Gritting my teeth, I took in several deep breaths in and out as I silently cursed the entire god damn universe and its inhabitants. Shaking my head vigorously, I growled and stalked into the Night Life Bar. Like a switch being flipped, the few patrons inside abruptly went silent. Sighing inwardly, I strode up to the bar and putting my hands on the cool surface, I leaned forward and caught Cane’s surprised gaze with my own. “It is nice to see you, too,” I said, and my compulsion slammed into him and the patrons as I reached for them one by one. “Every one of you will go back to your drinks and forget the fact that you saw me walk through the door, because for all intents and purposes, I never did enter the bar.” I released the patrons, never taking my eyes off of Cane. “You, however,” I said quietly to the bartender. “Will remember me and do exactly as I say.” Projecting the instruction into his head, I smirked. “Did you get that?” I asked.
“Yes,” he replied tonelessly.
“Good. Now, do you have all the necessary ingredients?”
“Very well, I want a shot of everclear. Start a tab, and I want it straight. Make sure that no one is watching you when you’re doing whatever it is that you are about to do when I release you. That includes the cameras. Do I make myself clear?”
“And you will not speak a word of this to anyone. In fact, the moment I leave, you will forget ever seeing the instruction or making the drink. Instead, you will remember serving me whiskey with type AB negative blood. Is that clear?”
“Yes.” Straightening, I nodded and released him. Cane blinked as I took a seat at the bar. Shaking his head, he stepped back. “Right,” he muttered. “I’ll bring you your drink.”
“You do that,” I said as he disappeared into the small kitchen. Without it being obvious, I scanned the patrons, keeping a lookout for any misbehaving rogues. Resting one arm on the bar, I sighed and mentally reached out to Kindri. Jailyn? Kindri asked into my mind. Kindri, I said, silently acknowledging her. How is everything? I silently asked. Quite well, I have Zaida, and I just threw her sire in a cell. I inwardly smirked. And the rest? Kindri growled. They are no longer our problem. We have a bigger one. I sighed. How many? She hesitated. Since Teeros is dead, four more, not including Zaida’s sire. I silently groaned. Thank you. I will leave you now, I said into her head and pulled back. Grabbing the shot Cane put in front of me only a mere second ago, I tossed the drink back, hissing in pleasure as the liquid burned the inside of my mouth and down my throat. “You know,” I said out loud, grabbing the second shot and slamming it. “I can’t seem to get a break now these days.” Throwing back my third and fourth shots, I groaned, hissing as the burning numbness settled over me. “So many fucking assholes, so many fucking idiots, so little time to deal with them.” Glancing at Cane, I slowly got to my feet, one hand gripping the bar for balance as my world spun around me. I quickly tossed back my fifth and sixth shot as the numbness settled more heavily over me. “I have to go,” I muttered as Tristan appeared beside me. “Give me the pitcher.” Before I could take the pitcher, Tristan grabbed it as his other hand took hold of my upper arm.
“That is enough,” Tristan said with a sigh.
I scowled. “I was only at it for ten seconds.”
“Ten seconds too long.” Grumbling, I removed my hand from the bar, and everything went dark.
“Oh my god!” Kira exclaimed the moment we appeared in the Council’s chamber. “Is Jailyn drunk? Holy fucking shit, is she drunk?”
I grimaced as Tristan pushed me into a chair and up against a table. “Shut up,” I growled. “I am not drunk, you foolish thing.”
“No fucking way! Are you seeing double?” She held up her hand in front of me. “How many fingers am I holding up?”
“Four,” I muttered, and I shuddered against the burning sensation I could still feel.
“No,” Tristan said dryly. “Two.”
“Oh my god, I can’t believe this,” Kira said and flashed from the room. Tristan set the pitcher down and stared at me.
“What?” I asked and grabbed the handle of the pitcher and pulled it toward me.
“Out of all the days in a year you could pick from,” he growled. “Why did you have to pick today to get drunk?” he asked as a big shot glass appeared in his hand.
“Because the world fucking sucks.”
“No fucking shit,” he muttered and took the pitcher from me.
“Stupid annoying fucking fledglings who think they can achieve anything just by sitting around and being lazy, and hey,” I spluttered.
