“Mary…?” Mara whispered in her sleep.
Suddenly, the ruler of Darkness unleashed a scream of distress, pushing herself away from the coffin quickly. Hooded servants rushed to her side to discover the cause of her panic. Pulling her arms away from her coiled form, burns covered the insides of her hands and forearms. She trembled from the pain, worrying them about what could do this to her.
The sage, at the heart of the swarm, looked back at the coffin. Standing, he found the source. The slumbering vixen’s hair was shining like the sun. It was beginning to levitate as well, floating freely and sluggishly about her head. His visage remained calm, for he knew exactly what was occurring.
“Sunlight!” One of the servants cried, pointing at the vixen. Hisses rose from the vampires as they huddled around their countess, who was too lost in her suffering to notice. The sage narrowed his eyes under the shadow of his hood. The glow was spreading. It was taking over her body, and it was only a matter of time before it escaped her shell, releasing itself into the room.
“Ruxandra…” Eve moaned. The sage looked back at her in the corner of his eye. She looked as if she was about to weep. “Ruxandra…”
“E’eryone,” the vampire spoke in a commanding tone, attempting to restore calm in the room, “leave the cubiculum. The Sun Dweller is about to release. Escort the mistress out. The lady has lost herself. I shall seal the Light within till it wanes.”
“What of the mortal, master?” A servant looked up at the vampire. The sage locked his gaze.
“A mortal fears not the traveling lamp.” He glanced at where the human lie, unconscious to his surroundings. “Leave him. Lady Eve is our own priority. Protect the lady from the sunlight.”
“Of course, master.” The servants helped Eve to stand, leading her to the stairwell. She wasn’t coherent enough to resist them, so they let her rest on the stairs, moaning and weeping. The sage exited last, closing the large doors behind them.
“It has begun...” The old vampire said in a dark voice. With his back to the others, a toothy grin sprang upon his lips. In a barely audible voice, he whispered, “I call upon the blackened sky. Enter this space. Bind the power inside.”
Inside the stone chamber, Mara’s entire body was engulfed in golden light. The glow overpowered the fire and torchlight, brightening every last corner. As the room began to turn white from the intensity, a presence began to force it back toward the vixen. Once the force reached Mara, the glow receded within her once more.
A gasp escaped her, making her body lurched upright. The presence vanished instantly. She fell back to the coffin with a loud thud. The torches were extinguished, and the fire died; though somehow, the room was not draped in darkness.
Mara opened her crimson eyes as if she had just woken from a full day’s rest. Sitting up again, she glanced around the chamber, wondering where everyone was. That was when she noticed the injured, sleeping man...
“Mary!” Wes cried as she wheeled his chair to the young woman’s side the moment she’d collapsed.
What was causing this to happen? Twice now, she’d fainted. In the few years he’d known her, she’d never had chronic spells like this. Was it something to do with the vampires? The chemist had no idea, but it was clearly something he couldn’t combat, at least not right now. He reached down to jostle her shoulder.
“Stop it! It won’t do you any good,” Lu said with a growl.
She bit her lip. Lu knew what was happening. Mary’s power was awakening. She must have reached her sister somehow subconsciously. It wasn’t something she needed to worry over, but Mary seemed attached to the vampire she now lay beside. His life would be lost if he stayed near her. She had to hide him somewhere closed off, quickly.
“Quit fussing over her when this vampire’s going to go poof any minute!”
“But-” Wes looked up at the changeling as she grabbed him by the shirt. She was nearly touching his face as she cut him off.
“I’m telling you, mortal, she’ll be fine. Your other friend, however, needs to get out of this room, or it’s over for him. Where can we take him away from outside? It has to be dark.”
“Quit worrying about her?”
Wes had to pause at the memory. His panic meter had frozen. Lu had both helped and worsened his mental state. He didn’t want to leave Mary like this, but Gabriel was a friend. Blinking away the stun, he looked toward his room, pointing with his left hand.
“My room... There’s a sheet that pulls down. It blocks out most light from the window. Will that do?”
“It’ll have to cause it’s about to get really bright in here.”
Lu glanced at the Sun Dweller. Her hair was already glowing, and it was starting to waft about. It wouldn’t be long now. She pulled Gabriel’s limp form away from the hair. It would burn him badly if it touched him. She looked up at Wes, opening her mouth to say something, but she closed it after staring at the human for a moment.
“What?” Wes growled back at her. He hated it when people stared at him. Lu was point-blank rude, and she was obnoxiously unashamed of it. He was beginning to wish Mary had left her wherever she’d found her. “What the hell are you staring at, you freak?”
“Who are you calling a freak?” Lu snapped back as she started trying to pick the vampire up. “I was going to tell you to pick up our sleeper here and carry him to that room, but I remembered you were a gimp when I looked at you. Jeez, I’m the next strongest here, which is pretty sad since you’re supposed to be a man and all.” She sighed heavily as Wes gawked back at her, angry and shocked.
“Anyone ever told you you’re more of a bitch than a brat?” Wes snarled at the changeling as she tried to balance Gabriel’s dead weight on her back. He hoped she tripped in those slippers she was wearing. A stubbed toe would make a nice bonus, too.
“You better hope I forget that,” Lu replied, trying to pretend she wasn’t ticked about the comment. “I might peck your eyeballs out and eat ’em!” The tension between them was growing by the second.
“I take it back.” Wes wheeled toward her as she struggled to walk under the weight. “Freak suits you better than bitch or brat.”
“Oh... About the man comment earlier...” The shapeshifter grunted as she walked slowly but surely for the doorway. “Sorry... I didn’t mean to insult you... You can’t help being a man-hugger... so you just ooze of female...”
“Why you...!” Wes snapped. He felt like he was talking to a middle-school student.
“Finally!” Lu sighed with a smile. “A bed will do just fine!” She stood up straight to drop the vampire on Wes’ bed, but he only fell next to it. She looked down at him with a blank face. “Oops... Close enough.”
Wes grabbed his face to squeeze his temples. This girl was just awful. Opening his eyes he saw a glow reflect off his pale arm. He turned to see what it was. It was too early to be sunrise. Was a helicopter flying by? The vampires could have attracted attention. What he saw though transfixed him.
Lu looked up from pulling the sheet down in front of the window. She gasped. Mary was farther along than she’d realized. Glancing at the doorway, she saw the human was staring.
“Don’t look at it!” She shifted into bird form to rush for the door, slamming it shut with her talons. Before she could relax, she alighted on the mortals chair to see how he was. His blue eyes were unfocused, and his pupils were mere dots in the center. She shook her head, too late.
“Was Mary... just... glowing...?” Wes was in complete darkness now, but he couldn’t deny what he’d seen. Was that even real?
“Mary is a Sun Dweller,” Lu said in a low voice. “They don’t just walk in daylight. They bring the Sun’s wrath into the night. Mary must have resonated with her sister subconsciously, and that woke up both their powers. Mara must be just as bright right now.”
“So I basically just looked at the Sun...?” Wes sounded half-awake, shaken by the scene he’d just witnessed.
“Pretty much, genius,” she croaked back sarcastically. “My master could have contained her light and ended this, but without him here, we’re going to have to wait for sunrise. Sun Dwellers can’t access this power during the day.”
“Will my eyesight come back...?” He asked with a hint of worry.
“I’m sorry, human,” Lu replied, grimly. “We females have a blinding effect on you males.”
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