The heat licked my stomach making me cry out in agony. Warm blood oozed from my back, stinging as it touched my sweat soaked shirt. Catacomb. Focus, Ivy. Attempting to ignore the pain, I continued to picture the painting from the book in my mind; every vivid detail. The angel's wings. The flaming swords. The Valefar mark painted on the tomb. I imagined the cool smell of the earth and the narrow passages that surrounded the graves.
I clutched Eric harder when I heard him cry out. I couldn't stop it. There was no stopping efanotation midway through. The pain was intensifying and searing every inch of my body from within. My lungs let out another scream drowning out Eric's cries. The cold earth crashed into us abruptly.
I fell face-down in the dirt and lost consciousness as the pain in my back overtook me.
Pain coursed through my body unlike anything I've ever felt before. My muscles felt raw in an unnatural way. I patted my arms, checking to make sure my skin was still intact. It felt like it had been fried off. That was the most painful efanotation that I've ever done. I sighed in relief, rubbing out my sore muscles, and sat up looking for Eric. He was lying a few feet from me, facedown into the dirt. He rolled onto his back and was breathing hard. Dirt streaked his white shirt.
I slowly dragged my wounded body toward him. A moan escaped his lips as he tried to move. His amber eyes opened cautiously and stared at the tomb ceiling. He blinked slowly, finally focusing on my face. "What happened? Where are we?" he asked.
Leaning over him, I looked to see if efanotating caused him any permanent damage. He obviously didn't do with it well, but he seemed fairly unscathed. He would have looked better if I didn't hurl us into the floor.
Relieved, I breathed, "We're somewhere safe; for the moment anyway. We're under Rome." In a grave. I left that part off since it was obvious from the piles of bones stuffed into the stone walls. I slammed my eyes closed and stifled a moan.
"Are you all right?" he asked sitting up.
I looked up at him. "The blade hit my back."
The expression on his face changed, as he crawled next to me. Slowly I sat up, trying hard to swallow the pain. He knelt behind me and after a minute said, "Your shirt is covered in blood, but it's stuck to the wound. I can't see it very well. May I?" indicating he needed to look under the shirt to see how bad it was.
I nodded, "Just do it, Eric." He hesitated. My back was covered in blood. When he didn't move I turned sharply and said, "Forget it."
"Ivy stop," he said. "It's not like that."
"Then what's your problem? You're so afraid of touching demon blood that you won't help me. Forget it Eric."
"No, that's not it. If you'd be quiet for a minute, I'd tell you." I folded my arms and stared at him. Bright red marks blossomed in his cheeks until his entire face was in a full blush. "The blade cut through your bra. The strap is cut three-quarters of the way through."
I laughed. "I was slashed with a deadly weapon and you're blushing over the back of my bra strap? Seriously, Eric?" I reached behind me and ripped the strings that were holding the fabric together. The bra broke, and I pulled it out from under my shirt and threw it on the floor. The back strap was covered in blood.
Eric's blush deepened, but I pretended not to notice. It was kind of sweet. "You shouldn't be walking around, ya know. From the amount of blood on your back, you should be dead." His fingers pushed the torn sections of the back of my shirt apart. For a moment he said nothing, and then I felt his fingers pressed lightly on my back, and I flinched. "Does that hurt?"
I shook my head. "Not really. But, you're hands are cold. How bad is it?" He moved in front of me. Eric's expression was odd. He studied my face and then looked at the floor, gathering his thoughts. His response was making me panic. I tried to look over my shoulder to see the wound, but I couldn't twist far enough to see anything. "Eric! Tell me."
His gold eyes looked up at me with a blank expression. "There's nothing there. The wound's gone. The only thing left is the dried blood sticking to your back." I stared at him for a moment. My finger reached around to the spot where the wound was and slid over my skin. Caked blood came off in my fingers, but nothing else. No warm, wet blood. What happened to the wound? "Well, apparently silver and Brimstone in the back won't kill you."
I stared at the dried blood on my fingertips. "How is that possible? Where's the cut? Shannon had to heal me last time I was hurt. I know I was cut badly. That blade sliced through my back. It missed bone, but I felt it slice my skin open. The pain was unbearable. It wasn't a scratch. And it's still sore."
Eric shrugged. "Part of the mystery of the Prophecy One. Martis can heal from most wounds, and so can you. That's why you didn't need Shannon this time. You're part Martis and your powers are intensifying. You healed yourself. You're changing, Ivy. You're changing into the Prophecy One." I cringed. I didn't want to be the Prophecy One. At the same time, I was still alive because I was. Eric looked around and then asked, "We're in the catacombs, aren't we?" I nodded. "How did we get here?"
"We efanotated," I said cautiously. He was going to be pissed. I used Valefar magic on him. He hated that part of me. Well, I wasn't going to hide it. Those dark powers saved our lives. I didn't really care where they originated from at the moment, but the former Seeker might have difficulty disregarding it. I decided to explain when he didn't respond. "I can make my body move from one location to another by thinking about it. It hurts like hell, but it saved us."
