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CHAPTER THREE - THE CITY OF PALE STONE

 

The moment Julian stepped into the doorway it felt like someone grabbed the front of his shirt in an iron fist and yanked him forward.  His vision blurred–or maybe the world blurred–and he lost sight of the cavern and the passage. He couldn’t see Christian either.  He couldn’t even feel the stone floor beneath his feet. 

His limbs flailed wildly as if he were falling from a great height while also being pulled forward. The only stable thing was Christian’s arm that he gripped in a vise-like hold.  He would not let go of his best friend. He would not lose him in this in-between place.

“Don’t let go!” he thought he heard Christian shout.

“I won’t!” he screamed into the void.

Then the world came back all in a rush.  Julian let out an involuntary gasp at the suddenness of it.  He stumbled, losing hold of Christian’s arm finally, and his own arms pinwheeled wildly.  But he did not stop running. Vampires–VAMPIRES–were on their trail. For all he had believed his parents’ words, he realized now that he really hadn’t believed.  Or maybe he hadn’t understood the enormity of it.

How were the vampires at the library right when we were? His thoughts tumbled once over the other as rapidly as the beat of his heart. Were they tracking us? But why? The intro video isn’t up!  Maybe the vampires have been watching me since my parents died. After all, what is sixteen years to them? The blink of an eye? Or maybe they were just watching the library and followed us from the reference room.  The library… We’re not in the library anymore!  Where are we?

The moonlight was so bright that it seemed like day for a moment.  The scent of green, growing things–sweeter than he had ever smelled them, even out in the middle of nowhere–filled his nostrils as he drew in deep breaths to keep running.  He saw pale stone slabs beneath his booted feet. They seemed to glow and gave out sparks with every pound of his feet. Lining the path were trees with trunks as wide as cars and darkness so velvety black between them that it looked like it had heft.

Trees.  White stone path. Sky…

Julian looked up at that sky and he stumbled as he saw twin moons. Twin moons. One blue. One red. Two moons. They were no longer on Earth.  

We’re in another world.

Christian crashed into him.  They both went down and tumbled onto the stones.  Both lay there stunned. Then panic at the thought of vampires pouncing on them had Julian rolling over onto his back. But that was when he realized that there were no other sounds but his heartbeat and their breathing.

The vampires didn’t follow us!  

He lifted his head and looked back where they had come. There was no sign of the passage leading back to the cavern beneath the library. There was only a winding stone path through those humongous trees.

Christian was suddenly scrambling to his feet and grabbing Julian. “Come on!  They’re coming!”

“No one is coming. Look.”  He pointed back at where they’d come.

Christian wheeled around to look where he was indicating. He stopped. “The door’s gone. That’s… good?  Maybe?”

“It’s just like Mom and Dad wrote.  The door disappears once you pass through it. We’ll have to go back through the doorway in the city to get home.”

The city. The city must be nearby.

Christian helped him up to his feet even as his best friend’s eyes were on the empty path, as if not quite believing that it really was free of vampires.  Julian looked around them, too, breathing in the sweet scent of living things. He couldn’t quite believe they were free of the creatures either.

Maybe it’s just for a moment, but we’re safe. For the moment anyway.

They were standing on a pale stone path, more like a road in width, in what looked to be a massive forest.  The stones of the road were smooth and perfectly joined together so that the road was completely flat. None of the roots from the massive trees had caused any of the stones to bulge. That should have indicated habitation, people–or vampires–replacing the stone slabs that had been pushed up by roots, but Julian just felt that the place was empty.   

There is no one here, but me… me and you and the other that does not matter…

Julian blinked and put a hand to his forehead. Where had that thought come from?  It hadn’t even sounded like his own voice.

“There are two moons.  Two,” the sheer awe in Christian’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts.

“It’s incredible, isn’t it?” Julian looked up at what had stunned him earlier. “One’s blue-tinted and the other is -”

Red.”  Christian giggled. Christian never giggled.  “Red like blood. Red for vampires.”

“Red for the Ever Dark. That’s what the vampires call this place.  This is the Ever Dark,” Julian rolled that phrase on his tongue. It sounded right somehow.

“Fucking vampires.”  More giggles burst through Christian’s lips.

“What gave them away?  As not human, I mean? You were pretty convinced that vampires didn’t exist before you saw them,” Julian asked.

