Shadow Blood, p.10Jayde Scott
“But Deidre isn’t dead.”
“Not yet.” Blake’s dark eyes seemed to swallow up the light cast by the flames as he shook his head. “But she’s close. Without her immortal body, her powers are limited. The Shadows have always been mingling with mortals, helping them, making pacts with them in their search for special ones with abilities. They try to persuade mortals with special powers to sign them over in exchange for various benefits like money or protection. Once their physical bodies die, their powers flow into the Cemetery of the Dead, which is the center of the Shadows’ magic and once used to be fueled by Deidre’s powers.”
So much of what Blake said made sense. I thought back to the time when I was still human holding the power of necromancy. The Shadows had proposed to aid my family and Aidan in exchange for my ability. Aidan managed to save me, but I figured others didn’t have my lucky escape. My friend, voodoo priestess, Sofia, had made a pact with the Shadows many centuries ago. She offered her help to save Deidre in return for a chance to be reborn as an immortal. The Shadows granted her wish but changed the pact in their favor. Even though she wasn’t as easily physically hurt as a mortal, she could still be killed by the Sword of Sorrow, so the Shadows would get her powers eventually. I shuddered at their deviousness and tuned back to the conversation.
“They’re good liars.”
“Not so much liars as good manipulators,” Blake said. “Anyway, when word came out that Deidre was about to die, mortals from all over the world hurried to bid their assistance in exchange for this and that,” Blake said, as though reading my thoughts. “One mortal gifted her own daughter so the Shadows channeled Deidre’s soul into the girl’s body in the hope it might live on. But the body began to wither and soon Deidre had to start feeding from her people’s powers. Without the right vessel, she was weakened. So they continued to look for a stronger body, a better vessel.”
“Until she found Angel,” I said, my mind conjuring up the image of the raven-haired girl I met during my time at Shadowland—the girl trapped inside the portal.
“Yes.” Blake nodded grimly. “She’s half-Shadow, born by a mortal mother, chosen to be sacrificed at Blue Moon, when everyone’s powers will reach their peak. During this Blue Moon, we expect that the Shadows will perform a ritual by using Angel’s body so Deidre can rise in all her glory and make her people the strongest from all courts.”
“Why can’t they just forget the sacrifice, choose a different ruler and move on?”
“They’re different. Queen Deidre has been here since the Shadow’s existence. She is the source of their powers and unity.”
I thought back to the strange girl I only met once. Actually, strange was the wrong word. Queen Deidre looked like a possessed, creepy child who stepped out of a horror movie. The way she talked and the old carvings in stone at Shadowland suggested she was older than everyone I knew. The suffering I saw in her eyes sent shivers down my spine, and yet I couldn’t feel compassion for her. Not after I knew the truth about her and her people.
“I think that’s the reason why Brendan’s involved,” I said. “According to him, Angel’s his bonded mate. He might’ve been trying to save her from sure death.” If that was the case, then I felt sorry for him. Heck, I almost understood his motives...if he didn’t just try to kill me every time we met. Maybe he thought I’d deliver Angel back to the Shadows once she was found. I moistened my lips as I spoke out the thoughts that had occupied my mind for days now. “I don’t understand why Rebecca didn’t kill Angel already to destroy any chance of the Shadows getting Deidre’s vessel back.”
“Maybe she made a pact with Brendan.”
I snorted. “Why would she? From what I’ve heard about her, she doesn’t need him.”
“Think of it this way. Like Rebecca, Flavius’s no longer the strong vampire he once was. He’s a shadow of himself, trapped in a different dimension, desperate to be released.” Blake said. “Actually, she needs all the help they can get to help her master rise from the dead and to create legions to win the war. An allegiance with the werewolf community might just be part of their grand plan. I’m pretty sure that’s the reason why she hasn’t killed Angel already.”
I swallowed hard. A werewolf community? Gosh, I had a hard time fighting off one of them. No way would I stand a chance against a whole horde...unless I cloned myself. “How many are we talking about?”
“Too many,” Blake said, grimly. “Fortunately, they’re not mentioned in the prophecy—” His words trailed off.
“Or the Seer never lived to tell the tale,” I muttered.
A moment of silence ensued between us. I checked the clock on my watch nervously. We had been sitting here for half an hour and we hadn’t heard from Kieran yet. If Blake was worried, he didn’t say so and he certainly didn’t show it. Instead he continued to stare at the flames around us. I regarded his slightly tan face, the smoothness of his skin, and the glow inside his eyes. He looked so different from the people here. How he managed to return to Morganefaire and not raise anyone’s suspicions for a long time was beyond me. As if sensing my gaze, he looked up. The intensity and fire in his eyes startled me. To divert his attention from me I said the first thing that popped into my head.
“So why would Brendan, a werewolf, work with a member of the Council?” I asked, but judging from Blake’s expression he knew as little as I did so I continued. “What’s really strange is even if one of the Council members is behind this mess, it doesn’t make sense why they’d kill so many witches in a row so soon after our arrival. Why now? Why not earlier? What are the odds of having a third party working against us?”
