BONUS MATERIAL: LEGACY OF THE LOST
Atlantis Legacy, book 1
Legacy of the Lost
(originally took place immediately after the gemstone puzzle in the labyrinth)
I noticed tiny pin pricks of light appearing overhead. They’d probably been there all along, but it had taken my eyes a moment to adjust to the extreme darkness.
I stepped off the bottom stair, eyes glued to the ceiling.
The lights were stars, I realized, spotting the big dipper directly above me. I recognized a few constellations—Ursa Major, of course, with the Big Dipper making up the bear’s tail and rear end. From there, I found Draco and Ursa Minor off to the left a ways, Lynx straight ahead, and I was fairly certain Leo was just visible in the distance to my right.
There were no clues. No hints. No direction as to which way to go.
I touched the pendant, tracing my fingertip around the stone to make it turn blue and unlock my apparent psychic powers. Maybe they would give me some insight.
But nothing changed in the appearance of the reproduction of the night sky; the only thing that changed was the color of the faint glow coming from the regulator’s stone from amber to electric blue.
I pursed my lips and quirked my mouth to the side as I considered my options. “Any bright ideas?” I said, voice hushed. I’d generally been avoiding talking to the voice in my head, but now it seemed like I had little to lose by engaging her directly. “Are you there?” When she still didn’t respond, I called to her by name, “Persephone?”
In her silence, an idea began to form. Persephone—this all seemed to be about her. The doru was hers, as was the hoplon suit in my bag and the pendant hanging around my neck. There wasn’t a doubt in my mind. Her memories—hell, her whole consciousness, it seemed—had been implanted into my mind the moment I’d touched the crystal orb, which had been from the labyrinth’s antechamber, just like the other artifacts. It was almost like the labyrinth had been built for her.
Persephone, who was known in the astronomical world as one of the inspirations for the constellation of the virgin, Virgo.
Heartbeat speeding up, I turned toward Leo, and headed toward the barely visible constellation. It became clearer the closer I drew, and my walk became a jog. I didn’t slow until I was directly beneath the Leo constellation, maybe thirty-five yards from my starting point.
I turned to the right another eighty degrees or so and searched the imitation night sky for Spica, the brightest star in the Virgo constellation. I found it another twenty-five yards out, and quickly made my way there.
I stopped directly underneath Spica and planted the end of the doru on the floor. Unsure what to do next—or if I was even on the right track—I stuck out my arm and turned in a slow circle, feeling the space around me.
My fingertips brushed against stone, and I froze. My heart thudded in my chest, and my blood thrummed through my veins. Was I right? Was I close—to the end, to getting out of here, to saving my mom and Raiden?
I moved my hand up and down, forming a picture of the stone wall before me in my mind. It cut off in a right angle about two feet from the place I initially touched. Three or four feet later, it started up again.
My lips spread into a broad grin, and I stepped into the break in the wall.
With a whoosh, a torch flared to life on the wall close to where I’d first touched stone.
I spun around as another lit up a dozen feet farther down, then another, and another. The torches continued to self-ignite, one after the other, gradually illuminating a vast circular chamber. I stood in a break in the wall, and the final torch lit up in a sconce on the opposite side of the opening from the first torch.
The chamber was enormous, at least one hundred yards across, with the spiral staircase leading down from the gemstone room standing tall in the center. The ceiling was high, maybe twenty or thirty feet up. The wall was broken up by a series of open archways alternating with torches in wall sconces. There had to be at least a hundred archways, each with a unique symbol carved into the keystone.
I looked up, confirming my suspicion. I was standing in one of the archways.
I stepped out of the archway and craned my neck to get a look at the keystone. “Well, what do you know,” I murmured, recognizing the symbol carved into the surface of the stone.
It was the same as the pattern on the floor of the vault—a series of 3 nearly complete concentric circles with a single line connecting them from the very center to the bottom of the outermost circle.
Peri’s voice drifted through my mind, whispering a single word: Atlantis.
My mouth fell open as I stared up at the symbol. After everything I’d experienced the last few days—after everything I’d seen and learned—I was still capable of being completely and utterly surprised.
Atlantis was a myth. An ancient story about a fabled city that sank into the sea and was lost to time. A beloved rabbit hole of crackpots and conspiracy theorists—the same people who believed that aliens built the pyramids and that lizard people secretly ran the world and that man never landed on the moon.
