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Fated 02 severed, p.18
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       Fated 02: Severed, p.18

           Sarah Alderson
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  ‘Give him what, Mum?’ Cyrus shouted.

  Margaret glanced at Cyrus. ‘This,’ she said, pulling something out of her back pocket. She held it up. It was a piece of torn, crumpled, yellowing paper.

  Evie stared at it, her heart starting to leap in broken rhythms.

  ‘What? What is it?’ Cyrus asked, shooting them both confused looks.

  ‘It’s the prophecy,’ Evie answered him, her eyes tracking back to the piece of paper in Margaret’s hand. ‘That’s what you’ve been researching, isn’t it?’ she asked, her gaze flying now to Margaret’s face. Evie wanted to snatch the piece of paper from Margaret’s hand, but she was rooted to the spot, a feeling of terror inching through her body.

  ‘Give it to me!’ Victor shouted, snatching the piece of paper out of Margaret’s hand.

  ‘What does it say?’ Cyrus demanded.

  A slow smile seeped across Victor’s face as he read whatever was written on it. He glanced up quickly at Cyrus then began reading out loud, his eyes flaming.

  Of two who remain a child will be born,

  A purebred warrior, the fated White Light

  Standing alone in the eventual fight

  Severing the realms and closing the way

  Passing through the light and into the dark

  Memories will rise, shadows fade on this day

  Confronting an army drawn from the realms,

  The sun, the giver of life and the light

  Together will stand and together fight

  One sacrificing all to close the way

  Passing through the light and into the dark

  Memories will fade, shadows fall on this day

  He stopped, raising his eyes from the page and fixing Evie with a look that burnt the breath clean out of her body.

  ‘That’s it?’ Cyrus burst out. ‘That bad pretence at poetry is what we’ve been running around looking for? Sacrificing all? What the hell does that mean?’ He looked at his mother and Victor for an answer. The two of them stood staring at Evie; Margaret with an expression of pity, possibly guilt, on her face, and Victor wearing the smug smile that his name suggested.

  Evie took a trembling step backwards. Her breathing was coming fast and shallow now, and sweat had started prickling along her spine. She wasn’t getting enough oxygen. Her lips were starting to tingle. Her feet felt leaden.

  ‘To fulfil the prophecy Evie has to walk through the Gateway. Through the light and into the dark – that’s what it means.’ Victor answered Cyrus without taking his eyes off Evie. And before Evie could move or talk or process anything further, Victor made a move, taking a blindingly fast leap towards her. She held up her hands automatically to deflect him but Cyrus was quicker, sidestepping between the two of them, blocking Victor.

  ‘Sacrificing all …’ Cyrus mumbled to the ground. Then he looked up sharply, staring over his shoulder at Evie as if she was a ghost. ‘You mean that …’ he stammered, ‘that Evie has to die. To close it?’

  There was just the word die. It was all she heard and then sounds became muffled as if she was entombed in a coffin, listening to voices seep through the soil at her graveside. Victor’s face grew blurry and indistinct. Evie was only half-aware of Cyrus turning to her in slow motion, his mouth stretching, forming words she couldn’t make out. Blocking all the noise, cancelling out the yelling was the sound of the river rushing loudly outside the window as if it had suddenly changed course and was raining down on the house. But then she realised with a start that it wasn’t the river at all – it was the sound of her own blood pounding in her ears. As if on cue, her senses spun like a tuning dial and noise rushed back in, in full stereo. The blurred faces in the room flew sharply into focus.

  ‘… this all along?’ Cyrus was yelling at his mum. ‘When we came to see you? You knew what Evie would have to do?’

  Margaret nodded, ‘Yes.’

  He shook his head, ‘You didn’t say anything …’

  ‘Of course she didn’t say anything, Cyrus …’ Victor interrupted.

  ‘It’s why you brought me here though, isn’t it?’ Evie spoke up, addressing Margaret. Her voice sounded normal, without even a trace of anger or surprise in it, and she was amazed at that. It shouldn’t sound normal given the voice inside her head was screaming hysterically. ‘It’s why you called Victor to meet us – even though you hate him.’

  Margaret fixed her with a defiant stare, throwing her shoulders back and tipping her chin up. ‘Yes,’ she answered.

