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|Midnight Frost(Mythos Academy #5) by Jennifer Estep|
"Gwen?" Vic asked again. "Is something wrong?"
"Nothing," I told the sword. "It's nothing. Just a false alarm. Go back to sleep."
Vic yawned again, and his eye snapped shut once more.
I sighed. I didn't know what was worse - the Reapers or my paranoia. With Vic still in my hand, I turned to head back to my friends - and slammed into someone creeping up behind me.
Still thinking about the mystery figure, I immediately went into attack mode and raised Vic high. The only problem was that hitting the figure had thrown me off balance, and I staggered back. My shoulder slammed into one of the bookcases, making me wince with pain - and drop Vic.
The sword skittered across the floor. I threw myself down and forward, reaching, reaching, reaching for Vic -
A black boot came down on top of the sword, stopping it from skidding any farther along the floor. My head snapped up, and I realized it wasn't a Reaper looming over me - it was Rory Forseti.
"Geez, Princess. Kind of hard to fight when you're on your knees on the floor, isn't it?" Rory sniped.
I let out a breath and scrambled to my feet. "You scared me."
Rory's eyes dropped to Vic. "Apparently so."
She leaned down and grabbed the sword. Instead of handing Vic back to me, she held up the weapon, studying the hilt. I tensed, wondering if maybe she really was a Reaper after all - and if she was about to use my own weapon against me.
Vic's eye snapped open, and he regarded Rory with a cold, suspicious glare. "What you looking at, chickie?" he asked.
Rory jumped and almost dropped the sword. Her eyes bulged, and all of the color drained from her face. Vic had just given her a good scare. I snickered.
That snapped Rory out of her fright. She glared at me. Still, it took her a moment to work up the courage to raise Vic once more and peer even closer at the weapon.
"There's - there's some guy's face in the hilt of your sword," she said, an awed note in her voice.
Vic rolled his eye. "Well, aren't you the observant one?"
I held out my hand. "His name is Vic, he talks, and he belongs to me."
"Yes, if you don't mind, chickie, hand me back to the Gypsy," he said. "I want to get the rest of my nap in, just in case we run across any more Reapers today."
Eyes wide, Rory stared at Vic a moment longer before carefully passing him over to me. I took the weapon from her and slid the sword back into the scabbard strapped to my waist.
We stood there, staring at each other, and I studied her again. Black hair, green eyes, round face, pretty features. I wondered if she looked like her mom or her dad - my uncle.
"What are you doing here?" I asked.
She shrugged. "I snuck out of weapons training in the gym. I was bored."
Of course she was bored. Rory was like Logan, Oliver, Kenzie, Nickamedes, and Coach Ajax; she didn't need a weapon to fight - or kill. She'd already proven that on the train when she'd whaled on all of those Reapers with just a crossbow and then the broken bits of it.
Rory kept looking at me, her eyes scanning my features just like I'd done to her. I leaned against the shelf closest to me and stared right back at her. There were so many things I wanted to ask her - about her parents, about my dad, about why all the other kids had looked right through her as if she didn't even exist. But I decided to play it cool, so I kept my mouth shut, even though I wanted to know all of her secrets - all of our family's secrets - just the way I always did.
"So you're the famous Gwen Frost," she finally said.
"And you're a Forseti."
Her mouth tightened. "You got something against the Forsetis?"
"That depends. You got something against me?"
Her scowl deepened. "Why would you say that?"
"Because it seems like you think you know everything there is to know about me, and I don't know anything about you." I drew in a breath. "Except for the fact that we're cousins."
Rory didn't bat an eye at the news. "Yeah. So your dad and my dad were brothers. So what? It's not like that makes us family. Not really."
"But don't you want to know about me?" I asked. "About my dad? About the rest of my family?"
