Where foundlings hide, p.33
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       Where Foundlings Hide, p.33

           KL Mitchelson
 
Chapter Thirty-Three

  I look down at my hands. They are covered with something dark and sticky, almost black in the half light, and my knees are skinned where they made contact with the ground. I touch the lump on the side of my head with trembling fingers, following the streak of blood that trickles down my temple.

  I don’t know where I am, but the ground is cold and grainy, like sand and I can hear the sound of waves crashing against rocks below. The moon appears from behind a cloud and I see her balancing on the edge of the cliff.

  My eyesight is still blurred from the blow to my head, but I try to crawl towards her, I try to use my last ounce of strength to save her, because that is my purpose. I am inches away from her when her arms flail out. Everything around me seems to freeze as she slips, the wind whipping her hair around her face, white in the light of the pale moon. Her hand stretches out towards me and she yells something, but the wind carries her words away like petals from a dying flower.

  The ground below me trembles and I scream her name until my throat is raw, hot tears streaming down my face as my fingers claw at the ragged cliff edge. Her white dress billows around her like the sails of a ship, but it doesn’t slow her fall. The darkness below rears up and swallows her whole. Then she is gone.

  Everything is suddenly too bright and there is a face leaning over me, long hair tickling my cheek. “You made it,” Lana says. “But this was only the beginning, you have to learn the truth.”

  I wake with a start, taking in a rattling breath that leads to a coughing fit. I clutch at my chest as a sharp pain shoots through my ribcage. There is a swirl of images rushing around in my mind, and I try to piece them together – Trafalgar Square, the woman on the bus, the Shadows, faceless, standing on the bridge amongst the rioters, Morox releasing his arrow.

  I try to sit up, but soft hands push me back against the pillow.

  “Take it easy.”

  I rub at my eyes with the heel of my hand until the face in front of me comes into focus.

  “Ivy.” I gasp, lunging towards her and throwing my arms around her neck. I try to ignore the shooting pain in my chest as I cling to her. “You’re OK,” I croak. “What happened?”

  She leans back to look at me, brushing the hair off my damp forehead. “You don’t remember?”

  I try to think back. Trafalgar Square… Morox… the crossbow… and… “Haydn!”

  “He’s fine,” Ivy smiles. “Thanks to you.”

  I remember my breath catching in my throat as Morox’s arrow sailed towards Haydn, I remember wheeling around and throwing myself at him, but the arrow… “I thought I was too late.”

  “The arrow hit you,” she says. “Right between the shoulder blades. You saved Haydn’s life.”

  I remember Haydn’s dark eyes widening with horror, the blood staining the front of his compression suit, only it wasn’t his blood. It was mine.

  Ivy’s eyes are teary as she sees the memory in my mind. “The arrow pierced your heart. Not even the Foundlings can survive that.”

  “Did I…. die?”

  She swallows. “Your heart stopped, but your body pushed the arrow out almost immediately and began to heal itself. It was miraculous.”

  I try not to dwell too much on that, my mind struggling to understand the wonders my body can perform. “What about you and Parker, and Caleb and the others? How did you make it out of London?”

  “The Morgana’s dealt with the rioters on the bridge,” Ivy says. “They created a tidal wave and brought on a huge storm that distracted the Shadows, forcing them to relinquish their hold on the rioters. It bought us enough time to call for reinforcements and to bring you here, to the Halers Household.”

  “The Morgana’s? But Morox was behind all this. He tried to kill Haydn, he was going to hand me over to the Shadows.”

  “Morox was acting independently of his Household, he managed to convince a few of his members to join him, but the rest of the Morgana’s, including Morox’s son Marius, are loyal to the Emperor. Marius led the Morgana’s defence against the Shadows.”

  “So everyone’s OK? Caleb? Parker? Aimee?”

  Ivy smiles. “They’re all OK.”

  “But how did Caleb find you with all that going on?”

  “We found him,” she says. “We were listening in to what was happening outside and we made a run for it. We arrived at the bridge just as the rioters were being swept into the river.”

  “And did you find anything? About my parents I mean.”

  Ivy looks away from me. “The orphanage is gone; the records were all moved to an archive building. We made it there, but we didn’t find anything before the attack. I’m sorry, Casey.”

