Shadow Games

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Chapter 14

Vin saw stars as he flew through the doorway and the thick door dissolved around him. He didn’t expect the hit and as the pain exploded from half healed wounds he hit the floor with a sickening thud. He slid to a stop against the heavy wood bed posts amongst the clatter of splintered wood and terrified screams. He tried to will his stunned limbs to work as the sounds around him started dieing down. The last of the clattering wood bounced around the room and the screams last echo softened to a shaky whimper before cutting off. Vin rolled to his side and coughed out a breath as he levered himself to his hands and knees. A groan escaped him as he squeezed his eyes shut.

“I’m going to have a chat with Scarlet about her shoddy healing.” He murmured around another breathless cough. He glanced around to the dark corners of the room and locked eyes with a set of terrified gray eyes.

“Vin?” Came a lost whisper and Vin nodded slowly as his vision threatened to swim. Persephone’s arms dropped from around her legs. Vin tried to give her a reassuring smile but by the worried pinch to her eyes he knew that he failed miserably.

“Yeah...” He groaned as he pushed up into a halfway decent sitting position. “Me.”

Persephone darted forward as Vin wavered on his knees. He grasped the bed post and held a hand up to stop her from helping him. “I’m fine.” He muttered as he pulled himself to his feet. Shouts filtered in through the open door and Vin’s eyes flashed as they darted to his swords. He winced at a sudden flare of pain in his neck. “Ow..” He breathed as he finally loosened the death grip on the post and walked stiffly to his swords.

“What’s going on?” Persephone breathed as she followed closely behind Vin, making sure to catch him if he would fall.

“All hell breaking loose is my guess.” He grumbled as he stooped down to scoop up his swords. They clattered together as he caught his balance and straightened again.

“Hell?” Kylia squeaked from the corner as she stood, keeping herself backed against the wall. Vin nodded and checked the gleaming blades over for damage.

“My best guest? Well... seems Nicholas is waging some sort of war against the Belaren household.” Vin shuffled to the door and leaned out, looking up and down the hallway.

“But... why?” Persephone asked quietly as she joined Vin at the door, staying out of sight from anyone that might appear in the hall. Vin breathed in slowly, pausing as he tried to reason an answer.

“I’m just a hired sword around here. I’m not privy to the political reasoning.” He said with venom even as he avoided answering her question.

“Vin...” Persephone started but was cut off when he glared at her. The adrenaline and fire from the fight drove his reactions as much as the unintentional slight he’d gotten from Serina. He knew he shouldn’t take it out on the girl, but she was a convenient outlet for his pain. The inner monster whispered to him, egging him on.

“Look, Sephie...” He breathed quietly as guilt washed over him as he met her eyes. “The way I figure it, Nicholas used a lot of us if not all of us as a reason to validate a move on the vampires. A flimsy excuse to strike back after centuries.” His eyes slid back to the hallway, his eyes constantly moving but Persephone could see that he was puzzling out what he’d said.

“I would say you’re more than just a hired sword.” Kylia muttered as she sat shakily on the edge of the bed, lost in her own thoughts.

“Tell that to the Queen.” Vin said quietly as he ignored Persephone’s stare.

“Queen? Don’t you mean King? As in James?” She asked the confusion as her brow furrowed.

“Nope... Queen. As in Seri.” He said shortly as his anger flared and died again. He knew it wasn’t her fault she’d been shoved into the job, nor that her own temper was fueled by her instincts. Yet her comment had still stung.

“Oh...” Persephone whispered as she nodded, not understanding what had happened but accepting it at face value for the moment. “Is there a plan then?” She asked as she shook off the confusion.

“Plan? Hack and slash was working for me till I was thrown through your door.” He frowned and looked down the hallway again. “He just bowled past me...” He said quietly as he stepped out of the room looking bewildered.

“What’s wrong?” Persephone asked from her place inside the door, concealed by the shadows.

“He didn’t stop...” Vin said absently and his frown deepened.

“Soooo?” She prodded as she finally, but hesitantly moved into the doorway.

“They’re after someone. I have to go.” He called to her as he took off back the way he’d come his swords tight in his grip.