The rest of us lived in reality, where ancient humans built the pyramids, there are no cleverly disguised lizard people, and on the twentieth of July in 1969, Niel Armstrong stepped out of Apollo 11 Lunar Module and onto the surface of the moon. Oh, and Atlantis wasn’t real.
But, what if…
Not about any of the other stuff, but what if Atlantis wasn’t just a myth. Or, rather, what if there was some truth to the myth. Maybe Atlantis wasn’t the fantastical place Plato described in the Timaeus and the Critias, and maybe it hadn’t sunken into the sea in a single day, but maybe—just maybe—it was a real place. Once upon a time. A long, long time ago.
Hell, if I was ready to entertain the possibility that I was actually an alien and that the voice I’d been hearing in my head wasn’t simply a product of my overactive imagination but the transplanted consciousness of an Amazon warrior named Persephone, then who was I to deny the possibility that Atlantis might actually have existed? Or, that it might even still be around today?
Frowning, I lowered my gaze from the keystone to the darkness beyond the archway. The light from the torches didn’t touch it at all, leaving the space beyond looking exactly the same as all of the other
archways. There was no hint that the Atlantis archway was the correct choice.
But I knew it was, in my gut.
Or Peri knew it was. Honestly, it was getting more and more difficult to differentiate between her thoughts and feelings and my own.
I shook my head. Whatever was happening to me didn’t matter. Well, it did matter—but not right now. Once I’d made it through the maze and ensured that both my mom and Raiden would be alright, then I could worry about what was happening to me. I could have a full-on freak-out, including hysterics and a nice, long ugly cry. But for now, I needed to focus on the task in front of me.
I took a deep breath and, squaring my shoulders, stepped into the darkness.
Once again, that strange tingling sensation touched my skin, and I realized that the darkness filling the archway was another hologram.
When I reached the other side of the archway, the tingling stopped, but the darkness remained. Though I already knew what I would find, I turned and reached my hand out back the way I’d come. My fingers touched a solid surface where there should have been none. Just like the hologram at the entrance to the labyrinth, this one only allowed passage one way.
“Should’ve grabbed a torch,” I muttered under my breath. You’d think I would’ve learned my lesson by now. Clearly, I hadn’t.
I turned away from the blocked archway and took a single step further into the relentless darkness.
Legacy of the Lost
(Picks up when Cora returns to Vatican City after escaping from the labyrinth)
Were we going back to the vault? My eyebrows drew together, and I frowned. Had the priest—and Raiden—remained there, waiting for me? Was Raiden still lying on the floor, bleeding all over the place?
I set my jaw and straightened my spine, ready to lay into the priest. I understood that he was using Raiden as leverage to get me to do what he wanted, but he didn’t have to be such a dick about it.
The guards led me past the corridor that led directly to the vault, and we retraced the path Raiden and I had taken after dropping into the passage from the trap door in the catacombs. I glanced up when we passed under the trap door—or where I thought it was, at least—but I couldn’t make it out from the rest of the ceiling.
We took another right, then ascended a stairway nearly identical to the one that had brought us down here. There was a massive wooden door at the top of the stairs, the boards reinforced by thick strips of iron, both the wood and metal enhanced with a heavy patina. The symbol of the order was inlayed into the wood at head-height in bronze, large and impossible to miss.
“Subtle,” I commented dryly.
The guards ignored me.
“Is there a secret knock?” I asked when we stopped on the landing at the top of the stairs.
The corner of one of the guards’ mouth kept twitching, and I thought he was possibly trying to hide a smile. Mentally, I dubbed him Mr. Smiley.
The other just kept on ignoring me. Him, I dubbed Mr. Seriousface. He turned to the wall on the left and flipped up the face of a false stone, revealing a ten by ten black screen. He pressed his hand to the screen, and there was a brief flash of green light as the biometric scanner processed his handprint.
After a high-pitched beep, a deep metal clang sounded from the other
side of the door, and the door opened, just a crack.
Seriousface reached for the handle, an iron ring at least eight inches in diameter, and pushed the door open a few feet. Turning partway, he reached for my arm.
I took a step back, eyes locked on his outstretched hand. I tutted, meeting his stare and raising an eyebrow. “Are you sure you want to do that?”