“You mean besides the glowing silver eyes and the fangs?  Jesus, fangs.  They literally have fangs!  Yet they talked around them without any lisps.”  And then Christian started laughing so hard that he was doubling over and wrapping his arms around himself.

Julian joined him. Both of them were laughing hysterically under an alien night sky.  The stars were so thick that there was hardly any blackness.  The double-moons, one twice the size of the other, hung huge and pregnant in this starry expanse above them.  Julian’s laughter finally slowed to a few stray chuckles and he unbent.

There are no other sounds. So silent here.  Because it’s abandoned, but who would abandon such a place?  Such a beautiful place...

“Why haven’t they followed us?” Christian asked.

“The vampires?  I don’t know. Maybe they are leery about coming here for some reason.”  Julian lifted a hand in uncertainty. “It could be sacred.”

“Or quarantined.”

“So positive. Just a bright ray of sunshine. That’s my best friend for you!” Julian gave him a lopsided smile.

“The vampires didn’t seem frightened of much, did they?” Christian asked.  “Do you really think some vague stricture against coming into this place is really holding them back? Especially with us in here, undoubtedly, polluting it with our mortal bodies?”

“I admit that it seems strange to think of vampires as religious, but Mom and Dad found this place through using one of their religious texts.”  He paused and added, “Mom and Dad never figured out what happened here, but they would have. Thing is that they hardly got to study the place before… Well, they didn’t find bodies or anything like that indicating disease or war.  They wrote that the city was completely intact. No sign of damage at all.”

“Yeah, but it feels empty.”  Christian slowly turned in a circle, scanning their surroundings. "Weird that the vampires would abandon this place without a good reason to do so."

I am here…

Julian jerked his head to the right. The voice seemed to come from there.

But it’s inside my head.  Christian isn’t acting like he heard anything.

Julian pinched the bridge of his nose.  His head throbbed. Maybe from the fall. Maybe from the sheer excitement and terror.  In the library, he had felt like a man on fire. He couldn’t have stopped if he had wanted to. 

Now that he was here, he felt calmer.  How that made sense he didn’t know. It was as if he’d reached some checkpoint finally. But what had been the cost of his feverish need to get here, ignoring most of their safety measures, and just going in?

“We should have prepared better.” Julian turned towards Christian.

Christian frowned and his forehead furrowed.  It showed how much Christian cared about him that he didn’t immediately agree with him.  “We didn’t know–”

“That vampires were real and that we’d be in an alternate universe tonight?  You didn’t, but I believed it. Sort of. I just…” He ran a hand through his black hair. “I didn’t think–”

“We were going to the library.”  Christian raised an eyebrow. “Nobody is ever afraid of the library.”

“I pushed us to go here before we’d checked things out enough,” Julian said, becoming serious. “Maybe we would have seen the vampires–”

“They looked like normal teenagers,” Christian interrupted.

“We should have come during the day.”

“We don’t know if vampires can’t come out during the day,” Christian pointed out.

“T-true.”

“We know nothing about them… Well, except for the fangs and silver eyes thing.” Christian’s forehead was bunched. “But we don’t know if they are immortal or drink blood or can’t walk in sunlight or are allergic to garlic. Does holy water work on them or what about crosses or–”

“I’m thinking that we should assume all the bad stuff about them is true. You know the blood drinking and the super strength. Hell, maybe they can turn into smoke or bats,” Julian said. “We assume the worst and, hopefully, that will keep us safe until we can figure out the truth about them.”

Christian nodded, but suddenly a rather bright smile and a hysterical chuckle.  “Vampires are real.”

Julian grinned back even as his heart clenched a little at the thought that Vampires likely really had killed his parents. “It’s crazy.”

“It’s more than that!”  Christian ruffled his own hair, pacing for a moment. “There’s so much to know. It changes everything. This place!  Them!” He stopped and grasped Julian’s shoulders. “Do you realize how knowledge about this place and vampires is completely going to rewrite history and medicine and–and religion?  You know that, right?”

“Yeah, and the vampires are ready to kill to stop that from happening,” Julian said, swallowing sudden bile.

“You can almost understand it.” The moment that Christian said it, he clearly regretted it.  He put a hand on Julian’s shoulder. “I didn’t mean it like that. Your parents–”

“And us, Christian. My parents knew and wanted to tell the world.  We now know and want to tell the world,” Julian reminded him.

