The Species Within (Battles in the Dark Vol. 1)

Kira, a huntress plagued by dreams of fire and pain has worked tirelessly to rid her city of the scourge that has nearly destroyed it — nostvores, mythlend creatures with dark and vast appetites for blood and sex. She does this not only because they have killed all those she has cared for, but because she has an edge that no other human had, she has their abilities. However, these abilities were killing her and she feared time was no longer on her side.
So the moment she found out that Darius, a nostvore leader, was threatening to awaken an indestructible species to help him enslave all humans and mythlends, and that she may be the key to his plan, she knew she had no other choice. With the little time she had left, she needed to join her enemy to find out why, and to make sure his plan failed.
If that wasn’t dangerous enough, the more time she spends with the Vanatre nostvore, Emmerich, and the mooran, Kuron, the less she wants to kill them. Instead, she feels an unexplainable attraction toward them both.
But surrendering to such desire is a deadly game to play. To do so would not only be risking her life, but quite possibly her heart.
Warning: This book is intended for people 18+

“Ouch! Dammit!”

Kira stumbled in the dark as she walked down one of the city’s most dangerous alleys. The misstep resulted in her foot falling at an odd angle.
“Good one, Kira,” she mumbled to herself, limping farther into the alleyway. Alcohol wafted from her breath and clothes. She was the perfect picture of a woman who’d had too much to drink after a night out and was trying to find her way home. Her confused expression as she looked around only added to the effect.
“It’s that way,” she said, staggering around a corner before stopping abruptly. “No. That way.” She swung back around and headed in the opposite direction.
“Ggggrrrraaahhh.” A soft low growl echoed around her.
Kira spun around. “Who’s there?”
The path was empty, but she squinted, peering into the shadows.
Nothing.
Shrugging, she turned back around, and zigzagged toward another backstreet.
The farther Kira went, the darker it seemed to get. It didn’t bother her, more concerned with where she was heading.
Something clanged to the ground behind her, but she didn’t turn around. Instead, she increased her pace and headed around another corner.
The ground was uneven in this alley, making it harder for any person under the influence, let alone wearing boots, to stay upright.
“Shit,” she cried out as she fell over, landing hard on the ground. “Uggh!” she groaned as she slowly got up on her hands and knees.
There was another low guttural growl. It was closer this time — only a few yards behind her.
Finally.
A smile crept onto Kira’s face and her eyes became predatory — a swirling vortex of silver and blue.
Time to play.

Ten minutes earlier…

“Hey, beautiful, you heading in?”
Kira opened her eyes and glanced at the bouncer.
He gazed at her hungrily, looking her up and down.
She hid her disgust with the best smile she could muster. “Sure am. Just give me a moment.”
“Don’t wait too long. The fun has already started in there and I know they’re going to eat your sweet ass up the moment they see you.”
“Awesome. Just how I like it,” she coyly replied.
The bouncer grinned, showing the big gap between his two front teeth.
Kira kept smiling until she turned away.
Creep.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t the only predator she would have to deal with tonight.
Kira stood outside the downtown club Devil’s Gate. It was in an area of the city where a sensible person wouldn’t walk alone at night, let alone at any other time of the day. That was why she’d chosen it. It was the perfect place to carry out her mission: Hunt. Assess. Destroy.
She already knew she had a big night ahead of her; she had found her first target before she’d even gone inside. He was up on one of the buildings looking down at the people outside the club. She couldn’t see it, but she could feel him like a dog could sense a stranger too close to its territory. This awareness made her stomach twist into a tight knot.
She closed her eyes and reached out with her mind. Instantly, she connected to her target’s thoughts; flashes of blood, the tearing of flesh and the screams of his victims entered her head.
He was a nostvore, just one of the many species of mythlend—supernatural creatures—that existed in the city. Nostvores were beings who lived off the blood of humans and were cursed to stalk the night, the sunlight weakening them to the point where they were just as helpless as the prey they hunted. But above all, they were the bane of her existence — the cause of not only the majority of deaths in the city, but also of those who had been closest to her.
Based on this particular fiend’s behavior, Kira knew he was a newly-turned fanger and a killer in training for the Mavator clan. Led by an Ancient, the Mavators were one of the youngest nostvore clans in the world. They were also the only clan in the city trying to increase its numbers. It was how Kira knew the fanger was one of theirs. That, and the fact that the one other clan in the city very rarely added to their ranks. Even if they did, they wouldn’t risk bringing a newly-turned fanger out in public. They were too unstable, incapable of blending in. The Mavators, on the other hand, didn’t care about such issues.
Now knowing what she was dealing with, Kira knew how to get the fanger’s attention.
She turned and headed to the club entrance. The bouncer unclipped the rope barrier to let her through. “Take no prisoners,” he said as she went past.
“I never do.”
Once inside, Kira found an unoccupied dark corner and immersed herself into the shadows, mentally starting the countdown for when she would leave again.
She couldn’t wait. The idea of taking the creature’s life was one of the only things that made her even remotely happy these days. That was why she hunted so often.
She wasn’t worried about the nostvore targeting someone else while she waited. If he did, she would know even from inside the club, and would be on the fanger like a bad rash — the fatal type.
But unless that happened between now and her leaving, she would take advantage of the next five minutes by working out who her next targets would be after she had dealt with her current one.
Kira closed her eyes and let her senses peruse the occupants in the vicinity. She identified multiple mythlends within the building. She wasn’t sure what every species was, but she did detect a number of nostvores and a lycrould among the dancers.
She gritted her teeth the moment she telepathically connected to all of them. Her mind was bombarded with the agony endured by their past victims. It wasn’t that she just saw it, she felt it. Their pain was her pain. Just like the creatures’ pleasure from what they did to those victims was her pleasure.
Her body jerked slightly as she felt the limbs of one of the nostvore’s victims being torn off one after the other. It was quickly followed by a mind-shattering euphoria from tasting its victim’s blood as it gushed into its mouth. She also experienced the creature’s glee in causing such suffering to one victim, and how much they looked forward to doing the same thing to the next. Kira didn’t even have time to really process what she saw and felt before her mind moved on to the next torturous scene with the same feelings hitting her all over again.
Being assaulted mentally by such powerful and conflicting emotions would be an absolute mindfuck for any normal person. Good thing Kira wasn’t normal. Her mind had the ability to not only endure each memory, but it could take on the memories of all the creatures in the club at the same time. She didn’t know how and she didn’t ask why. In fact, seeing and feeling those memories reinforced why she spent night after night hunting. They all needed to die.
“Miss? Are you all right?”
Kira opened her eyes. A young woman holding a drink tray was staring at her. The waitress seemed to be gauging whether Kira was just another drunk or drugged up asshole she would have to tend to by calling security.
If only she knew.
Kira smiled back at the woman. “Yes, I’m fine.”
Seeing that Kira didn’t fall into either category, the waitress smiled back. “Can I get you anything?”
“Something strong,” Kira answered, pulling a twenty out of her bra.
The waitress watched her hand and grinned. “No problem,” she said, taking the money and walking off through the crowd.
Once she was out of sight, Kira surveyed the people around her.
The place smelled of leather, sweat, alcohol, and arousal. Scantily-clad bodies rubbed up against each other as they moved to the beat of the music, looking more like they were fucking rather than dancing.
Among the dancers, she located the nostvores. It wasn’t hard to identify them as nostvores’ eyes reflected light like a cat’s. Currently, they were engaging in a game of seduction, their arms around whomever they had chosen to feast on later that night.
Nostvores were masters in the art of seduction. It was a fascinating ability, but their most dangerous weapon. It involved three phases on the nostvore’s part, which Kira watched play out on the dance floor with one particular victim.
Phase one: employing a hypnotic and alluring stare. The nostvore moved the woman’s chin until she was looking directly at him, and gazed into her eyes as they moved to the music. As soon as he knew he had her undivided attention, his eyes began to glow iridescent silver. When a victim stared into eyes like those, the effect was generally immediate, giving the nostvore the ability to easily command its victim. But not in this case, it seemed. The woman’s expression turned to shock at seeing the nostvore’s eyes glow and she stepped back, obviously not predisposed to being hypnotized.
The nostvore knew as soon as she moved away that he needed to use another form of persuasion. Phase two: voice weaving — the ability to bind certain magic, or what mythlends called a’kei, to phrases or words.
From where Kira stood, and even over the sound of the music, she could hear the nostvore talking to the woman. His words were bound in seduction a’kei, and the effect this time was instant. The woman moved back up against his body and rubbed her hands over his ass and cock. The nostvore smirked. A submissive sex slave was exactly what he wanted.
However, Kira could hear small snippets of his thoughts; the nostvore didn’t think a’kei was enough. He wanted complete obedience with zero chance of his victim’s susceptibility being compromised.
Kira clenched her fists tightly, wishing she could go over there and kill the asshole then and there and save the poor woman. But she held back, letting the scene play out.
The nostvore released a quantity of pheromones from his skin and directed it toward the woman — phase three. It wasn’t something you could see, but something Kira could smell, even from where she was standing. Like the a’kei, the effect was immediate. The victim’s eyes glazed over, and she put her hand down his pants. The nostvore smiled down at her.
“Good girl,” he said. “Keep doing that.”
She obeyed, moving her hand more vigorously in his pants.
Kira looked away in disgust.
The abilities the nostvore had used were fascinating, but she despised the result.
She would help this woman, but not yet. These nostvores liked to play with their victims first before they consumed them, which gave her some time. The nostvore outside the club, on the other hand, had years before he would even begin to learn this art. His mind until then would only be consumed with one thing and nothing else — the need to feed. It was why Kira knew she had to deal with him first.
Kira suddenly tensed when she noticed someone in her peripheral vision. Turning her head, she looked at a guy who would have been attractive if it weren’t for the bloodshot eyes and the stench of alcohol on his breath which could knock out a horse. It was obvious he was one of those guys who thought he was the gods’ gift to women, wearing the look of confidence on his face in the expectation that Kira would automatically swoon in his presence.
Before he could even say a word, she spoke. “Don’t even think about it,” she warned, her eyes glowing brightly like one of the creatures she hunted.
The smile left the guy’s face and he quickly backed away.
When she was satisfied the guy had put enough distance between them, Kira continued perusing the guests in the club. The place had two levels, with the second floor having a balcony which looked over the dance floor. It didn’t take her long to find the lycrould she had sensed earlier. His eyes reflected the light when it hit them, too.
Besides the nostvore, Kira regarded lycroulds as one of the most powerful races of mythlend. It was a creature that lived off the flesh of humans and was able to transform into an enormous wolf-like creature at will, except in sunlight. Like nostvores, they were similar to a virus, spreading and turning humans into one of their own with ease while also feeding and killing everything around them.
Moving farther back into the shadows to make herself less visible, Kira watched the lycrould with keen interest. His eyes flickered from person to person across the dance floor, searching for his prey for the night. Every time he glanced over to one of the nostvores, he snarled in disgust and hatred, but she knew he wouldn’t attack them. The club was part of neutral territory, and engaging in a fight would not only frighten all the humans away, but permanently shut down a hunting ground.
Kira sensed the waitress before she even said anything. The woman handed her a drink. “Here’s your change,” the waitress told her, handing back a number of notes and coins.
“Keep it,” Kira replied, taking a sip from the glass and gazing at the lycrould.
“Thanks.”
When the waitress didn’t move on straight away, Kira looked at her.
“You know…I get off soon. Maybe you could stick around?” she said suggestively.
“Maybe I might do just that,” she said, not wanting to be rude.
Her smile widened. “Find you later, then?”
“Later,” she replied.
Happy with her answer, the waitress gave her one more appreciative look then walked back through the crowd, snapping at a drunk who pinched her on the ass.
Kira felt a tad bit guilty for leading the woman on, but she needed to get rid of her as fast as possible and without incident. The guilt quickly left as she went back into hunter mode.
She peered back up at the lycrould. He still stood in the same place, watching the people on the dance floor intently.
Her lips thinned as she glared up at the beast. She was itching to do battle with it, more than she wanted to kill the nostvore outside. She needed and craved more engagements with this species as she didn’t battle with them regularly. When she did, she got to utilize more of her abilities. And anything which enhanced her skills was a definite plus. But the newly-turned fanger was still the priority. Just like the other nostvores within the club would be the priority after that. She just hoped the lycrould was still around after she had dealt with them all.
Keeping her gaze on the lycrould, Kira took another sip of her drink then intentionally spilled some down her top. Placing the rest of the drink on a table, she gave the lycrould one last glance before heading toward the exit.
As soon as she walked out of the club, she deliberately bumped into someone and slurred an apology, before stumbling away. It was from that moment the hunt really began.
The nostvore targeted her the moment she left the club, as she knew he would. Playing drunk worked in her favor. It gave the nostvore the impression she was helpless. A pretend limp said she was an easy catch. But she had another trick up her sleeve to guarantee his pursuit of her — her scent.
Usually, it would be impossible for any creature to track her down. That included scent, tracks or any other markers which could indicate she had been somewhere. It was because she had the ability to control who could track her, turning it off and on at will. It was an ability she needed. Without it, she would be the target of every mythlend wherever she went.
In this case, she wanted to be found. So the moment she began her drunken walk into the alley, she flipped that switch, and let the nostvore take in her scent, triggering his curiosity.
What is she? Human? No. Yes. Why does she smell so different? Will she taste different? So hungry. Smells so good. Different to other humans. Can’t wait. Why do I have to wait? Told to. But I’m hungry.
The same fragmented and childlike thoughts continued as he stalked her through the streets. When she made her way into the darker lanes, she could feel the smile emerging on his face. He was getting closer to his goal of feeding from her flesh. His agitation and frustration increased, wanting her to move more quickly to where he wanted her. She felt his excitement grow as she answered his wish.
Kira’s excitement grew just as fast. She would soon rid the world of another creature that threatened human lives. There was no better feeling. But she kept all her vitals normal so the nostvore wouldn’t notice something was amiss with his prey.
When she rounded that last corner and pretended to fall to the ground, they had both thought the same thing…
Finally.
Still on her hands and knees, Kira pulled out a dagger from beneath her clothing. It was no ordinary dagger; it was designed for two purposes — to kill nostvores and lycroulds. The inner part of the blade was constructed of a special type of wood, deadly to nostvores, and the outer sharp edges were made of silver steel, a metal dangerous to lycroulds. All in all, it was an effective and efficient weapon.
The nostvore, too agitated and hungry to hold back any longer, soared through the air, aiming for her small frame. Swiveling around with supernatural speed, Kira sat up and buried the blade deep within the nostvore’s chest.
A loud grunt escaped his mouth.
Kira stood, still holding the butt of the dagger in her hand, the nostvore hanging in the air on the other end. She stared into his eyes and forced herself not to be swayed by his beauty—the beauty common to all nostvores. This nostvore’s eyes were silver, which every nostvore possessed when they were hunting, but they soon faded to a warm chestnut brown. At the realization that he was dying, they filled with horror. His dark brown hair hung around his pale statuesque face, and his full lips were pulled back in pain, showing his sharp teeth.
Lowering him to the ground, his knees barely had the strength to hold itself upright. Kira whispered, “Aeternum vale,” farewell forever, to the nostvore.
His beautiful face held a look of sadness as it shriveled, his skin flaking, eyes withering, muscles disintegrating until the nostvore was no more than a smoky corpse.
She pulled her dagger out of his chest, letting the body fall to the ground at her feet. It would soon disappear altogether, leaving no evidence of his existence. Wiping her blade, she re-sheathed it and allowed herself to sigh in relief. It was an easy kill, making her once again thank the gods for giving her these abilities.
She had never discovered why she had them. All she knew was her blood work showed evidence that she wasn’t entirely human, that it revealed two other species within her DNA. Instead of those genes lying dormant as they did in other humans, hers had activated. What made things more complicated for her was one of those species belonged to the creature she had just killed.
It made her cringe. It filled her with disgust every time she thought about being connected to something so vile. Not that the lycrould DNA she had in her was any better.
It was ironic though, because both lycroulds and nostvores were mortal enemies and had been for thousands of years, which was why she found it strange that it was those two species she had within her. But in the end, it didn’t matter because having their speed, strength and healing ability, plus others which surpassed their own, helped Kira kill them without too much effort.
A noise broke her away from her thoughts. That was when she sensed it. Another nostvore lurked close by. Female. Older. But not by much. Probably a watcher for the one she had just killed.
Kira scanned her surroundings. She should have known there was another nostvore. Her senses should have picked it up way before this, though.
Why hadn’t she?
Unfortunately, she knew the answer but found it hard to swallow. It was another sign her abilities were beginning to fail. She didn’t want to accept it, but not knowing she was being watched reinforced it was true. It made her wonder how long it would take before it became a significant problem where she could no longer help others, or even herself.
Pursing her lips, she continued looking for her prey. A flicker of red on the roof of a building a few blocks away caught her attention. Her eyes readjusted and focused on the movement. The nostvore was moving fast, already five blocks away. A high-pitched shriek echoed across the night. Kira could sense the anger, fear and need for revenge coming from this being; it radiated from her in sharp heavy waves.
A smile worked its way across her face. It was time to hunt again, and she always loved a good chase.

