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       Fated, p.16

           Sarah Alderson
 
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  But he was lunging again and again and again and every time he was getting closer and she knew he was backing her into the corner even as she felt her shoulder make contact with one of the target boards. She ducked and Victor's knife struck the board. She glared up at him - damn, how far was he willing to go? Would he be happy to make a point with the rest of her ear? Or was he thinking she could make do without her head?

  Why did she have to learn how to use these stupid weapons - wouldn't a gun do? She could fire a gun. Besides, she didn't plan to find herself in a room with just a knife for protection and a Thirster for company. And she sure as hell knew she wasn't going to start walking around town with a crossbow slung over one shoulder and a hunting knife slid down the side of her boot Risper-style.

  When Victor's arm came up she dived beneath it and hurled the knife to the floor. It clanged against the concrete. Victor lowered his hunting arm and sheathed his own weapon.

  'What's wrong with you?' he asked. 'You need to be better than this if you want to stay alive.'

  Evie ground her teeth and said nothing.

  He exhaled loudly. 'If we could harness one of your looks, Evie, we could probably do away with weapons altogether. What's going on?'

  'Nothing,' Evie answered flatly.

  'Then why the attitude? Why the sullenness?'

  It felt like the knife had finally pierced her. 'What?' she spat out. 'Am I supposed to be happy?'

  Victor's face fell. He wiped a hand over his brow.

  'I'm here, aren't I?' Evie shouted, throwing her arms around to indicate the makeshift training room. 'I'm going along with all this. I've done everything you've asked. I've given up everything and everyone I loved. I've accepted everything you've said and everything you've done to me.' She dropped her voice. 'But don't ask me to be happy. Because you never said that was part of the deal.'

  Victor nodded once as if he finally understood. Well good, because she was done explaining herself to him.

  'It gets easier, Evie,' he said, moving towards her as though about to place a placatory hand on her shoulder.

  'Oh, really?' she remarked, hopping backwards. She didn't want placatory. She'd rather have the knife.

  Victor stopped mid-step. 'I thought you wanted revenge, Evie?' His brow furrowed. 'I thought you understood the importance of what you are. Of who you are.'

  Evie felt her breath quickening.

  'We need you,' Victor said, his voice dropping a tone.

  'Why?' Evie fired back. 'Because I'm the White Light?'

  She saw a look of stunned confusion cross his face before he managed to hide it. 'Who told you that?'

  'Why?' she demanded. 'Jocelyn told me. She obviously thought I had a right to know.'

  Victor paused, seeming to take stock. 'OK, so you know. You know how important you are to us.'

  He waited. Evie said nothing, only continued to glare at him.

  'You could end this,' he eventually said - there he was with the weighing face on, scrutinising her reaction.

  She lifted her chin in defiance. 'So they say. But no one even knows how.'

  'What else did Jocelyn tell you?' Victor asked.

  'Not much,' Evie snapped back. She'd already dropped Jocelyn in it she wasn't going to get her into any more trouble. 'Why didn't you tell me in the first place?'

  Victor shrugged again. 'It's a lot of pressure. I didn't want to scare you.'

  Evie let out a snort. 'From the man coming at me with a sharpened knife. No. Let's leave the scaring to the Unhumans. And Risper.'

  'Risper's fine,' Victor said, dismissing her tone with a wave of his hand.

  'I don't get why you're bringing her into this. I don't see what you're trying to achieve other than getting me killed. She hates me.'

  'She's jealous,' Victor said, as if it was supposed to be obvious.

  'So I hear. I'd be really jealous of me too. I mean, what's not to envy? No friends, no family, no future - but it's OK because guess what? I'm the White Light. Well, whooopeee-do.'

  Victor sighed. 'Evie, you have a future,' he said, but she noted the way he suddenly wouldn't meet her eye when he said it.

  'Yeah, I have a future as a killer. Because that's what we're here for, isn't it? To learn how to kill.' She gestured at the knives laid out behind her like a museum display of medieval torture implements.

