Twisted Fate

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Chapter 40

(This story is heavily influenced by Inferno, a poem written by Dante Alighieri. You will find that his theory of hell is mentioned throughout my books with some changes to fit my version. It is important to keep in mind that I have created a world with a crossover of Greek mythology and biblical stories.


-Astrid-

Nicole leads me throughout the gift shop, observing, touching, and asking Nicolas a million questions about anything and everything. I can’t say I blame her, though. Despite the creepy gosht vibes, this place is pretty cool. Plus, it keeps my mind off the fact that I couldn’t do my part in helping today.

I wander off, finding myself most interested in the ancient voodoo dolls and an odd-looking machine that somewhat resembles a radio. Except radios can’t control minds like this one. A see-through window closes off the control panel to prevent anyone from touching the sensitive buttons. But I don’t like to listen to the rules, so I open it. Blair calls my name in warning before my fingers have the chance to do any damage.

I glance up at her and close the clear protective guard on the machine and move along. So much for trying to brainwash Carson into becoming my servant.

I leave the others and make my way up the spiral staircase. The owner of the gift shop is still floating high in the air, organizing the various spell books on the shelves. Her long navy dress sways as she moves gracefully from one shelf to the other. A thought crosses my mind, and I laugh. Her headwrap is so large. I wonder if she frees it, could she pull me up with her hair—kind of like Rapunzel.

She hears my giggling, and I press my lips in a thin line.

“Do I amuse you, Ms. Collins?” She asks over her shoulder.

“I’m sorry. It’s just that…your headwrap is large, and it reminds me of Rapunzel. I didn’t mean-“

“Should I let down my golden hair?” She interrupts, smiling down at me. I relax and thank the goddess that this woman has a sense of humor. She sets the last book on the shelf and lowers herself to the ground, walking close to me.

For a moment, I have to look down and readjust my footing. Her golden eyes feel as if she’s staring deep into my soul, revealing my deepest thoughts and secrets. We don’t speak for what seems like forever. We just stare, memorizing each other’s facial details.

“Wow,” she says finally. “Arlo was right about you. You’re stunning.”

I smile but more at the fact that Arlo has been talking keenly about me. “Thank you. It’s nice to meet you…Ms. Hattie, right?”

I offer my hand, and she takes it gently. “Correct. The pleasure is all mine, Astrid. I hope my brothers and sisters of Salem have been treating you kindly. Blair tells me you’ll be staying here for quite some time.”

“Yes,” I reply. I’m sure she’s well aware of how bitchy the head priestess is, so I don’t mention her. “But hopefully, this mess will be done soon, so I can get back to my pack. Some days I miss home more than others.” I tell her as she stacks more books on the shelves. She turns the corner and almost drops the heavy pile in her hands. I take them and hand them one by one as she levitates to the high shelves. “I’ve been the alpha for less than a year, and so much has happened already.”

Ms. Hattie rises a few shelves higher and then drops to her feet. “Indeed. Seems like you need a vacation.” She jokes.

I shrug my shoulders, handing her off the last of the pile. “I guess being here is my vacation. I can’t step out of the town because it’s too dangerous, which leaves me no other choice but to sit back and do nothing. I’m useless these days. No good for anything at all.”

Ms. Hattie sighs, patting me on the shoulder. “Well, there’s no use in beating yourself up, darling. You’ve been caught in a situation far out of your control. This war has been building before your birth.” She mutters the latter more to herself, but I don’t miss a beat. It doesn’t take me long to guess what she’s implying. “And I can think of many ways you are making a positive impact on Arlo. You are more useful to him than you know,” she says, smiling suggestively.

“He seemed to have gotten along just fine before he met me.”

“Oh no,” Ms. Hattie disagrees, waving a finger. “That sweet boy has been smiling a lot more. He hasn’t done much of that since his mother’s been gone. I like to see him happy. You make him happy.”