“It’s called sharing,” he growled and poured himself a couple of shots before tossing them both back.
“I planned on being fucked over alone, damn it.”
“Too bad,” he hissed and shuddered.
“Is Evey going to join us?” I asked and stole his third shot. “Or will she be stone cold sober for the duration of the session?” I sipped at the drink before swallowing the entire content. Tristan growled something I couldn’t make out as he tugged the shot glass out of my numb fingers.
“We need to finish this before our children return with the prisoners.”
“You have a point.” I glared at him as he quickly finished off the rest of the alcohol.
“I feel much, much better,” he said and coughed, both pitcher and shot glass disappearing just as Freya entered the Council’s chamber.
“Dear god,” she said in horror as she crossed the huge space that separated us from the door. “Both of you are out of your minds.”
“I sincerely thank you for the compliment.”
Stopping at the table, she pulled out a chair to my right and sat. “Both of you do realize this could go wrong?”
“We’re very well aware,” I said as Tristan dropped into the chair beside Freya, blood trickling from his nose. “That is why we have you here.”
Freya let out a harrumph and folded her arms on the table. “I see.”
“And not a word to the younglings. They’re going to ask and be very… persistent about it.”
“Not to worry, I will not say a word. I never had before, and will not do so now.”
“Good,” I mumbled and closed my eyes as Evelyn walked in.
“My worst nightmare came true,” Evelyn gasped. “Tristan and Jailyn getting drunk together. The world has truly ended. All the demons back in hell can now cheer and jump for joy,” she said sarcastically. “Woohoo.”
“I reserve the right to be drunk,” I muttered. “It has been centuries.”
“Freya,” Evelyn said with a sigh. “Can you sober them up?”
“Don’t you dare touch me,” I warned and snapped my eyes open to glare at her.
“Tristan?” Freya asked. “What say you?”
“When I go to see Ari,” Tristan said slowly and wiped away the blood with a white handkerchief that appeared from nowhere.
“If you insist.”
“You weren’t supposed to ask them,” Evelyn said and grumbled under her breath as she took a seat to Tristan’s right.
“My apologies then.”
“Leave me alone,” I complained. “I need to drown my sorrows in something other than mass slaughter. Besides, I still have spirits to escort to their next life when this is all done and over with. It’s a fucking party in limbo land.” Silence greeted my ears when I was done, and I looked at them—my drunkenness lifting slightly. “Sorry,” I said, wincing as sadness washed over me. “I just totally killed the mood, didn’t I?”
“Yeah,” Evelyn said with a putout sigh. “You did. That is what Casiar, Cazaron, Riordan, and Jesric are doing now. Isn’t it? Escorting spirits?”
“I believe Violet left a few minutes ago to help them,” said Freya. “Kindri must remain here of course.”
“Here come the children,” Evelyn said, as the doors were pulled open to allow Kira, Corinne, Skyler, Jade, Aisley, Jude, Trent, and all the others through. Cole, the last to enter, slammed the doors shut with a boom.
“I’m not drunk enough for this,” I said under my breath as a loud gong sounded once overhead and somewhere off in the distance. “Because I can still think straight.”AISLEY
The entire group was silent as we quickly lined up against the walls, glancing nervously at each other every now and then. Tristan nodded to Freya, who scowled before pushing back from the table and getting to her feet. Her eyes met mine, and I quickly looked away, unsure if she was able to compel me or not. Kira, standing to my left, practically vibrated with restrain excitement. I elbowed her hard, and she yelped. “What was that for?” she hissed, low enough that her question didn’t reach the members of the Council who sat half a football field away from us. Okay, the chamber wasn’t the size of a football field, but it might as well have been. The spacious, squared chamber was probably a hundred feet by a hundred or more. If I hadn’t stepped off the elevator and walked down the long dimly lit hall to get here, I would’ve thought the chamber itself took up half the floor. Spaced at ten feet intervals along the walls were a circular drain, and there was one in the center of the room. The floor was made from some kind of bricks, and the walls were made from stones and probably other stuff to make them impenetrable against vampire strength. Hell, there was probably magic here, even though I couldn’t feel it at the moment. While the floor was the color of dark, dark red, the walls and ceiling were pale blue, so pale that it might as well be white. The doors I could see were closed, and I did not want to know where they led to. The single light bulb didn’t do much in illuminating the chamber; it casted almost the entire room in shadows. After all, we didn’t need light to get around by.
