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CHAPTER 8. Aphrodite didnt let Darius carry her from the Council Chamber like he wanted to






Aphrodite

Aphrodite didnt let Darius carry her from the Council Chamber like he wanted to. She couldnt leave Zoey alone in the middle of the shit pot Neferet was stirring with no one but a totally messed-up Warrior and a semi-hysterical nerd herd standing between her and some serious crazy.

Yes, I believe it is important to keep Erebuss body under close watch while his spirit is absent. Perhaps this is only a temporary state he has fallen into as a response to Zoeys attack on him, Neferet was saying to the High Council.

Zoeys attack on him? Did you really just say that? Stark, puffy-eyed and hollow-cheeked, looked like he was on the verge of exploding.

Go to Stark and try to help him get a handle on his temper, Aphrodite whispered to her Warrior. When he hesitated, she added, Im fine. Im just going to sit here and listen and learnkinda like Im at one of my moms cocktail parties gone bad.

Darius nodded. He moved quickly to Starks side and put a hand on the boys shoulder. Aphrodite thought it was a good sign that Stark didnt shrug him off, but then again, the arrow kid looked like total crap. She wondered about what happened to a Warrior if his Priestess died, and then shivered with a terrible premonition of what could come.

Zoey did attack Erebus. His spiritless body is undeniable proof of that, Neferet said, smugness coloring her voice.

Zoey was attempting to stop the immortal from killing her consort, Darius said before Stark could shout his retort.

Ah, and that is the issue, isnt it? Neferet smiled silkily at Darius, making Aphrodite want to claw out her eyes. Why did my consort feel the need to cause harm to Zoeys Heath? The only real knowledge we have about it is from Erebus himself before his spirit was wrenched from his body. His last words were I was protecting my Goddess. So what transpired between Zoey and Heath and Erebus is much more complicated than it might appear to a young, distraught witness.

This wasnt some fight for Nyx! Kalona killed Heath! Probably because he was jealous of how much Zoey loved him, Stark said, looking like he wanted nothing more than to wrap his hands around Neferets white throat and squeeze.

And how did you feel about Zoeys love for Heath? A Warrior bond is an intimate one, is it not? You were there with them when the soul shattering happened. Where is your culpability, Warrior? Neferet said.

Darius held Stark back from launching himself at Neferet, and Duantia spoke quickly into the rising tension. Neferet, I think we can all agree that there are many unanswered questions about the tragedy that occurred on our island today. Stark, we also understand the passion and rage you feel at the loss of your Priestess. It is a hard blow for a Warrior to

Duantias wisdom was cut off by the sound of Aretha Franklin belting out the chorus from Respect, which was coming from the little Coach purse Aphrodite had slung over her shoulder.

Oopsie, um, sorry bout that. Aphrodite frantically unzipped her purse and dug for her iPhone. Thought I had the ringer turned off. I dont know who would be... Her voice trailed off when she saw the caller ID was Stevie Rae. She almost pressed the IGNORE button, but a feeling hit herstrong and clear. She needed to talk to Stevie Rae. Uh, sorry again, but I really have to take this. Aphrodite hurried up the stairs and out of the Chamber, feeling way too exposed as everyone glared after her like shed just slapped a baby or drowned a damn puppy. Stevie Rae, she whispered hastily, I know you probably just found out about Z, and youre freaked, but this really isnt a good time.

Can you sense spirits and stuff from the Otherworld? Stevie Rae asked without so much as a Hey there, how ya doin.

Something about the tone of her voice brought Aphrodite up short and kept her from replying with her usual sarcasm. Yeah, Im starting to be able to. Apparently, Ive been tuned in to the Otherworld since I started having visionsI just didnt realize it until today.

Wheres Kalonas body?

Aphrodite ducked around the corner of the foyer. No one was around her, but she still kept her voice low. Down there in front of the High Council in their Chamber.

Is Neferet there, too?

Of course.

Zoey?

Shes there, too. Well, her body is. Z herself has totally checked out. Starks absolutely freaked by whats happened, plus Neferet is pissing him off so bad he can hardly think. Darius is saving his ass by not letting him tear her apart with his bare hands. The nerd herd is hysterical.

But you kept your sense.

Stevie Rae didnt say it like a question, but Aphrodite answered her anyway. Someone had to.

Good. Okay, I think I have somethin figured out about Kalona. If Im right, Neferet is up to her elbows in evil, so much so that shes got his body trapped, and his spirit has to obey her to get it back.

Like that would surprise any of us?

Ill bet it would surprise most of the High Council. Neferet has a way of gettin people on her side.

Aphrodite snorted. As far as I can tell, most of them are clueless about her.

Thats what I thought. So moving against her out in the open there is going to be even harder than moving against her when she was here.

That about sums it up. So, whats the deal with Kalona?

You need to check out his body using your super Spidey Other-world senses.