Christian went still. He didn’t even blink.  “So we’re their enemy number one now.”

“I’d say that’s about right.”  Julian’s eyes went to the road.  No teenage vampires, but he was less easy than before that they would stay away forever.  Whatever was holding the vampires back wouldn’t last forever.

We’re too important to let go.

“We need to get out of here.  What does the journal say about the door back? Christian asked.

Julian pulled out the journal and it opened to that first well-worn page of when his parents had come here and seen Ever Dark.

Ever Dark.  Mom would have loved that name. He knew that they didn’t have time for this, but he found himself reading a few passages that were written by his mother about finding this place.

We found ourselves in what I would almost call a primordial forest, his mother wrote.. Trees that had stood for thousands of years, not just decades or even centuries.  Millennia. Jack and I joked that perhaps the vampires could teach humans a thing or two about living with nature instead of against it. 

The smooth stone of the road was perfect.  You couldn’t have slid a thin dime between the slabs yet there was this sense of great age about it. And then we saw the city, almost floating above the treetops, and everything that Jack and I thought we knew… Well, we realized we didn’t know a thing.

Julian looked up, but could only see the trees.  He took a few steps back away from the edge of the path and he saw what his parents had seen. Like them, he suddenly felt he knew nothing at all either.   

The city of pale stone flew graceful towers, delicate minarets, sweeping domes and soaring bridges–so huge and intricate that Julian could not take it all in with a single look–above the sea of trees.  The architecture was elegant and brilliant. Julian could tell from just looking at it that the city was built with a singular vision.

Do you like my city?

Julian took a step back. The voice had been so loud and clear and definite.  And it was coming from the city.

Am I imagining this?  Mom and Dad never mentioned a voice, but they did feel pulled sometimes.  They would find themselves searching the city for something.  But they could never find it. Was it… you? He directed that last thought at the “voice” but heard nothing in reply.

“What is it?” Christian joined him and drew in a sharp breath.  But it wasn’t because of the voice. It was just seeing the city.  “It’s… it’s beautiful.”

The city of pale stone was beautiful, so beautiful, that Julian’s heart ached.  

I should hate it.  I should only think of it as a pale stone grave marker for my parents. This caused their deaths. This beautiful, treacherous place…

“The architecture…” Christian began and stopped.  Julian looked over at him. His best friend was reaching towards the city as if he could physically grasp it, following the lines of it with his fingers.  Though he had the mind of a scientist, Julian thought that his best friend had the hands of an artist. “There are elements here from multiple Earth cultures.  Minarets are typically associated with mosques. Domes are thought to have originated from early Mesopotamia. Those bridges…”

“You’re thinking that the vampires got their ideas about architecture from us?” Julian lifted an eyebrow.

“Or we got them from the vampires.  If they’ve been visiting our world for centuries, millennia, or however long then…”  Christian shook his head again as if he couldn’t quite contemplate it all. “Julian, they could have been influencing human culture all along. For all we know, they could have been influencing more than that.”

“Such as?”

“We genetically modify crops to give greater yield, be healthier–”

“Genetically modified humans?” Julian’s eyebrows rose.

“Why not?  If we’re their food source, they’d be very careful with us. Animal husbandry,” Christian said quietly.

“Oh, God, let’s not talk about that.”

“Just think, they probably made some of us to have tastier blood or more blood maybe. Others, they breed to make into themselves. Perhaps the uber-talented or beautiful or–”

Julian held up a hand to stop him. “I know you want to think all this through right now.  But those teenage Vampires could get here any moment.”

“Quite.” Christian looked almost crestfallen and Julian would have felt bad if he didn’t actually believe what he said.

Julian quickly flipped through the journal to the section where his parents described how they got back to Earth.  It was in a building that his parents had termed the “Octagon” because of its shape. There was one doorway into the Ever Dark, but there were many doorways out.  Putting the infinity symbol on the Octagon would get them back to Earth. He memorized the route from the central plaza then slipped the journal back into his pants’ pocket.

“Got it?” Christian asked.

“Two rights and a left.” When Christian gave him a raised eyebrow, he said, “I have it. Don’t worry.  But we have to get to the city first and we should be prepared this time. I didn’t completely forget about security.” He took off his backpack and unzipped the front pocket. He drew out his Glock 19.

