Home > Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(5)

Torn (Demon Kissed #3)(5)
Author: H.M. Ward

He stopped suddenly, and turned, pointing at me, "And that right there...that's your problem. No matter what you do, you are that girl. It's how you become that girl that matters. You're missing the details. It's all in the details, Ivy." He turned from me and walked into a dead end. The walls were coated with golden flowers dripping in jewels. The ground gleamed bright blue with chunks of sapphires forming an ornate pattern in the floor. It looked beautiful, just like any other part of the Lorren.

Lorren reached his hand out and pushed his fingers through the golden flowers. The long ropes of flowers slid aside as if they were on a curtain rod. Lorren walked the length of the maze wall, pulling back sections of flowers revealing hidden paintings below. The paintings were large and secretly hung beneath the mounds of jeweled roses and lilies, undisturbed and unnoticed. Scanning the wall, I watched as Lorren revealed painting after painting. The alcove in which they hung was massive. I turned, following him to see each painting in the series reveal more vibrant colors. Arms folded, I watched waiting to see whatever it was he thought was so important, but after a minute I saw for myself - the painting from the church.

My heart raced in my chest as my arms fell to my sides. Walking towards it, I was sure that it was the painting I'd stolen. The same painting that Collin had taken when he threw himself down here in my place. It depicted me standing precariously on a tiny stone, barely holding onto the fingers of a boy. It still looked uncertain as to whether or not I was trying to pull him up or drop him. I stared at the painting with my mouth hanging open. Lorren stopped, as that was the last painting he revealed, and stood next to it.

I walked over to it slowly, asking, "Where did you get that?" The painting - the prophecy - had caused so much trouble. This was the one that the Martis had protected forever and now it was in Hell, in the Lorren with a Valefar. The more I gazed at it, the more confused I became. I didn't see the apocalypse. I didn't see the destruction that they spoke of. I saw a terrified girl and a boy about to fall out of her grip. Collin.

He snapped his fingers to get my attention, which infuriated me. I wasn't a dog. "Pay attention," Lorren snapped. "That isn't the only part of the prophecy that matters. The Martis guarded that old thing for years, but it's only part of what happens. The rest of these tell the story as well. No doubt you didn't realize there was more to this, right?"

I shrugged. "I knew there were more." Collin had mentioned other prophecy paintings. There had been thirteen in all, but I'd only seen the one. Lorren gestured for me to come over and look at the canvases. Dread crawled out of the pit of my stomach and climbed up my throat, as I walked closer to examine them. These held details that I didn't know about, details that I was fairly certain I didn't want to know. These were worse than my visions. I couldn't tell what my visions were doing or if they were real or not. But these paintings - the prophecies - they were iron clad. Whatever they said would happen, would happen.

I swallowed hard, stopping next to Lorren. He looked down at me. I gazed straight at the horror encased in paint in front of me. Golden eyes were the only trace of the boy I knew. The rest of his features were contorted with hatred. "Eric." My hand reached out to touch the ancient paint. Lorren watched me, but said nothing. The painting depicted Eric confronting me after he turned Valefar. It showed him pressing me against the massive stone with hatred. I was depicted meekly shying away from him with a sorrowful look on my face. There was no fear in my eyes. My stomach twisted as I looked at it. That painting had already happened. Eric was irate when he found me. He blamed me for his death. He was no longer the kind, caring boy I knew. He was a deranged Valefar intent on making me suffer a horrible death. That confrontation scared me so deeply that I still trembled remembering it. I quickly shoved my hands in my pockets so Lorren wouldn't see. The only reason Eric left me alone was because he wanted to kill Shannon first. She was the one who doused him with Brimstone. I was sure of it. And so was he.

Lorren watched me carefully. His arms folded as he touched his face, asking, "This already happened? Didn't it?" I nodded. Turning Eric into a Valefar was the worst mistake I've ever made. I closed my eyes and looked away from the canvas, and away from Lorren. A hand gently touched my shoulder, and I looked up at him. His green eyes looked down on me softly, "You did it, didn't you? You turned him Valefar."

Again, I nodded, too ashamed to speak at first. "I found him dying inside here, towards the end of the maze. I thought he wanted to tell me something, but he couldn't speak. His vocal cords were burned away by brimstone dust." I spoke in a soft monotone, staring blanking at the painting. "I thought he wanted me to turn him Valefar - so he could tell me. But, I misunderstood..." my voice trailed off. I didn't know what else to say. This was the first time I'd admitted my sin to anyone. I assumed he wouldn't care. Most Valefar didn't care about anything except themselves.

When I looked over at Lorren he had a stern look on his face. I thought he'd say something more about my demon kiss with Eric, but he didn't. He stepped forward towards the next painting in the series, and asked, "What about the rest of these?"

My heart sank. I didn't want to look at these. They showed a future that I was trapped in, but wanted no part of. Swallowing hard I stepped towards the next horror encased in paint. The first prophecy canvas I saw was happy compared to these. The rest of them looked like nightmares frozen in paint.

