I blink my eyes a few times, trying to takes us away, but it doesn’t work. “Nicholas, quit being an ass and just take us back. I know they can’t hurt me, but I don’t want to see them,”
Nicholas taps his finger on his lip, glancing in the direction of the Death Walkers, his shoes scuffing against the icy road as he takes a step forward and the fog winds around his feet. “I don’t think so. Whatever’s scaring you, I think you should face it. It’ll be good practice for when we go to The Underworld.”
I glare at him, my heart thumping in my chest as the Death Walkers march closer. Fog twists around us, spinning in circles, clouding the buildings surround us. I hold my breath, backing away, but they move faster and end up hurrying by me, one by one. My breath fogs out in front of me as I stay as still as a statue with my arms tucked inward. Deep down, I know they can’t touch or see me, however there’s too much fear inside my body to risk otherwise.
They all manage to walk by me without so much as glancing in my direction and I’m about to let out my breath when two tall men wearing black cloaks step out into the streets. The taller one with darker hair and eyes has a scar in his cheek and I immediately recognize him as Stephan. The shorter one with longer hair and a slouchier posture, though, I’m not sure of.
Their cloaks swish behind them as they stride toward me. Stephan carries something in his hand; something razor sharp and made of shimmering metal… The Sword of Immortality.
“Shit…” I breathe. Nicholas starts yammering about something, but I zone out, watching the vision play out before me.
“I wish you wouldn’t carry that around,” the man says to Stephan as they walk down the middle of the road lined with frozen cars. “It makes me nervous.”
“It makes me nervous when I’m not carrying it around,” Stephan replies, rotating the sword in front of him. “It’s the one thing that could end all of this.” He gestures around at the frozen, desolate street. “And this is what you wanted, isn’t it Demetrius. To end the world and rule it.”
Demetrius. Oh my God. Demetrius and Stephan together. I think deep down I knew this is how things would end up, but the question is why? Why did Stephan end up siding with him? Why did he start seeking the star for bad instead of protecting it? And how can I stop him from making all this happen?
“Yes, but who is left to get ahold of it?” Demetrius laughs as he swishes his cloak behind him. “The ice killed everyone off who was still left around.”
“There are a few Keepers around who might try.” Stephan says. “Do you remember when Octavian made this after the vision was first seen?”
Demetrius laughs again, throwing back his head. “He was so convinced that if he created it, I’d never be able to pull off what he’d seen. Too bad for him, he didn’t see you coming. Jesus, Foreseers think they can see everything and make some sort of difference.”
“Well, that was the doing of my parents.” Stephan touches the scar on his left cheek as they stop just short of where Nicholas and I stand. “They though if they cut off the mark, it would change things—change who I was–but they couldn’t change the blood that runs through my veins, could they? Although, it did help keep my hidden from Octavian. Once the mark was gone, my part in it couldn’t be seen.”
The scar on his cheek is a mark that was cut off by his parents? I cringe at the idea, and then cringe again at the idea of what kind of mark would make a parent cut their child’s face just to get rid of it.
“That mark is a gift,” Demetrius tells Stephan as he turns to face him and reaches out to touch the blade of the sword in Stephan’s hand. He pricks his finger on the end of the blade and smiles as he spills his blood on the snow below his feet. “My parents seemed to understand this—understand who I am and what I was meant to do.”
“Yes, but your parents weren’t Keepers,” Stephan replies venomously as he wrenches the sword away from Demetrius’s reach. “Mine were. In their eyes, to have a child who bears the mark was a disgrace, which is why they so stupidly tried to cut it off.” His jaw sets tight as he stabs the sword into the ground and the ice cracks below the blade.
They continue to walk again, heading past us, and I turn to follow them with my eyes.
“It’s a gift,” Demetrius says. “We’ve been chosen since birth by the mark—since before birth—to free him and everyone else who was bound by his sentencing.” He raises his hand in the air and his expression glazes over as he shuts his eyes.
“And now we have,” Stephan says thoughtfully as he lightly traces his finger down his scar.
“Yes, and now we have,” Demetrius agrees, opening his eyes and lowering his hand to his side.
“Gemma,” Nicholas says and I gasp, almost forgetting he is there.
I fling my hand over my mouth and hold my breath. Suddenly, Stephan stops, his head tilting to the side and he glances over his shoulder.
He holds up his hand, signaling for Demetrius to stop. “Just a second.”
Demetrius pauses, his gaze sweeping the buildings. “What’s wrong?”
“Please, get us out of here,” I hiss at Nicholas as Stephan starts walking back toward us.
Nicholas wavers. “I don’t know... I kind of like being alone with you.”
“Nicholas,” I hiss again, grabbing onto his arm. “Get us out of here. Now.”
