“Thank you,” I whisper and then I take a deep breath as light and energy expand, consuming every inch of space existing around us. The curtains singe from the blinding glow and scattered ashes fall over the floor while smoke begins to swarm around us in a whirlwind.

Alex tenses as the heat of the Ira raises our own temperature to the point where we start to sweat. “Are you sure you want to keep going?” he questions.


“Yes,” I reply with confidence and then close my eyes.

The first thing that appears in my mind is a clear picture of the lake. Panicking, I shove the image out of my mind, not wanting to drop us there. I focus on the tunnel I went in during the vision I entered with Nicholas; dirt walls that leak water, damp air, darkness, and Water Fey. The ground begins to vibrate and I feel the world shift apart, open up, and swallow us whole.

The tunnel is as dark as I remember. The damp air causes my clothes to cling to my skin while the dirty water seeps from the ceiling to drip down on our heads. If what Nicholas said was true about the Ira, then we’re not in vision form, but we’ll only know if that’s true when we cross paths with someone.

“Do you know which way to go?” Alex asks, wiping some dirty water off his forehead as I tuck the Ira into the side pocket of my denim shorts. “Where we first went in the vision when we arrived?”

I glance left and then right. “No, the only reason I found the cave where the vision took place was because Nicholas was running from a Water Faerie… “I head to my left, inspecting the muddy ground and watery walls, hoping something will spark a memory. “I can’t remember which way we went…I don’t even know if we’re in the same place.”

Alex releases my hand and drags his fingers through his damp hair, leaving it sticking up all over. “Okay, left or right?”

An abrupt scream reverberates from the left side of the tunnel and the vines growing from the ceiling move with the sound.

“Right,” I say quickly and we dash down the right side of the tunnel, leaving the noise behind.

Alex takes my hand again as we hike through the dimly lit tunnel, listening to the horrific screams shooting at us in every direction. His touch brings me a little comfort, though not much. I can’t help thinking how I’ve only been down here for a few minutes and I already feel like leaving while my mom’s been down here for years.

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God, how does she feel? How broken is she?

I’m telling myself that I have to be strong, that I can do this, when a white, wispy Water Fey appears in the distance. I tense as its hollow eyes lock in our direction

“Alex,” I hiss, pointing at it as I continue to walk through the mud.

He puts his finger to his lips, shushing me, and we keep moving, one foot in front of the other. As we get closer to it, my heart thumps, upping my adrenaline and amplifying up the sparks. My legs tremble, my knees knocking together, and my breathing becomes erratic and loud.

The Water Faerie doesn’t budge, watching us as it floats in the same space it appeared in. When we pass by it, it opens its gaping mouth and lets out a breathless scream that rings loudly inside my ears. The vines above our heads move again and brush the top of my head. I clutch onto Alex’s arm as the Water Faerie rotates around and trails after us, the bottom of its fabric body dragging along the ground.

The farther we get into the tunnel, the more the Water Faeries multiply, flying out from every angle and direction. Pieces of their fabric bodies touch our faces and head as they fly back and forth above us, their boney fingers reaching down in our direction, but never touching. The longer it goes on, the more afraid I get. The fear only seems to encourage them and they get rowdier by the minute. Then I remember Alex said they feed on fear, so I try to calm down, however it’s difficult.

Just when I think that I can’t take it anymore, the tunnel opens up to a cave. A rock-shaped throne is in the center, the back coiling up to the ceiling. But the Queen isn’t sitting in it like she was when I saw the vision. That’s when I realize something about all of this is terribly wrong.

“What is it?” He gives me a quizzical look. “What’s wrong?”

“This isn’t how it works.” I look over my shoulder at the herd of Water Faeries floating behind us, making raspy noises and taunting screams. “We don’t come in here by ourselves. We’re brought in by some sort of Water Faerie… This isn’t what I saw in the vision.”

Alex’s brows furrow. “But how can that be? If you saw it, then it should happen, right?”

Someone—or something—clears their throat from behind us and we spin around. Standing in the cluster of white fabric covered bodies is the Queen. Her frosty hair veils down her back and her eyes are soulless, yet I detect a hint of amusement in her desolate character.

“Well, it looks like I have some unexpected visitors,” she says and the Water Faeries begin to swarm around our heads like bees. We hunch over as the Queen steps toward us, holding the bottom of her dress. “Coming here willingly to be tortured in my world? Let the Fey take you and torture you? I have to say, you two are brave souls.”

This is all wrong. This is not how I saw it. This is not how it’s supposed to go.


If I can’t fix it, then Alex, my mom, myself and the world are screwed.

