As Shadow Follows Fire

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Summary

Rae is still haunted by her mother's stories, stories of dark creatures crawling in search of blood, stories... of Noctura. But when the bells toll for the first time in a hundred years, signaling the return of these shadowy monsters long thought extinct, Rae awakens to a reality far more chilling than any story. Cornered, her adopted brother, Mitsue, discovers he has the power to control fire, one he can use to drive away the shadows. But Rae makes a discovery of her own. She has power, too, one drawn from the very darkness itself. Inhuman speed. Savage strength. Even the ability to return from the dead. The power of a Noctura isn't all good, though, for with each death, Rae's memory grows hazier, while the hunger only gets worse. Now, while Mitsue trains to control his powers, Rae is being hunted for hers. When her search for answers uncovers a secret plot tying her brother's academy to a thousand-year-old prophecy, Rae learns more is at stake than she could ever have imagined. With the conspiracy deepening at every turn, Rae must choose whether to trust her brother with the truth. However, in this battle between light and dark, their greatest enemy might just be... each other.

Genre:
Fantasy / Thriller
Author:
DanielScottGreer
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
249
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
18+

No Escape: Mitsue

Rae slammed the door and bolted it shut. “That won’t hold them!” Indeed, even as the words left her mouth, a powerful blow shook the timbers. A second blow followed, and a third.

Mitsue spun in circles, looking wildly around the room. There has to be a way out. But there were no other doors leading from the Abbess’ office, and the single window was barred.

There has to.

Then he saw it, a small trap door set into the ceiling. Rae must have had the same idea because she met his eyes and nodded. Mitsue dumped Ernly into a chair, the injured boy still unable to stand on his broken ankle. “I’ll lift you,” Mitsue told Rae. She stepped up onto the abbess’ desk and he grabbed her around the waist and positioned himself, Rae’s heels digging into his stomach.

“Get me a little higher,” Rae said from above as her fingers brushed the bottom of the trapdoor.

Krista sobbed in the corner, great fat tears leaking down her tiny cheeks. A high-pitched laughter rolled in from the hallway, lifting every hair on Mitsue’s body.

“I’m trying.” He pressed with all his strength, his arms aching with the effort. “Hurry,” he grunted.

“Almost there. Almost there.” Rae pushed the little door upward. It fell open with a thunk.

Sweat ran down Mitsue’s forehead and into his eyes. His arms shook. He was quickly running out of stamina. “Hurry!”

“Almost… there!”

Just as he felt his arms give way, Rae grabbed hold of the trapdoor’s frame. In an instant, she’d pulled herself up and disappeared into the darkness.

Come on. Come on.

Shadows were now beginning to slip through the crack beneath the door, to foam and churn, gaining substance and form.

Come on.

From above, came the sound of Rae struggling with something heavy.

“Rae…”

The shadows coalesced into an arm, a leg, a misshapen head with spindly fingers reaching from the depths of its eyes.

“RAE!”

“Look out!” Rae called.

A wooden ladder dropped out of the darkness a second later, nearly catching Mitsue’s shoulder. He dodged out of the way. Then he was lifting Krista, passing the little girl upward. He grabbed Ernly by the collar and pulled him from his seat and threw him. Mitsue hauled himself up after. He was halfway up before he realized what he’d forgotten. Light! Even if there were a gas lamp, they wouldn’t be able to find it in the darkness. He looked around.

There!

A candle was still glowing on the Abbess’ desk, though its light now flickered as if it would die at any moment. Mitsue made to jump from the ladder, but his foot tangled in the rungs, and he slipped sideways and smashed his head into the hardwood desk. Silver stars exploded across his vision. He lay on the floor, feeling as though he might throw up. Then staggering to his feet, one hand clamped to the bump rising from his skull, he seized the candle.

“Mitsue!” Rae shouted.

He turned just as the door ripped from its hinges. An enormous shadowy fist rose above him. He rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding the blow as it crushed the desk, which exploded in a cloud of wooden splinters. Mitsue bounced to his feet. Amazingly, the candle hadn’t gone out. Sliding through the debris, he dove for the ladder. Then he was climbing as quickly as he could, the candle between his teeth, his vision still jittering from the fall.

Beneath him, a thousand dark hands reached upwards…

And then he was up and over—through the trap door. Rae slammed it shut and helped him to his feet. They were in a small attic, the stone ceiling slanting with the roof, their shadows dancing and swaying in the flickering candlelight.

From the corner, Mitsue caught the glint of a window. He staggered over to it. No bars! He scrabbled with the lock, his fingers heavy. It looked like it let out on the roof. Come on. Years or decades of disuse had corroded the metal and set it firmly in place. He beat his fist against it, but it wouldn’t give.

“It won’t open!”

“Let me try,” Rae said, pushing him out of the way. She flew at the lock, scratching with her nails, hammering with her knuckles, till her fingers were raw and bloody. “Goddamnit!” she cried, unable to open it.

“One more try,” Mitsue said, passing the candle to Rae.

“Hurry,” Rae panted, her face completely drained of blood. Shadows were now beginning to bubble up around the frame of the trapdoor.

There was no other choice. Please. Mitsue slammed his fist into the windowpane. The force of the impact shivered up his arm. Please. He drew his arm back and threw it again. Please. And again. And again. Please. His knuckles split and bled, droplets cascading across the floor, black in the candlelight. PLEASE! He drove his fist into the glass one last time with all the strength he had, nearly blacking out from the pain. He swayed on his feet. He’d managed to put a tiny crack in the center, but otherwise the glass was undamaged. It’s no use. It was too thick. He couldn’t do it. He dropped his hand. This is it. He turned to look at Rae. She stared back, her eyes wide in terror, as from behind, the trapdoor tore open.

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