“Why did you bring me here?” I make my hand as narrow as possible and attempt to squeeze it out of the cuff, but the metal only bites my skin and I wince. “And what did you do to my power?”
“You can’t use your power because of the praesidium.” He points around at tiny marble sized lavender balls scattered all over the floorboards, the windowsill, and the footboard of the bed. “They trap your Foreseer energy within you,” he says, sinking down to the bed.
I arch my back and wiggle my body so forcefully that the bed thumps against the wall. “Let me go!”
He slams his hand down on my stomach, hard enough that it knocks the wind out of me and I cough as I struggle for air.
“I think you know why… you understand now, what I am and who I work for.” He squats down on the floor so that he’s eye level with me and starts playing with my hair hanging over the side of the bed. “I tried to do things the easy way, but you just wouldn’t let me.”
“Let you what?” I ask, inching my head to the side to get out of his reach. “One minute you’re trying to teach me how to be a better Foreseer and the next you’re attacking me and chasing me down with a herd of Death Walkers. It doesn’t make any sense.”
He laughs at my pathetic attempt when I yank so hard on the chains they make a loud snapping noise. I bend my neck up, and aim my forehead for his, but he leaps to his feet and hops back, fury flashing across his face. But then he quickly collects himself and smiles again.
“You’re so feisty,” he says, his fingers seeking the nightstand.
I glare at him. “Let me go you sick, perverted asshole!”
“Now, why would I do a stupid thing like that?” He opens the top drawer and retrieves a teal crystal ball that shimmers even in the inadequate light.
I freeze. “The Ira.” Suddenly there’s a spark of light in this very dim, grey situation. I could get it from him. I just need to figure out how to escape with it.
He glances down at it in his hand and then amusement dances in his eyes as he tosses it back and forth between his hands, like he’s playing catch. “Oh, I almost completely forgot that you wanted this.”
I shake my head. “No, you didn’t. You know exactly what you’re doing.”
He catches the Ira and then taps his finger against his lip. “You know, I could make a bargain with you.” He extends his hand toward my face and I twist my neck to the side, cringing as he strokes my temple with his fingers. “You know Stephan wants you really badly.” He ravels a strand of my hair around his finger. “And I’m supposed to give him to you... but I might break the rules and keep you.” He leans down and sticks his nose in my hair, smelling it. “You smell so utterly delicious.”
I fling my head in his direction and click my teeth together, trying to bite his finger, but he quickly withdraws his face and hands from my hair. “You know he’s going to end the world with me.” I know it’s a long shot, but perhaps if he understands what’s going to happen and the severity of it, then he won’t want to help Stephan anymore. “Everyone will die. Even you… I’ve seen it.”
“I don’t need you to explain what Stephan is planning to do,” He snaps, yanking down the sleeves of his shirt. “I understand more than you do.”
“And you’re simply okay with letting him kill everyone?” I shake my head at him. “Don’t you even have a heart or are you seriously that cold?”
“I think the real question is just how heartless and cold you are,” he sneers.
My jaw nearly drops. His words almost match what Stephan said to me in the dream I had right before I woke up here. Maybe it wasn’t a dream, though. Maybe it was a vision.
He leans over me, his eyes nearly glowing like cinders. “Which I think is what this whole thing is about.”
My stomach rolls. He knows more than I thought he did. “Why are you doing this? There has to be a reason… you can’t… there’s no way you just decided to be evil.”
“Maybe I’ve always been evil. I mean, you barely even know me and, from what you do know, I’m a sick, twisted, perverted asshole.” He tucks the Ira under his arm and makes air quotes. “But before you making assumptions, maybe you should consider how much you know about Stephan. Or about his precious son, Alex. You trust him so much, yet he is the son of the man who ruined your life and so many other peoples that it’s absurd. He’s supposedly some high and mighty Keeper, yet he has more darkness in him that anyone can comprehend.”
“Did he ruin your life?” I ask. “Is that why?”
He shifts his weight, uncomfortable, and I get the impression that I’ve struck a nerve.
“What did he do to you?” I press.
“I think I’m going to go take a walk.” He evades my question and stuffs his hands into the pockets of his pants, rocking back on his heels. “I’d say wait here, but I don’t think you’ll be going anywhere.” He turns his back on me and walks out of the room, taking the Ira with him. He shuts and locks the door behind him as well.
I let out a frustrated scream, tugging on the chains. The praesidium rolls off the footboard and onto the floor, but stays close enough that my energy is uselessly trapped inside me. My battle against the chains goes on for hours until I can barely move my legs or arms and I’m dripping with sweat. Exhaustion takes me over and all I want to do is shut my eyes.
