Deviant Descendants (Descendants Academy #2) - Belle Malory

Prologue

“As promised, fifty golden wots.”

Madam Elga, the Inky Snake’s barkeep, greedily tightened her gnarled fingers around the change purse. She loosened the drawstring to count the coins inside, her weathered skin and yellowed eyes brightening.

To Petra, it was only money. A small price to pay considering what she was about to receive in return.

She lowered the hood of her velvet robe and inspected the portal in the upstairs mirror. Unlike others she’d seen, this one swirled in a cloud of blue mist and gave off sparks of electric magic.

“Anyone can pass through?”

Elga only had one front tooth, which she used to chew the edge of a coin. “Aye,” she replied in a throaty voice. “Many a hollowed prisoner ’as slipped through unscathed.”

“Even those bound by oath?”

“If you don’t believe me,” Elga gestured for Petra to step forward, “find out for yourself.”

This could be it—her way out. At least, she hoped so. She remained optimistically cautious. Over the years, she had searched high and low for an escape, constantly met with disappointment.

This time felt different.

Possible.

A portal that allowed travelers to pass through no matter what magic was attached to them. A portal that could transport her out of the Underworld. A portal that could change her fate…Petra wasn’t one to show emotion, but she swallowed as she stepped toward the looming portal, trying to keep her legs steady.

“Stop there.”

The familiar voice brought all the loudness of a train screeching to a halt. Gods—not her!—and at a moment like this, too. She groaned at the irony.

“As always, sister, your timing is impeccable.” She spoke the words through clenched teeth, addressing Selena without bothering to turn around.

“Petra, do not step one foot into that portal.”

She considered leaping for it, just to avoid this conversation. But the seriousness of Selena’s tone made her curious. “Humor me. Why shouldn’t I?”

“Because you’re bound to this world by oath. The moment you go inside it, the portal will electrocute you and spit you out beneath the River Styx.”

No.

Petra clenched her hands into fists.

She slowly circled around, noticing how squirmish Elga had become. Well, well. She couldn’t say she was surprised by the barkeep’s deception. Only disappointed. She hoped this was the real deal.

“I’ve a mind to turn you into a toad, madam.” She snatched the change purse out of Elga’s hands. “A slimy, wart-covered toad I can squash under the heel of my boot.”

Elga stepped back, visibly trembling. “I-I had no idea. I swear!”

Every wretched soul in the Underworld knew better than to risk her wrath. The stuttering barkeep obviously didn’t plan on Petra surviving, which meant nothing for her to worry about.

She definitely had something to worry about now.

Sensing what was coming, Selena stepped between the pair of them. To Elga, she said, “Go now. Fetch us some wine. We’ll find a table downstairs.”

Elga’s bulbous eyes rounded on Selena as if she were her savior, nodding gratefully as she scurried toward the stairs. Petra’s nose twitched. Oh, Selena. Always the white swan to her black one. Ever the angel of hell, prancing around sprinkling glitter over blood and sin as if it might make this shithole prettier. Some things never changed.

“Somnum mortis.”

Elga fell flat on her face, her body a sack of deadweight against the wooden floor.

Selena’s shoulder’s slumped. She let out a small, wistful sigh. “Was that necessary?”

“Of course, it was.”

Petra’s lips curved up on one side. The barkeep wasn’t dead, only in a temporary sleep paralysis, but Selena didn’t have to know that. And Petra didn’t tell her either. She was enjoying her sister’s look of horror too much. More importantly, she refused to let anyone think she didn’t have a backbone. She had a tarnished reputation, after all, and she wanted to keep it that way.

Lifting the skirt of her robe to step over Elga, Petra squared her shoulders and left the room, heading back down the twisty wooden staircase. “Come along, sister,” she called over her shoulder. “We are perfectly capable of fetching our own wine.”

“Honestly.” Selena followed her down the creaky steps, her voice full of regret. “That was harsh.”

“She deserved worse.” Like the actual death Selena believed she had gotten.

The hum of voices picked up as they rounded the corner. Dozens of patrons were visiting the main hall at this late hour—the worst sort, too. Goblins, dark mages, and other awful creatures filled the tables, mugs of frothy ale in their hands.

Without hesitating, Petra went back behind the bar and dug through Elga’s shelves until she found the most expensive, unopened

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