“Have a seat.” Zaida glanced around Tristan’s office nervously as she reluctantly sat down in one of the comfortable-looking chairs by the window. Repeatedly rubbing a finger over the dark blue velvet material, her eyes darted around the room, as if she couldn’t help herself. At the moment, we were the only two here, but that wouldn’t be for long. Zaida’s frantic heart pounded loud in my ears as I leaned against the wall beside the partially opened door. “Would you like something to drink?” I asked. “Or snack on?”
“Can I have water?” she asked and coughed as smoke came out of her nose. Eyes tearing up, she sneezed.
“Sure,” I said as the door was pushed open wider and Sathia and Freya walked in.
“Jailyn is getting it,” Sathia said and peered intently at Zaida. “How long have you been puffing out smoke?” the demon asked curiously.
The fledgling shrugged. “Feels like eternity,” she mumbled as Jailyn walked in a couple of seconds later, a water bottle in her hand. She leaned against the window beside Zaida’s chair and held the water out to her. “Thanks,” she said as she took it. Twisting off the cap, she took a long drink.
“Are you all right?” Freya asked me. Parking herself on the desk, she arched an eyebrow in question when I didn’t answer.
“Am I that obvious?” I replied and shrugged as my stomach gave a painful squeeze, reminding me that I hadn’t properly fed in the last forty-eight hours and counting.
“Yes,” Freya said succinctly. “You have not fed for quite a while now.”
I scowled. “I can go without feeding longer than you can,” I pointed out matter-of-factly.
“Be that as it may,” she said and glared at me. “It is not wise to go a day without sustenance, even for you.”
“I already know this,” I muttered under my breath. “By learning it the hard way I might add.”
“Going on three days is pushing it.”
I straightened and glared at her. “Have you been spying on me?” I spluttered and shoved my hands into my pockets.
“Feeding from Sergei does not count.”
“Hey!” I exclaimed. “There’s a child in the room with us! OR have you forgotten?” Jailyn laughed while Sathia gave me a nod of approval and smirked.
“I’m not a child,” Zaida said, almost angrily.
“That you are not,” Freya said, smiling as I continued my silent rant. “But right at this moment, you are.” Zaida growled, and then froze as Tristan appeared right outside the door. “Ah, here he is.” Looking like he wanted to rip out someone’s throat, Tristan stepped into his own office and closed the door behind him with a snap. I could hear the growl that was just below human hearing coming from him as he moved to his desk. Pulling out the chair, he slowly sat and leaned back, his eyes going distant as he stared up at the ceiling. No one made a move or a sound as we waited. Zaida, for once, wasn’t wincing or grimacing as smoke continued to puff from her mouth or nose.
“Zaida Alari,” Tristan said slowly, not taking his eyes away from a spot on the ceiling that he was so focused on. Jailyn nudged the fledgling when she remained silent. After a long tense minute, and when she still hadn’t respond to Tristan, Jailyn leaned down and whispered something in Zaida’s ear, low enough that none of us heard whatever it was Jailyn told her.
“Yes?” Zaida finally replied, be it nervously. A pained look crossed Jailyn’s face as she straightened.
“How old are you?” I winced when she kept her silence, and I prayed she’d get with the program, sooner rather than later, because Tristan was not in a good mood. When he wasn’t in a good mood, people ended up dead before they could utter a single word of protest in their defense. Sathia nudged her and gave her a warning look.
“I’m a hundred and three years old,” Zaida said with a frown.
“You were turned… how long ago?” When Zaida didn’t answer fast enough this time, Tristan tore his gaze from the ceiling and sat up straighter in his chair. Turning to look at the fledgling, who cringed away from him when his gaze landed on her, he got to his feet and walked the short distance to where she sat stiffly in her chair. She gulped as he tilted back her head with a finger under her chin. “When I ask a question, child,” he said softly. “I expect an answer in return.” Zaida nodded. “Now if you please, answer my question.”
