I shook my head, not wanting to talk about it. "It doesn't matter anymore." I looked at the guards, signaling that I was leaving. Turning back to Al and Shannon, I said, "I'm going for a walk."
Al had an odd expression on her face. She said, "Do that. Do that and while you're walking think about how you can believe and forgive one friend, but not another."
I spun on my heel, turning to her. Her words felt like a slap across the face. "What? What are you talking about? Who did I forgive for murder?"
She smiled up at me patiently, "You really need me to answer that? You already know who it is. And you forgave him. Completely."
"It's not the same," I rounded on her. "Collin was a slave. He was forced to do the things that he did. And if he killed Apryl, I wouldn't forgive him either!" I stormed away.
My Martis guards silently kept up with me, no doubt adding violent mood swings to their endless list of stuff that was wrong with me. Everyone knew the girl with the purple mark was deadly. Everyone held the same prejudice that Eric had uttered to me so many months ago - demon blood is vile. It is among the most dirty and dangerous things a Martis can encounter. Valefar have demon blood. It's what gave them life after their soul had been stripped clean from their body.
But that wasn't the case with me. I had been Martis before I was turned. A Valefar nearly killed me, but Collin saved me. Valefar's aren't supposed to have souls, but he did. Collin managed to hang onto a piece of his. It was too small to make him anything but Valefar, but shared with the miniscule amount of soul left in my body, following the attack, it was enough to sustain my life. Together, with the demon blood Collin gave me, I didn't die. I didn't turn Valefar either, but I was tainted. Now, I was neither Martis nor Valefar. I belonged to no one. And the result was a marriage of powers, both Martis and Valefar, into a new type of immortal with a new mark. The discolored swirl on my forehead reminded me that I didn't belong, as if I could forget it in this place. No one stayed around me unless they were forced to. I hated it here, and wanted nothing more than to leave.
After silently fuming, I lapped the building to work off some of the tension that threatened to erupt on the next person I encountered. There were two-faced Martis mixed among the people who resided in this place. On a daily basis, I dealt with them, ignoring their looks. They smiled as they passed me, but I could see in their eyes that they held the same horror of me that the more transparent folks had plastered across their faces. Al was the only one that I was certain was on my side.
Even Shannon was a question mark. She had been my best friend since birth, but I never forgot what she said to me in the old church on Long Island. She'd kill me when I became the evil one foretold in the prophecy. Until then, she was trying to keep me from that path. As far as I could tell, I wasn't on it. I didn't choose what happened to me. It was all fate. I had no control over anything. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time; which was a classic Ivy occurrence, but on a larger scale. Now instead of being in the wrong place at the wrong time and walking into a bully, I would be walking into Hell. Maybe I did bring things on myself.
Irritation shot through me. I had to go see if I could find the entrance into the Underworld that Al told me about. It was my ticket out of this place. And it pained me horribly to feel so damn helpless. Collin had been gone for three months. Three months! Meanwhile, I'd been up here finding nothing. Now that I knew what to look for, I hoped it wouldn't be much longer. He needed me. I abruptly turned around and headed toward the archives.
I was so close to finding what I needed. Now I knew the location. The entrance was somewhere in the tombs. I just had to find the correct location and figure out how to access get inside. As I walked down the hall, like I'd done so many times before, I shoved my hands in my pockets. If I encountered a Martis while walking, the guard would close in on me, reminding me that I was a prisoner, and also showing the Martis that they were safe from me. It was a joke really, because they hadn't taken my ruby ring away. They had no idea I channeled my powers through it. I could leave whenever I wanted - efanotate away - and they'd have no clue how I escaped.
Leaving this place was beyond tempting but there were two things here that I had to have before I could depart, the location of the entrance, and Apryl's Celestial Silver comb. The Martis took it from me when I arrived, which was rather pointless since I couldn't kill them with it. They said it was theirs, for a Martis warrior, which I was not. I hadn't seen it since, but there was no way I was leaving without it. As soon as I gleaned the information I needed from the archives, I'd find my comb, and get out of this place.
I rounded the corner, and cut through another courtyard that smelled sweet with winter flowers. This was the fastest way to the library. The guard closed in on me as we approached a Martis. The woman sneered at me as we passed. Considering that the Martis were supposed to be good guys, most of them were awful. It didn't dawn on anyone that I was still human, and in possession of my ravaged soul. No one remembered that I still had angel blood flowing through my veins, and that I should have been their sister Martis. No. Instead, they viewed me as an abomination and made sure I knew it.
I stared at the Martis as I passed, refusing to let her get the better of me. I was leaving soon. The Martis wouldn't chase me into the Underworld. I'd ditch the guard, and finally be on my way to rescue Collin. It'd been so long that I was sure he thought I wasn't coming.
His blue eyes and soft touch raced through my thoughts, causing my stomach to stir. The night he saved me, and took my place, he said words that I'd never forget - I love you. I didn't respond at the time. I said nothing, watching him fall inside the pit, taking my place.