She let out a bitter laugh. "Not if they're anything like my parents. And besides, I know all about you already. Everybody's been talking about you for weeks now. Ever since we heard about that Reaper attack at the coliseum near the North Carolina academy. Supposedly, you're some kind of great warrior, Nike's Champion, and all that." She sniffed. "I haven't been impressed so far."
My eyes narrowed. "Is that why you saved my life on the train? Because you weren't impressed? Because you didn't think I could defend myself?"
Her eyes glittered with a cold, hard light. "I saved your life because the Reapers wanted you dead. Anything they want, I want the opposite."
"Really?" I asked. "Then why did the other kids talk about you like you were working with the Reapers when we got off the train? Why would they think that when you had just helped me and my friends defeat a bunch of them?"
She tilted her head to the side and looked at me. "You really don't know, do you? About the Forsetis?"
"My dad died when I was two. I don't even remember him, and my mom didn't talk about him a lot."
Rory let out another bitter laugh. "Of course she didn't. Be glad about that. She did you a favor."
Every word this girl said only made me angrier. "Look. All I want is some information about my dad. And you too, if you want to share. My mom was murdered by Reapers last year, so it's just been me and my grandma ever since. But now I come here, and I find out that I have a cousin - one who seems to know a lot more about my dad than I do. Can you blame me for being curious?"
After a moment, she gave me a grudging nod. "No, I suppose not."
"So why don't you lose the attitude and tell me what you know?"
She studied me for several moments, staring into my face as if she could judge whether or not I was telling the truth just by looking at me, and I started to wonder what other magic she might have besides her Spartan fighting skills. Maybe she was even a Gypsy like me, gifted with magic by one of the gods.
"You want to know about the Forsetis?" Rory snapped. "Get your friends, Princess, and I'll show you exactly what the family name means around here."
Rory and I walked out of the stacks. My friends were still sitting in front of the fireplace, trying to nap, but they all sat up at the sound of our footsteps on the floor. They looked at Rory, then me.
"Well, well, well," Oliver said. "Looks like Gwen's made a new friend."
"Shut it, Spartan," Rory snapped. "Or I'll make you eat your own fist."
Oliver straightened up in his chair. "I'd like to see you try."
I rolled my eyes at them. "Again, with the sniping. Can we please cut it out?"
Oliver and Rory ignored me and kept right on glaring at each other. Rory opened her mouth, probably to challenge Oliver to a fight, but a door in the glass office complex squeaked open, cutting her off. Ajax and Covington stepped outside and walked over to the fireplace.
"Is something wrong?" the librarian asked, looking from me to Rory and back again.
"Oh, everything's just fine and dandy," I said. "In fact, Rory just offered to show me and my friends around campus while you and Ajax work."
Covington frowned. "She did?"
Rory started to open her mouth again, but I clapped her on the back, almost sending her tumbling into Alexei's lap.
"You bet she did," I said.
Rory scowled at my lie, but she didn't contradict me. "Yeah. That's me. Campus tour guide."
Covington frowned, as if he was searching for a reason not to believe her. Rory glared at him, her fists clenched as though she'd like nothing more than to step forward and punch him. I wondered at her hostile reaction to him. What did she have against the librarian?
But in the end, Covington's face smoothed out. "Well, why don't you show Gwen and the others around and then go over to the dining hall and get some lunch? Ajax and I should be finished by the time you're done."
Rory rolled her eyes, but she didn't say anything else. Instead, she deliberately turned away from Covington, like he hadn't even spoken to her.
I looked at Ajax, who nodded. While my friends and I gathered up our things, Ajax gestured for me to come over to him.
"Be careful," he said. "You don't know this girl. We might be on campus now, but that doesn't mean we're safe."
"Don't worry," I said. "I'll be careful. We'll all stay together. We'll walk around campus awhile, then go get some lunch, like Covington suggested. Everything will be fine."
"Okay," the coach rumbled. "Just stick together and keep your weapons with you at all times. If you need anything - anything at all - Covington and I will be here in the library."