“Eighty-five years ago,” she whispered. He scowled, dropping his hand from her and taking a step back. Walking back to his desk, he glared at the computer as he got rid of the screensaver, and I moved until I could see what he was doing. Logging into the Council’s database, he did a search on Karacus. I blinked when I saw the name in the sired by box. In the child sired field, however, it was blank. Tristan stared at this for a long time, and the longer he stared at it, the air in the office became harder and harder to breathe. I could practically hear his teeth grinding together as he finally logged out of the system and put the computer to sleep. Moving back to the wall beside the door, I leaned against it. A minute later, Sven appeared beside me with an unconscious Karacus in his arms.
“Sire?” Sven said in greeting and shoved the necromancer away from him. Karacus hit the wall hard enough that it vibrated slightly on impact.
“Sven?” Tristan growled and strode over to the necromancer. Hauling him to his feet, he pressed him into the wall with a hand on the necromancer’s chest.
“Do you wish for me to remain?” Sven asked.
Tristan paused in his mental probing of the necromancer’s mind and frowned in thought. “You may leave if you like.”
Sven grunted. “If you need me just growl.” He chuckled as Tristan well… growled in response. Nodding to us, he teleported away with a smirk.
“Children,” Tristan snarled and bashed Karacus’s head against the wall once, twice, three times. “Wake up,” he snapped, and my ears were suddenly hurting as Karacus woke up with a scream. “That is more like it,” he growled and released Karacus. The necromancer caught himself before he could hit the floor. “Sit,” Tristan said softly. “Let’s have a little chat, you and I.”
“There is nothing to talk about,” Karacus hissed in pain as he carefully settled himself on the edge of the desk.
“Oh?” Tristan asked. “Isn’t there?”
“No,” the necromancer growled and resisted the urged to clutch his head in his hands, even as blood trickled from his nose.
Tristan sighed, moving to the door and leaning against it. “Karacus,” he said, as if admonishing a child who didn’t know better. “You’re around three hundred and fifty years old. You have lived three lifetimes over, and you are telling me that there is nothing to talk about?”
Karacus shrugged and winced. “What is there to talk about?”
“You,” Tristan growled and squeezed his eyes shut, probably fighting with himself not to hit Karacus across the office and through the window. “You are all the same. Why do I even bother?”
“Stop it!” Jailyn suddenly snapped. Tristan’s eyes snapped open in interest as she flashed to Karacus. Jailyn’s eyes met his, and he sucked in a sharp breath, wheezing in pain as Tristan grunted. “Stop it,” she repeated, and I straightened, fighting against the pull of her voice. Karacus’s eyes glazed over, and then he let out a scream, jerking backward onto the desk. “Let go of your magic, Karacus,” Jailyn warned. Out the corner of my eye, I saw Tristan wincing as Karacus scream grew louder and more strained. “Let go,” she growled. “Or you will not like the outcome.” Tristan straightened and looked to Sathia, who nodded. I was suddenly knocked sideway as Tristan uncloaked his aura and let it swirl around the office. Groaning, I stumbled to the wall where the window was as my hunger punched relentlessly at me. Freya growled, and her eyes went white. Sathia suddenly had her in a chokehold, and I winced as the demon snapped her neck. Tristan let out a hiss as the pain of the snap registered through the sire bond. Sathia dropped Freya as Zaida let out a choked scream. She was on the floor, her hands clenched tightly around one of the chair legs.
“Do I need to snap your neck as well?” Sathia asked me hopefully.
“Fuck you, demon,” I said, groaning as my vision turned red. Swallowing the buildup saliva surging in my mouth, I put a hand on the wall to steady myself.
“Are you sure?” the demon asked, and she actually pouted. I just stared at her. “What?” she asked, throwing up her hands. “I’m a damn demon. I thrive on chaos and destruction. You got a problem with that?” Freya suddenly stirred, and Sathia halted in her reach for the vampire when Tristan shook his head. Grumbling, the demon straightened as her hand shot out, grabbing hold of Zaida’s arm as she attempted to run. “No, no,” she chided as the fledgling went stiff. “Where do you think you’re going?” Sathia asked dryly. “Running away is very, very bad, kiddo. Trust me,” she whispered. “Never run when there are five very hungry vampires in the room. You’ll never make it out to begin with.” She shot Karacus an evil look. “If your brainless sire taught you anything, he didn’t do a very good job at it.” Zaida stared blankly up at the demon, panting as smoke continued to puff from her. “Now be a good little vampire and sit back down. It is in your best interest not to attract attention your way.”
