Authors: Bella Forrest
It’d been two years since I found myself shipwrecked on that island, thinking that I’d lost all of my loved ones to
yet another cruel and bloody hunter attack. The only companion I had during my first year marooned on the island was an olive-skinned, brown-eyed, black-haired beauty. Her name was Cora and she was the only reason I was able to keep sane and alive after I thought I lost everything worth fighting for. I had no idea then exactly who and what she was, or how valuable she would eventually be to our cause.
Two years after the shipwreck, sitting in that cave, I realized that we still had a lot to fight for. I was seated on the ground, leaning against the cave wall, with Cora sitting right next to me.
My father, Gregor, sat opposite us. A huge scowl on his face showed how hungry he was. His appetite was further confirmed by the ravenous stare he was sending Cora’s way.
Cora was the only human among a cave full of hungry vampires. None of that fazed her. At my father’s predatory glare, she just smirked in response. I admired how it was practically impossible to intimidate her.
Liana Hendry was sitting near the cave entrance. She pulled her knees to her chest, shivering due to the cold. She stared blankly toward the cave opening, worry that Cameron hadn’t yet arrived evident in her eyes. He left the cave with Lucas and Xavier to scout the hunters’ location hours ago.
Beside Liana, sat Vivienne, looking unnervingly serene, her head rested on Liana’s shoulder. In the depths of her blue-violet eyes were mysteries we could only wonder about, because I couldn’t even remember the last time I heard my twin speak.
Two or three feet away from the women, Eli was drawing some sort of map on the ground with a stick. So wrapped up was he in whatever scheme he was concocting that he barely noticed how peeved his younger brother, Yuri, looked when Claudia began chatting him up and making suggestive gestures toward him. Yuri eventually snapped at her and from the look on Claudia’s face, it seemed he said something rather cutting, because it was the first time I could remember seeing such a murderous glare on her pretty face. It was only the first among many that I would see.
They comprised only some of the twenty vampire clans hidden with me in the mountain caves. Most were terrified by what the break of dawn would usher in. We were losing hope. Most of them barely made it to the island, with the hunters in relentless pursuit of them. We managed to create a diversion to give us time to hide away in the caves, but the sun was about to
rise and it seemed the hunters weren’t about to give up their chase until every single one of us was destroyed.
In cases like these, it seemed the sun was our greatest adversary. How were we to fight back and defend ourselves, when we had to
keep ourselves hidden deep in the darkness of the caves just so the sun wouldn’t destroy us first?
e wind howled outside the cave, but then came the distinct sound of footsteps approaching. I rose to my feet, my hand gripping the hilt of my sword. I let a short breath out when Cameron, Lucas and Xavier appeared from the clearing. The grave expressions on their faces told me that I had no reason to be relieved.
“They’re approaching as we speak,” Cameron announced.
I gulped, knowing that escape was impossible. “How many?”
They exchanged worried glances.
“Four or five hundred…” Xavier estimated. “Maybe six.”
“How many of us are there?” I directed my question to Eli.
He didn’t even look up to face me. “Seventy-six. Seventy-seven, if you include
” He was referring to Cora.
I stood to my full height, mustering all the courage I had to go
through with what I had in mind. “How many of us can fight?”
“You can’t seriously be considering this!” Lucas stepped forward. “They outnumber us at least five to one. We have no choice but to run.”
“Run? Run where?” I shot back at him. “Lest you forget, this is an island we’re on. If we want to reach the ship that got you here, we’d have to walk right into the hunters.”
“Most of us aren’t trained to fight,” Lucas continued to object.
“They might simply burn us,” Yuri spoke up.
“That’s exactly what they’ll do if we just sit here and wait for them.”
“What are you saying, boy?” Cameron asked.
“I don’t know about you, but I can no longer run. I say we fight for this island. We make a refuge out of it.”
The other vampires were beginning to huddle around us, listening in, curious about what was going to unfold.
“How do you propose we do that, brother?” Lucas practically spat out the words.
“We’ll make an example of these hunters. We’ll send out a clear message. Any human who enters this island can
leave again.” The moment I said the words, I immediately took notice of the shock in Cora’s eyes. I tried not to worry about her. A decision had to be made and I was clearly the only one who would make it. There was no going back for me. “We need to fight back.”
“And if we don’t succeed?”
This time, it was my father speaking as he rose to his feet. “What if the sun rises as we fight? It will be the end of all of us.”
I shrugged. “I don’t know about you, but I’d rather die fighting than running.”
And so it happened that at the darkest time of the night, we took the offensive and ran straight to the hunters. Their surprise proved to work to our advantage, but they knew that there was no way for us to finish the battle before the sun would eventually rise and defeat us on their behalf. However, as we fought for our lives against some of the best and most fearsome hunters their order sent our way, we realized that our fear of sunlight proved to be unfounded. We fought for hours – for as long as it took to destroy every hunter who dared invade us, but dawn never came.
Battle of First Blood, the island became permanently enveloped by darkness. The moon became our sun. It would be years later before we found out why, about the hand Cora played in it all. Even after I found out that she was behind it, I couldn’t fully understand why she chose to spare our lives even though it meant losing the lives of hundreds of hunters.
The others lauded the strange occurrence as a miracle. They believed that the island was truly meant to be our sanctuary,
and celebrated me for discovering it and leading them to fight for it.
I didn’t see it the same way they did. I saw it as a dark omen.
