“The demons hide it,” she said. “They hide it like it’s their most precious treasure.” My face contorted with disgust. Apryl leaned forward, “Think about it, Ivy. The Angel Demon wars have gone on for eons, but the demons have a weapon that can only make them stronger and more powerful. And since it’s so rare, they think it’s a treasure. Each demon’s highest hope is that his blood will be powerful enough to evoke a ruthless Akayleah when the time comes. Your creator must have been very powerful. Either that or the demon blood did something weird to the angel blood when you were changed.”
I nodded, not knowing what to say. Somehow the angels hadn’t heard of any of this. It was like hiding a weapon the size of a football field under a tablecloth. Demons had this ability and the angels knew nothing about it. And worst of all, I had this ability as well. Turning to Apryl I asked, “How do I keep from awaking it?”
She looked at me and shrugged. “I don’t know. It sounds like you already have. Maybe your angel blood is holding it in check. Maybe it isn’t, but either way caving in and allowing your emotions to dictate your actions is stupid. You’re allowing something else, something strong, to overtake you. Allowing anything to do that to you can force your Akayleah into action.” She paused, her eyes raking over my hair, my face, and my forearms that were healed and seamless once again. “If you’re already having issues with your Akayleah, why isn’t it apparent? I should be able to see something, and not just when it’s invoked. It should have left a scar.” Her eyes narrowed a bit as they slid over my face and arms again. “The scars are revered in the Underworld. They would protect you from other demons, lesser demons—but you have none.” She locked my gaze. Her green eyes suspicious. “Why?”
Glancing at her out of the corner of my eye, I leaned back on my hands. My injuries had healed although my skin where the bone poked through would remain pink for several hours. Swallowing, I wondered what I should say. My gut clenched tightly when I thought of telling her about Lorren, so I said, “I healed it. I didn’t know what it was, so I scraped it off. Scales appeared on my face and shoulders. I cut them off, and regular skin replaced them when I healed.” I laughed nervously, as if I were laughing at myself. “I thought I was turning into a demon.”
“You were.” Apryl’s green eyes were completely serious. “And don’t remove them again. They could save you in the future.”
Sleep tugged at me, sucking me into the black abyss again. It felt more like a vision than a dream, and maybe it was. I was getting so confused as to what was sleep and what wasn’t. The darkness faded into a dull gray mist, and then I was standing alone staring at something. At first I thought it was a patch of darkness where the light refused to shine. There were places like that in Hell, places where the shadows seemed alive and malicious. The patch of darkness shifted and swirled like bubbles on top of boiling water.
When they cleared I was standing before a mirror made of black glass. It was more substantial than the last time I saw it. Collin’s words echoed somewhere in the back of my mind. His voice whispered a warning that I couldn’t hear. Stepping towards it, I felt curiosity ignite inside of me. It was so strange. The mirror shone like glass, but instead of showing a reflection, there was nothing. It made no sense. I slid my foot towards it, closer, closer, closer until I was nearly touching the glass. The frigid mirror showed no reflection still, but as I gazed into its depths, I thought I could see something. It was small and silvery. Maybe it was a candlestick? Or something similar, but it looked so distant that I couldn’t be certain.
I pressed my hand to the mirror expecting to be met with chilled glass, but my hand slipped through the plane. It was no thicker than a layer of skin, and my hand sunk straight through into its warm depths. Panic raced through me. Startled, I pulled my hand back. It came free from the mirror. I bent the fingers, counting them, examining that they were intact and unchanged. Each slender finger bent and the skin was still pale and smooth. I examined the back of my hand and then flipped it over and looked at my palm. Nothing had changed. The black glass seemed to have no effect.
Eyes wide, I looked up at the glass and saw someone standing on the other side. A shriek ripped from my lips as I stumbled backwards. There was a woman in the glass! She was clad in a black gown that covered her from neck to toe. A black cloak hung around her shoulders with the hood pulled up, obscuring her face.
I snapped my mouth shut, and swallowed hard, examining the woman in the glass. A memory. A thought swirled at the back of my mind, whispering, Danger. Destruction. Death. My palms were covered in cold sweat. My foot slid away from the dark mirror.
The movement seemed to startle her, because her head tilted up and she saw me. Her mouth first formed a small O, and then melted into a smile that tugged the corners of her mouth. Her lips parted as if she were going to speak. She took a step toward me. I could see nothing but eyes the color of amethyst with large pupils black as night.
“How utterly delightful.” Her voice was deep, and dripping with scorn. I wanted to turn and walk away, but power flowed from the glass. I could feel it reaching out and snaking into the place I stood, holding me still. I stood motionless as her ruthless eyes washed over me. “This is the one to defeat Kreturus?” She chortled one short burst of laughter. “You are no more than a child. And a child that doesn’t know who she is, at that. Come closer girl.” Without meaning to, my foot slid up to the edge of the black glass. “Are you the one who awakened me? Are you the one who shoved a girl through the glass? And are you the one who just slid an arm through into my home?” I nodded, too stunned to reply. The hooded figure stood silently watching me for a moment. Her head tilted as her arms folded and a gloved hand extended a single finger to touch the side of her shadowed face. “Mmmm. Then, it is time.” Her voice contained power. “Come.”
