Prologue: A month before the events of this sad tale took place the lands of Agrona and Ocelot

co-existed peaceably, side by side, separated by a thin strip of land known as the Valley of Shadows. Agrona, the land of darkness and hate, inhabited for millennia by three warring groups: Vampires, Werewolves and Witches. Ocelot, the land of light. A utopia when compared to its neighbour. Then suddenly, everything changed. The warring forces in Agrona united and moved north, conquering the Valley of Shadows, catching Ocelot unprepared. Ocelot rallied quickly and managed to halt the invading armies at their border. In the first few months, Ocelot suffered many casualties and all hope was lost. Until a new general rose through the ranks. It was during one of his counter-attacks that our two lovers met and their lives were forever changed. Seth So far the war was proving exciting. Even though we all knew that at the end of it, all bets were off, and the Witches and Wolves that had once been our allies, would once again become our enemies. I was fighting alongside Ryan, my childhood friend, and while avoiding an attack by the fairy in front of me, I spared a glance in his direction and our eyes locked and he grinned. I couldn’t help grinning back as I turned back to the fairy I was fighting. Ryan and I had been friends for as long as I could remember. We grew up together and competed about who would get the first girl (I won that), who would keep their girl the longest (he won that) and who would get bonded first (he won that too). Despite our differences—Ryan preferring to stay with one girl, while I quickly got tired of the one I was with—Ryan was the best friend I could ever hope to have. Finally the fairy came in close, just the opportunity I had been looking for. Moving in quickly, I cut her down and moved to face my next opponent. And saw an angel—both literally and figuratively. Her strawberry blonde tresses framed her face, and looked slightly in disarray as she drew an arrow and shot it at one of the other Vampires fighting near me. As the fairy fell down and died, she turned her pale blue eyes in my direction and my breath caught. She was gorgeous and I couldn’t stop staring as she nocked an arrow and brought it to full draw. I knew I should have protected myself, moved out of the way, but I couldn’t or wouldn’t, I stood transfixed. She seemed to hold the arrow at full draw for longer than was necessary, but she never had to release. I was hit in the side by someone else and the moment it pierced by skin, I knew I was done—and all because of that stupid angel. I felt like I was burning from the inside and knew at once that I was hit be a silver arrow. I fell to the ground, pulling out the arrow as I went, the longer it was in, the worse the pain would be. Touching the arrow burned my hand, but I ignored that and placed my hand on my side, trying to staunch the flow of blood. In my head, I heard Ryan curse and tell me I that he was going to call Nick over to help me. I told him not to bother, and that calling anyone over to

help me, or risking his life to save me because I would never make it to the infirmary in time. Sorry… Ryan said in my head, as he turned away and focused his attention on his opponent. I closed my eyes, about to let whatever was going to happen, happen. All of a sudden the sun was blocked and I felt soft hands brush my face and start to pick me up. “Amy, don’t try.” I said thinking it was my sister Amanda. “Dude, that’s not Amy!” I heard Ryan cry. My eyes snapped open to see the angel that I had been gazing at holding me in her arms. I started struggling, trying to push her off me, but to no avail. Her arms tightened around me and I realized that although she looked slight and fragile, she was remarkably strong. I tried reaching for my sword, but an unbelievably, strong and sudden gust of wind picked it up and sent it flying. I began to wonder why no one else was paying attention to what was going on as she rushed me off the battlefield. As she laid me on the slightly wet grass, I sighed in relief as it touched my fevered skin. The angel knelt beside me and pushed her hair out of her face before she slowly extended a hand towards me. I suddenly felt a sharp pain where the arrow pierced my skin and grimaced. She might have seen something in my expression that frightened her, because she quickly pulled back. I looked over at her and grinned before looking away from her, into the trees. I knew I only had moments to live, and I was saddened by the thought that it had to be so soon. I felt her insistent tugging on my hand that was covering my wound, and moved it away, knowing that it would probably shorten the time I had left. Curious as to what she was going to do, I turned back to watch her and saw her put her hand above the wound. Instantly, it healed and I watched as the blood stopped flowing out of my side and the wound closed. I looked at her amazed and she had a slightly pleased expression on her face. If she was expecting thanks, right now she wasn’t going to get it. But whatever she was expecting, she wasn’t expecting this: I quickly got up and pulled her up with me, watching the satisfaction on her face change to surprise and then fear, as I roughly shoved her against one of the tress that were in the clearing. “Why did you save me?” I asked in Standard, a hand to her neck, hoping that she’d understand me. Instead of answering my question, she attacked with a huge blast of ice magic that sent me stumbling back, releasing her. I cursed silently in Šija’η as she knowingly or unknowingly attacked me using one of my weaknesses. “If you wanted me dead you didn’t need to bring me all the way over here to do it.” I spat, still not knowing if she understood a word I was saying. She looked for a moment like she was going take me up on my offer and finish me off, but for some reason she didn’t and began to fly away. I started running after her, but fearful of a trap, I decided to try and call her back to me. Known by only a few of my friends and Nick, I had the ability to get most people to do whatever I wanted them to, and I only knew a few

who were immune to that influence. I wasn’t sure that it would work on her, but I gave it a try and she started coming back to me. Breathing a sigh of relief, I waited until she landed in front of me before asking her how far we were from the battle. She looked dazed, not sure why she decided to come back, like so many of the others that I’ve done this to. Instead of just telling me what I wanted to know, she decided to kick me in the balls. I cried out and went down cupping myself, and using this to remind me why what being polite to a girl did—it caused me nothing but trouble. I did nothing to deserve this, I tried being nice to her, and now, the gloves were off. I didn’t care how much what I was about to do was going to hurt her, I wanted to know where we were and I wanted her blood. “You little bitch!” I yelled. “Come back here!” She did and this time I didn’t wait for her to land: I sprang up and rushed behind her, biting her hard on her neck to get her blood. She cried out and started clawing at my face. I pushed down on a pressure point in her arm numbing it, and just held her other arm away from my face as I finished with her and let her fall to the ground, clutching her throat with her good hand, her face contorted in pain. Immediately I felt guilty about having done that. I didn’t need her blood that badly, and since I normally killed when I took blood, I wasn’t sure if I took too much. I didn’t want to kill her and stopping was hard enough. I was about to take a step towards her and help her back to her feet, when I heard someone running towards me. I pulled out my dagger, my only weapon, since the angel got rid of my sword and stood waiting and ready as a man burst out of the trees with a sword and attacked. I dodged his first, hastily planned attack and kicked him in his back as he flew past. I then ran after him as he stumbled and tried to get his sword from him to have the advantage. He punched me and then lunged in the direction where my body had been. I was now behind him and I plunged my dagger in his back. My attacker cried out in pain, spun around quickly, picked me up and threw me against one of the rocks in the area. I realized that with strength alone, I was no match for him; even without the sword he was a formidable opponent. I would need to be more cunning to come out of this alive. With that thought in mind, I stayed where I fell, and slowly pulled out another dagger, hoping that he wouldn’t see. I heard the other dagger that I had plunged in his back, drop to the ground and his footsteps as he walked closer to me. Suddenly he stopped. Puzzled, I remained on the ground waiting to see what was going to happen. “Blake, stop,” I heard a musical voice say in Standard. The angel, I realized. So she could understand me after all. “Let go,” my opponent snapped. Blake…For some reason, his name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. If—when—I got back, I would ask Nick about it. “But what about him?” The angel asked “I’m supposed to take all prisoners to the war tribunal for trial.” “Just leave him here.”

I was stunned. I wondered if she knew that I was still conscious, listening to this exchange. Again, she was saving my life. I wanted to get up and ask “Why?” Fortunately, I didn’t have to. Blake did it for me. “I don’t…please?” She said. I don’t know? To me, that sounded like a stupid reason, and I was expecting Blake to just pull away from her and keep coming. I was wrong. Blake sighed and started to walk away from me. I waited until they were far enough away that any sounds that I might make would be too soft for them to hear, and then I got up, picked up my daggers and followed them at a distance. I caught up with them suddenly, as they were walking much slower than I expected, and I could eavesdrop on their conversation. “Are you okay?” I heard Blake ask with a tenderness I wouldn’t have expected from the brute “Yeah, I’m fine,” the angel replied. “What about you?” “It’s just a little cut, nothing big.” There was a brief silence, and then Blake thanked her. I guess she healed him. “So what happened between you and that Bloodsucker?” Blake said after a while. “Nothing.” “Well to me, it looked like you let him take advantage of you.” “I was weakened,” the angel said slightly miffed. Blake stopped walking and I did too. The angel kept going for a while, and then seemed to realize that she was walking alone and turned back and asked him what was wrong. “Something’s following us,” Blake said. I held my breath, hoping that that they would think it was an animal or something and decide not to turn back to check on me. “Hmm, must me a rodent or something.” Blake said after an excruciatingly long minute. “Let’s go back to the others.” The angel said. They kept going and didn’t stop again. As we neared the battle lines I contacted Ryan and told him that I was coming back and to help me get back on my side. I felt Ryan’s relief that I was okay, though he seemed puzzled as to how I could still be alive, but he was willing to help. Kira I was feeling safer now, after the battle was done for the day and was walking home alone, thinking about the man I met on the field. I was struggling to decide to do now that I let him live: part of me wanted to kill him just because he was an enemy. Another part lusted after him, wanted to be near to him, protect him from danger. I could feel myself drifting away, wanting someone to come save me. My world was changing rapidly with every decision I made. As these conflicting emotions bombarded my mind, I suddenly felt a sharp pain in my neck where he bit me, and immediately clutched my neck. Closing my eyes against the pain, I saw two, people fighting, one of whom I knew to be Blake, the other looked familiar.

They were covered in blood, fighting to the death. I tried to stop them, but was chained down and gagged unable to do anything to stop them and watched helpless as they killed each other. Through the pain, I head a voice calling me. Opening my eyes, I noticed Blake in front of me, holding me in his arms, a concerned look on his face. “Kira, are you okay?” He asked, concern bleeding from his voice. I told him about the vision I just had and he held me tighter in his arms and rocked me gently, pushing my hair out of my face. “Shh,” he soothed. “It’s nothing, just a nightmare.” “You’re probably right.” I admitted. “I just need to rest.” Suddenly the pain came back, fiercer than before, I pushed Blake off me and grabbed my neck with both hands. Blake picked me up quickly and ran off towards the hospital, his long auburn hair trailing out behind him. I felt dainty in his strong muscular arms. He held me close to him, absorbing most of the impact his feet made with the ground as he ran quickly through the streets. “What’s wrong with her?” Blake demanded as I was looked after by one of the doctors. He shrugged. “I don’t know. I can’t see anything that could be causing her pain. There’s nothing on her neck that could be causing it.” “I was bitten by a Vampire earlier today.” “What? That’s impossible. People don’t usually survive from Vampire bites.” I felt sick and wanted to go home, but Blake was being insistent that I go home with him. I let him know that if I felt bad, then I would go see him immediately. I sat down at the piano to relax, playing a song that I loved growing up. It was called First Love. And it reminded me of Blake, who was, and always would be, my first love. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw two gleaming eyes watching my every move. Ignoring them, I casually went into the kitchen. The character hidden in the shadows was still following me. I picked up a knife and turned around, ready for combat, but to my surprise they had disappeared. “Come on Kira your losing it, get a hold of your self, your seeing things.” I muttered to myself. While turning back toward the piano, a figure was blocking my path. I threw the knife at him, which he easily dodged. I rushed at him, which he wasn’t expecting, and knocked him over. He hit his head against the side of the piano, and cursed. “Stop it,” he ordered. His voice sounded husky and I immediately stopped what I was doing. After a moment I recognized the man’s voice from the fight with the bloodsucker. He was gazing at me with an open curiosity that I found unnerving. I attempted to more but it seemed that he had put some sort of spell, preventing me from retaliating. “What the hell are you doing here, and what do you want from me?” “I just wanted to thank you,” he said quietly. Being unable to defend myself, and unsure of the enemy’s intentions left me feeling very vulnerable. His gaze raked my body and I shifted uncomfortably. I knew that I needed to take control of the situation before it got out of hand.

“Get out before I call the guards,” I said threateningly. “Don’t,” he said, his voice husky again. “I’m not going to hurt you. Can’t we just talk?” “There’s nothing to talk about.” “Fine. I’m leaving. But tomorrow, I’m counting on you to rescue me if you see me going down in flames.” What is he talking about? Why would an enemy want me to save him? I did not want to be into another situation because of him and the doctor had already said that if I started feeling any differently I should go se them immediately. For all I knew, he was playing mind games with me and was putting my life in even more danger. I broke free from his grasp as he fled through the open window. I was about to call out to the patrols, but something inside of stopped me. The emotional conflict occurring prevented me from doing the right thing. What is happening to me? Every since today’s battle I can’t control myself. The loneliness that had been growing had subsided and now the image of the man haunts me. What make this Vampire so different from everyone else? After he had finished sizing me up, his eyes returned to my face with such an obvious interest and hunger that I wanted to bolt. His eyes were a deep emerald green. I hadn’t noticed them earlier because at that moment he was scaring me and I was more interested in protecting myself than studying the tall stranger in front of me. His actions in the battle were strange. Even when I had the arrow drawn at him, he chose not to protect himself. It was his own stupidity that caused him to get hurt. Just like it was my stupid decision to heal him that led to him biting me. Placing a hand on my neck, I wondered why he held back. It hurt me more than I ever thought possible and I didn’t expect him to let me go. He obviously had something more planned for me. Oddly enough, I wanted to find out what it was. I seemed to be drawn to him, but my position in this fight requires me to kill him. What am I to do…? Seth This morning, I was told that I had to see Nick before going out on the field. I had a bad feeling about this meeting, but Nick was the leader so I had to go. Full of dread, I walked into his room and before the doors were closed, he was up and making his way over to me. The room was dark, lit only by candles and Nick’s eyes glowed red, just like I knew mine did. Although still fairly young, Nick had more than enough ability to become leader of our group by the time he was 120, the youngest ever. He was able to use magic like the Witches and as far as I knew, he was the only Vampire with that ability. “Where were you last night?” Nick asked. His tone was even and soft, but there was no mistaking the wrath in his eyes. “What are you talking about?” I asked, pretending ignorance. “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to help you last night, but after what happened yesterday, I wanted to work on my skills.” Nick narrowed his eyes and stopped two meters away from me shaking his head. “I don’t think so.”

I exhaled in exasperation. “Is this because I didn’t kill Blake? I told you I needed him to—” “Don’t play stupid.” Nick snapped. In the next instant, I found myself flying towards the door. Nick had not flinched, had not gestured, had not shifted his gaze; he simply grabbed me in an invisible hold and hurled me halfway across the room. My back, not fully healed from my fight with Blake screamed in protest at the abuse that it was experiencing once again. Nick began walking towards me, keeping me pined to the wall, and with each step he took, it felt like something was drilling into my head. I gritted my teeth, taking the pain knowing, from hearing the cries of others that it could be much worse. “I was training, then I went hunting.” I growled. I experienced something similar to a punch in the gut, only much harder than I ever experienced and although I felt that my body wanted to double over from pain, I couldn’t. “I’m sure you went hunting, someone saw that. What I question is whether or not you were training. And if so, where? I sent someone to search for you,” he continued in that same bored tone, “and nobody was able to locate you.” A sudden heavy pressure settled itself over my ribs and began to push down, crushing them. “The Swampy regions. That’s where I was training.” I wheezed. Nick continued pushing down and by then breathing hurt so much I didn’t want to cry out. My skin suddenly felt like it was on fire. I turned my head slightly, which was not very much, and even that little movement brought waves of pain. Through my darkening vision, I saw what looked like my skin being pulled right off. I’m telling the truth! I cried through the telepathic bond that liked me to every other vampire. I was training in the Swampy regions! I’m telling the truth! I was suddenly released and I fell to the ground, crying out despite my will. It felt my ribs were broken, and one look at my arm revealed that it was a bloody mess. I got up slowly, keeping one arm against my ribs and saw Nick walking away. “Bring in the prisoner,” he said calmly. A door off to the side opened and a soldier captured in the last battle entered uncertainly. I waited until the door closed behind her and I smelled her blood from where I stood watching her and growled deep in my throat. I could barely restrain myself from going after her. I head Nick’s soft laughter. “She’s all yours. When you’re done get out.” I walked over to her, every step difficult. “Don’t move,” I ordered hoping that she wouldn’t be immune to my influence. She wasn’t I drained her off every last drop of blood and dropped her corpse to ground and walked out. As I walked towards the infirmary to get looked over, I couldn’t stop thinking about my angel. I had felt a little uncomfortable killing the girl back there.

For a moment, when she came in, I believed it was she, but then the sent of her was wrong. Even still, I was uncomfortable. In the infirmary, the Warlock there told me that I had a few cracked ribs and that he knew a spell that would heal them, but I would need to keep them wrapped up for at least twelve hours, so that they could heal quickly. All the spell would do is remove the pain and speed the healing. He also had a cream for my arms and after making sure that he had used no roses to create it, I allowed him to apply it. As he did so, I felt my arms tingling and as the sensation passed, my arms looked like they had never been injured. As I left the infirmary, I felt the eyes of many of the other Vampires on my and I suddenly realized that my anguished cry had been heard by all of them. At that moment, I hated Nick for what he had done to me. I didn’t want to be fighting next to Nick today so I searched out the angel I took a bite of yesterday through the blood bond that I now shared with her. Locating her, I went over to where she was fighting and fought close to her. I would have rather stayed out of the fighting that day, but I could feel Nick urging me into the fight. She looked just as she did yesterday, her blond hair in complete disarray, but she still looked captivatingly beautiful. No matter how hard I tried not to look at her, I couldn’t not look at her. After a bout of intense fighting, I heard Nick summoning me again. We were close to breaking through Ocelot’s boarders, and he wanted all the Vampires to be there, so it would look like a Vampire victory. I took one last longing look at the angel and saw Blake running up to her. Our eyes connected and I gave her a curt nod before going off to help Nick. We pushed back until nightfall and by that time had taken over a significant portion of Ocelot’s land near the boarder. In Agrona, and especially on the Vampire side, many of us were celebrating prematurely. I avoided all this, declined the invitation of Ryan and his mate to celebrate with them and started to sneak out the see the angel again. While I was making my way through the trees, I saw Amy and her boyfriend talking with an old flame of mine. I knew that tomorrow, Amy would once again express her disappointment in me and ask why I couldn’t just commit to one person. The answer was, I tired to. Once. It was about a century ago and I’d developed a very close relationship with her. Until that point, I acted as I did now, never getting close to anyone, and breaking a relationship as soon as I felt that it was getting too close. But with Claire, it was different. I felt completely attached to her, and I wanted it to last. I was just about to pop the question when she was killed in battle. From that time, I didn’t want to ever have to go through that again, it hurt so much. I started moving around again, never getting too settled down. Now, with this angel, I wanted to get to know her, and maybe, be able to feel what I felt when I was with Claire. Walking through the streets of Ocelot, I found the angel walking alone. “Hey,” I said softly from behind her. Startled, she turned around quickly and attacked me with fire magic, which I quickly blocked. “It’s just me. What was that for?”

Based on her actions last night, I wasn’t expecting her to put up too much of a fight or call any guards. I was still a little hesitant to put too much faith in her, but thankfully she didn’t run or try to attack me again. “You startled me. What are you doing here? Trying to get yourself killed?” She hissed. “Yeah,” I said smiling. She looked like she wanted to slap me so I took a step back and stopped smiling. “The real reason I’m here? I wanted to see you.” “Well it wasn’t very smart of you. Since your people are taking over, everyone is on high alert.” If this were what it looked like when they were on high alert, I would hate to see it when they weren’t expecting anything. Considering the fact that it was so easy to sneak in here, I doubted very much that the citizens of Ocelot even knew that Agrona was only fighting half strength. I would hate to see this place when we finally started to fight them with all we had. However, she had a point. I looked around seeing that there was no place for secrecy where we were and that if anyone happened to come down this street, I was dead. “Is there someplace more private we could talk?” I asked her. “Yeah, meet me in the place I healed you yesterday.” Not wanting to follow her and draw attention to myself, I went in another direction. I wasn’t sure if I was going the right way, but when I heard the sound of water bubbling, I knew I was going the right way. I approached the place cautiously, unsure of a trap. I didn’t see anyone other than the angel standing there, looking slightly annoyed. I took my time, walking around the area to be absolutely sure that there were no traps before walking out in front of her. She looked really annoyed by this time and I leaned against a tree admiring her. She was either incredibly stupid or curious to come out here unprotected, or she had a trick or two up her sleeve. “What’s your name, Gatakrí?” I asked calling her the Šija’ŋ for kitten. I didn’t mean to say it; it just sort of slipped out. She didn’t seem to notice though, and if she did, I didn’t think she cared much. “Tell me yours first,” she countered. Mentally shrugging my shoulders, I told her. What difference did it make who went first? “I told you my name, Gatakrí, tell me yours.” “Stop calling me that!” She snapped. So she did mind after all. She looked funny when she was angry and I bit my lip to keep form laughing out loud. “My name’s Kira,” she continued. “Why do you keep following me?” That was a good question. She was beautiful, but I couldn’t tell her that. I decided to go with a safer answer and hopefully get a few questions answered of my own. “You’re interesting.” I replied. “I’ve given you a few opportunities to kill me, including today and you haven’t taken them. I’m curious.” “Why do you keep asking me that?” She asked evasively. “I like to have my questions answered. I could always force an answer from you, but I don’t want to do that. Do I need to ask you again?” She shook her head. “I’m not exactly sure why.”

I looked at her for a minute, thinking that she would go on, but apparently, that was the best answer I was going to get. She had a troubled look on her face, as if my question had reminded her of something unpleasant. I felt this unnatural urge to try and help her with whatever her problem was. “Something’s bothering you. What is it?” I asked. “What are you and what do you want with me?” This wasn’t what I was expecting. For a moment or two, her question caught me completely off guard. What did I want with Kira? What was she to me? A distraction from the war? Was I going to see her just for the risk involved? Was I attracted to the danger or something more? Did I want more from Kira than what she was willing to give? Could it be possible to even have a relationship with her? Her innocent question bothered me much more than it had any right to. She was glaring at me, expecting an answer, and at the moment, I had none to give. None that would answer her question the way I wanted it to. “Can’t you guess?” I asked reverting to my usual cocky, self-assured self. “I’m a Vampire who is incredibly interested in you.” It was the truth from a certain point of view. Her eyes became hooded and there was no way of knowing if she was silently pleased with what I said or turned off. “I don’t think what you’re doing is appropriate,” she said slowly. I guessed the latter. “Then I’ll stop.” I said pushing off the tree and walking towards her. “But—” “It’s OK. I understand. This is the last time. I hope I haven’t bothered you too much.” I interrupted twisting a lock of her hair around my finger. I let go of her hair, watched as it unraveled itself and then pushed it out of her face. I wanted to pull her into my arms, kiss her roughly and take her right then and there, but I knew I couldn’t. I took a step back and a staggered breath, trying to calm myself down. That did not good as I was overwhelmed by her sweet scent. My voice was stressed when I wished her a good night and began to walk away from her. Kira suddenly grabbed me in an embrace and I was thankful that I was facing away from her. I’d hate to think about what would be going through her mind if I weren’t. Nevertheless, I still stiffened in her arms. “Kira, what are you doing?” I asked, my voice tense. “Don’t leave me.” This surprised me. For all that she implied before, I didn’t think she would have wanted anything more to do with me. “I have to. Nick’s already suspicious.” “Please, just a little longer.” She begged. “No I need to go.” I said firmly, pushing her off of me. Not only for your sake Gatakrí, but for mine. “I still need to hunt so—” “Use me.” Kira said interrupting me. “What?” I was startled. She couldn’t have said what I think she did. She had no idea what she was asking.

“Use my blood.” She had absolutely no idea what she was asking me to do. She might think that it was just a simple matter of biting her again, but it was more than that. She just gave me permission to bite her, something that was regarded as something intimate, only to be done between mates, it was only accepted it the people involved were related. It also used, by some people, as the ultimate way of proposing to someone, since refusing someone’s blood when offered, was considered extremely insulting, rude, an act that could never be forgiven and would most likely seal, or destroy the relationship. Since I didn’t believe in offering blood as a precursor to being mated, I bent my head towards her neck, knowing that if I didn’t bite her, I would feel terrible afterwards, and unable to forgive myself. I hesitated a second before sinking my fangs into her, and when I did, Kira gasped and clutched my arm as I drank from her. Like before, I was nervous about taking too much from her and I had to force myself to stop. It wasn’t enough, but I could get something small on the way home. I gently kissed her neck without thinking as I moved away from her. “Thank you, Kira.” I whispered. I held her away from me, making sure she was steady on her feet before running off, disgusted with myself and trying to ignore the strange new feelings that I was developing towards her. Kira The members of the assembly met a sundown. Thunder rumbled in the distance. In groups, they stood chatting among themselves as the ceremonial candles were lit. The white wax softened and pooled. In the centre of the room, the fire crackled and began to climb, digging its greedy fingers deeper into the dry wood. Hoods shadowed unmasked faces. A bell was rung and instantly voices were hushed. In the centre the four main powers stood, their faces shrouded in a mask. One of the masked men was Eric. He was the man in my life before Blake. He was great, but overprotective. I wanted my space and Eric was always having someone follow me around to watch over me and I hated it. Even now when I was alone, I often found him watching me. It was sweet, but it was also a little creepy. Though the members of the assembly knew who they were, the Elders never reveled their faces in the rite. No one had the nerve to demand it. They chanted softly. I listened quietly from a safe distance. The light from the window revealed that the fire rose violently as the chant went on, and dimed as the chant ended. Behind their mask’s, their eyes sparkled and were reddened by the light of the flame. A figure from the crowd bravely steeped into the circle as lightning walked across the sky. “Blake, Vladar of the FIO forces” he bowed. “Speak,” they responded in unison. Blake began presenting ideas to try and counteract the invading army from Agrona. Something like this had never happened and no one knew how to deal with it. I didn't think any of them had any possibility of working and so I walked away and headed back home.

I was about to unlock the door when a heard a noise coming from inside. I opened the door just enough of for me to see a figure hovering over the piano. I opened the door and pounced on the mysterious figure. He spun around knocking a lamp of a table. He looked at me with his gleaming red eyes. Immediately I was captivated, he closely resembled Seth. Just thinking of Seth gave me a comfortable feeling. I really wanted to be with him. “Seth? … Is that you?” He ignored me, and went back to tinkering with the piano. I tried calling out to him again, no response. I took a grip on his shoulder and spun him around. Without a moment of hesitation, he changed into a wolf-like form and jumped out the window. Shattered glass rained down. The creature was falling fast, and looked as though he was in trouble. Seeing Seth in trouble, my instinct led me to protect, help him. I took control of the wind and guided him to safety. I realized that in that time, I could have easily brought him back up, but I knew it would be better if I were to let him go. Disappointed, I returned to my quarters and cleaned up the broken lamp. This was the second time he had broken in to my house. I was not exactly sure what was happening, but I knew that I had deep feelings for this Vampire. He attracted me more than Blake ever had. I wondered if he felt the same way about me. If I was to tell him I loved him, it might ruin our what we had. Blake was in nowhere a comparison to Seth. When I was with him I felt as though I was protected and safe. He wasn’t intrusive like Eric just there, ready to be called on when I needed him. Until I found out if he really liked me for who I was, I decided to act as though I didn’t care much about him. I looked down at my hand and saw a cut on my arm that I received from cleaning the broken glass. Just looking at the blood pouring out of my hand reminded me of how much I wanted him. I went to the kitchen and bandaged my arm. Returning to the room, I lifted the lid of the piano and peered inside to see if he had damaged it in any way. Wedged between the strings and the hammer, I noticed a piece of tightly folded paper. Gently easing it out, I unfolded it and read to hastily written message that was scribbled out: -Kira, I would have preferred to tell you this in person, but you were gone for too long and I need to go. This is my way of thanking you for making Blake spare my life. Even though we may be on different sides, we're not all that bad. I would give this directly to Blake, but he would be too well protected and I have enough self-preservation to not want to get caught so I'm giving this to you. I trust that you'll give this to him when you deem appropriate. Telling you this might get me killed so I won't tell you anything important about me. And besides, you know who this is. In two nights, Nick is planning to attack Ocelot. He wants to capture someone (I'm not too sure of the details) important. The attack is scheduled for midnight, so it's going to be a group of Vampires. I'm not going. Not because I'm a coward, but because—well, you don't need to know.