I would never forget Vivienne and me staring at the starlit sky long into the night while the others slept like babies. It seemed only my twin and I agreed on what actually happened. The fear in her violet eyes was unmistakable. After years of silence, she stared up at the night sky, grabbed my hand and said, “The darkness is coming.”
I didn’t ask her what she meant. To me,
she meant the darkness that took over The Shade signified the darkness that took over each of us during that battle, because for many of us, it was the first time we ever intentionally took human life. It was the night we drew first blood.
By the time I grew
too tired to fight, the ground of the arena was blood red, a stark reminder of the battle we fought four hundred years ago. Of all the warriors who stood within that circle, not one was able to hit me, much less wound me. They were the same men and women who drew first blood with me – only this time, they were weaker, prouder, and less resilient. In battle, I barely recognized them anymore.
I threw my weapon on the ground and
began to walk away from the training grounds, only to find Cameron approaching.
“You up for a fight, Hendry?”
“Not today, prince.” He shook his head, an amused smile forming on his face. “I came to ask if you still wanted that meeting with the council at the Great Dome.”
“Of course,” I shrugged. “Why wouldn’t I?”
He responded with a look that clearly spelled,
you should really know the answer to that.
I shuffled my feet and gave him a confused and impatient stare. He chuckled, pointing to the opponents I just fought.
“If we weren’t vampires, you would’ve already murdered more than two-thirds of the Elite council…” he smiled before adding “…your majesty.”
I fought the urge to laugh. The Elite council now consisted of a rather pathetic bunch. I just rolled my eyes and went for a quick change before I headed for the dome with Cameron.
“What do we know about Ingrid Maslen?” I asked. For reasons I couldn’t completely understand, something about the idea of Borys having a new girl didn’t sit right with me. He was after Vivienne for such a long time, bent on getting “what belonged to him”. I simply couldn’t believe that he would just let bygones be bygones and replace Vivienne with someone else, unless of course there was more to Ingrid Maslen than we knew of.
Cameron shrugged. “I’m not sure she’s even been allowed out of The Oasis ever since Borys turned her. She’s his best kept secret.”
“Any idea why she is kept under wraps?”
“Just rumors. Some say Ingrid is to The Oasis as Vivienne is to the The Shade.”
“She’s a seer?”
“Maybe… Why else would Borys be so obsessed with her? We both know how sick that man is – if we could even call him that. He wouldn’t turn a human like Ingrid and make her part of his clan unless there was something special about her.”
I couldn’t help but frown at the information, wondering to myself why it bothered me so much. Borys was no longer after my sister. I should’ve been happy. Still,
thinking about Ingrid made me feel unnerved. Something wasn’t right. I had more urgent matters to concern myself with for the time being, but I knew that someday I would have to come face-to-face with Borys Maslen again and finally lay eyes on this mysterious woman of his.
A strange sense of premonition told me that I was going to rue that day.
Blood was all over the Sun Room. The LED lights mimicking the sun’s rays were busted. The only source of light was a flickering fluorescent lamp fighting to stay alight. I was pinned against one of its walls. I couldn’t move. I was frightened. I didn’t understand what was going on. I couldn’t hear anything. My sense of touch was gone. I sensed a dark presence enter the room. A shadow. I couldn’t make out who it was. I tried to talk, but my voice came out in an inaudible rasp. The shadow approached. Its presence was so strong, so powerful, so dark. It stopped in front of me. Blood began to pool on the ground where the shady figure stood. I was expecting to see Lucas, and found myself gasping when I saw it was Derek. Blue eyes void of life. Fangs bared. Ready to prey on me. He took a hold of me. His fangs were about to sink into my skin. Then nothing. Nothing but a large, empty void and a female voice whispering, “The darkness is coming.”
I woke up
in the hotel room, sweating, tense and all out of breath. I was clutching the sheets for dear life, afraid that if I let go, I might get sucked back into the nightmare. I flinched when I heard the bathroom door open. I could smell Ben’s aftershave mixed with the fragrances of shampoo and soap. I stirred on the bed trying to shake off the effects the nightmare had on me. I was afraid for myself. I was afraid for Derek.
“Breakfast is ready
on the veranda,” Ben called. He was rubbing his hair dry, oblivious of my still trembling form.
I dragged myself out of the bed.
I can’t keep waking up this way.
I might’ve left The Shade, but the island and all its horrors were still right with me.
I pulled my hair up in a messy bun as I made my way to the veranda. I needed the sunlight to draw the lurking shadows away. Breakfast consisted of
muesli, coffee and fruit salad. I would’ve preferred some toast with jam and butter, but I wasn’t in a particularly picky mood.
Ben joined me not long after I s
ettled down in my seat.
“Mom and Dad are on their way to pick us up. We might end up staying here a couple more days. Apparently, they made a whole fuss with
the police when we disappeared…” He sat across me, looking bothered.
I cringed. “I was afraid of that. We’
ll have to talk to the police, probably even a social worker…”
“So what’s our story going to be?” He leaned back
in his seat, rolling a grape around on his plate. “We ran away? That’s it?”
“I guess we could just keep it simple by keeping our mouths shut. We ran away. Period. No need to give them any details.”
“Unless…” Ben began drumming his fingers over the top of the table.
“Unless what?” I pushed my
bowl away. It seemed neither one of us had much of an appetite that morning.
“Unless we just tell them the truth. The whole truth.”
I knew it was an option, but for reasons I couldn’t fully understand, something inside me was violently screaming against it. “We can’t do that.”
“What are we going to tell them? We were abducted by vampires and taken to an invisible island to be their slaves? … We don’t even know where The Shade is. They’re going to think we’re insane.”