No one spoke as the other three tried to absorb Stephen’s audacious claim. After several seconds went by, Alastair finally spoke up, “You… You what?”
He knew it probably baffled them for someone who couldn’t do magic to make such a wild pronouncement, so he knew he owed them an explanation on how he reached that conclusion. “Right before King Patrick died, he made me promise to always love her, even when she made it difficult to do so. At first, I didn’t think it was that significant for him to say that, but after Emily went missing, it became something deeper.”
“He knew she’d get cursed,” Finnian inferred.
“Exactly!” Stephen responded. “He knew about something that was gonna happen in the future. He didn’t give me advice, he gave me a prediction!”
The three of them found this tidbit interesting, but they seemed confused as to how it connected to what Stephen asserted earlier. Dagan commented, “He did use to offer a lot of foresight into important matters.”
Alastair agreed, “That’s true. That’s why he had me contact the FBI when we had no suspects in the murders of the heirs. He knew the key to solving the case would come from an American.” He nodded to Stephen, but then he furrowed his brow perplexedly. “That’s interesting that he knew that this would happen, but that seems more like a warning than a solution. What makes you think he gave you an antidote?”
“Think about it!” Stephen exclaimed. “The Sirvards randomly got spared, no plausible explanation for that. They’re the same age that Emily was when her parents were killed, and they’re being raised by their grandmother just like she did. I think the emotions stirred up from that drew out Emily’s essence for a moment, and she saved them!” Alastair, Finnian, and Dagan’s expression all showed an understanding of his logic but still displayed some deep skepticism, so Stephen went on, “Xavier tried to have Emily kill me with a spell that had already worked several times, but it didn’t even leave a scratch on me! She could have killed me in Leannastor too, but my life got spared. And right after the spell failed, she could have tried again, but she didn’t. Emily’s essence saved my life! Wow, I guess I really was important to her!” He sort of suspected that Emily had some romantic feelings for him, but he couldn’t prove anything until right then. He felt so unworthy to have earned the affections of such an amazing person, but it flabbergasted him to think that she might have felt as deeply as he did! His reasoning only made sense if she did, and it simply amazed him to know that! He would have been over the moon from this revelation if she hadn’t gone missing due to getting possessed by an evil sorcerer! His heart ached at what could have been.
Finnian remarked, “That’s an interesting theory on why a few people got spared, but, I’m sorry, I just don’t see how that could rid her body of the Curse of the Serpent’s Tongue! Her connection with you and the Sirvards won’t help us protect the other heirs.”
“It drew out her essence!” Stephen expounded, “I thought I saw a sparkle in her eyes before she attacked me, but I didn’t! For a moment, her eyes flashed back to their original color! The golden brown color flashed in front of the red! She intervened so Xavier’s essence couldn’t kill me!”
They appeared to accept the plausibility of his rationale, but the other three still didn’t seem totally sold on the idea. Dagan inquired, “So, what you’re saying is that you think eliciting her deepest emotions could strengthen her essence enough to expel the dark magic out?”
Stephen emphatically replied, “Exactly!”
Alastair asked Dagan, “Is it possible to get rid of a curse that way?”
“Get rid of a curse, sure!” Dagan answered knowledgeably. “But this curse? I don’t know…”
“Look, I know I’m a cose and a novice in the world of magic,” Stephen entreated them, “but King Patrick wasn’t! He was a very powerful sorcerer, everyone says that! Do you really think when he was minutes away from dying that he would bother to give me relationship advice or give an omen about one random setback? I don’t think he would have bothered if it wasn’t supremely important! You trust him, don’t you?” They all looked a little guilty over the thought of not trusting King Patrick, but they still didn’t seem completely resolved on Stephen’s point. Stephen turned to Alastair and reminded him, “You trusted me enough to have me take over your team after you retire, so why can’t you take my word on this?”
Stephen could see something inside of Alastair switch, and he acknowledged his point, “You’re right! I should trust you on this!” Finnian and Dagan seemed surprised to hear him say that, so he told them, “We’re still days away from finishing the potion to remedy her affliction, so why not give it a shot?” To Stephen’s relief, Finnian and Dagan finally relented! Alastair then queried to Stephen, “Alright, so what did you have in mind?”
“We need to meet face to face again. But how? Xavier doesn’t know what I plan to do, but he does know I’m trying to capture her, so how can I draw her to me without rousing suspicion?” Right after he contemplated this concept out loud, he felt his cellphone vibrate. He took a quick peek, and much to his chagrin, it wasn’t an urgent message, just an alert from social media. He didn’t think it was important, so he almost put his phone away, but suddenly, the solution to his dilemma became clear to him. He pointed to his phone as he regarded the other three men, “I think we can turn some enemies into allies!”
