A Gate of Night / Page 13

Page 13


The only people who talked to me were the Ageless and Ibrahim, the warlock assigned to mentor me. And I wasn’t allowed to leave my quarters, except for when I was training.

Five months had revealed things about myself that I never thought possible. I had my strength back—probably more than I’d had when I was a vampire.

My ability to heal was back. Though it didn’t happen as quickly as when I was a vampire, whenever I healed, I was stronger than before I was wounded.

My agility was also back. Again, not the same speed as I’d had when I was a vampire, but definitely far quicker than a human was supposed to be. My heightened senses had also returned.

But what the vampire curse had suppressed all these years was something beyond my imagining—fire. I had the ability to conjure fire. I didn’t know how. I didn’t know why, but I did. What I didn’t have was the ability to control it and since the witches had introduced me to this ability, ever since the first time fire came out of my fingers, harnessing the power had proven to be difficult.

Whenever I asked where all these powers came from, I was given a cryptic answer about Cora investing much of her power in me. It was no secret that during my four-hundred-year slumber, Cora had placed some sort of spell on me that made me more powerful. Maybe she’d been channeling power from The Sanctuary to me all along.

I’d never understood why the Ageless allowed it if she knew that Cora was doing this, or how she couldn’t have known considering how powerful she seemed to be.

All I knew was that once a witch’s power took over a human being, it did things to that person, and since I was a vampire when it happened… it had placed those powers in a state of preservation so that when it came out, it came out in uncontrollable bursts.

The witch and warlock tried to help me take control of the power, making me spend most of my time in their realm trying to do something that even they didn’t seem to fully understand.

I was standing in the midst of a wide open field surrounded by small lakes, staring at a round target—one I wanted to destroy simply because I was tired of being held captive in the witch’s realm.

“Relax, Derek,” Ibrahim said in his deep, soothing voice. “You won’t be able to harness your power unless you learn to calm down.”

“Calm down?” I uttered through gritted teeth, sensing heat creep from the blades of my shoulders down to the tips of my fingers. “I want to see my wife!” A ray of fire burst out of my palms, burning not only the target, but everything else in its path.

I tried to control it, but I couldn’t.

“You have to control your rage!” Ibrahim screamed through the chaos, standing behind me, making sure that he was out of the fire’s way.

“The vampire’s curse kept you cold,” was the Ageless’ simple explanation and nothing else was said after.

That morning, under the blazing heat of the sun, I was half-wishing that I was a vampire again, because nothing I knew to do could make me calm down. The fire was beyond my control.

I shut my eyes and tried to imagine Sofia. Five months was far too long to be away from my bride. I was afraid I would forget her face. I was afraid that… I couldn’t even think about it. Tears began to brim my eyes as visions of her smile, her laughter, her warmth came to me. Her soft kisses back at the dungeon haunted me—the memory, just like the kisses themselves, was both sweet and painful at the same time.

So wrapped up in cherished memories of my beloved, I lost track of what was happening around me and I found myself kneeling on the ground, sobbing.

“That’s it. That’s how you do it.” Ibrahim sounded beyond relieved. He’d probably been afraid that I would burn The Sanctuary down. “You need to learn control.” He snapped his fingers and a strong, cool wind blew the fire away before it could spread.

Just then, the familiar form of the Ageless appeared from the horizon, walking toward us in a slow, steady stride. Sympathy flashed in her eyes when she saw me but that quickly disappeared when she addressed Ibrahim in a curt tone. “How is he doing?”

During my stay at The Sanctuary, it had become increasingly clear that the Ageless was their leader, that she was a mother of sorts to their kind. Beyond that, she was perhaps the most powerful among them. It had become commonplace to see Ibrahim speak to her with reverence.

“It’s proving a little challenging, but there’s improvement.”

“Why must I stay here? Why can’t I train elsewhere?” I snapped at her.

“And have you burn down half the human realm in the process?” Ibrahim laughed wryly, in an attempt to break the ice.

He failed.

The Ageless and I were both glaring at each other. “You know why, Derek.” That infuriating tone made me feel like an idiot. “You need to learn to harness your power. You’re useless to all of us until you learn to control and manage your strength.”

“Do you know where my wife is? What has happened to her?”

“We have time. You need not worry.”

“Time? Time for what? Where is she? Do you know?” I was feeling the rage building up again. I breathed a couple of sighs to keep my temper in check. As a vampire, I’d usually let my temper run amok, but this time, I couldn’t afford to let that happen. “You’ve kept me from Sofia for five months. She’s my wife. How can I not worry?”

“I’m sure she’s safe. If they did anything to her, we would know and we would tell you.”

“Right,” I scoffed, “because you witches are all-knowing and all-useless.”

“Useless?” The Ageless’ nostrils flared. “After everything Cora did for you, I would think you’d be the last person to say something like that. You owe your power and your very existence to our kind.”

I got up on my feet. “I owe her a lot. But did you also know what she did to me? What she put me through at The Blood Keep?”

“I’ve heard. She’d never thought being a vampire would inhibit her powers. Had she known, she never would’ve agreed to the Elder’s deal. Cora was always independent. The centuries she spent under the Elder’s control were hell to her… until you ended it. We are grateful that you ended her misery. You knew Cora and how beautiful, powerful and kind she was before the Elder corrupted her and turned her into Emilia.”

“And yet you did nothing to stop her from getting corrupted.”

Pain sparked in the Ageless’ normally blank gaze. I’d been so caught up in my anger that I’d missed the hint of affection that came with the way the Ageless spoke about Cora.

“What was Cora to you anyway? You cared about her, didn’t you?”

“She betrayed us. She should’ve been loyal to our kind, but she chose to be loyal to whatever feelings she had for you. Everything you are now, you owe to her. She destroyed herself in order to make you indestructible.”

