Again I'm sorry for so long between updates. I've had a bit of a writer's block lately. But last night I started rereading Burned so I have had a burst of inspiration! Since it was so late and I couldn't go on the computer, I wrote the beginning of this chapter in a lovely composition notebook, which is now my favorite type of notebook, until my hand cramped and my eyes started drifting shut…Enjoy and review!
"You must listen to me, Kalona," Neferet hissed, her voice hard and cold as steel.
"You do not order me, Neferet. I am immortal—I could end your life as easily as I could fly," Kalona answered stiffly, glaring at Neferet.
"Oh, Kalona." Neferet stepped closer to Kalona, a sly smile lifting her lips. "You are wrong, my love," she said, raising a hand and holding Kalona's cheek. "You are oath-bound, or do you not remember? I hold power over your soul…I own you."
Kalona jerked away from Neferet's hand with a grimace. "I will not kill her."
"Do not make me angry, Kalona," Neferet said, grasping Kalona's face again with a harder grip and forcing at him the look at her. Finally, Kalona's dark amber eyes met Neferet's pale green ones. "If I order you to kill her, you will do it. I'm sure you don't want to…experience the consequences I can think of." Neferet ran her nails down Kalona's face and then released him.
Kalona was silent. "Yes," he said at last. "I am yours to command."
With that Neferet lifted her arm again only this time to grasp Kalona's hair as she brought her face closer to his and kissed him.
"Now go," Neferet ordered, ending the passionate embrace first. "And this time, it would be wise not to fail me…oath-bound."
"This is where he is?" I asked Stevie Rae, not even trying to hide that I was nervous. "And nobody has found him?"
"Not yet," Stevie Rae answered grimly, opening the door and leading us into the museum. "I need your help finding a new place for him—someplace Dallas or anybody else could never find him. That is, if you'll help," she added with an uncertain glance at me.
"As long as he doesn't decide I'd look better with two parts, yes," I said, touching the scar along my chest where it had been sliced by a Raven Mocker. So obviously, I still had sour feelings towards them, and with very good reason, but I had promised Stevie Rae I would give this one a chance.
As she spoke, we headed upstairs where Stevie Rae said Rephaim was set up in a closet. The museum was completely dark and, though I could see with my Fledgling enhanced vision, it still bothered me to think that it was completely empty, with only us and the Raven Mocker then killed Professor Anastasia.
"Right…that closet there?" I asked Stevie Rae, gesturing towards a partially ajar door. I could see something small and square against the wall but I couldn't make out specifics.
Stevie Rae nodded but frowned. "He's not inside," she said, going closer to the door and opening it, then moving aside so I could see the inside. It was empty of any sort of creature, with only a nest of blankets and food that Stevie Rae must have brought from somewhere else. When I looked back at Stevie Rae, her eyes were closed and she was leaning against the wall, her forehead creased as if she was thinking or concentrating. I didn't say anything to disrupt her. Finally, her eyes snapped open to reveal their familiar blueness, a blue that had disappeared in the time she was a Red Fledgling with her humanity still lost. "He's on the roof," she told me.
"How did you—Right, Imprint, huh?" I guessed and Stevie Rae nodded. "Yeah…still feeling kinda weird about the whole thing."
Stevie Rae looked at me for a long moment then snorted with laughter. "You're telling me, I'm one of the active participants of this Imprint. I…like it, though," she added after a moment and a glance at me. "Better then Aphrodite's nauseating feelings, for sure," she said with a grin. I returned it with a wide smile of my own.
"Shall we?" I asked, nodding towards the stairs. Stevie Rae smirked, not unkindly, at my hesitation and took the lead once more.
Neither of us spoke immediately when we got to the roof, where the door was open. I spotted him, leaning forward against the wall around the whole roof, his back facing us. His giant black wings were extended, obscuring nearly his whole body.
"Did you tell her?" I heard him say without turning. I couldn't immediately place the voice with the body. It didn't sound right. Whenever I had heard a Raven Mocker speak, their voice was a strangled hissing. "I could feel your joy when you met with her—" Suddenly the voice broke off and the Raven Mocker stiffened. "You brought her with you." It was not a question, merely a statement.
