I left the Sanctuary and made my way to the port and walked along the jetty, standing at the very edge of it and scanning the shoreline, breathing in the fresh sea air, trying to calm my nerves.
Eli joined me a few minutes later.
“Now all we can do is wait,” I said, shivering as a cool breeze touched my skin.
“Xavier has stationed vampires at all the lookout points,” he said.
I sat down on the edge of the jetty and pulled my cloak tighter against me. “This could be a long night,” I said.
Eli sat down next to me, and we both stared out at the empty horizon. We sat for hours in silence. By the fourth hour, I stood up. I was too restless to sit any longer. “I’m going to walk further up the beach.”
For all we knew, they could come tomorrow, or the day after. Or in a week’s time. We had no idea what this witch was planning. It was all speculation.
I removed my shoes, feeling the sand beneath my feet. Digging them in deep somehow made me feel more grounded.
I walked along the beach for a couple of hours, doing everything I could to keep myself from thinking about Ibrahim. The worst thing was not knowing. It set my mind loose to imagine all sorts of scenarios that were probably worse than the reality.
By the time I’d circled almost half of the island, I turned round and began to retrace my steps.
Then, as I was nearing the port, I saw it.
Forming over the ocean in the distance, a dozen miles beyond our spell’s boundary, was a dark vortex. A whirlwind that was becoming stronger and higher by the second. Gathering speed, it was heading right for us.
My limbs shaking, I vanished myself from the spot and manifested myself back next to Eli who was still sitting on the jetty.
“She’s coming,” I shouted.
I vanished and reappeared in all the other watchpoints around the island, screaming out warnings at the top of my lungs. By the time I’d finished, it felt like the whole island was holding its breath.
Once I was sure everyone had been alerted, I returned to the Sanctuary. The witches all stood in a circle, their eyes shut tight, fists clenched in concentration.
I pushed between two of them and stood there with them in the circle, closing my eyes. My heart hammered in my chest as the ground shuddered. Chills ran from my neck down to the base of my spine.
I knew what had just happened, and judging by the look on my fellow witches’ faces, so did they.
Instructing them to stay put, I vanished from the room and reappeared at the Port. Eli stood staring at the swirling column that had just penetrated our spell’s boundary.
I knew Annora was strong, but I hadn’t expected her to break through so quickly. That spell was the strongest protection we had. It can only go downhill from here.
Eli and I stumbled backward, leaving the jetty and rushing to the raised ground above the Port as the whirlwind drew closer. Eli left my side and ran into the woods. I was about to follow, but when I cast one last glance over my shoulder, I stood rooted to the spot. The vortex had now approached within a few feet from the shoreline. I expected it to form into a full-fledged tornado and begin tearing our island apart, but instead, as soon as it touched the sand, it disintegrated into thin air, leaving in its place a crowd of vampires… and wolves.
I squinted as two figures stepped out from the crowd and looked toward me. A tall dark-haired man, and a shorter, blonde woman. As I approached closer, my jaw dropped. My mouth dried out.
The blonde woman I’d never seen before, but the man… how could I ever forget such a man?
I shut my eyes, memories flashing through my mind. Memories of perhaps the most traumatic night of my existence.
Two newborns in my arms, barely half an hour old. The flash of red eyes. Sofia’s baby boy ripped from my arms and carried away into the night…
There was something different about this man. But his appearance was still unmistakeable.
This was the first, most dangerous and darkest child of the Elder.
This was Kiev Novalic.
Chapter 26: Ben
One hour ago…
There was a circular hole in the center of the room. A woman was peering out of it, trapped behind a swirling blue substance.
I looked closer at the woman as I approached. Dark blonde hair, deep blue eyes. She wore a black dress that was torn and frayed. She appeared to be floating—beneath her was an abyss.
She stopped shouting as soon as she caught sight of us and began striking her fists against the translucent ceiling. It was bizarre—the substance was so solid that it wouldn’t budge as she struck it, yet we could still hear her voice through it.
Abby’s grip on my arm tightened as I inched closer to the hole. I bent down over it, staring at the woman.
“Boy,” the woman said, relief washing over her face. “Place your hand against this ceiling.”
I frowned at her.
“Who are you?”
She breathed out in frustration. “Please, just do as I say.”
I stood up and took a step back. How could this woman be the answer to my family’s disappearance when she appeared trapped and helpless herself? “I have no idea what you are,” I said. “Why would I help you out?”
She stared up at me, scrutinizing me closely for the first time. “Did Corrine send you?”
My heart pounded in my ears. “So it was you? You’re the one who’s been trying to communicate with her?”
“Yes,” she replied.
“Then you’re a witch?”
“I am. Who are you?”