“Tune down your excitement,” I muttered. “We all know it’s going to get bloody before long.”
Kira growled something and nodded. “Right,” she said with a huff. “You’re right.” I grunted, and before I could comment on that, the temperature suddenly dropped, plunging the chamber to almost the freezing zone. Five prisoners wrapped in silver chains appeared ten feet or so in front of the Council members, and every one of them had a hunter with them. Where skin met chain, the contact sizzled, smoking as if the chains were burning them. The door at the far side of the room opened, and I almost gasped out loud as Elijah walked out. He stopped at the table, looking around before taking Freya’s vacated seat. Freya herself put a hand on his shoulder, and the air in the chamber all but vibrated around us as he growled. A moment later, Freya pulled back and flashed to the doors that led out of the chamber. Turning, she leaned against them, nodding to Cole and Sven who stood on either side of her. Elijah glanced at Tristan and Jailyn, blinking at them but said nothing as he leaned back in his chair. It took all I had within me not to run over to him and check his physical and mental stability.
“Release them,” Evelyn said, as if this was an everyday thing. The two necromancers that appeared out of thin air with the prisoners—Jesric and Kindri—nodded, and the chains vanished, dropping them onto the floor with grunts of pain. “If you please, bring her in.” A ding sounded, and the silver elevator at one corner that I hadn’t notice earlier slid open. Sarisa and Sergei stepped out with a fledgling between them. Sarisa’s hand on the fledgling’s back, they walked over and came to a stop out of both the prisoners and those at the table’s grabbing range. “Bring her forward,” Evelyn said as black smoke puffed from the fledgling’s mouth. Sarisa nodded and walked forward, until they reached the black, polished rectangular granite table. Giving the fledgling a squeeze on the shoulder, the huntress stepped back. “State your name, young one.”
“Zaida Alari,” the fledgling said calmly, blinking as she puffed out another stream of smoke. Tristan growled something, and a second later, I could feel magic at work. He grunted, like he had been smacked upside the head as he blinked rapidly to clear the rest of the drunken fog from his mind. Evelyn looked so relieved that I thought she was going to reach out and strangle the life out of him, as the magic in the air slowly dissipated. Tristan stared down at the tabletop for a long moment, and then he glanced at Zaida, his eyes narrowing dangerously. Reaching across the table, he held out his hand to her, saying nothing as the fledgling hesitated. Realizing that he wasn’t going to withdraw the hand anytime soon, Zaida reluctantly placed her own trembling one into his. She let out a squeak as Tristan lifted her up and over the table. Pushing his chair back, he settled her in his lap and tilted her head back with a finger. Another puff of smoke came out of her mouth, and he turned his head, grimacing. As the smoke settled, he leaned down and nuzzled her neck. Zaida stiffened, spluttering and squeaking as he inhaled deeply. Growling, he pulled back and lifted her from his lap, setting her on her feet as he rose.
“Oh, god,” Kira hissed as my own stomach clenched painfully. “I have a very, very bad feeling about this.” Apart from the puffing smoke, Zaida didn’t move as Tristan rounded the table and walked over to the prisoners, stopping in front of one of them.
“Enlighten me,” Tristan hissed into the silence. “What was the purpose of all this?” When none of them spoke up, Tristan smirked. “Very well, keep your silence.” He stared intently at the one in front of him, and the necromancer actually recoiled away from Tristan, gasping. Shivering, I folded my arms and pressed myself into the wall behind me. The red ringing Tristan’s white eyes vanished, and the earth trembled beneath my feet as he grabbed the cowering necromancer by the throat. In lightning speed, he slammed the necromancer into the wall so hard that for a second, I thought I felt my brain rattling inside my skull. Tristan’s low snarls filled my ears as he released the necromancer who hit the floor hard, only to be jerked upright and slammed back against the wall by some unseen force. Bleeding from his eyes, ears and nose, the necromancer struggled against Tristan’s mental hold to no avail. He tried to speak, but all that came out was a gurgling sound. “Did you not think I would find out?” I swallowed hard, rubbing my tingling hands against my jeans. “Did you?” Tristan asked, his voice dropping into a whisper. “You are a disappointment to me, Karacus.”