His tanned skin paled to an ashen gray, and he gulped. His reaction made me really damn curious about what they’d been told would happen if they touched me.
Nothing, at the moment. The regulator hanging around my neck was set to the amber setting, suppressing my psychic abilities. But they didn’t know that.
Seriousface lowered his arm and stepped to the side, gesturing for me to walk through the doorway.
I took a single step, and Smiley backed into the door, pushing it farther open. All signs of his barely suppressed amusement were gone.
The door opened to a great hall about as grand as an underground great hall could be. Two sets of columns ran the length of the hall, dividing the space into thirds. The central portion was empty, clearly meant to be used as a walkway. The space on the outer side of the columns, however, was filled with wooden bookcase and tables, some for sitting—tabletops clear and chairs tucked neatly to the edges—others covered in books and scientific equipment belonging to a whole bevy of disciplines, hard and soft alike. It was organized chaos.
In a strange way, it reminded me of a scaled-up version of the secret study hidden beneath Blackthorn Manor.
There was another grand doorway at the far end of the great hall. The huge door was angled most of the way open, affording me a length-wise view of a long, ornate wooden table surrounded by throne-like chairs. Most were empty, but two were filled. The priest sat at the far end of the table, facing me, his chair the largest, most throne-like of them all. Raiden was there, too, sitting at the priest’s right.
I exhaled in relief, tension I hadn’t realized I was holding easing out of my muscles. Raiden was fine. Better than fine—he looked good. The
priest had been bluffing about withholding medical attention, it seemed. Maybe he wasn’t as dickish as I’d originally thought.
The chair opposite Raiden was pulled out, like someone had been sitting there but had vacated their seat. A massive stone fireplace made of red marble framed the priest from behind his chair.
I inhaled deeply, then slowly blew out the breath. My clothes were still wet, but more damp than dripping. I would have to come up with a story to explain that; I didn’t want him to know the location of the labyrinth’s exit, or else he and his goons would be on top of me the second I retrieved my bag from the maze and emerged in the Tiber River.
“Thanks, boys,” I said, flashing both of my guards a tight smile. “I can take it from here.”
Another person stepped into view, and it was my turn to stop short.
My mom—Diana Blackthorn. Or, Diana Crane, according to her journal. She was right there, standing behind the chair to the left of the priest, her hands gripping the top of the ornately carved chair back. Her dark hair struck a stark contrast against her too-pale skin, and her cheeks were hollow, making her look like she hadn’t been out in the sunlight or eaten much of anything in weeks. For all I knew, she hadn’t.
For the first time to my eyes, my mom looked old.
When her eyes met mine, her lips curved into a slight smile. It was a smile of relief, but not of happiness. There was no joy lighting her eyes. If anything, I would have said she was terrified.
I continued on, slowly at first, but quickly increasing my pace to a speedy walk. The guard blocking the doorway barely had a chance to get out of my way before I was barreling past him, heading straight for my mom.
I threw my arms around her, giving her the first real hug I’d ever given her, at least that I could remember. She felt more delicate and fragile than I would have expected, her narrow shoulders bony under my arms, but I squeezed her tighter, nonetheless.
She hugged me back, her cheek pressing into my shoulder. Mine rested on the top of her head. I was taller than my mom, I realized. Another first. Our height difference had never occurred to me. In my view, she’d always been larger than life.
“Oh, thank God you’re alright,” my mom said, the words spilling out in a rush. There was a husky quality to her voice that told me she was near tears, if they hadn’t sprung free already. “I’m so sorry, Cora. I never should have gotten you involved. I wish I hadn’t sent you the—”
“No!” I gripped her upper arms and pushed her away enough that I could see her face. “No,” I repeated, shaking my head. A slight smile touched my lips, and tears stung in my eyes. “I’m glad you did what you did.” I gave her arms a squeeze. “Because of this. Because I’m finally alive.” I thought of Persephone, of her consciousness currently lying dormant in my mind. “I’m finally whole.”
I leaned in until my nose nearly touched my mom’s. “Thank you, Mom.” I laced the words with every ounce of gratitude and wonder that I felt for her.
