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Fated 02 severed, p.16
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       Fated 02: Severed, p.16

           Sarah Alderson
 
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  ‘Come on, get in,’ Cyrus yelled. Evie turned. The car was revving and Cyrus had flung open the passenger door.

  She glanced back at the humans standing over the smouldering remains and then climbed in beside Cyrus. An army was coming in just two days, she thought numbly – an army of unhumans. They were coming for her. And they’d go through whoever stood in their way. Issa had never mentioned an army. Why hadn’t she said something? She must have seen it coming. Evie stared out of the windshield unseeing, not registering the flashing blue and red lights that flew past them, thinking only of Lucas. Maybe Issa had told him. Maybe that’s what she’d come to tell him the other day. It made sense. As did Lucas lying to her about it. He wouldn’t have wanted to worry her.

  Epic fail on that score.

  Cyrus pulled into the warehouse’s parking garage and killed the engine. No one had said a word since they’d set fire to the Thirsters. Cyrus hadn’t cracked a single joke. Even now his face was set in a seriously dark expression that she’d never seen him wear before. It kind of made her miss his normal mocking one. Evie’s stomach constricted, her ribs too, squeezing her heart in a tight embrace. Where was Lucas? She scanned the empty space of the warehouse, hoping that her instincts might be wrong and that he was there waiting for her to return.

  She sucked in a breath. Someone was here. She could sense it. But it wasn’t Lucas. Then she saw her, sitting on the ground by the elevator. The others turned their heads as the person got up and started walking quickly towards the car, dusting herself off as she went.

  ‘What’s your mum doing here?’ Ash asked.

  Margaret stopped in front of the car, hands on her hips. Evie opened her door and followed the others out.

  ‘Where have you been?’ Margaret demanded. ‘I’ve been waiting for you.’

  Chapter 27

  Lucas had stopped beside Cyrus’s car outside the coffee shop, debating. To take it, or not to take it? It was tempting. Just imagining Cyrus’s face if he found his car gone made him smile, but then he’d thought about Evie having to take public transport and had decided instead to jack the BMW two cars down. He didn’t want to have to take public transport either.

  It wasn’t until he hit the freeway that Lucas realised he had been driving on automatic pilot and that he was heading towards the Mission. He almost pulled off at the next exit and doubled back, but then he figured it wasn’t such a bad idea to head to the Mission. Grace might be more likely to come to a place she was familiar with. And if he was being honest, he had a desire to see the place one last time.

  It was a four- to five-hour drive. He made it in three. He calculated how long he should wait and decided that if Grace wasn’t there by midnight he’d leave. Whatever happened he’d be back with Evie before dawn broke.

  The Mission was an old church and friary, built over two hundred years ago. It looked abandoned from the outside. It looked abandoned on the inside too, the hallways echoing mournfully, slanted squares of moonlight dousing the floors. Lucas paced the rooms, staying invisible, moving silently, wandering aimlessly. He didn’t expect to find anything or anybody. His senses were alert but the only sounds were coming from a couple of bats nesting in the roof and a few spiders spinning webs on the ceiling of the old chapel.

  The weapons room had been emptied and the training room was bare. Except for a few holes in the wall and the crater in the floor where Shula had shoved Joshua’s head through the boards one time, it was unrecognisable. He remembered the hours they’d spent in that room with Tristan forcing them to run scenarios over and over, testing them, getting them to trust each other. Maybe that’s where it had all gone wrong. Trying to forge trust between species – the fundamental flaw in a Brotherhood that included Thirsters, Mixen and Scorpio.

  Lucas wandered back down the stairs and into Tristan’s study. It had been ransacked. Books were lying splayed on the floor with their pages torn out. His desk had been wiped clear – everything tipped up and papers scattered. Tristan’s chair lay on its side as if in the first throes of rigor mortis. Lucas half expected to see crime scene tape and a chalk outline around it. He wondered who the Elders had sent for Tristan, and whether Tristan had tried to resist. He was a Shadow Warrior, so he could have faded and tried to evade them that way, but no doubt the Elders had sent a Shadow Warrior to fetch him. Lucas drew in a deep breath, pressing his hands to the doorway to steady himself. Tristan was probably dead already.

