I breathed a sigh of relief. Apparently not liking dresses was a virtue.
“Gluttony,” said Ella, standing. I furrowed my brow—out of all of them, I’d have thought Calliope would’ve been the one to handle that. “While Kate was made aware it was a test, and while she was unconscious for much of the time afterward, she did willingly make the choice to stop eating.” She raised an eyebrow. “Although I would recommend three square meals a day outside these walls.”
Ava stood next, twisting side to side with a childish grin on her face. “As for envy, Kate passed with flying colors.”
“Envy?” I said, my voice cracking as I tried to think back on what that could possibly be.
“The day Xander died.” She shot him an apologetic look, and he winked. “You didn’t let jealousy interfere with your decision. I mean, not that you were jealous—that’s the point. You were fair, and you were patient with me, even though I didn’t deserve it.”
So Xander—or whoever he was—really had been killed. Or whatever it was, because I was pretty sure gods couldn’t die. I found some relief in knowing that not everything about the past six months had been scripted.
Calliope stood next, pale and shaken, though her voice was surprisingly strong. “Wrath,” she said, raising her eyes to meet mine. For a moment, I thought I saw a ghost of a smile on her face, but it was gone as quickly as it came. “With her decision today regarding the punishment for my actions, Kate has passed.”
I was sure that what Calliope had done hadn’t been scripted either, which meant that not all of the tests had been decided on ahead of time. What would it have been if she hadn’t tried to kill me? Either way, five down, two to go.
Walter was the one to stand next. “Lust,” he said, and my heart sank. He couldn’t fail me for this. They had to know what Calliope had done. “You engaged in lustful relations with our brother, an act that is strictly forbidden before the council makes a decision and a marriage occurs.” He pressed his thin lips together, and suddenly it was hard to breathe. Didn’t he understand that we’d been set up? There had to be a trick, a loophole, something that would make them forgive that night.
“But—” I started, but Walter’s voice cut through mine.
“I am sorry, Katherine, but for the test of lust, you have failed.”
The word echoed endlessly in my head. The room spun around me, and it was only my iron-tight grip on my stool that kept me from falling. My chest ached, and I felt as if the air itself was pressing in on me, making breathing impossible.
This couldn’t be happening.
“Brother,” said Henry in a strained voice. “I would like to contest the council’s ruling on this.”
“Yes?” said Walter. I looked hopefully between them, struggling to keep myself from spiraling downward into despair. There was still a chance.
“As you know, the test in question was compromised. We were both given large doses of an aphrodisiac that affects both the mind and the body, allowing for our inhibitions to be lowered. If anyone is to carry the blame for that evening, it is me.”
“No,” said a small voice. Calliope. “It’s me. I was the one who did it. I thought—I thought that if they failed a test…”
Walter frowned. “Yes, I am aware. But you know as well as I do that our rules are firm. No matter the circumstances, they must be followed.”
Henry sighed, and something inside of me broke. He looked as crushed as I felt, wearing his pain clearly, but it was the way he glanced at me that was agony. His eyes were cloudy with anguish, and already I could see him pulling away. He’d dared to hope because of me. He’d tried because I’d made him, and it was my fault he looked like that. It was my fault he was hurting so badly.
“No,” I blurted. “Henry doesn’t deserve this. Calliope said it was her fault, and she did it on purpose. That shouldn’t count. It can’t count.”
“I’m afraid it isn’t up to you.” Walter frowned, and against my better judgment, I glared at him.
“He’s your brother, and if you do this, he’s going to die or—or fade out of existence or whatever it is. I don’t care how strict your rules are. If you love him half as much as I do, I don’t understand why you don’t get that this isn’t fair.”
“It isn’t always about fairness.” Walter’s voice was gentler than I expected, and his expression was strangely compassionate. “Despite evidence to the contrary—” he looked at Ava, and she rolled her eyes “—we do not abide lust.”
“But it wasn’t lust!” I stupidly tried to stand, and pain exploded in my chest, but I refused to let this be the end. “I’m not guilty of lust, because I love him. You can’t accuse me of something I didn’t do, not when it means that Henry’s going to die for it. Anything else, fine—do whatever you want to me, I don’t care. But don’t do this to Henry,” I said, tears blurring my vision. “Please. I’ll do anything.”
“Kate,” said Henry. His face was pinched and his shoulders were strained, as if he were struggling to stay put. “It’s all right.”
“No, it’s not. It’s not fair.”
“Katherine,” said Walter. “You say you will do anything, yet you do not do the one thing we ask of you.”