A frown crossed his features. “It’s possible.”
Talking wasn’t his strength. According to Aidan, he never said so much as a sentence. I could tell by his vacant gaze he was about to bottle up. It was time to get to the matter at hand before I lost him completely. “The Blue Moon’s in just two days. I say we prepare a trap.” I paused for effect. “Let them think we have what they’re looking for. If it’s a particular witch they want, they’ll come after us in no time and we’ll know who the traitors are.” And retrieve the vial to save Aidan’s life, I added to myself. My idea seemed like such a bright one, until I noticed Blake’s unconvinced expression.
“They’ll come after us no matter what, Amber. Brendan knows you saw them. Iain has the whole Night Guard at his disposal. And it won’t take long before Rebecca arrives.”
Rebecca—the psycho killer.
“I don’t care,” I said. “I’m not scared.”
His brows shot up. “You’re brazen. That’s a dangerous trait in a warrior. You could win or you could lose everything. The latter’s the more likely outcome.”
“Aidan’s dying. I have nothing else to lose.” I knew I sounded melodramatic and yet I meant every word. Waiting for Blake’s reply, I crossed my arms over my chest and regarded him coolly as I began to count in my head. I barely got to three when he heaved a sigh.
“Okay, I’m listening,” he said. “But if it’s not working, you leave everything behind and get the hell away from here before you end up dead. Do we have a deal?”
I nodded, grateful that he caved in. “Sounds reasonable.” Taking a deep breath, I inched closer to reveal my plan. “The night Samantha died, one guard deserted his station at the north side of the wall. What’s the chance he only followed Iain’s instructions?”
“I wouldn’t rule it out,” Blake said.
“Council’s watching the Night Guard’s every step so Iain could never get away with murder, unless a Council member covered his tracks. So there are at least two traitors. I say we send a message to every Council member to lure out the one covering Iain and Elyssa.” As I went through the trap I wanted to set up, it began to take shape. By the time I finished, I was convinced that it’d work. It had to…for Aidan’s sake and everything he ever fought for.
“Let’s give it a try,” Blake whispered and stood.
“Hey,” I said as
“It was a spell for your protection,” Blake said. “Why? What did you think?”
“Nothing.” I waved my hand and turned my back on him, mortified. I couldn’t share with him that I actually believed he might try to kill me again.
Ten minutes later, Blake and I agreed on the plan to wait until morning when we’d present our case before the Council, threaten the traitors, lure them into a trap, and then attack in order to disclose their identities. We teleported out of the basement back to our sleeping quarters where we changed so we’d look presentable. Kieran was already waiting. As I explained our plan, he nodded grimly. And so the next morning, Kieran, Blake and I returned to the Council building, surprised to find two guys standing guard in front of the huge mahogany doors. Blake walked right past them and yanked the door open, ignoring their glares. I followed after him when one of the guards grabbed my upper arm to keep me back.
“Not you!” he said, pointing at Kieran and me. I peered at Blake who turned around and nodded.
“Fine,” I said, yanking my arm free from his grip. “I know we’re a scary bunch but that’s not how you treat your visitors.”
Ignoring me, the guard shot me another glare before accompanying Kieran and Blake inside. I pressed my back against the cold marble wall, my fingers drumming on my thigh as I tried to tune into the Council’s conversation.
As it turned out, our plan proved to be a tad harder than anticipated when the first thing they did was start questioning Blake, not even giving him the chance to provide any explanation as to what was going on in Morganefaire—not that we had much of that to offer. And there I had worried they’d be remotely interested in Aidan’s whereabouts.
Kieran and I had been standing outside, exchanging worried glances, for all of five minutes when the doors burst open and two members of the Night Guard emerged to usher him inside. As they walked past, my gaze trailed after them and focused on the small circle gathered around the strong beam of light falling through the ceiling in the shape of a star. The Council members’ faces were cold; the glint in their eyes relentless. I swallowed hard and met Riley’s hard gazes. A moment later the doors closed again.
Rather than ensuring we’d get a fair trial, the Council fetched Maya’s decomposing body and laid it in front of Kieran and Blake. And then the questioning began.
“What are they doing in there?” Julie said, materializing next to me.
I shook my head to signal I had no idea and pressed my finger against my lips to hush her as I fought to made sense of the muted voices inside.
They were angry now; their words came fast and furious. At some point, Kieran was asked to plead guilty and take the blame for everything. His accuser even mentioned that they’d be more kind in their punishment if Kieran admitted one of us had killed the witches. Their reasons and accusations were so absurd I almost choked on my stifled laughter because, not only did they seem to get a kick out of picking the weakest link aka us—the ones with absolutely no reason to kill anyone, but they also seemed interested in performing a witch trial worthy of the medieval ages. The only two things missing were the torture instruments and the question whether we had made a pact with the devil. For a moment, I considered barging in there and mentioning my acquaintance with Lucifer and his daughter, Cass, but then I decided against it. I doubted they’d understand the irony of the situation.