***

Patrick had barely cracked the door when a surge of bodies threw it the rest of the way open, pushing him back into Serina. The ring of steel being loosed sang through the air. Serina’s blood lust surged forward, singing with a power all it’s own, pulling a viscous growl from her. The dangerous sound was mimicked by her brother who had already started slashing his way through the faceless crowd. The sickening sound of metal slicing through flesh only served to enrage the monster inside her and she gleefully brought the beautiful steel to it’s intended target. The wave of bodies pushed the siblings back further into the room. By Serina’s quick assessment there were at least thirty men shoving against each other savagely. She backed up another step as her blade whistled through the air, and again found it’s mark. Patrick, she noted, was moving fluidly beside her. When she attacked he drew back to try and prevent the horde from advancing. Though they created a constant flow of attack the numbers were against them and they were pushed back again.

“Where the hell is everyone else?” Patrick growled over the noise as he spun, cutting down the demon that was rushing forward. Serina’s eyes searched the room as she was pushed back and she tried to take another defensive stance but found herself up against the conference table. The jolt of the her sudden stop pulled her head around and she narrowly avoided a wild slash from her right. With a a growl she bared her teeth and hopped up to sit on the table and spun around rising to her feet in a fluid motion. Now that she could see over the heads of the attackers she realized she’d over estimated her count. Even as the relief of that discovery lifted through her it was smacked down with the panic of not only the fact that they were still out numbered but she could no longer see Patrick.

As someone grabbed at her ankle, Serina absently raised her foot and smashed the heel of her heavy boot into his face.

“Patrick?” Serina yelled as she swiped down into the faceless mass of men, still scanning the fallen bodies for Patrick’s. “Patrick!” She called again with no answer. Panic settled deeper in Serina’s chest as she kicked and slashed at grabbing hands until she reached the end of the table. There were too many to see and she was making more and more desperate moves as she searched. Panting she dropped when someone grabbed her around her knees and she drove the hilt of the sword down onto the top of her attackers head. More hands grasped roughly at her as she fended off desperate slashes from swords. A murderous growl erupted from her as she slashed again, but her moves were being thwarted almost as fast as she thought of them. She knew her fight was futile but she couldn’t give it up.

“Seri!” Boomed a voice from the doorway and her heart leapt to her throat.

“Vin! I can’t find Patrick!” She screamed in answer as she brought her sword down with all her strength and to her inner monster’s satisfaction lopped off someone’s hand. The scream cut off with a startled gurgle as she finished with a thrust into his chest. She found herself grinning viciously as she bound into the gap she’d created. The blood slick floor made for a treacherous sprint back to the door and Serina slid the last few feet and crashed a shoulder into the door frame.

“What the hell is going on?!” She spat as the slightly smaller group of men turned in an uncoordinated about face.

“I would tell you if I knew...” Vin growled as he blocked a blow with grunt of effort and dodged the next one, spinning away from her. Serina dodged finding herself farther from Vin and saw Patrick bound up from beneath the table. His dark hair was matted on one side of his head and blood oozed down his neck. He’d been knocked to the floor and trampled when they’d been backed to the table. Anger raged through Serina anew and she slammed her foot up into yet another faceless attacker and cut him down before he could recover. The addition of Vin and with Patrick back on his feet they actually started to earn back some maneuverable room.

Serina realized she’d made her way into the middle of the room and spun, missing with her last blow and watched as he turned and ran from the room. She looked around, blowing the hair from her face. As the adrenaline coursed through her, lighting her veins on fire her eyes darted around the room. The only upright bodies in the room were herself, her brother and Vin, who was removing his swords from a body. Panting, she slammed her bloody sword into it’s sheath.

“What... the hell..” She breathed as she kicked a lifeless arm out of her way as she strode to the door.

“Excellent question.” Patrick muttered as he leaned against the table, his sword clattering to the table as he felt his head. Wincing he pulled his bloodied hand away looking at it. “That can’t be good.” He mumbled to himself as he looked up at his sister, his eyes solid black. She knew from experience that in the heat of a fight their demon natures came to the surface and that was their tell tale. It was a feature that scared the hell out of people that didn’t know what they were. Serina looked down at the floor, knowing that she would look just as scary as her brother.

“It’s awfully strange that they tear through the house just to converge here only to run off again.” Vin mused as he made a circuit of the room making sure the dead were actually dead. “I was thrown through a door and they didn’t even chase after me to make sure I was really down.” He breathed softly as he came to a stop between the siblings.

“How many people are here? Did they bring an army?” Patrick asked sarcastically as he pushed up from the table still trying to stop the flow if blood from his head wound.

“An army of Darklings.” Serina breathed as she looked around on the floor.

“What is Nicholas playing at?” Vin growled, angry that it was his own people that came after them. “I don’t understand why they’d fight for him.”