“Do bullets work on vampires?” Christian’s eyebrows were raised.

“No idea, but maybe I could wing one.  Slow them down.”

“You’ve never shot anything but cans all your life.  Are you really ready to shoot at people?” Christian didn’t hide the disbelief in his voice.  “And don’t tell me vampires aren’t people. Those teenagers… I had no idea what they were until they showed up with glowing eyes and fangs. They looked normal.”

“Yeah, they did.”  Julian though tucked the gun in the back of his pants.  He lightly hit his best friend’s shoulder. “Are you capturing this?  Parallel universe? Vampires? On video? Evidence? Ringing a bell?”

Christian had slid his camera back in its holster at some point. His best friend let out a curse and brought the camera up.

“Goddamn, second time I’ve forgotten I should be filming,” Christian grumbled.

“Shows this place has knocked you off your game.”  Julian slipped the backpack back on. Casting one last glance up the road, still no vampires, thankfully, but how long could that really last?--he gestured for them to go down the road. “Let’s go.  I think we’ve stayed here way too long.”

Christian nodded, but he was panning the camera right then left, trying to capture the enormity of the city of pale stone.  “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

“Later, I think the images speak for themselves.”

They both started jogging down the white stone road in the direction of the city.  The road took several graceful turns, but then it straightened out. The trees thinned and the city was before them.  It was surrounded by a high wall. Julian had to crane his neck back to see the top of it. Though it should have been impossible, the wall seemed to be carved out of a single block of stone.  It looked to stretch over a mile in either direction. Directly ahead of them was an arched gate that stood over 30-feet high. There were doors made of a silvery metal and were cracked open just enough for a single person to slide through.

“Anybody home?” Julian asked with a nervous laugh attached to the end of it.

“The way those teenage Vampires moved, so silent, would we know if anyone was here?” Christian asked.

“They talked though, right? Vampires talk.  A whole city of them wouldn’t be quiet as the grave.  Besides, Mom and Dad said that it was just like this. Empty.”  Julian gestured towards the space. “Beyond those doors will be the half-moon plaza, remember from the journal?  Those huge almost beaux-arts structures lining it and stretching up to the sky?”

“With the big balcony.”  Christian nodded, but his gaze was intent on the screen.  “Let’s go in and see how it compares in real life. I’ll film you.”

“You just want me to go first.”

A half smile curled Christian’s lips.  “Damn straight. Now go on, Kirk. I’ve got your back.”

“You know it never made sense that they would have all the officers–especially the captain–risk his life on missions in that way.”  

“True but neither you nor Kirk would have it any other way.  Now look pretty. We should only film a little before we head to the door.”

“Right.”

A trickle of excitement and unease skated down Julian’s spine.  He was going to enter the city of pale stone.

Finally.

Julian could just squeeze through the gap. His shoulders touched the cold metal of the doors. As they did, an electric zing went through them and he stumbled forwards.  He brought his hands up to his shoulders, drawing down the collar of his shirt to see if he was burned or marked or something.

Nothing. I’m fine.

He called over to Christian, “Be careful of touching the metal. It’s electrified or something.”

It feels like magic.  Julian shook himself. He didn’t know what magic felt like. He didn’t know that magic was real. It was science. Just science they didn’t understand yet.  No wonder Mom and Dad loved this place.  For every answer, there’s a million questions.

“Will do,” Christian called back.

Then Julian was struck dumb again.  His parents had described this opening space as a “meeting area”.  It was empty now, but he could imagine it filled with a roaring crowd.  There was a stunning mosaic of the rising moons on the horizon inlaid on the floor.  The buildings ahead of him followed that curve and soared so high that it looked like they might touch the real moons above.  There was a balcony that ran the length of the buildings. It was on the third floor. He could imagine some vampire politician–or maybe a king or queen–speaking to a roaring crowd of Vampires.

What would they be promising their people?  A human in every pot? Blood for everyone?

My blessing, the voice said.

What?!

Julian’s head jerked towards a curving road to his left.  The voice was back and coming from there.

What’s your blessing? Julian asked.

Silence.

Am I losing my mind?  He saw Christian enter the city, filming all the while, panning over the mosaic and the balcony. And, if I really think I’m hearing voices from here, I should tell Christian.

