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"There's lots to say," she replied. "You just don't want to." I didn't turn to look at her. I wasn't having this conversation in an airplane, but Shannon didn't drop it. "Do you love him?"

Turning slowly, I felt my jaw open slightly in surprise. Why would she ask me that? It was like stabbing me in the heart. Of course I loved him. I finally said, "I don't want to talk about it."

She tilted her head back, examining the overhead storage bin above her as she spoke. "You used to say there was no such thing as love. Remember that?" I nodded. I believed that whole-heartedly until rather recently. "We both said that. True love was the stuff they stuck in fairytales and myths."

"It is," I replied. And I still believed for the most part that it was. True love doesn't have happy endings. Case in point; I'm on a plane and Collin is in Hell.

"Then, why won't you say that you love him?" she asked. "Ivy, he gave his life for you. He took your place in Hell. Even if you don't know how you feel, it's clear that he didn't want to be just friends."

Tears were welling up behind my eyes. She picked the worst thing to possibly talk about. I had to cut her off before I started saying things that I didn't want to share. Our relationship wasn't like it had been before I was turned into the Prophecy One. I couldn't tell her everything anymore. Loving Collin wasn't just a personal issue; it also had deadly ramifications. He was the anchor that was luring me toward the Valefar side of the war, whether I liked it or not. And I knew that Shannon didn't like that at all. Refusing to discuss it, I said, "It doesn't matter now anyway. I'm here. He isn't."

Shannon was quiet for a moment. I could feel her eyes on the side of my face, but I wouldn't look at her. She didn't have to know everything about me. The truth was simple. The idea of loving Collin scared me to death. I'd rather go to Hell, than admit that I loved him. To anyone. Myself included. There's something eternal about love and once it starts, it doesn't stop. There is no controlling it - love does what it wants when it wants. That was dangerous enough without the prophecy.

The flight attendant asked us if we needed anything, snapping me out of my thoughts. I grabbed a blanket and Shannon requested a Coke.

After she cracked open the can, Shannon started telling me about the Martis villa in Rome. "After I testify before the Tribunal, I can help you look through the archives. We can figure something out. And that's the best place to look."

I nodded. We'd gone over this with Al in New York. The Martis had archives dating back to the beginning of time. If I was going to learn anything about Kreturus, it would be there. I just wasn't certain what I was looking for. I didn't expect them to keep documents on how to kill the ancient demon, especially since they didn't kill him themselves.

Why did they trap him, anyway? It would have been better if they killed Kreturus. Then we wouldn't be frantic worrying that he was trying to bust out of his hole in the ground - that's assuming he's still stuck. Al thought that Kreturus was no longer bound in the pit that the Martis trapped him in millennia ago. There were several reasons she was skeptical. And the demon was smart enough not to announce his escape if he was able to roam the Underworld. The rest of the Martis were walking around thinking they just had to handle the Valefar, not even thinking that their master was loose again. They could be in for a rude surprise.

Finally, I turned back towards my friend. Or frienemy. Or whatever she was, and decided to talk about things that were safe. "Tell me about the Tribunal," I said. "Is it a single person, a panel, or what?"

I leaned back in my seat and looked at her. For the first time I noticed the weary appearance of her eyes. Maybe she took all this stuff harder than I thought. There was a burden on her that I didn't notice before. Her normal lighthearted banter and carefree mannerisms were slothified. I was so wrapped up in my own grief that I hadn't noticed.

She smiled, sipped her Coke, and then said, "The Tribunal is a bunch of people. It's kind of like the Supreme Court in that they all get a say. Select Martis of each division are given a vote. They listen to testimony, and consider the words of their fellow Martis - but they are not bound to anyone or anything. They are the highest level of judges amongst us.

"The Tribunal only comes together when something is majorly screwy. Like this. Overturning a prophecy is major stuff. Al wants them to uncondemn you. Until they do, you have to worry about a Martis stabbing a silver blade in your back." She threw her head back and chugged more Coke.

"So, that's what they started? A hearing to see if I'm not evil?" I bristled.

"Nah," she said. "It's more than that. It's to see if they misunderstood the prophecy, and what their place in it was for all these years. Several very weird things happened. You being tainted in the first place and surviving a demon kiss was odd. Then, a Valefar protected you. That was unheard of. I know you and Eric hate each other right now, but you two worked together to close the portal. It looks like the Valefar and Martis are working together." She arched an eyebrow at me. "That would be super weird."

"Only if the people involved were truly Valefar. I'm not. I have a soul. And, so does Collin. That was why his actions were so erratic. Why would they think anything else?"

Some things seemed so obvious to me, but when it came to convincing the Martis of that it was difficult. I thought Eric was going to kill me when he found out that I was tainted with demon blood. Their vengeance borders on insane. Eric knew me well enough to know that I wasn't some evil, demon-aspiring wanna-be, but he couldn't see past my demon blood. That's all any of them focus on - blood. And mine's the wrong kind.

