“What? That makes no sense.”
“Because everything else about the virus is so scientifically explicable?” Elodie said. I guess she had a point.
“Poetic, really,” Lydia said shakily, her eyes darting from me to her brother, still held prisoner by Stellan. “We should have known Olympias would do something like that. She makes her son’s line important, and makes sure that a girl has just as much power. And then she gives the girl the ace in the hole. She knew how little the Diadochi valued women, so she made a woman the most important piece of the puzzle. You’re the key to everything.”
She turned to Stellan. “I told you. Now let my brother go.”
“How do we know you’re telling the truth?” Jack said.
“I think she is,” I answered. She was crafty, but she wouldn’t risk Cole’s life. I knew that much. “That’s all it said?”
I held up my hand, and my knife. I never understood why, on TV, people who needed blood always cut straight across their palms. I made a tiny cut on the back of my hand, and the blood welled up.
Elodie was standing beside me. “Um.” I held my hand out to her.
“This is not weird or unsanitary at all,” Elodie murmured, but she dragged her finger across my hand and put it to her lips. We all watched her. After a second, she shrugged. “I don’t feel any different.”
I crossed to Jack and held my hand out to him, just in case. He took a drop of blood, too. I looked down at the cut welling up on my hand. My blood was death—and it was life. The cure we’d been planning to destroy to end this was me.
“Please,” Lydia said. She was still watching Cole fearfully. “Jack. You promised.”
I wiped the blood on my wet jeans.
“Let him go,” Jack said.
Stellan paused for a second, then shoved Cole away from him so that he smacked into the casket. “Hands in the air,” Stellan growled.
Lydia sagged with relief, turning to Jack with tears in her eyes. I’d noticed it before, but it punched me in the gut now: she was completely in love with him. He was looking at her like he wanted to let her rot in jail forever, but she absolutely worshipped him. She probably had for a long time. I wondered if he’d realized the power he had over her.
And then I’d come along. As much as the family member and the help thing was a worry, Jack had been mine immediately in a way he had never been hers. In the way she’d always wanted. And our father had paid the kind of attention to me that she’d never get. I was the one the Circle treated like a celebrity. I got everything she’d ever wanted without even trying. Without even wanting it.
And still, for a long time she’d just wished I’d be her sister. I did believe that.
What I couldn’t believe was that I was feeling in any way sympathetic toward Lydia. All those cracks opening in me in the past few days were letting in things I would never have expected, and I understood her better than I should. Especially now that I knew that feeling of responsibility for the people I cared about.
My sister and I were so much alike in some ways.
Stellan shoved his gun into Cole’s back. I didn’t have the same almost-lukewarm feelings about Cole.
“You’re going to answer for what you’ve done,” Stellan said. “Whether it’s me who puts a bullet in your head or someone else in the Circle, it will happen.” He started to shove Cole off the platform, but then he grabbed his arm again, pulling him along so he could glance into the open casket, and then at the other, still-closed one next to it.
For just a second, he met my eyes. The open casket was Olympias. The closed one was, if we were right, Alexander.
I took the few steps up to the platform. Inside the open casket was a human shape, covered entirely in gold. Obviously the twins thought this was Alexander. Anyone would, if they didn’t know.
Elodie came up beside me, stared at the gold shape for a moment, then turned to the second casket. I did, too. Jack and Stellan each pushed a Saxon twin ahead of them to stand at its foot.
Elodie and I looked at each other, then pushed it open.
Inside was a wooden box. And in the box was a jumble of desiccated bones, arranged into a vaguely human shape, missing one femur. That must have been all Napoleon was able to do when he returned the bones here. This was the body of the world’s greatest conqueror, decayed the same as any normal man. Fought over for so long, desecrated so many times, and finally returned to rest.
Cole wrinkled his nose. “Who’s that?”
The four of us glanced at one another. Elodie closed the top of the casket gently.
Jack and Stellan steered the twins off the platform. Lydia squinted back over her shoulder like she understood something had happened but wasn’t quite sure what. Elodie and I ignored her and turned back to Olympias.
Her arms were crossed over her chest, and the tube that must have held the scroll with the cure lay beside her, open and empty. Scattered around her body were jewels and baubles of all colors and shapes, shimmering in our flashlights, and on her head rested a gold diadem, its center, above her brow, forming a sharp point.
Elodie pulled out her phone to take pictures from every angle. “There is so much history here.” She gingerly picked up a piece of jewelry from the casket, and looked around. “The Circle’s been looking for this their whole existence.” She stood up accusingly, and turned to the twins. “How did you find it?”
Lydia just shook her head. Cole laughed.
“It doesn’t matter right now,” Jack said. “They’re not going to tell us. Let’s get them out of here before they have a chance to call backup.”
Cole laughed again, then spit right on Jack’s shoes. “You’ll never get out of here alive. We have people waiting outside. They’ll kill you.” He turned to Lydia. “I don’t know how we ever got a Keeper who was so gullible.”