"Yes," Stevie Rae said levelly as the Raven Mocker slowly turned. I could tell by his expression that he was ready for me to attack him, either physically or with the elements. His remained guarded as nothing happened but his wariness slowly morphed into confusion.
"The Raven Mocker can…speak?" I finally stuttered. Raven Mocker looked amazed for a moment and looked from me to Stevie Rae and then, to my astonishment, broke into laughter. It wasn't the unpleasant song that I imagined but instead it was…well, human. Along with his voice and his eyes. It was something I had never realized because, obviously, I was always distracted or trying to not get killed.
"What?" I finally snapped, unable to help myself from being slightly annoyed that he was still laughing. That got the Raven Mocker to stop but he still looked amused, though of course I could only tell by his eyes, not his beak.
"Yes, I talk," he said. "It's just that you and Stevie Rae had the exact same reactions to me. Of all the things, I am questioned about my ability to talk. Of course I can talk, girl. I am centuries old and I haven't lived the whole time by hissing like a stupid snake."
"It's Zoey, not girl," I pointed out, crossing my hands over my chest.
"Of course. And call me Rephaim, not Raven Mocker. Which I'm sure, it all you can think of me as. I never could understand Stevie Rae's ability to see me as a being rather than a monster, but next to you, I can see it clearly. Because you, Zoey, have never experienced death." The Raven Mocker's—No, Rephaim's voice was clear and sure, morphing into a slight hiss at the end.
"You're right," I said coldly, unable to contain myself. "I was never the reason of a much loved Professor."
"Zoey!" Stevie Rae cried, grasping my elbow. "You said you were going to give him a chance!"
"Sorry, Stevie Rae," I apologized, surprised to find that I was genuinely sorry for what I said about Rephaim. Even if only for Stevie Rae, anyways. She had promised that he had changed and though I hadn't even been here for ten minutes, there was certainly a difference between the Raven Mockers who had been with Kalona and this one before me now, thousands of miles away from Kalona. "If I hated you, Rephaim, or thought you were a monster, I would not be here. Stevie Rae says she trusts you and I trust her." I felt Stevie Rae exhale with relief.
Rephaim watched me for a moment and then nodded. "Thank you, Priestess of Nyx."
"Now, we need to find him a new place to hide," I said, turning back towards Stevie Rae.
"I do not wish to hide," came Rephaim's voice from where he still stood at the wall.
"Well we can't expose you, not now," I snapped at him. "What about the tunnels?" I asked Stevie Rae.
"No," she answered immediately. "If Dallas is looking for him that will be the first place he will look."
"Okay then…Could we keep in at the House of Night? We could use the elements to hide him…" I trailed off, thinking about how we could do that.
"That could work. We could make a pocket in the earth, like I did before. And maybe…Could we make a barrier with air?" Stevie Rae asked me, looking excited at the idea.
"Not necessarily a barrier but we could make it blow enough to keep people out, I think. But it will take a lot of energy and it would bring unwanted attention. With us both using earth, we could probably make a miniature version of the tunnels, except only a fraction of the size and only one of us would be able to get in…If I asked Aphrodite I bet she would let us use her gold card so we can make it cozy for Rephaim, we just wouldn't be able to tell her what it was for."
"But what if she wouldn't let us have it without us telling her?"
It was then that Rephaim broke in. "Tell her that you are refurnishing the tunnels after the Red Fledglings."
"That's a good idea," Stevie Rae said. "We can both sleep today and then if you wake up before me, you can start looking online for furniture. Then tonight we can make the pocket and rush-order the furniture. They'll do anything if we offer them enough money…We can even create a tunnel leading under the school grounds to bring the stuff in, so it's not suspicious, and collapse it afterward." Stevie Rae broke off long enough to look at Rephaim. "Rephaim, do you think you'll be able to stay in the closet another day or two?"
"If I have to I will," he responded without hesitation.
"Great. Once we're done, we'll come get you. We'll probably be working all of tonight and maybe some of tomorrow night but we should be able to get you tomorrow, don't you think, Stevie Rae?" I asked her and she nodded eagerly.
"Z, we have to go," Stevie Rae said suddenly, having pulled out her iPhone and checked the time. "Before you send everyone in a panic."
