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       Severed, p.3

           Sarah Alderson

  Lucas looked up and held her gaze, ‘Don’t you think severing the realms would be a good thing, Flic? You’re the one who’s just been talking about how dangerous it’s getting with all the unhumans coming through and getting their freak on.’

  ‘Wait up, I’m confused,’ interrupted Jamieson. ‘I thought Issa and Lucas were just trying to convince us that Sybll prophecies don’t always come true – that we can change things. So why’s everyone getting worked up about something Shakespeare could have written?’

  ‘This prophecy is different,’ said Issa, standing up carefully and stepping around Lucas, careful not to touch him. ‘It’s never changed. Not through all the ages. It’s one of the marked prophecies.’

  ‘The what?’ Lucas asked, suddenly on his feet.

  Issa had stopped in front of Evie. ‘There are some prophecies that were written down thousands of years ago,’ she said. Her voice, if he wasn’t mistaken, had an edge to it – something similar to excitement, though an excited Sybll was something of an oxymoron. ‘There are maybe a dozen, fewer, all from the same Sybll, and every single one of them has come true so far. She predicted the Shapeshifter rebellion almost nine hundred years ago, Hiroshima, the massacre of the Originals, every major event in the last thousand years across all the realms. These prophecies, ones made by her, are known as the marked prophecies.’

  Lucas looked over at Evie. She turned her head at the same time and their eyes locked.

  ‘But if the Sybll knew all these things were going to happen why didn’t they try to stop them? I’m sure there’s a fair few million people who’d be happier and, oh, let’s see – maybe still alive – if they had,’ Flic snorted.

  ‘Sybll don’t interfere, Flic, you know that,’ Lucas answered tersely.

  ‘It’s not our role to change the fates of the realms. We just observe,’ Issa added.

  ‘What are you people? UN Peacekeepers?’ Flic snapped back. ‘So who the hell is this White Light?’ she yelled, throwing her arms in the air, ‘Does anyone even know? Did this great wise foreseer of the future think to give us a name? Or a date for when this severing might be occurring?’

  ‘No, no one knows when or who it will be,’ said Issa. ‘The prophecies were broken into fragments and scattered many years ago. I only know one fragment of it, passed down through the generations. You need to find the rest for it to make any sense.’

  ‘How did the Sybll manage to lose the other bits? I mean, you guys actually have foresight. You didn’t see this day coming? The day when we might need to know the rest of it?’

  ‘The Sybll didn’t want it falling into the wrong hands, Flic,’ Lucas spoke up for her, frowning as the pieces of the puzzle all slid into place. ‘It doesn’t matter, don’t you see? To them, it’s going to happen anyway whether anyone tries to stop it or not. If people knew who it was or when it was going to happen they’d try to stop it. And, if Issa’s right, if it’s marked as she says, there would be no point. It would be futile.’ As he said this last part he turned to look at Evie. If it was as Issa claimed – if the prophecy was marked – then Evie was safe. She couldn’t be harmed. At least, not until she had fulfilled the prophecy. Lucas turned quickly to Issa. ‘Do you know where we can find the other parts, Issa? All we have to work on is a verse that we read in a book belonging to the Hunters.’

  Issa was staring at Evie now. ‘I know only that the White Light was said to be a child of two warriors. The last Hunter.’

  Flic’s mouth fell open. She rolled her eyes and groaned. ‘You have got to be kidding.’

  ‘Are you saying what I think you’re saying? Jamieson asked, standing shakily. ‘Is it Evie? Is that who the prophecy is talking about? Is it her?’

  ‘Yes,’ Lucas answered. ‘She’s the last pureblood Hunter.’

  ‘She’s the White Light,’ Issa said in wonder.

  ‘And yet, dear brother,’ Flic said, glaring at Lucas, ‘despite knowing this, you still didn’t find enough reason to kill her.’ She moved in a heartbeat, so fast she was just a blur. But Lucas anticipated her and was quicker, his hand reaching and pulling Evie behind him, out of Flic’s reach.

  Flic tipped her head back and laughed as if it was all a joke but her dark eyes were flashing fire.

  ‘I’m not going to let you hurt her, Flic,’ was all Lucas said in response, feeling Evie’s fingers biting into his shoulders as she sheltered behind him.

