Two games ago, the Emperor had captured me and tortured me for months. He’d burned away my limbs with his lava hands, keeping me weakened until he’d finally taken my head.
Had Sol been about to deliver me to a similar fate?
In another game, Ogen had dunked me in a river, toying with me, robbing me of air. Though I lasted longer than most, I could drown to death. Before he finished me, Circe had pulled him down to the deep.
In this game, Ogen had been afraid of water. Maybe he’d retained some animal memory of Circe’s reach.
In a battle against Joules and Gabriel (allies even then), the Lord of Lightning had blasted my oaks to splinters, then speared me in the heart with one of his javelins. While I’d been stunned, Gabriel had taken to the air, dropping burning oil on me and my plants.
I’d been seconds from dying when Fauna’s lions had dragged me from the flames.
Joules and Gabriel hadn’t yet known that I—and my trees—could regenerate. In the end, my oaks and my thorn tornado had defeated those two. Unless something had been skewed in translation—let’s hope—I was pretty sure I’d desecrated their corpses.
And I might have hung Gabriel’s silken black wings over my hearth.
I was like the movie monster that never died, returning for more jump scares. Beheading was the only way to be sure.
Regeneration was a handy ability to have, but others’ powers were just as enviable.
The Fury possessed batlike wings that changed color like a chameleon’s skin, camouflaging her. An Arcana could be walking along, unaware that she stalked him—until a shower of acid rained down.
The Emperor could travel via his lava—riding it like a wave.
When the teleporting Centurion became intangible, no offensive strike would work against him for as long as his powers held out. I’d managed to kill him once before, by stumbling upon a battle already in progress. Just as his reserves hit empty, I’d launched my thorn tornado, scouring his body down to the bones.
Fauna had the ability to revive all animals, and not merely her connected familiars. In the same way that my blood seeded plants, her blood could reanimate a creature, bringing a bird back from a feather or a bull from a fragment of horn.
Did Lark know about her animal resurrection power? Did Aric know? When was I going to tell them?
The book, with its constant tales of treachery, was making me nearly as paranoid as Gran. Aric’s distance wasn’t helping. I understood why he avoided me, but I didn’t want this rift between us to widen—for more than one reason.
An ominous feeling had descended over the castle of lost time. I got the sense that something big was coming down the pipeline. Something in addition to the Richter threat or Gran’s failing health. But what??
If we weren’t a united front . . .
The Fool had told me that things would happen beyond my wildest imaginings. I no longer thought they’d be positive things.
Biting my lip, I returned my attention to the book. The next section was titled “Setting Moon.” Sometimes as I read, I would look up from the page in a trance, remembering a certain battle or day. Now I recalled Circe and me relaxing in the middle of my fortress of plants—my “green killers,” as she’d called them. A river had circled us protectively. We’d been laughing about something. . . .
An arrow sped through my vines, hitting the tree inches from Circe’s head.
She and I leapt up and whirled around.
Atop a distant hill stood a girl with silvery hair, a bow, and a quiver. Her tableau revealed her to be the Moon. She called out, “I could have killed the Priestess.” Indeed. Somehow the Moon’s arrow had perfectly threaded my vines. “I did not, because I want to be a part of your alliance.”
Circe and I met gazes, smiling at each other.
“She is bold,” I said. My vines slithered like snakes.
Circe’s river thrummed with power, gathering to strike. “Normally we might reward such daring . . .”
“. . . but not today,” I finished for her.
We’d killed the Moon. Circe had gotten her icon.
No wonder Selena hadn’t trusted me! No wonder she’d been shocked when I’d faced off against the Lovers, hell-bent on rescuing her.
I’d never known how much she’d overcome to be my friend. I narrowed my eyes, my glyphs glowing. Matthew could have told me. Circe could have. She treated me like I was some vicious backstabber; she’d been just as bad.
Whenever she finally deigned to talk to me, I was going to give her a piece of my mind! Not that I had much left to give—
“This is what I’ve wanted to see,” Gran said from her bed. She rubbed her eyes, shaking off sleep.
“What?” I closed the book and set it away.
“Your anger.” With difficulty, she sat up against the headboard, and I hurried over to help her. “Did you read about a double cross?”
“Not exactly.” I sank down on the edge of the bed.
“Do you dream about past games?” At my nod, she said, “So the Fool transferred your memories.”
“Yes. But they come slowly.” I frowned. “Why would he have done that?”
“Not as a kindness to you, I promise. The Fool must believe knowledge of the past will somehow render you more careless or weaken your alliances.” She reached for a glass of water on the nightstand, and I rushed to hand it to her. “Whenever you see the past, look for symbols. In the present as well. Tarot cards are filled with symbols, because life is.”
“What do they mean? What’s the purpose?”