Nick will be there so if you want to capture him, go ahead. You'll be doing me a favor. I now knew for sure that it was Seth who I saw earlier. A surge of warmth arose from my stomach. Just knowing that Seth was here made me feel much happier, but I still would have preferred if he had stayed. I loved him so much, but I didn't know how to tell him and was afraid that if I did, he would refuse me. I immediately realized the importance of the note and rushed back over to the meeting hall. Thankfully the session was still in session. Unfortunately, the guards were still patrolling the compound. There was no way for me to get in unless... I casually walked away ignoring the constant glare of the guards, towards a member of the gathering as a hostage and took his clothing before knocking him out and locking him in a storage closet. With my head lowered, hood over my head, I was now allowed in. I quickly scanned the area looking for Blake. It was nearly impossible since everyone was dressed alike and remained completely silent. Someone in the crowd took a firm grip on my shoulder as the bell to initiate the second part of the proceeding rang. I could feel the person pull me away, his hood still hid his face. He pulled back his hood a bit, showing me his face, before putting it back in the shadows of his hood. That look was all it took and I knew it was Blake. "What are you doing here?" He whispered harshly. "You don't have the authority to be here." "I just received a letter from a reliable source that warns of an attack." I replied. "Who's the reliable source?" Blake asked reading the note. "It doesn't matter who it is as long as the information is accurate." "I don't trust it." Blake said still skeptical. "Please trust me, just this once." "Fine, I'll present it to the Council. Just stay out of sight." I nodded and Blake headed off. "We are waiting for you Blake." Blake retuned to the circle and apologized to the Elders while explaining to them about a possible surprise attack on Ocelot. As he spoke, thunder rumbled in the distance. One of the powers spoke up. "Do you believe this information? Are you willing to risk your life and title on your source?" Blake stood up straighter and faced the elders and assembly. "I do," he said strongly, his voice confidant. I was quite surprised about his response. Blake was truly willing to risk everything for me. It made me feel needed and accepted, like I was someone very important to him. I watched nervously as the elders discussed quietly among themselves. Finally the leader spoke up. "We have come to an agreement. We will give you permission to prepare to counteract this invasion." The ceremony ended soon after this and I walked out the hall with Blake and he stood guard while I changed out of the robes. It felt good walking down the deserted, moonlit streets with him by my side, his arm around my shoulder, holding me close to him.

"The Bloodsucker who gave you the note...is it Seth?" He asked suddenly. "Who's Seth?" I asked innocently. "You know who he is Kira, he's the guy who you told me not to kill." "Fine, it was Seth, so what?" "Has he come after you again? You’d tell me if he did, right?" Blake asked concerned. "No. I found a letter wedged in the piano. He must have left it there while I was out," I lied. Blake stopped suddenly and turned me around to face him. "But you'd tell me if he came near you won't you babe?" "Yeah, whatever you want." "No, I want you to be honest with me. Swear to me that you'll tell me." "Ok, I swear." I said after a brief hesitation. "You seem agitated, what's wrong?" Blake pulled me closer to him and kissed me passionately before dropping down on one knee. I was nervous, I think I now knew why he was so adamant that I be truthful with him. "I don't ever want to leave you, and I don't want to live without you. Not for one minute. I don't want anything-anyone-to ever come between us. I love you so, so much. Kira, will you marry me?" Blake sounded so sweet, so sincere as he said that. It was all I ever wanted more than anything else in the world. But now as he pulled back the cover on the small velvet lined box and presented me with a simple, yet elegant ring, I couldn't help thinking about Seth. I was doubtful that anything was ever going to come of it and his actions tonight seemed to indicate that he had something else on is mind other than me. My eyes brimmed with tears-whether from joy or frustration, I couldn't tell-I accepted his offer and watched as he tenderly placed the ring on my finger. I loved the way the moonlight reflected off the facets of the diamond and I tilted my hand back and forth watching it. Blake came back to his feel and I pulled him close to me and kissed him, all the while wishing it was Seth. After what felt like forever, Blake pulled away and told me that he had to start planning with the rest of his army. I walked into my house alone and looked around not really knowing what to expect. The next few days passed by in a blur; the days were spent fighting Agrona, the nights spent preparing for the Vampire attack. When the night of the attack finally came, I felt that everything was going great and that we could take them. Even though we were warned ahead of time, and prepared, it was still a bit of a challenge, but we overcame it and managed to push them back. As the Vampires were making their way out of Ocelot, a girl who looked to be about my age with short brown hair ran up to me and slapped me hard across my face. Totally unprepared for this, I slowly placed my hand against my cheek and felt the warm mark that was already beginning to form on my face. "How dare you try to take Seth away from me!" She cried angrily. "Who are you?" I asked still dazed.

"Seth belongs to me," she said ignoring my question. "If I ever see you flirting with him again, I'll kill you." "I don't care about Seth. Do whatever you want with him." Her eyes trailed to my neck and I had an odd feeling that she was look at the spot where Seth bit me. Although it had healed by now, and there was no way she could know about it. "I can't believe he bit you," she said sounding hurt. I had no idea why she would consider the fact that Seth bit me so important. It's not like the bite meant anything important...although the second time he bit me, he seemed hesitant, almost unwilling to do it. Seeing my confused expressing, the girl got angrier and pushed me back hard and I fell back, landing on my arm. "You don't know what it means? I hate you!" She cried as I fell down. Angry now, I sent a rock wave her way sending her flying back and she landed near a girl who sent a fierce glare my way. Getting back up on my feet, cradling my arm, I watched as the two of them ran off together. Seth Had I known that Amy would be going on the raid, I wouldn’t have given Kira the letter. I spent the entire evening pacing back and forth, too agitated to hunt while Ryan attempted to calm me down. I would think that after 300 years this wouldn’t bother me so much, but it always did when it came to someone who was close to me. The moment I heard from Amy that she was back and unharmed, I finally allowed myself to relax. “Are they both okay?” Ryan asked. I could hear the concern in his voice as he asked about his mate. She wasn’t back yet, but I told him that she was fine. Before leaving. I apologized to him for being so concerned about my sister knowing that he had a loved one who was also involved in the raid. Parting with him, I made my way over to the stables, and met up with Amy who must have rushed over here. She had a determined look on her face that I recognized and knew at once that I was about to have that talk that I’ve been dreading. “Later,” I said curtly as she opened her mouth to speak. “When we get in the forest.” We both mounted out horses in silence. Mine was a black stallion named Raven, a gift from my sister. We’d both discovered that riding calmed me down, so the only time Amy even tried to reason with me was while we were riding. However, lately, not even riding could calm me down and the sense of restlessness that I’ve had since childhood had been growing. We were a few meters into the forest when the talk began, but surprisingly enough, she didn’t start the usual way. “Nick’s pissed,” she stated without preamble. “And this is news how?” I asked dryly. “More than usual. He thinks we were betrayed.” “I agree. There’s no way they could have predicted that attack.” Amy looked at me sideways. “How do you know that?”

“Think, Amy. If they were unable to predict a large scale invasion, how could they have possibly predicted this?” She mulled it over for a moment before nodding slowly. “Whoever snitched had better run quick.” I grimaced in sympathy knowing first hand what Nick did when angry and also a little fearful that I would be discovered. “Do you know who Blake is?” I asked changing the subject. “He’s a general in Ocelot.” She replied. “Why?” So that was why his name sounded familiar. Blake was going to be a lot harder than I originally thought. “Just curious,” I said airily. “Seth when will you ever grow up?” She snapped. Here it came. The Lecture on acting my age, taking life seriously. These “conversations” were hell and having to put up with them for over a centaury made everything she was going to say redundant. I heard it all before countless times, and had learned to bear it all in silence, nodding at the appropriate times, keeping my thoughts to myself. “Why can’t you be more like Ryan?” She continued angrily. “He’s already mated and has been for as long as I can remember. Even Travis and I are —” Realizing she said too much, her mouth snapped shut and she glared at me, daring me to make a comment. I did. “You’re kidding.” “No,” she growled fiercely. “I can’t believe this. You know I don’t like him.” Well to be perfectly honest, there was nothing I could fault him with. He was too perfect. There had to be something he was hiding and I intended to find out what the hell it was before he mated with my sister. “Why are you always so mean to him?” She demanded. “Don’t worry about it.” I said softly. “You’ll find out sooner or later.” She glared at me fiercely and look like she wanted to hit me, but instead she looked away. “Karen’s still angry with you,” she said suddenly back in lecture mode. “Why don’t you tell her to grow up?” She ignored the jibe and told me that Karen still wanted to get back together. I laughed at this. If I recalled correctly, Karen broke up with me over some petty little argument. When Amy then told me that Karen went after Kira while they were returning, I laughed even harder. Not because it was any funnier, but because it’s what Amy expected me to do. “It’s not funny, Seth! That angel is distracting you.” “Relax, it’s harmless.” I said calming down. “When I give her a smile, she freezes.” It’s more like when she gave me a smile, I froze. “Then give her a smile an cut her head off.” She shot back “And take away my only source of amusement in that bloodbath? As if.” The moment I said that, I regretted it. Kira was more than that to me. She wasn’t just a distraction. She was beautiful, smart and talented. I wanted her to be more than someone I went to every now and then. I wanted her to

be a friend, and maybe even more than that. I was beginning to see why Ryan would want to spend the rest of his life with just one person. “Why can’t you take life seriously?” Amy asked again, cutting into my revelations. “And why can’t you live a little?” I shot back. Spending your life with just one person was good, but I still felt that before you should explore a bit, see what fits and how it feels before committing to something only to find out that there is no real connection. “Relax, Amanda. I’ll kill her when I’ve had enough of her.” I said. It was a lie of course, I would never intentionally hurt Kira—unless she gave me a good reason to. “Like how you had enough of Karen, Liza, and all the other girls you went out with?” Amy demanded angrily. “Seth, you’re disgusting. You go though girls like they’re just objects to be discarded at will.” Angry, I abruptly reigned Raven in and dismounted. I was tired of Amy and Ryan and everyone else trying to tell me how to live my life. Ryan, I could understand, but Amy? Just because she was younger she thought she knew everything, knew what’s best for me. I tied Raven to a tree and then turned to face my sister who was still on her horse, sword in hand. “Seth, what are you doing?” She asked, her voice cracking, her eyes wide with fear. And they shouldn’t have been. She thought she knew what happened to Riley, my twin brother, the last time I got angry like this. I would have explained it to her, Luke and I had talked it over and decided that she had a right to know, but the fact that she would say that I treated others like objects the way Nick did—comparing me to that monster—was enough to get my blood boiling. “You want me to take things seriously? Then I will. Let’s practice: I want to be able to take Blake the next time I face him,” I said coolly. “But I’m no—” “Do it!” I snapped, interrupting her protesting and using my psychic ability to get her to bend to my will. Machine like, Amy dismounted, tied her mare next to Raven and faced me with her sword drawn. I moved first, a fast attack that Amy easily parried. The for a while, there was just the clashing of swords, no one getting hurt, and it was more like show fighting. At least it was until Amy feinted and like an idiot, I went for it and she drew first blood. I moved off her blade as she started pulling it out of my arm. There was no way I was going to loose to her. I went after her viciously this time. I came in close, only using my sword to get past her defenses and under her guard before switching to elbows and fists. I gave her an elbow to her chin that sent her reeling back and once she was far enough away, a kick that sent her flying. Even when she was on the ground, I didn’t let up. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Raven shuffling nervously as I brought my sword down. Amy couldn’t parry it properly and I stabbed her in her stomach. “Damn you!” Amy said, her voice pained.

“Get up,” I ordered not caring about the blood she was loosing or how serious her injury was. Behind me the horses were both acting up, whining and from the sound of things, they were just about to bolt. “You’re hurt, I’m hurt. We’re done.” She said firmly “Not yet.” I said curtly. “What’s your problem?” Amy said getting slowly to her feet. “One more round.” I said looking over my shoulder at Raven who was now really acting up. I heard Amy coming after me and without thinking, I blocked it and when she went to counter attack, my sword went under her own. I was still extending my arm as she did this and I stabbed her again, but instead of going straight it went in at an angle. Amy fell to the ground as I quickly pulled my sword out, more blood coming out of her wounds. I quickly sheathed my sword and rushed to Amy’s side. “Oh shit. I’m sorry Amy! I didn’t mean to—” I stopped abruptly and picked her up carefully and carried her over to Raven. Taking off my shirt I ripped it into strips and used it to bandage her. I quickly calmed Raven down and then placed Amy over him, before untying him and mounting him quickly. I pushed Raven hard, trying to get to the infirmary before Amy lost too much blood. I held my wrist to her mouth telling her to bite me, knowing that it was the only way she could have a chance to survive. By the time we reached to infirmary, my hands were covered in her blood. I left Raven with someone and carried her inside to a waiting Witch. I had told Ryan ahead of time to have a Witch ready and that Amy was seriously injured. Ryan looked at me horrified, and I knew that he was thinking about Riley, but at the moment I couldn’t meet his eyes. I stayed with them until the Witch told me that Amy would be okay and then I left to hunt and talk to Karen. I was still seething when I walked outside and the man I left holding Raven was having trouble controlling him. I had a strange feeling the talk with Karen would end up going horribly wrong. I was right. Kira Something big happened tonight and it was just my luck to be in the same place when it all came down. When the explosion came, I was knocked flat on the ground and watched as a pack of wolves ran off into the night. Coughing, I got up quickly and looked around. I saw some others on the ground bleeding and injured and ran over to them and healed them. “Kira!” Hearing my name, I turned around to see Blake running up to me. He grabbed me in a crushing embrace and spun me around once before roughly kissing me. “Are you OK, Babe?” He asked his eyes looking me over. “Yeah, I’m fine. What happened?”

“Someone broke in and stole some important maps. Caleb’s dead.” I gasped. Caleb was Blake’s best friend. This must be just terrible for him. I held him close to me as he explained what was going on. Finally, we parted company and I stayed with the others for a few hours helping to heal the injured, and then exhausted, I hitched a ride back home where I collapsed in bed hoping to catch up on missed sleep. “Kira.” I jumped and turned on a light to see Seth standing over me. Blushing I pulled the sheets up a little more me. How long had he been standing there? More importantly, how much did he see? “What the hell are you doing here?” I snapped. “I heard Karen was a little rough with you a few nights ago. I’m sorry about that. It shouldn’t have happened,” he explained. Is that what this was about? He didn’t have to come all the way over here, especially tonight to apologize about the actions of a girl. “You shouldn’t be here,” I said a hint of warning in my tone. “I know. I’m just here to let you know that she won’t bother you again.” “Thank you, but you really have to leave right now,” I said tensely. He nodded and was about to leave before he stopped ant turned back towards me. “Did Karen say anything odd while she was here?” Seth asked. He was trying too hard to be casually about it and because of that, I knew something was up. There was something he didn’t want me to know about. “No not really,” I replied thinking hard about it. “But she seemed very particular to the bite mark I got from you.” I for a brief moment I thought I saw alarm in his eyes before he turned away again. “Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing.” I got out of bed and followed him out. “Don’t lie to me.” Seth sighed and turned back to face me. “For Vampires, when you bite someone and let them live, it’s way of showing affection. And the thing is, Gatakrí, I think I do love you.” I was shocked and was pleased to know that he felt the same way I felt towards him. What I didn’t want, however, was Seth to say that he loved me just for how I looked or because I had saved his life. Because of this, I decided to play hard to get. If he wanted me, he would have to prove it. “I’m sorry, but I’m engaged to Blake.” A muscle in his jaw twitched. “Then there’s no chance this can work?” I tried my best to give him a look of pure disgust. “No, I don’t feel the same way about you.” His expression hardened. “Alright then. Next time, we meet as enemies and I hope you’re ready because I’m not going to hold back.” He turned and started walking away. Shocked, I watched him walk away and then remembered what Blake had said about adding more guards around the boarder. I called out to him and he stopped and turned back to look at me and I could see no trace of his former gentleness. He raised an eyebrow and waited for me to continue. “How are you going to escape now that the sun’s up.” Instead of answering, he changed into a wolf, with shining, emerald-green eyes.

“I didn’t know Vampires could do that,” I said impressed. “It comes with age,” he said after changing back. “How old are you?” I asked. I had noticed even when I first saw him, that he was something timeless about him, which immediately caught my attention. “325.” For someone over 300, he looked good. But then it must also be very hard and lonely watching as those around you died. “You won’t be able to get out without my help.” “I can take care of myself, Kira.” “I bet you won’t even make it to the boarder without me.” “Then help me.” For some reason, I did and even while I was helping him we kept fighting. I was trying to get him to talk to me, but he kept pushing me off angrily and coldly, which just made me more frustrated. I said some pretty hurtful things to him. And when we parted, he simply brushed me off and ran off without looking back. Days later I wondered what had happened to Seth. I didn’t see him anywhere and when Blake tried to talk to me, I would be very distracted brushing him off. Later, as I was walking off the field, Blake behind me, I thought I saw two wolves playing together and stopped to watch them. “Whoa, why’d you stop?” Blake asked crashing into me. “The wolves…” Blake turned to look just as one of the wolves playfully pounced onto the other. As it got back up it was facing me and its tail, that had just recently been wagging playfully, slowed. And it looked at me with piercing emerald green eyes. Could it possibly be Seth? “There’s been a lot of them recently. I think mating season is beginning.” “Oh.” Was that the reason why Seth had told me how he felt? Just a hormonal overload? In some ways I was disgusted, but when I remembered how kind he was, I had doubts and I felt that Seth would never be as shallow as that. The other wolf nipped at its playmate’s legs and then they went back to having fun. I watched as they ran off together, the one that looked like Seth following the other. Seeing them so happy left me feeling disappointed. Had Seth really forgotten about me already? I really hoped not. I missed him. Seth I spent the next few weeks away from the battle and Kira. I wanted nothing to do with her anymore and devoted all my time practicing my sword work. I picked fights with anyone, pushing myself as hard as I could and whenever anyone asked, I told them I had to get back at someone and they left it at that. Everyone knew about my brother and more recently, Amy. They knew what I was capable of and most expressed their sympathy for the man I was going after. Ryan, however, saw right through it and asked bluntly whether my current obsession with Blake had anything to do with a recent break up. “I told you, it has nothing to do with a girl. It’s time I got back at Blake,” I replied.

It was only part of the reason though. I wanted to hurt Kira the same why she hurt me: she crushed my heart, I would crush hers. “This thing with Blake happened last month. This is something more recent,” Ryan said. “What do you want from me, Ryan?” I asked looking him straight in the eye. “I want you to be honest with me.” “You want me to tell you I’m hurt? I feel betrayed? Well I won’t. I don’t need your shoulder to cry on.” “Yes you do. You need someone’s,” Ryan said softly. When he said this, I stood up angrily and walked out the room without another word. Up to that point I had been fighting one-on-one and only against other Vampires. After that talk, I included Werewolves and Witches in my training and switched to two-on-one battles making the challenges more difficult. Even when I got hurt, I wouldn’t stop and Amy began to voice her concerns as well. I don’t know who did it, but someone went and brought Nick into the fights. With him, I was only able to take him one-on-one, never when he was paired up or using his magic. I thought at first that if I could do this, beat Nick in practice, then I was right to be training the way I was. But as the fights grew even more intense, resulting in a series of major injuries, that unless they were bleeding profusely, I refused to get looked after, that I learned the truth. I realized I was really trying to punish myself because deep down, I knew that I felt hurt. I felt that I got hurt because I trusted and was jealous of Blake because he had what I couldn’t possibly ever have: Kira’s heart. And now I was telling myself that I should never have let Kira know how I really felt about her. After coming to that conclusion, I found two werewolves that were practicing together and fought them both at the same time, taking a serious beating. The fight and the pain took my mind off Kira. Ignoring Ryan and Amy pleading with me to get looked after, I changed into wolf form and ran. I told them I was going hunting, but I only wanted to be alone. My muscles protested as I ran blindly through the trees, each step brought fresh waves of pain, drowning out all other thoughts. Finally I stopped for a drink at a stream that seemed all too familiar. It was where I first met Kira. Groaning, I collapsed next to the water, miserable. I heard a twig snap behind me, but I didn’t more. I didn’t care who it was. I just hoped whoever it was would have enough sense to back off. But obviously, she didn’t. I got up, turned around and faced her growing fiercely. I didn’t want her here; I wanted to be left alone. “Seth?” she asked hesitantly. I took a few steps towards her still growling and she took a step back. I was scaring her and instead of feeling good, I felt terrible. I didn’t get it. Why couldn’t I just forget about her, keep her out of my life and treat her like any other enemy? “So I guess it’s not you.” Kira said nervously backing away. She suddenly turned and ran and I watched her go. As she ran away, an unbelievable feeling of sadness washed over me. I wanted Kira to be here,

next to me. As I stood watching her retreat, I suddenly remembered something I had been putting of for years, something I could use her help with. I chased after Kira, picking up on her sent, and when I was close enough to pounce on her, I changed out of wolf form and pulled her to me. “This is why you never walk through the woods alone at night, Gatarkrí. You never know what might be lurking in the shadows.” Kira froze. “Seth?” “Are you expecting anyone else?” “No. Are you doing to kill me now?” I looked at her incredulous. Did she really think I would do that? If so, so be it. Let her think what she would, I would use it to my advantage. “If you help me, then I’ll let you live,” I said. “What do you need help with?” Kira asked nervously. “I need to know how to protect myself against magic.” “Why?” She asked after a brief hesitation. “It has nothing to do with your side. I just need protection,” I replied “All right, I’ll go with that,” Kira said hesitantly. “So what exactly do you want me to do?” “Practice fights. Attack me with magic.” “Are you sure about this? You might get hurt. Isn’t there another way?” “No,” I said simply. Her responses were surprising. She seemed to be worrying too much about hurting me. She should be worried about herself. “Well—” she started still apparently looking for a way out. By now I had enough of her stalling, and I wanted to get this started. I wrapped my hand around her throat and squeezed gently. “Are you really so anxious to die?” I asked my voice dark with menace. “No,” She croaked. “Then let’s get started,” I ordered releasing her. Kira took a moment to get her breath back and then flew up in the air and sent a gust of wind towards me. I was forced back a little, but managed to stand my ground and began to make my way towards her, against the wind. “Don’t go easy on me,” I warned her. “But I don’t want to hurt you.” The wind slowly subsided until I was able to walk normally. As soon as it did so, I quickly pulled out a dagger and threw it forcefully just to the left of her, and saw her flinch as the blade flew by her face. “If you won’t, someone else will and I won’t just get hurt, I’ll die.” My comment had the necessary effect and she began attacking me now with fire. This was tricky to avoid, as I had to wait until the flames had almost reached me before throwing up my shield and quickly moving out of the way, towards her. If I moved any sooner, she would track me with the flames and I would end up burned. I wished Kira had abilities similar to Nick. He couldn’t do any of this so it was pretty much useless. I still wanted to finish this fight though, so I kept going. As Kira saw that I was getting closer, she sent a blizzard of ice shards towards me. The force of the wind sent me off-balance and the ice shards pierced my skin. I tumbled down to the ground, uttering a curse and Kira halted the attack.

“Are you all right?” Kira asked sounding concerned, coming down towards me, and making motions that I know knew were in preparation to heal. I waved her off and struggled to my feet on my own. “Not really,” I admitted hesitantly. "I'm weak against ice magic." "Ok, I won't use ice then," she said calmly. "I didn't say not to use it; I just said it's a weakness," I snapped. "What do you care if I get hurt?" "Please," she begged. "Let's stop. I don't want to hurt you anymore." I glared at her hoping she’d change her mind, but she was determined and I didn’t feel like forcing her to fight. I sighed, "Fine. But tell me, is there a way for someone who can’t use magic to protect themselves from someone who can?" Kira thought about it for a minute, "Not that I—" "Shh! Someone's coming!" I hissed. As I realized whom it was I knew I probably should have let Kira heal me. Not only from the injuries received while fighting her, but also for the one received earlier that weren't fully healed. As I stressed over this fact, I suddenly realized that I could have tried to get him to ignore me, but it was now too late for that. And besides, I could always get him to turn around and walk away, but I can't force him to forget what he saw. Thankfully, from our positions, and how I must look at the moment, I knew Kira would have an excuse for being so close to me. It would also allow me to find a way out of this mess. I knew that Blake might see everything I now did so without saying anything, I pulled out my sword and pulled Kira roughly to me and placed the edge of the sword at her neck. Kira tried to fight, push me off, but all it took was a word and she stilled. "Don't worry, Kira. I won't hurt you. Scream. Pretend I'm going to kill you." She probably didn't have to pretend. She believed I was going to kill her anyway and what I had just done probably did nothing to remove that fear. "If you don't want Kira to get hurt," I said, calling out to Blake. "Don't come any further." "Let her go!" Blake ordered coming through the last of the tress into the clearing. "Whatever. It’s really you that I want." I moved the sword from Kira's neck before pushing her away and going to meet Blake. As he came towards me, he brought out his sword and we met with the clashing of steel. If I weren't already injured, I would have been able to kill him. He was nothing compared to Nick or some of the others I went up against. But as it stood now, I was weak and sluggish and Blake was beating me. Again. The animosity that I felt towards him suddenly rose to the surface giving me an energy boost that I needed. I now had the advantage, and I pressed it, pushing Blake back towards Kira. If I wanted to get out of here in one piece, I needed Blake to be between Kira and I or else she might attack me to save her fiancé. When Blake and I suddenly found ourselves together, neither one of us willing to back down and break the clinch, I knew it was only a matter of time before my arms gave out. They were already trembling from

exhaustion; the long run over here and the weeks of intense fighting with little rest were now beginning to take their toll. Blake suddenly stepped back and caught unprepared for this, I started to fall forward. Blake's eyes glinted as he saw his chance and he came forward. I clumsily blocked his attack as I fell forward at his feet and rolled out of the way as be brought his sword down. The force of blocking his attack had knocked my sword out of my hand and it was now out of reach. I got up quickly and moved back as Blake came after me again. I wished now that I hadn't thrown my dagger at Kira earlier, as I now was defenseless. More concerned with Blake in front of me, I didn't watch where I was going and ended backed up against a tree, nowhere to go. Kira was suddenly at Blake's side and she touched his arm. "What are you doing, Kira?" Blake asked annoyed. "Let go." "He deserves a trial,” she said softly. "He was going to kill you." Blake said moving the point of the sword up the side of my neck to my face and I turned my head out of the way, saw him smile as he brought the point back down over my chest. "I don't think he would have," Kira said giving him a small hug from behind and then moving to stand beside him, smiling up at him. Seeing her do that to him was terrible, it felt worse than if she had killed me. I really couldn't tolerate Blake anymore, the way Kira was able to act with him. The fact that Blake could see her, talk to her, be with her whenever he wanted and no one would say a thing, was tearing me apart. That, I realized was what I despised the most about him. As Blake shifted his attention away from me to Kira. I went after him in a fit of rage and hatred and what I know now to be jealousy. I threw myself at his neck, pushing Kira out of the way. My teeth pierced his skin and I relished the taste of his blood in my mouth, savored it, as I drank from him. Kira was on me suddenly, pulling at my hair, my clothes, trying to get me to let him go. All she managed to do was destroy the neatness of the bite, made it look more savage and uncontrolled. She suddenly let go and then I felt dizzy. I released Blake and put a hand to my head. Everything was spinning, looked blurry and Blake's movements looked slowed down as he stumbled back and put a hand to his neck. Everything started to grow taller and then my knees hit the ground and I realized they weren't. I was falling. And as I fell into oblivion, I wondered what the hell had happened. Kira For a few days I debated whether or not I should go see Seth. I felt partially responsible for him being captured. I finally managed to convince myself to go see him after I learned that his trial was just a few hours away. I had to see him once before then. Seth was sitting in a corner of the cell, his eyes closed. His skin looked ashen and there were dark shadows under his eyes. I could quite believe it was him. “Seth…?” I asked hesitantly not sure if he was sleeping. “I’m sorry,” he said softly, his eyes closed.