  Flic pulled a face at him. ‘What about kill her? Will you let me kill her? I’d be doing us all a huge favour. The Elders would probably saint me. Or give me a medal, or whatever it is they do.’

  Evie made a noise behind him, something that sounded like a growl.

  Jamieson appeared and rested a hand gently on Flic’s arm. A faint shimmer rose off him as if he was fighting the urge to shift. ‘Flic, come on,’ he said, ‘we don’t even know what this prophecy means for sure. Don’t you think we should find out before you start attacking and, er, killing people? Especially if the person in question is your brother’s girlfriend?’

  Flic glared at him and then, shrugging her arm free of Jamieson’s hold, she crossed over to the window where she stood with her back to them, her arms crossed, looking out through a crack in the blind.

  ‘Issa,’ Lucas said, still keeping one eye trained warily on Flic, ‘can you help?’

  Issa regarded him for a moment, before nodding. ‘I’m not sure. I could try going back to the Sybll lands to see if I could find someone who might know more. But you can’t come with me, Lucas.’ She held up a hand, seeing he was about to argue with her. ‘It’s too dangerous for you to go anywhere near the Gateway. And she certainly can’t come,’ she said, nodding at Evie. ‘You should both stay here.’

  Flic spun around instantly, ‘They can’t stay here!’

  ‘Where are they going to go, Flic?’ Jamieson asked quietly. ‘You said yourself that every unhuman in the realms is going to be looking for them.’

  ‘The Hunter’s not in any danger though, is she? If she’s who you all say she is then no one will be able to stop her fulfilling this dumbass prophecy. She’s invincible!’

  ‘She can’t do this alone,’ Lucas answered.

  ‘She needs to be with her own kind, Lucas,’ Flic said, jerking her head at Evie. ‘Don’t look at me like that. You chose your side. Deal with it! Aren’t there any Hunters she can run to?’ She flashed him a snide smile, ‘Surely they’d help her fulfil her destiny?’

  ‘We can’t go to them.’

  She raised her eyebrows. ‘Why not? Did you kill them as well?’

  Lucas pressed his lips together. Risper, the only Hunter they could possibly have counted on, was dead. Not killed by him, but by a Thirster. He’d seen her die, torn apart and choked on, limbs discarded and her blood sluicing over the uneven ground, and he hadn’t been able to save her because he’d been fighting for his own life and for Evie’s. And Victor and Jocelyn, the only other two Hunters left, were alive but not exactly on their side. So no, there was no one else they could turn to.

  ‘What about the rogue Hunters?’

  ‘The who?’ Lucas asked, whipping around to face Jamieson.

  ‘There’s a band of Hunters,’ Jamieson said. ‘Trained. Running around like the children of Blade taking out unhumans. They’re on some kind of mission.’

  Lucas heard Evie draw in a sharp breath behind him. Her fingers gripped his shoulder tighter.

  ‘How do we find them?’ he asked, feeling a surge of hope.

  ‘Start a fight,’ Flic answered, smiling savagely. ‘You’re good at that, aren’t you?’

  Chapter 4

  Evie watched the water drain first red, then pink and finally run clear down the drain, and only then did she stand up under the steaming shower and stop shaking. She rinsed her hair, took a few deep breaths and then turned off the tap. Putting the nail file down on the side, she grabbed a towel and wrapped it quickly around herself. The mirror was fogged up. She could make out her body distorted and smudged with
purple bruises through the clouds of steam, but she didn’t want to look down and measure the events of the last weeks in each of the marks left behind.

  She hesitated before unlocking the door and stepping out into the darkened hallway, trying to pull herself together. She could hear the others talking in hushed voices in the living room as she crossed silently into the room opposite – the room that Jamieson had pointed out to her. She closed the door, feeling suddenly terrifyingly alone and wondering whether taking a shower in the house of a girl who wanted to kill her had been a wise thing to do. She’d half expected Flic to pull the shower curtain back and go all Norman Bates Psycho on her. Hence the nail file she’d pilfered from the cabinet and taken into the shower with her as a defensive measure. She was just about to drop the towel when someone cleared their throat behind her. She spun around. It was Lucas. He’d appeared out of the shadows by the closet.