Youre such a dork. There is no such thing as Spider-Man. He is a made-up comic-book-bullshit character, Aphrodite said.

Theyre called graphic novels, not comic booksdont be so dang judgmental. I do not have time to argue with you about the benefits of graphic novels on peoples imaginations, Stevie Rae said.

Oh, please, if its ass is feathered and waterproof, its a duck. Hello, pictures with little word balloons makes it a comic book. Theyre dorky comic books for nerdy antisocial, nonbathing people. End of discussion.

Aphrodite! Focus! Just go back in the Chamber and check out Kalonas body with your Otherworld-spirit-sensing stuff. Look for any kind of weirdness that no one else can see. Like, I dunno

A disgusting, sticky spiderweb of darkness wrapped all around him like freaky chains? Aphrodite offered.

Dont mess with me about this. Its too important. Stevie Raes voice had gone completely serious.

Im not messing with you. Im telling you what Ive already seen. His body is completely covered by dark threads of yucky stuff that, apparently, no one else but moi can see.

Its Neferet! Stevie Raes voice was tense with emotion. Shes tapped into something called Darknessthats evil with a capital D. Its how shes using the power of the Tsi Sgili. She managed to trap Kalona with it right after Zoey wounded his soulits the only time his body is weak enough to be vulnerable.

How do you know that?

Its how the Cherokee imprisoned him last time. Stevie Rae avoided the question by using the only part of the truth she could ever tell anyone. A-ya messed up his spirit with emotions he wasnt used to feeling, and the old women used his weakness to trap him.

That does make sense. So now Neferets got him all tied up and soulless. Why? Shes his super nasty lover. Why wouldnt she want him here with her? The two of them could have taken off together and not been caught for killing Heath.

Yeah, except for two things: she would have looked guilty, so the High Council would have been forced to act against her, and she wouldnt have been one hundred percent sure Zoey is going to die.

What the hell? The Council says she has a week, but then Z will be dead.

Not true. If her soul returns to her body, Z wont die. Neferet knows that, so she

She trapped Kalonas body and told him to follow Z to the Other-world and make sure she doesnt get back to her body, Aphrodite finished for her. That fucking figures! But it doesnt feel right. Kalonas totally obsessed with Z. I dont think he wants her to die.

Yeah, but what if the only way to get his body back is to kill Zoey?

Aphrodites voice hardened. Then hell kill her. Stevie Rae, what the hell are we going to do?

We have to figure out a way to protect Z and help her get back to her body, and no, I dont know how were gonna do that. She hesitated and, crossing her fingers behind her back against the semi-lie, added, Today the earth helped me find out some pretty weird stuff about Kalona. Seems he used to be Nyxs Warrior. So, he used to be one of the good guys. Then something happened in the Otherworld, and the Goddess banished him, and thats when he fell to earth.

Which means he knows the Otherworld a hell of a lot better than any of us, Aphrodite said glumly.

Yeah. Dang it! What we need is a Warrior for Zoey in the Other-world who can stand up against Kalona and get Z back to her body.

Aphrodite felt a little zap of understanding at Stevie Raes words. But she already has a Warrior.

Starks in this world. Not the Otherworld.

But a Warrior and his Priestess are connected by a bond that is all about spirit and oaths and dedication. I know! I have it with Darius. Aphrodites voice was getting more and more excited as she reasoned it through. And you cant tell me that my Warrior wouldnt follow me straight into the mouth of hell to protect me. All we need to do is to get Starks soul to the Otherworld so he can protect Z there, just like he does here. And it might save him, too, she added silently to herself.

I dont know, Aphrodite. Stark has to be pretty messed-up after losing Zoey and all.

Thats the point. He has to save himself by saving her.

But that doesnt work. Ive been remembering somethin from The Fledgling Handbook 101. There was that whole big story in there about a High Priestess and her Warrior who died when her soul was shattered and he went after her into the Otherworld.

Please, dork. Its in the 101 handbook because its meant to scare the crap out of retarded third formers, like you, so that hot young fledglings stay away from sexy Sons of Erebus Warriors. The stupid thing was probably written by some dried-up old hag of a High Priestess who hadnt had sex in, like, a hundred years. Literally. Stark needs to follow Zoey to the Otherworld, kick Kalonas spirits ass, and then bring her back here.

It has to be more complicated than that.

Probably, but whatever. Well figure it out.

How?

Aphrodite paused, thinking of Thanatos and her wise, dark eyes. I might know someone who can at least point us in the right direction.

Dont let Neferet know youre onto her, Stevie Rae cautioned.

Im not stupid, stupid, Aphrodite said. Leave this whole thing in my extremely capable and well-manicured hands. Ill call you later with an update. Bye! She hit the red END CALL button before Stevie Rae could nag her anymore. And, smiling slyly, headed back into the Council Chamber.


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