We left that day for the safe haven, not bothering to pack or say goodbye to our families.
It didn’t matter that I was on the verge of passing out, not when the place we promised would remain safe had been attacked. There was no more time to wait.
I needed to use my magic to protect them, and I needed to do it now.
Asher gave me enough of his blood to keep me standing upright. The only pit stop we made before peeling out of town was to pick up Tristan and Giovanni. Now that the sun was finally setting, they could safely leave the house.
I cried out with relief when Giovanni passed two blood bags into my hands and quickly tore into them. It wasn’t nearly enough, but it would have to be.
We were just under a mile away and already I could tell something had happened. Smoke lingered in the air, crisp and heavy like someone had started a very large bonfire. Even coasting down the main road, the gouges in the forest were visible. Trees were knocked down and bushes trampled into the dirt. It looked like a pack of very large beasts had charged through at full force.
I wasn’t at all prepared for what I saw when we arrived.
There wasn’t a single part of me that thought the safe haven would survive an attack without any damage, but beyond all reasonable belief, I had clung to the hope that the damage would be minimal.
We rolled down the main road intersecting the town slowly, giving me plenty of time to scour every single shred of damage the witches had done.
From the number of houses that had scorch marks licking up the sides, it was clear Ember had been here.
So many of them were crumbling, halfway torn down with families hiding inside, clinging to the shadows as the last hints of sunlight faded.
It grew worse as we neared the center, so much worse.
Bodies were lined in neat rows, covered in white sheets stained grey with ash. There weren’t many, perhaps only a dozen, but it didn’t matter. Those twelve carried the same weight as a hundred as a thousand, would.
The sidewalks and street were streaked with black marks, kissed by Ember’s flame as she pillaged the town. Cars were turned over, some halfway crumpled and smoking. The stench of burnt motor oil hung in the air, mixing with the scent of death.
Tristan cursed, and Giovanni made a sound of agreement.
“F*ck, my mother and father are here.”
I craned my head to stare at him in the back seat. If we weren’t surrounded by so much carnage and death, I might’ve laughed at how absurd he looked crammed in the backseat with Giovanni.
“Is that a bad thing?” I asked.
Gřovanni snorted. ‘If you think Tristan is unpleasant, wait until you meet his mother.”
I glanced at Tristan, waiting for him to snap or explode on Giovanni, but instead he actually nodded in agreement.
There was nothing to say that would ease their discomfort. In truth, I wasn’t too worried about Tristan’s family or what opinions his mother would have. Seeing what happened here with my own eyes, it outweighed everything else.
Asher’s hand grazed my own, his fingers sliding in between mine. I glanced away from the carnage and into his eyes, not realizing how close I was to plummeting until I felt his presence glide down the mate-bond and into my troubled mind.
It doesn’t matter how many times they destroy this place. We will rebuild.’ He promised, his eyes severe and set in stone.
More than anything, I wanted it to be énough, but it wasn’t.
I stepped out of the car, barely noticing it had come to a stop. The slam of car doors was quiet in comparison to everything else, drowned out by the weight of the stares falling on our faces.
A flash of brown curls flitted past as Breyona launched herself into Giovanni’s arms. She tangled her fingers in his hair and let out her sigh of relief into his neck.
Deacon, Dina, and Spence were the next to approach. I imagine we all had the same expression on our faces, grim without the barest hint of victory.
More and more Vampire’s were traversing the cluttered streets to the center of the safe haven, to the community center that served as a sort of Town Hall. Children clutching ash-stained stuffed animals padded behind their mother’s and father’s, hiding behind legs and torsos as they scanned their surroundings with frightened eyes.
This is the safe haven we’ve heard so much about?” A refined and almost nasal Voice chimed.
Deacon’s eyebrows lifted as he turned. Dina and Spence locked eyes, something private passing between the two of them.
Tristan made a sound low in his throat, his icy eyes darkening.
“Mother.” He said as a warning and not a greeting.
I hadn’t even noticed her standing there, the woman with soft blonde hair and an upturned nose. She had a delicate pearl necklace around her slender throat, one that matched perfectly with her powder blue dress and black pumps. There wasn’t a single curl on her head that was out of place. Clearly she’d gotten here long after the fight had ended.
