Unearth (The Bound Ones Book 3), page 1
Cover art by: Okay Creations
Copyright 2017 Tricia Barr
Printed in the United States of America
Worldwide Electronic & Digital Rights
Worldwide English Language Print Rights
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced, scanned or distributed in any form,
including digital and electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording, or by any
information storage and retrieval system, without
the prior written consent of the Author, except for
brief quotes for use in reviews.
This book is a work of fiction. Characters, names,
places and incidents either are the product of the
author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any
resemblance to any actual persons, living or dead,
events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Also by Tricia Barr:
THE AMARANT SERIES:
The Amarant (Book 1)
THE BOUND ONES SERIES:
Ignite (Book 1)
Submerge (Book 2)
Shadows slithered at the edges of his vision as he opened his eyes upon waking, the same way they swirled around the edges of his mind. Vincent Mallick had suspected that something was amiss last night, but this morning, as he struggled in vain to gather his thoughts through the fog that now filled his head, he was certain of it. Something was wrong. But what?
He got out of bed and readied himself for the day, hoping to find some clue as the day went on. As he tightened his tie, his cell phone rang, skidding slightly on his bedside table from the vibration.
“This is Vincent,” he answered, trying not to sound as groggy as he felt.
“Good morning, sir,” replied a harried male voice. “It’s Kole.” The head of the Four Corners security, Vincent realized. “I’m sorry to bother you so early, but…uh…there’s something you should see.”
On instant alert, Vincent said, “What is it?”
“Come down to the vault,” Kole said urgently.
Without further discussion, Vincent hung up and strode out of his room, hurrying down the three flights of stairs toward the underground level. He snaked through the old tunnels, his brisk steps echoing off the blocks. When he got to the vault, there was a crowd of guards gathered around the entrance. The door was open, and one of the guards was sitting in the middle of the others, his shirt singed at the breast and just about falling off of him.
“What’s going on?” Vincent asked, exuding authority as he approached the man on the floor.
“We found him locked inside,” informed Kole, who was standing over the nearly-shirtless guard. “We heard him yelling for help as we were doing our rounds, so we opened the door and found this.” He stepped aside and held out his arm behind him, gesturing to quite an alarming sight—one of the display cases in the vault had a hole melted into it, and the object it had been securing was missing.
“Who did this?” Vincent demanded, scanning the faces of the guards for any signs of guilt or knowledge, then turning back to the one on the floor.
“He doesn’t know,” Kole said, shaking his head. “He doesn’t remember how he got inside.”
Vincent’s eyes widened as what Kole said triggered Vincent’s suspicions. There was a lot that Vincent could not remember.
I was in these tunnels last night. I was with many of these guards, I’m sure of it. But what were we doing?
But it wasn’t just recent events that were misplaced in his mental catalog. There were big gaps in the events of his life that led up to this moment. He knew that the elements were a big part of the Four Corners rituals, but the why of it was suddenly a huge mystery. In fact, the organization’s entire history was a blur to him. And now one of their artifacts was missing and the guard who had been apparently stashed in the vault after a fight with the thief could not remember anything about the incident. Vincent suspected there were a lot more people with missing memories in this building. A powerful force had interfered with the Four Corners.
It was time to stop waiting. They had to raise the Shade King. They needed his power to protect them against whatever was happening to them. Vincent couldn’t even remember why they had waited; they had located a witch who was powerful enough to help them, and that was their backup plan. But what had been their plan A? Why couldn’t he remember!
No matter. It was time to act!
“What do you mean there’s a fifth Bound One?” Phoenyx asked. She sat on the bed of the hotel room in Prague next to Lily, who had just dropped a major bomb on them. Skylar, Sebastian and Ayanna stood around the room with wary eyes aimed at Lily, waiting for her answer. “There are only four base elements, so how could there be another one?”
“They call him the Shade King,” Lily said, forest green eyes darting back and forth rapidly as if watching scenes unfolding in her memories. “He has power of the soul, and unlike the four of us, he wasn’t given his powers through a spell, he was born with them.”
“Power of the soul?” Sebastian asked, arms crossed dubiously. “What does that even mean?”
“If there were another Bound One, I’d know about him,” Ayanna argued. “Unless he came along after I left. But then how do you know about him?”
Lily’s doe eyes moistened in pity as they gazed up at Ayanna’s face. “You made yourself forget about him.”
Ayanna’s brows rose in surprise, then furrowed in curiosity. “I made myself forget? I didn’t know I could do that. But then, I suppose if I had, I wouldn’t remember, would I?” She snickered humorlessly at herself and absentmindedly brushed away a stray honey-colored ringlet that had fallen in front of her beautiful face.
