Chapter 33

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"It's okay,'' I whisper. "There should be light at the bottom, just make sure you don't trip.''

His warm hand settles on my shoulder, making me jump. "So I don't run into you.''

We made our way down the stairs slowly, one step at a time. Though we can't move quickly, I can't complain about having someone with me. Hale makes the darkness feel a little less sinister.

At the bottom of the stairs, I gesture for Hale to stand back while I peer around the edge of the doorway. Though Darius is upstairs at the ball, I'd heard another voice that night; someone else had been here and could be again.

I crouch down and peered around the doorway. There are a few lone candles burning around the room so it's hard to see but it definitely looks empty. I take a silent step out, trying to see if there are any other doorways or rooms connected to this one, but all I can see are bookshelf covered walls and stone pillars.

"I think it's empty,'' I murmur to Hale, then stand and make my way carefully to the table in the middle of the room. He curses and follows, spinning around as if he expects someone to materialize. But it's all clear, just one big empty room.

"Last time I was here, Darius was reading books off of this table and he was angry that something wasn't working,'' I tell him, examining the table. "I'm worried he's plotting something against Willows and I need to find out what.''

There are a number of books sitting on the table, all different sizes and covers. I grab the least battered looking one I see, trying to read it in the dim light of the candle. It's handwritten in looping letters, elegance and grace on a page.

"This power is becoming harder to control. Melora speaks to me, offers me comfort, but I find her voice is growing dimmer. Another is replacing it, the voice of madness, the voice of the demon inside me. I know it will do me nothing but harm to listen, but I want to. I want to give in.''

The bottom is signed Evelyn Navarre.

My stomach twists. This is Darius's mother's journal, the previous queen and Melora's blessed before Willow. One of the journals Mortimer had lost. What does this mean? Is Mortimer working with Darius?

"Talia?'' Hale calls softly, and I spin around. "Didn't you say Willow got her powers from Melora? Because I think this is her.'' He's standing in front of the giant stone woman who had looked so menacing last time.

I grab a candle from the table and bring it over to where he's standing, the light illuminating regal features and a serene expression carved on her face. "How do you know it's her?''

"My father had all of these tapestries of the gods in his study. I used to stare at them for hours while he lectured me on war and tactics. This is definitely Melora.''

Melora. The reason behind all of Willow's problems. The goddess whose blessing it seems, is actually a curse. There's something here, something about her, I know it. She has the answers. 

I reach out to touch her with a shaking hand.

The sound of footsteps coming down the stairs send me spinning around, meeting Hale's panicked eyes. Without saying a word, he takes the candle and douses it, while I sprint silently back to the table, throwing the journal down. I run back to the furthest pillar where Hale is crouched and he pulls me down next to him. We press against it and I pray that it's big enough, the shadows deep enough back here that we can't be seen.

Darius comes through the doorway, and I pull my head back, pressing it into the pillar. Hale takes my hand in his and squeezes it tightly.

"Well, what do you want?'' Darius growls, his voice echoing around the chamber. Is he speaking to himself? He definitely came in the room alone.

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