Blood Prophecy Page 47

“Of course she did,” Gwyneth said, the stones clacking in her hand. “The more you think about a spirit such as Viola, the more you speak her name you feed her with magic, and the stronger she becomes. Then the better able she is to find you. Veronique never wanted to be taken by surprise again, so she sought out soothsayers in every century.”

“Even if I get my body back, will Viola always be inside me?”

“Hard to know.” There were little daisies in Gwyneth’s matted hair. I’d never noticed before.

“Would she make me crazy if she was stuck inside my head?”

Gwyneth shrugged. “Maybe.”

“That’s the opposite of helpful,” I said, annoyed. “If you feel so guilty about everything, help me.” I shot to my feet, pacing the small confines of the cave. “Can you at least tell me why the crown freed her so completely?”

“Magic.”

“I figured that out for myself, thanks.” I kept pacing, avoiding the flickering shadow of Viola, snarling at me, dried blood on her chin.

“The crown is just a symbol. It worked as a talisman because Viola forced it to; there was no actual magic in it to begin with. It was just the magic already in her, finding a trigger.”

I paced by Viola again, noticing the bats near the ceiling. I couldn’t tell if they were real or not. Only her eyes and the pendant around her neck were in sharp focus, glittering. “What about the pendant?” I asked. “It’s clearly magical. It activated Viola’s spell, and it trapped you here. So if I destroy it, will Viola be destroyed too?”

“Finally, you ask the right question.”

“Oh my God,” I snapped. “What is it with witches and riddles? If you knew something, why didn’t you just tell me?”

“That’s not the way it works,” Gwyneth said, unrepentant. “You needed to see what you saw and do what you did to have the strength to do what must be done.”

I rolled my eyes. “Great.”

She grinned. It was fleeting and rusty, as if she’d forgotten how. “Besides, I didn’t know you, did I? Not really. I didn’t know if you were strong enough. And every time one of her hosts fails, she goes on a rampage.” She touched her scar again.

“Host? You make it sound like a dinner party,” I muttered. “For the psychotic undead.” I stopped pacing. “Why are you helping me now?” I still didn’t know if she could actually be trusted. She’d been right when she said we didn’t really know each other. But the enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that. It was one of Dad’s favorite sayings.

“Penance, I suppose. And you’ve lasted this long. Maybe it’s enough.”

“Gee, thanks.” I sighed. “I don’t suppose you know where the stupid pendant is hidden?”

“It’s not hidden at all. Viola wears it here at all times.”

I paused, narrowing my eyes. “That’s way too easy.”

“It would be, yes. If that was the end of it. But you’ll need to find a way to lure her out.”

“And then?”

“And then you get the pendant from her and smash it.” Gwyneth cast the stones she’d been holding, reading their pattern and trying to decipher the future. I’d seen Isabeau do something similar, and Lucy’s mom read my tarot cards every year on my birthday. Well, she hadn’t read them this year, for obvious reasons. One stupid, vague prophecy at a time.

“Can I win?” I asked, seeing nothing but painted lines like sticks. The smoke from the fire made my eyes burn.

“You can.” I couldn’t help but smile. She didn’t smile back. “I say you can, not that you will.”

“You really have to work on your pep talks.”

She gathered up her painted stones, dropping them back into a leather pouch. “Do you think you can make her find you?”

“Yes.” I smiled grimly as the phantom bats screeched in the corner. “I know exactly what to do.”

I was barely at the gatehouse when another memory hit.

1199

The caves were dark and damp and smelled like iron. Water streamed down the walls, icy and uncomfortable. But she was safe. No one would think to look for her here. Only the bats dared enter, mostly because they’d been sleeping here by the hundreds long before she’d ever stumbled out of Bornebow Hall covered in blood. They caught in her hair and bit at her hands but she barely noticed. She tried to stay awake but couldn’t. The day weighed heavily on her and she carried it in her breast like the hot coal they used in trials to prove innocence. It burned her because she was guilty.

It hardly mattered. The guilt didn’t carry her through the sickness— only thoughts of Tristan could do that. He hadn’t come for her. He didn’t know she was here. He might never know if she couldn’t find her way out. So she fed on deer and wolves and the thieves who hid in the woods until she was strong enough.

Vertigo slammed through me and I had to hold onto the stones for support. Luckily the gatehouse guard was holding his head and retching behind a barrel. I crept past him, wincing at the bloody bruise on his temple.

“Sorry,” I whispered, ducking into the outer bailey. The moon made the long expanses of grass silvery and sharp. I stayed pressed against the inside of the wall, considering my options. I didn’t need to get right inside the castle. I just needed a spot that I could defend from the knights until Viola was pissed off enough to seek me out.

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