But he found himself turning away from his best friend.  He drifted over to one of the buildings. The one nearest the road to the left. He told himself that he wasn’t trying to hear the voice again.  

There were engravings on the pale stone to look at. There were infinite symbols with what looked like writing in the center. Julian ran his hands over the word and he thought he saw sparks again.

First Among Equals, the voice said.

Julian jumped again, but quickly asked, Is that what this word or phrase means?

He expected silence, but instead he was answered, That is who I am.

Where are you?  Are you in the city?

Now there was silence.

He touched the writing again, but nothing.  

Being shy again? Julian asked. Or am I just crazy?

Absolutely nothing now.

Julian sighed. noticed that there were also engravings of flowers, vines and trees done with exquisite detail.  These vampires were more than just predators. They had art and culture. This reminded him of the ancient Greeks at the height of their civilization.  He’d read about this in his parents’ journals, but it hadn’t stuck with him somehow.

Why does it have to be beautiful?

Julian looked at the doors that led into the buildings and wondered what was inside. His parents had said that the doors had remained shut and locked no matter what they did.  Windows were shuttered, too. His parents had consoled themselves with the fact that any furniture, linens or books would likely be dust and ashes. But Julian didn’t believe that. He felt that inside the silks would be as fresh as the day the doors were closed. There would be books full of secrets, myths and salacious gossip.  

So much to learn and we really can’t stay. Not this time anyway. Not until we bring news crews in and lights so bright that no vampire will dare come near.

“Julian?” Christian’s tone had him jerking his head towards his best friend.

“What is it?”  Julian turned.

Christian was pointing the camera not inside at the magnificent square but outside, at the woods.  Christian slammed the camera back into his holster and he was putting his shoulder against the one door and started pushing on it.

“Help me! Help me! They’re coming!” Christian cried out.

Julian raced over to the other door and with a moment’s hesitation put his shoulder against it. That cold, electric zap went through him, but he didn’t jerk away this time.  

The doors groaned, but began to shut an inch at a time. Julian happened to glance between the ever-shortening gap and saw the two teenage Vampires coming with astounding speed towards them. The girl was ahead of the boy by a few paces.  Her silver eyes flashed. The doors shut and a moment later he heard her hit them like a bullet. They shuddered, but remained closed.

“Come on! Let’s go! This isn’t going to hold them!” Julian shouted.

Already, the doors were starting to groan as the attack on them continued.

He and Christian raced across the square towards one of the main thoroughfares that extended out from it like the rays of the sun. It was the one to the left.  The one he’d heard the voice from and, somehow, he felt that this was right. He should go this way.

Yes, come to me, the voice said.  Where you will be safe.  Safe with me.

Who are you?  Julian demanded even as he put a burst of new speed into his pace.

The only one who can save you, the voice answered.

“Where’s the octagon building?” Christian gasped out.

Julian opened his mouth to tell him that they missed the passage, that they needed to double back, but he just said, “This way.”

Are you controlling me? Julian asked the voice.  I didn’t tell Christian about you.  And I didn’t mean to say what I just did to him! So what the fuck are you doing?

Of course there were no words in response. Julian was getting used to that.  But he felt a tug this way or that as they reached intersections. He followed those tugs. Each time it was the right thing to do.  They avoided ambushes by the teenage vampires who had decided that running along rooftops and balconies was better than on the ground. One time when he almost went the opposite way of one of the tugs, the female vampire–Selene, he thought her name was–jumped down right where he would have been if he hadn’t quickly backed out.

Why are you helping us? Julian asked the voice as they ducked through an alleyway.

To see…

To see what?

If you are strong enough, the voice answered with a chuckle.

Strong enough for what?

To save yourself.  Now run. Run. RUN.

They ran deeper and deeper into the city, well past where his parents had ever traveled. The Harrows had acted like real archeologists while he and Christian had just come with a camera and their wits.  He couldn’t wait to get the proof he needed for things like a plan or permits.  He did feel the weight of the gun. Would he have to use it? Would it even work?

Just keep running. We’ll lose them.  Somehow, he told himself

Julian chanced a glance over at Christian.  His best friend’s cheeks were flushed. His lips were parted. His eyes were wild. His own lungs were burning. The muscles in his legs felt like they were going to give out. But both of them kept going.

The tugging sensation was much stronger directly ahead of them and then he saw the building that the voice was leading them to.

