Chapter sixteen – finale, part one
‘He… he what?’
I slowly looked over my shoulder and into Yurick’s eyes. He still had one hand placed on my back, worried for me to fall over again. Yurick’s mouth was moving, but it took multiple seconds for the words to register in my mind.
‘He’s found out where the mother is. There was a file in the records that he stole from the base, about a previous raid into a house that was occupied by vampires. They escaped, but the soldiers found a young woman hidden away in one of the rooms. They figured she’d been prey for them, saved for later. Raven, she looks just like that toddler. Red hair, blue eyes, in her late twenties.’
‘Did she have a mole underneath her eye?’ Nikola suddenly asked from the other side of me, having listened in to the conversation. His hands had clutched themselves into fists, and he looked like he was about to lose his temper from emotion again. Yurick repeated the question into the phone, after which he nodded.
‘That’s her It’s her! That’s our mother!’
He stared at me, his eyes bigger than I’d ever seen them. Hope and excitement followed after each other in his facial expressions so fast that it was overwhelming. I suddenly realized that he’d probably not expected us to actually find her- ever. This came as a surprise to him- and a new hope.
‘Does the report say where she is?’ I asked, taking control back. ‘Can we locate her?’
‘I think so. She’s not in hiding- she probably wanted to be found by those beasts for a chance to see those two again,’ Yurick said, thinking out loud. ‘Derek says that we can reach her within a few hours, if he leaves by car now.’
‘Do it,’ I ordered him, squinting my eyes slightly. ‘The sooner we can get to her, the better. She’ll be in danger from now on, as well, if the military starts digging into things like we did. Tell him to get to her, at all costs.’
Yurick nodded, repeating the message to Derek.
‘What is going to happen?’ Nikola asked. His face seemed calm, but he was visibly shaking with anticipation and nervousness at the same time.
‘Derek will go find your mother,’ I said, lowering my voice so that Yurick couldn’t hear me. ‘I’m going to leave you in Yurick’s care until we’ve located Selene, Nikola. He’s here to keep you safe, so don’t attack him like you did before. Understood?’
‘Yes,’ he said, looking a little bit guilty.
‘Good. Listen, if what you’ve just told me is true, then we need to take all three of you somewhere very far from here. You’ll need to disappear. I don’t know how we’re going to do that yet, and how to get both the humans and the vampires off of your trail. But we’ll figure out a way. In the meantime, I need you to stay calm and trust us to get your sister back, or die trying. Can you do that?’
‘I can,’ he said, nodding. ‘And, Raven… I’m sorry for losing control. I’ve never been without her before, and I promised I’d keep her safe when they took us away…’
‘I know,’ I whispered, gently cutting him off. ‘It’s all right.’
A few steps further, Yurick finished his conversation with Derek and turned off the phone, tossing it back to me. ‘She should be in a village not far from here. If it’s the right person, this is all going to be over very soon.’
‘Not until we find Selene,’ I said. ‘And not until we figure out a way to get them under the radar permanently.’
‘I might know how,’ Yurick responded, frowning slightly. ‘But I’ll need some time to think it over.’
‘Don’t take too long. I’m counting on you, Yurick.’
He nodded to me and gave me a tiny smile, which I returned. Now, all we could do was wait for Tybalt to call. He was still supposed to be following the men that took Selene. The urge to call him first was overwhelming… but if we did that, it could give away his position to the people that he was following. We couldn’t risk that. But just waiting idly in the church was not an option, as well. I was sick with worry about the little toddler. What if she was hurt? Or worse? We had to find her as fast as possible, and waiting here for news was not going to help one bit.
But what else could I do? Storm the military base and force the General into telling me where he was taking her? I wouldn’t even get close. They would spot me a mile away, unless I disguised myself. I could sneak down to the prison block and release the vampire that was still being kept there, to create a distraction… but who was I kidding? That was never going to work.
Speaking of that vampire…
The words resurfaced in my memory like a stone brick hitting my face. I had completely forgotten about the weird words that that vampire had used… but now that I’d thought of it once, the whole event suddenly came back to me.
