Purgatory

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Chapter Twenty-Three

Chapter Twenty-Three

The night air was crisp and added to his misery as he sat up from the dampened ground. Questions plagued his thoughts. How did he get here? Where is he? His eyes darted back and forth, taking in his surroundings. He was protected from the elements by what appeared to be a makeshift shelter of some sort. Every wall was comprised of twigs, moss, and mud. Whoever built this place must live here, but where is here and who lives here?

A faint sound of feminine humming drifted in through the missing entryway. He noticed his legs were stiff and hard to move as if he hadn’t moved in days. It also caught his attention that his clothes had been changed because he now wore clothes that he didn’t recognize. A small grunt escaped him as he moved to follow the humming coming from outside.

Surrounded by trees along the bank of a river sat the silhouette of a female moving something around in the water. Careful not to startle her, he carefully walked in her direction, his guard up so he wouldn’t be caught off guard.

“You have nothing to fear from me Vampire,” said the strange woman by the lake.

“How did I get here,” he asked, decided it was best to just cut to the chase.

She offered him her eyes from over her shoulder and smiled a toothless smile, “I protect my property. You have been back and forth on my property for days, so I have been following you. You collapsed so I brought you here.”

“Thank you for that. Did you undress me?” he asked, feeling slightly violated.

Her laughter echoed in the woods around them, giving him a feeling of unease, “You have nothing I haven’t seen before boy. Your clothes are there on the line. I laundered them. They should be dry.”

His eyes turned in the direction that she had directed, and he spotted his clothing draped over a string of cordage made from leaves and vines.

“Thank you. I meant no offense,” he offered her his hand, “How long have I been here?”

“Around sixty days or so. I was able to sustain you the best I could using goat blood, but it wasn’t doing you much good. The fact that you are standing here and talking to me is a miracle in and of itself,” she stated warily.

“Please take no offense ma’am but, how did you know that I am a vampire?”

“Oh please. Everyone in Dublin knows the Queen’s lovers,” she laughed bitterly, “I suppose you were out here looking for her?”

Something about her words bothered him. What does she mean looking for her?

“I wasn’t aware that she was lost. She is home at the mansion,” he stated unsurely.

The woman stood and walked past him to the shelter and then she reappeared a moment later carrying what looked like his cellphone.

“You received several messages before the battery died. All messages were from another woman and a man demanding your presence at the mansion to help find your Queen. Something about a man kidnapping her.”

The news sent his dead heart into his stomach. While he was out here trying to find a way to get Liam’s memory back someone managed to get to Saraid. What good was it to have Guardian’s on sight if anyone can walk in and kidnap her. Someone was going to pay for this.

“I am sorry ma’am. I don’t mean to be rude, but I must go. I have to see if they found her.Thank you for your hospitality. I am indebted to you,” he said as he extended his hand out to her.

She placed her aged hand in his, skin thin and almost transparent, “It was my pleasure young man. Go find our Queen and bring her back.”

He shook her hand and made to grab his clothes from the line, “Do you know where my bag is?”

“You dropped it when you collapsed about a mile back that way,” she pointed toward a path that cut through the center of the woods, “I couldn’t drag you and carry the bag. It should still be there. No one comes down this way.”

“Thank you again. You have been very helpful,” he said as he was running in the direction of his lost bag.

He needed that bag. It held everything he needed from blood to weapons. Once he found out who was responsible for taking his woman, he was going to need his weapons. He was silently cursing himself for ever leaving her in the first place. If he had been there than maybe she wouldn’t have been kidnapped. He shouldn’t have left her in the state she was in, in the first place.

The path he began on began to narrow until there was no longer a path to follow. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed a large mound on the ground, covered by the fallen leaves. He walked over and knelt down in front of the mound and brushed the leaves away.

“Thank the Gods,” he whispered as he pulled his bag from its bed of leaves and opened it to take an inventory of his supplies.