  ‘Here, I brought you a change of clothes,’ he said, keeping his gaze level with hers and holding out a pile of black clothing towards her. ‘I borrowed them from Flic. She’s a bit taller than you but they should fit.’

  ‘Thanks,’ she said, reaching for the clothes. Their fingers touched as she took them, and she felt a jolt, like a static shock, shooting up her arm. She clutched the towel tighter to her body.

  ‘I’ll go,’ Lucas murmured, glancing at the ground before raising his eyes to meet hers once more. He seemed nervous all of a sudden. ‘You can sleep in here,’ he said, nodding at the bed. ‘I’ll take the sofa.’

  ‘We’re staying?’ Evie asked, surprised.

  ‘Yeah, we can stay one night. Jamieson got Flic to agree. We’ll leave tomorrow.’

  ‘And find these rogue Hunters?’

  Lucas nodded. ‘Yes.’

  Evie swallowed. What choice did they have? They couldn’t stay here. Flic hated her and staying here was putting all of them in danger.

  Lucas had crossed to the door and was turning the handle.

  ‘Lucas?’ Evie called out before he could leave.

  He turned, his eyes settling on her face, as if he was making a concerted effort not to look down.

  ‘Can you stay? With me? I mean, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep otherwise.’

  What with your crazy-ass sister threatening to kill me and all, she added silently.

  He bit his lip softly, before letting out a long sigh. ‘I don’t think that’s such a good idea.’

  She felt herself flush. ‘Oh.’ She stared at the ground, cringing.

  ‘Not if you’re only wearing that towel. Maybe if you put those clothes on.’

  She glanced up and saw the tentative half smile playing at the edge of his mouth. She smiled back, feeling a rush of relief soothe the burning in her cheeks.

  ‘OK, turn around,’ she ordered.

  He did. She dropped the towel and, keeping her eyes on his back, quickly pulled on the long-sleeved top and black leggings that Flic had lent her.

  ‘You can look now,’ she said, gathering her wet hair up into a ponytail.

  He turned around slowly and this time his gaze fell to her body and her heart started hammering in response. Could he hear it? He raised his eyes to hers and she could see by the look in them that he could. He was biting back the smile.

  ‘I should shower first,’ he said. ‘I mean, before sleeping,’ he added quickly, a blush seeping across his cheeks.

  She smiled. He was still wearing his blood-soaked shirt. It was sticking to him in places like a rancid second skin. He was right. He did need a shower.

  ‘I won’t be long,’ he said, sensing her unease at being left alone. He headed towards the door and then, all of a sudden, he vanished from sight. Evie stared at the empty space where he’d just been standing, wondering how he could do that – disappear at will leaving not a trace – when, just as suddenly, he reappeared, standing right in front of her. She lifted her face to his, noticing the dark trace of stubble along his jaw and the rust-coloured flecks of dried blood spattering up his neck.

  ‘I really wish you wouldn’t do that,’ she whispered. ‘I don’t like it when you disappear – when I can’t see you.’

  Lucas studied her for a moment before bending and kissing her gently on the lips in reply. She felt her pulse spike into one long elevated line. Then he turned and walked out of the room leaving the door partly ajar.

  She collapsed onto the bed and looked around. She guessed this was the spare room. There were boxes stacked untidily in a corner and a bookshelf stood against the wall piled high with books and magazines. A bicycle with flat tyres was leaning against one wall and an old, dust-coated computer was sitting on a desk under the window, opposite the bed.

  Evie got up and walked over to it. Taped to the wall beside it were a couple of photographs. Evie leant in closer. There was one of Flic posing with her arms around Jamieson. Evie had to do a double take to make sure it was really Flic in the picture because she was grinning and not scowling. She peered more closely at Jamieson and wondered again what he was, other than insane to be dating someone so clearly psychotic. A Shapeshifter, she figured. There weren’t many other options.

  The photograph beneath was more battered. One edge was torn and the colour had faded. But the girl in it was recognisable as Flic. She looked about ten in the photograph. She was beaming a gap-toothed smile and had long dark hair hanging in braids. Evie wondered what had happened to make her change from the sweet and happy-looking child in the photograph to the laser-tongued fury next door. Then she remembered what Lucas had told her about his childhood. They had lost both their parents, just like she had. She couldn’t suppress the surge of sympathy.