I have to bite down hard on my bottom lip to stop myself from smiling like an idiot. I follow Ms. Hattie down the hallway that leads to a small kitchen at the end. She takes the boiling red pot off the stove and pours me a glass of tea.

“Thank you,” I say, sitting across from her. “Did you know Loretta personally?”

Ms. Hattie stays quiet for a minute as she stirs the tea in her glass, contemplating the answer. “No. She passed on before I moved to Salem. But I know how much she and Arlo were close. She relied on him to be the man of the house and look after his brothers.”

“Because of his abusive father.”

A dark look crosses her face as I speak those words. She stares at the ripples in her tea as her spoon scrapes against the glass. She remembers something.

“Yes,” She mutters, sipping out of her tea, and then she stays quiet. I’m not sure if she’s more uncomfortable talking about his parents or talking to me about them.

“Did you know his father?” I end up asking anyway.

Ms. Hattie looks up and answers tersely, “No.” I can tell by the look on her face she’s a bit taken back by her sudden tone of voice. She speaks softer this time, “I mean no, I didn’t know his father, and I’m glad I never did. I’m sure you’ve heard many things about him. It’s true. All of it.” She leans in close and mutters the latter.

I nod and take slow sips of my tea. “Arlo never talks about his parents. Sometimes I want to ask him about his life growing up, but when I mentioned his mother once before, he looked as if I’d asked him to slice off his arm. I want him to feel comfortable talking to me about anything.”

Ms. Hattie sighs. “Give him some time. You have to understand that Arlo will talk about his past life when he’s ready. He knows you mean well but growing up with an abusive father has traumatized him in more ways than anyone could understand.”

My heart sinks. I couldn’t be more thankful for the life my parents have given me. I wished Arlo could have been blessed with the same love. Suddenly, my mother’s words come flowing back to me. “My mom once referred to his father as the dark prince. Do you know what she meant by that?”

“It means just that,” Ms. Hattie says, throwing out her tea in the sink. “Have you ever heard about the nine kings of Zaltamia?” She asks, staring out of the small window.

I blink a few times, and my eyebrows crease with confusion. “You mean like the nine kings of hell? Yeah, I’ve heard those stories before.”

Ms. Hattie throws her head back and laughs. “Stories? It’s no wonder you haven’t pieced that puzzle together.”

I sit back and think about it for a moment until Nicole peeks her head in the kitchen, grinning from ear to ear. “You’ve gotta come down here and see this!”

I sigh and eye her warily. “Oh god, do I really want to?” Knowing Nicole, it probably has something to do with ghosts and other weird stuff I’m not interested in.

Trust me, you don’t want to miss this,” she says, gripping my arm with pure excitement. I look over at Ms. Hattie apologetically. She winks and says, “We’ll catch up later.” And I’m hoping she means it because I enjoyed talking to her.

Nicole drags me back downstairs and leads me down a dark hallway in the back of the gift shop. At the end of the large hallway, there are two turns which Nicole takes a right. I turn around and glance back at the left to see a barricaded red door at the end of it. Weird. Why would that door need to be chained up like that?Suddenly, I have the urge to open it, a nagging urge deep in my gut, but Nicole takes me to a room where Nicolas, Blair, and Carson are waiting for us.

I watch them expectantly as they wait. “What was so important for me to see?” I ask Nicole, slightly irritated by the interruption.

“This,” Nicolas says before he waves his hands and recites a spell. The room suddenly goes eerily dark, and several holographic figures stand throughout the room. I pause and look around at the sinister figures. They’re of many high-ranking demons and devils.

Hovering over the worktable is a circular pyramid and a map of the underworld. Each level on the pyramid is labeled in order—Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Fraud, Pride, Violence, Envy, and Wrath.

I look over to the right at the map dividing hell into three parts- Vixlor, Zandorin, and the one that screams out to me the most- Zaltamia, the royal grounds of hell, and the home of the nine kings.

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