Her eyes swiveled to my face, recognition and disdain melting into one festering pool that I did not have the energy to deal with.
“So, you’re our new Monarch. Lola, isn’t it? she purred, the obliviousness in her voice as flimsy as her smile.
I barely spared her a glance.
Deacon cleared his throat. “Considering you’re on her land, why don’t you show some goddamn respect and call her by her title?”
Upon hearing his threatening baritone, I tuned out everything else. Tristan’smother’s reply was shrill and fell on deaf ears. One after another, emotions impaled me in the chest. The longer I assessed the damages, the more I realized how long it would take to restore this place to what it had once been.
Months of hard work reduced to rubble in the span of two hours.
“Honestly, you can’t actually expect us to live here, Tristan.” She scoffed; a delicate hand pressed against her bird chest. Her voice lowered to a whisper that wasn’t nearly quiet enough to be an actual whisper. “Think about your sister for Goddess’s sake. Do you expect her to live in a hovel?”
‘Don’t.’ I told Asher through mind-link, feeling him stiffen behind me.
Anything this woman said was meaningless, and empty words were not worth starting another fight.
There was a little girl just a few feet away, clinging to the side of a man who had the same facial features as Tristan. His hair was much darker, but his deep-set eyes, angular nose, and pouty lips were identical. The little girl was the spitting image of Tristan’s mother, only younger and not nearly as sour. She waved timidly when we locked eyes, and I did my best to muster up a friendly smile.
Tristan’s father said nothing but judging how his eyes flitted from person to person, he was observing everything carefully. They clung to my face the most, and I wondered if he was naturally this curious or if he had a habit of gauging the emotions of the people around him.
Enough, mother. They didn’t have to invite you here, and you didn’t have to come. It wasn’t like this before.” Tristan hissed.
Tristan’s eyes found my face for but a split second before darkening. His mother was either genuinely oblivious or had a talent for ignoring the things she found unimportant, because she didn’t seem to notice the tension in the air or how all of it radiated from where I stood.
All sound apart from her nasal whine faded into white noise, crackling in my ears like the vicious flames that had eaten through over half of the houses here. The rough asphalt beneath my feet vanished, as did Asher’s calloused hands on my shoulders.
I was suspended in time, an observer to the damage and death the witches had caused, all with Tristan’s mother bleating in the background.
She pursed her lips at her son. “Not very safe, is it? What a pity. I was so hoping we could live here, but I won’t risk your sistér’s life when it’s clear this place is undergoing attacks every other day. She might not be concerned with us noble families, but I won’t forgo tradition–.”
“Mother.” Tristan snarled, but he wasn’t looking at her.
The man I had assumed was Tristan’s father approached. His hand was on his wife’s shoulder, but he wasn’t looking at her either.
‘Lola, baby. You’ve got to calm down. The shadows are reacting to your stress…”
Asher’s voice trickled down the mind link, but it was faint, muffled by white noise like everything else.
Night had quickly taken over, but now that I was paying more attention, it seemed darker than normal. Many of the streetlights were destroyed, but even the few that remained did little to illuminate the ground below.
The pinprick of a million little eyes hit my skín one-by-one.
I turned around, and there they were.
There were thousands of them, perhaps even more. Within every nook and Cranny, crawling over every piece of this earth that the moonlight failed to reach, the shadows writhed. They crawled beneath smashed cars and into half- crumbled houses.
A few brave ones slithered across the ground and circled around my feet, whispering sweet words of vengeance and blood.
“I apologize, your Majesty. My wife has many talents, but holding her tongue is not one of them. Tristan’s father said in a calm voice, one without the disdain and malice his wife’s held.
Lucinda, Tristan’s mother, scowled at her husband.
“Lola and I have worked tirelessly on this place. No one cares about it more than we do. Seeíng it like this is not easy for her.”
Asher’s voice dropped low, and anyone with ears could hear the warning in his voice.