Ajax told us to leave our luggage in one of the librarians' offices, although we all kept our weapons like he'd said. I also slung my messenger bag over my shoulder to take with me since Ran's net was in the bottom of it, along with Oliver's drawing of the artifacts.
"Come on," Rory muttered when we'd finished putting everything away. "Let's get this over with."
She walked out of the library, and we all fell in step behind her.
We'd barely made it outside and down the library steps before Daphne scooted up beside me.
"Are you sure this is a good idea, Gwen?" she asked. "We don't know anything about this girl. She could be a Reaper, just like Vivian was."
"I don't think she's a Reaper," I said in a low voice.
I told her what Grandma Frost and Rory had both said to me. Daphne was quiet for a moment, thinking. Sparks of magic dripped from her fingertips, and the winter wind swirled them through the air like shimmering pink snowflakes.
"Just because she's related to you doesn't mean you guys are automatically going to be besties," Daphne pointed out.
"I know. But she knows something about my dad - something important. Grandma Frost said as much, and I want to know what it is. Besides, it beats sitting in the library all day, doesn't it?"
Daphne shrugged. She couldn't argue with that.
We followed Rory around the quad. She made a long, slow circuit, taking us past all of the buildings. Through the windows, I could see other students sitting in their classes, their heads bent over their books, or their eyes fixed on the professors lecturing in front of them. They were doing the same things the kids at the North Carolina academy would be doing - the same things we should have been doing right now. I was surprised at how homesick the sights made me.
I started to ask Rory if we were going to walk around in circles all day, when a series of bells chimed. A few moments later, students started streaming out of the buildings. A few kids headed down the hill toward their dorms, but the majority made a beeline for the dining hall.
"Come on," Rory said. "Time for lunch. Oh, joy."
She led us over to the dining hall. My friends looked at me, but I shrugged. I didn't know what Rory was up to, but we could at least get something to eat.
We entered the dining hall, but I didn't get the same sense of deja vu that I had from the rest of the buildings. I'd expected the area to be filled with round tables covered with white linens, fine china, and gleaming silverware like at home. But instead, the tables were long rectangles made out of the same large logs I'd noticed inside the library. More of the lumber made up the walls, interspersed with those familiar, blackish boulders. Only a few paintings decorated the walls, most of them mountainous landscapes, once again giving everything a rustic Western vibe.
The only thing that was sort of similar to home was the open-air garden in the middle of the enormous room. But instead of grapevines, the garden here featured a variety of evergreen trees that somehow grew in the middle of dense boulder formations. A narrow creek ribboned through the garden, tumbling down a tower of rocks before forming a small pool at the bottom. A variety of stone statues hovered around the edge of the water. Animals, mostly, bears, rabbits, and ducks, although I also spotted an image of Coyote in the mix. A pair of gryphons perched on either side of the top of the waterfall, looking down at the many figures below as though they were protecting the other creatures from harm.
Rory led us over to the far right side of the room, where the lunch line was. We'd come in behind all of the other kids, so we were at the very back. My friends and I grabbed some glass trays and fell in line. We went down the line, and the others filled up their trays with one dish after another, but mine remained empty.
Liver, veal, escargot, some sort of seafood salad with steamed clams. All of it artfully arranged in small white china bowls and garnished with carrots cut into the shapes of sunflowers, green peppers that had been curlicued like ivy vines, and pepper flakes that looked like bits of red snow resting on top of the mounds of steaming food.
I sighed. I'd hoped that the food here would be a little more, well, normal, but it was the same fancy stuff they served at home. For some reason, the Mythos kids loved to eat caviar and other froufrou food like that. Finally, I spotted some cheeseburgers, although technically, the sign said they were bison burgers. I didn't really want to eat bison, but since it was the closest thing to recognizable food on the menu, I grabbed a burger, along with some cheese fries, a buttermilk ranch dipping sauce, a bottle of cranberry juice, and a big piece of dark chocolate fudge for dessert.