  Victor drew in a frustrated breath. 'If you want to look at it that way then fine. But what you're killing isn't human, Evie. It doesn't count. And they would kill you in seconds. Without a whisper of hesitation or a backwards glance as you lay dying. So it's kill or be killed.' He stepped up close, his face looming into hers. 'Which is it to be?' he demanded.

  She didn't answer because right now she was going with be killed.

  He sighed suddenly and stepped backwards. 'Evie, have you ever heard the saying, evil prospers when good men do nothing?'

  Oh, so now she was going to get a lecture about Hitler or Stalin. First prophecies, then guilt trips, now he'd moved on to moral righteousness. What would come next? she wondered.

  'It's not just a saying, Evie,' Victor went on, seeing her roll her eyes, 'it's what we live or die by.'

  She held up her arms and sighed. 'OK, enough with the lectures, enough already. I'll be good. I'll deal with the prospering evil.'

  Victor pursed his lips. 'I'm not the enemy, Evie, remember that. Remember who was responsible for your parents' death. It wasn't me and it wasn't you.'

  'No?' she burst out.

  'No,' he answered firmly.

  She dropped it, switched tack. 'Who was Margaret?'

  Victor's expression froze before he snapped, 'Who?'

  He knew exactly who she was talking about but if he was going to play dumb she would go along with it. 'She's in the book, in the Hunter family tree - probably an aunt of mine or something. Her name is struck through - hers is the only name struck through. Who is she?'

  'No one,' Victor said turning away.

  She felt like yelling oh please, but something warned her not to. She bit her tongue.

  All he'd done was prove to her that this Margaret was somebody she needed to find out about. She just had to get to Jocelyn before Victor did.

  22

  Lucas lingered by the bed for a moment before sliding his hand under the pillow. Evie's subterfuge skills needed work. The book was bound in leather, it smelt of dust and dried ink and, overlaid on top of that, it smelt of her, of her fingers that had brushed these pages. He sat on the edge of the bed and opened it, flicking through the pages of hand-drawn pictures - cartoons, almost - of him and his fellow Unhumans. His eyes ran over the curled writing. This book contained everything the Hunters knew about Unhumans - and it was a lot - but not everything.

  They knew very little about the Shadow Warriors, which, given that the war had been waging for over a thousand years, was good going on the part of the Brotherhood. He stared at the picture of the half-erased Shadow Warrior - clearly from another time judging by the clothes. It was amazing that they'd even been able to get a visual for long enough to draw one. But it could have been anyone. It looked like a human. There was a faint yellow smudge around the eyes, which suggested whoever had drawn it had come close enough to see the irises of one. Lucas was glad of the human DNA which had turned his own eyes grey instead of yellow. He noted a strike mark at the bottom of the page next to the picture. One line only.

  His father.

  He drew in a breath so sharp it felt as if Caleb had snuck up behind him and slashed him across his throat with his tail. He even turned to look over his shoulder to check but the room was empty. He closed his eyes, trying to remind himself of what he had chosen to do. Victor, Victor was the one. He needed to keep his focus. He opened his eyes and studied the book once more, no longer sure what he was looking for. He knew all about Unhumans - a lot more than whoever wrote this book. Right now, what he was looking for was what he didn't know, which was how to protect Evie. But maybe this wasn't where he was going to find
it.

  There was something here, though. Something about a White Light ending the thousand-year war between humans and Unhumans and severing the realms. He'd never heard it mentioned before. If it was a prophecy he wondered where the Hunters had got it from. It was clearly a Sybll prophecy - he could tell by the riddling way in which it was written. But which Sybll had given away knowledge like that to Hunters? And, more importantly, why?

  There were no answers to be found. He flipped impatiently through the rest of the book. A photograph fell out. It was a picture of two people and a baby. He knew instantly that the baby was Evie - from the shock of dark hair and the deep blue eyes. Even as an infant she was staring defiantly at the camera, as if trying to figure out what it was exactly. He dragged his eyes off her and onto the two Hunters with her. Her real parents. Did she remember them at all or had she been too young when they'd died? She was a Hunter - the last of the direct line - yet she'd never known that until just recently, until the Brotherhood showed up.

