Passion, p.39
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       Passion, p.39

         Part #3 of Fallen series by Lauren Kate
 
Page 39

 

  Daniel gnashed his teeth. The Scale must have known he had no respect for them or their meddlesome duties. But it didnt matter how much he loathed their high-flown manners, always seeking to nudge the fallen to one side: He still had to honor their requests. Something seemed odd about this one, but who other than a member of the Scale could have found a way into his Announcer?

  Im in a hurry.

  The angel nodded, as if he already knew this. You search for Lucinda?

  Yes, Daniel blurted out. I--I dont need help.

  You do. The angel nodded. You missed your exit--he pointed down, toward the place in the vertical tunnel where Daniel had just come from. Right back there. No--

  Yes. The angel smiled, showing a row of tiny, jagged teeth. We wait and watch. We see who travels by Announcer and where they go.

  I didnt know that policing the Announcers fell under the Scales jurisdiction.

  There is much you dont know. Our monitor caught a trace of her passing through. Shell be well on her way by now. You must go after her.

  Daniel stiffened. The Scale were the only angels granted vision between Announcers. It was possible a Scale member would have seen Luces travels.

  Why would you want to help me find her?

  Oh, Daniel. The angel frowned. Lucinda is a part of your destiny. We want you to find her. We want you to be true to your nature--

  And then to side with Heaven, Daniel snarled.

  One step at a time. The angel tucked his wings to his sides and plummeted through the tunnel. If you want to catch her, his deep voice rumbled, Im here to show you the way. I know where the connection points are. I can open up a portal between the tissue of past times. Then, faintly: No strings attached.

  Daniel was lost. The Scale had been a nuisance to him ever since the War in Heaven, but at least their motives were transparent. They wanted him to side with Heaven. That was it. He guessed it would behoove them to lead him to Luce if they could.

  Maybe the angel was right. One step at a time. All he cared about was Luce.

  He tucked his wings in at his sides as the angel had done and felt his body moving through the darkness. When he caught up to the angel, he stopped.

  The angel pointed. Lucinda stepped through there.

  The shadow-way was narrow and perpendicular to the path Daniel had been on. It didnt look any more right or wrong than where Daniel had been headed before.

  If this works, he said, Ill owe you. If not, Ill hunt you down.

  The angel said nothing.

  So Daniel leaped before he looked, feeling a wind lick wetly at his wings, a current picking up again and speeding him along, and hearing--somewhere far behind him--the faintest peal of laughter.

  Chapter Nineteen

  THE MORTAL COIL

  MEMPHIS, EGYPT PERET--THE SEASON OF SOWING

  "You there, a voice bellowed as Luce crossed the threshold of the Announcer. I should like my wine. On a platter. And bring in my dogs. No--my lions. No--both. Shed stepped through into a vast white room with alabaster walls and thick columns holding up a lofty ceiling. A faint scent of roasting meat was in the air.

  The room was empty except for a tall platform at the far end, which had been dressed with antelope hide. Atop it sat a colossal throne, carved from marble, padded with plush emerald-green pillows, and adorned along the back with a decorative crest of interlocking ivory tusks.

  The man on the throne--with his kohl-rimmed eyes, bare muscular chest, gold-capped teeth, bejeweled fingers, and tower of ebony hair--was talking to her. He had turned away from a thin-lipped, blue-robed scribe holding a papyrus-reed script, and now both men stared at Luce.

  She cleared her throat.

  "Yes, Pharaoh," Bill hissed into her ear. Just say Yes, Pharaoh.

  Yes, Pharaoh! Luce shouted across the endless chamber.

  Good, Bill said. Now scram!

  Ducking backward through a shadowed doorway, Luce found herself in an interior courtyard surrounding a still pond. The air was cool, but the sun was fierce, scorching the rows of potted lotus flowers that lined the walkway. The courtyard was huge, but, eerily, Luce and Bill had the whole thing to themselves.

  Theres something strange about this place, isnt there? Luce stayed close to the walls. The pharaoh didnt even seem alarmed by seeing me step out of nowhere.

  Hes too important to be bothered with actually noticing people. He saw movement in his peripheral vision and deduced that someone was there for him to boss around. Thats all. It explains why he also didnt seem fazed by the fact that youre wearing Chinese battle garb from two thousand years in the future, Bill said, snapping his stone fingers. He pointed to a shadowed niche in the corner of the courtyard. Hang tight right there and Ill be back with something a little more ? la mode for you to wear.

  Before Luce could strip off the Shang kings cumbersome armor, Bill was back with a simple white Egyptian shift dress. He helped tug off her leather gear and slipped the dress over her head. It draped over one shoulder, tied around the waist, and tapered into a narrow skirt ending a few inches above her ankles.

  Forgetting anything? Bill said with a strange intensity.

  Oh. Luce reached back into the Shang armor for the dull-tipped starshot tucked inside. When she pulled it out, it felt so much heavier than she knew it really was.

  Dont touch the point! Bill said quickly, wrapping the tip in fabric and tying it off. Not yet.

  I thought it could only harm angels. She tilted her head, remembering the battle against the Outcasts, remembering the arrow glancing off Callies arm without a scratch, remembering Daniel telling her to stay far out of the arrows range.

  Whoever told you that didnt tell you the whole truth, Bill said. It only affects immortals. You have a part of you that is immortal--the cursed part, your soul. Thats the part youre going to kill here, remember? So that your mortal self, Lucinda Price, can go on and live a normal life.

