Casteel’s fingers continued moving along the back of my neck, working out the knots in the tight muscles there. “What I don’t understand, though, is how anyone would get soil from Iliseeum. How would they know where it was located and how to get there?” Casteel stated. “Especially when only those with godly blood can travel between the realms.”
“That’s not exactly true,” Jasper said.
Casteel’s and Kieran’s heads jerked in his direction. “Come again?” his son said.
“Iliseeum doesn’t exist in a realm that only the gods can enter,” he said, setting his empty glass on the table by the doors. “And a few do know where Iliseeum is.” He looked at the Prince. “What do you think exists beyond the Mountains of Nyktos?”
Casteel’s hand stilled on my neck. “There’s nothing but mountains and land unsuitable for building or supporting life.”
“For thousands of years, that was repeated over and over until it simply became something known and never questioned. But it was a lie to sway those who were too curious,” Jasper responded. “Iliseeum lies beyond the Mountains of Nyktos.”
Casteel’s hand slipped from my neck as shock rippled through him. For a moment, I thought he might drop his glass of whiskey. “Are you for real?”
Kieran closed the thick book. “He can’t be.”
“It’s true,” Jasper confirmed.
The room was thick with tangy confusion. “How is it possible that no one figured that out?” I asked. “That no one attempted to cross the mountain or take to the sea in a ship?”
“More than just words have hidden Iliseeum’s location.” Jasper tilted forward, resting his arms on his bent knees. “Iliseeum is well-protected by land and sea.”
“The eather—like the mist in the Skotos Mountains?” I guessed.
Jasper nodded. “As both my son and Cas know, the sea is too rough to travel on once any ship nears Iliseeum’s coast.”
“It’s not just rough waters.” Casteel’s hand returned to the base of my neck. His fingers moved in a slow, steady slide as he said, “Sea stacks around the coast can tear a ship apart in minutes if one gets close enough to even see through the mist that obscures the coastline. Just like the mist from the Skotos protects the shores of Atlantia from both the Stroud Sea and Seas of Saion.”
“We tried once—Casteel and I—when we were younger. We tried to take a ship as close to the coast as we could, to see if any part of the land was habitable,” Kieran said. “We damn near drowned in the process.”
“That’s because you’re both idiots,” Jasper replied, and I blinked.
Casteel took a healthy drink of his whiskey. “Can’t really argue with that.”
“Wait.” I frowned. “The Stroud Sea reaches the coasts of Atlantia? I thought the Skotos mountain range extended into the water and—”
“Traveled to the ends of the realm?” Casteel finished for me. “No. That’s why the mist is so thick. It makes it appear as if the mountains are hidden behind it, but that’s only so no one attempts to travel through it.”
I gave a little shake of my head and refocused. “What about traveling through the mountains?”
“The Mountains of Nyktos are impossible to cross by Atlantian or mortal. The mist there? That kind of magic is deadly.” Jasper’s wintry gaze flicked between his son and the Prince before returning to me. “You would possibly be the only one who could cross the mountains.”
Casteel glanced down at me, and his lips twisted in a faint smile. “You are just special.”
I ignored that. “So, it causes hallucinations like the mist in the Skotos?”
“No.” Jasper laughed, shaking his head. “The magic in these mountains suffocates anyone who it doesn’t recognize as a god.”
My mouth dropped open. “Oh. Okay. That’s a lot.” I twisted the sash of the robe around my hand. “But I’m a descendant of a god. I’m not a god. Those two things are vastly different.”
Jasper raised his brows. “I don’t think we know exactly what you are, and that is a hill I am willing to crash and burn on.”
I closed my mouth because he was right.
“Then how did anyone cross over to Iliseeum to obtain the soil?” Kieran veered us back on track.
“A few know how to bypass the mountains.” Jasper leaned back, resting an ankle on a knee.
We all waited for him to continue.
I stared at him. “You going to tell us how?”
Jasper eyed each of us for a long moment before settling on Casteel. “Your father and your mother have killed to keep Iliseeum’s location hidden.” His voice was as quiet and cold as falling snow. “So have I.”
Casteel’s head cocked slightly to the side as his hand stilled along the back of my neck. “And I’m inclined to kill to discover the truth.”
A chill swept down my back as Jasper grinned at the Prince, either unbothered by the threat or not aware of what that too-flat tone signaled. Bloody things usually followed his usage of that tone. “I don’t think there needs to be any sort of killing,” I ventured.
“That’s rich coming from you,” Kieran commented.
My head snapped in his direction. “I’m trying to deescalate the situation.”
“What’s rich is that you’ve all killed to keep the Lands of the Gods secret,” Casteel said. “And yet, the Unseen obviously discovered how to travel to Iliseeum. That is, unless there is a bucket of Iliseeum soil I’m unaware of.”
“I don’t believe there’s a bucket of soil lying around,” Jasper advised, eyes glimmering as amusement filtered from him to me. “Most wouldn’t even have the knowledge of how to use such magic—only the oldest of our kind. And I imagine the Unseen would have known when they were more prevalent. I’m guessing they must’ve kept records of such things.”
“Other than you and my parents, I assume Alastir knew?” Casteel drew his hand down my spine. Jasper nodded. “Who else has that knowledge?”
“Very few who are still alive.” Jasper drew a finger over the stubble covering his chin. “I believe Hisa knows. As does Dominik—another of the commanders.”
“I remember him. He’s one of the oldest elementals,” Casteel told me, lifting his glass as his gaze flicked back to Jasper. “Is he in Saion’s Cove?”
“He’s in Evaemon, as far as I know. Or just outside of the capital,” he explained. “I imagine Wilhelmina knows—” Casteel choked on his drink as my mouth dropped open. Jasper’s eyes narrowed. “You okay over there?”
“Wait,” Casteel coughed again, eyes watering. “Wait a godsdamn second. Wilhelmina? Who is Wilhelmina?”
Jasper frowned, clearly confused. “You never met Willa?”
Oh, my gods. There was no way.
“What is her last name?” Casteel asked.
Please don’t say Colyns. Please don’t say Colyns, I repeated over and over as Kieran’s father stared at Casteel as if he’d lost his mind. “I think it’s Colyns.”