Yasmin’s girlfriend is dead, but she will stop at nothing to bring Fray back. Even if that means going to the Otherland and making a bargain with the Ruler of All Souls. If Yasmin finds Pluto’s lost power, they’ll return Fray’s soul to her body.
Yasmin’s search takes her, and two of her friends, from Bucharest to France to Wales, and exposes a horrifying secret with Venus, Yasmin’s mother, at the heart of it. With a murderous, fiery god and the incarnation of death in her way, Yasmin will have to compromise her morals and harness the Legendary power in her veins. If she fails, Fray’s soul will be lost forever.
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A rope of Akasha lashes out and binds my arms and legs.
Fray falls to the ground as soon as the gateway spits us out. She hits the floor of Almery Wood with a terrifying thud. No cry. No reaction.
I twist my body, trying to free myself, snapping my teeth. I was calm while we walked from Almery to the Academy, all the way through our explanation of what we found in the Legend Mirror and what happened after. But now, held back from crossing the boundary of the Ward, unable to take a step without crashing to the ground—I’m seething. This is my decision. It’s my life to risk. Nobody can stop me.
Except, evidently, my brother.
Amity kneels beside me, her fingers on Fray’s neck. She looks at me with dismay. “Don’t say it,” I choke. “I don’t need to hear it.”
The ropes tighten. I scowl at the trees lining the courtyard as if they themselves are responsible for my restraints. My skin chafes and burns as I struggle against their hold, but even with the beast in me roaring and talons at the ends of my fingers, I can’t beat Guy’s Akasha—a combination of all four elements and the fifth element, Spirit, all merging into a unpredictable substance that’s massively powerful. After a while, I feel the Akasha straining, becoming the slightest bit heavier than the fire-mist substance it usually is. I think maybe Guy is losing his grip so I redouble my efforts. I overbalance. Unable to break my fall, I crash to the gravel floor of the courtyard, the impact vibrating up my left shoulder. The stones bite into my chin. Pain slices into my face, my arm. I bite my lip so hard the metal tang of blood fills my mouth but I refuse to make a single sound of pain, of surrender.
“Shit.” Guy crouches beside me and the Akasha around my arms fizzles away, releasing me far too late. His worried frown fills my vision, his eyebrows a contrite V.
“Shoulder,” I say through clenched teeth. “Heal.”
He passes his palm over my shoulder, close enough for the healing wind of Akasha to prick goose-bumps on my skin. Majick fixes the messed up thing that happened with my bones—I’m sure it was my bones, not that I can feel anything but screaming pain. Tears prick my eyes. I clench my teeth. Slowly, my brain realises the source of pain is fixed and the stabbing agony disappears.
For a long moment I lay on the ground, gulping pine-scented air, ignoring the torrent of apologies and swearing coming from my brother. This is, possibly, the worst thing that could have happened after telling my family that I planned to go to Pluto, ruler of the Otherland and all souls, and do whatever they told me in return for Fray’s life.
I stand, struggling to support Fray’s weight, and I cross the clearing until I reach a familiar, sprawling oak.
Eventually, I start to feel things again. The scrape on my jaw stings, for some reason my hand is pulsing as if it’s swelling up, and my courage has sunk all the way to my boots. “I hate you,” I growl but my words are muffled by Guy’s hoodie. He’s peeled me from the floor and propped me up against his chest. That explains the rank aftershave chemicals on the back of my tongue. “You are the worst,” I add for good measure.
“I know,” he sighs. “Tried to stop you getting yourself killed and I dislocated your shoulder.”
“Is that what happened? It got dislocated?”
“Ugh.” I push to to my feet and despite a perilous wobble, I stay upright. My arm is entirely numb, shoulder to wrist. I fold my arms around myself when I see everyone’s eyes on me. All the Red followed me out apparently, even our newest member, Steph.
“Are you ready to listen to us now?” Mavers asks tentatively, one of his hands hovering as if to touch me.
“I’ve already listened to everything you have to say,” I say slowly, “and it didn’t change anything. If I don’t go to Pluto, Fray will die--really die.
But there’s a chance I can save her. I was shown that in a vision for a reason. I have to do this, and I want to do it, so there’s nothing you can say to stop me. Please stop trying.”
I call on my newly returned Earth Majick, peeling the roots away from the tree, pulling up dirt and leaves and grass until a space has been created, big enough to hold her.
“I can’t let you go there, Yasmin,” Mavers says, but I can sense he’s given up trying to convince me. Amity puts a hand on his arm to comfort him but he flinches. I don’t have the space in my mind to think about how complicated everything has become in the Red. I want to find a dark room and lie down and forget everything that happened in the last few months, but I can’t. I’d only just found Fray, only just saved her from Incar and seen her save herself, when she died. I want to laugh at the cruelty of it but that would only make me look mad.
“I’d go with you, Yasmin,” Cornelia says when a harsh silence falls. I meet her eyes and nod. She can’t leave her sister behind, not when she’s so sick. Unlike Fray, Priscilla survived the trip from the Legend Mirror to Earth. Mavers thinks it’s because Priscilla was further along in the transition from Legendary to … whatever they are now. Cornelia said Priscilla’s childhood in the Legend Mirror could have saved her. But we don’t know anything for sure. The only thing that’s certain is Priscilla is sick from her exposure to raw Majick and whatever else the Incar did to her, and Fray is … gone.
I lay Fray in a cradle of earth, safe in the roots of the tree, and I use my power to form a protective web around her of ivy and vines.
Every time my mind trips over it, that word I refuse to think, it gets a little less painful. I’m worried I’m slowly shutting down my emotions, but if that’s what helps me get Fray’s soul back, I’m not going to complain. And she’s not really gone anyway, not completely. She’s in an unchanging state, kept safe in my Earth Majick where nothing can hurt her. What would happen if you didn’t get her soul back, a reluctant voice asks. Would she stay youthful and unmoving until the end of time?
I ignore it.
I push to my feet, leaving her there, protected by Earth Majick and an ancient oak tree.
“Thank you,” I say to Cornelia. At least someone believes I’m doing the right thing. I glance from Minnie’s crumpled face to Rowan’s guarded expression to Vic, scuffing his feet on the floor, and know I’ll find no support there. Maybe they’re just worried for me, maybe they just want to protect me, but don’t they know protecting me will only ensure Fray dies for real?
As if facing an executioner, I turn to Guy. His eyes are narrowed, his brown skin flushed with anger. “You’re not going anywhere.”
That’s a death sentence to Fray. Why can’t they see that? Or do they? Do they know keeping me here means Fray’s permanent death, and they just don’t care? Have they weighed my life against hers and found Fray lacking? A rumble builds deep in my chest, fury rousing the Manticore. If they’re not careful, I might choose to let the beast in my blood take over. If it saves Fray, I’ll abandon my human-like self altogether.
“Fine,” I spit. “Lock me up.”
“Yasmin?” Cornelia lets me lean on her for support. “What did you do?”
“I made her safe,” I reply in a flat voice.
I’ll find a way out. I’ll do whatever it takes.