The shape shifters appear around us. Almost as if they have teleported themselves from over a mile away. I am going to have to learn that trick too. It’ll come in handy for those times I need to make a fast get-away.
The Shadow Kin vanish as if they hadn’t existed. Naeraeus looks at me. “Friends of yours?”
I shake my head. “Nope. More like friends of my cousin and her benefactor.”
“Witch Doctor is the benefactor of no one.” Naeraeus glares at me. “He only takes in those whose souls are black and those he can use up. When her power is all used up, he will allow her to be destroyed…or worse.”
“Worse?” I blink with surprise.
“If he tires of her, he will feed her to the ghouls or mutates. Or even turn her over to the vampires so they can toy with her.” He doesn’t even blink. He says it all as if he has no real feelings about the whole thing.”
“Seems such a horrible way to go.” I reply dryly.
“Indeed.” He avers without emotion.
“What of The Creeper?” I try to change the subject.
He does not answer. I assume that it is because he doesn’t have an answer. Or is there a bit of reluctance to discuss the ugly little monster? I do not know. And I press him no further.
“Thanks for saving us, but I could have handled them.” I sound so sure of myself.
“I have no doubt.” He shrugs. “But we are already late in resuming our trek west to the missions. Do not forget that you have obligations to the refugees.”
I nod curtly. I hate being reminded of the obvious. Still, I do not say anything. It goes against my better judgment to do so. Besides. I can’t afford to anger my guests.
Two days have passed. We are so much closer to our destination. We pause, from time to time, to allow the refugees to rest–even sleep. Feels odd to do so, though. I do not rest. Neither do the Grigori.
But these humans need their rest. They can’t go for days like I can. Vampires would see that as a weakness. I do not.
I envy them. I wish I could be like them. I long to be like them. I simply want to be normal again. A human.
I am angry about my current status. I hate the hunger. I hate the hunt. I hate being dead, for all intents and purposes.
But I have no say in the matter. I was changed. Therefore, I must do what comes as second nature. But I don’t have to like it.
I just have to make sure I do not victimize any humans. I cannot drink their blood. Besides, even the thought makes me physically ill. So I hunt small animals.
I pull myself out of my thoughts. As I climb to the brow of a hill, I see what I dread the most. Vassare has discovered our route. Not a good sign.
He sees me and yells. “Hi, good-a-looking! Nice-a-to see you! Still not-a-willing to join me in marriage?”
I frown. “What do you think you want? I have already told you no. Leave me be.”
“Now-a-I cannot do-a-that. You know-a-that. Besides. I will-a-get a yes out of you yet.” He grins evilly.
“Over my dead body.” I glare at him.
“Now-a-that has already been arranged. See, you are-a-dead already.” He thinks he is being funny.
I shake my head. “You just don’t get it.”
“Get-a-what?” He blinks, surprised.
He has completely ignored my hands, which now hold both swords…drawn. I make a parry and a thrust. Again, I take his arm. “Now you know?”
He howls in pain and vanishes. I turn to see Naeraeus watching. Grinning. I return to the group.
“A friend of yours?” He sounds amused.
“No.” My tone is icy. “He is the one who turned me.”
“Ah. Vassare The Fool.” He is on the verge of laughter.
“What does that mean?” I know he knows something.
“The only reason Kalkolides keeps Him around is for his amusement. He loves to see Vassare dissected.” He finally shows some form of disgust. “Vassare was an Italian Count. Not a very good one, but still a Count. He was a coward as well, hence his propensity for running from an unfinished battle and his boastful talk. He promised Kalkolides he would change, turn into a valiant warrior, and fight great battles for him. The one thing he was never able to get over was his great lust for women. He has several wives within Kalkolides’ clan, but has never remained loyal to them.
“His fascination with you is due to your ability to continually rebuff him. He has never been refused or kept at bay until you. You should feel honored. He will end up dying at your hand.”
I try not to smile, but do so despite myself. “I see.”
Naeraeus smiles serenely. “A glorious day it will be, too. But you will have to face your cousin and overcome her as well. But do not worry. You will be with the one who can destroy the Witch Doctor.”
I thrill at his words. Yet, I feel as if he has kept something back. something important. Still, I do not press him. He will tell me when the time is right. Now is not that time.
we walk on in silence. I lose myself in thought, watching out for ghouls. I feel a change begin. In time, I will know more about this. But right now, I must remain ever vigilant.
As dark falls, We draw near to the missions. I hold up my hand and the group stops. “We will stop here. Tomorrow, we will reach the missions. But we will not be allowed to enter if we approach tonight. no one enters at night.”
Naeraeus nods and directs the Grigori to set up camp for the humans. Tonight, we will stand guard over them. Tomorrow, we will get them safely to the missions.