looking better," Dapper commented.

  „On top of the world," I replied sarcastically. „What"s the latest?"

  „Shouldn"t we be asking you that?" he countered, a lilt I his words.

  I rolled my eyes. Of course - that explained why no one had been very chatty with me when they first got in. „Josephine told you the exiles are here," I deduced.

  „And that you knew it," Steph added, voicing her disappointment. „That"s why you sent Lincoln to walk me back to the hotel. I don"t need a bodyguard, you know."

  I decided to ignore her comment - nothing I said would make it better while she was in a mood.

  „Has anyone seen them yet?" I asked, causally.

  „Nah," Dapper said. "They"re being sneaky. Staying out of almost everyone"s range. But she assumes they"re all here, Phoenix included."

  The way he said - he was clearly looking for my reaction, which I ensured remained completely neutral. "Probably," I hedged. „So where are we with the Scripture?"

  Dapper put several pieces of paper down on the coffee table and then put on his glasses. „We have the majority worked out. The first prophecy is fairly clear. “Awaken Tartarus and blanket day, to hide their eyes and Heaven"s ray” basically means just that; when the volcano erupts it will bring the attention of Tartarus and deliver a cloud of ash that will cover the sky. “Ash will fall as fire will rain,” requires no real imagination. It"s the next line we"re stumbling over. “Delivering to one” is very general. Perhaps it means the one who opens the gates or is somehow responsible for them. In short, we don"t know. The rest …

  well, flames, death, water and resurrection - that"s all to be expected, given the ultimate goal.

  „And the second one?" I asked, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear. This might be my last chance to absorb this information.

  „Aren"t we keen?" Onyx quipped as I noticed Steph watching me pensively.

  Dapper picked up the next piece of paper. „The first three lines hold no surprise. It was the location. The next part is the instructions. Our best guess is that this is a description of sacrifices - three to water and three to fire - but it also had requirements for who should perform those sacrifices and clearly describes more than one person."

  „So who, then?"

  Dapper shook his head, frustrated.

  „We don"t know," Steph said, taking over and keeping it simple. „We all have different theories - powers, angelic ranks. But the thing that really stumps is the “Three at the hand of the heart of man”."

  „Why?"

  „Because exiles are not men. Not truly. Humans are."

  When none of us said anything, Dapper resumed speaking.

  „The rest seems to relate to Phoenix"s direct role as “the admirer”. Basically, if he ensures the sacrifices, one will be delivered from Hell. With an offering of pain the gates will open and such an offering at Phoenix"s hand - most likely his own blood - will guarantee his desire is fulfilled."

  Because otherwise, any one entity from Hell could be release - Phoenix" and his stated desire was the key to ensuring it would be Lilith.

  „What about the water line?" I leaned over his should. “And water stand high to cradle the course”," I read.

  „Water is always the path between one world and another. It resembles the crossover. It could be as simple as that," Dapper said, but there was something else - a tone in his voice that implied he had another theory he wasn"t sharing.

  „What about the symbols?" Onyx asked.

  „Actually, it was Josephine and Conductors who figured that out. they think they"re coordinates, using the constellations with Nea Kameni as the anchor. They"ve worked out that it marks six points around the volcano"s centre."

  „If you"re about to say it maps out a star, I think I"ll laugh," I said, giving up on drying my hair and tying it up in a ponytail.

  „No. But maybe just as odd," Steph said. She opened her notebook to a blank page and passed it to me with a pencil. „Draw a circle."

  She waited.

  I sat beside her and did as she asked.

/>   She nodded. „That"s the volcano. Now, inside it put a dot here, here and here. Then, outside the circle, put a dot here, here and here," she continued, pointing to each marker.

  „Okay …" I stared at my spotty creation. „I don"t get it."

  „Join the dots with straight lines, first inside, the outside."

  I stared at what was a large inverted triangle surrounding the circle and a much smaller upright triangle in its centre.

  „Why does that look so familiar?" I asked, trying to work out where I"d seen something similar.

  „Because, circle within triangle," Onyx said, who"d been watching as I drew the symbol.

  He snatched the pencil from my hand, flipped the drawing upside down and added streaks running from the edge of the circle out to the large triangle. „ That is the Eye of Providence."

  „Huh?"

  Steph smiled. „The All-seeing Eye."

  „Oh Right." I looked around, confused. „Isn"t that meant to be good?"

  „Heaven be damned, girl!" Onyx said, standing up hastily and spilling some of his drink.

  „Haven"t you learned anything yet? Nothing is simply good or evil. If all your human fantasies were true, I"d be good!"

  I just blinked at him. That put things in perspective.

  „If there is a place for this symbol in righteousness or salvation it"s possible there is a place for it in destruction and damnation," Dapper said, shaking his head at Onyx"s outburst.

  „And since that circle you drew is the mark for our anchor, the volcano, it seems likely it is more a mark of great power than simply good or evil. Also, the use of the triangle is an unmistakeable - perhaps more relevant - link. In history the inverted triangle represents water, the upright, fire, and the two combined, a symbol of divine union and in some religions … resurrection."

  „Jesus," I mumbled, staring at the sketch. „All that from a triangle?"

  But no one smiled.

 
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