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A Shade of Vampire 39: A Rip of Realms

By´╝ÜBella Forrest

Benedict


I must have dozed off again, because when I woke Yelena was gone. At first I thought I was having another nightmare; the floor was rumbling and the bed was vibrating so violently, I was almost shaken off. A loud crash made me jump up—the chest of drawers had fallen forward, and the wood had split in two from the force of the impact.

“Get up!” Ruby cried, slamming open the door to my room.

“What’s going on?” I shouted, running after her.

Ruby yelled back a reply, but I didn’t hear it. Bookcases, chests and tapestries were crashing to the floor. The castle was being hit with shock after shock of what I could only assume was an earthquake—the gray stones of the room were shifting in the walls, and it didn’t feel like it would be long until the entire castle came crashing down around us.

“It won’t open!” Yelena yelled over at Ruby. Both girls were by the entrance doors to our quarters, furiously trying to shove them open.

“I think they’re blocked.” Ruby grunted with the effort of pushing open the heavy wood frame. She managed to press the door partly ajar. “There’s a crack… I can see rubble. I think we’re trapped!”

“Is anyone going to come help us?” another one of the kids cried out, waving their arms about in front of the windows. Ruby snorted with derision.

“Unlikely. We need to get ourselves out of here.”

“Servants’ entrance,” Julian croaked from the small door where he was standing with Jenney, both of them holding onto the walls as the floor shifted wildly beneath them. “We can get out through the kitchen.”

“Okay, kids!” Ruby barked at the cowering children. Some were hiding under coffee tables in the hope that the wooden surfaces would save them, others followed Julian and Jenney’s lead, backing up against the shifting, shaking walls. “We need to stick together, okay? Just follow me. Keep your eyes on one of us”—she pointed at me, Julian and Jenney—“at all times. Don’t run off, no matter how scared you might get. We’re all going to get out of here in one piece.”

I started toward the door, letting Ruby lead the way.

“Do you think it’s the entity?” Yelena asked me breathlessly as we ran down the stone staircase to the servant quarters.

“No idea,” I replied, lying. Had it been anywhere other than Nevertide, I would have assumed that this was a regular earthquake. But this was Nevertide, and I was pretty certain that there would be some entity-shaped reason as to why this was happening. All around us I could hear the crashes of stone tumbling to the ground, the sounds of tearing, ripping, metals being crushed and annihilated under rock.

Up ahead, Ruby pushed open the door to the kitchen. I heard the thunderous blaze of fire erupting from the room even before the flames flickered out from the door.

“We need to find another way!” Ruby cried, both she and Jenney forcing the door back as it lit up their faces and scorched the outside of the frame, instantly blistering the wood and leaving it charcoal black.

“I know a way!” Jenney called back, gesturing to us all to follow her. She ran forward, past the kitchen and into the labyrinth of the servant quarters. The ceilings were low here, and I was already starting to feel claustrophobic, like the walls were closing in on us with every step. Luckily, the stone remained intact, though I didn’t think it would stay that way for long.

We moved further along the corridor. Now I couldn’t see any light ahead, only the silhouettes of the kids, visible in the firelight that had now fully erupted through the kitchen door behind us, casting its light through the tunnels. I could feel the heat of it on my back as I ran, praying that the kids would move faster.

Yelena reached back to grab my hand, and my fingers closed around hers. I focused on the back of her head and the occasional glimpse of her profile as she glanced back to double-check I was okay.

The corridor started to open out a bit, and Jenney slammed her body against a small wooden door. I recognized it as the side-entrance to the castle, the one that Ash had used to smuggle us in with the root cart. It felt like a lifetime ago.

“It’s locked!” she cried out to Ruby. Julian rushed forward to help her push against it, but was clearly still too weak from his time spent in Queen Trina’s castle. The door didn’t budge. I looked around for something that we could use to force it open—something sharp and solid…

I let go of Yelena’s hand, spying a bronze vulture head that had fallen to the ground.

“Julian, help me!” I called out, waving toward the fallen ornament. The skull was too heavy for me to pick up by myself, so I started to drag it across the floor. Julian hadn’t heard me, but in a moment, Ruby was by my side, and together we heaved the ornament off the floor and staggered toward the door.

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