‘Raos nyigull, Urün heshkta…’
The creature had laughed right after saying those words, as if it had known something that I didn’t. I’d cast it aside as mere gibberish back then, but… what if it wasn’t? What if it had something to do with the children? Had there already been clues back then?
‘Nikola?’ I said, deciding to take a chance. ‘Do vampires have their own language?’
‘No,’ he reacted, seemingly surprised with my question. ‘Why do you ask?’
‘When we were in the military base, there was a vampire there. It kept repeating the same two things. None of us could understand it back then, but maybe you can?’
‘They don’t remember their language when they come back,’ Nikola explained, eyeing me suspiciously. ‘Only the First language… the one that Maker created.’
‘You mean ancient Simlish?’ I said, surprised. ‘No one speaks that anymore.’
It was true; the language had died out decennia ago. Nowadays, the only ones who could still read the ancient tablets and scriptures were people who had studied it as a course. My father used to be able to read texts in ancient Simlish… but he had been the only person I’d known to be able to do that.
‘What did it say?’ Nikola asked, now curious.
I repeated the words out loud, trying my hardest to pronounce it like I remembered the vampire doing. From near the front door, Yurick looked up at me surprisedly; he’d remembered the words, too.
‘Does it have anything to do with you? Was that what it was trying to say?’ I asked, laying my theory out to him. If what I was thinking was right, then everything would make sense. But instead of nodding and confirming my thoughts, Nikola seemed to be startled by those words. And not in a positive way. His eyes widened a fraction, fear and understanding both flashing by within moments.
‘I knew it,’ he whispered.
‘Knew what? What’s wrong?’
‘Cursed blood,’ Nikola mumbled, looking up at me from underneath his dark bangs. ‘I knew it was like that. I thought I was wrong, but… those were your brothers and sisters in that house, weren’t they? That is why their blood smelled so delicious. You… You’ve defied our Maker…’
‘What are you talking about?’ I sneered, but inside of me my blood had turned to ice. In my mind, I was brought back to the scene from fourteen years ago. The moment that my mother lost her sanity, right after dad had pulled me out of that closet. I’d clawed and kicked and torn at his clothes to stay inside, screaming that Ivan needed to come and get me. And she’d been on the floor, mumbling that it was all her fault, that she’d cursed our family. Micah Adams had been mumbling the same thing every day after that, apologizing to me endlessly until the medical staff had given her drugs that caused her to forget who I was. Had she not just been spilling nonsense?
And the fact that my siblings had died in there- I’d never told Nikola any of that. There was no way that he could know, unless… unless it was true. Something had happened- something that involved the generations before me, my mother, or maybe even my grandmother- that affected me in my time. Something that had to do with that Gate.
‘What do you mean?’ I said, grabbing Nikola by his shoulders once again. ‘What are you talking about? What does cursed blood mean?’
He merely shook his head, refusing to say anything more. Slowly, Nikola pulled out from under my grasp and took a step away from my outstretched fingers. I was about to grab him again, force him into telling that last bit of information I knew he was holding back. But at that exact same moment, my burner phone decided to ring for the second time. And this time, it had to be Tybalt.
I quickly reached back into my pocket and yanked it out, pressing it against my ear as I almost crushed the receive button in order to speak to Tybalt quicker.
‘It’s not good,’ Tybalt spoke, from the other side of the line.
‘What do you mean? Where are you?’
‘Near the outskirts of Bridgeport. They’ve stationed her in the old prison for now.’
That was good. Bridgeport was in the middle of building a new, high-tech prison, one that the military had provided the blueprints for. But while they were working on that, the old prison was still functioning. The security there was tight, but largely non-electronic, and in the right circumstances, breaking in there would be possible. In my head, a plan of action was already starting to form itself.
‘Raven. There’s bad news.’
‘What?’ I responded, nervousness sounding through in my voice.
‘I’ve intercepted their calls. They’re going to transfer her to the military research base in Shang Simla, Raven.’
‘S-Shang…?’ I gasped.
