"Awh, shit. Eric!" Panic shot through my trembling arms. There was no other choice. Let him die, or kiss him. Decide! I pressed my eyes closed and leaned in, hoping this was what he wanted. My lips connected with Eric's. There was no time to be gentle. I'd waited too long. I should have asked him while he could speak. But, that look on his face was telling me he didn't want to die. He didn't want to leave yet. There was a way to keep him alive, but he'd hate me for it.
Especially if I misunderstood the plea on his face.
I kissed him fiercely, pressing his lips to mine. When my tongue darted between his lips I could taste the sulfuric residue from the Brimstone in his mouth. I didn't stop. Something inside me awakened. Something dark and powerful. I wanted him. It burned inside of me like nothing I'd ever known. I deepened the kiss until I felt it, something warm and light - his soul. I didn't need souls to maintain my strength the way Valefar did. I didn't need to devour humans to stay alive. I didn't need to trap and kill Martis to survive, but here I was destroying the little life that remained in Eric.
His soul slid free and floated into my mouth. I nearly choked on how smooth and sweet it tasted. All of Eric's essence, his entire spirit was gone. I held a limp body in my arms. Dropping him quickly, I sliced the flesh across his Martis mark with my comb, and then ripped open my thumb. Blood flowed from my wound. I squeezed my thumb, getting as much blood as I could to fill the scar I'd placed on Eric's forehead. The marred skin greedily absorbed the scarlet liquid, wanting more than I'd given. I cut my palm wide open, and held it to his face. His wound soaked it in quickly. When I took my palm away, Eric lay still, neither moving or breathing. I spoke nonsense to him softly, telling him everything would be all right. Maybe it was more to myself. This had to work. It had to. I could do other Valefar things. I half hoped he would sit up and smile at me. But if he did, he'd want to kill me. To save his life, I'd made him the very thing he despised.
The black veins of Brimstone stopped spreading through his skin, though I didn't notice when. When he still didn't move I cut every finger on my hand, and sliced my palm open several times, trying to get enough blood into his cut, but he hadn't moved. Eric remained utterly still, deathly still. Tears welled up in my eyes and I buried my face in his chest.
It didn't work.
Damn it! Tears streaked my face in silent sobs. My fingers remained locked on his shirt. I couldn't let go. The Lorren won. It got him. Eric would become one of the golden flowers on the walls of this fucking tomb!
Anger coursed through me. Everyone was going to die, because of me. I released Eric's shirt and backed away from his lifeless body. Valefar desires coursed through me. Dark magic burned deep within me. Part of me was horrified to learn that I enjoyed tasting his soul. I shoved down those feelings as far as they would go and screamed. The scream echoed through the Lorren and bounced back in my face. I took one last look at Eric and turned away.
I walked out of the Lorren alone that day feeling utterly destroyed. I'd expected the Lorren to tempt me with the one thing I wanted but didn't have - Collin. Instead it showed me the one thing I didn't need, but couldn't resist - the soul of a good man.
"How could you!" Shannon's shrieking voice broke the depressed mental haze looming over me. I flinched at the sound of her voice. When I left the Lorren, there was no trace of her. I continued following the bond, descending deeper and deeper into the Underworld. Time passed in an unreal way after I left Eric. I didn't know how long I'd been walking. I assumed Shannon was dead, too. I thought I'd never see her again. The sound of her voice surprised me. Turning slowly, I couldn't believe it was her, but it was. And she was pissed. Her shoulder collided with my chest and sent me hurling to the ground. Her rage shocked me out of my stupor. Did she think that I killed Eric?
"Shannon, get off of me!" I yelled. She pinned me to the cave floor, thrusting her dagger at my neck. Confusion slid across my face as I blocked and threw her off of me. She was trying to kill me! There was no hesitation in her swing, and rage was plastered all over her face. Quickly, I jumped to my feet and we circled each other slowly, like two tigers ready to rip each other apart.
Shannon's emerald eyes were wild. "I told you. I told you! Once you changed and became one of them that I would have no choice. I'd kill you. And out of all people to demon kiss, you kiss Eric!" Her fist collided with my cheek and it felt as if my face exploded. I twisted out of her grip before her blade could cut me. Just because Celestial Silver hadn't killed me in the past, I wasn't taking any chances now. Somehow I doubted I'd survive if she plunged her blade into my heart.
She ranted hysterically, screaming at me. "I should have ended this sooner! There is no way for a prophecy to remain unfulfilled. You're evil, Ivy! Eric couldn't see it, but I could! I kept telling him that you'd changed. That you were evil now. To end it. To end you! And he defended you! YOU!"
Anger coursed through me. What was she was saying? She already wrote me off! I probably should have reached for my comb, but I didn't. I was too irate. "When, Shannon? When did you think I turned evil? Was it before we came down here, when we flew from New York, or was it before that?"
"It doesn't matter when! I was right! Evil doesn't even begin to describe you!" She jumped toward me, and her blade pierced my skin leaving a red trail in its wake.
"Shannon, you're insane! Stop it! I didn't kill him! It was someone else! Shan, please!" Something felt so wrong, like I was missing a huge puzzle piece, but I couldn't figure out what it was. I was too busy trying to keep her dagger from plunging into my heart. She was going to kill me if I didn't fight back, but I couldn't. The punches I threw were halfhearted. I wanted her to stop and see me for what I am, but she didn't. "SHANNON! STOP!"
"NO!" Her face was deep red. Every muscle in her body was tensed, ready to strike. We were circling one another again. Panting, she bellowed at me, "I can't believe we were friends! I can't believe I protected you. You! The freak abomination Hell-child. I should have known what you were! You were such a slut, and what you did with Collin. You saved the enemy! And Eric just stood there. You killed him that night... and you can die tonight!"
The silver blade flashed as she found an opening. Enraged, she launched her blade directly at my heart. Something inside me snapped. I felt it crack open and spill. Power broke free and flowed through my hands in rushing fury. Heat burned my fingers like I'd lit them on fire, but that wasn't the part that shocked me. Each fingertip burned with a bright violet flame and a pure white center. The flames rushed at Shannon, engulfing her in light. She screamed, and was absorbed by the flames.
I wanted to die. Tears streamed down my face blurring my vision. My feet fumbled as I tried to keep walking, but I couldn't. I knew Shannon and I weren't friends the way we had been. The past was the past. We were best friends since we were born. During that time we were inseparable. But lately she was different. She was more Martis than anything else. She chose them over me. Seventeen years of friendship was destroyed in a couple of seconds - the second Jake kissed me, the second Collin saved me. But her hatred wasn't something that just happened. It had been going on for a while. Like last year, when I thought she'd helped me with without judgment when I flamed out after I thought my sister died. Apparently that wasn't the case. Her condemnation stung. I wiped the tears out of my eyes and sat down. The sound of distant demon birds filled the air. I'd move when the grackles got closer.
Crying does nothing, but for some reason the tears didn't stop. Maybe it was because she was right. I was evil, and I was crying for myself and not Shannon. I shouldn't have kissed Eric. I shouldn't have left him in the Lorren. But I did. And Shannon. My God, what did I do to Shannon? When I fought the Guardian, I felt power surge through me, but this was different. It felt like light and darkness combined and did something to her. She wasn't dead. Her heart was beating while the flashes of light did whatever they did. After the light dimmed there was an afterglow - a black mirror. I pressed on its hot surface. It was made of the same squishy stuff as the last one I'd seen, but this time I saw Shannon on the other side. She was lying on the floor surrounded by pews at St. Bart's. I backed away from the mirror, and it shattered. The black pieces fell to the ground and vanished. No, I didn't kill Shannon. I sent her home, but I had no idea how. My powers were out of control. I didn't know what they did or how I called them. Were they Martis or Valefar? Or something worse? Something that only the Prophecy One could do?
I slumped forward, resting my head on my knees. I'd undertaken the impossible task of trying to rescue Collin from the pits of Hell. What made me think I could do this? Love. The answer popped up in my mind instantly. I thought I could save him because of true love? It sounded idiotic, but it was true. After all, what was the difference between what I was doing and going back into enemy territory for a fallen ally? None. There was no difference, and I was on my own. There was no one to catch me when I fell. I was utterly alone, and I would be alone for the rest of the time I was down here. It made me wonder, how far would I go to save the people I loved? Instant bravery didn't pour from me when I needed it. It felt more like I was flying by the seat of my pants and they were ripping. When the Guardian went after Apryl I thought it would rip her to shreds. I fought that monster because I had to. My mission sounded insane, but my world was insane. I was at the center of an ancient prophecy. Everyone wanted a piece of me.
The rustling of the dragon's wings passed high above me. Good. As long as that thing was nearby the grackles would leave me alone. Perhaps sitting still wasn't wise, but I wasn't moving for the time being. I needed a plan. It was impossible to tell when my powers would surge. That made them very unpredictable. I was going to need another way to deal with the demons, Valefar, and Kreturus when the time came.
The demons and Valefar were down here although I hadn't seen any yet. But I knew they were here. I'd seen them in several visions. The demons and select Valefar surrounded a place that looked like black stone from the outside and a palace from within. It wasn't surrounded with pretty landscaping, but quite the opposite. The land was almost sickly looking - torn and bled dry. It rose high on spikes as far as the eye could see. It wasn't smooth rust colored stone like here. The ground was barren, hard, and black. Nothing grew. There was no light. The place was drenched in darkness. I was certain I would see that place before I left the Underworld.
A plan. What kind of plan could I devise? I couldn't just run in, all samurai warrior on them, and try to slash everything with my silver blade. There would be too many of them. That meant I had to sneak in. I was back to relying on stealth to get me inside. I sucked at stealth, but it seemed to be my only option. I was still going to have to sneak in and plan to efanotate Collin out. If something went wrong, I had no back-up plan. I'd be trapped here forever. Kreturus wanted me as his bride. Whatever that meant. Since a demon kiss was horrid, I assumed a demon marriage was fantastically terrifying.
Stretching, I arched my back and leaned against the wall. Gazing into the sky, I looked around for the dragon, but the cavern ceiling was an inky black. The dragon blended in so well that it was invisible. What role did that beast play in all of this? Was it watching me and reporting to someone? Or was the dragon wild? I'd assumed everything down here was Kreturus'. But, maybe that wasn't true. I couldn't imagine anyone taming that gigantic creature enough to make it obey. Startled, I flinched when I saw the dragon's glowing red eyes in the shadows across from me.