I kicked open the library door, my mood turning darker. The guard scribbled something on his pad behind me. I turned to him irritated, "Oh, and you guys never get mad, and kick a door, right? You're always perfect all the time." They said nothing, not acknowledging that I spoke.
They sucked, too.
I walked into the room. Massive walls stretched to the ceiling covered in whitewash, thick wooden shelves with thousands of books and ancient texts went all the way to the top. The room was gleaming white. I had no idea how they kept everything so clean. The floors, walls, ceiling, bookcases - all of it was pristine, like it was brand new despite its age. The impossibly high books on the top shelves were so far out of reach that I wondered if anyone ever read them. Each shelving unit stretched from floor to ceiling in no apparent order. There was no card catalogue or computer to look stuff up. I had to have a Martis get me the things I needed. There was a lady assigned to me, Casey, who seemed to live here. She never went home. I looked around the room for her, assuming she was lost in the stacks somewhere. I walked over to her desk, leaned on it and waited.
After a few minutes, I slid up onto her desk to sat down. There were no cushy chairs up here to wait, and if I wandered around without her, I got scolded. Despite the fact that I loathed most of the Martis, Casey wasn't so bad. I dangled my legs off the side of her desk, wondering how long she would be. The Martis had records, books, and texts going back to the beginning of time. Or at least that was what Julia said. This vault connected underground somewhere with the archives at the Vatican - the place Julia worked when she wasn't trying to kill me. I was certain my trial dragged on because of her, although no one would confirm it. That woman hated me from day one, and that was when she thought I was a Martis.
The Martis Dyconisis knew how everything was filed in this room and exactly where to find it. The Martis were split into three groups based on their abilities and powers. There were Seyers, Dyconisis, and Polomotis. The Dyconisis were healers and handled the law. They also deciphered the Seyers' visions for the Martis. Apparently, they were also hardwired to retrieve books in a library that was the largest I'd ever seen. It was weird. There was no computer, no file, no nothing that even had a record of which books they owned.
The Dyconisis just knew.
I heard Casey approaching behind me with her quiet librarian voice. That was something that transcended cultures. I slid off her desk and turned around, shocked at who was with her. Casey turned to a small desk across the room, holding three small books. She placed the books on the little desk, and turned up the flame of an overhead lamp. She gave directions to the Martis, and as she spoke, he turned and looked up at me.
I started at him, saying nothing, not revealing the betrayal I felt. When Shannon said they were to summon Eric, I didn't realize they already had. I felt my teeth sink into my lip, as I bit down to try and remain stoic.
I don't know why my anger with Eric didn't surface the last time I saw him. Maybe I was too shocked to notice. Maybe I couldn't feel the depth of his betrayal until now. Life is like that sometimes. You sit there and stare, blank-faced and horrified, but utterly unable to respond.
Eric turned back toward Casey, nodding. He slid into the chair, and flipped open the book, ignoring me. I don't know what I wanted him to do, but that wasn't it. It confirmed the feeling that he used me, and betrayed me. Dirty blood, he'd said. Abomination. I started to walk towards him with sharp words cascading into a symphony of screams in my mind, but Casey approached me. Her petite figure and perfectly cut blonde bob would toss me out if I picked a fight. Taking a deep breath, I calmed myself. I needed my books first. There would be time to scream at Eric later.
"Yes, Miss Taylor?" Casey asked, always polite. She dressed in pastels, always pastels.
"I need books on the catacombs," I said. The movement was miniscule, but it was there. She flinched. I looked at her round face and brown eyes. She never responded like that before no matter what I asked for.
Her pretty pink smile faltered, "The Roman catacombs? What specifically are you looking for? There are hundreds of texts about them; everything from lineage to architecture."
Oh crap. I didn't plan on telling her anything. The more information I fed the Martis, the longer I made my noose. There was no doubt in my mind that if the trial didn't turn out the way Julia wanted, then she would find something else to hang me with. I needed to think of something fast, but I didn't know what to say.
Eric spoke over his shoulder. "Bring her the oldest texts you have. She'll want all four." Then he turned back to his desk. Casey looked at me for confirmation with an eyebrow raised. I nodded, and she trotted off, down the aisles of towering shelves.
I stepped closer to Eric, wanting to ask him what he knew about Apryl's death. All the information was there in his head. The memories were trapped behind his eyes. All I had to do was ask, but I couldn't. I wanted to know what happened to my sister, but I felt conflicted. Did I really want to know what happened to her? What if I couldn't handle it? Would it throw me back into my past? I nearly lost it when Apryl died. It sent me on a downward spiral that ended in a demon kiss. The pain of losing her was too great. It left a gaping hole in my chest. The void was not filled by sobbing, so I tried to fill it with other things. Like boys. I was reckless, and made out with strangers to ease the pain. But, it didn't really work.
That was what happened when I learned of her death and I didn't have all the details. Would finding out the truth make it better or worse? And how was he connected? Did Eric really use me that long? Was I so stupid that I couldn't tell who my real friends were? Yes, yes I was. The problem was that I wanted to believe he was good, but such conflicting words and actions confused me.