Thicker than Blood: Awakening

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Sanctity of Sisterhood

“That’s great news!” Lu said with a grin. “Master’ll be happy to hear you feel that way! You’ll definitely earn points on his good side, but I think you already got bravery points for looking him in the eye. Hehe!”

The changeling giggled at her master’s softer side. It seemed so odd in the silence of the trashed apartment. Mary didn’t look up from the wounded vampire in her lap, and Wes was wondering what his roommate had brought home this time. Once she finished giggling, mostly because she was the only one doing it, she looked back at Mary with a playful, yet down to business, face.

“You should start training right away. You don’t know when those vampires will strike again. Whenever you’re ready to go, I’ll take you back to the mansion. You know how short master’s patience is.” She folded her hands behind her head, clearly saying she was ready to split.

“Go?” Wes gave the changeling a suspicious stare. “Go where? Where does she need to go?”

“Ma… Mary…” Gabriel gasped lightly as his eyes began to move behind his lids. Mary stroked his head gingerly, trying to relax him.

“There is a vampire in China. He is an ally of someone that has helped me before. He has answers I have been looking for about myself and why my family was attacked. He can teach me what I need to know to bring Mitch home, Wes. I promise I will bring him back safely.” She didn’t look back at him. She couldn’t bring herself to. She should have known better than to get so close to people. She had brought her bad luck to them.

“But you can’t! Not now!” Wes cried, gripping his armrests. “You can’t go, Mary! I just lost Mitch to these monsters! I can’t lose you, too! They’re crazy, Mary! You didn’t hear them! It was like something out of a horror movie! They’re dangerous! It’s too dangerous!”

“You’re right,” Lu spoke up before Mary could reply. “It’s really dangerous. She could die, but unfortunately, she’s the only one who can do the job. Once we get her sister back, if we can that is, they’ll be the only ones who can defeat the Countess of Darkness. That’s the lot of the Sun Dwellers.”

“The only ones…?” Wes glared up at her bored face. “What kind of crock is that? You expect her to be a one-woman army for you freaks! What kind of a twisted race are you? No one should ever have to fight alone! It’s suicide, not to mention draining on the morale! You can’t do that to her!”

Lu stared down at the paraplegic. His dark blue eyes were hard. She could tell his spirit was strong if only his body didn’t hold him back. He was a different man from the human she’d seen when they’d first arrived. She realized how deeply he must care about Mary. How unfortunate…

The changeling mused on Wes’ words. She wondered just how much was spoken out of repressed passion and learned wisdom. It was clear to her immortal eyes that he was around Mary’s age, yet he possessed an older soul, perhaps from harsh experiences in his short life thus far. As much as she hated to admit it, the mortal had a point. The Sun Dwellers before had failed, some worse than others, so what would make Mary and Mara Black different?

“Things aren’t as simple as all that,” Lu said in a serious tone. Sighing heavily, she pushed off the door to lean forward. “There are only two Sun Dwellers permitted as a balance between vampires and humans. The Raven knew the risk of lifting just one weakness; so that Sun Dwellers wouldn’t overtake the countess and become the new threat to humanity, the Raven only granted two the power of the sun. It’s just how it has to be.”

“Well, your balance has a bigger check on Sun Dwellers than it does this countess. If you what to defeat her, you have to let go of the leash, a lot.” Wes growled. How could she worry about balance when they needed to address an immediate threat? Strip powers later, he thought. The queen of the bad vampires needed to go down and fast before more innocent people got hurt.

“Mary...!” Gabriel grunted. His wound was healing, but now that Mary was here, he had to tell her about her double. It might be vital information. If she was facing the same vixen he had crossed all those years ago, she needed all the help she could find. His strength hadn’t returned to him yet, so all he had was his voice. “Mary...! Thither... Thither was...”

“Hush now, Gabriel.” Mary tried to quiet him as gently as she could muster. “You need to rest. The sun will rise in a few moments. Don’t force your strength. You’ve done more than enough.”

Her crimson irises were heavy with regret. If only she’d come home instead of going to China, Mitch would still be with them, and Gabriel wouldn’t have brushed shoulders with death. This was her fault, and she had to make it right.

“Mary... prithee...!” Gabriel grasped her coat beside his hand. “Thither... was... a maid...! The lady had... thy...!” His wound ached from the effort.

“Gabriel please, don’t do this to yourself. You’re in pain. Let your wounds heal. I’ll listen then, all right?”

“No, let him speak,” Lu spoke up. Walking over to the vampire, she squatted on her heels, making Mary uncomfortable with all that leg showing in front of the two males. “What did she have of Mary’s, swordsman? What was it?” Her smile was comforting as she tilted her head, waiting for his answer.

“The... lady had... Mary’s... visage...” Gabriel fainted from the strain of the sun. Everyone stared at him in surprise.

“Mary’s visage?” Wes gaped in awe at his roommate. “Mary, that must mean-”

He was cut off as the young woman screamed, grasping her head. She felt like this was the worst case of brain freeze or her skull was on fire. Shaking her head violently, Mary gawked at the ceiling a moment before collapsing to the floor beside Gabriel.