  I feel my heart sink.

  “We’ll go back,” Ivy says. “We’re helping rebuild the city, we can visit the archive again. Right now, there’s someone outside who’s dying to see you.”

  Ivy kisses me lightly on the forehead and leaves the room. Seconds later, she is replaced by Haydn, who perches on the end of the bed and rakes his fingers through his hair. “I thought you were-”

  “I’m fine, really,” I say. “How long was I out for?”

  He pulls me gently towards him and I wince as pain shoots through my ribcage. He rests his forehead against mine. “A couple of days, we were all worried. Ivy was a mess.”

  “I think you underestimated my abilities.” I smile.

  His expression stiffens. “Please don’t do that again.”

  “I can’t promise that.” I brush my lips against his.

  “I’m grateful,” he says. “You saved me, but my life is nothing if you’re not in it.”

  “I thought you said you don’t know me.”

  “I know you.” He says, pressing his lips against mine, harder, insistent. When he finally pulls away, I find myself breathless.

  “I want to keep you all to myself,” he groans. “But everyone’s waiting to see you.”

  Haydn shifts off the bed and extracts a bundle from a chair in the corner. “Get dressed,” he says, tossing the bundle towards me. “I’ll meet you downstairs.”

  “Wait,” I say. “I remember what you said, about being a Wanderer.”

  He turns to look at me, his expression tight.

  “I don’t care,” I say. “Whether you’re a Wanderer or a Smith, but I don’t get why you’re pretending to be something you’re not.”

  He raises an eyebrow at me sardonically.

  “That’s different,” I say. “I didn’t exactly have a choice.”

  “Neither did I,” Haydn says. “My father joined Ezra’s followers when I was just a kid. He did terrible things, but then Ezra started rounding up Foundlings and my father realised that my brother would be a target. He turned himself in, in exchange for his family’s protection. My mother, brother and I were taken to the Smith’s Household. When they were sent to Earth, I was cared for by a Smith family until I was old enough to start training.”

  “What happened to your father?” I ask, afraid to hear the answer.

  “He was killed trying to bring Ezra down.”

  A silence falls between us and Haydn shifts somewhat awkwardly towards the door.

  “I like you better as a Wanderer.” I say.

  He smiles then. “I like you better as a human.”

  “Half-human.” I correct.

  “Oh, that’s right,” he laughs. He gives me a long, blazing look before he leaves.

  It takes me a while to dress, my back and chest aching as I pull on a soft, pale-blue shirt and trousers.

  I find the Household leaders gathered in the fountain room of the Haler Household – a brightly-lit space filled with green vines that creep across the walls. The Haler’s fountain is like a miniature waterfall, the water cascading from the wall into a rocky basin below.

  “It’s good to see you up and about.” Galen smiles widely from across the room, his arms around Alistair and Aimee.

  Roma pulls me into a hug, radiating warmth.
“I’m so glad you’re OK.”

  “You surpassed all of our expectations.” Parker says, squeezing my shoulder.

  Nicholas tells me how grateful he is that I saved Haydn’s life, while Caleb flashes me a grin, but I only have eyes for Haydn. Without his usual scowl, his expression is softer, his eyes even more beautiful. He gives me the briefest of winks from across the room as the crowd flocks around me.

  Marius is here too, his chest bare, revealing the deep gouges in his flesh. I can see the tip of his arrow over his shoulder and my stomach twists uncomfortably.

  “You have nothing to fear, Princess,” Marius says. “My father may be in allegiance with the Shadows, but my loyalty lies with the Emperor, and any member of my Household who cannot accept that will be arrested for treason.”

  I eye Marius warily, but Roma rests a comforting hand on my shoulder. “We can trust him. Marius is going to help us in our search for the Shadows.”

  “I believe my father will have information that can help us,” His expression darkens at the mention of Morox.” “We’re going to extract it from him using any means necessary. We’re going to bring all of the Shadows to justice.”

  When Marius says ‘any means necessary’, I feel myself shudder. I can’t believe that Marius would hurt his own father, but the steely expression on his face makes me doubtful.

  “I don’t understand,” I say. “The Shadows were right there in London. Why couldn’t they be captured?”