"I wish they wouldn't do that," I muttered but I agreed with her. "You're right. Tell the Rav—um…Rephaim, we'll come back for you tomorrow night, unless something happens, okay?" Rephaim glanced at Stevie Rae and then nodded.
"Great. C'mon, we don't want anyone search for us."
In fifteen minutes, we were in the car and nearly to the House of Night. The car had been void of talk for the most part and Stevie Rae had turned on her favorite Kenny Chesney cd. I was simply looking out of the window, thinking that I had never been more thankful to be here, home in Tulsa.
"Everyone was pretty freaked out when you shattered, ya know," Stevie Rae said, breaking the long silence and turning down the music.
"I bet Erik wasn't," was all I could say in reply.
"Nah. He was freaked too. And Lenobia…gosh she scared me. That was one of the few times I've ever seen her cry like that." Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Stevie Rae shiver.
"Mmm," was my genius response. I didn't know what to think of that—that everyone was freaked out about me being shattered. And from what Shaunee told me, Aphrodite was all snot and tears as well. Behind her back, Damien told me that everyone there had been like that, the Twins included.
"How's Nala?" I found myself asking, missing my grouchy cat.
"Haven't seen much of her. I laid out food for her and I think she's been eating it because it disappears. I suspect she'll launch herself at you the second she sees you, like she always does."
I laughed. "You're right. Poor girl—she's always being left behind."
"She forgives you quickly though," Stevie Rae reminded with me a smile.
"Lucky for me or else I'd have a cat holding a grudge against me for the rest of eternity."
"We're here," Stevie Rae said after a moment, pulling into the short driveway and then stopping at the gates. Lenobia was standing there with a horse at her side. It didn't take me long to realize it was my mare, Persephone. Lenobia left the horse and opened the gates for us.
"Sorry 'bout that, Lenobia," Stevie Rae called out a window. "Z and I pulled over to talk." I saw Lenobia look at me and then she nodded and cracked a small smile.
"Stevie Rae, I'm gonna get out here. Meet ya at the parking lot," I told Stevie Rae before opening the door and sliding out Stevie Rae's bright red car. Stevie Rae said something and then slowly pulled away, after making sure she wasn't going to run anybody over.
"Everything alright, Priestess?" Lenobia asked me as I wandered over to Persephone.
"Yep. Like Stevie Rae stopped, we pulled over to talk and she filled me in on what had happened while I was gone." That wasn't a complete lie, as Stevie Rae had filled me in.
"I was in the stables when she felt that you were coming, you know," Lenobia said, joining me at stroking the mare. "So I rode her over here to open the gates for you. You know how to take care of her so I'm going to leave her with you and get something to eat. While you're in the stables, can you finish filling the trough for the mare at the end stall?"
"Sure, Lenobia." I continued stroking Persephone's neck and she turned her head to nuzzle my hand.
"Great. I expect to see you in class on Monday," Lenobia reminded me before walking away towards the school building.
"C'mon, girl. Let's go to the parking lot," I said to the horse and mounted her. I was accustomed to riding Persephone so she listened to my commands nearly instantly and lead me in a trot towards the parking lot. I spotted Stevie Rae leaning against her car.
"Hey, Stevie Rae. I have to bring Persephone back to the stables. Do you want to come with me?" I called out to her once I got closer.
"Can't. Sun rises in an hour," she reminded me.
"Oh, right. Well then, I'll see you when you wake up." I hopped off Persephone and gave Stevie Rae and quick hug.
"Night, Z." I waved back at her and lead Persephone to the stables. When there, I decided to go through the whole ordeal. I hung up Persephone's stuff and lead her to her stall. When she was in there, I went over to the end stall to finish filling the trough for Lenobia. That done, I could finally relax and groom my mare.
I liked being in the stables alone and looking after Persephone. It gave me time to relax and to think. Today, I was doing more relaxing then thinking. After all, I had practically been on the move ever since I returned to my body.
"All done girl," I finally said an hour later, after brushing and re-brushing her coat. I had also cleaned a bit of her stall that I decided should not wait until Monday. "Here you go." I had grabbed a handful of oats and held them up to Persephone. With her leathery lips, she took them from me.
"Zoey, you in here?" I heard a voice call from the entrance of the stables. I turned around and saw the familiar eyes staring at me from a mask of tattoos.