I felt my heart break. He had nothing to apologize for. He only acted in selfdefense. I shook my head forgetting for a moment that he wasn’t looking at me. “I’m the one who should be apologizing. It’s my fault you’re in here.” He didn’t say anything and still sat there with his eyes closed. His face what blank and I wished I knew what he was thinking. I had to make it up to him. There was so much I needed to apologize for. I needed to get him out of here. I owed him at least that much. “Seth. Look at me.” After a while he opened his eyes and I tried to keep the shock out of my face. His eyes were blood red and empty. He looked at me dispassionately, just like when I told him I didn’t love him and didn’t want to see him again. It made me wish that there were some way I could take that moment back. Now was not the time for regrets. I had to focus on getting him out of here. “I will not let them kill you,” I said determined. “I swear to you, I will get you out of here.” He held my gaze for a few seconds more than looked away. He didn’t look like he believed me and I felt tears springing to my eyes. Seth, I’m so sorry… “If I don’t hunt soon, you won’t have to,” Seth said harshly. He didn’t have to act like that. I told him I would get him out, he had my word. He just had to trust me. But then if I were in his position, I thought as I turned and walked away, I wouldn’t trust me either. When I told Blake that I wanted to see Seth’s trial, he was strongly opposed to the idea. Ever since Seth was captured, he’s been acting differently towards me, as if I were partly responsible for him being hurt. Why couldn’t I do anything right? I took a seat at the back and waited for Seth to come it. When he did, he acted strangely. There was a window to the left of where he was told to go stand, casting a perfect rectangle of sunlight in that area. Seth stopped suddenly and didn’t move any further. His guards stated shoving him, trying to get him to move forward and he resisted. It turned into a struggle that I couldn’t bear to watch, and I turned away. “I told you not to come,” Blake hissed. I turned and glared at him before looking back at Seth. He would not tell me what I should or should not do; I could make my own decisions. By that time, the guards had subdued Seth and were holding him down. He looked uncomfortable and like he was still trying to struggle. Please, Seth, save your strength. The judge, Alex, laughed and made some remarks about Seth’s struggles. As the room erupted in laughter, I couldn’t help feeling wave hatred towards everyone. They didn’t have to laugh at him. I would have wilted if I was in his place, but Seth calmed down when the guards finally moved away from him and he stood up straighter and stared Alex down. As the laughter died down, the two men gazed at each other, sparks flying, and the first to look away was the judge. No matter what Alex said, Seth remained quiet. He seemed unconcerned and gave an air of quiet confidence that had Blake on edge. His calmness irritated Alex and I could feel that it also made some people nervous. “He’s up to something,” Blake muttered under his breath.

He got up suddenly and walked out. I smiled and held back laughter. Seth still had the ability to annoy Blake, even when he wasn’t saying anything. Finally, after realizing that Seth would give him nothing, Alex grew frustrated and ordered that Seth be beheaded at noon. I knew that that was a little under an hour from now and that I didn’t have much time to get Seth out of here. As Seth was lead out of the room, he looked tired, as if standing there in the light for the few minutes he did had taxed his strength. I left the room with everyone else overhearing people chattering about how odd Seth’s behavior was. I made my way to the prison quickly, without a clue as to how to get Seth out safely. Getting in, I waited until the guards had moved away noticing that there was an increased guard presence. No doubt Blake’s doing, this would make my job more difficult. Walking over to the cell, I saw Seth lying on the cold stones looking drained. “Seth!” I was hardly conscience of breaking the lock and rushing in there to his side. His skin was cold and clammy and covered in goosebumps. I rolled him over on his back and placed his head in my lap for comfort, shaking him slightly. C’mon, Seth, wake up. That was when I remembered what he said before I left him this morning. There had to be something sharp around here somewhere. Finding nothing, I ran out of the cell and knocked out one of the guards lifting his dagger. Rushing back to Seth I cut my arm, bleeding over his mouth. His eyes still closed, he licked my blood off his lips while I bandaged the wound, worried that it wasn’t helping. He opened his eyes that were still blood-red and looked at me hungrily. I moved away from him not knowing whether he was going to attack me and not willing to take that chance. He seemed to be wrestling with something inside him and I knew that I should be careful now. He was after all, a Vampire. “Thank you,” he said thickly. “What are you doing here?” Still a bit cautious, I watched him for any signs that he would attack me. “I promised to get you out of here alive, and I will.” He started to get up slowly using a wall for support. I got up quickly and tried to go over to help him up, but he shot me a look and I froze and watched him. I didn’t understand him, I promised to get him out and he was still pushing me away. “So I guess you have a plan,” he said as he leaned against the wall. “No,” I replied. “I’m sort of winging it as I go.” “That’s not going to work,” he snapped. “What are the defenses like?” I answered his questions as well as I could as he fired them off in quick succession and he seemed encouraged by news of the catacombs. When I told him I didn’t know where any of the sensors were, he seemed a bit let down, but only for a moment. “Go away for a moment,” he ordered. “What, why?” He glared at me again and I quickly walked out of the cell locking it behind me. I seriously considered leaving him to suffer, but then I would be letting him down again.

What was with his attitude? I was trying my best to be helpful to him. It’s like he really didn’t get it. I moved so I could still hear what was going on, but hopefully still be out of sight as I heard Seth call out for Blake, who showed up a few minutes later. “What do you want, Bloodsucker?” Blake asked as if talking with Seth would make him physically sick. “Release me.” Seth’s voice had that husky quality to it that I now recognized was there whenever he was trying to force someone to do something. Right now, I didn’t feel the need to go over there and do what he said so I assumed that there was something else involved in the ability. There was a thud, the sound of a body making contact with metal and then the sound of flesh on flesh and I flinched. “C’mon! I’ll help you guys out,” Seth said after a minute. Blake laughed cruelly. I balled my fists, my nails digging into my skin. I wanted to rush out there and help Seth, but I knew I couldn’t, not now. It was really making me feel horrible inside. “You’re going to regret it,” Seth said with a touch of menace in his voice as if he were no longer afraid of what was going to happen. “Once Nick learns about this, you’ll be sorry you didn’t listen to me.” He sounded in control, as if whatever was going to happen to him was insignificant. “Why would Nick care about you?” Blake asked. I could almost see him looking at Seth, eyes narrowed, thinking furiously. I was too. Given all I knew about Nick, the threat seemed empty and hardly worth considering. But the way Seth said it, so full of confidence, was troubling. “Because he’s my cousin. As soon as I tell him about what you’ve done to me, what you’re planning to do to me, he’ll have all of Agrona attack you with a strength you’re never seen before.” That was unbelievable. There was no way Nick would know about any of this. Vampires weren’t telepathic and there was no way they could ever have any spies over here without Blake or one of the others knowing about it. It was just a bluff. Blake probably thought the same thing, and I heard him walk away. Once I couldn’t hear him any more, I went back to Seth worried about what all the commotion earlier meant. As soon as he saw me approach, he moved away from the bars as if he were afraid…or like he didn’t want me to be near him. Why was he so distant? Didn’t he see that I was trying to help him? “Nick’s your cousin?” I asked skeptically and he nodded. “You never told me that before.” His expression soured and he looked annoyed. “There was no reason to. Does that make you think any differently of me?” I thought about it for a minute. Just because Seth was related to one of the cruelest men I knew of didn’t mean they were the same did it? “Well, maybe…” I said slowly. “Never mind. I’ll get the blueprints from Blake.” I left to find Blake and stole the maps from him. I only felt bad about it for a moment until I remembered my promise to Seth and my love and respect

for him. When I returned with the maps, Seth expressed neither joy nor dismay. He was totally unemotional, just watching my every move. “Let’s go,” I ordered as I unlocked the cell and swung the door open. He quickly walked out and held out his hand for the blueprints and I gave them to him without a second thought. As he was looking through them, I thought about his relationship with Nick. Being cousins they must have grown up together and maybe have even been friends. But Seth was nothing like Nick, except for the fact that when he was pissed, he was scary. He finished looking through them and gave them back. “You don’t have to come if it’s going to make you uncomfortable,” he said tonelessly. “I want to.” Shrugging, he quickly led the way through the halls. He was walking so quickly I had to jog to keep up with him. Suddenly he stopped, licked his lips and crouched down as if ready to pounce on someone, a low growl escaping his lips. Heart beating hard I lightly touched his shoulder, forgetting the dangers. He quickly turned on me, his pupils were dilated, and his teeth, especially his canines looked wickedly sharp. “Please don’t hurt him.” I begged stammering. He kept glaring at me and I shank under his gaze. I had never been as scared of Seth as I was at that moment. He looked like he wasn’t even in control, like someone or something else had taken over. Before that time I didn’t think I really understood what he was. I did then. He was a Vampire, driven by emotions and urges I didn’t understand and never could. What came over him at that moment, I would never know, nor would he ever explain. He took a step towards me and looked at me without a sign of recognition. Please don’t attack me… He shoved me against a wall and I cried out and was about to scream when he clamped a hand over my mouth. He brought his mouth next to my neck and I felt his teeth on my skin. I squeezed my eyes shut and waited for the pain that never came. His teeth were on my neck for what seemed like a long time, and then he pulled back and shook his head like he was trying to clear it. When he looked at me again, his eyes were clear. I had just let out the breath I was holding when he grabbed my arm and pulled me down another hall. I was shaking all over as he pushed me behind him. I touched the dagger, beginning to doubt my decision to free him. A guard came down the hall and walked right by us without noticing anything out of the ordinary. When he had passed, Seth turned to me with something that wasn’t quite fury in his eyes. “Don’t you ever do that again,” he hissed. “I don’t want to hurt you.” His hands were balled into fists and I could tell he was trying to stop them from shaking. Without waiting for a response, he turned and went back to walking down the hall. I followed him at a distance. He didn’t seem like he wanted me near him. He followed the same procedure as we continued towards the catacombs and whenever it didn’t work, he got me to knock them out. Once at the catacombs, Seth looked exhausted and as we entered the semidarkness, he slumped against the wall. “Are you okay?” I asked concerned.

“Give me a sec.” I waited impatiently for him to continue, plainly seeing that there was something wrong. I quickly thought over everything I knew about him and one thing stood out among them all. “You need blood.” A brief hesitation then: “Yes.” “You can—” “No, Kira. If you want to do something for me, don’t bring this up again.” There was something in his tone that demanded compliance and I nodded. We moved through the maze of the catacombs slowly, Seth holding my hand and leading the way, The further we went the darker it got until I couldn’t see anything except for Seth’s glowing eyes. He led me through the ruins helping me over some of the walls that had fallen in. Finally, I saw light up ahead and started to make my way towards it. Seth held back and I stopped and turned back to him. “Don’t you want to leave?” “Yes, but not right now,” he unclasped the necklace that was around his neck and held it out for me. “Take this.” “What’s this for?” “It will let you find me if you ever want to.” The gesture was sweet. Even though he had been pushing me away, the necklace, symbolically, brought us closer. I reverently took the necklace from him and placed it around my own neck, thanking him. The pendant was small and silver and shaped sort of like a fang with an intricate design running through the middle. “Give the maps back to Blake and don’t come back here,” he paused and stepped into the light a small smile playing on his lips, and I couldn’t tell if it were sincere. Now, more than ever, I felt safe around him. I had a feeling that as long as I was with him, I couldn’t get hurt. As I turned and walked out, I couldn’t help feeling that everything had changed. I knew I would have to work hard to get him to trust me again, but it would be worth the challenge. Seth I came back to Agrona much to the surprise of everyone there. Most thought that I would never get out and some Vampires I had issues with openly wished that I had died in Ocelot. Before making my presence know in Agrona, I had hunted and rested, and now refreshed, I walked into Nick’s chamber, full of trepidation, but ready to face whatever he would throw at me. Unlike the first time I was here, Nick motioned for me to follow him through a door at the back of the room that I had never noticed before. Frowning, I followed him through the door, fingering the dagger I lifted from one of the guards on the way out of the prison. I had a bad feeling about this, a feeling that intensified as the door closed behind us and we were the only two Vampires in the small passageway. He led me to another small, damp and cold room. It was a small subterranean cave, stone walls enclosed us, punctuated by stalagmites and stalactites, and the flooring was uneven and I knew that it would be really easy to get hurt down here.

“What the hell were you doing?” Nick asked as soon as the door to the chamber closed behind me. “I was going after Blake,” I replied looking around the room again, searching in vain for another way out. “And obviously you failed.” “His girl was with him,” I said returning my attention to him and trying to give the impression that I was completely unconcerned. “They’re always together. You know that I’m weak against ice magic.” “That’s no excuse.” “I can’t take Blake with his girl using magic against me at every opportunity. As soon as she found a weakness, she exploited it,” I snapped loosing patience. Even though I was grateful to Kira for freeing me, I knew that I’d messed up and I didn’t need Nick rubbing it in. A muscle in Nick’s check twitched and I found myself flying backwards, through a stalagmite, and crashing into a wall. “If you weren’t my cousin, I would have killed you last time. I can’t have failures on my side,” Nick said angrily. I couldn’t believe that he would dare call me that. If I, a “failure”, was able to beat him numerous times, what did that make him? Getting up gingerly, I carefully pulled out the dagger and went after him. Nick was not to be fooled though, and laughed cruelly as I approached him and flung me back like I was nothing. At that moment, laying on the ground again, the dagger just out of reach, I did feel like a failure. I tried to get up and retrieve the dagger, but Nick had me pinned to the ground and he calmly walked over to it, picked it up and kicked me in my face. “Did you really think you could kill me?” Nick asked eyeing me with disgust as I spat blood out of my mouth. “No, but it was worth a try,” I retorted. For this I received another kick to my face, and Nick used his magic to pick me up and slam me against the wall, making sure that I went though as many stalagmites as possible before pinning me upright to the wall. Held up against the wall, unable to move, I noticed Nick pull a little vial out of a pocket. It looked harmless enough, but as soon as he opened it, letting the smell fill the room, I knew it was anything but. “Do you know what this is?” Nick asked, obviously enjoying the discomfort on my face. “I had the Witches make it just for you.” I just continued staring at him, wondering how he knew that I was deathly afraid of wild roses. There was no way that I would have told him about that. It wasn’t that I was afraid of flowers, it was only that roses significantly weaken me and I knew that I would be exactly like how I was before Kira gave me a bit of her blood to drink in the cell. “Some of the Witches are actually pretty loyal. Like the one who was treating you.” Nick said advancing towards me and pouring the liquid over the blade of the dagger. “He told me about your fear of roses. I got him to mix every available type of rose with something a little extra.” I started straining, trying to pull away, and off the wall. I knew that roses were the least of my problems. Knowing Nick, whatever he added to the rose water would have some sort of terrible effect on me, and I didn’t want to find out what it was.

I couldn’t move, Nick had me pinned down and he knew it. He came close smiling evilly, and stabbed me in my stomach pushing the blade in and up, while twisting it. Nothing could have prepared me for the intense feeling of pain that came over me. I screamed in extreme pain and heard Nick’s laughter. That hurt more than I though it ever could, but I wondered why Nick didn’t just do what he did last time without weakening me like this. “I’ll have to tell the witches to make more of this.” Nick said admiring the little vial. “You’re a coward.” I gasped feeling my blood just pouring out of my wound. I felt a rib break and bit my tongue to keep from screaming again. Nick frowned disappointed and started breaking multiple ribs and other bones at a time, and it became impossible to hold back my scream. “That’s better. Now tell me the truth. I can’t believe you could have messed up so badly. What were you really doing?” I was going after Blake I replied, giving him a look of pure hatred. I looked in amazement as Nick used earth magic to bind my arms and legs to the walls. I had no idea that he could do that, and I tried breaking my new bonds, but the stone was too thick and I couldn’t break them. “It would be wise if you told me the truth,” Nick said in a deadly calm voice that I knew usually preceded an outburst of anger that could be deadly. I am, I said equally as calm, despite the pain. I knew it was coming, but it still came as a bit of a surprise when Nick started attack me using the sharp rocks that were lying around. The rocks tore at my skin and clothes drawing more blood. I felt, at that moment, like telling Nick about Kira and dealing with those consequences as they came. I needed to stop seeing her and this would be one way, my one way out since I appeared unable to do it alone. “If you want this to end, dear cousin, tell me what I want to know,” Nick yelled above the sound of the rock storm. I wanted it to end, badly. But I couldn’t get myself to tell him what he wanted, what I wanted. My lack of will power was taken for defiance, and Nick intensified his attack, and began ripping me apart from the inside as well. From where the pain was coming from, I realized that he must have been puncturing organs. My cries joined the noise in the room and as the rocks pierced my skin and bounced of the rocks, I couldn’t hear anything that Nick was saying. I knew that I couldn’t stay awake any longer, and that I was finished. I’m sorry Amy; I should have listened to you, I said weakly to Amy I felt her puzzlement and then her worry as she tried to tell me something that I couldn’t catch. I looked Nick in the eye and saw him thoroughly enjoying what was happening. My head fell to my chest and I saw blood that just wouldn’t stop flowing, and knew then what the “something extra” did. The blood pooled at my feet filled my vision and started turning darker and darker, and finally…nothing. Kira I sat waiting in the meeting place for Seth to show up. The last time I saw him was when I freed him from prison and that was over a month ago.

Something terrible must have happened to him once he got back. I hoped he was okay. But wouldn’t he have told me if he was? It was killing me not knowing how he was. Why did he have to do this to me? I glanced up at the sky that would have revealed a beautiful full moon had there not been an eclipse. It was already putting a damper on my powers and it was really annoying. I touched the pendant at my throat. I wished Seth had told me how it worked. I needed to go see him. Just thinking about him in trouble. Made me feel terrible, like I could never do anything right. Every choice I made left someone feeling hurt. I felt tears springing to my eyes and hastily wiped them away. Crying about it wouldn’t be any good. I had to be strong for Seth. Immediately my mind flashed to the image of him lying helpless in his cell – suddenly I found myself in another forest. I looked around not recognizing anything and hearing swords clashing just a little further ahead. I unconsciously touched the necklace again and it was slightly warm to the touch. I was puzzled. That was strange, how could it be radiating heat? What could be going on? Curious, I walked forward toward the sounds of the fight, peeped through the trees and gasped. Seth and another man were both standing with their swords drawn, hatred for the other showing in their eyes. Seth’s opponent had cuts and scratches everywhere, it was a wonder he was still standing. Seth didn’t look much better. He had visible leg injuries, but seemed to be bleeding profusely and in much more pain. The other man gestured and Seth cried out, taking a stumbling step backwards clutching his side. Seth said something unintelligible to the other man, who then laughed and said something that made a look of fury flash across Seth’s face. Without a word, Seth ran at the other man, attacking him viciously. I watched in awe as Seth beat him down until it was obvious that there was no way the other man could win. He was defeated, his sword way out of reach. Seth had won and had his sword poised and ready to strike above his victim’s heart. Even defeated, the man would not give up and appeared to be taunting Seth. Seth, for his part, appeared calm and then finally thrust his sword through the man’s chest killing him. For a while, there was silence until Seth forcefully and brutally kicked the dead man’s face. I gasped and Seth turned to face me, his eyes filled with wrath. I started moving away from him as he turned back to the body and wiped his bloody sword on the victim’s clothing. He looked completely in control now, unlike before. “What are you doing here?” He asked, his voice tense. I swallowed and took a step towards him. “I was worried about you.” “Don’t.” He turned and faced me and I saw that he was still angry and it frightened me. I knew that when he was angry he could be quite intimidating and I didn’t want to be here if and when he exploded. “Did you see all that?” I nodded, the image of Seth killing that man sending shivers down my spine. “Why did you kill him?”

After asking the question I realized my mistake and placed a hand over my mouth, my eyes wide in fear. Why did I have to ask that? Instead of blowing up at me like I thought he would, he simply looked away and all the anger drained from his face, replaced by a deep sadness. “I hate him,” he said softly. What did he do to you? I wondered as Seth’s sadness just tore me in half. I walked up to him and gave him a comforting hug. He looked like he needed it. I didn’t mind the blood, but was only able to hold him for a moment before he pushed me away. I looked up at him puzzled, but his eyes revealed nothing but pain and sadness. “What’s wrong?” I asked worried. I had never seen him act like this and it was troubling. “Nothing.” I wasn’t going to push him for an answer. I knew that he didn’t like it and I wasn’t about to make him angry again. I assumed he didn’t want me to be there with him and although it hurt me to leave him like this, I wasn’t going to be clingy. I would give his space and hope he’d open up to me about it. I turned and began to walk away from him and find my way back to Ocelot when I heard Seth call out to me. I stopped and waited, if he wanted me to be there, he’d come to me. I heard Seth walk up behind me and stop wordlessly. I turned around and waited for him to continue. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t be pushing you away. I’m just so frustrated and tired of all this—” Seth stopped suddenly, pain distorting his features and placed a hand on his side grimacing. “You’re hurt; let me heal it,” I ordered drawing on my healing abilities as much as I could. Despite the fact that the eclipse was weakening my powers, I should have been able to heal him, it didn’t work and Seth stumbled onto his knees. “What did he do to you?” I asked deeply concerned as a thin sheet of sweat broke out on his brow. “There’s something inside of you blocking my powers.” Seth didn’t respond for a while. He just sat there with his eyes tightly closed. Whatever had been done had obviously seriously injured him. “He used magic,” he said finally, opening his eyes. Eyes that showed me how much he was suffering. “It felt like he was tearing me apart from the inside.” That’s why he had asked me to teach him how to protect himself. I should have just helped him without asking so many questions. I can’t believe how badly he got hurt because I couldn’t just trust him when he came to ask me for help. I turned away to hide my tears, I felting myself falling apart. I was on unsteady ground and found myself sinking even deeper every time I moved. Through my tears, I heard a new sound and slowly stopped crying. It was a low haunting melody, that although I didn’t understand the words, it was calming and I felt my grief go away leaving me with a sense of peace. Seth’s voice when he sang was low and resonant, sending shivers down my spine and transported me to some place far away where there was no war, no worries, just Seth and my deep and ever-deepening love and admiration for him. He finished the song and we sat there together in silence that was created, neither one of us wanting to break it. Even though I was in enemy

territory, I had never felt so thoroughly at peace and comfortable. Wordlessly, I ripped a piece of my clothing and made a bandage to stop the bleeding. It had slowed down now and I didn’t want it to get infected. I realized that I cared deeply about Seth and never wanted to see him hurt again. He made me feel special and loved in a way that no one, not even Blake or Eric had before. “The song you sang, what is it called?” I asked finally daring to break the silence. “Vajayati. It translates to something like “The Awakening”.” “It’s a beautiful song” He nodded and then took on a more serious tone. “You realize that now that I’ve killed Nick, I’m going to take his place.” I stared at him not quite understanding and then looked at the body. That was Nick? He just killed a major leader in his side. What was going on? This would weaken his side and cause unrest, and, more importantly, he could get killed. I wouldn’t be able to live if that happened. “Others might try to kill me, and I’m going to be a major target for your side,” he continued. “Don’t worry, with me around you no one will hurt you. I always protect the ones I love.” It slipped out and there was no way I could take the words back. I had never once told Seth the way I really felt about him and the look he threw me now as at once surprise and guarded excitement. “You always protect the people you what?” “Nothing,” I said quickly. It didn’t matter what I said as Seth knew. He had a small smile on his face and his eyes held laughter as he looked at me. “That was a first,” he said easily. “Well, uh—ah, whatever” I leaned towards him and did what I’ve always wanted to do since the first time I saw him. I kissed his lips but it was like kissing a brick wall. He was unresponsive. Although he seemed pleased before, he didn’t show any signs of that now. Disappointed, I pulled away. “What’s wrong?” “We shouldn’t be doing this Kira.” “What do you mean? I know you want this as much as I do.” “Gatakrí, you’re engaged to Blake. This is inappropriate,” he said sadly. “I didn’t have a choice in the engagement,” I lied. “It’s not what I wanted.” Seth looked me over, probably trying to tell if I was telling the truth. I tried to keep my expression open so he wouldn’t detect a lie. “I don’t want you to get hurt,” he said slowly. Why would I get hurt? He was worrying way too much about all of this. But somehow I knew that if I didn’t placate him, this would never work. I had to get him to understand that I knew what I was doing and that I trusted him. “To you I know that I might just be a child, but I know what I’m doing. How will I ever learn if I don’t try?” Seth looked at me and I saw love and admiration on his face. His expression softened and he cupped my face in his hands, looking deep into my eyes. “You’re sure.” My heart beat so hard against my chest that I thought it would burst, my breathing sped up and became highly irregular and I could do little else but nod, as his hands moved down my back, caressing me.

He pulled me closer to him, his hands still moving over my body and placed the gentlest of kisses on my lips. I moaned in pleasure, he tasted exquisite. Completely and totally masculine, his firm, sensual lip moving over mine in perfect sync. He let me take control, he was never demining anything from me like Blake; he just gave of himself freely and without reservation. It was perfect. At least it was until I felt a fire at the back of my throat, a horrible burning that made me feel weak. I wanted to scream, but I couldn’t. Seth, sensing my discomfort, pulled back quickly, a question on his lips. I couldn’t respond and collapsed against him. I woke up some time later at home lying in my own bed. How did I get back here? Puzzled, I tried to get up, but strong hands held me down. “Hey, take it easy.” I looked in the direction of the voice and saw Seth, cleaned up and in a fresh pair of clothes sitting on the side of my bed, deep concern and apology in his eyes. “What happened?” I asked. Instead of just telling me what I wanted to know, Seth apologized, his voice sounding pained. “You apologize too much,” I said irritated. “I don’t want to see you get hurt because of me.” “You should worry about yourself,” I suggested. Seth frowned, but said nothing. He just sat there playing with my hair. I didn’t want that though. I wanted him to hold me and I took hold of his hand and placed it on the side of my face. He looked back at me and smiled and I saw a bit of a fang. I would have asked him if he went hunting earlier, but remembered how he didn’t like that the last time I asked so I kept quiet. Eventually, I tried to sit up in bed again, and this time Seth didn’t stop me. He just held me close to him, his arms wrapped tightly around me like he never wanted to let me go. That was just fine with me, I didn’t want to be without him. “How long was I out?” I asked suddenly. “About an hour,” he replied. “And you stayed by me the whole time?” I asked surprised. “Well, I had to leave you for a bit, but pretty much.” Before he could protest, I placed a kiss on his cheek. “I need to go now. Will you be okay?” Seth asked disengaging from me. I nodded and watched as he got up and opened the door to the balcony before changing into a wolf. He took a few steps onto the balcony and then ran back to me and licked my hand. I giggled and could have sworn he was grinning as he turned and ran off. I rushed out there to see if he was okay and all I saw was a dark shape running through the fields and into the forest.

Part 2
Seth The next morning, I walked into the meeting room while Connor and Melissa were talking together, my black jacket billowing behind me, and hearing the two Vampires I brought with me as guards hurrying to keep up with me. As I walked into the room, all conversation ceased and they looked up at me. Melissa raised her eyebrows silently asking me what I was doing in there, interrupting their meeting.

“Nick’s dead,” I said smiling thinly. “So you finally killed him,” Connor said amused. “Took you long enough.” I glared at him and he started laughing. “Let’s hope you’re a better strategist than he was,” Melissa quipped. “Was he really that bad?” I asked sarcastically. “You should know.” Connor again. I gave him a bored look and wondered how I was ever going to be able to work with him. Even though this was the first time I had really been around him, I still found him annoying and started to pity Nick for having to put up with him. Shaking my head, and looking away from Connor, I found Melissa looking at me curiously, and I raised an eyebrow silently prompting her to say something. “You have tremendous skill, but you haven’t fully realized your potential,” she said finally. “Come see me after this meeting.” “What about later tonight?” I challenged. Just because I was the newest member of this little group, didn’t mean that she could tell me what to do. “I want to do a little house cleaning first. Now the meeting…” “As you wish,” she said nodding in acquiescence. “As you can see,” Connor started. “We have captured almost all of Ocelot. They are significantly weakened on their left flank.” “What’s the situation over here?” I asked pointing to the other side of Ocelot. “Still holding and they’re putting up a pretty strong resistance,” Connor replied. I got the feeling that Connor was the one who came up with all the battle plans in here and knew that as soon as this alliance broke up, he would be the one to look out for. Looking at how Ocelot’s defenses were set up, I knew that it would be easy to finish them, and I wondered how they hadn’t seen it yet. All we needed to do was work together a little better and we could wipe Ocelot of the map quite easily. “What are you thinking about?” Connor asked bringing me out of my thoughts. “Nothing.” “Tell us. It can’t be any worse than Nick,” Melissa said looking bored and tired. I decided to tell them. It wasn’t anything big, but I worried about Kira. After she risked her life coming over to Agrona because she was worried about me…it made me wonder if I was doing the right thing if I told them about what I could see. Shrugging mentally, I decided to tell them. If Kira died…well I’d deal with that if it came. “Who’s on the right side?” I asked If my plan was going to work, I needed to know where everyone stood on the other side. “Strong magical beings are on the left, those who can’t use magic on the right and a mix in the centre, where we’ve been focusing our attention,” Melissa said.