  They were all dead. Joshua, Shula, Caleb. Even Neena. He whispered their names out loud. It was hard to believe they were gone when their presence in the building was so strong. Eerie sounds were pushing their way indistinct and muted through the walls – Shula’s dirty cackle sounding far away, then rising to the rafters and scaring the bats into flight; a sudden swish to Lucas’s right that made him twist around expecting to see Caleb stalking past; from beneath him the clang of the cellar doors bursting open, and then, just as he startled backwards into the hallway wondering whether any of it was real or if he was hearing things, he felt a flutter of wings brush his ear.

  Neena.

  He called her name and tried to grasp at the shadow that flew past, his heart hammering wildly in his chest. He watched the shape settle in the rafters. It was just a bat. Lucas stared at it, holding his breath, praying for it to shimmer.

  ‘I’m sorry,’ he whispered when it flew away. He sank down onto the bottom step in the great hallway. Coming back here had been a mistake. He closed his eyes. The past had gone. There was only the now. And there was no time for ghosts.

  His head shot up. There – again, a footstep on gravel. He was on his feet instantly and merging with the shadows cast by the stairwell. A few seconds later Grace appeared in the open doorway before him dressed in a long, dark coat, her pale hair illuminated by the moon that had risen above the trees behind her. He stepped out from the shadows.

  ‘Lucas,’ she said, taking him in with a coolly appraising stare.

  He scanned the woods behind her, checking that she was alone. ‘Grace,’ he answered when he’d confirmed she was.

  ‘You wanted to see me.’

  ‘Yes.’

  She glanced at the dark and empty hallway behind him, as if she had no intention of crossing over the threshold of the building. Her arms were wrapped around her body defensively. It made him wonder what she’d seen him do. ‘You know,’ she said, ‘you didn’t need to choose here.’

  He nodded. ‘I realise. I just needed to see this place again.’

  Grace raised an eyebrow. ‘Why? To make sure they were all dead?’

  He flinched, then took a stride towards her, seeing her head fly up in surprise at the speed at which he had moved. ‘You knew it was going to happen, didn’t you?’ he shouted. ‘You knew they were going to die and yet you let them go anyway?’

  Grace took a step back away from the onslaught, but Lucas carried on. ‘You could have stopped them! You could have warned Neena at the very least. Why? Why didn’t you …?’ His voice caught and he paused, pressing his lips together to try to stop his voice from shaking with all the pent-up rage.

  ‘I didn’t see it all, Lucas,’ Grace answered calmly. ‘It all changed so quickly. If you hadn’t gone back that night, then it would be done by now. And, likewise, if Evie had killed you then the prophecy would have come true already. But you did go back. And she didn’t kill you. And that changed everything. Well,’ she paused, ‘not everything. But it’s brought us to where we are now.’ She sighed with what could have been boredom or could have been sadness. ‘And Neena dying – I didn’t see that coming at all. She made the choice so quickly. As soon as I saw it, it was done.’ She shook her head and her hair flew like a curtain caught in a gust of wind. ‘It’s all so pointless though.’

  Lucas frowned at her, something sliding into place with a certainty that stopped his breath. ‘You’ve always known about the prophecy being marked, haven’t you?’ he asked quietly.

  She held his gaze. ‘Yes,’ she said with a sh
ade of defiance in her voice. ‘That’s why I tried to stop you, Lucas. Don’t you see? Nothing you have done in the past or will do now or in the future will make any difference. It just brings you closer to death.’

  He contemplated her for a few moments. The moon had disappeared behind some clouds and without any light to illuminate her all he could make out were the two enormous pools of her eyes, like sunken cavities in her skull. ‘So everybody keeps telling me. I guess I still choose to believe we can be masters of our own destiny.’

  ‘Your fate needn’t be the same as Evie’s,’ Grace answered, her voice cracking like a shot against the walls.

  ‘What do you mean?’ he asked, feeling the shudder prickle up his spine.

  Grace’s expression hardened, her chin lifting defiantly, almost in challenge. Suddenly everything became clear to Lucas. ‘You know the rest of the prophecy, don’t you?’ he whispered in a hoarse voice.