Phoenyx looked back and forth between them, burning with curiosity. Ayanna, the person who knew all things and had always been the bringer of vital information, was about to be told something she didn’t know. Phoenyx’s breathing shallowed with anticipation to hear it.
“Let me start from the beginning,” Lily said. “The same generation in which Ayanna was born, a man with the power of spirit was born. He had the ability to see into people’s souls, to know what they truly wanted and what they truly feared. He could see the souls of the dead and he helped them move on to the next plain. He could even bring people back from the dead if he wanted to. The village thought it was a blessing from the universe that two such powerful people were given to them, that it was a sign they were doing all the right things with the Bound Ones. The man’s name was Joran, and you grew up with him, Ayanna.”
Ayanna narrowed her eyes at this bit of information, taking a seat on an empty spot of the bed as she listened intently.
“Over time, the two of you grew very close. By the time the dagger came into existence, you…you two were married.”
“Married!?” Ayanna blurted out, mouth gaping open in shock. “I don’t understand. I loved this person enough to marry him, and then I made myself forget him?”
Ayanna had been married? But that’s not possible. Phoenyx was the closest person in the world to Ayanna. If she had ever married something, Phoenyx damn sure would have known about it. She should have known about a fifth Bound One in general. How is it that Lily remembered this person and no one else did?
Lily nodded at Ayanna, her tree-bark brown hair falling over her shoulders as she looked down at her hands and fiddled with her fingers nervously. Phoenyx could tell by Lily’s body language that whatever she was about to tell Ayanna would probably hurt Ayanna.
“The same day that they stabbed you with the dagger to make you immortal, they stabbed Joran too,” Lily cont
Phoenyx leaned forward as if doing so would let her hear the story better, and she noticed that Skylar and Sebastian had gathered closer as well, both of them just as invested in Lily’s tale as she was.
“We couldn’t stand by anymore and let him take over the world,” Lily said. “Since he was immortal and we couldn’t kill him, Ayanna came up with a plan for us to use our powers to trap him in a tomb deep inside the earth where he couldn’t harm anyone else, a tomb so deep the village couldn’t dig him back up. Once we had him sealed away, you all decided to leave the village. You urged me to come with you, but I wanted to stay behind. I still saw good in our people and thought I could help them. So you made each of the other Bound Ones forget about Joran so they wouldn’t be tempted to bring him back, and then you made yourself forget… I suspect so that you yourself wouldn’t be tempted. Burying him was a very hard decision for you to make, and you couldn’t risk changing your mind.”
Lily had finished talking, and everyone in the room was looking at Ayanna, who simply stared distantly at the wall, deep in thought.
Phoenyx took a moment to organize her jumbled thoughts as well. If Ayanna had been desperate enough to make herself forget something she did, it must have caused her great pain. To erase someone who had obviously meant a great deal to her, her own husband, from her history… Phoenyx felt something ominous stirring inside her, telling her that this tale should have stayed buried forever.
Skylar was the first to break the silence. “If we used our powers to trap this Shade King, and I take it we are the only ones who could raise him, we have no reason to worry about the Four Corners bringing him back. We have successfully wiped ourselves from their knowledge, and likely him as well.”
Lily shook her head. “You explained to me that you erased all memories and data having to do with the Bound Ones and the elements. Though he was originally considered a Bound One, they don’t label him as one of us anymore. He has always been the Shade King to them, and that’s what they still call him. I doubt that your mental classification of ‘elements’ included spirit?” Lily turned to Ayanna, who shook her head in response.
“I overhead them talking when I was in their hospital wing, when I was barely conscious and they didn’t think I could hear them,” Lily added. “The Shade King is the main reason they wanted to take our powers away from us, so that they could use them to raise him. That’s why they’ve been tracking us down for thousands of years. They want their king back, and they want the world he promised them.”
“Okay, so what if they still remember him,” Sebastian said, combing a finger through his short black hair. “As Skylar said, we are the only ones who have the ability to raise him, and seeing as they don’t know anything about us anymore, they can’t get their king back.”
“They have a back-up plan,” Lily objected. “I don’t know what it is exactly, but I remember two people talking about the possibility of having to kill us and restart our cycle, and if that were to happen, they would use some secret weapon to unearth the Shade King. Now that we aren’t an option, I’m certain they will use whatever that was, and they won’t waste time doing it because we are no longer on their radar.”
Phoenyx sighed heavily. They had gone through hell and back finding all the pieces of the broken stone to make themselves immortal with the dagger, then did the tedious and strenuous work of erasing themselves from the Four Corners’ knowledge so that they could pursue eternity in peace. They had finally freed themselves of the Four Corners, and now it seemed they had to throw themselves right back into the Four Corners’ web to prevent the return of something even worse.
