Sam want’s me.
I can feel it through the bond.
Her emotions are so strong, they project themselves, even without our blood tie being complete.
But intertwined tightly within her desire to be with me, is a deep and dark hatred.
Not for Rolan.
Not for her circumstances.
But for herself.
And something tells me that this self hatred, had been with her long before her fangs.
I’d only witnessed her most recent trauma, when our minds first linked.
And unless Sam decides to tell me about her past beyond that, I’ll never know.
I hadn’t expected to bond with Sam when I’d fed her the last time.
So I was unprepared for the barrage of memories. But next time, I’ll be sure to block out anything she doesn’t want me to see.
That is, if there is a next time.
I shake my head in an attempt to clear my mind of all thoughts of Sam, before I enter my study, and greet my uncle.
“There are rumors circulating the kingdom....Rumors that Ghouls have been sighted in the elden wood.” My uncle says solemnly, sitting on the black leather couch in the center of my study.
So much for keeping all things Sam off my mind.
But these rumors were not about her.
“Are they credible?” I ask, folding my arms across my chest, as I lean against my desk.
“Unfortunately, they are. One of our own was killed in front of his family on a picnic. His family escaped thankfully, but sadly that makes them our witnesses.” His eyes cast to the side, and the corner of his lip twitches, as he forces his face to remain neutral.
How he could manage to school his expression, at a time like this is beyond me.
I however, am unable to hide my rage and sadness at the injustice.
“How is this possible, the creation of Ghouls has been banned for centuries, the knowledge lost to us for generations.” Pushing away from my desk, I begin to pace back and forth on the dark carpet.
Rage fogged my thoughts, making me forget that I had a ghoul of my very own, sleeping in my room, so the possibility that others had obtained the means to create more, was entirely plausible.
“There has been talk that the former Faye king discovered scrolls that were left behind in the human realm, and resumed experimenting in his court... I fear that those scrolls have found their way here.” He stands from the couch, and walks over to me.
I cease my pacing.
“Send a scouting group to the Elden wood, but tell them that they are only to observe and report back. They are not to engage if they run across a Ghoul.” I command, regaining my sense of priority.
“I’ll get on that right away.” My uncle replies, and turns to leave.
“Wait, also make sure that the victim you mentioned, family is provided for. I will personally give them my condolences once Sam and I have settled.” My chest clenches with grief.
My uncles only response is a nod of understanding, and then he is gone.
Exhausted, and filled with more questions than answers.
I walk over to my couch and lay down, determined to get a nap.
I’m not sure when I fell asleep, but the soft moonlight, filtering in from the large double door window to my left, would suggest that I’d taken more than just a nap.
Groggy and cotton mouthed, I sit up, lean my elbow on my knee, and cup my forehead in my palm.
I groan as a slow throb flares behind my eyes... too much sleep always brought on the mother of all migraines.
So when Ilani came crashing in through the door, I was tempted to scold her.
That is until I see her wild and frantic eyes.
“What happened?” I ask, shooting to my feet.
Ilani doesn’t get scared, not like this, something horrible had to have happened.
“Ilias... he... I ... he’s hurt.... he’s hurt bad!” She stammers between ragged breaths, and nearly collapses on her shaking knees.
I’m to my feet, and by her side, in a blink.
“What do you mean, what happened?” I press, gripping her shoulders.
“Osiris sent him and five of our men on a scouting mission. He said that there had been a Ghoul attack... they ran into them in the woods...they must have attacked... Ilias is the only survivor.... He was found near town on the edge of the woods, covered in the scent of Ghouls...Cairo, it’s not good.” She breaks down in heart wrenching sobs as she concludes.
Rage and worry dance in my chest.
But I remain calm for Ilani, and instruct her to follow me as I rush to the medical wing.
My uncle is waiting for us out side the infirmary door.
He steps towards me, arms outstretched, as if to draw my into comforting hug.
But I step away from him.
Any other time, I would accept my uncles affection.
But right now, I’m pissed.
“What the hell were you thinking, sending Ilias on the scouting mission?” I snap.
My uncle slowly blinks at me, before answering.
“Ilias is one of the best men we have. I thought him suitable for the mission. We can’t afford to risk the safety of the people by sending anyone less than our best.” He folds his arms defensively, standing by his decision.