The word rang like crystal. My ears resonated with her voice. Before I realized what was happening, my foot glided forward through the glass like something was pulling on it. My right arm reached out slowly as I fought for control of my body. The woman in the hood laughed as I battled with myself to defy her command and remain on this side of the mirror. However, my other foot began to slide forward. It was like pushing two drops of water together. At some point they are drawn to one another and cannot pull back. I was one drop. The woman in the black hood was the other. The whispers in my mind wouldn’t be silenced. It was Collin’s warning that rang the loudest, warning me, trying to save me. Stay on this side of the mirror. Once I passed through, I would never be the same.
But it was too late. Both feet were sucked into the black glass, followed by the rest of me. As I passed through the mirror, it clung to me like tape. Every part of my body was sticking and sliding at the same time. The mirror was nothing as it seemed the last time I saw it. Last time it was an inanimate object, just sitting there. It showed things like a mirror should. There was power inside the glass. And there was a simple reason why the glass contained power. When I emerged on the other side, the hooded figure stood with her arms folded. She was tall and thin. The black cloak hid her slender figure. Her cowl obscured her face.
She watched me as I gazed across the room made of gray slate and granite. Every surface was smooth and cold, made of slick stone. Water poured down a wall in front of me over pieces of broken boulders. Where the water began, I didn’t know. It was too high up to see. It cascaded like a small waterfall behind a massive table with two chairs. A large flame radiated heat and light from the center of the room. It clung high to the ceiling, suspended in air, and remained there without burning anything it touched. Polished granite was slick under my feet. A chaise made from stone was at the opposite end of the room. There was nothing soft in this space. There was no cloth, no linens, no drapes, no fabric save for what the woman wore on her back.
The hooded figure moved toward the stone table and sat, gesturing for me to follow. I sat opposite her. My jaw had locked and I could feel the muscles twitching. I tried to relax. But I couldn’t. Not here. Not with her.
My voice was certain as I spoke, “You’re the Demon Princess—the one who failed to kill Kreturus, and was banished to the black mirror and… destroyed.”
She responded by forming a smile with her thin red lips. “Yes, I am. And I survived. I did not fail, little one. I have bided my time, and my time has come.”
I opened my mouth to speak, but before I could utter a word my chest tightened. It felt like a vice-like grip was crushing the air out of my lungs. A rush of wind escaped over my lips. It sparkled like winter snow as it rose from my mouth and traveled across the table. The shimmering breath hovered in front of her, before she inhaled deeply. Her crimson lips parted and my glittering breath vanished inside her mouth.
The vice released me, and I fell forward onto the table. My head hit the stone before I could stop it. I’d been pulling so hard against her that I didn’t stop when she released me. A smile twisted as she watched a trail of blood streak down into my eye. Excitement forced her to her feet.
This time I didn’t wait. I didn’t sit down like a nice girl and wait to see what she would say. Instead, I shot out of the chair and pulled my comb. My violet mark shimmered on my brow. I touched the Celestial Silver to my mark. The tines extended in an instant. The Demon Princess stopped before she reached me, hissing at the blade.
“What did you do to me?” I shouted. It felt as if she’d taken something from me—something of substance that was pressing on me. Now that it was gone, I could sense its absence.
She slid back, away from the end of the blades. “I did you a favor—a favor given freely—and this is how you repay me?” Her hands were at her sides, though tension remained in her shoulders. She was ready to fight.
“What did you take from me? I can feel it!” Worry ripped through me. I couldn’t fight her. She was supposed to be dead! The most powerful demon in Hell put her here and broke the mirror that held her. And yet, here I was. And there she stood—very much alive.
“Look at your chest. Look for the poison that threatened you more than I ever did. It was a weight crushing you, stealing your power, and hiding your talent. Look at it.” Her hood nodded once. Gleaming violet eyes were radiant. Her arms folded across her chest. Her billowing sleeves fell back, but the gloves she wore covered her entire arm. I could see nothing of her flesh.
Part of me thought that it could be a trap. Her words made me uneasy. But, I felt the lack of something, something that had been substantial. I couldn’t allow myself to hope that the poison was gone. I pulled back my neckline with my left hand, not dropping my weapon. When I stole a glance at my marred skin, I saw nothing. No blue vein. No scar. No nothing. The poison appeared to be gone. Even Lorren couldn’t do that. My throat tightened at the thought.
Straightening my spine, I dropped my hand and backed away from her. “What was the price? There are no gifts freely given. Not from your kind.”