***

Fucking hell!
Hedona snarled in disgust as she made her way through the city with another nostvore in tow. Tonight, she had been assigned to play babysitter, something she loathed with all her rotting soul. The nostvore was newly-turned and still too young to be taught how to hunt for himself, his thoughts revolving only around blood. She therefore had to find a human for him to feed off without drawing any attention, a rule she hoped would change soon if her leader, Darius, had anything to say about it.
What pissed her off even more was she could’ve been killing some human, or spending her night engaging in hot steamy sex, or both, instead of doing this. It had been a while for her—three days since she had indulged, and the frustration was driving her insane.
Gods! She got wet just thinking about feeding with a stiff cock between her legs. Maybe if they were quick, she would have enough time to do that later on in the night.
The thought motivated her to move more quickly.
When they reached a popular hunting ground, one of the downtown clubs called Devil’s Gate, they planted themselves on top of a building which had a view of the entrance.
As they waited for potential prey, her agitation grew. The other nostvore got over-excited every time a human came into view.
“Will you fuckin’ stop that? You’re pissing me off,” she snapped.
“Hungry,” he whimpered.
“Yeah, well, you’re not the only one. Now sit and be quiet.”
He remained still for a few minutes, but it wasn’t long before he grew agitated again as more food came into view. It increased her desire to throttle him. Thank the gods it wasn’t long before an opportunity presented itself.
Hedona chose what looked to be an easy target: a drunken woman stumbling out of the club. She was an incredibly beautiful woman. If Hedona wasn’t playing babysitter, she would have gone for her herself. But she would have taken her home first to have a little bit of fun before killing her. Gender didn’t bother her when it came to enjoying herself, and the woman looked like she would have been quite the plaything.
To Hedona’s delight, the woman had walked off by herself, heading into a nearby alleyway.
“Perfect,” she whispered, though still truly resenting it wasn’t her turn to feed. The young one would have to consume all of her, and probably a few others, to get his fill for the night.
“Go,” she said, commanding the nostvore to start the hunt.
He scrambled off quickly with glee. She followed at a distance.
At that point, it seemed the night was going to be a breeze. But, it wasn’t long before the word perfect was anything but the right phrase to describe the situation.
“That fuckin’ bitch!” Hedona screeched. She slammed her clenched fist down on the roof’s edge, breaking away chunks of brick. The human was standing over what was left of the young one.
A human had just destroyed a nostvore.
How was this even possible? No human had ever destroyed a nostvore, except by accident. But this human looked like she knew exactly what she was doing.
Fuck!
Hedona quickly stood up. She had to get out of there. She didn’t want to engage in a battle without knowing how the human had managed to do what she did, and quite frankly, she wasn’t the greatest fighter anyway.
She turned and fled.
As she ran, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, rage consumed her. The clan would probably punish her for letting a human kill one of their own. But they needed to know what had happened.
Hedona cried out in fury at her now dire fate, all at the hands of a human — her freakin’ food source.

***

The redheaded nostvore led Kira into the western outskirts of the city. Kira watched her from behind the corner of a building as the nostvore made her way down an alley and up to a set of stairs. The creature stopped and looked around to see if anyone was watching, something she had done multiple times at various points throughout the city on her way to this location. She had also circled a couple of areas and even backtracked at some points. This told Kira she had had some sort of training to make sure she wasn’t followed. The thing was, she wasn’t very good at it.
After seeing one of her kind killed by a human, Kira knew the nostvore would go straight to a safe house to report it to the leader of her faction.
The Mavator leader, Darius, was a former Vanatre nostvore. He had set up factions throughout the city. Kira was still unsure what the purpose of those factions were, but she knew one thing: when it came to nostvores, nothing good could come of it.
The stairs led to a landing, which branched off to the right and left. The nostvore walked to the top, clearly under the impression she’d evaded Kira somewhere in the city.
Hidden from view by trash and boxes, Kira crept forward, stopping adjacent to the bottom of the stairs. Here she could observe the nostvore safely.
The redhead walked to the right. Kira had already predicted she would do that since it was the only place which had all the windows completely blacked out or boarded up. When the nostvore knocked on the large steel door, a sliding peephole opened, then closed again.
Taking the opportunity while the door was being unlocked, Kira, with abnormal speed and absolute silence, pulled out one of her many daggers and ran up the stairs. She positioned her body out of view of the doorway while at the same time placing the dagger against the nostvore’s back, right where her heart would be. She heard the nostvore’s sharp intake of breath.
The door opened. The nostvore on the other side glanced at the redhead with disinterest, then surprise when the redhead came hurtling at him, bouncing off his body and landing in a heap on the floor. Pushing the redhead at the nostvore allowed Kira enough time to aim and throw the dagger straight into his heart. The slight expelled grunt alerted two other nostvores, who were turned the other way behind him. Both swung around to see what was happening.
Just as quickly, Kira let two more daggers fly. They hit their mark and two more bodies fell to the ground. She closed the door behind her and locked it. When she turned back, all the bodies had turned to rotten corpses, soon to be mounds of ash.
Good.
She pulled out the two swords strapped to her back.
The redheaded nostvore sat on the floor up against the wall, her eyes wide with fear. Kira pointed one of her swords at her and the nostvore shrank back further.
“Stay,” Kira growled, and then headed toward the doorway that led into a hall. She knew the commotion she had caused would have already alerted others in the building. She would have to move fast.