  ‘I don’t get it,’ Cyrus shouted. ‘Can someone enlighten me? Why bring him into this?’ He jerked his knife in Victor’s direction.

  ‘He’ll see that it’s done,’ Evie whispered.

  ‘How did you even find him?’ Cyrus asked, turning to Margaret.

  ‘I looked up Jocelyn’s number after Evie told me she lived in Riverview,’ Margaret answered. ‘I convinced her to help me find Victor.’

  ‘Did Jocelyn know?’ Evie demanded, feeling a sudden spurt of anger. ‘Did she know all along about the prophecy too? About this suicide mission?’

  ‘No, of course she didn’t,’ Victor laughed. ‘Even I didn’t know the full meaning until now. I only suspected.’

  Evie turned to look at him. There was that smug smile again. She wanted to swipe it off his face. Her fingers, which had loosened on the knife, suddenly tightened, gripping the hilt with force. She raised it to chest height and saw the fleeting look of surprise pass across Victor’s face before the smirk returned. Evie’s head was still whirling, trying to process everything, the word die beating like a drum against the inside of her skull.

  ‘Evie,’ Victor said, gently this time, as though he’d guessed her next move, ‘There’s nothing you can do. It’s the prophecy.’

  ‘She can’t die. That’s insane,’ Cyrus burst out. ‘There has to be another way. Why would walking through the Gateway kill her anyway? It doesn’t hurt unhumans.’

  Victor shrugged, his eyes glinting. Now he had the prophecy in his hands he didn’t care about the hows or the whys, just about seeing it was done.

  Evie felt like pointing out to Cyrus that even if she could walk through it she’d walk headlong into an army of unhumans all primed to kill her. Either way she lost. But she couldn’t bring herself to open her mouth. A part of her welled up in sympathy for Cyrus; she could feel his confusion thick as fog, even as her own cleared away and the truth lay gleaming in front of her. She glanced at Margaret, who was still blocking the doorway, and almost smiled at the woman. There was no way out even if she found her way past these Hunters. There was no way back to Lucas and there was no choice. There never had been. Lucas had been wrong to believe there was. She took a step towards Victor.

  ‘What are you doing?’ Cyrus demanded, staring at her wide-eyed, as he blocked her way. ‘You’re just going to go with him?’

  She did smile then – genuinely, sadly – feeling a rift tear along her heart as she let the knife fall to her side.

  Chapter 31

  There were four. Lucas counted each of their heartbeats. Four Hunters inside the house. He could sense Evie the strongest, feel her presence fighting his reason, pulling him nearer when he needed to bide his time out here in the shadows, far enough away so the others couldn’t feel him. Cyrus’s car was parked at the end of the driveway so he was assuming that he was in the house too, along with Victor and Margaret. Victor’s car was parked further up the street.

  He’d slashed the tyres of both cars with the knife he’d found hidden in his old room back at the Mission. And now he was hovering at the start of the drive, crouching in the shadows of an elm tree, his eyes fixed on Evie’s room, the one buried under the eaves. The curtains were drawn but the light was on and he could make out a dark shape moving back and forth in front of the light. Lucas drew his knife and closed his eyes, trying to concentrate his hearing.

  Nothing. Even blocking the sounds from the orchard and the river in the distance, he still couldn’t hear any voices coming from the ho
use. He faded and slid silently through the trees on the edge of the plot, circling the house to see if he could hear anything from the back. The lights were on in the kitchen, the back door slightly ajar.

  He weighed his options. Victor and Cyrus were both strong and well trained, and Margaret’s instincts were still good – she’d obviously honed them over the years, had never let her guard down. He didn’t doubt they were all armed as well. He ran his hand through his hair and swore under his breath, trying to figure out his next move. Grace’s words were running through his head – you won’t ever be in time to save her, she’d said. Issa believed the same. It was why she’d lied to him about the prophecy. Because she had known that he would do anything in his power to stop it from coming true. Maybe they were right and it was futile – he looked up at the silent façade of the house – but that wasn’t going to stop him from trying.

  And then he heard her – heard Evie cry out – except there was no echo and no raised voices in reply. He realised in the next instant that he hadn’t heard her cry out at all – he’d felt her – felt her distress as clearly as if it was his own, sharp as a needle, bright as day. That was all it took.

