Diana stared down at her, her green eyes tired, but there was a new anger that flickered behind them. But Gemma refused to look away or let go of her, not until she got an answer.
“One of the other girls, Aglaope, she came sniffing around. It must’ve been … five years back,” Diana said finally, apparently seeing that Gemma wouldn’t leave without something. “She never found me, but she got close enough when I heard that she’d been looking.
“I’d always liked her,” she went on. “She was kind and loving, but in order for Thea to be punished, Aglaope had to be punished even worse. It pained me to hurt her like that, but her anguish was a means to an end, and oh, how she’d anguished under Penn’s cruel rule for thousands of years.
“But when she came looking for me, looking for a way out, I ignored her. I liked her, pitied her, and she’d been tortured plenty, but her cries went unheeded. And if I wouldn’t help her, what makes you think I would help someone as insignificant as you?”
All Gemma could think about was getting out to the water. Their flight home had been delayed for hours. It was well after five in the morning by the time they got home, and she had barely made it. Her migraine had gotten so bad, she’d thrown up twice on the way back.
When they got back to Capri, instead of taking them home, she had Marcy drop her off at the bay. If she didn’t get into the water soon, Gemma was certain she would die. She felt even worse than when she’d been at Sawyer’s beach house and refused to eat, and her hair was falling out in clumps.
Fortunately, it was still dark out, but the sky was beginning to lighten. To be safe, she steered clear of the beaches, which would be filling up with tourists much too soon. Instead, she went down to the rocky shore along the cypress trees, where the bay began to curve toward the cove.
The jagged edges of the rocks jabbed through the thin bottoms of her flip-flops, but Gemma barely noticed. The watersong blotted out everything else. Stripping off her shorts, panties, and shirt, she stepped out into the water wearing only her bra.
As soon as the saltwater hit her skin, splashing over her feet and ankles as she waded out into the depths of the bay, sweet relief rushed over her. The pain that had been so agonizing drifted away as her skin began to flutter, her flesh shifting into the smooth, iridescent scales of a fish.
She dove out into the waves, swimming as fast as she could, pushing herself away from the land and deeper into the water, which had finally, mercifully, stopped calling for her.
It was then, with her body feeling fresh and rejuvenated and without the song clogging up her thoughts, that Gemma was able to feel the full ramifications of her visit with Diana and how truly defeated she was.
All the way back from Charleston, as a barely conscious Gemma had struggled not to throw up or sob, she’d heard Harper rambling on excitedly about all the things this could mean. They could kill Penn, and that would set Gemma free.
Or they could figure out what to do with the ink. Harper was certain there must be a way to erase it or something, even though both she and Gemma had tried exposing it to every liquid imaginable without any success. Even through her sick haze, Gemma suspected that Harper was fooling herself. But her sister seemed so excited and happy, Gemma couldn’t bear to take it away.
While Gemma had been curled up on the hard chairs of the airport, Lydia had been sitting next to her, typing on her tablet. Harper and Marcy had gone to get something to eat, but Gemma felt too nauseated to eat anything.
“Dammit,” Lydia muttered. “I think she was lying.”
Gemma turned a bit so she could look up at her. “Who was lying?”
“What do you mean?” Gemma pushed herself up so she was sitting even though that made the room spin and tip to the side.
“I’ve been messaging my friend, Kipling Pine. He’s the professor at Sundham that Harper talked to about the scroll,” Lydia explained. “He’s visiting a friend of his who’s a linguistics expert, and he’s superknowledgeable about dead languages.”
“And that means Diana is lying?” Gemma asked.
“Okay, before I tell you that, I need to explain how we translate the scroll.” Lydia turned in her seat to face her fully. “We think it’s ancient Cypriot, but it seems to be a more informal type and takes some liberties, and we need to try to translate that back into English, and that’s if we can even get it into Cypriot in the first place.”
“You already told me some of this when I showed you the scroll the first time,” Gemma reminded her.
“I know, but I really need to reiterate.” Her large eyes were gravely serious. “Even with me, Pine, and this other expert working on it, we will never have a one-hundred-percent-concrete translation. I mean, scholars still debate some of the translations in the Bible, and they’ve been working on that for hundreds of years.”
“But you guys have translated some of the scroll, right?” Gemma asked. “That’s what this is about.”
“They’ve come up with a partial cryptographic key—which is basically saying what symbol means what letter, and with that, they’re kind of guessing and going on intuition and their knowledge of Greek words to fill in the blanks. Pine’s finished a passage, and he just sent it to me, and…” Lydia sighed and looked back down at her tablet. “I’ll just read it to you.”
“It starts with, ‘Four of them there must always be.’ And then, we think the next four words are names, but the translation is a bit rough. So what we think it says is, ‘Peisinoe, Thelxiepia, Aglaope, and Ligea/Begin the curse but do not need to be at the end/One can replace one by any mortal who is…’”
Lydia frowned and shook her head before continuing. “Pine’s saying ‘granted’ here, but I’m not sure if that’s right. But ‘cursed’ doesn’t seem to fit either. But it ends with something about having ‘the power of the siren.’”
“Let me see it.” Gemma leaned over the tablet, and she had to squint to read, since her vision had blurred so badly.
Four of them there must always be
Peisinoe, Thelxiepia, Aglaope, and Ligea
Begin the curse but do not need to be at the end
One can replace one by any mortal
Granted with the power of the siren
Gemma read it three times, but the watersong blocked out rational thought, and she couldn’t seem to process it.