***

Hedona remained exactly where she was told, too afraid to move in fear of the consequences, even though she knew the human was outnumbered.
Gunfire, yells of warning and groans of pain sounded throughout the safe house. She winced at the sound of the human’s sword slicing through flesh, and the noise as, one by one, her people were killed.
She looked toward the doorway. One of her own was trying to crawl through it, his hand outstretched as if reaching for freedom that was just beyond his reach. He rolled over when crawling was no longer possible, revealing a knife protruding from his chest. His face had already begun to shrivel, his eyes sinking and his fangs jutting from his mouth. He let out a screech, but it came out dry and coarse as his vocal cords deteriorated. This guttural sound went on until he went still and the final death captured him.
Blood tears caressed Hedona’s cheeks.
She watched as Torin, one of the faction’s best fighters, came running through the doorway, his need for self-preservation overriding the urge to fight an enemy he had no chance against. There was a loud thump as he headed toward the door leading to freedom, but he stopped midstride. His hands went to his chest, and he looked over at Hedona with shock and fear in his eyes. He slowly turned toward the doorway he had just come through and Hedona could now see the knife, wedged to the hilt, in his back and undoubtedly through his heart. He crumpled to his knees, still watching the doorway.
The human reappeared. The safe house was silent, except for the sound of Torin’s whimpering and the human’s shoes as she walked.
Hedona watched in horror as the woman splattered in nostvore blood and ash, with a dripping bloody sword still held in her hand, walked over to Torin and leaned over him. With her free hand, she cupped his face as it shriveled and flaked. “Aeternum vale,” she whispered to him, and then pulled her hand back, letting the rapidly decaying corpse fall in front of her.
After wiping down the blade, the human placed the sword back into the sheath on her back. She then walked over to the corpse of the nostvore who had died just in the doorway and pulled her knife from his chest. Wiping it down also, she placed it into a camouflaged section on her clothes. That was when her eyes fixed on Hedona.
Hedona let out a gasp. The human’s eyes glowed just like a mythlend’s would, yet instead of them glowing only one color, which differentiated mythlends from one another, they were a swirling fusion of silver and blue: the color of a nostvore and lycrould.
What the fuck? It wasn’t possible!
She was human, wasn’t she?
This discovery made her squirm even more under the human’s gaze. She wished the woman would forget her and just leave, but Hedona knew she wasn’t going to be that lucky now that her eyes were on her.
The human bent over Torin again and rolled him over, keeping her eyes on Hedona. She pulled out the knife from his back and walked over to her. The woman squatted down, leaning over Hedona while resting one hand on the wall next to her head. She positioned the blade under her chin.
“Little rabbit, you look so scared. Kind of how you make humans feel when you feed off them, right? It’s not a nice feeling, is it, being scared, feeling powerless, knowing you’re about to die?”
Hedona’s eyes widened and she tried to move away from the knife. The human laughed. “Don’t worry. I’m not going to kill you…yet. I need you to do something for me first.” The woman moved the blade up to Hedona’s cheek, sliding it up and down her porcelain skin. “You are going to deliver a message to your leader for me.”
“I will never do anything for a blood bag,” Hedona hissed in defiance.
“Oh, I think you will,” the human responded calmly. To make her point, she slashed Hedona’s cheek with the knife, the blade slicing and burning her flesh at the same time. Hedona screamed in agony. “And if you don’t want to now, believe me, by the end of the night, you will,” she threatened.

Emmerich, an immortal warrior for the Vanatre and their leader’s second-in-command, was tired as he wandered back into the Vanatre’s mansion. Not just physically tired from carrying out his leader’s orders, but mentally exhausted as well. Two-and-a-half thousand years of fighting and conquering could do that to a warrior.
“How did it go?” Andre asked as soon as Emmerich walked into the foyer.
Emmerich glanced at him, but kept walking. “How do you think?”
“We kicked their mangy asses.”
If he had been in the mood, Emmerich would have laughed. “Let Raidan know,” he said. “If he needs me, tell him I’ll be in my chambers.”
“Sure thing,” said Andre. He took for Raidan’s office.
Emmerich headed in the opposite direction.
As soon as he walked through his chamber door and closed it, relief flooded him. Finally, he was alone.
He dropped all his weapons on the bed with his jacket, and headed over to the door which led out onto his balcony. Opening it, he stepped outside. There was a slight breeze which was cool against his skin. It felt good.
Leaning against the railing, he looked up at night sky. It was hard to see anything beyond the smoke from the fires throughout the city, and the constant smog which never seemed to dissipate, but he could still see the faint light from the moon trying to shine through. If he really tried, he could look past the smog and smoke, and see the stars. He wasn’t in the mood though. Not tonight.
He blew out a deep breath in frustration.
Emmerich didn’t know why, but he wasn’t feeling quite like himself. Usually he was in a great mood after a battle, but tonight he felt numb. In truth, he’d been feeling like this for a while now, and figuring out how to change it eluded him.
As always, their battle with the lycroulds was in full swing, gaining momentum due to the lycroulds’ further bid for territory. The lycroulds had remained unlucky in taking any of the Vanatre’s, but the battles were still fierce, and there were always casualties on both sides. Emmerich knew that it was only a matter of days before Javan, the lycrould leader, would make another move, and then they would be at it all over again.
Emmerich still enjoyed these battles. There was nothing like inflicting pain upon those filthy mutts. Cutting their heads off was a personal favorite of Emmerich’s; as was just watching the filthy canines run away in fear with their tails between their legs. But stabbing them deeply with a silver knife and hearing them howl in agony as the silver burnt their flesh; or gutting them from navel to groin, then watching them fumble around trying to keep their insides in, was just as amusing.
But the lycroulds weren’t the Vanatre’s only problem now. Slowly but surely, Darius, a nostvore who was exiled from their clan over a thousand years ago, had grown his very own army and decided to play in the war for territories.
As an exiled nostvore, Darius should never have had the ability to create his own army. If fact, he should have been punished for breaking one of their sacred rules: never turn multiple humans without consent from an official high-counsel nostvore. And he would have been punished if it weren’t for an incident which occurred years ago that rendered it impossible for their leader, Raidan, to kill him. The incident not only allowed Darius to relocate in the area, but enabled him to continue his mission in generating a larger army without fear of any more attempts on his life.
If that wasn’t enough, Darius was always attempting to break another rule. Namely, revealing the existence of their kind to the humans. With that part, he had failed so far, the Vanatre stopping him on multiple occasions over the years. They also endeavored to make sure no further attempts were made, watching the Mavator clan around the clock.
Emmerich was dumbstruck by the naivety and foolishness of Darius’s horde. They didn’t understand the repercussions their actions would bring if the world knew of their existence: a war so destructive that most mythlends and humans would perish. It would be over power, to determine which species would rule the world. The young nostvores believed it to be them, a misguided belief passed on by their leader, when in fact, it would be the humans due to their vast numbers.
What Emmerich couldn’t understand was Darius also had the audacity to continually challenge the Vanatre for more territory. His army was vast; but he was relying on numbers, not strength to win the battle. And newly turned nostvores were no match for Vanatre warriors. Emmerich could personally plough through dozens of them in moments, and he was just one warrior.
But it wasn’t something he reveled in.
If he really wanted to be honest with himself, killing Mavators was most likely the cause for his lack of enjoyment in winning these days. They may have been created without consent, but they were still nostvores. Misguided nostvores, but still one of them.
He dreaded the day Raidan would give the order to kill them all. And it was coming. It was just a matter of time.
Emmerich sighed and closed his eyes. He concentrated on the sounds of the city, trying to drown out his thoughts. It worked for a few minutes, but his mind wouldn’t stay silent.
Was his issue really just about him killing nostvores? Maybe it was more than that. Maybe it was because it was the same battle they always fought. Nostvores versus lycroulds. Nostvores versus nostvores. Maybe he needed a battle that was more exciting… Like a great war.
Through the ages, whenever there was a war between humans, mythlends who could pass as human would choose a side to fight on. And it wasn’t only nostvores and lycroulds who joined. Shifters, gargens, azemans, rakshasas, and a number of other species could be seen fighting alongside what was usually their food source. This made the battles a lot more interesting.
Depending on which mythlends joined a particular side, it could change the balance altogether as to who could win. Even if they were evenly matched, things got a lot messier than an ordinary human battle. That’s why Emmerich loved them. It was the only time when he could truly test his abilities.
Yes. This had to be the reason why he was feeling this way. He was just plain bored with the type of war he was currently fighting. He needed…
He paused mid-thought when he heard footsteps coming toward his room. A moment later, there was a knock on his door.
“Enter,” he said, not turning around.
The door opened. “Sorry to disturb you. Raidan wants to see you,” said a fellow soldier.
“Tell him I’ll be right there.”
“Yes, M’Lord.” The nostvore closed the door behind him.
Emmerich stayed where he was for another minute before he finally leaned away from the railing. Turning around, he walked back into the bedroom, closing the balcony doors behind him. He went into his bathroom, picked up a hand towel, and quickly wiped the blood and dirt from his face. When he was done, he stared at himself in the mirror and watched his features harden.
Satisfied his expression showed no indication that he was feeling off, Emmerich left his room and headed for Raidan’s office.
It was time to find out who he had to kill next.

