Unmarked by Kami Garcia


  I remembered asking Jared and Lukas the same question when I first met them, wondering why anyone would take those kinds of risks.

  Lukas wiped the smudged eyeliner off her face. “Because I want to protect people.”

  Elle nodded as if she understood.

  After that, the hallway stayed quiet. No flickering lights or wires ripping themselves out of the walls, only the sound of familiar voices and normal EMF readings, until Priest and Jared returned.

  “The house is clean.” Priest propped the Punisher against the wall next to him.

  Jared slid his fingers between mine like it was something he’d done a thousand times.

  Bear trotted up the stairs with Alara behind him. “Salt lines are all intact.”

  “I want to bury her.” After all the terrible things that had happened to Faith, she deserved some peace.

  We buried Faith in the fresh grave she had dug herself.

  Alara recited a prayer, and we took turns tossing handfuls of dirt into the hole. I kept picturing my mother’s gravesite, the details as clear as a photograph.

  Standing behind a mound of overturned earth. Staring down at the white roses—some bent or broken—and the dirt-covered petals scattered over the glossy, black coffin.

  I looked away when Jared and Lukas refilled the hole. I couldn’t watch. Instead, I kept my eyes fixed on the headstone, where Jared had chiseled the year of her death. Had Faith known the end was coming all along? Did she see it in one of her dreams? I added them to the list of unanswered questions piling up in my head. I still didn’t know why my mother had kept the Legion a secret from me, or if she had ever planned to tell me truth. Was she afraid of the Illuminati—men like Archer who might hurt us?

  My eyes skimmed over the epitaph: MAY SHE SLEEP WITH THE DOVES. Faith had probably chosen it herself. I tried to imagine writing my own. What would it say?

  The girl who destroyed the world.

  I followed everyone back into the house. They stopped to talk, in what would’ve been the living room in a normal home. Standing there, surrounded by my aunt’s prophetic paintings, I was vaguely aware of the conversations around me.

  “How did he get inside?”

  “Andras can’t cross a salt line.”

  “We don’t know what he can do.”

  Until I heard something I couldn’t ignore.

  “Do you think this means Kennedy is one of us now?” Alara sounded hopeful.

  “You heard what my aunt said about not wanting me to be part of the Legion.” I tried to act like it didn’t bother me.

  “Who else would she choose? Your dad?” Priest asked. “He’s not exactly the next generation.”

  “Did you really just say that out loud?” Alara hissed at him under her breath, before turning back to me. “Adults spend half their time lecturing us about the things they won’t let us do, then they end up changing their minds.”

  I thought about everything my aunt had shared with me about the Illuminati, Archer, and her past. She wouldn’t have told me secrets if she didn’t trust me, and Faith had seemed less guarded when we were alone.

  Did Faith have reconsider?

  “Maybe.” I didn’t bother to try to sound convincing.

  “We should get our stuff together and get out of here.” Priest said to Jared, or maybe Lukas. I wasn’t paying attention anymore.

  I focused on the silver buckles that ran up the sides of my boots, the loose string on the bottom of my shirt, a brown smudge on my hand. It took me a second to realize what it was.

  Dirt. From my aunt’s grave.

  My stomach lurched, as if it were blood. After the last twenty-four hours, it was close enough, and all I could think about was getting it off.

  Jared looked up when he saw me walking toward the hallway.

  “I’m just going to wash my hands.” I could tell he was worried by the way he was tracking my every move.

  Before he had a chance to respond, something hit the roof with a thud.

  Elle’s head shot up. “What was that?”

  Within seconds, another heavy object hit the front of the house. Bear bounded down the stairs. He crouched below the shattered bay window, growling. Two more loud bangs followed, in rapid succession.

  “It sounds like rocks,” Alara said.

  Jared bolted for Faith’s supply closet and returned, moments later, carrying an armload of crossbows and semi-automatic weapons. He dropped a few boxes of salt rounds on the steps. “Check them and make sure they aren’t loaded with live rounds.”