“That is true uncle, but what you failed to take into account, is Ilias’s undeniable ability to ignore orders when I comes to ensuring the safety of the kingdom. You had to have known that he would engage if they came across a Ghoul. You’ve known him since he was a child, when has he ever once, stepped away from the opportunity to protect his people?” I rage, pushing past him, and flinging open the door.
“I don’t have time for this right now. We will talk later, uncle.” I dismiss him, and Ilani and I enter the infirmary.
The air smells of antiseptic spray, and blood.
The room is cast in the shadows of the crystals fixed into all four corners, lit dimly to allow Ilias to rest.
My heart stops in its tracks, as my eyes fall on the sheet covered figure laying on one of the many, thankfully unoccupied, hospital beds, that line the far wall of the room.
His chest rising and falling, faintly, is the only indication that he is alive.
Nausea sets in as I realize in horror that Ilani hadn't been exaggerating on her brother’s condition.
He lay there, his right shoulder messily wrapped in blood tinged bandages, that run along his neck, and around his bare chest.
My blood chills in my veins as I stare, unwilling to believe what I am seeing.
My childhood friends right arm is gone.
Severed at the shoulder, a shoulder that appeared to have been placed through a meat grinder, from what is visible through the thin gauze.
It had been chewed off.
And though his blood had been stemmed by magic, his parlor, sheet white complexion, tells me that he had lost far to much.
“Goddess.” I gasp.
Ilani sobs louder from behind me.
“He’s going to die, isn’t he?” Her words are barely legible through her sobs.
“That’s what the healers said, that’s why they’ve left him here.” Her voice cracks under the weight of her tears.
“No. He will not die. The bastard is too stubborn to go out like this.” I drop to my knees at his side, and grab his remaining hand in mine.
His head rolls towards me, but he doesn’t open his eyes.
His skin is clammy, and I can hear his heart struggle for its next beat.
I’m no healer.
But I do know a trick or two.
It would be a risk, but one that I will gladly take.
I reach my free hand behind me, and Ilani grabs it instantly.
She knew what I was about to do.
“Cairo, this could kill us too.” She argues, but I know that she’s already accepted that possibility, same as I have.
I don’t answer her.
I don’t need to.
Pulling all my energy into a point of focus, I begin to take from Ilani’s reserve as well.
The process is exhausting, and dangerous.
One wrong move, and all this power will combust within me, and subsequently, the after shock would fry the twins.
But I won’t slip.
Once I’ve gathered enough energy, I begin to slowly feed it into Ilias.
And as the last ounce of power leaves me, Ilias’s heart gains strength, beating louder and more steady by the minute.
“Did it work?” Ilani pants.
I look over Ilias once again.
The color is returning to his skin, and the pained crease to his brow, eases.
“Yes. He’s going to be ok.” I sigh in relief.
He’s going to be pissed when he wakes up and realizes that he’s missing an arm.
But at least he will wake up.
I stand with a groan.
“You should get some sleep.” I tell Ilani, but she only shakes her head.
“I’m going to stay with Ilias... Thank you Cairo.” She takes my place at her brothers side and looks up to me with tear filled eyes.
“There is no need to thank me, you and Ilias are family... blood or not, I’ll do anything for you.” I smile tiredly.
There is no doubt in my mind that Ilani will crawl to the foot of her brothers bed, and curl up like a puppy, fast asleep, before I make it past the threshold.
But who am I to argue with her about the importance of a proper bed.
She needed to be near him right now, to reassure herself that he’s ok.
“Goodnight.” I bid her farewell, and make my way back to my study.
After pouring my energy into Ilias, my day long “nap” is rendered irrelevant to my tired eyes, and still throbbing migraine.
To many things are warring for a moment of my attention, adding to my already intense headache.
The main one being the Ghouls.
Someone had resumed the creation... but who.
And what would this mean for the treaty... for my kinds chance at redemption?
I groan as my head ache worsens.
I need to lay down before I fall over.
I’d possibly given Ilias too much of my energy, but I don’t regret it, a little sleep, and I’ll be right as rain.
I briefly consider seeing if Sam is awake, and if she would allow me one more night with her in my arms.
But the haunted look in her eyes when I’d last spoken to her, dash that notion as quickly as it appeared.
What’s one more lonely night, in comparison to the almost two centuries worth of them, I’d endured so far.
Besides, I won’t be sleeping alone for much longer, so a little patience won’t kill me.
I can’t let Sam go.
Even if it means breaking my promise to respect her wishes, and allow her to seek another blood tie.
I have to pursue her.
To prove to her my worth as a mate.