***

Darius, the leader of the Mavator clan, was feeling proud of himself as he sat on his throne surrounded by a number of his people. He scanned the room, watching them as they laughed and talked about their latest conquests, whether it was a human they had fed on, a lycrould they had killed, or other kinds of debauchery they had participated in.
Darius smiled as he listened in on a female’s detailed account of how she had coaxed a young couple to let her go home with them where they spent a substantial amount of time fucking each other senseless. She went on to describe the pleasure she experienced when she ripped out the throat of the male in front of his partner, and then tortured the female until she was bored and killed her as well. When she had finished her story, the next nostvore started his latest tale of blood, sex, and torture.
Their enthusiasm toward such endeavors made Darius feel accomplished as their sire. They were true nostvores, in every sense of the name. He only wished others saw them the same way.
Tuning out of the conversation, Darius took a moment to take in his surroundings, marveling at the place he had built. The hall room, where he now sat, was his favorite. It was where he could watch his people, and his people could look upon him in his elegantly carved gilded throne and take in every word he uttered with reverence.
It was why it was his most decorated room. The doors which led into the hall were ten feet tall and made out of a heavy timber with hand-carved designs from top to bottom. Inside, he had installed marble flooring and giant pillars to create a sense of wealth and luxury. It was further emphasized by exquisite decorations and furnishings.
Wrought-iron chandeliers hung from the ceiling which illuminated the somewhat darkened room. No windows graced the walls, but in their place were carved gilded mirrors and lit iron torch sconces. To the left of him hung a wide, heavy, red velvet drape, which Darius ordered never to be moved. On either side of him, iron candelabras stood tall like soldiers, with the candlelight reflecting off his gilded throne. And scattered throughout the hall on both sides, his people lay contentedly on golden-edged, deep-tufted, velvet chaise lounges.
Yes, this all made Darius feel accomplished. But there was more to be done before he would feel completely satisfied. His thoughts turned to the progression of his plan for his people. The clan had grown quite exponentially over the past few years, and was now filled with many loyal members. He was, of course, growing an army, and had set up small factions and safe houses throughout the city.
His plans for the army he had yet to reveal them. And he couldn’t do that until he found and controlled the greatest weapon this world had ever known. When he did, he would be impossible to stop. Not even Raidan could prevent him from finally making the humans of their existence. They would…
He train of thought was interrupted.
Even from where he sat, Darius could hear a group of nostvores talking excitedly as they headed to the hall. Something had happened.
Everyone in the room went quiet and stared at the heavy timber doors.
The doors opened and Eagan, Darius’s second-in-command, came barging into the room with a number of nostvores following closely behind.
Many gasped in shock at his appearance. One side of his body was completely black, burnt nearly to the bone. Most of his clothes were melted to his skin, and he was barely recognizable as the person he once was, looking more like a patient from the burn victims’ ward.
Eagan grimaced as he hurriedly walked toward Darius’s throne, a distinct rancid smell wafting after him.
Darius stood up. “What happened? Where are the others?”
With great difficulty, Eagan fell to one knee. He bowed his head. “They’re all dead, M’Lord. They didn’t make it.”
“Help him up,” Darius ordered two guards who stood close by.
Eagan groaned as he was assisted to his feet.
Darius waited for him to regain his composure before he continued, “And the stone?”
Eagan reached under his coat and pulled out a pouch, handed it to Darius and smirked. “We found it.”
Darius quickly untied the pouch and let a large topaz gemstone fall into his hand. His eyes gleamed with excitement. “Finally!” He lifted the gemstone up into the air, letting the light reflect off its surface. “It has taken over a thousand years of searching, but I’m now one step closer.”
He clutched the gemstone tightly, fascinated by its beauty. Its surface reflected a brilliance of rainbow lights, making it hard to look away from. The more he stared at it, the brighter it became. It was like nothing he had ever seen before, and as he continued to study it, the more he was pulled in by its beauty.
Darius moved the topaz in his hand, letting his fingers glide across its surface. It became hotter the more he caressed it, and pulsed with power. The energy it emitted, radiated throughout his body and made his hair stand on end.
Yes. This was what he had been waiting for, he thought, as he continued his examination.
Moments passed before Darius blinked and realized the room was waiting for him to speak. He lowered the stone and turned to Eagan. “Were you followed?”
“We had an uninvited guest when we first set out, as was to be expected. But it wasn’t a problem shaking him loose.”
“And that was the only issue?” Darius inquired.
“We were extremely vigilant in watching for any other unwanted surprises. But as far as we could tell, that was the only one,” Eagan said.
“And you’re sure you got rid of him? He has no clue where you were headed, or what you were looking for?”
“Yes, I’m completely sure,” Eagan reinforced.
Of their own accord, Darius’s eyes wandered back to the gemstone and he lifted it up to his face. “Good, very good,” he said. “You’ve done well, Eagan, and will be rewarded in time for your achievement.” His turned his focus back to Eagan. “But for now, your wounds will be taken care of and you will bathe. That stink on you is horrendous. You two!” Darius pointed to two female human slaves standing in the shadows. “Provide him with as much blood as he needs and anything else he desires.”
“Yes, M’Lord,” they answered as one.
“Thank you, M’Lord,” Eagan replied, bowing again before the two slaves helped him out of the hall.
Darius waited until Eagan had left before he looked at the gemstone again. The room remained silent while he stood there. Time went past slowly. No one made a sound, waiting for him to speak.
It was only when there was another commotion outside, that the silence was broken.
“Let me through. I need to see him,” said a female who was talking to the guards outside the hall.
Darius lowered the gemstone. “What now?” he snapped.
A retort could be heard from one of the guards outside, followed by an angry reply from the female.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake! What’s going on out there?” Darius yelled.
There was the sound of scurrying feet and a grunt before a beautiful redhead rushed through the doors covered in blood and what unfortunately looked like the ash of someone’s remains. One of her cheeks was also marred with a laceration, which didn’t seem to be healing.
The guard, who she had been arguing with, limped after her. She quickly made her way up to Darius and bowed in front of him before he could reach her.
“M’Lord,” she said, acknowledging him.
The guard stopped short behind the redhead, ready to grab her. “Apologies, M’Lord, she caught me unawares and slipped past before—”
Darius raised his hand to the guard, motioning for silence, and then looked upon the woman at his feet. A mass of deep red colored curls cascaded over her face, hiding it as her head remained in a bowed position.
“What has happened to you, child?” he said gently, startled by the state of her attire. He reached down and put his hand under her chin, making her look into his eyes, guiding her to stand. At full height, she didn’t even reach his shoulders.
He scanned her face. Underneath all the dirt and blood, he could see she was a very beautiful woman. She had long feathery lashes, sapphire colored eyes, full lips smeared with a red lipstick nearly the same shade as her hair, and pale flawless skin. The only thing which disfigured her appearance was the slash of burnt flesh on her cheek, and the stain of blood tears under her eyes.
“Are you going to answer me?” he asked. “Or just stare?”
“I-I’m from one of your factions on the west-end, M’Lord. Torin is our leader.”
“I know which one you speak of,” he acknowledged. “But that doesn’t answer my question.”
She hesitated. “W-we were attacked, M’Lord,” she said. “My entire faction is dead.”
“Attacked? Attacked by whom?” he asked in shock. “No. Let me guess. It was those fuckin’ dogs, wasn’t it? Well, they’re going to regret ever laying a hand on my people. I’m going to slice them apart, piece by fuckin’ piece. Guard,” he yelled. “Gather the factions. We’re going to finally—”
“It wasn’t lycroulds, M’Lord,” said Hedona, stopping Darius in his tirade.
He looked down at her in confusion. “What do you mean it wasn’t lycroulds? Who the hell was it then? Was it the Vanatre?”
Hedona looked to the ground before she answered. “It was…a human, M’Lord.”
Everyone erupted throughout the hall.
“A human?” Darius bellowed above the sound of his people. “How the hell did a human kill an entire faction of nostvores?” He grabbed her by the hair and pulled her up close. “Silence,” he shouted to the room.
Everyone immediately quietened
Darius turned his angered gaze back on Hedona. “Are you jesting with me, child? Because making such as accusation could only be made in such a manner.”
“N-no, M’Lord. I smelled her up close. She was definitely human. But she had…abilities,” she stammered, eyes wide with fear.
Darius, quicker than a human could register, grabbed Hedona by the throat and lifted her in the air, baring his sharp fangs at her. “You dare lie to me, girl, and speak of something which isn’t possible? Are you wishing me to kill you right here?”
“I’m not lying,” she managed to answer, squirming against his grip. “She was faster and stronger than us. Carried weapons that burnt our skin. It’s what she used on my face.” She continued to struggle against his hand. “She was able to follow me to our warehouse without me knowing.”
“So it was you who brought death to your faction’s door,” Darius exclaimed.
“No…I-I…I didn’t know she was tracking me. She killed a newly-turned one I took out to feed without even trying, so I ran. I wanted to get back to Torin to tell him of her existence so he could tell you. But I didn’t think she would follow me. That she even could follow me. I even checked to make sure I wasn’t. I did! I didn’t mean to get them killed.” Blood tears fell down her cheeks. “And her eyes…”
Darius’s eyes widened. “What about her eyes?”
“They glowed, M’Lord.”
“How did they glow?” he asked, squeezing even tighter.
Hedona whimpered. “Like ours, but different. They changed color, then swirled different colors.”
Darius’s grip loosened on Hedona’s throat and he dropped her to the ground. “It cannot be,” he whispered. “It can’t be possible.”
Everyone was silent as Darius analyzed this information. But just as quickly, he snapped out of his daze. “Get out! All of you! And someone send for Viktor,” he ordered.
Everyone bowed and hastily exited.
As Hedona also rose to leave, Darius stopped her. “You will remain and tell me everything.”