  Every few seconds, the house took another hit. Lukas shoved a handful of ammo in his jacket pocket and walked toward the window, where the dog’s bark had turned feral.

  Priest made it to the window first. “Guys, we have a serious problem.”

  A brown blur sailed through the broken window.

  “Watch out!” I grabbed Alara’s sleeve and yanked her out of the way, the moment before it hit the floor.

  Elle skidded to a stop. “Is that—?”

  “A brick.” Alara kicked it across the room.

  Outside the window, dozens of reddish-brown bricks littered the yard. Beyond the salt circle, a crowd had gathered—an old woman wearing an apron, with her slippers on and curlers still in her hair; a burly guy wearing denim overalls and a checkered hunting cap; a thin woman in a dirty dress, surrounded by four children, each one skinnier and dirtier than the next; an elderly lady using a gnarled walking stick as a cane.

  Each person had a pile of bricks at his or her feet.

  In the distance, more people with bricks wove their way through the trees, as if Faith’s house was calling them.

  “They must be your aunt’s neighbors, or whatever you call the other people living out here in the woods,” Alara said.

  The old woman in curlers hurled a brick, and it whacked against the front door.

  Lukas peered out the window. “Whatever they were, I don’t think they’re her neighbors anymore.”

  A child, who looked around five or six, took a step forward with her eyes glued to the ground. Her hair hung in frayed braids, her tattered dress ripped in more places than I could count. She carried a brick in one hand as she trudged methodically through the snow, like she was in a trance.

  The little girl walked to edge of the salt ring and bent down, dipping a finger in the white crystals. As she stood up, she raised her head.

  Her eyes were as black as obsidian.

  Elle staggered back. “What’s wrong with her eyes?”

  “She’s possessed.” Alara sounded terrified. “I think they all are.”

  The child stared at us through unblinking eyes. She tilted her head to the side and licked the salt off her finger. Then a slow, menacing smile spread across her face, as she stepped over the salt line.

  13. DEAD PATRIOTS

  One by one, my aunt’s neighbors stepped over the salt line, their movements rigid and awkward.

  “We have to get out of here now.” Alara grabbed Elle by the arm.

  Lukas dumped out a box of salt rounds and loaded a paintball gun. “Priest, get the gear. You’ve got four minutes. Then go out the back door.”

  “It’s already packed.” Priest ran for the hallway.

  The black-eyed girl raised the brick and hurled it through the broken window. It smashed against the floor, sending bits of clay and mortar chasing after Priest. My aunt’s possessed neighbors raised their bricks without breaking stride.

  “Jared. Are you waiting for an invite?” Lukas yelled to his brother, who was still staring at the child.

  Jared tore his attention away from the girl and grabbed his paintball rifle.

  “Kennedy, go!” Lukas shouted, aiming the gun.

  Unlike the last time Lukas told me to get out of a house, inside Lilburn Mansion, I listened. Bear ran behind me, barking if I slowed down for a second.

  Salt rounds exploding replaced the sound of bricks smashing against the house.

  When I reached the hall
way, Priest was on the landing tossing bags down the staircase. He gathered up our coats and leaned over the railing. “Catch. I’m gonna grab the Punisher. Weapons are in the bag with the duct-taped handle.”

  I dug through one of the duffels and found a paintball gun, then shoved the coats inside. Bear barked, urging me to move. As I ran through the great room, the walls vibrated from the hailstorm of bricks pelting the house.

  They’re still out there.

  How many? A dozen?

  I caught a glimpse of Alara and Elle before they ducked into the kitchen. Bear stayed behind me as I followed, herding me toward the back door. As we cut through the kitchen, the lingering smell of wintersweet made my stomach turn.

  Bear darted in front of me and slid to a stop at the door, snarling.

  “Move, Bear.” I squeezed in front of him and threw open the door. Icy air hit my lungs, and I gasped.