Lucinda glanced down at the shadows pooling around my feet with eyes of ice. Her lips twisted and puckered, deepening the fine lines that circled her mouth.
“Clearly.” She said indignantly, then yelped and stumbled back when a few tendrils of shadow got too close for her liking. Honestly, your father couldn’t control those things either. Disgusting, foul creatures-“
The tendons in my neck cracked as my head snapped in her direction.
All at once, every mind –numbing emotion that burrowed into my flesh, turned to rage.
“What did you just say to me?” I asked her, unware that I’d stepped out of Asher’s embrace and towards the woman-that dead compared me to that- that monster.
There was a fleeting second where I wanted to show her exactly how much like my father I was. It bubbled so close to the surface that the thought was right there, hovering at the forefront of my mind, waiting for me to reach out with magic and breathe it to life.
It was gone within a flash when I locked eyes with a little girl with curly blonde hair and pouty lips, Tristan’s little sister.
Leaning to the side to peer around her father’s legs, she stared up at me with eyes identical to her mother and brother’s. That little girl was the tidal wave that doused my fiery anger, but even the ocean itself couldn’t tame the magic that lashed recklessly in my gut, frantic and desperate to be used.
My skin was slick with sweat, my fingers twitching and insides crackling with energy.
I’d been so close to turning it on Tristan’s mother, so close that I wanted to be sick.
The damage I could’ve done, the things I coułd’ve turned her into. It was all too horrifying to handle.
Instead, I put that energy towards something else.
The safe haven.
I promised these people I’d protect them, and I failed. Each body lining the sidewalk was a testament to that failure, proof that I hadn’t lived up to my word.
Well, not this time.
These people, the ones that called this place home, they would be safe. No one, not a soul who wished them harm would be able to step foot in this town.
The moonlight that shone down on us grew brighter, as though it were becoming tangible. Waves of liquid silver, translucent and shimmering with magic, filled the air.
Tristan’s little sister stepped out from behind her father, giggling and strecthíng on her tiptoes with cupped hands to touch the magic I created.
Vampires left and right halted in their tracks; heads turned upwards as they watched with open mouths. Mason, Clara, and Sean were among the many, their eyes tracking the glittering waves.
Deacon reached out to touch one, inspecting his fingers after they had passed through.
Up and up, they floated, covering the entire town like one big net. As each wave met the other, they sparked and sizzled before merging into one. It grew to form a dome, exactly like the one I’d pictured in my head.
A vicious, tearing pain split through my chest, but I wasn’t done yet. Through the exhaustion and the splotches of darkness clogging my vision, I grabbed hold of my magic and forced it to obey.
I couldn’t replace the lives lost, but I could fix what was destroyed.
Gasps rang out, one after another until they all overlapped.
The rubble littered across the streets, sídewalks, and front yards began to tremble. All at once, they flew into the air, circling one another. They formed a cyclone of debris and trash, comprised of shattered bits of drywall, chunks of asphalt, and sheets of metal torn from cars.
Many Vampires’ dove to get out of the way without realizing my magic had a mind of its own. It knew I wanted none of these people harmed, so it went the extra mile to ensure it.
Broken glass skittered across the streets, attracted to their missing counterparts. They snapped together one by one, the cracks slowly vanishing until a fresh sheet of glass remained. It careened through the air, whirling towards a window frame that had been pieced together by chunks of splintered wood.
Once rejoined, they coasted through the air towards the nearest house andsSnapped into place. Crumbs of asphalt met to fill in gáping cracks in the road, melting into one another to leave nothing behind.
It was like this for every house, for every structure that the witches had destroyed.
Like a reverse button had been pressed, the damage slowly undid itself. After several minutes the last brick of a chimney clicked into place, and once again, the town was whole.
Deacon stared at me; his eyes so wide that I could pinpoint every fleck of grey within the shades of blue.
“You fixed everything.” He said, amazed.
No I didn’t.” I croaked, staring a bodies covered in white sheets. They’re still dead.”
If it weren’t for Asher’s hands on my waist supporting all of my weight, I would’ve cracked my skull on the pavement when my eyes rolled back, and the world went dark.