***

“Darius! I just heard the news. Congratulations on finding it.”
Viktor, Darius’s closest advisor and friend, walked up to him with a large smile on his face, but stopped short when he saw Darius’s expression. “But that’s not why you summoned me, was it?”
Darius looked at Viktor, taking in his attire. He was wearing his usual white lab coat and a pair of broad-rimmed glasses. He never understood why he wore the damn things, but Viktor said it made him feel more distinguished — the modern way of looking classy and intelligent. Not that Darius believed he needed such trivial things to do so. He was an attractive nostvore, as they all were. But Viktor also exuded that rare mad scientist appearance while looking good at the same time. A female, or male, just had to take one look at his tanned skin, striking grey eyes and blond hair, and they were all over him in seconds.
He was also one of the smartest nostvores Darius knew, mastering in numerous languages, medicine, science and philosophy, among other things he chose to dabble in. That was why he had convinced Viktor to leave the Vanatre and join him. He needed someone like him around to help him find what he needed.
“No, it’s not,” Darius finally answered.
“What troubles you? It must be something of significance to dishearten your mood when celebration should be in order.”
“Celebration, my friend, will have to wait. An entire faction of my army was killed this evening.”
Surprise registered on Viktor’s face. “An entire faction? Lycroulds?”
Darius sighed. “That was my first thought, but apparently not.”
“Well, what was it then?”
He took a moment before he answered. “A human, with abilities, just like us.”
“A human? That’s absolutely ridiculous. No human could cause such damage.”
“Are you sure about that?”
Viktor’s brow furrowed. “Yes. Entirely.”
“I was told her eyes glowed,” Darius said.
Shock, then understanding replaced the look on Viktor’s face. “By the gods.”
“Where is she?” asked Darius.
“Her team checked in an hour ago. They’re still outside the city.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“So this means there’s another?”
“It appears so,” Darius replied, his face grim.
“How is that even possible?”
“Viktor, you know as well as I do that anything is possible.”
“But how have we missed this? Another one out there, hunting our kind. I mean… Geezus. What does this even mean?”
“I don’t know, but it’s something I would like to find out.”
Viktor had that faraway look about him as he always did when he was calculating something. He then shook his head. “I’m still amazed with the one we have. I mean, I keep forgetting she’s human.”
“As do I. She seems to have adapted well over these years, becoming quite the killer.”
“Better than we hoped, that’s for sure.”
Darius’s lips thinned. “Are you sure you never came across another like her when you worked at the hospital?”
“No, I’m positive. It doesn’t mean she hasn’t come from somewhere else though.” He paused. “Though, the possibility of a second isn’t as farfetched as one would think. But the likelihood of it happening in the same lifetime, in the same city is—”
“Viktor, I don’t care how it’s possible. I care that she has appeared right when things are moving forward for us. I can’t have this human interfering with my plans. Not now. Not even because she has made a threat on my life. It’s too important.”
Viktor rubbed his face. “How would you like to deal with her then?”
“I don’t know.” Darius paced. After a minute, he stopped. “What’s the next phase of the plan?”
“We need to find the map. I’ll be able to create an incantation which will make the stone they brought back like a beacon, which will help us find it.”
“How does the stone help us find the map?” asked Darius.
“Because the stone originates from the place we’re looking for, and that place is surrounded by a’kei. The map is therefore connected a’keieckly to both the place and the stone. So when we’re close to the map, the stone will glow bright red.”
“That’s all well and good, if I knew where the hell to start looking for the damn thing. It could be anywhere,” Darius said, frustrated. “Hell, it could be years before we even get a lead on its whereabouts, like it did with the stone.” He began pacing again. “Why does everything have to be so damn hard? Why can’t I have my time now?”
Knowing they had no answers, Darius thumped the back of a chaise lounge in irritation, sending pieces of gilded gold flying everywhere.
Viktor waited for Darius to calm before he spoke. “It may not be as hard as you think.”
Darius turned to him. “What do you mean?”
“In my years that we were with the Vanatre, Raidan acquired a significant collection of scrolls throughout the ages. He sent nostvores around the world collecting them. It was one of his many hobbies.”
“I remember. He used to have a thing for reading anything he could get his hands on.”
“Well, that hobby turned into a multi-level collection built underneath the house. No one knows of its existence except for a select few. I was one of those few because my job was to interpret them all. I didn’t even make a dent in the collection; it was so vast. It’s my guess that if anyone was to have such a map, it would be Raidan. The only problem is, it’s in the Vanatre mansion and we don’t exactly have access.”
Darius went silent, deep in thought. But it wasn’t long before he broke out into a smile. “I think I may have a solution to both our problems.”
“What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking I may be going for a little visit to see an old friend.”

***

Hedona couldn’t stop shaking.
She had been certain she wasn’t going to make it out of the hall room alive after what she had told Darius. Thank the gods Darius was too distracted by what she said to punish her.
It wasn’t even her fault anyway. She wasn’t the one who had killed an entire faction of his clan. It was that blood bag bitch.
So why should she be the one to fear for her life?
Gods! What she wouldn’t give to bleed her until she was just on the edge of death, then cut her into little pieces, making sure she felt every cut and every hack. But even that image didn’t help her calm down. If anything, it made her angrier.
Hedona walked through the mansion looking for somewhere to clean herself up. She felt absolutely disgusting, and no wonder, she was covered in the remains of her newly fallen friends. It completely grossed her out.
As she walked down a corridor looking for a bathroom, she heard a noise and caught a glimpse of something out of the corner of her eye from a slightly ajar doorway she had just passed.
Curiosity getting the better of her, she walked back and peered through the opening. The door led into another one of the many bedrooms inside the mansion, this one being bigger than the others.
But what caught her interest wasn’t the size of the room, but the nostvore who sat on a chair in the middle of it. The smell the nostvore emitted was sickening. It was like a turkey that had been left in the oven too long and had burnt to a crisp. It was exactly what the guy looked like as well. One entire side of his body was completely burnt, with bits of flesh hanging off some areas of his body, and bone exposed in others.
What the hell had happened to him? she wondered.
The sight was gruesome and Hedona wanted to leave and save her queasy stomach, but she couldn’t seem to tear her eyes away. It also made her feel better knowing someone may have had a worse night than she had.
Kneeling on the ground beside the nostvore was a human female. She was scantily clad with bleached blonde hair, fake skin tan, fake boobs and just about fake everything else — a walking, talking Barbie doll. Hedona despised her instantly.
Currently, Barbie had her eyes closed and her hand outstretched to the nostvore’s mouth which he currently fed from, blood dripping down her arm. Beside them on the floor were a number of empty blood bags.
Noise to the left, indicated that there was another female human, similarly dressed, in the room. She was also blonde but with a more wholesome appearance. Hedona immediately nicknamed her Farmer Girl. Hedona didn’t despise this one as much, but she was human. And all humans were pathetic.
Farmer Girl stood looked like she was organizing a hot steaming bath.
Oh, gods! How good would a bath feel right now?
The thought increased her need to get clean, including bathing the gash on her cheek the human whore had branded her with. It still wasn’t healing properly and was beginning to itch, amplifying her irritation.
Her interest turned back to the nostvore in the chair. As he continued to feed off the human, she could see the changes occurring to his body. His skin regenerated, muscle grew, tendons reformed, and soon enough, his skin slowly turned from a charred black to red and puffy. Not long after that, it took on a pinkish tinge until finally turning back into a normal fleshy color. Hair also grew on his scalp where it all had been singed off, eventually revealing a full head of thick dark blond hair.
He was now recognizable.
Hedona had never met him, but she had seen him before. He was Darius’s second-in-command. Eagan, she thought his name was.
“You! It’s your turn,” Eagan said to the other human by the tub. Farmer Girl strolled over and knelt by his side. He quickly grabbed her wrist, which she offered up to him, and bit into it. The girl winced from the pain from his bite, but was soon moaning in pleasure. Barbie, still sitting on the floor, leaned her head against his knee, weak from the feeding.
As his normal features became more prominent, and he was closer to being completely healed, Hedona could see he was actually quite attractive. She didn’t usually like the blond-haired, blue-eyed type, but he possessed a quality about him which was appealing to her, reinforced by her body reacting in a way that had her shifting position.
After another minute of feeding off the human, Eagan dropped her wrist and stood up. Pieces of the clothes he was wearing fell to the floor. The rest lay in tatters on his body, still smelling of ash and burnt flesh. He pulled off what was left of his shirt, followed by his shoes, and finally his pants until he was standing naked in the middle of the room.
Oh gods!
Hedona unintentionally licked her lips, her desire for him intensifying. She couldn’t understand why this nostvore was making her body react so dramatically. She guessed it was because she hadn’t been able to get out and have her own nights of pleasure in a while. Therefore, seeing any guy naked made her feel ridiculously horny.
“Come,” Eagan ordered the females. They followed him over to the tub. He turned off the taps, and swung both legs over the ledge until he was standing in the water. The humans knelt down on either side of the tub while he submerged himself.
He faced the direction of the doorway, giving Hedona a full view of his masculine chest.
Hedona’s breath shuddered.
The humans grabbed a bar of soap and lathered it between their hands while Eagan dipped his head under the water. When he came back up, he grabbed a washcloth from the side of the tub, cleaning his face with it.
Farmer Girl, who had finished lathering the soap, began with his feet, lifting one foot out of the water and rubbing the soap into his skin. She took her time, starting with one toe and massaging the soap all over it. When she was done, she moved on to the gap between that toe and the next, pushing a finger between them, in and out…in and out. She then focused on the next toe, continuing her chore with determination and absolute thoroughness.
Barbie moved into position behind Eagan and began with his hair, massaging the soap through it. Eagan let out a small moan of pleasure as the human kneaded his scalp with her fingers. When she had finished, he dunked his head under the water again, rinsing the soap from his hair.
When he came back up, Barbie progressed down to his neck and shoulders, rubbing and massaging her fingers over his flesh, cleaning off all the ash, burnt clothes, and skin which still clung to his body. Heading lower, she let her hands wander over his chest, grazing over his nipples as she worked. His nipples hardened under her touch, and Barbie must have noticed because she came back to them, teasing and pulling, making them go harder still.
Farmer Girl at this stage had finished with both of his feet and was making her way up one of his legs. When she reached the top of his thigh, she stopped, focusing on that area in particular. Another moan escaped Eagan’s lips. Farmer Girl smiled, obviously pleased with herself she could evoke such a reaction from him. She spent a few more moments in that position and then moved over to the other leg, starting at the bottom and working her way up again. When she reached the top of his other leg, Barbie was also there, finished with washing his rock hard abs.
Together, Hedona could hear them engage in a sequence of tugging and pulling under the water. Water splashed over the sides of the bath as they became more vigorous with their motions. The top of his cock breached the surface of the water as he moved his hips upwards, hard and ready as the humans continued to slide their hands over his length, his size easily accommodating two hands.
Hedona licked her lips again, wishing she was the one grabbing his cock and gliding her hand up and down its enormous size. Better yet, she wished his cock was in her mouth so she could taste him and suck him dry, giving him the most pleasurable experience he had ever had.
“Stop,” he ordered them. They removed their hands, and he stood up. As he stepped out of the tub, water cascaded down his body.
Holy hell!
Hedona’s jaw dropped as she took in the entire length of him, heated and aroused. He looked godly, the epitome of male perfection. The sight caused the thrumming between her legs to grow in magnitude.
Eagan made his way over to the bed and the females followed closely behind. “Remove your clothes,” he ordered both of them. They hurriedly did as he asked. Once naked, Eagan grabbed Barbie and pulled her over to him, ravishing her mouth hungrily. With the other hand, he fondled one of her large, fake breasts, squeezing and massaging it, then pinching the nipple until it was hard between his fingers. She moaned against his mouth, enjoying every bit of his attention, especially when his hand lowered and stopped between her legs.
Barbie gasped as Eagan’s fingers slipped between her folds and began playing with her clit. Her moaning grew louder as he stroked her with obvious expertise, but stopped abruptly before she could go over the edge. He guided her to the bed, letting her fall on the mattress.
Hedona watched as he got down on his knees between her thighs, and spread them wide. He looked over at Farmer Girl, who had been standing, watching them. “Get on the bed,” he ordered her.

***

Farmer Girl quickly obeyed Eagan’s command, giving him a full view of her naked ass and pussy as she crawled onto the bed beside the other female.
“Sit on her,” he instructed.
She moved immediately, putting one knee on either side of Barbie’s head, facing him. She slowly lowered herself until her clit was just above Barbie’s mouth. Instantly, a pink tongue flicked out. Farmer Girl moaned, long and hard.
“That’s it. Lick her nice and fast. Make her moan even harder.”
Eagan moved his head between Barbie’s legs and went about his own licking endeavor. He sucked on her core which automatically made her raise her hips closer to his mouth.
Moans, sucking and stroking ensued — the only noises that could be heard in the room. Eagan sucked and licked Barbie’s wet center, and put a finger slowly into her opening, testing her tightness. He pumped that finger into her, slowly at first, but then with more speed. His tongue and finger quickly found a rhythm, which made Barbie squirm against him.
A squeal muffled against Farmer Girl’s pussy caused her to shudder from the vibrating pleasure.
Eagan then put another finger in Barbie, stretching her further, making her even wetter so she was ready for him. The smell of sex drifted around them like a cloud.
When he lifted his head from between Barbie’s thighs, he stood up. Grabbing hold of his cock, he positioned it just outside her opening. She let out a muffled gasp of pleasure as he slid the entire length of him into her with one thrust.

