It felt as if I was looking in a mirror when I sat up and saw Maria in front of me. Her violet flecked eyes were wide with concern and her lips were parted slightly. I knew that that was something that I did when I was concentrating or nervous.
“Hello, Maria,” I whispered, smiling slightly to show that I wasn't a threat to her. If anything, she was a threat to me.
She waved in a response, the smallest tilt of her hand, before opening her mouth and pointing inside. I leaned forward and looked, horrified with what I saw.
Maria had no tongue.
“Did they do this to you?” I asked, referring to the Stolen and hoping she knew what I meant. If she couldn't speak out loud, could she speak through her mind?
She nodded yes.
Can you do this too? I tried, hoping she heard the voice in her head.
She smiled this time. I can. I was hoping that you would be able to, too.
I stretched my arms behind me and leaned back on them, studying my surroundings.
Was it you who hurt the demon man? I asked, noting how the walls were made of thick glass and that there was water on the other side. We could have been in one of the lower floors of the government building. I knew that there were three levels beneath the entry level. We were most likely to be on the very bottom one that they used for storage.
It was me, Maria replied, her voice only slightly higher than mine. She had a faint American accent, like mine, but hers was tinged with something that sounded slightly British. His name was Quentin Zeer and the body he was using is dead. His spirit will be floating around in the demon realms again, waiting for another body to take over.
I shivered at the thought. Corey had told Lukas and me about this back in the abandoned schoolroom.
“If you kill a demon, you haven't really killed them,” he had said as if it was obvious. “You've just separated the spirit from the body. The spirits will return to the demon realm until it has the chance to claim a new body. They normally do this when someone is about to die or has had a near death experience. That is the easiest way of getting a body.”
He talked about it as if it was from experience.
Have you ever heard of a man named Corey Hidimin, Maria? I asked hopefully, making sure that my mental voice didn't sound desperate. Could I make my mental voice sound different to my regular speaking voice? There were so many things that I had to try out when I had the chance.
Her brow furrowed and I knew that she was thinking. I recognize the name from my dream-state, she informed me. All I know is that man is poison. He will work for whoever gives him the best price. Originally, it was Samuel Grigori and he was sent to make you and your companion to come to Korehtz. Next, it was the Scouts who dragged Lukas in. They were going to hold him hostage in the hope that you would go after him. I am not sure why.
“Thank you,” I replied out loud.
You are welcome, Laurali. I am sorry that I do not know everything that you need to know.
“Don't worry about it. I know just enough to decide who my enemies are.”
A few hours later, when it was around midday, I had dug up some stationary supplies from the storage boxes around us and wrote a list of everyone I had met since the demon couple were at the hospital, deciding whether they were friend or foe. Maria added her own contribution next to my notes with her messy handwriting.
The Safe / Unstolen: Most likely to be friend. If they are still scared from the attacks, it will be easy to convince them to be on our side. Some may be scared into following the demons.
The Scouts: A majority will be foe even if they are working against Sam and his soldiers. They are against demons but they are also against you. It will be best if they remain uninvolved.
The Demons: Not an ally or a friend. All demons are foe and wouldn't be useful allies if they were friends. They have limited powers. The ones they have only work close range when they can be attacked.
The Stolen Soldiers: Foe since they are controlled by Sam. I agree.
The Stolen Assistants: Foe since they are controlled by Sam. Neither – you have the ability to control them. You are not strong enough to control the soldiers yet.
The Experiments: I don't know. Friend. They will do anything to get back at Samuel, the Stolen and the Demons for turning them into failed Stolen. Their pain will make them do anything you want. You can also control them.
I looked through the list. In conclusion, we only had one group of people that were definitely on our side. The Unstolen were debatable and we didn't have the time to get to them in Africa, bring them back and convince them to be on our side.
You have Lukas and Imogen, Maria said as if she read my thoughts. She probably had, seeing as I didn't know all of her abilities.
Can I show you something? I promise it won't hurt a bit.
“Go ahead,” I replied.
She sat in front of me and stared deep into my eyes as if she was searching for something within them. My head began to throb slightly as her stare intensified and I realized that she was searching for something within me. A memory, no doubt.
When she turned away, the image of a girl covered my vision. She was pretty, brown-blonde hair that fell to her hips and odd eyes, one green and one blue. She had a round face and a bright, flirty smile with slightly crooked teeth.
Her name is Imogen Nance. She travels with the Scouts and has been looking after your Lukas to stop him from dying before his execution date. She brings him medicine to stop the infection that started in his feet from spreading around his body and killing him.
As much as I wanted to hate her, I couldn't summon any feeling but gratefulness as her image faded and Maria came back into my sight.
“I guess I do have her then,” I agreed. “And I also have what the voices told me is the answer.”
The answer? Her eyebrow raised slightly and she looked amused.
I smiled. “Yes, the answer. It's you, Maria. The voices told me that you are the answer.”