I bit my lip and thought about what she said. I had an idea, but I knew that Melissa wouldn’t approve. They were looking at me impatiently, and I decided to just say it. “Vampires and some Witches attack the left. Since those on the left use magic, Witches provide cover while the Vampires attack, head on. In the centre, we just hold it like we are now, and on the right, Wolves and Witches. We take the coast and then circle them, finally attacking all at once and finishing them quickly.” “I don’t like the idea of my people acting as shields for yours,” Melissa protested. As the leader of the Witches, I expected Melissa to put up a fight about this plan. In fact I was hoping on it, and hoping that she would vehemently oppose this plan so it never came to fruition. “We need a group with strong magic to counter theirs,” I said. It was a moot point, but I had to make it look like I really wanted this plan to work. “He has a point,” Connor said supporting me. “You guys are better at distance fighting, so using your powers to protect our side works.” This is not what I wanted. I needed Connor to disagree with me. “So we’re reduced to bodyguards,” Melissa said dryly. “Not really,” I said stupidly, thinking out loud. “We’ll be protecting you. We give you the time you need to prepare your attacks. “ The argument went around in circles for what felt like an hour, and there was a point where I was hopeful that Melissa was succeeding in having the plan squashed, she eventually broke down. Disappointed, but forcing myself to keep an expression of satisfaction on my face, I walked out the room in the same manner I came in, calling all the Vampires I knew still had loyalties to Nick, and those who just hated me, to a secluded area that was nearby that I had told some other friends to wait before I went into the meeting. When I told Melissa that I was doing some house cleaning, I wasn’t kidding. I didn’t want anyone with me whom I couldn’t trust. I had no intention of getting killed as soon as I became leader and this would serve as an object lesson to anyone who would even think of turning against me. Entering the meeting place. I saw that everything was proceeding exactly as I had planned it: those who were loyal to me, were hidden out of sight, and those that I had just called were standing around, not expecting anything out of the ordinary. Most of them were leaders in the Vampire army and I knew that for a few moments, this would create complete confusion in most, if not all, of the units, but it was a risk I was willing to take. “So I guess you all heard the news, and are wondering why you were called here,” I stated looking around at all the blank faces. “You’re going to start holding secret meetings now, Seth?” Ash said stepping forward. I assumed that he was the spokesperson for this group and knowing him, I expected it. “Right,” I said smiling. “Now, let’s get started.” At this prearranged signal, those who were hiding came out from hiding, weapons drawn and rushed those in the centre of the clearing.

The Vampires standing there were initially surprised, but then their surprise gave way to anger and they fought back. I drew my sword but stayed back out of the fighting, only attacking those who managed to get close to me. When everything was done, the forest was blood stained, bodies littered everywhere. “If any of you think of turning against me, I will kill you,” I said in a bored tone, noticing the faces of those around me pale as I said it. “You all know that I won’t hesitate to do it.” I assigned them all the positions that those who were know laying on the group previously had and then went to help out in the battle. Not surprisingly, my plan was working. Too well as far as I was concerned. We were able to push Ocelot back at a rapid pace and even when they began to send reinforcements in, it made no difference. Later that night, when I went to see Melissa, she congratulated me on my success today in the battle and on my willingness to meet her on her turf. I just shrugged and told her that we needed to get started because I had other things to do tonight. “My, aren’t you busy,” Melissa remarked with a smirk. “Anyway, as I said earlier, you need to work on your magic abilities.” “And you should know, that other than creating that shield, I have none,” I said tiredly. Moreover I hated using it because it was draining. “That’s where you’re wrong. I can sense four others who can use magic on your side. You’re one of them. I want you to focus that energy that you use to create the shield and release it. Anywhere. Pick a target.” I looked at her doubtful, but closed my eyes and concentrated, trying to do as she said, tapping into that power that I knew I had. I focused it more than I usually did for the shield and then opened my eyes to pick a target, only to discover that everything was now in black and white shades instead of their usual natural colours. Startled I released the energy and it went everywhere and the Witches who were nearby had to throw up shields to protect themselves from the wild energy. Melissa had a smirk on her face that said, “See what I told you.” “Try it again,” she said. We worked together for at least two hours, when I finally told her I had to leave. I met up with Ryan then as planned and we went hunting together and he warned me not to get too comfortable with the Witches. I nodded. “I know. She was just showing me something.” “Whatever it was exhausted you. I’ve never seen you take so much in one night. She’s turned you into a glutton,” Ryan said laughing. Smiling, I punched him lightly in his shoulder. “Well at least the Witches will be easier to take when this is over.” “You think?” Ryan asked skeptical. “I heard about what you did after the meeting this morning.” He continued as we sat backing against a tree. “So?” I asked eyeing him over the ferret I was playing with. “Man, that was harsh. Some are saying that you might be worst than Nick.” “God, I hope not!” I said laughing. “I just don’t want to be killed in my first few weeks as leader.” “Speaking of Nick, I always knew you would kill him, but never so…” He waved his hand in the air searching for the right word.

“Suddenly?” “Yeah,” he said. He paused and watched as the rodent scampered over my hands. “Are you going to kill that thing or not? You really shouldn’t play with your food.” I let it go and watched as it scurried away. “Happy now?” I asked slightly disappointed at having to let my new pet go. “Very,” Ryan said smiling. “Oh, I forgot.” He said suddenly reaching into a pocket and pulling out a necklace and placing it in my hands. I looked at it and realized right away that it was Amy’s. It was a small ruby teardrop necklace that I gave to her for her birthday decades ago and she had never taken it off. “I took this from her body before I buried her,” Ryan said softly. “It’s not your fault, Seth. Nick killed her and there’s nothing you could have done to change it.” “If I’d listened to her, this wouldn’t have happened,” I said angrily clutching the necklace. “Seth, the day you were tortured, Amy found me and—I’m not sure if you know this, but Travis was killed while you were away—she was already upset. She said that she had lost Travis, almost lost you once and she didn’t want to loose you again. She asked me to go with her, and I did.” “Then what happened? No offence or anything, but if Amy’s dead, why aren’t you?” “None taken,” Ryan said smiling. “Let me finish. I went with her and when we got there we had to fight through the guards until we made it to that chamber. One of the guards was a friend of mine and he helped us get down there. “We entered the room and saw you on the ground lying in your own blood, Nick forcing something down your throat. Amy rushed over and pushed him off you, and then sat holding you in her arms, crying. “I fought Nick, keeping him off Amy for as long as I could. The guard helped me too, and Nick killed him immediately, using abilities I never knew he had. Nick called for more guards and then he got my sword from me. He told the guards to clean up the mess and that got Amy really angry. She rushed towards him and then I heard a terrible cracking sound and I realized Nick had killed her. There was nothing I could have done to stop him. “I went over to her body, hoping that I was wrong, but I wasn’t. That was when I got the necklace. Nick told me that if I didn’t want to be next, I had to get rid of the bodies. I moved Amy first and then I came back for you and when I came near you, I realized that you were still alive, but barely. “Without saying anything to Nick, I carried you out. I didn’t want Nick to know that you were alive. I would have killed him if you were dead, but you weren’t so I didn’t try.” I absorbed this all in silence, horrified at what I had learned. “I tried to protect her, Seth,” Ryan continued even softer than before. “I’m so sorry.” “Where’s she buried?” I asked hollowly. I followed him to a little ravine near where we were sitting, putting the necklace in my pocket as I did so. Now I carried two pendants reminding me of my siblings. Two small trinkets that were all that I had left to remind me of them.

At the site, Ryan stopped and showed me the marker that he had for her grave and I knelt down in front of it in anguish. Tears ran silently down my face and Ryan laid a hand on my shoulder before stepping back and walking away. I knew then that I didn’t want to ever have to experience this again. Half of the people closest to me were now dead. Two of them were killed in incidents that were beyond my control. The third was killed by my own stupidity. I made a promise right then and there that I wouldn’t let this happen to Kira and I would do anything in my power to prevent her from dying. Even if I had to die trying. Kira Earlier on today Blake ordered an immediate private conference with the main powers. This to me was weird. Usually the main powers are those who are given complete authority to manage theses private conferences. I thought it would be best if I were to secretly listen. Blake and the main powers entered the room followed by guards who closed the door and stood guard. The brick wall muted the conversation but from what I heard, Blake said that the new leader in Agrona came up with a plan to surround and take us out one by one. But how can that be true? Could he be lying to the main powers? No, he would never risk his title. Seth... He must. No. He used me to get his title and now uses it to kill us. How could he betray me like that? I gave him all my trust yet he choose to use me. When he came to the sanctuary tonight he'd feel how much it hurts to be betrayed by someone you love. I stood waiting in the centre on alert. Unaware of my intentions, Seth walked out of the shadows behind me. He slowly walked up behind me and gently wrapped his arms around my waist. I immediately, I took a firm grip on his arm with both hands, twisted and threw him. As he was getting up, a red aura surrounded me. This is a sign to my enemies that I am at full strength since my powers are connected to my emotions. A hand stretched out, I continued to cast fire balls at him till he was backed against a tree. Now I'm in control, and he will suffer greatly. "Kira, calm down. What’s your problem?" Seth asked surprised. I couldn't believe him! How dare he tell me what to do. "How could you? Betray me? I trusted you, gave you my heart and soul. You used and lied to me," I said as the aura grew bigger and brighter. "Betray you?" He echoed shocked. "When did I ever do that?" "You must be stupid or something. I aided you in protecting yourself against magic so that you could get your title." "Kira, please, you have to believe me. I never wanted this to happen--" He tried to explain, but I wouldn't listen to him. "I want to believe in you, but you make it so hard to do," I said interrupting him. "You have to understand my situation, I had to do what I did," he said walking towards me. "You...traitor! I will never trust you again. I hate you," I said beginning to cry even though I didn't want him to see me like this. "Don't cry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to--" he said softly hugging me. "Stay away from me!" I shouted pushing him off.

"OK, I understand, I'm leaving," Seth said beginning to walk away. "You're not getting off that easily. In order to capture you, I'll kill you if necessary." Seth stopped and looked back puzzled. With a circular motion of the wrist, I created a tornado. I used my other hand to shoot shards of ice into the spiral. The tornado surrounded him slowly ripping him to shreds. I grinned as I watched what the ice was doing to his body, now he would know exactly how it felt. Seth seemed as calm as the eye of the storm. He focused his power and finally unleashed the built up energy, breaking the tornado and collapsing to the ground. I was surprised. When Seth first came to me, he didn't know how to use magic, and this caught me completely off guard. Blood was spurting out of every section of body. His shirt was completely torn to shreds exposing his naked body. Despite the blood, this was the first time I had ever seen him without his shirt on and I had to admit that he looked good. His body was toned and heavily muscled with a tattoo running around his upper arm and I felt bad having to rip this wonderful work of art to bits. I created a thick fog that crept up and covered the surrounding area. "Kira, please let me explain. You know I never wanted to hurt you." I attempted to fly up but Seth caught my ankle and pulled me back down. He swung at me and sent me flying. I faked an injury and stared crying again. "Kira, I'm...so sorry," Seth said looking really bad. "I didn't mean to hurt you. I--" Without a moment of hesitation. I jammed my foot hard into his guts. A combined magic pulse sent him flailing backwards. Vines from the tress restrained him. Knowing that Seth was unable to move and helpless, I soaked all his wounds in water and froze it. Seth, screamed in pain I hated seeing Seth like this, but it had to be done. Because of me, my friends were dying. This would be the only way to make it up to them. I wished Seth would just stop. Then I wouldn’t have to hurt him anymore. Seth painfully got up and slowly limped towards me. He had pulled out his sword and began to channel his remaining energy into the sword giving it a soft glow. I used my aura to blind him and shot arrows at him continuously but he managed to block it and continued after me. I quickly shot an arrow into the air and made a sword of ice and prepared for close combat. Since Seth was a more accomplished swordsman than I was, he quickly knocked me to the ground. The ice sword slipped out of my hand and Seth raised his sword and look for a moment like he was going to kill me. "Fiwk!" I said quickly. A hail of arrows came falling down directly at Seth. He managed to avoid the attack but the arrows kept following him. I caused a root to trip him as he stepped out of the way to avoid the attack again and the arrows finally managed to hit him. Again I flew into the sky to gain an aerial advantage. I saw Seth building up energy again. Knowing that I didn't have enough energy left to defend myself against Seth’s attack I gathered all remaining power in to my bow. Both of us launched our final attacks at the same time; His attack a ball of swirling dark energy, mine, an arrow with four spiraling lights coming from the point. Upon collision, our

attacks cancelled out releasing a large pulse that sent both of us backwards. Seth did not sense the second arrow hidden within the shadow of the first arrow and was struck. Seth was sent tumbling backwards and he lay on the ground, his breath coming out in ragged gasps, pain, hatred and betrayal distorting his features. I made my way down to him and placed my foot over his wound Seth cringed in pain. "Now you’re going to get what you deserve." "Dammit, Kira, please," Seth said angry. "I didn't betray you. I would never do something like that to you. I love you Kira and no matter what you do I always will." "Shut up." "I had to come up with that plan, and telling them to attack Ocelot like this, not knowing if you would be OK...It was hard. This war has already taken two very important people from my life...One of them was my sister. I don't want to loose anyone else who is important to me. I would never intentionally do anything to hurt you Kira... You mean too much to me. " My aura died down and I found that I couldn't respond. Seth held my eyes for a moment before looking away and closing his eyes, his breathing shallow. I couldn't stand seeing him like this, suffering, and knowing that I was responsible for this was just too much and I fell to my knees beside him crying. "I'm so sorry!" I cried between sobs. "It's OK," Seth said turning back to face me. He looked calm, but I could see the pain of his injuries swirling in his eyes. "Do you think you can...?" His question trailed off, and his eyes closed again. “Seth!” I cried. His eyes fluttered open and he smiled weakly. He looked so weak and I didn’t want to loose him. I finally understood how much he meant to me. Placing my hand above his chest, I was able to partly heal him. Whatever Nick did to him was still stopping him from being completely healed and that worried me. I wanted impatiently for his eyes to open, and when they did they were clear from pain, but they still looked troubled. “Thank you,” he said as he struggled to a sitting position. “Are you sure you’re OK?” I nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. What about you?” “I’ll be OK,” he said his voice sounding stronger. “I’ll fix this, I promise. I’ll make things right again.” He started getting up on his own, and I got up too, helping him. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for this to happen.” With a chaste kiss, he ran off again, and I started crying again wondering how I could have ever doubted him. Seth As Kira had made me realize last night, my plan was working too well and as a result we were sure to win the war. This had made many over-confidant and this new found confidence had inspired others to begin acting as thought the war was already over.

Ryan, the best adviser I could ever hope to have, told me about some of this as we went riding one afternoon. The ride had to be shortened as we stumbled upon a Witch, badly beaten, who was cornered by three Wolves who were advancing towards her. We didn’t really need to help, but the Witches were already making a fuss about the fact that they were being picked on by everyone else, and we didn’t need to make the situation any worse by adding heat to the fire that would eventually end this tentative truce and launch us back into our usual fighting. In the beginning of the war it wasn’t that bad, but now that there was hope of this skirmish drawing to a close, fights between the groups were beginning again and Ryan told me as we rode away after separating the Wolves and the Witch that he was expecting that at anytime, those two groups would cause the end of our alliance before we had even finished with Ocelot. Later that afternoon as I sat listening to Connor and Melissa arguing yet again during the meeting, I realized that I could stop having to listen to their incessant bitching and help Kira like I said I would quite easily. I listened to them arguing a little longer and then excused myself to do what I knew needed to be done to prove to Kira that I would do anything I could to help her. The next morning, I went to the abandoned mansion that we used for the meetings and had to listen to Melissa as she vented about all the “abuse” her group was putting up with. Knowing what was coming and that I would soon have to pick a side in this conflict that I’d created, I only half listened to what she was saying, waiting impatiently for Connor to show up. When he didn’t come at the assigned time, she got very angry and started complaining about the fact that she had to put up with Connor’s dogs attacking the Witches and now he didn’t have the decency to show up on time. I sighed and told one of my Vampires to find out what was taking Connor so long. He was just about to walk out when Connor barged in knocking him to the side. He bared his teeth and looked like he was ready to attack Connor. Even as Connor made his way over to Melissa and I, I just looked at him, daring him to attack Connor and knowing that he never would, but I would hear about it later. “Someone’s been busy,” Connor said, his anger only barely restrained. “Aren’t we all?” I asked sarcastically speaking to Connor, but keeping my eyes on the Vampire by the door who was still bristling. “Dante’s dead,” Connor said testily before Melissa could get a word in edgewise. “So? Everyone’s dying,” Melissa said without much feeling. Wincing inwardly I turned to Connor. “Was he important to you? If so, I’m sorry for your loss, but you need to move on.” Connor looked from me to Melissa and back again and I struggled to keep my usual impassive expression in place. “Follow me,” he ordered turning on his heel and marching out. I looked at Melissa feigning ignorance and she shook her head in anger. Energy cracked like lighting around her as she stormed out after Connor,

her witches following at her heels. I brought up the rear and as I was leaving I motioned for Ethan, the insulted Vampire, to walk beside me. “What the hell was that all about?” He whispered angrily. “I’ll let you kill him, but not now,” I replied. Ethan had spoken in Standard, but but I had responded in Šija’ŋ so the others wouldn’t understand. I had no idea how well Werewolves could hear and I didn’t want to find out by saying something I might later regret. “Then we’re almost done working with these malvoles?” Ethan asked in the same language surprised. “Something happened last night that has Connor seriously pissed. It might just—” At that moment, I had to stop, as it appeared we had reached our destination. I moved up to the front with the other two and looked down at the badly broken body of a Werewolf who I assumed to be Dante. “One of you killed Dante and I would like to know who it was.” Connor said, his voice deathly calm. “Those wounds weren’t made with weapons.” I mused under my breath. I was still trying to portray the image of someone who knew nothing about this although if it were not for my direct or indirect involvement, Dante wouldn’t be dead. “Exactly.” Connor said. My eyebrows shot up in surprise. I didn’t think he would have been able to hear that. Melissa looked puzzled as she realized that she was missing something that had just happened. “Theses wounds weren’t made with weapons.” Connor said echoing my words for Melissa’s benefit. “They were inflicted using magic which means only Seth, Melissa or one of the witches could have killed him.” There were cries of outrage from Melissa and the witches and growls from the Vampires. I shoot a heated look over my shoulder at the crowd and they calmed a bit. “I can tell you right now, Connor, that I haven’t mastered my powers to be able to do that.” I said pointing at the left side of Dante’s body that looked like something had eaten away at half his body. “Just ask Melissa.” I said turning to her. “Unfortunately, Seth is telling the truth.” She said sounding resigned. “He’s a fast learner, but he’s not that good.” Can I? Ethan asked telepathically and I shook my head. I didn’t appreciate the slight any more than he did, but I only had to deal with it for now. “Well if it was,” Melissa said not willing to admit that one of her people could have done this. “Whoever did it had every right to! The was you dogs have been treating my people, I’m surprised it took this long!” “You little tramp!” Connor hissed. All the anger Melissa had been building up came out then as she flung Connor into the trees. Connor got up quickly and looked like he was ready to go after Melissa for what she had done, but I stepped in and attacked both of them, pushing them apart. “Save this shit for later. We’re close to talking all of Ocelot.” I snapped. “Deal with this after that.”

Connor took a swing at me, but I grabbed his arm and twisted it so he cringed in pain. “What the hell are you doing?” Connor cried. “You’re ready to knock me flying and bite her head off. Think for a moment. She didn’t kill Dante, but she can find out who did and deal with that person before you restart the civil war.” Connor calmed a bit and looked at Melissa and I slowly released his arm. “Well, Witch, who was it?” “You really expect me to tell you so you can rip him to pieces?” Melissa retorted “Tell him.” I said modulating my voice to try to force her compliance. “That doesn’t work on me, Seth.” Melissa said laughing. I sighed. “Can’t you be reasonable? We could loose all that we’ve gained if you two don’t work it out.” “I’ll never betray my people.” Melissa said her voice full of pride. “You—Who are you with Seth? Decide now.” Connor said frustrated, turning to me. “Unless Melissa volunteers to hand Colin over to me, I’m with you.” I said looking Melissa in the eye and silently signaling the Vampires I had with me to prepare for a fight. “What?” She asked stunned. “What do you want Colin for?” “To finish what I started with Nick. I would have killed him after we dealt with Ocelot, but now seems as much as a good time as later.” Colin was the Warlock responsible for creating to potion Nick had used while torturing me. I was going to get back at him for that and finish this so that no one would know about that weakness that I had. Melissa’s face went red and she summoned six other Witches into the area bringing the total to nine. We all knew what this meant: the truce was over and everything was back to how it always was. The odds were in Melissa’s favor, but I knew we were all going to fight. A strange purple light crackled like lightning around all the Werewolves and after a brief flash of light they each changed into wolves standing on their hind legs, each six feet tall. Having never witnessed this before, I was amazed but had little time to admire this as the witches attacked. Ethan, finally free to attack Melissa for her comment earlier, did so with excitement. During the fighting, I warned all the Vampires to stay away from the Witches as the alliance with them was now broken and gave them permission to attack and kill them if they were attacked. By the end of the battle, the area was a bloody mess, bodies laid everywhere, and limbs ripped off and tossed aside like trash, trees broken into giant toothpicks. Connor and another Wolf were still standing as well as two other Vampires, including Ethan. Two thirds of the Witches were dead. One of the remaining Witches attacked an already weakened Connor and his pack mate wasn’t fast enough to stop it. Connor went down heavily and didn’t get back up. Before the witch could attack again, I killed her using my magic. Melissa, her face flushed with anger and battered, raised her hand above her head and instantly all the remaining witches vanished. Turning, I saw the other Wolf had changed back and was tending to Connor’s wounds.

“Can he change back?” I asked her. She shook her head, her eyes pained. “No. He’s too weak and the blood he’s loosing isn’t helping.” She didn’t look that great herself and I got Ethan to watch our back with the other Vampire helped her carry Connor out. Knowing that on one could see the expressions on my face now, I allowed myself a small smile of satisfaction. The civil war was beginning exactly as I had planned and as long as Connor survived, I would be able to kill him later, in my on time and finish this stupid war permanently. Kira The vision started out pleasantly enough. It was a beautiful late spring day, flowers were in bloom and I was in a young forest, small trees just beginning their lives. There was a slight breeze that made the tall grass dance and tickle my bare legs and ruffled my hair. Thoroughly at peace, I sat down in the grass tilting my head up to the sun, letting it bathe me in its wonderful, warm golden light and smelling the sweet sent of flowers carried on the wind. I closed my eyes and listened to the bright chirping of the birds as they flew overhead, playing in the wind. All of a sudden, the singing stopped and the wind picked up. I opened my eyes as the warmth from the sun disappeared and the temperature dropped. Looking up at the sky that was, just moment ago, clear and blue, I saw that it was overcast, dark and threatening. I felt something light skitter across my lap and looking down I saw…flower petals? What? The colours were washed out and the edges turning brown. They couldn’t be dying already; it was too soon. The petal in my hand dissolved and I stood up quickly, dusting the petals off my skirt, feeling a storm coming. More petals were swirling in the air now, all of them dissolving as they came near me. I knew I couldn’t stay in this open field; something bad was going to happen and I didn’t want to be here when it did. The problem was I didn’t know where here was or how to get away as there were no signs of civilization as far as I could see. I shivered wishing I was dressed warmer and turned to face the wind and saw fog blowing in. I stood still paralyzed. What was going on? I watched as the fog completely enveloped the area. It was so dense I couldn’t see anything in front of me and a new smell came on the wind. It was terrible; I had never smelled anything like it before. It smelled like blood, rot and decay and I gagged, my eyes watering. I had to get out of here. I started walking forward slowly, keeping one hand stretched out in front of me to keep from bumping into anything. Suddenly, my hand touched something hard and scaly, and I shrieked until I realized it was only a tree, moving my hand around it, I realized it was an older tree. But that was impossible; it couldn’t be. The forest was young, not fully developed. I continued moving my hand around the trunk of the tree and then bumped into something else. It was swaying and covered in cloth. I stopped fearful and the fog blew away bringing me face to face with a corpse. It was hanging from a branch in the tree swinging slightly in the breeze, its clothing and body shredded as if by an animal. I screamed and jumped back bumping into another corpse. I screamed again and looked

around. There were bodies everywhere, all hanging off trees. What was with this place, this massive slaughter ground? This area was completely different from the first. It was a more mature forest, with trees so tall that it blocked what possible sunlight could have come through. It didn't matter though, the stench of death was everywhere and I had to get out. I turned and ran blindly through the trees, pushing plants out of my way as I went; I just wanted to get out of here. Not really looking where I was going, I slipped on wet leaves that were on the ground and fell with a cry. Down on my hands and knees, panting I looked at the ground where I had fallen and found that it was red. Shaking I raised a hand closer to my face and realized the terrible truth. The leaves weren't wet with water, but wet with blood! What kind of forest was I in? I jumped up and turned around to go back the way I came. The blood was fresh and I had no intention of dying. Unfortunately, at that moment and wall of fire sprang up blocking the path and the only way to go was to continue the way I was going. I started running again, there had to be another way out. Paying more attention to where I was going, I saw fires and smoke in the distance; the forest was burning. Now I really had to get out. I put on a burst of speed and emerged in an open field gasping. I looked around quickly noticing fires all around; i was trapped. There was no way to get out. I saw a shape making its way through the trees towards me. As soon as it came out into the clearing I realized who it was. "Seth!" I cried. He stopped and made no motion to continue towards me. Frowning I started walking towards him. Why did he stop? "Where are we?" I asked. He apparently didn't hear me, or if he did, he choose to ignore me. A slow smile spread across his face, and he just stood there, waiting. Then, out of nowhere, Blake came out and rushed towards Seth. I cried out for Seth to move but he didn't and Blake punched him in his face. As Seth stumbled backwards, Blake swung his foot out and tripped him and Seth fell hard. Blake looked down on Seth and yelled at him. He looked angry and I couldn't hear a word he was saying. I watched as Seth slowly got to his feet, and noticed that his lip was split. He wiped the blood off his mouth and just stood watching Blake. Waiting for him to make a move. And Blake did. He brought his sword out and turned to face Seth. Blake said something to Seth again and Seth shook his head no. A wall of fire began to grow just behind them preventing me from getting any closer. I tried to break through the wall with magic, but nothing happened. I screamed at Seth to defend himself as the wall grew higher preventing me from seeing anything. Moments later the fire died down and I saw Seth badly injured bent over Blake's sword. Blake had stabbed him in his chest, arms and stomach, and blood was just pouring out. Blake roughly yanked the sword out causing a bigger wound, and Seth fell to his knees one hand over the wound in his stomach, trying to staunch the blood flow but the wound was just too big and the blood ran over his hand...his hand...what had happened to him? He was badly burnt, and now was coughing blood. One of his wounds must have punctured a lung and he was now drowning in his own blood. Why

didn't he defend himself? He could have stopped all of that from happening. Blake spat at Seth who was still on the ground and then turned and looked right at me. He gave me a look of such pure hatred that my breath caught and I couldn't breathe, and then he turned and walked away laughing. And I suddenly realized that now I could hear him. I was in shock at all of this. Seth was there dying, only a few meters away from me and I could make no move to go help him. I was frozen to the spot as if some outside force held me in place. I watched as Seth fell forward a bit and had to quickly put a hand down to keep from falling flat on his face. Using that hand, he slowly and painfully pushed himself off the ground and got to his feet walking slowly towards me. His hand and shirt were soaked in blood and I knew that if I didn't try to help him, he'd die soon. That was what finally made me run towards him, finally moving from where I stood. Running at full speed, I crashed into an invisible barrier and could get no closer to him and had to watch as he fell a few feet away from me. A puddle of blood began to form on the ground and I knew that he was going to die and there would be nothing I could do to stop it. Seth raised his head and smiled, there was blood in his mouth and he stretched out a hand to me, blood rolling down his face from his tears. "I love you, Garakrí, I had the best time of my life when I was with you. I just want to know... Do you...love me?" “I do,” I replied. I was crying now too. How could he ask such a thing? How could he ever doubt my love for him? With one last smile, he collapsed and died. As that happened the barrier shattered and I ran to Seth's body and placed his head in my lap hoping that he wasn't dead. He couldn't be. It was too soon, I was finally getting to know him and know how much I loved him. He meant the world to me; he was the one person I could depend on for everything. I knelt there sobbing over his body wishing I could have done more to help him; that I could have told him earlier how I really felt about him. Then, astonishingly, Seth raised his head and opened his eyes. It was impossible, too good to be true, and when I looked into his eyes I realized it was. It wasn't Seth, at least not the Seth I knew and fell in love with. His eyes were black and empty, there was no light in them; they were completely devoid of all signs of life. They looked right through me as if I wasn’t even there and as I continued looking into his eyes I felt myself falling down a bottomless chasm, being swallowed whole. His face was very pale and skeletal, the light from the fires burning behind him, giving him a horrible glow. He looked angry incredibly so. I started moving back and away from him, but he quickly reached out one bloody hand and pulled me back towards him. "Don’t worry, Kira, everything’s going to be okay,” he said. His voice was harsh, dark, like something drawn up from the very depths of hell. As he spoke I noticed that his teeth were longer, sharper and blood stained. The words were meant to reassure, but combined with how he looked and his voice, it was a terrible display of juxtaposition and I started struggling in his grasp. His grip tightened until I cried out in pain but all this seemed to do was make him grin wickedly and he appeared to get stronger like he was enjoying the pain and discomfort he was causing me, and

feeding off it to make himself stronger. He deftly pulled out a blood stained dagger. It gleamed wickedly in the firelight as he held it towards me. As the dagger pierced my skin, I woke up with a gasp in my bed panting heavily and wondering what that twisted vision could possibly mean. I knock on my door distracted me and I went to answer it. It was a messenger from the council and I was wanted there immediately. Upon arriving, I was told that I was to lead a team heading into Agrona to rescue a spy. As expected, Eric was hesitant in allowing me to go, but three others opposed him, so he had no choice. Later he caught up with me as I was preparing to leave with Bryan, Adrian, Leo and five others that I didn’t know and tried to talk me out of it. I had another motive for going so I managed to convince Eric to let me go. Just as we were leaving, another guy, Cain, was added to the group. I tried to have him leave, explaining that the group was now too big to do any good, but Eric wouldn’t move on this. There were Vampires all around the compound so we stayed high in the air and I created a storm to hide our presence. A few meters ahead we landed silently in the forest nearby, cloaked in magic. The world around me seemed to stand still as we ran swiftly toward to the designated location. Leo took off into the sky as we continued en route. He had already accepted his fate when taking on this mission; he understood the risks he would take for its success. We stopped a few feet away from the entrance, as Leo ran pass the guards. The men on patrol gave chase. I looked at Leo flying away hoping that he would not come back. Using their stealth abilities Cain, Bryan, and Adrian broke through the armored doors. Inside I ordered my men to split up and search for the captive. Cain closely followed behind me. I turned to face him “Are you refusing my orders soldier?” “I was ordered by a member of the four powers to follow and protect you. His orders countermand yours.” That Eric, he was too worried about me and I didn’t need protection. If I were to see Seth, I was going to need to get rid of this excess baggage. “Fine, but get in my way and you die.” I ran past him into another dark hallway. There, I ran into a guard. He froze for a second before setting off the alarm. He pulled out his weapon and charged at me. I gave a sarcastic laugh as he ran faster toward me. From behind me, Cain pushed me aside and charged at the enemy. It was a short fight. Cain was given a wound to his upper chest. The guard stopped and gave me a dirty look. Who did he think he was, challenging me? Hah, he doesn’t know what’s coming. I rolled my eyes and turned around. He was furious and dashed at me. As I quickly turned around, I pulled out my dagger and whipped it at him. It hit directly between his eyes and was an instant kill. Cain looked like a fish out of water, squirming around in the pool of blood. I looked down at him. He asked me to heal him, but all I could do was stare at him until he took his last breath. I could have healed him, but why bother? He was going to die sooner or later and I preferred sooner. Moments later, Bryan radioed in the location of the captive. I was the first to arrive at the scene. The captive was hung up by all four limbs, his head hidden in a bag. But the strangest thing about him was that there was no apparent physical damage and he seemed to be in massive pain.