In a dark room with old, peeling, wooden walls, Allison could see her reflection against a bubbling cauldron, and it threw her off to see Blythe’s face staring back at her! This seemed like such a good idea at the time, but now she didn’t feel quite as sure. She hoped that Stephen had caught a glimpse of her before they teleported out of that burning house because, otherwise, her team would presume her as missing! She worried about the stress she put them through, but she knew they’d forgive her if she came back alive. That felt like a big if to her though! She faced four powerful beings capable of performing very potent dark magic, and if they caught wind that she was an impostor, she knew she would get killed in an instant! She had fought against Xavier’s loyalists before when she was outnumbered, but that group’s talent didn’t compare to what she now stood against! Plus, she had help from the Nymph Queen of Good, and while they were in the same house where they previously confronted Xavier and his lot, she couldn’t count on her coming to the rescue this time! She instinctively felt as though following Emily would lead to her capture or would at least unearth some important clues that she could pass on to the ICI, but now this idea felt less promising! She didn’t have a plan, and right now, she didn’t see any way out of this!
“Hey, pay attention here!” Anad snapped.
Allison inwardly scolded herself for forgetting that she was in the middle of healing Anad’s wounds, and she resolved to not let it happen again. She had been around Blythe before, so she knew how she behaved under normal circumstances, so with as much of her bravado that she could muster, she apologized to Anad, “Sorry, I got distracted! I just can’t stop thinking about how that stupid cose killed one of our guys!”
“I know what you mean!” Emily bitterly agreed. “I’m getting really tired of his interference!” She continued to chant some healing spells as Lonan laid before her.
Brent paused his own healing efforts to say, “We’re never gonna get through our mission with him constantly buzzing around! Maybe we could keep him busy for a bit while he’s examining their bodies!” He indicated to the other side of the room where Torunn and Elska watched them fearfully through their constraints.
The others reacted in support of that notion, but Allison knew she had to find a credible reason for them to keep the Sirvard twins alive. Putting as much disdain as she could into her voice, she shot down that proposal. “That’s stupid! He might get temporarily distracted, but once he figures out what we’re doing, he’ll come flying back to our trail!”
“She’s right,” Emily admitted. “He’s got the hots for Emily, so he won’t lay off ’til he captures us or he finally dies! Eventually, he’ll come after this body, and when he does, we’ll kill him! He keeps surviving on flukes, but eventually, he’ll run out of luck and we’ll get him!”
Everyone approved of her plan, but secretly, it made her sick to her stomach to pretend to enjoy the thought of killing Stephen! She had come to think of him as an older brother, and it hurt her heart to hear people relishing his demise! It also made her wonder just how far she would have to go while she maintained this ruse. If she accompanied them on their demonic quest, she resolved to find a way to get out of hurting anyone! Furthermore, if Stephen and Alastair hadn’t figured out what she did, she knew that they would try to kill her in an attempt to kill Blythe! She had left her in pretty effective restraints, but if the fire got to her before the ICI did, then they may not have been able to figure out what she did! She also considered the possibility that Blythe found a way to escape, and if she found her way back to Emily and her crew, she knew she would be done for!
Her phone vibrated in her pocket, and she applauded herself for having the foresight to swap her mobile device with Blythe’s before she made the transformation. Her curiosity got wrapt at the prospect of who would actually contact her at a time like this, and she really hoped that it would reveal a juicy clue. She frowned to see a notification from a social media page, and Brent eagerly asked her, “Any updates?”
Allison quickly noted the amount of news apps that she had on her phone, and she deduced that they must have been keeping track of the press to gain insight on their investigation. She had already begun coming up with a myriad of different lies she could tell them if the story gave off any pertinent information about the case, but they story she saw took her by surprise! She knew no one on her team would allow this to happen, and so she concluded that Stephen or Alastair must have planted this story for them to find. There was no other explanation in her mind! She revealed to them, “Penny Melrose reported that Cara escaped from protective custody, and police have no idea where she is!”
Anad, Lonan, Brent, and Emily all looked skeptical at the idea, and Emily promptly strolled over to the cauldron and waved her hands over it. She relayed to them, “There she is! She’s at her old house all by herself!”
“It’s a trap!” Anad figured out. “They’re trying to lure us there so they can take us down!”
“But if it’s true, then we can’t miss an opportunity to ambush an heir when they’re vulnerable!” Lonan pointed out.
Finally seeing a window of opportunity opening up for her, Allison spoke up, “She should go there, but we’ll take our guests here with us. They wouldn’t dare touch us if we had a couple of heirs nearby!” She really hoped that they would buy that argument for bringing them along because she planned on letting the ICI recover them. She also wanted to make sure she got placed in charge of them in order to protect them and prevent anymore senseless deaths. If her hunch proved right, she could sabotage their entire efforts and get them all apprehended!
To her relief, Emily liked the scheme she presented. “That’s exactly what we’ll do! This definitely feels like a trap set up by that stupid cose, but if he wants a showdown, he’ll get one!”