Текст книги

Gena Showalter
Lifeblood


A look I’ve received from only two other people: Killian and Archer.

Zero! I’m crying again, and I can’t stop. Have I become the world’s biggest sissy?

One of my tears splashes on Jeremy’s cheek, and he giggles. He wraps his chubby little fingers around one of mine and brings it to his mouth for a toothless nibble.

“We’re together forever now, baby bro.” A vow from my innermost being.

—Forever—

“Ye—” I shake my head. A little boy’s voice just whispered through my mind as surely as the wind had whispered earlier. Surely my brother didn’t...surely he can’t...

But maybe he can? New world, new rules. I don’t yet know what’s possible and what’s not. There’s no reason to stress over anything. One, I’ll figure things out. Two, if I ask, I’ll be given a cryptic answer that generates even more questions, guaranteed. That is Levi’s MO. And three, I’ve got bigger problems than my brother maybe, maybe not, speaking to me telepathically.

Namely: How can I help free the people of Many Ends without Archer’s and Killian’s help?

Everything always comes back to my guys, doesn’t it. And why not? Killian was my rock, the one who helped me stand when I wobbled. Archer was my guide. He showed me the way I should go every time I floundered.

Who else do I have? Clay is as new to this life as I am. I have family I don’t know, and I’m hated by the ones I do. I’m a soldier in a war I don’t fully understand.

Oh, I know the story: the Firstking created Troika for his son Eron, the Prince of Doves, and Myriad for his son Ambrosine, the Prince of Ravens. Afterward, he created the Land of the Harvest and the humans who populated it—humans allowed to choose the realm where they would ultimately live.

One decision. An eternity of joy or regret.

But it wasn’t long before Ambrosine plotted to destroy Eron, determined to rule both realms.

What I don’t know is why the different citizens loathe each other. Or why, exactly, they decided to go to war. Were they simply following the orders of their kings?

Why can’t we create friendships—relationships? If Troika and Myriad ever cease-fire, I can more easily save the people in Many Ends.

The portal to the realm of eternal horrors is hidden inside Myriad. But I can no longer enter Myriad...

I must find a way.

I could ask Killian to enter for me. And get him caught, punished or killed.

Not an option. If I can help Troika and Myriad reach a truce, I can enter Myriad again. Maybe. Possibly. I like my odds.

Levi pats my shoulder. “Guess what, lucky girl? I’m overseeing your training, and I’m giving you homework on your first day. Take a moment to boo and hiss if you’d like. No? Fine. Memorize the Book of the Law, write the words on your heart and see.”

“Uh, care to finish your sentence? See what?” And how am I supposed to write words on my heart?

He winks at me, code for figure it out for yourself, dummy.

Fine. I arch a brow at him. “Please tell me the book is only a single page long, and part two of my assignment isn’t literal.”

Another wink.

Great!

“So sorry we’re late,” a familiar voice says. “Class ran over.”

Excitement blooms as Kayla Brooks and Reed Haynesworth make their way through the throng. I met short, pale-haired Kayla and tall, dark-haired Reed in Many Ends. My first saves.

But not my last!

Like too many others, Kayla and Reed died too young. She’s only eighteen, and he’s a whopping nineteen.

Troika has been good to the pair. They glow.

In their Firstlife, they were Unsigned, refusing to choose a side and fight in a war they didn’t understand. Instead, they joined HART. Humans Against Realm Turmoil.

They died when protestors bombed HART headquarters.

Had their deaths occurred before the age of sixteen, they could have entered either Troika or Myriad without problem. Anyone under sixteen—the Age of Accountability—has no ties to Many Ends, even if they are Unsigned.

Later, when the spirit-child reaches the AoA, he can choose to forsake whichever realm he’s been living in and enter the other.

I’m not sure how much time Reed and Kayla spent in Many Ends before I showed up...once, twice, three times. Third time is the charm. We escaped together, forever changing the course of our Everlives; that’s how I know the captives can be freed. There’s a secret Gate or Veil or whatever inside Myriad—where we ended up.

“Hey, guys.” I grin as I embrace them. “I’m so happy to see you.”

“A word of warning, my friend.” Reed gives me a pitying look. “You’ve already made adversaries here. You’re being blamed for the loss of several TLs.”

My heart cracks down the center and leaks acid. “I made mistakes. I’ll deal with the consequences.”

“You’re a new spirit in a new world,” Levi says, and sighs. “None of us had a perfect start, and anyone who casts stones will have to deal with me.”

The show of support both elates and depresses me. I don’t want people to pretend to like me, fearing they’ll get into trouble if they don’t.

Jeremy waves his arms and kicks his legs in a bid for freedom. I’ve never been around babies, so I’m not sure what to do. My unease must show, because Levi gathers him close. In thanks, my brother upchucks all over his tie.

“Slob goblin.” Levi laughs and gives Jeremy’s butt a gentle tap. “That’s what you are, isn’t it, young man?”

Jeremy farts.

My grandmother moves to my side and nudges me with her shoulder. She’s my mom’s mom, strong but elegant, even regal, and up close she’s more than beautiful. She’s absolutely stunning. A gold catsuit makes her luminous from head to toe.

“I’m glad you finally saw the Light,” she says.

Light Brings Sight is our realm’s battle cry.

“Should I call you Granny?” I tease. “Or maybe Gran Gran?”

She snorts. “You refer to me by either name, and I’ll put you over my knee to paddle the Light right out of you.”

You can’t take the old lady sass out of the young spirit, I see.

“Why don’t you call me Meredith,” she suggests, tugging on a lock of my blue hair.
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