I quickly ripped the bag off and to my surprise, it was Blake. What the hell was he doing here? Sending someone like Blake in to do a reconnaissance mission was stupid. They could have sent a regular soldier in and he would have done a better job than Blake. God I hate him. "What are you doing here?" I asked sounding remorseful. Blake didn’t respond and normally I’d try to get him to talk to me to see if he was okay, but now I didn’t care much about him and was sorry that I’d talked Eric into letting me come on this mission. A while later, Bryan and Adrian and the others arrived and helped me get Blake down. Bryan went to the door to stand guard while Adrian and I assisted Blake. Even though there was no apparent damage on the outside, it seemed that his captors used Fulda, a method of torture that had been banned because it caused extreme injury to the internal organs. When were just about to walk out of the room, a massive group walked in to block our exit. I knew that we were caught and there was nothing anyone could do about it. Personally, I found it pretty funny. We were sent to rescue Blake and now the Elders would need to send an even bigger group to get us out of here. We were then brought before a group as they wait for a bit until a man with long dirty blonde hair and Seth came in. The man with Seth gave off an aura that sent a shiver down my spine. I knew that this man was very powerful and highly unpredictable. He gave me a quick glare and I could feel the hatred and power radiating off his body, it was almost unbearable. We silently watched them walk in as Blake was held by one of the guards while the rest of us were tied up. The man I didn’t know laughed at our predicament. “Well, this was planned expertly. I’m pretty sure the point of a rescue is to get the other guy out while not getting caught.” During all of this I watched Seth as he talked with someone beside him who looked strikingly similar to him. They seemed to be talking about something important and the blonde man started getting impatient and glared at Seth as the other man left the room. “Are you done yet?” He asked Seth. Seth bared his teeth and he took a step back. The action didn’t look that intimidating, but I guessed Seth had a lot of power here. Seth turned and ordered someone to be brought in. I watched in amusement as Leo stumbled into the room. They forced him down in his knees and he was quickly executed. Shock bubbled through the rest of the group as his body hit the floor. I felt Seth’s eyes on me and turned to face him. He quickly looked away from me and then to the ground and started to subtly kick it then stop. I thought quickly. Maybe there was something down there he wanted me to know about. “Connor,” Seth began. “I know.” He knew what? There was something going on that I didn’t like at all. I knew Seth would protect me but I still felt uneasy about it. “Kill them all,” Connor ordered. As soon as he said that, I knew that it was now or never, I had to get out of here somehow and I knew that Seth had given me the answer. I feed myself

from my restraints and used my magic to push everyone down except for Seth. There were cries of surprise from all that were in the room and as I then turned away from them and created a hole in the ground and jumped down pulling Blake with me. As I sealed the hole after Adrian got through, I wondered why I had even bothered to save Blake. I could have just left him to die and then only have had to worry about Adrian getting in my way. Anyway, now that Adrian was here, he might as well make himself useful. I ordered him to carry Blake, as I created a hole in the wall to get out. As we absconded from the prison, Adrian noticed someone running towards us and turned to warn me. I turned to look at the person and then ordered him to get Blake out and to leave the approaching man to me. He looked like he wanted to protest, but then turned and followed his orders. As he left, I turned to face the man who was coming and saw that it was Seth, just like I thought. It seemed that the pendant got warmer whenever he got near. "Hurry up and get out of here," he said as he got closer. "It's not safe here anymore." "Come with us," I told him. "We can run away from all this." "I…. can’t," he said hesitantly. "Why not? You’ll be safer with us. Come with me." "No, I need to make things right again. You really need to go; I can only keep them occupied for a while." "You don’t understand. Your life is in danger. I had a vision." "And?" He looked amused like he wasn't going to take it seriously, but when I explained the dream to him and his expression changed. "Don’t worry about it. I will never turn against you," he sounded confident, but he didn't look sure. “But, that’s not what I’m worried about, I—” “Watch out!” Seth cried pushing me out of the way. Adrian had come back for me and he probably thought that Seth was about to kill me. He knocked Seth to the ground and Seth got right back up and kicked him sending him flying backwards. Adrian quickly got back up on his feet. I tried to order him to stop fighting, but he must have thought that Seth had some kind of control over me because he wouldn’t back down and seemed to attack Seth move viciously. He grabbed his dirk and charged at Seth who had his sword drawn, prepared for a fight. I realized after watching them for a bit, that Seth wasn’t fighting full strength and I remembered that I had previously told him not to kill anyone from Ocelot while I was with him. Seth was holding back because of me and the only way this fight would stop would be if I took matters into my own hand. I brought out my bow and waited for the right moment and then released the arrow striking Adrian in the chest. As he fell, I looked at Seth and saw shock written all over his face. “Thanks,” he breathed. Seth looked over his shoulder again and then quickly went over to Adrian, pulled out the arrow, broke it and hid it under some bushes before stabbing Adrian in the back and sheathing his sword.

He turned back to face me and looked like he was going to explain, but I told him he didn’t have to. I understood that he had to make it look like he did it or it could cause him some problems. Before he changed into a wolf, he told me to meet him back here the following night. I wondered what he had in mind. I watched as he ran off and then went to find Blake and take him back home. Seth “Melissa is so stupid!” Ryan exclaimed for the hundredth time since our alliance with the witches dissolved. I sighed tired of hearing from everyone what I was suppose to be feeling, the truth was I couldn’t be more pleased. Together, Conner and I had almost finished the Witches, but it was impossible to engage Ocelot with the same strength we had previously and we were forced to pull back. “Why can’t she just give you and Conner what you want?” He continued. “If you were in her place, you would do the same thing,” I said distantly. “Maybe,” he said frowning. “Seth are you ok? You seem pretty distracted. Is this about last night?” I nodded. Ryan would think that it was because of Blake’s escape, but that was only part of the reason. It was more Kira’s dream that bothered me. Even though I told her that I was completely unconcerned, it was really a little troubling. It was probably nothing, but I could not help feeling a bit worried. I got out of the chair that I was in, stretched and pulled out my sword. “Do you mind doing a few rounds?” I asked them. Ethan was there too. I’d discovered that he wasn’t that bad and started spending more time with him. They both shook their heads and we moved out to the open field out back. Ethan and Ryan drew their swords and we began. I moved into position as they came toward me. Effortlessly, I blocked each attack in turn, attacking when absolutely necessary, defending for the most part, a familiar exultation flowing though me. The same feeling I felt in the midst of an important battle. This was something I could fight. Something solid and tangible, not shadowy like Kira’s dream. They attacked me again and again and on sudden impulse, I went on the offensive, pushing them back. All my senses heightened, I focused solely on them, giving me a sort of tunnel vision. I felt and saw everything, the slight shift in the way they stood, indicating that they were moving from a defensive to offence position and was prepared for the change. Suddenly, they stopped attacking and took a step back. I stared at them in confusion wondering why they had stopped, every nerve tingeing as if stripped raw. And abruptly realized that there was a girl staring at us. I’d seen her with Connor and knew she was part of his pact. I sighed deeply and pushed my hair out of my eyes. I knew what Connor wanted, “Tell Connor I’ll be there in a minute,” I said. She nodded stiffly, turned her head and walked away. “You don’t have to answer him you know,” Ethan said darkly once she was out of sight and I had sheathed my sword. “Normally I would agree with you, but this is different,” I said turning to face him. “Besides, we need to talk about how we’re going to finish Melissa.”

Ethan scowled, but fell into step behind me as I lead the way over to Connor. And when are we going to finish Connor? Ethan asked telepathically. I didn’t react in anyway; if Ethan wanted to keep this silent then I would indulge him. Soon, I answered evasively. He kept asking, trying to get more out of me, but I just ignored him and eventually he fell into an angry silence. Connor was pacing back and forth when I entered the small room and glared at me as I entered. “Your late!” Connor snapped momentarily stopping his pacing. “Sorry, Father,” I said sarcastically struggling to keep my temper in line. I didn’t need to have Connor against me right now. I had enough problems and didn’t need anymore. “How did we screw up so badly? We had Blake, we had his ‘rescuers’ right there in front of us!” He looked at me expectantly and I shrugged. “We were over confidant,” I said quietly. “We had every right to be! We were kicking their ass even though we were fighting Melissa.” “Were being the operative word,” I said raising my voice. “We can’t fight the Witches and Ocelot at the same time. They have the power of their entire region behind them. We’re fighting them with roughly two thirds of our strength, and not even that because half of us are keeping the Witches back.” Connor blinked. “Then what do you suggest we do? Make peace with the Witches?” “At this point, it’s not an option. We either call a cease fire with Ocelot while we finish the Witches or we just go after the Witches and let Ocelot walk all over us.” “Those aren’t very good options.” “But that’s all I’ve got and unless you have anything better, shut up,” I snapped. I was starting to loose my temper and that wasn’t good. Connor recoiled as if slapped. “Why don’t we use that blonde chick?” He asked. “She acted like she liked you or something. You were the only one not to be thrown down.” “Use her how?” I asked the words tasting bitter in my mouth “We still have some people in Ocelot trying to capture one of the elders. Maybe she can help us.” “We don’t need her help. Krista told me that they should have someone captured my tonight.” “I hate you Vamps and your telepathy,” Connor growled. “Why are you so quick to defend that blonde anyway?” “I’m not,” I said slowly. “We can use her later. Right now we need to decide what to do.” “We can try the cease fire for now and focus all our attention on the Witches. You think your girl can help use with that?” “I’ll have to find her. I have nothing to do tonight so I’ll do it then. It should be fairly easy.”

“Good,” He looked around as if noticing where he was for the first time. “OK so I’ll leave you to draw up the cease fire and now we can just continue as usual.” I loved how he always treated me like a subordinate despite the fact that I was so much older than him. Smiling, I sketched a bow to him and walked out. Once out of the room I held back a laugh, seeing my apparent good mood, Ryan frowned and opened his mouth the say something, but I shook my head, not trusting myself to speak without laughing and not wanting Connor to overhear. Once we were far enough away, I explained everything to them and they did not find any humor in it. Ryan usually the most level headed, demanded to know why I let Connor walk right over me. I didn’t miss the slight smile that played on Ethan’s lips as he said this. I gave Ryan the same answer I gave Ethan: Everything’s going to change soon. Just like earlier this morning Ethan exploded demanding that we take action immediately but subtly, blaming the Witches for Connor’s losses. He didn’t know nor did I tell him how tempted I was to do just that. Throughout the entire exchange, Ryan was silent and only after Ethan stormed off the join the rest of the Vampires battling Ocelot did he speak up. “You’re planning something stupid,” he said evenly. “Same as always,” I sighed while watching Ethan’s disappearing back. “You’re going to get yourself killed,” Ryan said sharply. There was something in his voice that make me snap my head towards him, his face was blank, unreadable and could have been carved out of stone. “Ryan…” I said my voice full of menace. He smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “What are you going to do? Kill me like you killed your brother?” He really shouldn’t have said that. I watched as his smile broadened and allowed my hand to hover over my sword. There was nothing I would like more than to kill him right there for what he said. He had no idea of what had really happened and I didn’t want to go over it with him because it really wasn’t any of his business. Tonight when Kira came over I would put into motion my plan for consuming myself, finishing everything by the end of the month. I decided to hold off going after Ryan right then. I could afford to wait a bit, but I would have to be careful that I didn’t get killed before the week was over. “No,” I replied. “But I am going to send you over to Connor to help him battle the Witches.” I wouldn’t kill him directly for that, but I would make sure he died before the day was over. I had heard rumors that Ryan was organizing a coup d’état, and I didn’t need any extra pressure right now. Things were complicated enough as it was. Someone I knew lived close by and right now certain countermeasures had to be taken. I thought I knew Ryan better than that, but apparently not. He was just as power hungry as the rest of them. I hated doing this. He was such a good friend—at least until now—and as I wrote the note condemning him to his death and gave it to a Wolf to hand to Connor, I couldn’t help hearing the conversation Ryan and I had the night after I killed Nick: “I heard about what you did after the meeting this morning,” he had said “So?” “Man, that was harsh. Some are saying that you might be worst than Nick.”

“God, I hope not!” It scared me to think how close he was to the truth. I was becoming like Nick and that scared me. We both killed our own people; Nick did it just for kicks. I did it out of some twisted sense of loyalty I felt to Kira and it made me question, not for the first time, whether my relationship with Kira, if it could even be called that, was clouding my judgment. “It’s done,” Connor said as we met later that afternoon. “Thanks.” News of Ryan’s death had spread quickly and even though I had been the one to order it, I still felt remorseful and wished I could take the order back, but I understood that it had to be done. We talked about how our respective battles were going and I learned that we were a bit ahead of schedule and there was only a remnant of the Witches remaining, Melissa currently listed as MIA and they were all disorganized. “Connor,” I said interrupting him. “I was speaking,” he snapped irritated. “Krista’s back with a prisoner.” Connor perked up and almost ran to the door. I laughed out loud as I followed him out and saw Krista and the other standing guard over a badly beaten man who I recognized as being one of the Elders in Ocelot, Eric, and was immediately impressed. “How did you manage to hook this fish?” Connor asked grinning from ear to ear like a kid with a new toy. Krista giggled in her usual disturbing way. Part siren and part Vampire, she was a dangerous fascinating woman and I’d hate to be caught under her spell again. “Men are so predictable,” she said smiling a gorgeous, dazzling smile. I looked down and closed my eyes. On principle, I hated working with Sirens, but Krista was a special case. All the same, she was an old flame from over thirty years ago. I opened my eyes and found her looking at me her eyes mocking and swallowed. She saw this and smiled. Conner waved them off, telling them to take Eric to the new prison. Krista looked back over her shoulder, blew me a kiss and waved. My knees felt weak and I had to lean against the wall to keep from collapsing as she flipped her hair over her shoulder. Connor taking notice of what was going on laughed. “You’re going to have a busy night. I’d hurry up and find that blonde chick if I were you. I’d hate to keep that woman waiting,” he said and laughed again. “Congratulations, she’s back in time for conjugal visits." Using my powers, I lightly knocked him down and he just laughed even harder. I wondered why at moments like this, I felt like I was still going through an awkward pubescence state. I excused myself muttering something to him about talking to Ethan before I left. To make it more believable, I actually did go to Ethan and tell him about it. Krista was waiting with him and they were both skeptical of the plan and though tit was terrible that we had to stoop so low and beg Ocelot to hold back. I agreed with them completely and couldn't believe it had really come to this when we started out so well. Since Krista was tagging along, I had to make a show of going to the forest that straddled the boarder between the

two regions. She begged and pleaded with me not to go and the way she was acting stirred old memories… I went home, washed up and started painting trying to let go of the nervous tension, waiting for Kira to arrive. She would obviously know by now that Eric was captured and might not even come, but I still couldn't go walking around in the city and have her suddenly show up. All of a sudden, I sensed her as she appeared behind me, but didn't turn around. I wanted to completely capture the way the light reflected off the mountains in the distance. "That's beautiful," she said softly looking over my shoulder. I turned to look at her and smiled before going back to the painting and putting a few finishing touches on it for the night. I left it outside to dry a bit before I brought it in. "You're really good. You never told me you're a painter," she said accusingly as I ushered her inside. "I'm not that good," I said self-critically. "You're being too hard on yourself." "Look at this one," I said pointing to an older picture. "This area's way too dark." "Well I can't tell it looks fine to me." I smiled then remembered Eric. "Um, Eric was captured earlier this afternoon and it's very likely Connor won't play around with him like he did with Blake and he'll be killed soon." "He's going to kill Eric?" Kira asked, all the colour draining from her face. "Yeah," I replied biting my lip, waiting for the explosion that never came. Silently relieved, I finally met her eyes for the first time that evening. What I had to say next was important and I need her to know that I wasn't playing around or trying to trick her. "Connor also wants me to ask you, personally, if we can call a cease fire. After what happened last night, he thinks you'll do anything for me," I said laughing nervously, running a hand through my slightly damp hair to keep it out of my eyes. Silently I wondered how girls could tolerate having their hair in their face all the time. "I'm not in a position to promise anything like that. The best I can do is present it to the Elders," she said. "That's all I'm asking for. And also that you execute three Vampires who are going into Ocelot in two days." "What? Why would you do that?" "You'll find out eventually. Do you want something to drink?" I asked suddenly, trying to change the topic. "Sure." I walked into the adjoining room and filled a glass and brought it to her. When I re-entered the room I saw her looking at all the different paintings I had scattered around my studio. I put the glass on the table and went to bring in the painting I had left outside. Coming back in, I noticed she was still looking at the paintings and sat down in a couch watching her. She was almost childlike in her sense of wonderment and I found it absolutely refreshing. She was nothing like Krista or any of the other girls I went out with. She was so caring and trustful—so fragile—that I didn't want

anything bad to ever happen to her. As she moved over to the one painting that was covered, I got up quickly and pulled her hand away. "No. You can look at any of the others, except for this one," I said a little rougher than I intended and not quite managing to keep the emotion out of my voice. I didn't want to have this one uncovered it would be like throwing salt on old wounds. Wounds that, although Claire had died many years ago—a lifetime for Kira—I still felt raw every time something or someone reminded me of her. "Your life is hard," she said after a while. "You live so long and remember so much, even the painful stuff." "Then let's make this a night to remember," I murmured as I bent my head towards her and gently kissed her lips. She responded instantly, kissing me back, and I pulled her closer to me as I left her lips and buried by mouth against her throat where I felt her heartbeat pounding. I licked her soft skin and gently blew across it smiling as she shivered. “Tell me what you want,” I breathed. “Just tell me and it’s yours.” “I want you.” “You sure?” I asked, playfully nipping her ear. I felt her nod and then I moved to reclaim her lips. She tugged at my shirt and I pulled it off. Her hands roamed over my chest and her fingernails raked across my abs and then went lower, down my aching bulge and I moaned in her mouth. I wanted to have her naked in my arms, but I didn’t want to scare or force her in any way. “We should probably…” she started. “We should probably what?” I asked continuing to tease her. “A—” I stopped her flow of words by sealing her mouth with a kiss. She didn’t have to talk, not now. I wanted her badly, but didn’t want to do anything unless she wanted it. Tonight, I’d do anything for her because there was a very real possibility that I wouldn’t be seeing her again. Stomping down on those thoughts, I deepened the kiss and reached forward to unbutton her blouse and paused. I stepped back and looked deep into her eyes. Her eyes were wild and needy and I didn’t know why she was smiling. I was shaking, and didn’t want to spoil this for her. I had to get control of myself, and with that thought in mind, I gradually calmed down. “Seth,” she pouted. I laughed darkly and kissed her again, this time pushing her back into the adjoining room where there was a bed. Pushing her down onto it, I began unbuttoning her top and when the backs of my fingers brushed her breasts, I could feel her heart race in response. There was only so much I could take. No matter how much, I wanted to take it easy with her, I felt my control slipping. I kissed her neck and as my other hand moved under her skirt and snapped the strap on her panties. As I explored the rest of her body with my mouth, I removed the rest of her clothes and then stopped for a moment to slip out of my pants. I returned to the bed and kissed her more fervently. I started playfully at first, just small kisses to her lips, her face, her neck, anywhere I could place

my mouth. Kira shivered and I continued tracing patterns all over her skin with my tongue. Unable to stand it anymore, I nudged her legs apart. I hovered over her and stared at her intensely. I had never wanted anyone more than how much I wanted Kira at that moment. I growled as I slipped inside her, she felt perfect. I lost myself then, giving in to anything she wanted, everything I wanted. I couldn’t believe how good she felt and everything I possessed went into making this as good as possible for her. A convulsion shook her body as she lay beneath me, and I gave myself up to the beat of my own body. There was nothing in this world but this; no one in this world but her. Kira After spending an amazing night with Seth, I had the distinct impression that things weren’t going well. Not with us exactly, but with him. It seemed like something was bothering him and more than once it felt like he wanted to tell me something, but then held back. Whatever it was had distracted him somewhat, but when we made love he appeared completely devoted to me, nothing I asked of him was too much. He was perfect. And that was the problem, I thought bitterly as I put in my earrings in front of the mirror. Everything about his actions last night seemed so final, as if he wouldn’t be seeing me again for a long time. Or like he would never be seeing me again. Period. I wished he had just told me what was going on. There might have been some way I could have helped him. Looking at my reflection in the mirror, I looked pale and haggard. Not even the make up could hide that. I considered putting my hair up, but it was just Blake so I didn’t bother. I didn’t even want to go on this date with him tonight. I’d rather be dead than have to go anywhere with Blake, but some evils had to be endured in order to get what you wanted. Which was to have him stop coming around me all the time, and the only way that could happen was if I agreed to go on this date with him. I just hoped I didn’t die from boredom tonight. As I checked myself over one more time before I left, I was startled to discover that Seth’s necklace, the one he gave me so I could go to him any time, was gone. I had no idea where it had gone. I’d never taken it off since the day he gave it to me, so I couldn’t believe that I had misplaced it. Maybe it the clasp had broken and it had fallen off. That had to be what had happened. I checked the dresser for it, but it wasn’t there and I would have heard it had it hit the table. I looked around my room some more and still couldn’t find it. I hoped it didn’t fall off when Seth walked me back. That would be just terrible because I’d never be able to find it if it did. A sudden knock at the door prevented me from searching any further. I sighed as I pushed off the ground and began to walk forlornly to the door. I considered just walking out the back door and running to Seth just to spite Blake, but that was asinine. There was no way I could find Seth without getting caught. It was foolish to even think about it. I answered the door and put on my best smile for Blake. I wondered if he could tell that it was forced. He complemented me on my outfit and I tried to say something nice in return, but it was hard. We had a quiet dinner together and even though I tried to act interested in what he was saying, it was difficult and quite a few times I had to ask him to repeat himself. I wondered dimly why I was even putting myself through this. I was planning on calling off the engagement and walking away from him tonight, but I couldn’t think of a tactful way of doing it. By the time we’d finished eating and left the restaurant, Blake had picked up on my mood and thought correctly that it was because of him. “I’m sorry we haven’t been spending a lot of time together,” he said. “There’s been so much going on.”