She’d risked everything to give me life. To bring Persephone—me—back. I didn’t think she was fully aware of exactly what she’d done—who I really was—let alone what she’d set in motion. I didn’t know much more than she did, yet, but I could sense that it was huge. Not just life changing for her and for me, but for everyone. Whatever Hades was protecting in his labyrinth would change the world, I had no doubt about that.
My mom stared at me for a long moment, her eyes searching mine. Some of the fire had returned to her stare. She was trying to figure out what I’d found in the labyrinth. What I’d learned.
“I’m just glad you’re alright,” she said, the uncertainty darkening her eyes alerting me to her true meaning. Are you sure you can handle this?
I flashed her a grin. She had no idea.
The priest cleared his throat, and my mom tensed up.
She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, then turned her head to glare at the priest over her shoulder. “Patience is better than pride, Henry,” she said, voice low and words sharp. Clearly, there was no love lost between these two.
I glanced at the priest. So he had a name.
His lips curved into a wooden smile. “It pleases my soul to hear you quoting The Word, Diana,” he said, his tone dripping with sarcasm. “Perhaps there’s some hope for you, yet.”
My mom sniffed and shook her head. Her eyes met mine, once more,
just for a moment. “Be careful,” she mouthed, then stepped away.
“I left my bag in the labyrinth,” I told him. “Part of it was flooded,” I added, figuring the less detail I provided, the harder it would be to pick up on the lie. “I’ll go back in and get my bag—and your precious prize—but you have to let them come with me,” I said, glancing first at my mom, then at Raiden.
The priest stared at me for a long moment, expression blank. Finally, he flashed me that same, wooden smile he’d used on my mom. There one second, gone the next. “Tell me, Cora—where does the maze end?” He blinked, slow and deliberate. “I’ll have the guard wait for you with a car.”
I held my breath, surprised he’d agreed so easily.
“I’m sure you’ll be eager to return.” He glanced at my mom, then at Raiden, just as I had done, before returning his pointed stare to me. His lips curved into a faint, taunting smile. “For them.”
I exhaled a laugh. Of course he wouldn’t make it that easy. I licked my lips and narrowed my eyes. “I’m not going back in there without them,” I said, enunciating each word clearly.
The priest studied me for a long, tense moment.
“Do you want Hades’ prize, or not?” I asked, steel in my voice.
The priest’s eyes widened, just a little. “Why don’t we make a compromise,” the priest finally said. “You may take one person with you into the labyrinth. Your choice.” The corner of his mouth quirked, hinting at that taunting smile again. “Obviously I must hold onto the other…to ensure you return.”
I gulped. I looked at Raiden, standing across the table from me, back straight as a rail and face taut with pain. Then I looked at my mom, weak and weary, but uninjured. At the moment, she was the healthier of the two. Plus, she was my mom. She was the whole reason I existed. I couldn’t turn my back on her.
Eyes locked with mine, my mom shifted her chin an inch to the right, then back.
My eyes widened, and my lips parted. She wanted me to pick Raiden, not her. My brows drew together, and I shook my head.
She reached for me, hesitating only for a moment before curling her fingers around my arm. A small, sad smile touched her lips, and she
nodded, the motion slow, the gesture filled with resolve.
I looked at the priest, each heartbeat resonating throughout my entire body. “Deal,” I said, voice hollow. “My mom will stay behind.” I gritted my teeth. “With you.”
I stood before the hologram blocking the arched entrance to the labyrinth, Raiden by my side. I had no idea what to do next. I would retrieve my bag, hand over the artifacts, including the cube from the final chamber, free my mom, and then what?
“Cora,” my mom said.
I turned around to face her. She stood a couple yards back, beside to the priest.
My mom took a step forward.
The priest grabbed her arm. “Diana…”
She glared at him. “I don’t think it’s too much to ask to give my daughter a hug and wish her luck,” she said, voice sharp. “What if she doesn’t make it through again?”
“She had better,” the priest said. After a moment, he released my mom’s arm. “Make it quick.”
My mom closed the distance between us in three rushed steps. “Be careful, Cora,” she said, gripping my upper arms. “You can do this.”
I nodded. “Don’t worry, Mom,” I said. “I’ll come back for you. I promise.”
My mom pulled me in close, arms wrapping around me in a tight embrace. She rested her chin on my shoulder, bringing her lips mere inches from my ear. Her next, whispered word would change the fate of the world.