  How did it feel, he wondered, to have lived in blissful ignorance of your destiny and then to have had that ignorance smashed to pieces by a bunch of demons from other realms? Judging by the comments she'd made last night about a death sentence - not so good. For a minute he sat there remembering the way she'd sighed when he'd wiped away the tear. How her eyes had flashed open, two dark blue oceans of light, and how he'd managed to only hold her gaze for a matter of seconds before he'd had to walk into the house. He couldn't stay close to her, was too scared she'd see through him - and it was going to be a problem because he needed to stay close to her if he had any chance of protecting her.

  After she'd fallen into a fitful sleep he'd spent the night in the darkness outside, too wired to sleep and too uncertain of Caleb's next move to dare close his eyes. Besides, he liked prowling the darkness better - it was easier to hide. Easier to think.

  This morning Evie had dragged herself out of bed hollow-eyed, and driven to the store. He'd followed on foot, watched her park haphazardly on the kerb and stumble through the door zombie-like. He had wanted to follow her inside, had hesitated outside, but with Victor and Risper there he had no chance of not being seen or felt. Victor had twenty years' experience and Risper, well, she was already on alert after the cornfield. He'd figured that with Victor there Risper wouldn't dare make a move, so he'd left.

  He turned the photograph over and read the writing on the back:

  'We love you more than you will ever know.

  You are our Evie - always remember what you mean, to us.

  We are sorry we couldn't be there to watch you grow and keep you safe. We hope one day you will understand why and will forgive us.

  Above all we hope that you make the choices we couldn't.

  We will love you always,

  Mum and Dad x

  He stared at the words for a long time before he replaced the photo in the back of the book. What choices were they talking about? He flipped to the last page and traced his fingers over the family tree. All those Hunters. All of them killers - and he was about to make another one into a killer.

  He stood up fast, the book tumbling to the floor. He bent to pick it up and stopped with his head pressed against his knee, suddenly feeling the weight of what he'd decided fall on him like lead.

  When Jocelyn opened the door he saw her blanch bone-white. She wheeled around, flying down the hallway, trying to outrun him. But he was quicker, inside the house and blocking her way before she had even made it three metres. Her eyes flew wildly to the door behind her, panic stretched across her face.

  'I'm not here to hurt you,' he said quickly, before she could make another move.

  She was poised on the balls of her feet but at the same time she seemed to recognise that she couldn't outrun him. He watched her do the calculation. She was now figuring she had more hope trying to locate a weapon. He wished she wouldn't bother. It would only have taken her a few seconds to guess he was a Shadow Warrior and by the way she was staring at him with such fear in her eyes he guessed she just had. And yes, there was that flash of panic, the roll of eyes that he knew so well from horses - followed swiftly by a heart-piercing resignation. She knew that her chances were almost non-existent of beating him in a one-on-one fight.

  'I'm not here to hurt you,' he repeated, holding his empty hands up. He kept his voice as even and unthreatening as possible. His eyes holding hers. He would kill her, without hesitation, if it turned out he couldn't trust her, but he kept that to himself as he watched Jocelyn slowly swallow back her fear and recalibrate the situation. Hope flooded into her eyes.

  'What do you want?' she asked, her breathing rapid.

  'I want to talk to you,' he said, 'about Evie.'

  Jocelyn stared at him blankly as the words sank in and then she was suddenly in front of him, her hands thrusting him back against the wood. He hadn't seen that coming.

  'No, no,' he struggled to get the words out with her hands crushing his windpipe. He was scared to push her back off him in case he hurt her in the process. 'I'm not here to kill her,' he choked. 'I'm here because I need your help. I need your help to protect her.'

  'What are you talking about?' She loosened her hands ever so slightly. 'You're one of them.'

  'Yes,' Lucas said. 'But I'm not going to hurt her.'

  Jocelyn's face contorted in disbelief. Her hands started tightening again. Lucas forced his own hands up between hers, easing the pressure.

  'I promise you,' he said, 'I want to protect her. And I need to know if I can trust you.'

  She took her hands away from his throat but kept her arm pressing against his chest.

  'I saw how you were protecting her in the cornfield,' Lucas said quickly. 'You care what happens to her. That's why I'm here. I figured you might be the only one I could trust.'

