Taking advantage of my reluctance to harm its vessel, the Elder reached for my throat and attempted to bite into my flesh. I grabbed Ashley’s arms and yanked them away from me. Then I kicked her stomach. She reeled back a few steps.
I lost balance as the guard dove for my right leg and began dragging me away from the corner I’d retreated into. I swung my left leg upward in one sharp motion, smashing it against his jaw. The back of his head collided with the wall.
Having recovered, Ashley flew at me once again, this time managing to dig her fangs into my arm. She was preparing to insert venom into my bloodstream. Would this venom even turn me? Can I even be turned back to my former state? It wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.
I placed a hand against her neck and released a sharp pulse of heat. Ashley jumped back, squealing and clutching the burn. But, to my dismay, she came for me again.
I’m so sorry, Ashley, I whispered. I looked into her blank eyes, knowing that her soul was trapped somewhere behind them. I inhaled and braced myself for the release of a flame that she wouldn’t survive.
Her hands outstretched, she aimed for me once more.
But as my fingertips were on the verge of eruption, she halted mid-air and fell to the ground, writhing and howling with pain. Barely a second later, the guard mirrored her behavior. Then they both became motionless.
What in the world…
Ibrahim appeared, sweating and out of breath. He had a gash across his left cheek.
“What…” I began to ask.
“It’s destroyed, Derek. I destroyed the gate. The evil spirits who were still on this side of the gate are no longer able to survive Earth’s atmosphere without any remaining link connecting back to Cruor. They will soon, or have already, withered away.”
“Which means…” I ran back through the corridors until I reached the innermost chamber. Another guard lay on the ground, blood drenching the claws of his right hand; Ibrahim’s, no doubt. Where the gate had been, there was no sign that anything other than solid stone floor had ever existed.
I left the chamber and headed toward the outer layer of The Sanctuary until I reached the exit. I yanked the door open and, although the witches still surrounded the temple in a tight circle, the army of vampires who had previously been battling against the shield now lay strewn on the ground.
Seeing that Ibrahim had caught up with me, I asked, “So they’re gone? F-forever?” I found it hard to fathom the implications of what we had just accomplished.
“As long as no new gates are created. I don’t know if our kind will ever be capable of developing the kind of magic our Ancients wielded in order to create the gates. Once a power like that has been neglected for generations, it’s almost impossible to rekindle.” Then Ibrahim turned to the witches and said, “You can relinquish the shield now. Our work here is done.”
They did as instructed and sounds from the island met my ears again. The screaming had stopped and instead my ears were met with the crash of the distant waves against the shore and the rustling of leaves. It was as though the island itself was sighing with relief.
“So… so that means that…” I was still stumbling over my words and trying to grapple with the situation. “Hawks and Elders… there’s no way they can trouble us anymore? We’re free?”
Just as I said the words, the Ageless manifested herself in front of the fountain, just a few feet away from us. She looked sternly at me but then fixed her gaze on Ibrahim.
“So, I see you were successful,” she said. “And now you understand what remains to be done?”
“What?” I asked. “What remains to be done?”
The Ageless ignored me. “You don’t have long. I gave you this concession because you are my cousin. But you understand that we must carry out what we agreed upon.”
“Concession? What are you talking about?” I tried to grab hold of the witch’s shoulder but, to my frustration, the minute I touched her she vanished into thin air. “Damn you!” I yelled at the empty space that only seconds before had been occupied.
I faced Ibrahim. “Well? Explain.”
“I will, Derek. But first, I suggest we bring your friends and family here to The Shade. The Elders are no more, and I believe it’s the safest place for now. My companions here will start to care for the vessels.”
An unnerving feeling began to creep over me and Ibrahim’s unwillingness to discuss it only served to further fuel the fire of my doubts.
We’ve wiped out the gates of the Hawks and Elders, but what kind of evil are we now left with?
Chapter 31: Sofia
Ibrahim didn’t even give me a chance to say goodbye to Derek. For all I knew, it could be the last time I saw him. The whole island had been transformed into a hive of wasps. I shuddered to think of what could happen on his arrival.
But there was nothing I could do other than wait and hope for the best. It took me almost an hour after Derek’s sudden disappearance to compose myself enough to speak to anybody. Zinnia and Gavin respected my silence and left the room, muttering about going out to look for some animal blood for us.
Then I made my way back upstairs to see if Vivienne had woken yet. I’d been meaning to speak to her since we first rescued her from the ship, but she had seemed to be in no state to talk to anyone.
I knocked on her bedroom door, and when there was no answer, I entered anyway. She lay in bed, eyes open and staring blankly at the ceiling. It was only when I sat on the bed next to her that she turned her head to face me.