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Caraval: Part 7: Chapter 37

He no longer wore a top hat, and he’d traded his dark tailcoat for a crisp white frock coat, but his eyes still sparked with the same mad gleam, as if there was something unhinged behind them, and he didn’t care about hiding it.

“Scar,” Tella hissed. Acting weird again, she mouthed.

“No, I know him,” Scarlett insisted. “That’s Legend.”

“Scarlett, please stop acting crazy,” Tella said. “Daniel’s been with me, all night, every night of the game. It’s not possible for him to be Legend.”

“It’s true.” Legend hooked his arm around Tella’s shoulder; she looked childlike under his heavy grip as he possessively pulled her short frame closer.

“Get your hands off her!” Scarlett launched herself at Legend.

“Scar! Stop!” Tella grabbed Scarlett’s hair, yanking her away before she managed more than a scratch.

“Daniel, I’m so sorry,” Tella said. “I don’t know what’s gotten into her. Scarlett, end this madness!”

“He lied to you!” Scarlett’s scalp burned as she struggled with Tella. “He’s a murderer.”

Though Legend didn’t look like a killer just then. Dressed in white, and without his mad smile, he looked as innocent as a saint. “Maybe we should tie her up before she hurts herself.”

“No!” Scarlett shouted.

A flash of unease crossed Tella’s face.

“Love, she’s wild, she’s going to hurt one of us.” Legend’s brows drew together as if he were truly worried. “Remember the warnings about people who get swept too far away? I’ll hold her while you fetch rope. There should be some in a dressing trunk for episodes like this.”

“Tella, please, don’t listen to him,” Scarlett pled.

“Love,” coaxed Legend, his voice dripping deceptive concern. “It’s for her own safety.”

Tella’s eyes darted from Legend, in all his pristine glory, to Scarlett, with her knotted hair and tear-stained cheeks. “I’m sorry,” Tella said. “I don’t want you to get hurt.”

“No!” Scarlett thrashed again, ripping the sleeve of her dress and spilling beads on the floor, as Legend took her from her sister. Hands as strong as iron manacles twisted her wrists behind her back, while Tella disappeared behind her dressing curtain.

“See how willing she is to do whatever I suggest?” Legend purred into her ear.

“Please,” Scarlett begged, “leave her alone. I’ll do whatever you say if you let her go. You want me to jump off the balcony, I will. Just don’t hurt her!”

In one sharp motion, Legend spun Scarlett around. Pale skin and harsh cheekbones, and eyes full of unveiled madness. “You would jump for her, to your death?” He released Scarlett with a shove. “Then do it. Now.”

“You want me to jump right now?”

“Not right now.” His lips twitched at the corners, the demented imitation of a smile. “I wouldn’t have invited you to her funeral if I planned on you dying tonight. Just walk to the edge of the balcony, as close as you can get without falling over.”

Scarlett couldn’t think clearly. She wondered if this was how Tella felt around Legend. Befuddled and bewildered. “If I do this, you promise you won’t hurt my sister?”

“You have my word.” Legend X-ed a pale finger over his heart. “If you walk to the rim of the balcony, I swear, on my amazing life, I will not touch your sister again.”

“And promise me you won’t let anyone else?”

Legend raked Scarlett over with his eyes, from the ripped sleeve of her dress to her naked feet. “You’re not really in a position to make deals.”

“Then why are you making a deal with me?”

“I want to see how far you’re willing to go.” His tone turned syrupy with curiosity, but the look he gave her was pure challenge. “If you’re not willing to do this, you’ll never be able to save her.”

To Scarlett it sounded as if he said, If you’re not able to do this, you dont love her enough.

Purposefully, Scarlett started toward the edge of the balcony. Night air swept around her ankles as she drew closer, and even though Scarlett had never feared heights, she felt dizzy as she dared to look down at the specks of light and dots of people, and the solid ground that would show no mercy if she—

“Stop!” Legend yelled.

Scarlett froze, but Legend continued to shout, filling his voice with artificial terror, making it crack in all the right places. “Donatella, hurry, your sister is trying to jump.”

“No!” Scarlett hollered. “I’m not—”

A warning look from Legend cut her off. “Say another word, and you have no guarantees from me.”

But a promise from him meant nothing. She’d been a fool to believe anything he’d said. He’d driven her to the edge to push her further from Tella, who looked stricken when she reappeared with the rope.

“Scarlett, please, don’t jump!” Tella’s face was red and splotchy.

“I wasn’t going to jump,” Scarlett insisted.

“I’m so sorry—she convinced me to let her go,” Legend said. “Then she said if she jumped she’d wake up from the game.”

“Daniel, it’s not your fault,” Tella said. “Scar, please, step away from the ledge.”

“He’s lying!” Scarlett yelled. “He’s the one who made me go to the edge—he said if I did, he wouldn’t hurt you.” Scarlett realized too late this only made her sound more insane. “Tella, please, you know me; you know I wouldn’t do something like that.”

Tella sucked on her lower lip, looking torn once more, as if deep down Tella believed her sister wasn’t suicidal.

“I love you, Scar, but I know this game does strange things to people.” Tella handed her coil of rope to Legend. He lowered his head dramatically, as if this pained him, too.

“No!” Scarlett wanted to back away, but the edge of the balcony was behind her. The cruel night hungering to swallow her up if she fell.

She shot forward instead, trying to outrun Legend, but he moved like a viper. One hand wrapped around her wrists. He used the other to shove her into a chair.

