Stargazer Page 37

I stumbled a little on the slick floor and started to apologize—but then I slipped again. When I grabbed Balthazar’s shoulders to steady myself, he frowned, and I realized that he too was having difficulty remaining upright. We both looked down to see that we stood on ice.

All around the room, people began to murmur and shout in dismay as the ice thickened, crackling from a paper-thin sheet into a thick, uneven, blue-white surface. A couple of people fell, and one girl shrieked. I caught sight of a bundle of white flowers tied with ribbons on the wall; each petal was sparkling with frost, rigid, frozen solid.

Balthazar muttered, “Is this—”


The cold, shivery wind I remembered swept through the great hall, and some of the candles flickered out. The orchestra broke off playing, instrument by instrument, moving from melody to cacophony to silence.

Some of the chaperones had begun pulling people toward the doors, but as scared as everyone was, nobody wanted to look away. Bluish ice covered the walls and frosted every single window; icicles as thick as stalactites hung from the ceiling rafters and descended lower every second. They were two feet long, five feet long, then ten, and thicker around than I was—all within moments. I could feel flecks of cold against my skin, but it wasn’t soft and snowy the way they’d been before. Instead, they were needle pricks like sleet.

“What did we do?” I clung to Balthazar’s jacket. “Did we wake up a wraith?”

“Wraith?” Courtney had apparently overheard the last word we wanted anybody to overhear. “This is a wraith?” People started to panic. Everyone rushed at once for the exits, but people were skidding on the ice, yelling and shouting, falling over one another, and creating a mob. Balthazar grabbed me around the waist and slung his other arm over my head to protect me from the fray. The cold breeze whipped through the room, extinguishing the rest of the candles.

Every second, it became darker; every second, I became more afraid.

They’ll know what to do, I thought, though now I was trembling all over. Surely Mrs. Bethany or my parents or somebody knows how to handle this because, oh my God, somebody needs to handle this and make this stop—

In the frost across the one plain window of the great hall, a few lines suddenly melted clear, and those lines formed a scrawled word: OURS.

Then the ice cracked everywhere: walls, ceiling, floor. As we staggered sideways, thrown off balance by the jolt beneath our feet, I heard a terrible groaning above. I looked up and saw the stalactites tremble—

and then they fell, ten-foot-long knives of ice stabbing downward toward all of us.

Everyone screamed. Balthazar threw me to the floor and covered my body with his own. As I gasped from the shock of the cold against my skin and Balthazar’s solid weight, I saw one of the stalactites slam down only a foot away. Shards of ice flew in every direction, jabbing into my arms; I heard Balthazar swear and realized he’d felt the impact more than I. The heavy ice toppled next to us, missing crushing Balthazar by only inches.

Then the window shattered, glass tumbling to the floor with a final high-pitched crash.

As soon as it had begun, it was over. All around us, I heard crying and a few scattered screams. Balthazar rolled off me, holding his back and grimacing, and I looked at the ruined scene. Everything was drenched, decorations had been knocked to the floor, and satin shoes and enormous chunks of quickly melting ice lay all around.

“Balthazar, are you okay?”

“Fine.” He would have been more convincing if he hadn’t remained sprawled on the floor. “You?”

“Yeah.” For the first time, it really hit me that I could have died; Balthazar might have saved my life. “Thank you for—”

“It’s okay.”

I stared at the window where the one ghostly word had already almost vanished. What was it that the ghosts were laying claim to? The records room? The north tower?

Or Evernight Academy itself?

Chapter Thirteen

“YOU WOULD SAY THE EVENTS OF LAST NIGHT WERE similar to what you experienced before?” Mrs. Bethany took notes at her desk without ever looking down at what she was writing. Instead her clear eyes remained fixed on me.

“What I saw in the records room wasn’t as scary.” I realized that my comment wasn’t exactly helpful when Mrs. Bethany frowned. “It was cold, and there was an image in the frost—a man’s face, not words. And he spoke to me. He said, ‘Stop.’”

“Stop?” My father stood on one side of my chair; on the other, my mother sat next to me. They’d walked me over here for the conference and seemed even more freaked out by the apparition at the ball than I was, which was saying a lot. Dad gripped the arm of the chair so tightly I could see the tensed muscles in his hand. “What does that mean,


“I don’t know,” I said. “Honestly, I have no idea.” Mrs. Bethany lifted her pen to her lips, considering. “It wasn’t as if you were doing anything much up there. Only waiting for Mr. More.

That’s correct, isn’t it?”

I’d need to tell more of the truth now; obviously, other people’s safety depended on it. “I was reading some letters while I was up there.”

“Letters?” Mrs. Bethany’s eyes narrowed.

“Just to pass the time.” Was that convincing? I’d have to hope so.

“And—Balthazar and I went back up there tonight.” Fortunately, nobody asked why I’d done that. I guess they thought it was obvious; that, or they weren’t thinking straight. My parents were even more on edge about this than I would’ve anticipated. “What letters, honey?” Mom put a hand on my shoulder. “Tell us every detail. Everything you remember. It might all be important.”

“There’s not a lot to remember! I mean, I looked at some letters.

None of them stood out. I don’t see why that would make the wraiths angry.”

Through gritted teeth, Dad said, “The question here is what set them off. We have to figure that out, and the sooner the better.”

“Forgive me, Adrian, but that is not the question.” Mrs. Bethany lay down her pen. “The question is how we rid ourselves of this wraith.

There are, as you know, constructive ways of dealing with this problem.”

My mother’s grip tightened on my arm. Her hand shook. I shot her a curious glance, but her expression remained unreadable.

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