The Queen in Shadows

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Chapter 46

The guards behind the door don't stand a chance. Sloane and Alex are on top of them before they even have a second to realize what is happening.

We move through the dark corridors, Miles and Celine eventually branching off and running down other hallways.

We reach yet another staircase and I follow them down, further. The air feels colder with each step we take. When Alex pushes the door open the metallic smell of blood fills the air and I wince.

We move so quietly that the only sound is a near constant dripping from the ceiling onto the stone floor.

Alex shifts and starts to run toward a closed door at the end of the hall, his nose in the air. Light glows under the door and my stomach knots.

Sloane pushes the door open for him and they enter the room together. When I reach the end of the hall I peer into the room.

The scene before me is chaos.

The huge room is cold and damp. The dim light is only enough to illuminate the disgusting condition of the King's quarters. It's impossible to believe that royalty lives here. Everything is in disarray, it looks like it hasn't been cleaned, ever.

Alex is up on his hind legs with the King pinned to the wall.

I gasp at the sight of him.

He looks frail, like a skeleton with yellowing skin stretched over it. His strength is deceptive, though. He is obviously stronger than he looks. He and Alex are embroiled in a genuine fight.

His greasy hair appears to be falling out in clumps, leaving large patches of his head visible.

A warm hand on my arm makes me scream until I realize it's Celine arriving with Miles and Dannon.

Celine pulls me out of the way and we watch as Sloane, Miles and Dannon fight the guards in the room. I'm completely useless. I try to focus on my wolf, to shift, but I can't. Just thinking about it has me leaning against a chair for support. I clutch the dagger in my hand, willing my body to move, to have some semblance of strength.

"Arius escaped down that hatch!" Sloane yells before she pulls a strange looking stick from her backpack.

I step toward the open trapdoor on the floor.

"Wait, Noelle!" Alex yells.

I turn to see that he's shifted and has the King in his arms like a rag doll. In a split second of blinding speed he twists and knocks Alex back.

The King reaches for Sloane and a feral sound comes from Alex.

Sloane is pinned to ground and the King is putting pressure on her head, pulling it back. I'm afraid he's going to take her head clean off. His nails bite into her skin leaving deep gashes.

Alex lunges forward and takes the strange stick she had, somehow igniting the end of it...it look like a pointy torch now. He seems to press a button once or twice and the flame flickers off then back on again.

My eyes go wide as I realize what's happening.

Alex starts to push the stick into the base of the Kings neck and he immediately stops moving.

"Let her go," Alex growls.

The King snarls but complies. As soon as Sloane has rolled out from under him Alex ignites the stick and forces it into his neck with a sickening squish.

The King falls forward and his body is engulfed in flames in a single breath.

My body shudders as Alex rushes to check Sloane.

"I helped Miles design that weapon," Celine whispers proudly.

I stare at the pile of ashes on the floor. That death was too good for him. The pain he caused, the lives he ruined, he deserved worse than a quick death.

"Let's go," Alex commands the group and we climb down the ladder one by one after him. Once I step off of the ladder a wave of nausea hits me.

What is this place?

Whatever this is, it looks like how I would describe hell. It's freezing and dark. It's hard to breathe with the thick smell of blood and death in the air.

There is a shelf on one side of the room with huge glass jars filled with blood. The room glows a haunting shade of red.

I clutch Celine's arm as we follow behind Alex. Further into the room a large metal door opens into another similar room, the only notable exception is the bright lights that illuminate the horror surrounding us.

"What the fuck is this place?" Alex whispers hoarsely, covering his nose in a feeble attempt to block out the smell.

"They were draining people... if the King was surviving on blood alone he would need quite a lot to sustain himself..." Miles looks nauseous and pale.

I suppress a gag just as the sound of metal scraping has all of us running into the next room. There isn't anything here. We all search around, confused, it sounded like another metal door closing before, but there is no door here.

A tiny drop of blood on the floor sets my insides on fire. I drop to the ground and press my fingers to it, it's cold. A loud sob rips through my chest and I jump up, pressing on the walls.

He was here.

Without hesitation the rest of them join me, pressing against the walls until one of them opens slightly.

I shift and stumble into the room behind Alex and Sloane. Arius looks like a cornered animal. This must be the last room, he's trapped.

I push past the others and jump on him. He pushes something into my ribs as I snap my jaw tight over his neck.

I can feel his bones crunching. I vaguely register the sharp pain in my chest as I rip at his throat. I press my claws into his chest, tearing at his flesh. I know this won't kill him, only fire can do that, but I can maim him.

"Noelle!"

I can hear my name but I can't stop myself. The room starts to sway and I drop him to the floor.

Alex grabs him and I shift, unable to hold myself in wolf form any longer.

I stumble backwards as Arius laughs a mangled, wet, coughing laugh, blood dripping from his mouth.

He smiles at me as Alex pins him to the floor. He's saying something with his eyes. He's taunting me.

Something is wrong.

"Where is his body, Arius," my voice shakes.

He only laughs in response.

I jump up and run from the room. My feet stumble and catch over the uneven ground. I push every wall and turn over every table.

I vaguely hear Alex and Celine questioning him, their words are met with more manic laughter.

I run back into the room and grab my knife from the floor.

"Where, Arius? I will tear this entire castle apart, brick by brick. Where are his ashes?"

The smug look on his face makes my heart thud against my chest.

"Do whatever you want with him," I yell over my shoulder, no longer interested in whether he lives or dies, or watching it happen.

I repeat the same process in each room, pushing the walls, searching every stone for some kind of clue.

I run back to the first room, the room with the jars of blood. I use the dagger to pry them open. I take a deep breath, trying to settle my stomach before I lean over, smelling the blood from the first jar. It's not his. The second isn't either.

I have to hold onto the wall as I pry the third jar open.

The others have joined me, I can feel their eyes on me, watching me, probably questioning my sanity.

As soon as the third lid clanks to the ground I freeze. Phoenix.

I stagger backwards and trip over the uneven stones. I clutch my chest, heaving out silent sobs.

"Let's go, Elle, we have to get out of here."

I look up at Alex, his face splattered with blood I know isn't his. I place my hands on the ground to steady myself and gasp.

There is a breeze here...




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