  If I kill my soul, Luce said, securing the starshot under her new dress. Even through the coarse cloth, it was warm to the touch. I still havent decided--

  I thought we were agreed. Bill swallowed. Starshots are very valuable. I would not have given it to you unless--

  Lets just find Layla. It wasnt just the eerie silence of the palace that was unsettling--something seemed strange between Luce and Bill. Ever since hed given her the silver arrow, they were edgy around each other.

  Bill took a deep, raspy breath. Okay. Ancient Egypt. This is the early dynastic period in the capital city of Memphis. Were pretty far back now, about five thousand years before Luce Price graces the world with her magnificent presence.

  Luce rolled her eyes. Wheres my past self?

  Why do I even bother with the history lessons? Bill said to a pretend audience. All she ever wants to know is where her past self is. So self-centered its disgusting.

  Luce crossed her arms. If you were going to kill your soul, I think youd want to get it over with before you had a chance to change your mind.

  So, youve decided now? Bill sounded a little breathless. Oh, come on, Luce. This is our last gig together. I figured youd want to know the details, for old times sake? Your life here was really one of the most romantic of all. He hunkered down on her shoulder, in storytelling mode. Youre a slave named Layla. Sheltered, lonely--never been beyond the palace walls. Until, one day, in walks the handsome new commander of the army--guess who?

  Bill hovered at her side as Luce left the armor piled in the alcove and walked slowly along the pools edge.

  You and the dashing Donkor--lets just call him Don--fall in love, and all is rosy except for one cruel reality: Don is betrothed to the pharaohs bitchy daughter, Auset. Now, how dramatic is that?

  Luce sighed. There was always some complication. One more reason to put an end to all this. Daniel shouldnt be shackled to some earthly body, getting caught up in useless mortal drama just so he could be with Luce. It wasnt fair to him. Daniel had been sufferin
g for too long. Maybe she really would end it. She could find Layla and join with her body. Then Bill would tell her how to kill her cursed soul, and she would give Daniel his freedom.

  Shed been pacing the oblong courtyard, brooding. When she rounded the portion of the path nearest the pond, fingers clasped her wrist.

  Caught you! The girl whod seized Luce was lean and muscular, with sultry, dramatic features under layers of makeup. Her ears were pierced by at least ten gold hoops, and a heavy gold pendant hung from her neck, ornamented with a pound of precious jewels.

  The pharaohs daughter.

  I-- Luce started to say.

  Dont you dare say a word! Auset barked. The sound of your pathetic voice is like pumice on my eardrums. Guard!

  An enormous man appeared. He had a long black ponytail and forearms thicker than Luces legs. He carried a long wooden spear topped with a sharp copper blade.

  Arrest her, Auset said.

  Yes, Highness, the guard barked. On what grounds, Highness?

  The question lit an angry fire inside the pharaohs daughter. Theft. Of my personal property.

  I will imprison her until the council rules on the matter.

  We did that once before, Auset said. And yet here she is, like an asp, able to slither free of any bonds. We need to lock her away someplace she can never escape.

  I will assign a continuous watch-- No, that wont be good enough. Something dark crossed Ausets face. I never want to see this girl again. Throw her into my grandfathers tomb.

  But, Your Highness, no one but the high priest is allowed--

  Precisely, Kafele, Auset said, smiling. Throw her down the entryway stairs and bolt the door behind you. When the high priest goes to perform the tomb-sealing ceremony this evening, he will discover this tomb raider and will punish her as he sees fit. She drew near Luce and scoffed. Youll find out what happens to those who try to steal from the royal family.

  Don. She meant that Layla was trying to steal Don.

  Luce didnt care if they locked her up and threw away the key as long as she got a chance to cleave with Layla first. Otherwise how could she set Daniel free? Bill paced the air, scheming, claws tapping against his stone lip.

  The guard produced a pair of shackles from the satchel at his waist and fastened the iron chains over Luces wrists.

  Ill see to it myself, Kafele said, yanking her after him by a length of chain.

  Bill! Luce whispered. You have to help me!

  Well think of something, Bill whispered as Luce was dragged across the courtyard. They turned a corner into a dark hallway, where a larger-than-life stone sculpture of Auset stood, looking grimly beautiful.

  When Kafele turned to squint at Luce because she was talking to herself, his long black hair swished across his face and gave Luce an idea.

  He never saw it coming. She wrestled her shackled hands up and tugged down hard on his hair, clawing at his head with her fingernails. He yelped and stumbled backward, bleeding from a long scratch on his scalp. Then Luce elbowed him hard in the gut.

  He grunted and doubled over. The spear slipped from his hands.

  Can you get these shackles off? Luce hissed at Bill.

  The gargoyle wagged his eyebrows. A short black bolt shot into the shackles, and they fizzled into nothingness. Luces skin felt hot where they had been, but she was free.

  Huh, she said, glancing briefly down at her bare wrists. She grabbed the spear from the ground. She spun around to draw the blade to Kafeles neck.

  One step ahead of you, Luce, Bill called. When she turned, Kafele was sprawled flat on his back with his wrists shackled around the stone ankle of Ausets likeness.

  Bill dusted off his hands. Teamwork. He glanced down at the white-faced guard. Wed better hurry. Hell find his vocal cords again soon enough. Come with me.

 

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