A Shift in Shadows
Darkness was never something I feared. Quite the opposite actually. As a child I was convinced that I was the creature to be feared by everything that went bump in the night.
I thought myself invincible.
Like most children I was delusional. But even after I came to realize there were things even I had to fear, I still harbored no fear for darkness itself.
Until they took me. And shattered my soul.
The room that served as my prison was so devoid of light that even with my exceptional night vision I saw nothing. No shapes. No outlines. No hints of anything. There were no windows and no clocks making time infinite. That was one of the many ways they tortured me. And there were many.
“Ah, good. You’re awake,” a pleasant voice said in the darkness. There was a snap and then a soft light filled the room. I blinked rapidly trying to adjust my vision. Piercing blue eyes met mine. The warlock waited until I was focused on him and then continued. “And how are you doing this beautiful evening, my love?”
“Fu…fu…fu…” Spasms ran through my cracked and dry throat before I could force the rest of it out. The vampires that were working with Sebastian had already visited me for their nightly entertainment. One of their favorite games was to see just how much pain I could handle before the screams tore out of me. I’d held the screams in as they shattered each finger bone. But I broke when they shattered shattering the bones in my legs. My body had healed the more serious injuries first leaving my throat still sore. I would have already healed but the vampires had drained me after they got bored breaking bones and my shifter magic was already sluggish. The warlock sitting across from me had crafted some sort of potion that stripped me of all my magic, except healing magic. He always was a clever one. When we’d been lovers all those centuries ago he’d used his cleverness to charm and entertain me. Now he used it for far more sadistic purposes.
Sebastian clucked his tongue and moved towards me. I tried to shift my body away but I was tied too tightly to the metal table. Panic rose as I pulled against the ropes. I hated being bound. I’d been bound when my parents had been murdered in front of me. I’d been just as powerless then as I was now. I reached for my magic even though I knew I would find nothing but emptiness. He noticed my attempt to get away and gave me a small smile. Gods I hated that smile.
“I’m so sorry that it had to play out like this.” He sounded genuinely sad as he spoke. “I would have preferred to keep things between us a private affair. I’m sure you would have eventually come back to me. But things are changing and my hands are tied.”
He lifted a hand and stroked my cheek. I held perfectly still, biding my time. A soft sigh fell from his lips. “The others don’t know you’re here. They think I’m still looking for you. But I can’t hide you forever. And they will do far worse to you once they have you. Agree to work with me and this will all be over. I can protect you from them. You loved and trusted me once. We can put the past behind us and be as we once were. Together. Unstoppable.”
I snapped at his hand and my fang grazed one of his fingers. I slowly licked the blood off, savoring it before pushing the words out. “I will never come back to you.”
Anger flashed across his handsome face before he gave me another charming smile. “You will. I’ll see you soon.” He snapped his fingers and the lights went out.
I closed my eyes, not that it really mattered, and listened. I was alone. Sebastian was gone. I had no idea when he’d be back. Sometimes he’d be gone for long stretches of time before coming to check on me. He never participated with the vampires in their torturous games. But he was the one in charge so he was responsible all the same. Sebastian preferred the psychological torture over the physical. My ears picked up a slight shuffling sound outside my door. The guards posted outside my door were probably bored. I don’t know why they bothered, no one had come for me and it seemed unlikely that anyone would do so now. I wasn’t sure exactly how much time had passed but Sebastian and his vampire cronies had kidnapped me on my last birthday. And he hadn’t mentioned my birthday again which meant it hadn’t come to pass yet. So less than a year. My friends and family likely thought I was dead by now.
If only. Death would be a gift.
I started to drift off when heard one of the vampire guards gasp in shock. Then a couple thuds sounded. Bodies hitting the floor? Two of the thuds sounded lighter than the others. I craned my neck so I could look in the direction of the door even though I couldn’t see anything. A few seconds later the door swung open and light filtered in from the hallway. I blinked rapidly to adjust my eyesight. Craning my head towards the source of the light, I squinted at the figure standing in the doorway. Shock swept through me as I recognized his scent. What the hell was he doing here? Of all the people to show up and rescue me, he hadn’t even occurred to me.
“My apologies for taking so long, child,” he whispered quietly while cutting me loose from the steel table I’d been strapped to. I didn’t say anything. I just studied him as he made quickly and efficiently cut me loose. When I’d met him all those centuries ago his hair had been long and contained in tight braids. Now it was shaved close to his scalp. I remembered his scent. Plus I’d never met anyone who had those bright copper colored eyes before.
“Are you real?” I whispered as he helped me stand.
Anger and sorrow flashed across his face. “Yes. I’m real. I’m sorry didn’t come sooner. Your loved ones have been looking for you. They never gave up. When I heard you were missing I started doing my own investigating. Some old contacts of mine claimed a shifter had been captured by a group of vampires aided by a warlock. I figured it had to be you.”
