I was exhausted when the sun finally set and I went home. Randall had stayed pretty much silent through the remainder of the afternoon after I’d gone psycho bitch on him. He was still quiet in the passenger’s seat next to me.
“I’m sorry,” I murmured. “I shouldn’t have lost it like that. I don’t know what I’m doing, Randall but that’s no excuse for getting pissed at my best friend. Forgive me?”
He smiled widely at me showing off his perfect white teeth. “Of course I do.”
I grinned at him. “Thank you. And why don’t we stop off and get some food to go? You can call Cassi to meet us at my house and we can all have dinner together. Is that okay?”
Randall already had his phone out and dialed. “Yeah, but you’re paying. I think I’m in the mood for pizza.”
I rolled my eyes at him but stopped by Dominos none-the-less to buy a large pizza. Cassiopeia was already at my house when I pulled up. She smiled at me and pecked Randall on the cheek before he pushed open the front door. The three of us devoured the pepperoni in no time at all and it wasn’t long before we were spread out on the couch watching some mindless reality show.
“Hey, uh, Cassi?” I said suddenly. “Could you help me with something really quickly?”
She cocked her head to the side. “Of course. What is it that you need?”
“Michael says that I have a weakness and I need to find out on my own what it is. I was wondering if maybe you could show me my first life and maybe that would give me some clues.”
She blinked in confusion for a moment like she wasn’t expecting that. Obviously Randall hadn’t told her about my decision yet. “Oh, okay. Yeah, I can do that.”
I moved the armchair so that it was positioned in front of her. She held out her slender hands and I gingerly laid mine on top. “Okay, you know the drill. Just hold on.”
The world around me swirled for what seemed like a second and infinity at the same time. It settled back on the lake I’d first seen my original self. She glanced over her shoulder toward the direction I knew the City was before she took one step toward the water’s edge.
“Lyra, what do you think that you are doing?”
She jumped and spun around. The corners of her mouth turned down when she saw Michael glaring at her. “Damn. I thought that I had lost you.”
“This was your plan? You thought that a letter would suffice?”
She frowned. “I believed that it would be easier,” she replied softly.
“Are you going to just hide among them so that your mother cannot kill any of them? Were you going to let the rest of us suffer Thesis’ wrath?”
Her blue gaze fell longingly to the lake. “She will be angry at me, Michael. She will not punish any citizens of the City.”
“And what of Vega? Your mother wants you home and if I fail then Vega will be charged with taking you back to the City.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You always want to do everything for me so why do you not handle this?” she said coldly.
“Lyra. Come back with me. You have been gone for three days already.”
“I am not going back,” the other Lyra insisted with a roll of her eyes that said that she’d had this argument before.
“You have to. Your mother-”
“I do not care what my mother says. And I do not care that she is the goddess of creation. I am not going back there.”
He sighed and ran a hand through his dark hair. The brilliant pearl white wings on his back fluttered anxiously. “She is insisting that I take you back to the City.”
The scene began to shift again and the brilliant lights that were characteristic of the immortal City faded. Sunlight shone on the barren landscape and a small village on the edge of the ocean teemed with what seemed to be the only life. I found my past life easily in the crowd. Her pale skin contrasted with the dark leather dress and her red hair was braided down her back. Tears streamed down her face.
“It is okay, Lyra,” a girl that looked like a younger version of Andromeda with brilliant robes rather than the simple dress I’d seen her in said gently. Both seemed to be young teenagers with an old-fashioned Greek accents coloring their voices.
“You do not understand, Andromeda. He would not be dead if he were not protecting me. Everyone will believe that I am the one that killed my husband.”
“I will tell them it was my fault, Lyra. I will take the blame.”
“Do not argue. Let them believe the fault was mine. They can kill you but my mother is the queen and she will not allow my death. It will be fine.”
Once again everything around me dissolved and colors blended together. When things settled this scene was much more familiar than anything that Cassi had shown me so far. Randall and I were around eight and were hanging out together in my bedroom at my parents’ house.
“Lyra-Rose Dawson,” my mother hissed as she stormed into the room. “What did you do?”