“It’s all they know. Not to mention I’ve probably pissed off the entire race... well except for you. ” Serina breathed as she glanced at Vin then looked out the door. Her mind started going a mile a minute as things started shuffling together. Serina’s eyes widened as she started for the door.

“Seri?” Vin called after her as they followed in her wake. “Seri what’s going on?”

Serina didn’t look back as she started running, the halls a blur around her.

“Where’s my father?!” She screamed at a guard that was pulling bodies from the hallway. The man jumped as he spun and tripped over the body as he dropped it, his eyes lowered submissively.

“Ma’am?” He stuttered as he regained his balance.

“My father... where is he?” She barked as she got in his face.

“Your father... um he... he...” The guard looked down a hall and shakily raised a hand to point towards the elevators that went to the underground parking. Without waiting for him to actually speak, Serina spun and continued to the elevators.

“He’s after James...” Vin said more than asked as he came even with her, Patrick following on their heels.

“Yeah and he’s alone.” Serina growled as she slammed her hand over down button.

***

The doors slid open to the silent dusky dark of the garage. The smell of gasoline was an assault to the senses as Vin stepped in front of the siblings to scan the large expanse. He’d slid so easily into old habits that the growl of the voice startled him.

Hunt... kill...

Vin almost rolled his eyes at the maniacal chuckle that echoed through his head. Sometimes it felt more like an alien presence lurking through his thoughts than the sliver of madness he knew it to be. Careful to make as little noise as possible he reached up and smoothly pulled his swords from their twin sheaths, wincing imperceptibly at the rasp the steel made as they came free. It was eerily silent in the the cavernous room and it set his nerves on edge more than if they’d walked into a pitched battle. Serina was growing impatient with his caution and stepped up beside him as Patrick leaned in the doorway to keep them open as much as to keep his balance. He was still bleeding freely from his wound but it would have been a mistake to try to make him stay behind.

“He’s not here...” Serina growled as she pushed her way farther ahead of him. Her muscles were tense as she surveyed the dark room, lit only by emergency lights rather than the fluorescent ones. The dark hulking shapes of the cars obscured the shadows, making it impossible to clearly see if any one was lying in wait.

“You don’t know that.” Patrick said softly as he gingerly pressed the palm of his hand to his blood soaked hair. Absently Serina wondered why the smell hadn’t distracted her in such close quarters of the elevator. She dismissed it as she scanned the dark again.

“Do you really think it would be this quite if he were? Don’t you think he’d be at the very least defending himself?” Her sharp words echoed around the darkness coming back to them with hollow anger.

“She has a point.” Vin muttered as he strode farther from them, his eyes scanning every corner he could see. The grit ground noisily under his boots but he knew the truth of Serina’s words. James would be fighting, not hiding quietly. “Why would he be down here?” He muttered more to himself as he sifted through his memories. A mental picture of the guard flashed through his thoughts and he froze. Serina had surprised him as he moved the dead from his wake. He’d spun and barely looked at her when she’d demanded to know about James.

“He kept his eyes to the floor...” Vin muttered as he looked at Serina’s puzzled expression.

“The guard... he hesitated, kept his eyes lowered. Not until you were walking away did he meet any of our eyes...”

“So?” Serina spat as she slammed her sword into it’s scabbard and pushed hair from her face, waiting for an explanation.

“So... they were like mine.” He said slowly as he stalked back to them. Realization dawned on Serina as Patrick stood up straight. Serina closed her eyes and cursed under her breath.

“Son of a bitch.” She said louder as her eyes flew open. “Vin go... search the house anywhere he might go. Patrick...” She turned to her brother as he waited, more patiently than she thought would ever be possible. “Find Scar...” She said softly as her eyes glided over his wound then back to his gaze.

“I’m fine...” He slurred as he wavered on his feet.

“I can’t worry about you while I’m fighting. I can’t have the distraction.” Serina stopped Patrick’s objection with a look and she turned back to Vin.

“Go.” She demanded of him again and he nodded his head in a submissive gesture like she’d seen him do countless times to James and she sighed softly as he stepped into the shadows. “I hate this.” She mumbled to herself as Patrick backed into the elevator then thought better of it and like Vin, wrapped himself in shadows and disappeared into a portal he created. It was seamless. One moment he was there and gone the next. Serina wondered if she’d ever get that good at it. Her eyes moved over the garage again, and she shook her head.

