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chapter twenty-eight | caves are strange and emmy still has problems 

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Emmy hurried out of the house without a coat to cover her white nightgown, practically flying as she sprinted down the street.

The Willets lived a block away, practically around the corner, and she got there seconds after hearing the words 'mama' and 'dying' in the same sentence.

Those whom she passed in the street, in the foyer of her house, on the stairs and in her mother's room say she was muttering, 'They told me it would work' and 'They promised' over and over again.

When she dropped to her knees next to her mother, she saw that they had lied.

And more than just grief for her mother, whose cold hand she held, was a burning hatred for those who had offered her hope in turn for betrayal, and had only stabbed her in the back in turn.

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Julienne's heart quickened as the light faded with no hope of new light taking its place.

The cave was dark. She held Anton's hand, who was walking in front, and her mama's hand, who was bringing up the rear. They, in turn, kept their free hands on the cave walls on either side.

Julienne couldn't keep track of time as she walked in the oppressive darkness, which seemed to press in on her from all sides and surrounded her heart and mind. She just placed one foot in front of the other and hoped they would reach the end.

She didn't like darkness. She took comfort from her mother's hand and her uncle's guidance.

The flare of light was sudden.

One moment it was dark and the next it was brighter than noon under three suns.

Julienne shrieked, covering her eyes from the pain. When it subsided, she opened her eyes one at a time.

Around her, golden light shone through marks on the dark cave walls.

It was swirling, scrolling calligraphy that spanned the wall from the floor to the ceiling. From up close, all you could see was the loops and scrollwork and ivylike embellishments.

When Julienne looked at the opposite wall, which was farther, she was reminded of Jean-Luc's homework and the marks he'd been learning. Each individual had been sketched as large as the cave wall allowed.

"What is this?" Julienne breathes, looking at them with awe.

Michele smiled, taking in the marks and understanding them all. "They are wards. They protect this place from..." She trailed off, then motioned to specific marks on the wall. "Those who seek evil. Those who deceive. Those with ill intent. Those who betray. Those who do not know what they seek."

Anton let out a small laugh. "This is amazing. I didn't know these still existed."

"Well," Michele shrugged. "It makes sense. This is the way to our Sacred Ground. Watervalle is the only place of protection in Dutkans, our hardest kept secret."

Julienne leaned forward to touch the mark. Before she could, Michele tugged her back.

"Don't touch," she warned, gently taking Julienne's hand. "It's an energy, the golden light. It will sting you."

Julienne nodded, the warning not taking away from the awe she felt.

"Did you notice your necklace is glowing?" asked Anton, pulling Julienne's attention away from the wall.

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