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Assassin of Truths

By:Brenda Drake

Chapter One


There were moments when I wanted to scream. When I just wanted the world to fall away and leave me behind in the quiet rolling hills of my new home.

Home? Right. It was nothing like Boston.

If a person had to hide out somewhere, I couldn't think of a better place than Ireland. I adjusted on the rock wall that'd become my escape from everyone in the large farmhouse just down the hill. Vines crawled over the two-story building and many of the retaining walls cutting through the green hills that surrounded it. The wall I sat on had a smooth top and a rock that stuck out just at the right height for a footrest.

Even though it was barely autumn, I couldn't seem to get warm. The ground was always wet and muddy, and the scent of manure hung in the chilly air. The view was beautiful, though. The Irish hills were dressed in shades of green mixed with shocks of purple flowers. Afton would love to paint a landscape like this. My heart sank at the thought of my best friend. Leaving her, plus Pop, Nana, and Uncle Philip, had been like tearing away a piece of me. It was as if I'd left half my heart behind.

I wasn't me anymore, just some ghost walking among the living, trying to remember who I used to be. Gia Kearns-even the name sounded foreign to me. Somewhere along the way, I'd become Gianna Bianchi McCabe, Sentinel-a magical knight protecting the libraries and the human race from dangerous creatures. Bianchi was my mom's last name, and McCabe belonged to my birth father, Carrig.

Separated from Pop, I was more afraid of being alone than wielding a sword. Though he was my stepfather, he was the only parent I'd ever known. And he was a damn good one, at that.

We'd been in hiding for nearly two months already, and I was getting anxious. My days were filled doing battle drills and chores with the other Sentinels. During my downtime, I'd think about my best friend and cousin, Nick. It was the first time he hadn't celebrated my birthday with me. Seventeen years. We'd known each other since birth. Things felt off without him around.

Then the dark thoughts would come. Was Conemar torturing Nick? What evil plan did Nick's biological father-the most dangerous wizard of the Mystik world-have for him?

Momo raced in and out of cracks in the wall, her furry body squeezing into the tiniest of places. I never thought I'd love a ferret so much. She'd been my alarm while trapped in the wastelands of the Somnium, alerting me when one of the frightening beasts was around. I couldn't leave her behind in that magical void.

Normally, her playfulness would be a distraction for me, but my mind kept replaying Nick's kidnapping. Conemar's Sentinels shoving him into the back seat of Miss Bagley's Subaru. The look of despair on Nick's face as the vehicle disappeared around a corner.

I'm sorry, he had mouthed.

He was sorry, when I was the one who had failed him. I shouldn't have hesitated. There was so much going on in the battle around me that I'd lost focus. Pop would've been killed if Faith hadn't rushed in front of him and taken the dagger meant for him. But I had hesitated, not knowing what to do. Everyone I loved had been in that fight.

I swore never to falter again, but it was too late for Faith and Nick.

And for Kale and Gian. Both had died that day with Faith.

I'd let all my friends down.

Faith. I touched her gothic-style pendant with thorny, silver-stemmed roses encircling a bloodred crystal. She'd become a good friend and protector, and missing her hurt so badly that sometimes thinking of her made it hard to breathe.

Flipping through Gian's leather-bound journal, I inhaled the scent of aged pages. My great-grandfather wrote this for me to find. He was a powerful wizard, and Gian had given up his life to save mine. I knew there was something important in the pages but couldn't figure out what. He'd also left a poem containing clues to finding the Chiavi-seven keys hidden as objects within the libraries. Each one held a special power. In their original forms, the keys would unlock a prison containing an apocalyptic beast called the Tetrad. Whoever released the creature could control it and bring both the Mystik and human worlds to their knees.

I tapped against my lips the laminated prayer card he'd used as a bookmark in the journal and reread the poem titled Libero il Tesoro, which meant "Free the Treasure." It was a spell to release a Chiave from its hiding place. The poem was a list and held clues to artifacts in the libraries where Gian had hidden the keys.

A religious man's charm hangs from his vest. The first line. It was a necklace with a cross pendant Gian had found in the Vatican Library.

A school of putti, one of which sees farther than the rest. A telescope Nick and I had recovered in the Abbey Library of Saint Gall.         