Kieran vowed that we hadn’t killed Maya et al. and claimed to be protecting and hiding the witch the killer was after, and that her identity would not be disclosed until Morganefaire sorted out their issues. I moistened my lips nervously. It was now or never. Our traitors were in there, hopefully panicking this very instant. I wished I could catch the moment fear rushed through them and maybe see the glint of dread in their eyes.
Footsteps to my right jolted me out of my thoughts. Jumping back from the wall, I turned my head sharply to catch a tall guy clad in what looked like a black robe. His face was turned away from me but something else caught my attention: a sapphire blue ring on his finger that reminded me of a sigil. There was something strange about him—like the slight hesitation when he walked past or the weird feeling that, even though his face was turned away from me, I knew he was watching me from the corner of his eyes. I made a mental note to ask Julie about him when the doors burst open and Kieran and Blake stepped out.
“They’re not happy,” Blake whispered, “but for lack of evidence they’re letting us go on two conditions: that we stay in town until the killer’s found and that we help with their investigation. We told them we’d be happy to disclose the witch’s identity as soon as we found a certain vial and ring.”
“Sounds reasonable,” I said.
“Yeah, let’s just hope our traitors got the message,” Kieran muttered, his gaze darkening. Though we were still nowhere near discovering the traitors’ identity, we left the Council building more than pleased with what we’d achieved, which was planting a seed of fear in those who were after us and sending the message that we were ready to bargain: the witch they wanted for a certain vial. With the Blue Moon approaching fast, I could only hope they’d come after us soon.
Even though the witches’ deaths weren’t our fault, I couldn’t stop the guilt nagging at me. As ridiculous as it sounded, a part of me believed that coming here was a mistake and that our presence triggered the killer’s wrath.
“They didn’t mean to be so medieval. I’m sure they’ll apologize as soon as the truth is revealed. And it will be…eventually,” Julie whispered. Was there hope in her tone? I glanced over my shoulder.
“I sure hope so.” For your sake as well as ours, I wanted to add, but didn’t. I still had no idea what the reaper had meant when he left her behind to fulfill a purpose. Hopefully she’d move into the Otherworld once we figured out who her killer was so she could find peace.
“I need to meet with our brethren,” Blake said. “Will you be okay?”
I nodded. He shot me a hesitant smile and took off with Kieran in his wake.
“Let’s find a quiet spot,” I said to Julie.
We moved through the busy streets quickly, ignoring people’s probing stares. As soon as we reached what looked like a cul-de-sac with a bench half hidden by the low-hanging branches of a weeping willow, Julie stopped. I sat down on the bench and signaled her to join me so we could talk.
“Did you notice the guy walking past in the hall? The one with the strange ring,” I whispered to Julie. She was the only person who knew everyone in Morganefaire so it made sense to include her in my investigation.
She remained silent for a moment and then she grimaced. “His name’s Darson Edwin. He’s a teacher.”
“Oh.” Disappointment washed over me. Of course a teacher might have important business to discuss with the Council. Nothing strange about that.
“He covers the metaphysical areas like physics and science. He’s also the one who tests our strengths and weakness. He put in a good word for me so I could join the Night Guard. I meant to tell you about it but it completely slipped my mind.”
My brows shot up. So he was suspicious after all. At this point, anyone remotely working with Iain was. “So Iain and he know each other well?”
Julie shook her head. “I don’t think they do. They dislike each other and always disagree about who may join the Night Guard.”
“But he put in a good word for you, meaning for once they didn’t disagree.” Now that piqued my interest. I thought back to the other killed witches. Was there a connection? “You never said why you were chosen.”
“Because of my strengths.” Julie’s voice dripped with pride.
“Where do I even begin?” From the way she kept playing with the hem of her dress, I could tell she loved to be the center of attention
I laughed. “Come on, spit it out already.”
“I was tested in four categories: physical wellbeing, intelligence, metaphysical strength, and powers. I scored an eight in strength and powers. The rest was pretty average.” She peered at me expectantly.
Physical wellbeing, intelligence, metaphysical strength, and powers—I had no idea what those meant, but a score of eight sounded good, so I nodded, seemingly impressed.
“You don’t know what I’m talking about.” Julie rolled her eyes. “Strength is what you might call the life energy of a person—the ability to control your magic and keep on going even if your body’s weak or dying. How far will you go? How much pain will you endure through willpower alone before you give up? Powers is pretty much self-explanatory, meaning the magic in my blood is so strong I can simulate any ability supernatural beings might have.”
“Such as teleporting,” I said. My mind wandered to Maya. After knocking me over, she had teleported me out of the building and onto the wall so the creepy wind entity would kill me. First I thought it might’ve been Rebecca’s doing, what with her possessing Maya and all, but now I was no longer convinced.
“My physical stamina and intelligence, meaning the ability to process information, are pretty average,” Julie said.
Shadow Blood by Jayde Scott / Mystery & Detective / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes