Nightshade Page 38

“No, it wouldn’t,” I murmured.

“You’ve read this book?” he asked.

“No.” My hands began to tremble again. “I have not.”

“But you recognize it.” He stepped toward me.

I flashed fangs at him. “Stay back. Don’t bring that book near me.”

He turned it over in his hands so that the cover faced him.

“You’re afraid of it.” He stared at the book and then looked at me. “Why are you afraid of a book you haven’t read?”

Can I really tell him the truth? Too many pieces of a puzzle I had no idea how to put together were piling up all around me.

He opened the book. I whimpered and he snapped the cover shut again. “Okay, no looking at the book; I get it. I just wanted to show you the map.”

“The map?” I asked.

He nodded. “There are four maps. They seem totally random, places from all over the globe.” His voice grew wistful. “I’m sorry you won’t look; they’re unbelievable. You have no idea how surprised I was to find a map of the North American West in a book this old. I guess it’s no wonder my uncle didn’t want me messing with it; if there’s evidence in this book that medieval Europeans knew about this continent’s interior, that’s pretty big stuff. This text is probably worth millions.”

He hefted the tome as if weighing its value. I grimaced, waiting for him to speak again.

“Of course, it doesn’t have any contemporary place-names. The whole book is in Latin. But the geography is recognizable. When you found me and that bear, I was looking for the cavern system. I’ve been toying with the idea of spelunking for some time.”

My skin grew cold. He looked at my face, frowning. “Spelunking is cave exploration.”

“I know what spelunking is,” I said. “You were looking for Haldis?”

He blinked in surprise. “That’s the name on the map, Haldis.”

I thought about running.

“So if you haven’t read this book or seen the maps, then how do you know about the cavern?” he asked. “I’ve read all the hiking guides and topographical maps, and the only place I’ve found a reference to this cavern—or this mountain—is in my uncle’s book.”

His gaze moved back to the book. I could see how much he wanted to open it, to review the images he had just described.

I didn’t take my eyes off his face, making my decision, wondering what sort of fate I’d seal for myself. “My job, the duty of all the Guardians here, is to protect Haldis Cavern from our enemies. The Searchers.”

I stared at the book’s title, a single Latin phrase seared black onto the cover.

Bellum omnium contra omnes.

I closed my eyes, but I could still see the ebony lettering, as if the brand had been scorched on the inside of my eyelids. The forbidden words echoed in my mind.

The war of all against all.


SHADOWS POURED INTO THE CLEARING, turning the bright green of the ferns to muted blues and grays.

“You thought it was Hobbes, didn’t you?”

I glanced into the darkness of the trees, afraid that someone might be lurking there. “That’s why you picked up the book.”

I heard Shay’s feet stir along the ground. “Yes. I thought I’d found an unpublished treatise.” He sounded a bit mournful. “I was pretty excited, actually. But I have to admit I haven’t read it yet. I got caught up in the maps. Plus my Latin isn’t that great. Translating this beast is going to take a while.”

I heard his fingers drum on the leather cover. “It’s not Hobbes, is it?”

“No.” I smiled in the growing darkness. “It is definitely not Hobbes. Put it away.”

“So how do you know what it is?” There was an impatient edge to his voice.

“Because I’m forbidden to read it. On pain of death. Put it away now.” My throat closed up.

“How could reading a book merit a death sentence?” he asked, stuffing the book into his backpack.

I reached for his hand. “We can’t talk about this here. Come on.”

“Where are we going?” He stumbled over a rock, bumping into me as I pulled him back through the garden.

“My car.”

“You want to go to your car?” His fingers tightened on mine.

“Not for that,” I said, but I didn’t let go of his hand. “We have to be sure no one hears us.”

When we reached the Jeep, I opened his door and went around to the driver’s side. I climbed in and put my head on the steering wheel.

“What’s going on, Calla?” I heard him unzipping his backpack. “What is this book?”

“It contains knowledge that is too powerful for anyone but the Keepers. It’s their most hallowed text.”

“So we’re back to the Keepers again,” he said. “Are you going to tell me who they are now?”

“I’m going to tell you about the war.” I lifted my head, staring out the windshield at the darkened parking lot. “You seem to have fallen into the middle of it. But I don’t know why.”

“Is that why everything is so weird here?” He leaned from the passenger seat toward me. “Because there’s a supernatural war that I don’t know about? That humans don’t know about?”

“Yes,” I said. “But you’re only caught up in the war because of who you’re associating with.”

“You?” I could hear a wry smile in his reply.

“Not just me. Your uncle.”

“Bosque?” he blurted. “What does a millionaire business consultant have to do with your world?”

“Specifically, I’m not sure.” I ran my fingers along the edge of the seat. “The first time I met your uncle was Friday night at Eden. But it was made clear to me that he is important in my world. He’s a Keeper. A powerful one. Powerful enough to give orders to those who give me orders.”

“What are you talking about?” I turned my head at the sound of his alarm. Even in the shadows I could see his face whiten.

I sighed. “I’m sorry, Shay. Your uncle. He’s not human. And he is not your mother’s brother. I don’t know why you’re with him. None of the Guardians have ever heard of a human living among the Keepers—until you showed up.”

Prev Next