We moved back to a painting that we skipped. My hand floated up to my mouth, and I pressed my fingers to my lips as sorrow overwhelmed me. It was a painting of Eric covered in chains, sitting in a small chair - completely alone. Fierce loyalty burned in his defiant eyes as he refused to answer Julia's questions. Pressing my eyes together, I shook my head sadly and looked away. 

Lorren watched my reaction to it and then said, "This has happened already as well, right?" I nodded. "Tell me what happened here. This was before the Martis was turned Valefar."

Nodding I said, "Yes, it was." I told Lorren about Eric's trial.

He looked at me in shock, "They condemned him to death?" His tone sounded incredulous, as if he couldn't believe it. "But that's not right." When I looked over at him, he was shaking his head with his brows knitted together.

I laughed bitterly, "Since when do Martis do what's right? Eric tried, and look where it got him. He was a dead man the moment he met me." I stared at the painting for a few more minutes until I couldn't look anymore. Remorse filled me. I wished he wasn't the Seeker, and then maybe things wouldn't have ended the way they did.

Lorren pulled me to the next painting, recapping what I told him. And we continued down the wall. He showed me the succession of prophecies and with every painting, the images got worse. Some of them depicted grotesque scenes - battles yet to happen. I was in every painting, prominent on every canvas. We stopped in front of a prophecy in the middle of the series, my breath caught in my throat. It depicted me in a flowing black ball gown with a jewel encrusted bodice. Corset strings laced it up tightly. I was in that room, the same room I saw myself in during a vision I had several months ago - a vision that ended with me realizing I was the demon queen. My eyes seemed different in the painting, vacant, hollow like I wasn't me anymore.  These things would come to pass. The paintings didn't lie, but I couldn't see how they could possibly reveal the truth either.

I turned away, covering my mouth. "I can't look at these anymore." I felt bile rise up in my throat. What had I become? How did it happen? Some of these things had already come to pass. That's what made it so horrifying. This was real. It was true. These things would happen.

Lorren shook his head and shoved me towards the next painting, "No," he said fiercely, "You have to look. This is what happens." His fingers wrapped around my wrist as he pulled me to the next painting, and then the next. "Do you see? Have you noticed the one unifying element that is in every single prophecy?" His eyes were cold.

I pulled out of his grip, and turned to him. "I see. I see myself in every single one. I see that I look haunted and hurt." I pointed to one that showed me in battle, with the tips of my hair glowing like violet flames. "In that one I look fierce and certain. But in none of these is there a damn thing that says I wanted all of this to happen. Yeah, maybe I play a part, but so does Eric, Collin, Shannon, Al and every other person in any of these! It's not just me! The whole world doesn't go to Hell because of one shitty decision that I made!" I was yelling, and didn't realize it. "I'm sorry, but it's not a destiny that I wanted." I hung my head, as Lorren walked away from me.

He pointed to a painting, asking me more questions and folding his arms. He walked back to the painting of Eric's trial. "This part mattered, greatly. And the thing that acted as the catalyst wasn't only you. There are several factors at play..." he glanced over at me. "How did he escape punishment? I assume that he wasn't turned into a Valefar in front of the Martis army."

"He wasn't," I answered, "I saved him."

Lorren looked surprised. "You saved him?" I explained what happened and how the Martis condemned Eric for helping me. "We'd saved each other several times over the past few months. And down here. It's just, that last time I tried to save him, well...I screwed up. He was dying and I couldn't understand him. I thought he wanted to live and that was the only way I knew..." my voice hung in the air and I'd stopped speaking mid-sentence.

"But..." he prompted.

But, I liked it, I thought. But, I enjoyed tasting his soul. The thoughts brushed the back of mind and were too horrifying to acknowledge. I shut my eyes and shook my head. "But nothing. It's my fault he's a Valefar." Looking at the rest of the paintings it was clear. I set this in motion. My decisions were causing a cascade of effects that I didn't anticipate. There was no way I could have possibly known. I swallowed hard. "So this is it. This is what causes the Apocalypse. Me."

He nodded. "You and some other factors, but mostly you. But it seems to be an accident, which is shocking. A girl ends the world by mistake."

Normally, I would have sneered at him. But he was right. I shrugged, "I thought I could change it. I thought the prophecy could bend and become what I made it."

"It doesn't work like that. The prophecy is set in stone. This stuff happens," he gestured towards the paintings. "And you're the key. Do you see anything in these? Does anything jump out at you?"

I was about to say no, but something did seem odd. I knew all the people in the paintings. In every painting Collin's face was obscured, but I knew it was him. One painting depicted Shannon swinging her silver sword like a warrior. That was the night we closed the portal on Long Island. I walked down the line looking at the paintings again, and instead of seeing my demise, I saw... something. Something with Collin and Eric. But what? I couldn't wrap my brain around it. Collin and Eric. I stared at the paintings and realized it seemed like a piece of the puzzle was missing. I counted and there were only twelve paintings. After a moment I paused and looked back at Lorren. "There's one missing."

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