Chapter 26

During my first visit to the City of Crystal, Dyvinius had explained to me how visions work. He said if a vision wasn’t seen correctly then the world as we knew it could shift. I never considered the depth of what he’d said until now. The vision that I took Nicholas into, the one where we entered The Underworld, never really was finished. Nicholas had flipped out and choked me until I nearly blacked out and took us back. I’m assuming it means I didn’t read it clearly, and now I have no idea what’s going to happen.

I’m the worst hero of all time. I really am.

“I have to say,” says the Queen as she circles around us with her dress dragging in the mud, “It isn’t every day that someone voluntarily enters my world. Usually it’s with much force and fussing on my Faeries’ part. Yet the two of you enter it at your own free will.” She stops in front of us with her hands behind her back. “Tell me why.”

“We came here to get something,” I tell her in a firm voice as I grasp onto Alex’s hand.

“Ah, I see.” She turns around toward the tunnel. “Come with me.”

We follow her down the tunnel in the direction we’d just come from, the mob of Water Faeries trailing behind us, some daring to touch our heads. The Queen is taller than Alex, her head clips each one of the vines dangling from the ceiling. With the contact, they shrivel and die, the browned pieces fluttering to the ground like ash. In each of their places a new vine regrows. This pattern continues on and on, death and life repeating itself.

We finally enter a room. There’s a slender, antique table and an eccentric chandelier made of thorns with vines in it. The chairs around the table have backs that look like thorny rose bushes and the idea of sitting on them makes me cringe.

“Have a seat.” The Queen gestures at the chairs, gathering her dress as she sits down at the head of the table.

Alex and I reluctantly sit down, making sure to keep our backs straight so no thorns stab us. The Water Faeries linger in the arched doorway where water cascades down the sides of the wall and floods the floor of the room, making the floor sopping wet.

“So you’ve come here for something?” The Queen asks, tapping her long, black fingernails on the tabletop.

“Someone, actually,” Alex tells her, exchanging a glance with me as he holds my hand below the table. “Her name is Jocelyn Lucas.”

I can tell she knows who we’re talking about by the way her posture briefly stiffens. “Tell me, boy, what is your name?”

“Alex Avery,” Alex says with some hesitance as he runs a finger along the back of my hand.

“Ah, you’re a Keeper.” She continues to thrum her nails against the table, her eyes moving from him to me. I unintentionally cower back and get disciplined for doing so as a thorn enters the center of my back. “And you? What’s your name?”

I lean forward, pushing past the pain, too worried to reach around and pluck the thorn out of my back. “Gemma Lucas.”

She ceases thrumming her fingers. “So you are, what?” she asks. “The daughter of Jocelyn?”

I nod and then breathe inwardly as Alex reaches around and picks the thorn out of my back. “I am,” I say.

“I see.” The Queen muses over something. “What did you expect exactly? That you’d come down here and demand I give you my best slave all because you asked really, really nicely?” Her hollow mouth forms a pout and it’s unsettling to look at.

Alex reaches for his pocket. “We’ve brought something to trade for Jocelyn’s freedom.”

“I can assure you that you have nothing I want,” the Queen replies with her gaunt chin tipped up in arrogance.

Alex slips the flawlessly cut sapphire out and drops it down on the table. “Not even for this?”

She looks shocked, but then she starts to chortle and the chandelier above us shakes and flickers along with the puddles on the ground. The Queen finally stops laughing, wiping tears from her eyes, and then her laughter rapidly shifts to anger.

She pounds her fist on the table and a few of the chairs topple over while the Water Faeries flee. “You think that you can come down here and make a bargain with something the Keepers took from me to begin with?” She rises from her chair, towering over us as she swishes her dress behind her. “How dare you insult me? You are just like your father. Taking whatever you want and doing whatever you please.”

I want to bang my head against the table. It’s ridiculous how Stephan can haunt us when he’s not even here.

“I have been waiting for the day when I’d see your father again.” She strides toward us and reaches us in only a few steps. “So I can settle what he started a long time ago.”

Alex holds her petrifying gaze. “I understand that you have had some issues with my father, but I can assure you that—”

“Silence.” The Queen tips her head back and roars, making the whole room quake. The walls begin to cave in as she pants ravenously and the roof cracks. The power in her is clearly evident and it makes me nervous of what else she can do. “I don’t want to hear excuses. I always swore that one day I’d get even with Stephan, whatever it took, and here you are. It’s the perfect opportunity. A much smaller version of him.” She makes a pinching motion with her boney finger. “However, it’ll still do.”

“He’s not his father,” I interrupt, but then shrink back when the Queen’s attention focuses entirely on me. “A-And he only came down here because I asked him to, so if you want to take this out on anyone, take it out on me.”

The Queen’s face alters from anger to inquisitiveness. She suddenly calms and walks back toward her chair. “You know, Jocelyn never mentioned having a daughter, so I find it peculiar that someone would show up with the son of one of my sworn enemies and claim to be her daughter.”

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