I nodded even though his apology didn’t mean anything to me. “I wasn’t really thinking of that,” I said frowning as he pulled me closer to him. “I just have a lot of things on my mind.” “Same here. I just got appointed to take over Eric’s position and there’s so much I need to catch up on.” That was typical Blake behaviour, I thought as I pushed his arm away from me and walked away from him. You tell him that something is wrong or bothering you and he automatically begins to talk about him and his problems. He was such an egocentric, self-serving pig and I hated him. What did I ever see in him that made me want him? And now that he’s become one of the Elders he would have more power to use to go after Seth just like he always wanted. Ever since Seth bit him, he’s changed. Before he wanted to kill Seth because he came after me. Now it’s personal. “Kira, what’s wrong?” Blake asked. I stopped and turned back to him, my hands on my hips. “I can’t believe you,” I said angrily. “Eric’s been gone for two days and you’re already trying to replace him? How do you know he’s dead?” “That wasn’t my choice.” “And what’s worse, you’re so bent on war that I bet you won’t even listen to what I have to present to the Elders tomorrow.” “Which is?” “The Vampires and Werewolves are offering a cease fire while they end their quarry with the Witches.” Blake laughed. “You’re joking right? I mean that’s just crazy. We’d never do that in a thousand years. Where’d you hear that anyway?” I couldn’t believe him! Would he really think I would lie about something like this? He had to be one of the most narrow-minded men I knew. He was so interested in war that he forgets to be human. Seth, even though he had his moments, was more human that Blake. “I heard it from Seth,” I snapped no longer bothering to hide my irritation with him. Blake’s whole face changed instantly. His expression darkened and his eyes flashed in anger. “I told you to stay away from him,” he growled. I laughed. “You don’t own me.” Blake took one step and was instantly in front of me. I hated that ability that he had. It was truly disconcerting. He reached down and grabbed my wrist in his hand, squeezing tight and brought it in front of my face. I cried out and tried to pull my hand out of his grasp, but that only made him hold tighter. “I own you Kira,” he said darkly. “You see this ring you’re wearing? It ties you to me and when we get married you’re my property and you must obey me.” Blake was a perverted, sick bastard. How the hell could he even think like that? It was disgusting and old fashioned. Blake was a control freak; it didn’t take much to imagine what he would do as one of the Elders. Seth would be in deep trouble if Blake ever got hold of him. After a while, Blake finally released my hand. I looked at my wrist and saw a dark red hand print where he had squeezed me. Angrily, I pulled off the engagement ring, slammed it on the ground, crushing it underfoot, and told him it was over. “You can’t do that,” Blake said threateningly. “I can and I did,” I snapped turning to walk away. Blake pulled me back by my hair. I cried out and then he grabbed me by my upper arm and slapped me hard. “How dare you disrespect me!” he roared. Disrespect him? I thought incredulous as I raised my hand to feel the burning mark on my skin. I could feel my anger rising in time with the throbbing pain in my face. “Let go,” I ordered. “Make me,” Blake scoffed, an amused look on his face. That was the wrong answer. I pushed him away from me with a blast of frigid air. I wanted to kill him badly, but no good would come of that. As I turned to walk away, Blake appeared in

front of me, his face flushed with anger. He reached out to tough me again, but five wolves came out of nowhere and surrounded him. Thanks Seth, I thought smiling. I wondered who the other wolves were and how many others he had told about us. “Leave me alone or I’ll let the wolves at you,” I said. “You wouldn’t dare.” I arched an eyebrow. Did he really think that I was too afraid to hurt him? I looked at one of the wolves and nodded. It crouched down and growled menacingly and was just about to leap, but Blake backed down. I sighed disappointed, but then it jumped up and just barely missed Blake’s neck. “That was just a warning,” I said not bothering to hide my smile. “Follow me and you’re dead.” I started to walk away again and one of the wolves pulled off to walk beside me. Despite all the bravado, I was still a bit shaken up by what had just occurred. The Seth gently nuzzled my leg and whined as if he knew what I was thinking. Smiling, I bent down and brushed his soft fur. Having him near me made me feel so much better. I tried to pull him closer to me, but he barked softly and moved away from me. Puzzled by his behaviour, I told him to meet me at my place and he ran off. As I walked back home I wondered what was bothering him and hoped I got a chance to ask him about it and hopefully he would answer me this time. Entering the hose, I saw a shape leaning against one of the darker corners of the room and realized that Seth had beaten me back here. “Why did you pull away?” I asked as I reached for a light. “Because I’m not Seth,” he said. I spun around quickly. The man’s voice was almost identical to Seth’s in tone, accent and cadence. Looking at him, he appeared to be just a bit shorter than Seth, and his hairstyle was similar to Seth’s before he grew it out. “Oh my god,” I gasped. “It’s uncanny, isn’t it?” he asked grinning. “I’m Luke, Seth’s twin brother—who he obviously hasn’t told you about.” I shook my head mutely. This was quite a surprise. I would never have even thought he had a twin; he seemed so solitary. I wondered what else he was keeping from me. “First, I’ll start by telling you that I’m the only one who knows that you’re seeing my brother. The other wolves were phantoms.” That was a relief. I didn’t want this to be widely known especially since it would probably mean death for both of us. I was going to ask a question, but Luke silenced me with a raised hand. “Wait a sec, I’m not done,” he said. “Seth would ask you this himself, but something came up. What did your leaders say about the cease fire?” I shook my head. “I didn’t have a chance to tell them about it yet. I’m going to see them tomorrow.” Now it was his turn to shake his head. “That’s no good. Things are moving quickly and we don’t have that time. What’s your best guess?” I sighed. “Won’t work. Blake’s too stubborn.” He looked pensive. “Okay, I’ll tell him. Anything else he should know?” “Tell him to be careful. And that I love him.” “Will do. You should look after yourself as well. That man you were with earlier doesn’t seem right in the head.” I laughed as he left. That was exactly what I was thinking. Luke was nothing like his brother. I found that Luke was easier to read and more open than Seth. Almost as if Seth was constantly guarding some dark secret that he didn’t want anyone to know about. I walked into the kitchen and made myself a cup of tea before heading out on the balcony. For a few minutes I stood leaning against the cool cast iron railing and letting the crisp night breeze

ruffle my hair. In the middle of the night everything looked so peaceful, my little scuffle with Blake insignificant. The forest and city looked endless, stretching in all directions, going on for miles. I thought about how everything had changed since I met Seth. For the better I thought. I cup felt cold against my hand; swallowing the rest of it I took one last look around. At the city, the forest and the stars. I wished I could just reach out beyond the trees and touch Seth, but I had to be reassured by the fact that where ever he was, he could be out there looking at the same sky that I was. Seth I haven’t gone riding a lot since Amy’s death. The memories were just too painful and I couldn’t bring myself to go to the stables to look after Raven, and I knew that I’d neglected my responsibilities. I could have at least paid someone to look after him. Today I’d decided to resume riding again and I shook off my guards wanting to be alone. None of them were old enough to have developed the shape-shifting ability so I could easily slip away from them. Changing into wolf form, I ran freely, every sense heightened, sounds sights and smells were sharper, more distinct. I felt the damp earth under the pads of my sensitive feet, each step releasing a myriad of fresh new scents to the air. It felt great; it was so totally liberating that I wondered, not for the first time, why Vampires only got this ability once they reached a certain age. It was amazing, the sense of freedom, that I felt as I ran through the trees, sometimes alone, sometimes with a pack of friendly wolves. And sometimes I fought. Other wolves trying to prove their dominance. But here too I had an advantage: I’d discovered a way to use my powers in this form so defeating the other pack was easy. When it was me against another lone wolf, I fought with teeth and claws, a harsh battle with that left cuts on my face and legs. I loved it so much, the feelings I had in this form: The utter abandon and the pain. I wondered what it would feel like to live forever as a wolf, turning my back on society, the war and all the problems associated with it. But that was just wistful thinking. There was no way that could ever happen. I couldn’t eschew my responsibility, not now, not when Kira… it didn’t matter. Yes, she was, right now, my world, but I would soon “kill” her, at least as long as Kira’s visions were correct, and there was no way of telling since, I didn’t have experience with this sort of thing. Changing out of wolf form I walked over to the stables, feeling a cut received on my face in a fight and stretching sore muscles. I brought Raven out and walked him a bit before finally turning and running through the familiar trials I’d gone down not that long ago. Seth. It was Ethan. Pissed, I reigned Raven in. Did he have to bother me right now? I hoped it was important, or there’d be hell to pay. I waited as he got closer and as he did, I noticed Luke behind him and immediately my disposition improved. The fact that he was here meant that he had good news regarding the little assignment I sent him on the night of Blake’s escape. “Sorry to bother you out here, Seth, but this is important.” Ethan said coming to a stop just a few feet in front of me. “It had better be,” I said, calming Raven down. What had gotten into him all of a sudden? “I was enjoying myself.”

Ethan nodded grimly. “Well, I think you’ll find it important that we disturbed you after you read this.” I took the folded paper from him, glancing at him briefly before opening it. I read it quickly the first time, then more slowly the second, crumpling the paper in my hand when I finished. I wasn’t as angry as I pretended to be, that was just a show for Ethan’s benefit. I was expecting this for some time now and although I was happy that it had finally come, I was also saddened to think that I was now going after my fellow Vampires. There was no way this could be avoided. It was something I had to do for Kira…and again I wondered why I was doing it for her. I owed her my life; she’d saved me countless times during this war and I was eternally in her debt, but that didn’t mean I had to follow through with this plan, I could always pull back right now, find the Vampires who know about this incident, kill them and go on as if this had never happened. I was torn between Kira and Krista. Since her return, things have been, to say the least, complicated. I loved her once, a long time ago, and now I was spending more time with her, more time in these past few weeks than I had spent with Kira in a month and the feelings I had for were re-awakening. It was just too much. “Are you sure about this?” I asked Ethan still thinking about Kira and Krista. “Yeah, Art told us everything right before he died,” he replied. “Any idea how he escaped?” “It seems that the blonde angel who was here a few weeks ago helped him. Why’d you ask? Is there something wrong?” Ethan asked noting my pensive tone. “No, just thinking… OK, Ethan, get a group together, no more than 20, and meet me in an hour, one kilometer from Werewolf territory.” “A display of force of that size might make Connor think the alliance is over,” Ethan cautioned. “It is.” Ethan grinned and galloped off leaving Luke and I alone. “So is everything ready?” I asked, speaking to him for the first time. “Yeah,” he said quietly. “Are you sure about this?” I nodded. “Any more questions?” I asked looking into eyes exactly the same shade of green as my own. “Only one: How did you know this was going to happen and why are you condemning yourself to death?” I smiled, “That’s two questions.” He shrugged. “Kira, told me,” I lied. “I didn’t believe her, but I wanted certain precautions in place in case she was right. And I’ll try not to die.” “You better not. Living this way is hard enough,” he said seriously. After a long silence, he started again. “Why did we have to do this for 150 years?” “Because Nick would have killed us.” “And now that he’s dead, we can’t fix this. Everyone still believes the lie and you’re vilified because of it.” I closed my eyes replaying that day, that moment where both our lives changed. “Don’t worry about it, Riley,” I said calling him by his real name for the first time in over a century. “We did what we had to do to survive.”

I spent the hour before I confronted Connor with Krista. She was coming along and we went over the plan together. It was just like last time when we were together and because it was no different, I realized then that I was making the right choice. As we entered Wolf territory, I divided the group in two. Half of us would keep the dogs off out back the other half fend off attackers as we forced our way to see Connor. The iron main gate of Connor’s den scraped open harshly. Standing outside in the harsh light of the afternoon, staring into the black cavernous entranceway were the 15 Vampires that had made it this far. The others were left behind to keep any of the Wolves away from us and from alerting Connor. Resolutely, I strode into the arching hallway with Ethan. Almost immediately two wolves jumped in front of me blocking the path. “Connor doesn’t want to see you,” one of them growled. “Really.” I pointed at the two guards and four Vampires moved forward, attacking and killing them, clearing the path. I left them to finish up and continued forward. Around the next corner, we ran into two more guards and the process repeated itself. We continued forward and the eight that were left behind quickly caught up by the time we came to Connor. “What is the meaning of this?” Connor roared. “Chandra, Arthur and Kale. Do those names mean anything to you?” I snapped. “What the hell are you talking about? I don’t know them.” He was telling the truth. I just set him up and was now going to kill him for something he had no part in. I pulled out my sword and all the Vampires behind me followed suit. At that moment Connor knew the alliance was over and we started fighting. At the beginning it was going fine, we actually looked like we had a chance of winning, but then this was Werewolf territory, and soon others were filling the room, no doubt knowing that something was up, and we were soon outnumbered. “You must realize you can’t win,” Connor stated loftily. “I do wonder though, why you lead this futile attack yourself.” I grinned, “Haven’t you heard? I have a death wish. Besides, I didn’t plan on surviving.” Connor looked at me incredulous, but then when he saw all the energy cracking around me, the power I had been building since the fight began, he took a step back. There was only one draw back with this plan: I might really die. Melissa had warned me about a possible “recoil” when I used this power. In order to gain, something of equal value must be lost. Every time you use this power, you must be willing to sacrifice your life. “What do you think you’re doing?” Connor asked. “What do you think?” It was getting to be too much for me to hold on to and I released the energy letting it go anywhere, first directing it at Connor, killing him, then at all the weakened supports in the building that Luke had done, hoping that he’d

done it right. I had no time to admire my handy work, though as I began to feel the beginnings of the recoil that Melissa had warned me about. Roaring in pain, I let go, no longer bothering to control where the energy went, hearing the building crack and fall down on top of us.

Part 3
Kira Since seeing Seth’s brother, I haven’t heard from any of them. I was starting to get a bit anxious especially since the news coming from Agrona wasn’t good. Every day it seemed more and more information was coming out and none of it made me feel any easier. One day I heard that a coup had taken place and that Connor was dead and the new leader was going after Seth and the Vampires. On the next, I heard that all of the leaders were dead. None of the rumors were confirmed, so I felt safe for the time being. It was strange. At one moment I wanted to hear what was really going on and not rely on all the stories I was hearing for information on how Seth was doing, but on the other hand, I didn’t want to know because I didn’t want to hear if something bad had happened. Ocelot had sent in some spies to try to find out what was really going on since it appeared that Agrona had completely broken down, and that the alliances that held the region together for the duration of this war were no longer intact and Agrona had reverted to how it was before the war began. I spent the days while the spies were away hardly sleeping, waiting impatiently for the spies to return with news on what was going on in Agrona, whether bad or good. I just need to know for my own peace of mind. When they finally did return, there was another two days of impatience while they were debriefed before a general meeting was called for all commanding officers where we would all learn what the spies had discovered. I sat impatiently waiting for the spies to be brought in. Every now and again, I would feel Blake’s eyes on me. At first, I tried to ignore him, but he wouldn’t take the hint and eventually I just decided to stare right back at him. He started fidgeting in his chair and I knew that I was making him uncomfortable. Gradually, he started looking away from me and taking longer and longer between each glance. Finally I turned away from him. As long as he wasn’t constantly staring at me it was fine. At that moment, the lead spy was brought in and he gave his report, probably summarized and edited by the Elders. When he told us all that he had learned, I couldn’t believe it. Neither could some of the others apparently since the spy was asked to repeat certain facts. Seth would never have done something so stupid. I knew that he had sent the Vampires here earlier and that almost all of them except for the one that I was able to help were killed, but I still couldn’t believe that he had been willing to sacrifice his own people to have a reason to start a war with the Werewolves while he was still fighting us.

According to the spy, a fight had broken out in Connor’s land and Seth and Connor had both perished along with many of their people. This seemed impossible. No, it was impossible. There was no way Seth could be dead. I wouldn’t be able to live without him. He meant everything to me and now that I was through with Blake, I would have been able to spend more time with him without having Blake to worry about. Not that I ever cared about that before, but all the same. I listened to the rest of the spy’s report, but I wasn’t really hearing him. I just heard a loud roaring in my head, like the sound of wind rushing through a tunnel. I couldn’t think straight; it was just so loud and all consuming like a fire. Everyone’s mouth was suddenly moving all at once, everyone talking at the same time. And I heard nothing. All I could think about was the fact that Seth was dead and that now everyone would be celebrating his death. They had to know that this wasn’t their doing, that someone else had orchestrated it and that now the person they should be thanking for saving their collectives lives was the one person who was dead and who meant so much to me. The meeting broke up soon after the spy left as no one was able to sit still in their seats and another meeting organized for later tonight. I walked out of there in shock, avoiding eye contact with everyone. Seeing, but not hearing, people congratulate themselves on a “job well done”. Couldn’t they see that they just played a minor part in this “victory”? If it weren’t for Seth sending the three Vampires to Ocelot when he did, and creating the rift between the Witches and Werewolves, we would not have won this war. I couldn’t tolerate being around them any more. I just had to go somewhere where I could be alone. The only place I could think of were no one could find me was Sanctuary, so I went there. I never really spent the time to notice it, but from the time Seth came here, it had changed. Sanctuary had always represented, for me, a timeless and unchangeable part of my homeland. A place that could never be destroyed, but was always changing and growing and every time someone or something came in to try and tear it apart, it always came back bigger and stronger. It was always filled with light and it had a calming effect on me. But now, it was dark and shadowy. It wasn’t comforting anymore, but filled me with a sort of trepidation because of what it represented. I hated it and wanted to destroy if for good. When I came here, I felt like I was out of place and didn’t fit in. I hated that feeling. I let my anger and frustration build up inside until it was all I could feel. It was like a fire running through by blood that I had to let out. It wanted to come out. I heard a twig snap behind me and turned to face the man who would dare intrude on my privacy. “Kira?” he gasped. “Go away!” I cried and blasted him with fire. He was pushed back the way he came, a fireball with arms and legs. After that one out burst, I started to feel good. I turned, my back to Ocelot and sent a shock wave of fire out in all directions burning the grass, trees and shrubs to the ground. The smoke was thick going high into the sky. I knew

that someone would soon see the smoke and the flames and make their way over here. It was only a matter of time. I thought that destroying the plants and this area of the forest would make me feel better, but it didn’t. I didn’t feel any better than I had just a few moments ago when I killed that man. I knew that he was a member of Ocelot and he was probably one of the people who were cheering because of Seth’s death. Maybe that was why his death made me feel better. Just as I’d expected, more people from Ocelot started coming towards me. Each one who did, I killed them using fire magic. Those who were too fast, I tripped them up in the vines I created and then watched them die slowly of asphyxiation. It was only by doing this to every one who came to put out the fires that I started to feel better. These people were suffering the way I was suffering now, and they deserved to die because they were euphoric when they heard that the only man I have ever truly loved was dead. Just thinking about that made me want to kill them all. Every one in Ocelot had to die because of this outrage. With that though in mind, I made my way back home through the trees. With each step I took, greenery to the right and left of me was incinerated. If anyone started to walk towards me I strangled him with vines. I felt powerful; no one could stop me. Suddenly Blake appeared in front of me. Did he really think he could stop me? Hah, he was out of his mind. “Kira, stop. Look around you. Look at what you’ve done,” he said. I wasn’t going to listen to him. It was his fault that Seth had died. He was probably incredibly happy to hear that he was dead since that was what he always wanted. I stretched out my hand and shot a stream of fire straight at him. I didn’t care if he died. Blake quickly got out of the way and started to walk towards me. I did it again with the same results. Finally I tired of this game and sent one of the bodies towards him. Blake fumbled about and finally managed to catch it. He looked at the face twisted up in pain, the vine, like a garrote around his neck. “Kira, you’re insane!” he cried. “You’ve killed your own people, and for no reason. What did he ever do to you? Do you even know him?” No, but what did that matter. He had laughed in my pain and that was enough to warrant his death. Anyone who laughed while another was suffering deserved to die. End of story. If he didn’t like it then he could go screw himself. “Kira, focus and think for a minute,” Blake cried. “These are innocent people you’re killing.” I tried attacking him again, but he was just too fast. No matter how much I tried to snare him and shut him up it wasn’t working. “I don’t know what happened, but will killing these people change anything?” I didn’t want Blake’s words to get to me, but they were. I could feel my anger slowly ebbing away. And suddenly, I realized he was right. Destroying Ocelot wouldn’t bring Seth back. I fell to my knees and started sobbing uncontrollably. Blake rushed towards me and at first I tried to push him away, but it was no use and eventually, I just fell into his arms. I wanted to be held by someone and Blake was conveniently the closest person to me.

I felt like a fool. Seth had given his life so that I could live and I was just about to throw my life away. Blake gently picked me up and I allowed him to carry me back home. His gentle and slow movements made me drowsy and I was half asleep by the time. We reached my house. Blake brought me inside and I collapsed in bed too emotionally drained to think, too emotionally drained to move. Sleep came quickly and I was out like a light before I even heard the front door close. Seth “You scared me Seth.” This was Luke. He had just removed the dressing on my arm and was looking at a particularly nasty injury on my bicep. It was relatively minor compared to the numerous other injuries I received from using my powers the way I had. “And not only me,” he continued, wrapping my arm tightly causing me to wince. “Kira’s worried too.” “It’s best if she doesn’t know I’m alive,” I said quietly. Based on what I saw yesterday, I didn’t think she wanted to have anything to do with me. “OK, so what’s the plan for today?” As Luke outlined everything, I couldn’t help feeling a bit of pride. We went through so much together and now, for the first time in years, I was able to speak with him again and not have to have anyone say anything about any uncanny similarities between us. The fact that he didn’t let the rumors of my death pull him under a wave of depression, and that he continued forward with the plan said a lot. It was impressive. I was proud of how determined he was, how resolute, and how he was able to logically break down any arguments I brought up. Nothing was overlooked, the risks that we would take, relatively minor compared to what they could have been. He finished telling me his plan and I slowly finished dressing, not wanting to reopen the stitches Luke had just done. As he was about to leave the room, I gently placed a hand on his shoulder, stopping him from leaving and asked him why he was doing this. Why would he want to help me when he was dooming himself to certain death? There was nothing he could possible gain from it. “Because I’ve never seen you act this way towards a girl before,” he said bluntly. “Other than Claire, you were never willing to sacrifice everything for someone. No offence, but you were a selfish bastard who didn’t like to share much of anything with anyone And you treated others like trash, less when you were with Claire, more after she died. Kira changed you.” I was silent. There was no way I could respond to that. He was right. I was horrible before, treated no one with respect so when Nick saw that twins had an unnaturally tight bond and started having us killed, or rather getting one twin to kill the other, it came to no surprise to anyone when I “killed” Riley. As Luke walked away, I wanted to scream and break something. Why was it that before I met Kira, I couldn’t see how horribly I was treating those around me? Looking back on it now, I saw how Amy was always trying to tell me this, but I would just ignore her, not wanting to hear the truth. She was looking out for me and other than Luke and Claire, she was the only one who gave a shit about me. Ryan did for a while, but now looking back on it,

he only started coming around after, by killing Riley, I’d gained Nick’s trust and was able to get closer to him. He played me and I fell for it. How could I be so stupid? He just wanted power. What was it he had said to me after Amy’s death? I knew you would kill him. How could he? I never told him, or anyone for that matter, that I was planning to kill him. I never even wanted to kill him. True, things weren’t great under Nick, but I had never complained about how bad things were. It seemed that anyone who had tried—or pretended—to help me ended up dead: Amy, Ryan, Melissa…and now I was putting Kira at risk and Luke was willing to die so that this could work. Because of this, I knew that it was better for Kira if she still believed I was dead. No matter how much it hurt, I had to stay away from her. She had already said I was destined to kill her, so the farther I kept away from her, the less likely I’d be to kill her. I’d just as quickly take my own life before I took hers. As long as everyone in Ocelot, including Kira, thought I was dead, the easier it would be to further break up Agrona. Since Connor’s dead and I’m presumed dead, killed by my own magic, Agrona was in total chaos, many different groups vying for dominance, each one going after the other to try and prove their superiority and their right to the throne. Today, I would be stuck inside. I would be for as long as it took for my wounds to heal. I didn’t want to overexert myself and slow down the healing process. In those few weeks, Luke would be on his own, causing the skirmishes between the two rival groups to intensify. Risky, but I couldn’t talk him out of it and I would hate for him to die. I longed to be out there with him. Most of the time, I was left alone at his place, and it was during these long moments of solitude that I would find myself drifting. Thinking about those I shouldn’t be. First and foremost: Kira. I needed to know that she was doing fine and even though I had Luke check on her every night and knew that if anything horrible happened he would tell me, I couldn’t bring myself to ask about her. All I knew was that she was still alive and I contented myself with that. But deep down, the need to be with her was overwhelming. I couldn’t get the fire out of my blood. Staying away from her for weeks like this should not have affected me this much. “Just go see her.” I turned around and saw Luke standing there watching me as I paced around the room barely containing my agitation. “We’re lucky your powers aren’t connected to your emotions or this place would be in ruins.” I glared fiercely at him and he left me alone again. My wounds were healed and I was training with Luke, getting back to the level I was at, at the height of the war with Ocelot. I was helping Luke as he went out, but I still couldn’t keep Kira off my mind. With a strangled cry, I changed into wolf form and ran to the sanctuary, dying to see her. I decided that I wouldn’t talk to her tonight, or ever. I’d just see her, that should be enough the quench the flames burning inside me. I stayed hidden in the trees just outside the clearing and waited for her to show up. I didn’t have to wait long as she came soon after.

Part of me was relieved to see that she was okay. Not that I ever doubted what Luke had said, but to just see her with my own eyes took an enormous weight off my shoulders. I felt so much better already and I knew I made the right choice by coming here tonight. From what I was able to see, she looked fine, but then that didn’t explain why she kept coming here night after night. It was almost like she was waiting for me to walk out of the trees to meet her. She shouldn’t live in the past, she must have known, deep down, that this wouldn’t—couldn’t—work. We were just too different and even though that was a nonissue, there were other variables. First, we were supposed to be enemies. It was treason if we were to be seen together. It was only luck that kept me from being killed during the war, and then when I became leader, it was another type of protection. Then there was the fact that we knew virtually nothing about each other except for what we wanted the other to know and inferences we could make based on those facts. And the biggest thing, for me, was that if it were possible for this to continue, I’d have to watch as she got older and older and eventually die, while I could just continue living. No matter how much I told myself I loved her, that was one thing I just couldn’t do. She would always be beautiful to me, but I knew I just could not live with myself if I had to watch, helpless, as Kira died. I sighed; all I was doing right now was trying to convince myself that what I was doing was right and on another level trying to come up with excuses to not love her. After all I’ve done, I shouldn’t have been trying to psych myself out like this. Shaking those thoughts away, I turned back to look at Kira and found that she was looking directly at me. Her eyes were puffy and red, as if she were crying. She wasn’t crying now, but it was possible that she was crying over me…or had something bad happened to her? How I wanted to go comfort her! How could the sight of her crying make me want to move heaven and earth to make her tears go away and make her smile again? Go to her… The command was powerful and every part of my body wanted to obey it, but I resisted. It wouldn’t be good for either of us. Anyway, I was watching her for far too long. I couldn’t do this every night. I went back to the place I was sharing with Luke, it wasn’t his house, just a little cottage really, out of sight and hard to get to unless you knew the way. Because I had been gone for so long, Luke assumed I’d talked to her, and one he discovered that I hadn’t he was let down. From then on, he didn’t speak about her or try to get me to see her again. He probably thought I didn’t want to. He was wrong though if he thought that. I did and a few nights later, I went to see her again. This time when I went, she was already there. And she was crying. Before I knew what I was doing I’d changed back and was walking out to meet her. As she heard me approach, she hastily dried her tears and turned to face me looking annoyed. I kept my head down and my hair in my eyes so the glow wouldn’t give me away. “Why are you crying?” I asked softly. It was the question I had the first time I was here and now I would finally get it answered. “It’s nothing,” she said, her voice cracking and defiant.

There was something else going on. She obviously didn’t recognize me and probably thought I was one of her people. Was she always like this? So defensive and hostile towards people she didn’t even know? It seemed like such a contrast to the sweet caring woman I fell in love with. I wondered what had brought on this change, but I couldn’t ask that without giving myself away. “Then why’s a beautiful, girl like you doing out here alone? Don’t you have someone special to be with?” She rolled her eyes and looked at me angrily. What did I do to deserve such open hostility? By asking about Blake did I make a social faux pas? Or did I let venom creep into my tone as I asked the question? Whatever it was, I was sure that she didn’t have to react that way. “Are you stupid or something? Blake and I broke up over a month ago,” she snapped. I didn’t reply and Kira turned away and looked like she was going to start crying again. Clearly her break up with Blake was the reason for her current state of mind. “So I guess we both lost someone we loved,” I said sadly. “Yeah,” she said after a brief hesitation. “Who are you anyway?” “Oh, sorry. I guess I should introduce myself. I’m Kevin. See you around.” Without waiting for a response, I turned and walked away, changing into a wolf as I went. I ran and ran not looking back. I wanted to, somehow, destroy all memories involving Kira. She, like Ryan, had played me. I trusted her, told her things she could use against me and other Vampires. And I was in the process of destroying Agrona, my home, for a girl who didn’t give a shit about me. I trusted her! How could I have been such a fool? I should have known better than to trust a two-timing, double crossing bitch like her. I put my heart in her hands and she crushed it. Running up on the cliff that overlooked the forest, I threw my head back and howled; a long mournful sound that tore from my throat. I decided to walk back to the cottage. I wanted to be alone with my pain right now and didn’t want to talk to Luke just yet. My pain was all I had now; I needed to keep it to know that I was still capable of feeling something. I didn’t want the pain to recede leaving me emotionless. I knew that would be a sort of protection, but I didn’t want it. Unfortunately, we don’t always do what we want and the pain of Kira’s betrayal turned into anger and hate. It was directed mostly towards Kira and then at myself for believing her lies. The anger and hatred was like molten lava coursing through my body, and just like how lava eventually cools, so did those dark thoughts. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying that those feelings went away; I just felt empty and cold “What’s wrong? What happened?” Luke asked concerned as I walked into the clearing. “Nothing,” I said in a deadpan tone. “You don’t need to check on Kira anymore. She’s fine.” I decided on the way back that I would just continue with the plan. There was no way out of it now. We were just too far along. Luke knew something was up. When we went hunting, (which served two purposes, first to feed, second to kill a few Vampires) I would usually fool around, tell a joke, smile. That night and all subsequent nights, I would do

none of that. No more smiles, jokes, laughter. Everything was done sort of mechanically, like it was something I’d rather not be doing, but was forced into. Luke noticed these changes and was alarmed by them. He tried to get me to talk about Kira and what happened the last time I went to see her, but I gave him nothing. “C’mon Seth, talk to me! I know that there’s something bothering you and that Ki—” “Luke, that’s enough. I’m fine, nothing’s bothering me,” I tried a smile, hoping that would be enough to quench his fears. “Then go talk to her tonight.” My smile disappeared. “What?” “Go talk to Kira tonight,” he repeated. I shrugged. What difference did it make to me when I spoke to her? “Fine.” “I’ll come along, of course, just to see you actually talk to her.” When I agreed I wasn’t actually planning on talking to her. I was just going to run over there, stay for a bit, and then come back. It looked like it would be impossible to do that. As I walked into the clearing at the sanctuary, this time, Kira looked a bit better. Maybe she was getting back with Blake, or found someone else. “Have you ever been in love, Kevin?” She asked. “Yes, once,” I said impassively. “What about you?” “What happened to her?” She asked not answering my question. I’m going now, Luke told me. Don’t talk to her like that. Tell me how it went later. I ignored him, waited for him to go away and then answered her question. “It was unrequited love,” I said looking deep into her eyes, wanting her to see the hatred in mine. She flinched and looked away. “The man I loved died,” she said sadly. “Blake’s still alive.” “Not Blake. I’m talking about Seth.” I looked at her skeptically. What did she take me for? An idiot? She could keep saying that she loved me, but I wouldn’t fall for her tricks again. “What, are you going to turn me in?” She asked sarcastically. “No, I can’t do that Gatakrí,” I said calmly. I only used my old nickname for her because I wanted her to finally know who was talking to her. I would have been happy enough if we could continue like this with her oblivious to whom she was really talking to. “Seth? Is that really you?” She asked, all traces of sadness disappearing. “Is there anyone else who calls you that?” I asked sardonically. “Seth!” She ran up to me and gave me a hug that almost knocked me off my feet. She was a great actress, crying and all that. If I didn’t know better, I’d think she was really happy to see me. She was kissing me, and I kissed her back but my heart wasn’t in it. “I thought you were dead,” Kira said holding me close to her. I wrapped my arms around her, but only because it would feel weird if I didn’t. “So does everyone else.” I said darkly, hoping she’d get the message and keep this to herself.