  He was black lightning – invisible – striking across the orchard, flying up the veranda steps and in through the back door in under two seconds. He was up the stairs in the next second, not giving them a moment to react, if they had even felt him at all.

  Margaret was standing in the way, Evie just visible behind her. And behind her stood Victor. Cyrus was standing open-mouthed in the centre of the room between Victor and Evie, his arms spread wide. Lucas gauged all this in the time it took for his heart to beat just once. In the next heartbeat he had slid invisibly beneath Margaret’s outstretched arm, reaching Evie in the same moment. She half turned, her mouth falling open in shock and confusion, sensing him even before the others had registered he was there.

  ‘Down,’ he whispered, his lips brushing her ear.

  Her eyes widened in understanding and she dropped to her knees, the back of her head banging his waist just as the blade left his hand. Victor let out a bellow as he saw the blade go whirling past Evie’s head and finally his senses allowed him to see. He reacted fast, twisting sideways, but not fast enough, and the blade sank into the flesh of his shoulder.

  Victor roared in anger, collapsing to his knees, his face contorting in pain as the blood started to spurt.

  Lucas didn’t pause. He bent, bringing his arm across Evie’s chest and hauling her to her feet. He felt her stagger slightly against him and he clutched her tighter, dragging her backwards towards the doorway where Margaret stood blocking their way.

  Lucas materialised, sliding the knife out of Evie’s limp hand and into his own. He levelled it at Margaret, registering the shock that drained the blood from her face as she realised what was happening. She backed away silently, out into the hall with her hands up.

  Lucas edged past her, his arm still locked around Evie and headed to the top of the stairs.

  ‘Don’t let her get away!’ he heard Margaret scream, and suddenly Cyrus was there at the top of the stairs, reaching for Evie, grabbing hold of her by the arm and trying to pull her towards him.

  ‘Let her go,’ Lucas said, holding Evie tighter and baring his teeth at Cyrus, aware the whole time that Evie wasn’t putting up a fight. Her body stayed limp in his arms.

  Cyrus snarled at Lucas, his eyes flashing with anger, but then his expression shifted as he looked at Evie and without warning he let go, stepping backwards and blocking Margaret who was now standing at the top of the stairs screaming at them to stop.

  Lucas didn’t give Cyrus a chance to reconsider. He dived down the stairs, pulling Evie after him, and threw himself against the front door, hearing the wood splinter over the noise of Margaret’s screams. He dragged Evie down the steps of the veranda and started sprinting up the driveway, feeling the slackness of her hand in his and the drag as her feet kicked up the gravel. He skidded to a stop in front of the car, having to catch Evie around the waist to bring her to a halt.

  He opened the car door and ushered her in, before climbing in beside her and spinning them up onto the verge and down the road in a cloud of dust. He drove without looking back and without looking at Evie, though his hand held onto hers tightly. Ten miles down the road he finally pulled off onto a dirt track and killed the engine.

  He turned to face her in the gloom of the car. After several seconds Evie slowly lifted her eyes to meet his. Her face was bleached white as a Thirster’s, her eyes unblinking and huge – dead-looking. Her bottom lip was shaking slightly. She swallowed once and took a deep breath.

  ‘You know about the prophecy. You know what I have to do, don’t you?’ she asked in a voice he didn’t recognise.

  Lucas stared at her, feeling her words like a sound wave lashing him, knocking him back into his seat. She knew. Margaret had told her the whole prophecy. He hadn’t been in time to save her from that. That’s why she seemed so lost, so far from him. He kept staring at her, unable to tear his eyes away, unable to answer her either. Her shoulders were slumped. She looked as defeated as she had that time he’d seen her on the veranda of her house with Tom, the moment he’d realised his true feelings for her were as far from hate as it was possible to get.

  ‘You know, don’t you?’ she said again, this time a tremor of impatience in her voice. ‘Was it Grace? Did she tell you? Or Issa? Were you hiding it from me all this time?’