  Grace paused for a second and then nodded. ‘Yes. I know it. The Sybll have always known it. We just broke it into pieces and hid those pieces from the rest of the realms because it was the only sensible thing to do.’

  For several seconds they stood in the gloom of the doorway staring at each other in silence. Lucas frozen, and Grace’s eyes fixed on him, trying to foresee what his next move was going to be. So Issa knew too, Lucas thought to himself. She had known all along and had lied to him. Why? He couldn’t understand. He found his voice, forcing the question out. ‘What does it say, Grace? What does the prophecy say?’

  Grace studied him. She gathered herself before she spoke, drawing back her shoulders. ‘A sacrifice is called for,’ she said. ‘A life to close it. The White Light’s life. She has to walk through the Gateway.’

  For what felt like whole days Lucas stood there, the air growing still around him, his body frozen in place. Then he shook his head and said simply, ‘No.’

  Grace’s expression shifted, pity welling in her eyes. Rage exploded out of him in response. ‘Why didn’t you tell me – back then – why didn’t you warn me?’ he yelled, lunging for her, but she had foreseen his move and darted backwards out of his reach.

  ‘Because, Lucas,’ she said softly, ‘you can’t change anything. All these decisions that you are making are pointless, like throwing a paper towel onto a forest fire in an attempt to put it out. No matter what happens to delay it, nothing changes the final outcome. You can’t stop this from happening. The way through will close. And the White Light will be the one to close it. She will die. And the only difference will be whether this realm, and everyone in it, gets destroyed along with her or not.’

  ‘What are you talking about?’ Lucas asked, stunned.

  ‘There’s an army massing on the other side of the way through. Unless the Gateway closes in the next forty-eight hours you may as well forget about having anywhere to run to. They will try to kill Evie before she can fulfil the prophecy. The prophecy is marked but the Elders refuse to believe it. So they will try and they will fail, just as the Brotherhood have tried and failed several times already, and you will die for no reason. As will countless more innocent people.’ She paused and took a step forward towards him, her fingers gripping his wrist. ‘You have the power to change their fates as well as your own, Lucas.’

  He ripped his arm free from her grasp and tore past her without another word, jumping the steps and hitting the driveway at a sprint.

  Grace’s voice, soft as snowfall, pulled him up short. ‘She’s not there,’ she said.

  Lucas reeled around and was back in front of Grace in the next second, holding her by the arms. ‘Where is she?’ he demanded.

  Grace smiled and her smile, though sad, seemed tinged also with victory. ‘She’s with Margaret. The Hunter,’ she said finally. ‘She’s taking Evie to Victor. They’re on their way right now to Riverview.’

  Lucas let go of Grace’s shoulders as if she’d burnt him. ‘Why? Why is Margaret taking Evie to Victor?’ he asked.

  ‘Because Margaret knows. She knows the rest of the prophecy too. All that research she’s been doing over the years, it was always to find the prophecy. She’s going to give it to Victor when she delivers Evie to him. She wants the way through to be closed. That’s all she’s ever wanted. She sent you off to find me so you’d be out of the way.’ She paused, looking at him pityingly. ‘Do you see how it’s all falling into place, Lucas?’

  Lucas shook his head, trying to understand, then he let go of Grace and ran to the car. He needed to leave. He needed to get to Evie before …

  ‘You won’t ever be in time to save her,’ Grace called out after him. ‘Do you understand?’

  He climbed in the car and shoved the key into the ignition.

  ‘You just keep delaying things,’ he heard Grace whisper, her words cutting across the revving of the engine, ‘but it’s all going to end soon anyway.’

  Chapter 28

  Evie stared at the clock on the dashboard watching the neon display blink like the countdown timer on a bomb. It was close to midnight. Her foot was tapping the floor and Margaret kept glancing down at it every few seconds and frowning. But Evie couldn’t stop the bouncing, or stop her fingers from twisting knots into her T-shirt. She was worried that Lucas wouldn’t know where she had gone. She didn’t trust Vero and Ash to tell him if … no, she shook her head, when he got back. She should have written him a note but Margaret hadn’t given her time to even scrabble for pen and paper. And Lucas didn’t have a phone on him. In fact she wasn’t even sure he owned a phone.