Yes, the voice murmured. You are almost there.

There was a staircase ahead of them, wide and low steps that led to a graceful gold-domed building. While everything else had just been the plain, but beautiful white stone, this gold dome made the building stand out.  It glittered like the pulsing heart of the city.

“THERE!  THERE THEY ARE!” a female voice rang with predatory glee.

The male vampire cried, “Selene, we’re not to harm them!  Lord Balthazar–”

“GET THERE BEFORE THEY GET AWAY!” She ignored the other vampire’s words.

They had reached the top of the stairs and through a colonnade of columns to a set of golden doors.  The teenage vampires were at the bottom of the stairs. Their starry night eyes fixed upon him and Christian.  The male vampire leaped and he was halfway up the flight.

Impossible! Julian thought.

“Through there!” Julian cried and pointed to a set of crystalline doors ahead of them.  Maybe they could get inside and brace them. Then they could go out the back.

If there’s a back door, he realized with despair.

But there was no time for second guessing. He threw himself at one of the crystalline doors. It opened effortlessly under his hands. He saw inside what looked like a white sarcophagus in the center of a circular room. But more, importantly, he saw another set of doors on the opposite side.   

You’re here, the voice said, full of dark satisfaction.

What? Where? Julian cried. He cast around everywhere.

With me, the voice deepened. Darkened.

The doors slammed shut behind him.  Before Christian could follow him inside. Julian heard Christian bash into the doors.  Julian spun around and saw his best friend tugging at them.

“NO! CHRISTIAN!” he screamed.  

There were no door handles and no locks on his side.  It was just smooth glass. The male, teenage vampire was suddenly there.  He wound an arm around Christian’s throat. His best friend’s nostrils were flared like a frightened colt’s.  The male teenage vampire’s silver eyes were on him.

“Open the door,” his voice was muffled through the crystalline door.

“Don’t do it, Julian!” Christian warned.

“Silence or I will silence you forever!” The teenage male vampire threatened and increased his hold on Christian’s throat until his friend let out a choked cry.

“I can’t!” Julian cried.  “The doors are locked–”

They will kill him and you if I open the doors, the voice said.  A masculine voice. Commanding.  

They’re definitely going to kill Christian if you don’t! Julian asked, feeling betrayed by that voice. Where are you?  Where–

Right here. Behind you.

Julian spun around in the room, looking for the owner of the voice.  But there was no one there.

“Open them or your friend will pay!” The male, teenage vampire threatened.  His hands tightened on Christian’s throat and his best friend let out a hiss, but said nothing.

“They’re–they’re locked or something. Let me try the other doors. Please! I’m not running!  Don’t hurt Christian!” Julian begged.

There is only one way to save him and yourself, the voice was patient, almost amused, as if Julian’s little plans were nothing.  

Julian held up his hands as if to show the teenage, male vampire that his intentions were good.  Julian backed away, feeling the press of the gun against his spine. He had to get to it, but not while the door separated him and Christian.  Once he was out there again, the weapon would be more useful.

Your weapon will do nothing, the voice mocked.  Just annoy them and Christian’s neck will be broken in an instant. There is only one way to save him and yourself.

What way would that be? Julian demanded to know.

Julian’s left hip brushed against the sarcophagus at that moment.  He glanced down at it. A statue lay upon it. The stone was shaped into a man’s hooded and cloaked form. The folds of the material were incredibly realistic.  The man’s arms were crossed over his chest. He was holding a flower. A rose. 

The petals were dipped in that strange, silvery metal and looked incredibly sharp. The hood was pulled down so that all he could see was the chin, lips, a bit of a nose, and a powerful jaw. The lips were plush and sensual, drawn in an almost pout.  For a moment, Julian desperately wanted to know what the man’s face looked like.

He must be beautiful, Julian mused, forgetting everything else.

You will judge for yourself, the voice rolled out with sensual laughter.

Julian jerked back from the sarcophagus.  That’s you?  That’s where you are? In a coffin?

A sleeping chamber for the ages.  

Are you going to get up? Julian asked.

Julian reached the opposite set of doors. They, too, did not have any handles or locks. Selene was suddenly before him on the other side of the door.  She drew back her right hand and smashed it against the glass. If it had been truly glass, it would have shattered, but instead she let out a howl of agony and pulled her hand back. He saw that the bones in it were all broken.  Bits of bone stuck through her flesh. Blood dripped, rich and lovely, on the white floor.