“I’m curious why none of us remembered Joran after Ayanna brought back our memories,” Skylar mused, cupping his chin with his index finger and thumb. “Lily remembered almost instantly.”
“Maybe it’s because it was Ayanna who made us forget,” Phoenyx suggested, as that fact was the only difference between Lily and the rest of them.
“Actually, I have noticed that,” Ayanna said, looking sideways at Phoenyx almost sheepishly. “There have been times that you’ve asked me to make you forget something, and you did not recall it in the next life when I unlocked your memories.”
Phoenyx blinked, her guts clenching at this news. She swallowed before asking, “What exactly have I asked you to make me forget?”
Ayanna sighed, then put her hand on Phoenyx’s shoulder. “It’s better left forgotten, but I assure you it only happened twice.”
The idea that something happened that was bad enough for Phoenyx to want to forget was deeply unsettling, and she was certain that the incidences were due to her powers running amuck. Ayanna was right, Phoenyx didn’t want to know.
“Maybe if Ayanna actively tries to retrieve the memory, you will remember,” Lily suggested.
“The question is, do we want to remember?” Phoenyx asked.
“If they’re going to try to bring this guy back, we are better off remembering,” Skylar pointed out. “We need to know what we’re up against.”
“I think it should be up to Ayanna whether or not she lets us remember,” Sebastian said. “She is the one who will be affected the most.”
Everyone looked at Ayanna, who seemed to be deliberating that very idea.
“We can discuss resurrecting his memory later,” Lily said, sympathetically taking the focus off of Ayanna. “Right now, we have to make sure that the Four Corners doesn’t resurrect his body. If we can stop them before they start, the memory of him can stay buried along with him.”
“That’s a good point, Lily,” Ayanna said, having come to her senses—Ayanna was always business first, emotions later.
“So, we’re going back to the Lodge?” Phoenyx’s mouth was dry as the question escaped her lips.
“Looks like we have to,” Skylar sighed, rubbing his temples under gray-blond tufts of hair. He looked drained. None of them had slept through the night as Lily recovered from having her memories returned, but Skylar had needed it the most after exerting himself by linking all the minds of the Four Corners members.
“So what’s the plan?” Phoenyx asked, exasperated. “We can’t just make them forget about this Shade King like we did about The Bound Ones. There’s too much we don’t know.”
“Not only that,” Ayanna interjected. “But removing too much of someone’s characterizing memories can be dangerous. We already did that by erasing their knowledge of the four of you, and the damage may already be done. But if the Shade King was the foundation of the Four Corners, taking that away may really destroy the mind of every member. I don’t want that on my conscience.”
“Neither do I,” Skylar agreed.
“Alright, we will have to do some reconnaissance then,” Sebastian said. “Find out exactly what they are planning to do, and then intervene.”
Everyone nodded in agreement. Ayanna wrapped the dagger’s blade in a hotel hand towel and stowed it in her backpack, readying herself to leave.
Phoenyx took a deep breath, then said, “Okay, let’s go back.”
Phoenyx stared up at the ornate old-world architecture of the building’s façade, finding herself once again marveling at what a pretty place the Four Corners Lodge appeared from the outside despite the monsters it hid inside. She was not excited to go back through that large, carved wooden door. They had nearly died in the b
The very tired fivesome had quickly cleaned up and scarfed down some breakfast before reluctantly returning to the Four Corners Headquarters, and now they stood on the well-manicured green grass of its front lawn with only the skeleton of a plan.
“Before we jump back into the frying pan,” Phoenyx began, “what happens if we just stay out of it and let them dig this guy up?” If there was any way to avoid throwing themselves back in with the Four Corners, she would take it.
“Well, for one, he’ll track down the five of us and kill us for what we did to him,” Lily replied. “And then he’ll go on to gradually take over the world, killing anyone who gets in his way, and possibly even make moving on to the afterlife an impossibility for most.”
“So basically, hell on earth,” Sebastian summed with a sarcastic shrug.
“Sounds like there’s no getting out this, then,” Skylar said, sharing a look with Phoenyx that said he empathized with her reluctance.
“Right,” Phoenyx sighed. “Anyone have any good ideas of exactly what we’re doing, then?”
“First, we need to establish what we need to accomplish,” Ayanna said, her straightened hands slicing the air in front of her in a straight-to-the-point gesture. “We have to stop them from releasing my apparent ex from his earthy prison”—Phoenyx smiled to herself at Ayanna’s turn of phrase—“but in order to do that we need to find out how exactly they plan to accomplish that and cut them off at the chase.”
“If anyone inside this building is planning anything, you can be sure that Vincent guy knows all about it,” Sebastian said. “He should be our target.”
“I agree,” Skylar said. “We’ll find him and have Phoenyx seduce the information out of him. Once we know what they’re planning, we can devise a way to stop it.”
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