“Sorry,” Karacus wheezed. “I’m sorry. Please, don’t kill me. I beg of you.”
“No, Karacus,” Tristan said oh so slowly. “No, I will not kill you,” he whispered in Karacus’s ear as the light bulb finally gave out with a sizzle and a pop. “I have something else… for you.” Karacus went paler than pale as Tristan straightened to his full height. “As for your friends…” He stepped away from the necromancer and released him. Karacus hit the floor, gasping and wheezing as his head struck the unyielding surface that was the bricks. “I need a volunteer,” Tristan growled as he walked over and stopped before Kindri and Jesric.
“Oh,” Jailyn said for the first time. “You’re not going to pick me? I should be offended.” Tristan growled and shot her a very annoyed look. “Yes yes,” Jailyn muttered. “I know,” she finished and nodded to Jesric. “I vote for him.”
“Grrrrrr.” Chuckling, Jailyn put her head in her hands and closed her eyes. After a moment of heavy silence, Kindri nodded, and Jesric stepped forward.
“I’ll do it,” the necromancer said and glanced at me as I let out a gasp. Fuming, Tristan nodded as the earth continued to tremble. Evelyn rose from her chair and pulled Jailyn up, walking to stand against one of the walls. Elijah got up more slowly, scowling as the chairs and table vanished into thin air.
“Watch him,” Tristan snarled to Kindri as she and Elijah walked over to join Evelyn and Jailyn.
“I will,” Kindri said and glared at a groaning Karacus. Tristan took several deep breaths in and out through his nose, his eyes shut tight and body taut as a cable. A moment later, the trembling came to a stop and his eyes snapped open. He nodded to Sarisa and Sergei, still growling. Sarisa walked to Zaida who stood frozen on the spot, her eyes widened as smoke continued to escape her parted mouth. Putting a hand on the fledgling’s shoulder, she led Zaida over to Sven, Freya, and Cole, Sergei at her side. Freya nodded, stepping aside and opening one of the heavy steel doors. It slammed shut behind them, Zaida looking over her shoulder as they left the chamber.
“Release them,” Tristan hissed as the echo of a door being slammed fade.
“Done,” Kindri said, and I shuddered as the ice cold touch of death magic reached us. She hesitated. “Should I unblock them from jumping into the abyss?”
“No,” he growled, stalking over to Karacus and jerking him to his feet. “Everything else is allowed.” Kindri nodded as Karacus disappeared into thin air with a scream. Tristan turned and shoved his hands into his pockets, eyes narrowed on Jailyn. Feeling his heavy gaze on her, the necromancer slowly opened her eyes and scowled at him. “Shall I?” he hissed. “Or shall you?”
“Fucker,” Jailyn muttered as she straightened from leaning against Evelyn. Turning to face Jesric and the four prisoners, she glared at them. “There is only one rule to this game, and it should be easy enough for even those of you who are brain addled to follow.” She bared her fangs at the prisoners. “If you fail to follow the rule, your life will be instantly… terminated,” she growled, low in her throat. Ice crystals began to form along the walls, floor, and ceiling as the temperature continued to drop. Her eyes focused on the prisoners, she gave them a creepy, creepy smile of anticipation. “Kindri,” she said sweetly. “Unblock them from the abyss, won’t you?”
“It is done,” Kindri said a second later, and my heart was all but pounding in my ears—the rushing of blood a thunderous roar.
“Good,” Jailyn said slowly. “The rule,” she continued. “No jumping into the abyss to withdraw from the game. If you do, you will make my Ahzeeki a very happy, happy demon. You understand this simple rule, don’t you?” The four terrified necromancers slowly got to their feet, nodding jerkily as souls began to swirl around them. Jesric stepped back from them, and he looked like he was dying of pleasure as his own souls shot from his mouth to spin around him in a dizzying speed. Red flickered in his unblinking black eyes, and it wasn’t the red of a well-fed vampire. “Then let the trial by souls begin,” Jailyn said quietly. With that, the entire chamber turned into solid ice as a thunderclap sounded far, far off in the distance.