She needed to get her thoughts together. Everything was moving far too slowly for what she wanted, she felt useless. Maybe this was how James felt when he knew he needed to delegate rather than jump into the fray. Weighted down by politics and responsibilities as she felt she was, her father had been at it for centuries. Serina didn’t know how he could hold himself back like this. Absently she scuffed her boot on the grimy floor and rubbed her temples. Her thoughts had stalled and she wasn’t sure what to do next. She knew for sure she couldn’t stand here in the dark feeling sorry for her new situation, but mired as she was she could still go to the fight. Her home was invaded, her family was at risk and all she could do is sulk in the dark? She needed to go, to fight to kill something. If not for anything to satisfy the overwhelming blood lust that had been building, and that was ok with her.

When she spun around she was met with a fist to her jaw and staggered back. Stars exploded in her vision as she cracked her head on a cement support pillar and fell sprawling to the floor. Dust and grit mixed with the trickle of blood from where the pillar had cut her eyebrow.

“Oh... lost in thought were we?” A simpering taunt came from where she’d just been standing and she looked up as her vision swam. Ruavia stood over her, a hand resting on a cocked hip. The blood and bruises that had adorned her the last time Serina saw her were gone and only a few new ones appearing.

“I don’t see why people are afraid of you. You’re so easily distracted.” She continued as Serina regained her bearings but stayed on the floor.

“I can show you.” Serina growled as she forced herself to her feet and stood tall.

“So arrogant. I think that above all will be your family’s downfall.” Ruavia mused as she took a step backwards, keeping herself out of easy reach.

“It isn’t arrogance when you can do as you say.” Serina retorted as she took a step to the side, watching how Ruavia moved. The injuries that she’d had must have been illusion because she was showing no signs of discomfort. A gun was dangling loosely from a hand as if she didn’t think Serina was much of a threat.

A gun? Serina thought. A gun wasn’t going to do much to her but hurt for a while. If Ruavia had ever paid attention she’d know that a sword could do much more damage and decapitate for good measure. Gun wounds were pin pricks compared to that. Unless of course she was an excellent shot and faster than a vampire, which was doubtful. She had given herself a false sense of security. Ruavia couldn’t line up a head shot accurately at this distance before Serina reacted. It was insanity to try.

“What exactly are you and Nicholas trying to do here? Really? You storm into our stronghold and lay siege to our home, where we’re strongest and for what?” Serina took another sidestep and quirked an eyebrow waiting for an answer as she worked out a plan of attack.

“You killed my brother...” She spat and Serina quirked an eyebrow.

“Your brother was a spoiled, hateful coward. He aligned himself with the same trash you did... granted a little later in the game, but none the less a betrayal.” Serina said evenly as she matched Ruavia’s pacing step for step.

“You would have gotten what you deserved if your fucking elitist friends wouldn’t have gotten involved.” Ruavia sneered as she waved the gun again.

“So Nicholas... what? Let you plan this disaster?” Serina scoffed and shook her head. The sheer stupidity didn’t surprise her but it was so ludicrous that she had no idea how she figured it would ever work.

“You don’t think I can see what you’re doing? I’m not going to fall for your stalling.” Ruavia spat as she brought the gun up and leveled it on Serina at chest height. Compared to Serina the Elf moved in slow motion and she almost laughed as she twisted to avoid the shot. At the same time she reached out and grabbed Ruavia’s wrist and twisted forcefully. The heavy gun clattered to the floor and Ruavia screamed as Serina wrenched farther pulling her closer. A grim smile curled her lips at the sound of splintering bone.

“Just waiting for you to do something stupid, and as expected you lived up to your potential.” Serina said quietly into Ruavia’s ear so she could hear her over her own whimpers of pain. Serina shoved the whimpering Elf to the floor and stood over her. “I thought with that self-righteous monologue that you’d be more of a challenge. Or are you playing decoy again?” Serina said cautiously as she looked around again. No one she could see was there and she squatted down to look at the Elf again.

“He told me it would work.” Ruavia was mewling to herself as her face collected the dirt from the ground. Her broken arm laid limply across her middle as she cradled it. Serina could smell her blood and the monster inside redoubled its insistence to have it. With a thick growl Serina yanked Ruavia up by her hair and shook her. The screams that echoed back to them sent a shiver of anticipation through her body.

“What exactly is all this chaos for? What’s Nicholas playing at?” Serina demanded as she shook her again. When Ruavia’s only answer was more whimpers and fresh tears, Serina threw her down with a growl of frustration. “You’re pathetic...” She breathed as she swiped hair off her face. She had to get her emotions under control before she did something she couldn’t come back from. Serina shook off some of the building adrenaline before she lost all control of herself.