So I do, not knowing where I’ll end up, what I’ll see, or what I’ll feel. However, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Because at the moment I don’t have control over anything.
I’m beginning to learn what rage is. I didn’t fully understand it like I thought I did because what’s stirring within me is definitely rage. It’s like a building storm; rolling clouds and thunder, but lightning hasn’t arrived yet. It’s getting ready to snap its raging energy against the ground, though, and make the world rumble with its bellowing echo.
I’m losing track of time as well as my grip on sanity. Hours stack upon hours, then days upon days. I’m thirsty and hungry while I’m still in my disgustingly muddy clothes, so I smell repulsive.
Nicholas comes in and checks on me occasionally, only unhooking my chains to let me go to the bathroom, which he gives me no privacy for. It makes me feel revolting inside, like something has been taken that I’ll never be able to get back. He always makes vulgar comments about me and he feeds me only bread and water. He also likes to keep the Ira on the nightstand, close enough that I can feel the vibrant energy exuding from it, but far enough away that I can’t channel it; even though it’s useless since the praesidium remains close enough to lock my powers within me.
I try to make several attempts to escape, but always fail and end up paying for it. I quickly learn that Nicholas has a violent streak in him after he hit me a couple of times when I said and did the wrong thing. It doesn’t make me back down at all, though. In fact, it makes me more determined to get away and pay him back in full for what he’s doing to me.
In the beginning I expected Alex or Laylen to show up and save me. I made a comment about it once and Nicholas informed me that no one could save me. That his house is merely an illusion in the mind and only those he allows to see it can.
There doesn’t even seem to be a point in what he’s doing. Stephan never shows up to collect me and when I ask him about it, he says he’s been detained. Although I think he might be enjoying having me here a little too much.
The strange thing is that he appears to be growing weaker by the day; pallid, his eyes tinting yellow, while his skin looks cracked and dry. It’s repulsive to look at and even he seems disgusted by himself. His connection and obsession with me, however, seems to be growing stronger. He’s always touching me, trying to kiss me and grope me. I have no idea where his fixation with me is coming from, but I’m starting to think it might be to my benefit if I can find the right moment
Around the six or seventh day, I begin to connive a plan to get away. The one that I create makes me utterly sick, but I don’t think I have another choice other than to stay here forever and sink further into my rage.
I mentally prepare myself for what I’m about to do when he walks into the room. He drags a chair from the corner and puts it beside the bed, sitting down.
He slants his head to the side and examines me with curiosity as he props his foot up against the side of the bed. “You know, you’re very talented and I have to say I’m quite surprised that you haven’t found a way out of this yet.
Oh, I have. I’m just waiting for the perfect moment.
“You can go into and out of visions without a crystal ball,” he says enviously. “With a little practice and enough emotion, you could travel anywhere without a crystal ball as well.” He pauses, assessing me. “I could teach you… we could work together—we’d be amazing together.”
I stare blankly at him. “Maybe.”
He studies me with a distrusting look on his face. “You don’t trust me.”
I remain neutral. “You’ve given me no reason to trust you.”
“You’ve barely gotten to know me,” he says. “Maybe I’m different than what you think. Maybe there’s a reason for everything bad that I do.”
“Prove it,” I challenge.
He stares me down defiantly. “How much do you know about the Fey?” he asks.
I bend my fingers downward and itch beneath the cold metal cuff, the skin has been rubbed raw underneath it. “Not much.”
“Of course you don’t, since you’ve been spending most of your time with Keepers, Witches, and Vampires.” His lips twitch. “And of course there was all that time you spent by yourself unemotionally detached.”
I frown. “You know about that?”
He shrugs. “Of course. I’m a Foreseer and can see anything I want, something you should learn… but that’s a story for another time.” He drops his foot to the ground and transfers from the chair to the bed, the mattress concaving beneath his weight as he sinks down beside me. “The Fey have been around forever, you know. Most people think of us as tricksters, which we are, but we can be very serious as well, given the right circumstances, like if our kind are suffering.” He brushes his hand over the top of my head. “I’m not sure if you’ve heard of him or not, but there used to be a man called Malefiscus who was the personification of evil.”
I shake my head, letting him pet me because it helps me with my plan. “I’m sorry, but I haven’t.”
He rolls his golden eyes. “Haven’t the Keepers taught you anything?” He withdraws his hand from my hair, but only to tap his fingers on his chapped lips. “Then again, they might not want you to know about it since Malefiscus started out as a Keeper.”
“The personification of evil started out as a Keeper?” I ask, remembering what Laylen told me about the Mark of Evil and how it used to exist and was directly related to the Keepers’ blood.