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I jolted awake, the hourglass pendant clenched in my hand. Now I knew why the gypsy gave it to me. My hourglass was synchronized with the Sibyl’s.
There was a small handful of sand left. A small handful of time left before time ran out.
Before the Sibyl killed my brother.
If your sister brings the Oracles to me, you may live…If not, you will fulfill your prophecy in death…
Whether I had the Oracles or not, I had to get to Cuma…
An imposing figure in a black robe stood with arms crossed in the Sibyl’s torch-lit cave. A hood obscured his face as he guarded her hourglass with its swift, constant stream of sand. Somewhere in the darkness were the sounds of clanking chains and scuffling feet.
In the very center of the temple, a glass jar hung from the high ceiling on a thick chain.
“It is time!” the Sibyl hissed…
In the amber firelight, my forearm gleamed with the Mark. It was so exquisite and refined with its gentle, looping lines, I almost forgot its true purpose. Beautiful as it was, the Mark was a reminder that Apollo had cursed me to be the Muse Warrior, the one who would use the Oracles to defeat the Sibyl and save Olympus. He had sacrificed me long before I was born. Apollo had marked me to die.
It was my turn.
Now I understood why the Sibyl had taken my brother, and the only thing standing in the way of getting him back was the Mark.
That night, I tried not to overthink Bax’s reaction. On one hand, he was right. It was a lot to process. I couldn’t take it personally.
But I didn’t have the luxury of time. I couldn’t wait for Bax to decide whether or not he believed I was a Muse. I had no choice but to believe in the unbelievable, or risk losing Troy forever.
And if Bax didn’t believe me, I’d have to move forward alone.
The Sibyl’s threat rang in my ears the rest of the school day, overpowering everything else. I didn’t hear Daria’s lunchtime chatter and couldn’t recall Nyx’s pettiness on the volleyball court. As I left practice to meet Bax at the front gate, the Sibyl’s words continued to torment me.
I will send everything you love to the Underworld!
That night, my dreams were a jumble of nightmares.
Troy stood behind a wavering hologram of the words of my destiny, flanked by faceless attackers in black robes.
“Read it or they’ll kill me!” he shouted.
I squeezed my eyes tighter, waiting for Mercury to grab me, for the weight of my punishment.
The voice wasn’t as deep and gravelly as Mercury’s, but still I shivered as I opened one eye, shoulders lifted in fear.
In my room, I shoved my homework to the side and stared at the wall.
Calliope’s earrings twitched. Get Notebook 19.
My grandma’s “gift” was starting to feel like a curse. Why had I been condemned to obey the wishes of some ancient jewelry?
I don’t remember how long I stood in front of the faded vision, grasping for my mother’s soul, or how I stopped crying. Eventually, Mercury landed the bus with a bump in front of Franco’s produce stand and reversed the calming spell with a wave of his hand. The other students woke as though from a long nap and lazily gathered their things.
I looked back at the messenger of the Gods. With a humble tip of his driver’s cap, Mercury said, It is your destiny, Eden, not your burden. ..
As the bus soared in and out of clouds on its magic autopilot, Mercury gathered a ball of gold dust in his hands, just as my grandmother had done, and released it into the air.
A vision appeared between us…
My heart was still pounding as I entered the gym and expected a major backlash from Nyx. The team was in the middle of warm-ups and everyone looked up when I jogged to the back. Nyx and I made eye contact, but her ice queen glare held no hint of our locker room confrontation or of the arrow she’d barely missed. Somehow, that made me even angrier. For a split second, I wished that my arrow, gold dust or not, had pierced her heart…
Right before school let out, I stood beside my school locker, still shaking. I had five minutes to get to volleyball practice, but I felt paralyzed. The only thing I should have been worrying about was finding my brother, and even I knew it would be a longshot using coordinates scratched onto a leaf. But instead, I was wondering how to tell my dad I was the number one suspect for stealing an ancient artifact.
Students were already clustered on lunch benches in the MPR, chattering nervously. Miss DiPaola and Dr. Williams stood onstage with Principal Fitzpatrick, a couple of naval officers and Italian officials in dark suits. Captain Baxter stood at the very front, casting a stern eye over each of us as we entered.
Two tables were set up in front of the stage, supervised by two grim-faced servicemembers in khaki uniforms. On the floor in front of each table was a machine that looked like a scale, with a cord connected to a laptop. The clerks sat behind efficiently-stacked white paper, pens and ink pads.
Across the room, Shawna sat with a group of juniors from Troy’s history class. She locked her big eyes on me and mouthed, “What happened?”
The cafeteria was packed, but I couldn’t think clearly after my run-in with Nyx. Every squeaky step of her red leather shoes was an irritating reminder of her smug face. Why was she so hell-bent on making my life miserable?
Find Bax, my earrings pleaded…
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