She nodded against my shoulder and then moved back and punched me lightly in that same spot. “Why did you do that to me? You could have at least warned me. I died inside when I found out you were dead.” Right… She had great acting skills. I silently applauded her and couldn’t hold back the smile that was tugging on the corners of my lips. “Things have changed so much since we last spoke,” she continued after it was obvious I wasn’t going to say anything to her impassioned outburst. “Really.” “Blake took over Eric’s position and now, if he finds out you’re not dead, he’ll come after you and kill you himself.” “If he ever finds out I’m still alive, I won’t stop him from doing just that,” I said without cracking a smile. It was suicide, but we all had to die sooner or later and I preferred sooner. “Wait, what are you talking about?” “About turning myself in. I’m not going to run and hide from him. It’s not in my nature to shy away from a challenge. But I also know when to quit. It’ll be better this way.” “Who cares? I am not going to just stand back while you go commit suicide,” Kira said heatedly. “You’re going to have to,” I said surprised with how fervently she was trying to convince me not to turn myself in. Why did she care? It’s not like I meant anything to her. I was just a means to an end. Nothing more. I could end it all right here. And I didn’t need her trying to talk me out of it. Kira The last time I saw Seth, he seemed extremely angry. Since that time, I had not talked to him. I was getting slightly worried about him, maybe he was seeing someone else...No, Seth is not that kind of person, the one who would betray me like that. In an attempt to find out what was wrong with him, I went over to Agrona in bright daylight to try to find him. I searched the area for hours, it seemed as though Seth had completely disappeared from existence. I stumbled upon a vast valley where giant tress shadowed the land. It was almost as if someone had cut down all the trees in the area leaving a clear circle of land. For what reason, I couldn’t even guess. It seemed pointless to me. In the far distance, I saw a figure running towards me. I saw that it was Seth and automatically ran towards him. He was yelling at me, but the swirling wind dissipated the sound. I stepped onto a small patch of grass that was different from the surrounding areas. The next thing I knew, a trap door had opened underneath me and I was falling fast. Seth dived in and grabbed me with a firm, yet gently hold and tried to jump out of the opening with me in him arms, but the trap door closed and locked. Seth cursed and continued to fall. He pulled me closer as we prepared to hit the ground and at the last possible second, Seth twisted his body so that his body would take most of the impact and cushion my fall. Upon impact Seth gave out a short groan while trying to hide the true pain. I quickly got off of him and allowed him to lean no my body to ease his pain. In this new environment, as I was soon to discover when I tried to heal him, my powers and abilities were completely stripped. "What the hell were you thinking?" Seth snapped. "I don't know. I just wanted to see you. I'm sorry," I said softly, surprised at his anger. "Why? You could have gotten killed." He wasn't looking at me, but was fingering his dagger and looking around the area.

"Well you haven't talked much so I thought it would be best--" I stopped suddenly and locked eyes with him. His eyes were furious as he looked at me and I wondered what I had done to deserve this. "Why are you so angry with me?" "After everything I did for you, you would turn back to Blake after you got what you wanted?" He asked disgusted. I was taken aback. "Wait, what are you talking about? I--" Suddenly a large group of brutish looking men emerged from the darkness. They quickly cornered us. One of them demanded that Seth give me over to them as though I was a prize. As realization dawned on me, I paled and took an involuntary step back. Seth stood defensively in front of me and refused their demands. One of the brutes stood out from the group and challenged Seth. Seth laughed and moved forward to take him on. The fight was short as Seth was able to kill the man easily, but he suffered a blow to his already injured back. Seth didn’t talk to me at all as we walked through the tunnels. He kept a distance between us and the only time he came near me was to protect me from the men who kept coming up to us. Seth had managed to hold his own among the men, but I knew that it would only be a matter of time before he couldn’t fight like he was right now. Sometimes, when his guard was down, I would catch him looking pained, or massaging an area that had taken a beating that day. Whenever he caught me looking at him, his mask was back on and all signs that he’d been hurt were gone. But I knew the truth. Seth was hurting and sooner or later those injuries were going to come back to haunt him. It had been days since we fell into this hellhole. The brutes have backed off slightly because of Seth. It was evident that Seth was struggling to maintain consciousness and was suffering from lack of blood. I had been trying to convince Seth to kill an inmate so that he could take his blood, but he refused. He did not because he claimed that it would cause unnecessary problems, but I couldn't see how so. While looking for a way out, Seth and I stumbled into Cyrus’s territory. Cyrus was sort of like a leader of the gang of brutes. All of a sudden someone grabbed me from behind. I cried out attracting Seth’s attention. He tried coming after me, the men formed a wall, blocking him from me. Cyrus walked out from the shadows behind Seth and challenged him to a fight with me being the prize for the winner. Swaying on his feet, Seth agreed to the contest. Cyrus pulled out a short dagger while Seth only had piece of glass for a weapon, his dagger being lost on one of the previous days. Cyrus took a swing at Seth. He narrowly dodged it as the dagger caught his shirt. In an attempt to overtake his opponent, Seth took a quick jab at Cyrus accompanied with an uppercut. Seth’s movements were slow and painful due to his previous injuries. Cyrus snickered at Seth’s weak feeble attempt and took a strong swing down and sliced Seth’s torso, narrowly missing his vital organs. “Come on, Seth!” He stumbled backwards and dropped his weapon as Cyrus advanced toward him to commit his final blow. In the heat of the moment, Seth pushed Cyrus back against a wall and used all of his remaining strength to punch him in the face. Blood exploded from his face and into all directions. Cyrus’s face looked as though it had been viscously attacked by a pack of dogs. His nose was bent at an odd angle and with every breath, blood squirted out. He was lying on the ground motionless and Seth limped over and stomped on his neck breaking it. Another prisoner watching the fight intervened by driving his weapon deep into Seth’s side. Seth groaned in pain and looked at the person who stabbed him then at the wound. He clutched the embedded weapon and fell to his knees as the audience cheered. I bent down painfully and quickly threw my head up at the captor’s chin, releasing myself. The man who stabbed Seth gave an evil grin before kicking him in the back of his head. Seth fell face first and I rushed to his side with the weapon I had stolen from my captor and ordered the

surrounding inmates to back off. Laughing the inmates obliged. They probably knew they could get me anytime they felt like it. Seth was on ground and out of breath. I tore a side of my skirt and quickly bandaged the wound. “Hold on, I’m going to get you out of here,” I told him as I helped him to his feet. I knew that if Seth’s injuries were not taken care of soon, he would die of blood loss or infection. I swung his arm around my shoulders and we started making our way towards a corner of the room, Seth limping along, unable to hold himself up. “Kira I’m hurt pretty badly. Promise me one thing,” he panted. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it. You’re going to be fine.” Seth began to shake his head and then stopped, wincing. Even that small motion seemed to be painful for him. “If things get worse, if it comes down to making the choice, don’t worry about me. Take care of yourself. Do we have a deal?” I didn’t respond and Seth hissed in pain as I stumbled under his weight and bumped him into the think stone wall. I apologized, but he didn’t say anything. When I lay him on the ground for a moment to rest before continuing, I noticed that his eyes were glazed over with pain and loosing focus. Seth was slowly dying of lack of blood and infection, barely hanging on. Every time I tried to offer him my blood, he refused and told me that I needed it more than he did. He was giving up on me no matter how much I told him to be strong. Having had to defend both Seth and myself in this place, I had gained more respect in the compound since I was still able to seriously injure or kill the men who came near us. Now Seth was lying on the ground, and I too weak to pick him up. He was bloody and drained, and breathing shallowly. I held a metal rod, which I had stolen off another inmate. The men surrounded me and told me to back down and let them at Seth, but I refused. I knew that the men had grouped together and would easily take me down. Suddenly a bell was rung notifying the prisoners that there was an incoming prisoner. They all yelled “Fresh meat” and ran to the shaft and totally forgot about Seth and I. There was a commotion at the shaft as the prisoners who were coming down were fully armed and were wiping out everyone who came near them. As they came closer to me, I realized that they were soldiers from Ocelot and had never been so relieved to see anyone from Ocelot in a long time. “Lieutenant general,” one of the soldiers said “Is that you?” “Yes, what are you doing here and how did you find me?” “That’s not important. Our job is to get you out of here.” I nodded. “OK, but I’m not leaving without him,” I said pointing at Seth. At first they refused to take Seth, but when I told them that he saved my life and that I wouldn’t leave without them, they relented and two of them carried Seth out in front of me. Seth I was fading in and out of consciousness as I was carried out of the underground. I thought Kira would just leave me to die, and I wouldn’t have been surprised if she did, but she didn’t. And

that was surprising. Now that I was out and surrounded by her people, all she had to do was turn me over to them after telling them who I was and she’d get Blake back just like she wanted. She healed me, but I was still feeling dizzy from not hunting in days. I sat silently; glaring at her, thankful that it was overcast so the sun wouldn’t hurt my sensitive eyes. I wanted to believe that I was wrong about her, but I couldn’t find it within myself to forgive or trust her again. She shooed everyone away telling them that she wanted a private conversation with me. For my part, I was done talking and tried to pick myself up and get away from her and her people, but I was unsteady on my feet and fell back to the ground. I had get away from her. “I would never do anything to hurt you,” she said softly, wringing the torn remains of her skirt in her hands. I knew Luke had to be out there somewhere. I would have known if he had died. He must have had a good reason to disappear the way he did. I called out to him telepathically and was relived when he responded. Seth? Where are you? Luke asked. I had no idea so I let him see the area though my eyes and he said he was on his way. Reassured by this, I turned my attention back to Kira. “Where’s this coming from?” I asked angrily. “What, don’t you remember our conversation?” She asked puzzled. “I do, but why bring it up now?” “Because this issue has been going on for a long time and I want to resolve it now.” I stifled a sigh and prayed that Luke got here soon. I didn’t want to talk about this now. What was the point? I knew, no that was too strong, I suspected that Kira would say anything to try to get my trust back. I’d given her everything; practically the world, and she choose Blake. I would even be giving her my life as if that weren’t enough. “When you heard I was dead, what did you do?” I asked bitterly. “How dare you talk to me in that manner,” she hissed. “I died when I heard that you were dead.” “And fell right into Blake’s arms.” “Look, you’re the only person who I’ve truly loved.” I wanted to believe her and from her actions when we were trapped and now, I found myself starting to trust her again. I didn’t want to be too hasty in this decision. No matter what she said now, I was going still going to see Blake tomorrow if she didn’t turn me over right now. Luckily, I didn’t have to say anything because Luke had arrived. I looked over to where I knew he’d be walking out from expectantly. Kira followed my gaze and was shocked when he walked out. “What did you people do to him?” He exclaimed. “We just saved his life,” one of the soldiers said pissed. “Who are you?” Luke didn’t reply, but turned to me. Are you okay? He asked. Thirsty. I can see that, he said dryly. There’s a small pack a kilometer away. How do you feel? Dizzy. “Here,” he said coming forward and kneeling beside me. Throughout our entire conversation, the other were staring at us not comprehending and when Luke finally said something out loud, they started and realized that they hadn’t been privy to a conversation. Luke extended his arm towards me and grateful for this gesture I bit into it hearing cries of shock and alarm from those around me. I ignored them, and took what I needed from Luke. Hardly satisfied, but not wiling to kill Luke when there was plenty of prey not far away, I pulled back. “Thanks,” I said feeling a little better.

He nodded as we got up together and started to walk away. I paused for a moment and turned back to Kira. I still had one question I wanted to ask her, but at the last possible second, I simply thanked her, changed into a wolf and was gone. Assuming this form would be difficult, but it was faster to get from point A to point B assuming my strength held out. As soon as we were close to the area, I had to change back, it was taking far too much energy and I would need it for this hunt. Luke changed back and looked at me concerned. “Are you sure you’re okay?” he asked. Panting, I nodded. “Where’s the pack?” The short run had tired me out far more than it should have. They’ll be here soon, he replied. Do you have a weapon? I shook my head and Luke passed me a dagger. Knowing him, it was probably poisoned so I didn’t even bother asking. I never understood why he liked coating his weapons in poison. It just made it more difficult to handle since he liked using incredibly dangerous poisons. Especially the ones that with only one nick, they could cause convulsions and instant death. We walked forward a bit and then the pack suddenly bust into existence in front of us. They were noisy as they bust through the foliage and didn’t appear to have noticed us yet. Slowly, we approached them, never making a sound. Luckily we were downwind from them, so hopefully they wouldn’t notice us until the last possible instant. As luck would have it, one of the wolves turned around, spotted us and raised the alarm. They ran forward to attack us and working together, Luke and I managed to knock out most of them, only having to kill a few. Near the end of the struggle I found myself wavering and Luke was forced to fight harder, but we managed, somehow we managed. And I learned that ‘small’ to Luke meant nine or ten members. Once it was over we drank while catching up. Luke filled me in on what had happened to him. His sudden disappearance was the reason why I went out in wolf territory in the first place. It seemed that he had had some difficulty with another “small” pack of Wolves and didn’t bother telling me because he thought he could handle it, but had been knocked out for a while. I finished the rest of the bodies and told Luke what had happened. He had heard of those traps, but had never actually believed that they existed. Having once asked Connor about them and forcing him to answer me, I knew for a fact that they were more than a myth created to scare non-Werewolves off their territory. The horrors that lay inside these traps were a mystery to both of us until now and I felt a bit angry about what was being done to these people. In a moment I was feeling far better than I had just a while ago and we decided to head back home. I wanted a long warm shower and to get out of these rags. Going shirtless wasn’t a problem, but the pants were totally ripped to shreds and I wasn’t particularly fond of the grunge look. It was only after I’d freshened up and removed all the grime from my skin that Luke thought it important enough to inform me that in the area where we’d left Kira, there was still a strong pack roaming the area. Cursing, I asked him why he didn’t tell me about this earlier as I quickly threw on a shirt and ran out the door, back to Kira. It took me a while to find her and when I did, I was relieved to know that nothing bad had happened to her. Stopping a bit of a distance away, I followed them silently. They didn’t need to know I was here watching over them. I was able to keep this up for a few kilometers before one of the soldiers with Kira drew his sword and stopped, looking around. The others followed suit as they closed ranks around Kira. “Whoever is out there, show yourself!” The leader ordered. Not wishing to alarm them further, I stepped out of the trees while avoiding looking at Kira. “You again! Why are you following us?” “There’s a very strong and big pack roaming the area,” I explained. “I wanted to make sure you got out safely.” “Why would we trust a Vampire?” he sneered. “Because I know this area and we’re now in this pack’s territory.” They started talking among themselves and Kira stepped forward to face me.

“If we’re in Werewolf territory,” she said. “How would you know anything about it?” The soldiers ceased their argument and turned to me waiting for an answer. “During the war, I had a legitimate reason for being over here. I was working with Connor so I had to know where all the traps were for my own safety.” “Alright, get us out of here safely. Lead us into a trap and I will personally kill you.” The first part of the trip passed by silently and though they were afraid to talk with me so close by. I couldn’t care less what they talked about and speed up a bit to give them some semblance of privacy since I would still be able to hear everything they said. Eventually they started talking again and little by little I was included into the conversation. I learned that the leader of the merry band of men protecting Kira was named Brett. He was short and stocky and could probably handle himself in a fight. He would be a great asset if we ran into trouble. I made jokes with the men, but generally avoided speaking with Kira. I still wasn’t sure want to think of her. What she told me earlier…it made me wonder if I had just misjudged her. As we entered a stretch of the woods, I sensed two Vampires ahead and stopped dead. The soldiers behind me started to protest, but I quickly shushed them and mouthed the word Vampire. They understood instantly, and quickly drew their weapons. I shook my head viciously. It was best if I handled it alone, but they insisted on coming with me. It made no difference though because if I could sense the Vampires, they could almost certainly sense me. Not bother with concealment anymore, I walked out to meet them and was greeted with a shock. As I expected, there were two of the, a guy and a girl. And the girl had me speechless. We spent a full minute just starting at each other before the girl spoke up. “Seth? Is that really you?’ “Liz,” I said and could get no further. “I thought you were dead,” she cried as she threw herself into my arms. “What happened?” Numbly, I told her, thinking about how differently everything would have been if I hadn’t meet Krista. Even as I was speaking to her, it felt like it was someone else telling Liz the story. Nothing about this moment seemed real. It was like I was simply going through the motions like a well-rehearsed play. Was there a reason why I was going through with this? I palmed my dagger as Liz took a step back to ask about the people behind me. “Forgive me,” I murmured as I took a step forward and drove the dagger through her. She gasped and fell forward into my arms. I yanked the dagger out of her and threw it forcefully at the man behind her, staking him. Slowly I got down on the ground beside Liz as the heavens opened, sending down a torrent of heavy rain and in no time at all we were thoroughly soaked. I could usually do this without batting an eyelash, but when it came to someone I cared about, it was an entirely different story. “Why?” Liz asked, her voice sounding pained. I pushed a few stray stands out of her face before responding. “You wouldn’t understand.” “I should tell everyone you’re alive, what you’ve done.” “But you won’t.” “They wouldn’t believe me.” I could hear the others behind me telling me over the sound of the thunder that they wanted to go, to get out of the rain, but I wasn’t really listening to them at the moment. All I could hear was Liz’s breathing getting lighter and lighter. “Don’t leave me,” she said, her voice breaking. “I won’t, Liza.” She smiled as I called her Liza, using her full name, something I hadn’t done in a long time, and reached up to touch my face. I watched as she took her last breaths and then she went limp in my arms, her hand falling away. I held her for a second more and then kissed her forehead before getting up and continuing to lead Kira and company back to Ocelot. We were only a short distance away from the boarder, but from hearing the complaints of the others, I lead them to a little cave were they could rest until the storm ended. Leaving them to

do whatever they wanted, I turned away and went to sit on a boulder some distance from the cave, letting the rain wash over me, thinking. I was hoping to get some space, just be alone and think over everything that happened since I met Kira, but then Brett came over and sat down beside me. He didn’t say anything at first, and that was fine. I didn’t want to talk. But when he started, he began quietly and ended by telling me that he appreciated the sacrifice that I made and that he knew that it must have been difficult for me. Having said his piece, he got up and started to go back to the comfort of the cave, but I stopped him. “Why did you tell me all of that?” I asked. “I always though that you people were uncaring. You proved me wrong.” He paused for a moment and looked uncomfortable about what he was going to say next. I had a feeling I knew what it was. Even if he didn’t understand Šija’ŋ, he could have probably been able to catch my name as I spoke to Liz, and when I answered Kira’s question earlier, I gave away more information that I would have liked so I answered his unspoken question. “Yes, I’m Seth, the one who was leader over here. Tell whomever you want. I don’t care.” He paled and shook his head. “Wasn’t planning on it.” I turned back to looking out into the trees. “Go back to the others, tell me when you’re ready to leave.” The rain was still falling but storm hadn’t even started yet. This was only the beginning and it would get a lot worse before it even started to get better. Kira Even though for the most part I was scared that Seth was going to die, spending that much time with him was a blessing. He had been my protector during most of that episode and he had even risked his life to help me. At first, it felt like he was doing it grudgingly, but that had been because of a misunderstanding. Involving Blake of all people. It felt nice to have that all cleared up. This was my first full day back and I felt like nothing could go wrong. I hadn’t seen Blake yet today and that was just fine by me. The less I saw of him the better. Unfortunately, Blake was turned the corner and stopped right in front of me. Why did he have to always go a ruin everything? “You’re happy today,” he said. I shrugged. “I’m just happy to be back.” “I was there when Brett was debriefed. Who’s the guy who saved you?” “I don’t know. It’s not like we exchanged names,” I snapped. I couldn’t let Blake know it was Seth. Blake smiled. “You’re not good at lying, Kira. Who was he?” “No one,” I said starting to step around him. “It’s nothing. Go away.” Blake grabbed me by my arm again. I gave him a bored look. After being in that hell for days, I was no longer afraid of anything he could do to me. I was able to defend myself against men that were far more terrifying than him. “Let me go, Blake,” I ordered. “It was Seth,” he said without a trace of surprise. I froze. How did he know? For all he knew Seth was dead. I couldn’t let him know that Seth was still alive. I gave him by best, amused look. “Are you out of your mind? He’s dead.” “Where is he, Kira?” he asked still not giving up. “I won’t hesitate to have you locked up until you do.”

Blake turned and called some of his friends over to help him try to capture me. I struggled violently, but it was no use. “What are you doing? I’m telling the truth!” I cried. “Like hell you are,” Blake growled. Suddenly, Blake and the others trying to capture me were attacked by a pulse of magic and sent flying. “What the hell was that?” Blake demanded as he picked himself up. I had a bad feeling about all of this. The only one I knew of with power like that was Seth. He couldn’t be here. He shouldn’t be walking to his death when he just cheated death not too long ago. “If you want me, come after me yourself,” Seth said calmly. “Seth!” Blake exclaimed angrily, saying his name as if it were a curse. “Come out here you coward!” I looked ad Blake disgusted and then looked in the direction where Seth’s voice was coming from. “Run, get out of here,” I cried “I’m not running Kira,” Seth said as he walked out. “If I do that pig and his friends will just come after you again.” Seth didn’t look like he was paying much attention to what was going on around him. He had made it clear to me that he was going to surrender to Blake earlier, but I couldn’t believe that after everything we had been through, he was still going to follow through with his plan. One of Blake’s men took offence to Seth calling Blake a pig and ran at Seth attacking and injuring him. Blake ordered his men to surround the area, preventing escape. I tried using my powers to knock the men aside, but one of them was blocking my powers. I stood on the sidelines powerlessly as tension rose. The streets were deadly quiet, the only thing that could be heard was the cry of a raven perched on a post nearby. With lightning speeds, Blake picked up his claymore and rushed toward the injured Seth. I had to do something or else Blake would surely kill Seth. I pounced onto Blake’s back, which caused him to stop hesitantly. Seeing this, Seth took advantage of this moment and turned into his wolf form. He dived into the shadows of the compound, taking out a follower as he went into hiding. Blake grabbed my by the length of my arm and swung me around and I hit the ground with a hard impact. Pain shot through my body as I was unable to support myself on my legs. A few of Blake’s men picked up my legs and dragged me across the cold rigid floor. He put a knife to my neck and ordered me to take off my clothes. I looked at him disgusted as he gave me a hit to the stomach, which felt like all the wind was going out of me. Almost instantly Seth in wolf form jumped out and dug his fangs deep into the man’s shoulder ripping it off with ease and stood by me protectively. The man on the ground bleeding to death was glaring at me with animosity. Seth changed back as Blake approached. Someone grabbed me from behind. My scream attracted Seth’s attention and he tried running after me, but Blake had him pinned to the spot. “Battle to the Death,” Blake announced. “If you win, you and Kira can leave in peace.”

Seth looked at me sadly, like he was sorry that he was putting my life in danger and then rushed at Blake. But Blake, with his abilities, appeared behind Seth and clubbed him in the back. As soon as he was down, Seth changed back to a wolf and attacked Blake’s legs. Blake didn’t see it coming and went down, bleeding heavily. Seth took a few steps towards Blake and then stopped waiting. I screamed at him to finish Blake off, but he wouldn’t. I was filled with dread, had Seth walked into this planning to die? A wave of pressure sent Seth flying straight up into the air, Blake painfully got back up onto his feet as his followers cheered him on Seth raised his hackles and shot them towards Blake. They fell to the ground like giant icicles, breaking up the ground and killing a few of the men who couldn’t get out of the way in time, and cutting into Blake who could barely get them away from him. Seth crashed down into a tree with a sickening thud and some of Blake’s followers ran at Seth in the heat of vengeance Seth got up gingerly and rushed at Blake’s neck. As he started to get close, Blake’s men cut at Seth with their swords. I cried out in anger. That wasn’t fair. There was no way Seth could beat them all. It appeared to be too much for Seth and he collapsed to the ground and automatically changed back to his base form. The cheaters held him down with their spears as they waited for Blake who was slowing limping toward them. I saw that there was no way that Seth could finish this fight in the state he was in unless I did something to help him. He looked pretty much drained. I felt my anger rising and whoever was blocking my powers cried out as my anger broke down his barriers. I turned on him first and killed him. Then I forced all the men away from Seth and kneeled down next to him and helped him up. Seth had an evil glint in his eyes as he looked at me. He looked at Blake and smiled before taking me in his arms and kissing me hotly. I melted, ignoring the cries of outrage from the men around us. Suddenly I was pulled off of Seth and shoved to the ground. I watched in horror as Blake stabbed Seth in his stomach. It was playing out exactly how it had in my vision. Seth was bent over Blake’s sword. Blake roughly yanked out his sword, causing a bigger wound, and Seth started to fall to his knees. As he fell, Blake took aim at his heart, but Seth moved to the side and the sword went through his chest. Blake cursed and Seth placed a hand over the wound in abdomen trying to staunch the blood flow, but the wound was just too big and the blood ran over his hand. Seth coughed blood and I knew that if he didn’t get help quickly he would die. He should have fought back when he had the chance, then this wouldn’t have happened. “Let Kira leave,” Seth said weakly. Blake smiled. “What I’m planning on doing is letting Kira watch you die and then kill her.” Seth looked horrified at Blake’s cruelty and looked like he wanted to say something, but it ended in another fit of coughing.

Blake placed the tip of the sword at Seth’s throat. “You know, you’ve provided me with countless hours of entertainment, it’s a pity it has to end now.” Blake brought his arm back and prepared to behead Seth. “Blake, don’t!” I screamed. I started to run behind him, but two of his men came and held me back. Just as the sword was about to cut through Seth’s neck, Blake stopped and brought his arm down. “I have a better idea. Kira, come here.” I was pushed towards Blake. I hated him so much. He would never make me kill Seth. No matter what he did, I was never going to do it. Blake shifted his grip on his sword and wacked Seth across the head and Seth fell like stone unconscious. “Heal him,” Blake ordered. I looked at him puzzled. He couldn’t be serious. “Or do you want to be the one responsible for his death?” Glaring at him, I obliged. Seth was still out cold, but at least his injuries wouldn’t kill him. Blake turned and pointed to two of his soldiers. “Pick him up and follow me,” he ordered. As they bent to pick Seth up he turned to two more of his men. “Make sure she doesn’t follow us.” “What are you going to do to him Blake?” I asked, fear for Seth’s fate wrapping its cold fingers around my throat. “We’re just going to have some fun with my new buddy,” he replied laughing. Seth The cell was small. The walls were high and smooth, and prying at them revealed that they would not break easily, unlike in that other cell I was in. there was a small wooden plank along one of the walls that I assumed would serve as a better bed/seat than the cold hard stones. Looking at the door showed just how impossible an escape from this prison would be. But then, if I could break it down using magic, getting out of here would be a cinch. Noisy, of course, but hopefully it would be enough noise to disorient my pursuers. I extended a hand and tried to tap into the magic. Nothing happened. Frowning, I tried again, and again the same result. What was going on? I knew Blake was smart in not allowing me to use my powers, but the question was how? How was this possible? I heard a group approaching the door to my cell, their footsteps echoing in the halls. I stood ready, not knowing what “fun” Blake had planned. The cell door opened smoothing on surprisingly well-oiled hinges and five men, including Blake walked in, the door closing behind them. I was amused by this show of force. Did they seriously think that I would be too much to handle with lower numbers? In a way, I was flattered. The men moved aside and just flanked Blake as he stepped forward, out of the group. “So how are you feeling?” Blake asked not unkindly an ironic smile playing on his lips. I looked at him guardedly. He was up to something. That much was sure. “Why would you care if you’re going to kill me?”

