Chapter 17: Tunnels

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~Skai

The reaction was immediate, as I'd known it would be. Even the sky wasn't so remote these words wouldn't illicit an immediate response. I didn't look at Jack.

Both sisters' jaws dropped initially; it was in their secondary actions that they differed. Marrianna grinned excitedly. "So that's the curious whiff I got off you!" She turned to her sister, who snapped her jaws closed disapprovingly.

"I understand that my sister played a cruel joke on you, but that's no excuse to invent equally cruel lies."

"Um," Jack said.

I bristled and talked over him. "Lies? I assure you I wish I was lying. I wish this was some stupid attempt to be allowed to go someplace dangerous. But neither of us is so fortunate."

"She's not lying," Marrianna seconded.

"Oh, like you would know."

"I can smell it!"

"You can't smell truths!"

"You can smell fear! Why is it such a stretch for me to be able to smell fervent truths?"

Ajaia shook her head. "You are so dramatic."

"I'm not lying," I said stepping forward and standing tall. "It has been in my possession for over a year now, and believe me when I tell you this: Jack and I need to get to that castle!"

I still didn't look at Jack. I couldn't bear to see his face; I was having enough trouble breathing as it was. My stomach was all in knots, wound up so tightly I couldn't bring myself to even try breathing deeply. The last time I'd revealed my secret. . . well, things had never been the same since.

What would Jack do, now that he knew?

But I didn't have a choice! I was cornered, every other possible exit blocked off. All I could do was act. Then, no matter what happened next, I could react to that.

Ajaia watched me, burning red eyes unmoving. I stared right back, defiantly.

Her expression didn't change. "Marrianna, take them back. I'll tell some of our siblings to keep watch until Zi and Ze get back."

Surprisingly, Marrianna slumped down. She nodded.

"So, what?" I asked, truly panicked now, and also bitter. "You're just going to keep us here?"

"Take them back."

Eyes down, Marrianna reached forward one foot and wrapped her claws around me. Jack was next. This time we were positioned so that we could see each other. She wasn't nearly as big across as I had first imagined her to be.

"Put me down!" I yelled. "This is a huge mistake!" I fought against her grip, but it was unyielding. This was unbelievable. I'd escaped capture on a daily basis for months. Yesterday had been close (I had only retained the Semper because Henry had brought me to Madame P's for the questioning), but I had gotten away. Now, it was over, all because I had chosen to place my trust in the wrong people yet again. Would I never learn?

Surprisingly, Jack was quiet. When I finally looked over at him, he was staring at me, eyes clouded in confusion. He opened his mouth and I pointedly looked away. I couldn't deal with him right now.

Marrianna crawled deeper into the tunnel, all light gradually diminishing the further away from Ajaia we got.

"Marrianna. Please-"

"Shh!"

"But-"

"Not yet."

She kept moving.

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