  “The Shadows have been toying with us,” Roma says. “The earthquakes on Earth are a call to war, the Shadows send the signal, then when we arrive they use humans to attack us. We’ve fought battles like this before, but the Shadows evade us every time.”

  “But why would they do that?”

  “They want us to respond with the full Displacian army, leaving Displacia unprotected,” Nicholas says grimly. “They know how much we care about Earth and they’re using that to their advantage.”

  I swallow reflexively, wondering how vast the group of Shadows is, worried about how far their reach extends.

  “Could we have some time alone with our niece?” Roma asks politely.

  The room murmurs their ascent before leaving, Haydn briefly linking his fingers with mine before being ushered out of the door by Nicholas.

  When there is just Roma, Ivy and me, my adoptive Aunts turn to me with serious expressions.

  “Caleb said that someone spoke to you on Earth,” Roma says. “Someone who was being controlled by the Shadows,”

  I nod. “It was a woman, she was pregnant,”

  “She’s fine,” Ivy says, hearing the question forming in my mind. “But we need to know what message she conveyed to you.”

  “I think it was a warning, she said he’s coming for you’.”

  “Anything else?” Roma asks.

  They both look at me with interest.

  “She told me to run,” I say, clearly remembering what Sarah said. “She said they won’t be able to stop him.”

  “Well she was obviously talking about Morox.” Ivy says quickly.

  “But why would she warn me that he was coming? Who would be using her to convey that message.”

  “That’s a good question,” Roma says.

  “I think whoever it was, they were trying to help me,” I say, an idea forming in my mind. “Do Displacian’s believe in life after death?”

  I had never given it much thought before, but after discovering this strange, new world, I feel like anything could be possible. “I think it was Lana. She said it was too late for her, she said she would die before she helped him.”

  Ivy’s face is filled with anguish. “I wish it was Lana,” she says sadly, “But she’s gone.”

  “We believe that people pass on to the next life when they die,” Roma says softly. “They don’t hang around to give messages to their loved ones. I’m sorry, Casey.”

  “I just can’t help feeling that there’s more, like there’s something about her death that we’re missing, I’ve always felt it. And it’s not just me, my friend, Bria, she has nightmares about that night too, she dreams that a man took Lana, a man without a face,” My heart starts to beat furiously as all of the pieces start to slot into place like a jigsaw puzzle. “I saw the Shadows on the bridge, they were faceless.”

  “They’re not faceless, they wear masks.” Roma says kindly. “Your friend probably has those dreams because of the trauma of losing her friend.”

  “Maybe, but I keep dreaming about Lana. It’s like she’s trying to communicate with me. It’s all starting to make sense.”

  Roma and Ivy exchange a glance.

  “I don’t expect you to believe me,” I sigh. “But I know what I saw and I know what I heard on that bus. I’m going to find out what happened to Lana. What really happened.”

  “What do you honestly expect to find out that we don’t already know?” Roma asks incredulously.

  “I don’t know, but it’s the right thing to do,” I say. “Before all of this, I was driving myself crazy trying to remember what happened that night. At first, Displacia was a distraction, but all the things I’ve learnt since I got here seem to be leading me closer and closer to finding out what happened to Lana. I have to go home.”

  “We need you here,” Roma says. “I need you to be Acacia and we need to keep you safe.”

  “I think it’s obvious that I am no safer here than I am back home and you promised I could return. Let me do this and I will come back to Displacia, I’ll pretend to be Acacia, but please, let me find out what happened to my sister.”

  “Roma, I don’t like this anymore than you do,” Ivy says. “But we’re already strengthening security around the school and I think we’ve established that Casey is no safer here than she is on Earth. Let her go back.”

  Roma sighs. “I’ll need some time to work out the logistics and you’ll still have to return to Displacia regularly. Caleb will go with you, along with a team of my choosing. You will follow their orders and you will not put yourself at risk, do you understand?”

  “I understand.” My heart leaps at the thought of going back, of returning to Earth stronger, armed with the knowledge of Lana’s tyrant father, of the danger she was in before she died. It fuels my desire to know more, to learn the truth about what happened to her. And I know exactly where to start.

  Haydn drives me there, to the three-storey house with the big gates and the garden room on the side.