“You’re a little late on that,” I growled as Zaida reluctantly sat back down. I glanced down at Freya who was still on the floor, and her eyes hadn’t reverted back to black. She curled into herself, moaning in agony as she trembled. Fangs bared, she panted and snarled as Tristan held her in a mental hold. She screamed, twisting around and moving into a crouch. Heaving for breaths, she growled, digging her fingers into the floor. I looked to Tristan, realizing that Sven, Liana, Cole, and Jesric were there, holding him down as he growled and snarled at them. “Fuck me,” I snarled, silently cursing up a blue moon. Jailyn and Karacus were still locked in a staring contest, and I wondered what the hell they were doing. I made my way to them, giving Tristan and Freya no chance to grab me as I kept my distance. Stopping beside Jailyn, I gave her a questioning look. Suddenly Karacus let out a bloodcurdling scream, his body arching off the desk as rage and pain clouded his unblinking eyes.
“Don’t you fucking dare!” the necromancer screamed. “You can’t!”
“Can’t I?” Jailyn asked sweetly. Over by the window, Zaida let out a moan of pain as she hunched into herself. “You know better than to touch on something just beyond your knowledge.” She cupped Karacus’s chin with a hand as he tried to break eye contact with her. “Who is your mentor, Karacus?”
“If you think I’m going to tell you, you’re out of your mind.” Behind me Freya continued to fight Tristan’s mental hold while he himself fought with the hunters.
“Let go of me,” Freya snarled as she tried to get to her feet, only to hit the floor with a pain grunt and a hiss. “Tristan!” she screamed, and I jumped aside as her hand flashed toward me.
“Oh, no,” I growled. “I’m off the fucking menu.” She snarled, and then shrieked as she was lifted into the air and propelled toward her sire. Tristan’s wrapped her in an unbreakable embrace as Jesric hit them with shadows while Cole stabbed them both in the throat. The shadows writhed, absorbing their blood and binding them tightly. The scent of death magic coming from Jailyn, Jesric, and Karacus was heavy and thick in the air, making it almost impossible to breathe. The ice cold cloying feeling wasn’t helping the situation either.
“Who is your mentor, Karacus?” Jailyn repeated as Karacus’s souls suddenly came to life… so to speak. Jailyn closed her eyes and sighed. “You are testing my limits, boy,” she warned. “I do not recommend you crossing them.”
“What’s the point?” the necromancer asked. “You’re going to kill me.”
“Oh,” she said and opened her eyes. “It is clear that you did not understand a word Tristan said to you in the chamber.” Not taking her eyes from him, her free hand shot out and grabbed a soul and yanked it toward her. Karacus screamed, and she smiled. “Hold back your souls,” she said quietly. “Or I am taking them from you.” She frowned. “Actually, scratch that second part, I am going to take them from you, but not just yet.” Karacus jumped up and off the desk, and I barely got out of the way in time. Sathia plucked Zaida up out of her chair and stepped aside as Karacus launched himself at the window. Before he could reach it, a mass of darkness shot from Jailyn’s hands, and the necromancer screamed as it slammed into him from behind and sent him headfirst to the floor. Freya and Tristan were no longer screaming, hissing, growling, or snarling as Jailyn walked over and knelt beside Karacus. “I am so disappointed in you,” she said softly as the necromancer groaned in pain. “So very, very disappointed.” She looked around the office until her gaze found Sathia. “Bring the girl.” The Ahzeeki demon walked over and set Zaida on her feet next to Jailyn and gently pushed down on the fledgling’s shoulders, until she was sitting. Jailyn nodded as Sathia went back to the window.
“What are you going to do to her?” Karacus suddenly asked.