  Empty black eyes stared back at me from every direction—a gray-haired woman with an ax balanced on her shoulder; a girl not much older than me, wearing jeans and a stained apron, holding a brick in one hand and a black-eyed toddler’s overall strap with the other; a guy in mechanic’s coveralls brandishing a wrench; old men carrying bricks as they hobbled on canes, through the falling snow.

  Alara and Elle stood only feet away from the pack working to surround them. Bear darted in front of the two of them and crouched on his haunches, snapping.

  The toddler lunged at Bear, hissing like a feral cat and straining against his mother’s hold.

  “Keep moving!” Priest yelled from somewhere behind me.

  I heard his sneakers skid across the linoleum, as Alara raised her paintball gun and fired.

  Elle screamed and covered her ears.

  The salt round hit the toddler’s mom right between the eyes. Her head snapped back, and her feet slid out from under her.

  Alara kept firing round after round, but my eyes were glued to the girl lying in the snow—the one she had shot. The one who was sitting up now.

  “Look.”

  A white mark was branded in the center of the mother’s forehead, between her glassy, black eyes.

  Andras’ seal.

  “Get out of the way.” Priest dropped onto his stomach, lining the Punisher up in front of him.

  Alara grabbed Elle, and dove to the side. Bear ran after them, circling the spot where they lay huddled in the snow. Elle had stopped screaming, her frightened expression replaced by a thousand-yard stare.

  Priest unleashed the crowd control weapon on my aunt’s possessed neighbors, hitting them with a hailstorm of non-lethal ammo that sent them flying. But after a few moments, each one rose with Andras’ seal branded on their forehead.

  Lukas barreled though the kitchen door. “We need to move.”

  I waited for a glimpse of Jared’s green army jacket, but it never came. “Where’s Jared?”

  “I thought he was ahead of me.” Lukas reloaded and turned to go back inside, when the door flew open.

  Jared stumbled onto the porch, sweaty and gasping.

  Lukas grabbed his brother’s arm. “Where were you?”

  Priest discharged another round of rapid fire, drowning out their voices. Not to be outdone, Jared and Lukas raised their own weapons, sending liquid salt rounds rocketing at the few people still standing.

  People.

  Somewhere trapped inside those zombies, they were still people. Weren’t they?

  “Run!” Priest shouted.

  Alara dragged Elle to her feet, and Bear took off in front of them, paving the way through the ash-covered snow.

  Jared gunned the engine, and the Jeep slid across the ice and onto the road.

  I leaned back against the seat and shoved my frozen hands into my coat. My fingers brushed against a scrap of paper. I reached over to stuff it in the seat pocket, already overflowing with Priest’s candy wrappers, but it wasn’t trash.

  The tight square of paper was folded too carefully, like the notes Elle and I used to pass each other during class. As I unfolded it, lines of messy script revealed themselves. My mind cataloged every curve, including the ones that were almost illegible.

  Jared glanced at me in the rearview mirror. “What are you reading?”

  “I think it’s a note from my aunt.”

  Priest took off his headphones and hooked them around his neck. “What does it say?”

  “It’s really messy, but I think it says, ‘A story buried. A shoelace tarried. A King Jane page—”

  Priest leaned closer and pointed at the word. “It’s James. Like the Bible.”

  “Right.” I held up the note so everyone could see it.

  A story buried.

  A shoelace tarried.

  A King James page.

  A halfpenny wage.

  While these remain trifles at best,

  Something more precious in the stone is at rest.

  Between 39 and 133

  “What does it say at the bottom?” Elle asked.

  “May the black dove always carry you,” I squinted at the messy writing. “And the angle—no, that’s probably angel—guide you.”

  “I hope there’s a translation somewhere,” Elle said.

  “It’s a riddle. A story buried…” Alara leaned closer.

  Priest studied the page. “A shoelace tarried. A King James page. A halfpenny wage. They’re all things from the taxidermy museum. John Hancock’s shoelace. The page from Samuel Adams’ Bible—”

  “It was Paul Revere’s bible,” Jared said.