She started pacing back and forth as she tried to think of her next move as she angrily swiped hair back again. She spun at the sound of footsteps and came face to face with a pair of ghostly eyes. Startled, Serina threw a punch before she realized who it was but didn’t follow through. Alec easily caught her fist in his hand and smirked at her.

“Playing with your food?” He asked with a hint of a chuckle in his voice. Serina narrowed her eyes and shook his hand from hers.

“Get bored with your charge already?” She fired back at him with a little more venom than she’d truly intended and his smirk faltered. She saw that the smile became forced and she lowered her eyes, mentally kicking herself.

“Uh, no but there seems to be a lot of... death going on. It’s kind of my job.” His face became stoney as his eyes tracked movement behind her. Serina looked up then back over her shoulder, noting that Ruavia was struggling to her feet. She gritted her teeth and started to turn away from him, but was stopped short when he grabbed her arm.

“You do your job and I’ll do mine.” She growled as she shoved his hand from her arm and was surprised that it fell away easily. He met her eyes and she didn’t look away this time. He could see the resolve in them and nodded as he clasped his hands behind his back. Serina paused only briefly before before her gaze landed on Ruavia again. She brought her foot back and kicked Ruavia’s middle as hard as she could. Ruavia screamed as she was thrown to her back and slid to a stop against a pillar five feet from where she’d been.

“Please...” Ruavia pleaded over gagging sobs.

“Yeah, no amount of begging is going to help you.” Serina muttered, barely above a whisper as she stalked forward. Before she took another step the Elf’s fight or flight instincts kicked in and she scrambled to her feet and stumbled back against a car. Her eyes wild, Ruavia started to back up in another attempt to run. This time she managed to put a little distance between herself and Serina. The more prey like she acted the more predatory Serina became and in that mind set she wanted her to run. So when she finally did the monster inside her took over and she stalked forward. She was so focused that she didn’t pay attention to one of the doors opening to the street, or when Ruavia in her flight stumbled into the shaft of sunlight. Instincts carried her forward paying no heed to what her logical brain was screaming. What Alec was screaming.

“Serina stop!” His voice echoed through the dark room and rebounded, beating in at her as if trying to knock sense into her. She wasn’t in control anymore, Ruavia had stopped and breathed out a triumphant laugh that was half hysterical as she stood bathed in early morning light. Serina reached out to hit her, to grab her, anything that would end in her bloody death. Sunlight singed Serina’s hand just as swiftly as her hand struck out and grabbed the front of Ruavia’s shirt. At the same time Alec grabbed her free hand in an attempt to drag her back.

“Serina you can’t...” He pleaded with her as she fought to break free from his grip even as her skin started to burn painfully. Alec pulled her back with almost enough force to dislocate her shoulder but only succeeded in pulling her back into the shadow, just barely dragging Ruavia with her.

“The hell I can’t...” Serina growled as she yanked the now screaming Elf until their faces were mere inches apart. Ruavia, in panic, started flailing striking and out uselessly. “Let go of me.” Serina growled dangerously as she pulled her arm out of Alec’s loosening grip. She didn’t pause as her arm came free and came around grasping the Elf’s curly hair. She bared her teeth as she backed her face away from Ruavia’s and fought the urge to tear out her throat.

“Y-y-you’re going to bite me?” Ruavia stuttered, fear shaking her voice even as hate glinted from her almond eyes. Serina scoffed.

“I wouldn’t touch your filthy blood.” She spat through gritted teeth and without further fanfare snapped the Elf’s neck and dropped her with no more thought than discarding a piece of trash.

“Well that was anticlimactic.” Alec murmured as she stepped forward and gently pulled Serina back another step away from the encroaching sunlight.

“Her death was as meaningless as her existence had become. I’m not giving her anymore power over my life.” She said quietly as her eyes stayed fixed on the body at her feet. She felt Alec nod in agreement more than she saw it and drew back another step. “We need to get back to everyone.” She said with more calm in her voice than she though she’d been able to.

Surprisingly now that the fixation of her vengeance was gone she felt lost. The boiling rage that had driven so many of her decisions had dissipated, leaving only lost time and new scars. She felt numb as she realized it was all over. There was no solace or joy, only emptiness. She wrapped her arms around herself and spun on a heel simultaneously opening a portal in the shadows. Alec grabbed her again pulling her to a stop.

“Where are you going?” He asked quietly when she glared down at his hand on her arm.

“To find a fight.” She answered emotionless as she dropped her eyes. She didn’t feel the anger she once did but her home had been invaded and somewhere her family was fighting for their lives.

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