The little girl’s round eyes grew even wider. “Nothing,” she said quickly although she didn’t even know why Mom was so mad.
My mother held up a cut up magazine and waved it in my younger version’s face. She giggled slightly but caught herself and clamped her hand over her mouth. Mom’s eyes blazed brown as they narrowed at the child. “Lyra-Rose. How dare you tear up your sister’s magazine?”
“I did that, Mrs. Dawson,” the younger Randall lied quickly. I shot him a look at the same time that little Lyra did. She opened her mouth to protest but he put his small, pudgy hand on her arm. “I didn’t know that it was important.” He’d always been the mature, responsible one between us but now I understood that he was really so much older than me than three months.
My mom glanced between the two children and pursed her lips. “Fine. You two make sure that you finish up your homework before you watch TV.”
I peeled my hand away from Cassiopeia’s and found myself back in my living room. Something in my stomach twisted and I felt really guilty about some of the things I’d done; or rather hadn’t done in my past and present lives.
“Well that was… insightful,” I said after a long minute.
“Lyra, I’m sorry I couldn’t show you exactly what you wanted to see.”
“No, it’s okay, Cassi. I-”
The phone screamed and I quickly got up to answer it, thankful for the interruption. I didn’t want to tell Cassiopeia what exactly her visions had made me feel. “Hello?”
“Oh, hey, Max. What’s up?”
“I-I need you to come over here please? There’s someone here to see you.” My sister sounded freaked and I instantly felt nauseous.
“Yeah, I’m on my way right now. What’s the matter, Maxine? You’re scaring me.”
There was shuffling on her side of the line as the phone shifted to someone else. “Hello, Lyra,” Vega said smugly. “I warned you, didn’t I? If you want a chance to see your sister again then you’d better get over here quickly. We’ll see you soon. Isn’t that right, Mackenzie?”
I felt numb when I hung up the phone. “Lyra? What’s wrong?”
I gulped. “She has them. Vega has my sister and Mac. I-I have to go. I have to save them.”
“No, Lyra. We’ll figure this out. Just let us handle it.”
I froze with my hand on the doorknob. “I know what it is,” I mumbled. “I know my greatest weakness. I have this nasty little habit of running away and letting others take care of my problems. We’ll I’m done running away. My sister is in trouble and it’s up to me to fix my own mess. I appreciate all that you have done for me but I have to do this on my own.”
“Lyra, you don’t-”
I shot Randall a small smile. “I’ll be okay. Just do me a favor and make sure Maxine and Mackenzie stay safe.”
When Max gave birth to her daughter there were complications that nearly resulted in losing them both. I didn’t think that it was possible for me to be as afraid for my sister and niece as I’d been on that day. Now, with Vega poised to murder my family in cold blood, I realized that the fear from the day Mac was born was nothing compared to this.
My sister huddled on the couch with the crying three-year-old in her lap. Her hazel eyes were shining with unshed tears and she whimpered when she saw me. I tried to give her a reassuring smile but I knew that it came out more as a grimace.
“So you came,” Vega stated easily with a smirk tugging at her mouth.
My eyes narrowed. “Of course, I came. Let them go, Vega. You’ve got me now so you don’t need them. Just kill me and get it over with already.”
She let out a silver laugh. “Oh, silly little sister. I’ve been thinking about our little conundrum. If I kill you, you will just come back. But, if I kill your spirit, you are done for good. I figured that the best way to get rid of that nasty humanity is to destroy the ones you care for most.”
My eyes grew wide in horror. “Don’t even think about it.”
“Hmm, I think I am going to start with the little girl. She is quite fond of you, Lyra. How does it feel knowing that it is your fault she is going to die?”
“No!” I shouted. I rushed toward my sister but something slithered around me and held me back from her. I barely registered that I was being confined by a black and red striped snake bigger than even an anaconda and it could probably kill me with one squeeze.
Vega raised her arms above her head and the palms seemed to glow the color of dried blood. I’d seen what her power could do to an immortal and I couldn’t bare it if she released even a portion of that on a baby and my big sister. My eyes grew round as saucers at the sight about to play out before me.
I gasped and my hands flew to my mouth.
And Vega flew backwards.