  But it wasn’t just concern about Lucas that was making the adrenaline short-circuit her body. Ever since Margaret had shoved her backwards into the Prius and snatched the keys from Cyrus, Evie had been feeling as if she’d tumbled over the edge. And it wasn’t Margaret’s driving and it wasn’t the fact they were heading back to Riverview. No. She took a deep breath and glanced sideways at Margaret – it was something else entirely that had sent her into a freefall spin.

  Cyrus’s mum had barely said a word to her since they’d got in the car. Her hands were gripping the steering wheel as if she was sat in the front seat of a rollercoaster car without a seat belt on, and she was leaning forward over the dashboard, her nose nearly pressed to the windshield, as if by sitting that way she could exert some extra forward motion on the car to make it go faster.

  She didn’t trust Margaret. That’s what this weird, knotted feeling in her stomach was. It was the same feeling she’d had around Lucas when she first met him – something pricking at her, her senses screaming that she shouldn’t trust him. Back then she’d known instinctively that Lucas had been hiding something from her. It just turned out that the effect he had on other parts of her body overrode her gut suspicion and all her instincts. This time, though, she recognised what her gut was telling her and she wasn’t going to ignore it. Margaret was keeping something from them. Something Evie didn’t think was going to be a pleasant surprise. She pressed her hand to the hilt of Lucas’s blade and felt it dig into her spine. Her foot instantly stopped tapping.

  Cyrus leant forward suddenly between the two front seats. ‘Mum, do you want me to drive?’ he asked for the fourth time. ‘We might get there sometime before the army of unhumans invades that way.’

  ‘No,’ Margaret answered tersely. ‘The way you drive we’ll get pulled over by the police.’

  Cyrus huffed and flopped noisily against the back seat. ‘Why aren’t we taking your car anyway? I just got this valeted and now I’m going to have to do it all over again.’

  ‘My car got stolen earlier today,’ Margaret answered, ‘and, Cyrus, unless we make it to Riverview the least of your problems is going to be getting your car valeted.’

  ‘Fine,’ Cyrus sighed, ‘no need to remind me. But tell me once again why we’re driving halfway across the state of California for a book that Evie says contains nothing we don’t already know?’

  ‘I think it may have some hidden clue in it as to the location of the rest of the prophecy. I told y
ou this already,’ Margaret snapped, not taking her eyes off the road. ‘I remember reading something once.’ She trailed off.

  ‘And you’re remembering this fact only now?’ Cyrus asked, taking the words right out of Evie’s mouth. ‘You didn’t think to remember this earlier, back when it was first mentioned and before you sent the hybrid demon off to hunt down the missing part?’

  Margaret didn’t say a word. Evie stared at her, feeling the nausea in the pit of her stomach growing, but Margaret just kept driving with a fixed expression on her face. Her face in profile was striking. She had Cyrus’s square jaw and wide-spaced eyes, and the same short hair, a shade darker than her son’s, though Evie had a sneaking suspicion Cyrus lightened his because those streaks were far too symmetrically spaced to be the work of the sun. Margaret swallowed, her jaw starting to pulse mechanically as she felt Evie’s scrutiny. Evie turned away and stared out of the window instead, trying to imagine what Lucas might make of the situation – what he’d do.

  ‘And you didn’t think to take this book with you when you skipped town?’ Cyrus went on. ‘You didn’t think maybe this will come in handy some day. I think I might keep a hold of this?’

  Margaret glared at him in the rear-view mirror. ‘No, I was too busy running for my life – for yours – to think of taking anything.’

  Cyrus’s eyebrows shot up. ‘Except for a few priceless antique weapons?’

  Evie twisted once more to look at Margaret, whose grip on the steering wheel had tightened so that the bones of her knuckles were practically shearing through the skin. So, she’d run off with some of the Hunters’ ancient weapons. Was that how she’d financed her time on the run? Was that how Cyrus lived his playboy lifestyle and wasn’t forced to work a day job at Starbucks? She wished she’d had the presence of mind to think of doing the same when she had run.

  ‘That ruby-hilted knife – remember the one, mum? You got a good price for that on eBay last year.’

 
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