  “Okay, Paul Revere’s bible, and Samuel Adams’ penny. Maybe we need to go back to the museum and get all that stuff.”

  It didn’t make sense. If we led the demon to Faith’s house, there was no way to predict how long he’d been following us—something a suspicious person like my aunt would know. “Faith wouldn’t send us back there. She was too paranoid.”

  “I don’t think we need the actual items.” Lukas spun his silver coin between his fingers, still working it out. “Priest, what do those three things have in common?”

  “A shoelace, an old Bible page, and a halfpenny?” Priest shrugged. “Is it a trick question?”

  “Not the items themselves,” Lukas said.

  “They all belonged to patriots,” I offered.

  “And Freemasons,” Alara added.

  “Three Revolutionary War patriots who were all members of the Sons of Liberty,” Jared glanced at us in the rearview mirror. “Guess I learned more from the Philadelphia public school system than I thought.”

  “What about the next part?” Alara asked. “Something more precious in the stone is at rest.”

  “Based on Faith’s trusting personality,” Lukas said. “I’m guessing she hid something, and she wants Kennedy to find it.”

  “Why does everything have to be a poem or a riddle?” Elle rubbed her face, looking exhausted. “Couldn’t she just tell us whatever crazy thing we’re supposed to do?”

  “Writing things down is dangerous,” Lukas said. “Vengeance spirits, demons, and if Faith was right, the Illuminati, can use the information to find us.” He exchanged a glance with his brother, but no one else seemed to notice.

  Alara stretched her legs across the third row, leaving room for Bear. “So where do we start?”

  “Places related to Sam Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere.” Lukas took out his cell phone. “The Sons of Liberty held their meetings at the Old South Meeting House. It’s also the place where Sam Adams planned the Boston Tea Party. And it looks like they were all buried in the same cemetery in Boston. ”

  Recognition flickered in Priest’s eyes. “Granary Burying Ground.”

  “Graveyards are definitely full of stones,” I said.

  Priest grinned. “We need to check it out.”

  Alara threw her arm over her eyes and sighed. “Of course we do.”

  14. BRICK AND MORTAR

  I want to see John Hancock’s grave before we leave,” Elle said, stomping through the mu
d-streaked slush of Granary Burying Ground.

  “You did enough sightseeing on the way here,” Alara snapped, zipping her jacket to ward off the snowfall.

  Boston was only an hour and a half from my aunt’s house, but sitting in traffic because the streets were blocked off for a bike race had added another forty-five minutes to the trip. After walking for over an hour in the rain because we had to park so far away, Alara’s mood had gone downhill fast. She stayed on the main path, even though it meant braving the icy pavement. She didn’t want to risk stepping on one of the overgrown plots.

  According to the map of the cemetery, there were less than three thousand tombs and markers, but closer to ten thousand bodies buried here.

  Jared glanced at a tour guide dressed in Revolutionary War period costume. “I think we might be on the wrong track. I can’t picture Faith hiding anything here. This place seems like it gets a lot of traffic.”

  He was right. It was the second tour guide we’d seen in fifteen minutes.

  Bear trotted alongside Alara. “So whose grave are we looking for?”

  “Samuel Adams was the only one of the three who was a Freemason and a member of the Illuminati,” Priest said. “I’m betting on him.”

  Elle stopped walking. “Then it’s gonna be a pretty quick search.”

  A stone mound, with an oxidized plaque on the front, jutted out of the snow ahead of us. Two tiny American flags flanked the sides. Someone had left three stuffed bears in front of the marker, each one dressed Revolutionary War garb and carrying a tiny drum.

  HERE LIES BURIED

  SAMUEL ADAMS

  SIGNER OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

  GOVERNOR OF THIS COMMONWEALTH

  A LEADER OF MEN

  AND AN ARDENT PATRIOT

  BORN 1722 DIED 1803

  Elle looked down at the grave marker that barely reached her knees. “It’s kind of small.”

 
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