***

When Eagan began ramming into the human, Hedona felt every thrust as if it was happening to her. Her body hummed all over, and her panties were drenched from her arousal.
Eagan pumped into the human, over and over. The moans from all three of them became louder.
“You!” He pointed to Farmer Girl. “Come here,” he said breathlessly.
The female climbed off Barbie’s face and moved to Eagan’s side. He pulled her face to his and kissed her while still thrusting into her friend. As he possessed her mouth, his hand went between her legs and he slid a finger into her pussy. She moaned into his mouth.
Hedona was impressed. He was quite the multi-tasker.
A few minutes later, Eagan pulled himself out of Barbie, much to the human’s disappointment, then grabbed Farmer Girl and lifted her. Her legs automatically circled his waist as he sat down on the edge of the bed.
He now faced Hedona, but his eyes were closed. Farmer girl lowered herself onto his cock and began riding it with urgency. His mouth let out another sound of pleasure and his face was filled with hunger. Eagan grabbed her ass, bouncing her harder and thrusting her deeper. Barbie laid down next to them, rubbing herself and watching the two of them intently.
Hedona watched on, further wishing it was her on his cock. She wanted to be the one to make him moan like that, and she knew she could do a better job too. Blood bags weren’t capable of doing a lot of things she could. She just needed the chance to prove it.
“Are you going to join us or just continue watching?” Eagan’s eyes opened and he stared straight at Hedona.
Hedona wheeled back from the door. She hadn’t even realized he knew she had been watching. Although, it should have been obvious since Eagan was a nostvore with extremely acute senses, and he would have known she outside the door the second she was there.
“You!”
Hedona jumped again. A nostvore she didn’t recognize walked toward her from down the corridor.
“Darius wants to see you right away,” he said.
Hedona nodded and bowed her head as she hurried past him. She didn’t know why she was embarrassed. Nostvores did things like this all the time. So why did it feel like her cheeks had turned bright red?
Hedona heard the nostvore knock on Eagan’s door as she moved farther away from the room. All she knew was she needed to get away as fast as possible without embarrassing herself further.
She had a feeling, though, she would be blushing in the presence of that nostvore again very soon.

 

Nothing ever surprised Raidan. He was the leader of the Vanatre, one of the oldest nostvore clans in the world, and had lived for many millennia. He had seen and experienced things throughout his time which would both shock and astound the bravest of men. However, when his trusted and loyal friend, Emmerich, his second-in-command, came into his office and announced that Darius was at his front door and he would like an audience with him, he couldn’t hide his disbelief.
“What does he want?” Raidan asked.
“He won’t say,” said Emmerich. “Said he would only talk to you.”
Raidan went quiet.
“What do you want me to do?” Emmerich asked.
Raidan’s first thought was to order him to be killed. But as appealing as it sounded, he couldn’t, no matter how much he wanted to. That was when he had the overwhelming urge to tell the asshole to fuck off instead.
But he wouldn’t do that either. His curiosity as to why Darius had come was far greater than those urges.
“Let him in,” he said.
Emmerich didn’t hide his surprise, but he did as ordered.
A few minutes later, he heard Darius walked into the office, escorted by Emmerich and three others. Raidan knew two were guards, and the other was probably one of Darius’s soldiers.
“Raidan,” Darius said when he stood in front of Raidan’s desk.
Raidan didn’t look up. “I hear banishment has worked for you,” he said.
“Why would you say that?”
Raidan could hear the smugness in his voice. “Are you saying it hasn’t worked for you?”
“No. But—”
He finally looked at him. “Then why question my comment,” he snapped.
Darius’s lips thinned. “I didn’t mean to offend.”
“Of course you did.”
Darius hesitated. “I…”
Raidan raised an eyebrow, daring him to continue.
He must have thought better of it because he went silent.
Raidan looked down at the papers in front of him and started writing. “Your army has grown quite exponentially since I last saw you,” he said as he wrote. “And very well disciplined. How ever did you manage to do that so quickly?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
He stopped writing. “Really, Darius?” he said, glaring at him. “Did you think I wouldn’t notice your nostvores can get a handle on their behaviors a lot faster than normal?”
“I—”
Raidan stopped him. “To tell you the truth, I don’t care how you managed to do it. What I’m curious about is what you could possibly need an army for?”
“We all need protection in times such as these. And the more protection, the less likely I will be crossed.”
“Protection? Yes, well, we all need protection from something, even your own species sometimes.”
This statement brought silence from both parties.
After an extremely awkward minute, Darius spoke, “I see your faithful assassin still hasn’t left your side,” he said, looking over at Emmerich.
Raidan ignored his observation. “I thought I told you, Darius, you’re not welcome here?”
“Forgive my intrusion, but I come to you in the most unusual of circumstances. A situation which requires your urgent attention.”
“The all-powerful Darius comes to me with a situation which he cannot deal with himself? This I have to hear.”
Darius’s eyes glittered with annoyance, but he didn’t respond. “Tonight, an entire faction of my nostvores was killed downtown.”
“And? Why should I care what happens to your people? They shouldn’t even exist as you well know. And on top of that, your factions under your direction have had the audacity to try and challenge us. If you believe they should be alive, you shouldn’t be sending them to us to kill them all the time.”
“I’m not trying to challenge you, Raidan. I know we could never win. But that’s not what this is about. This is about that even though they were not authorized to be made, they’re still nostvore. They’re our own, and any threat to our own should be identified and dealt with.”
“They may be nostvore, but they’re not Vanatre. They’re a joke and should never have been created,” said Raidan.
Darius huffed in exasperation. “Raidan! Please just listen to what I have to say. That’s all I ask, and then I’ll leave and you’ll never see me here again.”
Raidan stared at him. “I’ll listen, but that’s all. After that, you can go back to the little hole you came from.”
Darius nodded. “Tonight, one of my nostvores came to me. She brought news that twenty of my own had been attacked and slaughtered on our own turf.”
“Lycroulds?”
“No.”
Raidan’s eyebrows lifted in surprise. “Gargens?”
“No, it wasn’t gargens.”
“Well, don’t keep me in suspense,” Raidan said impatiently. “Please reveal what you came here to tell me.”
Darius pursed his lips. “They were killed by a human. A female human.”
Raidan burst out laughing and leaned back in his chair. “A human killed an entire group of nostvores? I think not.” His face then turned stone-like again. “Now, what really happened? And stop wasting my time with bullshit. I’m not in the mood.”
“It is possible when they have our abilities.”
Raidan’s smile turned deadly. “I would remind you, Darius, of where you stand. Your tone may not see you leaving this place alive.”
“And you and I both know that won’t be the case.”
Raidan shot forward out of his chair and slammed his fists on the desk. “You may be right on that note, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a number of other things I could do to you,” he said.
Darius put his hands up in surrender. “I’m sorry. I meant no disrespect, but you must understand that this is a huge problem.”
“Stop wasting my time, Darius. No such human exists.”
“I have proof.”
Raidan cocked an eyebrow. “What proof?”
Darius nodded to a nostvore standing closely behind him. Raidan hadn’t paid attention to him, but guessed it was Darius’s second.
After seeing Darius’s signal, the nostvore immediately headed out of the room and just as quickly returned with a young redheaded nostvore with a rather ghastly looking cut on her cheek. She was a lovely petite thing, the type all males would appreciate looking at, among other things.
But she was a Mavator, Raidan had to remember. Beautiful or not, she shouldn’t exist.
“I’m guessing you’re going to insinuate the human did this?” Raidan asked Hedona, indicating to her cheek.
“Yes, she did.” Darius answered.
“I wasn’t talking to you,” Raidan snapped. He gaze went back to Hedona. “Now, child,” he said in a gentler tone. “Come closer.”
She took a few hesitant steps forward.
Raidan saw by the look on her face that she was terrified. He stood up from his desk and walked around to her. Her eyes widened as he reached out and brushed her cheek. She flinched at his touch. “I’m not going to hurt you, my dear,” he reassured. “I just want you to tell me what happened.”
She looked over at Darius for reassurance.
“Don’t look at him. Look at me,” Raidan commanded. “Now, speak.”
Hedona, still uneasy, did as he ordered. “I was out tonight with a newly-turned nostvore, who I was in charge of taking out to feed. I saw this woman who was alone and looked drunk. I thought she would be an easy target, so I sent him after her…”
She went on, telling Raidan everything that had happened, from the human killing her nostvore and how easily she did it, to the human following her to the safe house and killing everyone in her faction.
“And why would she let you live and kill all the others?” asked Raidan when she had finished.
Hedona looked down at the floor. “She wanted me to deliver a message to Darius.”
“And what was the message?”
She looked up into Raidan’s eyes. “The final death is coming for him and every other nostvore in this city.”
Raidan stared at her, assessing what she had just told him.
“Don’t you see, Raidan?” Darius broke the silence. “This threat is real.”
Raidan sighed. “There is no threat, Darius,” he replied dryly.
“No threat? Are you kidding me? You heard what happened.”
“Yes, I heard what she had to say, but I still don’t believe this human exists.”
“But I gave you proof,” Darius argued, pointing to Hedona.
“That is not proof,” Raidan yelled. “A girl with a story and a slashed cheek isn’t proof.”
“Then send a team to at least look into it.”
“I’m not going to waste my men’s time on such a foolish mission. Don’t you think we would have heard about human with abilities living in the city and killing mythlends long before now?” He didn’t wait for a reply. “And even if she does exist, I still wouldn’t waste my time on her.”
“Raidan, be reasonable. I’m asking for your help in eliminating a threat.”
“If you truly believe she exists, it’s one girl, Darius. Surely you and your cohort of pitiful nostvores can handle the situation.”
“That one girl single-handedly killed an entire faction of my nostvores. If you can’t be bothered because it’s one human, be bothered by the fact that she is human, has our abilities, and seems to be on some kind of vengeance mission to kill our kind. She may be after me at the moment, but if she succeeds, who’s to say you aren’t next?”
“Until that day comes, she’s not our problem. She’s yours.”
“But you need—”
“Enough,” Raidan yelled. “I will hear no more of this.” He turned away, looking out the window behind him.
“I thank you for your time then,” said Darius.
Raidan heard footsteps as they started to escort him out. “Darius, I gave you this one lenience. Don’t ever think about coming in here again. Next time, I won’t be so friendly.”
“I would never dream of it,” Darius replied. There was a click as the doors closed.
Emmerich moved over to Raidan’s side.
“What do you think?” Raidan asked.
“I think he’s up to something and it has nothing to do with this so-called human with powers, if there is even one,” Emmerich replied. “It’s quite possibly a distraction.”
“I agree. Darius has never done anything without an agenda and we need to find out what that is. But then again…”
“M’Lord?”
“Didn’t you see it? There was a look in Darius’s eyes. It was only there for a moment, but I saw it.”
Emmerich frowned. “What look was that?”
“Fear. When he spoke about the human, there was genuine fear in his eyes. I want to know why. If the human really does exist, and Darius has reason to fear her, he’ll send a group out to capture her or even kill her now that we aren’t helping. I want you to follow them. If they find her and she can do exactly what Darius says she can do, bring her here to me. I would like to ask her myself why he would fear her so much that he would ask for my help.”
“Would you like me to assemble a team?”
“No. It’ll be just you for now. Darius will have his nostvores on the lookout after his visit, and one nostvore is easier to go unseen than a whole team.”
“As you wish,” Emmerich immediately headed toward the door.
Raidan turned away from the window. “And Emmerich…”
Emmerich stopped and half-turned, looking back at him.
“If she’s real, the human is a high priority. If any one of Darius’s nostvores gets in your way, kill them.”
Emmerich’s eyes sharpened and he nodded. “Of course.”