“Let me go!” Scarlett tried to kick, but Tella was there as well, working to bind Scarlett’s flailing ankles, while Legend secured her arms and chest to the chair. Scarlett could feel Legend’s breath against her neck, hot as he whispered too low for Tella to hear, “Wait until you see what I do next.”

“I will kill you!” Scarlett screamed.

“Maybe we should get her a sedative?” asked Tella.

“No, I think this should hold her long enough.” Legend tugged on the rope a final time, slicing through Scarlett’s breathing.

A hidden door in the back opened, and Legend’s maniacal smile returned as Scarlett’s father, along with Count Nicolas d’Arcy, walked through. The governor strode forward purposefully, head high, shoulders straight, as if he were an honored guest. The count appeared interested in only one person—Scarlett.

“Tella!” Scarlett’s panic escalated.

For the first time there was a flicker of fear in Tella’s face as well. “What are they doing here?”

“I invited them.” Legend waved an arm magnanimously toward Scarlett, who continued struggling against the rope, while the two men stepped closer.

“All tied up and ready to go, as promised,” said Legend.

“Daniel, what are you doing?” Tella whispered.

“You really should have listened to your sister.” Legend stepped to the side as Governor Dragna and Count Nicolas d’Arcy closed in on Scarlett.

The count had cleaned up since she’d seen him last. His black hair was combed, and he’d changed into a fresh garnet-red tailcoat. He peered down at Scarlett and shook his head as if to say, I told you so.

“Can I keep the rope?” the governor asked, his eyes full of retribution.

“Daniel, tell them to stay away from us!” Tella cried.

“Oh, Donatella,” Legend said. “Stupid and stubborn until the end. There is no Daniel DeEngl. Though it was enjoyable pretending.” Legend laughed perversely. The same awful sound Scarlett had first heard in the tunnels.

Splinters dug into Scarlett’s arms while she battled to free herself from the ropes.

Tella didn’t say another word, but Scarlett could see her sister crumbling. Growing smaller and younger and turning suddenly fragile as she continued to stare up at Legend the way Scarlett imagined she’d gazed at Julian when she’d first learned the truth about how he’d deceived her. Believing but not accepting. Waiting for an explanation that Scarlett knew would never come.

Even Governor Dragna looked stunned by Legend’s confessed identity. However, the count did not look entirely surprised. He merely cocked his head.

“I don’t believe you,” Tella said.

“Would you like me to perform a magic trick to prove I’m really him?”

“That’s not what I don’t believe. You said you loved me,” Tella said. “All those things you told me—”

“I lied,” Legend answered flatly. And there was something about the flatness. As if Tella didn’t even matter enough to hate.

“But … but …“Tella sputtered, the spell Legend cast upon her finally breaking. If she were made of porcelain—as Scarlett often thought—Tella would have shattered. But she just kept stepping back. Closer and closer to that dangerous edge of the balcony.

“Tella, stop!” Scarlett yelled. “You’re almost at the rim.”

“I’m not stopping until you step away from her.” Tella shot a pointed look at her father and the count. “If either of you take another step toward my sister, I swear I’ll jump. And, Father, you know if you don’t have me, you’ll never be able to control Scarlett. Even if you have her, you won’t make this marriage happen.”

The governor and the count stopped moving, but Tella continued backing up, silver slippers sliding all the way to the edge of the balcony.

“Tella, stop!” Scarlett fought to free herself from the rope, beads breaking off her dress as she thrashed against the chair. This couldn’t be happening. Not after watching Julian die. She couldn’t lose Tella like this. “You’re getting too close to the edge!”

“It’s a little late for that.” Tella laughed, a brittle sound, as breakable as she looked. Scarlett wanted to run to her, to grab hold of her where she tottered on the balcony’s rim. But the rope wasn’t loose enough yet. Her ankles had managed to kick free, but her arms were still bound. Only the stars watched in sympathy as she rocked back and forth, hoping that if she knocked over the chair she’d smash one of its arms and finally break loose.

“Donatella, it’s all right,” her father said, almost tenderly. “You can still come home with me. I’ll forgive you. Both you and your sister.”

“You expect me to believe that?!” Tella exploded. “You’re a liar, and worse than he is!” She pointed a shaky finger at Legend. “All of you are liars!”

“Tella, I’m not.” With a crash Scarlett’s chair hit the floor, one of its arms splintering, so that she could finally crawl out of the ropes and start for the ledge.

“Stay back, Scar!” Tella moved one foot so her heel was over the rim.

Scarlett froze.

“Tella, please—” Scarlett took another tentative step, but when Tella wobbled, she froze again, terrified one false move would push her sister over the very edge she so badly wanted to rescue her from.

“Please, trust me.” Scarlett held out a hand. No longer stained in blood, she hoped she could save Tella in the way she hadn’t been able to save Julian in the tunnels. “I will find a way to take care of you. I love you so much.”

“Oh, Scar,” Tella said. Tears streamed down her pink cheeks. “I love you, too. And I wish I was strong like you. Strong enough to hope it could be better, but I can’t do this anymore.” Tella’s hazel eyes met Scarlett’s, as sad as fresh-cut wood. Then she closed them, as if Tella couldn’t bear to look at her. “I meant it when I said I’d rather die at the edge of the world than live a miserable life on Trisda. I’m so sorry.”

With trembling fingers, Tella blew her sister a kiss.


Tella stepped off the edge of the balcony.

No!” Scarlett wailed, watching as her sister plummeted into the night.

With no wings to fly her down, she fell to her death.


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