  ‘No,’ Lucas answered, his eyes dark as storm clouds, ‘Issa didn’t tell me. Grace did, earlier tonight. But it doesn’t matter what she told me, none of it matters, you’re not walking through the Gateway.’ He brought his hand to rest against her cheek. It felt cold, even her breath against his fingertips felt icy. He turned the key in the ignition and racked the heat up full, letting it blast them, then he put his arm around her shoulders and pulled her against his chest. She fought him at first, her shoulders tensing, her fists coiled in her lap before his lips against her forehead undid something in her resolve and she collapsed against him, shaking. Her fingers gripped his shoulders and she took two deep breaths, each one ending in a shudder that rocked her whole body. Lucas stroked her heaving back, smoothed her hair, pulled her closer, trying to make the shivering stop. Eventually she fell still in his arms, her breathing calm.

  ‘It’ll be OK,’ he whispered.

  Evie pulled back and stared at him. ‘Lucas,’ she said, speaking slowly and clearly as if he was deaf, ‘I’m going to die.’

  He twisted away from her, pulling his hands free and gripping the wheel tightly. ‘Don’t say that.’

  ‘You know it’s true. There’s nothing you or I can do about it, Lucas.’

  ‘Yes there is!’ He rounded on her, his voice a snarl. She shrank back in her seat and he immediately regretted his tone. ‘There is, Evie,’ he said more softly. ‘We changed a prophecy once. We’ll do it again.’

  She shook her head, confused. ‘When? What prophecy?’

  ‘Grace once told me that I was going to die. In the beginning, she told me if I went back to Riverview I was going to die. But I didn’t. We get to choose, Evie. We get to choose who we are and what path we take.’

  He frowned hard and pressed his lips together. He wanted to smash his fists into the dashboard, pummel the steering wheel, kick his foot through the floor of the car.

  It was Evie who moved this time, covering his hands with her own, pulling him gently around to face her. ‘OK, OK, Lucas,’ she said. ‘If you think we can change it, let’s try.’

  He studied her, the breath catching in his throat. She was smiling tentatively at him though her eyes were still guarded and wary. Did she mean it? Was she really willing to try? The last time she’d been this defeated it had taken anger and betrayal to force her back into fighting mode. She leant forward and pressed her lips against his, and he closed his eyes and breathed her in – felt her skin, still cool beneath his hands. Maybe, he thought to himself as she pulled away and h
e caught the way her eyes lingered on his lips – maybe she didn’t need anger and betrayal anymore to motivate her, maybe he was enough.

  ‘OK,’ he finally agreed. ‘We’ll figure a way around this. We’ll find another way to close it. And no one is going to get hurt, I promise.’

  Evie turned to stare through the windshield. ‘We should go to Flic’s,’ she said.

  ‘Flic’s?’ he asked, confused.

  She nodded quickly and shrugged. ‘We need to go somewhere. And we need help. We can’t do this alone.’

  ‘But Flic’s?’ he said, frowning at her. ‘I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.’ Flic had made it very clear she didn’t ever want to see him again and she also despised Evie. What help was his sister going to offer them? Other than showing them the way to the Gateway and shoving Evie through it?

  ‘It’s not safe going back to LA,’ Lucas said.

  ‘Victor’ll expect us to head east or north,’ Evie continued, speaking quickly, ‘not back to LA.’

  Lucas studied her. He didn’t know what to do. He wanted to protect Evie and the only way he could see of doing that was by getting them as far away as possible from all this, to hide her away from danger. Lucas slammed his palm against the wheel. Goddamn these choices. For an instant his father flashed into his mind, an image of him saying goodbye, telling Flic and him that running away never achieved anything – that spending your life looking over your shoulder was no way of living. If he wanted to change the future then he needed to choose the harder path.

  With a silent curse, he threw the car into drive once more and pressed his foot to the floor.

  Chapter 32

  They drove through the night. Evie sank back into her seat watching the white stripes of the road slide under the car, feeling fury at every one that disappeared behind them and at every blink of the clock, which wasn’t counting time anymore but was instead counting down the minutes and seconds she had left with Lucas – that she had left to live.

  She’d told Lucas what he wanted to hear, not what she believed. They couldn’t change the prophecy any more than she could change how she felt about him – this half human, half Shadow Warrior who’d saved her yet again. Saved her from what though? He couldn’t save her from her fate, even though he seemed determined to keep trying, determined to keep fighting the inevitable. There was no such thing as choice.

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