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A Shade of Vampire 41: A Tide of War

By´╝ÜBella Forrest

Benedict





We walked away from our family and friends, leaving them to face the enemy while we searched for the jinn that GASP and Tejus still believed could be hiding somewhere in Nevertide. I couldn’t speak for Julian, but walking away—along the main road that crossed the land, in the opposite direction from the cove—was one of the hardest things I’d ever done.

I didn’t look back. I kept my eyes on the road ahead, the map that Tejus had drawn clutched in my hand. There would be a turn-off that we had to take to make our way up to the Dauoa Forest. Until then, we just had to keep going straight, moving as briskly as we could. On the main path we were exposed, but the further we walked, the less I felt like we were in danger. Nevertide felt like a ghost land. Empty land which had once been farmed was now burnt, smoke still wafting up into the sky. Parts of the earth had fallen into the craters caused by the earthquake—huge pits where the ground had just slid into nothingness, caverns so deep that none of us, not even the Hawks, Ridan or jinn, could make out the bottom.

Yelena walked by my side, but we didn’t speak. In the distance, we could all hear the sounds of the battle starting. I doubted that any of us had much to say. We were all lost in our own thoughts, no doubt wondering whether or not any of this would be successful—the battle or our mission. And if it wasn’t, how long we would manage to stay alive.

I was glad that we’d taken Ridan, Horatio and Aisha with us now. I’d been skeptical at first because it kind of felt like they were babysitting us, but I’d had my fair share of experiences in the forests of Nevertide and I didn’t really relish the idea of venturing inside them again without some magic on our side.

Along with the two jinn and Ridan, the half-Hawk boys Field, Fly and Sky had joined us. I didn’t know them very well, even though Field was technically my half-cousin, or something like that, but the Hawk boys tended to keep to themselves. They were friendly, but they intimidated me a little. Maybe it was because they looked so cool. They were all tall, with toned muscles that made them look tough despite their long hair, and I had always been jealous of their wings. They protruded from their shoulder blades, each feather as black as night and so sharp at the tip that they looked like daggers.

Yeah. The Hawks were badass, and sometimes I wished I was one of them.

I glanced over at Julian. For a while now he had been intermittently looking up at the sky. I guessed he was checking to see if we were being followed by the shadow. I didn’t bother doing the same—we would all feel it long before we saw it, that strange sense of dread and sickness that swirled in the stomach and made the hairs on the back of our necks prick up.

“I think we turn here,” I said, seeing an old, dilapidated stone barn. I checked the map that Tejus had made. The barn had been marked as the turning point. Now we would go off road, traveling north till we reached the forests.

“We should fly ahead,” Field replied, turning to his brothers before looking off in the distance.

“Agreed,” said Ridan. “Let’s all meet again at the foot of the forests.”

The landscape was bare, but it dipped and rose at certain points. Some of the grassy hills were so high that we could only see the tips of the mountains from where we stood.

“I can’t actually tell from this map how far it is to the forest,” I mused, staring down at the piece of paper that Tejus had shoved in my hand. It had been drawn in a hurry by the sentry, and there were no proper landmarks detailed from here to our destination.

“Hopefully not far,” Fly replied. His gray-blue eyes scanned the torn sky, and the boy shuddered. “We’ll check the coast is clear, then come back and pick you up.”

The Hawk boys, in perfect unison, jumped up, springing off the balls of their feet. In mid-air, their wings expanded and they shot up into the sky, then soared off in the direction of the mountains—Ridan joining them.

“Wow,” Yelena breathed, “they’re so cool.”

I sighed. “Yeah, they are.”

“Wouldn’t you want to fly if you could?” she murmured.

“Yeah… We should keep moving anyway.” I started to head off the path, kicking the dry stones with the toes of my boots.

Horatio and Aisha followed us, speaking in hushed tones that I couldn’t hear properly, but every so often I heard them mention Riza, their baby girl. I imagined they were both missing her.

My backpack was starting to feel heavy, and I trudged along, wishing that I had thought to ask the Hawks to carry us.

“They’re heading back,” Aisha announced, stopping.

I could see the faint pinpricks of the Hawks in the distance. I dropped my bag down and sat on it, waiting for them to arrive.

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