  Jocelyn's arm fell away. She stepped back slowly. 'You're almost impossible to sense,' she said, shaking her head.

  'I'm half human,' he said.

  She frowned. He could see her curiosity was piqued by the news that he was only half Unhuman. Everyone knew that Unhumans were forbidden from mating with humans. 'What were you doing in the cornfield?' she asked.

  'Making sure Evie was OK.'

  She frowned at him, her body still poised for flight. 'Why?'

  He swallowed. 'Don't ask me to explain.'

  Jocelyn's eyes narrowed to pinpoints then flashed wide open. 'You have feelings for her,' she said, amazed.

  He didn't answer.

  'I'm right, aren't I?' Jocelyn pressed. 'Do you love her?'

  He felt it like a blow. As if she'd physically struck him. He stepped backwards. Love her?

  'You can't,' Jocelyn said, seeing his reaction. 'You know that.'

  He looked Jocelyn dead in the eye and finally nodded. 'I know that. Doesn't mean I can stop.'

  With the words spoken, he felt an enormous lightening - the unhappiness and small amount of uncertainty which had been hiding in him evaporated into the silence that had opened up. It felt easier to hear it from the mouth of a stranger somehow. Simpler. There was no confusion any more. The voice in his head that had been banging on about his sanity had fallen silent. Jocelyn's unquestioning acceptance made his own acceptance easier.

  'Does she know?' Jocelyn asked after a minute.

  'Know what? That I love her or that I'm half Unhuman?' Lucas answered wryly.

  Jocelyn arched an eyebrow in answer.

  'No,' Lucas said finally. 'She doesn't know. And don't worry, I'm not about to tell her.' He was only just coming to terms with it himself. Falling in love with the enemy hadn't exactly been part of his plan.

  'Good,' Jocelyn hissed, 'because nothing good can come of this. What will you do if they find out? If the Brotherhood know you've betrayed them? They'll kill you.'

  'I'm not scared of dying,' he replied. He realised it would have sounded nonchalant to her ears and looked away to avoid her scrutiny. She didn't need to know about Grace's prophecy or the fact that he'd long ago -
when he'd first joined the Brotherhood - resigned himself to dying. So long as he had his revenge first. Death was only a passing on, it wasn't the end.

  He could feel Jocelyn studying him, though. He shrugged it off. It mattered little what she thought of him.

  'She can't get close to anyone,' Jocelyn said after a while. 'She can't ever be with you, you know that, right? Even if you weren't her enemy, she still couldn't be with you.'

  Why was she still issuing warnings? He'd made it clear, hadn't he - that it was of no interest to him to get close to her in that way - to be with her? Yet Jocelyn's words stung.

  'Evie doesn't know,' he heard himself say. 'She won't ever know. I promise you.'

  Jocelyn was assessing him sceptically.

  He chose to ignore the way she was looking at him. 'I can keep the Brotherhood away for the time being,' he said, 'but I can't watch her when she's with Risper.'

  Jocelyn looked at him confused. 'Risper won't hurt her,' she said.

  'I'm not so convinced.'

  'It's not Risper we need to worry about. It's the rest of your friends,' she snarled back.

  'They're not my friends,' Lucas said under his breath.

  Jocelyn stepped towards him. 'Then why are you in the Brotherhood? Why are you wearing that amulet?' she demanded, pointing at the twisted shape of it under his shirt.

  He took a deep breath, forcing himself to stay calm and not let his voice betray him. 'I'm only interested in one Hunter,' he said. 'Victor. After that I don't care what happens to the Brotherhood or to the Hunters. My fight is purely personal.'

  She stopped. Her lips opening in a silent question, deep furrows running between her eyes and across her forehead. 'Why Victor?' she asked.

  'He killed my father and mother.'

  He watched the realisation strike. He saw a line of fear draw across her eyes again as she pieced together the puzzle.

  He hurried on before she could ask any more questions. 'Evie can't run,' he said, 'because we'll hunt her down. She's the last Hunter. The Elders want revenge. And they want her.' He grimaced as he said it.

 
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