Her back connected with the wall, cracking the plaster. The striped snake slinked away from me and wrapped around her tiny shoulders. She slumped forward and raised her gaze to me. Her turquoise eyes glowed bright and she glared dangerously at me. “Corvus!” she snapped.
There was a shriek of a crow before the pitch black blur broke through the window spraying glass everywhere. Max screamed and covered Mackenzie’s tiny body with her own. Corvus landed on the coffee in front of me with its beady eyes locked on me. It slowly hopped along the glass toward me with a sound like nails on a chalkboard. I backed away slowly but I knew that the bird wasn’t the only titan at Vega’s disposal. It let out a terrible cry and launched itself into the air. My arms flew up over my head and I flinched back.
I slowly opened my eyes and saw the giant crow pecking at what appeared to be a glowing wall of blue light. The light surrounded me like a shield against Corvus but it wasn’t around Maxine or her daughter and Vega quickly realized that. “Attack the humans!” she screamed.
My hand shot out to the closest thing that I could throw. I grabbed a slender fountain pen from the counter. I knew that it wasn’t much but if it could distract the bird long enough for my sister to get out then-
Before I had a chance to launch my pathetic weapon it began to change in my hand. It became heavier, the point lengthened and sharpened into a blade and the rest of it shifted into a sword handle that fit perfectly into my palm. I gasped and my heart started pounding from the adrenaline rushing through my veins but I couldn’t think about anything except my sister. My brief training with Michael flashed through my mind in a heartbeat and I swiped the broadsword in a wide arch just barely connecting with one of Corvus’ wings. He screeched and flew off through the broken window.
I turned toward Vega, the sword’s deadly point aimed at her chest.
A wicked grin colored her features. “You’ve attacked me. I don’t have to follow anymore of Mother’s stupid rules. You know this means war now. Let the fun begin.”
I opened my mouth to ask what she was talking about but she vanished leaving the air shimmering gold where she’d been. I’d failed. She’d gotten away. She was still a threat and I didn’t know what I was going to do to protect my family from her. I dropped the shimmering sword which turned back into the simple pen when it left my grip and stared at the empty space for an impossibly long stretch of time feeling sick to my stomach.
“Lyra, are you okay?” someone asked from far away.
I blinked and slowly started coming out of my daze. My breathing was shallow and tears absentmindedly streamed down my cheeks. Michael stared worriedly at me. I blew out a breath and collapsed against him. He hugged me tightly to his chest and combed his fingers through my messy hair.
“Wh-what’s happening to me?”
“It is okay, Lyra. You are going to be okay.”
My body was shaking like crazy. I gripped the front of his shirt tightly. “M-Michael, I’m fr-freezing. What’s wr-wrong with me?”
“Lyra? Lyra, what’s going on?” Maxine’s frantic voice demanded. “What the hell just happened in there?”
“Relax, Maxine,” Randall said from somewhere behind me. Well, I guess that explained how Michael knew I was at Max’s, “She’s going to be okay. You’re all fine. Just trust me on this.”
Michael took my face in his hands and made me meet his eyes. “Lyra, listen to me. We have to go.”
“Go? Where are you going?” My sister was still frantic but I couldn’t really concentrate on her at the moment.
“Auntie no go,” Mackenzie whined. I could hear the tears in her voice before she hiccupped, illustrating the fact that she’d just been crying.
A hysterical sob escaped my lips. I turned away from Michael and scooped her into my arms crushing her against my chest. “It’ll be okay, Mac. I love you baby girl but I have to leave. You take care of Mommy for me, will you?”
I handed the screaming girl to her mother and threw my arms around her shoulders. “I love you, sissy. I can’t explain everything to you but I am so sorry that you got involved in all of this craziness. I wish I could tell you what’s going on and that I’ll only be gone for a little bit but I don’t want to lie to you. Please tell Mom and Dad that I love them and take care of my niece.”
“Don’t do this,” she said through her tears. “Let’s forget about whatever just happened and stay here.”
I sniffled. “It’s not that easy, sis. Take care of yourself, Maxi.”
“Lyra!” she screamed but I ignored her and let Michael and Randall lead me from my sister for probably the last time ever.