***

As Hedona walked out of the Vanatre mansion, she found it hard to keep her composure. Her entire body was shaking after what she had just gone through.
Her ordeal with Darius had been terrifying, but nothing could have prepared her for how she would feel meeting the Vanatre leader. The entire time she stood in front of Raidan, she wished that the ground would open up and swallow her whole. His presence was so intimidating, more so than Darius’s. And she kept waiting for him to snap and kill her since she knew how much he despised all Mavators.
The only thing that had kept her strong was knowing Eagan was in the room with her.
An hour earlier, when she had walked out the front door of the Mavator mansion to go to the car, Eagan had been waiting at the bottom of the stairs. Her cheeks had instantly reddened at the reminder of what she had witnessed earlier with him and the humans, especially since she’d been caught. Keeping her head forward, she tried to pass him, but he blocked her path.
Eagan grabbed her chin, making her look at him. “Such beauty should never be marred from such affliction,” he said, slowly caressing her cheek.
Hedona ignored his comment. “Where are we going?” she asked.
He brow rose. “You don’t know?”
She shook her head.
“Well, my dear, we’re about to head into the belly of the beast,” said Eagan.
She was confused.
“We’re going to the Vanatre,” he said, elaborating.
“What?” Her eyes widened. “Why are we going there? They’ll kill us.”
“We’re going to ask them for help with the little problem that you have brought to our attention. We need you to tell them everything that happened so that they will believe us. As for the likelihood that we’ll be killed while doing so, well, that’s something we’re going to have to risk,” Eagan replied.
Hedona’s body started to shake. “But we can’t.”
Eagan grabbed her and stared into her eyes. “It’ll be all right. I won’t let anyone hurt you,” he said.
She gazed back at him, gauging whether he meant what he said or he was just trying to placate her. She must have started to believe him because the shaking subsided.
She closed her eyes and blew out a deep breath. Once she opened them again, she was surprised to see he was still staring at her.
“All good?” he asked.
She nodded.
“Good.” He guided her over and into the car. She looked up at him from her seat.
“I promise you,” he said. “Everything will be all right.”
On that last note, he closed the door behind her as they waited for Darius to join them.
Now, as she got into the car and they left the Vanatre mansion, she sighed in relief. They had survived. The meeting may have been less than successful, but they had walked out with their heads still attached.
But it made her wonder, if the Vanatre weren’t going to help, what would they do now about the human?
As long as it didn’t involve her, but it did involve killing the bitch, she would be happy. The rest of the way back to the mansion, she smiled as she played through her head all the ways they would do just that.

***

Emmerich followed Darius and his cohorts in their car across town on foot, easily keeping pace.
When they arrived at their destination, he positioned himself on top of a building over-looking Darius’s home, chosen so he was in easy earshot of anything that was said when they exited the vehicles. It was also a good hiding spot. If seen, he had the advantage of being able to identify threats early so he could evade capture. Or he would just kill them off if need be. Either plan worked for him.
As the cars pulled up outside the front door, Darius jumped out, closely followed by his second, the one Emmerich knew as Eagan. The little redhead took her time in following them.
“Assemble a team and debrief them on the situation. Have them ready to go at first darkness tomorrow night. There’s not enough night left to send them now,” Darius ordered Eagan as they headed up the stairs to the entrance. “I want that human found and brought back to me. When that’s done, come and see me immediately.”
“Do you want me to lead the team?” Eagan asked.
“No.”
That was the last of the conversation Emmerich heard as the front doors were closed behind them.
He was surprised by what he heard. The girl existed. It meant he would have to follow the team the next night to ensure he was the one to capture her, not them.
Dammit. If the human was that important to Darius, he would be sending Eagan with the team. He wasn’t though, which meant whatever he had to discuss with his second was crucial information. Possibly about what Darius was up to, including why he had factions of nostvores scattered throughout the city.
He huffed in irritation.
He wanted to hear what Darius had to say. But orders were orders, and Emmerich never did anything that would compromise a mission.
Suddenly, a small semblance of energy drained from him. Daylight was fast approaching and Emmerich needed to find shelter. He made a call to Raidan, letting him know what he had found out. As he expected, Raidan reinforced the order for him to make sure he captured the girl before Darius did. He reassured his leader, and then hung up.
Emmerich stayed were he was until the last possible moment before found shelter, just in case he saw or heard anything else. The sun wouldn’t kill him, but it would weaken him immensely if he stayed out in it. He would then have to go feed to regain his strength again, and that was something he couldn’t risk, just in case Darius’s team left while he was feeding.
As he settled himself down for the day, his last thoughts before he went to sleep were about how much he couldn’t wait for the moment Darius would pay for all he had done to his kind — a day he hoped he was around to see.

***

As soon as Darius returned from his visit with Raidan, he sat in a chair pondering what he had discovered and how he would proceed. The map was there in the house. He was positive. When he had left Raidan’s office he had glanced down at the stone in his pocket. The stone had glowed slightly red, indicating the map was somewhere in the house.
Viktor had been right. The map had to be on one of the levels underneath the mansion.
But how the hell was he going to get to it? The place was a fortress, constantly guarded by Raidan’s top security. They were elders like him, and therefore stronger and faster than his young army of nostvores. They would unfortunately be slaughtered before they even breached the front door if they tried to invade. He needed more brute strength behind him, and it had him wondering where he could get it.
“M’Lord,” said a voice beside him.
He hadn’t even heard Eagan walk in the room.
“Just letting you know the team has been assembled and briefed. They’ll leave as soon as the sun has set to find the human,” said Eagan.
“Excellent. How many are you sending?”
“Half a dozen of our strongest fighters and trackers,” he replied.
“Good. Very good,” he said, still preoccupied with his thoughts.
“But, M’Lord…” Eagan hesitated.
Darius looked at him directly, hearing his hesitation. “What is it?”
“I don’t understand. You wanted me to send a team of our best fighters, and yet you don’t want me to go with them. I thought with something of this importance you would want me a part of it.”
“Normally, I would, but I want you here because I need you for something even more important. I think it’s time I discussed with you the future I see for this clan.” He indicated for Eagan to sit by him and he gratefully accepted. Darius stared at his second intently. “You have been a loyal member of the Mavator clan for over a hundred years and you’ve always done what I say without question.”
“It’s my honor to serve you,” said Eagan. “It’s not my place to question you or your tactics. I believe in your cause and will do what has to be done. It’s time for us to show these humans that they’re no longer top of the food chain. When that day happens, their screams will echo throughout the streets and they’ll crumble to their knees begging us not to be our food as we take over what has always been rightfully ours. And no mythlend will stand in our way.” Eagan’s eyes became wild as he spoke.
Darius chuckled. “I’ve always admired your spirit, Eagan, but I know you have questions, and it’s time I gave you some of those answers.” He paused, considering the best way to proceed. “I’m guessing you’re wondering why I would send you after the stone, and why it’s so important to my plan?”
“I would be lying if I said I hadn’t.”
“Yes, well, I guess I must start from the beginning.” He paused again. “You know I didn’t always think like this, about this cause and defying the Vanatre. I was a faithful follower of Raidan’s and we were extremely close. I would have done anything for him. He was like a brother to me. We fought by each other’s sides through many wars and endeavors, saving each other’s lives on numerous occasions.”
“So what made you want to defy someone you were so close too?”
“I had a dream one night.”
Eagan frowned. “A dream?”
Darius stared up at a portrait on the wall. “Yes. A dream, or more like you would say…a vision. One so powerful it changed all my core beliefs in one night.”
“What did you see?” Eagan asked.
“The dream began with me waking up in my bed just before dawn, but I didn’t know what had woken me. It was a feeling I had which I couldn’t explain. That was when I saw a figure at the end of my bed, watching me. The figure wore a cloak, the hood lowered so far that I couldn’t see the person’s face. I didn’t say anything at first, waiting to see what they would do, but the figure just stood there. I almost thought them a statue because not even the breeze from the opened windows affected their clothing.
“Just when I was about to say something, the figure spoke. The figure was a woman, and the sound of her voice, Eagan, I could have listened to it forever. It was like nothing I had ever heard before. Every syllable she spoke created a feeling of peace within me, and I didn’t want it to stop.”
Darius looked away from the portrait and went quiet as he thought back to that fateful day.
“What did she say?” Eagan prompted.
He blinked. “Umm… She told me she knew who I was and that I wasn’t living up to my full potential. She said that nostvores were a mighty and powerful race who should be worshipped, not a species that should hide in the shadows. That was when she pulled back the hood of her cloak. Gods, Eagan… At that moment, I looked upon the most beautiful face I had ever seen. Her eyes were violet and glowed brighter than any mythlend I had ever encountered. Her hair was like the type that you could just run your hands through all day long. You know what I’m talking about, right?”
He didn’t wait for an answer. “And her lips… By the gods, those lips…” Darius stopped and sighed. “When I tried to sit up to get a better look at her, I couldn’t move. I was completely paralyzed. She told me to stop struggling and to listen, that it was important. She went on to tell me she’d had a vision that I would soon become a great leader. That I would bring the nostvores out of the shadows, and our species would rule the world. Humans would forever be our slaves, and all other mythlends would grovel at our feet.
“I protested of course, telling her it was against our laws, and it was for the survival of our species. She laughed at me, and said she could prove it. She came over to me, took my hand in hers, and showed me her vision.
“My gods, Eagan. It was the most glorious sight. We had defeated our enemies and had enslaved the entire human population. They saw us as gods, and paid homage to our clan with rivers of blood through the streets. All mythlends bowed down to us, knowing if they didn’t, they would starve to death. Even the Vanatre groveled at our feet.”
“That does sound glorious,” said Eagan.
He snorted. “After she showed me the vision, the woman told me this was all possible, and all I had to do was what she said. If I did, all which was revealed to me in the vision would come to pass.”
“But how do you know it wasn’t just a dream?”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking when I first woke up. But you know as well as I do, some mythlends have the power to enter dreams and control them completely. But I didn’t think about that until I realized something. Within the dream, when the woman held my hand to show me the vision, I had felt a heat where her skin touched mine. When she let my hand go, a symbol appeared on my palm. She told me if I so chose to take the path, speak these words ‘mihi viam monstra,’ and the symbol would show me what I must do.”
Darius shifted in his chair, leaning toward Eagan. “When I woke, I found this.” He held up his hand. On his palm glowed an intricately designed symbol.
Eagan brow furrowed. “I’ve never noticed it before.”
“That’s because it only appears when I need it,” said Darius.
“And have you needed it?”
“At times.”
Eagan stared at the symbol intently. “Was this woman a sorceress?”
Darius put his hand down. “I don’t know. But if she is, she’s stronger than any sorceress I’ve ever met.”
“So she could be something else?”
“Possibly, but I’ve never asked. It doesn’t really matter anyway. What matters is that she could change our way of life.”
Eagan nodded. Then he said, “Have you seen her since that night?”
“Yes, I have. After I deliberated for some time on the matter and finally decided to follow that path, it wasn’t long before Raidan exiled me. A few days later, in a barn I was using for day to shelter myself from the sun, she came to me. The difference this time was I wasn’t asleep.
“I couldn’t believe it, Eagan. She was even more beautiful in real life than in the dream.” He saw her image flash before his eyes. Just thinking of her made his cock harden.
“What did she say?” Eagan asked, interrupting his thoughts.
He was annoyed, but he didn’t show it. “She told me of a stone that I would need to see my vision through, and it was one of the first steps I must take.”
“The stone we just found,” said Eagan, making the connection. “But you left the Vanatre over a thousand years ago.”
“Yes. Neither of us predicted was it would take us this long. But there was nothing we could do except keep on searching.”
“And now that you have, what is its purpose?”
“The stone will allow us to control the very thing that we need to help us enslave the world — a species which has been in an a’keiec sleep for thousands of years. One that is also invulnerable from any type of assault,” he said. “If we control them, nothing will stop us. Not Raidan, not Javan, or any other threat to our clan. But to make this possible, we must first find the city where they’re at, which is a problem in itself because it has been lost since the day this species were put to sleep.
“How do we find it then?”
“There’s a map. And I just found out its location… Raidan’s mansion.”
“So when we went there to talk to them about this human, it was a distraction?”
“Yes and no. The threat of this human is real, and it needs to be dealt with. This actually brings me to something else I have kept hidden.”
When he revealed to Eagan his other secret, his second couldn’t mask his disbelief.
“I’m sorry it has taken so long to tell you this,” said Darius. “All I need to know now is…are you still with me?”
Eagan stared at him, not saying a word. It made Darius nervous.
But it disappeared when Eagan said, “Tell me what I must do?”
Darius laughed. “Loyal to a fault.”