She shrugged. "They need proof. That's why they want my testimony. They'll want yours too."

What? She never said anything about having to address the Tribunal. I was supposed to tag along and research Kreturus, not waste time defending myself. I bristled and opened my mouth to speak, but she talked over me. "Ivy, you were there. You're the main person who can defend your actions. You really want someone else to do it?"

Suddenly I didn't think Shannon had been entirely truthful. Friggin Martis. They always did what they thought was best and filled you in later. I was sitting on a plane with her because she said come. If she extended the same amount of trust to me that I gave her, I would have heard of her intentions much earlier.


The flight took too long. I hated being stuck in a ton of tin hurling through the sky, but it was a necessary evil. Shannon didn't know I could efanotate, so I had to take the plane. We were fairly quiet the rest of the flight. When the plane finally landed in Rome, I felt a little better. Shannon and I grabbed our stuff, and walked off the aircraft with the rest of the passengers. As we left the gate and headed towards the baggage claim I noticed a few people. They didn't stick out because they failed to blend in. No, they blended with the crowds perfectly. Everything from their traveling clothes, to carry-on bags, to the travel-swept look said they were passengers from my flight. But, something was off about them. They hung back in the crowd, blending in flawlessly. I wouldn't have noticed them at all, except that I'd stopped abruptly when I fumbled my purse. It slipped out of my grasp, and toppled over my hands, landing on the floor. I ducked to grab it before a shoe kicked my bag away. Between hundreds of legs, I saw them.

"What is it?" Shannon asked.

I snatched up my purse, and stood slowly. The three had stopped moving, and they acted oddly, no longer moving with the flow of the crowd. Each one of them stopped, turned, or stooped nearly in unison. The movements were perfectly coordinated, as if I shouldn't have seen them at all. But, for some reason I did. And as soon as I noticed them, I saw others like them. Passengers who looked like they belonged, but something about them was off. It was like they knew each other but weren't acknowledging it. I tilted my head towards them and spoke softly, "We're being followed."

Shannon's gaze cut across the crowd. An unrecognizable expression crossed her eyes and vanished. She pulled my arm and leaned in next to me. "It's nothing. Keep walking."

Pulling my arm away, I said, "Shan. Are they following us or not?"

She glanced over her shoulder, "They must be moving towards the baggage claim. No big. Ignore them. I'm watching. Nothing is gonna hurt us." She flashed a smile at me and pulled at my arm again. Her reassurance didn't subdue my apprehension, but we walked on anyway.

After grabbing our bags, she walked away from the baggage claim saying, "A car should be waiting for us out front. Come on."

I didn't move. She stopped and looked back at me. I spoke softly, gesturing for her to come closer. When she did, I said, "Something isn't right. Look around you, Shan. They're everywhere." And they were. Men and women stood around not doing anything. They were not getting baggage, not waiting for someone, not hugging people hello, not talking on their cell phones, not looking like lost tourists...but they were clearly waiting for something. And there were so many of them. We were surrounded. They'd encircled us while Shannon grabbed the bags and I got a luggage cart. Damn it! Who were they? Shannon's eyes scanned the crowd, but she said nothing. "Oh, geeze, Shan. Tell me you see them?"

She nodded. "I see them." Her voice was faint. Something felt wrong. Wrong with her. Wrong with here. She recognized the expression on my face. Her fingers shot out and wrapped tightly around my arm. "Just walk Ivy. They don't trust you. If you run, God knows what'll happen."

"Holy shit!" I screeched. "You knew?" My brow pinched tightly as I shook off her grip and stepped back. "They're Martis, aren't they?" When she didn't answer, I leaned in and spat the words inches from her face, "Aren't they. Damn it, Shannon! What did you do? What did you do!" My fight or flight response reared up and I was having trouble controlling it. Blood pumped through my body at a rapid speed. The sound of my heartbeat echoed in my ears, as I watched them closing in on me. When I tore my arm free from Shannon's grip, the Martis swarmed.

Shock slowed me down, making several long seconds feel like minutes. Jaw hanging slack; I stared at Shannon, unable to believe what she did. I was surrounded by Martis. She led me straight to them. And, these Martis didn't know me. They didn't fight with me, and watch me slashing down Valefar after Valefar with rage. They didn't see me close the portal to the Underworld with Eric's help. For all I knew, they were here to kill me. I stared at Shannon in disbelief. Her green eyes were wide. Her mouth opened offering an explanation that I didn't wait around to hear. The noise in the terminal faded until all I could hear was the lub-dub of my heart.

My finger rubbed my ruby ring, as I considered using my Valefar powers to get out of there. The Martis didn't know that I channeled my dark powers through the ruby stone in my ring. They didn't know that I had to because I wasn't a full Valefar. Collin never used a ruby to use his powers, but I had to. Rubies could contain dark magic, and that was exactly what I did with mine. I called the dark powers into the stone. The angel blood that flowed through my veins wouldn't allow the dark powers to flow directly through me, so Collin taught me to channel them through the red stone.