“So I’m right. You did care about her.”

“She was powerful. Had she remained the Ageless, she would’ve been unstoppable, far more powerful than I am now. Everything I know, I learned from her, and my powers have been growing ever since, but she gave all that up. For you. Frankly, I don’t understand why.” She eyed me, unimpressed.

“You could’ve stopped her.” Despite what Cora had turned into, I couldn’t deny the guilt that I felt at the thought of the beautiful witch. There was once a time when I’d seen Cora as my best friend. I hated that her life had to end the way that it did. “You probably should’ve stopped her.”

“Yes. Maybe I should’ve. But I didn’t. I reasoned to myself, out of my own love for her, that she had a choice and she’d made it. I told myself that we had to let things unfold naturally, that we cannot interfere just to undo one disastrous choice or save one life.”

“And yet you saved mine. What makes my life more important than hers?”

“Your life isn’t more important than hers. As I said, she made her choices and she had to live with them.”

My jaw clenched. There was nothing I could do about what happened to Cora. Past was past. I couldn’t change it even if I wanted to. What I did know was that Sofia needed me. Regarding my wife’s fate, there was still something I could do.

“How about Sofia? Is my life more important than hers? Why doesn’t she get to be saved?”

“They won’t harm her. You have time.”

“How are you so sure of that? She’s at The Blood Keep! Captive! My wife doesn’t belong there!” I could feel the heat rising again. Part of me wanted to unleash the fire and burn both the Ageless and Ibrahim to a crisp. Part of me understood what they were saying. The power I had was beyond my comprehension for now and I couldn’t go back to my world without understanding it. The greater part of me, however, just really wanted to hold Sofia in my arms.

A lump formed in my throat when I remembered the dream—the same dream I’d had every single night since I married Sofia. The idea of us turning against each other was sickening, and the longer I was away from her, the more possible it seemed.

The Ageless looked at me with her typical glare, not a single hint of empathy or sympathy in her eyes. Silver hair glistening, she was as fascinating as she was terrifying.

“We can’t keep going over this, Derek. Trust me when I say that we have time. You want to see Sofia, I get that, but you will risk your life—and many others’ lives—if you go looking for her while you’re still not ready.”

“You didn’t answer my question, witch. Why do I get to live?”

“Because—thanks to Cora— you are now the man powerful enough to help restore balance between the realms.”

“What realms?”

“You already know of two—ours, the witches’ realm, and yours, the human realm. There are two others—that of the vampires and that of the Guardians. Two realms at war with each other. We exist to maintain the balance between the two.”

“We? Humans and witches?”

“No. We… witches maintain the balance. Humans are like currency—the immunes being of highest value. The vampires are hoarding too many of the immunes.”

“I was a vampire. I didn’t care about the immunes.”

“Really, Derek? You didn’t care about the power that you sensed whenever you drank Sofia’s blood?” The Ageless didn’t say it as a taunt or a challenge, just as a fact. “I’m not talking about your kind of vampire. You are mutations of the original, weak compared to them. The Elder is the first vampire who entered the human realm. You are his creation, but the Elder is just one among many—one among the original vampires.”

“Ok. Restore balance. How do we do it? Let’s just get it done.”

“Don’t be an impulsive fool, Derek. You know you’re not ready.”

“You don’t understand!” I turned towards Ibrahim. “You keep telling me to calm down, to relax. You say that’s the only way I can control…”

Fire once again burst from my palms and it took all of me to redirect my body so that the flames didn’t get to my trainer and the Ageless. I screamed as ray upon ray of burning fire erupted from my body, evaporating the tears before they could fall from my eyes.

The Ageless mumbled a couple of incoherent words and within seconds the fire was gone, but I was still burning with a reality I knew to be true—a reality that the Ageless could never comprehend as she stood over me and with her stoic countenance reinforced her point.

“I think we can all agree that you are not ready.” She turned to Ibrahim. “Continue the training.”

Ibrahim stroked his dark goatee and sighed. “Tough break, Derek, but her word is law.”

I shook my head. “I can’t stay here, Ibrahim. What you don’t understand is that I was never able to control my temper or my power. Not on my own. Not until Sofia came into my life.”

“She will be back into your life the moment you gain control. It can be done.”

“Damn it, Ibrahim. Don’t you understand? The longer you keep me away from her, the more I lose control. I need to at least know that I’m getting closer to her, not farther.” My teeth were gritted, my fists clenched, as I stood to my full height. I was fighting with every inch of my life to keep the fire from bursting out of my exhausted body once again.

Spent and desperate, I told him the one truth they couldn’t seem to grasp: “Sofia is my calm.”

Chapter 19: Aiden

Five months. It’d been five months since the Elder’s children had attacked The Shade and taken over, five months since the portal had opened. I knew nothing about Sofia or her pregnancy. There was absolutely no news about the fate of Derek.

As far as The Shade’s leaders were concerned, we were all in the dark.

We all feared that both were gone, but none of us had the guts to say it out loud. I, for one, was certain that my daughter was alive. I convinced myself that had anything happened to her, I would’ve known. I felt it in my gut.

Sofia is alive.

I had been given her bedroom at the Catacombs. After the Elder had attacked The Shade, the Black Heights was the only intact establishment at the island. Everything else was ruined. Apparently, destroying an entire mountain range wasn’t thought beneficial. We still had the Catacombs and the Cells.

I heaved a deep sigh as I stared at the ceiling of her room. I’d left it mostly untouched. I wanted to sense her presence lingering there. I shifted on the bed in an attempt to make myself comfortable. I muttered a prayer for her, hoping to God that she was all right. I was never a man of faith, but at that point, I was desperate enough to believe that a Higher Power would somehow let her know that she was in my thoughts.

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