Darkness, nothing but black could be seen. Mary felt weightless, floating in the mysterious vacuum. She turned her head to look around. Thankfully, those haunting, green eyes were nowhere in sight. She realized she must have fainted again. She hoped Wes wouldn’t panic again.

“Who is... Mary...?”

“Mara!” Mary called in nothingness. That was Mara’s voice. She was there, somewhere. She sounded so exhausted. Was she hurt? “Mara, where are you, love?”

As if to answer her, Mara’s hair appeared, floating into view. Glancing above her own head, Mary saw Mara’s form, floating over her. Her skin was pallid and sickly. As fast as she could, the young woman reached for her twin. Unfortunately, she was just beyond her search. Tears drifted away from Mary’s eyes as the golden hair brushed her fingertips. So close. She was so close to her, and yet, she was too far away.

“Damn it all...! How much longer can you last like this?” Mary grunted as she looked at the vacant expression. Mara looked spent. Was there time to save her? “Mara... What can I do? What more can I do?”

Thine own heart lies beyond that lady touch.

“Who’s there?” Mary asked, softly.

Thine own heart lies beyond that lady touch.

“Who is speaking?!” Mary yelled angrily into the abyss.

The voice continued to echo, making her screamed in frustration. When she opened her eyes again, Mara was directly above her. If she didn’t grasp her now, she would drift away for good. She couldn’t let that happen. She couldn’t let Mara fall to the Darkness. She reached again, trying to grasp the limp hand at her sister’s side.

Thine own heart lies beyond that lady touch.

Mary stretched her arm so far she felt her shoulder pop. She didn’t care. Just a little bit more. Just another stretch. The voice seemed encouraging now, fueling her resolve. She would save Mara. She would pull her out of the shadows. She would free her, and she would not accept defeat. Finally, she grasped the chilled fingers. A smile spread across Mary’s lips. It wasn’t impossible. She could do this.

Thine own heart lies beyond that lady touch.

“I’m coming to you, Mara,” Mary called up to her sister. “Wait for me. I am coming, Mara. I’m coming.”

At that moment, color began to slowly seep into Mara’s cheeks. Warmth grew from where Mary’s hand held hers. A soft glow came from Mary’s hand, making her gasp. What was this? Slowly but surely, that glow spread down her arm, into her body, enveloping the young woman in gentle warmth that eased the pain in her body and spirit.

Once Mary was completely illuminated, the light began to flow into Mara. Her weary features faded away. The pale complexion filled in, matching Mary’s. At last, her eyebrows twitched. She was stirring, trying to wake up. Mary gasped, hoping to see a ray of hope at last. Gradually, the sleepy lids uncovered the crimson irises. They stared at one another. Mara blinked curiously.

“Mary...?” She whispered.

“Who is… Mary…?” Mara asked herself as she drifted into nothing. She felt as if she was being dragged slowly through water. Though, she wasn’t worried about drowning. She wasn’t even concerned as to why or where she was flowing. It was almost complete bliss if she wasn’t thinking about this person called Mary.

“Mara!” A voice called from somewhere. “Mara, where are you, love?”

They sounded frantic with worry. Why were they calling for her? She was far too tired to open her eyes to look for the caller. Why was she so exhausted? She felt as if her strength had left her entirely. She didn’t even have the vigor to flex a muscle. What had happened to drain her so greatly? She couldn’t remember.

“Mara… What can I do…? What more can I do?”

The person sounded so sad. Were they crying? Why should they cry for her sake? She didn’t know this person. At least, she didn’t think she did. The voice was vaguely familiar, but where had she heard it before?

Thine own heart lies beyond that lady touch.

Michael? What was Michael doing here? Mara’s mind began to try to fight the sluggishness. She wanted to get to wherever he was. He would look after her. She was safe with him, always. All her thoughts concentrated on his voice, echoing in the abyss. The woman’s voice was there, but she couldn’t focus on it. If only she could get to Michael.

Thine own heart lies beyond that lady touch.

Suddenly, a hand grasped her limp one. It felt so warm. Was it feverish, or was she that cold? It wasn’t a large hand. It was no bigger than hers. She would have grasped it, had she the strength to do so. How strange that she felt so safe right now. It was like being with Michael. Again, she tried to open her eyes, but her body remained lifeless.

“I’m coming to you, Mara. Wait for me. I am coming, Mara. I’m coming.”

Warmth flooded over Mara. She must have been frozen to feel so much better now. The grip on her hand was feeding more heat into her. The sloth was fading away at last. Finally, Mara had the strength to scrunch her brow, as most slumbering people do when waking from a deep sleep. It caused an ache to resurface inside her skull to move though. The warm energy flowed into her temples. The dull pain from before she fell asleep was vanquished right along with the weariness. She felt so much lighter. Who had done this for her? She wanted to thank them. Slowly, she lifted her heavy eyelids to see who had grasped her hand.

She saw her own face. No, wait. It was the woman she’d met outside the castle walls with that wolf. She looked relieved to see her. Suddenly, the name she had been thinking of came to her. Could it be she was its owner?


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