Satisfied that everything was as he had it, he began his journey back to the mansion. Getting back could be difficult because he didn’t know where he was. The last thing he remembered was staking out the property of a young witch who had been rumored to be working with James. His surroundings looked familiar but not enough for him to be able to find his way out. His eyes while greater than most mortals couldn’t navigate alone.

He stood with his feet planted, closed his eyes and listened to the sounds around him, hoping to hear a clue to lead him in the right direction. There were many sounds to compete for his attention including the Thrushes flitting from tree to tree as they chirped. He could hear the wind as it rustled the leaves and swayed the trees around him and off in the distance, he could hear the distinct sound of footsteps drawing nearer.

His eyes snapped open, scanning the woods for any sign of the person coming toward him. He reached into his bag and felt for the hilt of his blade and came up empty handed. He opened the bag and looked inside and saw nothing, but he had just checked it, and everything was there and now it’s completely empty. Feeling a bit ashamed of himself he tossed the bag to the side and began to climb the highest tree. If this was an ambush, he wanted the best advantage he could get and right now, knowing which direction the person was coming from was his best chance now that he was without weapons.

“For such a dangerous species, you vampires really are a thick bunch, aren’t you? You can’t hide from me.”

The voice seemed to travel on the wind to his ears. It belonged to a woman but there was no woman to be seen. He had faced many opponents but not once had he been up against someone he couldn’t see.

“Don’t be a coward Vampire. Come down from that tree,” the voice taunted.

“You got some nerve calling someone a coward. Uncloak yourself if you’re so brave,” Jax threw back.

The laughter floated in the air around him as the thrush began to fly in a flock around his head before dipping low to the ground and shooting skyward again. He watched as the very last thrush barreled toward his face and turned at the last minute, coming to a stop on the ground. One second, he was staring at the tiniest of birds and the next he was staring at a very beautiful woman with raven black hair and the brightest of green eyes.

“Better,” she laughed.

“So, you’re a bird. Big whoop,” he mocked, “Why are you following me?”

“I wasn’t following you. I was stalking you.”

His impatience with her arrogance was testing his resolve, “Okay, why are you stalking me?”

“I just want to play. There’s no need to rush home, your little whore won’t be there anyway,” she taunted further.

He fought to stay in place, to not give her the reaction that she wanted. He knew her goal was to anger him and drive him to act on that anger. Stupid female. She knew nothing about him other than he is a vampire. His background she obviously knew nothing about and that is a rookie mistake. One should always know their enemies. He stole a glance above him, elated to see empty air. With the speed of lightening a lunged from his spot atop the trees and landed behind her, grabbing her by the neck before she could run away.

“My Queen is not a whore,” he said right before he plunged his fangs into her neck.

The coppery liquid was like heaven to his senses. He could feel himself getting stronger and his senses began to heighten as the woman struggled to break free from his grasp. Her hands swatted at his arms pathetically, her words coming out as an incomprehensible gurgle, “I can break the spell on your King. Have mercy.”

His mouth broke the suction he had on her neck, “What did you say?”

“The spell. I can break the spell on your King.”

He eyed her suspiciously, pondering his next move. Could she be the witch he was searching for or could she be buying herself some time to make her next move. There was no other option but to take her with him.

“How soon can you heal?” he asked her sternly.

She reached a hand to her neck and winced, “In human form I heal at a mortal rate. As a bird it depends on the injury. This,” she pointed to her neck, “would heal in a day or so. Gunshot wounds, stabbings, broken bones, and stuff like that can take weeks.”

“Okay.”

He grabbed her arm with his left and brought his right arm down hard against it, breaking her elbow. Her piercing scream cut through the silence and echoed in circles around them.

“Why,” she cried.

“A bird can’t fly with a broken wing,” he sneered, “makes you much easier to catch if you try to get away.”

Leaving his empty bag on the woodland floor he grabbed her by the arm and pulled her along, “Which way gets me out of here and don’t try to pull a fast one on me because I will know, and I will kill you.”

Using her head as a compass, she pointed to the East, “That way.”

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