***

As soon as the sun had set, Emmerich made his way back to the roof overlooking the Mavator mansion. He didn’t have to wait long before the team going after the human left and headed into the city. He followed at a small distance.
They traveled downtown. Emmerich guessed to where the redheaded one had first encountered the human. The nostvores surveyed the area around and inside the nightclub for several hours. They eventually gave up and decided to move on, leaving one of their own behind, just in case she showed.
They moved to another area in the western outskirts of the city and walked into a building Emmerich figured was the safe house where the human had killed the entire faction. He also guessed that they would be looking for clues as to her whereabouts, or at least trying to pick up her scent to track her, which should have been easy since the place should be covered in it.
When they came out not long after, he listened in on their conversation.
“I don’t understand. How can there be no scent of her?” said one of them to the leader of the team.
“Do you think the redhead was lying? You know, trying to save her own ass? I mean, I personally think it’s a load of crap,” said another.
“It doesn’t matter if we believe it. Darius does, therefore, we’ll do our jobs and you’ll all shut it,” said the leader.
They all grumbled a reply of compliance.
Done with the safe house, they headed next to another part of the city, one nostvores were notorious for choosing as their hunting grounds. They had rung the nostvore they had left at the club to come and meet them. To Emmerich’s surprise, it wasn’t long after they got there and the sixth nostvore had rejoined them, that they found what they were looking for, or rather, she found them.
Emmerich observed from a distance as the group of nostvores fought against the human. She had come out of nowhere, surprising them. He had never seen anything like it — a human who had the speed, agility, and strength to match all nostvores who attacked her, and maybe even more so. Her movements were not that unlike a dancer’s—graceful and fluid—as one after the other, she destroyed them effortlessly, showing no signs of slowing down either.
What he also noticed was just how beautiful she was. She had slightly bronzed skin, bright sultry green eyes, luscious red lips, curves which gave him the overwhelming urge to run his hands over them, and long dark shimmering hair. She wore a pair of low-riding black jeans with leather panels on the front and back of her thighs which showed off her shapely legs; a black under-corset with an obscure design engraved all over the fabric that she wore over a black singlet, and a black leather jacket that now lay beside her on the ground.
In her hands, she held two swords which she swung and jabbed with great precision. The outer edges of the blade of both swords were constructed with what looked to be silver or steel. This wasn’t unusual, but the wood which encompassed the middle of the blade was — wood carved into the shape of a flat stake. He had never seen such weaponry, and he didn’t have to personally be sliced to know they were deadly to nostvores and lycroulds. Even a small cut from it would be agonizing.
Geezus. The little redhead had been telling the truth, much to Emmerich’s amazement.
He watched on as the human plunged a sword into the chest of another nostvore, killing it instantly, and then pulled a dagger out from her corset, throwing it into the heart of another.
Emmerich realized that what he had originally thought were intrinsic designs on the corset, were in fact, cleverly disguised daggers. He couldn’t help but appreciate how smart it was.
Completely fascinated, Emmerich continued to observe. It seemed effortless for her to destroy the nostvores. One of them had a gun, but she used their own people as shields against the spray of bullets. When he ran out, she threw another dagger and killed him without missing a beat.
There were now only two of the six left. Glimpses of her face as she moved, showed him a woman who was completely determined to kill her prey. And the anger in her eyes told him she would fight to the death or… What the hell?
He looked more intently at her face, waiting for her to turn again in his direction.
There it was again. Her eyes glowed.
It wasn’t possible. Only mythlends’ eyes glowed like that, and she was no mythlend. But then again, her abilities said otherwise.
The human quickly leaned backward, swerved her body to the right, and around in a circular motion as a sword went straight over and past her face, while at the same time she sliced through a nostvore’s mid-section. Now standing beside him, she then swung her sword around again.
“Unbelievable,” Emmerich said as she cut off his head, leaving one nostvore left.
The human froze suddenly and turned her head in his direction.
Emmerich frowned. She couldn’t possibly have heard him, he was too far away. Yet she gazed straight at him. From that angle he could now see that it was not just the one color her eyes glowed. Hers were a swirling storm of blue and silver. He had never seen anything like it and couldn’t stop himself from staring.
It seemed, however, neither could she, as he had distracted her to the point that she had forgotten about the last nostvore. She howled in pain as the nostvore sliced down her back, then stabbed her through her side.
Emmerich jumped up and growled, and he didn’t know why. But he remained where he was and watched her drop her swords and looked down in shock at the blood which flowed from her wounds. He would have thought she’d have fallen at this point, like all humans and most mythlends would, but she surprised him. Her mistake at letting herself get distracted only seemed to make her angrier, and she responded with even more conviction toward her assailant.
Leaning forward, she attacked with a swinging back kick which met its mark—his head—with a high level of force. It sent the nostvore flying into a wall. She then hurriedly picked her swords up and walked over to the nostvore while he was still dazed by the impact. With a quick swing of her sword, she cut off his head, letting out a loud growl of satisfaction as the head rolled a couple yards away from his body.
Just as quickly, she spun around and gazed up at Emmerich again, seeing if he was still there.
Emmerich was now half-leaning over the side of the building, completely stunned by what had occurred. The look in her eyes was of pure hatred and a warning that she’d do the same to him if he came near her.
She walked over to one of the disintegrating bodies and pulled out one of her knives, never letting her eyes stray from him for a moment, except when she looked down at the knife in her hand where she seemed to be contemplating something.
Without warning, she stood up and threw it in his direction.
Emmerich moved just in time as the knife flew past his head, but not quick enough that he didn’t go unscathed with a cut being sliced into his cheek. It hurt like crazy, and he could feel the skin around the cut start to burn from where the wooden part of the dagger had touched his skin.
How the hell could she have thrown it so far and with such accuracy? He was a couple of blocks away from her position. It would have been impossible for any human to achieve, let alone most mythlends.
By the time he swung his head back around, she was gone. He must have turned for only a second, and yet she had disappeared completely. Using his enhanced vision, he searched the immediate area, but saw nothing to indicate which way she had gone.
He swiftly made his way down to the spot where she had last stood and allowed all of his nostvore senses to take over, searching for any indication of which way she may have headed. But his senses came back with nothing.
What the hell? He had watched blood flow from her wounds, and he now stood in the exact spot where that blood should have stained the ground, but there wasn’t a single drop. Even her scent, which he had distinctly smelled from the top of the building, had disappeared. It had been a scent, which told him she was human, but that something was amiss. It actually made her smell even more appealing than any other human, and it wasn’t something he would easily forget.
He growled in frustration. It was as if she was never there to begin with, and all beings, no matter what species, should leave something behind. It reminded him of what Darius’s team had said earlier at the safe house, how confused they were at not being able to pick up a scent to track her. It was as if she could turn it off and on at will, and if he was right, she was using some form of a’kei to do it.
This meant he would have to try another tactic to find her. He closed his eyes and recited an incantation, and a symbol on his arm began to glow. It was a symbol of Ta’ru, an ancient form of a’kei which very few knew about, let alone possessed the ability to wield. The most powerful of its incantations could only be used by whomever Ta’ru chose to wield it, and if it believes a person is worthy, it will materialize onto that person’s body in the form of a symbol, each symbol representing the power the person can wield. The symbol, which now glowed on his arm, represented the hunter — allowing him to find anyone he needed to hunt down.
Right then, he was using it find the woman.
Emmerich continued the incantation, searching for her presence. It wasn’t long before he found the blockage which was stopping him from finding her. Her a’kei was strong, but his was stronger. He concentrated harder, reciting the words, which he knew so well. It took him a couple of minutes, but then he saw it — the link. He grabbed it, connecting himself to her mind, seeing what she was seeing so he could find out where she was. Immediately, he took off in the direction he saw her running. As he went after her, he had a funny feeling that it was going to be long night. He knew she wasn’t going to be easy when it came to capturing her. But he had been looking for a challenge, and he felt this was it.
Yes, for the first time in a long time, he was in a good spirits.

The Species Within (Battles in the Dark, #1)