  It seems that Displacian’s don’t just have motorbikes on hand, they have a whole fleet of cars stored in almost every county across the world, so it didn’t take Haydn long to acquire a sleek, red sports car to take me where I need to go.

  I ring the doorbell at the front door and it gives a grand, tinkling sound. Molly’s eyes widen when she sees me standing there, her face pale and wan, but she beckons me inside all the same. She motions for me to sit in the comfy armchair in her spacious living room, then she perches on the edge of the sofa waiting patiently for me to speak.

  “I came here to tell you that I’m sorry,” I start. “For not keeping in touch with you when Lana was missing and for not telling you when she was found.”

  She nods and I see tears forming in her eyes.

  “I want to say sorry for how things have been between us these last few months. I’m sick of fighting, Molly, I want us to be friends. You were Lana’s best friend; you were my friend. It’s not right that we don’t speak. I-”

  My voice is muffled as Molly launches from the sofa and wraps her arms around me. “I’m so sorry, Casey,” she sobs. “I don’t know what was wrong with me.”

  “It’s OK.” I stroke her long dark hair, because I know exactly what was wrong with her.

  “No it’s not,” she says. “But you have to believe that it wasn’t me. I just miss her so much and it made me crazy.”

  “I know; I miss her too.”

  We sit there for a little bit, Molly’s head cradled against my shoulder,
and it’s a while before I work up the courage to say what I want to say. “I need your help, Molly.”

  She pulls back to look at me, tears still clinging to her eyelashes.

  “I’ve learnt a lot of things these last few weeks,” I say. “About Lana and me. I don’t believe her death was an accident, I’m not sure I ever have, and I don’t think you believe it either.”

  Molly wipes fresh tears away from her cheeks. “I don’t know what I believe anymore. My therapist said it was the grief that did it,” she says quietly. “Pushed me oved the edge, made me do the things I did. Sometimes I couldn’t remember what I’d done, it was like I had these big, dark spots in my memory, but there were signs.”

  Her eyebrows contract and fresh tears bloom at the corners of her eyes. “You know I damaged the paintings?”

  I nod. “I know.”

  She squeezes her eyes shut. “My dad hopes that Malvern will have me back, I owned up to it all. The fire in the woods, that was me too.”

  “Oh, Molly.” I wish I could tell her that it’s not her fault, that she was being controlled, but I can’t, Roma already warned me about this. But I can’t let my friend go on believing that she’s crazy. “I know something happened to you, something that you can’t explain.”

  Her face pales and she begins to shake.

  “It’s OK,” I say, grasping her hands between mine, cringing internally as her fear reverberates through me. “You’re safe, that will never happen to you again.”

  She takes deep breaths until she is calm. When she speaks again, her voice is a whisper. “I’ll help you.”

  “You will?”

  She nods. “And I have something that you need to see.” She leaves the room and I hear her footsteps on the stairs. When she returns, she has a book clutched in her hands. “I took this from your room the day of the funeral, it’s Lana’s diary.”

  I take it from her, recognising the diary as a Christmas present I bought for Lana a couple of years back.

  “I’m sorry, I broke the lock,” Molly says. “I don’t know why I wanted it, but it seemed important.”

  “I gave her this,” I say. “I didn’t think she ever wrote in it.”

  Molly shrugs. “I only saw her with it shortly before she died,” she hugs herself a little awkwardly. “There’s some strange stuff in there, I don’t know if the police should see it, or if they’ll even be interested, but you should definitely read it.”

  I run my finger over Lana’s name printed neatly on the front of the diary. “I will.”

  We say our goodbyes with a hug that radiates genuine warmth and relief.

  Haydn waits for me outside, slipping an arm around my waist and pulling me into a long, lingering kiss. “Where to next, Miss George?”

  “Home, Evergreen”

  I open the diary as Haydn drives, my eyes skimming over Lana’s words, her thoughts, her feelings. I read descriptions of days spent with our friends at Malvern, her time with Molly, with me, and then something else, something much more sinister.

  My tears dot the page, making the ink run. I trace Lana’s last words with my finger, her last message to me, a warning, and then the diary slips from my trembling hands.

  ‘It wasn’t an accident. Don’t trust them.’

 
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