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Chapter no 48 – Evangeline

A Curse for True Love

Evangeline continued to struggle against the shackles binding her wrists. All she needed was one drop of blood. She had to save herself and Jacks— if she didn’t make it out of this, she didn’t want to think about what would happen to him.

This couldn’t be how their story ended.

Evangeline knew that Jacks had told her heroes didn’t get happy endings. But that didn’t mean they were supposed to give them to the villains.

Apollo looked as if he could barely stand after Jacks’s beating. The prince’s nose was broken and bleeding. One of his eyes was swollen shut. But he still managed to hold his sword high above his head.

The blade glinted in the moonlight.

The ground pulsed faster. Tiny pebbles bounced from the ground and hit Evangeline’s cheeks as the tree’s disturbing heartbeat pounded harder than before. Thumpthumpthump.

She held her breath. If Apollo stabbed her and didn’t kill her, she could use the blood to finally get free of the cuffs.

“Little Fox!” Jacks lashed his arms against his captors as he screamed and cursed everyone in the cavern. “Little Fox, I’m sorry.” His tortured voice echoed toward the sky.

The broken sound of it would have made Evangeline cry if she wasn’t already. She wanted to tell him not to be sorry, she wanted to tell him again that it would be all right—but just in case it wasn’t, she called, “I love you!” “Shut up,” Apollo screamed and then swung his sword. The blade

whooshed through the air.

But he didn’t cut her. Apollo sliced through one of the crimson branches of the tree. Blood gushed from the wood.

Evangeline had never seen anything quite so ghastly. She half expected the tree to cry out, but if anything, it seemed to come alive even more as the blood poured forth. Its trunk grew redder, as if its skin was flushed, and stretched wider, as if it was ready for something.

“Farewell, my love,” Apollo said. And then he brought his mouth to the bleeding branch.

It was awful to watch. The blood stained Apollo’s lips and his chin as he drank and drank. He choked a little and sputtered, but then he finished with a scarlet smile made of red teeth and bloody lips.

Other than that, he was perfect.

He should have looked awful. But he had changed. Apollo was glowing the way that Jacks did sometimes. His nose was no longer broken. His eyes were no longer swollen. Apollo’s gaze was golden, as brilliant as the stars above.

“I feel like a god,” he said with a laugh.

The ground pulsed faster and harder. The force of it shook Evangeline.

Dirt clung to her cheeks as she rolled several feet away from the tree.

When she looked up again, Apollo stumbled. He righted himself quickly, but then he stumbled again as he tried to walk away from the tree. Evangeline watched his glowing skin go gray and his handsome face contort as he attempted to take another step.

“What’s happening?” Apollo grimaced in pain and looked at Wolfric accusingly.

“I warned you,” Wolfric said. “I told you before, if you valued your life, you would forget all about this tree.”

Apollo suddenly dropped to his knees and clutched the ground with one hand as if trying to find purchase. “You told me it would take the life of the person I love the most.”

“It is,” Wolfric replied. “It’s taking you.”

The ground thumped harder. More rocks and dirt sprayed into the air as long fingerlike roots sprung up from the ground and reached for the prince.

“Stop!” Apollo screamed. Branches from the tree dropped down like bars on a cage.

“No! This is wrong—you’re not supposed to take me.”

Evangeline watched him slash wildly with his sword. Tears ran down Apollo’s cheeks as he swung again and a branch caught his weapon in its bark. The tree immediately flung the sword away. It landed with a clang next to Evangeline.

The faces trapped in tree’s trunk twisted. Their lips curled. Their eyes widened as the tree’s branches closed tighter around Apollo and started dragging him toward the trunk.

Apollo’s hands clawed at the bark as he screamed, “You’re supposed to take her, not me!”

Evangeline had never witnessed anything so awful. She watched the trunk split open like a mouth, ready to consume the prince.

Apollo made a terrified sound somewhere between a child’s wail and an animal’s cry.

Evangeline closed her eyes, but she couldn’t stop the screams. “No!” Apollo yelled. “Please, don’t—”

His last words broke off. Silence.

Everywhere.

Perfect quiet filled the cavern the same way Apollo’s screams had. There were no screeches.

No cries.

No stretching branches. No thumping heartbeats.

Cautiously, Evangeline opened her eyes. The Tree of Souls was exactly as it had been before. Only now there was a new horrified face trapped inside the trunk.

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