Stephan’s getting closer and I don’t understand what’s going on. He’s not supposed to be able to see or hear me, but I swear he can sense that I’m here.”
“What are you doing?” Demetrius calls out, but Stephan doesn’t reply as he continues moving toward us, grasping the sword as his eyes scan from side to side as if he’s searching for something—for us.
I dig my fingers into Nicholas’s arm and jerk him closer to me. “There’s someone in this vision that I’m pretty sure can either see or sense that we’re here and, if he can, then it’s very, very bad.”
His eyes widen as he takes my hand, abruptly looking anxious. “Okay, let’s go.”
I cast one last glance at Stephan as he picks up his pace, charging at us and I know something‘s very wrong. It doesn’t look like he can see us because he’s looking in the wrong direction, but he can obviously sense us.
“Nicholas…” I say, tripping backwards as Stephan reaches out for me. I open my mouth to scream, but then Stephan abruptly stops.
He’s only inches away from me and his eyes fasten right on mine as a slow smile curls up his lips. He touches the scar on his cheek with the tip of the knife, cutting a thin layer of skin off, and drawing blood. “You have it, too,” he whispers, then his eyes divert to my upper arm.
My skin ignites as I’m hauled backward, fading from the vision, but it’s enough time to see it. The red and black triangular mark on my arm.
I trip over my feet, but quickly regain my balance as I land back in Adessa’s living room. The fear of what just happened still lingers in my body and has me gasping for air.
“Who was it?” Nicholas asks with very little patience as he gets into my face. “Who was in the vision?” He still has ahold of my hand and I try to wrench it out of his, but he refuses to let me go. “Gemma, talk to me.” He puts a hand on each of my shoulders and looks me directly in the eyes. “Tell me who it was that could sense us… It’s important.”
My chest heaves as I work to compose my breathing. “Why would anyone be able to sense us like that?”
“Because…” He pauses, eyeing me over. “Because it means the vision has already been seen or told to the person who was in the vision.”
I’m not surprised. I know Stephan has been told visions of the future and how the world will end, which is why he was supposedly protecting the star. Now, though, it’s beginning to make more sense. He wasn’t protecting the star, he was holding onto it for himself.
“Tell me what you saw,” Nicholas commands, roughly squeezing my shoulders. “And tell me how you saw it. Normal Foreseers aren’t able to just walk into other Foreseers’ visions.”
“I’ve got to go ask Laylen something.” I duck out from his hands and head for the doorway.
He catches me by the arm and his fingernails pierce into my skin. “Who was in the vision, Gemma? You need to tell me.”
“No I don’t,” I say. “What I saw… it doesn’t concern you.”
I tug my arm away from him and scurry out of the room. Nicholas doesn’t follow me, surprisingly, but I’m glad. I need to talk to Laylen alone. I find him in one of the rooms upstairs on a bed, reading a book. He’s on his side, propped up on his elbow, his boots kicked up on the footboard. His legs are too long for the twin bed and he’s nearly falling out of it.
“Hey,” I say, shutting the door, checking my skin in the light to make certain there’s no symbol on my skin. Thankfully it’s bare, the only thing there is a cluster of freckles. “I need to talk to you.”
He peers up from his book. “Hey, what’s…” He quickly sits up, shutting the book as he lowers his feet to the floor. “What happened? You look upset.”
“Something bad happened when we went into a vision.” I drop down on the bed beside him. “And Nicholas is getting suspicious that there might be something wrong with me.”
Laylen sets his book down on the nightstand. “You think he knows about the star’s power?”
I shake my head. “I don’t think he knows what exactly it is, only that there’s something different about me and my Foreseer power.”
“Well as long as he doesn’t know exactly what it is, then I think we’re okay.” Laylen pauses, sucking his lip ring into his teeth. “Although, I’m not really sure it’s so great that he knows so much about you.”
I nod in agreement, but then remember I have bigger problems to discuss than Nicholas. “There’s something else I need to talk to you about... something I just saw in the vision.” I shiver as I remember what I just left. “Laylen, I think I just saw the end of the world.”
It gets so quiet; I can hear the sound of our breaths and our hearts.
“The end of the world,” Laylen whispers, rubbing a hand tensely down his face. “Seriously?”
I nod. “Covered in ice.”
“Then the portal opens up.”
“At least from what I saw it does,” I say. “But then again, Alex already told me another Foreseer told the same vision, which is the same thing Nicholas said.”
“But I always thought maybe he was lying,” he mutters, staring the floor. “But I guess not… the portal opens and the world ends.”
“Unless we change it…somehow.” I recollect the vision and Demetrius’s conversation with Stephan. “Why would someone try to cut a mark off their child?
Laylen’s head snaps up. “Why would you ask that?”