He shrugged. “True, but I want to make sure that you have been fully healed before we get started.” I was grateful to whoever healed me. I felt fine other than the fact that I couldn’t use any of my powers. I though t about what Blake had just said. The only reason he’d want me to be fully healed would be if he was going to tear me apart, slowly and painfully after. This was going to be painful, but if I could deal with Nick’s torture, I could put up with this child. I looked back at Blake defiantly. “Torture? Couldn’t you come up with something more original?” “Actually, that’s only part of your punishment. And don’t try to use your powers. You were stripped of them to make you easier to contain.” How could you strip someone of his powers? It was impossible wasn’t it? For a moment I almost wished Blake were Nick. With him, at least, things would have been a bit fairer. Blake gestured and the four men around him started to slowly approach me. I kept still and let them get closer keeping my face calm, impassive. When they got closer, I would try to fight them off and then try and make a move on Blake. If I tried to get out now, I would not only need to get by these four, but also get by Blake who was guarding the door and if these four weren’t down, it would just be a waste of energy. When the lead man was only a few feet away I went after him aiming for his throat. Surprised, he tried to protect himself and was too slow. I turned away from him as he went down clutching his neck and faced the others. We traded a few punches and kicks and then I felt a sharp prick in my skin. Startled, I turned to my right and saw that one of my opponents had plunged a syringe into my arm and was quickly depressing the plunger. I tried turning to get him off of me and remove the syringe before the full dose could be administered, but found that my muscles weren’t responding quickly enough. Whatever it was, it was fast acting. I stumbled back shaking my head trying to clear it, my thoughts muddled. I forgot about Blake and the others as I slid down against the wall and into a drug induced sleep. This continued for, I assume, days. The frequency of the dose was gradually increased. At first, I resisted, fought whenever injection time came, but after days of this, I slowly gave up fighting them and soon found myself in a state of acceptance and what might even be described as relief when Grumpy, that was what I’d named the man who administered the drug, came in. I have to admit that only at the beginning did I wonder why they were drugging me this way. I would not be able to feel whatever they were doing so torture seemed pointless. Theses worries faded away once Grumpy entered; all that mattered was getting my fix. And I got it, what felt like multiple times a day. Bigger doses. But I didn’t care, and to be perfectly honest, I wanted it. Badly. And Blake probably knew it. On the odd day Blake showed up, I often saw that he had a knowing smile and laughter in his eyes. Then, just when I was beginning to relax and feel comfortable, Grumpy stopped coming. I started pacing back and forth, trying not to show how anxious I was and knowing that Blake had gotten me dependant on that drug. For what reason? Well, it was beyond me, and I knew that if I calmed down and thought about it a bit more, I could probably figure it out, but I

didn’t care. I was too hyper and needed to calm down, but it was impossible. I needed the damn drug! Damn Grumpy! Blake too! Ok, so I was all right. This was manageable. I had clearly become dependant on the drug, but I could deal with it. I just had to be calm, collected. I’d dealt with worse and made it through all right. Withdrawal was going to be hell, but not as bad as what Blake could possibly have planned or what Nick could have possibly have done to me. It started, hours later with a tingling sensation in my legs. That same sort of feeling you would get it your leg fell asleep; like hundreds of pins and needles digging into your skin. I tried to walk it off, but it did no good and soon it felt like my entire body was on fire, tiny embers burning everywhere. With a curse, I started massaging my legs trying to get feeling into them they felt rubberish, like they weren’t even my legs, and the steps I had taken thus far were unsteady. The fire then quickly turned into a raging inferno. The heat spread, like a flaming stream, throughout my body, leaving burns everywhere it went. And it hurt, my god, it hurt so much. I needed to cool down. The fact that Blake was pumping heat in here didn’t help; I was already sweating excessively and needed to cool off. I wondered if Kira was enjoying this. No doubt she was with Blake, sitting at his side watching this, and having a grand time. Blake would never have treated her like trash. It was all an act to get me to come out. “Hey, Kira, you having fun?” I asked the empty room, stumbling around as if drunk. Laughing, I stumbled over to a corner and threw up. When I finished, I laughed again. Kira sure was a good actress. How did that saying go? Fool me once shame on…shame on you; fool me twice, shame on…on…well, someone. I made my way over to the cell door and hung on to the bars, my grip slipping and called out to Blake in a high maniacal voice. He wasn’t coming, but I still kept calling out to him desperately, pleadingly, until someone came over and punched me in my face telling me to shut up. I fell back cursing him, tasting blood in my mouth. He told me to shut up again, but that only made me angrier and more agitated. I ran over to the bars, pushing my arms through them trying to pull him to me. I would kill him for that, yes I would. I would break his neck and take his blood, his wonderful, sweet tasty blood. Every last drop, it would be mine, all mine, and it would quench the thirst inside me, the fire burning inside. I growled as I felt my fangs grow. I wanted him, I wanted him, I wanted him! His eyes were wide with fear and he began to talk quickly into his wrist. Getting help? I roared in anger as he slipped just beyond my reach and I was left holding a bit of his shirt. “I’m sorry, I’ll be good,” I said in a childlike voice as I stopped trying to reach him and simply hung on the bars. “I’m just so thirsty. You understand, don’t you?” I didn’t think it was possible, but his eyes went wider and he palled significantly. “Don’t you?” I repeated, my voice rising. “Don’t you?” I almost screamed, shaking the bars and yelling. I wanted to break these bars and get to him, kill him, kill Blake too, hell, I’d kill all of them, Kira too.

No, not Kira. She’d tried to help me. She always tried to help me. I knew she loved me. How could she not after everything I did for her? I heard the sound of heavy footsteps coming my way and started trembling despite the fire raging inside. I was shaking uncontrollably, my teeth clattering, whimpering and sat down in the centre of the room rocking myself. Still shaking, I heard the extra guards get loser. The fire attacked my muscles, and when it did, the feeling of heat turned into a dull ache and that was fine. At least I could feel them again. The footsteps came to a stop and the cell door slammed open. I looked up and smiled. It was Mom. I though she died years ago, guess not. She looked beautiful in that black dress, her hair down, her eyes red with hunger. Shaking, I slowly got to my feet and took a step towards her. I missed her so much. I had to raise Amy without her since Dad ran off. As I got closer, Mom changed. Everything changed. I was in some sort of hellish nightmare, flames everywhere and Mom…she changed into a demon holding Amy’s dismembered head. Growling, I rushed towards her only to be stopped by two of her ghouls and dragged back, kicking, to the centre of the room. The demon tossed the head to Blake who appeared behind her and walked over to me, eyes flaming. My arms were chained roughly above my head and then all but the demon and Blake walked out. Blake came closer swinging the…bag?... carelessly in his hand. He roughly pulled the bag over my head and then tied it incredibly tight and I gagged. My body jerked up suddenly and a scream tore from my throat. I heard Blake asking me questions, but I didn’t understand. Didn’t he know about how much Kira loved him? When I said this, I was jerked up again and the pain was dizzying. If that made him angry, then she did love me, she really did. But then I knew that all along. I always knew that. I said as much to Blake trying to sound calm despite my clattering teeth. Why was I shivering so much? This was hell, it was supposed to be hot, painful, just like that knife that was digging into my skin. Yeah, that’s right that’s how it was supposed to be. Nick was probably here too. It felt like he was flaying my skin again. Hah, some things never change. It all came back in a flash and I was suddenly angry again. Straining at the chains stretching towards Nick. I’ll kill him. I thought I killed him once, but she must have saved him. She must have! She was the only other one there. I hate her, I hate her, I hate her! I’ll kill Nick this time. He killed my sister. My sister! You bastard, I hate you! You too Kira! I never want to see you again and if I do it’ll be too soon. The chain was suddenly jerked roughly again and another scream escaped me. My throat was sore, and now I had no feeling in my arms and still my shivering didn’t stop. The bag was abruptly ripped away from my head and I shied away from the light. It was just too bright. “You’ll kill her when you see her?” Blake asked turning my head back to face him with the tip of the knife. I hadn’t realized I’d said all that aloud. Squinting to keep the light out of my eyes, I looked right back at him and found I couldn’t respond. He hit me across my face and I saw stars, but didn’t respond. I still felt horribly sick, but I was starting to regain control of myself and my emotions. And also a

sense of where I was again. Blake dug the side of the dagger into my check, until a whimper escaped my lips. “How pathetic,” he said disgusted. He started to turn away and then turned back quickly, and delivered a swift forceful kick to my groin. I doubled over, as much as was physically possible in this position, moaning. I closed my eyes again as I felt a wave of dizziness wash over me. I was so cold, vey cold. The change in temperature was just too much. Or maybe I was just imagining things again? How could I tell whether I was in my right mind or not? I couldn’t remember half of what I’d done or said, but I didn’t want to know. The door opened and Blake walked out telling the other person to follow him. She started protesting, but he silenced her and walked out. Despite the pain, I forced open my eyes and looked at her, pleading with her silently to let me down. She hesitated a moment and I decided to take a chance. “Please help me. This hurts. Please. I’m dying.” My voice shook as I said this. It was okay to keep it all inside, but the moment I spoke the words out loud it brought a new sense of finality to it. I was going to die, I already knew that, but now it seemed just too real, too close. There was just so much I wanted to tell Kira. Explain to her that anything I might have said before, I didn’t mean it. I closed my eyes as I felt them watering. Her hand touched my face and I opened my eyes looking into eyes full of concern. I could have tried to attack her, but I needed her help. “Please.” “I’m sorry,” she said almost sadly taking her hand away. I watched as she walked away, my arms and legs trembling. Staying in this position was torture, all my weight supported by my toes that were hardly touching the ground. Any small movement sent me rocking back and forth as if on a swing, sending spasms of pain up my arm. A wave of sickness hit me and I bent over slightly retching. I wanted to get down from here, I couldn’t stay like this forever. I called out to Blake again. He couldn’t be far. After a while my voice broke from all the screaming and yelling I’d done. I stayed in that position for hours and as the day, or night—whatever period of time it was—wore on, I felt the withdrawal symptoms gradually going away. The door to my cage was flickering in and out as I hovered on the edge of the realm of the living. I felt really sick and exhausted. I was really hoping for my body to give out so I could take a long sleep, but every once in a while someone would come in a jerk me awake again. Blake came in after I was newly brought back to the land of the living. He was with another group of people, and the girl wasn’t with them. I was untied and fell to the ground with a cry. I was too weak to pick myself up and had to be lifted by two of the men and carried out the room. As they did that, my head lolled and my feet dragged on the floor. I was too weak to protest, to move. I was lead down the hallway to another room and then unceremoniously thrown in.

Groaning, I rolled over on my back and looked around the too bright room. It was a bigger cell than the one I was in earlier. Someone else was in here; I could smell her blood and who ever it was rushed over to my side. “Kira?” I gasped surprised once I realized who it was. “Did he hurt you?” “No,” she replied She pulled me closer to her and casing waves of pain, shooting up my arms. I stayed quiet and let her hug me. Until her hand moved closer to my face and I pushed her away. “Are you okay?” She asked concerned, as I wiggled away from her touch. “Yeah, I’m fine,” I lied. I could tell she didn’t believe me, but she kept quiet. Before she had a chance to ask any questions, Blake reentered with three other soldiers. “I hope you two are having fun.” Blake asked smirking. “Let him go Blake,” Kira said angrily. “I will when I’m done with him,” he said calmly. He turned to one of his soldiers. “One of you hold her back, someone else chain him.” I didn’t try to stop them; there was no point. Blake won. It didn’t matter now when Blake planned to kill me. I was going to die soon anyway. Unless I got blood from something. I was chained to the wall and then ice-cold water thrown over my back and I gasped involuntarily. Then the whipping started. I screamed as the hooks in the whip dug into my skin, ripping it off as it was pulled away. It hurt more than anything I had ever experienced. I wanted to die. It was so painful. Behind me I could hear Kira, hysterical calling out for him to stop, but he wouldn't. I lost track of time as this happened and saw darkness edge up on the side of my vision. This needed to stop. "What do you want me to do?" I cried in anguish, after a bout of sickness. "Whatever you want me to do, I'll do it. I'll do anything." "Kill Kira." "Let me go and I'll do it," I said hollowly. I was released and took a while getting to my feet. I was bloodied, sick and wanted this all to end. Right now. Slowly, I walked over to Kira and once she saw that I was going after her, she tried getting away from the man that was holding her, her eyes wild. "Seth, stop, you don't want to do this," she said scared. "Yes, I do," I said, licking my lips. The man holding her released him and I went after him, and bit him, moaning in pleasure. Finally! I took as much from him as quickly as possible. I didn't realize up until that moment, just how much I needed it. Completely lost in the moment, I didn't realize that Blake and the other two had come up behind me. I was pulled off my victim and shoved onto the floor. One of the men, helped the other guy to his feet while Blake and a friend came after me. I tried to pick myself up off the ground and my legs were knocked from under me. I knew how much Blake wanted me dead and I wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of seeing me go easily. I tired getting up again, and this time I almost made it to my feet and the guy behind me stomped on my ankle. I cried out in pain and didn’t see Blake bring his foot back. The next thing I knew, I was descending rapidly into darkness.

Kira and Seth I watched in horror as Blake’s foot made contact with the side of Seth’s head. I heard a crack when the impact was made and started straining against my captor fearing the worst as Blake ordered Seth’s release and he fell to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut. Laughing. Blake motioned for his men to leave the room, leaving Seth and I alone. I ran over to Seth’s body and was relieved that he was still alive, just unconscious. His head wound bothered me. There had been an audible cracking and the area was bleeding, and that wasn’t the only place. His back was stripped raw with huge chunks missing and his arms looked like someone had started eating away at it. He was loosing a lot of blood and I knew that if I didn’t heal him now, he would surely die. Unfortunately, Blake had made sure that I couldn’t use my powers to heal him. I found it surprising just how much you could hate someone. I couldn’t believe I had ever wanted to be with him. It made me sick just thinking about it. Shaking my head to clear my thoughts, I got up and looked around. I wouldn’t be able to help Seth by sitting there thinking about Blake. I had to get him out of here. The door, obviously, would be locked, but the window might be breakable. Going over to it, I saw that using the window as an escape root would be impossible; the drop would be too steep and we’d never survive that. There had to be something in this room blocking my powers. I had just started searing for the source when I hear an awful coughing sound. Rushing over to Seth, it looked like he was chocking on something. In an attempt to help him cough it up, I turned him on his side and watched disgusted as vomit flew out his mouth. He was not even awake and was already throwing up. It made me wonder just what else was done to him. As tenderly as I could, I pulled his body away from that mess and sat by him, my hatred for Blake and Ocelot steadily growing. They shouldn’t be able to get away with this with impunity. As I held Seth’s hand in my own, willing him to wake, I felt him stirring. He opened his eyes and immediately shielded them before struggling to a sitting position. I could tell that the light was seriously hurting him by the way he looked at me through narrowed eyes. “I’m so sorry, Kira,” he said hoarsely not quite meeting my eyes. Why was it that every time he began a conversation it was always with an apology? “It’s not your fault.” “I should never have doubted you.” I frowned. What was de talking about? Before I could ask, I felt his grip on my hand relax and when I looked back up at his face, I saw that his eyes were closing. I had a nagging fear that if he closed his eyes again he wouldn’t wake back up. I dug my nails into his hand, but he didn’t appear to notice. With his other injuries, what I was doing didn’t make a difference. “Seth, don’t close your eyes. Stay awake,” I pleaded. His eyes slowly opened and I could tell it was a struggle. Blake if I ever see you again, I’ll kill you for this.

Blake took that moment to enter and his eyes locked on Seth’s hand in mine before flicking from my face to Seth. He looked angrily at Seth who looked defeated. With one gloved hand, Blake reached down and began to pull Seth up by his hair. Seth grimaced, released my hand and got up. As soon as he was standing, Blake shoved him out the door. I followed them out calling out for Blake to stop. As I rushed down the hall after them, I felt my powers return to me and used earth magic to build a wall preventing them from going any further. Blake turned around and glared at me. I looked back at him defiantly, daring him to come after me. Blake rushed towards me, his sword in his hand. I looked past him to Seth and saw him slumped against the wall I erected. Blake would pay for what he did to Seth. As soon as he was a few meters away I forcefully slammed him against the wall using wind magic. I started walking towards him, bringing out my bow and nocking an arrow. Blake rushed towards Seth and pressed the edge of his sword against Seth’s neck. “Back off or he dies,” Blake ordered. I ignored him I knew that I could kill Blake without hurting Seth. I shifted my aim and Blake pressed harder against Seth’s throat causing rivulets of blood to run down his neck. I stopped and let the weapons fade away. I couldn’t risk it. Blake laughed, “I knew it. Now lower the wall.” I did as he said and saw five guards waiting on the other side. One of them came and held me back while Blake shoved Seth into the arms of two others. “I hate you Blake,” I spat watching Blake walk away with Seth limping along in front. I was lead back to the cell I was in earlier and again ice-cold water was splashed over me jerking me awake before I was pushed into a chair and chained to it. “You’re not getting off that easily,” Blake snarled. “Now when your trial begins you must say that you’re guilty.” “Never,” I croaked. Blake pressed a button on the object he was holding and volts of electricity went through my body setting my blood on fire. I screamed in agony, as the intensity seemed to increase. Suddenly it stopped and I sat there panting, my body twitching. Blake told me to plead guilty again, and again I refused. The torture resumed. I wished I had listened to Kira, then none of this would be happening and I wouldn’t be here on the verge of submitting to Blake’s will. I felt my resistance breaking and didn’t have the strength to fight it anymore. I knew that no matter how much I didn’t want to, I would end up giving Blake exactly what he wanted and there would be no turning back. Blake stopped the current and just watched me as I sat there trying to get my body back under control. Even though the current had stopped, what hurt the most was feeling my blood burning and running through my body. “This is the last time,” Blake said calmly. “Tell them you’re guilty.” “Whatever you want,” I said defeated. Blake smiled. “So you agree that you’re guilty of any and all crimes?” “Yes.”

“Say it.” “I’m guilty,” I said hollowly. Blake’s smile broadened. “See? It wasn’t that hard. What do you think?” I wasn’t going to respond, but when his finger hovered over the button, I hurriedly agreed with him. He walked out the cell and motioned for someone else to enter. I was released from the chair and a package was thrown to me. It was soft and this confused me. It was so different from the treatment I had received so far, that I was immediately distrustful of it. “Put it on,” Blake ordered. “Your trial begins in an hour. Enjoy your last moments of your life.” Everyone walked out the cell and the last of my reserve of strength failed me and I collapsed staring blankly at the place where Blake had been. It was too much. It was just too much. I put my head in my hand and broke down and cried. I sat at the front of the courtroom waiting for Seth to come it. There was no way that the Judge was going to let Seth go. First, he was appointed by the Elders and the Elders, Blake especially wanted Seth dead. All the elders wanted Seth dead from the time they heard that Seth was the one who came up with the plan to surround us. When Seth limped in I gasped. He looked defeated, his shoulders slumped. He wasn’t fighting like he did last time He no longer had the quiet confidence that was characteristic of him. I tried to catch his eye, but he wouldn’t look at me. I wondered what had happened to him to have him act like this. Alex, the judge, started asking Seth questions about his role in the war and Seth answered each one of the questions quietly. Finally, the charges were read. Some of them were just so farfetched I couldn’t believe that Alex had the nerve to say them. It was a war, for god’s sake! Things like that happened and everybody was guilty of murder. How could Seth be made to take the blame for that? As the last charge was read, I felt like standing up and telling Alex that he was crazy. How could anyone believe that Seth had initiated the war? He wasn’t even leader when the war started. In all of this I saw Blake’s hand and I wanted to strangle him. “How do you plead?” Alex asked. I could sense everyone leaning forward in their seat as Seth cleared his throat and prepared to answer. It was like they were all watching a play in which Seth was the main player. His answer shocked us all. “Guilty.” Cries of surprise erupted and people started talking to each other trying to understand what had happened. I just sat there mutely starting at Seth’s back and Alex tried to quiet the courtroom. What had Blake done to Seth to make him admit to a crime he didn’t commit? It wasn’t fair. Nothing about Seth’s trial was fair. Alex asked Seth if he was sure and Seth nodded. I felt sick as I watched as Seth was lead out the courtroom. Just as they were about to leave, Blake stepped forward and said something to Seth who agreed to whatever it was.

Angry about how everything ended, I stormed out the room to the prison. I had to speak to Seth one last time. Back at the cell I laid down on my stomach to rest. It was extremely difficult to be in that courtroom and hear everyone’s heart beating. I wanted so badly to attack someone. I was so thirsty… I heard someone coming, but still kept my head buried in my arms. I didn’t have the patience to deal with whoever it was. I had been partly healed by one of Blake’s men before the trial began. I had not even been awake when it happened, but when I woke up, I saw Blake standing over me telling me that he was going to make me suffer like no man had ever suffered before. I believed him. “Why did you plead guilty?” It was Kira and she sounded slightly pissed. She also smelled like Vanilla. I hadn’t noticed that before… “Leave me alone. I can’t deal with this shit right now.” “What the hell is your problem? After Blake took you away, you’ve changed. What happened?” “Go away,” I said. I really didn’t want her to leave, but I was having difficulty thinking straight with her in the room. The smell of her blood was overpowering and I felt my mouth water. I had to get her away from me before I did something to her that I’d regret. I wanted to give in to the beast within me, become everything Blake said that I was, but it would mean killing Kira and I couldn’t let that happen. As Kira turned to leave, an immense wave of sadness washed over me. I couldn’t push her away like this, without an explanation. And this would probably be the last time I would see her. “I don’t want to die without seeing you smile again,” I said calling out to her and turning to face her for the first time. “Then why do you want me to leave?” She asked coming back into the cell. I knew that what I had to say was going to scare her, but she had to know. “You have to understand that, no matter how much I wished it were different, I’m a Vampire and right now, what I need more than anything is blood. You have no idea how hard it is for me to hold back. When I look at you right now, I don’t see a friend—a lover—but I see prey. And at the end of the day, someone has to die, and I’d prefer if it were me.” Saying all that exhausted me and I wanted to just close my eyes and let this all fade away. “I don’t want to see you die,” Kira said softly touching my arm. “I just don’t know how I ‘m going to live without you.” She was crying now, and I struggled to open my eyes and look at her. She looked so sad. I whished there was someway this didn’t have to happen. Slowly, I moved to a sitting position and pulled her so she could sit beside me. “Where’s that beautiful smile that I love? Come on, Gatakrí, don’t cry.” I wiped her tears away and kissed her forehead while holding her close. I knew that I was taking a risk doing this, but I just wanted to hold her. In all honesty, I wanted to do more than that. She slowly stopped crying and I kissed her again.

“I never want you to leave me,” she said. I brushed the side of her face and then ran my teeth lightly along the side of her neck and she shivered. I smiled. What I would give to have one more night with her and fully appreciate her reaction. I tried not to taste her blood in my mouth because then I’d loose all semblance of control if I did, and kissed her lips, trying to show her that I didn’t want to leave her either. This time I was greedy, taking as much as I could without hurting her. I pushed myself closer to her and if Blake hadn’t come in when he did, in another moment, I would have been on top of her. I was pulled off Kira and shoved on the ground. Kira tried to run to me and we held hands briefly before she was pulled away. Blake took a few steps towards me, brought his arm back and wacked me across my face. I swallowed knowing that this time it was going to be really bad. I was taken to Blake’s house and while waiting for him to show up, I looked at what Seth had placed in my hand before I was dragged away. It was the necklace I thought I’d lost. How did Seth find it? It put it back around my neck and thought about how scared he looked when Blake entered. The fear in his eyes didn’t do anything to make me feel better. Blake entered the room, slamming the door behind him and I turned to glare at him. “Just tell me, Kira. What does Seth have that I don’t?” Blake asked sounding hurt. “Seth doesn’t take enjoyment out of hurting others. He’s caring. If you don’t understand that, you have problems.” As I said that I thought of Seth wanting to be with him. Blake reached out to grab me, but it was too late, he was too far away and couldn’t stop me. Seth was already out on the stage and I pushed forward and then tied to run on stage to him, but was held back. “Don’t kill him Alex,” I cried. “He’s innocent.” I listed various reasons why I knew Seth should be released. Foremost among them was the fact that Seth had save Blake. “Why should I believe you?” Alex asked. “He’s innocent,” I repeated. “He was tortured into saying that he’s guilty.” Alex laughed and my face flushed with anger. “Just ask him,” I snapped. Alex, smiling, turned to Seth. “Is she telling the truth? Did Blake torture you?” “No,” Seth said looking away from me. I was shocked. What did Seth think he was doing? He didn’t have to protect Blake. “I’m telling the truth,” I protested. “Blake must have some kind of control over him. Please believe me I—” “Kira!” I turned and saw Blake standing there. “How could you fall for him?” “You bastard!” I hissed as I flew towards him at top speed. Blake’s guards used wind magic to push me to the side before striping me of my powers. “Tell them the truth!” I demanded. “That’s enough!” Alex roared. “I’ve decided that Seth will be burned alive immediately.”

“No!” I cried turning back towards Seth. “You people are making a mistake, you’re—” “Kira,” Seth sounded tired and his voice was breaking. “We both know they’re wrong. Don’t try to fight anymore. Please.” For Seth’s sake, I held my peace. He smiled at me, but looked sad. I wished I could have helped him more. Tears streamed silently down my face as I watched the executioner approach Seth with a flambeau. He set fire to the pile of kindling at Seth’s feet. Seth flinched as the flames licked at his feet, but didn’t break eye contact with me. I didn’t know how he could keep quiet, but somehow he did. I love you, Kira, he mouthed before his eyes became distant. His expression changed and he looked peaceful. Kira’s crying face gradually faded from in front of me. Instead I saw an image of Claire silhouetted against a bright white light. I smiled as she beckoned me to follow her and then turned and walked into the light. I followed her and as I did so, the light grew brighter until there were no more shadows and it swallowed me whole. I screamed when I saw his head fall to his chest and cried out even harder. Seth had died and I was left all alone. People stared me, but I didn’t care. Seth was my world and now he was gone. Epilogue Brett The war was clearly over, but we were still here fighting. Fighting just to make sure that every last one of them was dead. It was genocide of mass proportion, but I couldn’t say anything about it. I was just a regular soldier, no special rank, no powers—magical or otherwise. It was on one of those pointless extermination missions when I thought I saw Seth. He had cut his hair since I last saw him, but it was definitely him. On the pretense of going to fight him, I rushed over, my falchion drawn. As I got closer, I noticed a few subtle differences in how he looked and held himself. “Seth?” I said tentatively. The other man shook his head and smiled. “Close. I’m Luke. Seth is my brother. And he’s dead.” “What, how?” It didn’t seem possible. Even though we were pounding on the remnants of Agrona everyday, I didn’t want to believe that he was dead. In the short time I was around him, I found that he had an interesting view on the world and life in general. He was someone I would have liked to know. “Blake,” Luke responded jarring me from my memories. Suddenly he stepped forward and impaled himself on my sword. I cursed knowing that there was nothing I could do to help him and ran back to the base. I had to speak to my commanding officer and find out if what Luke had said was true. Unfortunately it was. Listed among the newly executed was Seth’s name. The colonel gave me another, horrible bit of information: Seth had

confessed to everything. That seemed unlikely. There had to be something more to that story. Luckily, tonight was my last night on the front and I’d be heading back home tomorrow morning. I called Matt and the others who were with me the day we went to rescue Kira. We got together as we ate our meal around the fire and agreed to meet the following day at noon after I talked to Kira. We all knew that he would never back down without a fight. Arguing with him taught me that much. The man was resolute. Kira, when I finally saw her was a wreck. Her eyes were red and puffy as if she had been crying for days, and she no longer carried herself with confidence. She was a shadow of what she used to be and that was being generous. The information she gave me about Seth’s death and torture before that was as shocking as it was repugnant. How Blake could stoop so low was beyond me. I would have expected someone from Agrona to use torture. Not someone from here when it wasn’t even allowed. I rushed back to my friends and as we walked over to Alex’s house, I told them everything Kira told me. Matt looked visibly sick and I thought for a moment that he would throw up. It was not an easy task to convince Alex to call Blake in for questioning. We only had Kira’s word and our gut feeling to work with. But Alex eventually decided to call Blake in. “To humor us,” he said. Once Blake was there, he denied everything that we said and seemed horrified that we would even accuse him of doing something like that. However, the guard he had beside him, seemed uncomfortable and on sudden impulse, I turned to him and started asking him questions. Unlike Blake, he broke down and confessed to everything. He explained in vivid detail exactly what had been done to Seth. Talking over Blake who tried vainly to shut him up, he told us of how he had trouble sleeping, still hearing Seth’s cries. Alex became enraged and hastily sent us out. I never knew what happened next, but Alex somehow got Blake and everyone who participated in Seth’s torture to make a public confession. The guard who squealed later killed himself. I didn’t want anything to do with the aftermath and spent the next few weeks away from the front. On the third day of my self-imposed exile, Kira came to see me. She looked radiant, much better than she ever had. “Thank you,” she said smiling and wrapping her arms around me. “For what?” I asked. I didn’t see what I did as something so big. It was what anyone would have done. “For trusting me.” As Kira turned and walked away, I wondered if anything could possibly happen between Kira and I. The future seemed endless and anything was possible.

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