‘Yes. A secure plane is scheduled to take her away tomorrow, at dawn.’
I felt the air oozing out of my lungs as I exhaled slowly. Tybalt was right when he said that this was not good. Shang Simla was on the other side of the world. Way, way, way out of my reach. Even if I was able to make it there in the end, I would still not have the faintest idea where to go, where to search. She would be impossible to save in time, before something terrible happening. As soon as they’d put her on that plane, Selene would be lost.
That meant we had less than twenty hours to save her.
‘How close are you to the prison?’ I spoke, directing my question to Tybalt on the other side of the phone.
‘A few minutes away. I can’t get any closer without them noticing me. And I think they’ve secured their communications with the military, as well, because I can’t get into their system anymore. We’re on a deadline here, Raven.’
I realized that without him telling me. We had to do something, right now. If not, there would be nothing to be done anymore.
‘Yurick,’ I said, softly calling him to me. ‘We need that plan of yours. Right now.’
‘It needs some time to prepare,’ he warned. ‘A few hours, at least. I need to get the right materials-‘
‘Go get them. And take Nikola with you, it isn’t safe for him to stay in one place for too long. Call Derek to meet up as soon as he’s found the mother- every second that we wait is going to come back to hurt us.’
‘You know, what I have in mind is quite illegal to make,’ Yurick said, smiling despite the seriousness of the situation. He had a weird glimmer in his eyes, something I’d only seen before when he was playing foosball back at the base. ‘I’ll be breaking a lot of laws for you again, chief.’
‘I’ll make it up to you,’ I promised, looking straight at him.
‘With a date?’
‘Whatever you want,’ I said impatiently. ‘If you help me out one more time.’
I could see from his expression that he hadn’t been expecting that answer from me. He blinked a couple of times, before smiling widely.
‘Deal! Come on, kid. We need to go fetch some chemicals.’
Suddenly eager, Yurick grabbed Nikola at his sleeve and pulled him away towards the front door. But Nikola resisted, turning back to me.
‘Wait! What are you going to do?’
‘I told you, Nikola,’ I said, staring straight into his yellow eyes. ‘I’m going to get your sister back if it kills me.’
‘Come on, we’re in a hurry,’ Yurick said, yanking his arm.
‘Wait! Raven, about the curse-!’
‘Not now,’ I said, dismissing him firmly. ‘Later. We have more important things to worry about.’
And with those words, I watched as the boy got dragged away from me, out into the sun. The fiery orb was still high in the sky, but it wouldn’t be long before it would start its descent and vanish to turn into nightfall. If I wanted to have any chance of reaching Selene in time, I needed to leave now.
From this point onward, every second was going to count.
It was all or nothing.
Derek’s footsteps sounded heavy on the pavement. He seemed to be the only one there; at this part of town, there was hardly anyone around anywhere. The streets seemed eerie, as if waiting for something bad to happen. Even the abandoned park gave off that same creepy vibe. If he’d been on a vampire hunting mission, this kind of place would be among the first that he’d check.
But Derek was not hunting for vampires today. He was hunting for a human, in order to help the very things that he hated. He still could not quite believe himself for agreeing, and yet, he also knew that, at this point, there was nothing that he could decline his captain.
Even if it meant walking through abandoned, eerie-looking parks with no weapon strapped to his leg.
Or maybe it wasn’t as abandoned as he thought. There, in the distance on a worn-down park bench, he saw the person that he’d been looking for. She looked just like the picture in his pocket, if a few years older. The guy working at the kiosk had been right; she really did come here every day.
With firm steps, Derek walked over to the table. He intentionally made so much noise to make sure he wouldn’t startle her, but she seemed so deep in thought that she wouldn’t have noticed his presence anyway. The wind gently tugged at some loose strands of hair, blowing them up and down along her face.
Extremely slowly, she lifted her head from her hand. Her large, deer-like blue eyes rested on Derek’s uniform for multiple seconds, before finally making their way up to his face. With a soft, almost unhearable voice, the woman spoke.
‘Who… who are you?’