  Beside this sweet, ten-year-old, alternative-universe version of Flic stood a boy, staring darkly at the camera as if suspecting it of sinister motives. He had eyes the colour of storm clouds and unruly dark hair. Lucas, she thought with a smile, tracing a finger over the picture. Between the two of them, kneeling down, was a woman. She had straight brown hair, almond-shaped eyes and a smile that lit the picture better than a camera flash. Their mother, obviously. Just a few years after this picture had been taken, she had been killed by Victor. Lucas had watched her die.

  Victor. Evie shook her head, trying to clear it. It was still hard to believe that the man who’d walked into Joe’s diner a month ago and informed her that she wasn’t Evie Tremain but Evie Hunter, the last pureblood demon-hunter on the planet, the man who’d trained her – well half-trained her, half-tortured her – was the same man who’d killed her real parents too.

  Evie closed her eyes. Images, jumbled and fractured, pierced through with the sounds of screaming, filled her head. She pictured Victor flat on his back, Lucas’s knife pressed to his throat, blood bubbling chemically against the metal. And she pictured herself telling Lucas to let him go. What the hell had she been thinking? Victor was out there now. Looking for them. Looking for her, so that she could fulfil this damn prophecy, which no one seemed to have a clue how to do, not even a Sybll. If only they could find the other fragments of it, that might help.

  A sound made her eyes flash open. She tiptoed to the door and poked her head around it. From the living room she could hear the hum and hiss of voices speaking in raised whispers. She couldn’t make out what they were saying but undoubtedly it was about her. And seeing how she was the odd one out in this situation and the idea of killing her had already been voiced, she decided it was only wise to find out what exactly was being said. She eased open the door and stepped silently out into the hallway. It was Flic who was the loudest, her whisper stepping over the line into a shout that had probably woken the neighbours over in the Shadowlands.

  ‘I can’t believe you’re doing this, Lucas. When you ran off and joined the Brotherhood I thought that was stupid enough, but this? This is beyond stupid. Way beyond. This is crazy!’

  ‘Flic,’ she heard Lucas respond, exasperation and tiredness flattening his voice.

  Flic ignored him. ‘Are you trying to save her because yo
u couldn’t save mum? Is that what this is all about? You think that if you save Evie it will make all your guilt go away?’

  ‘Don’t,’ Lucas hissed through clenched teeth.

  There was a brief pause before Flic spoke again, quieter now. ‘Lucas, you’re my brother. Do not ask me to stand by and let you do this. I’m not going to allow you to kill yourself. For who? For what? For her? For some ridiculous notion you have of love? Of saving this world?’

  ‘Flic,’ she heard Lucas say, ‘you knew when I joined the Brotherhood there was a risk of something happening to me. There was always a possibility – a strong possibility – that I was going to die. Look at dad. It’s not a career choice you make with a pension and retirement to the Shifter realm in mind.’

  ‘Yes, but at least that was about revenge, Lucas. That I could understand. This – this I refuse to.’

  ‘It’s about more than revenge now. Don’t you see that at least? The realms should be severed. We don’t belong here.’

  ‘Speak for yourself,’ Flic shot back.

  ‘We’re not human, Flic. Not fully. We don’t belong in this realm,’ Lucas answered calmly.

  ‘Well, where do we belong?’ Flic shouted, ‘The Shadowlands? We wouldn’t be welcome there even if a grey wasteland with no housing and no sanitation was somewhere I actually wanted to live. And now you say I can’t live here. So where am I supposed to go? Where do I belong, Lucas? Where do you belong?’

  Evie could feel her palms sweating. She felt like one of the helplessly frozen mannequins from Victor’s boutique, standing there helplessly behind the door.

  ‘Flic, this whole conversation is pointless,’ Lucas answered. ‘The realms are going to be split. The prophecy is marked. It’s going to happen.’

  ‘OK,’ Flic said. ‘If it’s going to happen as Issa says, it’s going to happen with or without you. If she’s it, if she’s the White Light – she’ll sever the realms without you. So why do you need to help her? Answer me that.’

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