Part of me didn’t believe this was real. Maybe I’d finally lost it and was hallucinating this conversation. I rolled my shoulders back and shifted my weight, savoring the ability to move and be off that cursed table. It felt real. I slowly reached out and touched his arm and trailed my fingers down to his hand. He held a sword with a slight curve to it. Mist still clung to it. A tentative hope spread through me as looked at the sword. This was real. It had to be.
“I take it you can’t shift or use magic?” His voice was gentle as he looked me up and down but his face hardened as he saw the still healing scars visible on my legs and arms. The tank top and underwear I wore left most of my skin exposed. The scars themselves would fade as soon as my shifter magic wasn’t so taxed and could heal all the minor things.
“No. Would have gotten myself out of here long ago if I’d been able to do either. They’ve been using some type of potion to keep me under control,” I replied and started towards the open door. I stepped over the headless bodies of the two vampire guards and looked to the right. We were at the end of a long dimly lite hallway.
The vamps hadn’t bothered to keep the house in any decent shape. The wood floor was worn, some lights were missing bulbs, and the ‘70s style wallpaper was peeling or completely missing in some areas. Random statues and paintings decorated the hallway. They’d likely killed or turned the owners ages ago and used this as a feeding house based on how it smelled. My nose wrinkled at the stench that was leaking out from some of the other rooms. It sounded like more vamps were on their way to us. Based on their furious shouts they would be here in less than fifteen seconds.
“Stay behind me. And stay close.” Magos moved quickly out the door and started running down the hallway. I ran after him trying to push away the questions bouncing around in my head. I wanted to know how much time had passed. Why had he come by himself and not gone to my friends and family if he knew they were looking for me? Were they okay?
“Escape first. Ask questions later.” I mumbled to myself as I followed him. I didn’t have a clue where the exit was but my intuition was adamant that I should trust him. Even if he was a vampire.
“Come on, Nemain! Move!” He called out firmly in that melodious accent I’d never been able to place.
Just as we reached the end of the hallway and turned around the corner, my vampire rescuer shoved me to the side. I slammed into the wall. Magos was fast but not fast enough. The first of the vampires had reached us and I bit back a scream as I felt the blade that had been aimed at my heart buried itself in my shoulder instead. It tore through flesh and bounced off bone before it was ripped free doing just as much damage on the way out as it had on the way in.
They’d been slicing my flesh without any fear of retaliation for so long I think they’d forgotten who I was. What I was capable of. Rage and a need for violence ran through me and I bared my teeth.
I ducked as the vampire wielding the long wicked looking dagger tried to grab me. A familiar heat spread through my muscles as I rotated until my back was against his chest. Grabbing his hand, I pulled it back until his wrist snapped and he dropped the dagger. I snatched it out of the air with one hand and slammed my elbow into his face with my other arm. The vampires head snapped back as blood poured out of his nose. I spun and whipped the dagger around. His head toppled to the ground a moment later. My mind was still racing and I was struggling to process what was happening. But the fight helped. Having a blade in my hand even if it was a poorly made one helped. This was who I was. I was a fighter. I was a survivor. I could do this.
A loud crash behind me made me jump and then the lights went out. My back was against the wall and I tried to listen, but all I could hear was my heart pounding frantically. I didn’t know where Magos had gone and I wasn’t sure where to go. Was this the trap? Was this a new game for them?
Panic started to rise as I struggled to keep a grip. I could still smell Magos but I smelled two other vampires too. The sounds of a fight came from further down the hall. Maybe down the stairs? Someone grabbed my arm and I moved on pure instinct. I broke his hold and threw a punch but missed. I froze and listened, trying to pinpoint his location. Two paces ahead and slightly to the left. Got it.
I spun and kicked out with my right leg. He danced out of reach again and I couldn’t tell where he was. I shook my head trying to clear my senses but whatever was in that potion blocking my magic also made my head fuzzy. Focus damnit. Before I could throw another punch he grabbed me again. I swore as he caught my fist when I lashed out. Moonlight filtered in through a nearby window enough for me to make out his face. I relaxed and he dropped my fist.
“It’s rude to assault the person rescuing you. I’ve taken care of the remaining vampires but I’m sure more are on the way. Also you should watch your language.” His face was turned away from me but I was pretty sure he was grinning.
We ran down the stairs and out the front door. It was a cloudy night but there was a break in the clouds for now and the full moon lite up the night sky. I breathed in the crisp night air. I was free. Free. The adrenaline that had been coursing through my body started to fade and shock settled in. Before I could process much more Magos pulled on my arm and I broke out into a run to keep pace with him.
He glanced over his shoulder at me. “I have a car on the other side of the gate at the end of the driveway. Once we’re in the car you can rest.”
I jerked my head in a quick nod and pushed my body to run a little faster as we fled into the night.