Jailyn arched an eyebrow in amusement. “You care about what will happen to your child?” she asked, her eyes narrowing. “How…” She paused and scowled. “Sweet of you. You care about her and yet, you treat her as if she was a tool, a dog that you can order around. You do not care for her well-being at all, child. You used her as a magical doorway.” As Jailyn spoke, the temperature in the office dropped degree by degree, until I could see ice crystals along the walls. “That,” she said, so low that I could barely hear her. “Is unacceptable.” A shiver ran down my spine, and I held myself very still as I continued to watch. “I ask again, Karacus, and I will not do so once more. Who. Is. Your. Mentor?” As she asked the question, Karacus screamed as blood scented the air. “Tell me,” Jailyn warned as a red beam hovered over Karacus. What the fuck is that? And where the fuck did it come from? I thought as the red beam drew closer and closer to the necromancer.
“Justine!” Karacus shouted. “Her name is Justine!” She smiled, and I blinked as Sathia walked over and ate the red… whatever it was.
“Very good,” Jailyn said and gently took Zaida’s right hand into her own as Jesric cursed my ears off. “Where can I find Justine?”
“I don’t know,” Karacus gasped. “I swear it.” She nodded as she brought Zaida’s wrist to her mouth. The fledgling gasped as Jailyn bit into it, but she did not drink. Instead, she thrust Zaida’s bleeding wrist into the writhing shadows. Both Zaida and Karacus screamed as Jailyn began to chant. She might as well be singing as a fog settled over me. Stumbling backward as if in a daze, I somehow found a chair and dropped heavily into it. Zaida tried to pull free, but Jailyn held her fast. Jesric suddenly disappeared into thin air, and a second later, Zaida’s screams grew shrilling as Karacus slipped into unconsciousness. Blood burst from her eyes, ears, nose and mouth as she begged, writhed and struggled to be free from Jailyn. Jailyn stopped her chanting, and Zaida gave one final agonizing shrilled scream before collapsing into unconsciousness herself. Jailyn released the fledgling’s arm and got to her feet, practically fuming. The shadows covering Karacus vanished. It looked like she was going to rip him apart, and not with magic either. She glanced at Tristan and glared at him before returning her attention to Karacus. Her energy surged around the office, and Karacus came awake with a bloodcurdling scream.
“Enough,” Jailyn snarled and yanked him to his feet. Slamming him up against the wall, she all but growled. “I said that is enough,” she snapped, and he fell silent as his eyes went unfocused. A second later, they snapped back to reality, but this time, he remained silent. “We’re not going to kill you,” she said more calmly. “Release your souls to me.”
“No,” Karacus hissed as pain suffused his eyes.
“Yes,” she whispered. “Release them to me willingly, or I will take them forcibly from you.” Sathia, who still stood at the window, watched the entire thing with suppressed glee. “I tell you now, Karacus. You don’t want me to take them from you.” When he remained silent and shook his head defiantly, Jailyn’s eyes glowed green, and Karacus began to scream. Gasping and almost falling out of my chair, I clutched at the sides and watched as Jailyn bared her fangs and struck the side of Karacus’s neck.
“Yes!” Sathia shouted. “Fucking yes!”
“I think I’m dreaming,” I said breathlessly as Sathia all but danced around the office. “I think I’m dreaming,” I said again as Jailyn pulled back from a now unconscious Karacus, her no longer green but white eyes dilated. Sathia came to a stop beside her and wrapped her arms around Jailyn. A second later, they both vanished in a flash of fire and the stink of sulfur. I looked around, finding that none of the others but Liana were as shocked as I was. The shadows no longer held Tristan and Freya to the floor. Their eyes still white, they rose to their feet as one. Freya slowly approached Liana as Tristan made his way over to where I was sitting. His ice cold hand cupped my chin, and I couldn’t fight him as he tilted my head back to meet his eyes. He leaned down and pressed me into the chair, his mouth going to my ear.
“I am sorry, Sarisa,” he whispered. “But it must be done.” Before I could ask what the fuck he was talking about, white hot pain stabbed into me as he drove his fangs into my neck. Darkness swept over me, Tristan’s voice loud in my head. He held me effortlessly as he pulled hard on my neck. The words spoken inside my head seemed to blur together as I fought to remain conscious against his compulsion. It was useless as the familiar cold numbness of being drain crept over me. The compulsion to forget continued to beat into me as I was forced to let go of consciousness, the sound of sucking and the feel of my blood being pulled the last thing I heard and felt as I slipped into the blissfulness that was the void.