Shade closed her eyes and concentrated a small amount of Lifeblood around her nose, enhancing her sense of smell. She’d learned to do that the first time she transformed from human to full-Del’Praeli to hunt. Focusing her Lifeblood had been difficult in that state. Doing so had straightened out one of her senses, for that moment.
It took her awhile to sort through the Bria leaking from the Power Poles and the Lifeblood belonging to other Del’Praeli.
A sharp power surrounded the village. It smelled similar to the one she caught a hint of in De’Ray Was that same being nearby?
The power burned through her nose. The new Darkness took over. It felt delicious as it passed through her. It called to her Lifeblood in a voice that left it swooning. The desire to kill was stronger. She wanted to return to De’Ray and devour ten times her weight in humans.
No, she wanted to go cabin to cabin and eat the flesh of those who did nothing but beat her. No one would blame her.
Vayle’s face popped into her head. The voices in Darkness no longer filled her with a desire for revenge. They spoke two names in reverence as though they were nobility, one she recognized— Sie and Phoenix.
Who were those creatures? Were they the one’s turning the Darkness into something so beautiful? Shade wanted to feed it her own Lifeblood. She wanted it everywhere and always.
Shade wished more to strip and jump in the river. In Raesul, her figure had always been a source of pain. She loved the human city for that. She didn’t have to hide her figure. She didn’t have to rely on others if a human male stepped out of line.
Wraith growled. Shade didn’t need him to tell her she was no longer the only one walking the village. Sighing, she stood. They smelled of humans. Blood saturated them, overpowering their natural scent. They hadn’t been around a bleeding human. They’d killed a human with their bare hands. The blood had a familiar sweet tinge. She couldn’t place it.
Del’Praeli attacked her during the day in the middle of a crowd. She didn’t want to imagine what, she smelled, eight full Del’Praeli would do to her alone at night.
Vayle taught her to find an exit first. She should use her Lifeblood only if she couldn’t locate a way out of danger.
Their scent melted all rational thoughts. The blood wasn’t on them. It smelled as if it was their skin. Their bodies were a mass of Lifeblood and tangible Darkness- human-like figures made of black flames. It flowed like her hair. How was this possible? They swayed as though inebriated.
Wraith growled. Their scent pooled over them. The wind carried it into her nose. The blood was Del’Praeli. It also had a strong smell of human. Shade knew this blood, knew she had encountered it once before.
Shade wanted to lick their skin. No matter how much the scent pulled at her core, she wouldn’t eat her own kind. Wraith whined. He backed up. His body rested on Shade’s leg. The connection eased the desire.
Shade wanted to peel off their skin and wear it. She sidestepped in the direction of Savage Hall. One blocked her way. She hadn’t known any Del’Praeli besides Vayle who could move that fast. Without the moon, she couldn’t sceadu or gather enough Lifeblood to defend herself. They hadn’t surrounded her. She could run. Shade couldn’t bring herself to leave like some scared darkling.
“What are you doing here, half-breed?”
One separated from the group. Shade stepped back.
“My friend asked you a question.” This voice was female.
Vayle told her not to touch her reserve Lifeblood. If she needed to expel power, she should absorb Bria, have her Lifeblood mold it, then use that. Tonight, she had no other option. She touched Wraith’s head, commanding her Lifeblood to create a shield around him.
She breathed in and out, concentrating on the warm pulsing points at her joints. Her Fykas. Vayle warned her not to use them since passing Lifeblood through those heated gates produced unfortunate affects. With one sharp release of her breath, Shade closed them all.
She pictured the attack and commanded her Lifeblood to create it. It was one of the strongest attacks Vayle had taught her and one he ordered her not to use unless necessary. Shade felt her Lifeblood’s pain as though it was her own and hoped It would forgive her.
Those strange Del’Praeli were gracious enough to wait for her. The blow that should’ve left them screaming only caused them to stagger. Shade couldn’t do it again. Her Lifeblood was inactive and would remain so until It absorbed more Bria or grabbed power from Vayle. She pulled her hair out of her face. They surrounded her.
She touched Wraith’s head. She couldn’t take his Lifeblood. He could pass power to her. Since Wraith stored Lifeblood but rarely used it, he had plenty to spare. Fortunately, her own dark power was too weak to reject the infusion.
Shade’s lips stretched in a grin of sharp teeth. She didn’t worry about consequences. For the first time, she could unleash her power on those who thought she was inferior. How she wanted to kill them.
They stepped forward and were gone. Not gone—disappeared from all senses.
One reappeared close enough to make her vision go cross. A viscous stabbing pain shot through her shoulder. An arm of Darkness was buried deep in her skin. It had shoved its shadowed hand through her shoulder. She hadn’t seen it move. Why did it feel like this monster was pulling her arm off? A million knives clawed through her skin. It grabbed a chunk of her flesh and it pulled out.
It inhaled the red chunk of meat, tipped its head up and dropped it into an opening Shade assumed was a mouth. It raped the tranquil air with the sound of soaked meat being crushed by thousands of sharp tiny teeth. Shade didn’t need that memory. She gathered power in her hand and wrapped Darkness around it. Her Lifeblood molded into a sword. She wasn’t great at using it, but it was all she could create.
The warm blade made a home in the shadowy brute’s neck. Using more physical strength than expected, Shade sliced the head off.
“Seriously dear,” the head said as the body picked it up, “I’m in sceadu. I can make my arm tangible to hurt you.” Its hand pierced her other shoulder, pulling out more flesh. “Or intangible, so you can’t hurt me.”
Some of Iniquity’s poison still swam through Shade’s system. It clung to her Lifeblood. Those insects latched onto her new wounds. The torment of those weakened parasites eating the inside of her injury darkened her vision.
“This was fun. We’ll have to do it again sometime.”
They were gone, really gone this time.
The insects soon stopped eating and the injuries closed. Whatever antidote Vayle used still worked.
She ran, with Wraith at her side, and didn’t slow down until she was inside Savage Hall.
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