     



 

Strong women flank the ceiling; the one in Sentinel dress holds an enchanted point, small in size-which I found totally by accident after a battle in the Senate Library in Paris.

Behind Leopold he stands, one hand resting on a crown and the other holding a rolled prize. Nick and I discovered it in the National Library of Austria.

With numbers in her mind and knowledge in her hands, on her brow a crown does rest. We stumbled on it in the Monastic Library in Ulm, Germany, while looking for another Chiave.

I read the final part of the poem, hoping for something to stand out.

In front of the world, he wears his honor on his chest.

Beneath destruction and rapine, he scribes the word, while time falls.

All these things are within the library walls.

After circling the last two clues to the missing Chiavi, I folded the paper and slipped it into my pocket.

Gian's journal was just a log of slips into the Somnium, which were pockets of wastelands created when the wizards shielded the Mystik realm from the human world. They were like glitches in a computer program, the trapdoors blinking in and out of the libraries.

His notes went into detail about the areas surrounding the traps. But nothing really stood out … except for one. I turned the page. In black marker, he'd written "can figs" at the top.

"Why would he want a can of figs, Momo?" Her pink nose sniffed the air. "Did he start a grocery list? Do figs even come in a can? No, it has to be another clue. An acronym, maybe?"

Deidre's squeal rolled up the hill to me. My Changeling had morphed into her own person. From bleached hair to the clothes she wore, she was nothing like me. And who could blame her? The Fey had grown her in the Garden of Life to be me. To take over my life after I was born, when my parent faery would have come to switch us and take me away so I could become a Sentinel. That is, if I hadn't disappeared with my mom.

Royston chased Deidre around with a bucket, water sloshing over the rim. I used to have fun like her, but the survival of both worlds wasn't on her shoulders. And I guess it was on Royston's, too. He was the chosen one. The one who could bring down the Tetrad.

Though Royston looked nineteen or twenty, he'd been alive for hundreds of years. Stuck in the Somnium, where time was frozen, he had remained the age he was when he'd fallen into the trap. With his long, light brown hair and thick shoulders, he was like a feral god.

Cadby's bat-like wings twitched on his back as his eyes followed Royston and Deirdre. He'd been Royston's guard since he was a boy. Mailes never expressed any emotions-it wasn't in their DNA. Cadby had said his people were fiercely loyal. The way he watched over Royston proved that statement.

Cadby ran a hand across his bald head, his pale skin nearly matching the yellow paint on the house. The straight line of his mouth and those alert eyes, the color and shape of black pebbles, definitely masked his emotions. If there were any to mask.

Sinead and Carrig prepared breakfast in the kitchen, the sheer curtains fluttering with the breeze entering through the open window. Carrig lifted a spoon to Sinead's lips for her to taste something he'd cooked. My biological father and his wife were cute together. I'd be lucky to have such a loving relationship as theirs one day.

The other Sentinels on my team kept busy. Demos and Lei sharpened their swords. Though we hadn't used them in months, Carrig insisted we clean and hone them weekly. He said it was a Sentinel's duty to have presentable weapons at all times. Jaran carried a basket of vegetables from the garden to the house and glanced in my direction before entering. He was checking on me again, worried I'd have a breakdown. What he didn't know was that I was too numb to have one.

Unlike Jaran, Arik-our leader and my ex-avoided eye contact with me as he fed a bottle to an orphaned baby goat. Since our breakup and his claim that he still loved me, we'd barely spoken about where we stood with each other, or about my feelings for Bastien. I supposed there wasn't anything else to say. Relationships were the last thing I needed to worry about with Nick gone and the recent deaths crushing my heart.

Cadby climbed the hill, heading in my direction. I returned my attention to the journal, hoping he'd get the hint and leave me alone.

He didn't.

"Breakfast is almost ready," he said, stopping in front of me.

"Hopefully it isn't figs."

"I'm not certain what the meal is. I don't believe it's figs. I enjoyed figs. They were a treat when I was a boy."

I pointed at the page. "This acronym spells out CAN FIGS."

"What are you reading?"

"Gian's journal," I said, not bothering to look up. "It has a list of libraries and the trapdoors he found in them. Then this random notation."         

     


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