Eric's brow pinched together as he stared at me with his mouth open. He was frozen...but with what? I expected him to rip into me and give me the scolding of a lifetime. But the tension flowed out of him and he smiled saying, "Then, why did you stay there for three months? The Martis thought they had you trapped. And this whole time, you could have left whenever you wanted?"
I nodded as the corner of my mouth pulled into a faint smile. "Yeah. I could have left whenever. I stayed because it seemed like they'd see...Well, I was hoping that they'd notice that I wasn't evil incarnate the way they thought. But, after a while, it didn't seem like they were capable of seeing me any other way. It didn't matter what I did." I pushed a curl back behind my ear. "Then I was just staying to research stuff about Kreturus. I spent the entire time looking for a backdoor into the Underworld. I planned on leaving as soon as I knew for certain, but the Martis said I was needed at the hearing. They stopped me earlier and dragged me to the courtroom. And I wanted to know what happened to you. So, what happened?"
Eric's eyes darted away from mine for a second. When they returned to my face he seemed decided about something. "They called me back. They initially questioned me about the battle and sealng the portal. When I repeated that you helped me, and said I did not act alone, they changed what they were questioning me about. They shifted to another night, night that I should have killed you, the night you changed Collin. I stood there and watched. I did nothing. Shannon was to follow my lead. She failed to act because of me.
"Then, tonight the Tribunal told me your fate - you were to be executed. They concluded that they had to destroy you before it was too late, and that your involvement in sealing the portal was irrelevant. The Tribunal said that there was nothing I could do that would change their minds, but they had hoped you would try to change mine. You were supposed to be used as leverage to get me to speak." He laughed, "That didn't work out the way they planned, huh?"
I stared at him with my mouth hanging open and a shocked expression on my face. I didn't know what to say. The Tribunal already sentenced me? Why didn't Shannon or Al know about it? And they moved onto other matters, like my ability to save Valefar, and the one boy that could have killed me, but didn't.
"Eric, why didn't you just tell them? You couldn't kill us. You couldn't even see what was happening until it was over." That night was a blur. I remembered Eric being irate, but I didn't remember him being passive and just letting it all happen.
He shook his head. "Ivy, there was black mist swirling around you, but not in the beginning. When you tried to help him, I was shocked. I couldn't tell if you were a Valefar or... you. So I waited when I should have killed you. Then after that, I could have called as much light as I wanted to try and bust the black mist apart. I didn't. I just stood there." He went to say something else, but closed his mouth instead. He looked away from me.
"Why'd you hesitate? Why not kill me if you thought I was Valefar? Eric, what aren't you telling me?" I tried to piece things together in my mind, but they weren't coming together. He should have killed me that night. No questions asked. He thought I was a Valefar. But when he realized that I wasn't, I was still The Prophecy One - the girl he'd been hunting for centuries - and he did nothing. He should have killed me, but he didn't. Why not? Especially with the rage that was plastered all over his face that night. What was with him? Why couldn't I figure this out? It made me totally uncertain about Eric. It was part of his bipolar personality. At least he seemed that way to me. He didn't do things half way. His actions were either totally saintly or inherently evil. I didn't know what motivated him to act the way he did. Without that information, I couldn't decide if he was trying to help me, or finish his original assignment to kill me.
He looked away. "Ivy, it doesn't matter now."
"Yes, it does." I bit my lip, trying to restrain my emotions. Why didn't he understand? I blinked slowly, calming myself, and tried to explain. "Eric, I don't know where we stand. Are you saying that you want to be my friend? Is that what you mean? Your Martis brain shorted out and you decided to befriend the enemy for real?"
He laughed, "I don't know what I decided. I just saw you with him - I could see you through the mist. It didn't conceal you. Not the way you thought. I saw you holding him in your arms and..." he looked away. "I thought the Martis were wrong about you. Evil creatures cannot love. The way you looked at him...the way you protected him. It reminded me of everything I lost. It reminded me of what I would have done to save her. I didn't have the chance, but you did. And I wasn't going to be the one to take it away. I decided the Martis were wrong about you. Ivy, I am a traitor. I damned myself. That's why I didn't speak. There was nothing to say because...they were right." He rose and brushed the dirt off his jeans. The sleeves of his white dress shirt were caked with streaks of dirt. He batted at it, but I pulled him toward me.
When his eyes met mine, I said, "They weren't right about you. You're not a traitor. You just see more than they do. You're willing to look past the traits that damned me, and see the girl trapped beneath." His amber eyes were intense, drinking in everything I said as if he were parched. "I still have a soul. I'm still alive. You knew that and refused to destroy me. That makes you courageous, not a traitor." I dropped my hand, and looked away.
The Martis were so blind. How could they not see Eric for what he was? But then, I wasn't exactly certain what he was either. I sighed, "So, we both have a price on our heads, then?" He nodded. "Well, good thing I took you with me. So, what now? Are you going to try to stop me from doing the stupidest thing I've ever done?"