Fuck, Julian breathed.

Do not worry. She will heal.  See? She is already, the voice said.

Julian watched as the bones and flesh knit themselves together again.  She hissed at him, banging against the glass, but lighter this time.

“Come out here!  COME OUT! Or I will drain every last drop of blood from Christian!” She snapped, her fangs flashing in the moonlight.

She will do that in any event.  She was sent here to kill you, the voice said.

Why? Because we found out vampires exist? Julian gasped.

No, because you found this place. You found me, the voice–no, he–answered.  Now. Do you wish to survive?

Of course, I do!  Julian let out a hysterical laugh. You know I do.

Life runs strongly in you. So different from those before that… fell into darkness, He answered and there was such a bleakness in his tone that Julian hurt hearing it.  It has been long years since I was brought an offering.  Your blood though may be enough.

My blood?  You’re a vampire, too, aren’t you? Julian was looking at the sarcophagus.  At the beautiful man who lay upon it, a reflection of the beautiful man who was inside it.  Of course, you’re a vampire.

I am an Immortal, he corrected as though there was a difference.  Do you see the flower upon the sculpture’s chest?

Yeah, hard to miss.  Looks sharp, Julian remarked.

That is the point of it.  Lay your hand upon it, he instructed.

The flower was so delicate to look upon and yet it seemed far from an innocent flower, but a weapon.

What will happen when I touch it? Julian asked.

What do you think? Amused again. Laughter, rich and rolling filled Julian’s mind.

Spell it out for me, Julian replied, gritting his teeth.

Besides the voice, he could only seem to hear his own heartbeat in his ears. His eyes flickered to where Christian and the teenage, male vampire still stood.  Selene and the teenage, male vampire were arguing fiercely. She was snapping the air with her teeth when he kept shaking his head. Christian’s gaze caught Julian’s and Julian’s heart rate sped up to twice the rate as before.

They cannot get inside. Not until I will it, the Immortal answered.

I’ve got to get out to Christian! I have a weapon! Julian snarled.

Which is useless, the Immortal was patient again.  You saw Selene’s hand.  Your bullets will do even less damage.

You know what bullets are? Julian laughed.

Because you do. Now I will make you a deal.  Use your blood to wake me and I will protect you, the Immortal offered..  I give you my word.

The faces of his parents flashed before his mind.  What is a vampire’s word worth?

I did not harm them.  They felt my voice, but could not truly hear it. I thought they might in time, the Immortal answered.  But you can trust me because I want your blood.

Selene had suddenly grabbed Christian from the teenage, male Vampire.  Her fangs extended farther than before and she poised them above Christian’s throat. His best friend let out a cry of pain and thrashed in her arms, but she held him tighter and he stilled.

“Find a way out now or he will bleed,” Selene hissed.

“Don’t hurt him!  Don’t you dare hurt him!” Julian shouted.

Do we have a deal? The Immortal asked.

You’ll save us?  You promise? Julian demanded, his right hand moving over towards the flower, while his eyes stayed fixed on Christian’s face.  

He swore he could hear the Immortal smile as he said, I promise.

Julian closed his eyes just as he slammed his hand down on the flower of knives.

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  • All I can pictures of bloody mangled hand now. With bits of flower- metal Blood and Bone sticking out of it.

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  • The anticipation and adrenaline running through my veins right now

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  • I am so invested! I should have read this ages ago!

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  • I’m only a few chapters in and I’m hook line and sinker in love here.

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  • Omggggggggg

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  • He is right it did not make sense that Kirk and Spock both went down on missions all the time, and Roddenberry knew that. The Studio make him use the main actors all the time because they said they were paid the most so they wanted them in most scenes. ST Next gen, was done as Roddenberry wanted it.

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  • HOW DID I NOT READ THIS BOOK FOREVER AGO?! I have been a spotty member, I'll give you that, but NOTHING and I mean NOTHING and excuse such an oversight on my part. I should have known that if Raythe wrote it, it is more valuable than any other written or visual entertainment available and should be treated and devoured as such.

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  • My gawd! This book is KILLING ME!!!!!

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  • This is the end soon he will become one of them

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  • Are you trying to kill us;

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