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Al's wrinkled hands clutched her cup. She crinkled her nose when she took a sip, and put the tiny cup down. "I thought it would have been resolved after I arrived, but they kept going." Her old eyes were full of compassion. "Use the time to prepare yourself. I know what you're planning to do, although you didn't bother to tell me."

I feigned shock. No one knew what I was really doing. They thought they talked me out of it, but they didn't. Shannon and Al thought I was looking for information on Kreturus. No one realized that the one thing that I was desperately looking for in the ancient library, but couldn't find. My forehead scrunched together, "Didn't bother to tell you what? What is it you think I'm doing here?" A smile lined my lips. I wasn't going to lie to her, but I knew she'd never approve of such an idiotic plan. And my plan was the epitome of idiocy.

She gave me one of her sassy old lady looks. "Ivy, I wasn't born yesterday. You're not planning on leaving Collin down there. I know that you're looking for a portal. You've pulled every book, scroll, and artifact on demons, the Underworld, and Kreturus. No doubt, that is part of what's making the Tribunal take so long to decide exactly what kind of threat you are to them. They don't expect you to find anything of course; otherwise they would have never let you in there.

"Ivy, you do realize that if you defeat Kreturus, you'll take his place, right? The prophecy was clear about that. If you kill him to save Collin, you'll end up being Queen of the Underworld whether you like it or not."

It wasn't like I hid what I planned to do. I even said that I was going to get Collin out of Underworld at one point, but Shannon thought she talked me out of it. Apparently, so did Al.

I released a deep breath and slumped forward onto the tiny table. "I just want to bring Collin home." I looked into her old face, "It doesn't matter anyway. I can't even figure out how to get in. The texts said that dark magic feeds off itself, whatever that means. But it also said that any outsiders would be sensed immediately. They'll smell my Martis blood, and know I'm there the second I walk in.

"And I can't just efanotate and flash in there, grab Collin, and leave since I've never been there before. Collin said I could only efanotate to places that I'd been, or I'll splice myself in half. Al, I thought if I could sneak in, and find him - then I'd have a chance. But, it doesn't matter how hard I look, there just aren't any maps that mark a backdoor to Hell." I rested my head in my hands, feeling defeated.

Al paused before speaking with her mouth hanging open, "So that's your plan? Sneak in the back door, and hope no one sees you? Goodness girl. That's a horrible plan."

I looked up at her. It didn't matter how long I thought about it, I couldn't devise a better strategy for saving Collin. "Do you have a better idea?"

She stared at me with one of her unreadable expressions and finally conceded, "No. I don't. So, you can't use Valefar powers to get in, but you can use them get out?"

"Right. According to the stuff I read, they'll sense me if I use dark magic - their magic. So I can't use my Valefar powers or I'll blow my cover. I'll have to locate Collin on my own, find him, and then I can efanotate us out." I dropped my hands back to my mini drink, and slumped back in my chair, pushing my hair out of my face. Three months and this was the best plan I could come up with.

The old woman breathed deeply. "There is a way in; a back door that no one will see you enter - if you can get past the Guardian."

I leaned forward, not believing what she was saying. "What? Where is it?" This was the most information I'd gotten about finding a way into the Underworld.

Her gray eyes were hesitant. "Ivy, do you realize that you're doing the exact thing that Collin tried to prevent? It's also exactly what Kreturus wants. If he gets hold of you, you'll have a lot more to fear than a demon kiss. And due to the unique combination in your blood, I doubt he'll rip out your soul. No, whatever fate he has planned for you is far worse than that. He'll want you alive and whole. If I tell you where the entrance is, you'll be walking straight into his trap."

"Al, I know. I've thought of that, but I can't leave Collin there." Remorse ripped through my chest in an unrelenting wave. I blinked back the tears that wanted to fall from my eyes. "I won't throw away Collin's sacrifice, but I can't abandon him either. Not if there is a way I can get to him. Al, I only have to touch his hand and we'll both be safe." The plea was very plainly written on my face.

Her old eyes locked on mine for a moment. Despite her age, she and I seemed like we were cut from the same cloth. Our ideals held us on our paths in life, whether they were easy paths or not. "Since I suspect you'll find a way in eventually, I'll tell you. But, you must realize that Kreturus is no longer contained. He may move freely in his own domain. It's possible that he is still restricted to the pit he was buried in, but I doubt it. Not after the visions you've had.

"Ah Ivy. Your convictions will be the death of you girl. Your passion will be your demise. It's written all over your face, and yet...I can't deny that you're right. Such a loyal and courageous friend does not belong in the Underworld." She pressed her lips together tightly.

It was plain that she didn't want me to go, but she seemed to understand what was driving me to do it. It wasn't just puppy love. It was as she'd said, Collin didn't belong there.

"There are several portals into the Underworld," she began. "They can be opened like you saw the night we fought the Valefar. None of the entrances are in plain sight. The Martis saw to that. And some entrances are safer than others. The oldest portal is the one you want. It's the least used and you won't find it discussed in any book. Only the Martis who were there when it was sealed knew of its existence. When the Martis left the Underworld, they marked the portal so they could return, if needed.

"This piece of knowledge has been forgotten by Martis, but the Seyers made sure that there were always two of us that knew. That way if something happened to one of us, the other knew of its location. This information was passed down from Seyer to Seyer."

She knew! Shifting to the edge of my seat, I couldn't hide the excitement on my face. She knew where the entrance to the Underworld was! She knew how to get in! But I couldn't tell if she was going to tell me. Her brow was creased, as she stared at me in silence. If she told me, she would be one of the cogs in the wheel that pushed me closer and closer to fulfilling the prophecy. The thing was, I was going whether she helped me or not. And she knew it. I just didn't believe that I would ever succumb to evil. It was so not me.

Finally Al said, "It's in the catacombs, Ivy. Read about them. As soon as you can, go and see them. But, the one thing that you have to know is that the Guardian that we posted to block the entrance will be worse than anything you could possibly imagine. The living aren't supposed to enter Hell. Remember that."

The catacombs were ancient tombs beneath the city. Was it possible? Could I really just walk into Hell through an old grave?

Excitement was bubbling inside of me. "I just have to walk through a tomb and get past a guard?" I asked.

Al's old lips smirked, "Not just any tomb; you have to find thee tomb. And there is no just getting past anything. You must defeat the Guardian to get through. I'm sorry I can't tell you exactly what it is. That information's been lost over the centuries."

How hard could that be? It was one guard. I'd battled horrifying things before, and I'd already seen demons. I just had to kill it. I had no qualms killing demons. And if the demon guard wouldn't let me pass, I knew I could slash through its scales without remorse.

"Which tomb?" I asked.

She shook her head. "They never told me. I only know it's in the Roman catacombs, and that the Martis guarded the entrance, even though it's been forgotten."

Across the courtyard I saw Shannon striding towards us, effectively killing our conversation. Her long hair had a reddish gleam in the sunlight. It made her eyes glimmer an intense green. She pulled up a chair and sat with us.

A smile spread across her face. "I've got news."

While I hadn't really forgiven her for the airport incident, she was still acting like my friend. She kept me company, and barked at guards when they mistreated me. She'd apologized and done everything to show me that she was sorry, but I was still leery of her, although my distrust was fading. Often she seemed to be on a personal mission to clear my name.

"Spill," I said, leaning forward. She knew everything about the trial. If I couldn't find her, she was usually listening to the hearing. After several weeks, I stopped asking for updates. It just enraged me.

Shannon was practically bouncing out of her chair. Al regarded her with a concerned look, but said nothing. "The court decided that the Tribunal couldn't judge you without a critical piece of testimony. That's what was dragging things out. Everything keeps coming back to whether or not Eric sealed the portal to Hell. Some said he did - with the massive amount of light he called. They have been debating whether or not it was even possible for him to do that, and what the effects would be with an orb that large." She leaned forward, gripping the edge of the table. "Basically, they only have you saying that you sealed it. If you did seal it, they said they have no reason to fear you. But, if Eric sealed it, your loyalties are more questionable."

Al asked, "They're going to call him?" Her eyes cut to me.

Shannon nodded. "Yes. They want Eric's testimony. Again. When they first took it, no one thought to ask these things. Then Julia banished him to some Godforsaken place. But the whole thing hinges on him now."

"Great," my voice dripped with disdain, as I dropped my cup. "My life is in the hands of the guy who killed my sister; the guy who knew me and hated me the instant he learned that demon blood flows through my veins."

I shot up from the chair and started pacing. My arms folded tightly in front of me. The guards that trailed me watched, but didn't come closer. I had no privacy. I could not react. They watched me and reported everything. When I first arrived, I thought being transparent and not fighting the guards would win me brownie points, but it did no such thing. I fought to control myself, knowing they were watching.

Al's voice was careful, "He has to speak the truth, Ivy. You have nothing to worry about. He'll corroborate your testimony, and the Martis will have to release you."

Somehow I doubt the truth mattered very much in this trial anymore. I turned to look at her. Breathing deeply, I pulled my arms tighter to my chest. "I can't stand the thought of seeing him. I don't know how someone so good could have done something so evil. It makes me think I didn't know him at all."

Maybe I didn't. The Eric I knew would have never killed my sister. He was kind and caring. He was so careful to preserve life, which is why it made no sense that he killed her. And, he was the only one who knew exactly what happened to her. Half of me wanted the details of Apryl's death, while the other half was too afraid to ask.

Al was watching me carefully. She had a sixth sense and could tell what was going through my mind. "I know that you're having trouble accepting what I saw in my vision," she said, "but Eric didn't kill Apryl. Ivy, you should speak to him when he's here. I don't think he led you to believe the truth in this case. And I have no idea why he took the blame."